Finally 2007 has come to a close and it's time for me to unleash my end of the year article for the masses. This year was a bit strange for me personally because I further broadened my horizons and opened up to new bands and thankfully discovered some amazing ones. However this year I have had quite a dilemma in regard to how to approach this review. Many bands have decided to push the limits and become more creative in how they approach their music and what they produce. However other longtime stalwarts continue to produce outstanding albums by sticking to the formula they have been successful with for some time. The dilemma then becomes do I reward bands with higher rankings due to creativity or lean toward the traditional powers of metal that keep making good music? I've decided that my rankings are going to wholeheartedly consist of the music that I enjoyed the most in the order of how much I enjoyed it. But I will say that this list consists of quite a diverse group of bands which once again made it more difficult to rank as well. Please note that if all of my top five albums were released in different years, each have a definite shot at the overall number one ranking. But nevertheless, let's get started:
Rotting Christ - Theogonia
Through the Eyes of the Dead - Malice
Devildriver - The Last Kind Words
Candlemass - Kings of the Grey Islands
Immolation - Shadows in the Light
Winds - Prominence and Demise
Himsa - Summon in Thunder
Detonation - Emission Phase
Nile - Ithyphallic
Graveworm - Collateral Defect
Nuclear Blast All-Stars - Out of the Dark
Soilwork - Sworn to a Great Divide
The Red Chord - Prey for Eyes
As I Lay Dying - An Ocean Between Us
Akercocke - Antichrist
And now on to the Top 25:
25. Katatonia - Live Consternation
For a live album, you don't get much more of a sense of a particular band's live show than Katatonia's "Live Consternation" release. This album produces exceptional sound quality and gives the band the live justice they deserve. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of the show I saw them at up in Cleveland with Swallow the Sun and Insomnium, which was quite a live experience. If you are a fan who has never seen this band live before or even if you want the reminder of the last time you saw them, "Live Consternation" is for you.
Necessary Track: Deliberation
24. Pelican - City of Echoes
This year I discovered Isis and fell in love with their entire catalog. Coupled with Isis, I also found Pelican who I stumbled upon live at a local venue completely by chance. The musicianship in this four piece post-metal band cannot be ignored. The guitars in themselves are flat out jaw dropping, especially on their newest album "City of Echoes". The atmosphere and creativity is out of this world, definitely check these guys out.
Necessary Track: Bliss in Concrete
23. Amoral - Reptile Ride
Finnish melodic death metal outfit Amoral crack the Top 25 with their aptly titled fourth release "Reptile Ride". This is actually my first experience hearing Amoral and I was immediately pleased with their overall presentation but especially the devastating riffs. Amoral take on death, thrash, progressive, and even a touch of power metal with ferociousness with this album. Unfortuantely, there are too many good albums in the way of ranking this higher than 23.
Necessary Track: Few and Far Between
22. Six Feet Under - Commandment
Initially, I think I was pretty hard on "Commandment" and I'm not sure why. If I remember correctly, a ton of very good albums that came out all at the same time right around this release. Nevertheless, Chris Barnes and the gang return with a followup to 2005's "13", which I highly enjoyed. Although you know what you are going to get with Six Feet Under, I still feel that song structure and composition count for a lot in death metal. The only problem is "13" was just a bit better in that area, but "Commandment" is definitely on the map. Recommended for fans of the genre and SFU's older material.
Necessary Track: As The Blade Turns
21. DAATH - The Hinderers
I personally am surprised at how much I enjoyed this album honestly. It's not very often I agree with most of Roadrunner's signings nor what I feel that particular label spits forth on a regualr basis, but DAATH definitely deserves high marks. The musicianship and production was excellent for the varying styles that this band incorporates with their mostly death influenced onslaught "The Hinderers". Even though I caught a major Devildriver reference in some of the tracks I believe that was welcomed. Regardless, DAATH came on with a strong debut and I look forward to more in the future.
Necessary Track: Festival Mass Soulform
20. Finntroll - Ur Jordens Djup
Something about this album was foreign and strange to me when I first stumbled upon it. Not being a Finntroll fan in the past, I gave this a spin for the simple fact that I wanted to hear what these Finnish trolls were going to do next. Well I ended up really enjoying this adventurous folk metal album even with the irritating at times polka references. Truth is Finntroll showed me a lot with this album and I would recommend "Ur Jordens Djup" to any fan of the band or their creative style.
Necessary Tracks: Sang, Karpen's Saga (even though the latter sounds like something I'd expect to hear in the equivalent of a biergarten in middle Earth)
19. Marduk - Rom 5:12
When I first listened to this record I don't think I truly understood how good it was until I refreshed my memory on "Panzer Division Marduk" and "Plague Angel". Honestly, this album rivals "Panzer Division Marduk" as the best record Marduk has ever produced. The production on the one hand is so much better than their earlier albums which gives each instrument it's own distinct sound that is amazingly quite audible even in the finished product. "Rom 5:12" ranks here becuase Marduk have branched out of the stagnant traditional "kvlt" black metal shell and show much more diversity to their overall sound. It also ranks here because there were better black metal albums in 2007.
Necessary Tracks: Imago Mortis, This Levelling Dust
18. Carnal Forge - Testify For My Victims
Ironically, I didn't seem to think that melodic death had that great of a year in 2007 in comparison to 2006. Carnal Forge was one of the few bands that really stepped up their thrashy melodic death game with "Testify For My Victims". With catchy melodies, a thumping rhythm section, and solid top to bottom song structure, this ranking is well deserved for this output. Recommended for all melodic death metal fans.
Necessary Tracks: Testify For My Victims, Questions Pertaining to the Ownership of My Mind
17. Obituary - Xecutioner's Return
You want brutal death metal? Obituary gave us a good chunk of it with "Xecutioner's Return". You know, Ralph Santolla never ceases to amaze me, I think that's enough said right there. Not a whole lot of variation from Obituary's previous works, but I feel that this album has a better group of songs and little to no filler moreso than some of their more recent works. Easy pickup for old school death metal fans.
Necessary Tracks: Face Your God, Evil Ways
16. The Duskfall - Dying Wonders of the World
Over the past 6 months or so, I've been spinning the hell out of "Source" and "Lifetime Supply of Guilt". So welcoming "Dying Wonders of the World" to the fold was extremely anticipated to say the least. Like Carnal Forge, The Duskfall released a damn thrashy yet melodically sound record once again. Slowly but surely these guys are working their way up my list of favorite bands and "Dying Wonders of the World" further supplements that rise. Not the most creative work The Duskfall has ever done, but a great listen nonetheless.
Necessary Tracks: Paradises into Deserts, Bring Us Your Infected
15. The Black Dahlia Murder - Nocturnal
"Nocturnal" is yet another album that I was waiting to hear for a very long time and thankfully it did not disappoint one bit. I'm probably in the minority in this but I thought "Miasma" was a good not great album and actually more of a step down from "Unhallowed". "Nocturnal" on the other hand is a vast improvement in comparison to "Miasma". Brutal as hell, faster than lightning, and as infectious as they come. TBDM reaffirms that they are a force to be reckoned with melodic death.
Necessary Tracks: Everything Went Black, What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse, To a Breathless Oblivion
14. Paradise Lost - In Requiem
After the last few Paradise Lost albums fell deaf on my ears I started distancing myself from the band as a whole. I felt "Host" was blasphemous to say the least and "Symbol of Life" and "Paradise Lost" a far cry from "Draconian Times" and "Gothic" which are my two favorite albums by Paradise Lost. Well, that is until I gave "In Requiem" a chance. Somehow Paradise Lost has found a way to accurately bridge the gap to satisfying the fans of their older material, create an outstandingly gothic atmosphere, and still write catchy creative songs. "In Requiem" is highly regarded with me as perhaps the album that gets Paradise Lost back on track for good.
Necessary Tracks: Ash & Debris, The Enemy, Praise Lamented Shade
13. Swallow the Sun - Hope
This album grabbed me. I think that's the best way to put it. After "Ghosts of Loss", I became a huge fan of Swallow the Sun and "Hope" does nothing but extend that. The darkness that surrounds this album is perfect for the depressive death doom style that has made Swallow the Sun one of my favorites in the genre. "Hope" is heavy, it's tiresome, and it's liberating all in one. Not to mention, the guest vocals by Jonas Renske on "The Justice of Suffering" perfectly compliment the growling style of Mikko Kotamaki creating the best track on the album.
Necessary Tracks: Hope, The Justice of Suffering, Don't Fall Asleep
12. Machinemade God - Masked
It took me about one minute of listening to "Masked" to figure out exactly what Machinemade God had in store with their sophomore release: symphonic melodic death metal with just a hint of metalcore, and I ate it up. The more I listened to this album, the more I enjoyed it. This is a great step up after "The Infinity Complex" and hopefully they continue on the path they've laid in front of themselves because I can see great things happening for this band in the future. Not a stellar release, but a highly recommended one.
Necessary Tracks: Forgiven, Voices, Place Taken
11. Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant
From the opening track "Blood on Your Hands", it was impossible not to be happy with Arch Enemy's "Rise of the Tyrant". The guitarwork as usual is flat out amazing. The rhythm section is fast and thorough. Angela sounds awesome as usual. The only problem is that, although I feel that this album is better than "Doomsday Machine" and "Anthems of Rebellion", I feel "Wages of Sin" is still the quintessential Arch Enemy album top to bottom. Make no mistake though, "Rise of the Tyrant" is definitely number 2, making it a definite purchase for all fans of amazing musicianship in the melodic death metal variety.
Necessary Tracks: Blood on Your Hands, Revolution Begins, I Will Live Again
10. Novembers Doom - The Novella Resevoir
The first time I heard this record I was completely floored. I enjoyed portions of "Pale Haunt Departure" but nothing on that album could prepare me for how much I enjoyed every aspect of "The Novella Resevoir". The best thing that Novembers Doom has done with this record is push their thick death metal sound to the forefront yet still keep the doom atmosphere and sound for the perfect moments. Unfortunately, I really disliked the inclusion of "Twilight Innocence" which I think destroyed the overall tempo of the album with it's positioning and I thought it was the poorest written track on the album to be quite honest. With that song included, here "The Novella Resevoir" sits at 10. Without that track, it's top 6. Highly recommended though.
Necessary Tracks: Rain, The Novella Resevoir, The Voice of Failure
9. Deadlock - Wolves
"Come on mother fuckers". Haha, welcome to the second installment from Deadlock entitled "Wolves". First and foremost, thank God Deadlock opened their eyes and finally made Sabine Weniger a permanent member because without her they would lose a major piece of their overall appeal. Although I still prefer "Earth.Revolt" probably for my personal reasons, "Wolves" was a welcome addition to my 2007 roster as Deadlock doesn't lose any ground whatsoever with this album. The guitars have improved across the board, the beauty and the beast vocal mix is perfect, and the rhythm section creates a nice firm punch to the jaw for good measure. Loved the incorporation of acoustic guitars and the keyboard portions especially. But what is up with electronica hour on "End Begins"? And I love Sabine but her exclusive song this time around ("To Where the Skies are Blue") didn't fit as well as "Harmonic" did on "Earth.Revolt", leaving it here at 9.
Necessary Tracks: Code of Honor, We All Shall Bleed, Bloodpact
8. Neaera - Armamentarium
Finally it all comes together for Neaera. The raw energy and power the shoots out of your speakers combined with steady songwriting and excellent production, Welcome to "Armamentarium". I absolutely loved this album because it seems like Neaera actually got the memo this time around and combined all the great aspects of their music from their first 2 albums and threw them into "Armamentarium", creating arguably their best album to date. A little improvement in some of the songwriting aspects should once again drive Neaera to the top of my list once again in the future; too many better albums this year.
Necessary Tracks: Spearheading the Spawn, Harbringer, Armamentarium
7. The Absence - Riders of the Plague
Tampa's own melodic death metallers The Absence shot onto the scene last year with their debut album "From Your Grave". After first hearing that album I could've sworn they were Swedish because their take on melo-death is second to none this side of the Atlantic. Speedy sometimes duelling guitarwork coupled with a punishing rhythm section (especially the standout drums in my opinion) and highly competent vocals, The Absence have once again put together a great album in "Riders of the Plague". Speaking of guitarwork, I have grown quite fond of the incorporation of old school guitar harmonies with the outstanding solos and crunchy riffs on this album. A definite pickup for melodic death metal fans.
Necessary Tracks: Dead and Gone, World Divides, Awakening
6. Shining - V: Halmstad
Suicidal black metal is the name of the game with my sixth favorite album of 2007: Shining's "V: Halmstad". After reading horror stories about their live shows and numerous interviews with lead vocalist Niklas "Kvarforth" Olsson, I had to check these guys out. I was greatly surprised when I discovered that Shining was much more than your run of the mill black metal band. They incorporate up and down tempo changes and flawless transitions with the use of acoustic guitars, piano interludes, and numerous spoken word injections that create a brodding, depressive atmosphere that fits their overall message. In researching Shining's previous records, I have found that "V: Halmstad" is the band's best offering by far as well as an excellent followup to "IV: The Eerie Cold". The music itself tells a story of loneliness, depression, and suicide all the while presenting these horrific tales in a beautiful manner. The fifth track on the album is actually Beethoven's dark "Moonlight Sonata" which fits the progression of the album perfectly. Had it not been for the next band, this would've been my favorite black metal album of the year. Highly recommended.
Necessary Tracks: Ytterligare Ett Steg Närmare Total Jävla Utfrysning, Besvikelsens Dystra Monotoni, Längtar Bort Från Mitt Hjärta
5. Watain - Sworn to the Dark
Swedish black metal giants Watain released the most pure and outstanding black metal album of 2007 with "Sworn to the Dark". With the positive reviews that "Casus Luciferus" garnered back in 2003, fans of Watain have been waiting for this album for quite a while. This might be one of the few black metal albums released this year that is likely not to divide "kvlt" black metal enthusiasts and those like me who enjoy better production and more diverse songwriting for the black metal I listen to. Watain has a strange way of bridging the gap. The music is extremely true to black metal standards while satisfying my need for excellent musicianship and solid song structures (especially for a black metal band to be honest). Highly recommended as it is my favorite black metal album of this year.
Necessary Tracks: Sworn to the Dark, Legions of the Black Light, The Serpent's Chalice
4. Amorphis - Silent Waters
Amorphis has finally released something that holds a candle to their previous masterpiece "Elegy" with 2007's "Silent Waters". Amorphis' Finnish folk influenced melodic death metal is greatly improved from their last few albums (and yes, that includes "Eclipse" which I found a bit over-hyped and also that Amorphis tried a bit too hard to sound heavy on that record). Regardless, I think you have the true Amorphis right here on "Silent Waters": heavy melo-death, folk influences, melodic experimentation that satisfies all parties, not to mention excellent musicianship from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal and melodic transitions tattooed all over "Silent Waters" which made the album a smooth but also complex listen at the same time. It takes a very different album to be able to just be enjoyed at times and dissected at others and have the musical quality that this album does. Highly recommended.
Necessary tracks: A Servant, I of Crimson, The White Swan
3. Dark Tranquillity - Fiction
I've come to the conclusion that Dark Tranquillity will probably never put out a bad album. Never will they produce nor release an album that does not appeal to me or probably most of the Gothenburg metalheads that worship the bands that have perfected and made famous the area's melodic death metal scene. Not only is "Fiction" the best melodic death album of 2007, but it's also better than a lot of Dark Tranquillity's previous works as well (and that's saying something). Of the eight studio full lengths that DT has released in the last 17 years, "Fiction" is probably the second best all around album in the history of Dark Tranquillity. Although this is one of those tried and true formulaic albums, I will say that minor twists and turns coupled with a general sense of the greater picture that is DT creates quite an appealing overall experience for the listener. I'd highly recommend this to everyone.
Necessary Tracks: Terminus (Where Death is Most Alive), Focus Shift, Misery's Crown
2. Dimmu Borgir - In Sorte Diaboli
I could honestly say that Dimmu Borgir's "In Sorte Diaboli" could be my number one album of the year. It's very rare to find a concept album that actually works. It's even rarer to find one that works and has some of the best musicians and songwriters colloborating to produce said concept album with the creativity and diversity of "In Sorte Diaboli". Every aspect of this album is outstanding and furthermore I've decided that Silenoz (the main songwriter for Dimmu Borgir) is a genius. The music itself takes the listener on an adventure and the lyrics/vocal patterns add to the atmosphere of resistance in perfect symmetry. You can honestly watch this album play out in your head and I think it'd be a pretty damn good movie if they did. And by the way, who's idea was it to bring on Hellhammer for this album? Because that was genious, I feel that he fits the progression and shift changing that Dimmu Borgir constantly does to a "t". The keyboards once again are outstanding and the guitars drive the diversity of the music to new heights. Had it not been for one album, this would've been my top album of 2007.
Necessary tracks: The Serpentine Offering, The Chosen Legacy, The Sinister Awakening
1. Behemoth - The Apostasy
"Be it not so!
Thou shall see me not in agony
Failure was and is no option
'Tis my undying self
The ever wandering son ov the morn
Abandoned, yet never to be conquered"
I read an interview back in the summer with Nergal where he stated that he was so driven to complete this album that he almost went insane. He used to go home from working on the album and torture himself thinking about improvements that needed to be made, timeframes, and other album/label stresses to the point where he honestly felt that he needed to seek medical attention. I guess that's what it takes to create an album that will live on forever. For me, his stresses are not brushed aside easily as I am as appreciative for his hard work in creating my number 1 album of 2007.
Blackened death metal reigns with "The Apostasy". But this album symbolizes so much more than just that. There is a new twist and turn around every corner of this album. Frantically heavy guitarwork, chaotically brutal rhythm section, and evil growling vocals couple with symphonic arrangements, beautifully executed piano play, and choral layering to produce some of the most intelligent and catchy music I've heard in a very long time. The truth of the matter is: I cannot find a flaw on this album. Not one song sounds like any other. The diversity and complexity of the songs is jaw dropping. Without a doubt, Behemoth's "The Apostasy" is my favorite album of 2007.
Well, thanks for taking a look at my list everyone. Hope you saw where I was coming from with some of these, and if not we'll talk in the forum... Haha, anyway, hope I was able to maybe even turn you on to a few albums as well. Can't wait for 2008 with releases from: In Flames, Children of Bodom, Belphegor, Arsis, Agalloch, Deicide, Within Y, Mercenary, Meshuggah, Kataklysm, Darkane, Raunchy, Scar Symmetry, and Cradle of Filth. Take it easy and remember, stay brutal,