If you thought Metal was dead, look again. The new millennium has brought with it a myriad of different styles, influences, instruments, and sounds. This is a list of the top ten albums released since 2000 that you have to own if you’re a metal fan
10. Finntroll – Nattfodd (2003) This is not your generic 80’s metal. Imagine Slayer jamming to polka music.
Finntroll’s “Nattfodd” is their finest release. It’s an intense, melodic, blackened death metal that you can dance to. Keyboards often take center stage and power the aggressive melodies, with crunchy guitars and downright evil vocals. The entirety of the lyrics are written and sung in Finnish, so English speakers will need to find a translator if you plan on getting too involved.
The highlights of this album are varied, from the epic Grottam’s Barn to the dueling fiddles of Der Iskalla Trollblodet, to the chorus-driven headbang that is Trollhammeren. This is one of the most original and fun albums that has ever been released, and you can tell that these guys aren’t in it for the money. Their new album is due out later this year.
9. Nightwish – Wishmaster (2000)
The female vocals have become par for the course in the modern Gothic Metal, and the reason is because of this album here. Sure, there were female vocalists before, and they’ve done an adequate job, but when comparing them with Tarja Turunen, they all sound like mush. She is a professional opera singer who takes singing in heavy metal to the next level. But that’s not all there is to this album. Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen writes near perfect compositions that wouldn’t be out of place in Symphony Hall, but still remain crunchy and pure, speedy and melodic at time.
8. Slough Feg – Atavism (2005)
If you imagine Iron Maiden’s musical sound with Glen Danzig on vocals playing songs written by Bob Dylan and Black Sabbath, you might get something like Slough Feg. Once known as “the Lord Wierd Slough Feg,” this California band shortened their name, and their songs, for their 2005 release “Atavism.” In the tradition of Slough Feg, there is only a small resemblance to their previous albums, as “Atavism” explores new territory once again.
Unlike their previous albums, which were strongly bound by a single unifying theme, like their space epic “Traveler” or their Celtic mythology masterpiece “Twilight of the Idols,” “Atavism” takes bits and pieces from all of Slough Feg’s previous albums and combines them to form this “new” sound. With song names such as “I Will Kill You/You Will Die” and “Eumaeus the Swineherd,” you wouldn’t expect much depth to the lyrics, but there is a recurring theme of depravity in the modern world, and yet a glimmer of hope for those who will search for the answers.
This is a short album, clocking in at about forty minutes with fourteen songs, which doesn’t quite sound right. After a few spins, however, you’ll see that each song is perfectly timed to be neither too long nor too short.
This is probably the only album by this band that you’ll be able to find on the market, as it’s the bands’ first with a decent label. It’s a shame that a band this good goes unrecognized for so long.
7. Solitude Aeturnus – Alone (2006)
If you like Black Sabbath, you’ll love Solitude Aeturnus. The cover art gives you an excellent idea of the theme of this album; they play a dark and depressing doom metal with one of the most underrated singers in all of Heavy Metal.
“Alone” is only the sixth release by this band in 16 years, so you know it’s been in the works for a long time. Songs like the opener “Scent of Death” start off slowly and build to a gigantic, roaring, crushing guitar riff that sticks in your head for days at a time. Recommended to anyone who appreciates a more depressing style of music.
6. Agalloch – The Mantle (2002)
Agalloch do something that not many bands besides Opeth have ever tried to do, and that is to create a long, droning, epic album lacking in basically everything that used to make a metal band metal: super speedy solos, power choruses, and high energy songs. This album is the essence of melancholy.
“The Mantle” combines gothic, black, doom, and death metal into a melodic masterpiece that clocks in right at the 70 minute mark. There’s often a good deal more acoustic guitars than electric, and far more instrumental tracks than you might at first suspect. Don’t expect for a second that you’ll be blown away the first time you listen to this. It’s an album that you really have to devote time to appreciating.
It might sound like I have a lot of negative things to say about this album, but it is, in fact, one of the finest bits of songwriting I’ve heard in the genre.
5. Rage – Unity (2002)
Rage is one of those bands that has been around forever, and will probably be around forever. One of the only stalwarts of old-school heavy metal on the list, these guys just rock out on every album. They aren’t necessarily going to go for anything too over-the-top and unique on their 2002 album “Unity”, but it makes the list because it is just too good.
If you like your songs to be pretty uniform, under the 6-minute mark, and full of catchy gang choruses that you can chant along with, then this is the album for you. Many of the songs you can pick up on your first listen, and they’ll keep you rocking long into the day from just a single listen. With a full slate of songs like that, how can “Unity” not make the list.
4. Vader – Litany (2000)
If you thought I was avoiding the more extreme side of the Metal spectrum, here is your proof that I’m not. “Litany” is as heavy as it gets, a straightforward, uncompromising tour-de-force from Poland’s only famous metal band.
Vader haven’t changed the formula too much in their career, and their early albums can be near indistinguishable to a non-fan, but “Litany” stands out from the rest. It hits harder, has more powerful technical guitar work than previous albums, and contains a bevy of remarkable tracks. “Wings,” the opener and “Forward to Die!!!” are pounding and direct, while other tracks like “Xefer” take a little more time to appreciate. If you like bands like Slayer, Suffocation, or Death, you’ll appreciate this album.
3. Windir – 1184 (2001)
If you’re a fan of Black Metal, you should already own, and love, this unbelievable album. Windir is a perpetual favorite for “best band ever” so why did their best album fall into only the third most essential album of the last seven years?
Well, to start things off, this is by no means an album that anyone can pick up and say “ooh I love this.” Most listeners, even the most hardcore death metallers out there, will never understand this album. It’s blast beats, overpowering drums, and painful, shrieking vocals are only part of the reason why. At times, the production of this album makes it sound like this album was produced in a wind tunnel, with odd, disproportionately loud instruments. While this album doesn’t really break too many barriers or challenge any new musical directions, it makes the list because of it’s pure power. This is black metal, as raw and as heavy as it gets.
If you can get past the jarring and odd sound to the music, this is one of the greatest albums ever recorded, from one of the greatest songwriters ever to grace a metal album. It’s unfortunate that we’ve heard the last from Windir.
2. Vintersorg – Cosmic Genesis (2002)
While Borknagar is as close to a household name as you can get in black metal these days, it is their singer’s solo career that really captivates my attention. “Cosmic Genesis” is the highlight, released in 2002, it is the first album in which Vintersorg uses English lyrics. There is a haunting cover of Uriah Heep’s Rainbow Demon, but it is the original tracks which are really the highlight.
High energy folk/viking metal with an intergalactic-astrological theme seamlessly interweaves the world of stars with Vintersorg’s respect for Mother Earth. It works, and provides a unique perspective on his earlier, and later works. This album is the centerpiece in Vintersorg’s discography, marking his shift between the Folk/Viking Metal of his first two albums, with the ambiance and lyrical themes of his later albums.
1. Kamelot – The Black Halo (2005)
Singing never sounded as good as when Roy Khan took over the vocal duties of Kamelot. Aside from his powerful pipes, however, Kamelot has been less than captivating, regaling the listener with poorly composed Arthurian epics, repetitive choruses, and hideous backing vocals. Their 2001 Release, Karma, had moments that foretold of brilliance to come, but only the most desperate Power Metal fans could have imagined they could produce an album like The Black Halo.
This album continues with the Faustian theme that Kamelot excels at. The tone and vocals set the stage for an entrancing dark opera, which at times flows from blistering fast to a smooth and soft ballad, often times within the same song. This is deeply profound, and gorgeous album that will stick in anyone’s mind for a long, long time. A masterpiece of Progressive-Power Metal, highly recommended for anyone, metal fans or not.