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 Lists
04.26.15 Johnny Turns 10000 Part II - Top 100 Al04.21.15 Johnny Turns 10000 - Top 100 Albums (10
04.17.15 Prelude to Johnny's Top 100: 113-10104.07.15 Meaning of life?
02.21.15 Johnny reviews the new list interface.01.22.15 Who are you listening to?
01.20.15 UK Politics12.15.14 Johnny's New Free EP
12.12.14 201312.07.14 Going To Make A Christmas EP
10.24.14 Kayo Dot Ranked09.28.14 Climaxes
07.22.14 Listen To My New Album?06.19.14 The Gathering Ranked (Anneke Only)
06.16.14 My New (free) Album05.21.14 Openers From Debut Albums II
05.19.14 New Album From Johnnydeking2905.18.14 I Made A Music Video...
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Johnny Turns 10000 Part II - Top 100 Albums (50-1)

Well, here it finally is! That's my favourites list done for another few thousand comments. I half hope that I will have discovered so much awesome new music by the time I remake this list that it'll barely be recognisable, but I know that these are all albums that will stay with me to some degree.
50The Fall of Troy
The Fall of Troy


#50 – Remember how I described Doppelganger as a silly album built around cheap thrills? Well, The Fall of Troy’s self-titled debut is a slightly different story. It’s rawer, both production-wise and in terms of composition, and much more substantial; the concept of sensible song structures applies far more to this album, but not at the expense of guitar acrobatics and the occasional sporadic transition. This album was probably the simplest that the band ever recorded, and as a result it feels less like entertaining gimmickry and more like an excellent, robust album that some post-hardcore kids made having just left high school.
49Neurosis
Souls at Zero


#49 – My first Neurosis album blew my mind. Souls at Zero’s is a cold, cold sound that sounds powerful and original even today; back in ’92, this probably seemed like it had come from another planet. Neurosis sound a lot less sludgy here than they would on future releases, and this gives SaZ a feeling of focus that the other albums don’t quite have. Think of it as a scalpel to Through Silver In Blood’s mallet. Sterile Vision and To Crawl Under One’s Skin are particularly chilling cuts that still unsettle me slightly every time I hear them.
48Bjork
Vespertine


#48 – Weirdly enough, I got into Bjork through Vespertine at around the same time I discovered Souls at Zero; in hindsight it was a pretty poor place to start, but I’ve grown to love its fragile atmosphere. This is possibly Bjork’s most personal album, although Vulnicura has a strong claim to that title; she comes across as exposed and vulnerable, but in a secretive, passionate and somewhat mischievous way, and the image of a ‘hidden place’ from the opener summarises it nicely. Heirloom is perhaps the warmest, most welcoming song here, whilst An Echo, A Stain is disconcertingly minimal and often openly scary; both are highlights, alongside Pagan Poetry and the elegant closer Unison.
47Mr. Bungle
California


#47 – Mr. Bungle’s masterpiece does away with much of their gimmickry in favour of their two great strengths: charisma and pastiche. The retro tribute on California is spot on, not least because Mike Patton has never sounded smoother. I love this for the same reasons that anyone would love Mr. Bungle: it’s fun, well-written and weird as hell. However, the main appreciation I have for California is that team Bungle calmed down somewhat after Disco Volante and penned a consistent, cohesive album that is rightly considered a classic.
46Dire Straits
Love Over Gold


#46 – My favourite Dire Straits album is probably their most creative and if nothing else, it shows what a genius songwriter Mark Knopfler is. Telegraph Road is a beautiful prog epic with a poignant lyrical message, Private Investigations is a captivating noir-esque song, the title track a beautiful love song and It Never Rains epitomises everything good about old-school rock for me. Industrial Disease suffers a little from the cheesy spirit of the 80s, but four phenomenal songs out of five makes for magnificent album. Love Over Gold doesn’t hold as much nostalgic value as Making Movies, or even Communique, and it isn’t as accessible as Brothers in Arms, but it remains Dire Straits’ finest hour.
45Cult of Luna
Somewhere Along the Highway


#45 – I often find that post-metal can be a formulaic minor-key-build-followed-by-crushing-heaviness spiel that gets seriously tiresome, but Cult of Luna managed to add a huge amount of emotion to the same structures that less successful bands use routinely. Finland largely discards the typical build/climax approach in favour of a more dynamic mid-tempo approach reminiscent of Wavering Radiant-era Isis, whilst Dark City, Dead Man and Back to Chapel Town take the traditional structure to a whole new level. The instrumental section Dim is totally heart-wrenching, thanks in no small part to an impassioned drum performance. Somewhere Along the Highway is robust but moving, and it’s all the best for it.
44Children of Bodom
Hatebreeder


#44 – I might have grown out of my former unconditional Favourite Album Ever That Is Perfect In Every Way somewhat, but Hatebreeder remains a phenomenal jam. The composition and production are neither as messy as on Something Wild nor as refined as on Follow the Reaper, and the result is a pretty raw album with an alarming density of excellent riffs and solos and somewhat confusing song changes (honestly, the title track has at least four bridges, and don’t even get me started on Towards Dead End). Follow the Reaper is a better example of song-writing, but Hatebreeder provides so much more entertainment and is a total blast of an album from start to finish.
43Talking Heads
Remain in Light


#43 – Remain in Light is ridiculously focused. The world’s favourite paranoid funk album’s eight songs are all top tier (although Seen and Not Seen and The Overload aren’t on the level of the others when considered individually, they work very well in their positions in the album) and manage to mesmerise their audience utterly with their endlessly repetitive loops. It’s a rare album that can rely on making you listen to the same few bars over and over again whilst remaining thoroughly captivating.
42Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children


#42 – Although I’m partial to IDM, it’s hardly my genre of choice and I only tend to listen to it occasionally. However, Boards of Canada’s debut is a firm favourite; its vast atmospheres seem to go on forever (thanks in no small part to lengthy running time), and that is absolutely fine by me. I rarely feel a need to listen through it from start to finish, since any length of time spent basking in its dreamy ambience is highly gratifying, but when I do, it is absolutely evident that Music Has the Right to Children is a very special album.
41The Dear Hunter
Act II: The Meaning of, & All Things Regarding Ms. Leading


#41 – Romance, youth, heartbreak, angst and disillusion have their places in many genres, with very mixed results. Casey Crescenzo’s conceptual indie/prog take on this ill-fated blend is convincing, moving, diverse and surprisingly consistent for a highly ambitious 15 song album. Rockers like The Procession and Dear Ms. Leading give the listener little consent when it comes to being hooked, whereas more complex numbers such as The Lake and the River, Red Hands and Vital Vessel Vindicates provide a lot of depth. There are a few forgettable moments (Evicted, Blood of the Rose), but Act II is a goldmine of passionate vocals, inventive instrumentation and fantastically realised ambitions.
40The Gathering
How to Measure a Planet?


#40 – Along with Anathema, Thrice and others, The Gathering belong to a specific cohort of artists that I adore for releasing a range of diverse albums that experimented without coming across as overtly experimental music. How to Measure a Planet is the cornerstone of their magnificent discography; I enjoyed The Gathering before I had heard it, but after doing so I realised that they had far more greatness in them than their first two albums with Anneke had hinted at. The album shows them embracing the trippier side of their sound and capitalising it, crafting a sprawling double album of diverse bliss. The rest of their future discography borrows from the beautiful lethargy that …Planet nails, but they never again managed to sound quite so relaxed. This is essential listening for any alt/experimental rock fans.
39Pavement
Slanted and Enchanted


#39 – Pavement are my latest obsession, and Slanted & Enchanted is primarily responsible. This album is a fucking mess, the amount of apathetic disdain emanating from the band for their own sound is obscene, the songwriting is simple to the point of seeming plain lazy, and there isn’t really any production. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. Song after song of abrasive guitar lines and deadpan vocals just hits the mark again and again, but as one would expect from such a messy album, there are definite highlights: Here is the most beautiful moment on this uncut gem, In the Mouth a Desert and Summer Babe boast some of the strongest hooks, Trigger Cut is oddly charming and Loretta’s Scars is music to grow a combover out to. I don’t think any album has ever had such an easy time getting away with being so awesomely imperfect.
38Brand New
Daisy


#38 – Brand New’s fourth album is the greatest thing that they have done to date; it isn’t as contrived as The Devil and God or as cringe-inducing as their first two. It’s raw but focused and sounds like it was made by a band that gave up on making the perfect album and instead wrote whatever music they felt like making. Sink, Vices and Gasoline are 100% fat free displays of vicious aggression, whilst the title track and Bed make for concise moments of meaningful reflection. The extensive You Stole invokes a wonderfully immersive atmosphere rather than shooting for the stars as Limousine did, and Noro is the greatest song the band ever wrote, expressing passion alongside apathy and fulfilling every expectation that can be pinned on it.
37Naked City
Naked City


#37 – John Zorn’s coolest and most famous album is everything you could imagine and more. There are no transitions on Naked City’s debut, just cut/paste sections of every genre that can be played with a guitar, bass, sax, drums and keys. There is noise and lots of it, but also a lot of groove and melody that makes for an album that’s less a well-rounded product than it is a porcupine of sporadic, punchy creativity. It does pretty much everything, and it does it all amazingly. I heard this at a time when I was starting to realise exactly how mad music could be, and since then I tend to see it as the flagship album of my experimental phase, which – fortunately – is far from over.
36Ulver
Perdition City


#36 – I wound up giving this a listen thanks to a nagging feeling that I’d left Ulver aside for too long, and didn’t have many expectations. This was fortunate, because none of them would have come close to grasping the way that opener Lost in Moments kicks the album off. The ebb and flow of the song, the sinister inclusion of the saxophone, the catchy beats and Garm’s vague vocals, which are often in the background, all come together in an awesomely tight way and grip me throughout the album (although We Are the Dead/Dead City Centres is a slight drop in quality from the rest). I still can’t decide whether it’s right to call Perdition City a trip-hop album, but I love it for pretty much all the reasons I love trip-hop, and more.
35Massive Attack
Mezzanine


#35 – Speaking of trip-hop, Mezzanine is absolutely killer. Its crawling menace is as infectious as it gets, but it has the dynamic muscle to avoid falling into the trap of getting stagnant in the way that 100th Window would later do. Despite the criticism Man Next Door often receives and the slightly overlong interludes that Exchange provides, there isn’t a genuinely weak moment to be found here. When I am a CEO of some disgustingly large firm that owns its own towering block of offices, I will ensure that Mezzanine is played in the lobby 24/7, just to keep my staff/visitors slightly unsettled.
34Pink Floyd
Animals


#34 – Animals is the best Pink Floyd album. Their other classics are all excellent, of course, but the expansive wasteland brought to existence by the three giant songs on this album is in a league of its own. Sheep suffers slightly from slightly poor pacing, but Dogs and Pigs are untouchably strong songs that show Floyd and all their greatest strengths.
33maudlin of the Well
Part the Second


#33 – maudlin of the Well was a great metal band, but even better as an experimental prog band with relaxing melodic quirks. They blended the two very well and mixed things up very smoothly, but a whole album of the latter style was always going to be a hit with me, and Part the Second’s five songs deliver. The opener with loads of number in its name is absolutely blissful, Laboratories of the Invisible World is fresh and exciting even by motW’s standards, Rose Quartz Turning to Glass balances the experimental wasteland of its first five minutes with a mellow coda excellently, Another Excerpt showcases the majority of Toby Driver’s compositional strengths, and Clover Garland Island is very…maudlin. Although it often comes across as one, Part the Second is far too substantial to be a gimmick: it’s a charm.
32Sigur Ros
( )


#32 – Rarely has an album so simple been so ambitious, but ( ) aims for dizzying heights and tends to reach them. It’s one thing to craft simple, mellow songs and bring them to the occasional gentle climax, but the way that Sigur Ros makes this wonderland of an album sound so heartfelt and moving is something else entirely. Untitled 2 is particularly dreamy, Untitled 5 manages to be the most ambient and the most overwhelming song on the album at the same time (seriously, it’s like the sonic equivalent of a whale jumping out of the sea in slow motion), and Untitled 6 is a crystalline work of beauty. Although lyrically meaningless, there is something profoundly affecting about Sigur Ros’ most cohesive album.
31Isis
Wavering Radiant


#31 – Isis’ final album was their most dynamic and organic; these songs were the most complicated that they ever wrote, but they seem to evolve so naturally that it’s hard to tell at first. There are still some extraordinary builds here (the rising-sun vibe on Hall of the Dead’s outro is breathtaking, and Threshold of Transformation ends Isis’ career on an overpoweringly awe-inspiring note), but Wavering Radiant also works well at its most unpredictable; the transitions in Ghost Key are particularly tight. Although they started life as a raw metal band, Isis sound embellished and saturated on Wavering Radiant, and they benefit greatly from it.
30Sonic Youth
Sister


#30 – Although it might seem to be overshadowed by the towering opus that followed it, Sister benefits from being more concise than Daydream Nation, and also a little more diverse. It’s deceptively poppy; although bittersweet gems like Schizophrenia, Beauty Lies in the Eye and Kotton Krown come across innocently enough, Sister is definitely built on noise, which creeps through the cracks and takes the lead whenever the opportunity arises, as exemplified by the violent self-destruction that transpires in the final moments of the otherwise hook-laden Tuff Gnarl. At points, Sister flat-out rocks (Catholic Block, Stereo Sanctity and White Cross), and sometimes it screws around and earns the band every one of their experimental credentials (Pacific Coast Highway, Pipeline/Kill Time). Sister doesn’t have a consistent aesthetic like Goo, Daydream Nation or EVOL, but it doesn’t need one; the songwriting here is killer and there’s a lot of emotional value under all that noise.
29Circle Takes the Square
As the Roots Undo


#29 –I used to think that if music was a question, As the Roots Undo might just be the answer, but I no longer pin any meaning onto it. It doesn’t need it; the amount of frenzied catharsis, screamed out over a gritty musical backdrop that is interspersed with tense post-rock breaks, doesn’t need a direction to be powerful; the focus is all in the execution. Kill the Switch remains of my favourite songs and paces itself fantastically, whilst Interview at the Ruins provides a surprising amount of beauty in the midst of an album of total chaos. A Crater to Cough In is probably the most even balance of chaos and peace and concludes this rollercoaster of an album.
28Coheed and Cambria
The Second Stage Turbine Blade


#28 – The Second Stage Turbine Blade is also a cathartic album in its own way, but if As the Roots Undo was a full-on existential crisis, this is more of a coming of age. Coheed’s debut is angsty and uncertain but balanced by a sweet, melodic side that lends a strange innocence to Claudio Sanchez’s disturbing narrative, especially on highlights Time Consumer, Everything Evil and Neverender. I think that the reason I love this album so much is that it never sounds any less fresh than it did the first time I heard it.
27Cult of Luna
Salvation


#27 – Whenever I listen to Salvation in full, there’s a moment (usually during Waiting for You or Adrift) when I’m struck by the thought that his album is just better. Although some parts are absolutely crushing, it isn’t nearly as dense as Somewhere Along the Highway; many of the builds here are fairly relaxed in places and the band seem more comfortable to let their sound drift somewhat (especially after the unbelievably heavy album that preceded this, The Beyond). The result is a perfect blend of intensity and reprieves from it, making for an incredibly balanced, powerful album.
26Anathema
Eternity


#26 – For all its spacey atmospheres and Pink Floyd tributes, Eternity is effectively a doom album. It’s my opinion that Anathema only really stopped being a spiritual doom band when their focus shifted from death to love and heartbreak, but Eternity’s music is manifestly bleak as well. However solid its gloomier moments are, Eternity distinguishes itself when it’s at its most wondrous, for instance, the riff that breaks into Cries On the Wind and suddenly takes what felt like a glum dirge for a slow-burning fireplace to the heights of a night sky. Eternity III is the finest song Anathema have ever written, nailing a dramatic, mysterious, meaningful and ultimately cathartic atmosphere in an unbelievably successful style. I have reviewed Eternity more than once and have listened to it more times that I remember; it might not be happy, but it is empowering.
25Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven


#25 – Breaking into the top quarter is fairly safe bet for a favourite album. In terms of sheer scale it’s as epic as Godspeed get, but it’s also wonderfully simple (with the exception of Antennas to Heaven, which I still find more confusing than I do enjoyable); I’m still overwhelmed by how this band managed to take such straightforward, repetitive progressions and draw them out to such dizzying heights. Sleep is one of the few songs that I would describe as utterly perfect and exemplifies everything great about this band. In today’s scene, 80 minutes’ worth of four post-rock songs is generally synonymous with “total snoozefest”, but Godspeed made it majestic and toweringly powerful.
24Pixies
Doolittle


#24 – Doolittle is one of those albums that doesn’t need highlights because it is just one excellent song after another. Quirky and diverse as it is, it never lets the sky-high standard set by Debaser slip throughout its running time, although La La Love You is the closest thing it has to a weakness. From Hey’s chilled vibe to the intensity of Mr. Grieves to the warped anthem I Bleed, Doolittle is an astoundingly consistent album that has enough noise to be gritty, but more than enough hooks to grant it universal appeal.
23O'Brother
Garden Window


#23 – O’Brother’s debut is one of the strongest albums of recent times. Never mind the fact that the highlights push their sludgy style of post-rock to devastatingly powerful heights, the diversity and passion found on Garden Window is a marvel in itself. Despite their knack for full-throttle knockout punches like Lay Down, Sputnik and Lo, O’Brother are fantastic when they slow the pace down even further and relax slightly, like on Easy Talk, Poison! and Bear. Cleanse Me combines both styles and makes for an utterly overwhelming tour de force that any band should be more than proud to have in their discography. This is a special band that have a remarkable take on a seemingly stagnant sound.
22The Dillinger Escape Plan
Calculating Infinity


#22 – Of all The Dillinger Escape Plan’s albums, their furious debut is the one that requires the most attention and patience before it starts to sound like anything other than white noise. The musicianship is as chaotic as one would expect, but the rawer production, Dimitri Minakakis’ rough vocals and the sheer intensity is beyond anything that the boys of DEP would go on to do. The ambient breaks are just as disconcerting as the spastic math-metal, and some of the transitions here are outright terrifying. One of the more aptly titled albums of all time, Calculating Infinity put DEP on the stage as a band terrifyingly precise enough to accomplish pretty much anything they wanted to.
21Radiohead
OK Computer


#21 – Now here’s an example of an album that deserves almost all of its copious acclaim. OK Computer is more creative than The Bends, more accessible and (in my opinion) powerful than Kid A and more consistent than In Rainbows, making for the best of Radiohead’s many formidable albums. Their signature paranoia never felt more digestible than on Let Down, or more oppressively terrifying than on Climbing Up The Walls, whilst Paranoid Android has rightly been heralded as the closest thing to a modern(ish) Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s intentionally draining and pretty depressing, but OK Computer is one of the most concretely meaningful things in an era that it casts a terrifyingly alienated slant on.
20Bjork
Post


#20 – I’m still not convinced that Post is Bjork’s best album, but it’s her most enjoyable for sure. Maybe it’s not as conceptual as Homogenic, Vespertine or even Vulnicura, but it’s as creative as any of her work and even catchier. Hyperballad, Isobel and Headphones are ambitious masterpieces, whilst Enjoy and Army of Me bring sleazy disco-ready energy to the table. However, although it’s far from my favourite song here, Possibly Maybe is perhaps my most memorable cut from Post; its mesmerising keyboard hook and simple yet moving lyrics make for one of Bjork’s most touching songs. Post is riddled with highlights and provides the most fun that Bjork was ever prepared to dish out; I adore it.
19Arcade Fire
Funeral


#19 – At the end of the day, Funeral is a great album about nostalgia made by nostalgic adults, but it has a fresh, almost innocent charm that Arcade Fire lost somewhat on their other more experienced, tired-sounding albums. It’s all very well for, say, The Suburbs to recreate youthful memories, but Funeral makes them come to life in a whole different way. Tunnels is such a convincing account of small town ennui that it almost makes you believe that your childhood was completely different, but In the Backseat is achingly sad in a vague way that brings all sorts of real memories to mind. These two songs are the strongest Arcade Fire ever wrote, and everything between them is nearly as excellent. If there’s an album that will make me remember what it was like to be young with any degree of accuracy, it’s Funeral.
18Thrice
Vheissu


#18 – Vheissu is Thrice’s most balanced album and to be honest, the more I listen to it the more I realise that it’s an album of highlights. For Miles, Red Sky, Between the End and Where We Lie and The Earth Will Shake fully deserve any saturated praise that can be thrown at them, but they leave the other songs in their wake. If all its songs were on the same level as Music Box or Atlantic, Vheissu would still be fantastic (and probably on the same tier as Beggars), but it is elevated greatly by its stupendously amazing standouts. For Miles in particular is a profoundly moving song that has been very close to my heart for several years now.
17Sonic Youth
EVOL


#17 – EVOL takes Sonic Youth’s slick signature sound past the point of coolness and into the realms of sleazy confusion. The murky obscurity of Green Light and Death to our Friends is more of an enigmatic diversion than a centrepiece, and they split the indifferently slouched posture of the first half (epitomised by Starpower) up from the more hypnotic, mysterious second half nicely. Tom Violence and Shadow of a Doubt make for an effortlessly immersive opening combination, whilst Expressway to Yr. Skull brings the album to a surreal climax beautifully. This is the ultimate album for disillusioned or apathetic deviance of any kind; for all Funeral and albums of its ilk revel in nostalgia, EVOL’s basis is the feeling of being disconnected, which has far more depth (scarily enough).
16Agalloch
The Mantle


#16 – More than any of Agalloch’s other albums, The Mantle is a grower. My first listen was concluded by a vaguely appreciative nod as I shrugged off the last moments of A Desolation Song and skipped onto another album. Nowadays by the time I get to the end, I feel emotionally exhausted and somewhat awe-struck. This is probably Agalloch’s most creative album, and the extra instruments they use to embellish their guitar-lead sound works perfectly in the scheme of The Mantle’s folky aesthetic, particularly on ... And The Great Cold Death Of The Earth. When they fire up the metal on I Am The Wooden Doors and You Were But a Ghost In My Arms, the results are breathtaking. This is a rare album that invariably rewards after a certain time investment.
15Oceansize
Effloresce


#15 – Effloresce is nothing if not ambitious; using every available minute of CD runtime available to them, Oceansize try everything from trip-hop-esque menacing ambient (One Day All This Could Be Yours) to a psychedelic-tinged industrial rock trip (Massive Bereavement) to swirling post-rock bliss (Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs) to good old stadium-ready radio rock (Amputee), all the while displaying their usual fluid time signatures and passionate delivery. They do it all damn well, and Effloresce ends up as a behemoth of an album that is absolutely killer from start to finish. Whenever I wonder why I tend to listen to more modern prog than 70s material, this album is one of the first pieces of evidence that I think of.
14The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis


#14 – After the slightly messy Ire Works, DEP reined in their sound, focused on the aspects that had always made them great, refined them to perfection, and unleashed them in this devastatingly calculated tour de force. Despite some deceptively melodic sections (I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t, Widower, Parasitic Twins), this album remains pretty damn mean throughout and seems uncompromising and unrelenting at any given point. Based on artistic value, Calculating Infinity is probably slightly better than this, but Operation Paralysis is more infectious, more inviting and slicker. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s sound is so obscenely complicated that when they showcase it at its most polished and refined, the results are hideously strong.
13Coheed and Cambria
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3


#13 – Coheed and Cambria’s greatest weakness is that they can only really be enjoyed when in an excellent mood, but their greatest strength is the efficiency with which they induce such a mood. In Keeping Secrets… is their happiest, catchiest and funnest album and, coincidentally, their best. The production isn’t quite as absent as on The Second Stage Turbine Blade, but it’s raw enough to give the band a decisively unpolished, youthful feel. However, their songwriting had gotten a lot tighter by this stage, as shown by the ease with which they strung together proggy milestones like The Crowing and The Light & The Glass, whilst Three Evils and Blood Red Summer prove that the poppier side is more than a fun gimmick. IKSSE:3 is a beast of an album that shows Coheed in all of their ambition, silliness, catchiness and lovability.
12Isis
Panopticon


#12 – I find it really strange to be writing an entry for Panopticon that doesn’t take a top ten placement for granted. Its colossal progressions and peaks just seem to demand a level of prestige that they craft for themselves above the heads of anyone else; So Did We begins the album with a section so crushingly dense that Isis’ brawn is unforgotten throughout the rest of the album, and from this point onwards Panopticon meanders powerfully through its various builds and releases of tension; Altered Course might take its foot of the gas for slightly too long, but the pacing is otherwise impeccable. The oppressive, paranoia-laden atmosphere is also perfected throughout Panopticon, which is the finest hour of an absolutely outstanding band.
11maudlin of the Well
Bath


#11 – For all maudlin of the Well has been hailed as a fusion of everything musically conceivable, Bath comes across far more cohesively than one would expect. Before hearing motW, I had an obscene amount of hype for what promised to be the ultimate gimmick band; absolute excess and outrageously transitioned portions of everything that one would never expect to be combined. I was somewhat thrown off by the ease and smoothness with which Toby Driver’s compositions flow here; even the most ridiculous songs (Heaven and Weak, They Aren’t All Beautiful and The Ferryman) are tight and well placed within the track listing. The much-heralded metal segments are mainly atmospheric (although they can be highly volatile too), and Bath is more a beautiful album than anything out. It has more than its fair share of quirks, but they fit in too damn well to be passed off as gimmickry.
10Neurosis
Through Silver in Blood


#10 – Introducing the top ten is the ugliest, heaviest and vastest album on the list (and most other lists). Through Silver in Blood is unrelentingly crushing, but its power lies in its insidiously diverse approach; as overwhelming as all-out sludgefests like Locust Star and the title track are, the ambient melodic minor-laden Enclosure in Flame, the haunting piano of Strength of Fates and the orchestral scope of Aeon take the album to a whole new level and provide a dynamic level that takes its heavier moments to an even greater extreme. Neurosis were at the top of their game here, blending their experimental spirit with the loudest, most harrowing intensity that they ever put to record.
9Protest the Hero
Kezia


#9 – Kezia is awesome for two main reasons: riffs and passionate vocals. Generic reasons they may be, but both aspects of the album are so strong that it manages to claw its way all the way up to position number nine. I’m a total sucker for a good hook and a bit of flashy delivery, and Protest the Hero deliver with their bombast and intensity dials turned up to 11. Although their later albums are all tighter, slicker and better produced, Kezia has a raw edge that makes it sound so much more real and less wanky to my ears.
8Anathema
Judgement


#8 – A long-time favourite (as in #1) album, Judgement takes the inner turmoil of doom and injects it into alternative rock. Some parts are highly dramatic (Wings of God, Parisienne Moonlight) and some are beautifully subdued (Make it Right, Forgotten Hopes), but the whole album is an amazingly touching release of grief from start to finish. I don’t feel as attached to it as I used to, mainly because I feel a lot more contented and self-assured than the teenager who got into this several years ago, but Judgement is an essential part of my musical history and remains a favourite.
7Sigur Ros
Agaetis Byrjun


#7 – Agaetis Byrjun does not feel like it belongs in our world. Its beautiful soundscapes are delivered in such a foreign (beyond the Icelandic lyrics and titles) manner that their relatability is almost surprising. Whilst ( ) is Sigur Ros’ most ambitious album, Agaetis favours creativity and variety over epic scope (which it still has in spades) and comes across as fresher and more inspired as a result. This album is so beautiful and so impossibly real that it deserves a place in anyone’s list; I think that I could have heard it yesterday and still put it in the exact same place. This is not an album that gets better or worse over time because it’s never anything less than profoundly moving.
6Dead Can Dance
Within the Realm of a Dying Sun


#6 – The timeless feeling of Agaetis is fairly similar to that of Within the Realm… but there’s a crucial difference: this is a dark, dark album. The simplicity of its melodies and its short runtime only make it more powerful; the haunting atmosphere introduced in the first half by Brendan Perry is whipped up into a near exorcism by Lisa Gerrard’s astounding one-two combination of Cantara/The Summoning of the Muse in the second half. The mesmerisingly disconcerting vibes here are second to none, allowing Within the Realm… to hold its own as an album that deserves by be heard by everyone able to do so.
5Agalloch
Ashes Against the Grain


#5 – Maybe it’s not as emotionally poignant as The Mantle, but Agalloch’s finest album utilises a more direct style of songwriting to trim the fat and deliver six fantastically focused songs that all stand out as their best work. Fire Above, Ice Below, Limbs and Bloodbirds stand out as especially immersive songs, whilst Not Unlike the Waves breaks into compound time for an excellent folk metal stomp. Ashes is breathtakingly epic and shows Agalloch at their most immediate and most satisfying.
4Oceansize
Frames


#4 – I first heard Frames at a point when it seemed like the perfect album for me; its entrancingly repetitive atmospheres, proggy gimmickry and vague sense of optimism were all aspects that I appreciated immediately, and it hasn’t lost any of its lustre since. The songwriting here is very bold and hideously successful; Oceansize’s blend of prog, alternative and post-rock sounds more idiosyncratic than ever, and Mike Venanrt’s knack of infusing huge amounts of feeling into his vocals, which are far from overpowering, works perfectly here. Only Twin is the band’s strangest song, but weirdly compelling, whilst Trail of Fire remains the definitive Oceansize track. This wonderful work of creativity has parts that anyone can appreciate and some that are well worth some invested time.
3The Gathering
Souvenirs


#3 – With the exception of the acoustic would-be single, the Gathering’s best album misses out on a good measure of the positive, adventurous atmospheres that had defined the band to a great extent thus far. There are no Great Ocean Roads or Travels or Rollarcoasters or even Confusions; instead, there’s a very dense, polished atmosphere that absolutely reeks of Portishead. However, Souvenirs is highly creative and demonstrates effective appropriation rather than cheap mimicry. These Good People, Even the Spirits Are Afraid and the title track are all fantastic reinventions of their gothic roots, now exhibited subtly and convincingly, whilst Jelena and Golden Grounds are mystical and hypnotic. Souvenirs is one of the most consistent albums I’ve heard so far and it raises the bar for what can be done with mystery and tension in music.
2Thrice
The Illusion of Safety


#2 – I didn’t expect The Illusion of Safety to hold up with time; it has so much angst, energy, nostalgia and adrenaline that it seemed impossible for it to avoid growing off me at some stage. Well, I still don’t know whether Dustin Kensrue manages to articulate a more profound, meaningful sound than what could be expected from this kind of post-hardcore, or maybe it’s simply because the riffs are simply beyond belief; The Illusion of Safety is just as much of a thrill to me now as it always has been. To Awake and Avenge the Dead and Deadbolt are furious and gut-wrenching, The Beltsville Crucible and In Years to Come are poppier and upbeat, and So Strange I Remember You takes nostalgia to levels I would never have dreamed of hearing from this kind of music. A classic of a genre that seems to shrug off all prestige with its layers of immaturity and gimmickry, Thrice did everything right here.
1Kayo Dot
Choirs of the Eye


#1 – It’s taken me a horrendous amount of time and words to reach this point, but now that I have, it feels difficult to give this commentary the excellence it deserves. The focus of this whole list, the most profound musical experience I’ve encountered and my bloody favourite album: it’s hard to spare the hyperboles for Choirs of the Eye, but it deserves them all. It’s an album that does absolutely everything but leaves its listeners with the feeling that they just witnessed one superbly written atmosphere. It tries ambient minimalism and makes it the most fascinating thing in the world, it dabbles in metal and makes it both mature and convincingly terrifying, and it experiments with a shorter ballad-esque format and turns it into the most confusing song in the world, but Choirs of the Eye is astoundingly beautiful throughout and is composed in a way that makes my jaw drop each and every time. A worthy winner.
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