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|Johnny Turns 10000 - Top 100 Albums (100-51)|
Seeing as I'm currently sitting on 9999 comments and 600 ratings, I decided to make an effort and put an obligatory celebratory list together, complete with soppy descriptions of why I love each album and why I've enjoyed wasting so much time on this site etcetc, and to buy myself some more time to work out what my favourite album of all time is, here's the first half! For the sake of diversity, each band is limited to two releases.
A Dead Sinking Story
#100 – This screamo/post-rock monolith is utterly overwhelming, in a fairly ambivalent way; the atmosphere conveys a lot of pressure and desperation, and it’s easy to be overpowered by it. As a result, I can only listen to this and enjoy it when I’m in an opportune mood, and this happens fairly rarely. However, when it does, A Dead Sinking Story blows me away. The last two tracks in particular are astonishingly powerful and the emotional aspect of the screamed vocals has to be heard to be believed.
#99 – Fugazi’s swansong is not a masterpiece. I’ve never understood the hype surrounding its slowest moments (The Kill, Argument) and am not sufficiently impressed by its highlights to put it on any kind of pedestal. However, it is a damn good album that is generally consistent and exhibits creativity that pushes the boundaries of an already experimental punk band. Cashout and Strangelight are both superb songs that are followed respectively by two more excellent tracks (Full Disclosure and Epic Problem, and Oh and Ex-Spectator), and these six songs provide the core of a very strong album.
|48||Sleepytime Gorilla Museum|
In Glorious Times
#98 – This was not an easy album. The first three songs present somewhat digestible versions of Sleepytime’s twisted, unmelodic sound, but from thereon in, In Glorious Times is dense, confusing and emotionally charged in a way that is hard to identify with. It’s a tormented, often sorrowful album that never presents itself as being anything else, but takes a while to connect with; I’m glad that I invested the time to do so, because it really is beautifully haunting and characteristically quirky. In particular, The Greenless Wreath is an agonizingly slow dirge that inspires near-terror alongside intense grief and Angle of Repose manages to draw excellence out of songwriting and lyrics so convoluted and obscure that they verge on self-parody. This is a very cohesive album that is well worth some undiluted attention.
|47||Time of Orchids|
#97 – If In Glorious Times was quirky, Sarcast While is something else. I’ve never exactly understood the degree of sincerity behind Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s sound and have been somewhat disturbed by it as a result, but in the case of Time of Orchids’ sound, the level of bizarreness is so high that it ceases to matter to me. Some of this is dreamy and blissful (All We Ever Wish), some is scathing and angry (Ours, Engendered, and Earned Over) and pretty much all of it is highly sinister. I love the confusing, twisted spirit behind this album; it feels like it draws the listener to some kind of poisoned fairyland or limbo, and its uniqueness continues to intrigue me.
#96 – Hearing Character at a time when my faith in metal had never been lower (since I started listening to it) changed my perspective strongly. I absolutely love the inclusion of keyboards here and the band’s knack of pushing beyond the aggression of metal towards brief flashes of beauty and tranquillity that make them come across so much more meaningfully, particularly in One Thought and Am I 1?. However, there are some high octane tracks (The New Build, Senses Tied) that absolutely slay, and this combination of ballsy fury and adventurous spirit makes for a great album.
#95 – Folk metal is wonderfully ridiculous, cheesy and silly, but it’s tremendous fun. I don’t care that Ensiferum are chanting and screaming about glorified fairytales, or that their riffs resound to their core with abject cheese; this album is so entertaining and so infectious that it’s hard to say no to, especially when heard as a whole. I remember getting it, and Follow the Reaper at a time when Children of Bodom were my favourite band (no questions asked), and being shocked when I couldn’t decide which I preferred. It might lose some of its lustre after many, many listens, but Ensiferum’s debut will always be a blast.
#94 – This is a lovely album. I imagine that there are few albums on this list that absolutely anybody could listen to and enjoy, but Different Stars is certainly one of them. It has vast emotional depth that is presented beautifully, both by the shoegazey instrumental arrangements and by Anna-Lynne Williams’s wonderful vocals. It’s perfectly cohesive and highly memorable, and my only complaint is that some songs (Vapour Trail, Love You More) come across a little too vaguely. Otherwise, it’s a very touching, dreamy album that hooked my on its first spin and merits many repeat listens.
|43||...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead|
Source Tags & Codes
#93 – I find this album pretty weird in that it’s atmospherically consistent but dependant on a few standouts for its appeal as a whole. If it weren’t for Relative Ways, Days of Being Wild, Baudelaire, Homage and the title track, I’d never have come anywhere close to loving this. As it is, Source Tags & Codes is pretty patchy and rough around the edges but full of fervent energy and some fantastic instrumental sections; there’s quite a bit a charm in its lack of polish and inconsistency and even more in its nostalgic, gut-wrenchingly emotional peaks. It reminds me of a vast plain (not quite a desert, but pretty barren) that manages to inspire a lot of awe and wonder despite its bleak aesthetic. The album is a neat blend between indie and post-hardcore (especially vocally) that requires quite a few listens to sink in, but it was well worth the time spent wondering why I was irritating myself with such uneven vocals to get into it.
Program Music I
#92 – There isn’t much that I can say for this that hasn’t already been said; it’s pretty much the epitome of instrumental narrative and a repeatedly jaw-dropping experience. The beautiful adventure presented in Stella captures a spirit of innocent wonder and the tension of Write Once, Run Melos is absolutely breathtaking, especially after the latter’s beautifully sporadic first section. I hate myself for this, but the length of these tracks is a real hindrance to the amount of time I’ve given it and therefore the amount I’ve been able to get out of it; I haven’t always had the time to give it my full attention, and haven’t always done so when I have. I hope that I’ll be able to hear it enough in the future for it to shift a few places up this list if I make it again.
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
#91 - Although I’m a fan of much of his work, I have never ignored Steven Wilson’s flaws. His voice isn’t strong enough to succeed without conviction or powerful lyrics, his penchant for metal has led to mixed results, as has his focus on concept albums. Hand. Cannot. Erase. doesn’t exactly escape any of these pitfalls, but it certainly refines Wilson’s sound and provides a great compromise. The concept of modern isolation is meaningful and moving, the music is fantastically well-composed and diverse (the heavy section in Home Invasion is pretty naff, but otherwise everything is spot on) and Steven’s voice is a highly suitable one for this release. Although the lyrical lowlight of the album, Routine is a magnificent piece of music, Ancestral comes across as the equally impressive sequel to Anesthetize, and Regret #9 is an excellent jam. This is a highly-polished, meticulously composed and surprisingly moving milestone of modern prog, and it will be interesting how it will age.
#90 – It’s quite hard to describe Australasia beyond the image of sweltering heat and unpolished beauty that stereotypes of the continent in question bring to my mind. It’s a juggernaut of an album, with long, slow-developing songs that would be very doomy if they were one iota less upbeat and melodic. It’s a wonderful atmosphere that I often enjoy unwinding to when I’m happy.
#89 – My days of worshipping In Flames’ harmonies and intricate sense of melody might be past, but I can still appreciate their work, and this is my pick from it; Whoracle used to fit my idea of the perfect album, and the riffs here are still a joy to my ears. Songs like Gyroscope and Jester Script Transfigured contain timeless melodies, and the ominous desperation of Worlds Within the Margin still unsettles me. Whoracle has several weak points, and the band’s sense of harmony becomes too dense and excessive for me after a few songs, but this is still a jewel of Scandinavian metal.
Siren Song of the Counter Culture
#88 – Although I have a lot of nostalgia for Rise Against (particularly this album), Siren Song continues to impress me on its own terms. I have had this album for the majority of the time in which I’ve been listening to music seriously, and it’s been interesting to see the parts of it that I enjoy change over time. Furious hardcore opener State of the Union, once overwhelming to my untrained ears, is now a key part of the album, whilst I’ve fallen out of love with mellower tracks such as Blood to Bleed and Swing Life Away. Siren Song displays Rise Against at a time when they were prepared to be fiercely aggressive, yet they paced themselves very nicely through it, resulting in a powerful, well-rounded highlight of their career.
|37||Save Us From The Archon|
How Terrible, The Undergrowths Jaws That Tangle.
#87 – This is probably the most obscure entry on the list, but the extremely sporadic brand of post-hardcore that Save Us From the Archon nailed on this album deserves just as much recognition as the greats of modern prog metal. Fearsome technicality, obscenely mathy transitions and frequent aggressive breakdowns might spell a recipe for disaster, but SUFTA inject so much energy, so many fantastic riffs and a curious, inexplicable character into the album that it soars past every expectation I might have had for it. It’s a great trip from start to finish (although I’ve always found the closer a bit of a let-down) and manages to be majestic and visceral at the same time. The fact that the song titles are taken from Mulholland Drive quotes gets it extra points.
|36||Dance Gavin Dance|
Downtown Battle Mountain
#86 – Partial as I am to trashy, shreddy post-hardcore, I took a long while to get into this. I appreciated the musicianship and (especially) the vocals at first, but it just didn’t grab me. Several months after first hearing it, I gradually realised that I was enjoying everything I heard from it more and more, resulting in something of a binge in which it became apparent that Downtown Battle Mountain is just one infectious section of shamelessly cheap thrills after the next. And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman and Surprise! I'm From Cuba, Everyone Has One Brain are particularly hooky and bookend a strong album commendably.
|35||At the Drive-In|
Relationship of Command
#85 – Relationship of Command is another post-hardcore album that took a long while to click with me. I thought that it was cool and well-written, but its energy just didn’t seem to rub off on me aside from the two most accessible tracks (Invalid Letter Dept. and One Armed Scissor). The aspect of this album that eventually won me over is its consistency; at the end of the day it’s one solid song after another, and the more I appreciated this, the more I got into its adrenalised, quirky sound. The lyrics are same perplexed grin-inducing spiel that Cedric Bixler-Zavala has always written and his strained shouts are a great acquired taste, but it’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s melodic yet absolutely furious guitar work that steals the show for me here. In my opinion, Relationship of Command is at its best when it’s at its most focused (Cosmonaut, Invalid Litter Dept., One Armed Scissor, Non-Zero Possibility) whereas the scrappier songs don’t deliver their intensity quite as well.
#84 – Although Nightwish are a notoriously love/hate-style band, I’m largely different towards much their music, particularly what I’ve heard of their newer sound. Century Child is the exception; whilst Wishmaster and Oceanborn had their moments, this is the closest they’ve come to making a masterpiece. The first half is tight, varied and consistent; even though I no longer turn cartwheels upon hearing it, it’s an enjoyable sequence of songs for anyone who can stomach a healthy measure of cheese. Feel For You is on par with these tracks, Ocean Soul is just about up to scratch too, and Beauty of the Beast is a fantastic song that brings out every ounce of potential in every member of the band, resulting in a closer so moving and epic that it makes me look back at the rest of the album with greater respect every time. Given that Nightwish are all about the epic and conceptual, 6 solid tracks plus one decent and one extraordinary feels like a well-realised opus.
The Circle Maker
#83 – John Zorn is one of my favourite musicians in the world, on principle. His relentless experimentation is still going strong but it has always been accompanied by a deceptively simple melodic sensibility, and this double album is a great example of this. It contains several string arrangements of songs from Masada, Zorn’s old klezmer band. Whilst the first disc (Issachar, which features only The Masada String Trio) is perfectly good in its own right, particularly in the case of the mesmerising Yatzah and the upbeat Meholalot, it is the second one (Zevulun, which sees the string trio joined by percussionists and Marc Ribot on guitar) that steals the show and earns The Circle Maker its place here. Ribot has a knack of bring Zorn's melodies out to their full, especially on Kisofim and Idalah-Abal. The subtle progressions and simplicity of this disc has made it an that I have spent a considerable time falling asleep to, as well as listening to with concentration.
Drugs to the Dear Youth
#82 – This 20 minute exhibition of every single unexpected rhythmic shift ever conceived is absolutely beautiful. 40 Rods to the Hog’s Head, the EP’s fantastic centrepiece that takes up almost half its running time, pretty much sets the standard for what instrumental music can accomplish emotionally in the 20th century and is one of the few songs that I have no inhibitions about describing as absolutely perfect. The fact that the musicianship on this album is beyond extraordinary but is surpassed by the bittersweet atmosphere that it produces is a clear sign that Tera Melos produced math rock at its finest on Drugs to the Dear Youth. Never has something so sporadic and twisted been so heart-wrenchingly wonderful at the same time.
#81 – Mr. Bungle’s second album is wildly inconsistent, occasionally mind-numbingly stupid, often a work of genius and always confusing. Pretty much every post-classical genre is sampled to some degree on Disco Volante and whilst the results may vary, I find that it hits more often than it misses. Platypus and Violenza Domestica are particularly successful pieces that transition frequently, moving from strength to strength, whereas Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz maintains a less sporadic progression throughout with excellent results. While the eastern groove of Desert Search for Techno Allah is vastly overshadowed by Spruance’s Secret Chiefs 3 work, it still works very nicely here, and the notorious carousel-ride-to-black-metal-freakout transition in Merry Go Bye Bye still makes me smile. Overall, I think I’ll always love Disco Volante for being an unbelievable oddball that just happens to have some killer tracks on it.
|30||Sleepytime Gorilla Museum|
Of Natural History
#80 – Another oddball album, if not quite on the same level of weirdness as Disco Volante, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum made an album about the apocalypse and death and mankind being wiped off the earth, and it’s a damn good one. Unsurprisingly, the album is best when it’s at its most apocalyptic, which is to say the majority of it. Babydoctor is a rare track that climaxes explosively, but enthrals the listener so utterly in its build that the climax ceases to matter, whilst Phthisis is a concise, menacing groove that reminds me of Converge’s You Fail Me (the song, not the album), but without all the Convergey aspects that make it so awful. My favourite part of this album is how Sleepytime keep a huge level a tension for most of its runtime and make it feel unsettlingly (yet captivatingly) REAL, and as with all things unsettling, they do it very, very well.
#79 – Steven Wilson’s second greatest album is perhaps his most powerful conceptually. Deadwing is a ghost story – that’s all I know. I haven’t heard anything more specific about the concept from other sources, and to be honest, I don’t want to; I love the mystery that surrounds the music. The narrative elements of tracks like the title track and Open Car have always captivated me and made me wonder what the story behind the album might be, without really wanting to know the answer. Glass Arm Shattering is perhaps the song that best this; it’s gripping throughout and beautifully intriguing, it ebbs and flows with clear design, and after it finishes, I get the sense that I missed the message or meaning of the song, but I know that I enjoyed it too much to care. At the end of the day, the obscurity of Deadwing triumphs over the dreariness of In Absentia and the transparency of Fear of a Black Planet, standing on much higher level to Porcupine Tree’s other 'metal' albums.
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
#78 – The Devil and God didn’t change my life and I don’t quite understand the towering acclaim that it gets on this site. It’s not a perfect album, and I wouldn’t even go as far as to call it a lyrical masterpiece, although some songs frequently make me reconsider the latter statement. I didn’t really have many expectations for it; I picked it up and gave it a spin in the spirit of “let’s see if this is any good after all”, and it got as far into my good books as it did because it’s an excellent album. Aside from the fairly pointless interlude Welcome to Bangkok, there aren’t any particularly weak tracks, and the respective intensity and reflection of You Won’t Know and Jesus show signs of the greatness that is so often ascribed to the band. I don’t feel a need to put it on a pedestal (beyond the humble placement of Rank #78), because it’s damn good without inflation.
|27||The Fall of Troy|
#77 – With the difference that I loved this from first listen, I could quite easily refer to the Downtown Battle Mountain summary for why this captivates my attention but fuck it, this is an album with loads and loads of riffs (many of them obscenely good) and loads and loads of stupid transitions (almost all of them good), a possessed vocal performance, and heaps of ridiculousness. It’s a silly album that, as with DBM, can be summarised by the words ‘cheap thrills’, but those thrills are so fun and so replayable that The Fall of Troy have deserved every minute of the time I’ve given this album.
|26||Children of Bodom|
Follow The Reaper
#76 – If wanky guitar-orientated albums were cars and Doppelganger was a somewhat battered Toyota Supra with hydraulics, no suspension and partially effective brakes that is a great for some carefree, innocent fun, Follow the Reaper is a Dodge Charger with at least a decade’s worth of mileage and an engine that revs like a dragon waking up. It might not be the slicker, slightly beefier Mitsubishi Lancer Evo that the band evolved into with Hate Crew Deathroll, but Follow the Reaper is finely tuned and drives with immense precision, whilst never deviating from the take-no-prisoners signal given off by its uncompromising bonnet. In other words, this is the real deal. Alexi Laiho’s guitar leads and solos are at their finest, the split atmosphere of death by scytheX1000/exuberant post-youthful binge-drinking had not yet descended into near self-parody, and the band’s songwriting had not yet been corrupted by the polished production that they employed for the first time on this album.
#75 – I have never suffered from sleep paralysis, but I find it fascinating how Dredg manage to take such a specific, alien experience and turn it into something profoundly relatable on El Cielo. The sound they nail here is simultaneously heartfelt and meaningful, but at the same time confused and sort of…empty? Much like the sky (fun fact: el cielo is Japanese or French or maybe even American for ‘sky’) itself can be a great big source of inspiration but is actually an empty space above our heads with a few clouds in, or some crap like that. The chorus of Sanzen (“Hold on, we’ll be with you soon”) is a wonderfully simple refrain that captures the album in a nutshell, but for me its defining part is Same ‘Lo Road, which sounds like it should be purposeful and cheery but somehow ends up as disturbingly mournful. This feeling carries forward onto the rest of the album; it’s pretty simple, digestible stuff in terms of song-writing and melody, but it has great emotional depths.
|24||At the Gates|
Slaughter of the Soul
#74 – Once upon a time, At the Gates sounded like the heaviest thing in the world to me, and even now they’re hardly gentle. The reason they’re still up here is that the rabid intensity that they capture through fairly simple, often-imitated songwriting is kept up at exactly the right level for exactly the right length of time. That’s all there is too it; it hooked me in a way that I still can’t shake off.
#73 – Ah, Mastodon. I could struggle for hours to explain my love for this album in words other than “I really like the riffs” and get not very far at all, with the exception of the gorgeously bluesy Pendulous Skin, which relies more on atmosphere, and the weird concept about climbing a volcano, which I wrote up in full a while ago (http://www.sputnikmusic.com/list.php?listid=101322). The somewhat sludgy, gritty production was sadly done away with on Crack the Skye, but it used to give Mastodon the edge that made them so powerful. I think the aspect of Blood Mountain that earns it a place here is the way that the concept of a journey translates sonically; the album’s peaks and valleys are strongly suggestive of points on a quest, each song coming across as a different test or trial, until Siberian Divide brings things to a frantic close and Pendulous Skin sweeps in as a blissful epilogue; this sense of narrative makes Blood Mountain special for me.
Dreaming Neon Black
#72 – It's funny that I saw this as a prog album when I got into it, but I now hear it as thrash. It's also funny that I used to find it hard to listen to because of the abrasive music, but now it’s the emotional weight that makes it a challenge; there’s a lot of tortured guilt and regret here. Nevermore’s third album is their best by quite a margin and works incredibly well as a whole. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, look it up; it deserves a full explanation. The first few songs are somewhat muddled and confused, and then the devastating centrepiece of the title track and Deconstruction seems to form the narrative core, as if revealing something truly horrific, only to lead into the second half, which lets the horror reign with a terrifying sense of focus. It mixes scathing thrashers (The Fault of the Flesh) with chilling, doomier numbers (All Play Dead) until No More Will brings the album to a climax. I don’t often listen to this, but it never fails to blow me away.
Rust in Peace
#71 – Here’s an album that needs no introduction; Megadeth’s finest hour is rightly considered a cornerstone of metal. It goes from strength to strength, from the catchy menace of Holy Wars to the playful, fun riffs of Lucretia to the surprisingly emotional outburst of tension and frustration on Tornado of Souls. There are a few bass-led breaks (Five Magics, Poison Was the Cure) and several high-octane thrashers (Take No Prisoners, the title track), but anybody reading this list most likely knows all this. What matters to me is that it’s a thrash (nowhere near my genre of choice) album with a lot of diversity, creativity and a fair bit of fun. And heavenly solos. I can listen to this and enjoy it in any mood; it often makes me smile, and even at its heaviest, it’s got a certain charm that keeps me engaged.
The Trees Are Dead and Dried Out
#70 – And at the head of a string of five consecutive metal albums is…a djent album. Not what I expected, but Sikth walk all over expectations, especially on their influential debut. Now, I could put its placement above Rust in Peace, of all albums, down to the fantastic vocal partnership that Mikee Goodman and Justin Hill screw their audience around with so gleefully. Or maybe the fact that the lyrics are comic gold and support an already prominent note of quirkiness. Or (I’m going out on a limb here) it might be that the spazzy instrumental mix that dips in and out of being melodic, grooving volatilely, and occasionally abandoning tonality entirely. It’s a weird mix and I have no idea how they put it all together, but The Trees Are Dead… is a very tight album that juggles ideas a sporadically as it executes them. It seems to jest at everything, especially its scores followers and their yawn-inducing professional approach to technical metal.
|19||Faith No More|
#69 – Faith No More is far from my Mike Patton project of choice, but their crowning jewel is a real winner. With the exclusion of Be Aggressive, and with a good deal of lenience afforded for the eyebrow-raising RV, Angel Dust is a very solid collection of eclectic tracks that are experimental enough to be fresh and interesting, but not beyond what the band’s ambition was capable of delivering. My only issue with all this great material is that there are few moments that break out of simply being solid and sound GREAT. The bridge with Patton’s crooning in Malpractice is one of them, and the second half of Kindergarten is another. Caffeine has a lot going for it, as does the outros of Everything Ruined and A Small Victory. However, I find that Angel Dust makes me nod my head along with it far more than it makes me exhale and exclaim something awestruck; it’s absolutely totally excellent as a whole, but this is because it’s more than the sum of its parts.
Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue
I was literally halfway through writing my little commentary for Hubardo, talking about how reflective and jazzy and diverse it is, and suddenly stopped typing and thought “fuck it, Dowsing is way better than this.” It’s true; Hubardo is an awesome album in its own right, but it can’t touch the elegance, mystery and charm that surround Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue. It contains much of Kayo Dot’s most beautiful material and some curious endeavours into other regions, almost all of which are fascinating and a real pleasure to listen to. It gives me the feeling of having discovered a fascinating artefact in a dusty attic every time I hear it, and I often ask myself whether it might be the band’s best release yet (spoilers: I always end up deciding that it isn’t).
|17||My Dying Bride|
The Dreadful Hours
#67 – Doom! I had a short period in early winter about three years ago when I got volatilely obsessed with this album and could listen to little else; My Dying Bride absolutely nail the heavy sections here, but the best parts of the album for me are the emotional verses/bridges in My Hope, The Destroyer and The Deepest of All Hearts. It’s a real shame that the remake of The Return To The Beautiful is tacked onto the end of this; it’s not awful, but it does not belong on the end of an album already highly saturated with ideas and emotion. A quarter of an hour of comparatively dull moroseness that doesn’t even have a violin track, as the original did, is just too much. Anyway, I must have become a happier person over the last few years or something, because doom doesn’t do nearly as much for me as it used to, but I can still appreciate this very much.
#66 – When I thought about making this list, this was one of the first albums that occurred to me as needing an obligatory mention. It wasn’t so much of a “you need to put Jeff Buckley on this list no matter what” as a “you know without that this album is going to end up on this list because it’s that good.” And it is. In many ways, Grace is a very simple album; it doesn’t take repeated listens to tell how powerful Jeff’s voice was, or how powerfully he supported it with his guitar. Anybody familiar with alt rock can tell how finely crafted these songs are and how devastating its highlights are; the last chorus in So Real, the climax of Lover, You Should Have Come Over and the mysterious refrain at the end of Dream Brother are my picks, but pretty much any moment here is strong enough to be picked out.
#65 – Morningrise is an Opeth album, which spares me the trouble of writing a proper introductory. The acoustic work is some of Opeth’s finest, the riffs are slightly grittier than usual, and the song structures are unusually sporadic. I suppose it could be seen as immature and unfocused, but I think that this raw approach gives Morningrise an atmosphere of being real, genuine and hard-fought for by the band, which their Blackwater Park/Still Life clones lack somewhat; parts of this sound exceptionally heartfelt, particularly The Night and the Silent Water (one of the more underrated songs in Opeth’s catalogue). Advent is a near-perfect blend of everything that Opeth does right, and the second half of Black Rose Immortal is almost beyond compare. Perhaps a reason for its presence here is that I struggled to get into it for quite a while, so it feels like a hard-earned victory. If so, it certainly deserved to be fought for.
|14||Secret Chiefs 3|
#64 – Trey Spruance’s experimental band with a fetish for all things eastern is far more than the Mr. Bungle tribute that many critics have labelled it, and Book M is a solid example of this. It’s an instrumental concept album about the holy grail that takes melodic cues from all sorts of oriental and middle eastern sources, resulting in a diverse range of highly inventive songs that is oddly accessible; the techno-assisted stampede of Horsemen of the Invisible might be a bit intense, but from the brass-lead groove of Safina to Zulfiqar III’s slick electro/metal fusion to Hagia Sofia, which mixes sinister ambience with a drum and bass beat, Book M manages to be surprisingly coherent. To give you a good idea, the majority of Combat For the Angel’s six minutes consists of an increasingly wild violin solo being played over a colossal, off-kilter drum groove, and this comes across as a perfectly sensible development in this wonderfully experimental album, which I can't get enough of.
|13||Protest the Hero|
#63 – Two statements: that Rody Walker is an excellent singer, whose voice I love (especially since his screams here are the best in Protest’s career thus far), and that the music Protest the Hero recorded as Fortress is, for the most part, more than a load of self-indulgent wank. From that, it should be fairly easy to infer that I think the songwriting on here is generally killer, Bone Marrow and Sequoia Throne probably being the two best-structured songs, whilst songs like Wretch, Limb From Limb and The Dissentience are gloriously all over the place. I also think that the endless quantities of hooks and thrills are balanced appropriately by firm substance (excellent structuring and reuse of motifs throughout songs, which is hardly to be taken for granted with prog metal). Most importantly, I think that Protest came up with a superb album that occasionally goes overboard and loses a bit of steam towards the end, but is an exemplar for melodic technical music.
|12||A Lot Like Birds|
#62 – A Lot Like Birds are a step ahead of the game, as far as progressive/experimental post-hardcore that doesn’t quite want to transcend being post-hardcore is concerned. Their ambition and songwriting chops are both on a very high level, and this leaves them as a rare band that is able to take a tried and tested style and make it sound refreshingly novel. Corey Lockwood delivers a spine-chilling spoken word section in the bridge of album highlight Truly Random Code, before launching a jaw-dropping coda, but if this is his highlight, clean vocalist Kurt Travis’ is the opener Orange Time Machines Care, on which he croons to the best of his ability and gets the album off to a strong start. These two vocalists have great chemistry and provide a strong backbone for the band. Sure, there are a few times when they get a little whiny, but it's nowhere near enough to drag it down from the vast amounts of passion and energy that they layer over Michael Franzino’s bold arrangements.
#61 – This is probably the album that I’ve been listening to the longest out of everything on this list, and it’s aged well, both since its release and with me. I’ve always enjoyed it in the same way, to be honest, and although it’s no longer the most incredible thing ever to grace my ears, it remains a damn fine album that is slightly underrated within this fantastic band’s discography. Tunnel of Love, Romeo and Juliet, Skateaway and Expresso Love will always be as good as it gets for nostalgia-inducing rockers, Hand in Hand is the ultimate soppy ballad and Solid Rock has some cool groove to it. Even Les Boys, the obvious misfit of the album, brings back happy memories, and I think that I could hardly have chanced upon (/been parentally introduced to) a better album to remember the last decade or so to.
#60 – I used to love Dream Theater, and by ‘love’ I mean absolutely adore in a way that made it genuinely difficult for me to listen to any other music, a phenomenon I haven’t experienced since my Children of Bodom phase (and, as far as previous phases go, can only compare to my Avenged Sevenfold-fuelled metal awakening). After a couple of years of getting into music with sensible songwriting and solos of reasonable lengths, Dream Theater gradually faded out of my life until I saw them as little more than a relic of my musical development and defaulted to the ‘talented guys, lousy writers’ attitude. Since then, I’ve given them numerous second chances and come the conclusion that the era from Falling Into Infinity onwards is only manageable in small doses, that Images and Words is a good album that receives too much acclaim, and that Awake is absolutely 100% awesome. Voices, Erotomania, The Mirror and Space-Dye Vest are as good as DT get, and the rest flat out rocks.
#59 – Radiohead’s temporary emergence from the depths of weirdly adorned alternative wastelands and the release of their last ‘normal’ album (thus far) was a wonderful thing. After the abysmally inconsistent Hail to the Thief, a cohesive, accessible album like this was exactly what they needed, and oh, did the deliver… I see this album as being on three levels: first there is Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, the weak link that adds very little to the overall product, and then there’s Bodysnatchers, Faust Arp and House of Cards, all of which are decent songs that make for enjoyable listening. Finally, there’s the rest of the album, which is all exceptional. Whilst quite sad and minimalistic in places, In Rainbows isn’t as explicitly depressing as much of Radiohead’s past work, but rather enjoyable in a bittersweet way. It’s a nice reminder that these guys will always be able to write great songs when they choose the right style, and long may they continue to do so.
Death of a Dead Day
#58 – For their second album, Sikth got significantly beefier and ditched a lot of their comedic value, two things that I picked up upon quickly and was pretty sceptical about. Fortunately, it didn’t take me wrong to realise that pretty much all of the non-slapstick-based potential that The Trees… had going for it had been picked up and refined into a slick beast of an album; Death of a Dead Day is even more intense but also more concise and finely crafted, and the result is a streamlined powerhouse that churns out highlight after highlight up until its epic closer, As the Earth Spins Round. It’s just as unpredictable as The Trees…, but this sounds more calculated more random this time round and makes for a damn fine metal album.
#57 – Remember how much of Deadwing’s album came from being mysterious? Well, Signify does this even better; it’s subtler, more menacing and more confusing. It doesn’t have a concept behind it, just a set of songs, most of which are lyrically and musically unsettling to a certain degree. The Sleep of No Dreaming, Every Home is Wired and Waiting Phase I are particularly appealing and even charming, whilst Intermediate Jesus, Idiot Prayer and Waiting Phase II show Signify at its darkest. The closer Dark Matter is one of the greatest songs Steven Wilson has ever written and feels like the album gently breaking out of the state of dusty limbo that it has largely remained within throughout its runtime. Picking up on the analogy of Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue being an artefact found in the attic, Signify feels like a strange object somewhere in the drawing room that is warped and disconcerting, but has been absorbed into everyday comfort in weirdly enjoyable way.
#56 – This should have been the most pretentious, awkward attempt of a concept album to date; the narrative comes across as a near-joke (the fountain of youth in the blood of angels? Really...?), the blues rock/post-hardcore fusion is not something that I would have chosen as a good musical basis for anything, and vocalist Jerry Jones does not have a lot going for him. The thing is, Holy Vacants just works; the bombast of the concept somehow sounds sensational, the musical blend is perfectly written, and Jerry manages to sound like the ideal voice for it. There are inevitably some naff parts, particularly, the cringeworthy ‘heaviness’ of Burning Mirror, but Holy Vacants strikes gold for the majority of its run-time and racks up far more emotional value than it deserves when considered on paper. Qeres is ballsy and infectious, Crystallophobia is an anthem, and Everything Disappearing is an astounding song that closes a fantastic album that shoots for the moon and lands on two feet.
#55 – The duo best known for bringing good disco into the 21st century started off with a trip-hop album that reeks of Portishead, but you know what? They did it better. With the exception of hit single Utopia, Felt Mountain is creepy in its entirety, but there’s a lot of creativity shared between the songs, from the syncopated brass in Pilots to the atmospheric bassline-in-denial on the title track to the whistled motif on Lovely Head. Deer Stop and Horse Tears are Felt Mountain’s bleakest moments, and also its strongest; Alison Goldfrapp is terrifying in both tracks, and the skeletal instrumentation doesn’t allow the listener to focus on anything but her voice. Goldfrapp later swung to focusing on excess, which they did nicely, but they were at their best when they stripped away the synths and dance hooks and haunted their audience instead of making them dance.
|4||Secret Chiefs 3|
Book of Horizons
#54 – Secret Chiefs 3’s finest hour so far is highly erratic. By this stage, they had begun to change not only styles but also bands (or rather satellite bands) in between songs, meaning for example that the first three songs switch from repetitive funereal folk to a upbeat microtonal eastern dance to brutal death metal that sounds like it’s blasted straight from the desert sands. Some songs (On The Wings Of The Haoma, The Owl in Daylight, DJ Revisionist) switch things up several times, whilst others (The End Times, Book T: Exodus, The Three) are highly focused and easily palatable. Book of Horizons is full of surprises of all shapes and sizes and shows Mr. Spruance displaying his usual skill of playing a million styles at once, all to a very high standard and without making it sound awkward or pretentious.
|3||Queens of the Stone Age|
Songs for the Deaf
#53 – Josh Homme being nonchalant was an essential part of the 00s, and it never sounded cooler than on Songs for the Deaf. You know the drill; this is a cool hard rock album with cool riffs and cool vocals and that cool Dave Grohl guy on drums, and it’s great to listen to pretending that you’re on a cool road trip in the desert, or to take on an actual cool road trip in the desert. The point is, it’s cool as hell. There are a few obvious weaknesses, but this is not an album that invites its audience to consider them because, seriously, who cares?
Worship and Tribute
#52 – With the exception of those pertaining to influence, I find that the majority of praise attributed to The (Vastly Overrated) Shape of Punk to Come can be transferred to this album and gain good deal more validity. Glassjaw calmed themselves down after their scrappy (but occasionally mindblowing) debut and put together a set of quirky post-hardcore tunes that managed to epitomise the genre in its contemporary form whilst pushing its boundaries out with conviction. I love this album because it’s messy and decisively odd, but very tightly executed and adventurous. Tip Your Bartender, Mu Empire, Ape Dos Mil and Radio Cambodia show Glassjaw at the top of their game, and the rest of this masterpiece is uniformally killer.
#51 – Opeth’s greatest album is effectively a more refined version of Still Life, with all the fat cut away and replaced by substantial ideas (i.e. there are more riffs, and they’re even better than before). The Lepar Affinity and Bleak is a devastating opening combination, the title track is an appropriately bookend, and everything in between shows Opeth at their best, doing what they do best. The Drapery Falls could have been trimmed slightly, and The Funeral Portrait significantly more, but Blackwater Park is and will remain a towering success for them.
|...and here's my 10000th comment! This list took me absolutely forever to make, so you'd better enjoy it. Despite all the disagreements I've had, it's been a pleasure to be part of this site for the last few years; I've found a lot of great music here and have a lot of respect for many users, so I'm glad that I've got enough missing links in my iTunes library to stick around for a while.|
I'll get the top 50 done when I have time :]
|That's a lot of work Johnny and congrats for 10k! I'll read your descriptions later but I'm sure they're great. Let me guess, Souvenirs is somewhere in your top 5?|
|Thanks dude, good luck getting through them. Haha, that goes without saying; you should be asking yourself what my #2 TG is and where it falls :P|
|Son of Mr. Pain|
|Nice list. I skimmed it. Might read some more later|
|"you should be asking yourself what my #2 TG is and where it falls :P"|
I'd wish it was Mandylion but as long as it's How to Measure a Planet? and is somewhere around 15-20, I'm happy ;)
|Great bro you did it hehe. |
Will read everything on my way home
|cool picks; awkward descriptions |
|@manosg just you wait and see :]|
@Gyro yeah, this condensed format isn't my style at all, but I wanted to make this more than an empty favourites list with no more context to each album than a certain, unexplained amount of my affection and any opinions that the viewer might already have of it.
|Bloody hell, some intense work went into this. How long did it take you to write this monolith? Great list though, some fine albums on here. And congrats!|
|Should have done your top 10,000 albums, what a cop out|
|Great list, this must've taken forever to write haha|
|You have no idea how much I'm not looking forward to writing the second half...|
@Aaron Took me about 3 days on/off writing
@Sowing I quite agree, I'm a disgrace to myself and everyone I know. However, I know that you're just bitter about TDAG not being #1 (or even #51)
|This is massive and it's just the half. Well-deserved feature and such awesome picks!|
|Monster list, awesome stuff johnny.|
Also ""The Greenless Wreath is an agonizingly slow dirge that inspires near-terror alongside intense grief"
Love for that godly track fuck yes
|Oh sweet, thanks so much to whomever featured this!|
"Love for that godly track fuck yes"
Those first five minutes are the longest we'll ever hear, dude
|Good stuff on here|
|Great list man. We have pretty similar taste. Looking forward to part 2!|
|Oh, part 2 will make you smile for sure :]|
|great read and even greater list, but I'm sorry, Weird Fishes/Apreggi is one of the best tracks on In Rainbows behind Reckoner and Nude|
|Thanks :] I've come to accept that I'm in the minority for snoozing to it haha|
|sweet list man glad you ended up using your 10000th comment wisely! been digging 44 (94?) a ton lately|
|Me too dude, glad you liked it! Aww yes, it's such a beautiful album|
|Be aggressive rocks dude|
|Sweet list Johnny, I'll work my way through the descriptions eventually (:|
|"Be aggressive rocks dude"|
Yeah it's fun in a kinda silly way, but I find it gets dull pretty quickly, and the guitar solo is an abomination.
|love 88 man, the backing vocals ughhhh. nice list|
|88 is a great album, perfect for being in a good mood and having lots of energy. I'm almost halfway through the final list...|
|Awesome list. A lot of these are favorites of mine as well, especially the SC3 albums. |
|some terrible albums, some great ones|
|Ahaha, I can guess which you mean on both sides :P Anything particularly offensive?|
|Pree much everything except for mainly 21 42 49 :p :p :p :p|
|Aww come on man, those picks are so Sput-trad :P |
Finally gotten onto the top 10 for the final list :D
|i am really not too into 41, 38, 36, 23 and 13|
|I don't really get the hate for 41, but I understand the others. I'm quite surprised that you didn't include 12 though|
The final list is finished. It's over at last...
|Signify IS a concept album about trying to find a meaning to life, even Wilson said so in a recent interview. Lyrics make it quite obvious as well|
|Oh cool, I didn't know that! |
|Not a great choice of albums IMO, but the list's written very well and indeed is a pleasure to read. (y)|
@up no problem :)
|Haha after a quick scan of your ratings (Home as a 1 - seriously???) I don't think I'm going to win there, but thank you - glad you enjoyed it :]|
|Well, let's just say I have a different musical philosophy. But you're right, though, about Home, I'm raising it to 1.5: might be bad but nowhere near as bad as Afterwords. (I love "We Just Stopped Breathing" btw). ;) |
EDIT @down I know it's a Souvenirs song, believe me, I've heard that album! :D Just wanted to let you know that I do like some of their work.
|Fair enough, although I'm intrigued now! Haha glad I reminded you how... not that bad Home is :P We Just Stopped Breathing is a Souvenirs song, but it's awesome anyway|