Reviews 120
Approval 96%

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Last Active 02-05-19 3:03 am
Joined 07-06-09

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Average Rating: 3.46
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Objectivity Score: 75%
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5.0 classic
Billy Joel The Stranger
By utilizing various moods, feelings and emotions with much passion, Billy Joel paves way to a pinnacle in quality music. Without going overboard, The Stranger retains control while surging with power, regardless of how upbeat, serious or calm it becomes.
Death Symbolic
Symbolic astounds in how much it accomplishes from start to finish. The album indicates at so much and continually unfolds to offer more up with every song and every listen. A joy to hear from the start and an impressive collection when returned to, it's an incontestable classic that any serious heavy metal fan shouldn't be found without in their collection.
Dream Theater Awake
Dream Theater up the ante by creating a true metal album, one that compromises neither their progressive nature nor their melodic nature--not entirely. The band are focused and in pristine form on Awake, album that grows with every listen; proof that Dream Theater don't need elaborate songs to keep their listeners coming back.
Emperor In the Nightside Eclipse
It's easy to see why In the Nightside Eclipse has been referred to as Emperor's magnum opus. The album is dark with low but fitting production that only adds to the melodic yet morbid atmosphere. Each song is very similar in sound and nature, yet the variety is more than present enough to keep things interesting from start to finish. In essence, this is the epitome of not just black metal, but any metal album quality.
Judas Priest Painkiller
Quite possibly the Priest's best effort, Painkiller's explosive speed metal style solidifies it as an immediate classic that no fan of the band or genre should be without.
Queensryche Operation: Mindcrime
Queensryche's magnum opus shows just how far a concept album can be taken and raises the bar not just for other concept albums, but music in general.

4.5 superb
Agalloch Pale Folklore
The atmospheric reprises are an interesting aspect in Agalloch's debut, whose very title informs you what you need to know about this metal band's stylistic choices. While the varying vocal styles can get distracting, they do complement the folk-like influences and gloomy themes found throughout. Dark and harsh without being unintelligible, Pale Folklore is ultimately an album that begs one to become lost in, especially when life seems bleak or otherwise uncertain.rAlso, rasputin's soundoff is too damn perfect.
Agalloch The Mantle
This is a beast to swallow; The Mantle is the absolute musical embodiment of atmosphere and despondency. Not for the faint of heart, least of all those who want a quick fix. No, The Mantle requires investment, specifically of one's darker side, a side that, for most, will be open and patient for the journey.
Amorphis Silent Waters
A far more balanced and in-command album than Eclipse, featuring some excellent melodies that really make it a joy to listen to.
Amorphis Under the Red Cloud
Under the Red Cloud brings Amorphis out of the mold they've comfortably sat in since Eclipse. If Skyforger had been commanded with finesse, this would've been the result; oriental influences are at their most prominent while the dynamics between and throughout each track are as consistent as they are refreshing. Easily Amorphis' best since Silent Waters and an easy contender for Metal Album of the Year.
At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul
A brief, yet elaborately constructed album that only continues to constantly engage you throughout.
Avantasia Ghostlights
Where did this come from? I've normally given Avantasia little thought; their music is often of the overly whimsical blend of power metal. Ghostlists is a considerably different affair, with weight and merit to help realize Tobias Sammet's ideas. It's like experiencing The Black Halo for the first time over again, except here there's more variety and consistency. Oh, and it's damn addicting.
Be'lakor Coherence
Layered, varied, and positively intoxicating, Coherence is a sure MAOTY contender and may very well be the album future Be'lakor albums will be judged against.
Billy Joel Turnstiles
Joel begins to show more subtlety and progression on Turnstiles with some surprisingly passionate and atmospheric pieces in the short overall length. Between this and the album being almost completely overshadowed, it holds up as a clear contender for his most underrated album.
Dark Tranquillity Damage Done
Even those who aren't fond of melodic death metal really can't go wrong with Damage Done while fans of the band and/or genre will be in utter bliss. This is proof that, when a melodeath band handles their sound correctly and doesn't resort to tired traits, the results can be very effective. The music here is hard-hitting yet filled with melodies to give it an approachable, yet vigorously rewarding depth. Almost completely kinetic and never underwhelming, Dark Tranquillity truly outdid themselves here.
Dark Tranquillity The Gallery
Like a group of similar yet varied brothers, The Gallery fits right in with its brethren, The Jester Race and Slaughter of the Soul by showcasing the variety of its genre. The production and tuning here is similar to that of At The Gates' final album, but has enough of a melodic touch to where the sound is instantly distinguishable. One of the album's best strengths is definitely its unpredictability while taking a route the listener can easily keep up with. Another pleasantry of this album which it shares with the aforementioned releases is that it doesn't have a single weak moment. Thus, we have an album that holds up and begs repeated listenings to only find more to appreciate and enjoy.
Dark Tranquillity Character
Much like what Wintersun exhibited in the year preceding this release, Character feels like a monumental build up as the runtime goes on, effectively nullifying any potential runtime issues. Even better is how the music flows from its predecessor, Damage Done, while increasing the overall intensity and melodic, mechanical atmosphere. Dark Tranquillity's 2002 effort was a tough act to follow, but Character achieves becoming a successor that holds onto what made said album excel and takes things a small step forward. An excellent accomplishment,
Dark Tranquillity Fiction
Dark Tranquillity smooth their sound and production over almost to a fault, giving Fiction a sense of refinement with a bit less edge than its two predecessors. The melodic part of melodic death metal is raised, the results being compelling if a couple songs too brief. Really, Fiction's best accomplishment is seeing the band maintain a command over their style that's been tuned to the point they reached here, moving forward without compromising their root sound.
Death The Sound of Perseverance
Elaborate, unpredictable and full of power, Death's final near-hour studio album keeps you guessing and holds up as a superb overall release.
Dream Theater Images and Words
An album that's easy to get into and offers enough to keep coming back, Dream Theater's true debut lit the vibrant fire that would spread with each release and soon capture others in its blazing path.
Dream Theater Train of Thought
Dream Theater aren't a band to stick with the same sound from album to album, and Train of Thought is arguably the best case they have to testify that fact. Hard-hitting and divisive, Dream Theater employ what is, in many ways, a simultaneous simplification and progression. But again, that's to be expected.
Edguy Hellfire Club
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable metal album in this day and age. Hellfire Club may be over a decade old, but the production remains first-class, allowing it to fit a nostalgic attire without feeling out of place. The straightforward power/thrash metal combo is constant, turning what's fundamentally a throwback into refreshing dose of life.
Emperor Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk
Sinister melodies matched with insane technique and brutality make this album a must-listen for any avid metal fan.
Emperor Emperor
Emperor's EP follow-up to Wrath of the Tyrant brings an at least noticeable improvement on production forth without compromising too much of the dark, haunting side to said release. And thanks to this small change, the aforementioned title track gets a nice change for the better and brings one of the band's better tracks in "Night of the Graveless Souls," helping boost it alongside the quality the band were known for.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow A Virgin and a Whore
Though the more ferocious moments definitely carry a strong amount of bite, it's the longer, more drawn out and melodic tracks that are the real stars here. The synthetic and cold nature of these songs are pulled perfectly to make this album truly worthy of being called a masterpiece.
Fen Winter
Daunting in scope and lush by nature, Fen are in complete control on Winter, an album that absolutely epitomizes what atmospheric music should be. The way they're able to craft such a convincing soundscape almost entirely through playing guitar, bass and drums isn't just commendable, it makes the album feel as natural as The Fens themselves. Definitely one of the top contemporary black metal bands to keep an eye on for the coming years.
Hammock Raising Your Voice... Trying to Stop an Echo
There's a lingering sense of a deliberate facade at work on Raising Your Voice..., a kind that places innocence and vulnerability on equal footing. It's so sweet, warm and loving to the ears, yet it's all in the face of an underlying tragedy, as if to preserve a series of wonderful memories ultimately cut down and lost to the wind. Embrace it and it will embrace you back, be it bright or bleak or both.
Hammock Oblivion Hymns
Sings life into your soul like air into a balloon; as soon as the bursting point is reached, the latex becomes still as glass, only to shatter and dissipate into the clouds.
Hammock Departure Songs
Caught somewhere between limbo and a collection of lucid dreams. A prolonged affair, to be sure, but one that you ultimately won't mind staying a bit longer for.
Hammock Kenotic
Kenotic is an utterly evocative trip through serenity itself. There's an inherent, bittersweet nostalgia at-hand, equally matched by touches of forthcoming optimism. If you ever wanted to experience one of those peaceful breaks in the middle of a powerful, dramatic movie, and actually have that break last, Kenotic is precisely what you've been longing for.
Hammock Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow
Compared to Raising Your Voice... this is oddly subdued, yet eloquently evocative all the same. There's a sense of being submerged without the sense of drowning. If anything, you become more aware of your breathing as it becomes more slow and deliberate. And for a band as high-caliber as Hammock, this is all the more reason Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow is so meditative, making it another definitive yet distinguished masterpiece in the heartful duo's fruitful catalog.
Howard Shore The Fellowship of the Ring
The true score doesn't kick in until the second half, and while it's missing a few points included in the film (such as the piece used in the opening), Shore overall delivers a truly compelling collection here. What's nice and refreshing is that variety is found throughout while each track is given ample time to leave its impressions on us. Like the film itself, the score for Fellowship triumphs in what it builds to, as opposed to overall culmination.
Iced Earth Burnt Offerings
Consistently dark, brooding and entrancing, Iced Earth hit several right notes between thrash and power metal on Burnt Offerings. When it isn't tingling your expectations like a teasing stripper, it stakes your interest and attention with hardly a second thought.
Insomnium Winter's Gate
Has hell frozen over? Because Insomnium released a better album than Dark Tranquillity this year.
Iron Maiden Powerslave
What ultimately helps push Powerslave into the masterpiece territory is the remarkably varied and interesting closing track, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Outside of this classic is an album that has some very strong moments, with the title track and "2 Minutes to Midnight" being the next standouts. Even without a full selection of amazing tracks at-hand, this is, without a doubt, one of the most immediate and recommendable albums for anyone looking to get into power metal or heavy metal in-general.
Iron Maiden Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The progress Maiden have made from Somewhere in Time to this album helps it sound even smoother and give a great commanding sound. For my money, this album stands up alongside, if not over, Powerslave. About all that truly holds this album back is the track "Can I Play with Madness," which, granted, isn't bad, but it's not terribly enjoyable or good either. Regardless, this holds up as an excellent release that ultimately shows the band in great form after stretching their legs a bit.
Iron Maiden A Matter of Life and Death
Maiden taken an interesting yet eerily familiar path on A Matter of Life and Death. Although this is their longest album to date, it seldom drags out and manages to be an intriguing listen from start to finish. Choosing not to master the album is another peculiar choice but, conveniently enough, this helps give the album a far more natural feel. Combine this with the themes which are complimented by such a design choice and you've got a deadly recipe for eargasms galore. As a result, we get the best of what the band sounds like as of recent which helps it stand alongside their better works from the 80's.
Judas Priest Screaming for Vengeance
Arguably better than any of the band's previous efforts, Screaming For Vengeance gives us the Priest we wish we still had: catchy and fun yet still fast and varied.
Kamelot The Black Halo
Kamelot follow up Epica with an album that finds a great balance of overall enjoyability and solid music to boot. Most of the album is incredibly catchy and addicting, but it's not done in a way that makes the music feel like a gimmick. Even the weaker songs tend to have a moment or two that helps them stand up and avoid detracting too much from the overall quality. Other than these points and the still less-than satisfactory interludes, The Black Halo proves itself an excellent power metal album that can even appeal to those who find the genre too over-the-top.
Katatonia Brave Murder Day
If thunderstorms could produce music, this would be the result.
Katatonia Night Is the New Day
Dark rock with traces of metal; subtle electronic elements to build atmosphere; songs that feel comprehensive without overstaying their welcome; vague yet intriguing lyrics; and it's just a pleasure to come back and listen to from start to finish.
Les Discrets Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées
Darkness and excellence combine to create Septembre Et Ses Dernieres Pensees, an album that realizes its potency with so much grace. From the foreboding album art to the play of wonder, beauty and never-daunting instrumental aggression, Les Discrets enter the music scene with one of the most effective post/shoegaze albums.
Max Richter Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works
The "Three Worlds," I think, are meant to be represented by the terrains through which the music moves through; the first few songs sound like pure funeral music; the middle segment has a classical/electronic sound that comes off as other-wordly in ostensible sense; the last two to three tracks then achieve the sensation of departing one world and entering the next, a seemingly split-second moment caught in stand-still, as if the price one pays for ending their life yields a pure, desolate limbo as their final, eternal burden.
Megadeth Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
Comes right at you full blast with plenty of anger and energy without dragging out. An ideal combination for one who just wants a great thrash metal listening.
Megadeth Rust in Peace
Solos and technicality don't carry an album, and though almost every track on Rust In Peace ends with face-melting solos, the flow of the tracks and pacing help keep it from being overwhelming. It stumbles in a couple areas (namely the vocals and lack of overall intensity), but you're not going to find many albums which are this accessible yet equally satisfying (if not more so) for bigger metal fans.
Moonsorrow Jumalten aika
After listening to Jumalten Aika, I'm ashamed to say that this is only my first full outing with the blackened folk brilliance of Moonsorrow. What a release, easy Album of the Year contender already. I love that the band can draw their songs out while mostly keeping disinterest at bay, especially in the later tracks. The dark nature of their black metal elements is definitely present, but the fact they go for a touch of folk means the music has a melodic flair that other similar artists simply can't (or won't) replicate. This plays so much to Moonsorrow's favor, because while the music is undoubtedly on the moody side, it's also surprisingly catchy, especially during the closing sections of each song, save for "Suden Tunti," which works quite the opposite and, thanks to its shorter length, means it makes a nice twist to throw right in the middle of the album. The entire record simply begs to be re-listened, and though I'm trying to listen to as many new metal albums as I can take this year, Moonsorrow are going to make listening to works other than their own particularly difficult.
Nightwish Oceanborn
Beautiful and wonderfully crafted, Nightwish's breakthrough showcases the band in wonderful form. Various and, at times, intricate melodies lend way to what can best be described as a blissful addiction of an album. A must for anyone who's even remotely interested in the symphonic/folk metal genre.
Opeth My Arms, Your Hearse
Opeth demonstrate just how well progressive metal can work when handled right and, thanks to the incorporation of death metal styles, the music gets a nice edge to help them stand out. What's probably most interesting is how they manage to meld these two genres together while giving plenty of breathing room thanks to acoustic sections and clean vocals making their way in just enough times. The results are equally intriguing and impressive, being a superior utilization of the longer, complex song structures found in progressive styles and the harsh music in death metal than even Death's final hour in the studio.
Opeth Morningrise
Opeth's often-overlooked sophomore album is about as far from a slump as a release can get. Thanks to the five songs each hitting the double-digits mark, Morningrise isn't the easiest album to swallow, but it's one that is incredibly rewarding for the patient.
Opeth Still Life
A gradual improvement upon its predecessors production-wise, Still Life could be argued as the first album Opeth managed to work with what their music truly needed. It's no easy task matching masterpieces such as My Arms, Your Hearse and especially Morningrise, but Still Life shows just how a band can retain their roots and core sound while making everything more refined. One of the group's most commanding albums to-date, and another strong piece of evidence that they're one of the best, most consistently excellent bands out there.
Opeth Ghost Reveries
Opeth quickly envelops the listener in music that conveys any number of feelings simultaneously. Ghost Reveries favors a sort of haunted aggressiveness, nicely balanced by clean stretches to breathe before the next nightmare arrives, each more alluring than the last.
Seventh Wonder Mercy Falls
Mercy Falls already makes a good first impression, but like the best progressive music, time is kind to it. The music is darker than Waiting in the Wings while still being crazy fun to listen to, and the lyrics are probably the best Seventh Wonder have written to date. It also mostly avoids falling into a pit similar to other concept albums, giving us as much actual music as possible. Accessible to newcomers and a very potential grower for others.
Thomas Newman Shawshank Redemption
A truly terrific score set to one of the best films ever made. Newman lets subtle touches and emotions become the means of expression here with some classical bits added to convince us of the setting. As a result, the music here is atmospheric, image-inducing and, occasionally, mesmerizing. Needless to say, any fans of the film are beyond encouraged to listen to this soundtrack, since it holds up incredibly well on its own and makes for an engaging listen.
Thomas Newman Road to Perdition
Ultimately the only major complaint that can be held against the Road to Perdition OST is a lack of elaboration on the better tracks, since many of them are among the shorter selections. Fortunately, when all is said and done, these points easily outweigh the lesser moments (which are hardly skippable, if at all). Though bearing a few striking similarities to his other works ("Just the Feller" to American Beauty), this isn't at the compromise of quality. In fact, the immediate yet eerie similarities help build the atmosphere and theme which, as with The Shawshank Redemption OST, is build upon with an occasional piece to reflect the setting. Thomas Newman once again treats us with a wondrous collection that is sure to engage its listeners, regardless of whether they liked the film or not.
Trees of Eternity Hour of the Nightingale
A strange experience to listen to; Hour of the Nightingale is, in many ways, an accessible album that's also difficult to swallow in its entirety. The production wonderfully brings the thin threads of life which do exist to the forefront, resulting in something that can easily pull listeners in, but leave them with a sense of loss and sorrow which is difficult to endure. It's almost like an emulation of the emotional journey which technically concluded for Raivio and Stanbridge last year, but the recency of this backstory still rings strength and hollowness at the same time.
Wintersun Wintersun
The progressive elongation and complexity for each subsequent track on this terrific debut completely defines the meaning of build up; and the pay-off is sheer bliss. What gives this album an even bigger boost is its blend of multiple genres without feeling inconsistent or indecisive. And, as a result of its hybrid take, the music remains quite unpredictable as the structures become increasingly elaborate with great technicality and passion to boot. Without a doubt, Wintersun brings with it the type of sound and style that's been attributed to works such as the original "Big Three" of melodic death metal, except one could debate it as even better than any of those.
X Japan Art of Life
This one-track album challenges the listener to not remain interested and convinced that such a feat can work for an LP. What's quite impressive about this is that, since the album is only one song, it raises the concern of it dragging out but, as it carries out the entire album, there's also the possibility of it feeling too short when all is said and done. Fortunately, both are avoided almost completely. If there's any real fault to find, it's that a bit more of the whole band could have kept going a few minutes longer at the end. Though this can easily be associated with the fact that the music is just so good, which is even more impressive given the album isn't far off from the 20 year-old mark, yet sounds incredibly recent.

4.0 excellent
AFI Sing the Sorrow
AFI tackle a change in styles with Sing the Sorrow, which manages to be a surprising solid album with its fair share of stronger moments. While it might be easy to dismiss the group for their attire and cliche imagery (especially with their two most recent albums), what can't be denied is how catchy some of the songs get and that there is some decent to good musicianship to find here.
Alcest Kodama
Kodoma exhibits much of what made its predecessors so enjoyable and wraps the nuances together with a little something new. The end result is an album that evokes nostalgia and invokes inspiration. My only grievance is that the album feels too brief, it's one or two tracks away from feeling like a full course, and ultimately comes off as abrupt when "Onyx" leaves us hitting the repeat button.
Alice in Chains Black Gives Way to Blue
Alice in Chains maintain their edge and, in some ways, keep sharpening it. Black Gives Way to Blue is filled with engaging material, even when things settle down. It's true to the band's core sound without coming off as too nostalgic for contemporary audiences. If anything, retaining a bit of old-school vibe is one of the album's selling points. Either way, Black Gives Way to Blue is a strong case for a band that won't die down.
Amorphis Tales from the Thousand Lakes
The interesting and progressively engaging melodies from the fast, at times loud sound of the album build up to make for an immensely enjoyable listening.
Amorphis The Karelian Isthmus
Amorphis' debut is a damn-fine and invigorating album. The harsh-only vocals help compliment the darker edge they began with and quickly leaned away from after Tales from the Thousand Lakes. It might be less accessible than what they've put out since, but it's very rewarding.
Amorphis Circle
Amorphis rekindle their vitality and produce what might be their most commanding album to date. Devoid of slumps and full of virtuosity, Circle sees the band back on a proper path. Let's hope they stay the course.
Amorphis Queen of Time
Queen of Time largely follows in its predecessors footsteps, making the folk and orchestral elements feel even more integral to the music. Where most bands struggle to walk that fine line between folk and metal, Amorphis glide upon it with grace and finesse, resulting in an album that not only does its predecessor justice, but builds upon its already solid foundation to become something that may possibly edge over it.
Animals As Leaders The Joy of Motion
Like a clean, stimulating jam session of metal, prog, jazz fusion and probably some other genres I can't pick up on, The Joy of Motion feels ever-changing, unflinching and is a constant treat to the ears.
Animals As Leaders Animals as Leaders
A technical powerhouse, but also impeccably paced. It's nice to have such a progressive and influence-heavy band know that complete and utter wankery doesn't necessarily equate to good material. The good news is that while Animals as Leaders does subscribe to an indulgent formula, it isn't too extravagant or overblown for its own good.
Anthrax For All Kings
Wonderfully treads the line between thrash and traditional heavy metal, barely missing a beat and keeping things interesting.
Anubis Gate Horizons
Horizons sees Anubis Gate turn much of their heaviness down in favor of a smoother, natural sounding progression. Catchy and approachable, yet also benefiting from repeat listens, Horizons' many standouts are easy to fall in love with, regardless of how acquainted you are with the band and their respective genre.
Avantasia Moonglow
Moonglow is more or less a mirror-shone Ghostlights, boasting superb production, amazing performances and a few of Avantasia's most resonating tracks to date. However, it does live in its predecessor's shadow, and while the second half loses touch and botches the pacing up, Moonglow stands as a stellar piece of work that is guaranteed to satisfy all but the most critical of rock/metal opera fans.
Be'lakor Stone's Reach
Very similar to Opeth without sounding unnatural or like a rehash, Be'lakor prove themselves as a band to keep an eye out for on Stone's Reach. It can become occasionally prolonged, but there's more than enough variety with concise form present. Any fans of progressive (death) metal are beyond encouraged to check the band out (especially this album).
Be'lakor Of Breath and Bone
Be'lakor show few (if any) signs of innovation here. But what ultimately matters is the established sound at hand, which remains engaging and even addicting. Other than "In Parting," there aren't any potential classics to truly speak of, but some of the sections are among the most gleefully intoxicating. Refinement is the name of the game here, and for the results we've been bestowed, it's one that's sure to keep the plays coming.
Be'lakor Vessels
Be'lakor continue to cultivate an identity for themselves, making necessary changes and progressions from Of Breath and Bone, this time focusing more on the atmospheric qualities which made The Frail Tide and especially Stone's Reach work as well as they did. The end result is yet another album that keeps its listeners guessing with fascination and enchantment.
Between the Buried and Me Colors
Based on the album art, it would seem that Between the Buried and Me were aspiring to make a modern-day Dark Side of the Moon with the much-hailed Colors. The good news is that, though initially uninteresting, the album becomes better as it unfolds. Elaboration becomes more prominent during the later tracks which allow the band to better overcome their shortcomings. And, even after just looking at their inspirations off The Anatomy Of, it quickly becomes clear that they've tried incorporating as many of their inspirations as possible here. Granted, the said points that aren't so in-line with the band's familiar sound don't fare so well, but the more prominent of the bunch hold up nicely, more times than not. As a result, Colors winds up being an album that asks the listener to endure it's seemingly demanding runtime but, around the halfway point, it shows better pacing and becomes a rather rewarding experience, partly thanks to its two closing tracks.
Billy Joel 52nd Street
Joel brings more of the upbeat sound present on Tunrstiles back for 52nd Street, resulting in a more simplified format compared to The Stranger. Does this make it an inherently bad album? Of course not. In fact, this is a great album with the occasional sign of excellence, just not to the extent of its predecessor. Tracks like "Stiletto" and "My Life" show the music in great form and compliment the overall solid consistency found here.
Billy Joel The Nylon Curtain
Not a return to form so much as it's a proper stylistic remedy, The Nylon Curtain gives 80's Joel music a nice boost after the bittersweet surprise of Glass Houses. More of the strengths which were associated with his best works to this point are present, including more serious subject matter being tackled and wonderfully executed on "Goodbye Saigon." A throwback to earlier rock groups can be found on The Nylon Curtain arguably more than anything Joel had done beforehand. And, thankfully, these are nicely implemented to compliment what Joel already does a great job at performing.
Billy Joel River Of Dreams
Despite a couple near-filler tracks and rather lengthy tracks, River of Dreams manages to hit supreme quality during its second half. Thanks to a variety of moods and themes coupled with catchy and singable, yet simultaneously thoughtful lyrics, the album delivers far more strong, legitimate material than many bands and artists can even come close to grasping.
Black Sabbath Heaven and Hell
A solid listen from start to finish, not much stands out in a good or bad way though.
Black Sabbath Black Sabbath
Forty years later and Sabbath's debut still has a great edge that has easily stood the test of time. Though a chunk of the album is covers, this ultimately doesn't detract from the overall package. Those looking for heavy metal's roots needn't look further than this.
Blind Guardian Beyond the Red Mirror
Darker, heavier and more consistent than At the Edge of Time, Blind Guardian prove themselves as one of the most relevant, consistent and mature power metal bands alive today. Their sound has enough of a nostalgic core sound mixed with contemporary touches, be it from the solid production to the nice, occasional uses of choirs, to make Beyond the Red Mirror a stellar claim to the throne that their peers have slipped out of.
Blind Guardian Tales from the Twilight World
Another noticeable step forward, this was when Blind Guardian were finally beginning to realize their strengths and essentially hit the ball running.
Boston Boston
Boston's self-titled debut brings a sound that, though relatively straightforward, is often full of energy before slumping in the last few minutes. Brief, fun and casual, this album overcomes its flaws simply thanks to its approachability and almost irresistibly catchy songs.
Caspian Tertia
A slice of nightly seclusion, even in the heat of a sunny day. Basically, this album is enchanting and occasionally borders on being a masterpiece.
Children of Bodom Something Wild
A frenzy of great technicality lending into some darker, more melodic musical styles that's tough to resist.
Children of Bodom Hatebreeder
Bodom's sophomore effort is speedier, more frantic and mechanical than Something Wild and missteps in a few areas, but ultimately not enough to significantly detract from the overall package.
Children of Bodom Follow the Reaper
The band's third album is arguably their best, adding a much-appreciated punch to the sound found on their previous efforts.
Cormorant Diaspora
One of 2017's more surprising black metal albums, which gives it that much more of a lasting impression over the smorgasbord of stellar releases from said subgenre this year.
Crimson Glory Transcendence
At some points, Transcendence does come quite close to living up to its name. The overall package here is far more balanced and in-command than its predecessor, adding the occasional atmospheric bit to provide an epic feel to certain tracks. It doesn't quite stand alongside other classics but at a point when metal wasn't exactly in its prime, it holds more ground than most of its competitors.
Dark Tranquillity Skydancer
A damn fine debut, arguably better than a few of the band's later albums by a decent margin. Classic, traditional melodic death metal in one of its purest, most enjoyable forms.
Dark Tranquillity We Are the Void
I rather enjoy this midpoint between Fiction and Construct; we get enough of the grizzling guitar work characteristic of the former with hints at the wonderfully melodic keys and atmosphere from the latter. Truth be told, I find it more compelling than its successors.
Darkwater Human
Human is polished to a near-mirror shine, boasting a wonderful sound mix that lets each member to shine. Even vocals are solid, especially for a metal band. The best part is that despite a rather lengthy runtime, almost all of the tracks flow naturally, making the already strong musical quality even more enjoyable.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit Finisterre
Albums like this are a reminder of how great black metal can be when steered in the right direction. Finisterre is remarkably easy to latch on to, but even easier to become immersed in. The atmosphere is haunting yet alluringly catchy, its musical spine constantly tangible. Not only does it keep you on your toes, it gets you to think, feel and ponder. If you enjoy black metal at all, don't skip out on this.
Desultory Into Eternity
A fine marriage between thrash and death metal with melodic counseling for good measure.
DevilDriver The Last Kind Words
Comes damn close to warrant being called a masterpiece, all that's lacking are more shining solo moments.
Dimmu Borgir Enthrone Darkness Triumphant
The heavy yet melodic symphonies played throughout (making up the album's core sound) work nicely, proving to make this an obvious contender for the band's best effort.
Dimmu Borgir Stormblåst
Despite rough production and dragging out on the last couple tracks, the original Stormblast recording is a toughened yet chilling listen that can be easily appreciated by longtime and die-hard fans of the band.
Dimmu Borgir Spiritual Black Dimensions
What's most prominent about Spiritual Black Dimensions is just how much of a synthesizer overload it is, making for a sound that's blissful listening but can very easily come off as just too much.
Dimmu Borgir Death Cult Armageddon
The band's most ambitious and elaborate album has less bite but the prominent atmosphere works very well, meaning the amount of people it engages will be equal to the amount it turns off.
Draconian Arcane Rain Fell
Absolutely cold and positively crushing work that deserves a spot in just about any doom metal enthusiast's collection. The sparse use of chilling female vocals with a variety of growls and borderline screams is a great way to provide contrast in a way that, well, contrasts with what many other bands end up doing (mostly cleans with occasional harsh vocals). Oh, and did I mention the atmosphere is quite luscious?
Dream Theater A Dramatic Turn of Events
Though a bit of a regression from Black Clouds and Silver Linings, A Dramatic Turn of Events sees the band in a less forced light. It begins very erratically with regards to style and direction, but eventually settles on a rhythm which provides some stellar moments, along with at least one of the band's best, most recent tracks.
Dream Theater Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
Though a couple steps shy of perfection, Scenes from a Memory earns much of its applause as a strong Dream Theater album. Patchy during some points but excellent during most, this holds up as an ambitious album with a lot to offer listeners, regardless of their opinions of the band.
Dream Theater Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
There are any number of expectations one might have going into Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence for the first time. One of the many great things about the album is that it manages to surprise at almost every turn. Even the mammoth title track flies by with surprisingly immediacy which, given its length, means the band is doing something very, very right.
Dream Theater Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Even when Dream Theater begin to realize there are corrections to make, they can?t help being who they are. For all the complaints that can be found, Black Clouds & Silver Linings sees them in a more refined light than on anything since Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. The inclusion of two or three potential classics doesn?t quite elevate the album to the quality of their better works, but it imparts a more optimistic message for the future.
Earthside A Dream In Static
If Earthside's goal is to make their music "cinematic," then I hope they manage to enlist the help of Thomas J. Bergersen and Nick Phoenix for their second album.
Echo and The Bunnymen Ocean Rain
A tough album to go wrong with. The music is fun to sing and get into the groove of, thanks to its wonderful
collection and transitions of melodies/rhythm. Simultaneously, Ocean Rain is surprisingly easy to relax
to; perfect for following up a long, tough day. Add some very solid lyrics and you have an album which just
about anyone from the casual to avid music listener should definitely enjoy.
Elder (USA-MA) Reflections of a Floating World
Makes your body want to lie down and rest while making your mind want to surge like a glaring light bulb.
Emperor Wrath of the Tyrant
Raw, undignified, grim and unrelenting, Emperor's first release would seem to be a horrific package lacking any sort of quality to speak of. However, the actual music buried under its nearly nonexistent production is so effective that it almost achieves the seemingly impossible. Redeeming qualities might not become apparent at first, but the grizzly, haunting nature present manages to rise above the album's fundamental shortcoming to provide a constantly interesting experience.
Emperor IX Equilibrium
IX Equilibrium might be lacking the darker and often classic-filled sound that Emperor are known for, but it's still got enough to keep fans (mostly) content. There are one or two moments which slump, but then we get moments like "Warriors of Modern Death" which remind us of why the band have become so celebrated and respected.
Faith No More Angel Dust
Angel Dust definitely knows how to keep its listener(s) guessing, tossing a wide variety of sounds into the mix without losing touch of its alternative rock style. The influence this album has left on others hasn't gone unnoticed, and when Faith No More are at the top of their game, few bands can truly deliver or match their interesting, yet (relatively) unprogressive music.
Fallujah The Flesh Prevails
Despite losing focus in the second half, The Flesh Prevails makes a strong case for proggy death metal with an ambient soundscape. The results are surprisingly fluent and all the more enjoyable because of it.
Fates Warning Theories of Flight
My first dive into Fates Warning catalog and I must say, if they keep going with a sound and style like this, I'm completely on board. Theories of Flight is the very embodiment of an excellent contemporary prog rock/metal album. I'm particularly fond of the longer tracks drawing upon much more emotional range, but they are a nice offset to the predominantly heavy tracks that comprise the rest of the album. Regardless, the entire package is solid and easy to return to with enjoyment and curiosity.
Fear Factory Demanufacture
For the first half of the album's runtime, Demanufacture seems to be heading right down the classic route. Incorporating speed and intensity offset by just enough calmer points without compromising the core sound and quality. However, come the cover for "Dog Day Sunrise," things slow down with far less interesting moments present; most of which are confined to one superb track. And though the album closes with a smooth transition, the length of "A Therapy for Pain" coupled with the album's longer overall runtime leaves it feeling a bit dragged out. Regardless, Demanufacture is a fine example of industrial metal that effortlessly puts countless other bands to shame (especially those in different genres which have obviously taken inspiration).
God Is an Astronaut Helios/Erebus
Varied and atmospheric, with enough ambient moments to boot, Helios/Erebus hosts a lean yet subtly potent collection of tracks perfect for simultaneous relaxation and stimulation. If, like me, you're new to post-rock, this is an excellent place to start.
Hammock Everything and Nothing
Everything and Nothing sees Hammock free up their sound after a series of even more atmospherically focused albums, with the direction favoring more of a traditional, light rock sound than before. The results are still affecting and poignant, but for different reasons. It doesn't feel like the band are aiming to drown you in their usual ambient surges, but instead seek to elevate you in a way that feels more fun and, dare I say, light-hearted. As always, however, this is done with delicacy and the earnestness that Byrd and Thompson have become known for is in equally high supply here. It may catch a few listener's off-guard, but it will definitely be for the better.
Hammock Mysterium
Mysterium sheds almost every trace of Everything and Nothing in order to return to an Oblivion Hymns state, but with a different direction. And by different, I mean more consistent and familiar. Mysterium has a personal, overarching theme to carry the listener through its brief-by-Hammock-standards runtime. One gets the impression that Byrd helmed this particular chapter in Hammock's career as a dedication first and foremost--the fact it's available for the public to partake in is a secondary concern. Even so, Mysterium is overflowing with atmosphere, emotion and serenity. It accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do, and given how beautiful their music continues to be because of that, I'd say that's worthy of praise.
Hammock Chasing After Shadows...Living with the Ghosts
A bit on the challenging side by Hammock's standards. There seems to be a bit more dissonance between tracks than previous affairs, which would continue into their popular follow-up, Departure Songs. Chasing After Shadows...may not have the ebb and flow of its predecessors, so to speak, but it does retain the ponderous nature that Kenotic was more particular towards (and successful at).
Hans Zimmer The Dark Knight Rises
Follows many of the same fashions set by the previous soundtracks while throwing a few welcome twists into the mix. Bleaker tracks such as "Born in Darkness" and "Nothing Out There" guarantee there will be moments as chilly as the cold weather we've seen in the trailers. And just so the action isn't left out, a couple incorporated chants and teasing climaxes, such as the beginning to "Rise," should mean the action will count where and when it matters.
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard The Dark Knight
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard each might have produced better works on their own, but the efforts make The Dark Knight OST no less complete of a soundtrack. The present atmosphere indicates the makings of a deep thriller, with actions rising and declining over and over throughout. We're also treated to the occasionally and subtly emotional bit during a few tracks for good measure. Thanks to more than enough moments that are sure to stick with the listener, The Dark Knight OST accompanies the film wonderfully.
Horn Turm am Hang
Folky black metal, which is way more my speed than the usual servings we're treated to. Other than a few borderline comical moments, Turm am Hang has an intriguing if not entirely complex atmosphere, and I find it strikes the right balance between warmth and darkness.
iamthemorning ~
iamthemorning swirl in with elegance, dreamily taking the listener through a series of tracks that will entertain and often entrance. The music is layered yet played with an air of simplicity. Easy to recommend to anyone who appreciates beautiful, compelling music.
Iced Earth Something Wicked This Way Comes
Though Something Wicked This Way Comes seldom exceeds beyond the great mark it never slumps in its entire runtime. Even more impressive is how the album remains interesting despite similarly styled and structured tracks lasting over an hour without dragging out. A few of the slower moments (which aren't very prominent) don't hold up so well (Barlow's vocals being a reason behind this), but when they do it's a real pleasure. Interestingly, the strongest tracks to my ears were the shortest and longest tracks. Regardless, this is a consistently great, if not excellent album that demonstrates a less conventional power metal style that simply doesn't lose its grip.
Iced Earth Night of the Stormrider
Though Iced Earth are commonly represented through the Matt Barlow albums, Night of the Stormrider isn't an album to cast aside. The band's thrash influences are particularly beneficial here, adding a level of seriousness that the band would never replicate in the future. Night of the Stormrider also has the advantage of staying power, especially if it doesn't immediately click. Lower production values initially come off as inhibitory, but they actually play into the album's bleak nature and give it a nostalgic vibe that only early heavy metal classics possess.
Iced Earth The Glorious Burden
Likely to go down as Iced Earth's most monolithic LP, The Glorious Burden borders on masterpiece territory. The first disc is already solid in its own right and has some debatable improvements over the previous Barlow albums, but the Gettysburg trilogy turns the album into an exercise in perspective; the 30+ minute epic makes the rest of the album feel weak, which is thanks in no small part to the use of full orchestra. Taken together, it's a thoroughly enjoyable affair, and while it does leave me feeling conflicted due to the gap in quality, I'd rather get the amazing stuff during the second half than up-front.
Immortal Sons of Northern Darkness
Sons of Northern Darkness is definitely a stellar album that manages to be approachable yet heavy and vigorous enough for just about any metal enthusiast. However, it isn't until the last third of the album's runtime things really begin to kick into gear. Before that, most of the material is tough to justify the garnered reception and even with the entire package taken into account, the album still falls short of its praise. Even with this said and in-mind, Sons of Northern Darkness is still an album well worth checking out just for the second half, mostly for the two closing tracks.
In Flames The Jester Race
This album overcomes its production shortcomings with ease thanks to its strong melodies matched with enough vocal and guitar vigor to keep things interesting and varied from start to finish.
In Flames Whoracle
Tackling a louder, more aggressive sound makes Whoracle a little easier to enjoy than its predecessor and while it lacks that melodic touch, the lyrical themes and concept help give it a nice boost.
In Flames Colony
On the surface, Colony could be argued as a more polished version of Whoracle, but the more focused nature of the music with some light melodies working their way into select tracks help make this an album that's easy to enjoy by many and is debatably the band's best album sound-wise.
In Mourning Shrouded Divine
Shrouded Divine may take some investment to fully appreciate, but from the start, there's an alluring quality that quickly becomes haunting and, ultimately, intoxicating. Melodic and progressive death metal mesh so smoothly here that it's difficult to imagine anything more from In Mourning.
In Mourning Monolith
A less beefy sound doesn't necessarily translate to a weaker album, it simply has a pinchier vibe going on. Maybe not as outright enjoyable as Shrouded Divine, but arguably more interesting, even in its duller moments. The clean vocals are also less distracting here, which is a nice bonus that helps the consistency of Monolith along a bit.
Iron Maiden Iron Maiden
The Maiden's celebrated debut offers a nice collection of frantic and then melodic British Heavy Metal songs that comes to life well. What namely makes this the case is the amount of energy present for most, if not all of the album and some rather good production for a debut album that's about 30 years old. Even if not quite as influential as other albums and bands, it's still clear how this album helped push forward an influence on the heavy metal culture.
Iron Maiden Killers
Much like its predecessor, Killers has some excellent tracks amidst an otherwise very stellar album (the "worst" it gets is "good"). The main difference, however, is that this album contains a true classic in the title track which helps give the album a nice boost over Iron Maiden, just not enough to propel it to being worthy of drastically higher praise.
Iron Maiden Somewhere in Time
Somewhere In Time differs very noticeably from its predecessors, but the results here, unlike Judas Priest's Turbo effort, are debatably improved in many spots. The incorporation of synthesizers is rather welcoming since we get a few moments of good atmosphere with a smoother overall sound. All it's really missing, however, are more excellent tracks like "Sea of Madness" and "Alexander the Great" to propel it up alongside Powerslave.
Iron Maiden Brave New World
In some ways, Brave New World feels like a mix between its two Baylay-era predecessors except with sharper production and Dickinson on vocals. That is to say that the album is a good progression with some invigorating guitar moments thanks to two returnees without departures. Although, one can begin to get a sense of Somewhere In Time deja vu with the album still lacking any true classics. Instead, like most Maiden albums, Brave New World sounds like a classic in small sections during a few songs. Altogether, it still makes for an enjoyable listen with good enough pacing and enjoyment to avoid dragging out.
Iron Maiden Dance of Death
Dance of Death only further clarifies how consistent Maiden's career has been. The overall quality is about on-par with its predecessor, Brave New World, give or take a couple tracks. What Dance of Death has going for it, more than anything, is providing longer stretches of the stronger moments we sparingly got on Brave new World. The downside, however, is that these are even less frequent and the songs aren't nearly as striking as most of the band's material. Still, this is a welcoming release that has enough hard-hitting yet simultaneously melodic moments to satisfy most any metalhead's craving.
John Williams Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Not the same grand, bombastic score you'll likely expect. The score was actually one of the things that felt short for me in the film, and hearing the music itself confirms that suspicion. Depending on what direction Episode VIII goes, this may be a sign of what to expect on Williams' next effort, so we'll see if he can work some potentially darker wonders more effectively there. What we have here is still great stuff and nice for putting on in a number of scenarios, but it's also probably the most difficult Star Wars score to immediately and recognizably call upon.
Judas Priest British Steel
Fixes the issues with its predecessor almost completely while showcasing the band's sound in its purest form.
Judas Priest Sad Wings of Destiny
Overall, this is a strong record that contains a few of the band's best tracks with great lyrics and themes to boot.
Judas Priest Stained Class
Though it never quite hits the superb mark, the Priest's fourth effort provides some very solid material as well as one undeniable classic that helps it rank high among their discography.
Judas Priest Unleashed in the East
Legitimacy skepticisms aside, this is an excellent collection of the band's older material, with the weaker songs still being given strong performances. This brings up something that Priest has, for a long time, been able to accomplish what few other bands can: sound better live than in-studio. One only needs a listen to "Victim of Changes" here to understand what I mean.
Jurassic 5 Quality Control
I listen almost strictly to heavy metal and tend to turn my nose up to rap and hip-hop, yet for some reason or another this gets my head nodding. That has to count for something.
Justin Hurwitz La La Land OST
Blissful music for an ethereal film, those who are inspired to see La La Land (which you should be) will be inspired to buy the soundtrack to carry a piece of the movie with them. Even non-musical fans are urged to experience either.
Kalmah Swampsong
It doesn't quite hit the masterpiece mark, but Swampsong's flow and energy give it a familiar yet different style that's tough to resist.
Kalmah For the Revolution
There's really nothing amazing or bad about this album, which turns out to work in both directions.
Kalmah Seventh Swamphony
Seventh Swamphony is a sneaky piece of work. While it comes off as overly familiar at face value, repeat listens and closer inspections make the music easier to appreciate. Kalmah's continued push for a thrashier sound is realized through pulsating beats and a decided de-emphasis on keyboards (they're borderline indiscernible). The end result is an album that will be immediately striking for some and a grower for others. Either way, you'll get a fun 40 minutes out it.
Kamelot Karma
Arguably the first "true" Kamelot album, Karma is a fine display of the band from any and all aspects. The melancholic power metal employed feels particularly defining for the band, never descending to the point of feeling Gothic, but doing just enough to offset the cheesy qualities power metal is known for. Yet even these moments are considerably more mature than anything the group did up to The Fourth Legacy, and signaled a welcome evolution that would progress on Epica and reach its pinnacle on The Black Halo.
Katatonia Last Fair Deal Gone Down
The mental equivalent to drowning in a thick swamp at night while suffering the side effects of anti-depressants.
Katatonia Sounds of Decay
Brave Murder Day's unhinged cousin, a little less similar in structure but ultimately consistent with the entrancing melodies from before. I'd say go fetch a copy, but since it probably comes with any presently available copy of Brave Murder Day, you should be set.
Katatonia The Great Cold Distance
It's almost ridiculous how consistent this album is. Katatonia seemed to find a solid basis to build upon for their future albums here, as it sounds like their most confident and collected LP for the time of its release. As far as I'm concerned, there are no weak tracks here, but on the same token it's difficult to pick standout tracks.
Katatonia Dead End Kings
One of Katatonia's most accessible albums, but also one of their most sonically pleasing. Dead End Kings feels like an effort at refining the band's formula, the ensuing result being a showcase for everyone involved, and it many ways it sounds more emotional than anything else the band have made then or since. The only thing that holds this album back is a lack of ambition to do something greater, which Night is the New Day achieved in spades. But when the music can hold up so well and sound so great, despite its simplicity, this is hardly a deal-breaker.
Katatonia The Fall of Hearts
The Fall of Hearts brings to mind the image of a thickly dressed figure coming home to their cold and fragile house. Walking in feels no different, as if the short rustic walls had played host to the enveloping cold all day and night, week after week. An indoor fire to melt the shivering veins would be heavenly, but alas, the only source of heat is the shower--its water capable of reaching some miraculous temperatures. Were a bystander to look upon this person, undressing to relieve themselves, they?d see a figure in shadows, the kind that feebly walks upon city streets before collapsing beneath old black garbage bags. It isn?t until this figure enters the shower that the filth upon their body becomes apparent: water greets the body clean and clear, but bathes the floor thick and dusty, like mud. As the heat rises, their coldly contaminated skin is simultaneously pierced and relieved. Yet the water which falls to the floor remains black and brown, thickening in density as time moves on.
Katatonia Kocytean
Katatonia's most comprehensive and modern-sounding EP, Kocytean shows a side to them that they've kept surprisingly dormant, a side that favors the calm and mellow to the crushing and potent. This is a more natural-sounding Katatonia, the kind that is accessible to newcomers but a definite treat for those who've missed out on bonus material over nearly a decade's worth of work.
Killswitch Engage Alive or Just Breathing
A strong, commendable sophomore effort that shows the band at their best; guaranteed to keep many listeners coming back.
Kreator Gods of Violence
A high octane barrel of contemporary thrash from one of the genre's venerable forefathers. Fourteen albums in and Kreator are still showing their peers and padawans how to execute the genre proper.
Kreator Phantom Antichrist
Kreator stick to their guns as ever, unleashing pure, unrelenting thrash metal that will get your blood pumping, heads banging and fists soaring, and that's just for the appetizer.
Lamb of God As the Palaces Burn
Constantly hard-hitting yet varied enough to avoid feeling redundant and excellent pacing help make As the Palaces Burn one of the most well constructed modern albums.
Leprous Malina
Every bit as dynamic as it is atmospheric, Malina is an album that's difficult to pinpoint and describe, but never fails to leave a lasting impression. Definitely one of 2017's highlights.
Les Discrets Ariettes Oubliees...
Feels more isolated than its predecessor, which can make the album drag a bit, but the music feels matured to just the right amount while retaining those lovely little traces that feel nostalgic despite being new to the listener.
Lights and Motion Dear Avalanche
Hammock and Two Steps from Hell had a baby. It's almost too poppy and upbeat for its own good, but damn does it put you in a good mood.
Machine Head The Blackening
Though the band definitely prolong their material here, there's enough going for it to where it should maintain most listeners interest.
Metallica Master of Puppets
At its best, Master of Puppets is a strong, at times narrative-driven thrash metal album that will do more than enough to get you pumped up and singing (or yelling) its lyrics. At its worst, the album has some of the dull, slow moments that the band exhibited on Ride the Lightning. In the end, it's another stellar release for the band that, as with its predecessors, falls a step or two short of the masterpiece mark with classic songs unfortunately dragged down by lesser tracks.
Metallica Kill 'Em All
Metallica's debut album is full of energy and oozes with thrashing speed. Production and the occasional dull moments hinder the album and keep it from being excellent, but there are enough strong moments that allow it stand strong.
Metallica Ride the Lightning
For a good chunk of the album's run time, Ride the Lightning encompasses nearly every strength the thrash metal genre knows and makes the first five tracks indicate the entire album won't let up. Afterwards, however, the sound begins to slow down and shows that "slow" and "thrash metal" are not always ideal combinations. Thus, we have a release that hits below the excellent mark but still has some very strong tracks regardless.
Metallica ...And Justice for All
Once again, Metallica narrowly miss conjuring up a masterpiece on ...And Justice For All. Although the slower tracks are handled better than those on Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning, the lengthy runtime of the songs and album as a whole with the lack of bass guitar prominence brings it down a couple steps. On the other hand, the sound presented here is arguably the best the band have experimented with, bringing some at times powerful and intense tracks a la "One" and "Dyers Eve," respectively.
Metallica Metallica
A drastic change of tone from ...And Justice For All, The Black Album sees Metallica in a far more casual position than before. The end result is an album that feels pleasantly comfortable and one of the band's more consistent releases. While there aren't as many truly excellent tracks as what the band have put out in the past, this is still a strong album that sees a shift which is at least worth moderate praise.
Moonspell Night Eternal
Dark, atmospheric, occasionally gloomy and even riff-induced, Night Eternal is an easy album to get behind. The blend of bite and melody is damn-near impeccable, and the band showcase their punctual efforts with barely a moment of hesitation. Simply put, this is a thoroughly enjoyable through and through.
Myrath Tales of the Sands
Tales of the Sands feels true to Myrath's heritage without coming off as alienating. Quite the opposite, the music is a rare, easy-to-enjoy blend of oriental and progressive music. Not one track is carried out longer than it needs to be, allowing the album to sound focused and concise. Ultimately, this is material well worth investing the time into; it's quick to leave an impression and gradually sinks in like a massage chair (strange at first, but refreshing and easy to turn to).
Nevermore Dreaming Neon Black
Dreaming Neon Black proves itself as a surprisingly dark album, even by progressive standards and taking the name into account. Suffering, fury and, at points, somber attitudes comprise an overall effective ventilation from start to finish without dragging on or feeling redundant. The reputation which precedes this album isn't completely unwarranted, though it's likely that a fair number of individuals won't embrace its qualities simply for its rather stark style.
Nevermore The Politics of Ecstasy
A pulsating and charge-filled amalgamation of progressive and thrash metal, Nevermore's sophomore album is anything but a slump. Everyone in the band drives the music home with concussive and shattering brilliance. This is further topped out by Warrel Dane giving a loud, throbbing vocal performance that leaves so many others sounding utterly weak. Almost impossible to put down and entrancing, a seldom dry moment does little to deter what is, ultimately, an incredible album.
Nightwish Angels Fall First
Nightwish more or less show their folk roots as the basis for Angels Fall First and, though it might be less accessible, it's also one of their more gratifying releases overall. Acoustic and far less symphonic-heavy sounds comprise the vast majority of the music, which is a key reason it's so vigorously enjoyable. An interesting album to listen to after hearing its debatably sugarcoated successors.
Nightwish Wishmaster
Though not quite in the same league as Oceanborn, Wishmaster remains a more than solid follow-up which still brings fans back (and for good reason). Arguably the band's most consistent album and a stepping stone for what they'd continue to develop even after Tarja's abrupt dismissal.
Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral
The Downward Spiral could be called, for lack of a better, more appropriate word, a complete clusterfuck. Bipolar, spontaneous and inconsistent only mark the beginning of what one could use to describe this mind-frying package. Of course, the ultimate question to ask is if it sounds any good with its unpredictability? Fortunately, The Downward Spiral has some strong moments to be found throughout its admittedly prolonged runtime, with "Closer" and "A Warm Place" being among these points. With its unconventional stylistic approaches, however, it's only inevitable that listeners will return frequently just to fully grasp the track collection here.
Noorvik Noorvik
One of the more interesting and dynamic post rock records I've heard personally. Noorvik take quite a bit of liberty with their influences, which does lead to some slight disjoint during some transitions, but altogether, this is a compelling debut showcasing a band with plenty of promise.
Omnium Gatherum New World Shadows
A proper melodic death metal expression, littered with progressive and melancholic touches that affirms Omnium Gatherum as an established act. Dark Tranquillity and Amorphis fans are beyond encouraged to check this out.
Omnium Gatherum Beyond
Omnium Gatherum continue from New World Shadows with less of a push and more of a slide; Beyond is a finer product that encourages repeat listens more than any of their previous albums. The contrast of low vocals and dark instrumental play with strangely tranquil ambiance--characteristic of doom--is an effective strategy that helps them craft a personable identity. What it lacks in innovation or creativity, it makes up for in effectiveness.
Opeth Watershed
Opeth continue to provide their usual level of pinnacle music on Watershed. Some might be put off, however, by the more relaxed nature of the album, making it feel closer to Dream Theater's Images and Words rather than a relatively even mix of that and death metal. Fortunately, the execution is still excellent, with Porcelain Heart and Hessian Peel being further proof the band aren't losing touch.
Overkill Ironbound
Unrelenting modern thrash metal, as it should be done.
Pantera Vulgar Display of Power
Just like Metallica's early works, Vulgar Display of Power works best during its faster moments (which are thankfully dominant) but loses ground during most of its slower songs and sections. Ultimately, this an appropriate progression from its predecessor and definitely has enough livery to shine; even if most of the stronger tracks are among the first half.
Pantera Cowboys from Hell
Pantera's proper and welcome genre shift is ripe with energy, bringing us some truly stellar tracks that should crave just about anyone's metal appetite.
Paradise Lost Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
Paradise Lost at their catchiest without coming across as off-putting. If anything, the fact they were able to craft an album that takes traces of their doom and gloom foundation and make it this fun is all the more testament to how impressive this album is.
Pearl Jam Ten
Working through a variety of emotions and striking a great balance between the calm and gruff, Ten started Pearl Jam's career off well while bringing a clear, strong identity to the grunge genre. An adequate fix for both relatively easy and more engaging listens.
Power Trip Nightmare Logic
Excellent crossover thrash material, weaving through a short-but-sweet collage of tracks so seamlessly and with such brevity that it begs to be replayed again and again.
Queensryche Empire
Compared to its predecessor, Empire is an embarrassing letdown. On its own rights, the album has some long, dull stretches but the stronger tracks and moments are enough to help it stand back up.
Rammstein Mutter
High quality industrial metal that tackles some dark subject matter while also being endearingly fun.
Redemption Long Night's Journey Into Day
Tom Englund sounds better here than he has on anything with Evergrey. This album also feels like a breath of fresh air after how the stagnant ordeal that was The Art of Loss.
Rishloo Eidolon
A wide palette of progressive rock, offering much emotion up front and through the details. This is the kind of prog that keeps you on your toes more than it challenges you to keep up. Even the slow moments never descend into dull territory, allowing atmosphere to build when the band wants us to contemplate a little.
Rush Moving Pictures
The ever-popular Moving Pictures continues to prove itself as a competent piece of progressive music. Influences have been found and taken from not just this album but the band, simultaneously; lending it a place in the mid-evolution of the genre. In all, Moving Pictures is consistently solid, avoids dragging out even with lengthier tracks at-hand and almost completely earns its acclaim and reputation.
Scar Symmetry Pitch Black Progress
Scar Symmetry lose much of their luscious melodies in exchange for a more mechanized and commanding sound. The result is an occasionally uneven album but one that manages to improve over its predecessor thanks to the band taking an extra step with their stylistic approach.
Sepultura Chaos A.D.
While it would have been nice to hear more of the fast and louder tracks, Chaos A.D. remains a fine expression of outrage, filled with and driven by plenty of power.
Seventh Wonder Waiting in the Wings
With Tommy Karevik on-board, Seventh Wonder take off in a way that obliterates any semblance of their underwhelming debut. Do they take things a little too buoyantly? Sure. But the music feels so alive and sounds so fun. I'll take that over the dismal nature of Become any day.
Seventh Wonder The Great Escape
Seventh Wonder clean up their sound and let that serve as the main, audible basis for The Great Escape. The results are still enjoyable and even occasion to impress, but it may take another release or two before we see them realize the strength of their past with the mastery of their present (well, as of 2010).
Shadows Fall Of One Blood
Even with fresh blood in the band, Shadows Fall managed to craft a still vigorous and engaging album with Of One Blood. Despite a chunk of the songs being redone with Fair on vocals, the music still feels fresh and manages to be almost on-par with its predecessor.
Shadows Fall The Art of Balance
The Art of Balance maintains a consistent flow with enough variety to keep things interesting from start to finish, featuring some excellent guitar work, at times striking vocals and a superb cover of "Welcome to the Machine."
Shadows Fall Somber Eyes to the Sky
Interestingly the band's best effort comes to be the one album Brian Fair didn't supply vocals for. Though this is part of the more eccentric vocal style, it's also thanks to the album having a more frantic and crazed sound than what the rest of the group would subsequently release. And the limited production actually works to this album's favor by adding a rigorous flavor that compliments the sound very well. An excellent release in every sense.
Shylmagoghnar Emergence
Organically up-tempo progressive melodic death metal sure to satisfy fans of In Mourning and Novembre. The three would make a hell of tour, if it ever happened.
Shylmagoghnar Transience
Unapologetically grand and desperately immaculate, Transience spares no expense in its long-winded attempt to send you on a journey that begs time, patience and imagination. Overwhelming? Absolutely, but how often do we get albums this large in scale that also warrant serious, contemplative thought while listening?
Sixx:A.M. Heroin Diaries Soundtrack
A few missteps aside, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack manages to be a very stellar album in more ways than not that gives the occasional sign of brilliance and clever songwriting.
Skyharbor Guiding Lights
Skyharbor's Guiding Lights casts a charm its predecessor simply lacked. A big factor for this is the decision to cut back on harsh vocals, instead letting the music flow out and feel more cerebral. The melodic progressive nature would make one think Guiding Lights should be an instrumental affair, which wouldn't be the worst idea, except Daniel Tompkins puts on a competent performance. Even through a few unremarkable moments, Guiding Lights matches its wondrous cover art so well, maintaining enough strides to keep one listening several times over.
Slayer Reign in Blood
Almost completely unrelenting and aggressive, Slayer's highly acclaimed (and controversial) Reign in Blood shows just about how far the thrash metal genre can be taken in speed, intensity and subject matter. Even though the opening (Angel of Death) and closing tracks (Raining Blood) are the only real classics present here, the entire album does a damn fine job of pushing the limits, despite being nearly 25 years old.
Slayer Seasons in the Abyss
Seasons in the Abyss is, at its heart, a mix between Reign In Blood and South of Heaven. A few of the melodies that could be found in the latter are also found here, but are less prominent, allowing the band to sink back into their more traditional sound. Fortunately, the more unique aspects taken from South of Heaven help give this album an instantly identifiable sound. As a result, the album is about on par with its 1986 predecessor.
Slow (BE) V - Oceans
Likely the most submersive metal album of the year; if you've ever wondered what the musical equivalent to drowning while holding just enough breath to stay alive sounds like, this is it.
Sonata Arctica Silence
Sonata Arctica take the necessary steps to create a proper follow-up in Silence, which has a few breathtaking numbers to really pull its listeners in. This is what can best be described as a charismatically characteristic album, representing the best of a symphonic/power metal band. Inherent shortcomings are a given, but try telling that to a fan of said genres when the music is this catchy and effective.
Sonata Arctica Reckoning Night
With Reckoning Night, Sonata Arctica begin to fully realize their change in formula without getting carried away. For some, there will be a slight learning curve while others will gravitate towards it easier than its predecessors. Regardless, there's a healthy batch of competent material to find, arguably more (in number) than the band's other works. It doesn't work quite as effectively, but this doesn't get in the way of recommending Reckoning Night to anyone serious about heavy metal.
Soundtrack (Disney) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
A personal favorite. Underrated soundtrack to an underrated film.
Stratovarius Infinite
A definitive entry for both Stratovarius and power metal, Infinite makes its case by expressing multiple strengths with focus. There's nary a moment that feel too indulgent, and the album's production still holds up today, making it an easy recommendation for metal completionists.
Swallow the Sun Ghosts of Loss
Improves upon its predecessor in some ways, such as a slightly tighter focus on atmosphere, but in other ways it loses some cohesion, but not enough to last more than a stretch of a track at a time. For my money, this is easier to return to than their debut. But you really can't go wrong with either of these fine slices of melodic contemporary doom metal, provided that's what you're looking for.
Swallow the Sun The Morning Never Came
What's great about this album is that it's utterly committed to its sound and vision, it just builds and builds until no obsidian stone is unturned. The movements, both from and within each track, are varied and lend the music a sense of progression without resorting to the extravagances most bands would normally be content to slip into. It feels blossomed yet concise all the same, and for a debut, that's no small feat.
Swallow the Sun Songs from the North I, II & III
Undoubtedly daunting, Swallow the Sun basically run their full gamut on this triple-disc behemoth, and while the feast may be overindulgent for a single listen, the fact we receive some considerable quality shouldn't be shrugged aside. There's something for every branch of the band's fans here; old school fans will dig disc 3, new fans will enjoy disc 1. Disc 2 is a bit of an outlier with its bittersweet, Pale Folklore-esque personality, which may be a bit more credit than it deserves, but then again, this is highly subjective. Taken together, Songs from the North will speak to each listener in different ways, and if nothing else, it's an exciting discovery to find that batch of tracks that truly works for you in this smorgasbord. For my money, most of disc 1, about a third of disc 2 and all of disc 3 are where the goods are.
Symphony X The Divine Wings of Tragedy
There should be a category for albums like this: "Just Short of Masterpiece." The real tragedy of this album is that even with three truly classic tracks, there are still just enough less-worthy moments which bring it right below the mark. Had the quality been more consistently strong, this would've earned the masterpiece mark with room to brag.
Symphony X Paradise Lost
Symphony X come damn close to providing a true masterpiece on Paradise Lost. While the neo classical influences have all but disappeared in exchange for a more thrash-oriented approach, the results are equally solid. One of the band's darker and heavier works, this is sure to appeal to a wider audience than their previous works since it's easier to enjoy as a more straightforward metal album. But this shouldn't discourage fans of their older material, as the music here is even more vigorous than before.
Testament The Legacy
Speed, aggression and the occasional signs of melody are all present and prominent enough for noting in The Legacy. As one might expect, the album is at its best during the solos and heavier drum moments, which helps make for an invigorating listen. Even though the entire album isn't consistent enough to make it worth elite praise, this is still a great album that any thrash metal fan would do well to keep an eye out for.
Testament The New Order
The New Order is a far louder and, at times, angrier album than its predecessor. However, there are far less striking moments that will grab the listener and bring them into the album. Even so, this is another very stellar album which has plenty of staying power for those who simply want a heavy, satisfying thrash album.
Testament Brotherhood of the Snake
Out of all the recent Testament offerings, this one feels the most confident. It's true to the band's roots and goes big in a way that makes them feel more mature and timeless than their contemporaries. A damn fine offering.
The Contortionist Language
Considerably more ethereal than their previous material, Language sees The Contortionist reaching a progressive, melodic plateau, taking cues not unlike older groups while retaining a decidedly modern exterior all the same.
Threshold March of Progress
Threshold pull off an album that works wonderfully, whether from start to finish or when singling its individual moments out. The band are catchy as ever, with excellent vocals and hooks aplenty, drawing a number of influences to create a sound that, though heavily borrowed, is still definitely theirs. Accessible without dumbing the music down (quite the opposite), March of Progress is an easy recommendation for rock/metal listeners of any degree.
Tiluland Axes of the Universe
Truly a breath of revitalizing air. The album doesn't deliver consistently enough to earn classic status, but the great moments are still rich and plentiful. Varied, sometimes enthralling and occasionally haunting, Tiluland's debut makes one yearn for an immediate follow-up, but also wonder if the magic can be repeated.
Tool Lateralus
Lateralus is a tough album to swallow. Not because it sounds so unconventional (though this isn't far from the case), but because it's a long listen at well over 70 minutes. This aspect alone brings some advantages and disadvantages which can make it a make or break situation for the listener. And, granted, sticking around for the entire runtime doesn't feel necessary since the songs, though mostly varied, do begin to feel derivative of each other. On the other hand, this lends to some interesting progressive elements being utilized. Peculiarity is the name of the theme here, which is surged about profusely and ultimately gives us some excellent tracks along with other very solid pieces throughout. Being uninitiated with the band (until now), it's tough to really decide which side of the field I'm one with these guys. But if there's anything I must hand them regardless, it's that they know how to give other groups a run for their money (and talent).
Trees, Clouds and Silence Trees, Clouds & Silence
Beautiful debut, despite the occasional mishap. Blackgaze fans will want to keep their eyes on this band in the future.
Two Steps From Hell Invincible
Invincible may be a compilation of sorts what with only two then-new tracks, but that doesn't interfere with the level of engagement. If you're looking for music to become immersed in and feel motivated by, Two Steps from Hell deliver this in spades. And their tracks are brief, so you needn't worry about waiting to be inspired.
Venom Black Metal
Unapologetic both in both music and imagery, Venom's second studio album manages to trump over its weak production and deliver a sound that still packs a strong punch.
Votum Harvest Moon
Elegant passages abound, Harvest Moon may go down as Votum's crowning achievement for many. Though it doesn't leave the same impression after numerous listens, you'll be hard pressed to find a host of albums even half as genuine as this collage of progressive rock and metal.
Whispered Thousand Swords
This samurai-infused debut album proves to be a formidable force, one that makes other albums of similar styles feel weak and uninteresting by comparison. While none of the tracks are completely amazing from start to finish, this is only the biggest complaint which should be made against the album. And, as one can tell just from the opening of the title track, there's plenty of potential for this band to utilize in the future with subsequent releases.

3.5 great
10 Years The Autumn Effect
A good, well-balanced and casual listen with some strong tracks present.
Abigail Williams In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns
A strong offering of extreme metal, Abigail Williams' debut LP has good enough production to appeal to listeners who aren't so fond of black metal while keeping the attention of the genre's enthusiasts. This is isn't to say the album trumps any of the classic efforts by Emperor, Darkthrone, Mayhem and the like. But what the band lacks in dark intrigue, they make up for in energetic and surprisingly well-structured songs that sound alike while being individual from each other.
AC/DC Back In Black
AC/DC are the embodiment of a band that's easy to love or hate simultaneously. They're incredibly simplistic and their songs begin to blend together within the same album, but they're so fun in such a straightforward way that, if the listener doesn't care for technicality or variety, they should get what they want. Back in Black demonstrates this to the fullest effect, bringing a surprisingly consistent rock and roll vibe to each track without losing focus. While the aforementioned shortcomings do apply, it's not to the point of ruining the songs, let alone the entire album. As a result, it's fun and energetic with little to shake the music world, but if that were the point, we wouldn't have the sound and results present here.
Akercocke Renaissance in Extremis
An interesting mesh of styles, most notably death metal and progressive rock, Renaissance in Extremis wefts and weaves in a way that keeps you guessing while retaining just enough familiar, agreeable touches.
Alcest Shelter
Neige's latest is an even mellower affair than its predecessor, making it a smoother overall listen. There might still be the issue of sounding repetitive, but the consistency feels more appropriate here, which alleviates the aforementioned issue ever so slightly.
Alcest Les Voyages De L'Âme
Part of this album's appeal is its adamance; there's a definite direction sought and we're never taken elsewhere. Though not without producing a certain degree of "loudness," Neige treats us to a mostly relaxing experience. The downfall? It blends together too well, too seamlessly. Each song essentially falls into an archetype, which makes the novelty wear thin during the middle stretch. Fortunately, the ultimate and lasting impression is positive and resounding.
Alcest Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde
Alcest craft a soundscape that's relaxing with harsh edges around a number of corners and crevices, meshing styles that would otherwise feel counter-intuitive. The final result is more surprising than one might expect, as the harmony created falls into place quickly and easily. You may actually be surprised how such a dynamic is quick to show off its best moments, but the entire journey is just enough to feel sufficient.
Alcest Spiritual Instinct
Spiritual Instinct is assuringly safe. Coming off of Kodama, it might feel like a stale strand of tracks, but there's just enough for Alcest fans to settle down and be content with it.
Alice in Chains Facelift
All told, Alice in Chains got off on the right note (no pun intended) with their debut in Facelift. It does admittedly drag out in certain parts and lacks more stellar tracks during the second half. Conversely, the music works very well even on the lesser points and, for a debut LP, this is a good start.
Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto Glass
Glass asks you to focus all attention on itself and suspend everything else. This is an album that, for the right listener, will slow them down to a stand-still and allow them to become more singularly focused.
Amon Amarth Twilight of the Thunder God
Amon Amarth's latest does drag out in parts, but there are enough lively moments that ultimately make for a fun listening just about any metal fan should enjoy.
Amon Amarth With Oden on Our Side
Considered Amon Amarth's best effort to date, With Oden On Our Side demonstrates the band with much command and, for much of the runtime, gives us melodic death metal that isn't terribly melodic. This results in a heavier sound that will probably sound the best to death metal fans. But like other recent releases of the said genre, we get some slow, weary moments here and the truly strong points are either scarce or completely missing-in-action. As a result, it's definitely adequate listening material with overall good results, but the band hardly tap into their potential here.
Amon Amarth Jomsviking
Amon Amarth just pulled a Killswitch Engage. Or is it the other way around?
Amorphis Eclipse
Enough stellar moments exist in Eclipse's runtime to make it an enjoyable album that should appeal to metalheads and those wanting a more relaxing, melodic listen compared to a number of other bands.
Angtoria God Has A Plan For Us All
Sarah Jezebel Deva is God Has a Plan for Us All's main attraction and asset. Without her voice, this is merely some gothic/symphonic effort that rings like an Epica imitation--band some would contend as an imitation to begin with.
Anorexia Nervosa Redemption Process
Long yet very well-paced songs supplemented by a solid, hard-hitting symphonic black metal sound make this an album worth listening to.
Anterior This Age of Silence
Though the songs blend together almost too much, there's some remarkable craftsmanship to be found matched by a great core sound.
Anubis Gate Anubis Gate
With a new singer and alteration in direction, Anubis Gate's self-titled release sees them touch upon a little something different with each track. Though neither bold nor resolute, Anubis Gate (as an album) shows the band doing well in all shades they tackle.
August Burns Red Constellations
At the very least, August Burns Red provide good, generally strong improvements over the unremarkable Messengers. While faults on that album do work their way here, it isn't nearly as deteriorating as before and, as a result, we get a far more proper idea of the band's strengths. The group also does well to show us just how far they, as a metalcore band, can take the genre with their music. Granted, this isn't a great distance, but we're definitely treated to more life on Constellations than we are on several other albums within the same style.
August Burns Red Leveler
August Burns Red come closer to smoothing out their cliche shortcomings on Leveler. Slumping moments are still present (as the breakdowns still become tiring after a while), but they've managed to make the music far more commanding. Even some of the trite aspects feel natural at first; really an indication of a band with potential and talent. A near-excellent record and a pleasant surprise for music in 2011. Now if only they stuck with the changes indicated at more in the first half.
Ayreon The Source
I can neither doubt Arjen's passion nor his dedication to the Ayreon project; its ambition is matched only by its overzealous grandeur. This creates a bit of a polarity: criticize it for its cheesy, bloated nature...or celebrate it for its scale and in spite of its overtly symphonic nature? I wouldn't say the album as a whole sticks, but there are times it leaves a surprising impression, and those are the moments that make me understand why Ayreon has the fanbase it does. Doesn't necessarily mean I'll be joining the ranks any time soon, though.
Don't know why I'm honestly surprised by the divisiveness this project has drawn. I will say that once you get past the novelty and start paying attention to the music itself, the cracks become apparent. This is a band you need to watch accompanying videos for in order to fully enjoy. Thankfully, they have several music videos between this and Metal Resistance, so as long as you have access to YouTube, keep your indulgence in BABYMETAL limited to that and you'll have a much better time.
Be'lakor The Frail Tide
Potential production shortcomings are all but cast aside by The Frail Tide's invigorating mix of doom, progressive and melodic death metal that stands out even during the lesser tracks. Combine the excellent opening and closing tracks with a surprisingly lengthy but effective keyboard instrumental "Paths" and the foundations for more fantastic material is set in stone.
Before The Dawn My Darkness
Before the Dawn's debut manages to match atmosphere with brevity--no song even reaches four-and-a-half minutes. Even when the music is a pinch above mid-tempo, there's still a lingering ambiance between the harsh and melodic. First impressions can go a long way, and My Darkness sets the standard pretty high for future Before the Dawn releases.
Between the Buried and Me Alaska
Between the Buried and Me run into a bit of Demanufacture syndrome with Alaska. The first few tracks leave quite the impression and, during "Breathe In, Breathe Out," it's easy to expect the rest of the album to follow suit. However, the rest of the album seems to slump, particularly in the late middle chunk. The foundations for an excellent album are present and even utilized to good effect, but as a whole, it's mostly a good, if not great effort which simply needs more push to bring it up.
Billy Joel Streetlife Serenade
Accessible but occasionally rebellious, Billy Joel provides what's ultimately a bridge (no pun intended)
leading to his eventual pinnacle. Most of the tracks here have unimposing runtimes given the genre and,
thus, Streetlife Serenade never really breaks through. It's simply a quick and generally safe album.
Billy Joel Piano Man
Though it doesn't always work well, Piano Man still brings a few excellent tracks and is generally on the right path. It's during these best points that Joel begins to show his true potential as a musician, both technically and sound-wise. Subsequently, as a successor, Piano Man is a good progression after Cold Spring Harbor while still leaving room for improvement.
Billy Joel An Innocent Man
Billy Joel lets his slightly older sound remain for An Innocent Man. Though it isn't without the upbeat feel from which was on the seldom side during The Stranger, this helps make it a good, straightforwardly entertaining package. Even with a lack of solid piano work and excelling tracks, it's hard to not enjoy the usual, magical vibe that Joel exhibits.
Black Anvil As Was
Surprisingly dynamic batch of black/thrash metal, the band make a valiant effort to keep the music from falling into a rut, and while it can definitely slog along and become a bit repetitive, there's an undeniable amount of promise and variety here.
Black Sabbath Dehumanizer
Though not without its weak points, Dehumanizer holds up pretty well and has some surprisingly effective tracks in spots.
Blackguard Profugus Mortis
Just part of what makes Blackguard such an enjoyable band is that they embrace their over-the-top nature. Similar to groups like Wintersun, a number of genres and aspects are simultaneously incorporated which creates a curious, but vigorously rewarding mix. Kinetic and epic, Profugus Mortis completely avoids dragging out and turns out to be one of the few examples of an album that both metal newcomers and the long-familiar will enjoy.
Blind Guardian Nightfall in Middle-Earth
Blind Guardian tackle a promising concept on Nightfall in Middle Earth and bring some strong material throughout the runtime. But this also leads to a couple problems with the album, namely its length and unnecessary, quick track breaks with almost every song. The music here is good enough and excellent during select points, but its all executed without living up to the greater potential.
Blind Guardian At the Edge of Time
During its best moments, At the Edge of Time hits the ball hard and far, but never delivers that home run. Some inconsistencies during the middle act leave the stronger points providing less impact than it initially promises. A good, if not great album regardless, just not up to the standard that the band has been known for.
Blind Guardian Follow the Blind
A stronger, heavier and more consistent affair than Battalions of Fear, Follow the Blind sees Blind Guardian on a proper path to improvement, indicating more of their potential and influence.
Blinded Colony Bedtime Prayers
The alternating clean/harsh style works well enough on this album to make it a worthwhile, casual listening.
Blood Stain Child Idolator
An interesting yet viscerally satisfying album which has a sound that's solid and executed well enough to look past some of its shortcomings.
Bonded by Blood Feed the Beast
As a throwback/revival album, it should go without saying that Feed the Beast won't even become a cult classic for thrash enthusiasts. But what it does accomplish is being a fine resurrection of the energy that the genre used to be credible for. And thanks to some great solos, riffs and production, the throbbing traits expected of such an album become that much more rewarding. A simple and fun listen.
Bonobo Migration
Pleasant, easygoing and relaxed music that somehow struggles to captivate my interest as much as I feel it should. It seems like Bonobo are treading a line of discord between nature and electronica, which works in some ways from an atmospheric standpoint, and even shines with how it builds rhythm. But there's something distracting about how Migration attempts to bridge the gap between two opposing forces. It's admirable, but only arguably successful.
Borknagar Quintessence
Fairly standard synth-fed black metal that too obviously has modest aspirations; which is exactly what it accomplishes. A shame too, since the band show some potential here and get almost no outstanding moments. That said, "Colossus" is still a damn fine track.
Borknagar Winter Thrice
Winter Thrice feels like it's trying to replicate the effects of being in a blizzard; stylistically all over the place, particularly chilling in a swarming way, and discontent to stick with one particular tug of the wind for too long. There's a lot to take in, and the album remains enjoyable, it's just that it may be too overzealous for its own good.
Caspian The Four Trees
Caspian's debut is enchanting but just shy of complete immersion, which does dampen a bit of the potential takeaway. It's not that there's a lack of captivation, quite the opposite, but there is a sense that the album could work so much more eloquently if it was wholly committed, which it only flickers at.
Children of Bodom Hate Crew Deathroll
The compromise of atmosphere and melody for a more thrash-oriented and at times slower sound works well in many spots, but all told it's inferior to its predecessors.
Children of Bodom Blooddrunk
Though lacking memorable tracks, Blooddrunk still manages to be an improvement over its predecessor and utilizes the better aspects of Hate Crew Deathroll to make for an enjoyable listen.
Children of Bodom Chaos Ridden Years - Stockholm Knockout
Bodom show more of their true colors live, which is captured well in this dual-disc release. Some songs aren't utilized quite so well, but this is mostly during the first short stretch (things pick up after the Deadbeats drum solo). Correspondingly, Laiho's vocals can get a bit annoying since he clearly shows his (more-than) limitations as a vocalist. The rest of the band, however, are in good shape for the most part, namely drummer Jaska Raatikainen. Moments such as the Bodom After Midnight/Bodom Beach Terror mix show the band can serve up a good live show. And thankfully, these moments generally outweigh the less-stellar points.
Circus Maximus The 1st Chapter
A characteristically progressive debut, not unlike Spock's Beard and early Dream Theater albums. The material is frequently competent and occasionally riveting, but lacks the final push to propel it into excellence.
Circus Maximus Isolate
More polished and streamlined than The 1st Chapter, but with less striking moments, Isolate sees Circus Maximus reach a quick comfort zone. This isn't necessarily a sophomore slump, since the material is still worthwhile, but you do get the impression settlement has already sunk in for this quintet.
Circus Maximus Nine
Nine definitely feels more experimental than Isolate, leading to some curious moments in the fact they're somewhat traditional. Yet all the same, Nine feels more engaging and even varied than Isolate, just without as much consistency.
Cradle of Filth Cruelty and the Beast
Cradle of Filth go through some inconsistencies with Cruelty and the Beast, with some great moments mostly being scattered throughout a mostly unremarkable album. The mixing feels off, Dani Filth's high vocals are simply annoying and even with the relatively excellent "Bathory Aria," little truly stands out here. Conversely, Filth's lower vocals are quite effective and, when the music is energetic enough, this can prove to be quite enjoyable. But you'll likely have to dig a bit into the album to find the real treat.
Crimson Glory Crimson Glory
This lightly progressive power metal album mixes the sound a number of bands had and would achieve around its time. The good news is that the material here is all enjoyable with usually great tracks comprising the runtime. However, even with its surprisingly effective melding of genres, Crimson Glory does next to nothing which helps it stand out. The charisma and passion is certainly present, but this is far from an innovative approach.
Crimson Shadows Kings Among Men
Kings Among Men makes a great first-listen impression, offering an enticing fusion of melodeath/power metal. It's as good a foundation as any, now all that Crimson Shadows need to do is experiment with their music, since comfort becomes all too apparent, even during a first listen basis. Whether this band has a future rests on how many chances they're willing to take and whether they pay off.
Dark Tranquillity Construct
Construct sees Dark Tranquillity going through the motions, playing with a wider palette. This is still fundamentally the same band, but the outfit is different and distinct from their previous works. Curiously, Construct works best during its more somber moments like "Uniformity," where the band emphasize the melodic part of their melodic death metal style.
Dark Tranquillity Atoma
A bit deceiving. While Atoma continues from where Construct left off, it seems to take more liberty with the electronic influence, which does make the album feel more repetitive. Compounding this is the fact Atoma is a fairly uncharacteristic Dark Tranquillity album; there's even less of the excitement and vigor from albums like Character and Damage Done. All of this may be the result of a band feeling age wear down on them (not to mention losing one of the long-time members after Construct), so the fact Atoma feels safe may not be so surprisingly. The good news, however, is that it gets marginally better over time as the atmosphere becomes a bit more apparent, which won't be everyone's cup of tea, but after many years of excellent, more metallic-sounding albums, I suppose Mikael Stanne and company have earned the right to indulge in something unadventurous, but still competent.
Dark Tranquillity The Mind's I
The first real move Dark Tranquillity made towards their trademark contemporary sound (up through Fiction at least), the results being less impressive than The Gallery but still more than solid on its own merits.
Dark Tranquillity Haven
Haven feels like a shedding of Dark Tranquillity's death metal basis, upping the melodic elements in a way that Projector would blush at. The thing is, Haven works better because it feels more committed at what it's trying to accomplish; sometimes a softer, sweeter package is simply more enjoyable. If Projector had the characteristics of an old book worn out due to stains from various liquids, then Haven is crisp and clingy like a fresh stack of dollar bills.
Darkest Hour Deliver Us
Brief and full of energy, those who enjoy a quick burst of modern, Gothenburg-inspired melodic death metal will get enough out of Deliver Us.
Dawn of Solace The Darkness
Probably one of Tuomas Saukkonen's better projects, which makes it all the more unfortunate that we never got any successive material under the Dawn of Solace moniker. This finds a nice, accessible balance between Before the Dawn and Swallow the Sun (Hope), I think I even sense a touch of Agalloch in there. Yet rather than feeling disjointed, the vision is surprisingly unified and committed, ensuring we get a consistently supply of stellar material that, for the most part, avoids overstaying its welcome.
Deaf Havana All These Countless Nights
Though a bit on the repetitive side, there's something dreamy yet equally personal about All These Countless Nights that makes it easy to win the listener over. Maybe it's the youthful, heartfelt charm on display catering to my gleeful side, but it's a welcome dose of musical affection.
Demons and Wizards Touched by the Crimson King
The first half has the album's best moments, outshining the rather unremarkable second half with good heavy riffs and wonderful melodies.
DGM Momentum
A Coke Zero iteration of progressive metal, Momentum has the sound and feel of said genre without being it through and through. This is a fun, easy metal album (play it during a videogame) that has little staying power, but may last with an occasional play.
Dimmu Borgir For All Tid
The rough production helps and hinders the album, with the mostly sparse use of vocals allowing the album to flow its dark, haunting sound well.
Dimmu Borgir Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia
This album feels far more to the point than its predecessors, which works very well but ultimately it's missing a true push to make it stand out (significantly) from the rest of the band's material.
Disarmonia Mundi Fragments Of D-Generation
Fragments of D-Generation could be described as an approachable, transitional album for the less adept metal listeners looking to gradually work their way to more interesting and rewarding material. In this sense, one could easily call the album borderline cookie-cutter and get away with it. However, the style here is enjoyable and, occasionally, engaging, regardless of how unimposing it might be in the grand scheme. Melodic death metal fans will obviously get the most out of this album. Essentially, it's another contribution to the bucket that, though unnecessary, is fun and avoids feeling overdone.
Disillusion Back to Times of Splendor
It's quite obvious where Disillusion's inspirations came from; with Opeth and, to a lesser extent, Between the Buried and Me being the immediate call-outs. And for what it's worth, Back to Times of Splendor does a great job at handling its core sound. Granted, it's less impressive than what you'll find from a band who are far more decisive and adept at handling a progressive sound. Ultimately, this debut shows far more promise than many bands can provide in their short runs. Simultaneously, however, it's both easy and rightful to look at this as little more than an entry way for the heavier groups such as Opeth, given this feels like them with a rather prevalently 'core sound.
Disillusion Alea
Prime example of how to handle a slow-building prog track. The structure feels sprawling while losing neither sight nor direction, with a nice ebb and flow. Now, if only this EP were more than one track...and if only this band would manage to get another LP out already.
Distant Dream It all Starts from Pieces
Post and prog merge paths and transport us on this debut from Marcin Majrowski, who taps into a host of emotions, including wonder, intrigue and excitement. Pull up the album art and savor this hidden instrumental gem in all its glory.
Distant Dream Your Own Story
Even more relaxed than its predecessor, Your Own Story favors the general mood and sound of post metal without completely subjecting itself to the genre's tendencies. Basically a collection of bedtime lullabies for rock and metal fans.
Disturbed The Sickness
I gotta say, this holds up surprisingly well for an album I traditionally listened to in middle/high school. No, it's not terribly interesting, creative or innovative, but I'll be damned if it doesn't hold up as a fun, catchy album.
Dream Theater Octavarium
Octavarium tries to be the best of two sides simultaneously, which leads it to stumble and slump too much from tracks two through six. Not all is lacking, however, as the album opens and closes with terrific, notable numbers. They're just not enough to propel the album alongside almost every thing else they previously released.
Dream Theater Dream Theater
Dream Theater's eponymous album is a true regression, a collection of songs that's less concerned with living up to the band's progressive reputation and more content with keeping the wheels turning. It's fine for enjoyment's sake, but those wanting something more competent or elaborate probably won't give this particular chapter much regard.
Dream Theater Distance Over Time
If all the Dream Theater albums from the past 15 or so years had a big orgy, fused into one, cloned itself, screwed the clone and made a single entity, this would be it.
Edenbridge The Great Momentum
Easy recommendation for symphonic fans, completely skippable for everyone else. The Great Momentum doesn't do anything new or interesting for its subgenre, and after eight studio albums, one might expect a more dynamic sound, but for what it's worth, this is still highly enjoyable thanks to the mostly concise songs and just-notable vocals. Go ahead and add it to your RPG playlist.
Edguy Space Police - Defenders of the Crown
Maintains Edguy's fun-going nature with an effectively light blend of various subgenres. Most surprising, however, is Space Police's varying tones that distinguish each song without straying from Edguy's core sound. There's more to come back for and, despite some dragging instances, Space Police stands proud as a statement for retro-style metal to live on.
Enslaved Axioma Ethica Odini
An experimental blend of metal, with black being the leading sonic element while progressive elements comprise much of the musical structure. It's certainly a curious mesh of styles, but it doesn't work as well for me as it does for most. Many of the transitions and passages feel more awkward than natural, particularly when the clean vocals come into play. Perhaps this is a case of an album needing time to plant its seed and let it grow proper, but the music isn't captivating enough to make me grant it more time in my garden.
Enthroned Tetra Karcist
Though without tracks that stick out, Tetra Karcist brings a nice, heavy sound to the table that makes for great, loud speaker playing.
Epica The Quantum Enigma
Epica charge their music up on The Quantum Enigma with results that are both surprising and striking. The album makes one hell of a first impression and though the flair does wear off after a few listens, it remains an easy album to return to in small bursts.
Epica Design Your Universe
Design Your Universe has most of the right ingredients in place, it just isn't cooked to its greatest potential. The taste is satisfying without impressing.
Epica The Holographic Principle
Somehow more of a show-off than The Quantum Enigma, yet also less glamorous. What's surprising is how the music remains thoroughly enjoyable, through the thick waves of cheesy, over-the-top themes. A lot more growling vocals than before this time too, reinforcing the edgier sound thanks to some great guitar riffs. Simone is also more noteworthy here than the last album, which is always a plus. Overall, this has the potential to be a grower, but even if it isn't, one could argue it actually trumps its glorious predecessor.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow Children of the Dark Waters
The supposed attempt to mix styles of its two predecessors helps give the album a darker edge over Before the Bleeding Sun, but the compensation is that the tracks lack focus and, as a result, wind up not feeling nearly as driven as what the band has played in the past.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow Before the Bleeding Sun
A nice blend of energetic, symphonic/melodic death metal from the oft-reliable country of Finland, Before the Bleeding Sun may not quite match its excellent predecessor, but that doesn't stop it from being a solid release in its own right.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow Sinner's Serenade
Eternal Tears of Sorrow's debut only faintly hints at the band's true sound as expanded upon in future releases. What this album contains more of, instead, is a heavier, more rampant style which holds up well enough. Yet even if this is the first album one listens to by the band it's rather clear it isn't a style that seems to fit the band well and the limited production does restrict what potential can be found. Taken for what it is, however, there's still some stellar material that might get the curiosity of die-hard fans.
Faye Wong Only Love Strangers
We may be strangers, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy each other's company.
Fifth Density Dominion of the Sun
Graduating from the Haken school of thought, Fifth Density's second album has been a long time coming, but the payoff is a welcome foray with plenty of prog variety to engage and, occasionally, surprise its listeners
Fleshgod Apocalypse King
Enjoyably grandiose death metal. It carries on longer than it feels, and combined with some sloppy moments, does drag the overall experience down a bit. For what it's worth, however, King is a stellar offering that's sure to impress with a few key highlights.
Forever In Terror Restless In The Tides
There's enough decent metalcore material to keep listeners interested, but not much really stands out about this album from the rest of the crowd.
Forever In Terror The End
The band's sophomore effort is smoother and more consistent than its predecessor, yet despite some catchy melodies this is still little more than another metalcore album without much, if anything new to offer.
Fractal Gates The Light That Shines
Ideal for fans of the small, relatively recent boom of cosmic metal a la Enshine and Scar Symmetry. Fundamentally, it's by-the-books melodic death metal with no trick up its sleeve other than its decorative veneer.
Green Day American Idiot
A classic case of an album that's both underrated and overrated, American Idiot gives us a more elaborate and serious side to Green Day with surprisingly good results. While it might be occasionally pretentious and slump during a couple or so tracks, the overall package is worthwhile and holds up nicely even if setting nostalgia aside. Not an amazing album that will catapult them alongside The Who or Pink Floyd, but certainly far above the bottom-of-the-barrell regard.
Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction
It's easy to see why this album has become popular and successful. The music is energetic (if borderline cookie-cutter), has some variety between tracks to help them become distinguished and is incredibly accessible given the time of its release. However, for all the fun that can be found out of this album, justifying all the acclaim and sales is a true stumper of a challenge. Appetite for Destruction isn't a true classic, it's an above-average and enjoyable release with some renowned tracks that, on their own are just more additions to its good but completely unremarkable formula (and execution).
Hans Zimmer Inception
Inception's score reciprocates its drops and pulsations like a kid who just realized what they can actually do with their fancy new DJ set-up. In most regards, the very industrialized sound is just what the film calls for. Granted, it isn't a full-proof transition for consistent entrancement, but in the hands of a lesser composer, that would be the least of our concerns.
Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Say what you will about the film, the music is definitely competent, even down to Lex Luthor's "The Red Capes Are Coming" theme, which I swear is meant to mimic Beethoven in a classically corny fashion. The music gets moody, triumphant and overall has a great sense of variety without feeling like a mess.
Harlott Extinction
Totally redistributed from other thrash metal bands. The riffs? Contemporary Testament. The vocals? Classic Slayer. The overarching vibe? Overkill. The final product is definitely worthwhile, just at the complete cost of originality and innovation.
Hatebreed Rise of Brutality
There's more speed and overall better pacing here, which gives the album an edge over its predecessor, but just barely.
Havok Conformicide
Politically charged thrash metal that takes inspiration from old school Overkill, musically speaking. Would Dave Mustaine be proud or outraged?
Heaven and Hell The Devil You Know
Nearly thirty years later and Dio with the Sabbath boys don't sound too different, essentially meaning we have a heavier mix of Dehumanizer and Heaven and Hell here; which is to say it's a good overall album.
Heavenly (FRA) Virus
Heavenly have an energetic potential to them that won't likely be realized, but the music here is more than catchy enough to end up a cut above the rest.
Helheim landawarijaR
Stale production hinders an otherwise promising album. Helheim sound like they're trying to evoke a classic, more traditional black metal facade, but with some of their own touches and liberties--be it the clean vocals or guitar solos. Sometimes the formula leads to strong results, and while the material certainly has the power to intrigue listeners, it isn't sustainable enough to fill the runtime.
Hour of Penance Cast the First Stone
Wisely short-lived and full of just enough tasty moments to make the listener feel they've had their fill all the same.
Iced Earth Framing Armageddon
Despite some slow, redundant missteps, Framing Armageddon brings in some solid material that make it worth a listen or two.
Iced Earth Horror Show
Though Horror Show slumps during the second act, it ultimately catapults back upward to stake a notable claim. Just remember the kiddies will likely be more confused than terrified when blasting it from your garage come Halloween.
Ides of Gemini Women
Droning ambiance with some mildly tasty riffs and chilling vocals. Also avoids dragging its runtime out needlessly, which is a nice plus when considering the repetition that comes with an album of this nature.
Illusion Suite Iron Cemetery
Solid outing from a promising band. Iron Cemetery has the right ingredients in place, finding a comfortable line between light melodic death metal and more progressive vocals. It's strange how the album manages to be both serious and surprisingly catchy, especially with that album art. Looking forward to what these guys bestow us with next.
In Flames Lunar Strain
Despite rough production, Lunar Strain manages to squeeze more than enough clear melodies out to make it a worthwhile listen for dedicated fans.
In Flames Clayman
This album finds the band in a bit of a predicament. Though the sound is great and a nice transition from its predecessors, it isn't utilized nearly as well as it should have given the band's previous albums. Solid material is still present, but nothing truly excellent.
In Flames Reroute to Remain
The more casual and mainstream approach taken with Reroute to Remain yields decidedly mixed results but the execution helps bring out some solid material to make it appeasing.
In Flames A Sense of Purpose
More of a return to form than Come Clarity could ever hope to be, A Sense of Purpose brings back the rough but mostly strong melodies that made earlier In Flames material so great, if without being as solid.
In the Silence A Fair Dream Gone Mad
Super catchy doom-inspired melodic metal. The Katatonia comparisons are not without merit, such as their short-lived grit on Viva Emptiness. Vocals are more emotional though, somewhere between Mikael Akerfeldt and Ray Alder. Not to be outdone, the instrumental aspects are on the lively side while retaining a bit of melancholic influence. Taken together, this is a nice example of familiar qualities organized in such a way that it begins to feel fresh.
Insomnium Above the Weeping World
Competent yet unremarkable; such is the description for many melodic death metal bands. Above the Weeping World may be acclaimed, but it's seemingly buried in Insomnium's complacent catalog. It's as fitting a fate as any for their material, as it's the kind that keeps your ears content for the entire ride without leaving a final impression.
Insomnium Across the Dark
Across the Dark has made me realize why so many bands can get stuck in a rut of creating generic material, especially melodic death metal. If the music is, for all intents and purposes, fun and fluid, then who cares if it's the opposite of creative? The critic in me agrees that Across the Dark offers nothing to distinguish it from an overly crowded field other than its sheer entertainment value, which is itself a subjective quality. And yet...that's enough for me to walk away with a smile on my face. Interestingly, I feel Across the Dark could've been better if it stuck to the relatively grittier sound of its predecessor, an album I only share modest enthusiasm for. The moments with clean vocals are my least favorite parts, they feel awkward and "comedify" the music (make it easy to snicker at), but outside of that, I'm fine with what they produced here.
Insomnium Since the Day It All Came Down
Take present day Insomnium, add some girth and match that with fewer catchy hooks. Since the Day It All Came Down has some genuinely compelling moments that are held back by the prolonged stay that similarly plagued its predecessor. This, thankfully, holds up better and helps foster a healthy soil for the band's core sound.
Iron Maiden Piece of Mind
For the first half of the album's runtime, things seem to go smoothly as the band nicely improve upon The Number of the Beast's faults (especially the themes and lyrics). However, after "The Trooper," there isn't anything (save for "To Tame a Land") that keeps the second half all that interesting. Had the better tracks on this album been released with the stronger pieces of its predecessor, then either might have been truly worthy of the praise they've garnered. But just like The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind stands as an unimpressive release overall.
Iron Maiden No Prayer for the Dying
Not so much a return to roots for the band as much as it is just a more straightforward version with a slight, but noticeable change in vocal style. And in-spite of its bad reputation, No Prayer for the Dying is really a solid album that has received, as far as I'm concerned, unwarranted criticism. If this is bad, then half of The Number of the Beast is condemnable.
Iron Maiden The X Factor
Iron Maiden encounter an odd conundrum on The X Factor, primarily due to Blaze Baylay replacing Bruce Dickinson. The themes, concepts and instrumental aspects of the album are all great, with some slow, dark and atmospheric moments making up most of the highlights. However, Blaze reveals himself as a severely limited vocalist, especially compared to Dickinson. Though he sounds fine when doing slow undertones, when he tries going for louder styles his weaknesses definitely show. Fortunately, this doesn't hinder the album to the point where it isn't enjoyable. Thus, we have a competent release by Maiden overall, but not one that comes to mind when wanting multiple listens.
Iron Maiden Virtual XI
Maiden definitely improve upon The X Factor here. The songs, though still long, generally avoid dragging out thanks to a quicker pacing. And Blaze Baylay's vocals are noticeably superior this time around, as he can now carry out louder vocal styles (though he's still in Dickinson's shadow). Even with a lack of truly excellent songs, Virtual XI shows that a band who have already established themselves highly in the metal community don't need to be dismissed over one member being replaced.
Iron Maiden The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden show some experimentation while providing style cues similar to many previous releases on The Final Frontier. The music is generally elaborate, and it's good that this style dominates the album, as two of the shorter songs show the band would be in struggling to truly satisfy their fans. This also leads to another point worth noting: the band aren't nearly as buoyant as before, as less tracks provide the pumping and kicks that the recent releases had. Fortunately, it's the slower, more melodic and progressive tracks that manage to stand out, with "Starblind" being a good indication without spoiling the best material. And though it's unfortunate that we only get one truly classic track here, the overall package here is satisfying enough.
Iron Maiden The Book of Souls
Bruce and company are still kicking and churning, probably more than they have the right to; the
band are officially 40 years old, most of them in their late 50's (or older). Despite its makers'
age, The Book of Souls doesn't pull punches, from the beefy production to the overall performance
and the album's own runtime. This double-album clocks in at over 90 minutes, and though Maiden
have long employed lengthy tracks, this is the first that feels truly bloated because of it. Yes,
every song is competently played and handled, each one as enjoyable as the next, with the
culminating 18-minute epic "Empire of the Clouds" delivering most of what one would expect from
such a closing number. But when you slam this on top of at least two other tracks that cross the
10-minute mark and try to consume it at once...might as well find the nearest buffet and see how
that experience compares. It's all for better or for worse. Iron Maiden are keeping their tried-
and-true style alive and well, which is all that the band's biggest fans will need to remain
Iron Reagan Crossover Ministry
Short-lived and appropriately brash, Crossover Ministry is another quality, fun slice to add to 2017's already-impressive selection of thrash albums.
James Horner Titanic
This particular original soundtrack is harder to look at compared to many others. What's indisputable is that there's some great material here that advantageously utilizes its running time well enough to avoid dragging out. However, part of this has to do with the entire package feeling short-lived and otherwise streamlined. Some of the more powerful and memorable parts from the film seem to be mysteriously missing-in-action while many of the pieces that did make it don't flow quite as smoothly as hoped. But for all of its shortcomings, this soundtrack shows its strengths when evaluated on its own and not as a means to accompany a film. This might seem to make it a purpose-defeater, but if looked on its own, individual terms more merit and enjoyment will be found.
Judas Priest Defenders of the Faith
A step below its predecessor but still holds some solid material worth returning for.
Judas Priest Angel of Retribution
None of the tracks quite hit the mark of being worthy of excellent status, but this is overall a much welcomed, satisfying and approachable album.
Judas Priest Sin After Sin
Despite inconsistencies, Sin After Sin has some strong tracks that stick out as among the band's best and most memorable.
Judas Priest Nostradamus
A long journey that will test the patience and tolerance of all listeners; yet it offers potential for a rewarding listen to those who endure this 100 minute epic.
Judas Priest A Touch of Evil: Live
Some of the tracks obviously sound better and more natural than others, but overall this is a fair enough compilation for Priest fans.
Judas Priest Firepower
Halford, Tipton and Hill have either hit or are pushing 70 and they're still able to produce a more kick-ass record than half the new metal bands these days.
Julie Byrne Not Even Happiness
Like blues and nostalgia on a perfect, late Sunday afternoon.
Kalmah Swamplord
Pretty damn good debut, probably even great. Kalmah's music has seen slight adjustments in the future, but they've mostly kept the same core sound, and Swamplord fits right into the mold.
Kamelot Epica
Epica is all one would need to understand why Kamelot (when Roy Khan was the vocalist) would be the perfect companion for a Blind Guardian Tour. The group's inspirations and stylistic cues are prominent and passionately embraced, bringing with it what you'd expect out of a solid (though still flawed) power metal album. The vocals (both Khan and backing) and solos/song climaxes are where Epica shines the best, displayed at its best during the first one-third. You'll certainly find better metal to hear, but Kamelot achieve, at the very least, an energetic dose of power metal that can prove to be quite invigorating.
Kamelot Silverthorn
Silverthorn puts the fun back into Kamelot's sound, thanks in large part to Tommy giving an admirable performance that does the band's legacy well. Granted, we're not getting the second coming of The Black Halo here, but given how much it should keep you coming back for more, that's not necessarily a bad thing (yet).
Kamelot Haven
This is a small step in the right direction. In most respects, this is more of what we've seen Kamelot do before--with some thematic exceptions, but the fact we're getting some truly fun and catchy tracks again is what makes Haven feel as refreshing as it does. Half of the album achieves a level of desire to repeat individual songs, something severely missing from the last decade of the band's catalog. For that alone, Haven has my recommendation, despite its own redundancies.
Katatonia The Longest Year
For an EP, this is all over the place. The title track is an excellent number from Night is the New Day, rich with crushing instrumental work. Meanwhile, Sold Heart slows way down, immediately selling the opening lyrics so much, it's impossible to avoid feeling despondent. The remaining tracks are electronic-heavy reprises of Day and the Shade and Idle Blood, with the results being a monumentally mixed bag, particularly the videogame-like notes for Day and the Shade, which are sandwiched between poignant stretches which highlight Jonas' voice. As a whole, it's a bizarre affair by Katatonia's standards, and not likely to appeal to much of their fanbase. But it does offer an interesting take on tracks that we might never hear or even think to consider, which makes them curious if un-resounding.
Katatonia Teargas
Shorter than it probably has the right to be. As with the band's previous EP's, this one seems to have a particular crowning achievement, this time in the form of "Sulfur." It's decadent ear-ringer and, had it been included on Last Fair Deal Gone Down, would likely be a common favorite. A good, easy EP to throw on if you're time to indulge in Katatonia is limited.
Katatonia Dance of December Souls
Dance of December Souls doesn't exactly blend in with the rest of Katatonia's catalog, but it does possess the same power of growth over multiple listens. The slow nature of this album is only amplified by how thick and heavy the music is. It's certainly not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those looking to get a quick fix. This is an album that demands time and patience, possibly more so than other Katatonia albums. And though the entire affair isn't without problems, dedicated listeners will be hard-pressed to find an album that begins to match Dance of December Souls' bleak, desperate atmosphere.
Katatonia Tonight's Decision
Slightly overlooked album that seems to worsen for the first few listens, but eventually wins you over again. There's still a distinct sense of a band shifting gears, wondering just which direction to take or settle on, but for this point in their career, Katatonia made a nice, accessible album to lure unsuspecting listeners in.
Katatonia Jhva Elohim Meth
A chilling precursor to Dance of December Souls and enticing initial taste at Katatonia. I actually prefer the version of "Without God" here to the one on Dance of December Souls.
Katatonia My Twin
One of Katatonia's more interesting EP's, especially considering how varied it is while The Great Cold Distance painstaking maintains its consistency. We get a slightly more emotional angle to the stylistic changes they made from Viva Emptiness, which adds a welcoming flair.
Katatonia Deliberation
Another curious EP from Katatonia around the time of The Great Cold Distance's release. This time we see more of the hollow, desolate soundscape that, in their own strange way, hearken back to the band's early works. Definitely an interesting glance into a soul-deprived nature.
Katatonia July
Maintains a chilling atmosphere not unlike the band's previous EP, but does so with even more emptiness, particularly on Unfurl, which helps the remix of "Soil's Song" feel more justified, considering how "July" opens up with such a breath of life, by comparison.
Katatonia Dethroned & Uncrowned
In some ways, this completely eclipses Dead End Kings; in others, it struggles to captivate where its sibling so easily excelled. The best moments are often stretches of certain tracks, and it's during these points that I almost want the songs to completely transform into something different. When all is said and done, however, this is an interesting glimpse into what a raw, naturalistic Katatonia would sound like.
Katatonia City Burials
City Burials sees Katatonia return in a way that feels tried-and-true with the occasional surprise. After a fairly catchy first half, things mellow out in a way that's bound to appeal to fans of The Great Cold Distance and Night Is the New Day. There's a bit of everything from the band's modern sound, executed with equal amounts of finesse and restraint. It does feel like this is one of the band's less evolutionary releases, which is offset by the aforementioned reasons, just not enough to avoid instilling the slightest sense of stagnation.
Keep of Kalessin Reptilian
One of the few metal bands who've delivered compelling material as of recent, Keep of Kalessin craft a kinetic, pulsating album in Reptilian. By taking liberties with their sound while still retaining the core traits of their genres' influences, this turns out to be a real tour de force; one that most any symphonic black/death metal fan is beyond encouraged to hear.
Killswitch Engage The End of Heartache
The transition of Howard taking over as frontman is nearly seamless with the band still pushing out some solid, if occasionally uneven material.
Killswitch Engage As Daylight Dies
Killswitch Engage continue to bring themselves closer to screamo territory yet maintain enough catchy guitar riffs and choruses to make this a mostly enjoyable listen.
Killswitch Engage Disarm the Descent
With the reintroduction of Jesse Leach, Killswitch Engage create a successful return to form, if being a bit shy of triumphant. Disarm the Descent is most concerned with fixing the wrongs and woes of before, and though the consistency is enjoyable, it leads to a routine and, ultimately, streamlined experience. Disarm the Descent loses staying power by doing nothing to ultimately move the band's long-established sound forward, which can be understood, since they're rebuilding themselves. They just better make the next album really push.
Killswitch Engage Incarnate
Do you like curveballs? No? Good. Incarnate is exactly what you'd expect (and hopefully want) after Disarm the Descent. Is it fresh? Only so long as you consider that period between The End of Heartache and Killswitch Engage (II).
Lamb of God Wrath
Lamb of God (wisely) stick to their strengths on Wrath and deliver an album that's essentially satisfying middle ground among their other work.
Laster Ons Vrije Fatum
Some interesting ideas and elements that never quite come full circle. N. and W. obviously have ambition, which shows in the album's experimental nature, but the results are inconsistent and without a sense of direction.
Leah Kings & Queens
Leah brings a far more instrumental focus for her second album, resulting in a more traditional metal album. In this case, it's a much more enjoyable and fulfilling affair, actually inviting subsequent listens.
Lost in Thought Opus Arise
Pulling together a mesh of light progressive structures and faint power metal touches, Opus Arise makes for a flawed but occasionally compelling and surprisingly catchy debut. Should Lost in Thought follow up, it'd be interesting to see them either continue said approach to tackle something more straightforward and down to earth.
Megadeth Countdown to Extinction
Dave Mustaine takes the straightforward road on Countdown to Extinction and the results, unsurprisingly, are mixed. While it's undoubtedly a good album overall, there just aren't enough truly strong moments present. And given the complex and prestigious quality of its predecessor, finding high points here becomes even tougher, regardless of the more commercial approach taken (for lack of a better term).
Metallica Death Magnetic
Metallica's latest offering reinvigorates their thrash metal roots with most of the material being very solid. Though it doesn't hold a torch to their pre-Load albums, Death Magnetic has enough strengths to help it stand above its more recent predecessors.
Moonspell 1755
Moonspell tackle an interesting theme for their latest and dance around with solid but somewhat mixed results. What can't be denied is the effort and ambition, which is basically a given at this point in their career. A few more moments of taking greater charge with the grand nature the album is so clearly hungry for would've elevated this into a top metal album contender for 2017, but alas, it remains a nominee for interesting metal album of the year.
Mors Principium Est Embers of a Dying World
A step or two above most of their contemporaries, Embers of a Dying World shows Mors Principium Est doing what they do best, which is solid, keyboard-laden melodic death metal. Granted, this is pretty much the landscape of most like-minded bands, but with a few albums under their belt, Mors Principium Est are able to execute with a touch more prowess.
Naildown World Domination
Like a proper debut, World Domination provides an appealing sound with enough competent moments which can help the listener come back a few times. It's easy to find similarities between this group and Children of Bodom (as is the case with several other bands), but there's definitely enough here to distinguish the two. Though, unsurprisingly, this also means the band is almost indefinitely subject to have a lack of truly spectacular material. The talent is certainly there, but with this type of sound, it's unlikely we'll see them step much higher in the future.
Napalm Death Time Waits for No Slave
Almost completely unrelenting in its death/grind style, the latest Napalm Death album does have its redundancies (no pun intended) but has enough to maintain most listener's interest.
Napalm Death Apex Predator - Easy Meat
I'm not partial to Napalm Death, nor do I care for their musical style...so why does this album rub me the right way? It's like death and thrash metal had a love child with meatier vocals. Pun totally intended.
Neuraxis Trilateral Progression
While the music certainly isn't progressive, Neuraxis display a rather strong amount of build-up in most of the tracks on Trilateral Progression. The technicality and strives for compelling music are present, though not to the point where the album feels terribly interesting. As a result, the higher marks that I'd hand the band (and the album) come from the signs of potential showing occasional execution, even if they never quite hit a full-on strike.
Nevermore Dead Heart In A Dead World
Nevemore solidify their progressive traits more here than they did on Dreaming Neon Black which, when played during the stellar middle act, shows them still hitting well and hard. What leaves the album feeling less rewarding overall, however, is one or two fairly short stretches of less commanding tracks. In addition, we never see anything hit as strongly as the best points off their 1999 release. No worry, this is far from an underwhelming album, but it does ultimately leave the impression that more could (and should) have been achieved.
Nevermore This Godless Endeavor
On This Godless Endeavor, Nevermore release a debatably more accessible album while retain their progressive thrash sound. More melodic and singing hooks comprise the music, with opening track "Born" being a structural staple for the entire album. The themes and music feels much more contrived than previous works, including Dreaming Neon Black and The Politics of Ecstasy, but everything is still functional here. As with many similar changes for other bands, the increase of catchiness here turns out to be what helps and hinders the album, simultaneously. It might be easier to enjoy the songs because of this, but there's less of the dark, bleak and vigorous nature that made their earlier albums so great.
Nevermore Enemies Of Reality
Enemies of Reality works best when the band are truly doing what they do best: bombastic and dynamic thrash/progressive metal. When things slow down, it's less impressive and begins to make the album feel less impressive than it is. In a way, this is a more simplified Nevermore, especially given their previous efforts. How simple or elaborate you prefer your progressive metal is the real determining point here.
Nightwish Dark Passion Play
It's hard to hear a Nightwish album without Tarja, but Annette Olzen, despite being merely decent, brings an acceptable voice to the table. When judged properly (on its own terms), Dark Passion Play is a solid album that has some moments which show the band as still-masters of symphonic metal. However, this isn't to say that it's shortcomings are easily dismissible. The unfortunate truth is that, for every great track we're given one that leaves little standing impression. There's still definite potential for an album that matches Oceanborn, but the end result of Dark Passion Play merely reminds us that it might not be for some time.
Nightwish Once
The excellent parts of Once aren't abundant; in fact, the album drags out in spots. Fortunately, the stronger points are truly engaging and hold up for multiple listens. As a whole, Once leaves an enjoyable but shaky impression which, despite having a couple of the band's best songs, does fall short of their expected quality after Oceanborn.
Nightwish Century Child
The opening and closing tracks really blow the middle seven to eight tracks away. So much so that the songs can feel worse than they truly are at first. After becoming used to the drop/increase in quality, however, the persistently melodic and beautiful nature eventually shines through even for the weaker moments. A fair transition from Wishmaster to a generally more streamlined sound, Century Child might not be as well-rounded as its predecessors, but the music is still undeniably oozing.
Nightwish End Of An Era
Getting the most out of watching a live performance as a supplement to the audio is about as common as finding a book that's better than its film adaptation(s). And this is no different even with Nightwish's final live performance with Tarja. Almost all of 2004's Once made the setlist, taking up half of the total show. Despite this imbalance of material, the audio holds up fairly well most of the time with a few selections sounding better here than in-studio. If you want to get the true show out of End of an Era, however, you'll definitely want to buy the DVD (with the CD) and watch it.
Northlane Mesmer
Crisply produced metalcore that's light on the metal, but just potent enough, thanks in no small part to the atmospheric touches. These same touches also tease at a stronger musical exploration that doesn't quite come to fruition. On one hand, it keeps the focus on the music, but there's also a sense that something greater could be achieved with the right drive and direction.
Novembers Doom Hamartia
This is solid stuff, so long as you're fine with decidedly safe doom and a touch of death (namely the Johan Hegg-esque vocals). The slower, clean-prone moments are awkwardly underdeveloped for a band on their 10th studio album, which I see killing the experience for some listeners.
Omnium Gatherum Grey Heavens
There's a mix of ominous regression in Omnium Gatherum's latest album, a combination that fails to spark interest the way Beyond did, but nevertheless succeeds in delivering music that's catchy in its own bleak way.
Omnium Gatherum The Burning Cold
Notice how the album art appears more colorful than previous Omnium Gatherum albums? That's not an accident. While this is still by-the-numbers melodic death metal, there's a distinct infusion of traditional, catchy rock tunes present. This edges OG even closer to the catchy end of the spectrum they achieved so well on Beyond, but whether that makes The Burning Cold an album worth sitting through from start to finish is a different matter.
Opeth Blackwater Park
Opeth have always set standards high for themselves and the progressive field. It's a bit curious, then, that Blackwater Park is one of their least impressive albums, overall. Despite having a superb title track, there's less to be impressed by on this album. After giving us consistently excellent material, Opeth begin to lose their sense of initiative. Blackwater Park is still a great album, no doubt, but the music is far less illustrious and lacks the more poignant amalgamation of harsh to calm, melodic moments that was handled so well on their previous works.
Orden Ogan Ravenhead
Five albums into their career and Orden Ogan aren't doing much to innovate, just a nice, consistent blend of power metal with enough seriousness to keep a certain identity and position worth getting behind, regardless of how niche the market for such music might be.
Overkill The Grinding Wheel
Overkill keep the wheel spinning with nary a bump in the road. It's a good thing Overkill on cruise control is still engaging, provided your collection isn't overflowing with everything else they've put out.
Persefone Aathma
Persefone are undoubtedly ambitious, with Aathma being their latest solidification. Sprawling, dynamic and occasionally whimsical, what we have here is nothing short of lush atmosphere to match the eye-catching cover art.
Rammstein Reise, Reise
Unconventional characteristics aside, Rammstein don't come across as an act worth taking truly seriously. Then one subjects their ears and are left grinning and noddy aplenty. In particular, Reise, Reise gets off to a engaging start but loses momentum as slower, more deliberate songs take over. Heavier, grislier tracks like "Morgenstern" and especially "Mein Teil" come off as more complimentary to the oddly playful German nature at work.
Rhapsody of Fire Into The Legend
By the numbers symphonic/power metal, but in this band's case it works to their favor. Production is clean to the point of fault, as if to subdue the guitars and let the more orchestral elements dominate. Perfect background music for fast-paced videogames, but if you give it individual attention, the cracks definitely begin to show.
Sabaton The Art of War
Plenty of fan-favorite songs reside on The Art of War, and it's easy to see why. Sabaton are at their finest here, bringing their chant-and-cheer blend of Swedish power metal out in charismatic fashion.
Sampha Process
As a showcase for Sampha's voice, this is a fantastic listen with some subtle, complementary instrumental work. "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano" is a joy to hear.
Scale the Summit Monument
This album deserves a re-master. The music is stimulating without overloading, but it's difficult to fully appreciate when the production feels so limiting. Still an enjoyable album.
Scale the Summit V
Eases back from The Migration, which bordered on being bombastic, by comparison. The shift results in a less exciting album overall, but there's a certain charm to the easygoing nature, like a whimsical dance through a series photogenic sights that give us just enough time to enjoy, but not quite enough to let it truly sink in.
Scar Symmetry Holographic Universe
The shift to a mellower sound is one that brings mixed results. There are tracks that bring some great melodies but the stretches of dull cliches bring this album below its predecessors all told, but not significantly.
Scar Symmetry Symmetric in Design
Scar Symmetry's debut is an overall solid release that really has no weak points other than lacking more stronger tracks such as "Chaosweaver" and "Obscure Alliance."
Scar Symmetry The Singularity - Phase I: Neohumanity
Scar Symmetry are still pinching fun notes, bit by bit. What begins as a slight rise to improvement ultimately stagnates and finds the band in mostly the same position as before. There are a few moments of brief, potential euphoria, such as Neohuman's opening and closing moments, which sees the band come as close as they'll probably get to matching the adequate Holographic Universe and stellar Pitch Black Progress. However, they're still not consistent enough to push the album higher than a nudge or two above The Unseen Empire.rEDIT: Turns out this album is a slight grower. It comes and flows together in a surprisingly organic way, and the music remains fun enough to ease looking past the over-the-top premise.
Scorpions Love At First Sting
This celebrated album seldom gets into the true swing of what the band can accomplish. In fact, outside of its two classic tracks there isn't much to find even with "Coming Home" proving to be an enjoyable surprise amidst the inconsistent quality here. It doesn't quite reach into the mediocre region even during its worst points, but it'd be tough to argue that these are interesting. As a result, Love at First Sting winds up feeling like little more than an above average album one listens to or buys for its singles and is left without much else to maintain their attention.
Serenity in Murder The Eclipse
Largely symphonic metal without the prolonged nature that typically comes with the subgenre. The music is tight yet dense, and the fact it's so easy to put on and listen to from start to finish works all the more to its favor.
Seventh Wonder Tiara
Tiara is Seventh Wonder's attempt to further fine-tune their prog-power metal style, and the results are once again pleasing. Where each of the band's previous albums bathed in more than a handful of grandiose extravagances, this feels a bit more collected in an attempt to be more tactful. It doesn't always pan out, especially when taking each track individually, but as a whole, Tiara holds itself together without descending into something overblown or, conversely, unenthusiastic.
Shadow Gallery Carved In Stone
A great, underrated progressive act and album, Shadow Gallery's sophomore effort might be prolonged, but the music is tough to not enjoy. The sound is casual enough for lighter listeners to enjoy, but has enough variety, depth and occasional ambience for the more avid. Even if it might best be re-experienced in small dosages, Carved In Stone remains a solid album that casually works around most of its shortcomings.
Shadows Fall Threads of Life
Though occasionally energetic, this more mainstream effort by Shadows Fall feels rather contrived in a few too many instances to make it recommendable to the band's more long-time fans.
Shadows Fall The War Within
The transition between this album and its predecessor is rather noticeable, even by the band's gradually changing style. Less stands out as much here, but the second half of the album does contain some great material that should quench those longing for thrash-esque metalcore.
Shadows Fall Fallout From The War
A couple silly covers aside, Fallout from the War brings some good material from previous recording sessions that sound like The War Within but with more energy than most of its tracks.
Shadows Fall Retribution
The band's latest effort is a good step above its recent predecessors but doesn't quite match their pre-War Within efforts. Even so, almost all of the material here is stellar and well worth returning to.
Shadows Fall Fire From the Sky
Shadows Fall on auto-pilot, more or less. Fire From the Sky is a bit like a combination of Retribution and The War Within in that it has some nice key moments interspersed with some less remarkable moments. These dull points have been an ongoing part of their music, making them feel at-bay more than they've probably meant. That said, this last release (until another release rolls around?) by the metalcore group is certainly enjoyable and has enough to warrant a listen or two. At least they stuck to their guns, unlike All That Remains.
Skyfire Spectral
While this album has plenty of brief moments that simply ooze life and energy, these ultimately aren't carried out enough throughout the songs to make any of them particularly memorable.
Slayer South of Heaven
If there was ever a "melodic thrash metal" genre, then South of Heaven would be one of the founding albums. In essence, the shift from Reign In Blood to this is one that's ambitious in its toned down approach and simply interesting in execution. What's great about the album is that it manages to feel rather melodic at times while still retaining the core of thrash metal. The mix is quite curious given the band and the genre. In the long run, however, this album finds itself living in Reign In Blood's shadow as its immediate successor. Without nearly as much passion, aggression and speed driving the album, South of Heaven winds up trading memorable moments for briefly intriguing moments. Ultimately, it's a commendable effort.
Sonata Arctica Pariah's Child
As bad as Stones Grow Her Name was, Sonata Arctica were still able to get out of a ditch while they were ahead. Pariah's Child is just the reestablishment they need to start moving forward again, and will hopefully mean more promising enterprises in the future.
Sonata Arctica Winterheart's Guild
Winterheart's Guild goes for the "less is more" approach, the results being mixed, often simultaneously. It's easier to appreciate when NOT viewed in comparison to the excellent Silence, which makes this feel like a bore, by comparison. On its own merits, however, Winterheart's Guild is an effective and even dark, chilling affair.
Sonata Arctica Ecliptica
Works well in laying the foundation for a more refined future; Ecliptica offers a bit of everything for the more casual metal listener who can look (or hear) past some production shortcomings.
Sonic Syndicate Eden Fire
For a debut by a group of individuals still young enough for high school at the time, Eden Fire isn't too shabby. Granted, it's essentially generic metalcore that we've seen and heard done better by other bands. But there are enough stronger moments present here that make the album at least worth a chance.
Stratovarius Nemesis
For better or for worse, Stratovarius are all over the place on Nemesis. The album itself is cohesive, but compared to previous releases, there are a host of bizarre qualities to make note of (see "Halcyon Days" for one example). I welcome the chances taken here, because when it clicks it clicks like modern power metal should. However, if you're anything like me, this will just as quickly be followed by disinterest in the album. Keep an open mind and you should walk away pleased.
Stratovarius Twilight Time
One of the more palpable power metal albums I've heard, Twilight Time is about as unassuming as its genre can get. The early-grade production is actually part of this album's charm, since it's just enough to get the fantastical elements across but not enough to propel it into the completely overzealous nature that several like-minded bands succumb to. Objectively speaking, it's still by-the-numbers power metal with little to help it stand out (but less to hold it down); yet compared with so many other albums, including the band's own, it manages to be just refreshing enough to stand out.
Sum 41 Chuck
Sum 41 tackling their serious, somewhat more in-depth side brings some rather effective material out. Occasionally calm, other times frantic and generally malcontent in tone, Chuck proves to be a good means to help vent general frustrations without hitting the metal fence.
Sundran Sundran
Interestingly constructed, Sundran sounds like it wants to be a concise, defined piece from start to finish, hence its commitment to sounding like one track. The actual results are, however, fairly disjointed, and the resounding sensation is that Sundran (as an album) feels more like an experiment than it does a clear vision. It's an intriguing listening experience, mind you, with some truly compelling moments, but these points are left behind too quickly and leave a bittersweet final impression.
Swallow the Sun Hope
Takes the shifts made in Ghosts of Loss and runs a bit further with them, for better or for worse. The sound is smoothed out without losing its bark or edge, but there does seem to be less pull than what Ghosts of Loss and The Morning Never Came relished in. Make no mistake, it's still there and completely tangible, just not in a way that grabs you the same way as before.
Swallow the Sun Emerald Forest and the Blackbird
A few inconsistencies aside, this is another solid entry in Swallow the Sun's venerable discography. The album art does give away the more approachable sound, and while this is a safe starting point for prospecting listeners of the band melodic doom metal in general, there's no short supply of goods to savor upon. The gloom isn't as succulent as some listeners may prefer, but for others, it'll strike a nice balance between gloom and simple enjoyment.
Swallow the Sun New Moon
A classic example of an album living up to its artwork; New Moon strikes a balance between Hope and an even more melodic shade of Swallow the Sun's style, thinning the doom influences out while melodic metal with death influences takes command. Though this means there's less grit to the razor's edge, the music still cuts nice and smoothly.
Swallow the Sun When a Shadow Is Forced into the Light
Swallow the Sun aren't exactly treading new water here, a move that may leave hungry listeners disappointed, considering how sprawling Songs from the North was. rIf anything, When a Shadow... is a retreat to New Moon's sound with some adjustments here and there. There's a sense of comfort in the album, one that's unassuming and strangely welcoming...provided you're the right listener.
Symphony X Twilight in Olympus
Though the album doesn't maintain a consistent flow in quality or the musical styles used in each song, none of the tracks are anything worse than fair. And since most of the songs provide quality material regardless, namely in "Through the Looking Glass," it's definitely easy to enjoy this release as a whole.
Symphony X The Odyssey
A few strong moments and one classic track aside, this album falls short of what the band has shown themselves capable of. Even so, this is a very stellar album all told that, when working to its strengths, delivers like few others can. Unfortunately, these aren't dominating moments as was so in The Divine Wings of Tragedy.
Symphony X Iconoclast
Fundamentally a spiritual sibling to the superior Paradise Lost, but still a more or less competent release. Too much of Iconoclast does admittedly blend together rather much, but the band are still in great form (especially vocalist Russel Allen). Many of the best moments come during the solos and climaxes, leading to a release that culminates well in each individual track. Taken as a whole, Iconoclast won't do anything to significantly shake up how people view the band. Probably one of the group's weaker efforts, but that's far from a bad thing.
System of a Down Mezmerize
Serj and company decide to let their serious subjects and themes become more dominant on Mezmerize and, surprisingly, the results are quite good. While the album never really hits a definitive high point, it remains a relatively interesting listen as with the band's previous efforts.
System of a Down Hypnotize
Like its predecessor/counterpart, Hypnotize sees System emphasizing less comical tracks with the occasionally sad moments ("Soldier Side"). And, once again, the results are perfectly adequate, except the stronger tracks here are more impressive than those on Mezmerize. Overall, it winds around the aforementioned record with almost indistinguishable quality.
Testament The Ritual
As the closest Testament have come to releasing a more casual metal album (which it really isn't much of in the long run) means it obviously has the problem of not quite satisfying certain fans. Fortunately, The Ritual turns out to still be a good, if not borderline great album. There's seldom a truly amazing moment but conversely, nothing in particular drags it down.
Testament Souls of Black
Souls of Black could best be described as a less interesting version of Rust in Peace. Granted, the material by these occasionally overlooked thrash masters is still quite solid and at least has some memorable moments. In some ways, Souls of Black actually manages to sound closer to Testament's first two albums after Practice What You Preach. Ultimately, it's still very familiar thrash metal that's fun, but seldom imposing aside from the guitar solos.
Testament The Formation of Damnation
Even with a few relatively strong tracks, the best part about The Formation of Damnation turns out to be its great, epic album art. Granted, this isn't to say the album is bad or even mediocre it's just less impressive than one might expect from even glancing at the cover. The reality is that this release has most of what the band needs to make an album close to their 80s material, but not enough here feels driven in a way that propels to much higher than good or great.
Testament Practice What You Preach
Testament settle down from their stellar debut and sophomore effort on Practice What Your Preach. There's still a good amount of thrash metal to keep listenings banging away, but it doesn't feel nearly as abundant as it could be. Energy and completely hard-hitting moments aren't nearly as plentiful either, but this isn't to say the album is even close to devoid of them. Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising part about Practice What You Preach is that, despite most of the songs have longer runtimes compared to most of the band's other tracks, it has remarkably quick and balanced pacing and seldom drags out, if ever. Ultimately, it's a solid album that warrants listening at the highest volume possible on whatever your listening means is (which might be necessary to full appreciate).
The Contortionist Exoplanet
A deathcore album with a bit more depth than the competition, Exoplanet benefits from a more refined and mature sound, especially considering this is a debut album. Tired tropes still find their way inside, but these become alleviated thanks to the aforementioned aspects.
The Spacelords Water Planet
Imagine tasting a planet-wide supply of water with everything but your mouth and nose. That's Water Planet.
Thomas Newman Pay It Forward
Newman employs some of his more experimental pieces for Pay It Forward. Occasionally, these feel like they're included for the sake of offering something different, rather than actually contributing to the overall composition and film. Yet we're also treated to some of the most emotionally driven pieces that Newman has bestowed upon us. Like his other works, sections are re-used which help give the entire collection a chorus-like flow in spots. Overall, the underscoring we're given for Pay It Forward isn't one of Thomas Newman's better works, but fans of his other works are still recommended to give the soundtrack (and film) a shot.
Threshold Hypothetical
Hypothetical showcases much of what Threshold are known for, mostly for the better. Routine material works effectively, especially on tracks like "Light and Space" and "Oceanbound," but there are also duds in "Turn On Tune In" and "Keep My Head." Fortunately, the combination of two epics that never cease to get old allows the album maintain a level of competency.
Toothgrinder Phantom Amour
Much of what we get on Phantom Amour can be found elsewhere, which makes it familiar, yet the ways it comes together feels oddly refreshing. It even lets a psychedelic touch or two slip here and there, offset a bit more frequently with the hardcore vocals, but even they are used in a less-than-generous manner. The overall experience is one that keeps you intrigued without necessarily challenging you, thanks in large part to its attempts at creating ambiance, which are quite effective at pulling you in just a bit more as the album plays out.
Vancouver Sleep Clinic Revival
Works best when going for a melancholic style, which is when Bettinson's vocals feel the most befitting. As a whole, Revival is too tonally sporadic for my tastes; it'd be excellent if it were more committed to a single overall vision, as opposed to a collage of shimmering glimpses.
Venenum Trance of Death
What makes this album stand out for me is how it transitions from one section to the next; the times that it strays away from the more familiar formulas we've heard in black and death metal are some of the most enjoyable moments I've heard from any metal album this year. The only unfortunate part is that these don't quite cross the realm of enhancement into the realm of core musical tenet--it gets close, but not close enough.
Viathyn The Peregrine Way
A lot of potential is put on display throughout The Peregrine Way, an album that's sure to appease fans of Dream Theater and Cloudscape. Even if the music might be a bit prolonged and save the best moments for climaxes and solos, it's tough to deny the impeccable capability of the band. If they keep developing and improving their music from this, we should have a soon-to-be progressive pioneer for the coming years.
Visions Of Atlantis Trinity
Even for all its cliches, Trinity seldom has a weak moment and all the tracks flow together very consistently which, with its overall solid quality, makes for a very enjoyable symphonic album.
Visions Of Atlantis Delta
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce: the (unofficial) Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Visions of Atlantis bring a heavy dose of cheese that outweighs all substance to find. Despite this and their still-prominent Nightwish-clone style, the music is very enjoyable and tough to not feel invigorated by. Cheesy music, great production and mediocre male backing vocals are just the beginning what you'll find. But if these symphonic cliches do the trick for you (as they do for me), then this is an easy recommendation.
Votum :KTONIK:
Brooding and atmospheric, Votum make some interesting shifts on the bizarrely titled :KTONIK:, slipping through post and progressive elements in a way that easily calls to fans of recent Katatonia albums.
Wolfheart Tyhjyys
Accessible melodic death/doom metal with some tasty moments as well as some less interesting stretches, typically the first few seconds of each track. It's all enjoyable but only occasionally memorable.
Xandria Theater of Dimensions
I feel like Xandria have always been a Nightwish/Epica hybrid clone, and while I'd normally lump them more into the Nightwish territory, they seem to have realized that Epica are kind of doing a better job with their own material. Hey, if you're gonna imitate two bands simultaneously, might as well lean more towards the one that has it together, right?

3.0 good
Abbath Abbath
Abbath's solo outing is clearly a product of our time; a time where nostalgia is sweeping over the masses. The thrash/black metal combo sounds fresh here because it goes back to black metal's roots, which were in thrash metal. As a result, the album is one of the more fun black metal albums in recent memory, yet it's also one of the least interesting and, ultimately, forgettable. Great background music, but when you sit down and focus on the music, it doesn't quite hold up.
After Forever After Forever
Undoubtedly catchy, more than matched by cheesiness, this is one of those albums I need to be in a specific mood to fully enjoy. For some reason it makes me think of opera theater crossed with metal and a touch of Halloween Horror Nights.
After the Burial Dig Deep
Good (borderline great) slab of slightly proggy metalcore. The songs are nice, tight and concise, making the album accessible while offering enough of a punch to tide even genre naysayers over.
All That Remains The Fall of Ideals
The band's most critically acclaimed album, like most metalcore releases, proves to do little, if anything, which distinguishes itself from a clouded sub-genre. Both the cleaner and harsher moments give the album an overly generic feel, though the former hold up a hair better since they're at least fun and catchy more times than not. Small sections in a few tracks do bring this a hair above work from other unremarkable acts, but these are almost never long or prominent enough to make a drastic difference.
Amorphis Skyforger
There are indications of a superb album in select tracks, but all told this is an unremarkable release that turns out to be a tragic disappointment.
Amorphis Elegy
Elegy could have been a better album if the sound was more compelling. Instead, the changes and increase of influences do little to contribute to the music which, if taken aside, has been drained. While there are enough moments that stand out in the album's runtime to give it a much needed bump up, even these feel stale compared to what Amorphis are clearly capable of.
Amorphis Tuonela
Barely distinguishable from its predecessor, Tuonela might as well be called Elegy Pt. 2. The music isn't bad by any stretch, but once again, there's next to nothing legitimately compelling about it. And as was formerly the case, this turns out to be a shame since some of the influences do show through. However, the utilization feels under-toned, resulting in music that fails to leave a lasting impression.
Amorphis The Beginning of Times
The Beginning of Times feels like a more proper (though still inferior) successor to Silent Waters than what Skyforger turned out to be. Of course, this is mostly because it IS Silent Waters, just not as interesting. Amorphis still give us good, enjoyable and accessible metal here that's tough to go wrong with. If you're fine with the same album again, then The Beginning of Times will be what you're looking for. Otherwise, little can really be commended that hasn't been already.
Anette Olzon Shine
Had a bit of a slow burn effect on me; as it goes along it seems to get better. I still think it's mixed weird, often sounds like Anette's voice is layered upon, and it ends up feeling artificial. "Falling," "Invincible" and "Moving Away" are all enjoyable.
Angel Vivaldi Synapse
Exemplary prowess with the guitar, scrambling wayfarer of the soul.
Anubis Gate Covered In Black
Imagine a psychological horror movie with three or four antagonists. They'd all be interesting if they didn't have so little screentime to compromise their development. This album is the musical equivalent to that.
Arch Enemy Rise of the Tyrant
Gossow-era Arch Enemy isn't something that listeners picky about their vocalists are bound to cling to. Though she's far from the worst voice in music, there's little (if anything) compelling about it. Tragically, this compromises the solid musicianship otherwise, particularly with the guitar riffs, melodies and solos. In a number of instances, one could argue there's a borderline-excellent album here. The best moments tend to be saved for the second half of songs, whether in the solos or breaks from the usual riff-filled rhythm. These never account for entire tracks, but most of the songs have an at least decent stretch of solid music to help each song overcome more of its stale shortcomings. To that effect, Rise of the Tyrant is a solid album worth revisiting. If only it had a better voice to steer out of a muddy pile.
August Burns Red Messengers
For any experienced metal enthusiast, Messengers is, unsurprisingly, but one more embodiment of unremarkable metalcore. The material here certainly isn't bad, but it ultimately sounds so dull and, in the long run, monotonous. This only makes praising the album beyond having seldom and brief melodic surges and the occasionally catchy guitar hook all the more difficult. Uninitiated and amateur metal enthusiasts might get their fix here, but with far superior material (even in the same genre), it's extremely tough to justify this group's apparent praise.
Austrian Death Machine Total Brutal
If you're looking for plenty of humorous and headbang-worthy tracks, look no further.
Austrian Death Machine Double Brutal
Once again we're presented with silly, humorous metal that's fun casual listening material by the genre's standards, but carrying it out for a double-album isn't a very ideal decision.
Battle Beast Bringer of Pain
Equal levels of fun, cheesiness and pointlessness, Bringer of Pain shouldn't have any right to be so enjoyable, but it pulls out just enough flash to keep the listener amused.
Before The Dawn 4:17 AM
It's enjoyable and has the right pieces in place, but 4:17 AM feels underdeveloped, and is missing more of those harsh vocals to give the music some bark. Not bad, and certainly enjoyable in the right mindset, but far from a staple or go-to.
Beheaded Beast Incarnate
Largely straightforward, no-frills death metal that will surely satisfy genre enthusiasts and fail to impress everyone else.
Behemoth The Apostasy
Behemoth's influences are great and work their way into the music pretty well, though we only get a few moments that full utilize their strengths. The majority of the album finds itself in a bit of a slow rut which leaves these points feeling underwhelming. Even so, there's definitely some fun to be had on The Apostasy, just don't expect it to be a complete blast.
Billy Joel Cold Spring Harbor
Though the original recording might be a struggle to find, this generally criticized remaster holds up surprisingly well. Thanks to calm yet catchy moments comprising the short runtime, Cold Spring Harbor gets its point and intent across without dragging on. Joel's debut might not have seen the most settled release of all time, but it at least functions well and says what it wants in the right way.
Billy Joel Storm Front
Storm Front doesn't completely revitalize Joel's reputation and strengths, though we see him getting back on the right path more times than not. While we still get some less-than strong track offerings, the album leaves a more fulfilling feeling than its lackluster predecessor. The fact it has more memorable and positively note-worthy tracks definitely helps it to rise above the (modest) low Joel hit on The Bridge as well.
Billy Joel Glass Houses
Standard, catchy and almost over-simplified rock & roll become the core essence to Joel's drastic shift on Glass Houses, which is, first and foremost, inferior to its predecessors. That said, the music is at least fun and contains material easy to sing along to. Depth and intrigue is out the window, but the working music is at least intact.
Billy Joel Fantasies & Delusions
Fantasies & Delusions is NOT an album for those expecting more of Joel's pop/rock material. Instead, this is fundamentally a collection of classical compositions that seem intended as throwbacks more than anything else. The fact we get two tracks, both of which clock in at over 11 minutes each, in addition to ten other pieces (eight if you consider the three parts to "Opus 8" as one track), to nearly double Joel's average album runtime should be an indication even before diving in. Truth be told, it's not a bad throwback. The piano-playing is top-notch with a nice flow and melody existing in each opus. However, being that this is well over an hour of nothing but pianos, it's easy to understand why many won't stay for the whole ride. Not that they need to if not compelled, for this is music intended only for the greatest of piano enthusiasts. And even then, it's tough to argue that this offers anything beyond what Joel's paying homage to.
Blackguard Firefight
Production is smoother and the mixing is more balanced this time around, but at the expense of the enthusiastic edge which made Profugus Mortis so enjoyable. Passion feels mysteriously distant from the music, leaving us with an album that sounds refined, but does nothing to stand out.
Bleed the Sky Paradigm In Entropy
Bleed the Sky's first "true" studio effort is a more interesting example of an album that's not quite there, if not by much. Just about everything here is functional and familiar, but not in any way to the point of carrying it higher than the heap it's inherently stuck within.
Blind Guardian Battalions of Fear
A fair first offering by a band that would evolve into something truly great and grand.
Bornholm March for Glory and Revenge
March for Glory and Revenge proves to be a relatively competent but completely unremarkable slice of black metal. Those who are curious as to whether it's worth checking out should base this mostly on how familiar and enthusiastic they are with the genre. But even so, it's a tough album to sit through completely simply because there's seldom a striking moment and any peculiarity runs out shortly after the first half.
Bullet for My Valentine The Poison
The album almost feels like it's intentionally trying to go for the guilty pleasure approach, which helps and hinders it simultaneously.
Cauldron In Ruin
Catchy, casual 70's/80's throwback. This is a no-frills deal; you'll know exactly what you're in for listening to any of the nine tracks. Fair background music for an 80's themed party that's nearing its end.
Children of Bodom Are You Dead Yet?
Though it works well during certain tracks, the slower, blunter nature of the songs simply don't work out so nicely.
Children of Bodom Relentless Reckless Forever
Relentless Reckless Forever is more of the same from a band who, like many of their siblings, have been losing touch and are merely delivering releases that are tired with only brief moments which shine.
Chimaira The Impossibility of Reason
Though there's some good material present, the (usually) slow, dragged out progression of the songs build up and make an otherwise good album rather forgettable.
Cloud Nothings Life Without Sound
For an album called "Life Without Sound," this sure comes across like an album more concerned with how it sounds, rather than how it should feel. Many welcome ingredients are present, but what this album sorely lacks is a tangible soul.
Cloudscape Crimson Skies
Albums don't always need good production to work, but not all styles can work around this often-inevitable realization. As it tragically turns out, Cloudscape run into this on their sophomore album, Crimson Skies. It's easy to hear the true sound of the band, but this is also just too hard to truly enjoy due to the shoddy, static-littered production constantly hampering the music. This is a shame, since the progressive power metal style of the band is a welcome combination that has plenty of potential. But the justice for their sound isn't found here.
Code Orange Forever
As an outsider to hardcore music, this one leaves me scratching my head. I like that there's at least some variety to the tracks, but I'm confused as to what point the awkward shifts and transitions actually serve. Is it simply meant to keep listeners confused and on their toes? If so, it succeeds, I guess.
Coheed and Cambria From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness starts off well but, after "Welcome Home," it falls into a rut that never brings the same quality back. Part of this does have to do with the fact that Claudio Sanchez doesn't exactly have an approachable vocal style, even though it isn't out-of-line for a progressive act. But the biggest issue here is that the music simply isn't interesting despite its style, and proves to, in essence, be a contradiction: stale progressive music. Almost everything here feels empty outside of Sanchez's singing and leaves the music feeling empty and lifeless.
Converge Jane Doe
Jane Doe feels like, more than anything, a hardcore band taking their first swing at recording in a garage with a "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" syndrome fueling their fire. The good news is that if hardcore tickles your fancy and you want more overdone distortion than a band really needs, then this will be the perfect drug. For the rest of us, however, this amounts to little more than nonsensical, schizophrenic combustion with few breaks. The strong points aren't numerous, and most of them are saved for the last few tracks. In the end, it's a gigantic shot for some, a toss-aside for others.
Cryonic Temple Into the Glorious Battle
So safe, so cheesy and prolonged. In other words: par for the course power metal. That said, there are just enough riffs and rousing moments for this to be enjoyable, especially towards the second half, which thankfully picks things up a bit to compensate for both the length and generally boring first half.
Dark Tranquillity Projector
Something of an awkward moment in Dark Tranquillity's catalog, Projector takes the direction of its predecessor and double-dips into the melodic end of melodic death metal. The results are essentially a rawer, undercooked version of a style they'd damn-near perfect by the time Fiction released. In a sense, it's interesting to see how the cycle played out because (or in spite) of Projector and its divisive turns, but taken for what it is, I find this page in the Dark Tranquillity book to be a little too messy, be it from age or the water and coffee stains.
Deicide The Best of Deicide
Should come with a label: "WARNING: Though enjoyable in short bursts, patience and interest will be worn before the halfway point."
Delain The Human Contradiction
More enjoyable than it probably has the right to be, The Human Contradiction isn't a significant step forward for Delain, but they feel as refined as they're bound to become. The music is simple and surprisingly catchy, with barely enough riffs to make it settle somewhere into the lightest shade of metal. A good introductory album to ease fans of female vocals into heavy metal.
Delain Moonbathers
Moonbathers leaves a strong first impression, and while it's still a fun album, showcasing
some of Delain's strongest moments, it still feels like the band are holding themselves
back. I'm still clinging to a thread of hope that they'll get adventurous with their sound.
They'll continue to be enjoyable, no doubt, but sooner or later listeners will grow
disinterested by that, unless we get something totally fresh and exciting.
Demons and Wizards Demons & Wizards
I imagine the idea of hearing Blind Guardian and Iced Earth struck people as odd and risky when this collaboration was announced. The end result, however, was a bit more pedestrian than one might expect. It's difficult to evaluate the album without drawing comparisons, especially since many of the tracks sound like they could be lifted out of either band's catalogs. Demons & Wizards does occasion to transcend either style and make something that sounds refreshing, namely "Fiddler on the Green," but most of what's contained is less inspirational than one might hope.
Dimmu Borgir Stormblåst MMV
Improved production for a solid, atmospheric album sounds good on paper, but the execution here is rather unfulfilling and as a result, this re-release simply doesn't do justice to the original recording.
Dimmu Borgir Abrahadabra
Abrahadabra is more of the same from a band who seem to be running on an old, tired engine that needs a real tune-up rather than an oil change. The music is fair enough and might satisfy fans for a short while, but it's unlikely that most will listen to or even remember it even a couple months after being released.
Dimmu Borgir Eonian
Truly all over the place; and yet, it somehow ends up being the band's best album since Death Cult Armageddon.
Disturbed Ten Thousand Fists
Disturbed have always exhibited a straightforward yet functional sound, with Ten Thousand Fists only serving as yet another means to exemplify this. There's some enjoyable material here thanks partially to a select few stronger songs. However, not much is done to keep the listener's interest for the runtime which does, admittedly, begin to drag out before long. Boredom never truly settles in, but a desire for more energy and charisma is only inevitable, which is seldom delivered, if ever.
Disturbed Indestructible
There's a really good, potentially great album in here, buried between the tracks that make this album run its course halfway through. For the first half, you'd be forgiven for regarding this as a truly stellar record, but the fuse runs thin a couple tracks after "Perfect Insanity" concludes.
DragonForce Reaching into Infinity
Step 1: Set album to play in background.

Step 2: Load up your most frantic sci-fi/fantasy videogame.

Step 3: Caffeine.

Step 4: Enjoy.
Dream Theater A View from the Top of the World
Ambition with no clear vision or direction, this album fails to inspire repeat listens. It sounds great and is well crafted from a sheer technical standpoint, but the appeal with Dream Theater (most of the time) has been a compelling musical foundation with the technicality being a nice, generous bonus. Here, it's the main selling point.
Ensiferum One Man Army
By and large a sufficient (yet unremarkable) power metal affair. One Man Army has most of the essentials without any excellence to propel it beyond being merely good.
Epica Requiem for the Indifferent
Requiem for the Indifferent barely manages to be an above average record, going for bleak sense that leaves the listener feeling, well, indifferent. It's enjoyable, but hardly compels one to keep coming back.
Erebos (POL) The Light in My Darkness
A flashy, almost counter-intuitive instrumental black metal album in its very essence. I could see this being enjoyable as background music for a fantastical horror game, but otherwise, even with its short length, this album feels overlong.
Firewind Allegiance
A generic slab of power/thrash metal. I feel the production is meant to sound nostalgic, but little space exists for music so trapped in the 80's, especially when it's this unremarkable.
Firewind Immortals
There are only so many times a band can slice and serve from the same loaf before disinterest sets in. Firewind have always been fun, but they refuse to evolve or innovate. Good background music (working out or gaming), but nothing to seriously sit down and listen to.
Goatwhore A Haunting Curse
Although loud, heavy and at times serving up some catchy guitar riffs and hooks, the sound simply can't be carried for an entire album, thus making for a rather mundane and dragged out listening.
Hatebreed Perseverance
Perseverance shows that Hatebreed aren't afraid of being a clear contender for the most blunt, in your face metal-influenced band out there, which works well during the fast parts but during the slower, more paced out sections, the album loses a lot of steam.
Iced Earth Dystopia
The addition of Stu Block allows Iced Earth to start taking a few steps back onto a once familiar road, but Dystopia ends up feeling like wasted potential. Rather than seeing the band put to full and proper use, this inconsistent collection of tracks has the foundation of functionality without the build of excellence.
Iced Earth Iced Earth
Some questionable vocal moments aside, this is a solid, punchy album from a band that would seem to go all over the place without changing that much of their sound over time. It's good enough to hold its own candle brightly enough, but in the grand scheme it doesn't quite hold a torch to the greater Iced Earth albums.
Iced Earth The Dark Saga
There are a number of ways one can listen to this album. If we compare it to Burnt Offerings, it's a polished yet streamlined and borders on being dumbed down. As a stake in Iced Earth's overarching formula, it's a definitive offering that shows the band at their most comfortable, namely with regards to Barlow and the punctual production. As a concept album, it doesn't fully realize its vision in feeling like one. And finally, as an album simply enjoyed for the sheer sake of enjoyment, it more than holds up and is easy to turn to. All things considered, it's an honestly fun ride that almost leaves you hungry for more, both in regards to the quantity and quality of material. Dark Saga ultimately exists as a good entry in Iced Earth's catalog, but also remains overshadowed by any of the band's better offerings (of which there are quite a few).
Iced Earth Incorruptible
Marginally better (but still more enjoyable) than Dystopia and a relatively nice bounce-back from Plagues of Babylon. Iced Earth are at a point where we really can't expect any curveballs, even from Stu Block. All of Incorruptible feels like a retread over previous material from Dark Saga onward, which isn't a bad thing; this allows the album to feel just varied enough to keep listeners committed until the end.
Ill Nino Revolution/Revolucion
The Spanish and Latin influences found on this debut give it a more distinctive sound, helping it stand out just a bit from the crowd.
Ill Nino One Nation Underground
Turns out to be a return to form a la Revolution/Revolucion, which benefits the album to make it about as good as the band's debut.
In Flames Soundtrack to Your Escape
In Flames succumb to the mainstream and release a shamelessly individualistic and sugarcoated record that, despite its major issues, still conjures up some decent material.
In Flames Come Clarity
The band's aspirations here are far from met in-spite of a sound that implies stronger material.
Insomnium In the Halls of Awaiting
Standard slab of melodic death metal, complete with the expected qualities of a debut album. First impressions are promising, but the glaze soon melts to leave nothing but a raw, mostly unexciting release without enough to justify remaining invested for the full ride.
Instanzia Ghosts
A serviceable debut that does little more than establish itself as just that. The music is fairly fun to listen to, especially on speakers while driving, but there's still plenty of room to improve and take things in a more interesting direction.
Iron Maiden The Number of the Beast
Dickinson's highly acclaimed first album with Iron Maiden lacks much of what made the band's first two efforts interesting and great. While there are hints of stronger instrumental, lyrical and vocal work, none of it really prevails save for "Run to the Hills." And unfortunately, one borderline classic track doesn't make an entire album amazing.
Iron Maiden Fear of the Dark
Dickinson's last album with Maiden for nearly a decade finds itself as the band's most inconsistent album up to the point of its release. Even for its weak, filler tracks, stronger offerings such as "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" and the title track give this album a much needed boost.
Iron Maiden Senjutsu
Album is ultimately a grower with a host of great moments, but almost none of the tracks feel like full-blown knockouts. Bruce's voice also sounds woefully off in a few places, and his performance, as well as the entire album, is an unfortunate step down from Book of Souls.
Judas Priest Killing Machine
While not nearly as good as its predecessors, Hell Bent For Leather does have some solid material that has helped define the Priest's sound and image.
Judas Priest Point of Entry
Though there are a few very solid tracks, most of the album falls into a dull rut that won't maintain any listener's interest or be particularly memorable.
Judas Priest Rocka Rolla
Far different from any of the band's subsequent material with some interesting style cues that, unfortunately, underwhelm most of the time.
Judas Priest Turbo
Fundamentally a synthesizer overload of glam metal, but the intros, guitar solos and shameless catchiness make it a tolerable and, at times, fun album.
Judas Priest Ram It Down
Merely a small step above Turbo overall, with the first half having the strong tracks while the second (save for "Blood Red Skies") hits below the mark.
Judas Priest Jugulator
Owens first outing with the band provides some solid material that's unfortunately too inconsistent and inaccessible to be worth a recommendation to most outside of the Priest's most dedicated fans.
Kamelot The Fourth Legacy
More cheddar than old school Iron Maiden and all the seriousness of a Jude Apatow film, this Kamelot album embodies dull and at times embarrassingly comical power metal.
Kamelot The Shadow Theory
It's a Kamelot album that isn't Karma, Epica or The Black Halo.
Katatonia Discouraged Ones
Katatonia tear one foundation down and begin another, resulting in a flimsy album with fleeting moments of promise. Discouraged Ones has an accessible outer shell with the impressions of a solid filling without achieving fulfillment.
Katatonia Viva Emptiness
A bit of a slog for me to get through, namely those first 20 minutes. After that things begin to pick up and the album nears greatness, but it ends up being so close yet so far at the same time. The album is all over the place with me, so I'm all over the place with the album.
Katatonia For Funerals to Come...
The ending to "Shades of Emerald Fields" is reason enough to check this EP out. Everything else is serviceable if unremarkable. If you get a version with the bonus tracks, you've essentially got an LP on your hands, which adds some serious mileage, with "Black Erotica" being an earlier version of "12" from Brave Murder Day. Definitely a curious listen.
Katatonia Saw You Drown
"Scarlet Heavens" is the main draw here, being an ghoulish goth epic that feels so out of element for Katatonia. Otherwise, this is just a taste of the then-upcoming Discouraged Ones. Not the biggest fan, but "Quiet World" and "Scarlet Heavens" are different and interesting enough to give this EP a nudge.
Katatonia Tonight's Music
The title track is a fair sample of the album while "Help Me Disappear" feels like it belongs on Tonight's Decision, and the cover track is fair enough but doesn't leave much an impression. Simply a serviceable EP.
Lamb of God Ashes of the Wake
This follow-up lacks the speed and intensity of its predecessor, making it a less interesting and enjoyable album as a result.
Leah Of Earth & Angels
Ever wonder what symphonic metal would sound like without so many theatrics? Leah's debut isn't a bad place to start. You'll miss out on interesting moments, but perhaps a less-is-more approach can be a welcome one.
Leverage Circus Colossus
Accessible progressive metal with a touch of power metal. Circus Colossus is enjoyable enough to warrant a full listen, but it hardly musters a surprise, and ends up achieving more with its catchy choruses. It's fun, but only so much so.
Linkin Park Meteora
Even if it's still contrived and pretentious, Meteora still sees Linkin Park take a few much needed steps in the right direction. Thanks to a more coherent direction (with a couple unnecessary exceptions), we're treated to some more than listenable material with a surprisingly effective and haunting track in "Breaking the Habit." Most of what's present is almost as catchy as it is cliche. Fortunately, since the ultimate results are fun to an at least minimal extent, Meteora gives fans a bit of right to praise the band after the lackluster Hybrid Theory.
Linkin Park Minutes to Midnight
The sound of a band taking a step back and wanting to establish a different identity. I'm glad this band lost their charm on me when they did, because my even more impressionable mind probably would've derived little enjoyment from this album. Going in with a mostly objective view, I can say that Minutes to Midnight is an enjoyable, occasionally strong and generally composed listen. It loses some momentum and spark near the end, but I think I'll have an easier time revisiting this than Hybrid Theory and Meteora.
Megadeth United Abominations
After a fantastic opening, United Abominations stumbles into stagnation. A couple tracks may have moments or aspects that stand above the rest, but these are incremental touches.
Megadeth Dystopia
Enough chugs to fuel a lifetime supply of Hummers.
Metallica Load
In spite of all its problems, Load turns out to be a decent album all told. Many of the songs do tend to drag out (as does the entire album), but the band manage to do a good enough job to prevent it from being a snoozer.
Metallica Reload
ReLoad is what you'd expect from its name: an album that's essentially Load all over again with very minor changes. As such, this isn't one that will reinvigorate faith in those who weren't fond of Load. Fans of the latter album, fortunately, should at least enjoy most of ReLoad's material.
Metallica Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
I'm not sure why Metallica feel the need to make their albums so lengthy. If their music justified sitting down and seriously listening to for 70+ minutes, that'd be one thing, but they're still a casual (thrash) metal band, and no amount of cleaned up production is going to change the fact that this album really, REALLY didn't need to be two discs long. I grew bored before the first disc even finished and hardly had the interest to continue listening after that. Hardwired... sounds perfectly, well, sound, but there's just too much of what amounts to stale, uninspired material. It would've been better to release the heavier tracks as an LP or EP, depending on how long that would've been.
Mors Principium Est The Unborn
Conceptually, The Unborn would seem to be an excellent, passionate and vigorous album. And though the latter two terms might apply from a stylistic standpoint, it's unfortunately plagued by two major issues. For starters, the production and sound is just too distorted with the album ultimately sounding like a constant stream of impractical sounds. The other major shortcoming is that the mixing is way too inconsistent. Ville Viljanen certainly has the voice to help carry the band's sound beyond its otherwise solid instrumental traits, but he's hardly given any prominence. At the end of the day, this is an album that has tracks which are better heard individually and in small dosages. From start to finish, it's an unimpressive and disappointing blend of tracks.
Myrath Legacy
Myrath make their first side-step with Legacy, electing to make small refinements to their sound, as opposed to creating something considerably different. How much lasting power this batch of tracks has remains to be seen, but it makes for an entertaining listen from start to finish, so things are still looking bright for these Tunisians.
Neaera Armamentarium
The sound is great, production top notch and the entire band are in great form, but the album simply has a tough time maintaining interest, with many songs feeling dragged out. It does get better as the runtime progresses, but oftentimes the lengthy tracks can start to take their toll with over two minutes left.
Nightrage The Puritan
There's just enough here to keep The Puritan from slipping into complete tedium; just when it
seems to go on autopilot a little something is shifted around (usually the instrumental side) to
elevate it from mediocre to average and, at best, a sliver above the latter.
Nightwish Imaginaerum
After several listens, I've come to the conclusion that this is the most frustrating Nightwish album to date (including Endless Forms Most Beautiful). Everything presented should--and technically does--work, but something about how the tracks flow and mesh together simply doesn't. Going from the double-dose of "Storytime" and "Ghost River" to the strangely classical "Slow Love Slow," for instance, is more bizarre than it needs to be. Another oddity is the fact the slower moments feel like they intrude upon the album a little too much. There's a classic in here, one that shines through concepts and song fragments, but the entire package comes off feeling fractured, disconnected in more than enough ways to impede the entire journey.
Nightwish Endless Forms Most Beautiful
This album reminds me of most videogames nowadays, post-patch. They're wonderfully detailed and boast incredible production, but it's lacking...as if engagement and stimulation were hardly of concern and slipped the crew's minds. There's fun to be had, but hardly enough to encourage frequent returns, much less in the long run.
Nile Ithyphallic
Perhaps it's the wrong introductory album for the band. Maybe it's that I've never been a death metal enthusiast (though I've never held it in low regard either). But as it stands, Ithyphallic doesn't give any indication of taking the least bit of initiative. The technicality is certainly there but it's all too stale while the command is only scarcely present. Might satisfy the band's more dedicated fans, but it's hardly worth a mention and has next to no staying power.
Nine Inch Nails Year Zero
Trent Reznor has done more than enough to prove that he's a talented individual, and not just under the alias of Nine Inch Nails. However, for all of Year Zero's industrial elements, distortion and focus on its themes, there's a distinct lack of interest to find. None of the concepts feel like they're truly pushed forward in the music and the album's best moment comes from the instrumental "Another Version of the Truth." The entire album is far above the negligible mark, but it isn't nearly compelling enough to elevate it beyond fair remarks.
Obituary Obituary
So straightforward it's almost boring by album's end, but there's just enough bark to keep the music entertaining in some capacity.
ODESZA In Return
My first go at electronic music and what do I think? Honestly, I find the music here to be indecisive, if occasionally pleasant. Some points sound silly and off-key, like the notes in "Say My Name" that sound like a toddler's throat is hooked up to a keyboard. This album works best when it keeps the vocals at bay, which means Odesza could benefit from less featured artists. I just hope I'm in for more balanced music on my venture through electronic territory.
Omnium Gatherum Spirits And August Light
Omnium Gatherum's debut isn't one of innovation or re-invigoration for a hammered genre. It is, however, a more tried-and-true approach to melancholic melodic death metal with a mid-section that borders on showcase-worthy. Genre diehards and hardcores will get what they want, maybe even a bit more.
Omnium Gatherum Years in Waste
A safe, slightly messier retread of their debut album; Years in Waste falls into a rut of enjoyable yet unremarkable melodic death metal.
Pagan's Mind Heavenly Ecstasy
A catchy, casual slab of power and oh so light progressive metal, Heavenly Ecstasy feels poised to deliver a completely enjoyable package, but it loses its charge halfway through, effectively dispelling the otherwise compelling.
Pagan's Mind Celestial Entrance
Celestial Entrance is competently played, smoothly produced and, by all counts, an enjoyable album. However, the album stacks too many minutes on top of each other, resulting in a long, overstayed welcome.
Palisades Palisades
This is more enjoyable than I'm comfortable admitting...
Pallbearer Heartless
A nicely crafted and commendable release, just not one that I'm particularly fond of.
Pantera Far Beyond Driven
While this album has the technicality and angst that makes mid to late Pantera likable, it lacks the passion and integrity its two predecessors possessed. Other than some strong guitar sections, briefly furious moments and a solid Black Sabbath cover, Far Beyond Driven has little going for it.
Pantera The Great Southern Trendkill
The Great Southern Trendkill does feel like it's at least trying to live up to its name by changing the Pantera sound and formula up a bit. However, this proves to be a choice that, much like Far Beyond Driven, delivers little more than a mixed bag. Songs like "Floods" and "Living Through Me (Hells' Wrath)" all do well to satisfy the listener but it also has a rough, at times lazy feel to it. Whether intentional or not, it's tough to feel satisfied for an entire track and thus, the album simply feels, for lack of a better word, incomplete.
Papa Roach Getting Away With Murder
Getting Away with Murder is almost devoid of any truly compelling tracks and has more notably weak moments than other similarly rated works. But for its lackluster points, nothing here really hits the unbearable level and, in a few cases, some enjoyment can be found in songs like "Not Listening" and album closer "Do Or Die." A relatively average album that only gets an edge for a bit of fun nostalgia.
Primal Fear Rulebreaker
More straightforward and run-of-the-mill than this soundoff. The only thing that pushes it from 2.5 to 3 for me is "We Walk Without Fear."
Pyramaze Disciples of the Sun
As with most power metal, you could tear this album apart, be it from a critical outlook or lack of compassion for its said genre. But I'll damned for eternity if this isn't catchy. Though Matt Barlow essentially made Year of the Phoenix, the shift of vocalists only takes a couple tracks to adapt to, and even less to embrace. The end result is enjoyably unremarkable, and I mean this in the best way possible.
Pyramaze Contingent
Carbon copy of its predecessor, just with some different subject matter.
Queensryche Operation: Mindcrime II
Given the simple, unnecessary plot and the expectations to meet, it's tough to find a reason that this album really should have been added to the band's discography. Though there are occasional shining moments, these are ultimately negligible compared to the above average at-best material that comprises the entire album.
Raintime Flies and Lies
Flies and Lies is but one more embodiment of what many bands run into with their sophomore efforts. There are a couple catchy and fun, melodic moments but most of the album is an uninteresting mix that likely won't maintain interest of more adept listeners.
Redemption The Art of Loss
I feel like this is to Redemption as Blackwater Park is to Opeth; competently made and solid progressive music that serves as a comfortable reference point for the band. However, both albums failed to captivate me, and in Redemption's case it's even more so, which I'm ready to blame on the production more than anything, because it sounds so flat, like the life of the band is kept at bay in favor of dulled restraint. It's enjoyable and a pretty safe bet if one is trying to get friends (or others) into progressive metal with a band that has more of a rock-like sound, but I wouldn't go further than that.
Riviere Heal
Heal tastes like a franchise restaurant's house salad without any dressing.
Roadrunner United The All-Star Sessions
Varied and interesting, yet a rather underwhelming album over which, though probably the point, feels a bit too long. We get plenty to hear and have an idea towards when things are mixed up, but everything takes its toll about halfway through even if it does have some fun points.
Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe
Even after over a decade Hellbilly Deluxe brings enough peculiarity to make it worth hearing till the end. The typically played and most familiar tracks (mostly in the first half) are the more conventional and, though enjoyable, least interesting points. As a result, having less songs along the lines of "The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore" leaves the album without any prominent strengths to help it stand high.
Rotting Christ Rituals
Serviceable, occasionally impressive but generally unenthusiastic. Just another everyday ritual.
Sabaton Heroes
Sabaton is as Sabaton does; Heroes does as Sabaton does.
Sabaton Coat of Arms
Listen once and you get the gist, but that won't hamper the fun to have while listening. Sabaton employ their recipe on Coat of Arms as well as anyone could expect. Of course, this also means wanting to see them live while listening.
Savage Circus Of Doom And Death
An offspring of Blind Guardian and Symphony X, Of Doom and Death never spreads its reach further than
what said bands have already established. Power metal diehards won't mind this as much, but most listeners
will hope for more chances to be taken. For what the band offer us, however, the music is competent and
enjoyable, if more so when hearing the songs individually--listening to nine songs that are mostly carbon
copies of one another quickly grows tiring. Of Doom and Death gets a pass on the presumption that its
successor will be more progressive and adventurous.
Scale the Summit In a World of Fear
Each Scale the Summit album has, up to this point, felt like an evolution or progression from the last. Even V had the benefit and appeal of being more relaxed and naturalistic, if you will. The thing with this album is that it simply feels like a side-step, because it's largely the same album as its predecessor. Is it enjoyable? Absolutely, and the lack of technical wizardry at work is something I don't mind--I actually welcome it to some extent. Is that necessarily what other fans of the band want? Maybe not, and that's fine.
Scar Symmetry The Unseen Empire
Improving upon the mediocre and uninspired Dark Matter Dimensions isn't exactly the challenge of a lifetime, but at the very least, The Unseen Empire shows the band putting out some legitimate effort. It's still a mostly unremarkable album, save for occasionally brief moments that shine (and a stellar opener), but even this gives it some fun merit to keep.
Sea of Treachery At Dagger's Dawn
Like many metalcore and other similar albums, At Daggers Drawn works best when short and fast, which unfortunately isn't a very prominent aspect here. The music is good enough, but much of it is simply too unremarkable to warrant a full recommendation.
Slipknot Slipknot
Slipknot serve up a thrashier slice of nu metal on their debut mixed with some slower, distorted moments. Generally this translates well but there's not quite enough real charisma here and the overall execution ultimately leaves much to be desired.
Slipknot Iowa
For the first half of the album's runtime, Slipknot seem to have improved upon their self-titled predecessor. The music is heavier and generally more visceral with production that is improved as well as a more commanding and consistent flow. However, all of this can't be carried for the album's runtime, especially given the much prolonged title track which concludes this otherwise improved successor. Thus, we have what is, at first, a fairly strong effort that grows weary once the proper runtime passes.
Slipknot Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
Though they essentially abandon their nu metal ways, Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses is probably the closest we'll ever get to a "progressive nu metal album." No, the music on its own isn't progressive, but Slipknot definitely took a direction closer to that after Iowa. The good news is that we're treated to some solid tracks, namely in later middle chunk from "Welcome" to "Before I Forget". Points of experimentation are also found, and some of them do fall flat (especially "Circle," due to Taylor's shoddily handled vocals). In some ways, The Subliminal Verses does show the band in a better, more concise light than its predecessors. At the same time, however, even the best moments here don't quite stand alongside tracks such as "The Heretic Anthem" or "Scissors". It's another competent release, but remains merely alongside the band's self-titled effort and Iowa.
Sonata Arctica Unia
Unia sees Sonata Arctica experiment and begin what many consider the start of their descent. Though not without enjoyable moments, these seldom hold up for an entire track's length. The album's strangely progressive nature doesn't do it any favors outside of a host of unpredictable moments. However, there's a fine line between what's predictable and what's compelling, and Unia definitely gears more towards one, rather than presenting both in equal dosages.
Sonic Syndicate Only Inhuman
Even with some progression and improvements made, this is fundamentally an average sophomore album that has only a small handful of interesting moments.
Soulfallen Grave New World
Some nice moments knitted into an otherwise rudimentary dark melodic album. The greatest appeal an album like this has is its various influences, but the problem is they never come together in a way that makes it feel like a defined vision. Soulfallen simply don't own their sound here.
Stratovarius Eternal
Stratovarius play to their strengths on Eternal, which is being perhaps the cheesiest and catchiest metal band alive today. On one hand, you don't have a band pushing any envelopes, but on the other you don't really need them to, because the fact they're presenting a dose of fun, accessible material is all that matters.
Stratovarius Elysium
Elysium is an interesting affair in that we get almost as many engaging moments as we do points that just fall flat. There's never an exceedingly bad moment here per se, but even with an 18-minute epic, the entire affairs feels less fulfilling you'd expect.
Symphony X Underworld
A title like "Underworld" suggests that Symphony X would bring something darker, moody and melancholic, perhaps a slower, lower toned Paradise Lost. Unfortunately, Underworld does less to push the band forward than a neutral car gear. This is complete comfort zone material, and while Symphony X's sound still technically and structurally works, the vigor, excitement and progression they've become known for is in substantially short supply.
The Contortionist Intrinsic
Geocentric Confusion indeed; the exchange of cohesion for attempted progression doesn't quite pay off. Intrinsic has the pieces--and thus the makings--of a great album, but there's no form to it all. If you think Dream Theater lack structure, this will put things in perspective.
The Red Death Godmakers
The light mix of genres ultimately isn't enough to keep things interesting, despite the album's short runtime. A basic sound that avoids taking extremes makes it approachable, but there's a distinct lack of meat and bones here.
Threshold Subsurface
Subsurface may have its moments, but these are seldom carried for an entire track. The energy Threshold are often synonymous with is in short supply here, opting instead for a state of almost constant meandering. They still technically sound good, but don't count on having your interest maintained for long.
Time in Malta Alone with the Alone
Alone with the Alone doesn't break any new ground and it's not a crime that the band aren't widely known, but it is a shame that they didn't keep going to provide more releases. There is some good material to be found here that most alternative fans will probably enjoy, and the foundations for improvement are still present with enough backing strengths to warrant praise.
Trivium Ascendancy
A thankful improvement from Ember to Inferno, Ascendancy is what I'd consider Trivium's proper debut. While the final results are, as a whole, a bit meandering, it's a far more confident stake in the ground that accomplishes what it sets out to do. It may not be particularly original or remarkable, but if a band is improving, then it's at least worth acknowledging.
Trivium Shogun
Trivium come so close to creating a truly great album on Shogun, but once again, they spread too thin for its own good. By the time it's over, Shogun has overstayed its welcome and makes a single listen feel overly ample.
Trivium The Sin and the Sentence
Has its catchy and inspired moments, but it all ultimately comes together in an average, sufficient package.
Vanden Plas Colour Temple
Fairly straightforward prog-laced Christian power metal that overstays its welcome a bit, but remains an enjoyable--if unspectacular--listening experience
Velvet Revolver Contraband
The conceptual realization of Contraband is actually enticing: a simultaneous throwback to hard rock of the 80's and 90's given a modern facelift. Unfortunately, it can't overcome glaring faults which leave almost every track from feeling, ultimately, uninteresting. Those who simply want decent rock music to enjoy on a casual level will probably get what they want here, but nothing truly stands out on either end of the scale.
Wintersun Time I
Eight years down the line and the only unanimous thing one could argue is that Time I wouldn't satisfy everyone. Even so, it's tough to look at this as a just follow-up that continues and progresses from such a varied and encompassing predecessor. Power, folk and synthetic influences dominate with little bite to seep into your skin. If speaking in temperatures, the cold is bitter as a cold shoulder--from a lack of truly dark and frigid material altogether.
Wolfchant Bloodwinter
Had Iced Earth been born in Germany and took after the likes of Norther and Korpiklaani, chances are, this would be the result. Pretty fun for what it is, but only teases at something truly great.

2.5 average
Arch Enemy Wages of Sin
Wages of Sin might be more rooted in Arch Enemy's melodic death metal roots than its successors, helping it serve up a few solid and darker slices of tracks, but what most of the album lacks is a way to distinguish itself from a crowded field. Too many points tackle lower, highly distorted moments (and even slow down as if to break the monotony). However, this only builds dullness for the listener and, before long, they'll realize just how limited the album's staying power is.
Billy Joel The Bridge
Though decent points are present, they're ultimately lost in a collection of inconsistent material that makes Joel come off as contrived. Passion is in short supply, namely in the vocals. Even worse: the implementation of keys and pianos here make the music sound sugarcoated, if anything. We have a tragic case on our hands with The Bridge, which ends Joel's long and consistent streak. Not a bad album, but even the duet with Ray Charles on "Baby Grand" can't help the album rise over what it lacks more than anything: the magical, nostalgic vibe Joel expressed through An Innocent Man.
Book of Black Earth The Cold Testament
The Cold Testament is loud, full of charged blasts and energy...all of which go nowhere. So much of the album sounds like it's on repeat, leading an otherwise nice combination of sounds to feel as interesting as an average metalcore or deathcore album.
Circus Maximus Havoc
This page in Circus Maximus' catalog can easily be sped through and leave nary an impression. They either need to make their next effort truly own their new musical shift, or revert to their old ways.
Demon Hunter Outlive
Outlive sounds like Demon Hunter outliving their necessity as a band.
Dimmu Borgir In Sorte Diaboli
Simplicity might make it accessible but it ultimately lacks the interesting hooks and elaborations of the band's previous material.
Disturbed Believe
Feels like an attempt to clean up and refine what was presented on The Sickness. The results are listenable, fairly catchy, but also missing the engagement that its predecessor simmered with. It goes from being a minor grievance to turning the album into a dull bore.
Dream Theater When Dream and Day Unite
Die-hard Dream Theater fans might be able to get behind a song or two, but When Dream and Day Unite is ultimately to Dream Theater what Rocka Rolla was to Judas Priest (cue "oh yeah, that exists" comment).
Dream Theater Falling into Infinity
Intended as an accessible, radio-friendly album, Falling Into Infinity is one of the last albums to recommend for anyone looking to get into Dream Theater. The botched alteration to the band's logo on the cover is enough of a hint to know that this is uncharacteristic of the prog metal giants. While not bad, from a fan's standpoint, it's tough to look at Falling Into Infinity objectively and find a good quality without bringing up the issues which affect the entire album.
Dream Theater Systematic Chaos
Without a true sense of direction, Systematic Chaos winds up wasting the talents and ambitions of the band on music that is too long, lacks real emotion and makes for an overall tough listen.
Emperor Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire...
A lackluster and disappointing final studio album, Prometheus does nothing to truly capture and provide what made Emperor's previous releases so invigorating. Drab and stale results come from the production attempts to make it seem dark and heavy, simultaneously. Even worse is that the keyboards are so off, especially when playing with the rest of the band. Rather than helping to compliment what could've been another effective black metal album, Emperor come off sounding more like (present day) Dimmu Borgir meets Behemoth. But with little beyond a few good riffs and solos scattered throughout, even that might be too generous of a statement for this plummet of quality in the band's catalogue.
Excalion Waterlines
Waterlines is so by-the-books it's likely to put you to sleep well before it ends. For power metal, this lack of offense turns into one.
Ghost Bath Starmourner
The biggest problem with this album is that it's just too long and doesn't even come close to earning half of its length (over 70 minutes). There are some good aspects and qualities, but they get lost in a mix of music that becomes more tiresome and confusingly awkward as things go on. Your experience will come down to some degree of tolerance, but objectively speaking, nothing much to note in the grand scheme of things.
Hoobastank The Reason
The Reason is a contestable improvement over Hoobastank's debut, but it still doesn't ultimately accomplish enough to make it drastically superior, per se. As before, the better moments are scarce amidst a sea of duds, but the main difference is that they aren't quite as bad.
Iced Earth The Crucible of Man
One of Iced Earth's sloggiest affairs, The Crucible of Man shows that it takes more than the return of a band's most established frontman to make magic work, especially considering the Barlow albums were rather good. The greatest offense this album commits isn't that it's absurdly bad (hardly the case), but rather that it feels like Iced Earth at their lowest caliber, while the rest of their discography hit with enough strength to do more than tingle the ears.
Judas Priest Redeemer of Souls
Seventeen studio albums in and Judas Priest can still provide acceptable material, but there's hardly a way or place for Redeemer of Souls to stand out in their discography.
Keep of Kalessin Epistemology
As Epistemology chugs along through its initial 10 minutes, a sense of predication comes to be, and it's of neither intrigue nor excitement. Every track blends together like peanut butter and plain Greek yogurt; seamlessly mixing in every way, from their consistency to the bland flavor.
Les Discrets Prédateurs
It feels like this album wants to do something but then it lets other stuff leak in and pass through while leaving enough residue to stain the music. As a listener, it leaves me confused, and I feel like the album is confused by itself too.
Linkin Park Hybrid Theory
As with many listeners, Linkin Park was my jam between middle and high school, so you can imagine how odd it is to come back to Hybrid Theory after adding more music under my belt. Nostalgia may be one of the few saving graces for this album, however, as much of what I once celebrated now sounds forced and trite. Not that there aren't enjoyable moments, it's just that they're occasional in an album that can feel a bit confused. Then again, being a debut that clearly caters to teens, perhaps confusion is what suits Hybrid Theory the most.
Mudvayne Lost and Found
Even from the get-go on one of its betters tracks, Lost and Found shows it has fundamental issues. The music doesn't feel fundamentally driven, even when the band work to their (expected) strengths; too many songs drag out and each of the band members don't truly display any talent they have. If anything, the closest the album gets to a strong track is, ironically, in the lengthy "Choices," only because of the soft, catchy chorus. Even younger, less experienced listeners aren't bound to cling well to Lost and Found since it simply isn't interesting enough. And even less can be said about how one with a fair amount of albums under their belt might feel towards it.
myGRAIN Orbit Dance
Orbit Dance has a number of problems in its execution, ranging from a lack of real excitement or interest and mundane song structure from start to finish. Yet its biggest problem is how it's so obvious the band didn't take initiative here. This is a shame, because a truly enjoyable album can be heard here, but it never surfaces and we're left with an incredibly generic release.
New Found Glory Catalyst
Mostly inoffensive pop-punk/rock band, though the vocals can get grating. For what it is though, you can do a whole lot worse.
Sabaton The Last Stand
Like a Stouffer's version of Swedish Meatballs.
Scar Symmetry Dark Matter Dimensions
More than just Alvestam's superior vocals have been lost in the all too brief transition between this and Holographic Universe. While a few songs do kick things up, Dark Matter Dimensions is an almost completely negligible rut that feels like a dull experimentation.
Seventh Wonder Become
The gentle version is that Become is underwhelming and pales when compared to its successors.
Slayer World Painted Blood
World Painted Blood feels like it's trying to accomplish and be a lot of things but all it manages to do is sound like the Slayer we all know without any sort of vigor or liveliness to keep things interesting or even enjoyable.
Slipknot 9.0: Live
Based on the selection of tracks, one would think 9.0 Live to be an excellent package with potential staying power. The unfortunate reality, however, is that despite sounding authentic, it fails to give a proper idea of how good the band can sound live. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in Corey Taylor's constant, painfully underwhelming vocal deliveries. Instrumentally, 9.0 Live is more inconsistent, but the implication of anger never truly breaks out during this collection of performances.
Sonata Arctica The Days of Grays
Unia wasn't an album to keep me listening and coming back for more. Outside of a couple tracks and select moments, Sonata Arctica's 2007 experiment was an unresolved affair, assuming an impulsive-is-progressive identity. Of all the meals Sonata Arctica could serve, Unia turned out to be a buffet--the Golden Coral, if you will. The Days of Grays, by comparison, is closer to CiCi's; a limited selection and fewer chances to standout.
Sonata Arctica The Ninth Hour
Boy oh boy does the cheese flow here, but perhaps that's why I've found myself enjoying it. Even without being all that heavy or representative of Sonata Arctica's best work, The Ninth Hour is a fair, casual listen that keeps me entertained. Nothing more, nothing less.
Starset Vessels
As trite as this is, there's a cheesy charm to it. The problem is that it spoils WAY before the 70-minute mark.
Static-X Start A War
Several albums manage to successfully meld two (or more) (sub)genres together. Start a War isn't one of them. While Static-X are often considered an industrial act, the music here feels very nu metal more times than not. And during the moments that simply scream single fodder, it's tough to discern differences between it and average alternative rock. It's simply little more than a middle school kid's dose of music and for anyone else, it's unfulfilling nostalgia.
Striker Striker
Suffers from the issue most NWOTHM ("throwback" metal, if you will) face: too much of a "I've heard this before, but so much better" sensation. While technically functional, Striker feels too safe and formulaic without enough flair and flavor.
Superjoint Use Once and Destroy
Use Once and Destroy feels like little more than a meager attempt for Phil Anselmo to vent frustration and blunt thoughts about. As his work with the then-fellow Pantera members proved, this can work when put to the right use and execution. However, the sludge metal approach here leaves most of the album feeling too dull and muddy to warrant being worthwhile.
The Absence Riders of the Plague
It's not that the album necessarily lacks a sense of effort, but more that the music just isn't interesting most of the time. Thrash-inspired metalcore doesn't prove to be that interesting of a combination here, which, combined with the prolonged song runtimes, lends us a drab and stale release overall.
The Raven Age Darkness Will Rise
Bland metalcore that fails to earn its demanding length (75 minutes). While the music is technically functional with somewhat redeeming vocals and adequate production, it's in dire need of several jumpstarts.
Threshold For The Journey
It took 26 years for Threshold to lose their momentum and release a definitively unremarkable album. March of Progress made their future look full of promise, but For the Journey strips that vision away and makes the possibility of a good future endeavor seem unlikely.
Trivium The Crusade
A side-step from Ascendancy; a slightly different direction with much of the same results. Little of the grit has been retained, and while the sound has been smoothed out, it doesn't necessarily translate to a better album. The Crusade is, once again, held back by its elongated and undeserved length, it's in dire need of a focus and greater injection of energy.
Venom From the Very Depths
I won't lie and say there isn't potential within the album, but chances are you'll have your fill and be bored by the fifth track.
Wintersun The Forest Seasons
Ensiferum and Children of Bodom had a bastard child, taught it some basic hunting skills, and left it to wander aimlessly in Westeros. Except instead of dragons and White Walkers, we got snarks and grumpkins.
Wisdom Rise of the Wise
Cheesy, derivative and utterly banal, Wisdom's fourth album is hardly the sign of a band making strides as worthwhile act. This is power metal without the power.

2.0 poor
Aborym Shifting.Negative
Take Nine Inch Nails, rip it up inside-out, then slap on a vinegary industrial metal sticker. Voila! Shifting.Negative.
After the Burial In Dreams
Almost completely lifeless and holding next to nothing which compels it forth, In Dreams serves little to contribute towards a genre which, with works such as this, seems rightly criticized. There might be room and potential in many genres and styles, but that doesn't make the album any more enjoyable (if at all).
Alestorm Captain Morgan's Revenge
Alestorm's debut gets off to a fair enough start, but not even 15 minutes in things become so contrived and obvious that it's tough to go back and look at even the better moments with a fond light. Little more than a one-trick pony that can't carry itself out for an EP's worth, let alone a full-length album, Captain Morgan's Revenge only leaves us asking "why couldn't this actually be enthralling or (repeatedly) enjoyable?"
All That Remains Madness
I mean, it's sort of listenable, but where's the backbone? It's actually impressive how such a limp sound has managed to trek these guys forward this long.
Creed Human Clay
Human Clay would be an at least slightly enjoyable album if the runtime had been cut down. With twelve songs that wind up being almost completely within the four to six minute range, the weary, derivative sound begins to take its toll by the halfway point. And given most of the songs sound too similar for any sort of true distinction, we're left with a release that's too much, too long and too mediocre for recommendation.
Crimson Glory Astronomica
The album's concepts alone scream complete green cheese. And that's exactly what we get, except it's the expired kind from our world. Tiring as it might be to hear one say, this is some horrifically cheddar-induced material. Sure, a couple brief moments might be fun to hear and it's not complete torture, but it's almost impossible to find enjoyment even on power metal's most stereotypical level.
Daft Punk Homework
Popular as these guys are, their debut just doesn't cut it. The title Homework is ironically fitting, since that's what it begins to feel like as each track grinds on.
Dream Theater The Astonishing
Were it not for the fact LaBrie puts on a good performance, I'd say I hope they released this as an instrumental album.
Good Charlotte The Chronicles of Life and Death
Too much time is spent giving what amounts to a gigantic filler of an album. A worthwhile listen could be found if the band took initiative (and got a better singer). But any potential ambition is utterly wasted and dragged throughout after the more interesting (though still unremarkable) introduction.
Hawthorne Heights The Silence in Black and White
The high school me wants to loathe this to its core. I remember exhibiting some combination of cringe and laughter when I heard "Ohio is for Lovers;" it was one of the first times I realized music could be laughably bad. And yet, as I sit down and give the album an honest listen, I find it's not completely insufferable. Yes, the vocals are poor, the instrumental qualities basic and mixing on the muddy side, but it honestly bores more than it offends. Perhaps not being completely horrendous isn't much of a defense, but that's also the advantage of having low expectations.
Hoobastank Hoobastank
The band's debut offers a couple decent tracks at-best and only sounds like more of the same mainstream pop rock music. If the faster, heavier style present on songs like "Crawling in the Dark" and "Pieces" dominated the album, it'd be a worthwhile offering. But due to the trivial and over-saturated themes combined with dull musicianship that seldom shows signs of being driven, it turns out to be one more toss-away.
Iced Earth Plagues of Babylon
Plagues of Babylon sees Iced Earth continue their slump into the territory of wasted potential with long stretches of boredom and rare moments of enjoyment. Babylon isn't alone in playing host to this plague.
Ill Nino Confession
Though there are indications of stronger work amidst the tracks, everything here is ultimately cliche, one-dimensional and overdone material that has little to nothing that helps it stand out.
Judas Priest Demolition
A dull, almost lifeless and shamefully lousy album that only stands up as the band's worst effort.
Korn Take a Look in the Mirror
If Take a Look in the Mirror is a representation of how Korn stand for a studio album, then it proves only one thing: that they're a singles band. While they can be enjoyed one or two songs at a time depending on just what's played, this album shows they can't carry an almost completely unremarkable sound for even a relatively short runtime. Add a horrendous Metallica cover and you have an album that can be shamelessly tossed aside.
Metallica St. Anger
This almost universally condemned album only manages to accomplish bringing decent concepts to the table with a few fair riffs. Otherwise, this is something that just about any music fan is better off not listening to, even for the sake of curiosity.
Mnemic The Audio Injected Soul
Just one more album added to the ever growing pile of generic albums hardly worth any regards other than a resounding "meh." And even at a moderately average length of around 45 minutes, the below-standard quality makes the passing time feel that much slower.
Serenity Codex Atlanticus
WARNING: Album contains high doses of cheese, sugar and saturated fats. Consuming this album may result in transcendent medical conditions.
Sonata Arctica Ecliptica - Revisited: 15th Anniversary Edition
I honestly wonder if Sonata Arctica's true intent with Ecliptica Revisited was to make us appreciate the original version, because they've done a fantastic job deflating the original's energy. You can't help but feel invigorated by the 1999 version after hearing half of this.
Sonata Arctica Stones Grow Her Name
Did you enjoy Ecliptica? Silence? Winterheart's Guild? Reckoning Night? Unia? The Days of Grays? No? Well, do you enjoy the likes of Motley Crue and other such acts? Yes? Then here you go, Stones Grow Her Name is your contemporary metal album.
Spineshank The Height of Callousness
Much of the album falls into an indecisive mess with approaches to provide a disorienting edge almost always coming off as overdone and unnecessary. A couple catchy parts make their way into the early part but there's next to nothing truly note-worthy or recommendable about the album.
The Raven Age The Raven Age
Hey kids, do you like All That Remains but wish Labonte could sing? Welcome to The Raven Age!
Trivium Ember to Inferno
Too drawn out for its own good, Trivium's uncharismatic debut only tickles the idea of superior and ultimately worthwhile material.
Vitja Digital Love
Wants you to believe it's an innovative offering for metalcore, but it ultimately fits into the same mold as other bands, only with some musical distractions to hamper the music.
Wicked Wisdom Wicked Wisdom
To call Wicked Wisdom a criminal attack on decent music might be an excessive overstatement, but even this tiring release has a tough time treading the guilty pleasure territory.

1.5 very poor
All That Remains The Order of Things
First, look at the title of the opening track. Guess what? It didn't end well.
Killswitch Engage Killswitch Engage (2009)
Unlike the band's previous efforts, this album has very little, if anything going for it. Sure, some of the songs might be catchy with Jones as always showing fair enough vocal work, but the album just falls into a horribly cliche rut that makes it lackluster to say the least.
Sonata Arctica Talviyo
This album is what happens when one too many people finish listening to Stones Grow Her Name
and say "at least it can't get any worse."
Suicide Silence Suicide Silence
Obligatory "Suicide Silence sucks" soundoff.

Seriously though, this is bad. Stay away.

1.0 awful
3OH!3 3OH!3
Just read the lyrics. If those don't kill your brain cells, then listening to this album will.
Asking Alexandria The Irony of Your Perfection
Imagine you're going to an outdoor concert. The day is thick and humid, your armpits are sweating profusely and the overhead clouds are taking way too much time to purge your reeking flesh. As soon as the concert is about to begin, rain hits the ground like a tidal wave, turning dirt into mud. Someone trips you and in that split-second, lightning hits the speakers, which explode with a reverberating static, and the symbols from the band's drumset cling against your head because fuck you anyway, and amidst it all you realize this split-second just won't end. That's what it's like to listen to The Irony of Your Perfection.
Made in Mexico Zodiac Zoo
You ever go to a zoo and hear unintelligible announcements screech through the old, wretched speakers? Those announcements are actually samples from this album.

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