00s Essentials – Volume Five

Take a quick peek ahead. Think Volume 5 is a bit heavy on the death metal? Look closer. Also included are two of Norway’s all-time kings, career albums by masters of grind and prog, and one of the most important black metal albums in the genre’s history.

Not enough? Fine; you also get Black Fucking Sabbath.


Human 2.0 brought grindcore out of the realm of gritty nostalgia and into the new millennium. Nasum’s catchy hooks and surprising use of melody made them the ire of many of grindcore elitists, but there’s no doubt that this is the band most responsible for the growth of the genre into what we know it as today. Brutally raw and unforgiving–yet remarkably memorable and well-composed–Human 2.0 introduced new possibilities for intricacy and variation in grind songs. Even years later, the palpable energy of tracks like “Shadows” and “Multinational Murderers Network “ continue to put most contemporary grind acts to shame.  [Relapse, 2000]

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Perhaps this was the natural progression of black metal: to become even more despondent and desperate than the forefathers in Europe. Dead As Dreams is a prime example of music that seems to be a soundtrack to suicide. To some, this is a work of pure genius; a single full-length release and breakup that guarantees no fall from greatness. When it comes to black, droning despair, few albums are in league with this highly influential vision of misery. [Tumult, 2000]

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The swansong of one of black metal’s greatest bands. Ihsahn thrust two middle fingers skyward and released one of the most melodically ambitious albums the genre has ever seen. Rambunctious, progressive, and highly controversial in many circles, Emperor ended its studio career with a record that has yet to be equaled by anything the former members have produced since, while leaving their faithful fans hoping in vain for a return.  [Candlelight, 2001]

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It seemed an impossible task for Dream Theater to match 1999’s incomparable Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, but the prog metal pioneers came pretty damn close with Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Broader in scope and heavier, the double album includes the band’s magnum opus:  the eight-part, 42-minute epic title track, which features all the noodly prowess the band is known for, tempered with outstanding songwriting and arrangement. [Elektra, 2002]

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Already known to mix black metal with prog, psychedelia, and space rock, Enslaved threw the book completely out the window on Below the Lights. From the Deep Purple-ish keys in “The Dead Stare,” to the chanting in “Havenless,” to the jazz flute and extended soloing in “Queen of Night”, surprises are around every corner. Fortunately, Enslaved have the skills to make absolutely zero of it seem out of place. Through it all, it retains the coldness of their early work, proving that no matter how far they veer from Hordanes Land, a part of them is always home. [Osmose, 2003]

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Considering the role tech death has played in forming the current landscape of metal, failing to mention Anata’s third album would be unforgivable. So challenging, yet so very addictive and intelligent, this was a tooth-rattling endeavor that became the album to beat when Top 10 lists made their rounds at the end of 2004. As remarkable as followup The Conductor’s Departure turned out to be, even that couldn’t match the technical hurricane this album conjured up. [Wicked World, 2004]

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Nile had already assumed the role of death metal’s newest tour de force with In Their Darkened Shrines, but it was Annihilation of the Wicked that really delivered on the promise shown on the band’s first few LPs. This was due to the introduction of huge drumming talent George Kollias, as well as the immaculate production of Neil Kernon and the increased emphasis on Dallas Toller-Wade’s vocals. But more importantly, Annihilation saw Nile adding entirely new dimensions to their punishing sound, matching their incredible speed with crushing, anthemic slowdowns heavy enough to topple the highest monoliths of ancient Egypt. [Relapse, 2005]

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Arlington, Texas’ Solitude Aeturnus has never really been known as the most prolific of heavy metal bands, but waiting a full eight years between releases was just downright cruel to fans of their immensely epic brand of doom. Of course, Alone proved to be well worth the wait, delivering nine grandiose tunes featuring perfect deliveries from all players involved. It’s honestly as close to a flawless, epic doom metal record as you can get, but let’s just hope we don’t have to wait an additional five years before their next release! [Massacre, 2006]

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Dismember are now the undisputed pinnacle of Swedish death metal, releasing back-to-back classics in The God That Never Was and this self-titled barn-burner, awesome even without former drummer/mastermind Fred Estby. Between massive riffs and that sweet, sweet Swedish guitar tone, this one stomped its way to the top of the band’s canon, a catalog already rife with killer records. Matti Karki’s growl is among the best in the business, even twenty years into his career. We dare you to crank “Europa Burns” and not bang your damn head. [Regain, 2008]

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You can argue about the quality of The Devil You Know all you want. What cannot be argued is the importance of a Dio-fronted Black Sabbath releasing a new album in the new millennium. From the ominous “Bible Black” to the spine-tingling “Follow the Tears,” the parties involved proved that there is still plenty of creative fuel in their collective tank even after 40 years of metal. Hail to the Stonehenge Gods? You bet your ass. [Rhino, 2009]

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We’re at the halfway point: fifty more albums to go. Haven’t seen your favorite yet? Click here to check out Volumes One through Four–maybe you missed it. If not, hang in there… five more weeks remain.  See you next time.

Posted by Last Rites


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