00s Essentials – Volume Three

Volume 3 is all over the map; but from madness comes brilliance. This third edition of the 100 Essential Albums of the Decade is chock-full of surprises, apexes, and kinetic energy.



Polish death metal rose to great popularity early in this decade, thus it is quite fitting that the god-fathers of the scene should open new millennium with one of their best albums. Litany showcases Vader at the peak of their powers. With the late Doc’s kick-drums-on-steroids leading the way, Vader assaults the listener with the devastating precision of mechanized warfare. With eleven tracks crammed into a brutally intense thirty minutes, Litany could well be considered Vader’s Reign in Blood. [Metal Blade, 2000]

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Anyone who thinks that “metalcore” is shorthand for melodeath with breakdowns needs to track down a copy of Jane Doe post-haste. Converge is best-known for amping up hardcore punk into a spasmodic, grinding shitstorm, but this album’s greatness stems from its emotional charge and noise-riddled melodic sensibility. Jane Doe balances crestfallen beauty and vicious rage perfectly, and none of Converge’s scores of imitators have ever replicated its seamless narrative flow. This album made Converge the legends they are today, and deservedly so. [Equal Vision, 2001]

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There are moments in Peter Jackson’s over-stylized version of The Lord of The Rings movies where the battle scenes are so absurdly packed with over-the-top spectacle that your eyes bleed profusely with merriment. Rhapsody’s The Power of the Dragonflame is the power metal equivalent of just such a victory. And “victory” is the optimum word to be stressed here, because this is symphonic power that underlines triumph with a stroke as heavy as Tammy Faye Bakker’s eyeliner. The 20-minute closing “Gargoyles, Angles of Darkness” is essentially every facet of grandeur typified. [LMP, 2002]

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Smooth. Silky fucking smooth. That’s the only way to describe this svelte Arcturus release, which saw the band step away completely from their black metal heritage into warm, progressive and ultimately genre defying territory. Spearheaded by Garm’s velvety croons and a robust, crystal clear production, The Sham Mirrors was a collection of crunchy-but-hypnotic cosmic hymns and stellar sonic psalms that melted stars and minds alike. A rare, truly landmark album–one that, to this day, has yet to be topped by themselves–or any so-called “avant-garde” pretenders. [Ad Astra, 2002]

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Dan Swano spends most of his time behind a mixing console these days, but Crimson II proved that his musical acumen lives on. Swano revived his under-appreciated melodeath band single-handedly in 2003 and recorded a musical and conceptual follow-up to the band’s magnum opus, the one-track Crimson. Stretching out a single song to 45 minutes—even a song laden with tricky grooves, layered synths, and gorgeous clean moments—is no mean feat, but Swano’s heroic effort and incredible skill makes Crimson II a ride worth taking. [Black Mark, 2003]

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Not particularly groundbreaking–and free of jaw-dropping antics–but there’s a sick sway to it that just cannot be denied. Yyrkoon is an oddly named driving force to be reckoned with, and Occult Medicine was no one-trick pony. Its follow up, Unhealthy Opera, showed their teeth and claws un-dulled and still famished. Make no mistake that Medicine is where the hot streak began, and hopefully with no end in sight. Equal parts blast furnace to slow tank….what a prescription. [Osmose, 2004]

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We’ve all heard the criticism for Municipal Waste, and to be fair, there is merit in some of it. But this has little bearing on the fact that Hazardous Mutation is one of the best thrash albums to surface in the last decade, if not the best. You’d have to be a truly jaded, callous soul to resist the hooks in songs like “Deathripper” and “Accelerated Vision,” the manic energy of Tony Foresta’s lyrical rants, and the never-ending barrage of top-notch riffs dispensed by Ryan Waste. Hazardous Mutation may in many ways serve as a tribute to the bands of yore, but that doesn’t mean that Municipal Waste don’t do what they do better than anyone else in contemporary metal.  [Earache, 2005]

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It seems things have settled a bit in the Candlemass camp since the arrival of Robert Lowe, but there was a 5-year dry spell at the start of 2000 that left some fans wondering if they’d actually heard the last from Leif’s baby. Certainly one of the last things we expected was the return of Messiah Marcolin for another album’s worth of material! The union didn’t last long, of course, but the results were nothing short of stunning. This self-titled release definitely injected some serious life back into the Candlemass tank. [Nuclear Blast, 2005]

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The Longest Night caught a lot of folks completely off guard; the only bit of familiarity to many of us being the distinct, rasped power vocals also heard on the lone Control Denied full-length. And while Tim Aymar’s unique voice stands as one of Pharaoh’s strongest selling points, it was the impeccable song-crafting and melodic noodling of Matt Johnsen that helped push The Longest Night into many metal fans’ top spot for 2006. [Cruz del Sur, 2006]

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Riff-heavy black metal, dripping with gobs of thrash and death, We Own the Mountains encompasses everything great about metal: excellent hard-and-heavy riffing, melodic urgency, intense vocals, and epic storytelling. In a marked departure from previous records, Elite extended their reach from the periphery of extreme music to the center with modern production that helped to circumvent black metal’s typical hindrances. From the endless barrage of icy riffs to its nearly immeasurable raw energy, this record is damn near irresistible. [Folter, 2008]

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Thirty down, seventy to go. See you next week!

Posted by Last Rites


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