00s Essentials – Volume Two

Welcome back to Metal Review’s 100 Most Essential Albums of the 00s. Volume 2 features a pair of landmark doom releases, the glorious return of an epic metal legend, some widely varying interpretations of prog, and two startlingly impressive debuts. Beware: some of these may give way to massive back catalog exploration.


While the band had already been garnering some acclaim in stoner doom circles, few were prepared for the monstrous slab of crushing doom that Electric Wizard delivered with their magnum opus, Dopethrone. Boasting some of the heaviest, most cataclysmic grooves the metal scene had ever heard, songs like “Barbarian,” “We Hate You,” and the monolithic title track delivered the mammoth sludge of Wizard with a newfound clarity and swagger, while songs like “Funeropolis” and “Weird Tales” saw further emphasis placed on the band’s haunting, psychedelic atmospheres.  [Rise Above, 2000]

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It’s difficult to believe, but Wichita’s Manilla Road has been providing traditional epic heavy metal for their fans for over three decades now. Of course, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Much to the chagrin of his fans, sole remaining original member Mark “the Shark” Shelton took a 10-year hiatus through the 90’s, and it wasn’t until 2001’s Atlantis Rising release that fans were finally able to breathe a collective sigh of relief–Manilla Road had returned! And the album delivered exactly what long-time fans had grown to expect: epic traditional heavy metal of the highest caliber. [Iron Glory, 2001]

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A bit of an enigma in progressive music (a genre preoccupied with eschewing mainstream-ism), In Absentia is simultaneously the most widely beloved of Porcupine Tree’s output and the album that made them a legitimate commercial entity.  As opposed to the band’s early work, this album is very song-centered, focusing the amalgamation of varied styles into accessible structure. Their first real foray into the heaviness of metal, Porcupine Tree’s fondness for sonic contrasts is epitomized here without sacrificing any of the gorgeous melody or engrossing complexity that made them great.  [Lava, 2002]

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Born from the ashes of arguably the weakest Darkthrone release, Hate Them firmly re-established the Fenriz and Nocturno duo as lead dogs in terms of producing consistantly caustic black metal. Sometimes the best progression is actually regression, and despite the album’s new-found “clean” production, Hate Them shirked the growing melodic, progressive black metal trend of the time in favor of continuing down the path of crudely hammering skulls into the dirt with 39-minutes of seething hate. “Join the dead! Join the fuckin’ dead!” [Moonfog, 2003]

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I can’t think of another album who’s cover art told the whole truth quite like Disillusion’s Back To Times Of Splendor. The mountains scrape the sky, the valleys reap the depths, and an unquestionable delicate presence hangs in the balance (possibly the female overseer looking down from the upper right hand corner). Disillusion may have taken a strange turn with the follow-up to this, Gloria, but Splendor is epic in the shadow it casts, cementing its place among the highlighted in the melodic/progressive DM genre. [Metal Blade, 2004]

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Bolt Thrower literally defines “consistency.”  Album after album, year after year, completely-devastating war-themed-song after completely-devastating war-themed-song, this decades-old British unit just (ahem) soldiers on and on. The best thing one could say about Those Once Loyal is this: it’s a Bolt Thrower record.  For awhile there, it looked like Those Once Loyal would be the band’s swansong, even the Throwers themselves feeling that it was too good to top; but it turns out they’re back again, and the world is better for it. [Metal Blade, 2005]

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The first Jesu album was noteworthy in more ways than one. Aside from being a fantastic display of melodic, droning metal, it showed Justin Broadrick taking inspirations from the sound of Godflesh but channeling them into a sound that stood on its own. Far more bleak than the poppy shoegaze of the band’s current work, mammoth tracks like “Tired of Me” and “We All Falter” established the band’s formula of uniting dreary heaviness with uplifting guitar melodies and distant, minimalist vocals. The result? A draining album, as cold and depressing as it was hauntingly beautiful. [Hydra Head, 2005]

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Based on Melville’s classic Moby-Dick, The Call of the Wretched Sea is easily the most popular album in the long and sparse history of funeral doom, and arguably the best. It is also a stunningly accurate depiction of its source material: drowning, suffocating, devoid of light, and yet strangely beautiful. With the deepest of growls, the most ghostly of lead guitars, and, best of all, an essential sense of composition, Ahab grab hold and don’t let go for over an hour, a captivating feat for music so utterly consumed by despair. [Napalm, 2006]

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Some have said they’re a part of the evolution of USBM, and it’s understandable since this fascinating album is flat-out one of the more impressive debuts to see light of day in the past few years.  It could someday be marked as the moment where Colin Marston and Mick Barr found their calling, with Krallice being the first in a long line of shape-shifting, captivating black metal releases to come. Time will tell, but this certainly wasn’t a bad way to start. [Profound Lore, 2008]

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Vocalist Butch Balich’s previous endeavor, Penance, still stands as an unsung hero today amongst a wealth of other ground-breaking doom outfits of yore. As underappreciated has that project is/was, it undoubtedly helped Butch hone the excellent, smooth vocals on full display with his latest project, Argus. This inaugural full-length focuses less on traditional doom than his previous band, but it more than makes up for it with its 54-minutes of pure, walloping, classic heavy metal. Definitely one of 2009’s many shining moments, and an album that paints a very bright future for this talented band. [Shadow Kingdom, 2009]

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If you happened to miss Volume One, click here to check it out. We’ll unleash ten more metal landmarks next week!

Posted by Last Rites


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