00s Essentials – Volume Six

Somewhat fittingly, Volume 6 contains some of the most sinister, diabolical concoctions this decade has seen. This edition of the 100 Most Essential contains some wickedly twisted stuff, but tempers the assault with some calming sounds inspired by autumn winds, ocean waves, and…

…the smell of burning flesh.


For several years, Elvenefris was the ultimate album to impress your friends by knowing about. Released in a limited run with little recognition or potential for niche appeal, Lykathea Aflame’s mix of technical death metal with melodic peaks and Middle-Eastern atmospherics was something that the metal world wasn’t prepared for at the time. But anyone who has discovered this band’s work would be hard-pressed to argue that their sound was anything less than revolutionary. Blending head-spinning technicality and speed with genuinely beautiful melodies and atmospherics, Elvenefris is truly a lost gem.  [Obscene Productions, 2000]

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Never before had an album title been so appropriate. The heft of the riffs, flow of the songs, and overall “Weight” of the music come together as a beautiful and overwhelming image of mother ocean. By stripping away the noise from their Neurosis-influenced sound and realizing that the quiet parts only serve to make the waves crash harder, Isis fashioned a masterpiece–and simultaneously launched a thousand clones.Critics who pegged the band as imitators needed only to hear the crescendo of “Carry” to know that this bandwagon existed for a reason. It’s never too late to hop on. [Ipecac, 2002]

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One of the rare projects that managed to pioneer an entirely novel sub-genre–though one difficult to define–Portland’s Agalloch graced the world with The Mantle in 2002. The album elegantly wedded the cold harshness of the black metal aesthetic with captivating melodic folk music, and executed it nearly perfectly. The result was one of the most provocative and effectively moving pieces of music created this decade. “You Were But A Ghost In My Arms” is a song for the ages. [The End, 2002]

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Glen Benton’s return from Deicide suckage was in part due to appearing on this watershed album that saw Benton elevate Vital Remains from the death metal underground elite to Century Media flagship. Throw in 10 minute songs like “Entwined by Vengeance,”  Dave Suzuki’s opulent, epic solos, and Benton’s reenergized demonic vocals, and you had an album that not only paved the way for Deicide’s comeback a year later, but saw the words “epic” and “brutal death metal” paired with blasphemously grandiose results. [Century Media, 2003]

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The definition of a “breakthrough” album, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice elevated the little-known Deathspell Omega from solid Darkthrone-worshippers to an entirely unexpected new force in black metal. Aside from their complex lyrical themes regarding the philosophy of man and religion, the sound that Deathspell Omega summoned went above and beyond what most black metal fans had heard at that point. With bone-chilling riff-work, ghastly vocals, and experimental excursions into disturbing ambience, the impressive scope of Si Monumentum is rivaled only by how riveting the album actually is to listen to.  [Norma Evangelium Diaboli, 2004]

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It’s unclear if this should be classified as “ahead of it’s time,” or just condescendingly deemed “too highbrow for mere mortal comprehension.” What is clear is how astonishing (and under-appreciated) Akercocke’s masterstroke truly is. Straddling (and erasing) the lines between crippling death metal, slicing black metal, and mind-fuckingly progressive wing-stretching, Words… defines the word ‘elite.’ Likely to be viewed with extreme reverence in the forthcoming years–and not just in progressive DM circles–this shocking expulsion of high Satanic art cemented Akercocke’s standing on an otherworldly plane.  [Earache, 2005]

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The black arts have a long history in the New World, but for many, this album announced the longstanding presence of a strong American black metal scene. Streamlining the epic formula established by Weakling and blending in some outside influences—post-rock crescendos, female vocals, and a unique Luddite attitude—Diadem of Twelve Stars both popularized an approach and reached across genre borders to a surprisingly broad variety of music fans. [Vendlus, 2006]

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At once hypnotic and disquieting, Om might be the perfect example of how to do progressive black metal. Infinitely inventive and unpredictable, Negura Bunget seemingly forge new territory with every note on this album. Restless riffs wander but never get lost, and exquisite melodies are comfortably nestled amidst daunting, dark atmospherics. An ambitious journey, to be sure. Om is as rewarding as it is complex. [Code666, 2006]

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Plenty of modern metal bands like to borrow from other genres, but Unexpect take the interdisciplinary approach to another level. In A Flesh Aquarium throws every trick in the book at you–plus the book itself and some extra tactics too bizarre for publication. Crushing technical metal collides with Gypsy melodies, collapses into electronic paroxysm, and attempts daring neoclassical heights while a bizarre cast of vocalists chatter like deranged circus barkers. In A Flesh Aquarium constantly defies you to follow its improbable left turns—it’s essential listening for those who want a challenge. [The End/Ascendance, 2006]

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Mithras are poised to shape the future of death metal as we know it. They had already proven their potential with Worlds Behind The Veil, but Behind The Shadows Lie Madness saw them streamline their sound, up the production quality, and deliver a record so epic and dizzyingly technical that it made all other death metal releases in 2007 feel tired and outdated. While their absurdly busy drumming and trademark outer-space solos were already introduced finely on Worlds, Behind… saw a notable growth in songwriting focus and lyrical storytelling, delivered by titanic production and some truly massive vocal work.  [Candlelight, 2007]

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Thus far, 60 Essential Heavy Metal Albums from our quickly-closing decade have been revealed. Only four more lists of ten remain; check back next week for the next installment in this series. Until then, crank these albums ’til you bleed.

Posted by Last Rites


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