“Album Of The Day” is a Last Rites Facebook feature we started recently whose purpose is quite straight-forward: highlight one album per day and say a few words about it. Understanding that not everyone chooses to participate in the booking of faces, we thought it might be nice to toss in a new feature that gathers the albums in a single piece on a weekly basis.
Here are the seven albums we picked for the week of April 29th — May 5th.
Sunday, April 29th
At The Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours (1992)
Before the polished, thrashy style of melodeath was perfected by a band name At the Gates with Slaughter of the Soul, there was a rawer, more atmospheric, rickety and strangely gorgeous early form of the style that was perfected by… a band named At the Gates. The Red in the Sky is Ours is a kind of accidental classic, the sound of a band almost lucking into an early moment of glory purely through their instincts as musicians. Other than Tompa’s undeniable screech and some harmonies, it would be easy to think this is a different band than that which changed metal just three years later; it’s devoid of all thrash, the guitars almost carry a black metal chill, and an accompanying violin is a frequently essential element. Also, it absolutely rules, and contains some of their most desperate (“Kingdom Gone”), oddly and almost sloppily captivating (“Neverwhere”), and harrowingly beautiful (“Windows”) songs. Equal parts Curious Time Capsule and Great Heavy Metal Record, this one. [Zach Duvall]
Monday, April 30th
Kvist – For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike (1996)
Kvist’s sole album For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike is an easy contender for any respectable list of the best “one album and done” albums ever. On the face of it, there’s nothing exactly groundbreaking about the album: it’s a mid-90s album of frequently blasting but overwhelmingly melodic Norwegian black metal with significant (but understated) support from keyboards. But here’s the damnedest thing: there’s absolutely NOTHING else out there, then or now, that sounds quite like this. (The Swedish family tree that includes Armagedda, Leviathan, LIK, Lonndom, and Stilla is likely the closest claimant to Kvist’s legacy.) The production is warm and crunchy and peculiar in a way that almost begs your ears to get closer, to put your speakers on the floor and just bask in the vibrations of these deceptively complex songs. Proof positive that not all Norwegian black metal sounds like “Norwegian black metal.” [Dan Obstkrieg]
Tuesday, May 1st
Nevermore – Dreaming Neon Black (1999)
The Politics of Ecstasy proved that Nevermore was not going to be some afterthought to Sanctuary, and Dreaming Neon Black proved that Warrel Dane and company were just getting started. Dreaming Neon might not have been quite as heavy as its elephantine predecessor, but it began to reveal the band’s deeper progressive nature (it’s a concept album) while also delivering the darkest music of a pretty dark career (it’s a very tragic concept album). From that slick, dissonant hook during the chorus of “Beyond Within,” every second of this album means business. “Poison Godmachine” is incredibly thrashy and catchy; “Deconstruction” is the height of hopelessness; the wordless, wailing leads in “I Am The Dog” somehow match Dane’s own harrowing sadness; “The Fault of the Flesh” carries with it mankind’s collective guilt; and “No More Will” expresses a resignation to desperation. Dane delivers one of his best lyrical and delightfully melodramatic vocal performances, while Jeff Loomis and Tim Calvert put on a clinic of grooving tech-thrash riffs and blazing solos. This was one of Nevermore’s truly singular moments.
Sadly, the recent death of Calvert means that we’ve now lost two of the musicians responsible for this classic. Blast this one today in honor of both Dane and Calvert. “Fly beyond the dreaming / fly beyond our being.” [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, May 2nd
Deep Purple – In Rock (1970)
The first outing for Purple’s classic Mark II line-up is a monster, one of the greatest hard rock albums ever released, hands down, the product of a band with no weak links, where every member was at the top of his class. Whereas earlier Purple had relied upon Jon Lord’s classical leanings, or upon cover tunes, this solidified and harder-edged incarnation had found their songwriting muse, and consequently, the album blasts out of the gate with the appropriately blistering “Speed King,” name-checking classics from Little Richard and Chuck Berry atop a massive riff from a band firing on all cylinders, before the first of many dueling solos from Masters Lord and Blackmore. There are no bad tracks on In Rock, not a one, but the best of the best is undoubtedly the ten-minute “Child In Time,” which is easily one of the greatest rock tracks of an entire generation, if not ever. Uber-vocalist Ian Gillan uses every bit of his multi-octave range, going from a croon to super-high falsetto screams, while the band builds to a monstrous crescendo, and the result is sheer perfection. Through the stomping “Into The Fire” and the closing guitar shred of “Hard Lovin’ Man,” In Rock is just as strong today as it ever has been. (If you pick up the expanded edition of In Rock, you’re treated to the equally great non-album single “Black Night,” and you should rejoice.) [Andrew Edmunds]
Thursday, May 3rd
30 Year Anniversary!
Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
There are two types of people: There are those who recognize that Operation: Mindcrime is not only Queensrÿche’s greatest achievement, but also one of the greatest albums in the whole storied history of rock. And there are people who are wrong. Peeling back the Euro-metal influences of the EP and The Warning, and better refining the heady conceptual tendencies of Rage For Order, Mindcrime is a masterful combination of dense sociopolitical storyline and imminently catchy progressive hard rock. DeGarmo and Wilton effortlessly weave intricate riffs and chord patterns together atop the deceptively complex rhythms of the ever-underrated duo of Scott Rockenfield and Eddie Jackson into prog-metal perfection. And yet, even with a great band at the top of their game, the crowning achievement of the ‘Rÿche circa 1988 remains the godlike dramatic soar of Geoff Tate, shifting with seemingly endless ease between his signature baritone croon and that smooth piercing head voice. From the dueling leads of “Revolution Calling” through the moody “The Mission,” the epic “Suite Sister Mary,” the near-thrashing “The Needle Lies,” and the all-time classic “Eyes Of A Stranger,” Mindcrime is one of the highest of high-water marks for progressive metal, an outright classic, and as vital now as it was then, thirty years ago. [Andrew Edmunds]
Friday, May 4th
Aura Noir – The Merciless (2004)
In a just world, the drum fill that opens Aura Noir’s “Upon the Dark Throne” would be nearly as universally beloved as the one that opens Judas Priest’s “Painkiller.” The Merciless was Aura Noir’s first album after a six-year hibernation, yet in its barely twenty-seven minutes, it absolutely rips through every last thing that makes black/thrash one of metal’s most thrilling styles in the right hands. Each of these eight tracks is a lovingly hacked-off limb, but “Black Metal Jaw” stands tall as the world’s evillest and most perfectly sloppy waltz. BLACK METAL JAW / UPHOLDS THE LAW! [Dan Obstkrieg]
Saturday, May 5th
Naglfar – Diabolical (1998)
Sweden’s Naglfar didn’t quite reach the sweeping grandioseness of Dawn or neoclassical majesty of Dissection, but unlike their countrymen, they were able to stay together and, uh… stay out of jail. So even if Diabolical stops short of the mastery of Storm of the Light’s Bane or Slaughtersun, it’s right at the top of the second tier of so-called Blue Album Cover Black Metal (ignore the actual art, this stuff is BLUE). Most importantly, it’s icier than a winter in Norrbotten, with a wonderfully piercing tone to go with all of those unrelenting tremolo riffs and beautiful melodies. But another key point is that Naglfar occasionally allow themselves to rock. Whether it came in the form of a thrashier riff, an extra nod to Bathory, or touch of charisma from former vocalist Jens Rydén, Diabolical had a hidden layer of fist-pumping fun underneath the seemingly heavy-handed surface. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.