Friday, January 15, 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the Last Decade: 2002

Once again, the ground rules: each band can only be on the list once. Each year is allotted five albums, i.e., 5 for 2000, 5 for 2001, and so on. I do not attempt to rank them from 1 to 50, or even 1 to 5 within a year, because they are all excellent. Ranking them would be a pointless endeavor.

Also, instead of filling out all 50 slots, I actually have only picked 3 for each year, because, as I learned with my last top X list, I don't know everything about metal (though I do know a lot more than I did then). I probably am unaware of at least two other great metal albums in each of these years, and I want to encourage you to add the rest by commenting.

So, on to the list for 2002.

Isis: Oceanic

Probably the first great album in the post-metal genre, it inspired many imitators, and with good reason. The slowly-developing songs completely eschew conventional song structure, and demand your full attention in order to truly appreciate them. It would be folly to try to pick out the best tracks, because it can't be fully understood without listening to the recording all the way through, an experience which feels, well, oceanic, as if you are drifting along on a ship in the high seas.

Meshuggah: Nothing

This is the band that opened the door to death metal for me, and they practically invented my favorite subgenre, technical death metal. And this is one of the experimental quintet's finest hours (or at least 53 minutes). This is despite having mixed it in two days and mastering it in one. The polyrhythmic beats the band is known for are definitely present, as well as their odd, counter-intuitive solos and harsh vocals, and as always it is relentless throughout the recording. Top picks include "Rational Gaze," "Closed Eye Visuals," and "Spasm."

Nile: In Their Darkened Shrines

Yes, 2002 was a great year for technical death metal, and these Egyptian mythology-obsessed guys delivered one of the defining statements of the genre with this album. "Unas Slayer of the Gods" is probably the best track on the album, but the four-part title song is really the core of the album. I don't think I can say it any better than Allmusic's John Serba:
Shrines is an utterly convincing realization of Nile's passion and intelligence, incorporating jarring tempo changes -- from downtuned doom/sludge metal to concise hyper-blasts -- laser-precise riffing and guttural grindcore vocals into the bowel-twisting, and occasionally startlingly melodic, structures of "Sarcophagus," "Unas Slayer of Gods," and "Wind of Horus." But the album's crowning achievement is a four-part suite "In Their Darkened Shrines," a truly epic masterpiece in both concept and execution, seamlessly incorporating majestic, sweeping keyboards, chanting choirs, tribal drumming, and battle horns into the mix, with recurring melodic themes marking what is easily the band's most ambitious and effective composition to date -- a pseudo-symphonic death metal soundtrack that conjures up visions of tyranny, slavery, rebellion, and sacrifice to cruel gods. While other acts in the genre are content to create the musical equivalent of slasher flicks, Nile aspires to Lawrence of Arabia heights, essentially beating old tyrants Morbid Angel at their own game.
Be sure to add your own picks for the remaining two albums for 2002 in the comments, and check back next Friday for the list for 2003. When they're all posted, you can see the whole list by clicking here.

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