Friday, January 22, 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the Last Decade: 2003

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.

Now for the list for 2003.

Dimmu Borgir: Death Cult Armageddon

This album is easily the best symphonic black metal album of all time. The band is assisted by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, who provide a melodic counterpoint to the band's crushing assault. As often, John Serba of Allmusic explains quite well:
The orchestra lends overwhelming and full-bodied sonic bombast to "Vredsbyrd," "Eradication Instincts Defined," and "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse," the latter two so vast and epic in scope they seem to spot weld John Williams/Star Wars compositional soundtrack drama to blastbeating black metal nastiness -- and while naysayers claim strings make metal wimpy, here they're seamlessly integrated and lend power and profundity to the arrangements.
Personally, I believe "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse" to be one of the greatest metal tracks of all time, but everything on this record destroys.

Dream Theater: Train of Thought

The kings of progressive metal released their heaviest album to date with Train of Thought, a nearly-70 minute opus which puts the considerable chops of these Berklee College of Music alumni to full use. The best tracks on here are the 11-plus minute epics "This Dying Soul" and "Endless Sacrifice," and the album also includes Dream Theater's longest instrumental-only studio track, "Stream of Consciousness," which clocks in at 11:16, and while it's more difficult to manage an instrumental which goes into epic lengths, they managed it beautifully.

Swallow the Sun: The Morning Never Came

The Finnish quartet's debut album was seen by many as breathing life into the stale doom metal genre. Of course, it would take a new group to do that, and there is no better country than Finland to do so, with their wide variety of experimental and against-the-grain metal bands. Technically, it is death/doom, the best kind of doom. And it's absolutely brilliant, without any low points. High points include "Deadly Nightshade" and "Hold This Woe."

Please be sure to add your picks for the other two top metal albums for 2003 in the comments, and be sure to come back next Friday to check out the picks for 2004. When they're all posted, you can see the whole list by clicking here.

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