Friday, January 29, 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the Last Decade: 2004

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.

And on to the list for 2004.

The Haunted: rEVOLVEr

Not since the 1980's has thrash metal been this good, and it's rarely been in such capable hands. Brutal all the way through, but with maturity and innovative songwriting, great guitars, and harsh metalcore-esque vocals, the record is a violent treat from start to finish. "Fire Alive" is perhaps the highlight of the album, but other tracks such as "99" and "Burnt to a Shell" (along with all the rest) are also excellent.

Necrophagist: Epitaph

Ah, the single most definitive statement of technical death metal. "Technical" is the order of the day: the band play with such precision on this track it's hard to believe it wasn't played by a computer, except for the fact they also play with a conviction a computer could never reproduce. While Turkish-German vocalist/guitarist Muhammed Suiçmez gets most of the attention for his shredding (and he deserves every ounce of attention he gets), bassist Stephan Fimmers deserves as much attention. This album not only crushes with its surgical assault, it is also a thinking-man's album, with pieces derived by composers Sergei Prokofiev and good old Ludwig van. The only problem with this one is it's over far too soon, at only about 33 minutes.

Suffocation: Souls To Deny

Yes, more death metal, but it was a great year for the genre. This is another album which introduced me to the splendors of the same, along with the works of Meshuggah. The album comes after a long hiatus by the band, time which was well spent, because they come back refreshed and ready to split eardrums. William York of Allmusic says it better than I can:
There seems to be a sort of hidden logic at work in it, since it's hard for even an astute listener to figure out what's going on in terms of the song structure, yet it obviously all makes perfect sense to the band, who deliver this perplexing material with a natural, freely flowing sense of brutality. Many bands have attempted to copy Suffocation's sound, and most of them are extremely boring because they either don't grasp the subtleties or don't have the intuition that these guys obviously possess as songwriters and musicians. "Souls to Deny" is a reminder of what makes good death metal good, and a refreshing break from the uninspired landfill fodder that constitutes so much of the genre's output circa the early- to mid-'00s.
Remember to comment and add your picks for the other two albums to round out the list for 2004, and then come back next Friday for the 2005 list. When they're all posted, you can see the whole list by clicking here.

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