Friday, February 12, 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the Last Decade: 2006

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.

On to the list for 2006.

Amon Amarth: With Oden on Our Side

With their sixth full-length album, these experts of melodic death metal don't do anything they haven't done before. Rather than reinvent the wheel, they have refined it. And why not? Consistency has worked for other greats (see for example Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Exodus, and the list goes on) while innovation has backfired on others (obvious examples include Danzig and Metallica). Refinement is the word of the day for Oden, with the band beautifully blending the brutality of death metal with engaging melodies in ways unmatched by any other practitioners of the Gothenburg style. The standout tracks on the record include "Valhall Awaits Me," "Runes To My Memory," the title track, and especially "Gods of War Arise," though there is not a weak track in sight.

Disillusion: Gloria

Yes, Metal Blade had a good year in 2006, with two releases making the list, this one from the strange German avant-garde progressive industrial melodic death metal band Disillusion. Yes, the genre listing is a mouthful, but these guys draw from a wide variety of influences to create something entirely new and engaging. Eduardo Rivadavia from Allmusic elaborates:
Surely one of the most intriguing CDs that heavy metal fans will hear in 2006, Disillusion's sophomore effort, Gloria, uses the group's death and thrash metal roots as mere springboards from which to launch into extremely varied realms of sonic experiment; including alt-rock, industrial, electronic, gothic, ambient and classical tendencies -- all more or less held together under the always convenient, but never entirely functional, description of prog metal. Which is to say that its unexpected twists and turns may prove too eclectic for any but the most open-minded of listeners, and that the thrill of the adventure itself is as central to the experience as the actual music.
My personal picks include "The Black Sea," "Aerophobic," and "Save the Past," though it's so eclectic I doubt any two people would share the same favorites from this disc.

Mastodon: Blood Mountain

I simply can't heap enough praise on this album. It actually took me a few listens to really "get it," but after I did, I realized this is truly a once-in-a-generation triumph (much like Master of Puppets from 20 years prior). These masters of progressive sludge metal taught me, among other things, that drums do not have to be mere background to the music, and they have restored faith in the American metal scene. Praise is nearly universal; according to the Wikipedia article,
Total Guitar magazine voted it its Number One album of 2006, and magazines such as Metal Hammer and Kerrang! have stated that it is every bit as good as the band's previous album Leviathan, if not better. . . .
Blood Mountain was voted the best album of 2006 in the UK Metal Hammer magazine end-of year polls, as well as top in Total Guitar magazine's top 50 albums of 2006. It was also rated the 17th greatest metal album of all time by a countdown recently done by gaming website IGN.
Such disparate sources as PopMatters ("Mastodon has certainly held up its end of the bargain, releasing the most uncompromising major label debut by an American metal band since Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign in Blood two decades ago"),, and Drowned in Sound have given it stellar (or perfect) reviews. The whole album fits perfectly together, each track seeming to introduce the next perfectly. The writing of the individual tracks themselves, too, is amazing; each one is built on a simple framework, but with intricacies overlaid which rival even Dream Theater's most progressive moments. Top tracks include opener "The Wolf Is Loose," the dramatic and ominous "Sleeping Giant," the wildly embellished "Capillarian Crest," and the phenomenal "Colony of Birchmen." The only bad thing I can say about it is that I don't understand why, in the age of MP3 players, anyone would have a hidden track anymore--These things are annoying, when incorporated into another track (we don't want blank time on the album, and we didn't even want it on hard copies either).

Be sure to add your picks for the remaining two top metal albums of 2006, and come back next week to see mine for 2007, which has choices much different from the albums already on the list. When they're all posted, you can see the whole list by clicking here.


  1. Hey Kelly, longtime no see. I agree on the Amon Amarth album. For some reason that particular Mastodon album never clicked for me though. I gotta go with Melechesh's Emissaries for album of the year from 2006 though. Check it out, Middle Eastern folk-inspired black metal. How's the practice?

    -Brad Ewalt

  2. Like I said, Blood Mountain took a few listens for me. I will definitely have to check out Melechesh.

    I'm not practicing anymore. I did it for about a year, but didn't care for it too much. I'm working for USCIS now--making the legal decisions instead of the arguments.

    How's it going for you?

  3. Things are going well. I'm engaged now so that's keeping me out of trouble. Work is busy, it's general practice mostly, but that's okay.