CHRIS HACAULT BATTLES THE BLOG


Chris Hacault tells YOU: The Top 15 Metal Albums of 2008
November 23, 2008, 12:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Okay so every now and then I get this urge to be a complete asshole and tell people what they should listen to. I have a very eclectic taste in music, I love metal, but I also love ambient, indie, electronica, even some pop and rap.  If it’s good, different, and performed with passion, I will probably like it (unless it’s fucking country music). This is why I like metal so much, and have a strong desire to share good metal with others.

So, without further ado, I present my top 15 metal albums of 2008. These are not reviews, they are recommendations. By all means, download this music, but if you enjoy any of these fantastic albums, please go out and buy them. Metal artists need to get paid for their work. Disagree if you like, but I’m sure if you think about it you’ll realize that you are an idiot and are wrong for doing so.


Weighing in at number 15:


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A Different Breed of Killer – I, Colossus
2008 Rise Records.


Mathematically minded deathcore that doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth knowing that you’re listening to something that people add a -core to. Impressive drums and spastic guitar that sounds like a standard death metal band playing whilst on roller skates in the back of a moving van. In a way that is totally awesome. An entertaining concept album (it’s about a deformed giant that awakes after being imprisoned for 20 years and goes on a rampage, violence abounds) with impressive moments from each member.

Best Tracks: Liberation of a Giant, To Dismantle the Architect, The Glorious Fall

Next, at 14th:

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Ayreon – 01011001

2008 Inside Out Records


Nothing else on this planet is really like the massive metal opera machine that called itself Ayreon. Or calls himself, as Ayreon is really the masterwork of one man. Incredible progressive metal loaded to the gills with everything you could possibly cram into a metal song, including the kitchen sink. The album revels in how over-the-top it is.  The guest singers on this album, with the exclusion of Jonas Renske and Daniel freaking Gildenlow, are not quite as good as 2004’s The Human Equation, nor are the characters as memorable individually, but the songs here stand out as incredible compositions in their own right.

Best Tracks: Age of Shadows/We Are Forever, E=MC2, Beneath The Waves

13th

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Arsis – We Are The Nightmare
2008 Nuclear Blast


Wow. Just wow. This is what the evolution of thrash has spit out. Dizzyingly fast riffs and absolutely sick drumming. This album will peel your face clean off. The hooks are enormous, and definitely growl-along material. The fact that this guy plays and sings at the same time is absolutely mind boggling. Likely the best soloing I’ve heard in years.

Best Tracks: We Are The Nightmare, Servants to the Night, My Oath to Madness

12th

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Amon Amarth – Twilight of The Thunder God
2008 Metal Blade


I know a few of my friends will kill me for not placing this higher. However, I truly find TOTTG to be inferior to With Oden on Our Side. The songwriting feels lighter, almost to the point of rock at times. Johan’s vocals are as brutally intense as ever though. TOTTG is less cohesive as a whole than Oden, and I find it to be relatively samey in the middle. Nevertheless, this is Amon fucking Amarth we are talking about here, and I doubt it’s possible to release an album that is anything less than an A in my books.
Best Tracks: Guardians of Asgaard, Where Is Your God?, Twilight of The Thunder God

11th

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Coldworker – Rotting Paradise
2008 Relapse Records


Every year there is a band that releases an album that is a monument to death metal. Last year, it was Dying Fetus’s skullcrushingly heavy War of Attrition. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Rotting Paradise is even better. Coldworker plays an incredible brand of death metal that incorporates some of the best headbanging opportunities I’ve ever heard, as well as extremely catchy hooks. Big rusty meat hooks. There is not a second of this album that disappoints.

Best Tracks: Citizens of the Cyclopean Maze, The Black Dog Syndrome, I Am The Doorway

Cracking the top 10 with:

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Mirrorthrone – Gangrene
2008 Red Stream Inc
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Fans of absolutely insane symphonic black metal tomfoolery will have a collective orgasm upon listening to this 6 song LP.  Mirrorthrone is a one man avant-garde metal project from the french speaking part of Switzerland. Apparently the french Swiss believe that piano is the most metal instrument there is, and Vladimir of Mirrorthrone has set out to prove this to the world. He’s made a believer out of me. Sharp, swirling arrangements accompanied by dancing piano and eclectic guitar. Don’t think it’s all pretty and light though, as the ferocious chunks of black metal gnash their yellow teeth throughout, battling harpsichord, string, and other symphonic textures. A nearly flawless record.

Best Tracks: No One By My Side, So Frail, Dismay

9th

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Lair of the Minotaur – War Metal Battle Master
2008 Southern Lord


I think Southern Lord Records deserves some sort of award. Or some sort of really bitchin’ commemorative plaque. Or something. After all, it’s not every label that champions sweet, sweet sludgy music like Lair of The Minotaur. Deliciously ugly and unpolished, LOTM pummels your speakers with riffs that are made of molten lead.  War Metal Battle Master deserves a place on this list for its song titles alone. Tracks like “When The Ice Giants Slayed All” come galloping out of your speakers like the higher than fuck lovechild of Celtic Frost and Slayer. These are songs about glorious bloody battles and sweaty warriors covered in gore; viciously rollicking thrash that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and your neck in a brace.

Best Tracks: War Metal Battle Master, When The Ice Giants Slayed All, Assassins of The Cursed Mist.

8th

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Ihsahn – angL
2008 Candlelight Records


Former Emperor frontman Ihsahn’s solo work is to black metal what Opeth is to death metal. This is what happens to a certain type of music when the term “progressive” is deservedly applied. Ihsahn takes black metal to a strange new level, his signature tortured croak screeching out clever lyrics about misanthropy and nihilism. Melody abounds throughout this album, something that is really very obscure for a black metal release, but it definitely works in Ihsahn’s favor  – The level of musicianship on this album is nigh-otherworldly; textured and dynamic arrangements, tasteful brutality, and fantastic melody all rolled into one. Not to mention a guest appearance from Mikael Akerfeldt on the eerily mid-tempo “Unhealer”. Ihsahn leaves even his fantastic solo debut The Adversary in the dust. Epic.

Best Tracks: Misanthrope, Scarab, Alchemist

7th

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Unleashed – Hammer Battalion
2008 SPV


Unleashed are pure viking death metal. Fanboys will jump about and say that Amon Amarth are the originators of their style, but fucking Unleashed has been doing it since 1989, and doing it relentlessly well. Relentless is precisely the word to use when describing Unleashed, who play a vicious style of decidedly norse death metal that calls to mind images of vikings and frostbitten battlefields without being quite as blatant about it as AA. As previously mentioned, Unleashed have been around since 1989, and have survived that long solely on their ability to craft frenzied, punishing, and (forgive me) unleashed fucking metal. Hammer Battalion owns your face like a warhammer to your face also owns (your face).

Best Tracks: This Day Belongs To Me, The Greatest Of All Lies, Entering The Hall Of The Slain

6th

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Bloodbath – The Fathomless Mastery
2008 Peaceville Records


What I find hard to believe is the utter lack of hype surrounding this album when you consider the fact that it marks the return of original vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt, and their first album since 2005’s tastier-than-fuck Nightmares Made Flesh. First off, (and fuck you all) Mikael Akerfeldt completely annihilates Peter Tagtren when it comes to rattling the old voicebox. That said, the return of Akerfeldt also means the return of that inimitable something that he imparts to anything he is involved with. That something is awesome, whatever it is. The Fathomless Mastery is like a master class in making death metal. If I was asked to explain to someone the nature of death metal, I would violently thrust this album into their ignorant mouth. Bloodbath melds their extensive knowledge of the history of death metal into a glorious modernized homage that sounds nothing like an homage. Obtuse, I know.

Best Tracks: At The Behest Of Their Death, Mock The Cross, Slaughtering The Will To Live

GETTING DOWN TO THE TOP 5, WITH:

5th

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Wetnurse – Invisible City
2008 Seventh Rule


Wetnurse I love you. I love you because you do not give a single ounce of a fuck as to what genre you are. I love you because even though your songs reel about from hardcore, to mathematical rawk, to burbles of death metal like a sailor on a long awaited shore leave, you manage to convince the cops that you only had one drink, honest.  I love how you take pretty acoustic blues and then set a rabid sludgy rottweiler on it. Wetnurse you are beautiful.
In all seriousness though, this band defies description, unless you take that description and twist it about until it fits in a bizarre metaphor.  That’s the kind of delightful insanity that Wetnurse causes on Invisible City. Schizophrenic, daring, and very, very sexy.

Best Tracks: Conversations With The Moon, Not Your Choice, Slow Your Spell Missi Hell

4th

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Cult of Luna – Eternal Kingdom
2008 Earache


For some reason I feel as though I was the only person that was on tenterhooks waiting for this album to come out.  The story behind it (I won’t go into detail here, but feel free to check it out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_Kingdom) had me absolutely enthralled. Not to mention the fact that I adore Cult of Luna in a way that is probably moderately unhealthy. Eternal Kingdom delivers. Oh, does it ever deliver.  As you know, Cult of Luna does not write songs so much as they craft soundscapes, magnificent, hypnotic and sprawling.  Eternal Kingdom is much darker than anything COL has previously released, darker and more sinister. The album is hypnotic, mesmerizing, and several other adjectives also. Heavy to the point of suffocation, with moments that breathe in amazing ambient beauty. A must for any fan of post-anything.

Best Tracks: Owlwood, The Great Migration, Ghost Trail

3rd

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Bison B.C – Quiet Earth
2008 Metal Blade


Bison makes metal that is wooly like the buffalo. Fuzzy wuzzy riffs best appreciated with bong in hand abound, bound together with fantastic sense of groove and structure. Quiet Earth is the type of album that you gush about to your friends.  Best described as High On Fire meeting up with Mastodon to get drunk at a crust punk show, but way more awesome than that. This is the kind of metal that Batman would listen to if he was real and listened to metal, because it is seriously good metal and Batman appreciates seriously good things. I don’t have many witty things to say about this album actually. It’s third because it is just that good. There’s no frills, nothing fancy or seriously different, just catchy as fuck greasy stoner thrash metal with an intelligent lean. Buy It.

Oh yeah, and they’re guitar player’s name is Dan And. Ha.

Best Tracks: Wendigo Pt.1 (Quest For Fire), These Are My Dress Clothes, Primal Emptiness of Outer Space

2nd

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Opeth – Watershed
2008 Roadrunner Records


Oh be still ye frothing masses. No, Watershed is not album of the year, despite the fact that it is a breathtaking album, and coming from any other band probably would be. I judge based on virtue of the album as a product of the band, and in this case Watershed is not Opeth’s greatest product. Opeth are still Opeth, and as in the case of Amon Amarth this year as well, it is doubtful they are capable of releasing a inferior album when placed beside the common muck and dross of the multitudinous b-grade masses. When judged against themselves however, it should be obvious that Watershed IS inferior, at least to Ghost Reveries. It should be recognized as a testament to the absolutely stunning ability of Opeth that I am spending this paragraph justifying WHY this album is not #1. If you like metal and you don’t own this album, please sodomize yourself with something with several sharp edges. Preferably rust covered.

Best Tracks: Heir Fuckin’ Apparent, The Lotus Eater, Porcelain Heart

AND FINALLY,

THE NUMBER ONE METAL ALBUM OF 2008:

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Gojira – The Way Of All Flesh
2008 Prosthetic Records


To give you an example as to why this is the album of the year: The Way of All Flesh is an improvement in every fucking way imaginable on From Mars To Sirius. From Mars to Sirius is a 10 on 10. The Way of All Flesh just shatters every conceivable niggling doubt one could have had about the band’s evolution. This album is more furious, more wild-eyed and frantic, seething with raw hunger and bestial power. As is usual for Gojira, the album bears an environmentalist message. I would like to state for the record that if more idealistic messages were delivered with this kind of fevered artistic passion, the world would be forced to take notice.  There is not enough pithy expository dialogue in my poor brain to do this album justice. Congratulations Gojira, you are true masters of your craft.

 
Best Tracks: Oroborus, The Art Of Dying, Wolf Down The Earth

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Eluveite – Slania
Cancer Bats – Hail Destroyer
Textures – Silhouettes
The Sword – Gods Of The Earth
Meshuggah – obZen (I’ve never seen what’s so great about Meshuggah. Sure, they’re good, but I don’t know why they get fellated by everybody)
Kataklysm – Prevail
Scar Symmetry – Holographic Universe
Krisiun – Southern Storm
Enslaved – Vertebrae
Six Feet Under – Death Rituals
Boris – Smile
Cavalera Conspiracy – Inflikted (I don’t think anyone expected that to be as good as it was)

AND THAT, MY GOOD CHAPS AND CHAPETTES, WRAPS UP 2008 IN METAL. STAY TUNED FOR THE TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2008 THAT AREN’T METAL. CRAZY? POSSIBLY. OUTRAGEOUS? LIKELY. FRISKY? DEFINITELY.

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