Sunday, 9 September 2012

Feature: 50 Greatest Metal Songs of this Millenium

Pedantry comes with the job, when one, like myself, is a bastard. When applied to metal, the mixture of pedantry and mild elitism becomes a deadly concoction, the end result of which is thus; I take great annoyance at top-xyz-of-metal lists when they have very little metal in them. Unfortunately, that seems to encompass many of them, and because of my unjustified and some-might-say immature frustration at them, it has come to this; I'm going to have to write one myself. Like all such lists, nobody will agree with it, everyone will know better than me, and several bands which ought to be on it won't be. Such is the nature of the online list. Fortunately, this not being YouTube, I might survive to tell the tale. Without further ado, I'll begin the highly clause-laden "List of bands which I know of that I think are quite good, since the turn of the millennium. 

#50: Falkenbach - Farewell: Falkenbach, a primarily one-man folk metal project from Germany existed long before the turn of the millenium, but the song "Farewell" sticks in my head strongly for it's honest but epic beauty, and catchy but gloriously beautiful folk-melodies, incorporating various styles and folk-instruments very effectively. Of all the songs in the list, this one has some of the most sincere a stirring beauty.

#49: Testament - More Than Meets the Eye: The anthemic single from The Formation of Damnation, to many, this song heralded the band's return to thrash metal, with Chuck Billy's roar, and a memorable and massively heavy mid-tempo swagger cementing the track quickly as a favorite among fans of the band, with a quality which makes it a belter of a song to sing along to, and one which stays in the mind for hours.

#48: Akercocke - Axiom: Unpronounceable and hard-to-categorize British progressive-extreme-metal act Ackercocke are arguably one of the most forward thinking and inventive bands of the last decade, and the song Axiom, from their last album, is one of their best known; combining countless influences and styles to weave what can only be described as an entirely new kind of darkness.

#47: Type O Negative - I Don't Wanna Be Me: While "Life is Killing Me" was one of Type O's more commercial sounding albums, this song is still infectiously catchy and memorable, but in-keeping with the bands darkness and negativity. One of the bands most upbeat yet simultaneously dark songs; perhaps not the most beautiful, but certainly one of the most fun and scintilating to listen to. 

#46: Lamb of God - Laid to Rest: Regarded by me (and probably a few other people) as Lamb of God's best album, Ashes to the Wake was lead into battle by Laid to Rest; Vicious, caustic, and filled with technically competent and badass-attitude grooves. songs like this represented thecream of the crop of the band's sound, which they would go on to emulate with slightly less success, I feel, than this track.

 #45: King Diamond - Broken Glass: Releasing a sequel to one of your classic albums, entitled "Abigail II" is a brave maneuver by anyone, and with a legacy like that of King Diamond, a lot is resting on it. Fortunately, songs like Broken Glass, in King Diamond's trademark spooky traditional metal style, are extremely solid, memorable and really live up to the albums predecessor. This song represents a risky gamble which truly paid off.

 #44: Evile - Thrasher: Thrash, as we well know, has been done before, rather a lot, and is now being done again. While they didn't kickstart the thrash-revival, Evile certainly brought it to a larger audience. Thrasher is certainly a quintessential thrash-song-about-thrash for the new generation, bringing the bands high-speed, aggressive brand of the genre into play. The rest, as they say, is history.

#43: Sunn O))) - Big Church: I ommited the bracketed part of the song name. Sunn O))) fans know why. Drone-doom may be removed from conventional metal, but that doesn't stop it annihilating the structural integrity of buildings when it reaches optimal volume. Big Church is, I feel, one of the band's greatest achievements, and all things considered, quite a fast song, with a real feel of structure, but still managing to retain drone's vicious thickness.

#42: Venom - Pandemonium: Another comeback album, by many people's standards, Venom's Resurrection is a parade of well written and surprisingly tightly played material, but Pandemonium sticks out in my head as one of the albums most catchy and thoroughly enjoyable arrangements, with a memorable hooky riff, and anthemic chorus. A different Venom to the one that made the classics, but a very solid song regardless.

#41: Alestorm - Keelhauled: Love them or loath them or feel something in between, Alestorm are adept at making cheesy, catchy and most of all drinking worthy pirate ditties. Keelhauled is one of their best known songs, and very much typifies the band's style to a tee - drunken, Scottish and thoroughly toungue-in-cheek.

#40: Ghost - Ritual: Ghost are a band who took the metal world by surprise with their occult rock n' roll approach to the traditional-metal style. Amid the speculation as to who these anonymous musicians were, one song stuck out a little further than the others; the tumbling tune that is Ritual, with perhaps the most catchy and yet simultaneously blasphemous chorus so far this century.

#39: Bathory - Mother Earth Father Thunder: A definite personal favorite of mine, with over one million views on YouTube, there's a good possibility that not only do a large number of people feel the same, but that this is one of Bathory's most listened to songs. The majestic power and passion of the Viking anthem truly justifies it's place on the list, and it is easily my favorite post-millennium Bathory song, and indeed, solo.

 #38: Iron Maiden - The Thin Line Between Love and Hate: Not only a triumphant showcase of the newly returned Dickinson's vocals, but also one of Iron Maiden's most beautiful songs, this is certainly the jewel in the crown which Brave New World was given. Combining the slow, progressive path the band had taken with the faster sections which the band's mainstay had always been, in a well-forged work.

#37: Warbringer - Living Weapon: Warbringer are without a doubt one of the most popular bands within the thrash-revival, not least for the level of originality which their brand of explosive thrash has, and which many of their peers don't. Living Weapon is the immense roar which heralds the start of the band's third full-length album, and assures that the band are as good as they've ever been.

#36: Celtic Frost - A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh: A product of the band's all too short reformation, A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh presents a crisper, smoother, somewhat Gothic Celtic Frost to the burr and rumble of much of their older material. The song itself is haunting, doomy, and rather surreal, mind-bending and experimental, but almost certainly in a productive way.

#35: Gojira - To Sirius: Among the heroes of the progressive metal world, Gojira have a massive following, and it's almost certainly warranted. To Sirius is an epic track with an uncompromisingly vast soundscape and fascinating tone. While the band are to an extent rooted in groove-metal, in songs like this they stretch it to it's very limits of imagination and innovation, creating something which is undeniably unique.

 #34: Iced Earth - Dracula: Dracula is a song which highlights both the band's ability to produce ballads, and Jon Schaffer's abilities as a rhythm guitarist. The song encompasses both the heavy and light aspects of the band's sound, and is a fan favourite and quite possibly one of the band's most renowned songs, capturing the band at what many consider to be at their peak.

#33: Toxic Holocaust - Nuke the Cross: Blasphemous, anti-Christian, and dark, but also full of speed, aggression and a good quantity of piss and vinegar, Toxic Holocaust's Nuke The Cross is a significant highlight of their punk meets thrash meets the Devil style, and is fairly close to the definition of "a belter". Memorable, energetic and filled with attitude.

#32: Opeth - Ghost of Perdition: There's a reasonable possibility that Opeth are the single biggest band to emerge to renown on this list, and while that might not get them to the #1 spot, One must respect their ingenious songwriting, and unique aesthetic; Ghost of Perdition blends brutality with distinct guitar grooves, infinitely intricate and memorable bridges, and moments of extreme beauty.

#31: Darkthrone - Too Old, Too Cold: It was with songs like this that Darkthrone made clear their departure from playing black metal, and moving in a heavily punk influenced direction. Epitomizing it well, Too Old Too Cold rushes into catchy, power-chord laden and ballsy punk, with the distinct Darkthrone sound intact, ableit in a different form to the band's pure black-metal work. 

#30: Root - Revenge of Hell: Eternally underrated, Root are the stalwarts of the first-wave of black-metal, diligently making albums consistently over the years. Revenge of Hell is from their latest opus, and well describes the band's ever present crushing tone, unconventional approach to darkness, and unique vocals, with the booming voice of "Big Boss" demonstrating both great power and more subtle murmurs.

 #29: Devin Townsend - By Your Command: Ziltoid the Omniscient is an album full of juxtaposition; one one side, psychedelic and bizarre humour, and on the other, truly epic-sounding songs such as this one, bedecked in ingenious synth work, progressive touches, and a generally fascinating sonic world to explore. Only Devin could craft something quite like this.

#28: Skeletonwitch - Sacrifice to the Slaughter God: Skeletonwitch are a band who push the boundaries of black-thrash into very interesting places, and their songs are almost always instantly recognizable for it's intensity, thoughtful songwriting and unique intricacies. Sacrifice to the Slaughter God is from their second (considered by many to be their first "proper") album, which has the status of a classic already.

#27: Sabaton - Primo Victoria: There's a decent chance that Primo Victoria is thee sing-along power metal track of this genaration, and it's easy to see why; Catchy synth, a simplistic fist-pumping riff, and gruff, memorable vocal hooks ensure that this song is one of the most catchy things to ever come out of speakers.

#26: Yob - Quantum Mystic: One of the heaviest doom songs on the list, Yob's Quantum Mystic is a tumbling, surreal journey through the mind in the medium of sound. The songs simplicity is one of it's strengths, with a collossal riff running almost the whole way through it, shaking the walls and floorboards with it's murky, psychoactive roar as it plunges and soars.

#25: Amon Amarth - The Pursuit of Vikings: Another catchy one, Amon Amarth's The Pursuit of Vikings is a testament to the fact that just about everyone loves Vikings; the nordic melodic death metal outfit a huge hit with metal fans, especially with epic but still heavy works like this song, with viking melodies and hooks bolstering the strength of already enjoyable riff-work.

 #24: Leviathan - At the Door of the Tenth Sub Level of Suicide: One of the longest songs on the list, Leviathan's fifteen minute monster is as close to empirical proof that the USA can make decent black metal as anyone's likely to get. Depressive, twisted and evil, this song takes a different approach to black metal, with a suffocating darkness subtly different to that of it's Scandinavian counterparts.

#23: Slough Feg - Sky Chariots: Rugged, no nonsense traditional metal, blessed upon a sturdy cult-following has always been Slough Feg's way; In other words, they're fiendishly underrated, and extremely good, and songs like Sky Chariots makes this very relevant. An honest, earthbound tone, gifted songwriting, and incredible cohesiveness really set songs like this apart from the crowd.

#22: Blut Aus Nord - Our Blessed Frozen Cells: Blut Aus Nord are among the great innovators in black metal, creating many albums regarded as classics. I chose Our Blessed Frozen Cells as a song because, at the time I first heard it, it was easily one of the darkest things I'd listened to. Creepy, vast and thoroughly threatening, but with beauty amidst it. The song, to me, really emphasises the qualities which black metal was intended to have.

#21: Pharaoh - By The Night Sky: Pharaoh may well be one of the best power-metal acts to come out of the USA in many years; Progressive, earthy and strong, without a hint of cheesiness of flowery stylings. By the Night Sky is one of the bands long, epic tracks, and manages to fulfil it's purpose excellently - beautiful lead work, rough buy melodic vocals, and memorable sections really render this a delightfully tasty piece of power metal pie.

#20: Heaven and Hell - Bible Black: Released only a year before his death, The Devil You Know album really shows that Dio had a true gift of vocals until the very end, and Bible Black illustrates this nicely, with Dio's passion meeting Iommi's rock-solid guitar playing in what would be the very last instance of that wonderful duo working together.

#19: Vektor - Tetrastuctural Minds: Perhaps you wouldn't have expected such a young band to make it all the way to #19. If this is the case, you've not listened to Vektor. Unique, ultra technical thrash metal with a sci-fi aesthetic, and a truly impressive skill as musicians, creating songs like Tetrastructural Minds, a whirlwind of face-melting guitar and technical tastiness.

#18: Primordial - Empire Falls: Irish black-metal outfit Primordial have had several of their albums heralded as classics, and it's easy to see why - Songs like this, with a brooding guitar feel, Celtic twists and turns, and deeply heartfelt vocal bellow have a truly honest appeal and a rugged beauty which is difficult not to be awed by.

#17: Alcest - Autre Temps: Alcest have a profound talent for creating golden atmospheric loveliness, and, to no surprise, that's what they do in this song; Mellow and serene, it comes as no shock that many consider Alcest to make some of the most beautiful music in the world. Songs like Autre Temps thoroughly explain why.

#16: Agalloch - Falling Snow: Agalloch are among the leaders of the charge when it comes to the whole "post black metal" thing, creating atmospheric, folk-laced songs which a black-metal edge and a multitude of creative innovations; fascinating melodies and gorgeous soundscapes, all slightly bizarre, but also thoroughly enjoyable.

#15: Orphaned Land - Birth of the Three:  Orphaned land, anyone should concede, are a big deal, both in reputation and songwriting. Songs like Birth of the Three, even to someone not invested in it's religious themes, can greatly enjoy it's epic, progressive and middle-eastern folk influences, which blend together to create a solid track with some truly fantastic moments.

#14: Autopsy - Macabre Eternal: Macabre Eternal is the title track of the grimy extravaganza which is Autopsy's return. Rough, angry and ugly, Macabre Eternal is a vicious slab of death-metal done correctly, with infections riffs, crunchy tone, and an altogether teeth-grinding intensity and murkiness.

#13: Watain - Malfeitor: While their ego's seem to be bigger than their band sometimes, there's no question that they've made some great songs; Melfeitor is my personal favourite, with wicked and almost beautiful lead work, and an angry, riff-laden core making for a real Juggernaut of a black-metal song, which is energetic, memorable, and probably unintentionally, quite fun.

#12: Jag Panzer - Mechanised Warfare: When it comes down to it, before they split-up, Jag Panzer were probably one of the finest USPM bands in circulation. Mechanised Warfare, certainly, has all of the desirable qualities for it's genre; tough riffs, high, talented vocals, and a complete lack of the frilly daintiness associated with the genre's European cousin.

#11: Overkill - Ironbound: Of all the 80's thrash bands who remain active, I'm probably the most impressed by Overkill, who, as of their last two albums, are probably in the running for legendary comeback status. Iron Bound, my choice as specific song, is in places terrifyingly fast, beautifully produced, and truly grasping the quintessence of good thrash, all the while accompanied by the wicked voice of Bobby Blitz, perhaps one of my favorite thrash vocalists.

And now, the top ten. Thank you for reading this far; it took fucking ages to write.

#10: Immolation - Majesty and Decay: As the track's name suggests, Majesty and Decay possesses an uncharacteristically majestic soaring riff, and a real sense of carved-in-stone age in it's atmosphere, creating a song which, as well as being energetic and brutal, has a real atmosphere to it, which is something which more death metal bands should do, and something which Immolation handled excellently on the record. 

#9: Anaal Nathrakh - More Fire Than Blood: "Dude, they're the heaviest band in the world" said someone to me once. Perhaps not. But it's a certainty that band's don't get much more rabid, enraged and face-meltingly insane than the mighty Nathrakh. Black metal and grindcore mixed into this song creates an atmosphere of oppressive lunacy and even beauty, through gnashing verses and soaring clean-vocal choruses.  

#8: Mastodon - Blood and Thunder: The massive rumble of Mastodon may have petered into something a little more progressive of late, but numbers like Blood and Thunder prove to us that the band at one time crafted hunks of sludgy progressive groove metal (or something) which as very very heavy, memorable, and intense. 

#7: Grand Magus - Savage Tales: Some songs are truly anthems. Like this one. Upon listening to a wonderful hunk of honest, no nonsense traditional metal like this, I feel immensely proud to be a part of the heavy-metal world. Catchy, powerful and elating, this song comes very close to capturing what I love about metal. "It's a lonely path to walk, but an honour to defend".

#6: Reverend Bizarre - Doom Over The World: So anyway, speaking of anthems... Doom Over the World is probably doom-metal's flagship song - certainly one which feels quintessential to the core; Anthemic, powerful, fun, and extremely catchy, it may not be the most serious song, by the most deadly-serious band, but it's fantastic.

#5: Burzum - Glemselens Elv: Unexpected perhaps, but in my humble opinion (as the person who makes the list) Glemselens Elv is one of the finest songs Varg has created since his release from prison. Murky, hypnotic and possessing a strange beauty, it has the feel of a Burzum classic oozing from every note played.

#4: Hail of Bullets - Red Wolves of Stalin: With a roaring guitar sound reminiscent of the detonations of artillery and the rumble of soviet tanks, Hail of Bullets is one of those death metal bands who can encapsulate war perfectly - the twisted wreckage, the firefights, and the brutal intensity of it is all savagely brought out in this song.

#3: Electric Wizard - Funeralopolis: Funeralopolis is the stoner-doom songs to end all stoner-doom songs. Weaving, hazy notes at specific frequencies stimulate the brain to synthesize it's own THC, and develop the urge to join some kind of Coven. The intoxicating power of the riffs is so greatly hypnotic that it urged me to place it a good twenty places higher than I initially planned to. And do you know what? It deserves to be up here with the anthems. It is one. 

#2: Bolt Thrower - When Cannons Fade: The final song from what is, almost certainly, Bolt Throwers final album is a strong as any they've made. And when the rumbling death-metal cannon does fade to nothing, you can look back at what you just listened to, and be awed to have just listened to one of the most consistent and tight death metal acts on the face of the earth. 

 So. you've made it this far, and stuck at it. Here's what you've all been waiting for, or, more likely, have a passing interest in. The #1. The song I consider to be the best of the millennium so far.  

  #1: Enslaved - Ethica Odini: When I charge across the field of Vígríðr, sword in hand, Einherjar around me, to meet my death at Ragnarok, I want this song to play. The sweeping epicness and beauty of the songs intro soars so majestically, and the clean vocals are so haunting. Only Enslaved could compose something like this; a truly breathtaking piece of progressive black-metal, and one which truly deserves it's place at the top of this list, at the bottom of the page.

I don't care if you call me a fanboy.

Well. That's it, the list which you won't agree with. I'm sorry that your favorite bands weren't on it, but as we know, Heavy Metal Spotlight is not a democracy. One thing we can perhaps agree on, I hope, is that it's a refreshing change to have such a list with no fucking slipknot in it. 

Thank you for reading my blog, and well done for surviving.