Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Other)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal


Not every album fits directly into a category. In just 8 categories, it’s hard to cover all of the recommendable 2007 albums, so it’s necessary to have another category for miscellaneous albums that either don’t fit into a category, fit into genres that had an excessively poor year, or are part of genres outside of rock, metal, and alternative.

Beastie Boys
The Mix-Up

As great of an album as The Mix-Up is, its primary audience is classic Beastie Boys fans. No, it doesn’t have turntables, clever rhymes, or any vocals to speak of, but this is still an album done in classic Beastie Boys style. As an instrumental album, The Mix-Up leaves something to be desired, but it’s not a typical instrumental album. It’s an album that sees one of the most creative artists in recent memory going back to their roots to create an album that’s almost the opposite of their last release. Both the album and the reason for making an album like this is something only Beastie Boys fans will likely be able to understand, but that’s also who the album is for. If that’s who you are or are shopping for, you won’t be disappointed.


Volta is another example of an album that is strictly for fans. It’s a solid and something beautiful release that fans of Bjork will likely enjoy. However, it doesn’t do anything too different from past albums, and those aren’t already a fan of the unique singer should avoid Volta without hesitation. Volta is for the fans, and those fans should be more than happy with the results. It may not do anything too different or unique, but Bjork is still as good as ever, and there’s a large amount of quality to go around. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed by Volta, but it’s also hard to imagine it surpassing anyone’s expectations.

Bruce Springsteen

No, Magic isn’t a must-buy five-star album like Rolling Stone thinks it is. In fact, it’s a rather average hit-and-miss album that probably won’t appeal to anyone outside of Bruce Springsteen’s fan base. However, if you’re looking for a last minute gift for a friend or family member that likes either Bruce Springsteen or classic rock, this album becomes recommendable. Magic is for fans of Bruce Springsteen more upbeat 80s sound, and the sound still works well today. The problem is that Springsteen has already played this sound and played it better many years ago, but those looking for either a classic sounding Springsteen album or a trip down memory lane should enjoy most of Magic has to offer.


Andorra is a beautiful melodic album that belongs in the collection of every music fan. Nearly every moment of the album is exceptionally unique, even to the point where its genre is almost impossible to determine. Caribou certainly has influences that shape the parts of their sound, but the sum of those parts has never sounded quite so beautiful or unique. Andorra is an album that almost anyone can like, and you don’t have to know anything Caribou to be able to appreciate it. It’s simply a beautiful and melodic piece of work that is an example of music and art in its best and most creative form.

Finding Forever

Rap is not a genre that is found on rock lists like this one, and the inclusion of Finding Forever doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best rap album of the year, but there are enough indie fans that listen to Common to warrant the rapper a chance to get a spot in this buyer’s guide. Fortunately, Finding Forever takes advantage of the opportunity. Common has crafted a solid rap album that’s accessible for fans of both mainstream and underground rap. On top of that, Common has found has a fan base in the alternative community, and those fans will not be disappointed. Find Forever is a lyrically driven album that excels through intelligence, message, and flow. Common doesn’t rely on tricky rhymes to get his point across, and the result is an album that can be recommended to those who are otherwise uninterested in rap music.

Elliott Smith
New Moon

It’s hard to mention a new Elliott Smith album without reminding the reader of his untimely death in 2003. As difficult as it is to remain neutral listening to something with as much of an emotional back story as New Moon, it would undermine to quality of the album to suggest that the death of Elliott Smith has caused the album’s reviews to be overly positive. In all actuality, this collection of unreleased songs from 10+ years ago is actually a very high quality album that works on its own as a legitimate full length album. Anyone that likes beautiful well-written music should give this underappreciated artist a try, and New Moon is a great place to start. If you’re already a fan, however, this is pretty much essential.

Iron and Wine
The Shepherd’s Dog

Although Iron and Wine has found a rather large audience in the indie rock community, their sound isn’t for everyone. Casual fans of alternative should first be warned that Iron and Wine isn’t typical alternative rock, and that’s why The Shepherd’s Dog wasn’t placed in the “Alternative” category. However, that doesn’t mean alternative fans should stay away from the album. The Shepherd’s Dog is simply a magnificent album from start to finish, and anyone that doesn’t expect to hear major elements of rock music should get this without hesitation. It’s simply a beautiful and well-written piece of art that deserves to be appreciated by anyone who appreciates beautiful and well-constructed art. That being said, this is a folk album at its core, and there will be people who just won’t be able to enjoy Iron and Wine’s sound. Even with that, The Shepherd’s Dog is worth taking a risk on. It’s just too good of an album to pass up.

LCD Soundsystem
Sounds of Silver

On just their second full length album, LCD Soundsystem has created another brilliant piece of work that mixes some exceptionally catchy beats with some truly creative experimentation that works throughout the entire album. Fans of their first album will almost certainly enjoy this, and fans of dance, electronica, indie pop, or alternative rock should add Sounds of Silver to their list this holiday season. It has everything an indie rock fan could want, and it isn’t even an indie rock album. This is an album that almost any fan of music can enjoy, and fans of indie electronica that doesn’t already own Sounds of Silver should do something about that as soon as possible

Lupe Fiasco
The Cool

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is the second rap album to make this list, and it might very well be the best rap album of the year. Due to it being released just a week before Christmas, it may be one that will be better served as an album worth getting with any left over holiday money, but just make sure you get if you are a rap fan. Even fans of mainstream rap will likely enjoy the catchy beats, but that doesn’t mean that’s all the album is. Fans of Lupe’s first album should be pleased with the progression of The Cool, and progression is what truly makes The Cool an exceptional record. This could almost be described as progressive rap, as The Cool is a concept album that tells a dark and intelligent story with a large amount of thought and experimentation. Even though it doesn’t always live up to its potential, the scope and intelligence of the album is almost revolutionary for mainstream rap, and the result belongs in the collection of every rap fan.

V is for Vagina

V is for Vagina is an album that’s both difficult to explain and interpret. It’s an industrial album by a progressive rock vocalist, and it’s an album that is probably better suited for fans outside of the industrial genre. Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) is the man behind the music, and those who will get the most out of it are those looking for an experimental album that will take some time to truly understand. It can be argued that there really is no way to understand an album like V is for Vagina at all, and it’s instead the pure weirdness of the unique sound that Maynard has created that gives his Puscifer project an intriguing edge. It’s a very strange album to say the least, and although it’s not something that can be wholeheartedly recommended, it certainly deserves to be noted and praised for being an album that truly experiments and branches out. Just make sure you keep it out of the reach of children.

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Extreme Metal)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal

Extreme Metal

Fans of death, black, and hardcore thrash metal should find a lot to love with the crop of quality extreme metal albums released in 2007. Although none of these titles are recommended starting points, the few who can tolerate one of the most misunderstood and controversial genres of music have a ton of great albums to chose from.

The Apostasy

The Apostasy isn’t going to convince anyone that isn’t already into Behemoth, but that’s to be expected. Unlike their last album, Demigod, which could almost be called a revolutionary album for the genre, The Apostasy is rather traditional death metal album. It doesn’t do anything all that unique, but instead contains some of the best pure death metal released all year. Unless you’re a black metal purist that will only be satisfied by the band’s return to a pure black metal sound, this album should be on your list if you’re a death metal fan. From the perspective of creativity, it’s not spectacular, but the refined and polished sound allows The Apostasy to be both one of the year’s best and most recommendable death metal albums.

Blood Red Throne
Come Death

In all honesty, it’s hard to critique Blood Red Throne the same way you would a typical death metal band, and it’s very simple to explain why this album is recommend. It all comes down to brutality. It seems that the point of Blood Red Throne is to be as completely brutal as possible. If that sounds good to you, you won’t be disappointed with Come Death. If you want more, then this isn’t an album for you, and some may even argue that simply being brutal isn’t enough to be warrant praise. However, brutality is almost exclusively what Blood Red Throne is striving for, and they achieve that better than almost any other band in existence. Fans of the band understand why that’s significant, and that’s who this record was made for.

Ordo Ad Chao

Ordo Ad Chao is not only one of the best black metal albums released in 2007, but it’s also one of the best modern black metal albums period. You don’t have to be a Mayhem fan to appreciate what they have done here, and really anyone that likes black metal should give Ordo Ad Chao a look. Despite all of the controversy Mayhem has brought themselves over the years, they still remain an exceptional band that can still release quality black metal albums without relying on a formulaic sound. Whether you’re a long time Mayhem fan or just a casual fan of black metal, Ordo Ad Chao is a great experience that is worthy of a spot in any metal fan’s collection.


Naglfar’s exact genre is debatable, but they are certainly extreme. Mixing elements of black, death, and melodic death metal, Naglfar’s newest release is a very solid metal album throughout. Naglfar doesn’t make any drastic changes to their sound, but like many other 2007 death metal albums, it contains some very solid death metal with impressive instrumentals. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Naglfar one of the more unique bands in the genre, and despite a lack of innovation, they’ve crafted one of the better death metal albums of 2007.


Just like Behemoth’s The Apostasy, Nile’s Ithyphallic doesn’t do anything particularly unique, but instead features some extremely high quality death metal. The appeal of the album is very simple. If you like Nile, you’ll likely love the album, as Nile’s sound is just as fast and brutal as ever. If you aren’t a Nile fan, chances are you won’t start now. There are subtle differences between Ithyphallic and Nile’s past albums, such as vocals that are easier to understand than on past albums, but Nile remains the same as ever for the most part. Fans of Nile or simply death metal in general will probably get a lot of out it though, and it’s hard not to recommend an album that has as much polished brutality as Ithyphallic.

Betwixt and Between

Most black metal fans have probably never heard of Oakhelm, but that’s no excuse to pass up one of the most impressive debuts of 2007. This folk black metal band from Oregon is a perfect example of the incredible black metal movement in the Northwest underground, and fans of black metal should almost certainly considering picking up a copy of this album if they can find it. Betwixt and Between is brutal throughout, and it features some extremely impressive instrumentals. They may not have the church-burning intensity of many Norwegian black metal bands, but their combination of black and folk creates one of the most effective and unique sounds that has come from that combination. If you’re a fan of black metal, do yourself a favor and give Oakhelm a listen.

Xecutioner’s Return

Fans of Obituary will almost certainly like Xecutioner’s Return. Non-fans of the band almost certainly won’t. Xecutioner’s Return is not accessible, not unique, and has absolutely not appeal outside of death metal. That being said, this is probably one of the best death metal albums of 2007. Obituary knows how to play death metal better than maybe any other band that is still recording. They also know how to please their fans. Xecutioner’s Return contains some exceptionally high quality death metal, as well as everything an Obituary fan could want from a modern Obituary album. Obituary has no desire to please anyone that isn’t already a fan, and that’s the way fans want it. If you’re an Obituary fan, this is your album.

Pig Destroyer
Phantom Limb

Phantom Limb is the only grindcore album on this list, but to say simply say it’s the best grindcore album of 2007 would be undermining its quality. Phantom Limb is one of the best albums of the year, grindcore or not, and any fan of heavy metal can enjoy it. Modern grindcore is unfortunately full of formulaic trends, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find an exceptional album. Phantom Limb is without a doubt an exceptional album, and all fans of extreme metal should give it a chance. Pig Destroyer avoids all of the generic traps that have plagued their peers, and fans of grindcore should be thankful for that. It’s only flaw is its short length, but if you’re a metal fan that prefers quality over quantity, Phantom Limb is for you.

Beyond the Permafrost

Although it might be a stretch to call Skeletonwitch an extreme metal band, Beyond the Permafrost is not an album for anyone expecting an old-school thrash release. This is modern sounding brutal thrash metal, and it sounds as good as that style can possibly sound. Skeletonwitch mixes impressive thrash metal instrumentals with some fairly unpolished black metal vocals. The lack of polish in the vocals is certainly a flaw that can and should be improved upon over time, but the amount of energy found in such a heavy package is a rarity that separates Skeletonwitch from most other young metal bands. This is thrash metal that sounds relevant and modern in today’s world of excessively heavy metal music, and it’s an album that fans of heavier thrash and black metal will almost certainly enjoy.

Wolves in the Throne Room
Two Hunters

Although it only has four songs, Two Hunters is one of the most complete and epic albums of the year. On top of that, Wolves of the Throne Room have improved their already unique sound, and have created something truly spectacular in the process. “Unique” and “epic” are not qualities that are often associated with modern black metal, particularly from the United States, but Wolves in the Throne Room are not your usual black metal band. Just like Oakhlem, they come from the Northwest underground, and the story behind this album’s creation is fascinating. There are very little digital effects, and some may complain about the intentionally poor recording quality, but the incredible atmospheric sound of the band is something every metal fan should experience. Two Hunters is almost certainly the best black metal album of the year, and Wolves in the Throne Room have emerged as one of the best bands in the genre today.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Melodeath/Doom/Goth)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal


Although it may not seem like it to non-fans, melodic death metal is one of the most artistic genres of music. The genre continues to live on past the glory days of In Flames, At the Gates, and Dark Tranquillity, and fans have a wide variety of great 2007 albums to choose from. Doom and Goth metal may not have had the same kind of year, but there still were some worthwhile representatives from those genres as well.

Silent Waters

Amorphis have abandoned their melodic death metal sound on recent releases, but Silent Waters marks a compromise between their melodeath roots and their recent experimentation with progressive metal. Unfortunately, the album itself isn’t strong enough to warrant a place among the top albums of the year, but it is a high quality album that should please fans of progressive and melodic death metal. When a band has changed their sound as many times as Amorphis has, it’s nearly impossible to please everyone. Although it comes at the expense of a truly creative experience, Silent Waters is an album that might actually come close to pleasing all fans of Amorphis. Hopefully they will go back to experimenting on their next album, but Silent Waters is an album that shows a great deal of balance between Amorphis’ many sounds, and almost any fan of the band should find something to like here.

Arch Enemy
Rise of the Tyrant

Rise of the Tyrant is an album that should please almost any Arch Enemy, and despite a lack of variety, fans of melodic death metal should at least give it a listen. The album starts off with a bang, and although that bang never changes, it remains great throughout. This may, in fact, be the best Arch Enemy has ever sounded. The Amott brothers’ guitar work is superb, the keyboards are a beautiful contrast the album’s consistent brutality, and Angela Gossow’s vocals seem to only get better with time. If Arch Enemy can take the outstanding sound they’ve settled on with this album and add some variety to it, the next album should be truly incredible. As it stands now though, Rise of the Tyrant is a high quality melodic death album that would make a perfect gift for any melodic death metal fan that has yet to add this one of their collection.

Dark Tranquillity

It’s a shame that only metal fans will be able to appreciate the latest Dark Tranquillity album. Regardless of genre, this is one of the best albums of the year. Although it’s unrealistic to expect anyone who isn’t already a fan of metal to enjoy an album as heavy as Fiction, it’s too good to recommend to fans of a specific style. In terms of quality, Fiction is an album that deserved to be appreciated by all fans of music. The incredible vocals combined with the sometimes soothing and often brutal instrumentals are a wonder to behold, and no other album 2007 album mixes heaviness and beauty quite like Dark Tranquillity does on Fiction. It’s simply superb from start to finish, and all metal fans should experience it. This is one of the best albums of the year, and it could easily be called the absolute best album released in 2007.

Dir en grey
The Marrow of a Bone

Dir en grey’s inclusion on this list is proof that music can only be evaluated on a case by case basis. 2006’s “Saku” topped my Worst Songs of the Year list last year, and yet Dir en grey has come back to create a worthwhile album that should please both those who disagree my criticism of this band in the past and even those who weren’t as impressed with Dir en grey’s previous work. For better for worse, The Marrow of a Bone is an album unlike anything else released this year, and although a few of songs are remakes that could be called inferior to the original, it marks Dir en grey’s first great album since changing their style to heavy metal. There’s no doubt that this band is exceptionally talented, and this is the first time they’ve put everything together in a cohesive package. The Marrow of a Bone is a solid and varied album that isn’t spectacular, but it should please almost any fan of metal.

Dimension Zero
He Who Shall Not Bleed

He Who Shall Not Bleed is an album only for melodic death metal fans. If you’re not a huge fan of the genre, you have no business getting an album that could only be called above average for the genre. That being Dimension Zero is not a bad band, and He Who Shall Not Bleed is not a bad album. If you don’t expect anything too unique, it’s worth a listen. This is an album that contains some fairly high quality melodic death metal, and if that’s what you want, that’s what you’re going to get. Just make sure you already own the new Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity, and The Absence albums before getting this one.

Novembers Doom
The Novella Reservoir

More than anything, The Novella Reservoir is solid. In a time without a large amount of quality doom metal, fans of the genre should take advantage of it. Consistency is certainly a virtue here, and there’s not a bad track to be found. Nothing on The Novella Reservoir is amazing enough to be recommended to anyone outside of the genre, but is still among the best doom metal albums of the year. In all actuality, it’s a must-buy album for doom fans, as this is the best example of traditional doom metal the genre has seen in years. It could even be argued that this is the best and most consistent album in Novembers Doom’s discography, and it’s a hard to imagine a fan of the band being disappointing with this release.

Paradise Lost
In Requiem

Paradise Lost is one of the more unique gothic metal bands out there, and their new album should please existing fans. Despite the band’s unique style, they’ve created a borderline formulaic approach for each album, but they play that style exceptionally well. If you like Paradise Lost, you’ll almost certainly like this album. If you’re not a fan, then it’s doubtful this will change you mind. However, if you want a quality gothic metal album that’s different from the rest of the pack, In Requiem is a quality choice.

Swallow the Sun

“Hope” may be a strange name for a doom metal album, but Swallow the Sun may be the only hope the genre has to return to greatness. To play exceptional doom metal, a band has to capable of creating higher art. This is shown by bands like Katatonia that have been able to adapt to other styles of music and still be just as incredible. Swallow the Sun has the potential to the same, and they are higher art at their best. Hope may not as good of an album as Katatonia’s greats, or even Swallow the Sun’s debut, but it’s easily the best doom metal album released this year. There are moments of the album that are among the best of the year, and those moments make Hope a recommendable purchase to all fans of heavy metal.

The Absence
Riders of the Plague

If you’re a fan of melodic death metal, you need to own Riders of the Plague. It’s as simple as that. It’s rare that a non-Swedish band can craft a truly outstanding melodeath album, but The Absence has done just that. Riders of the Plague is not a typical melodic album, and its uniqueness combined with a very solid core sound makes this one of the best albums of the year. The Absence made headlines by criticizing Trivium earlier this year, but unlike the band they band they criticized, The Absence can back up their criticism with a great album. This is as great of an American melodic death metal album as there has ever been, and fans of metal would be wise to give a chance.

Type O Negative
Dead Again

Dead Again isn’t a mind blowing album by any stretch of the imagination, but Type O Negative doesn’t need to be at their awe-inspiring best to release a quality album. It certainly isn’t a masterpiece, and one could even say that the album’s biggest problem is consistency, which has never been a problem with Type O Negative. What can be said about Dead Again though is that it’s not formulaic, and it isn’t your typical doom/goth metal album. As long as you don’t expect anything masterful, Dead Again is worth recommending. It’s a unique album by an arguably legendary band in a genre of music that desperately needs more truly unique albums.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Mainstream Rock)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal

Mainstream Rock

Although bad music is slowly killing it off, listening to the radio is a great way to get into music. If you or someone you know is into radio rock, then there’s both good and bad news for you. The bad news is that very few of the bands that topped the rock charts this year released recommendable albums. The good news is that 2007 was filled with solid rock albums that deserved more radio play than they likely received. This holiday season is a perfect time for radio rock fans to expand upon their taste, and the crop of quality accessible rock albums from 2007 is a great place to start.

Bad Religion
New Maps of Hell

If you’re looking for a revolutionary album that bends genres and experiments with new musical territory, you can safely pass on New Maps of Hell. Unless you’re a longtime Bad Religion fan, this isn’t an essential album, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of a recommendation. Bad Religion knows how to play punk music, and a consistent punk album by a hard working genre vet is just what 2007 needed. New Maps of Hell is solid throughout, and the songs have a quality old-school punk sound that is rarely found these days. In a time where great punk albums are hard to come by, this is certainly a breath of fresh air, and fans of punk should take note that Bad Religion is still here and still putting out good albums.

From Beale Street to Oblivion

From Beale Street to Oblivion belongs in the collection of every rock fan. It’s an album that’s accessible to fans of mainstream rock, heavy enough for metalheads, creative enough for alternative fans, and just plain great enough for any rock fan. Clutch is the hardest working band in music, and they’ve created a sound that’s the epitome of both uniqueness and rock ‘n roll. This is one of the best albums Clutch has ever released, and it’s also one of the most accessible. If you’re a fan of any type of rock, it’s highly recommended, as well as their entire discography. Although not every song is a gem, the list of things Clutch does well is endless. The superb energy, intelligent and sometimes humorous lyrics, outstanding instrumentals, and an overall unique sound are just a few of the things that make this band and album great. Any fan of rock music should consider picking up From Beale Street to Oblivion during the holidays.

Dropkick Murphys
The Meanest of Times

Although an album by a Celtic punk band from Boston may seem like an odd recommendation for mainstream rock fans, Dropkick Murphys’ The Meanest of Times is exactly what a rock album should be. The band is as energized as ever, as well as more consistent than they’ve been in the past. More than anything, however, it’s just a good time. If you’re looking for simply a good fun rock album, look no farther. The Meanest of Times is one of the most fun albums released in 2007, and it’s a great punk album as well. It’s an essential album for the fans of the band, and punk fans looking for something new should give this a look as well.

Fair to Midland
Fables from a Midfly

It’s hard to tell what’s more surprising: the fact that Fair to Midland broke through with a radio hit in 2007 or that Fables from Midfly turned out to be a great album. Combining aspects of hard rock, alternative, heavy metal, progressive rock, and metalcore, Fair to Midland can best be described as a calmer and more accessible System of a Down. Fans of System of a Down would do well to pick this one up, and anyone who enjoyed the surprise radio hit “Dance of the Manatee” would also most likely enjoy Fables from a Midfly, as the full album takes everything that works from that song and creates a unique sound that remains unpredictable throughout. Even for more open-minded progressive fans, this may be worth considering. Not everything they try works, but there’s no doubt that Fair to Midland has created a unique album, as well as musical weirdness that is oddly accessible.

Vol. II

Hurt is one of the few modern radio rock bands worth supporting. Just like their first album, Vol. II is more ambitious than the typical modern hard rock album, and although it doesn’t succeed at everything it tries, it makes more for an interesting listen. Anyone who purchased Vol. I should add Vol. II to their collection without hesitation, as the band as shown a good amount of improvement and evolution in the last year. Anyone who has heard and liked the single “Ten Ton Brick” should also consider Vol. II, and even those just looking for something unique and ambitious in a genre that has become tired and generic would probably enjoy what Hurt has done on this record. Hurt hasn’t put it all together yet, but Vol. II still has enough going for it to warrant a high recommendation for modern and/or mainstream rock fans. Whether or not you decided to pick this one up over the holidays, this is a band with a very promising career ahead of them.

Mondo Generator
Dead Planet

Ignore that Nick Oliveri has tried to pass his newest band off as a metal band, and ignore that this band played this summer’s Ozzfest tour. Mondo Generator is a rock band through and through, and it’s likely that metalheads that aren’t into punk or modern rock are going to hate this album. Dead Planet is a punk rock album that has more energy than maybe any other rock album released this year. Although the album stands on it’s own as an outstanding record for modern rock fans, it’s worth noting that the band’s frontman, Nick Oliveri, was a founding member and former bassist of Queens of the Stone Age. As good as Era Vulgaris is, this is the album to get if you’re a Queens of the Stone Age fan that can only buy one record this holiday season. The energy and pure rock ‘n roll that’s been missing from the last few Queens of the Stone Age albums is found in bulk here, and anyone who longs for the return of Kyuss (the band Oliveri and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme were in prior to Queens) should strongly consider adding this one to your holiday list. Oliveri's vocals take a bit of getting used to, but the album’s pure energy and emotion is fantastic to say the least.

Nine Inch Nails
Year Zero

At this point, Nine Inch Nails deserves a category of their own. Unless you really aren’t into modern music or you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, chances are you or the person you’re buying for have already formed an opinion of Nine Inch Nails. If you’re a fan, this is a great album that’s certainly worth getting. If you’re not, then this isn’t going to change your mind. If you’re in between, then your enjoyment of the album will likely depend on what you like about the band. Since Year Zero is a more alternative and industrial album that their early work, fans of that side of Nine Inch Nails will likely enjoy it. However, those looking for a return to Nine Inch Nails’ heavy metal days likely won’t find much to like here. Those who still aren’t sure are advised to get it and give it a try, as Year Zero is a quality album at the very least, and it’s hard not to appreciate a musician as dedicated as Trent Reznor.

Serj Tankian
Elect the Dead

Although it’s unlikely that Elect the Dead will appeal to anyone that isn’t already a fan of System of a Down, Serj Tankian’s debut solo album is a good enough album to warrant a recommendation to mainstream rock fans. Thankfully, it’s an improvement over the last few System of a Down albums, and it’s likely that fans of the band that have yet to purchase this will find a lot to like in the songs that use the same style Serj established with the band. The lack of Darren Malkian’s backing vocals, as well as a return to more intelligent political lyrics, are what makes Elect the Dead an album for both System of a Down’s current fan base and any fans that lost interest in the band over time. It’s not perfect, and the experimental songs that stray from System of a Down’s formula don’t work well at all, but there's certainly enough here to recommend.

So Long

So Long is album that fans of any type of rock music should enjoy. It’s a perfect blend of old and new, and it’s far better than any modern rock played on the radio this year. It’s rare that a modern hard rock album does something truly unique, and it takes an album like So Long to remind one that rock doesn’t need to be boring and generic to sound mainstream and accessible. So Long may not have gotten the mainstream recognition that it deserved (in fact, it may be difficult to find the album in the first place), but any fan of mainstream rock needs to own this album. So Long is as good of a post-grunge album as the genre has seen, and it’s a good time from start to finish. It’s worth repeating again that fans of modern rock need to take notice, and fans of classic rock or grunge that lost interest in what’s on the radio these days should also give So Long a strong consideration.

Queens of the Stone Age
Era Vulgaris

Era Vulgaris is a perfect mix of pure rock ‘n roll, alternative, experimental, and the just plain weird. Although Queens of the Stone Age has always been a band best judged by listening to their albums in their entirety, they’ve previously managed to craft some truly great tracks that work on their own as standout singles. One of the biggest flaws of Era Vulgaris is that this album doesn’t have a ton of true gems that work on their own, but instead smaller pieces of work that make an album that's better than the sum of its parts. The other flaw is that Queens of the Stone Age still lacks the energy that they lost when bassist Nick Oliveri left the band, and it’s that lack of energy that makes Era Vulgaris a weaker album than its predecessors. Even with its flaws, however, this is some of the most creative rock you’ll hear on the radio these days, and it’s certainly worthy of a recommendation.

Holiday Buyer's Guide (Classic Metal)

Other Sections:

-Symphonic/Power/Folk Metal
-Accessible Metal
-Classic Metal
-Mainstream Rock
-Extreme Metal

Classic Metal

If you’re the type of person that still listens to the great metal bands of the 80s and early 90s, then you’re in luck. Not only was 2007 a great year for classic metal artists, but also a return to form for many. It’s been years since a new Ozzy Osbourne, Fu Manchu, or Megadeth album has been recommendable, and it’s been just as long since a Down album was out in the first place. There may not be any modern classics on this list, but there are still a number of great albums that should please longtime metalheads.

Over the Under

As unfortunate as it is that Pantera will never be able to record again, fans of heavy metal can rest at least somewhat happy knowing that Down is back. Whether the album is as good as their 1995 debut is something fans of the band have and will likely continue to debate, but the fact that there is a debate to begin with is impressive. Phil Anselmo sounds far better than he has in years, and Pepper Keenan’s melodic riffs are just as trance-inducing as ever. Fans of Down should own this album. Fans of Pantera should own this album. Fans of stoner metal should own this album. Even fans of metal in general should consider owning this album. For the first time in a long time, there’s passion in both Phil Anselmo’s voice and lyrics, and Down is once again living up to their potential.

The Atrocity Exhibition… Exhibit A

Despite its inclusion on this list, The Atrocity Exhibition may be better suited for newer fans of Exodus. If Rob Dukes' vocals didn’t impress you on Shovel Headed Kill Machine, they still won’t here. That being said, the songs have a ton of substance, the thrash metal is high quality, and anyone that doesn’t mind Exodus’ latest vocalist will almost certainly enjoy this one. Exodus doesn’t necessarily make any drastic changes on The Atrocity Exhibition, but the scope of the album is more ambitious than anything the band has done in some time. The album doesn’t always work as well it could have, but most the album works well enough to warrant a recommendation to fans of classic thrash metal.

Fu Manchu
We Must Obey

It’s hard to call We Must Obey a comeback album because Fu Manchu has been releasing albums at a fairly rapid pace. That being said, it’s been years since one of those was worth recommending to anyone that isn’t a huge fan. We Must Obey is the best Fu Manchu album in a very long time, and although it’s not a classic by any means, it is a very solid stoner rock album that fans of Fu Manchu and stoner rock/metal should love. The album’s approach is simple and effective, and the band goes back to the genre’s basic to be able to create a sound that is a prime example of the genre done right. Stoner metal doesn’t need to be complicated to be done right, and We Must Obey is certainly an album done right. It’s one of those albums that tailors perfectly to what fans want, and those fans should love it.

King Diamond
Give Me Your Soul… Please

At this point in his career, it’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend any of the newer King Diamond albums. Give Me Your Soul… Please is no exception, and it would probably be a stretch to say it’s better than any of the other mediocre albums this legendary musician has released in the last five or ten years. Despite that, King Diamond deserves a lot of credit for his willingness to experiment and not just release the same recycled material every few years. Those expecting the same level of darkness of Abigail or “Them” will likely be disappointed, but those looking for nothing more than another King Diamond experiment that gets more right than wrong should find something to like here. What’s important is that Give Me Your Soul… Please is a concept album that’s dark enough to get it’s story across, and it’s worth recommending to fans of King Diamond that already own his best work.

Machine Head
The Blackening

The return of lead guitarist Phil Demmel has done wonders for Machine Head, and The Blackening is proof that Machine Head is back and better than ever. The album is a return to Machine Head’s early groove metal form that helped create the genre. However, their sound is more polished than ever before, and the high energy political lyrics represent a perfect balance between political intelligence and emotional rage. Any fan of thrash and groove metal should strongly consider The Blackening. Even those who have yet to get into this band should consider it, as this is one of the best and most accessible albums of their career. For fans of the band looking for a return to the glory days, The Blackening is a must.

United Abominations

United Abominations is one of the year’s easiest albums to recommend. It may not be on the same level as Rust in Peace or Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, but almost any fan of Megadeth or thrash metal should find something worthwhile with United Abominations. On top of that, it doesn’t sound like a throwback album in a way. United Abominations is instead a high quality thrash album that sounds just as modern as any other album released in 2007. However, it still has everything that makes a Megadeth album great, including Dave Mustaine’s opinioned lyrics and outstanding guitar skills. This is the best album Megadeth has recorded in years, and it’s a great pick for both new and old fans of metal.

The Last Sucker

Although it's unfortunate that Ministry will no longer be recording after this album, it’s safe to say that they’ve gone out with a bang. The Last Sucker is a fantastic album by a longstanding band that has impacted industrial metal in as big a way as one could imagine. For all Ministry has accomplished throughout their career, The Last Sucker is a fitting end, and it’s an album that Ministry fans need to own by the end of the year. The blend of serious political outrage and intelligent humor is almost interchangeable, as the lyrics represent both sides of the spectrum. If you want a political album, you’ll find some very well thought out lyrics here, and those who are looking for comedy will get just as much out it. Add in some of the best industrial metal of the last five years, and you have an album that should please just about any metalhead. This is an absolute must-own for fans of industrial metal and Ministry, and those previously uninterested in the band might also want to consider it.


Casual fans of 80s thrash metal may not know Overkill as well as they know the big four, but most metalheads know and understand the greatness that was early Overkill. Although the days of Overkill innovating are gone, Immortalis might just be the best thrash metal album released this year. This is the heaviest the band has been in some time, as well as the most focused. Although Overkill has never really gone through a drought, Immortalis is somewhat of a return to greatness. This not only sounds like classic Overkill, but it’s thrash metal done right. At the same time, it’s ironic that Immortalis sounds like a more modern and evolved album than the many modern bands playing classic thrash metal. Immortalis is a reminder that thrash metal doesn’t have to sound old to be great, and fans of any style of classic metal will likely love this album. It’s simply a fantastic album from start to finish, and it’s an example of an album that can please both classic and modern fans of the genre.

Ozzy Osbourne
Black Rain

If all you’re looking for is a good metal album, Black Rain properly isn’t the album for you. However, if you’re looking for a good Ozzy album, Black Rain might just be essential. It won’t change the way metal is played, and this is the type of album that probably could have been released 20 years ago with similar reception, but that doesn’t mean Ozzy isn’t at the top of his game. The lyrics are of surprising quality, but what really makes Black Rain a great Ozzy album is that Ozzy has gone back to being Ozzy. It’s safe to say that Ozzy Osbourne has established his sound by now, and there’s no reason to change that. Black Rain is no more and no less than ten quality Ozzy songs done in classic Ozzy style. If that sounds good to you, then Black Rain is almost certainly worth owning.

The Inner Sanctum

It’s truly amazing that Saxon has remained so good for so long, and it’s even more amazing that they’ve received such little credit all these years. It’s true that the band had a period of time in the late 80s where they were beyond terrible, but fans that gave up on the band after the initial releases could not pick a better time than now to get back into Saxon. Like their last few releases, The Inner Sanctum is a very solid album that sees the band continuing their return to form. Unlike the new Ozzy album, The Inner Sanctum doesn’t sound like an 80s album released in modern times, but instead an album that actually sees the band evolve. It still features everything Saxon fans loved about the band in the early 80s, but the songs here actually sound fresh and unique. This isn’t an old album with a new coat of paint. It’s a true heavy metal album that doesn’t sound out of place, and it’s highly recommendable for any fan of the band or 80s British metal.