Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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.

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