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.