Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Top 100 Songs of the Year (90-81)

Sorry for this one taking so long. The next ones should come fairly rapidly.

Dark Passion Play

Much like “Eva,” the first single from Dark Passion Play, “Amaranth” is a good but not great song that works best as a showcase for what new vocalist Anette Ozlon can do. Despite what many will tell you, the reason that “Amaranth” can’t quite achieve greatness is not Ozlon’s pop-like vocals. It is because it doesn’t attempt to be more than simply a catchy pop-metal song. “Amaranth” is not a song that shows what Nightwish can do, but instead a fun and forgettable song that still contains enough of what makes Nightwish great to make it better than the average pop-metal tune. More than anything, “Amaranth” is filler. However, even Nightwish’s filler songs are better than the best of most bands. “Amaranth” is an example of that, as its one of the worst songs on Dark Passion Play, but still one of the better songs of 2007.

The Human Stain
Ghost Opera

“The Human Stain” is the type of song that doesn’t do any one thing particularly outstanding, but it comes to together in the end to create a quality product. It’s not the outstanding work of art that many have come to expect from Kamelot, but the song’s unique sound makes it one of the better symphonic metal songs of 2007. “The Human Stain” straddles the line between symphonic and power metal, but there are certainly more symphonic influences throughout both this song and the entire Ghost Opera album. Roy Khan’s classical vocal training is shown more here than usual, and new keyboardist Oliver Palotai plays a prominent role in the song’s instrumentals. However, Kamelot’s biggest strength has always been Thomas Youngblood’s outstanding guitar work. Youngblood has proven that he can shred with the best of them, but it’s his ability to change between power metal shredding and melodic riffs that make him one of the most consistent guitarists in metal. His work on “The Human Stain” is more melodic than fast, but the brief solo shows his ability to let loose. That, combined with the aforementioned vocals are what makes “The Human Stain” good, but it’s the rest of the band that makes it great. It may not be one of Kamelot’s best songs, but every member of the band does their part to make it stand out.

Kingdom of Doom
The Good, The Bad & The Queen
The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Depending on your perspective, Damon Albarn’s latest single is either an example of creative brilliance or a pretentious disappoint that isn’t nearly as clever as it should be. In all actuality, it’s somewhere in between. Compared to Albarn’s usually exceptional work, “Kingdom of Doom” ranks as one of the more mediocre singles he’s released in years, and it doesn’t quite impress on first listen. However, “Kingdom of Doom” is also a creative song that is just as intelligent as it is catchy. The lyrics are deep and well written, and the whole project could easily be called more mature than the Gorillaz or Blur. The sound itself is where The Good, The Bad & The Queen falls a bit short, as it’s no where near as experimental as what Albarn has done before. That’s not to say “Kingdom of Doom” is dull or unoriginal, but it doesn’t quite have the staying power that has become the norm for Albarn’s music. For what it is though, “Kingdom of Doom” is a well written song that ranks as one of the year’s best alternative rock singles.

The Arms of Sorrow
Killswitch Engage
As Daylight Dies

Despite almost all of As Daylight Dies being exceptionally brilliant, Killswitch Engage’s sound is based on a fairly strict formula. Their combination of heavy metal riffs, screaming, some of the best clean vocals in metalcore, and exceptionally beautiful moments of softness, is simply the best in American metalcore. However, the moments where they stray from that formula aren’t quite as remarkable. “The Arms of Sorrow” is one of those moments, and while the song is certainly worthwhile, it’s not a very good example of what Killswitch can do when they’re at their best. The accessibility of the song is its biggest strength, and that’s why it works well as a single. Howard Jones’ excellent vocals and the band’s well written lyrics are on display here, and it’s easily the most accessible way to experience Killswitch’s sound. The vocal combination of Jones and guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz is truly a work of beauty, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this Jone’s best vocal performance yet. The emotion in Jones’ voice is worthy of high praise, and even though the lyrics aren’t among Killswitch’s best, they are still outstanding compared to the average metalcore song. Aside from the vocals, “The Arms of Sorrow” doesn’t do anything particularly great compared what Killswitch Engage has shown they are capable doing, but it’s still a solid song that works as a gateway for the heavier and more varied Killswitch tracks.

The Dethalbum

Dethklok, the cartoon death metal band from the hilarious Metalocalypse series, may be judged first and foremost by the comedic value of their music, but they work just as well as a death metal band. “Bloodrocuted” isn’t exactly the best song on their debut album, but it still works as both a hilarious comedic metal song and as one of the year’s best and most accessible death metal singles. Accessibility is something the death metal genre has lacked for as long as the genre has existed, but Dethklok’s mix of humor and brutality is easily the most accessible death metal the genre has to offer. From strictly a musical perspective, “Bloodrocuted” is a song that has enough brutal death grunts, crushing riffs, and simply insane drumming (courtesy of Gene Hoglan from Death and Strapping Young Lad) to please any fan of death metal. As comedy, the over-the-top metal parody commonly found in Metalocalypse works exceptionally well, and the humor can be appreciated by anyone that understands even the basics of metal music. Both as comedy and music, “Bloodrocuted” is nothing short exceptional.

Octavia Sperati
Grace Submerged

“Moonlit” isn’t a song that reinvents the formula for female-fronted goth metal, but it makes enough subtle changes to stand out. Ocatvia Sperati’s oddly accessible mix of goth and doom metal is reminiscent of what can be found on early Lacuna Coil and Tristania albums, but the inclusion of the slower and darker doom metal influences add a touch of uniqueness to the sound. “Moonlit,” in particular, is an example of the band’s doom influences existing alongside their melodic core. The verses are as dark and slow as anything previous doom and goth metal crossovers have created, but the melodic chorus is where the more accessible Lacuna Coil-style influences begin to truly separate “Moonlit” from what’s usually found in the genre. The subtle influences found in the song come together to create some of the most pleasant doom metal out there, and although Octavia Sperati aren’t ready to be mentioned alongside the elites of female-fronted goth metal, “Moonlit” is an impressive song that is worthy of praise.

3’s and 7’s
Queens of the Stone Age
Era Vulgaris

Queens of the Stone Age are an anomaly among mainstream rock. It’s rare to find a unique and creative band in popular music these days, but “3’s and 7’s” is an example of song that is full of subtleties that are rarely appreciated in the mainstream. As is generally the case with Queens of the Stone Age (or really any Josh Homme project), the unique riff is the first noticeable aspect of the song, and it doesn’t disappoint on “3’s and 7’s.” The riff is wonderfully strange and unique, but still as catchy and heavy as any fan could hope for. However, its not just unique instrumentals that have made Queens of the Stone Age a silver lining in mainstream rock. Lyrics are a major part of why Queens of the Stone Age has been successful over the years, and “3’s and 7’s” is yet another strange and thought-provoking song from the twisted mind of Josh Homme. The combination of the unique lyrics and instrumentals make this possibly the most interesting song played on the radio all year.

No I in Threesome
Our Love to Admire

Interpol’s “No I in Threesome” is a beautifully written song that demonstrates both the strengths and flaws of the band’s third album. On the positive side, Interpol has once again demonstrated that they know how to write ballads. Like most of Interpol’s softer works, “No I in Threesome” is lyrically stunning. The somewhat cryptic nature of the lyrics can be interpreted on multiple levels, while the wordplay is excellent to say the least. Instrumentally, the simple but catchy bass line is reminiscent of their 2004 single, “Evil,” and it has the same effect this time around. The bass line and beautifully simple riff add to the multi-layered darkness that makes up the lyrics, while still maintaining a sense of simplicity. However, the biggest flaw with “No I in Threesome” is that it may be a bit too reminiscent of Interpol’s past ballads. As great as it is, the song doesn’t break new ground, and it may be the first Interpol single to lacks signs of growth in the band. As previously mentioned, it bears resemblance to 2004’s “Evil,” as well as other softer Interpol songs, and it doesn’t quite reach the level of greatness that “Evil” did. “No I in Threesome” may not show a large amount of progression, but it’s yet another beautiful ballad from one modern alternative’s finest.

The Pieces
A Band Called Pain
Broken Dreams

The genre of post-grunge has become arguably the most generic genre in rock music. For a genre with “grunge” in its name, it’s somewhat surprising that its biggest problem is a lack of emotion. For the most part, it’s become such a mainstream phenomenon that there’s little room for bands that are original, overly talented, or understand the purpose or even sound of grunge. There's a fine line between copying Alice in Chains and actually understanding their sound enough to use it. A Band Called Pain straddles that line, and even something as simple as that is progression for the genre. It’s somewhat ironic that the one band that in the genre that understands their influences and has at least some talent to speak has gotten very little radio play and is still deep in the underground. “The Pieces,” the first single from their re-released debut, may not be the most original song in the world, but it doesn’t sound like yet another generic mainstream rock song either. The heavy metal influences, somewhat dark riffs, and vocals that are actually raw (a major part of grunge that has apparently been lost in translation with post-grunge) make “The Pieces” one of the best post-grunge songs of 2007. Keep in mind that A Band Called Pain is a young band with room improvement, and that the members have previously been part of rap and jazz projects, and this band’s potential is massive. It’s not all there yet, but “The Pieces” is a promising start to the career of one of the most intriguing young bands in rock music.

10,000 Days

Compared to the impressive array of progressive music released in 2007, Tool’s third single from 2006’s 10,000 Days seems rather forgettable. Released as a single early in the year, “Jambi” could have been one of the top progressive songs on last year’s list, but is instead reduced to being the first of many progressive rock songs to appear on the 2007 countdown. However, “Jambi” still has enough quality aspects to warrant a spot on the list. Lyrically, it doesn’t quite live up to what Tool has shown they’re capable of, but the precise instrumentals and unique talk box solo make “Jambi” an exceptional song on its own. It could certainly be argued that “Jambi” lasts a bit too long or that not every part of the song is significant, but the overall product is both unique and compelling. Porcupine Tree (among others) may have rendered this song nothing more than forgettable prog rock in 2007, but “Jambi” is still one of the best radio singles of the year.

Thanks for reading! As promised, I would also like to personally thank DF and Tad for continuing to read my entries and comment.


DF said...

More good choices, as usual... with the exception of Tool of course. :)

Anonymous said...

Great choices... although I'm not a huge fan of the Band called Pain.


Anonymous said...

Great choices, Matrix. I don't especially like A Band Called Pain, but very nice.