While it was a great year for metal music as a whole, many of the best albums of the year are in heavy or obscure genres that will unfortunately turn away listeners. Most “mainstream” metal albums tend to be awful, as generic trends were once again more widespread than actual creative art. If you’re looking to get into metal for the first time, or just looking for a metal album that’s easier to get into, here are ten quality accessible metal albums from this past year.
The Tide and Its Takers
If there’s one album in this guide that will not and should not win any awards, it’s 36 Crazyfists’ The Tide and Its Takers. This is an album lacking in variety and standout moments. Still, it gets a pass largely due to the weakness of most other metalcore albums. 36 Crazyfists at least have a sound that can be recommended, even if the album as a whole is decent as best. The group is tight musically and is also one of the few metalcore acts with an aggressive edge to their sound. This isn’t an album for anyone other than metalcore fans, but if you like metalcore, it’s worth checking out. You could certainly do a lot worse than The Tide and Its Takers, and with the onslaught of awful metalcore albums released this year, that’s good enough to be called one of the best metalcore albums of 2008.
All That Remains
Overcome is a much more mainstream release than typical All That Remains, as the vocals feature far more clean singing than screaming. However, now matter how accessible and commercial their sound has become, All That Remains is still one of the best bands metalcore has to offer. If you’re a fan of more well known melodic metalcore acts like Bullet for My Valentine, As I Lay Dying, and Atreyu, make sure to check this album out. It might be the weakest album in All That Remains’ discography, but it’s also their most accessible, and far better than the usual metalcore offering.
Worlds Collide is a much more accessible and commercially friendly album than what Apocalyptica fans may have wanted, but it still earns a spot on this list and a strong recommendation. Apocalyptica is a metal band comprised of three cellists and a drummer, and the music they create is absolutely astonishing. Guests such as Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil and Dave Lombardo from Slayer add to the album, making Worlds Collide a different yet still great Apocalyptica experience. The songs here range from hard rock to heavy metal to symphonic music, and with the exception of a few generic tracks, it works tremendously well. This is an album that any fan of metal, classical, or symphonic music should enjoy, and it’s a rare metal album that finds accessibility without comprising quality and originality.
Heaven Shall Burn
It’s been 17 years since Metallica has recorded anything worthy of praise. After the absolutely horrendous
Protest the Hero
Protest the Hero’s Fortress is easily the best metalcore album of 2008. Words cannot do justice to what Protest the Hero have achieved, not because Fortress is an especially amazing album, but because the album has absolutely no reason to be as good as it is. Fortress sounds like a bunch of random styles randomly thrown together to create a complete mess of a prog album, but it somehow comes together and works. This is progressive music with metalcore screams and breakdowns, but it’s also a metalcore album with experimentation, style changes, and obscure time signatures. Fortress gets better with each listen, and while there will be many who will unable to get past the metalcore base, those who are looking for a different kind of metalcore album should take a good look at Protest the Hero’s latest.
Originally a run of the mill nu-metal band in the mid-90s, Soulfly have improved tremendously and become a solid and unique heavy metal band in the process. Conquer is the most experimental Soulfly album yet, but it’s also their most consistent. Every song is musically tight and stylistically varied, and the album as a whole is surprisingly great. There’s little to no filler, and the riffs are heavier than anything Soulfly have done in the past. It may be hard to believe, but Conquer is a true heavy metal album. It’s solid throughout, and while it certainly won’t change the way metal is played, it’s a far more original album than anyone could have expected.
The Formation of Damnation
Okay, Testament isn’t exactly “accessible metal,” but if I’m going to recommend the new Metallica and Soulfly albums, I feel the need to put the best trash metal album of the year on the same list. Testament’s The Formation of Damnation is far and away the best thrash metal album of 2008, and it’s one of the overall best metal albums of the year as well. It took 9 years to make, and it’s the first album with Testament's original lineup in 16 years, but it’s also one of the finest albums this classic band has ever released. This is what thrash metal should sound like, and fans of the genre should love this album. If you’re looking for a new album for a thrash metal fan in your life, you can’t do much better than The Formation of Damnation.
Progressive metalcore had a surprisingly strong year in 2008, and Silhouettes is one of two solid albums this year to combine metalcore with progressive elements. While Textures’ album is heavier than the other, Fortress by Protest the Hero, it is also the weaker of the two. Still, Textures have more extreme metal influences than Protest the Hero, and unlike Protest the Hero, this is a more polished album with experimental and ambient elements. If that sounds like more of your thing, then give this is a listen, as it’s a very solid album in its own right. If you’re neutral though, and you can only get one progressive metalcore album, I recommend Fortress over Silhouettes, but you can’t go wrong with either.
Gods of the Earth
Faulting The Sword for sounding too much like Black Sabbath is like faulting Ozzy Osbourne for not having a great voice. It may be true, but it misses the point entirely. The Sword is essentially a Black Sabbath tribute band, and while the album is comprised of all original songs, the one major influence is clearly Sabbath. Unlike most retro-rock bands, however, The Sword do a commendable job of paying tribute to their influences with copying their style. They avoid recycling Sabbath riffs, and none of the songs are reminiscent of any specific classic. It’s just a new band doing their own thing while paying tribute to their heroes. Yes, it’s an unessential album lacking in originality, but it’s also an album that achieves just about everything it attempts. If you’re a fan of early Sabbath, The Sword’s Gods of the Earth makes for a worthwhile listen.