Tuesday, January 23, 2007

top50 - #20 to #16

16. enslaved - 'ruun'
The towering expectations that previous album 'Isa' created could have been a problem, but not so with Enslaved. their progression seems unstoppable and 'Ruun' is, incredibly, another major step forward in the refining of their by now trademark sound. Enslaved have that rare ability to keep adding elements to their music, which started out in the early 90s as high quality but nevertheless rather straightforward viking black metal. These additions don't just augment their compositions, they seemingly fuse together, creating an immense soundscape to which you'll be irresistibly drawn to. Closer to Neurosis than to black metal as such these days in their all-encompassing scope, on 'Ruun' Enslaved give you roars, rasps and clean vocals, furious riffing and atmospheric passages, orchestral elements and straight-ahead intensity, progressive influences, middle eastern-sounding melodies and tons of standing-on-windswept-cliffs moments. Not so much pushing the envelope as bursting it, Enslaved are one of the most shining examples of creativity and innovation in unconventional music today.

17. iron maiden - 'a matter of life and death'
So 'Brave New World' and 'Dance Of Death' were okay and the live shows have been fantastic as ever, but this is what we were waiting for ever since Bruce re-joined Maiden. A complex, mature and surprisingly deep album, it's so chock-full of potential classics (like the long epics 'These Colours Don't Run' or 'Brighter Than A Thousand Suns') that the boys have taken the risky decision of playing it in its entirety on the subsequent tour. Introducing a dark and brooding side to the band that hadn't been seen for a long time, if ever, 'A Matter Of Life And Death' is the sound of a band at its peak. Keeping in mind that Maiden is nearing their 30th anniversary, this is a remarkable and unique achievement.

18. i - 'between two worlds'
As if getting Immortal back together wasn't enough, Abbath decided to shed the makeup and rock out like there's no tomorrow. Employing the talents of some other known Norwegian musicians (including original Immortal drummer Armagedda), Abbath managed an unlikely combination - maintaining the glacial iciness of his usual immortal compositions, but injecting it with mighty doses of pure rock'n'roll, in the true spirit of Motörhead and Kiss. Odd as it sounds, it works like a charm and provides plenty of possibilities for original sounding songs based on very well known inspirations. From the charging 'The Storm I Ride' to the Bathory homage of 'Far Beyond The Quiet', 'Between Two Worlds' is one of the most exhilarating musical experiences of the year.

19. gorgoroth - 'ad majorem sathanas gloriam'
Already reviewed in these pages, this nasty piece of black work has withstood the passing of the several months since its release, and it remains firmly in rotation when I feel like some evil. The inhuman battery (courtesy of the mighty Frost), the monstrous vocal assault and the buzzsaw guitarwork all combine to exhale an atmosphere of abject fear that few other releases have been able to match, and which puts Gorgoroth very near the top of the black metal hierarchy. If the devil has an iPod, you can bet 'Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam' is on his every playlist.

20. amon amarth - 'with oden on our side'
The torch of viking metal, first lit by Bathory and kept alive by countless other bands, has a major carrier these days - Amon Amarth. These Swedes have been perfecting their typical sound for over a decade now, always avoiding the pitfalls of over-cheesiness and repetition, always going for stronger and more ambitious albums. 'With Oden On Our Side' is no exception and it represents the band's best work so far. Crushing opener 'Valhall Awaits Me' lays to waste any fears that the band would over-use the mid-paced tempo they had employed on 'Fate Of Norns' - it storms out of the gates pounding you as if it was Thor's own hammer Mjolnir bashing your head in. Not only heavy as a really heavy thing, it's also an inspiringly epic song and will undoubtedly raise many a fist in a live setting. From then on, they never look back and embark on a journey replete with intensity, majesty and even the odd bit of beauty now and then ('Under The Northern Star'). Get your horned helmet ready.


  1. I just nabbed my first Amon Amarth CD which was Odin on Our Side and it is a dandy. I'll have to refer to some of their earlier work. I've been waffling on Enslaved, so I think I'll give them a spin.

  2. Dude, you and I have the same kinda tastes! That I disc is fantastic, the new Amon Amart got my Skullcrusher of the Month award in my metal column for AMP and a top-10 year-end finisher...Enslaved is one of the best bands out there...I prefer Isa over Ruun but it's still awesome.