Thursday, February 07, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #55 to #51

55. entombed - 'serpent saints'
Seventeen years, nine full length albums. Time flies, doesn't it? I'm not aware of the demographics of my readership, but I assume that some of you guys were toddlers when 'Left Hand Path' came out. Man, do I feel old. Entombed, however, don't - 'Serpent Saints' is yet another slab of dirty, heavy Entombed-metal that fits perfectly alongside their past discography. Entombed's career, like almost every band that has had a massive influence towards a genre, has always been marked by those first albums, up until 'Wolverine Blues' more or less. Unlike many of those bands, though, and even if every fan seems to have a different album to pick on, the fact is that Entombed have never released a bad album, not even an average one, if you look at it unbiased by your own expectations. 'Serpent Saints' even sidesteps the more-of-the-same issue (although it's a very wonderful same!) that might have been valid on some other albums, because they're rockier, Motörhead-er than ever and at the same time doomier and creepier and Black Sabbath-er than ever too, with their typical way of not taking themselves too seriously ('Masters Of Death' is very tongue-in-cheek, for example) but still grinding you down with shit-heavy stuff, like the mammoth 'The Dead, The Dying And The Dying To Be Dead'. A metal staple, Entombed are. Here's to the next two decades.

Entombed - The Dead,The Dying, And The Dying To Be Dead'

54. dark tranquillity - 'fiction'
If you happened to have visited my page, you will notice that I listen to these guys a lot. Quite a lot. As much as I love At The Gates (and I do - I will travel to a couple of countries this summer with the express purpose of seeing them live) and Entombed (see above!), among others, Dark Tranquillity will always be the epitome of what Swedish death metal means and of its importance towards metal and extreme music as a whole. Their intricate lyrics, their catchy but pounding songs, their musical and emotional intelligence, everything is great about this band. So what is the new album doing at #54? Well, this might be the less positive review you will read in this top 100, but when a vaguely disappointing album still makes it halfway up the list, then it's because my expectations are sky high for the band in question, which is the case. Don't get me wrong, 'Fiction' is fabulous, but it's just not enough of a leap from 'Character', as that album was from 'Damage Done' (much more expansive and almost space-like feel), or as that was from 'Haven' (more aggressive and to the point), or as 'Haven' itself was from 'Projector' (creepy electronics, no clean vocals) and... you catch my drift. I have to admit that 'Projector' is still my favourite DT album, and those much-missed Mikael Stanne clean vocals make a return here on one of the songs ('Misery's Crown'), but 'Fiction' doesn't have the same individual album feel as all the other albums from 'The Gallery' until now. However, several brilliant moments like that wonderful last song, the aformentioned 'Misery's Crown' or the typical DT 'Nothing To No One' still make it a highly recommended album. Let's just hope the guys try a bit harder next time so that the record makes it to where it belongs - in the top 5 at least.

Dark Tranquillity - 'Misery's Crown'

53. doomsword - 'my name will live on'
[review also published on issue #78 of LOUD! magazine, translated and adapted for too.many.records.]
'My Name Will Live On' is the perfect power metal (well, sort of) album for people who dislike the genre, with no super-high-pitched vocals and cinematic delusions that are characteristic of some of the bands that those who don't like the genre hate the most. With DoomSword, you get the essence of epic, the notion of the enormity and the glory of past battles. After a rather lengthy absence, these Italians show that the sort of form that produced the masterpiece that is 'Resound The Horn' is still intact. Despite the rather tradicionalist look, DoomSword is a bit of an unique band. The seriousness and the sobriety with which they tackle the historical events that their songs are based on leave no doubts regarding their dedication and integrity, and it also injects in their music a believable feeling that is remarkable. For all that, 'My Name Will Live On' is huge in scope - a devoted, focused listen to a song like 'Gergovia' will make us feel in the battlefield itself, led by Vercingétorix (him on the album cover), resisting stoically and heroically to the Roman invasion. The environment around these songs is very heavy, from the sonic destruction of 'Steel Of My Axe' to the irresistibly inspiring 'Once Glorious'. The balance between power, excitement and even beauty is very good. The final cherry is Deathmaster's excellent vocals, sounding like a true leader of men, summoning them into battle. Get your swords ready.

DoomSword - 'Once Glorious'

52. deathchain - 'cult of death'
The loss of former vocalist Rotten, who did a great job on this Finnish band's two first albums, was a blow that some of the fans haven't been able to get over even now, but if they would try to look a bit beneath the surface they would realize that 'Cult Of Death' is actually a great progression for the band. Much more death metal than before, this album will take some getting used to if you were expecting a thrashy affair like their previous efforts, but once you get used to it you'll find a cavernous, brutal death metal album like they used to make 'em in the old days. K.J. Khaos, who also growls for Deathbound and The Duskfall, really goes low end here, and it gives heavy songs like 'Serpent Of The Deep' or 'Necrophiliac Lust' a remarkable potency. For the geeks among us (I know you're out there!), the album feels like a collection of monsters of the week, with each page of the booklet depicting the death hammer (for, erm, 'Deathammer'), that serpent of the deep or the mad exorcist in 'Hour Of The Exorcist'. Kickass album, and great fun.

Deathchain - 'Serpent Of The Deep'

51. pantheon i - 'the wanderer and his shadow'
Pantheon I might feature both Andrè Kvebek and Tor Risdal 'Seidemann' Stavenes, former members of 1349, but take that only as a quality reference point, because there is little of 1349 here, and if this was what the pair wanted to do, then it's great that they left their former band and dedicated themselves to this. Pantheon I practises a polished, complex kind of black metal - note how i used 'complex' as a lame way to actually mean 'symphonic', because that word has become so dirty in black metal circles that I'm afraid you'll just skip to the next review if I mention it. Rest assured, however, that this is symphonic like it should be. There's no ham-fisted sub-Hammer Horror crap here like in the latest Cradle Of Filth efforts or in all of Dimmu Borgir's unbelievably overrated career, in fact the band closest to the way Pantheon I develop their sound is probably Emperor, with all differences duly remembered. To be more accurate, the vast spacey feeling of Emperor with a bit of the rawer aggression of Old Man's Child almost gets us there, but Pantheon I are strong enough to stand on their own merits, and there are a lot of neat little touches, like a few surprising thrash parts, the odd Hestnaes-like clean vocal part or some moments where the fury really steps up, like in the great 'Cyanide Storm'. An enormously classy release of modern Norwegian black metal.

Pantheon I - 'Cyanide Storm'

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