Beauty and the Beat (2.5/4)- 2005
To this day, I remain conflicted on Edan’s critically acclaimed Beauty and the Beat. On one hand, it’s a wildly unique and imaginative experimental record. On the other hand, it’s short and it never comes close to reaching its potential. It’s a shame that Edan doesn’t develop his sound more, as much of the album is a lot of fun, but past the creative beats and golden age tributes, there really isn’t much in the way of quality music. Beauty and the Beat is somewhat of a mess, and there are many hip-hop fans that can look past the records flaw and even embrace them as part of Edan’s quirkiness. In a way, I envy those people.
Edguy (Power Metal)
Tinnitus Sanctus (2.5/4)- 2008
While one could argue that Edguy’s formula is starting to wear thin, it’s hard to listen to them without smiling. This is an immensely talented power metal band that doesn’t take their music seriously in the slightest. Tinnitus Sanctus is a slightly more mature record than what fans may be used to be, but it’s still a fun, lighthearted, and comedic metal album with some of the most impressive musicianship and intelligent songwriting of Edguy’s career. Just because Tinnitus Sanctus isn’t vastly different from typical Edguy doesn’t imply that Edguy is just your average power metal band. The humor, musicianship, and even the variety within the songs themselves makes Edguy a band that even those who aren’t into power metal can listen to and appreciate.
Fantastic Damage (3.5/4)- 2002
While Fantastic Damage is far from perfect, it’s the type of that gets so much right that it makes up for its flaws. In the case, it's strength is some of the best and most creative beats known to hip-hop, and while El-P’s flow is average, it works well in combination with the beats. The beats, of course, are the main attraction here, but it helps that El-P is a witty lyricist. Fantastic Damage does have a few flaws, namely that its talented guest rappers are hit and miss at attacking the El-P beats, but there is so much great music here that it hardly detracts from what is otherwise an excellent and truly creative hip-hop album.
Elbow (Alternative/Indie Rock)
The Seldom Seen Kid (3/4)- 2008
While Elbow is often classified as indie rock, The Seldom Seen Kid is an album that should please any fan of alternative music, not just the indie crowd. Their sound is just as accessible and radio friendly as that of any other band in this category, which is why I think it fits better into the general alternative section on this list. It’s really quite amazing that this band isn’t a household name at this point, as fans of bands like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, and other famous indie rock bands should be obsessing over Elbow. The Seldom Seen Kid is the evolution of accessible indie rock, and it has something for just about any alternative fan.
Elvenking (Power/Folk Metal)
Two Tragedy Poets (...and a Caravan of Weird Figures) (3/4)- 2008
Two Tragedy Poets is an acoustic folk rock album from power/folk band Elvenking. While that may sound like career suicide to some, this is actually a very good album. Elvenking doesn’t exactly posses the lyrical quality necessary to make a typical folk album, which is why Two Tragedy Poets is anything but a typical folk rock album. The songs are still structured like power metal tracks, and the songwriting is intentionally fun and over-the-top. While an acoustic folk album could have been a huge failure, Elvenking not only do a great job of tweaking their sound to work in an acoustic setting, but they also do a great job of tweaking the acoustic folk formula to fit their style. The result is a purely fun album that anyone looking for a fun folk metal experience should enjoy.
Encore (1.5/4)- 2004
Whether Encore is a sell-out record, an album manufactured by Eminem’s label, or just a rap album gone horribly wrong, know that Encore is horrendous. The well written “Like Toy Soldiers: is the album’s only saving grace, and the only thing that saves it from receiving a 1 out of 4. The rest of album ranges from half-finished attempts at serious subjects (“Mockingbird,” “Mosh”) to pop rap garbage that no fan of Em deserves to hear.
Relapse (3.5/4)- 2009
Despite receiving a large amount of criticism from mainstream publications and longtime fans alike, Eminem’s Relapse is a near masterpiece. Coming out of a five year hiatus, Marshall Mathers has returned with a dark and powerful tale of drug abuse told through exaggerations and metaphorical shock value. He weaves two stories into one, telling literal stories using his real voice, and rapping as a drug abusing serial killer through a fake accent that will take fans of bit of getting used to. Occasionally, the classic Slim Shady voice makes its return, and by the end of the album the three “characters” have become a single entity, merging the literal with the absurd. Many will only be able to look at this on a track-by-track basis and miss the point of the album entirely, but I urge any listener with an open mind to view the album as a whole. Relapse tells a story, and one that mainstream hip-hop may not be ready for. Even harmless pop songs like the initially immature “We Made You,” add to the story of the album, creating a dark tale that is as honest as it is crude. There are even some individual highlights, such as “Beautiful,” an emotionally gripping track that lives up to its name, and “Underground,” a truly epic closer that contains some of the finest rapping of Em’s career. There are a few missteps along the way, namely the tacked-on radio hit “Crack a Bottle,” but taken as a whole Relapse is proof that Eminem is back, and he’s brought a mature and artistic vision with him. Ignore the negativity surrounding this album, and give it an open minded listen. There’s more here than you may think.
Recovery (2.5/4)- 2010
Eminem’s second album in as many years is just about the exact opposite of Relapse, the hardcore concept album that alienated a large portion of his established fan base. Recovery is essentially pop rap, full of catchy hooks, straightforward lyrics, and a few well known guests. While the songs are consistently catchy, far too many are skippable diversions at best. The subject matter is more personal, often more literal, but Em’s apologies and promises for the future get repetitive. On top of that, the pop star guests are outdone by the ones that aren’t given a “featuring” credit. Liz Rodrigues supplies the chorus for “25 to Life” and “Almost Famous,” and it’s a shame that Liz or a singer of her talent couldn’t have replaced Pink or Rihanna on their featured tracks. However, with all it’s problems and inconsistencies Recovery’s saving grace is Eminem’s genuine honestly. There is passion in his voice, and you know that he means what he says. This is the type of undeniable passion that is missing from mainstream rap today, and it gives Recovery a necessary human element. For every ten minutes of boring filler, there is a song like “Space Bound” or “Love the Way You Lie” that reminds the listener of the power in Marshall Mathers’ voice and lyrics. If Eminem can channel that passion into a more consistent album, then he might be able to truly get out of the “comeback” phase.
Emperor (Black Metal)
In the Nightside Eclipse (4/4)- 1994
Emperor’s classic debut is still one of the most brutal and gut-wrenching albums in the black metal genre. However, what sets an album like In the Nightside Eclipse apart from the rest of the pack is in the music itself. The band’s talent is in a completely different league from their Norwegian black metal counterparts, and the songs don’t rely on lo-fi production or unnecessary distortion to create a dark and brutal atmosphere. There is also an aura of beauty surrounding In the Nightside Eclipse, mostly stemming from its great symphonic influences, used in perfect contrast to the aforementioned brutality. Simply put, In the Nightside Eclipse is one of the best metal albums ever released.
Enslaved (Black/Viking Metal)
Vertebrae (3.5/4)- 2008
It’s hard to say exactly what genre Enslaved fits under, as they seem to consistently reinvent their sound, and it’s also hard to say just who Vertebrae will most appeal to. Regardless of whether black metal fans will appreciate Enslaved’s more progressive side, Vertebrae is a phenomenal album that deserves to find an audience. Along with Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, and Emperor, Enslaved plays the most progressive and creative brand of black metal out there. Vertebrae is less of a black metal album than Enslaved purists may want, but it’s also one of the most unique and experimental albums Enslaved has put out. I’m not sure quite who to recommend Vertebrae to, other than to simply recommend it to anyone willing to listen. It’s a great album that deserves an audience from any and all open-minded metalheads.
Epica (Symphonic Metal)
The Divine Conspiracy (4/4)- 2007
It would seem that Epica can do no wrong. From beautiful ballads to brutal death grunts to some of the finest symphonic metal ever recorded, everything Epica does on The Divine Conspiracy is pure bliss. Not enough can be said about the pure beauty of the album. The contrast between Simone Simmons mesmerizing vocals and the backing death growls allows for an experience filled with variety and emotion. Every metalhead should give this album a chance, whether or not you’re into symphonic metal, and even those aren’t interested in metal would do well giving this one a try. This is one of the best albums of the year regardless of the genre, and it deserves to be appreciated by any fan of music.
Equilibrium (Folk Metal)
Sagas (3.5/4)- 2008
Sagas is an epic and often ridiculous metal album that blends elements of folk, viking, and even black metal into one completely over-the-top sound. This is a fun and epic album that is mostly a folk metal release at its core, but crunching riffs and harsh vocals make it not only much heavier than the typical folk metal album, but also more fun. The musicianship is incredibly solid, the vocals are appropriately over-the-top, and it comes together to create what can only be described as a brilliant mess. If you like folk metal, Sagas is an interesting and unique take on the genre that is definitely worth getting.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow (Melodic Death Metal)
Chaotic Beauty (3.5/4)- 2000
Rarely does an album’s title so accurately describe its sound. Eternal Tears of Sorrow have crafted an album is as chaotic as it is beautiful, and believe me when I say that Chaotic Beauty truly is a beautiful record. The harsh growls and death metal instrumentation is complimented by melodic keyboards and some well-timed female guest vocals, making this is both a unique melodeath record and a metal album that perfectly blends the melodic and heavy aspects of its genre.
Evanescence (Alternative/Hard Rock)
Fallen (3/4)- 2003
Evanescence are hardly the most original band in the world, but there’s something captivating about their accessible semi-gothic hard rock. Borrowing elements from Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, and other female-fronted hard rock/metal bands, Fallen is kind of a stripped down pop metal album with some surprisingly beautiful melodies and catchy choruses. It’s unoriginal, and there’s no way that this band should be listened to over Lacuna Coil and some of their other contemporaries, but there’s something be said for a radio rock album with some genuine songwriting and actual talent. For what it is, Fallen is solid, and for that reason it earns a mild recommendation.
Whitey Ford Sings the Blues (3.5/4)
Over a decade after it’s release, it’s still hard to believe that this is the same Everlast who emceed House of Pain and currently raps in La Coka Nostra. Whitey Ford Sings the Blues is both a rap and alternative rock album, and it’s fans of both genres that will get the most out of the conflicting styles that Everlast presents. “What It’s Like” was a hit single back in 1998, and it still stands as one of the best alternative rock hits of the 90s. The rest of the album is full of more personal hip-hop mixed in with the occasional acoustic guitar segment. Chances are that most listeners will hand pick a few select songs as the stand outs, but Whitey Ford Sings the Blues is only inconsistent in its style. Everlast is all over the place, but the quality never slips.
Evile (Thrash Metal)
Enter the Grave (2/4)- 2007
Evile are without a doubt a talented band, but their debut is far too unoriginal to warrant a recommendation. Their sound is pure Slayer, but Enter the Grave simply isn’t as good as what its copying.
Explosions in the Sky (Post-Rock)
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (3/4)- 2007
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone isn’t an album that everyone will enjoy, but those who appreciate beautiful instrumental music are highly recommended to give this band a listen. Those who are already familiar with the group might be disappointed by their lack of evolution, but it’s hard to argue with yet another beautiful release from one of post-rock’s best and most well known bands. The emotion put into the melodic riffs creates a far more touching story than any lyric, and All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone is an album worth experiencing for anyone that appreciates sheer instrumental talent and beauty. You won’t find anything catchy, but you will find true musical beauty. It may not farther their sound much, and this is in no way their best album, but Explosions in the Sky have created another worthwhile gem.
Eyedea & Abilities (Rap/Hip-Hop)
E&A (3.5/4)- 2004
Whether they’re doing party anthems, introspective lyrical tracks, or just simply showing off, Eyedea and Abilities never fail to do it in top form. Eyedea’s flow is beyond insane, as evidenced by his verses in songs like “Now” and “E&A Day",” but he can also turn around and write poetic conscious lyrics in songs like “Glass” and “Paradise.” Abilities is just as talented, and even listeners who aren’t full aware of DJ’s do should be impressed by his quick scratching and clever samples. Much of the time, E&A is more of a show of skill than high art, but there’s enough variety and talent here to please any fan of hip-hop.