Me Against the World (4/4)- 1995
2Pac’s often overlooked masterpiece one of hip-hop’s greatest achievements. On Me Against the World, Shakur is brutally honest in ways that few artists can ever hope to be, showing the listener the good, the bad, and the ugly of who Tupac Shakur really is. There is pain and regret in his words, but he never makes excuses. Even in a genre like hip-hop, few albums are as personal as Me Against the World, and it’s influence on lyrical rap is boundless. It may not have Pac’s biggest hits, but this was the most cohesive, most intelligent, and overall strongest album of the legend’s all too short career.
All Eyez on Me (2/4)- 1996
The late Tupac Shakur was one of the greatest emcees to ever bless the art of hip-hop. All Eyez on Me may be his most famous and often most beloved studio album, but its reasons have more to do with his unfortunate death just after its release and the radio-friendliness of its songs than does the music itself. All Eyez on Me was recorded in just two weeks, after 2Pac had been bailed out by Suge Knight and signed to his label, Death Row Records. This whole incident has been discussed in great detail since his death, but Pac’s usually conscious lyricism and unbelievable flow is nowhere to be seen on this record. Shakur has no variety in his subject matter here, and much of the album really does sound like it was recorded in a two week span. It’s been speculated that 2Pac wanted to end his contract with the shady Suge Knight and that All Eyez on Me was recorded as a way to quickly fill his three-album agreement. The content of the album would support that, as this is an uncharacteristically lazy and uninspired effort from 2Pac, and it’s far from his best work.
3 (Progressive Rock/Metal)
The End is Begun (3/4)- 2007
It's amazing that 3 has yet to find an audience past the prog underground. Despite being signed to a metal label, The End is Begun is more similar to Coheed and Cambria (who 3’s frontman’s brother played drums for) than Opeth or the progressive metal bands they’ve opened for. This album, however, is much better than anything Coheed and Cambria have done, and while there are a few moments of filler that keep it from being truly exceptional, it’s easy to recommend 3 to both progressive and alternative rock fans regardless of how deep they’ve ventured into the genres’ undergrounds.
3 Inches of Blood (Heavy Metal)
Advance and Vanquish (3/4)- 2004
“Deadly Sinners” is the clear highlight here, but the rest of Advance and Vanquish is so ridiculous and over-the-top that it’s impossible not the recommend.
Fire Up the Blades (3/4)- 2007
The excessively high vocals may initially incite laughter, but that doesn’t mean 3 Inches of Blood is a joke. In fact, the band has more talent than many of the bands their spoofing, and the music they make is certainly compelling. Fire Up the Blades may not have anything that comes close to their infamous “Deadly Sinners” from their last release, but nearly all of the songs present work. Whether you’re looking for a quality album that can be appreciated by any fan of metal, or you’re just looking for one of the most fun albums of the year, it’s hard to go wrong with Fire Up the Blades.
Here Waits Thy Doom (1.5/4)- 2009
Stuck between serious and ridiculous, Here Waits Thy Doom is a highly disappointing follow up to Fire Up the Blades. The fact of the matter is that this is just more of the same from 3 Inches of Blood, but it isn’t as crazy as what they’ve done in the past, and far too often it sounds like a strange AC/DC rip-off. It’s hard to say what 3 Inches of Blood were trying to do with this album, but unless they were trying to make something awful it’s safe to say they failed.
The 3rd and the Mortal (Ambient/Doom Metal)
In This Room (4/4)- 1997
How does one describe beauty? That is a nearly impossible task, but also one that is required to properly critique The 3rd and the Mortal’s gorgeous third album. In This Room is an album that takes influences from numerous musical genres, and blends them into a sound that is beyond stunning. This is pure emotion and passion in the form of music, and it’s simply beautiful to behold. This is type of music that begs to be loved and not just listened to.
10 Years (Post-Grunge)
Division (2.5/4)- 2008
10 Years’ sophomore album isn’t a huge improvement from their debut, but it’s a more praise worthy album than most other post-grunge releases. While it’s not saying much, Division is quite possibly the best post-grunge album of 2008. Fans of the genre looking for some solid tracks should be satisfied with what 10 Years have produced. It’s not terribly original, but that’s to be expected. Instead, the album’s strength is in its lyrics, which range from personal reflections to politically conscious protests. Once again, it’s nothing new, but Division is decent enough. Unfortunately for post-grunge fans, you can’t say that about many other of the genre’s other albums released this past year.
12 Stones (Post-Grunge)
Anthem for the Underdog (2/4)- 2007
Paul McCoy gives a pretty solid vocal performance in what is essentially a generic post-grunge album. As a whole, it’s slightly above average, but still far from earning a recommendation to anyone outside of its core audience.
36 Crazyfists (Metalcore)
Rest Inside the Flames (3/4)- 2006
While it’s unremarkable in the grand scheme of things, 36 Crazfists’ Rest Inside the Flames is a consistent punk-metal album that finds the right mix between aggressive and accessible. All of the typical metalcore conventions are here. You have your inhale screaming, melodic choruses, and of course the breakdowns. However, all of this is done quite well, and others screamers could learn a thing or two from Brock Lindow, a rare metalcore vocalist who actually uses inhale screaming correctly. Rest Inside the Flames is a metalcore album for fans of metalcore, and it’s certainly among the top releases in that genre.
The Tide and Its Takers (2.5/4)- 2008
The Tide and Its Takers 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.
50 Cent (Pop/Rap)
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2/4)- 2003
Some great Dr. Dre beats are wasted on 50’s horrible flow and generic lyrics. A few of the songs are catchy, and again, Dre deserves credit for his production, but the rapping here is just too awful to give it a passing grade.
Curtis (1/4)- 2007
Somehow, rapping about how you don’t need to put any effort into your music to sell records can lead to actually selling records. 50 Cent proves that here, but in the process he’s made an album that should be avoided by anyone smart enough to see that his “hustle” is selling you this garbage.
Before I Self Destruct (1/4)- 2009
“Baby by Me” might be the most unintentionally offensive hip-hop song I’ve ever heard. The rest of the album isn’t any better. Eminem makes a welcome appearance, but it’s a shame that Fiddy’s flow, lyrics, and subject matter seem to get more pathetic with each new album.