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Friday, February 26, 2010

Album Archives- # & Symbols

2Pac (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Me Against the World (4/4)- 1995

me against the world

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

all eyez on me

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

the end is begun

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

advance and vanquish

“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

fire up the blades

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

here waits thy doom

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

in this room

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

anthem for the underdog

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

rest inside the flame

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

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

get rich or die tryin

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

before i self destruct

“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.

Album Archives- Z

Zeromancer (Industrial Rock)

Sinners International (2/4)- 2009

sinners international

Sinners International is a huge disappointment, especially considering the band’s promising direction with Zzyzx. Many fans were taken aback by the band’s more experimental sound with that album, and as a result Zeromancer has released what is little more than a failed attempt to recreate Eurotrash.


Zimmers Hole (Progressive/Thrash Metal)

When You Were Shouting at the Devil… We Were in League with Satan (3/4)- 2008

when you were shouting at the devil

Zimmers Hole have created an album that is about as awesome as you would expect an album called When You Were Shouting at the Devil… We Were in League with Satan should be. If you not find that funny, then you’re probably not a metalhead, and therefore not the audience that Zimmers Hole would appeal to. However, as far as quality thrash metal goes, When You Were Shouting at the Devil… is damn good. Add in a great sense of humor, highlighted in cuts “The Vowel Song” (featuring the animated Nathan Explosion from Dethklok) and “We Rule the Fucking Land,” and you have an album that is far more than just a poor man’s Strapping Young Lad. Oh, and Gene Hoglan is still one of the best drummers in metal.


Zion I (Rap/Hip-Hop)

True & Livin’ (3.5/4)- 2005

true and livin

Underground rap is about more than just deviating from the mainstream. There is a distinct raw sound to underground that no matter how famous an artist gets, cannot be taken away. Zion I may be rapping some more famous guests, but their grimy production, long verses, and poignant lyricism make them the epitome of underground. True & Livin’ is an album that stays true to the raw sound Zion I established with their first two records, and as such the actual rhyming becomes the focus. The choruses are few in number and often forgettable, but Zumbi delivers what are easily his greatest and most passionate verses to date, and he’s aided by some fantastic guest emcees, all of which put equal importance on their lyrics and message.


The Take Over (2.5/4)- 2009

the take over

The Take Over is a mixed bag of an experimental album, both in terms of lyrics and production. Brother Ali delivers an outstanding verse on “Cage Bird, Pt.1,” but the actual duo of Zion I only seems to show up on half of the album.

Album Archives- Y

Yakuza (Avant-Garde Metal)

Samsara (3.5/4)- 2006


For a band with a such a unique style, it’s odd that what stands out about Yakuza is their relentless ability to make their sound work against all odds. Here is a metal-jazz hybrid without exceptional technical skills or even mastery of their base sounds. Essentially, Samsara is an album of jazz that no fan of the genre would be caught listening to, and metal that anyone outside of the metalcore fan base would laugh off. Yet, somehow it works. Yakuza go all out, implementing seemingly jazz elements whenever possible and throwing musical conventions out the window. The result is a chaotic barrage of sound that gets just enough right to remain interesting. It’s a kind of mess goes to such extremes that it’s flaws become an afterthought. Against all odds, Samsara is great.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Alternative/Indie Rock)

Show Your Bones (2.5/4)- 2006

show your bones

Show Your Bones is a fairly enjoyable indie rock album. It’s both catchy and surprisingly mature, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs still don’t do enough to stand out.


Yeasayer (Indie Rock)

All Hour Cymbals (3.5/4)- 2007

all hour cymbals

All Hour Cymbals is a creative debut album that is shockingly refined. Yeasayer mix indie rock with psychedelic pop with stunning results, as they never cease to be fun or unique. This is both a truly enjoyable debut, but also one of high artistic merit. It does start to drag near the end, but there’s something to be said for a band that achieves such a refreshingly unique sound on their first attempt.


Odd Blood (2.5/4)- 2010

odd blood

Odd Blood is certainly an odd album. The problem is, it’s odd in a different way than one might expect. What makes Yeasayer’s second album such an odd release is that it’s a huge step backwards from their debut, both in ambition and fun. This is a much simpler record, but it’s also nowhere near as enjoyable as All Hour Cymbals, and does little to evolve their sound. It’s far too safe, yet still manages to stray too far from what made Yeasayer such an intriguing new artist just a few years before.


Yellowcard (Pop Punk)

Ocean Avenue (2/4)- 2003

ocean avenue

Thankfully, not every song on Ocean Avenue is as bad as the annoying title track and hit single. Much of the album is your standard pop punk/emo with the occasional glimmer of potential coming in the form of a well-placed violin or surprisingly intelligent lyric.


Paper Walls (1.5/4)- 2007

paper walls

Any originality that Yellowcard once had is missing from Paper Walls. This is an album that is caught between forced maturity and a desperate attempt to re-enter the pop charts. Suffice to say, none of it works.


Yndi Halda (Post-Rock)

Enjoy Eternal Bliss (4/4)- 2006

enjoy eternal bliss

Yndi Halda’s debut and only album in the post-rock genre is one of the most passionate and beautiful releases of the past decade. This is a kind of beauty that’s made on subtlety and atmosphere, and the progression throughout the four 10+ minute songs is a perfect example of that. The songs are not epic in the usual sense of the word, but deliberately paced soundscapes that add new instruments and sounds at just the right time, and end having reached the “eternal bliss” that album promises in the title. Yndi Halda are a rarity among post-rock bands, and on their first attempt they’ve created the masterpiece that so many before them have fallen short of achieving.


Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force (Neo-Classical Metal)

Rising Force (3/4)- 1984

rising force

As a debut album, it’s a lot easier to forgive the faults of Yngwie Malmsteen’s songwriting, and instead focus on his overwhelming technical ability. If you’re a fan of ridiculously fast shredding, look no farther than Rising Force, just don’t expect anything other than a series of complicated guitar exercises.


Unleash the Fury (1.5/4)- 2005

unleash the fury

In the 21 years between Malmsteen’s solo debut and 2005’s Unleash the Fury, Yngwie Malmsteen has done absolutely nothing to improve the sound that made him famous on Rising Force. His technical ability was impressive the first time around, but it hasn’t grown or changed since. His songwriting has only gotten worse, and there’s no passion to speak of. This is simply one of countless Malmsteen albums that feature the exact same emotionless guitar exercises, and it’s a chore to listen to.


Perpetual Flame (3/4)- 2008

perpetual flame

Perpetual Flame is another one of the year’s most surprising albums. Of course Malmsteen’s guitar work is technically impressive, but it’s the vocals from Tim “Ripper” Owens that makes Perpetual Flame more than just your typical speed metal album. Yngwie’s guitar playing still lacks the passion that he has been missing for most of his career, but the riffs he’s come up with here are some of his most technical and even some of his most unique. There’s no denying his technical skills, but Owens’ vocal performances adds a much needed dimension to the music that makes Perputal Flame a good album. If you’re a fan of Malmsteen, power metal, or blazing fast guitar solos, Perpetual Flame is a solid choice.



Yo La Tengo (Indie Rock)

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (4/4)- 1997

i can hear the heart beating as one

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is simply one of the best albums that the indie rock genre has to offer. The songwriting is simple enough, but also multi-layered and intelligent. It’s the little things that make this album such a masterful effort, and it’s the very definition of that charming little indie record that makes a big impression.

Album Archives- X

The xx (Indie Rock/Pop)

XX (2/4)- 2009


The xx is an experimental band for people who don’t listen to experimental music. They sound like every other minimalist experimental indie band, and while that tag may sound unique to some, it really isn’t anything out of the ordinary. The music is unique for the sake of being unique, and it never goes anywhere. The result is a boring and repetitive debut from a band that one album in has taken their sound as far as it can go.

Album Archives- W

Waking Hour (Progressive Metal)

Hollow Man (3/4)- 2007

 hollow man

Waking Hour is a band that should appeal to fans of Rush, Dream Theater, and other classic prog bands. Their influences are clear, but Waking Hour embraces them instead of strictly copying them. The band does an excellent job of combing various aspects of their influences to make the base of their sound. However, unlike most debut albums, Hollow Man adds some quality ideas to a proven formula, and they have enough variety in their influences to prevent the album from sounding overdone to begin with. That doesn’t mean Hollow Man is the most original album of the year, but it is a very strong debut from a band that should only get better with time. The musicians that make up Waking Hour are all very talented, and each of them have different influences that blend exceptionally well with one and other. Hollow Man certainly reminds the listener of classic Rush, Dream Theater, and even Nightwish at times, but it still sounds fresh and somewhat unique. If you can find it, Hollow Man is a solid debut that is well worth owning.



Weezer (Alternative/Pop Rock)

Make Believe (1/4)- 2005

make believe

It’s hard to understand just what Weezer were trying to do on Make Believe. Gone is their witty sense of humor, and in its place is seemingly random pop culture references. Combine that with even simpler music and some of the most annoying and repetitive choruses imaginable, and you have a train wreck of an album.


Weezer (Red Album) (2/4)- 2008


No matter how big of a Weezer fan you are, the latest self-titled Weezer album will disappoint. Most of the album is only a slightly more focused version of the band's atrocious Make Believe from three years ago. If you couldn't get enough of "Bevery Hills," then maybe this album is for you. However, for everyone else, this album is almost entirely forgettable. Weezer albums are supposed to fun, and with the exception of the absolutely brilliant rock opera parody "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," nothing here is fun in the slightest. This is just a boring pop rock album, and it unfortunately signifies that Make Believe may not have been a fluke. Nine out of ten tracks are forgettable, and if it wasn't for "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," the Red Album would be only a slight improvement over Make Believe. As it is, one phenomenal track elevates the album from bad to poor, and while even the most hardcore of Weezer should skip the full album, every music fan with a sense of humor should give "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" a listen.



The White Stripes (Alternative Rock)

White Blood Cells (3/4)- 2001

white blood cells

While the music is ridiculously simple, White Blood Cells is a catchy and enjoyable album that dares the listener to not sing along. Catchy melodies and short pop songs are really all that makes up the album, and anyone looking for substance or staying power likely won’t find it here. Again, White Blood Cells is a simple and unremarkable album, but it doesn’t strive to be any more than that, and anyone looking for some dangerously addicting alternative pop should give it a listen.


Winds of Plague (Metalcore/Deathcore)

Decimate the Weak (2/4)- 2008

decimate the weak

There's a huge difference between trying to be unique and actually making creative music. Unfortunately, Winds of Plague fits into the former category, as they have created an album that attempts to be unique for the very sake of being unique. There is no rhyme or reason to the constant style changes and meshing of metalcore and extreme metal, and the severely unpolished sound makes it rather obvious that Decimate the Weak is the band's first album. Instead of trying to first master basic metalcore and extreme metal conventions, Winds of Plague jump right into to trying to mix the two. Problem is, the band isn't particularly skilled at either of the genres they are attempting to combine, and the combination itslef feels forced. Winds of Plague have an interesting idea, and there are moments were the idea creates something moderately enjoyable and creative, but far too much of the album suffers from simply trying to do too much. It's clear that Winds of Plague are trying to do something new, and they deserve credit for that, but their first release is mostly a failure. Let's hope they try this again with their next album and achieve better results.



Wolfmother (Alternative/Hard Rock)

Wolfmother (3/4)- 2006


Wolfmother are clearly influenced by a small number of bands (namely Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath), but what’s sets them apart from their “retro-rock” contemporaries is that their classic rock-inspired sound is not a clone of any one band in particular. Wolfmother play their own style of classic rock, and while they don’t hide their influences, their sound is less of a tribute and more of a throwback to the rock sound of 35 years ago. That being said, Wolfmother isn’t nearly as good as most classic rock albums that are still relevant today, partly because the bands that didn’t stand out have long been forgotten. The lyrics are mostly awful, the complexity of the music is far closer to AC/DC than Led Zeppelin, and the vocals often sound like a sloppy mix of that of their three biggest influences.  All things considered, however,, Wolfmother is a solid enough album that probably won’t be remembered ten years from its release, but it should more than please the many classic rock waiting for this type of sound to be resurrected.


Wolves in the Throne Room (Progressive Black Metal)

Diadem of 12 Stars (4/4)- 2006

diadem of 12 stars

Dark, heavy, atmosphere and beautiful, Wolves in the Throne Room's Diadem of 12 Stars is many things. “True black metal” may not be one of them, but anyone who judges this based on predetermined labels is going to be missing out on what is truly a masterful work of art.


Two Hunters (3.5/4)- 2007

two hunters

Although it only has four songs, Two Hunters is one of the most complete and epic albums of 2007. On top of that, Wolves of the Throne Room have improved their already unique sound, and have created something truly spectacular in the process. “Unique” and “epic” are not qualities that are often associated with modern black metal, particularly from the United States, but Wolves in the Throne Room are not your usual black metal band. They come from the Northwest underground, and the story behind this album’s creation is fascinating. There are very little digital effects, and some may complain about the intentionally poor recording quality, but the incredible atmospheric sound of the band is something every metal fan should experience. Two Hunters is almost certainly the best black metal album of the year, and Wolves in the Throne Room have emerged as one of the best bands in the genre today.



Black Cascade (3.5/4)- 2009

black cascade

While not quite as awe-inspiring as their last two records, Black Cascade is a challenging record that demands repeated listens. A few of the songs seem drawn out for the sole purposing of extending the length, taking away much of the cohesiveness that the band has excelled at in the past, but Black Cascade is still an outstanding record that ranks among the best albums of 2009.


Wu-Tang Clan (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (4/4)- 1993

enter the wu-tang

Wu-Tang Clan’s famous debut is simply one of the greatest rap albums of all-time. The influence this album has had on both mainstream and underground hip-hop is unparalleled, as the Clan masterfully merged hardcore and conscious rap on their first attempt. However, its greatness lies far beyond its influence. Enter the Wu-Tang is still a one-of-a-kind type of album, and it contains some of the greatest rap verses and samples in the genre’s history. Ghostface Killah opens the album on “Bring da Ruckus” with a verse full of flow and swagger, and the other Wu-Tang members trade exceptional verse after exceptional verse throughout the remainder of the album. The nine emcees each have their own unique style, all of which work well with the RZA’s signature production, and with each song showcasing four or five different verses, the music never becomes repetitive. While not all of the rappers have the same amount of talent (the barely used U-God comes to mind as a weak link), each one earns their right to be a part of the group, and the majority are among of the most gifted emcees out there. As a whole, Enter the Wu-Tang is a lot to digest. It’s the time of album that can be played again and again, with each listen being a new experience. This is one of hip-hop’s crown jewels, and it belongs in the collection of every music fan.


Wu-Tang Forever (3.5/4)- 1997

wu-tang forever

No amount of awful Cappadonna verses can keep Wu-Tang Forever from reaching greatness. Yes, the unofficial tenth Wu-Tang member is awful every time he touches the mic on this album, and it’s unfortunate that he has more verses than Ol’ Dirty Bastard and GZA. Still, Wu-Tang Forever is more of what made Enter the 36 Chambers so great, and while it’s far less consistent, it contains of the Clan’s best verses. The single “Triumph,” a nearly six-minute epic with eight  verses and no choruses, is one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. Songs like “Reunited” and “It’s Yourz” come close to reaching that same level, and each and every song has at least one standout verse. The beats (mostly done by RZA, but True Master and 4th Disciple make a few appearances) are far more advanced this time around, and RZA will often make subtle changes in the track. This can sometimes result in a battle of “emcee against producer,” which works surprisingly well most of the time. However, Wu-Tang Forever’s biggest accomplishment is that it earns its 110+ minute running time. Unlike most double rap albums, the variety of the Clan prevents Wu-Tang Forever from becoming tedious. It should also be noted that “Dog Shit” is the single most ridiculous hip-hop song ever written. The fact that Ol’ Dirty can stay on beat and maintain his composure throughout the rant is proof of both his talent and serious mental issues.

Album Archives- V

Vader (Death Metal)

Necropolis (2/4)- 2009


Vader may be death metal legends, but simply being Vader is not enough to earn them a pass. Necropolis is an uninspired album that sounds far too similar to their past work to be worthwhile to anyone who is looking for more than just another generic Vader album. Obviously, the music is still solid, but it’s all been done before and done better.


Vampire Weekend (Alternative/Indie Rock)

Vampire Weekend (2.5/4)- 2008

vampire weekend

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut, but it just doesn’t do enough to earn a recommendation. It’s fun and harmless, but also fairly derivative and all too forgettable.


Velvet Revolver (Hard Rock)

Contraband (2.5/4)- 2004


Velvet Revolver’s status as a supergroup has much more to do with the band’s star power (namely Slash and STP’s Scott Weiland) than the members’ actual talent, but their debut sounds far less forced than that of most supergroups. Granted, it’s nothing spectacular, but the band members play off each others’ strengths, combining Slash’s talent for writing catchy and memorable riffs with Weiland’s rough vocals. It works, and it’s better than anything Guns N Roses or Stone Temple Pilots have done in over a decade.


Libertad (2/4)- 2007


“She Builds Quick Machines” is a legitimately solid song. The rest of the album is just more of the same from Velvet Revolver, only it’s a lot less interesting this time around.


Viktor Vaughn (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Vaudeville Villain (4/4)- 2003

vaudeville villain

One of the many alter-egos of MF DOOM, Viktor Vaughn is one the rapper’s most impressive projects. Vaudeville Villain shows a faster side of DOOM’s flow, as well as some of his most ingenious lyrical moments and even the occasional conscious track. There is a concept here, but it’s incoherency is part of DOOM’s charm, and it’s probably best not to try to follow the story. This is just a great hip-hop throughout, and it’s one of many standout moments in MF DOOM’s career.


Vintersorg (Folk/Black Metal)

Solens Rötter (3.5/4)- 2007

solens rotter

Solens Rötter is certainly an odd album to say the least. Andreas Hedlund and Mattias Marklund have shown once again that they are one of the best duos in metal today, and it’s safe to say that their music deserves to be in the collection of any fan of folk metal, black metal, progressive metal, or any type of European metal. As previously mentioned, the combination will mostly likely sound odd to newcomers, and the Swedish lyrics won’t do anything to help that, but fans of the band and genres they mix would do well to give this one a consideration. The combination of folk, black, and prog metal is as heavy as one would expect, but its Vintersorg’s beauty that really allows Solens Rötter to reach greatness. This is easily one of the best folk metal albums of the year, and it’s in no way a stretch to call it one of the overall best metal albums of the year either.



Virgin Black (Gothic/Doom Metal)

Requiem – Fortissimo (3/4)- 2008

requiem fortissimo

Fortissimo is the second album in Virgin Black’s Requiem trilogy, and it had a lot to live up to. 2007’s Mezzo Forte was a somewhat overlooked masterpiece that established Virgin Black as an elite metal band. It was an album that was as good as any goth metal album out there, and also one of the most unique and beautiful metal offerings released in some time. Fortissimo is another beautifully unique album from Virgin Black, but it’s also a moderate step down from Mezzo Forte. The sequel is a heavier album that features more growling and less classical influences, and in doing so is much closer to a typical doom metal album. Regardless, Requiem- Fortissimo is a great album, and is worth picking alongside the essential Mezzo Forte.



Visions of Atlantis (Symphonic Metal)

Eternal Endless Infinity (2/4)- 2002

eternal endless infinity

The original version of this album is almost unlistenable due to its awful production. The 2004 re-issue mostly fixes that, but Eternal Endless Infinity is still nothing more than a standard symphonic metal album. While bands like Nightwish and After Forever take their influences directly from classical music, Visions of Atlantis’ influences all seem to come from established symphonic metal bands. They pull it off competently, but their sound has been done far better elsewhere.


Trinity (2.5/4)- 2007


While Visions of Atlantis still aren’t ready to compete with the elites of symphonic metal, Trinity is a huge step forward towards becoming relevant in the genre. Just about everything has been vastly improved upon, and this time the production isn’t complete garbage. Again, Trinity isn’t anything revolutionary, but symphonic metal fans might want to take notice. Visions of Atlantis are a talented band, and this is easily their best album to date.