The beast of metal

Jan 11, 2006 at 12:00 am

1. Nile
Annihilation of the Wicked
You’d be hard-pressed to find anything resembling beauty in death metal; it’s a genre that promotes the destruction of the clean and healthy. But, after years of chipping away at the artistic, um, rock, Nile managed to create something both unmercifully extreme and beautiful.

2. Atheist
Unquestionable Presence
(Relapse reissue)
Being technical sometimes means being excessive, emotionally unavailable and pretentious. But here you have four dudes who really love music and love to smoke lots of weed. And they go beyond the simple idea of fast power-chording and faster minor-key melodies — beyond the fast discordant noise — that’s usually there for sake of hysterics and little else. Maybe it’s amazing what weed can do?

3. Demons and Wizards
Touched by the Crimson King
It’s a fact. Hansi Kursch has a killer voice. Blind Guardian would still be lurking in the underground if it weren’t for him. Jon Schafer has killer riffs. Iced Earth wouldn’t be the same without him. Put them in a session together and watch ’em create giant sonics. It’s not power metal, and it ain’t thrash. But it’s killer.

4. Acid King
(Small Stone)
I’m not a stoner. But thanks to Acid King, I can guess what that’s like. Listening to an hour of skull-filling, droning vocals and potent, three-chord progressions — courtesy of dreamboat guitar queen Lori S. and her Les Paul — makes you want to light one up. But you can’t. You’re already fucked up and in a trance by Cut 1.

5. Nevermore
This Godless Endeavour
(Century Media)
Shouter Warren Dane is up front. He tells us that the world is a cold and lonely place, and he’s not here to sugarcoat it. See, Nevermore paints apocalyptic images while offering up an astonishing sense of melody and song craft (due in part to guitarist Jeff Loomis). It’s depressing as hell and food for the soul at the same time.

6. Circa Survive
(Equal Vision)
I never liked whiny vocalists, post-hardcore wimps or prog-rock know-it-alls. Then, one day, Juturna slides across my desk, a record that has elements of all three. But it’s somehow tolerable. Hell, it’s great. The soft but frenzied guitars and heartrending vocals make it swell for those nights you need to get away.

7. Avenged Sevenfold
City of Evil
A few years ago these guys were screaming at the top of their lungs for a way out of the underground. Theirs was a mix of punk energy and numbskull metal mayhem. On City of Evil, they bring in the rock, along with some hopes for stardom. Now there’s a bit of Guns N’ Roses going on. A success story in the making?

8. Dark Tranquility
(Century Media)
Melodic metal is always nice. I mean, nice. Dark Tranquility are kings in their field, however overshadowed they might be.

9. Behemoth
This is pumping energy mixed with, of all things, speed. And drumming has long proven to be a sport in metal, but this guy Inferno (an apt name) completely burns his kit to ash. Vocalist-guitarist Nergal’s story is similar; as a singer, he makes the word “horrible” a good thing while turning power chords into a twisted art. Amazing stuff.

10. Judas Priest
Angel of Retribution
Before this album, I’d never heard Judas Priest. It’s true. And to think that this album came a decade after the breakup of a band that had been ruining ears and scaring parents for years. I became an instant Priest fan, even with their graying heads and all those wrinkles.

My most hated record of 2005:

The Blueprint Dives
(Century Media)
I have nothing against Christian metal. But I do against crap, and Extol’s metal is watered-down crap. Guitar repetition isn’t a bad thing (of course), but when topped with whiny vocals? And we’re not talking mainstream pop-whiny, but a new plateau of annoyingly, gratingly whiny. My god.

Kent Alexander is a 16-year-old Metro Times intern. Send comments to [email protected]