Staff Picks: Top Ten Albums of All Time
Staff Member: Chad
Through much blood, sweat, and heavy metal tears, I took a good look through my music collection and picked out my top ten favorites of all time! Some of these I remember having a tremendous influence in my musical taste throughout the years, some have a hefty amount of nostalgia propping them up into the list, and some of the albums are just too daggone fantastic to not include. Keep in mind, this is my subjective opinion and may very well not reflect the opinions, and even overwhelming consensuses, of others. Without further ado, here are my picks for the top ten albums of all time!
10: “The Fury of the Aquabats!” – The Aquabats
This album was the album that got me into ska music, admittedly late in my high school career. It’s completely whacky and nonsensical, but that’s a huge part of the charm of the Aquabats, along with (at this time at least) their energetic, brass-driven, multi-faceted, irresistible ska sound, pulling the listener gleefully along with every “chicka chicka” riff of the guitars. It’s a shame that they dropped this sound in their future efforts, but “The Fury” will always hold a special place in my mostly metal heart. I will occasionally belt the lyrics of “Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates” around the house, much to my wife’s dismay.
9: “Haunt What’s Left” – This or the Apocalypse
Lancaster, PA definitely has more than its fair share of metal-bound talent, and these guys are nothing less than shining examples, especially with this release. I stumbled upon then on a happenstance Facebook search, and upon listening to the opening track, “Charmer”, I was hooked. It’s a dark, brooding, and filled with angst without feeling forced, cheesy, or overly “emo”, which is a hard feat to pull off! This album is metalcore at the fullest of its capabilities, with the breakdowns and familiar leads woven together with complex polyrhythms and harmonies that would normally be home with a prog release. Combine these aspects with creatively scathing lyrics and infectious choruses, and it’s a recipe for an incredible album that still makes a weekly appearance in my playlists.
8: “Baptized in Filth” – Impending Doom
My favorite deathcore act. Period. Each release from Doom has been progressively heavier without sacrificing quality, but this album is their capstone, in my opinion. The bone-crushing guitars and drums are hard to ignore in and of themselves, but with the extremely powerful low growls and roars of Brook Reeves, it makes this album the musical equivalent of a forceful metal punch to the gut. Amicably, Doom proves that deathcore can achieve the same sense of brutality without falling into normal deathcore gimmicks of visceral violence and vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake.
7: “Meridional” – Norma Jean
I have to be honest, I’m a whipper-snapper when it comes to Norma Jean. I wasn’t one of those hardcore kids raging to “Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child” back in the early 2000’s. In fact, I was quite off-put by Norma Jean’s chaotic and atonal sound for quite a while, until about half way through my college career, when I happened to give “Meridional” a spin. By then, I developed more of a taste for the mathcore elements, but Norma Jean masterfully fuses these with a much-needed melodic edge that made the album impossible for me to put down. “Meridional” was my gateway drug, if you will, into the rest of their discography, but unquestionably holds the spot of my favorite of their releases.
6: “Dynasty” – As They Sleep
Technical. Ferocious. Unforgiving. Metal. All words that beautifully describe this extremely solid piece of death metal music. This subgenre was another that was an acquired taste for me (since my early metalcore-influnced days dictated that if a song didn’t have a breakdown, it was garbage), but this release served as an excellent transition. It featured the blistering speed and melodies of death metal, yet wasn’t afraid to throw in “core” elements such as well-timed, spine-snapping breakdowns. “Dynasty” is my favorite death metal album, at least until As They Sleep finally finishes their new album after 6 years in the making. Possibly? Maybe? Please?
5: “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” – A Plea For Purging
This album is definitely where my nostalgia kicks in to overdrive. Plea was the first metal band that I saw live, and both before and after then, I endlessly played “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in my college dorm room. This album bleeds Meshuggah influence throughout its ten tracks, but Plea makes the effort to not just copy and paste these elements. Rather, they are skillfully incorporated with Plea’s already present unique deathcore sound. The result is a release that boasts the groove of djent music with the more accessible, but pleasantly brutal, style of deathcore. I once heard one of my friends describe this as “utter ear candy”, and I couldn’t agree more.
4: “Straight Outta Lynwood” – Weird Al Yankovic
Here it is. The album that started it all! And by “it” I mean my overall musical taste outside of what I played in marching band back in the good ol’ middle and high school days. Of all artists, it was Weird Al that introduced me to the wonders of guitar-driven music, and hilarious parody at the same time. I have fond memories of listening to this album with my dad on road trips, laughing along to the ensuing ridiculousness. Don’t mistake ridiculousness for lack of skill, though, there’s a reason why Weird Al’s musical career has spanned nearly 40 years. Each parody is on point, cleverly written, and a near mirror image of the original song, (often vastly improving its quality). If you’re one of the few people that hasn’t heard “White and Nerdy” for yourself, then look it up, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
3: “Thegodmachine” – Phinehas
What happens when you mix scads of thrash metal elements into modern metalcore? The wondrous concoction is Phinehas, especially with their debut album, “Thegodmachine”. The guitar work within is one of, if not the most technical I have heard in a metalcore album; with the countless finger-shredding solos and mind-blowing riffs coursing in nearly every song on the 13-track release. These elements are near perfectly balanced with the “core” components, namely on-point clean vocals and creatively executed breakdowns (normally an oxymoron, right?). “Thegodmachine” offers beautifully written slower songs as well, which lends an important sense of pacing to the album that most metalcore albums seem to lack nowadays.
2: “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” – Between the Buried and Me
For a long time, while I was making this list, this album was my first choice for personal best album of all time. This album is singular proof of the versatility and capability of metal music. It is a masterful melting pot of many musical genres sorted meticulously, yet brutally within the confines of progressive metal. It features the heavy guitars, growls, screams, and complex, driving rhythms of death metal, but then effortlessly makes a sudden, but welcome transition to progressive rock with tinges of jazz influences, that scratches nearly every musical itch I have. Between the Buried and Me have been notorious for including non-metal elements into their music, but this album demonstrates the apex of progressive metal music in my opinion. It is grandiose, yet subtle; sprawling in scope, yet surprisingly easy to get into; whimsically melodic, yet crushingly heavy; and unquestionably rewarding to listen to.
1: “Demon Hunter” – Demon Hunter
I consider this album to be the most significant album in my life. This album opened the door unto a whole new chapter of my mid-high school life that would carry on to this day. This album introduced me to what would become my favorite genre of music; metal. Before I listened to Demon Hunter, I was very much against the idea of screaming in music and thus I shied away from any notion of it. I had a good friend at church, though, that kept urging me to give Demon Hunter a try, and on a whim, I pulled up their song “Infected” on Youtube, and I have never been the same since. This album is one that I have every lyric to every track memorized, and is almost a daily occurrence on my playlist. This self-titled released featured a thrashy edge to their groove metal sound that makes every track delightfully headbangable, yet the incredible choruses and melodies draw in the non-metalhead, reminding the listener that metal music isn’t all about screams and growls. If it was not for this album, it would be very unlikely that I would be in this place today, writing for New Transcendence, nor would I be the person that I am today; a proud, head-banging, wind-milling metalhead with a genuine love for not just metal, but for music in its entirety
by: Chad Brown