Welcome to UltimateMetal.com’s Staff Picks of 2007! It’s been a great year for metal, and we have plenty to say about it. Below you will find our individual staff picks – organized alphabetically by first name – with links to the corresponding reviews and commentaries underneath. Also, while some staff members chose to compile a Top 25, others opted for a Top 10 and a few even decided to remain silent.
Agree with our choices? Disagree? What’s on your Best of 2007 list? We want to know what you think!
This is the first time I get to compile a list of favorite albums for UltimateMetal.com. Overall, 2007 was a fine year with many strong releases. Some band's listed here are groups that I have just been introduced to as well as other long established bands. Unlike other writers here I offer a list with no particular order. My reason for this is simply that I cannot offer a solid list for the best albums of the year. Over time my tastes and opinions could change, however, this should in no way lessen the distinction I have given to these albums. These albums are pure works of art that I will cherish for years to come.
Abigor - Fractal Possession
This is a cold and calculated release by the newly re-activated group. I usually do not enjoy such spastic music, but the overall feeling is so dark and fits perfectly with my vision of black metal. The new vocalist is the best since the Silenius period and fits perfectly with the new direction Abigor
is headed in. I'm glad the band has formed back together and look forward to the more twisted releases they will create in the future.
Darkthrone - F.O.A.D.
If I was to rank the albums in order, as it stands this newest offering by Darkthrone
would be my top pick. This is such an enjoyable release that I can't help but headbang to it every time songs like 'Fuck off and Die'
and 'Raised on Rock'
come on. Many do not like the current direction that Darkthrone
is heading in, and they seem to forget or possibly do not even know that this is still a black metal release. Everyone is caught up in the second wave influence and do not recall the first wave and the sounds connected to it. For those who complain that Darkthrone
have lost their black metal sound only need to read the album's title for the band's response.
Deathspell Omega – Fas -- Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
This is an album that I'm sure will be on many writers' lists. It's such an immense and complex album that we have come to expect from Deathspell Omega
. The band further proves why they are the front runners of modern black metal. It's surprising the direction Deathspell Omega
has taken after the highly acclaimed Kénôse
EP where many predicted more groove sections. However, what the band has offered is an aggressive work that leaves little rest for the listener. With the trilogy close to completion the future of Deathspell Omega
will be highly watched.
Eviscerated - Rituals of Reanimation
Another great release from the Swedish label Blood Harvest. Like much of their label mates, Eviscerated
play old-school death metal as it should be: dark and filthy. Eviscerated
have a great ability of creating very sick and memorable riffs, as well as a drummer that knows exactly what beats and fills are needed to propel the songs. I look forward to the upcoming EP by Eviscerated
and hope that they as well as the rest of the young bands on Blood Harvest have a very rich future.
Graveland - Will Stronger than Death
Rob Darken continues his brilliance with this release. I wasn't very impressed with Fire Chariot of Destruction
, but Will Stronger than Death
is a great album. The heavy riffs remind me very much of the later Bathory
albums. Also, the choirs only help to build the atmosphere on this album. The pride that Darken places into these songs is immense. The clips offered by Darken for the new album due in 2008 are of equal quality and the chances of that album being on my list for next year is quite high.
Ignivimous - Path of Attrition
This debut demo from Australia's Ignivimous
is a dark and crushing release. The band follows very much in the deep, down tuned tones from early Incantation
. The atmosphere built in this release is very dark and very professional sounding, especially for a demo. As more and more bands play the older style of death metal the question of sincerity needs to be addressed, but be rest assured that Ignivimous
is the real deal.
Mortuus - De Contemplanda Morte
is a bit of an obscure band from Sweden. Having only released an EP a few years back the band has appeared with a great debut full-length this year. The sound follows mostly within the "Orthodox" style found on the rosters of NED and Ajna labels. However, Mortuus
offers a more doomy touch to the music. The slow rhythms are what really help the album's progression. Even though there are moments of speed the relatively slow approach is very fitting to the album's theme of praising death. This is the perfect record to play on a dark night to be engulfed.
Nocturnal Graves - Satan's Cross
Very rarely do I get a chance to anticipate an album release. It seems more often than not new bands only become aware to me when an album has been released. However, in Nocturnal Graves
case I received word of their album well before the release. After hearing a few samples the anticipation only grew and the album has lived up to the hype I have built. Nocturnal Graves
play a thrashing style of death metal very much in the vein of Morbid Angel's
debut album. You'll headbang throughout this album's release. For those who do not own a record player, Nuclear War Now! Productions will release the CD version in early 2008.
Peste Noire - Folkfuck Folie
This is a very sick, filthy and perverted release by French black metal group Peste Noire
. Following the high acclaim of their previous release, La Sanie des siècles - Panégyrique de la dégénérescence
, the band adopted the more raw sound found on this new album. This change in sound did cause a few fans to dismiss this release, but I find it to be just as powerful. The raw production fits perfectly with the theme of the album, AIDS, and the signature sound is still there. In fact, I found that the writing has taken a step up especially with regards to the bass guitar.
Watain - Sworn to the Dark
Many have cried sell out with the refined release from the popular Swedish group. I find this to be a very powerful work from the band that still retains the dark image they have been projecting. Seeing these tracks performed live in a way that only Watain
can has only solidified my view on the album. The veil has been lifted a bit through the production and lyrics but this offers a clear look at the essence of Watain
: a dark abyss.
Still to investigate:
Darkestra - Epos
Lunar Aurora - Andatch
Neurosis - Given to the Rising
Nifelheim - Envoy of Lucifer
Primordial - To the Nameless Dead
And a few more...
Jack Deming a.k.a. SILENT(_)SCREAM
1. Anaal Nathrakh – Hell is Empty, and All the Devils are Here
Sheer bombastic fury. One of the most original, straight to the point, pure fucking metal releases in years. Nothing this year even comes close in my opinion.
2. Moonsorrow - V: Hävitetty
This is a truly epic piece of music with two mammoth tracks that are musical journeys in themselves. Moonsorrow
keeps on getting better and better with each release.
3. Finntroll – Ur Jordens Djup
Newcomer Vreth’s outstanding vocals fuel Finntroll
’s return to their more blackened roots, while still incorporating folky melodies so catchy they’ll make your loins tingle.
4. Alcest- Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
I first heard this album’s title track on a podcast while walking in Munich, and it captured my attention so fully that I literally forgot where I was going for a few minutes.
5. Devin Townsend – Ziltoid the Omniscient
Who said metal had to be serious? Or even have a shred of artistic credibility or reason behind the music? No one!
6. Turisas – The Varangian Way
Yes it's pretentious, yes it's gaudy, but it's also a damn fine piece of music. Some people really need to slide the rusty pole out of their pooper and enjoy this music for what it is. Entertainment.
7. Ensiferum – Victory Songs
I was relieved to see Ensiferum
rebound back from the loss of key member Jari Mäenpää and the less than stellar Dragonheads
EP to deliver this gem of heroic folk metal, owing to the superb songwriting of Markus Toivonen and vast improvement of vocalist Petri Lindroos.
8. T3h Shred Boiz – wtf
Probably the best unsigned project I’ve heard this year. Flawless musicianship, superb production, and completely off the wall musically. What's more, the album is available for free download at their myspace
9. Ulver – Shadows of the Sun
Elegant, unrefined, ambient goodness. Ulver
prove yet again how eclectic and multifaceted they can be musically.
10. Riverside – Rapid Eye Movement
Some of the freshest sounding and most listenable prog I’ve heard in a long, long time. Riverside
never fail to impress me.
Jason Jordan a.k.a. circus_brimstone
This year was different because there was no release that bowled me over to the point that I knew I had to bestow my top spot to it. Still, like previous years, 2007 had its fair share of quality metal, and I find it interesting that my year-end list consists mainly of veterans – bands with several installments to their names, even. At the time of publication I had listened to 131 albums released in 2007, and of course considered them all for inclusion in this best-of list. One change this time, though. Instead of relying on European release dates as I have in the past, I switched to the North American schedule so that I could include the latest from Melechesh
1. The Pax Cecilia – Blessed Are the Bonds
What can I say that hasn’t already been said in my review? The first four tracks of Blessed Are the Bonds
are phenomenal, and quite emotionally moving. I don’t think the last half of the album lives up to the first, but it’s still excellent all-around. In addition, the fact the band gave this away for free shows they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get their music out there. This group needs a record deal.
2. Wolves in the Throne Room – Two Hunters
Diadem of 12 Stars
is great – Wolves in the Throne Room
sure capitalized on the Weakling
comparison – but Two Hunters
is, I feel, more raw, aggressive, and sinister than its predecessor. Thus far, they’ve done no wrong. I wanted a longer record, though.
3. Deathspell Omega – Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
France’s hottest export – well, one of ‘em anyway – has delivered a monstrous, punishing album in the form of Fas – Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
. Describable as experimental, post-black metal, the latest from Deathspell Omega
is dense and intense. It takes work to digest this, but it’s worth it in the end. Their best album? I’d say so….
4. The Ocean – Precambrian
The 84-minute, double disc Precambrian
is easily this German collective’s finest effort yet. The Ocean’s ambition paid off here.
5. Benighted – Icon
was/is great, but Icon
ups the ante with its blend of brutal death metal-cum-grindcore. Fast, aggressive, and relentless, France’s Benighted
are certainly one of the most underappreciated, underrated bands of the 2000s.
6. Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb
In my second Relapse roundup, I called Phantom Limb
a “ferocious, eviscerating release” that is “delivered at breakneck speed.” And that sums up these lauded grinders from the nation’s capital. Like Watchmaker
, this is one band that’s absolutely relentless.
7. Novembre – The Blue
Consistency. There are only a few bands that follow quality with quality time and time again, and Italy’s Novembre
are certainly one of them. I was disappointed with Materia
, though I like it, but The Blue
is their best since 2001’s Novembrine Waltz
8. Moonsorrow – V: Hävitetty
I regretted not hearing Verisäkeet
before the end of 2005, so I knew I’d have to pick up V: Hävitetty
as soon as I could. While the material is stellar, I think Moonsorrow
shot themselves in the foot by making the two tracks incredibly lengthy, because, as a result, I hardly reach for this when I’ve a hankering for their brand of metal. It requires a significant chunk of time to fully appreciate.
9. Melechesh – Emissaries
is another fantastic outing from Israel’s Melechesh
. You had to lament the replacement of Proscriptor, but Xul performs admirably here. The Middle Eastern vibes remain a selling point, even if the replay value isn’t as high as I’d prefer.
10. Winds – Prominence and Demise
Andy Winter and co. return with Prominence and Demise
’s heaviest, most compelling installment. The guest vocals from Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity
) are a special treat, in addition to those of Lars Nedland (Age of Silence
), along with the regular cast of characters who all prove talented beyond belief.
11. Amorphis – Silent Waters
12. Vintersorg – Solens Rötter
13. Novembers Doom – The Novella Reservoir
14. Vehementer Nos – Self-Titled
15. Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
16. Virgin Black – Requiem – Mezzo Forte
17. Odious Mortem – Cryptic Implosion
18. Evile – Enter the Grave
19. Oakhelm – Betwixt and Between
20. Mithras – Behind the Shadows Lie Madness
21. Dark Tranquillity – Fiction
22. Sickening Horror – When Landscapes Bled Backwards
23. Shining – V: Halmstad
24. Canvas Solaris – Cortical Tectonics
25. Sigh – Hangman’s Hymn
J.R. a.k.a. Wayward_Son
2007 had many faces. Having found, lost, and found again some classic material from previous years, it was difficult to find current music that could push those essentials from the playlist. Ultimately, some special albums emerged from the mediocrity, disappointments, and banality of the majority. Like the year itself, these albums have different faces and sounds. So, after a year of self-discovery built from triumph and tragedy, this humble servant gives you his 2007 defining releases.
1. Lunar Aurora – Andacht
In the review from April, it was stated “you will not find a more potent black metal release this year.” Those prophetic words rang true. No band, black metal or not, was able to surpass nor even equal Andacht
. Lunar Aurora
’s possible final album is as close as you will get to metallic perfection in the arcane black art.
2. Funeral – From These Wounds
Leaving behind the desolate land of funeral doom and joining the ranks of melodic death/doom metal, From These Wounds
took everyone by surprise. As punishing as ever, yet with the smooth, soaring vocals of Frode Forsmo, Funeral
took us to the brink, and left us there to our fate.
3. Amorphis – Silent Waters
No album made yours truly smile more than Silent Waters
during the year. Just knowing that Amorphis
can write songs like this after the mediocrity they unleashed for so many years is enough to make even the most jaded musical listener jump for joy. Faith reaffirming stuff.
4. Graveland – Will Stronger Than Death
This band is probably the best band you’ve never heard. It is amazing how many people write this band off for the most ludicrous of reasons. Will Stronger Than Death
is hardly Darken’s strongest, yet it is still one of the year’s best. That is a testament to the strength of this metal institution.
5. Jesu – Conqueror
With no less than five releases in 2007, it would be safe to say Justin Broadrick owned the year. A crucial album expanding upon the Silver
is certainly the most upbeat album to make this exclusive list.
6. Alcest – Souvenirs d’un autre monde
The backlash began before the album was even released. So it is not black metal. Accept it and move on. It is an album full of lush sound and a special innocence. Forget the fact that your mom will probably like the record.
7. Reverend Bizarre – III: So Long Suckers
Over two hours of material finish off Reverend Bizarre
’s career in near perfect fashion. This is just one of those bands everyone should hear. After this album, traditional doom does not mean much, and perhaps the band is right, doom metal is dead.
8. Neurosis – Given to the Rising
Coming back to their bloody roots, Neurosis
gave us an album that will be studied by future bands. Given to the Rising
is nothing short of amazing, and is another worthy release from this entirely original and trailblazing band.
9. Keen of the Crow – Hyborea
Talk about coming out of left field. Out of Morgion
’s ashes rises Keen of the Crow
. Based entirely on the classic movie Conan the Barbarian
, Keen of the Crow
race through epic death/doom songs of battle, loss, and victory.
10. Novembers Doom – The Novella Reservoir
This is one of those re-discoveries. Having lost touch with the band years ago, The Novella Reservoir
reignited interest. Since then, the entire discography has been found and is in constant rotation.
Nathan Pearce a.k.a. Nate The Great
1. Mayhem – Ordo Ad Chao
Despite a certain UM reviewer being drunk while listening to this, Mayhem
has finally created something worthy of their legacy. Is it as good as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
? Don't be stupid. But it's still better than pretty much everything their followers are pumping out.
2. Deathspell Omega - Fas - Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum
In any other year, this would have been about as good as modern black metal can get.
3. Funeral – From These Wounds
This is just sad, depressing, and . . . well . . . beautiful. Probably the best melodic doom album in quite a few years.
4. Blut Aus Nord – Odinist – The Destruction of Reason By Illumination
What a year! It's nice to hear Blut Aus Nord
write songs again. The result is easily one of their best.
5. Neurosis – Given To The Rising
It's getting so hard to judge a Neurosis
album. Like their last few, this one is a grower.
6. Amorphis – Silent Waters
Probably the biggest surprise this year. I wasn't expecting something this good. Easily the best they've done in about 10 years.
7. Portal – Outre
What a sick piece of work! Death metal with the spirit of early 90's black metal.
8. Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today
Another huge surprise. I'd all but given up on EW
. This album can be put alongside Dopethrone
, and the like, without any embarrassment.
9. Dirge – Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas
Remember when Old Man Gloom
was a novelty? Dirge
takes a similar approach, but with more seriousness.
10. Fall of the Leafe – Aerolithe
The most underrated band alive. The album's use of aggression mixed with their trademark melody makes for a top notch collection of songs from start to finish.
11. Jesu - Conqueror
12. Antimatter – Leaving Eden
13. Cobalt – Eater of Birds
14. Drudkh – Estrangement
15. Helcaraxe – Triumph And Revenge
16. Lunar Aurora – Andacht
17. Rotting Christ – Theogonia
18. Sigh – Hangman’s Hymn
19. Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works
20. Witchcraft – The Alchemist
21. Centurions Ghost – The Great Work
22. Ghost Brigade – Guided By Fire
23. The Great Deceiver – Life is Wasted on the Living
24. Today is the Day – Axis of Eden
25. Entombed – Serpent Saints
Machine Head – The Blackening
Orthodox - Amancer En Puerta Oscura
Wijlen Wij – s/t
Xasthur – Defective Epitath
Shining – V: Halmstad
Paradise Lost – In Requiem
Moonsorrow - V: Hävitetty
Blood Tsunami – Thrash Metal