Tales from the Jugular

Staff Year End Awards for 2008!

By: Maximum Metal Staff
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tales From The Jugular - Staff Year End Awards for 2008!


Frank Hill
Best Albums Of The Year:
Metal: Communic - Payment of Existence
Hard Rock: Zero Down - Good Times at the Gates of Hell

Honorable Mentions:
Mercenary - Architect of Lies
Opeth - Watershed

Metal Song Of The Year: Metal Church - A War Never Won
Hard Rock Song Of The Year: Loud, Proud and Evil - Zero Down

Best Video: Equilibrium - Blut Im Auge
Best DVDs: 1. Iron Maiden - Live After Death 2. Gamma Ray - Hell Yeah
Best Live: Iron Maiden - Somewhere Back in Time Tour
Best Comebacks: Metallica, Motley Crue, Tesla, Axl, Sebatian Bach (all of them for putting out new music that I wanted to hear)

Best "Oldie" Found In 2008: Rainbow - Death Alley Driver

Trends Noticed: Crowd-pleasing Pagan/Folk-themed metal was pushed more, Melodic Metalcore/Thrash bands continued in the spotlight.

Glad To See: Thanks to the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, bands are getting publicity and people who knew nothing of many new and classic metal songs are aware and finding enjoyment in them.

I seem to have the same feeling about '08 that I originally did about '06: a handful of standouts from an array of strong but not superlative releases. After wading through 06's backlog I realized my underestimation, so I imagine the same will occur will be said of 2008 in time. I just can't recall the last time I had trouble filling up a top 10 list instead of cutting down. Fortunately, this year's very top brass can stand alongside any of recent memory, and the list of '08 albums I haven't heard yet is appalling in length.

Top 10 of 2008:
1. Enslaved - Vertebrae
    - With four straight releases of Top 10 (Top 5, even) quality, Enslaved rank among metal's finest bands, and this lineup is undoubtedly their best. With characteristic pragmatism, 'Vertebrae' weaves through the band's many phases, from Viking roots to prog influences, proving once again why the band is at once so polarizing and universally respected.
2. Opeth - Watershed
    - With 'Watershed', Mikael completes a transition begun on the unsure (and markedly inferior) 'Ghost Reveries'. Opeth's new identity is quite separate from the original mold of 'Orchid' or even 'Blackwater Park', but it is no less striking and singular.
3. Pharaoh - Be Gone
    - Still one of Cruz Del Sur's 'best kept secrets', Pharaoh continue to churn out addictive and sophisticated metal anthems. On 'Be Gone', their third LP, the interplay between Tim Aymar's leather lungs and Matt Johnsen's lyrical harmonies is as good as heavy metal gets.
4. Ihsahn - angL
    - If 'The Adversary' was Ihsahn's personal homage to Emperor (aggressive, falsetto-heavy), 'angL' is his remembrance of Peccatum. 'angL' is also more consistently than the debut, allowing its melancholic melodies to develop with mature patience.
5. Trinacria - Travel Now Journey Infinitely
    - The surprise of the year, despite the pedigree of its participants. Driven by the same eldtrich powers as Enslaved, Trinacria returns Ivar and Grutle to the experimental vein of their mid-career. With years more experience and Fe-Mail as collaborators, 'Travel Now...' is more focused than 'Monumension' could ever hope to be.

6. Cynic - Traced in Air
    - Where 'Focus' was an inspired eruption of energy, 'Traced in Air' is metered and astonishingly precise. Even though the impression left is less extreme (and less groundbreaking in today's scene), the elegant 'Traced...' may outlast its predecessor.
7. Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
    - Combining Leviathan and Lurker of Chalice aesthetics, 'Massive Conspiracy...' cannot quite reach the zenith either might have alone, but is still a fittingly compelling and mysterious end to Leviathan's tenure (if the rumors are true).

8. Moonsorrow - Tulimyrsky
    - 'V' was another quality LP from this visionary tribe, but was a step down from 'Verisäkeet' and only the second best album of its name in 2007 (Shining). 'Tulimyrsky' features better structure and melodic themes, and quality goodies to boot.

9. Cursed - III
    - Alongside Gaza, Cursed are at the helm of America's resurgent and diversified hardcore scene. 'III' draws from crust and sludge nearly as much as from hardcore, and is the band's most feral (and well-written) release yet.

10. Ayreon - 01011001
    - Though it features fewer blockbuster names and anthems than 'The Human Equation', '01011001' is arguably better for its (relative) freedom from Hollywood glamour. Subtle songs like 'Waking Dreams' will quietly become favorites in the Ayreon canon.

Honorable Mentions:
Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God
Arsis - We Are The Nightmare
Cult of Luna - Eternal Kingdom
Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
Gojira - The Way of All Flesh
Hail of Bullets - Of Frost And War
Mar De Grises - Draining the Waterheart
Plague Bringer - Life Songs In A Land of Death
Psycroptic - Ob(Servant)
UFOmammut - Idolum

The Best Albums I Have Yet To Hear:
Bloodbath - The Fathomless Mastery
Burst - The Lazarus Bird
Communic - Payment of Existence
Crowpath - One With Filth
Darkane - Demonic Art
Darkestrah - The Great Silk Road
Esoteric - The Maniacal Veil
Forefather - Steadfast
Grand Magus - Iron Will
Hammers of Misfortune - Fields/Church of Broken Glass
Hollenthon - Opus Magnum
Intronaut - Prehistoricisms
Jex Thoth - S/T
Manilla Road - Voyager
Mercenary - Architect of Lies
Pagan's Mind - God's Equation
Rotten Sound - Cycles
Septicflesh - Communion
Thyrfing - Hels Vite
Tır - Land

Underground Up-and-Comers:
Blood of the Black Owl - A Feral Spirit
Caina - Temporary Antennae
ColdWorld - Melancholie
Cor Scorpii - Monument
Dekadent - The Deliverance of the Fall
Iskald - Revelations of Reckoning Day
Krallice - S/T
She Said Destroy - This City Speaks In Tongues
Samothrace - Life's Trade
WOLD - Stratification
Maruta - In Narcosis

Somewhat Less Than Advertised:
Decrepit Birth - Diminishing Between Worlds
Dragonforce - Ultra Beatdown
Equilibrium - Sagas
Into Eternity - The Incurable Tragedy
Nachtmystium - Assassins

Ditto, But Deserving Of A Mulligan:
Celestia - Frigidiis Apotheosia
Cryptopsy - The Unspoken King
Evergrey - Torn
Keep of Kalessin - Kolossus

Best EP:
Bloodbath - Unblessing the Purity --With four swift strokes, Bloodbath repositioned itself from entertaining homage to lethal modernity.

Best Re-issue/Collection:
Deathspell Omega - Manifestations
Lurker of Chalice - S/T
Vader - XXV

Notable Non-Metal Releases:
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs. 'Narrow Stairs' surpasses all prior benchmarks and rejects the 'darling' status bestowed upon them by the media. This is their most grown-up and least assuming album; disarmingly simple, beautiful.
Man Man - Rabbit Habbits
Sigur Rós - Meğ suğ í eyrum viğ spilum endalaust
Dead Man - Euphoria
Sun Kil Moon - April

Best Album Of The Year: Bullet For My Valentine - "Scream Aim Fire"
Song Of The Year: P.O.D - "It Can't Rain Everyday"

Top Ten Albums Of 2008:
1. Bullet For My Valentine - "Scream Aim Fire"
2. The Showdown - "Backbreaker"
3. Shinedown - "The Sound Of Madness"
4. Dane, Warrel - "Praises To The War Machine"
5. Black Stone Cherry - "Folklore & Superstition"
6. Tesla - "Forevermore"
7. In Flames - "A Sense Of Purpose"
8. P.O.D - "When Angels & Serpents Dance"
9. Escape The Fate - "This War Is Ours"
10. Voodoo Six - "First Hit For Free"

Worst Album Of 2008: Judas Priest - "Nostradamus"
Comeback Album Of The Year: Metallica - "Death Magnetic"
Best Live Show Of The Year: Megadeth - Gigantour 4/26 Baltimore, MD
Most Disappointing Album Of The Year: Dokken, Don - "Solitary"
Biggest Metal News - The death of Loudness drummer Munetaka Higuchi

Best "Oldie" Found In 2008:
Raven - "Stay Hard"
Kreator - "Terrible Certainty"

David Loveless
Top Metal Albums of 2008 (In Order)
1. Textures - Silhouettes
2. Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
3. Enslaved - Vertabrea
4. Opeth - Watershed
5. Dead To This World - First Strike For Spiritual Renewance
6. Tyr - Land
7. Blood Of The Black Owl - A Feral Spirit
8. Jeff Loomis - Zero Order Phase
9. Hate Eternal - Fury & Flames
10. Marco Sfogli There's Hope

Top Music DVD's of 2008
1. Cannibal Corpse - Centuries of Torment
2. Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live
3. Hatebreed - Live Dominance
4. Dream Theater - Chaos In Motion
5. Get Thrashed - History of Thrash Metal

Can't wait for albums by these bands in 2009:
1. Cannibal Corpse, Hecate Enthroned, Ahab, Graveland, Isis, Earth Crisis, Nothingface, Redemption, Static X, YOB (welcome back guys!!)

In a time where I can go see Motley Crue play one night and Slipknot the next, I can't think of a better time to be a metal fan. From Guitar Hero to Rock Band, the world is once again rattling with METAL. I have a few Sinner honors for some bands that need to be recognized for their hard work.

Albums of the year (In No Particular Order):
Slipknot - All Hope Is Gone
Straight Line Stitch - When Skies Wash Ashore
Metallica - Death Magnetic
Motley Crue - Saints of Los Angeles
Mudvayne - The New Game
Tesla - Forever More
Testament - The Formation of Damnation
Apocolyptica - Worlds Collide
Static-X - Cannibal Killers Live
Sebastian Bach - Angel Down

Comeback of the year goes to two bands:
1) Metallica - For finally heading back into the studio and putting out some quality Trash. The debate is still out on the mixing of the tracks but who really cares. Metal isn't pretty!

2) Motley Crue - for being able to pull the band together and put out a very good Crue album that we haven't seen in years.

Best New Metal Bands:
1) Straight Line Stitch - Not only is "When Skies Wash Ashore", a great album, but the live show is one not to be missed. If they roll into your town, go check them out and say, "Hello" they are the real deal.

2) Black Tide - Four teenagers that range from 14-19 put together a band and released, "Light From Above." I don't care who you are, if you are underage and you can kick ass on the stage and hang with the rest of the
Metal scene, you deserve respect! Reminds of a little band by the name of Death Angel.

Downers of the Year:
1) Guns N Roses - Finally released Chinese Democracy, the damn thing should have been the best album ever. Better start on the new album Axl. Not going to wait like this again.

2) Ozzfest - Only one show and it was for those who had the money to travel that far.

Honorable Mentions:
1) Metal Church, Exodus, Motorhead, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, and Judas Priest for all putting out quality albums out this year.

2) Nikki Sixx, to one of the hardest working men in Metal. He has given us Sixx A.M., The Heroine Diaries, New Crue record and tour, The Running Wild in the Night Foundation, and the list goes on. Nikki Sixx is the
"Mutherfucker Of The Year!"

3) Snot, for keeping Lynn's spirit alive!

4) Another year goes by where I feel a loss when Dimebag isn't making music or creating havoc. RIP Dime.We Miss You! Thanks to Rita, Vinnie and the guys from HELLYEAH for not letting go.

Top "Metal" albums of 2008:       
1.    Opeth - Watershed. This is the album of the year, period. I know some people think Opeth songs are too long and bloated, etc., but I find Opeth to be just about the perfect metal band. Great balance between brutal death metal and medolic greatness. This album may be my favorite Opeth album.
2.    Slipknot - All Hope is Gone. Unlike most die-hard "maggots" I believe the current Slipknot music is BETTER than their first wo albums. I enjoy the change of pace and the complexity. This is a very good metal album and they put on a great live show.   

3.    DragonForce - Ultra Beatdown. Once I start listening to DragonForce, I cannot stop. That's what happened with their last cd (Inhuman Rampage) and same thing with Ultra Beatdown. Power metal at its best.

4.    Testament - The Formation of Damnation. I was not really familiar with Testament back in the day, but did they come back with a vengeance. Metallica wishes they could make music like this today. This is a great thrash/metal album and I am a new fan of Testament. Greatness.

5.    Whitesnake - Good To Be Bad. On the other hand, I was a fan of Whitesnake back in the day and this album is almost as good as their late 80's classics. The title track might be song of the year.   

6.    Nightwish - Dark Passion Play. Two bands make mu list this year with female lead vocalists. Nightwish replaced their lead singer for this album and actually improved their sound. This is a very melodic album - very easy to listen to and like.
7.    Shinedown - The Sound of Madness. Metal? Not really, but Kurt Smith is a great vocalist and I really like everything this band does. Straight ahead modern rock - as good as it gets.
8.    Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live. Maybe a live album/dvd does not belong on this list, but the greatest band of all time gets and exception. Rush followed-up a great studio album with a great tour and live performance. The live album has great production and is a great addition to any music collection.

9.    All That Remains - Overcome. This album was so easy to get into. Some folks say its not hard enough, but I think ATR found a great balance on this album. Crushing riffs and strong choruses - works for me!

10.    Atreyu - Lead Sails Paper Anchor. Similar to All That Remains - perhaps not as hard as some would want, but very catchy and yet certainly metal. I have not really enjoyed past albums from Atreyu so I hope they keep going in this direction.
11.    Scar Symmetry - Holographic Universe. Soilwork and In Flames might claim to own this genre, but Scar Symmetry is doing it better. I did not even like the new Soilwork and the In Flames made my list, barely. Check this one out instead.
12.    Walls of Jericho - American Dream. I am sure I am influenced by seeing Candace (WoJ lead singer) live, as it is hard to get that live image out of my head when I listen to their new album. That is a good thing and this is a good album. Catch them live if you ever have the chance.   

13.    Buckcherry - Black Butterfly. Hard to call this metal, but this is the best raunchy rock album of the year and I like what Buckcherry are doing so this made my list. Glad to see radio will still play a rock band once in a while.   

14.    Metallica - Death Magnetic. Maybe I just hated St. Anger so much that this album sounds so good. In any event, I like this album more with each listen, and it's Metallica so they made may list. Good to see them back on track - it's been a while.    

15.    Bullet For My Valentine - Scream, Aim, Fire. I really got into bands like BFMV, ATRemains, Atreyu, etc. more than in past years. Maybe my tastes are changing, but I think these bands are making some great metal music. This is BFMV's best album to my ears anyway.   

16.    Arch Enemy - Rise of the Tyrant. This album actually came out in 2007 but I did not get it into rotation until this year. If your like metal guitar riffs, then you have to check this album out. Angela sounds the same as always - not the real strength of the band, but not bad either.
17.    In Flames - A Sense of Purpose. I really like In Flames. Their body of work is very strong and they did practically invent the Swedish metal sound. This album is a good addition to the collection, but I find myself listening to a few tracks and then listening to songs from other albums as well.   

Non-metal albums worth looking into:
Coldplay "Viva La Vida", Journey "Revelation", Asia "Phoenix", Amy MacDonald "This is the Life", Alanis Morissette "Flavors of Entanglement", Gavin DeGraw "Gavin Degraw", Black Crowes "Warpaint".

Disappointments of the year:
1. Judas Priest - Nostradmus: After all these years, Halford and company can do anything they want to, but this album put me to sleep.

2. Not enought time - with the advent of huge ipods and external hard drives, I now have more music than I can listen to. That has always been the case, but never been more true than it is now. In years past, a new Metallica album would have been played 50 times by now...not this year.

3. Iron Maiden - they have cut their US tours so short that I have not seen them in Dallas in several years. Up the Irons! C'mon back and stay longer!

4. i-tunes - give me a break, this software is the worst. By the time I load all my music into it, itunes get so slow that it makes me sick. I know there are plenty of alternatives - to be explored in 2009 for certain.

Top Ten releases of '08 (in order):
1. Opeth-Watershed: The doubters and haters were quite vociferous leading up to this release, the doubters fears were allayed, the haters simply shut up, the core of the fan base reveled in the majesty that Opeth created, and I simply played it about 5,000,000 times since its release. Our reviewer Icedmojo here at Maximum Metal rightfully gave it a 5 out of 5, so if you've yet to get this masterpiece of progressive death, BUY IT NOW!

2. Tiamat-Amanathes: I'm sure I'm probably in the minority on this one, and though I've always liked Tiamat I'm not a die-hard fan as some of their explorations are too esoteric for me, but this album is pure emotional distress. And those melodies, wow, the depression just oozes from each verse sung and note played. Not for the spiritually weak, lest ye be dragged into the darkest corners of your world where surely only self-mutilation and eventually self-annihilation await.

3. Nachtmystium-Assassins: Black Meddle Part I: A perfect example of what ecstatic sonic exploits can be achieved when a band thinks outside the box. I mean, psychedelic black metal done well? A tall order indeed and one that was far surpassed by these windy city residents this year, another release that will take several years to get its true comeuppance, but patience is a virtue and will pay off.

4. Communic-Payment of Existence: When the vocals of a song become a true instrument incorporated into the mix and not just lay on top of it, then you know you've got something special. The third release from a very special band playing a very special brand of power metal few can achieve. There's talent galore in all departments here. Get on the band wagon now, for there are a lot of great things yet to come from Communic.

5. Dismember-Dismember: Wow, Dismember continue to dig deep and uncover coffins of cadaverous riffs that could only be found in cemeteries around Stockholm. Another round of filthy death metal and just as powerful, relevant, and vicious as their earliest releases. A true renaissance for one of the founders of the genre.

6. Kataklysm-Prevail: Absolute riff gods, these far north canucks continue to ply their trade and have firmly planted themselves at the top of the death metal heap. Prevail simply slays from beginning to end, the same shivers of excitement Shadows and Dust gave you await here, get it, and bang thy head!

7. Testament-The Formation of Damnation: This was certainly one of the nicer surprises of the year, as Testament have really failed to capture my attention and hold in the 90's, but with 4/5 of the original lineup back (including Alex Skolnick!) these guys stormed out of the apocalyptic sky down into our cities and back into our 80's thrash loving hearts. Pure thrash goodness from one of the masters of the genre with today's hi-fi production, damn, I swear I was 18 all over again listening to Practice What You Preach when this hit my stereo. Here's to the good ol days!

8. Enslaved-Vertebrae: These long-running progressive, black, atmospheric, rockers simply continue to amaze with their unique brand of metal. Nobody sounds like ‘em, yet they are strangely accessible and inaccessible at the same time, if that makes sense! Dare to travel this ethereal plane and you shall be rewarded with a wonderful sonic experience.

9. Blackmore's Night-Secret Voyage: If you're not already familiar with this troupe, this is as good a place to start as any, folk/renaissance/rock music by none other than Ritchie Blackmore and his now wife (finally!!!) Candice Night. Her hauntingly beautiful voice fits with all the styles of songs they do (and they are plenty), and Secret Voyage finds Ritchie perfectly crisscrossing his favorite finger frenzied phrasings into one cohesive, enjoyable album. It may not be metal, but it is from one of the revered guitar godfathers who has heavily influenced our beloved genre, and here you'll find many of the reasons why. God Save the Keg!

10. Metallica-Death Magnetic: I wasn't quite sure if this one would make it onto my top ten or not, as although it is a hell of good album with riffs upon riffs galore, it didn't grab me the same way others on my list did, but it made it for being one of the better comebacks in recent history. I really had my doubts after St. Putrid whether the Metallidudes would pull off a truly good album, but I gotta hand it to ‘em, this is probably the best we could've gotten and they delivered.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order):
Unleashed-Hammer Battalion
Grand Magus-Iron Will
Bloodbath-The Fathomless Mastery
Uriah Heep-Wake the Sleeper
Keep of Kelessin-Kolossus

Top 5 worst moments of 2008:
a) AC/DC-Black Ice: More color by numbers dumbed down rock by a band that made it famous. There's little heart or inspiration to be found on this album. Like any of their albums post For Those About to Rock, there's anywhere from 3-5 decent songs and the rest is just insipid filler.

b) The rising star of In This Moment: First they destroy a classic Slayer song in Postmortem, then like good little California kiddies they unfurl another stupid "socially conscience" antiwar song with some of the worst melodies of the year. This is pure adolescent tripe way over hyped by the likes of (too) Rolling Stone(d) and their idiotic ilk!

c) Judas Priest-Nostradamus: One of my all time favorite bands finds a way to let me down every ten years or so, and here we go again. An overly huge album which simply collapses under its own weight. About an over hyped mystic who once said bad things will happen in the future and somehow he's anointed with undying clairvoyance because of it. Bah, a worthless topic surrounded by too many worthless keyboard/instrumental meanderings that do nothing to further the cause. I really wanted to like this one when it came out, but I was worried the Priesties were getting in too deep. Leave this kinda stuff up to the big boys like Rhapsody, Therion or Virgin Steele.

d) The passing of two important drummers to early rock, John Rutsey, who played with Rush on their debut, and Cliff Davies, who played for the Nuge on much of his "golden era" output, R.I.P.

e) And finally on a lighter note, the cancellation of the King Diamond tour! Oh how I was looking forward to seeing the King with the mighty Kreator, here's hoping he still tours "Give Me Your Soul...Please" at some point, for it's a perfectly written ghost story deserving of more exposure than it got.

Best albums of the year - Top 15 (In VERY rough order of preference):
Gamma Ray: Land of the Free Part II
Overdrive: Let the Metal do the Talking
Sinner: Crash and Burn
Ross the Boss: New Metal Leader
Uriah Heep: Wake the Sleeper
Grand Magus: Iron Will
Orange Sky: Dat Iz Voodoo
MSG/Schenker-Barden: In the Midst of Beauty
Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Slough Feg: Hardworlder (2007)
Metallica: Death Magnetic
Uli Jon Roth: Under a Dark Sky
Jorn: Lonely are the Brave
Battleroar: To Death and Beyond...
Anvil: This is Thirteen

Cool DVD’s:
Gamma Ray: Hell Yeah...
Tesla: Comin’ Atcha Live
Halford: Rock in Rio III
Iron Maiden: Live After Death
Various: Bang Your Head!!! 2006

Cool shows:
UFO – Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
Helloween & Gamma Ray – Palladium, Worcester, MA
Orange Sky – CATS/ KC’s Tap, Pawtucket, RI

Biggest surprise: Chinese friggin’ Democracy!

No surprise: Chinese Democracy’s utter failure to live up to the hype or prove worth the ridiculously long wait.

Best comeback: Metallica!

[Other Maximum Metal Columns]

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