A belated (but first in the group nonetheless) Best of the F-ing Decade list…

Estimated reading time: 31 minute(s)

I know this is coming a bit late, but I never got a chance to put all my thoughts down. And hell, I still beat all of you fuckers!

How to sum up the decade with no name? Well, in the world of metal, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I don’t think I ever told you this story, so here goes: At the beginning of 2000, Lucifer–yes, that very devil himself–came to me in a dream and he said to me, “Zig, what do you want more than anything else in the whole world?” I replied, “Dude, just bring back the metal! You are doing such a crappy job of putting out good tunes at this point, I just bought a goddamn Linkin Park album!” “Ok, ok—you are definitely right. Here’s the catch (and there’s always a catch…), I will bring back the metal, big time, with one condition. The vocalists of every single new metal band, and even some of the old ones, are gonna scream! Oh, except for power metal—that’s going to stay as super-gay as it always has been.” I said, “Scream? What’s the big deal about that—Tom Araya, Chuck Billy, they already scream. Bring it on!”

Man, I am so sorry I took the bait. The metal did return, all right. We got metalcore (more about that later), we got deathcore, we got every kind of friggin’ –core there is, and it was pretty sweet, at first. Even the Headbangers’ Ball came back—and it played actual heavy metal, not the poppy stuff! I didn’t care that every singer screamed—I was psyched! Killswitch—awesome! Lamb of God—excellent! God Forbid—nice! Chimaira—ok, well, they’re pretty good, but I can’t tell any of the songs apart, and the singer seems really dumb… Trivium—well, I kinda like that one album, but what about that next one, it’s terrible! And, hey, now even Killswitch is starting to suck, and Shadows Fall, and, well, even LoG are starting to fade… And hey, wait, there are a million new bands that all sound exactly the same, and there are no melodies anymore, and hey wait, Lucifer, I don’t really want to listen to this crap anymore! “Ah, ha-ah! Gotcha! You shoulda just gone and bought all the old Motorhead albums you never had, ya little whiner! You asked for it. And by the way, the metal was alive and kicking the whole time over in Scandinavia, you were just too short sighted to see it!”

So that’s what happened to the ‘0000s. Started pretty strong, then I pretty much got sick of most of it, with a few exceptions, and I find myself going back more to the old stuff. And surprisingly, despite how barren the 90’s seemed at the time, the albums on that list are pretty damn classic (though I was probably wrong with the order of some of the albums, in hindsight); I’m not sure if these will maintain the same luster. Once again, looking back on the 1990’s, it looked like metal was dead, but it just went underground; also, a lot of our favorite bands let us down for much of the decade. Hell, look at the bottom 10 of that list—Lucifuge, Persistence of Time, Roots, Vulgar Display of Power? Gimme a break—any of them would have been near the top of this decade’s list! Brian Frank, I have to say you may be right.

[Here was my best of the 1990s, just as a little teaser…:
20. Testament – Low (1994)
19. Memento Mori – Rhymes of Lunacy (1993)
18. Candlemass – Tales of Creation (1990)
17. Danzig – Lucifuge (1990)
16. Anthrax – Persistence of Time (1990)
15. Entombed – Wolverine Blues (1993)
14. Bruce Dickinson – The Chemical Wedding (1998)
13. Dark Angel – Time Does Not Heal (1991)
12. Sepultura – Roots (1996)
11. Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
10. Cynic – FOCUS (1993)
9. Death – HUMAN (1991)
8. Slayer – SEASONS IN THE ABYSS (1990)
7. Fear Factory – DEMANUFACTURE (1995)
6. Coroner – GRIN (1993)
5. Carcass – HEARTWORK (1994)
4. Megadeth – RUST IN PEACE (1990)
3. Marilyn Manson – ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (1996)
2. Tool – AENIMA (1996)
1. Dream Theater – AWAKE (1994)]

But here goes this decade…

The best of the rest:
20. Between the Buried and Me – The Great Misdirect (2009)
19. Kreator – Enemy of God (2005)
18. Baroness – The Blue Album (2009)
17. Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden (2003)
16. The Haunted – One Kill Wonder (2003)
15. Machine Head – The Blackening (2007)
14. God Forbid – Constitution of Treason (2005)
13. Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (2005)
12. Exodus – Tempo of the Damned (2004)
11. Cynic – Traced in Air (2008)

The toppermost of the poppermost:
10. Iron Maiden – Brave New World (2000)
Who the hell saw this one coming? Not me, for sure. The band put out shitty album after shitty album for the preceeding 10 years, got a crappy new singer, resorted to playing club shows. And my god, did they have a comeback. We got Bruce, we got Adrian, ok, well, we also got Janick, but even that wasn’t so bad, if you didn’t have to look at him. Epic tracks, great production, and Bruce’s pipes…

9. Slipknot – Iowa (2001)
The last “nu metal” holdout. The reason they’ve lasted is that they never really were nu metal, but rather a death metal band with some versatility, who were willing to let Ross Robinson delete all their solos until the real metal came back. This is possibly the heaviest album of the decade, at least that doesn’t involve the Poles. Great live band. I feel bad for whoever has to design their pension plan, however…

8. Meshuggah – Catch 33 (2005)
Possibly the most important metal opus of the decade. Notice, this is the “Best Metal” of 2000s, not necessarily my favorite. This is a difficult album to listen to, my friends, but it is the closest thing to a symphonic work that has ever come out of the genre, in my opinion. This band has just kept getting better and better, but there’s something special about this particular twisted work of genius…

7. Killswitch Engage – the End of Heartache (2004)
The apotheosis of “metalcore”. Great songs, choruses you can’t help but sing along to and whip out your damn lighter for, even if you are sitting at home by yourself. Beautiful.

6. The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)
Fortunately, the Devil forgot about prog metal when we made our little deal, and for that reason TMV was exempted! Simply a great album, though unfortunately TMV has taken a step back with every subsequent release. Bizarre but still tuneful. Omar and Cedric tapped into the mind of Jon Anderson and mixed it in an L.A. Latino blender and out came this one…

5. Lamb of God – Ashes of the Wake (2004)
The defining album of the Bush era. Brutal, direct, unflinching, from start to finish. Apparently the band wasn’t happy with the overtly political nature of all the lyrics on this one, and tried to get more personal with later releases, which I would argue was to their detriment. The vitriol Randy and Co. were able to (or driven to…) whip up against the regime has gone unmatched by them or anyone since.

4. Opeth – Ghost Reveries (2005)
It was tough picking which Opeth platter to put on this list, since, let’s be honest, just about all of them could have been here. About.com put out their list of the best of the decade, which was chosen from the top albums of each year; the top ten consisted almost solely of Opeth and Mastodon albums, which sounds about right. But we have our ground rules, so there can be only one! I know, Blackwater Park was their breakthrough, and Watershed may have greater maturity. But this is the one I keep coming back to…

3. System of a Down – Toxicity (2001)
Who would have thought that mixing punkish attitude and political sensibility, Zappa-esque absurdity, and traditional Middle Eastern melodies would be a good idea? This came out right around 9/11, and still managed to find a big audience. Every song on here rocks, and lasts. Cannot be denied. Similarly, their next double release could have been on here as well. My mixed feelings will become evident in the next list, below…

2. Tool – Lateralus (2000)
Number 2, two decades running. Unfortunately, I suspect that this will be their last entry in this long running list, since Maynard seems to care more about making wine than music, and the other guys just seem lazy as shit. Oh, but we have this glorious platter to remember them by. I tortured myself about which album should be at the top spot, and I almost gave it a tie. It’s the “Take Five” of heavy metal, with just about every song in an odd time signature, and it’s still majestic, memorable, and just about damn perfect…

1. Mastodon – Crack the Skye (2009)
Here we go, folks. From the first listen, I knew this was a keeper. For the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure out the negative vibes this album got from some circles. While this band has gotten better with every release, their vocals, which were, frankly shitty, kept them from reaching their full potential. No more. Hell, guys, if you could sing like this, why the hell didn’t you? This concept album is like a master class in heavy metal/hard rock—you can pick out the influences: “hey, there’s Randy Rhoads, here’s the Yes part… Ok, more Neurosis over here (and no, like every one else, I have never actually heard a Neurosis album)…” but it’s never derivative or a mere pastiche, but rather a summation of where we’ve been, and where we might be going in the world of heavy metal. And ultimately, that’s why Mastodon had to take the top spot, over a band that feels like their best days are behind them. So to Mastodon, I say, “here, here!” And, here’s to another 10 years—who knows what will happen, except that we are going to be some crusty bastards by then!

Other lists:
Biggest assholes of the decade:
1. George Bush/Dick Cheney
2. System of a Down
3. Tool
4. Mastodon
5. Osama bin Laden
6. Glenn Beck

Biggest comeback:
Exodus, who are now a better band than they ever were in the first place!

Band of the decade: Opeth
Runners up:

Best books about music:
Alex Ross – The Rest is Noise
Greg Milner – Perfecting Sound Forever
The 33 1/3 series
Alex Mudrian – Choosing Death
Daniel Ekeroth – Swedish Death Metal

The best thing to happen to music this decade:
The Internet.

The worst thing to happen to music this decade:
The Internet.

More about that some other time, or this will be even more intolerably long than it already is…

Best nonmetal of the 2000s:

Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Vs. the Pink Robots (2002)
Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)
Aimee Mann – Magnolia OST (2000)
Death Cab – Plans (2005)
Decemberists – The Crane Wife
My Morning Jacket – Z (2005)
Sufjan Stevens – Come on…Feel the llinoise (2005)
Green Day – American Idiot (2004)
Amy WInehouse – Back to Black (2007)
Vampire Weekend – Self Titled (2008)
The Killers – Sam’s Town (2006)
Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Beats the Flood (2006)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
Muse – Absolution (2003)
Paul Simon – Surprise (2006)
Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007)
U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
Battles – Mirrored (2007)

Special bonus, no extra charge: Best of 2009!

I didn’t actually get that many new albums this past year, but there were some gems. My time to listen to music continues to diminish, much to my chagrin, making it difficult to keep up like I would like to. Gonna be brief cause I’m saving it up for the Best of the Decade, soon to come. Here we go!

Best Metal Albums:

1. Mastodon – Crack the Skye
2. Baroness – The Blue Record
3. Between the Buried and Me – The Great Misdirect
4. Behemoth – Evangelion
5. Napalm Death – Time Waits for No Slave
6. Isis – Wavering Radiant
7. God Forbid – Earthsblood
8. Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know
9. Megadeth – Endgame
10. Obscura – Cosmogenesis

Honorable Mention:
Slayer – World Painted Blood
Converge – Axe to Fall
Lamb of God – Wrath

Nonmetal Albums of 2009:
Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Steven Wilson – Insurgentes
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Clutch – Strange Cousins from the West
Regina Spektor – Far
St. Vincent – Actor

This post has responses:
May 5, 2010 Re: A belated (but first in the group nonetheless) Best of the F-ing Decade list… avatar
Thanks for the wonderful AND comprehensive "Best of" lists; they are thoroughly enjoyable. I am also glad to hear you are back on speaking terms with Lucifer, as he generally...
May 9, 2010 Re: A belated (but first in the group nonetheless) Best of the F-ing Decade list… avatar
Thanks again for your thoughtful reply. Now on to your main points of rebuttal. First, you make a very good point with your 1980s>90s>00s comment. I suppose you are right...
May 20, 2010 In Defense Of Metal avatar
Thanks for the detailed response. I think I understand your position much better now. Sorry for my delay in getting back to you; I had to wait until I had...