Published Feb 01, 20001. Converge Jane Doe (Equal Vision)
Kevin Stewart-Panko: As clichéd as it may sound, the death of a relationship still has the power to produce outstanding emotional musical output. There's a lot of sour blood, piss and vinaigrette flowing through the veins of this metalcore masterpiece. It brims not only with eviscerated soul and palpable turmoil, but at least four of the best songs this band has ever written. Could "Jane Doe" be Converge's "Layla"?
2. Katatonia Last Fair Deal Gone Down (Peaceville/PHD)
Chris Ayers: Mixing mature metal and melodic rock, Last Fair Deal Gone Down is this Swedish quintet's magnum opus, as it tempers the dark rhythms forged on Tonight's Decision down to a smoother, multi-layered affair. Singer Jonas Renske seamlessly intones the vocal harmonies of the Moody Blues Justin Hayward and John Lodge all by himself. But the music goes beyond simply strong vocals; the rippling guitar chords in "Teargas" recall the emotive progressions of the sadly inactive the Moon Seven Times, while the electronic beats of "We Must Bury You" provide for an elegant techno/rock foundation. Further entrancing is the background textures of guitarist Anders Nyström, like the flute sounds behind the verses in "Tonight's Music" and the classical façade of "Don't Tell A Soul." Last Fair Deal Gone Down is one of the most finely crafted dark-rock records of all time.
3. Lightning Bolt Ride The Skies (Load)
Kevin Stewart-Panko: Who would have guessed an album so rife with contradiction could end up being one of the year's best? It's lo-fi, but still possesses enough of a wall of sound to pin you to the drywall. Instrumental, but still wholly engaging. There are flashes of prog all over it, but it's still catchy enough to shimmy to. They're a drum and bass duo without the monotony of electronica or the po-faced seriousness of jazz. They're killing music and it sounds so sweet.
4. Slayer God Hates Us All (American)
Greg Pratt: After the relative drowsiness of Slayer's last few albums, no one expected this total audio homicide. Recalling the glory days of Reign In Blood, God Hates Us All hits you square in the face with that classic Slayer thrash sound: fast, frantic, unstable and violent. Tom Araya belts out a truly panicked vocal onslaught while Paul Bostaph serves up his finest drumming yet. The legendary dual axe attack of King/Hanneman is in prime form, yawning out riffs that put the Haunted to shame. Lyrically, it's all anger towards a society riddled with morons and corrupt religions, more blunt and real than previous efforts. Many bands can claim to do the retro thrash thing, but none can deliver it with such intensity, talent, emotion and power as Slayer. God Hates Us All puts Slayer back at the top of the entire heavy metal genre.
5. Candiria 300% Density (Century Media)
Greg Pratt: Candiria effortlessly combine prog metal, hardcore, jazz-fusion and rap on 300 Percent Density, and amazingly it all works, flowing together beautifully. Recalling the cross-eyed chaos of the Dillinger Escape Plan, each wonderfully diverse song on this album is held together by one of this year's top drum performances and clear, inviting production. Candiria's trick is that no matter how mathematical their songs get, there is always a toe-tapping groove hidden beneath the layers of confusion. I can't think of any other band that would appeal to fans of Biohazard, Melt Banana, the Dillinger Escape Plan, Yes and John Coltrane. The most important thing about this album is its refusal to stagnate, instead pushing upwards and onwards. All the usual catch phrases apply, but this time they're for real: Candiria has broken new ground, will appeal to a wide variety of people and have nowhere to go from here but to more bizarre, jaw-dropping musical avenues.
6. The End Transfer Trachea Reverberations From Point: False Omniscient (Redefine)
Kevin Stewart-Panko: Toronto's baby-faced pillaging machine overcame the major misgivings that have until now kept home-grown metalcore from having any widespread impact. They harnessed and channelled some ferocious suburban angst into a collection of complex and combustible songs and actually obtained a decent production doing so, allowing the true mayhem to be expressed and experienced. Damn kids.
7. Keelhaul II (Hydra Head)
Chris Ayers: Cleveland's hardcore heroes Keelhaul have recorded a 34-minute soundtrack for stockcar saboteurs world-wide. Early rumblings mixed Melvins with Botch and Entombed with Coalesce, but II scrubs clean the grime and results in a lurching attack. Starting with "360," Keelhaul plow through all heavy expectations while maintaining perfect control over tempo changes, volume, and melody. Five bash-fests later, "39f" finally offers a chance to gulp down breathable air before jagged, throbbing riffs and the Smith/Dallison scream team collapse to a moody, Neurosis cut with dive-bombing chord progressions. The Isis-like guitar layering in "Lackadaisical Chinese Tubesocks" tweaks sensitive body parts with red-hot needle-nosed pliers, and "LWM" is a Southern rock jam-cum-dirge. In a metal world of leather, spikes, and spooky-looking make-up, Keelhaul are the nondescript kids in hoodies and Converse who're kicking down doors and swinging socks full of quarters over their heads.
8. Fantômas The Director's Cut (Ipecac)
Chris Gramlich: While Amenaza al Mundo blended extreme metal's brutality with stop-start precision, a jump-cut attention deficiency, free form eccentricities and Mike Patton's ability to mimic and produce myriad sounds without ever uttering an intelligible word, Patton's "metal" band of Trevor Dunn, Buzz Osborne and Dave Lombardo throw one of the most stylish wrenches of 2001 into the gears with The Director's Cut. While still filtered through Fantomas' musical blender aesthetic, the themes interpreted on Director's Cut rein in Fantomas' daunting complexity, forcing them to adhere to a more linear structure, incorporate melody, and features actual singing. Almost no genre of music is left unturned through this cinematic killing spree, as "The Godfather," "The Omen," "Rosemary's Baby" and "Cape Fear" remain barely recognisable but become wholly Fantomas in the translation. The Director's Cut is a feat that few other bands would have the vision to attempt, let alone the ability to realise.
9. My Dying Bride The Dreadful Hours (Peaceville/PHD)
Chris Ayers: Masters of melancholy and bone-crushing doom, these stalwarts return to the forefront. My Dying Bride have progressed from their dust-choked death metal roots to a more classically-tinged goth gravity, but The Dreadful Hours raises the bar in two distinctly different ways: not only does it revisit the band's previous furnishings but it also delves deep into the seething death/black metal underground. Both the title track and "The Raven And The Rose" rise to the occasion with spurts of evil, corpse-painted melodicism while retaining front-man Aaron Stainthorpe's flawless tenor and Andrew Craighan's riveting guitar lines. And the band spins a wonderfully new web of musical intrigue and introspection with "Le Figlie Della Tempesta," a tamer selection with a buoyant, repeating bass line and infectious harmonics. With Paradise Lost and Anathema permanently out of the UK doom race, there's no stopping My Dying Bride from becoming god-sized and ruling the gloom realm for evermore.
10. From Autumn to Ashes Too Bad You're Beautiful (Ferret)
Chris Gramlich: While initially overlooked because of the mammoth attention focused on Converge's Jane Doe, From Autumn to Ashes quietly offered up one of the most emotionally devastating and musically brutal albums of the year. Initially, FATA's sound is fragmented and unfocused, making it seem that they are another young band in search of definition. However, after repeated exposure, these disparate influences smooth into one cohesive whole, based on the melody and brutality of Swedish death and thrash, mixed with some of the most heart-wrenching emotional passages to ever be shed, metallic hardcore aggression and some superbly crafted songs. Considering that this is their debut, their achievement of emotional anguish and artistry, unrelenting aggression and musical diversity and proficiency is even more impressive.
11. Sigh Imaginary Soundscape (Century Media)
All Else Failed Archetype (Now or Never)
God Forbid Determination (Century Media)
Greg Pratt: Taking the best of today's mathcore and yesterday's thrash, almost everyone loved this one, and for good reason.
Groinchurn Whoami (Morbid)
Red Harvest Cold Dark Matter (Relapse)
Chris Ayers: These Norwegian techno-destructionists alone have placed Malhavoc's entire catalog on permanent backorder.
Emperor Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise (Candlelight)
Greg Pratt: This would probably be higher on the list given more time to digest it. Another epic, layered masterpiece, and extra points are given for quitting while they're ahead.
EverytimeIdie Last Night In Town (Ferret)
Godflesh Hymns (Koch)
Chris Ayers: Make way for the original industrial magnates, now replacing the drum machines with Prong's Ted Parsons.
Drowningman Drowningman Still Loves You (Equal Vision)
Malefaction Crush The Dream (G7 Welcoming Committee)
Greg Pratt: Taking the best of grindcore and hardcore with intelligent lyrics and good attitudes, these guys are one of Canada's best.
Old Man Gloom II Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism (Tortuga)
Transatlantic Bridge Across Forever (Radiant/Metal Blade)
Chris Ayers: The best prog album since Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans, hands down.
Association Area Loathesome Deco (Lunasound)
Lost Horizon Awakening The World (Koch/Music For Nations)
Greg Pratt: Hilariously OTT and surprisingly inspiring, a perfect early morning listen to get you ready to conquer the world.
Operator:Generator Polar Fleet (Man's Ruin)
Chris Ayers: Knock-the-air-out-of-you groove metal that spanks all stoner rockers soundly and sends them to bed.
Young Gods Second Nature (Intoxygene)
Burnt by the Sun s/t (Relapse)
Opeth Blackwater Park (Koch)
Chris Ayers: The only band with the Midas touch for melding death, black, thrash, and goth metal tastefully.
Soilent Green A Deleted Symphony For The Beaten Down (Relapse)
Greg Pratt: Extremity and technical wizardry that can be topped by no one. Truly one of a kind.
Cathedral Endtyme (Earache)
Chris Ayers: Packed with Lee Dorrian's pamphlet, "How To Really Return To Your Roots." Napalm Death, take notes.
Church of Misery Master of Brutality (Sountern Lord)
Cradle of Filth Bitter Suites To Succubi (AbraCadaver)
Greg Pratt: Entertaining, overdramatic theatrical horror metal. Stop dissing them, 'cuz they're better than any other black metal band, spare Emperor.
Mastodon Lifesblood (Relapse)
Freedom Call Crystal Empire (SPV)
Scissorfight Mantrapping For Sport And Profit (Tortuga)
Chris Ayers: Biker metal from New Hampshire, like Clutch eating beer bottles and arm wrestling just for fun.
Tomahawk s/t (Ipecac)