Best Metal/Hardcore Album Year in Review 2003

Best Metal/Hardcore Album Year in Review 2003
1. The Blood Brothers Burn, Piano Island, Burn (Artist Direct)
"I don't think that any of us consider our band groundbreaking. We feel that we've developed our sound, but it's weird. We're always surprised when people like our band," says Blood Brothers guitarist Cody Votolato on the band's greatest and strangest musical achievement yet. Burn, Piano Island, Burn is unquestionably one of the most important and challenging records in years. The Blood Brothers have released attention-grabbing offerings before: both This Adultery Is Ripe and March On Electric Children delivered an antagonistic, convulsive, intricate and schizophrenic melding of punk-influenced hardcore noise rock driven by the constant trade-offs of their two manic vocalists.

But Burn, Piano Island, Burn is the Blood Brothers at their most realised and envelope-pushing yet. "I feel like it's our darkest record and it's the craziest stuff we've ever done but we also put more melody into it," Cody says. "If we had just continued what we were doing when we started, it would have been boring. When we did the first two albums, we were all in school and working, and we practiced once a week for a couple of hours, or we'd all show up late and have to write really fast. Burn was the first time we had our own practice space; we wrote every day and practiced four, five hours a day for months. We went into the studio with two months to record, and keep in mind that we recorded those other records in three days. All these possibilities opened up for us."

The strangest thing about Burn, and perhaps its most striking achievement, is that it was produced by Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit), who signed the Brothers to Artist Direct/BMG through his I Am label. It was a surprising marriage that proved fruitful. "He helped a ton. He's really good at is pulling a vibe out of what you're doing, getting it on tape, getting you to mean what you're playing and to put yourself behind what you're doing to your fullest potential." But Cody wants it known that despite Ross's rep, the Brothers can stand on their own. "We're not into whoring ourselves around because we were produced by Ross Robinson. We want to stand as a band, not something that's because of a producer. He had a lot to do with why the record is so good — he played a big part in it — but we're still this band."
Chris Gramlich

2. Alexisonfire (Equal Vision)
One year ago, Alexisonfire was playing steady Southern Ontario club shows. Today, the screamo five-piece is one of hardcore's brightest, thanks to their strong self-titled debut. Alexisonfire made screaming on MuchMusic okay, and their unique blend of melodic hardcore meshed with mathy bits struck a chord with music fans. ".44 Caliber Love Letter" is the band's signature song, but most tracks on their record will get you dancing.
Jasamine White-Gluz

3. Daughters Canada Songs (Robotic Empire)
Arty, pretentious, cocky, arrogant, utterly fucking brilliant — a gamut of sentiments from both haters and lovers of the ingenious musical maelstrom that is Daughters. Surpassing the legacy of their former band, As The Sun Sets, Canada Songs is an insultingly short but utterly incredible 11 minutes and 12 seconds of abnormal aural obliteration. Combining insanely violent breaks, frenzied hyper-grind runs, minor chord turmoil and moments of unconventional melodicism, Canada Songs is a musical blitzkrieg leaving devastation in its wake.
Chris Gramlich

4. Katatonia Viva Emptiness (Peaceville)
Katatonia might appear to be caving in to pop metal production, but a longer, deeper look reveals that the Swedish depression kings' most accessible album is also extremely complex, tossing Eastern melody, folk ballad, and rhythmic intricacies in with more familiar Katatonia trademarks. Intense emotional impact, always a driving force in the band's best moments, abounds on Viva Emptiness, and the songs reveal a stronger writing unit still willing to take risks.
Laura Taylor

5. Tomahawk Mit Gas (Ipecac)
Mit Gas is among the most adventurous and daring psychiatric forays into progressive music. So precise is its attack that it's shocking to learn that it hardly involved computers; it seems highly imaginative group leaders Mike Patton and Duane Denison are the only gear required for his music-making technology. Patton's insane, should-be-patented vocal range and Denison's ominous time-distorting rhythms are far better than any horror movie soundtrack, metal or jazz-rock/fusion disc out there. This is digestible and palatable psychosis.
Roman Sokal

6. Haste The Mercury Lift (Century Media)
With The Mercury Lift this Alabama-based sextet lifted their sound to whole new levels. It's the melodic vocals and juxtaposition of emotionally charged indie rock sensibilities with aggressive, screaming balls-out metal that make this album so refreshing. Clearly rooted in hardcore, Haste are nevertheless forging new roads with incredible results. So invigorating, cathartic and spiritually recharging it's shocking.
Greg Pratt

7. -16- Zoloft Smile (At A Loss)
Los Angeles demolitionists -16- have an unbelievable knack for penning the simplest yet most neck-snapping riffs in the history of metal chiropractics. The frothing quadruplets "Damone," "Hearing Voices," "Born To Lose," and the title track sit next to the finest from Helmet and Unsane in the pantheon of heavy, and the sledge-hammering "Grip Of Delusion" contains grooves large enough to park a jumbo jet before pulverising it to atoms.
Chris Ayers

8. Burnt By the Sun The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good (Relapse)
New Jersey's power-grind mavens Burnt By The Sun get even more vicious. "Battleship" and "Washington Tube Steak" finds frontman Mike Oleander ripping a new throat for himself, while the more deliberate "Arrival Of Niburu" and "Patient 957" pave the way for the brilliant spoken-word delivery intro of "2012." BBTS effortlessly take their place alongside Botch and Coalesce as one of the most innovative hardcore groups ever.
Chris Ayers

9. Every Time I Die Hot Damn! (Ferret)
Building on their sardonic humour, brilliantly original lyrics, technical abilities, massively heavy breakdowns, interwoven riffs, precise execution and incorporation of hooks, Hot Damn! offers more of what made ETID great while featuring better songwriting, catchier moments, a more distinct-sounding Keith Buckley unafraid to sing if called for. Not to mention insanely good tracks like "Ebolarama," "Godspeed Us To Sea" and "Floater." Hot damn is right.
Chris Gramlich

10. Cursed One (Deathwish)
Formed out of Canadian grindcore unit the Swarm, Cursed released the year's most punishing debut. Much heavier than their previous band, One is downtuned and monstrous, with guitar riffs that leap out of the speakers. The band enrolled Shallow ND's Dan Dunham to help with tones in the studio: the outcome is gargantuan. Add in the precise time-keeping of drummer Mike Max, who kept time with Acrid before the Swarm, and the insane vocals of Chris Coluhan, one of hardcore's best, and the results are devastating.
Sean Palmerston