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Old 02-08-2009, 11:39 PM  
Reaper16 Reaper16 is offline
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Reaper's Top 10 Albums of 2008

I usually mention what my favorite albums of the year are after a given year is finished, and I realized that I hadn't posted my favs from last year.

Honorable Mentions.)


Nas - N*****
With the prospect of a Black U.S. president becoming a possibility, and along with it an increased claim to a “post-racial” identity, Nas takes it upon himself to address the issue of race in a more candid and self-reflective way than his peers in mainstream hip hop had yet to do. Its uneven in spots, like most of Nas’ albums, but when this album was on it was fierce and funny for all of the right reasons.


Atmosphere – When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Another college kid that likes Atmosphere. Let me tell you, though, Slug and Ant are well received for a reason. This new album catapulted Atmosphere to a level of success that the two thought they’d probably never see. They did it simply by laying down some of the better songs (from a pop music standpoint) of their career. This isn’t my favorite Atmosphere album, but it’s damn listenable.

Amon Amarth – Twilight of the Thunder God
What… are those solos? On an Amon Amarth CD? Yes, the Viking brethren of Amon Amarth, who previously included a guitar solo on maybe 4 of their songs, ever, has decided that 8 of the 10 tracks on the new album need some shred. Its unnerving at first, but they quickly become an accepted part of the Nordic universe that Amon Amarth inhabit. This band has never recorded even an average album. While this release isn’t quite an excellent one, it’s still an Amon Amarth album. That counts for a lot.


10.) Steve Winwood – Nine Lives
I hadn’t listened to this album until I saw Winwood live at the Tom Petty + Heartbreakers show in the summer, but his set encouraged me to listen. Though the live version of “Dirty City” from that night, with its 8 minutes of guitar solo majesty, wasn’t a direct translation from the studio, the album version is still great. The album brims with a coiled energy that is present under the skin of its Caribbean-influenced, ostensibly laid-back style. This is a great album to put on and sit on the back porch under the stars with a few Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and chill out. And if you want to listen intently at some excellent musicianship? This album is good for that, too.

9.) Torture Squad – Hellbound
Brazil’s Torture Squad have mastered the combination of thrash and death metal that more-than-a-few bands try and pull off, nearly all of them unsuccessfully. This album hits you with a thousand riffs; from track one it is unrelenting metal joy. What makes Hellbound strike a chord that their previous albums only hinted at are the lyrics. They are resoundly critical of capitalism, and reflect a trepidation at the growing affluence around parts of their home nation. The best thrash metal was always political, and Torture Squad figured that out this year.

8.) TV on the Radio – Dear Science
Rolling Stone and Spin both named this album the best one of the year. Wait, I know that typically means you should avoid it, but I’m telling you that you should throw caution to the wind and listen to it anyway. This band does such a masterful job of balancing their extremely varied influences. Electronic shit meets drum-and-bass pop/rock with a healthy dose of indy and hip hop and dance and whatever else they want. It shouldn’t work. Only a band with real talent could meld these disparate parts, and TV on the Radio is a band that has talent in spades.

7.) Cloudscape – Global Drama
Their 2005 release, Crimson Skies, is one of the best progressive metal albums of the decade, and no one knows it. Global Drama is going to suffer the same fate, but it shouldn’t. Cloudscape is comparable in sound to Evergrey, except better than Evergrey ever was. Some songs are tight little numbers, others are soaring epics, but the common thread is Micael Andersson’s superb vocals. His voice is damn unique in metal, and so versatile, too. High, low, understated, or vibrato-out-the-ass, Andersson can and does do it all. Matched up with tight, catchy guitar work, Global Drama is unstoppable. Or, it would be if people actually knew the album existed.

6.) Metallica – Death Magnetic
They actually did still have another metal album in them. I could just stop there, but I won’t. This is the transitional album that we never got. It fits perfectly in between …And Justice and Black in meshing the increasingly-technical thrash with the radio-ready heavy metal. Are there missteps? Yes. “The Unforgiven III” is useless, and “My Apocalypse” is like a track from a recent Slayer album. But the thrashy tracks such as“That Was Just Your Life,” and “The End of the Line” are so strong that they deserve a celebration. Whether the band can come back in five years and make another good album is still a question. But they came back, after not recording a thrash album for 20 years, and made a damn good one.

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Old 02-08-2009, 11:40 PM   #2
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5.) Agalloch – The White (EP)
Agalloch, one of America’s very best bands (top 3, probably) didn’t put out a full length this year. But this was a large enough taste to quench the thirst. The White is primarily a folk album; it is great to see Agalloch get back to that side of their sound after having heavily dimished that aspect on 2006’s mostly-Post-Rock release “Ashes Against the Grain.” The album, to me anyway, seems like a tribute to that cult-classic film The Wicker Man. It feels like Summerisle, with all of its old-world charms and creepy unease. (One track even features dialogue from the movie). Acoustic instruments, loads of atmosphere – it is an Agalloch release. That’s good enough for anyone’s top ten.

4.) Tech N9ne – Killer
An ambitious double album that perhaps didn’t need to be, Killer is nevertheless another excellent, infectious Tech N9ne album. It’s too bad that Lil Wayne gets all the rap credit this year, because he can’t hold a dick up to Tecca Ninna’s flow. Great songs, good hooks, some underrated beats, including more of the pop-culture-related beats that elevate some Tech songs to the level of genius. “Psycho Bitch II” is the sequel to “Psycho Bitch,” which featured the theme from the movie “Halloween” in its beat. This go-around, the beat uses the organ from “The Phantom of the Opera.” I can’t really say much more than to encourage you to grab the album if you are unfamiliar with Tech N9ne. *sigh* Why can’t Americans listen to good music? It is a damn shame that Tech isn’t a ****ing superstar.

3.) Ayreon – 01011001
Ayreon’s previous album, 2005’s The Human Equation, is my second favorite album of all time. The new one, whose art I had as my avatar here from December 2007 to Janurary 2009, didn’t disappoint. Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s – the modern day Alan Parsons, only better -- amalgam of guest singers and guest musicians is the most satisfying rock/metal opera since, well, the last Ayreon album is extraordinarily impressive. Jorn Lande, Daniel ****ing Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Tom Englund (Evergrey), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Jonas Renske (Katatonia), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) et al give tremendous vocal performances over sweeping, spacy prog epics. A thoroughly enjoyable two hours of music that commands multiple listens.

2.) The Mars Volta – Bedlam in Goliath
Holy shit. Can this band put out anything that doesn’t rule? Some people have said that this is the worst Mars Volta album. They are idiots. Sure, it’s the least cracked-out, as this album has a sonic focus around driving, heavy, bassy, funky music (well, as focuses as this band is ever going to get, anyway). But the songs are so damn good and the musicianship is off the charts. The new drummer, Thomas Pridgen, is a ****ing caged beast. You may think that all of his drum parts are just wild solos at first, but he is controlled as a mother****er. His insane asylum drumming is the perfect background for the guitar and vocal head **** from Omar and Cedric. Best of all this album is the bass work from Juan Alderete. The album’s concept, something about a Ouija board and a goliath, doesn’t matter. The songs are ****ing awesome. They just won a Grammy for the short song “Wax Simulacra,” which on the album serves as a great intro to the best song of the band’s career, “Goliath,” a song with so much palpable energy that it threatens to corrupt your mp3 past two listens. This album needs to be sold with a change of underwear.

1.) Opeth – Watershed
Of course this was going to be number one. The 9th album by the best band on the whole Earth again shows why 99% of other bands really don’t have a reason to exist. Opeth continues to deliver their patented masterblend of light and dark musical passages while continuing to embrace their progressive side. This is Opeth’s most prog album to date, to the point that there is little to no actual death metal remaining in Opeth’s sound. I say that in general terms; “Heir Apparent” is perhaps Opeth’s heaviest, deathiest song they’ve ever recorded. The other songs, while they may have harsh vocals still, are nearly entirely prog metal. Mikael’s clean vocals are much stronger than they have ever been, too; he is a legitimately great all-around vocalist now. I’m not going to give a track-by-track breakdown of the sophisticated, measured, awe-inspiring turns of musical phrase, though I want to. I’m just going to recommend that you listen to it. Because it is great.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:41 AM   #3
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3.) Ayreon – 01011001
Ayreon’s previous album, 2005’s The Human Equation, is my second favorite album of all time. The new one, whose art I had as my avatar here from December 2007 to Janurary 2009, didn’t disappoint. Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s – the modern day Alan Parsons, only better -- amalgam of guest singers and guest musicians is the most satisfying rock/metal opera since, well, the last Ayreon album is extraordinarily impressive. Jorn Lande, Daniel ****ing Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation), Tom Englund (Evergrey), Floor Jansen (After Forever), Jonas Renske (Katatonia), Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian) et al give tremendous vocal performances over sweeping, spacy prog epics. A thoroughly enjoyable two hours of music that commands multiple listens.
I haven't heard this one yet, but I've loved AAL's previous works, including the other Ayreon releases and Star One. Nice to see Hansi Kursch, Daniel Gildenlow and Jorn Lande (I wondered what happened to him after he left Masterplan) joining the cast. But no Russell Allen this time?

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6.) Metallica – Death Magnetic
They actually did still have another metal album in them. I could just stop there, but I won’t. This is the transitional album that we never got. It fits perfectly in between …And Justice and Black in meshing the increasingly-technical thrash with the radio-ready heavy metal. Are there missteps? Yes. “The Unforgiven III” is useless, and “My Apocalypse” is like a track from a recent Slayer album. But the thrashy tracks such as“That Was Just Your Life,” and “The End of the Line” are so strong that they deserve a celebration. Whether the band can come back in five years and make another good album is still a question. But they came back, after not recording a thrash album for 20 years, and made a damn good one.

Kick ass album! I think my favorite tracks are "All Nightmare Long" and "Cyanide." "My Apocalypse" may sound like recent Slayer, but it's still a damn good track. I didn't care for "The Unforgiven III" the first few listens, but it eventually grew on me. It's probably the weakest of all the tracks, though. "The Day That Never Comes" - this one depends on what mood I'm in, sometimes I love it, and sometimes I'm like, meh. It reminds me a lot of "One."
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Last edited by Nightwish; 02-09-2009 at 01:50 AM..
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Old 02-09-2009, 04:21 AM   #4
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Thanks for taking the time to post this. Well written and thoughtful list.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:17 AM   #5
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Thanks Reaper. I will check out the albums I do not know about already.

Good list btw, you have some of the best taste on this board.
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Old 02-09-2009, 12:41 PM   #6
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When Life Gives you Lemons...You Paint that Shit Gold and Killer were the only CDs I bought in 2008.
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:40 PM   #7
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:13 PM   #8
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"Age of Winters" by the Sword was my pick for 08.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:14 PM   #9
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oops, "Gods of the Earth" by The Sword.
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Old 02-09-2009, 10:24 PM   #10
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"Death Magnetic" is my favorite Metallica album ever.

"Suicide & Redemption" is insanely brilliant and amazing.
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Old 02-09-2009, 11:04 PM   #11
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I credit Rubin a lot for Death Magnetic's greatness. He absolutely brought out the very best James, Kirk, Lars, and Robert were capable of at this point in their lives. I know Slayer was pissed when he signed on to do DM instead of their CD that was recorded around the same time. Anyone know if there is still an issue between them?
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Old 02-12-2009, 02:55 AM   #12
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"Death Magnetic" is my favorite Metallica album ever.
For me, it's a close #2. But Master of Puppets still can't be topped!
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Old 03-14-2009, 11:12 PM   #13
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Somehow, in the busyness of the latter part of last year, I absolutely missed the fact that my favorite black metal band, Enslaved, had released a new album

Having just listened to Enslaved's Vertebrae album, I would rank it #9 of 2008. It's great.
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:40 AM   #14
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Old 03-15-2009, 09:58 AM   #15
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