Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Top 20 debut albums - Part 2

10. Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987)
This should come as no surprise to anyone that's even remotely interested in the heavier aspect of music. I've said before that I actually prefer the more epic and keyboard-oriented side of Gn'R which they so effectivly pulled through in the early 90's with the Illusion-records. But hell, this is one monster of a debut album and it dominated most of my childhood and actually taught me more of the english language than school could ever do. I am pretty tired of the classics here (especially "Sweet Child O' Mine") but songs such as "Nightrain", "Think About You" and "Rocket Queen" always gets me in a certain party mood. It's an iconic debut that almost everyone on the planet has heard and it will doubtlessly go into history as one of the greatest albums ever created.

9. Otyg - Älvefärd (1998)
As I mentioned in the previous blogpost - this is my blog and my personal opinions - but I can understand that people think I might be crazy for putting the debut album from a little folk metal band from northern Sweden that almost no one has heard of, before iconic debuts such as "Black Sabbath", "Altars of Madness" and "Appetite for Destruction". Nevertheless, this album has been played on an almost weekly basis in one way or the other for the last 10 years in my life. Mr. Vintersorg and Otyg brought me the wonders of Swedish folk metal to my ears and I must say that it will probably be the metal genre for me for many, many years to come, even though I'm beginning to grow slightly tired of it. This record is not the best produced, Mr. V's voice is definitly not his best work + the fact that he had a cold when the vocals was recorded. But who the hell cares when you have extremly catchy compositions such as "I Trollberg och Skog", "Fjällstorm", "Myrdingar - Martyrium", "Fjälldrottningens Slott" and "Draugen" to name a few? I definitly don't. But if you do care, then perhaps you should check out the follow-up "Sagovindars Boning" seeing as the vocal work is way better and the songs are almost as equally good.

8. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine (1992)
This is another album that dominated so much of my younger years and it is indeed a true classic. I remember when a guy at the local youth recreation center played this for me just when the album had come out. I was immidatley blown away by it's fresh mix of rap and heavy riffing. I bought the record the week after, learned every little piece of lyric on it and never looked back. Sadly, this band never could match the intensity or the songwriting from this debut and it feels like it's kind of cemented in time - because "RATM" definitly felt like a breath of fresh air in 1992 (it sold triple platinum goddamn it). It took the band four years to come with a follow-up and by then, the magic was gone. Nevertheless, I'm glad I got to see the band live in 2000 which easily ranks in my top-5 concerts ever.

7. Arckanum - Fran Marder (1995)
This could also be seen as a forgotten jewel since I don't feel that one-man band Arckanum has gotten the attention they deserve. Internet-ninjas seem to feel at ease with just writing about how funny and ludicrous the video to "Gava Fran Trulen" is and that's it. Sure, the video is definitly ludicrous in every aspect, but the song is a fucking black metal masterpiece - way better than anything ever recorded by Mayhem, Emperor or Immortal. The lo-fi production has it's pros and cons, but I mainly feel that it helps to create an amazing atmosphere on the album, even though I wish that it would be a bit louder - but with the same crappy sound. This is not a recording where you analyze how good or bad the drummer is or what cool stuff the guitars comes up with. This is an album that reeks of honest intentions to produce damn good black metal and, as I said before, an amazing atmosphere. Also, I think that Shamataee is one of the absolutly best black metal vocalist in the genre. He attacks the microphone with a frenzy that perhaps only Mortuus (of Marduk and Funeral Mist-fame) could challenge and it feels as the man means every single word he vomits from his throat.

6. Dismember - Like an Everflowing Stream (1991)
If you go back and read Part 1 of this list and check out what I wrote about Entombed's debut album - it pretty much sums up this position as well. The reason that I have this on a much higher position than "Left Hand Path" is the following:
A. I prefer Matti Kärki's vocals over L.G.'s - at least on these recordings.
B. "Like an Everflowing Stream" has, though similar to Entombed's, a much more "rustier sounding" guitar sound.
C. And most important of all - it actually has a way better consictency when it comes to the actual songwriting.
And if you are still in doubt, I only have five words for you: Override. Of. The. Fucking. Overture.

5. The Vision Bleak - The Deathship Has a New Captain (2004)
This is my latest discovery in the metal world (from a few months back) and it feels so bizarre that I never looked up this band when I first heard about their debut "The Deathship Has a New Captain" back in 2004. I knew that one guy was of Empyrium-fame, but since I didn't listen that much to them as I do nowadays, I think that's one of the main reasons I never bothered with this band. Also, they're Germans and apart from Falkenbach and Empyrium, I can't think of any band from Germany that I listen to.
The Vision Bleak is essentially goth metal for the 00's and feels very different from what you would label that during the 90's. They call their own style horror metal and for once, this label actually fit the music very well. The music is melodic, catchy and agressive at the same time. There's everything from thrashy riffs to haunting piano interludes which gives the album a very even feel and never bores the listener (which often can be the case with this type of music). The first four "real" songs (the intro excluded) "Night of the Living Dead", "Wolfmoon", "Metropolis" and "Elizabeth Dane" is a troika of phenomenal songwriting and the four ones that comes after aren't bad in any way. Other things worth pointing out is that the remainder of TVB's discography (three more albums when this is written) is just as even and contains great music.

4. Ásmegin - Hin Vordende Sod & Sø (2003)
Yes, I know that I've ranted A LOT about this record in many previous posts on this blog, but I just can't help it - "HVS&S" is one of the most impressing debuts I've heard in a long time. The combination of folk- black- and viking metal is still surpassed by any band to this day and the record has so much intensity and variation that I still continue to be amazed. The production is still very flawed and way too modern-sounding. And that drum sound is perhaps the second worst I've heard in modern times. Of course only surpassed by that drivel on Metallica's "St. Anger" - coincidentally released the same year. For a more in-depth rant (unfourtunatly only in Swedish) about my thoughts on this phenomenal record, check out this earlier blogpost.

3. Vintersorg - Till Fjälls (1998)
This one made the first place in my top-100 albums of all time, but I'm not sure that I'd put it there if I were to do the list one more time. It is too flawed to deserve the award for that. There have been many nights where I have thought: "What if the production and especially drum sound on this recording were more like it's sequel "Ödemarkens Son"?" "Or what if the vocal delivery from Mr. V were equal to the depth on that record as well?". Then "Till Fjälls" would be the perfect record, because there's absolutely nothing wrong with any of the compositions - they are catchy, melodic, aggressive, beautiful and well thought-through. Mr. V's ability to write a chorus that gets stuck in your head are beyond amazing and it's really impressive that this is his debut. The production values and songstructures were to change during the years, but this full-length debut still stands on it's own feet and the pianodriven epic title track has become a little semi-classic of it's own.

2. Candlemass - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)
The production on this Swedish doom metal icon hints of the 80's and it could probably have been done better. But the important thing here is that the songs themselves are timeless and that's all that matters. The band originated from mastermind Leif Edling's band Nemesis and never released a demo as Candlemass. Instead the man wrote 6 long songs of pure epic doom metal and recruited one of the best vocalists ever - Johan Längquist in his sole contribution to metal ever - and the result is breathtaking. From the soft, almost ballad-like beginning of the epic funeral dirge "Solitude" to the massive sing-along lines in the closing "A Sorcerer's Pledge", this record has it all. Unfourtunatley, the world was a weird place back in the 80's and people worshipped Europe and their embarressing "The Final Countdown" instead of "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" - where the true talent lied.

1. Moonspell - Wolfheart (1995)
This is an album that I've already dived into earlier, but unfourtunatly only in Swedish. Here's a bit what I had to say from my conclusion then:
"You have to understand. For a record that comes from a - in metalcircles - handicapped country such as Portugal and released as early as 1995, "Wolfheart" was extremly monumental and ahead of it's time. The songs are even and there are no real peaks or lows - the records flows from beginning to end."
To think that this band's previous work (the MCD "Under the Moonspell") was released only one year prior to this masterpiece is nothing but a remarkable effort. The band definitly played over the own capability on that recording and the structures of the songs are a far cry from the wolf at hand.
This is one of the few albums that I have two copies of, simply because I wanted to have the newly released edition with new artwork, liner notes and a bonus live disc. The liner notes calls "Wolfheart" "the ugly duckling of European black metal" and I so love that statement. Because it is the combination of black metal, gothic overtures and Portugese folklore that makes "Wolfheart" so dynamic and so goddamn impressive for a debut album from what was basically a bunch of teenagers that had a difficult time to even find a rehearsal place.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Top 20 debut albums - Part 1

Due to boredom and severe backproblems, I decided to make a list today. So here's my top 20-list of important debut albums. And as always, these positions and albums are based on my opinions and probably differs quite a lot from the general metalmasses so to speak. But what the hell, it's my blog right?

20. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)
Anyone heard of these four Brits? They created heavy metal and are also responsible for unleashing one of my favourite genres (which you will see later in this list) - doom metal - to the world. I can only imagine (since I wasn't born then) what impact their selftitled debutalbum must have had upon an unsuspecting world that benchmarked metal with the more rock-oriented likes of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple back in the days. The sinister opening track "Black Sabbath" sent shivers down people's spines with it's eerie guitars and haunting vocals - and it still manages to do the same to me today. And no list including great debutalbums is complete without the godfathers of metal...

19. Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness (1989)
Although I've personally always preferred the Swedish way of playing death metal over the American - I simply cannot deny the importance of this classic. The coverart alone would scare people shitless back in -89 and as the case with spot number 20 - I can only imagine (here I was 9 years old but I was completely unaware of metal whatsoever) the initial impact it had.
As I mentioned earlier, this is quite far from being a death metal favourite album of mine and I'm not particulary fond of David Vincent's snarling vocals which was quite far from the more demonical sound he would develop later in the band's career. But the guitarsound is evil as fuck (though not as badass as it's Swedish counterparts) and the songwriting is definitly very good coming from a bunch of guys that were so young when they wrote this. Being first does not always mean that you're the best, but this debut is so impressing that it still would be a shame to not have it on this list. Today, this band is sadly a mere shadow of their former selves and I would think that the teenage Mr. Vincent would've kicked his own ass if he could see what abominations his Morbid Angel are doing today.

18. Dissection - The Somberlain (1993)
Even though these Swedes made an ever better record two years after this - named "Storm of the Light's Bane" - it is almost impossible not to be amazed by the sheer quality of this debut. Combining death metal melodies with icy cold black metal guitar playing, topped with the impressive vocal work of Jon Nötveidt - Dissection helped to pave the way for the so-called Gothenburg style together with At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity and an unimportant and untalented band called In Flames. But when the aforementioned bands looked to traditional Nordic folk melodies and/or thrash metal - Dissection turned it's eyes to black metal and forged a majestic sound that has been copied by thousands of bands (hello Thulcandra) ever since. Though sadly disfunct as a band today, (due to bandleader Jon's suicide in 2006) Dissection managed to keep a spot-on discography without any weak points and will always be remembered for that.

17. Metallica - Kill 'Em All (1983)
Eventually, this band would become one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) heavy metal bands of all time, but I don't think many people thought this when they released their debut album in -83. The guidelines and rules for these four teens was that thrash metal was THE one religion and the gods they worshipped were Diamond Head and Motörhead. But everything is not about speed even though that seems to be the case with "Kill 'Em All". This record also produced immortal thrash metal anthems such as "Jump in the Fire" and "Seek and Destroy" and I must acknowledge the importance that they have had even though I seldom listen to any of those tracks today. Standouts for me on this album are spelled "Motorbreath", "The Four Horsemen" and "Phantom Lord". The production value on this record is below zero, the vocals from James Hetfield are ludicrous and the song structures are not even nearly thought through. Still, it is an important piece of work that would pave the road to such masterpieces as "Ride the Lightning" and "Master of Puppets". Oh, and I should also say that they probably influenced every metal band formed after 1986 in one way or another...

16. Ghost - Opus Eponymous (2010)
Sure I've praised these anonymous satan-worshipping Swedish ghouls on this blog before, but it must once more be said that this is one hell of a debut. This is still not my cup of tea musically, but I get dragged along in some weird way anyway - and this has nothing to do with them being hyped as the biggest thing in 2010. I doubt that I would find them very interesting if the were about something else lyricwise. Furthermore, it sounds like it's not produced in 2010 - I won't say that it sounds like it comes straight from the seventies, since I don't have that sort of knowledge about most of the metal/hardrock productions back then and I've never owned a vinyl player. But the fact remains that this sounds old, but in a very positive way. The songwriting is catchy as hell, the lyrics are about hell and the vocalist is not the best I've heard - but he doesen't sound like hell at least. Did that make sense? Good.

15. Theatre of Tragedy - Theatre of Tragedy (1995)
During the mid-90's, before the crappy likes of Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation and - dare I say - Evanescence made it big, there was only one gothic metal band featuring female vocals that was worth caring about. Theatre of Tragedy's self-titled debut album is hailed as the originators of the so called beauty-and-the-beast-metal where soft female vocals duelled with death growls on top of a foundation of gothic- and doom metal. For this alone, this album deserves a spot on my list - but it also contains damn good compositions that actually have survived the flooded goth metal scene and feels somewhat relevant in 2012 (unlike the beforementioned bands). The opener "A Hamlet for a Slothful Vassal" and the closer "Dying - I Only Feel Apathy" are well-worked songs that I still listen to from time to time. Even though they flipped out totally during the -00's and produced some of the worst garbage known to man ("Musiqué" and "Assembly") they still deserve the credit for pioneering this type of music on this album. Also, be sure to check out the follow-up "Velvet Darkness They Fear" which is even stronger in it's compositions.

14. Falkenbach - ...En Their Medh Riki Fara... (1996)
This German/Icelandic one-man band is definitly influenced by the Swedish outfit Bathory in two ways or another. This brings me to why the classic debut of said band is not in this list - the simple explination is that I never could stand the vocals of Qourthon. Sure, the guy had a few riffs and compositions here and there during his long career, but the vocals immideatly destroyed everything for me, which in in a way, is quite sad. On to Falkenbach then.
This debut album is full of references to vikings and times of yore. One could call it a mix between viking- folk- and black metal but nevertheless, the winning factor here lies in the strength of the compositions. Apart from the two way too long and dull instrumental pieces, all of the songs are gold in their own way. Songs such as "Heathenpride" and "...Into the Ardent Awaited Land" are epic compositions featuring mostly clean vocals (which aren't the best - but fits the music spot on) and catchiness beyond this world. Then we also have sheer agression in the likes of "Læknishendr" and "Winternight", but it is black metal attacking that never becomes boring because the guy knows how to write a catchy song - whether it's black- or viking metal. This album is somewhat of a forgotten gem that way too few people have heard. Give the vocals a chance I say, and once you've got used to them, learn the lyrics and you'll never stop playing this album.

13. 3rd & The Mortal - Tears Laid in Earth (1994)
The debut album (and predecessing EP) by this Norweigian outfit was more or less the only material they released that was metal - before they changed their sound to a more experimental pop/industrial sound later on. The cover is spot on with the music on this album since it has a very "foresty feeling" and it almost feels like you're on a long journey through the Norwegian countryside. The album is regarded as the start of the so-called atmospheric doom metal - namely really slow and crushing doom, featuring female vocals only. Despite the album having lots of keyboards and the addition of female vocals - it feels wrong to use the word "gothic" when describing "Tears Laid in Earth" - hence the atmosphere in the doom metal. Got it? Kari Rueslåtten is one of my favourite female vocalists ever and it's a shame that this band never did any more records in this vein.

12. Entombed - Left Hand Path (1990)
You all should know this. This is the record that was the first to be released after a flood of Swedish death metal demos. This is the record that made all other Swedish bands pilgrimage to Sunlight Studio just to get that certain guitar sound that this album has. I like the record for what it is and I definitly announce it's importance in the history of metal, even though I really don't care for the vocals all the time and that I feel that the songwriting really is below par at most times. Also, that cover painting by Dan Seagrave is beyond monumental.
This album thrusted Entombed into super stardom in Scandinavia and it's legacy spawned a thousand new death metal bands in Sweden wanting to be as big as Entombed. One thing that this album seldom gets credit for, is the fact that it helped fuel the fire and aggression in Norway and their hatred towards the Swedish death metal scene which they called life metal. To put it in other words, I don't think that bands such as Mayhem and Darkthrone would have written such monumental pieces as they did if it weren't for death metal - and in particular this record - becoming so big in Sweden. And since I kinda prefer black metal over death metal I must say thanks to Entombed.

11. My Dying Bride - As the Flower Withers (1991)
If we're talking underrated records, it's a crime not to mention the Bride's debut in my opinion. Sure, it's nowhere near the sheer brilliance of albums such as "Turn Loose the Swans" or "The Angel and the Dark River" but it has that certain something anyway and it's a perfect mix of death- and doom metal, with most focus on the latter. I mean, it contains classics such as "Sear Me" and "The Forever People" - even though I class the latter as one of the worst songs MDB has ever written. It's boring death metal deluxe if compared to the incredible "Vast Choirs" which effectivly fuses death metal into doom metal with brilliance. The growling vocals from Aaron are the best he's ever done in MDB's long career and even though I feel that the record would've been even better with his clean vocals and more of Martin Powell's violins - it still holds up today. It is also perhaps the most aggressive MDB-recording so if the tough death metal guys ever would want to get immersed into the romantic/depressive side of doom metal - this is where to start.