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Album Reviews Reviews

Chris Latta’s Best Albums of 2007

I have some bad news for you guys, especially to my fellow millennials: The 2000s aren’t as recent as we think. When we say that something happened about ten years ago, we’re no longer referring to the 90s or even the early aughts but rather to 2007. While I’ll always remember 2007 as the year I graduated from high school and when I really started paying attention to new releases, it turned out to be a pretty good year for heavy metal and hard rock in hindsight.

While this year wasn’t that long ago, I feel there has been enough time to be able to analyze the trends that were developing at the time and the hints that would be further developed in the future. Metalcore had a domineering presence in the mainstream and deathcore was getting its own footing, but I always remember it as a pretty good year for the power and prog metal subgenres in particular. In addition, death and black were gathering strength and doom was just a couple years shy of being the absolute juggernaut that it would become.

In the spirit of analysis and nostalgia, I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the best albums released in 2007. This list was inspired by favorites I purchased at the time that still hold up a decade later but also includes albums that I knew about back then but never got around to and a couple efforts that totally flew under my adolescent radar. So without further ado, let’s start with…

10. Evile – Enter the Grave
I really hope Evile get properly credited for their contribution to retro thrash. They didn’t singlehandedly invent the movement by any means but they were one of its most important bands, balancing fun with ambition and aiming for greater exposure with the “Thrasher” inclusion on RockBand (Member RockBand? I member). Subsequent albums unfortunately dropped the ball and Evile has since been overshadowed by bands like Vektor and Havok, but we’ll always have Enter the Grave to scratch that Master of Puppets meets South of Heaven itch.

9. Candlemass – King of the Grey Islands
Candlemass carrying on without vocalist Messiah Marcolin was certainly nothing new but it was still a bummer for them to lose their signature doom dancer after the awesomeness of their self-titled album in 2005. Fortunately, the band recruited the next best thing in Solitude Aeturnus’s Robert Lowe and continued to evolve their genre defining epic doom sound. Death Magic Doom was the true highlight of this era but King Of The Grey Islands is a worthy entry thanks to excellent riffs on “Devil Seed” and “Of Stars and Smoke” and sweeping choruses on “Emperor of the Void” and “Embracing the Styx.”

8. DC4 – Explode
Including members of Armored Saint, Odin, and Dio among others, DC4 could’ve been just another has-been 80s metal supergroup. Instead, they exert muscular rock ‘n roll that I would best compare to Motorhead with a bigger emphasis on vocal hooks and heavy riffs. There’s no grand statement of purpose here but the driving tempos and catchy choruses on “God Complex” and “Candy Caine” make Explode a criminally underrated effort.

7. Doomsword – My Name Will Live On
Now here’s a band I wish I’d known about back in the day! Italy’s Doomsword plays epic metal that integrates classic Manowar power metal with Viking-era Bathory and Candlemass doom. The slightly muffled production fits the style pretty well and the genre integration allows for both consistent transitions and song variety. Fortunately, the five albums of material in their discography means that there’s plenty of stuff to get further acquainted with until they get back on it.

6. High on Fire – Death Is This Communion
High on Fire hasn’t evolved too drastically over the years but their Death Is This Communion is easily their most experimental effort. The band picked up more exotic instrumentation for some of the interludes and even a couple heavy numbers like “Waste of Tiamat,” but thankfully nothing got in the way of the band’s agenda of pummeling riffs, gruff vocals, and relentless drumming. “Rumors of War” is a rightful staple but one can’t deny the speed of the appropriately titled “Fury Whip” or the grandiose doom of the title track.

5. Pale Divine – Cemetery Earth
Pale Divine was always one of those bands whose name sounded vaguely familiar but I never got around to actually checking out. Fortunately I’ve since rectified this and found them to be a pretty excellent doom group in the Pentagram tradition. Cemetery Earth has a little more influence from southern metal groups like Down in comparison to their other efforts but the songs are still backed up by melodic vocals, grungy riffs, and a clean production job. They’ve certainly earned their reputation as a longtime staple of Maryland doom.

4. Helloween – Gambling with the Devil
Power metal sure got dark in the late 2000s, eh? Seemed like everybody was either picking up more extreme influences or following Kamelot’s lead in making their sounds more gothic. “Happy, Happy” Helloween had taken this approach before on The Dark Ride in 2000, but Gambling with the Devil married that album’s aesthetic with what may have been the band’s rawest performance since 1985’s Walls of Jericho. “Final Fortune” may have a sugar coating that is absent on the ominous “The Bells of the 7 Hells,” but they’re unified by sheer aggression.

3. Symphony X – Paradise Lost
Most of what I just said about Helloween could be easily applied to Symphony X’s output around the same time. Paradise Lost took the aggressive bite that was merely hinted at on 2002’s The Odyssey and shifted it into maximum overdrive. The guitar tone got meaner, the riffs got groovier, the drums got faster, and the vocals got a lot harsher. Fortunately, songs like the amazing “Eve of Seduction” and “Set the World on Fire” retain the sophistication and catchy chorus work of their early efforts. Unfortunately, the band seems to have decided that releasing this album two more times every four years was enough to get them by. It’s rather ironic that such a stagnant period was birthed by such a bold and courageous effort…

2. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a Blank Planet
Porcupine Tree never converted to all-out prog metal, but Fear of a Blank Planet is easily the heaviest album they ever put out and is a career highlight in a discography already full of classics. Like everything else that Steven Wilson has made, it’s a nihilistic album though it has an impressive musical scope and manages to have memorable melodies on even the most drawn out of tracks. It’s kept from total perfection by a few moments of blatant riff recycling and the rather ham-fisted ways that the themes of teen angst are portrayed, but neither of them are serious deal-breakers. If anything, it’s just a MySpace reference away from being the ultimate late 2000s period piece…

1. Type O Negative – Dead Again
Determining your favorite Type O Negative Album is a lot like figuring out the best movie in the original Star Wars trilogy: Because they’re all amazing, there’s really no wrong answer. But Dead Again sums up everything that made the Drab Four so unique. You’ve got a couple Slow, Deep, and Hard-style punk runs, pop flourishes straight out of Bloody Kisses, October Rust’s balladry, and drawn out doom dirges straight out of World Coming Down all made consistent by a smooth production job and their typical brand of existential sarcasm. Dead Again was the first Type O album I ever bought and I remember being excited to see what they’d come up with next. Alas, it was not meant to be but at least they went out in the best way possible. Rest in Peace, Peter Steele.

Honorable Mentions:
Saxon – The Inner Sanctum
Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos
Down – Down III: Over the Under
Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today
Cage – Hell Destroyer
Paradise Lost – In Requiem
Neurosis – Given to the Rising
Skeletonwitch – Beyond the Permafrost
Bone Shaker – Bang…You’re Dead
Hour of 13 – Hour of 13

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