This Year In Metal: 2007

Here is a ranking of the ten best albums of 2007, the ten best songs of 2007, and a few disappointments of 2007.

Ultimate Guitar

Hello and welcome to this, a summary of some of the best, and the not-so-best of 2007 in metal. Below is a ranking of the ten best albums of 2007, the ten best songs of 2007, and a few disappointments of 2007. Also, to round things off, I've written down some albums which are worth to look forward to next year, for various reasons. But now, let's get things rolling with the 10th Best Album of 2007, which is...

10. Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos

Why is this here? Seldom does one piece almost by itself propel an album to heights like this, but this is one of those rare cases. Without the 25 minute epic dubbed "In the Presence Of Enemies," Systematic Chaos would've been somewhat mediocre, landing around 20-25 or so on the 2007 list. There're bits and pieces on SC which do not reflect all too well on the band, like "The Dark Eternal Night" and "Prophets Of War," but pieces such as "ITPOE," "The Ministry Of Lost Souls" and "Forsaken" put the case for this album in a strong position. A quick mention should also go out to John Petrucci's guitarplaying: the man hasn't played this well (not saying that he's ever been bad) in years. The solo in "Constant Motion" is one of my favorite solos this year, and one of his best since way-back-when.

Despite a somewhat flawed tracklisting and some dodgy passages, "Systematic Chaos" is at #10 this year, mainly because of what seems to be DT's forte: managing to work themes and write free, flowing music that just goes wherever the hell they want.

Continuing on a much, much more brutal note, at #9 we have...

9. Behemoth: The Apostasy

Like an angry beast pushed into the dark, Behemoth charge back into the spotlight and boy does this album tear you a new one. Brutal, fast, technical, ugly and above all -- extremely well written. The Apostasy has all the elements you can ask for a technical, modern blackened death metal album. The production complements the music perfectly; it is raw, rugged and rough. Also, the drumming by Inferno here is one of the best performances of 2007, as well as Nergal's growl which is definitely in the upper echelons when it comes to delivering a vocal style such as this. Some albums post-Reign In Blood are, like the classic album itself, an exercise in over-pummeling the listener and beating him/her into submission with sonical WMDs. And of course some are better than others. The Apostasy, while a bit more diverse, is a very succesful attempt in the aforementioned exercise -- and hence it lands in the top 10. It's always nice to hear a band whose name fits the agenda.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, as we venture onto #8 which is...

8. Devin Townsend: Ziltoid The Omniscient

Devin Townsend is one of the most eccentric musicians out there, and ZTO is as weird as you'd expect. The album's plot basically consists of a fourth dimensional alien called Ziltoid who threatens Earth with annihilation unless he gets the perfect cup of coffee. How can you not love such a starting point? Devin of course plays nigh everything himself, including programming the drums, and it gives the album that sound which is oh-so typical for Devin. The melodies, the vocals, the arrangements, everything just reeks of Devin and a job damn well done. The album ranges from progressive to metal, from brutal to Floyd-esque, all wrapped up in a humorous story, complete with dialogues, interludes and narratives about an alien and a cup of coffee. This album helps us remember that there's no harm in mixing comedy with metal - metal can be fun and still 100% quality.

On with the helmets, swords and shields, for at #7 we find...

7. Primordial: To The Nameless Dead

A late release and a late entry to this list, but there's no doubt that To The Nameless Dead belongs up here. Many productions these days sound sterile and lack dynamics, but this album's production definitely hits home. A truly dynamic production caressing an album full of emotion conveyed through vocals, lyrics and music that manage to paint vivid images of battle, war and loss. The best example of this would probably be "Gallows Hymn." Just go listen to it. For the history conscious amongst us, it is perhaps even more interesting, depicting events such as the fall of Rome and entering the dark ages.

To The Nameless Dead manages to throw black, folk and a handful of death into a melting pot and create an atmospheric, beautiful, ugly, brutal and at the same time soothing album. That is no small feat, and thus it lands on #7.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think we need wizards, for at #6 we find...

6. Electric Wizard: Witchcult Today

This album could be voted Most Aquired Taste, seeing it's hardly easy listening. Trance inducing, trippy, cozily progressive and crushingly heavy are all descriptions that fit the bill and combined sum up the album quite well. The trip (pun intended) that this album takes you on is quite an extraordinary one. What seems to be the reocurring theme with quality releases this year, is that the production complements and enhances the music. Witchcult Today has the 1970s overdriven fuzz brought back in full form, very much unlike the prickless plastic productions of recent years.The album is of course not all production -- it has some great tunes on there too, such as "Torquemada 71" (the jam-like solosections in this one are just God-like) and the title track. Bruisingly slow and crushing yet melodic and psychadelic, this album is like a revived Black Sabbath with new ideas and expanded horizons. As far as doomy albums go this year, you can only do one better.

At #5, a band from a land with a thousand or so lakes...

5. Amorphis: Silent Waters

The songwriting skills of this group are undeniable. Silent Waters didn't come around for me until after about a dozen spins, which in itself pretty much guarantees that the album is a keeper and in for the long haul. The story of the album is taken from an episode from the Finnish national epic, the "Kalevala," and thus the music was written to fit the lyrics, which is fairly unusual. Without belittling the amazing songwriting by Holopainen & Co, the Most Valuable Player of the album is without doubt Tomi Juotsen and his vocal performance. There're precious few who can pull off quality growling and clean, melodic and beautiful singing while making it all sound so convincing and sincere. Few albums have been littered with as many quality melodies as this one, most of them vocal ones -- but the greatest strength of this album does not lie in an abundance of riffs, but that there's an overwhelming sense of meaning and completion to the entire piece. Such a feat is rare in music, regardless of day and age.

At #4, the best album from an aforementioned genre this year...

4. Candlemass: King Of The Grey Islands

Definitely the least expected quality release this year, with the departure of vocalist Messiah (which means no more Doom Dance live, thus the world is a much lesser place). But, enter Rob Lowe, delivering one of the finest vocal performances all year. I suppose the lesson of this album is that thou shalt not underestimate Leif Edling's songwriting. Conjuring up a story about a bloke who lives out his life in self-pity on a grey island could be one of the ultimate doom-concepts. Either way, it makes room for song absolutely killer tunes, filled with darkness and despair, describing the character and his being. Killer cuts such as "Demonia 6" and "Embracing The Styx" are robust testaments to the band and their continued importance for the genre. "King Of The Grey Islands" manages to hit home with songs that lack nothing yet do not outstay their welcome.

Onwards to #3, an album perhaps even more surprising than the one just mentioned...

3. Machine Head: The Blackening

I definitely did not expect Machine Head to conjure up an album of this scope or quality. They've written their fair share of metal anthems, but that they were a band that would eventually write one of the most amibitious thrash albums of all time, that I did not anticipate. Machine Head dared to take the sound they established on "Through The Ashes Of Empires and expand on it, write longer, more complex and more progressive material, and they pulled it off. The Blackening manages to blow by in around an hour, and it doesn't seem to be a minute over 40. There're more get-up-from-your-chair-air-guitar-along-and-throw-the-horns-to-the-imaginary-crowd-moments on this album than all the others combined. Just look to the solosection in "Aesthetics Of Hate" for an example. The harmonized leads, the riffs, the breakdowns, the vitriol in Flynn's vocals and lyrics, it all makes for a great, great album. Flynn & Co indeed managed to write their version of Master Of Puppets.

Not long left now. It's time for a stroll down Brutal Avenue, for at #2 we find...

2. Nile: Ithyphallic

Yes indeed, in 2007 Nile confirmed their position as one of the best death metal bands ever. Nile have again crafted an album that takes you places -- Egypt to be specific. Not many bands in the death metal genre have such a truly unmistakenable sound, yet you immediately know it's Nile when you hear them. Technical and brutal death metal combined with ambient sections and strong Egyptian themes is the gist of their sound. Ithyphallic is not Nile's best album, but it's still full of quality riffs, melodies, breakdowns and instrumental performances that blow your mind. Kollias seriously is sick on this album -- the man is so much more than speed. Ithyphallic, as I said, isn't Nile's best album, but it still ends up at second place this year. It just shows you what quality combined with originality can do for you.

Now, the moment I hope some have been waiting for, the Best Album of 2007 is...

1. Between The Buried And Me: Colors

Hands down, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is the best this year, and one of the best albums released in the past decade. Taking death metal, grind, hardcore, progressive rock, technical stuff along the lines of Dream Theater, ambience, jazz and a good chunk of Pink Floyd and various other rock bands, putting them all in a big blender and then create a coherent and enjoyable entity... it should be impossible.

But, BTBAM have managed to do just that. Transcending more genres than should be allowed, the outcome is one that deserves platinum sales, Grammy nominations, #1 spots on Best-lists and the influential status of many of the artists whom the band has been inspired by.

Some albums, in no particular order, that nearly made the list, but fell just outside of the top 10:

  • Vomitory: Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize
  • Shatter Messiah: God Burns Like Flesh
  • Shadows Fall: Threads Of Life
  • Entombed: Serpent Saints - The Ten Amendments
  • Monstrosity: Spiritual Apocalypse
  • Devildriver: The Last Kind Words
  • Vicious Art: Pick Up This Sick Child
  • Shining: V - Halmstad

    Top 10 Songs this year, in no particular order:

  • Dream Theater: "In The Presence Of Enemies"
  • Between The Buried And Me: "Ants Of The Sky"
  • Machine Head: "Halo"
  • Shadows Fall: "Redemption"
  • Exodus: "Funeral Hymn"
  • Symphony X: "Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)"
  • Shatter Messiah: "God Burns Like Flesh"
  • Candlemass: "Embracing The Styx"
  • Entombed: "Serpent Saints"
  • Nile: "As He Creates, So He Destroys"

    Some albums this year didn't live up to expectations, for various reasons. One of those would be Megadeth's United Abominations. Musically an OK, if uneventful album, that tries to straddle the fine line between thrash and commercially accesible metal, but in the end quite a heartless effort by MegaDave. Ultimately, what truly sunk the album was the absence of decent vocal melodies and the atrocious lyrics. Lashing out at the UN is fine, but tripe along the lines of the title track and "Sleepwalker" should never have made it onto a Megadeth album.

    Another album that didn't quite live up to what it could've been is Iced Earth's Framing Armageddon. Jon Schaffer who wrote some of the best metal tunes and epics of the '90s finally seems to have lost it. Despite having a fellow like Tim 'Ripper' Owens belting out the vocals, Framing Armageddon didn't live up to the promise of the first single, nor the potential of the storyline. But, let's hope Jon & Co can redeem themselves with part 2 of the story due next year.

    The final album I'll mention that could've been something special is Vital Remains' Icons Of Evil. The preceding release Dechristianize was/is an amazing lesson in technical death metal, but ultimately Icons... turned out to be pretty much the same thing in a different package. Icons Of Evil certainly wasn't bad, but being the carbon copy of your big brother isn't doing the album any favors.

    To round off 2007, let's look into 2008; here's my list of five albums to look forward to, for various reasons:

  • Nevermore 2005's This Godless Endeavor was an amazing display in brutal riffs and soaring leads, with great vocals and thoughtful lyrics. If the next one is as good, I've already got my #1 for 2008.

  • Testament Formation Of Damnation is due on April 29th, the first Testament album since 1999s blistering The Gathering, has all the ingredients to be one of the best next year. Paul Bostaph on drums, Alex Skolnick and Greg Peterson back in the fold, and the core of the band in Peterson/Billy... can they possibly fail?

  • In Flames 2006's Come Clarity was a return to form after two disappointing releases. Their studio diaries has kept my interest up and from what we've heard, it can be really good.

  • Metallica Might be good, might be bad, either way, we're all anticipating the heck out of it.

  • Opeth Can they top Ghost Reveries? Has the line-up changes harmed them?

  • Immortal One the best black metal bands ever return. Let's hope they get it out before the snow melts and they lose their muse.

    Well, that was all for 2007. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and I'll see you all in 2008 with new columns and reviews. Thanks for a good year.

    Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007

  • 440 comments sorted by best / new / date

      I could not agree more with the top choice. Colors is possibly one of the best albums i have ever bought. I love BTBAM and Im glad this list has them at number one. I saw them perform the entire CD live and Paul and Dusty were flawless with the guitar harmonies! As for the other bands, shadows fall is awesome and in my opinion could have been on the list but i am not really a fan of many of the others (except having liked machine head and dream theater for a bit). However, I can see the list is definitely metal for once. I am also looking forward to seeing what in flames will come up with and what the hell metallica plans on doing after st. anger.
      shadowfender42 wrote: i thought for sure unbound the wild ride would have been on the top songs list and lost maybe too and A7X's new album would have been up there're kidding, right?
      Kelicon : Underjoggle wrote: Where's Dethklok? I thought that was a fantastic album, except for The Lost Vikings. agreed, but i thought that was an awesome song, only one on Dethklok was hatredcopter than kinda annoyed me. but in my opinion...
      Hatredcopter is IMO the second best song on there (after Murmaider) it offers something different. But anyway. Where the **** is Blood Mountain and Rise of the Tyrant?!
      2 other albums that should be considered: Dethklok-Dethalbum Ion Dissonance-Minus the Herd (truly a great tech death style album)
      A big middle finger to the guy who made this article. Megadeth's UA was brilliant and they didn't mention dimmu borgir, dark tranquillity or arch enemy! And I don't get why everyone raves about The Blackening. It was a blant attempt to make epic "thrash" metal.
      i thought for sure unbound the wild ride would have been on the top songs list and lost maybe too and A7X's new album would have been up there
      First off I want to say that I'm glad to see Candlemass and Primoridal on that list. Personally however I found Ithyphallic to be rather boring and sounded like they were just going through the motions. Personally I felt that Paradise Lost deserved to be on the list much more than Ithyphallic. I also would've wanted to see at least one of the thrash revival bands (Municipal Waste, SSS, Evile, Skeletonwitch) on there, but I didn't really expect to see them. Pretty much anything else I could've mentioned would've gone over the heads of most of the readers, so I guess these are the most obscure bands I could expect. The thing that troubled me most this article was in the upcoming releases section. How can there be absolutely no mention of Wintersun's upcoming epic? Here you have a band that have released one of the most widely respected albums in the metal community of the last decade, that have one of the most amazing musicians in music today, that haven't released a follow-up to their debut in 4 years, and yet they get no mention. Pretty much every metal fan I have talked to have named this as their most anticipated album of the year, so I have to ask where's the recognition Jari and co. deserve? Finally to all the people that want the Dethalbum on this list, shut the **** up. It was a generic album on par with CoB's last pile of shit and the only thing that saved it from complete and utter mediocrity was Gene Hoglan. Maybe you should actually listen to metal instead of what you see on Headbanger's Ball so you can understand how boring this album actually is. One final thing on the topic of BTBAM. Personally I found "Colors" to be a very dull album, but this is coming from someone who regularly listens to last year's avant-garde masterpieces "In A Flesh Aquarium" and "The Butcher's Ballroom," so while BTBAM don't really sound all that experimental to me, I can understand that on a list directed towards more mainstream listeners of metal that they would be number one.
      It is a good overview, but shred being reincarnated is the biggest news in my books. however it wasnt mentioned here, it was kind of coming back slowly before hand I guess. Lamb Of God rill deserve respect; they were just touring but still maybe a honourable mention because there 1/4 of the reason shred is back. I mostly agree with you here.
      Disagree with united abominations comments hehe, i think its a great album to be honest.
      Oh and Dream Theater have been around for years, and Images and Words destroys every Megadeth album ever made.
      the5thhorseman wrote: Reviewer Pete wrote: Seidenschnur wrote: Just because Dave is a Christian now, it doesn't mean you gotta drag him through the coals. I'm dragging him through the coals, as you like to put it, because 'United Abominations' is a mediocre album. Dave Mustaine can be God, Satan, Jesus, Buddha, whatever he damn wants, it doesn't make the album better or worse. It is not even vaguely implied in the article that his religion has anything to do with the low mark, it's just you jumping to conclusions, and that my friend, is pathetic. It's nice to have opinions. You think UA is mediocre? Fine. Although it seems like a lot of people think you're wrong. As Seidenschnur wrote, at least you can UNDERSTAND Mustaine. I'm willing to bet that in 10 years time, eight of those 10 bands listed won't even be around anymore, and the couple that do will be a mere footnote in one sub-genre of metal. That's MY opinion.
      Probably, but they'll all have released better albums than UA, that's for sure.
      I know all 10 as well. Start listening to halfway decent music, and you might understand. ELECTRIC WIZARD FTW!
      Dark Artist
      Um.. Dark Passion Play by Nightwish deserves to be ahead of Systematic Chaos at least.
      O$c@r wrote: I Dont know ANY of these bands or CDs Are there any one of you there know just ONE! of these Bands
      I know all ten.
      Where is Ensiferum - Victory Songs ? that album was awesome!Their DVD was awesome too. By the way A7X sucks
      dude why the hell did he talk bad about united abominations? thats one of their best id say, and heartless isnt nearly the word i would use, dave put a lot of effort into this album. megadeth=king. dream theater was a good choice though
      I hadn't heard any BTBAM until I bought colors based on the Metal Hammer review and I love it.
      Dethklok, although a fictional band, came out with one of the best albums period in 2007, I don't know how they didn't make the list on a top five metal list. I agree with your views on the new Megadeth album. A bit disappointing indeed.
      Ok first thing, where is Therion!!!!! second between the buried and me, while colors is a good album, especially by their standards, it is still too pretentious for my liking. i get the feeling these lads are trying to hard. Has anybody heard their album the anatomy of? jeez was a piss poor album. Its just covers, exact copies aswell, no attempt to put their own mark on the songs. Its not like between the buried and me are doing anything even slightly original either, loads of bands do similar stuff. It seems they get extra marks for originality when as i have just said they aint! also i like amorphis but their new album got boring on second listen so thats definitely not a top 10 for me. Machine heads new album is total shit as is dream theater's
      The Axeman
      To round off 2007, let's look into 2008; here's my list of five albums to look forward to, for various reasons
      hey.... no Chinese Democracy? just kidding of course
      speedmetal ftw
      The devil spawn : Most of you need to learn what really metal is.I dont agree with the list but BTBAM should not even be up there.
      two bands should have made this easily and definitely been in the top 5: Nocturnal by Black Dahlia Genesis by Job for a Cowboy nuff said
      NO NO NO!!!! Colors (BTBAM) is one of the best albums EVER!!!! Make sure you guys add that!!!! #1 no doubt!
      Reviewer Pete - I can't thank you enough. The arguments taking place are rather hilarious. Nile being that high on the list makes me happy. Surely you must be getting a laugh out of all this bitching?
      The Apostasy should be higher. Ithyphallic should be lower. Dream Theater should be no where near the top 10. Colors is amazing, deserves the #1 spot. Anyone who lumps BTBAM in with the other metalcore bands is a retard.
      yeah i think rise of the tyrant definately should have been there. the apostacy is a f**king intense album though and deserves that spot. looks like i should check out some of these other bands. and 2008 looks like its going to be good
      PEOPLE PEOPLE! Thrash is the best Metal so Exodus should've been on this list on all 10 spots. Bwahaha
      i woulda put dream theater up a little higher than that. and yes, we are all anticipating the heck out of the new MetallicA album, gah, when will it be here? it's like waiting for Christmas without a calender
      Okay..I know it's an EP, but Nachtmystium's "Eulogy IV" deserves to be at least in the mentionables...also, the roundhouse tapes (Opeth) deserves #1, imo =P.