This Year In Metal: 2008

Hello and welcome to this, a summary of the best metal releases of 2008. Below you'll find my top 10 of 2008, some albums that came up short and finally a few albums to keep an eye out for in 2009.

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Hello and welcome to this, a summary of the best metal releases of 2008. Below you'll find my top 10 of 2008, some albums that came up short and finally a few albums to keep an eye out for in 2009.

10. Moonspell - Night Eternal

Night Eternal makes it onto this list because, well, it's filled to the brim with well-crafted songs. The album excels in delivering dark, moody and melodic metal with very strong gothic undertones and some incredibly strong lyrics to go with it. Moonspell have managed to mix heavy riffs, growls and black-esque screams with keyboards, big choruses and tasty melodic leads without making a contrived mess of it. If anything it is quite the opposite as the album possesses key features such as proper length, commendable flow and very, very skilled execution wrapped in a near-perfect production. Moonspell set the bar very high with this album and it'll be very interesting to see if they can top it next time around.

09. Lord Belial - The Black Curse

Much like Night Eternal, The Black Curse excels because it manages to balance the elements. Blastbeats, brutal riffs, Thomas Backelin's evil shrieks, tons of melodic soloing, almost Opeth-esque acoustic interludes and even some keyboards converge in a melting pot. Again, it could be a veritable disaster but it is in fact quite the opposite, because as blasphemous as it may sound, the album is packed with potential black metal hits. At least 75% of the album is made up of catchy-as-hell riffing, brutal choruses and a skilful mix of dark and light. One of the reasons why it strikes such a chord with me is how well the fairly standard black riffs blend with the tasty, melodic soloing and acoustic interludes, which grants it a somewhat unique touch.

08. Arsis - We Are The Nightmare

We Are The Nightmare is a definite grower with this reviewer. Due to being one of the more intensive guitar albums of the year, it's certainly quite a bit to take in despite not being overly long at 40-ish minutes, but to fully appreciate the fretboard wizardry of James Malone and Ryan Knight took a few months for me. Together they prove that just because you put out shred-heavy metal, it doesn't mean that you have to end up sounding like a broken Nintendo. Of course it's not all about the guitarists - the other instruments play a huge part, as do their ability to pen coherent and catchy songs while keeping the technical bar high. Good songs, good leads, good times.

07. Swallow The Sun - Plague Of Butterflies

Normally, I wouldn't put an EP on this list since it's about albums and nothing else. But in the end, the EP/LP tag is just that, and this EP is sufficiently long to be considered an album. Plague of Butterflies is one, or three songs (excluding the tracks from the old demo), depending on how you look at it, coming together at around 35 minutes. If I could just use three words to describe it, I'd choose beautiful, crushing, doom, because that's exactly what it is. The lyrics, mood and melody reek of despair, angst and sadness and manages to really hit home. When you try to pen something epic like this, one of the key things you have to control is the ebb and flow of things. If not, it'll just turn stale and sound contrived. Obviously, since it has made it onto this list, Plague of Butterflies controls those parameters beautifully. Soft and tender mixes with brutal and heavy and if you ever need a soundtrack for those dark and rainy autumn nights, Plague of Butterflies is your pick.

06. Psycroptic - Ob(Servant)

Psycroptic shot to underground fame with Sceptre of the Ancients a few years ago, saw their vocalist leave the group, released a fairly lacklustre album and thus expectations for Ob(Servant) weren't very high (at least not for yours truly). But boy, did they deliver! Crushing and technical brutality with a slick and powerful production makes this one a winner. Joe Haley lays down one catchy riff after the other, and the creative well never seems to run dry during the album's 50-or-so minutes. The delivery is rock-solid with different grooves mixing seamlessly, which obviously helps the overall flow of the album. While being insanely technical, the songs and sections always come off as purposeful and don't leave you with the feeling that they put in this or that bit just to show off.

05. Warrel Dane - Praises To The War Machine

Without a doubt, Praises... is the most straight-forward album of this top 10. Teaming up with Peter Wichers and a few others, he set out to create something a tad less technical and intense than his primary band Nevermore. The album is pretty vocal-heavy in the sense that there aren't all that many purely instrumental sections, but when you're dealing with a top notch vocalist and lyricist like Dane, it doesn't hurt the final product at all.

Clocking in at around 45 minutes split onto 12 tracks, Praises... is a hard rock/metal album virtually free of dead moments. Not a single tune comes off as filler-esque or sub-par. Every song has at least one strong vocal hook, there's always a powerful chorus to be heard and it's all so damn catchy that it took me months to get some of the hooks out of my head. Picking out favourite tracks is task I can be without, because I'd most likely end up writing down the whole album.

04. The Monolith Deathcult - Triumvirate

It's only fitting that a band with such an awesome name has penned such an awesome album. Triumvirate is unrelenting in its onslaught, mixing electronic samplings with full-on brutality and technical death metal. In large parts, it's quite symphonic and epic but the band never shies away from getting down and dirty with a crush-your-face breakdown. It's even quite beautiful, such as in large parts of Den Ensomme Nordens Drottning, the 14-minute track that eventually closes the book on one of the finest death metal albums of the year. One of the more amusing and catchy sections has to be the chorus of Wrath of the Baath, about a certain Iraqi dictator who is no more, where the band chants Wah-da! Hurriya! Isht'rikaya! Halabja! over an insanely groovy riff. Triumvirate have been compared to Nile, and while it doesn't bother me, I can see where they're coming from. Nile didn't release an album this year, but it hardly bothers me because The Monolith Deathcult gave me my fix with this technical death metal album.

03. After The Burial - Rareform

If you take a bit of Meshuggah's penchant for complex rhythms and add a very, very big dose of melodic and shred-happy guitar playing, then you might end up with this band. As Meshuggah, they opt for the crushing low-end found in an 8-string guitar. But polyrhythmics aside, that's where the comparisons end for me. After the Burial inject a huge dose of fun into their brand of metal and at times Rareform sounds very playful, throwing curve-ball after curve-ball at you. The guys have managed to take the polyrhythmic approach and mix it with light-hearted, fun and tuneful guitar playing without making it come off as schizophrenic.

Despite what one might think, it's not full-on look how fast I can go-shred all of the time, in fact it's mostly pretty mellow and melodic, especially given the setting and rhythmic exercises they tend to indulge in. Talented, technical and skilled, the guys in After the Burial managed to pen the Fun Album of the Year for me.

02. Meshuggah - obZen

For a long period of time, obZen was the clear-cut favorite of the year for me, because it was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. Towards the end of the year it got some company and I have to say that this year's top two albums are on a different level than the competition. Meshuggah are by now in more or less their own realm when it comes to metal - they are impossible to follow or imitate. They have become an institution of their own, praised by metal and non-metal fans and media. When you play such a complex brand of music as these guys do, it's no small feat. I for one thought they'd somewhat lost it with their last couple of efforts and doubted that they'd even return to the heights of, say, Chaosphere again. But Thordendal/Hagstrm and Haake proved me wrong, and I am very glad that they did.

obZen shows a slightly more focused side of Meshuggah than in recent years. Some of the material is so ridiculously catchy and when compared to their previous output, it's almost radio-worthy. Obviously they haven't sold out because they haven't abandoned any of the elements that made people take notice 10-15 years ago. It just so happens that they've managed what nearly all bands fail to do - write a career defining record 20 years into their career. The songs are there, the production is there and the execution is there. I wish I was musically skilled enough to understand all the nuances of it, but alas, I am not. I am however perfectly content to keep looking for my jaw, which dropped and disappeared mysteriously sometime around when I first heard Bleed.

01. Cynic - Traced In Air

Speaking of bands that end up releasing relevant and career defining efforts long into their career - here's another one. Cynic's first, and until recently only effort, the now-classic 1993 album Focus has since its release become a cornerstone of progressive metal because of successfully implementing jazz and fusion into metal. I was skeptic at best when it was announced that Masvidal and pals would reunite for a new album. After all, how many unsuccessful and uninspired comebacks haven't we seen over the years? It's best to not have any expectations at all, and when Traced In Air hit me, it hit me so hard that I still haven't recovered. Masvidal, Reinert and Malone managed to preserve all the best elements of Focus and streamline it into a, pun intended, more focused version with better flow and more tuneful melodies. The old vocoder effect on Focus got to me a bit, but now Masvidal instead possesses an almost angelic voice which drifts in and out of the music, weaving threads as it goes. The death metal influence is almost non-existent on Traced In Air and it's perhaps best described as progressive metal, but not in the one-billion-notes-per-second sense. Traced... comes off as a single, coherent piece and should be heard and experienced as such. Listen to it in its entirety and not out of sequence, because this is as close to perfection as you get.

Some Albums That Were Close But Not Quite (in no particular order)

  • Origin - Antithesis
  • Opeth - Watershed
  • The Faceless - Planetary Duality
  • Enslaved - Vertebrae
  • Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God
  • Ayreon - 01011001
  • In Mourning - The Shrouded Divine
  • Protest the Hero - Fortress
  • Agalloch - The White EP
  • Shade Empire - Zero Nexus

    Top 10 Songs of 2008

  • In Mourning - The Black Lodge
  • Opeth - Heir Apparent
  • Testament - The Formation of Damnation
  • Meshuggah - Bleed
  • Warrel Dane - Messenger
  • Moonspell - Dreamless
  • The Haunted - Iron Mask
  • Cynic - Space For This
  • Amon Amarth - Twilight of the Thunder God
  • Shade Empire - Victory In 2009 I'm looking forward to new albums from some of these bands:

  • Dream Theater
  • Agalloch
  • Atheist
  • Nevermore
  • Immortal
  • Iron Maiden
  • Lamb of God
  • Pestilence
  • Amorphis
  • Slayer
  • Exodus

    ...and then many, many more. I could go on forever. Anyways, thanks a lot for reading and let the flames begin!

    by Petter Carnbro aka Reviewer Pete Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2008

  • 318 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Reviewer Pete
      omen6_ wrote: erm... ok yea so im not seeing whats so good about that meshuggah band... i just listened to the song bleed and all i heard was repeated machine gun rythms... i mean no variety at all. not sure what sets them apart...
      Polyrhythmics.
      a drummer
      decent list, too much death metal, this should be called best death metal of 08, but its great to Protest get some mention, they deserve it....oh and shogun got best album of the year by me..TRIVIUM!
      The JesterHead
      Caltelt wrote: Why isn't All Hope Is Gone on here?
      Ok, and now try and read entire threads, here's an example on Children of Bodom:
      [quote]Pat_s1t wrote: How the hell is Blooddrunk not there?
      (To cut the long story short) Albums can't be on this list just because they came out in 2008, for Heaven's sake... They also have to be good enough.[/quote]
      Set-Abominae
      Where the hell is Septic Flesh with Communion? That album literally dropped my jaw. Also, Pyramaze should have been at least an honorable mention, Immortal was awesome.
      IP h O IB i A
      not a HUGE metalhead but ive checked out most of this list and have enjoyed it i think August Burns Red is my favorite metal band, and Protest the Hero is a close second
      The Spoon
      Just realized that Protest the Hero almost made it. Well at least they were mentioned, because Fortress was easily in my Top 3 albums of 2008
      omen6_
      erm... ok yea so im not seeing whats so good about that meshuggah band... i just listened to the song bleed and all i heard was repeated machine gun rythms... i mean no variety at all. not sure what sets them apart...
      Reviewer Pete
      peaches58` wrote: Sorry for the double post, but, I really want more music like Maiden, Slayer, and Anthrax to start making a comeback not the actual bands but just the way they did it. Most of the bands today that are considered metal/thrash metal are all exactly the same yell solo yell. Each one of those bands brought something different to the table and were still part of that genre which made it enjoyable but nowadays if you have heard one hard metal band you have heard them all. Just had to get that off my chest.
      *shrug* There's been a huge revival for classic thrash bands in the past 1-3 years, with bands like Bonded By Blood and Evile embracing the old school style of thrash. Maybe you should check out those bands. As for Iron Maiden-esque stuff, well...I'm afraid that the industry finds classic/trad metal to be a dead spot, in terms of profit. At least it seems to be that way, based on signings and releases, because there's very little coming our way that can be called trad/classic metal.
      Reviewer Pete
      9volt wrote: Not looking forwards to the new Megadeth album? ...?
      I'm looking forward to it, in the way that it's always cool to hear new music from big, classic bands. But I didn't like UA much, and I won't get my hopes up about this new album. I sincerely hope it's really good though, I have no personal vendetta with Mustaine.
      Reviewer Pete
      zAg1619 wrote: Pete, I'm just curious as to why Triviums "Shogun" was not mentioned. I thought they did that album very well. The screaming was brought back, the music was good...
      I reviewed "Shogun" for the September issue of This Month In Metal, which you can find a link to in my profile. I'll just write a few lines here, for good measure: I do like Trivium, and "Shogun". They've got a lot of potential and I hope they'll truly deliver a great, great metal album one day. I like some of the aspects of both "Ascendancy" and "The Crusade", and both showed to me that they've got what it takes to put out something mindblowing, but "Shogun" just isn't that, despite combining my favorite elements of their sound. I prefer the mixed sing/scream approach, I applaud their usage of 7-strings, but I have to say they just didn't write good enough songs. There were a few really good songs on "Shogun", but as a whole there's too much forgettable stuff (and another useless instrumental). They've got all the intentions and all the tools, but they just didn't assemble them right this time around, and as far as this list goes, a lot of other bands did. Thus, they didn't make the final cut.
      Reviewer Pete
      tabletenis wrote: ummmm....i thought metallica was a metal band. A metal band that released a metal cd.....how can they be the number one band of the year and have their cd not make this year's on the top ten? that just doesnt make sense to me.
      Because I don't compile this list based on popular vote. It has no relation to the user's poll, or other lists on this site whatsoever.
      zAg1619
      Pete, I'm just curious as to why Triviums "Shogun" was not mentioned. I thought they did that album very well. The screaming was brought back, the music was good...
      GREENWARRI0R
      I don't get all these people saying OO TOO MUCH DEATH METAL and THIS SHOULD BE DEATH METAL OF 08!!! There are like, 3 death metal albums on this list, jeez! There's also prog, doom, math, black and goth metal on here. Branch out a bit and you might like some of it.
      3Stepper
      Aw no Disturbed? I was hoping to see them get on here, I mean the release of Indestructible... it was killer. Good job to the nice range of different metal.
      tabletenis
      ummmm....i thought metallica was a metal band. A metal band that released a metal cd.....how can they be the number one band of the year and have their cd not make this year's on the top ten? that just doesnt make sense to me.
      Slayer.666.dag
      Every one has different thought from other but finally you can't give a list for all styles in one list I mean If you want to make a list for Death Metal then Opeth band will be in first List and if you want to make a list for Doom Band Swallow the Sun will be in the first and Etc. so Sorry for this word " every one Keep his Opinion until open List for Every style separatly " and Moonspell album is more than beautifull but if you compare it with swallow the Sun one's you cant separate between this album and the other each one has elements beautiful while the other has another elemens also beautiful I mean You cant say moonspell NO: 10 and Swallow the Sun No : 6 Two have the same rate and thank you for reading my opinion
      Reviewer Pete
      YamiJoey Suppose you're right really, but if the internet isn't for slagging off other people's oppinions and forcing your own on them, what is it for? xD YJ
      Porn.
      HardRockKid
      whereis metallica and in 2009 i heard a new rage against the machine album might be out
      YamiJoey
      Oh yeah: Dyer's Eve: "Obviously opinions are like arseholes, and I personally think you missed out some spectacular releases, but hey, you can't please everyone. Definitely a better list than most website/magazine lists." Suppose you're right really, but if the internet isn't for slagging off other people's oppinions and forcing your own on them, what is it for? xD YJ
      YamiJoey
      Dream Theater, LoG and Slayer FTW! Metallica are metal, their new album was just s***. (I don't like to swear that much, but it's THAT bad.) Forgive me if I'm wrong, but didn't Continent come out this year? I'm right. I know I am. I was on the UK tour. That should've made it up there. Better than After the Burial for a kick off. Not heard much else on there, TBH. (Though I keep promising myself to listen to Meshuggah.) YJ
      ghostface24
      BOC15 wrote: If Metallica is not metal than i don't know what is..
      More like Heavy rock to me...or if you want to call them metal, it should be a new genre in metal... Diluted Metal
      Minzufbotdmelon
      jaymz88 wrote: Where is gojira?! The way of all flesh is the best album this year.
      +100000 That quote is made of so much win it is almost unfathomable.
      Dyer's Eve
      Absolutely huge kudos for having Trivmvirate up there. My absolute top album of the year. Obviously opinions are like arseholes, and I personally think you missed out some spectacular releases, but hey, you can't please everyone. Definitely a better list than most website/magazine lists.
      Post?Organic
      GREENWARRI0R wrote: I don't get all these people saying OO TOO MUCH DEATH METAL and THIS SHOULD BE DEATH METAL OF 08!!! There are like, 3 death metal albums on this list, jeez! There's also prog, doom, math, black and goth metal on here. Branch out a bit and you might like some of it.
      No kidding, it's actually quite varied.
      Astyan
      +1 for Agalloch, can't wait for their next album. Also, Watershed definitely deserves to be in the Top 10 in my opinion.
      yerdumb666
      lol, i like how you chose the seemingly most controversial album of the year for the top spot. i was slightly confused on first listen, but liked it much more on second listen and am sure it will grow on me. also glad to see arsis, swallow the sun, and meshuggah as they were all well deserving. ill have to check out some of the other bands such as after the burial and monolith deathcult. just wanted to say also that the new album by the faceless rapes, and definately deserved its spot on the runner up albums.
      restless_thrash
      kaboom. wrote: thank you so much for not making the list like most other lists of this kind, Ex.- 1. Metalligay- fag magnet 2. megadeth-we can't spell 3. Slipknot- wearin mah mask etc. etc. good bands on here. After the Burial's album was beastly i agree. keep it up!
      /facepalm. if you don't like metallica, megadeth or slipknot, just say it, not try to act like "j00r br00tzal" by making stupid puns and utterly insignificant relations to the mainstream. gorw a pair and turn 14, please. as for everyone who doesn't agree with this list, where's your sumbission? this is reviewer_pete's submission, not yours. but i do have to say, i haven't heard of a couple of these bands. where do you hear about all of them?
      3Stepper
      mashiah wrote: Hell new Maiden!! that's will be great some new Maiden stuff.. hey and someone hear Slayer?!?!?! i mean are they good never heard of them my friends say they suck....XD
      Maiden shall alwyas be great! I'm looking for to the new album man.
      mashiah
      Hell new Maiden!! that's will be great some new Maiden stuff.. hey and someone hear Slayer?!?!?! i mean are they good never heard of them my friends say they suck....XD
      Deviliumrei
      The JesterHead : [quote]Pat_s1t wrote: How the hell is Blooddrunk not there?
      Because it's serious crap for wannabe metalhead kids... No offense, but compared to Something Wild and Hatebreeder, this is one shitty album. Start looking at these albums as reviewers, not hardcore fans who think anything they release rules as long as it's under the name "Children of Bodom"... Albums can't be on this list just because they came out in 2008, for Heaven's sake... They also have to be good enough. POSTED: 12/25/2008 - 08:35 am[/quote] I totally agree. Im glad to see Cynic up there. Saw them in Helsinki few weeks back and they were awesome! The new album, Traced in Air, definetly can compete with focus.
      gocool
      Reviewer Pete wrote: All insults go to this humperdunk wrote: why is opeth not on there? fat. well, as another reviewer put it, though I can't remember the exact words; "Early on they deliver one of the best death metal songs of their career, and then proceed to dismantle that sound bit by bit until the end of the album". In short - I think Opeth are at their best when they mix dark and light, and there's just too much light, soft stuff on Watershed to warrant a top 10 spot on this year's list. Still a good album though.
      neojazzical
      I think Meshuggah deserves the #1 spot. The only album I bought this year that stands out in my opinion.
      xl AtoMiXm4x lx
      tearsofmyguitar wrote: Necrophagist is making a new album
      Excellent News, Necrophagist is the best technical death metal band out there, along with Spawn of Possesion and Brain Drill!
      Confetti
      Post?Organic wrote: ^ He listed good albums. Not trendy albums.
      agreed. Why do so many people whine about the list because they have not heard the bands on it? Thats just immature to think all good music is made by known big selling artists. Actually its mostly the opposite.
      Emarosa777
      death_metaller wrote: think faceless shoulda been in top 10, new album is ****in amazinggg
      Saw these guys in vegas with jfac and lamb of god. their bassist and lead guitarist are soooo sick. even though their cd is short, they have talent. I'm suprised whitechapel didn't make it. they're so good.
      Emarosa777
      death_metaller wrote: think faceless shoulda been in top 10, new album is ****in amazinggg
      Saw them in vegas with jfac and lamb of god. Fucking SIIIIICK. there bassist and lead.... holy shit. they almost put on as good of a performance as lamb. almost. Whitechaple should be on here also.
      Hierarkia
      List is missing Warbringer, Gojira, Equilibrium, Eluveitie, and Eclipse Eternal. Good call on Cynic though.
      plague_runner
      Talk about my weird musical taste but bands like The Sword, Underoath, Austrian Death Machine, Toxic Holocaust, Gojira, Protest the hero should have had a spot on the list...yeah it's nice to have underground music on the list but not all death metal stuff.
      plague_runner
      I like death metal,Grind,Black metal or whatever as much as the next guy, but weren't there any other bands that weren't all death grunt, blast beast, insane solos that were any good? weres the power metal albums, the experimental metal bands, the sludge and doom metal bands, heck even the metal core bands.
      headbanger703
      I think The Faceless should have deeeeffffiiinetly been in the top 10, and Trivium should have at least been close if not in there. Same with Gojira
      The JesterHead
      Pat_s1t wrote: How the hell is Blooddrunk not there?
      Because it's serious crap for wannabe metalhead kids... No offense, but compared to Something Wild and Hatebreeder, this is one shitty album. Start looking at these albums as reviewers, not hardcore fans who think anything they release rules as long as it's under the name "Children of Bodom"... Albums can't be on this list just because they came out in 2008, for Heaven's sake... They also have to be good enough.