Hello Everyone and welcome back to the cavalcade of top 10 lists. After taking an unwanted week off for...reasons, I am back with a new list that came to me this past weekend that helped me get inspired to do these lists once again. All bands will come to an end, some are mutually agreed to happen, some happen because of tragedy, some happen from members getting so sick of each other they gotta never see each other again. Regardless of the reasons, they do lead to final albums, some of which are the perfect send-off and some are going to leave you wanting just one more album to end the band on the right note. I am choosing to focus this list on the former and taking 10 final albums that feel like they perfectly send the bands off to the farm upstate in a way where you will potentially want more, but you can’t be disappointed in the quality of the album itself. So let’s get into the rules of these lists I make and get into some list goodness.
1.) These lists are in no particular order unless otherwise noted (alphabetical order, year of release, etc). Ranking these is not needed as I wouldn’t be covering these bands, songs, albums, etc if I did not love them.
2.) The lists will be formatted with the subject, FFO (For Fans Of), and a blurb (roughly a paragraph) about said subject. The FFO section is subject to change if the list is entirely about one particular subject (the genre for example)
3.) This will be a weekly series. Every Wednesday unless otherwise stated. Delays and postponements are entirely possible, but I will be keeping this up until my mind tells me to stop.
4.) No negative lists. I know that’s cool, and the clickbaity thing to do is to make lists that people can tear apart, argue over, let me know how wrong I am for including or excluding a band, etc. That’s just not me. I may occasionally make a funny title for humor’s sake, but never to just get clicks with no substance. My integrity still means something to me even if that makes me less popular.
5.) A Spotify Playlist will always accompany each list. 1 song to accommodate every point listed so 10 songs in total, unless otherwise stated in the list(s).
6.) I will still be doing my monthly album reviews and my year-end lists per usual. This is just a bonus.
7.) All thoughts are entirely my own. No paid sponsorships, no begging or pleading from any label or band. Just me and my thoughts.
So, Let’s Begin!
*These are presented in absolutely no order other than what sounded good on the Spotify playlist I made for the list*
Rush- Clockwork Angels
FFO- Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal
Rush’s final album is not the final album any Rush fan wanted to happen. That is of course because none of us wanted the band to end. Sadly as I mentioned above, every band must go at some point, and especially when you look back at it; Clockwork Angels is the perfect sendoff to one of the greatest bands to ever rock the earth. Neil Peart’s life was filled with so many tragedies and sadly his life ended with the tragedy of cancer. When looking back, it’s hard not to feel like that could have played a part in this album. Did Peart write these songs knowing it would be the last Rush album that he could physically make? If he did, be it for medical reasons or even just wanting to retire, he sent the band off showcasing all of the best moments that could be shown in the band’s history through a full-on, brand new, concept album (the first and only time for the band). The album gets heavy, it gets melodic, it hits the proggy riffs in such a catchy way and I can only imagine that experiencing these songs in a live setting had to be incredible. Whether you like the more abstract side of the band or commercial, this album has both sides in strides. While not the perfect Rush album; It is one you can go back to and say that from start to finish, Clockwork Angels is a phenomenal album to end a career on. While we sadly lost Neil Peart back in 2020, his spirit lives on in so many musicians from now till the end of time. I can’t wait to see what Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson continue to do in their musical endeavors either together or separately.
Burst- Lazarus Bird
FFO- Progressive Post Metal
This band’s legacy hits hard and leaves a lasting impression. While being a true experimental band changing and refining their formula with every album, their 5th and final album, Lazarus Bird, is the perfect mix of prog metal, post-metal, sludge, and experimentation. Spectacularly crafted songs that cover so much musical ground while making complete sense in the context of the band. You can definitely hear how the band has influenced others in their sound and what can fit in the heavy, sludgy, and post-metal worlds. For anyone who can appreciate bands like Baroness, Mastodon, Pallbearer, Intronaut, or Torche; you are doing yourself a major disservice if you continue going without checking out this phenomenal Swedish band. There is every chance in the world that the band could come back together and make a new album (you can never say never till your death), and rendering this entry no longer serviceable; If this is all we get from this band, they put out 5 incredible albums and Lazarus Bird was truly their magnum opus.
Sentenced- The Funeral Album
FFO- Gothic Metal
Finland got hit hard when one of their best band’s decided to call it a day. The aptly named The Funeral Album, showcases the perfect display of where the band was in 2005. Amid writing absolutely memorable gothic metal songs after years of releasing death metal and melodic death metal in their past work, Sentenced really laid on the idea the band was finished with so many of their songs’ titles and lyrics. Whether you are looking for songs that could have easily been on top 40 radio, a short instrumental tribute to their death metal days, or a play on words of either getting bit by a vampire or receiving oral sex; it’s all here on full display. With main songwriter, founder, and multi-instrumentalist, Miika Tenkula tragically passing away at the age of 34 in 2009 from rare genetic heart disease, I can’t fathom the band will be back in any way, shape, or form, (maybe a tribute show, but even that is a far stretch) the band is truly dead and buried and all the other members of the band have done on to some great music since, Sentenced was that band that really hit what it feels like to be suicidal, in love, in hate, make tongue in cheek goth songs, and hit a range of metalheads that needed music like this but needed more than what came from bands like Type O Negative. A true dark gem of a band and The Funeral Album, of course being written to be their send-off is the perfect way to finish the band off.
Celtic Frost- Monotheist
FFO- Gothic Metal, Doom Metal, Black Metal
From proto-black metal to failed 80s glam metal to writing some of the sickest, heaviest riffs to ever grace metalhead’s ears; Celtic Frost truly accomplished it all in the heavy metal world. Monotheist acted as a reunion album and sadly became their final album as well. After 16 years since their previous album, the band came back to release, EASILY, their heaviest album, and truly took the advantage of all their different musical diatribes and refocused to write one of the heaviest albums the 2000s could ever imagine. They were far past the days of Cold Lake and covering Mexican Radio and wanted to write soul-crushing music and they more than delivered. While the reunion did not last with Tom G Warrior announcing his departure from the band due to irreconcilable differences, you can definitely tell that this is where his mind was at musically and took that focus into the ultra-heavy band, Triptykon. While so many of us got excited, then bummed at the return and dismantling of Celtic Frost in just a few short years; they did leave an insurmountable impression on what heavy music can truly be throughout their entire career. Monotheist is a crowning achievement, in that regard for the heaviest of heavy and an album that has truly lasted the test of time over 15 years later.
Death- The Sound of Perseverance
FFO- Progressive Death Metal, Technical Death Metal
If Chuck Schuldiner had it his way, this would have been the very first Control Denied album, but he was contractually obligated for one more Death album and this album is an absolute bang for the buck description of where Chuck’s mind was at the end of the 90s. Moving farther away from death metal than ever before and focusing so much more on progressive, thrashy, classical, and even power metal stylings; Chuck and Co. wrote one of the most technical albums made at the time and easily still one of the most technical and forward-thinking albums to this day. Chuck’s voice also became very polarizing on the final two Death albums, most so with The Sound of Perseverance, you either love it or despise it (I love it.). The music is still jawdropping to listen to over 20 years later and hearing what became of everyone who played with Chuck after this album is incredible to see. Of course, Chuck left us in 2001 from brain cancer and we never got to experience his full vision of what Control Denied could be. We did get their legendary standalone album, The Fragile Art of Existence, but there was so much more to explore that we will sadly never get to hear. Death, on the other hand, while being a far cry from their earliest albums; was the perfect sendoff to where Death ended and what could have been in the future. It’s a perfect prog-metal masterpiece.
The Dillinger Escape Plan- Dissociation
FFO- Progressive Mathcore
In speaking of bands with a technical sound that went on to influence a whole new genre of music; TDEP was truly a one-of-a-kind band. Often attempted replication, but impossible to duplicate. The band went through nearly every single genre of music in existence, created their own genre, and continue expanding on that as well. By the time of Dissociation, the band felt...well, exactly that. They wanted to move on while being experts at their craft; making controlled chaos isn’t going to be in everyone’s heart forever and everyone in the band from the first lineup to the final lineup has gone on to do some amazing work in all genres of rock, metal, and beyond. The band left everything on the table for this album and if for any reason they feel the need to come back (which I would never be against), they are going to have the gargantuan task of trying to outdo this happen. Would they succeed or is the band truly done for good? Time will tell...time will tell…
Emperor- Prometheus- The Discipline of Fire and Demise
FFO- Symphonic Progressive Black Metal
Emperor lasted only a decade in their initial run, but they have one of the most notorious stories in music. For both being one of the most seminal bands in the 2nd wave of black metal era and for having past members who...well, just go look it up if you don’t already know. No need to get back into that. Emperor released 4 albums that went from the rawest of black metal to the most over-the-top symphonic experience you could imagine in less than a decade. I of course will be talking about the latter here with Prometheus, a true expansion of what black metal could and would become. A monumental album that still had all of the evil you could ever expect of 90s Norwegian black metal, but Ihsahn’s keen sense of where his mind was musically was beyond tremolo picking and blast beats. You can definitely hear where Ihsahn would eventually go in his solo career by listening to Prometheus and gathering those early experimental ideas in their infancy. While the band has reformed and plays the occasional metal festival, they have zero intention of ever creating music. Back in 2001, they knew that they accomplished all they wanted to in just 4 albums and there was no need to make new music. 21 years later, while I’d love to see what an Emperor album would sound like in the 202s; I like the idea of having Prometheus being a final nail in the recording coffin for the band. It means when you get to see them live, you will get to hear all the songs you love live with no compromise. You can’t be disappointed in that, especially if you’re like me and have yet to experience them live. A triumphant finale to 2nd wave of black metal.
Bolt Thrower- Those Once Loyal
FFO- Death Metal
8 albums strong and in 2005, Bolt Thrower said goodbye to recording new music with Those Once Loyal. A signature Bolt Thrower album that has the grooving, mid-tempo death metal the band became acclaimed for, while maintaining a unique sound that any death metal fan can appreciate, no matter what sub-genres you prefer. While the band could have made new music, they chose not to unless they could top this album. In 2016, those planed were forever laid to rest as drummer, Martin Kearns’ 1st death anniversary signified the end of the band both in the studio and live. While this album was not intended to be the last album while being recorded, it is looked back on as being a fantastic way to end one of the best death metal bands to ever exist. While members of the band have continued on in their musical careers (including one of my favorite death metal bands still active, Memoriam); Bolt Thrower will always be known as a pioneer of UK death metal, proving speed and technicality are not all you should rely on, and fans who like to rip off other fans by making their merch extremely expensive to buy in the 3rd party marketplace. While maybe not the best Bolt Thrower album (though the argument can be made that it is), Bolt Thrower left us with 8 phenomenal albums that slay just as much now as when they were recorded, and Those Once Loyal are a fantastic album to remember them by.
Falconer- From A Dying Ember
FFO- Power Metal, Folk Metal, Orchestration
Falconer may be the most underrated power metal band of all time and that is a hill I have zero problems dying on. Every album felt like a musical experience and not just a collection of songs and FADE (haha, get what they did with the initials?) was written to be the finale of the band. With no shows to accompany these songs (I just so happen to not only see their last show ever at ProgPower 2015, but give their last in-person interview as a whole band), this album feels like a live experience of sorts, where you feel every era of the band, every style they touched upon, and even a possible hint of where the members of the band were before and potentially after the band with some hints of black metal and other genres. Falconer was a true gem of metal music and FADE is a shining example of what the band was all about. I have no qualms saying this is their best album and I think they knew they had to make this their crowning achievement if they were to properly say goodbye. If you want one of the best examples of what power metal is, was, and could be, check out Falconer and check out FADE and go backward in their catalog. The sheer brilliance of musical songwriting and talent in every sense of the term.
Nevermore- The Obsidian Conspiracy
FFO- Progressive Thrash Power Metal
Nevermore is another band that while they had such a loyal and undying fan base, never reached the fandom they truly deserved. Between Warrel Dane’s unique vocals, Jeff Loomis’ jaw-dropping songwriting, Van Williams’ underappreciated drumming, and Jim Shepard’s perfection of bass lines; the band went through so many different eras but really hit their mark with their most legendary album, Dead Heart in a Dead World. In 2010, the band was falling into troubled times within the band and was on the verge of breaking up so many times. This final album is easily their most commercial sounding (done purposely to expand their fan base) but never losing the power the band has become known for. While again, it was a more commercial album, that did not take anything away from what the band delivered both in the studio and especially live. Having gotten to see their final Minnesota show on Halloween 2010 was a truly spectacular moment in my concert-going career and every song they played off this album fit seamlessly with the rest of their live catalog. The songs are so catchy, sometimes experimental, wickedly played and looking back, very...very somber to listen to. While I will even say this is my 2nd favorite Nevermore album (after the aforementioned Dead Heart in a Dead World), the band imploded shortly after their final US tour and while there were rumors of a possible reformation, the death of Warrel Dane in 2017 prevented that from ever happening. A very sad end to one of the best metal bands of any genre, but such an incredible album to go back to and enjoy. It’s quite apt that the final words you hear on this album are Warrel Dane saying “These are my last, WORDS!”, While not the last Warrel Dane words you’d hear in the recorded form, it did mark the end of Nevermore and they will be forever missed.
And there you go folks, 10 final albums that mean so much to me, maybe to you, maybe never heard of before by you, or albums you should listen to and enjoy all over again. While everything ends, nothing is ever truly gone if we can remember. That’s important in art, life, and everything else. Tune in next week for another selection from the cavalcade of top 10 lists.
Same Heavy Time, Same Debriefings Website!
Josh Rundquist (Heavy Debriefings)