Here we are, folks. The penultimate part before the grand finale tomorrow. After having to write up yesterday's list twice over, it took a lot of my joy away, but after seeing the reactions to it, it was all worth the hassle. This part of the list are ones that easily could have made the grand finale and some albums were originally on that list, but moved for what ever reason. I know this is where a lot of people will start to care about this list (despite everything I attempt to do to make that not happen), I gotta make these last two parts the strongest they possibly can be in the order that I really feel represents me the most. So like X, I'm gonna give it to ya!
Here's How The Rules Go Down:
1.) 14 Lists of 25 albums a piece, counting down from 350 to 1.
2.) No more than one album per project, otherwise this list would be in the 1,000s.
3.) This list is as close of order as I could get it and be somewhat happy. If I overthink it, I could easily rewrite this whole list in a new order over and over again. Right now, I'm happy with it enough to write it down for the world to see.
4.) If there is an album/band/artist missing from this list that doesn't fit the criteria above (mainly number 2) it is because I either didn't hear it enough, didn't like it as much, it's too new to me to be fair to add to the list, or it just isn't my bag...baby!
5.) My list isn't your list. Your favorite band might not be on here, it might be too low for you, a band you hate might be too high for you. Just remember, it's just my opinion.
6.) The goal of this gigantic list is to show off my roots, what I love in the past, and now, and most importantly, to show YOU something that you may not be familiar with that you may enjoy. If you can't find something to enjoy within these 350 albums, we are just not going to click musically. Different Strokes...
7.) Yes, I enjoy every single album here. Every album I can enjoy front to back, not wanting to skip a track. Not a single album on here is just thrown in to fill out the list, nor is there a single album that I feel is weak. To me, it's all killer and no filler.
So...Let's get it on!
50.) Dillinger Escape Plan- Ire Works (2007)
FFO- Mathcore, Experimental, Pop
While taking on some of it's biggest risks, this is the most commercially accessible DEP album ever and that is such an odd thing to say. Mixing a great deal of pop into the band's already diverse sound was a big risk but it was one that totally paid off for songs such as Black Bubblegum and Milk Lizard, while still maintaining the classic style DEP songs that you know and love. This also mark's Gil Sharone's only drumming appearance on a DEP record and he absolutely shines no matter the style that is thrown at him. Overall, It's so diverse and exactly what a Dillinger album should sound like. It's the perfect gateway album to the band and one that should be appreciated as such. It's sad we had to say farewell (Mona Lisa), but at least we still have their entire discography to go back to and enjoy!
49.) Gruesome- Savage Land (2015)
FFO- Death, Death Metal
Gruesome is 100% a Death tribute band that plays original music. Every release is dedicated to a different period in Death's discography. WHile the band still has several albums to go to fill out the entire discography of original music, it all started with their debut Savage Land; which is of course in the vein of Death's Scream Bloody Gore album. The production is raw, the songs are maniacal, and vibe brings you back to 1987 perfectly. As you'll see later in the list, Deathis a band that truly means a lot to me in my musical endeavors and I absolutely appreciate that this band is dedicating themselves to replicating Death';s sound on every album they make, covering every single era and album. Start here and go forward. There is many more albums to enjoy and I can't wait.
48.) Haken- Affinity (2015)
FFO- Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Haken is slowly but surely becoming the 2010's version of Dream Theater. Every album is a bombastic take on prog that they add their own spin to and they are not afraid to go into any territory, no matter how heavy, light, progressive or poppy it gets. With Affinity, it absolutely feels like an album that was made in 1985 (funny enough, that's also a track on the album, 1985). WHile they keep their Haken core sound, they mix it with enough 80s aesthetics and flair that totally bring up the electronic years of prog 34 years ago. This is also the most commercial sounding...or should I say least complicated Haken album to date. Either way, it's the band at their most simplified and that is still off the wall crazy in technical ability, time signatures, and pure wackiness at times. But if you don't mind the prog noodling (though I am a huge noodling of the prog kinda guy). This is a good starter album for those that want to see what all the hype is about the band. It could very well be your gateway into prog and if it works, I have so many wondrous prog things to show you!
47.) mc chris- mc chris is dead (2008)
FFO- Hip Hop, Pop Punk, Nerd Culture
I'll say it straight up, this is the only non rock/metal album on this list but it still has plenty of great rocking moments in it. I love mc chris, he represents so many facets of what I love about music, nerd culture, comics, life in general. If you are like me and not that big into rap and hip hop, mc could be the guy that brings you into it as it shows off relateable and funny lyrics, amazing music composed and arranged my mc and some of the best skits you'll hear on a music album. Every album is more of a less a concept album or at least a theme album that brings everything together. The skits help the pacing out of the albums and the music is able to take stage as needed. mc chris is dead is the album that helped bring him into the forefront and show that he was more than just a voice that was on Adult Swim, he could really rap, he could really make you laugh and he could really make you think. That is all represented here and then some. Seriously, just give the album a shot, it may break down some self composed barriers you have on music.
46.) Within Temptation- Hydra (2014)
FFO- Symphonic Metal, Modern Metal
It blows my mind that this album is already 5 years old. It feels like I just saw Within Temptation supporting this album last year. Hydra is a bit of a farewell to the WT sound we grew up with and loved, which was represented in it's new form with 2019's Resist with it's focus almost entirely on the modern metal sound. Hydra keeps the symphonic elements still in check, but in hindsight, this change in sound is not a jaw dropping surprise, you can hear it on this album. It's very catchy, poppy and heavy and the keys and symphonics are ever so slightly pushed back. This has some of my favorite WT songs of all time and features such amazing appearances from the likes of Howard Jones, Tarja, and yes...X to the Z Xzibit (hey, that song is arguably the best overall song on the album, shut your mouth!). Just in case you are only familiar with WT from the Papa Roach collaboration on Resist, seriously, go back and discover what brought Within Temptation to this spot. Hydra is one of the most beautifully put together albums of the 2010s and it doesn't take long to understand why. (p.s. I actually dig Resist a lot and it will be in my top of 2019 list).
45.) Borknagar- Winter Thrice (2016)
FFO- Progressive Black Metal, Folk Metal, Viking Metal
I'll be honest here, my view on this album, while still very positive, is a bit different now. ONLY because as I'm writing this up, I just received the new album from Borknagar, True North, TODAY, coming out in September and it is so very...VERY hard not to put that album in this spot and just talk about where the band is at now, but I'll do my best. Winter Thrice is now to be looked at as a watershed album for the band as a mass exodus of the band happened before, during and after this albums release that shifted the band in many ways. A way to look at Winter Thrice is an album of desolation, isolation, and hopelessness. Looking back at what was going on with the band, this completely makes sense. WHile I will say up till today, this was my favorite Borknagar album, it is one that you really should check out as it is a beautiful album amongst it's inner chaos. Just know that the band is even stronger now on the other side and it's glorious.
44.) Rush- 2112 (1976)
FFO- Progressive Rock, Hard Rock
The greatest prog album from the greatest prog band of all time? There is a very strong argument to be made for that! Some may say it's Hemispheres or Moving Pictures instead of 2112. I will for one say that I think both of those albums are actually better than 2112, but 2112 is the prog album that set the standard for what prog rock could be. It was one of the first progressive albums to be heavy, have sci-fi stories and have a song that takes up the entire side of an LP. I guess my love for 2112 went down the more that I think about the Ayn Rand/Libertarian influence the title track had and I totally understand why the band really didn't play the whole song anymore while together and just focused on the first two segments; BUT, that's a different discussion for a different day! Besides the mega epic 2112, the rest of the album has such killer rockin tracks that really makes this release a full album rather than just on epic to be known for. This is Rush entering it's pure prog phase and from there on out, it made some of the best recorded music ever in the process. I'll always go to bat for this album even if I feel differently about it now. The music is just so undeniably amazing.
43.) Ne Obliviscaris- Citadel (2014)
FFO- Extreme Progressive Metal
NeO is a band of tragedy and eventual triumph. Hitting almost every conceivable roadblock along the way, the band eventually released their debut album nearly a decade after formation, Portal Of I, in 2012. 2 years later, we got the sophomore album from the band Citadel and it will go down as one of the absolute strongest progressive metal albums of the 2010s if not the 21st century as a whole. You could feel the band finally being able to focus their attention on the next chapter of the band and show off all their tricks. Progressive, black, death, post rock, classical; the band can pull off any genre, make it just extreme enough and add an element of unparalleled beauty to it all that could make anyone with emotions tear up. There is a reason why I have a Citadel wall hanger hanging up on my wall that I look at every single day in my living room. This band is such an incredible thrill ride of emotions and Citadel is the culmination of years of struggle that lead the band to FINALLY be able to turn the page, explore the world and become they wanted to be all along. Seriously, go check this out immediately!
42.) Shaded Enmity- Forsaken and Forgotten (2013)
FFO- Extreme Melodic Death Metal
One of the saddest things about discovering music on your own comes from finding an incredible band that makes your jaw drop, it makes you stop anything you are doing and just try to comprehend everything you are hearing, being so excited to know that you found the band's latest album and showing it to the world....only to find out that will eventually be the band's last album. Especially in my line of work, when I discover music directly on my own (which I still try to do every single day amongst all the promos sent my way), I discover a band like Shaded Enmity and their musicality is some of the most awe-inspiring music I have ever heard. Their use of genre changes, melodic overtones and sheer brutality that made me so infatuated with the band I tried playing them on the early version of my radio show as much as I possibly could. Then in 2015 the band split up and I was devastated. We all have those bands that wreck us when you hear the band will be no more. It crushes you. But it's moments like Shaded Enmity that remind me that the music will always be there to enjoy and that's what you should do with this band as well. This also sadly marks one of the final guest appearances of Warrel Dane, the song in question is now even harder to listen to now all things considered, but still absolutely breathtaking.
41.) Cynic- Traced In Air (2008)
FFO- Progressive Death Metal
For the longest time, it was believed that Cynic would always be one of those bands that could have been when they released their stand alone album, Focus, before the band split up in the 90s. THANKFULLY the band reemerged and started playing live shows again that lead to new music in the form of Traced In Air. One of the greatest pieces of prog music that we had no idea we would ever get to see. Expanding upon the sounds of Focus but updating it just enough with new influences, new styles and simply killer production; Cynic became a new inspiring band to many of prog nerds like myself. While the beauty did not last and as of just a couple years ago, the band has fallen apart again and is now just in Paul Masvidal's hands. We get to appreciate the work they did in that time because we had no idea we would ever get to see anything new from Cynic and what could of been, eventually came to be. Traced In Air is a full blown masterpiece of an album.
40.) Pallbearer- Heartless (2017)
FFO- Doom Metal, Progressive Rock
THis album tugs at my heartstrings in a way that it simply should not, but every time I listen to it, it pulls me in and does not let go. WHile the band's previous material were master classes in doom metal; Heartless turn everything you thought you knew about the band and changed it for the better. The tempos varied more, the styles switched up, and the core Pallbearer sound became more versatile. With that, when the band does a full blown doom epic like one of my now favorite songs of all time, A Plea For Understanding; it is so much more heartwrenching to listen to because it hits you so much harder on a musical and emotional level. When a band can put out music that can literally toy with your emotions, they are doing things right. That's what Heartless came to be and is easily what I feel will be one of the greatest doom albums of all time.
39.) Omnium Gatherum- The Burning Cold (2018)
FFO- Melodic Death Metal
On the opposite end of the metal spectrum comes the Finnish melodeath Omnium Gatherum, who put out their most positive album ever last year. WHile having a much more poppy, electronic and 80s vibe overall; the lyrics are a great look at looking at yourself, trying to rebuild yourself and be the best you possibly can be in this dark world of ours. Plus when you have the magnificent Dan Swano mixing and mastering your album; you know it will end up sounding the best it possibly can be. This is by far the best OG album to date and it only takes one listen to understand why. Go, be happy, and check this out!
38.) Swallow The Sun- Songs From The North (2015)
FFO- Melodic Doom Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Post Rock
It's almost unfair to put this album on this list as it is 3 albums combined over 3 discs with all 3 having a very different sound. I is the Swallow The Sun sound you know and love. II is the band exploring their post rock/ambient side. III is exploring their funeral doom metal side. Essentially, this is everything you love about the band spread over the course of 3 discs of original music. And as it was all released under one package...it counts as a single entity of one album to me so suck it! But seriously. If you love melodic death/doom, post rock/ambient, or funeral doom metal; you are doing your self a gigantic disservice by ignoring this band for any longer. Go pick up this triple album and let your ears feast on some of the darkest and most depressing music to every come from Finland.
37.) Baroness- Purple (2015)
FFO- Alternative Metal Progressive Sludge Metal, Stoner Metal
It took 5 albums into a 6 album cycle dedicated to the color spectrum, but Baroness finally broke into the mainstream and into our hearts in 2015 with Purple. Easily some of their best material ever. Baroness is a band that will never put out the same album twice and every color album made so far has it's own flavoring. Purple has the most commercial sounding of everything done in the band to this day and it absolutely works for the band throughout every track. Getting to see this album live (though not played all the way straight through) was absolutely amazing to see and made me appreciate it even more. While I may even have to give it up to Gold and Grey as my favorite Baroness album now, it's honestly a little too early to say. For one it just came out and two it's competing against Purple, it's an absolutely tough call for me, so let's just stick with this modern musical masterpiece for the time being. Go pick up Purple and see how varied music really can be with heavy tones.
36.) Zeal & Ardor- Stranger Fruit (2018)
FFO- Avant Garde Black Metal
Starting off as a one man project combining African-American spirituals and Black Metal (sounds completely absurd doesn't it?; Zeal & Ardor has become a fully fleshed out band and has been able to add more influences into the band. Combining more jazz, post rock, blues and electronic movements into it's twisted tales of the concept of "What would happen if the African American slaves sang about Satan instead of God?". Stranger Fruit also ups everything about the band, not just musically, but the production on this album is beyond stellar and what I was hoping the band would be allowed to have at some point. I can't stress this enough, if you love innovative and I truly mean INNOVATIVE takes on music, you simply must check out Zeal & Ardor. Also, somebody get Jordan Peele on the phone and tell him to help write a story about the lyrical concepts of Zeal & Ardor and turn it into a horror movie. make that happen right damn now!!!
35.) Fair To Midland- Tales From A Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times Is True
FFO- Alternative Metal, Progressive Metal
Is this band truly broken up? I...have no idea. I just know they have been inactive for entirely too long and I wish they would come back. It took 3 albums, but FTM finally broke through the mainstream with Dance Of The Manatee which took mainstream radio by storm. To the uninterested listener, this was the only song the band ever had. But not only did they miss out on two LPs and EP beforehand. They missed out on one of the most original pieces of music to come out in the 21st century rock/metal scene. Combining elements of Native American, alternative, progressive and pop music; the band released this masterpiece of an album and every song is just jaw droppingly fantastic. Only reading about this album is an injustice, go listen to it. And check out the equally good Anchors and Arrows album which may end up being the final album from the band. I know they are probably never reforming, but I really, REALLY wish they would.
34.) Ihsahn- After (2010)
FFO- Progressive Black Metal, Avant Garde
Much like discussed a while back about the final Emperor album. Ihsahn grew weary of just making standard black metal music and wanted to make his own visions of music. while having other projects along side, his solo work is some of the most courageous music ever put under the extreme metal moniker. YOu simply will not hear the same Ihsahn album twice, he will not allow it! 3 albums into his solo career came After. A brilliant masterwork of black metal, progressive metal, jazz, post rock and avant garde music. It sounds absolutely strange on paper, but the execution is nothing short of perfection. WHile also may go down as the most subdued Ihsahn album to date (depending on how you look at it) Other albums are far more black metal, or more avant garde or even in recent times nearly mainstream radio friendly. After takes what I mentioned earlier and puts into an album that never goes too fast or too slow, it just goes at the tempos that feel the most natural and it pays off for that reason. This album was also my introduction to Saxophonist and frontman of Shining (NOR) Jorgen Munkeby. As mentioned before there is no two similar Ihsahn albums so it's really hard to say which direction to go in. But if you want Ihsahn at his proggiest (not avant garde, prog) After is the album for you.
33.) The Contortionist- Language (2014)
FFO- Progressive Metal, Post Rock, Ambient
A Watershed moment for fans of the progressive deathcore fans of The Contortionist as the band needed a change to stay a band, but they didn't necessarily know where to go. With Last Chance To Reason Frontman Michael Lessard filling in for the band on a tour, they realized he was the guy they needed to change the band into what they have become. A very fair representation of that is a modern day Cynic. While still having metal elements, the band bands has become much moe focused on ambient, post, progressive and alternative music and that change really came with Language. An album that really says goodbye to The Contortionist you used to know and hello to The Contortionist the band is now. Like Cynic's Traced in Air mentioned earlier, this is a seminal masterclass in songwriting and one of the most standout prog albums ever made in the 21st century. Listen and you will understand that change is good...and needed.
32.) Katatonia- Last Fair Deal Gone Down (2001)
FFO Progressive Metal, Dark Rock, Alternative Rock
Man, oh man, did I contemplate about this choice for such a long time. All year I have been really going through a more dark/gothic era of my life t match all of the horrible things that my life has brought me in 2019. With that made me play the Katatonia discography on repeat many....many times. upon repeated listens I learned there are so many sides to the band, there is the dark progressive metal side that the band became, there is death/doom side that the early day fans know, and there was the alternative era that is the mid point of their career so far. Upon all those listens, the album that hit me harder than anything else was 2001's Last Fair Deal Gone Down. While one of the band's least heavy albums, musically, it is one of the darkest and most emotional albums of the band's career. Songs like Teargas and Sweet Nurse nearly make me choke up every time I listen to them and it's such a great feeling. While this obviously wouldn't be a lot of people's choice for top album and a lot of people will be shocked to see this album as my choice. It truly has become my favorite over time and if you want your Katatonia more on the rock side instead of the metal side, this is the album for you!
31.) Enslaved- RIITIIR (2012)
FFO- Progressive Black Metal, Viking Metal
I've really come to terms with the fact that there is almost little to no fans that love all of Enslaved's albums. You either love their early day raw black metal sound or you love their newer proggy black metal side. WHile I actually do love both sides of the band, without question my favorite era is the current latter era. Every single album gets better and better with every release and yeah, I will say the band's latest album, E, is actually their finest work to date. So why didn't I choose it for this? Because RIITIIR is the album that made a casual Enslaved fan into a diehard Enslaved fan forever. Roots Of The Mountain is my overall favorite Enslaved song and it just warped my mind on what is possible in progressive and black metal music. This juggernaut of an album is actually when a lot of the older fans eventually gave up on the band. Of course I went against the grain and loved them even more for it and for that reason this will always be my favorite Enslaved album. Simply majestic music!
30.) Agalloch- The Mantle (2002)
FFO- Atmospheric Black Metal, Progressive Black Metal, Folk Metal
Despite words and phrases that came from a member of the band in recent times, and the fact the band simply imploded after their last tour (including their only time visiting Minnesota, so glad I went), Agalloch is still a band that matters so much to me and yeah, it's one of those instances where you have to separate the art from the artist. The Mantle is the godfather album of what atmospheric black metal, blackgaze, post black metal, and folk metal would eventually evolve into. Every song is just as superb as the next no matter if it's a post rock instrumental, a heavy black metal song or the somber Desolation Song (which I didn't realize has a chord progression that sounds just like Dream Theater's Disappear, which came out the same year). Simply put, The Mantle is a life changing, genre defining, and masterclass of an album. There is a reason it is so beloved and you should go listen to it and see why for yourself.
29.) Toehider- Good (2017)
FFO- Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock, Pop
Toehider rules. There's no other way to describe it. This band has written a song in almost every single genre of rock and metal music and it sounds completely natural and...do I say it?....GOOD! So good in fact, it was about time that the band actually released an album called Good just a couple years back. It more than lives up to the album name as it showcases some of the most off the wall time changes, style changes, and emotionally driven songs the band has done so far. How Do Ghosts Work? has become one of my favorite songs of recent times for good reason. Seriously if you want some of the best musicianship, songwriting, vocal performances and overall album experiences you can ever have pick up good. You may even say it's good yourself!
28.) Killswitch Engage- The End Of Heartache (2003)
FFO- Metalcore, New Wave Of American Heavy Metal
WHile I will always credit a band that will show up in the top 25 of this list as the band that opened my doors to screaming/growling in music and actually appreciating it; It was Killswitch Engage that made me realize that it could be done in a way that wasn't just reserved for bands that no one knew in my inner circle of a town of 10,51 people of Clear Lake, WI; It could be a band that would be heard by the masses in the mainstream and man, did KSE ever kick off for the big times with The End Oe Heartache. This is just a perfect album from start to finish and the perfect example of what modern metalcore is, could be and should be. WHile I do love both eras of KSE (Howard and Jesse), Howard has my heart and Jesse has my mind (because we both suffer heavily from mental health issues, damn I hope I can interview him some day,). I truly discovered Killswitch with The End Of Heartache, but even more so, on the Freddie Vs Jason soundtrack (amazing soundtrack, terrible movie) which both has the song When Darkness Falls and my enjoyment of knowing that metal could be just as catchy as the radio and commercial music could be just as pummeling as any metal band that you'll never hear on the radio can be. Absolutely no shame. I will love KSE until my dying day, go check out The End Of Heartache, then the rest of their stuff, then pick up the new album in August, it rules!
27.) Mastodon- Emperor Of Sand (2017)
FFO- Progressive Metal
Mastodon is one of the great, most consistently great, and genre mastering bands to come to this civilization we know as human life. It is so rare to see a band last 7 albums so far and not have a single lineup change. You could easily make the argument that any Mastodon album is their best and you would not be wrong, every Mastodon album rules for various reasons. And for the longest time Crack The Skye was my all time favorite for it's pure prog atmosphere. That changed in 2017 when a seemingly new Mastodon album would come out, chloroform Crack The Skye off my favorite Mastodon album ranking and take it's place. This literally has EVERYTHING you love about the band in all new original music. No matter how heavy, catchy, somber or proggy you love the band for; its represented here and it's an album sheer wonder and I couldn't dare to skip a single track ever. This is simply how you write modern progressive metal, making the music YOU want to make. Mastodon will go down as one of the best progressive metal bands of all time, there's just no denying it.
26.) Nevermore- Dead Heart In The Dead World (2000)
FFO- Progressive Metal, Thrash Metal
Little did anyone know 19 years ago that when Jeff Loomis switched from his standard 6 string guitar to a 7 string guitar, he would be not just redefine the band, but redefine metal. WHile he was not the first to use a 7 string drop tuned guitar in metal; he revolutionized it and Nevermore became the underground heroes of metal. Of course everything that came before this album is amazing to listen to an enjoy, you just can't deny that the band became what they were meant to be with Dead Heart In A Dead World. Absolute proves that you don't need to scream and growl your music to make some of the heaviest music on the planet. Plus the musicianship from everyone in the band set the standard for what band's should be able to accomplish going forward. While the band will be forever lost with it's fallen hero Warrel Dane's passing (taking away any chance of a reunion) we are left with some of the greatest albums in prog, thrash and metal history. You may as well start with the cream of the Nevermore crop with Dead Heart In A Dead World.
And That's it folks 13 parts down, 325 albums covered and only 25 more albums left for the final part of this mammoth colossus of an epic album list concluding tomorrow with That Drummer Guy's Top 350 Albums Of All Time Part XIV: The Top 25. See you then!
- Josh Rundquist (That Drummer Guy)