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Metal Crypt Staff Top Picks of 2004

by Michel Renaud


The last time I published a "top" list was in 2002 (for the year 2001.) Back then I asked people visiting the site to submit their top 10 as well, insisting on the fact that nu-puke isn't metal, so don't submit it. Well, many did anyway. Retards. This year Tony convinced me to at least put up a "Staff top picks", so here they are. Maybe next year we'll attempt the readers' top picks again, but publicly humiliate those who submit junk. Hey, that would be fun.

Note that the reason why there is no "site-wide" compilation of the results due to the low number of staff and also due to the fact that the content of the lists vary so much - the compiled results would make no sense whatsoever. Oh and, in case you're wondering, this is presented as an editorial because I didn't feel like starting a whole new section just for this stuff. ;)

Michel Renaud

Top 10


1. Overlorde - Return of the Snow Giant
At long last, the first full-length by this 80s cult band. Excellent classic heavy metal from beginning to end with awesome guitar and vocal work.


2. Hanker - Web of Faith
A slight change of sound, but they still bank on the signature sound and intelligent lyrics that have earned them worldwide praises ever since the first album. Naysayers and idiots bitching about the name should just leave the hall.


3. Sauron - Thrash Assault
Unruly, raw and aggressive underground thrash, just the way it should be.


4. Tankard - Beast of Bourbon
You said Exodus? Give me a break. In the "clean thrash" releases of 2004, this one beat the crap out of the others, period.


5. The Chasm - The Spell of Retribution
This is pretty much a default entry. These expatriated Mexicans Death Metallers are simply the masters when it comes to successfully marrying aggression, melody and dark atmosphere. Excellent from beginning to end.


6. Motörhead - Inferno
This requires no explanation, bitch.


7. KOB - Strafe the Underdogs
Excellent second album from these French heavy metallers. Powerful vocals and crunching guitars aplenty, kick ass songs. Traditional heavy metal with a twist from these old timers.


8. Drudkh - Autumn Aurora
Ukrainian Nature Black Metal. Great atmospheric Black Metal - aggressive and depressing that borrows from some of Burzum's best work.


9. Iron Savior - Battering Ram
Looks like this band can't do anything wrong. So far, so good. Catchy power metal for the riff-a-holic, and Piet's vocals are simply addictive.


10. Saxon - Lionheart
This one took a while to grow on me, but I eventually came to realise its greatness. A great combination of early and later Saxon sound makes this album another CD player hijacker.

Honourable Mentions (in no particular order)


Ironsword - Return of the Warrior
Heavy. Fucking. Metal. Pure to the bone.


Gods of Fire - Wrath of the Gods
It took me a while to even listen to this just because of the band's picture. Dumbass. One of the great surprises of 2004, great heavy metal with some interesting lyrical work.


Phenix - Wings of Fire
Another French band holding the traditional heavy metal flame high. Great improvement over their first album, 75 minutes that feel too short!


Jag Panzer - Casting the Stones
For some unexplainable reason, I've always had a bit of trouble getting into Jag Panzer's material. Somehow this one really did it for me - a great listen from beginning to end.


Brocas Helm - Defender of the Crown
Hehehe… This is so messy and barbaric, it rules.


Valkija - Avengers of Steel
Finally a new band with gutsy, aggressive female vocals rather than the operatic stuff. Some great classic heavy metal.


Kataklysm - Serenity in Fire
I've never been too keen on this band, but this album is a must have, period. Check 4th Horseman's review for details. ;)


Nasty Savage - Psycho Psycho
A damn fine comeback album. Heavy/thrash at its best. It's as if these guys had never gone away.


Tsjuder - Desert Northern Hell
I got this one a little too late to fit it in the top 10 (I should really have gone for a top 15). Probably the best album from this Norwegian brutal Black Metal powerhouse.

Disappointments (in no particular order)

Forgotten Tales - All The Sinners
OK, after the disappointment with the first album, I had no expectations whatsoever. But they managed to disappoint nonetheless. The first time I ever felt the urge to throw a CD out the car window and sue the band for wasting my time. $20 down the drain. Great live band though.

Exodus - Tempo of the Damned
This is not bad, but not nearly as good as some would suggest and I was definitely hoping for more. A few good songs, many average ones. You know it's true. Want some good 2004 thrash? Get Sauron or Tankard.

Dragonland - Starfall
I had read some good comments about the second and this third album, so I was hoping for some kickass power metal. I almost turned gay listening to this. The Stop button saved me. I've printed a bunch of pictures of nude babes to cleanse myself.

Angra - Temple of Shadows
See above. Hey here's an idea: Team up with Dragonland and re-release a double CD named "The Number Of The Gay".

Anvil - Back to Basics
This is just bad. Their recent albums were all great but this… Not even passable. Hopefully just an anomaly.




Sargon The Terrible

Top 10… er.. 13


1. Nehemah - Requiem Tenebrae
Much as I tried to get away from it, no other album released in 2004 affected me as strongly, or stayed with me as long as this one. Every time I spin this album it gets better, and so this gets not only the Black Metal album of the year, but album period.


2. Nightwish - Once
I've been a Nightwish fan since I first heard them, and this album does nothing to change that. One of my favorite bands is still in top form, and it's only by a hair this one misses my top spot. Complain all you want, I love this band.


3. Ironsword - Return Of The Warrior
While a lot of people were debating the meaning of True Metal, these guys were busy defining it. If you missed this one, you missed out, that's all there is to it. There's no commercial-metal gloss or prog wanking here. This is just pure metal.


4. Brave - Passages
Brave pull in so many influences it's hard to pin them in any genre. Some people say they are not metal at all, to which I say: what are they then? Names like 'Prog Folk Metal' and suchlike get made up, but they don't mean anything really. What Brave are is just one of the best bands anywhere, and they keep getting better.


5. Morgion - Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth
An album that's been with me since I got it, and I can't stop playing it. Some albums you like, some set up in your head as part of your mental landscape and you know they will never be gone. This is one of those. The finest Doom album of the year, and one of the best ever.


6. Sauron - Thrash Assault
I would call this the Underground Album of the Year if we had such an award. But that's too small for this CD. In a year of overhyped Thrash dreck like "Tempo Of The Damned" Sauron proved once and for all how you do it with a disc of Blackened Thrash mayhem that will snap your neck like a twig.



7. Therion - Lemuria/Sirius B
This is really two albums, but they were released together, so I feel justified rating them as one. "Sirius" is the better of the two, but as a whole they stand as a monument of epic, symphonic music that doesn't forget the Metal. Therion have been doing their own thing for over a decade now, and this double release proves you can be a Symphonic band and not suck.


8. Domine - Emperor Of The Black Runes
Domine may not be a first-rate band, but they finally put out a first-rate album. Faster than Cryonic Temple, more epic than than Bal-Sagoth, "Emperor" was just too much fun for me to argue with.


9. Iron Savior - Battering Ram
If you don't bow down before Iron Savior, you don't love metal. That's about it. Even when they aren't on full power, this band smokes 95% of the bands out there.


10. Withering - Gospel Of Madness
You're saying 'who?' Withering are a great unknown band who put out one of the years best, a Melodic Death album very heavy on the 'melodic'. A beautiful, haunting album that brings to my mind the best of the late Eternal Tears Of Sorrow.


11. Behemoth - Demigod
Magnificent return from one of the greatest Death/Black bands anywhere. Nile had better get to work if they want to keep up with Nergal and Co.


12. Blodsrit - Helveteshymner
A band that started out with nothing at all, worked their way through MP3.com, and now they make the best Black/Viking album of 2004. People said before that Blodsrit were a band to watch. Well, now they're really a band to watch.


13. Necare - Ruin
The other great Doom album released last year. We may never get another album from them, but they bring back the glory days of Paradise Lost with this excellent album.

Honorable Mentions Almost on the list, but not quite enough room.


Primal Fear - Devil's Ground
Another great one from Matt Sinner.


Cans - Beyond The Gates
Better than Hammefall. By a lot.


Flowing Tears - Razorbliss
The Goth Metal album of 2004.


Edenbridge - Shine
Lanvall keeps raising the bar.


Dark Fortress - Stab Wounds
Startlingly good Black Metal.


Kataklysm - Serenity In Fire
Hyperblast was never this good.


Forgotten Tomb - Love's Burial Ground
The bleakest album of the year.


Wotan - Carmina Barbarica
Besides Ironsword, the best True Metal album of 2004.


Dragonforce - Sonic Firestorm
Fast, fun, and ridiculous.

Disappointments - What the Hell were these bands thinking?

Angra - Temple Of Shadows
A plastic fruit basket of an album.

Turisas - Battle Metal
This sounded so cool on paper, but noooooo.

Graveland - Dawn Of Iron Blades
What was Darken smoking?

Runemagick - On Funeral Wings
I suppose there was only one way to go after "Darkness Death Doom", and it wasn't up.

Wuthering Heights - Far From The Madding Crowd
I'm inventing a new genre for this: Wankcore.

Wolf's Moon - Keep Metal Alive
I had heard such good things, apparently from insane people.

Dream Evil - The Book Of Heavy Metal
I generally enjoyed this bands last 2 albums, but this one was so cheesy it violates the Geneva convention. An album that embarrasses the entire genre.




4th Horseman

Top 10


1. Kataklysm – Serenity In Fire
An album that will surely beat the living snot out of any unsuspecting soul that dares to give this a spin! Although "Serenity In Fire" is neither as technical, nor as brutal as the old Kataklysm, it still choked every other album to death that was released in 2004. Truly – album of the year!


2. Into Eternity – Buried In Oblivion
Came in by surprise and shook everything around it. This album is for those who want something more aggressive out of their prog-wanking sessions. This is an album that will definitely leave a mark in history as a pioneer of a new fusion of death metal with that of the cleaner sounds. Definite classic!


3. Dark Tranquillity – Exposures: In Retrospect & Denial
Consisting of unreleased songs throughout the band's career, "Exposures" showed that even the "unworthy" songs that this band records are still head and shoulders above much of what is out there. As N'FLAMEZ totally abandoned us, everyone looked in Dark Tranquillity's direction as they came out with this offering almost to taunt the mallcore audience and release the most livid and vicious Dark Tranquillity songs ever recorded! A must for any who claim the Gothenburg flame has died off.


4. Stygma IV – Hell Within
Somewhat of a no name band from Austria with a masterpiece at their hands. Stygma IV demonstrate here what the true essence of raging power metal is. Steering clear of any imitations of the 'flowercore' kind of power metal, Stygma IV show us what dark and aggressive melody is all about!


5. Persuader – Evolution Purgatory
Winners of the Young Metal Gods contest, Persuader finally got the attention that they rightfully deserve. Another crunchy power metal band that threw fatal blows at the happy and sappy peers of their genre and told the world that power metal is here to stay! All must take a knee in front of Persuader!


6. Ironsword – Return of The Warrior
What more could one desire from this album? A vocalist that sounds like he will eat you for brunch and not even burp after, and music that pounds the listener into the floor without giving any chance to get back up. This is straight up heavy metal that will make you shiver anytime you play it!


7. Megadeth – The System Has Failed
Mustaine's big return that has got Megadeth fans screaming with joy. Although, not nearly as good as their classics, this album is still the best thing to come from this band since "Rust In Peace". "The World Needs A Hero" was not a return to form. This is!


8. Hypocrisy – The Arrival
Another return to form type of album. Hypocrisy did not re-invent the wheel with this one, but just reiterated what they do best. "The Arrival" definitely brought Hypocrisy back where they belong – the elites of Melodeath!


9. Deathchain – Deadmeat Disciples
The best thrash album to come out of 2004. This one is so unfriendly, it was a little overwhelming at first. Not a moments rest, and beginning to end, "Deadmeat Disciples" is all about unrelenting speed, thrashy guitars and furious death vocals. Thrashers are in for some throbbing neck pain by the time this thing is done with you!


10. Jag Panzer – Casting The Stones
These Americans came out in 2004 once again with their brand of killer heavy metal. "Casting The Stones" gives us a touch of aggression, with tons of melody and hooks that are simply too sweet to pass up. Add one of the best vocalists out there and a mammoth guitar presence throughout the album, and we have got another towering release from 2004.

Honourable Mentions of 2004


1. Blaze – Blood & Belief


2. Saxon – Lionheart


3. Enforsaken – The Forever Endeavor


4. Lake of Tears – Black Brick Road


5. Lordi – The Monsterican Dream


6. Slumber – Fallout


7. Dyecrest – The Way Of Pain

Biggest Disappointments of 2004

1. Annihilator – All For You
"All for mallcore" would be more like it. God only knows where this album came from as Annihilator fans are still in disbelief if Jeff Waters is really the man behind this album. Sucking so horribly, this album got Limp Bizkit fans knocking on my door with joy!

2. Death Angel – The Art of Dying
Although not as horrid as the Annihilator, this album was a major, major disappointment from these old school thrash kings. "The Art Of Dying" abandoned what Death Angel did in the 80's and took a more traditional and simplistic heavy metal style that just couldn't cut it!

3. Anathema – A Natural Disaster
A disaster indeed. A pedestrian album consisting of sound effects and other soothing sounds that will put an insomniac to sleep. Not even worthy of elevator music, this album is sure to please only the 'weird for the sake of weird' kind.




ShadowsFall

Top 10


1. Wintersun – S/T
Very enjoyable and full of fast ass kicking folk metal


2. Ensiferum – Iron
Not as fast as the Wintersun album but VERY enjoyable


3. Wuthering Heights - Far From The Madding Crowd
Their best work yet


4. Arsis – A Celebration Of Guilt
A new band with an extreme amount of talent


5. Pagan's Mind – Infinity Divine (Re-release)
Way better than the original, almost better than Celestial Entrance


6. Iron Savior – Battering Ram
Not their best, but pounds your ass full of METAL


7. Saxon – Lionheart
Very cool catchy and sing-a-long songs


8. Elvenking – Wyrd
These guys kick ass no matter what


9. Ironsword – Return Of The Warrior
IRONSWORD! Hell Yeah


10. Jorn – Out To Every Nation
I really enjoy Jorn's voice

Honorably Mentionable


Turisas – Battle Metal
These guys throw everything at you but the kitchen sink


Norther – Death Unlimited


Dream Evil – The Book Of Heavy Metal
Extremely fun and catchy


Stormwarrior – Northern Rage


Messiah's Kiss – Metal

Disappointments

Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden
This is not a bad album, I just expected more, the absence of Matt Barlow it really hurts them

Magica – Lightseeker
I really like their debut album, but this one sucks

Evergrey – The Inner Circle

Symphorce – Twice Second

Anticipating in 2005

Communic – Conspiracy In Mind
Already have it, predicting best of 2005!

Scar Symmetry – Symmetric In Design
Very talented melodic death metal band

Judas Priest – Angel Of Retribution
The Priest is back!

Pagan's Mind
They are supposed to release their new album, fingers are crossed

Lost Horizon
If they find a singer I think they will release an album

Crystal Eyes
First album with Daniel Heiman on vocals












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