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Sargon's Best of 2008

by Sargon the Terrible

It was a good year for metal overall this year, though some albums I anticipated were not as good as I hoped, still there was a whole lot of good stuff to get my head flailing. So here I have pared my list down to the very best albums in metal for the year.

Album of The Year

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Forefather - Steadfast

This was a damned hard one, as there were several albums that were so good I wanted to make them all my best pick for 2008, but after almost a whole year of spinning it, I can't get away from Steadfast. It's heavy and inventive, catchy and crackling with furious energy. I call this album the best one of 2008, but it was close.


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Battleroar - To Death And Beyond

The follow-up to the stellar Age Of Chaos is a pounding, epic workout of Heavy Metal mastery. It's not as consistent as their last one, but songs like "The Wrathforge" and "Death Before Disgrace" reach heights few bands even dream of.

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Grand Magus - Iron Will

We all asked "Can they possibly beat Wolf's Return?" And this album answers "Fuck Yes!" Grand Magus cooked up some of the heaviest, hookiest, most neck-damaging metal of the year with this one. If the title track can't get your head flailing, then you are dead.

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Ironsword - Overlords Of Chaos

After a long wait, Ironsword struck back with the long-awaited sequel to 2004's Return Of The Warrior, and it kills everything in sight and makes piles of the severed heads. Blistering riffs, unlimited barbaric wrath. Ironsword are what Heavy Fucking Metal is all about.

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Pharaoh - Be Gone

Probably the most iconoclastic and defiantly artistic album on this list, Pharaoh have fulfilled all their promise with this work, which will likely not be remembered as a classic by the legions of people who are too dense to understand it. Richly textured, lyrically obtuse, instrumentally superlative, Be Gone claims new ground for this limitlessly talented band.

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Isole - Bliss Of Solitude

For their third CD the masters of Doom have created their greatest work yet. Building upon their past albums, which were in turn built upon classic doom like Candlemass, Isole broke new ground with the subtle, powerful atmosphere of this amazing album.

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Crom - Vengeance

From out of nowhere comes this one-man German band with some of the finest epic metal ever heard. Successfully mixing the powerful riff-attack of Bathory with beautiful melodic stylings, Crom created his own spellbinding sound.

The Top 13

The rest of the list didn't quite have the scope for Album of the Year material, but they were no less awesome in their own arenas, and stood well above the rest of the crowd in 2008. Alphabetically, they are:

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Battlelore - The Last Alliance

After several disappointing albums, this Finnish band of elves finally gets it right again. Their best since Sword's Song, and maybe their best overall.

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Dagorlad - Herald Of Doom

I will always have a warm spot for this band. I have been waiting and waiting since 2003 for them to get this full album released, and at last it arrived, with so little fanfare I'm sure plenty of people never noticed. If you missed this, try and fix that.

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Darkestrah - The Great Silk Road

This mysterious band from the east lands with their fourth album, and it will carry you away to forgotten corners of the earth. Marvelous.

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Ereb Altor - By Honour

Epic Doom Metal filled with Viking/Pagan imagery. Tremendous and affecting.

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Holy Martyr - Hellenic Warrior Spirit

A big, booming feast of Hellenic True Metal, bursting with big riffs and melodic power. This one will make you want to march off to Thermopylae yourself.

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Lair Of The Minotaur - War Metal Battle Master

The flipside of Holy Martyr, this is Greek myth reimagined as a horror show with spurting blood, venomous monsters, and heroes as remorseless as war machines. All of it cranked up to the max by a vicious assault of unholy thrashing. Killer.

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Manilla Road - Voyager

The most enigmatic band on Earth emerged from the wilds of Kansas with another thundering epic of doomy, heavy, epic metal. I shouldn't have to explain why this band is awesome; I'll just say they are.

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Martriden - The Unsettling Dark

A blistering attack of Death/Black fury from a band in the middle of freaking nowhere. This is a band to watch.

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Origin - Antithesis

The most technical and precise Death Metal of the year is also some of the best. Origin make technicality irresistible with fury and heaviness to spare.

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Pyramaze - Immortal

A band that gets no respect and really should, as they consistently put out smart, hooky Power Metal with heaviness to spare. With the now sadly departed Matt Barlow, this band put out their best album yet, brimming with heaviness, power, and style.

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Stormwarrior - Heading Northe

The speed demons bust through the one-dimensional songwriting of Northern Rage with a monument to True Metal devotion. Killer riffs and unforgettable choruses make this one a no-brainer. Love this or you aren't even remotely metal.

Warbringer - War Without End

Thrash that puts all the rehashed bands of old men chasing old glory to utter shame. Warbringer will show you what it is all about.

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Yogth Sothoth - Abominations Of The Nebulah Mortiis

The weirdest, most underground Death Metal album I heard this year, and it slays. Lovecraftian Death that will destroy your sanity with how cool it is.

The Disappointments

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Paragon - Screenslaves

One of my long-loved bands screws the pooch. Sad.

Cryonic Temple - Immortal

What the hell happened? Sweden's True Metal stalwarts decide to crap on their fans by releasing an album that not only sounds nothing like their old stuff, but sucks to boot.

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Human Fortress - Eternal Empire

The band that made their name as a catchy, folk-tinged Power Metal band decide their fans would like them better if they dropped the melodic songwriting and made an album of simplistic grooves and metalcore yapping. This is probably the biggest let-down in recent memory.

Enslaved - Vertebrae

It is astonishing how bad this is. After the very cool Ruun I had high hopes for this one. Instead we got a steaming pile of post-rock masturbation.

Dragonforce - Ultra Beatdown

I cannot even mentally grasp how gay this is.

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Iced Earth - The Crucible Of Man

I wasn't expecting this to be that great, but it was much worse than I anticipated.

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Judas Priest Nostradamus

Not technically a disappointment, as it is no more lame than I expected. Still pretty lame though.

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Metal Church This Present Wasteland

I was hoping for so much better. I don't know why, but I was.

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Steel Attack - Carpe Diend

I didn't really think this would be any good, and it isn't.

That's it for another year. As usual, there were some anticipated albums that I hated, and some lovely new surprises. I hope the next year will be as good. I'm sure there are umpteen killer albums I didn't hear despite my relentless searching, but even I can't hear everything. Here's to a metal 2009.

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