Welcome to the third part of a new series that I am writing this week. which is looking back at my favourite album from every year I have been alive. So far I have traveled from 1993 up to 2000, flirting equally between metal and progressive music. The mix doesn’t become too distorted with the next few years, taking me up to 2004.
2001: Breed 77 – ‘Breed 77’
2001 was a great year for metal music, including Tool’s magnificent ‘Lateralus’, Opeth’s ‘Blackwater Park’ and Rammstein’s ‘Mutter’ to name a few. However despite all the big name releases, a small band from Gibraltar takes the prize after their eponymous debut album. Breed 77 are a flamenco metal band, taking equal influences from both traditional spanish music and nu metal. Although initially they were critically acclaimed, gaining accolades left, right and centre, including Kerrang!’s ‘Best Unsigned Band’ award, these days they have unfortunately gone astray, losing a lot of the unique latin influences that once set them apart.
The album juxtaposes acoustic guitar flourishes, a splash of Spanish lyrics and a variety of percussion against heavy guitars, screamed vocals and a tight rhythm section. Ex-vocalist Paul Isola was very talented, utilising screams, a clean voice style and even the odd rap to good effect, demonstrating them all on the excellent ‘Rise’.
2002: Stone Sour – ‘Stone Sour’
2002 gives its place to the debut album from Stone Sour, the side project of Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Jim Root. ‘Stone Sour’ sees the Slipknot boys take a break from the relentless and hectic barrage of nu metal found on ‘Slipknot’ and ‘Iowa’, for a (slightly) less intense metal outing.
‘Stonesour’ is the first attempt of ditching the ‘nu’ part of their metal sound, producing more vocal variety from Taylor as he adds a substantially greater amount of clean tones to his repertoire. Also breaking away from the nu metal trend helped create the overall more rounded Stone Sour when compared to Slipknot, allowing for Root’s impressive shredding solos to shine.
Whilst songs like ‘Get Inside’ and ‘Blotter’ aren’t too dissimilar to Slipknot, others like ‘Inhale’ and ‘Bother’ show a softer, more emotional side, which would become the main focus of the band on later effort ‘Audio Secrecy’. ‘Stone Sour’ as a whole showcases a wide variety of styles, all pulled off expertly, creating one of the best metal debuts this side of the millennium.
2003: Opeth – ‘Deliverance’ & ‘Damnation’
Opeth initially wanted to release a double album, the first half ‘Deliverance’ featuring the heavy, death metal influences and the second half ‘Damnation’ showcasing their acoustic tendencies. However, after the record label got their hands on the pair, they were split and released five months apart; ‘Deliverance’ falling in 2002, whilst ‘Damnation’ was released in 2003. I have been slightly naughty in allowing both of them the 2003 award, but I make the rules and hence I can break them!
The pair of albums, which feature similar art work, run to a combined length of 105 minutes and was easily Opeth’s most progressive release yet. ‘Deliverance’ follows a very similar theme to previous albums, featuring crashing drums, death metal screams and superb guitar work. However, it’s the softer ‘Damnation’ which really makes the pair great, opting for a completely metal-free sound. The album makes use of mellotrons and acoustic guitars, producing tracks like ‘Windowpane’ which is reminiscent of 70s progressive rock, which Opeth would later revisit on 2010’s ‘Heritage’. This sound, which for most bands would come across as bland and one dimensional, is fully believable, and is as superior as any other of their efforts.
2004: Coheed & Cambria – ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3’
Coheed & Cambria are a band which you either love or hate – there’s not much room for ambivalence here. Putting aside their grand sci-fi story, which provides the backdrop for every song they’ve ever written, the songs on their second full length still stand solidly on their own. ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’ looses the punk influences and instead draws upon an unusual mix of pop and progressive rock, creating what some critics describe as new prog.
No matter how you want to describe their sound, there is no doubt that each of the eleven songs are incredibly well written, with great guitar riffs, catchy vocals and all the pop sensibilities you wouldn’t necessarily expect with the lyrics “pull the trigger and the nightmare stops.” Beneath all the theatre that Claudio Sanchez provides, bassist Michael Todd and drummer Josh Eppard do an equally good job, producing interesting dynamics and a groove most modern bands fail to achieve.
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