Five Polarizing Metal Albums I Love (And Many Of You Dislike)
There are those albums that many bands will release in their catalog that are a marked change in direction, and will put off many people in their fanbase. Transitional albums that mark the changing of one era to the dawn of a new sound. Many bands flow through the change, and some struggle. Some bands like Amorphis, Sentenced and Ulver have had drastic changes from their beginnings to their later works, yet still maintained a sense of creativity through it all. Some bands like Metallica have gone from crafting really solid metal to something watered-down and bland for the sake of seeking mass appeal. A few bands, such as Motorhead, AC/DC, and Impaled Nazarene have released many albums over a long career, but all with a common sonic trajectory. I am going to list five albums by bands that many underground metalheads dislike, yet I still love them. They are polarizing certainly, but I have always defended their existence, and probably always will.
1.Cynic – “Focus” (released: June 13, 1993)
This to me is one of the most beautiful sounding albums ever created. I’ve often felt a strong spiritual connection to the sound of this record. Many complain about the robotic vocals and how weak it sounds compared to the demo that preceded that, but I think all of the elements herein serve to make this album stand out among it’s contemporaries. Nothing sounded like this in 1993. Hell, almost 20 years later, it may still be ahead of it’s time. Unfortunately, they disbanded after this, so we didn’t get to hear anymore Cynic for 15 years, but this album is greater than the entire catalog’s greatest songs of most bands. Many levels of musical genius came to play here and the result was perfection.
2.Pestilence – “Spheres” (released May 3, 1993)
Yet another act of weirdness from the year 1993. This has always been my second favorite Pestilence album (behind “Testimony Of The Ancients”, which I consider the greatest death metal album of all-time). This album pissed a LOT of people off, and when weighed against the expectations of what people thought that Pestilence SHOULD sound like, it makes perfect sense. However, when you seperate expectations and you listen to this on it’s own merit, it is an adventure. You can’t listen to this as a death metal album. I’ve always dubbed it ‘transcendental space jazz with metal instrumentation.’ “Personal Energy” is one of my favorite songs of all-time. Much like the aforementioned “Focus”, I’ve always felt something spiritual about this album.
3.Carcass – “Swansong” (June 30,1996)
I will concede that this is not the album we were expecting from Carcass, after waiting so long after the majesty of “Heartwork”. However, this death rock and roll extravaganza is loaded with tremendous riffage. Many solid moments (and some very dull ones) live on this album. It doesn’t stand up with Carcass’ 3 best albums, but for what it is, it is very good. Also, yes, I am one of 3 or 4 people on Earth who will admit to even liking the Blackstar Rising album that came out a couple years after this.
4.Atheist – “Elements” (May 1993)
As this list has shown, 1993 gave us some weird experimentation from death metal bands. This one is no different. Atheist were always doing things different than other death and thrash bands. Their fusion of progressive styles came through even on their debut, which sounds very straight-forward compared to the rest of their catalog. Their third album, “Elements”, had some really strange sounds, styles, etc. but in my opinion, it completely delivered. Was it as good as “Piece Of Time” or “Unquestionable Presence”? Well, it’s hard to compare to either, because it was different. The jazzy “Samba Briza” was way out of left field, but still awesome.
5.Nocturnus – “Ethereal Tomb” (released February 22, 2000)
There was very little room to compare this to Nocturnus’ first two albums. The style was more one-dimensional and nowhere near as chaotic. Also, very ‘key’ elements of the band’s early lineup were not a part of this record. Still, had this album been released by a new band, or if they hadn’t called themselves Nocturnus here, this album would’ve been better received by the metal fans. It is slower over all, but still maintained a dark atmosphere and a sci-fi vibe that ended perfectly with the closing track, a great instrumental piece called “Outland.” Letting the album breathe on it’s own without the expectations based on the band’s name would’ve been a great service to this album.
There ya have it. Five albums that I love and many of you hate. I bet this will make for a great debate. Cheers \m/!
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