At the end of every year I usually write a list of my favorite albums of the year, but what I haven’t yet done is write a list of my favorite albums of all time. That list is one that is ever evolving, but here’s a look at what my favorite albums are at this very moment in time. Some are old favorites, and some are relatively new releases. Let’s take a look.
10. Colony by In Flames (1999)
In my opinion, the fourth album from the Swedish metal band In Flames is the pinnacle of melodic death metal. I first discovered In Flames through their later material, but Colony is the album that made me fall in love with their music. I liked some melodic death metal bands such as Children of Bodom before hearing this album, but this is what caused it to become one of my favorite metal genres. From the opening melodies of track 1, “Embody the Invisible,” to the closing number “The New Word,” which boasts what I think is one of the band’s finest guitar solos, Colony never lets up. It’s just packed full of the fast, aggressive rhythm riffs, beautiful dual lead guitar harmonies, and intense growled vocals that are the staples of the genre. It also has one of my all time favorite In Flames songs, the title track, “Colony.” I think Colony is without a doubt the best In Flames album to date. While the band’s sound has changed drastically over the years, and they have all but left behind their melodeath days behind them, this album stands the test of time as one of the best in the genre.
9. The Sin and the Sentence by Trivium (2017)
Released only last year, Florida metal quartet Trivium’s eight album The Sin and the Sentence quickly became one of my favorites, topping my list of the best albums of 2017. Trivium has been one of my favorite bands for years now, and this is my favorite album they’ve done since 2008's Shogun, which we’ll be discussing later in this list. The thing I love about Trivium is that they always try out new sounds with each release, giving each album a unique vibe, but with The Sin and the Sentence, they seem to have taken all of those vibes and crammed them into one album, making one of their most diverse and definitive albums to date. From straightforward metal headbangers like “Beyond Oblivion” and “Betrayer,” to soaring melodic songs such as “Other Worlds,” to ballads like “Endless Night,” to the insane technicality of “Sever the Hand,” to the brutally heavy “The Wretchedness Inside,” this album incorporates all of the various styles of Trivium’s music and shows everything they are capable of. Additionally, the talents of new drummer Alex Bent do not go unnoticed. He is without a doubt the best stickman Trivium has ever had, and his contributions take The Sin and the Sentence to the next level.
8. Rareform [Reissue] by After the Burial (2009)
In my opinion, Rareform, the second album from the Minnesota progressive metal band After the Burial, is one of the finest examples of the djent style, specifically the 2009 reissue. The original version, released in 2008, is good, but the reissue is vastly superior in my opinion. Not only is it remixed and remastered, but the drums are performed by new drummer Dan Carle instead of being programmed and the vocals have been rerecorded by new vocalist Anthony Notarmaso, replacing those performed by previous vocalist Grant Luoma. Anthony’s voice sounds a lot better in my opinion and adds so much to the album. Rareform is packed full of heavy, technical, groovy metal, with a few melodic moments thrown if for good measure. Some of After the Burial’s best songs can be heard on this album such as the fast and brutal “Bezerker,” which was featured on the soundtrack for Saints Row the Third, the uplifting “Aspiration,” the infectiously groovy “The Fractal Effect,” and the somber “Ometh,” which features an amazing closing guitar solo that sends shivers down my spine. The band has released several awesome albums since, some of which are amongst my all time favorites, but I think Rareform remains their best.
7. Waking the Fallen by Avenged Sevenfold (2003)
The second album from Avenged Sevenfold has consistently been one of my favorite albums since I got into metal in middle school. The last of their metalcore releases before switching to a more traditional heavy metal sound, Waking the Fallen saw the band moving in a more melodic direction from their debut album, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. There are a lot of things I really love about this album, all of them reasons why it’s one of my all time favorites. Unlike most of the metalcore being released in the early 2000s, Avenged Sevenfold really didn’t stick to the simple song structures of the genre and a lot of the songs on Waking the Fallen reflect that. Tracks like “Remenissions” and “Second Heartbeat” have almost no structure at all, instead focusing on complex, borderline progressive metal compositions that really made them stand out from the pack. Waking the Fallen is also full of infectious melodic vocal hooks such as on tracks like “Unholy Confessions” and “Chapter Four,” both of which are beloved by fans and considered live staples at their shows to this day. Frontman M. Shadows really shines on this album, showing off his melodic singing talents as well as his intense guttural vocals. Then there’s the delicious melodic guitar work of Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance. In fact, all the members of the band show off some impressive musicianship on this disc. Another thing I really love about Waking the Fallen is the narrative nature of the songs. Songs like “Second Heartbeat,” “Radiant Eclipse,” and the epic two-part “I Won’t See You Tonight” are, in my opinion, shining examples of storytelling through music.
6. Juggernaut: Alpha & Juggernaut: Omega by Periphery (2015)
Progressive metal sextet Periphery’s 2015 Juggernaut double album is one of the reasons I really got into progressive metal. I’d liked a few of the djent pioneers’ contemporaries such as After the Burial and Threat Signal before this, but this pair of albums is what cemented my love for this technical style of metal and really expanded my burgeoning interest in progressive metal. I hadn’t really listened to Periphery before this, but I gave this double album a blind listen after hearing the hype and they soon became one of my favorite bands, and the albums themselves claimed the top spot on my list of best albums of 2015. Juggernaut saw the band moving in new directions for their previous two releases, incorporating tons of new elements into their music alongside their usual djenty sound. There’s heavy djenty tracks such as “MK Ultra” and “Raibow Gravity” on Alpha and “The Bad Thing” and “Graveless” on Omega, but that’s just scratching the surface. There are upbeat melodic tracks like “Alpha,” some poppier ones like “Heavy Heart” and “Priestess,” and amazing sprawling progressive masterpieces like the nearly 12-minute “Omega” and the 7 1/2 minute “Stranger Things.” The thing I love most about Juggernaut is its concept. This double album is a concept album telling a fascinating story of the titular Juggernaut character, a narrative conceived by guitarist and band founder Misha Mansoor. I am an absolute sucker for narrative-based concept albums like this that tell a story, and Periphery did an amazing job of it, with certain leitmotifs, vocal melodies, and lyrics recurring throughout the albums, truly tying the songs and the entire narrative together.
5. Under Reprisal by Threat Signal (2006)
The debut album from Canadian progressive metal outfit Threat signal was one of my first forays into djent music and reamins one of my favorites in the genre. These guys really came out swinging with their first release, pulling influence from djent godfathers Meshuggah as well as melodic death metal and metalcore to create one hell of a prog metal album. These songs are fast, heavy, melodic, catchy, and technical all at the same time. From the pummeling opening number “Rational Eyes,” to the soaring “As I Destruct,” to the winding “Counterbalance,” there’s a lot of tracks to love. The combination of technical rhythm riffs and amazing melodic lead guitar playing is phenomenal. And Frontman Jon Howard shows a mastering of low, high, and mid range screams and growls, and has a fantastic singing voice capable of both gritty vocals that sound like Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington on steroids, and melodic cleans. On this album, Threat Signal strikes a great balance between heavy and aggressive moments and beautiful melodic moments. They’ve released some great albums since, but there’s just something about the melodic hooks of Under Reprisal that keeps me coming back again and again.
4. Handmade Cities by Plini (2016)
After a slew of fantastic singles and EPs, Australian progressive rock/metal guitarist Plini finally sat down in 2016 to record his first full-length album. Alongside Periphery, Plini was one of the artists that got me into progressive music. I loved his beautiful instrumental guitar-driven music from the moment I heard it a few years before he dropped Handmade Cities, but with his debut LP, he absolutely blew me away. Every song on this album is absolutely amazing. Opener “Electric Sunrise,” is easily one of my favorite songs of all time, and the melodic and upbeat vibes of the title track and “Cascade” bring a smile to my face, and the long, melancholy “Pastures” gives me chills. Handmade Cities topped my list of best albums of 2016 and now, almost two years after its release, it remains one of my favorite albums ever. The one complaint I have is that it’s too short. At 35 minutes, it left me wanting more. I cannot wait to hear another full length release from Plini.
3. A Voice Within by Intervals (2014)
The debut album from Canadian prog metal project Intervals, A Voice Within, is the black sheep of their discography, standing as the only release to feature vocals. After a couple of instrumental EPs of some fantastic melodic, djenty progressive metal, Intervals emerged with a full lineup to release their debut in 2014. After some touring, disagreement about the direction of the band led to all the members except for founding guitarist Aaron Marshall leaving and the project shifting focus back to instrumental music and moving away from the djent sound in favor of a new musical direction. I love the music Intervals has made since, but there’s just something about A Voice Within that wowed me. The combination of Aaron Marshall’s amazing melodic lead playing and djenty and groovy as hell rhythm riffs with the awesome vocals of Mike Semesky is just something else. While he’s also capable of great harsh vocals, Mike only did cleans on A Voice Within, which gives it a totally different vibe from a lot of the djent bands out there. From opener “Ephemeral” to closing title track “A Voice Within,” and all the great tracks in between them such as “Automaton,” “The Escape,” and “Siren Sound,” I love everything about this album.
2. Alive or Just Breathing by Killswitch Engage (2002)
Massachusetts metalcore titans Killswitch Engage’s second album Alive or Just Breathing is one of the defining albums of the genre, considered by many, including myself, to be their best release. I love almost all of their albums, but there’s just something about Alive or Just Breathing that sets it apart. There’s a reason why many consider it to be what popularized metalcore and brought it out of the underground. Combining the raw aggression of the genre’s hardcore punk roots with the influences of thrash metal and Swedish melodic death metal and then injecting in a ton of amazing melodic hooks, Killswitch Engage changed the game with this album. Between live staples like “Fixation on the Darkness,” “Life to Lifeless,” and their breakout track “My Last Serenade,” as well as deep cuts like “Numbered Days,” “Self Revolution,” and “The Element of One,” and rerecorded versions of “Temple from the Within” and “Vide Infra” from their self-titled debut album, Alive or Just Breathing contains so many of my favorite Killswitch tracks. Even over fiteen years after its release, it’s an album that I keep coming back to.
1. Shogun by Trivium (2008)
As mentioned earlier in this list, it’s time to talk about Trivium’s fourth album, Shogun. Nearly ten years after being released it remains my favorite album of all time and, in my opinion, the band’s best album. After 2006's The Crusade, which all but abandoned harsh vocals in favor of a new thrash metal sound more akin to Metallica, Trivium continued to evolve on with 2008's Shogun. Frontman Matt Heafy kept his new thrashy vocals, but also brought back the screams and growls, which sounded better than ever before, as did his amazing clean singing voice. On top of that, the members of Trivium brought their best songwriting to date to the table, writing some of the band’s most complex and technical arrangements. There’s not a single bad track on Shogun, from the brutal opening number “Kirisute Gomen,” to the punishing “Torn Between Scylla and Charybdis,” which features not one but two bass solos, to the melodic “Down from the Sky,” to the athemic “Throes of Perdition,” which was the song that first got me into Trivium, to the Slayer-esque “Insurrection,” to the nearly 12-minute closing title track “Shogun.” At the time of its release, Shogun was a masterwork of modern metal, and a decade later it’s still one of the best albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. I don’t know if anything will ever top it as my favorite album of all time.
That’s my list. Remember, these are just my personal opinions so please respect them. I’d love too hear your favorite albums are, so feel free to share them in the comments!