уторак, 23. новембар 2010.

the lists: 1996

Well, of course I listened to the good music way before 1996, but I guess 1996 and that period of time (I was 13 back then) was the time when I got obsessed with making the best of lists and so on.

There is more than 10 albums on the list cause there is way much more great albums than just ten...

1. Anathema - Eternity (Peaceville)

This one is not just the best out of 1996, it is one of my favorite records ever. The Silent Enigma was their doom metal masterpiece and this one showed not only the unique transition to the more Floyd-esque sound but the cleaner singing as well.

Angelica and Roy Harper's Hope might be hits, but for some reason I loved Eternity pt. I and Radiance best. Radiance has Danny's badass solo at the end, while Vinnie's singing help me through this... It gives me shivers to this day. Truly a remarkable spot. I also loved Suicide Veil and the acoustic part at the end of the song. I might steal some of the chords played on that one and use it for some instrumental track for Consecration's third album. I already had some instrumentals back in 1999 that resemble those kind of chords, but I never sat down to finish them and decided to put them on the album for sure.

Anyway, this album simply had no fillers, except maybe for Far Away and Cries On The Wind.

The guitar work was so awesome. This was the first time I actually heard someone was not only feedbacking with the sustain and the gain of the guitar/amp, but rather used those feedbacks as harmonies.

Danny's playing on this album also got me interested into Floyd (along with one more record from 1994, more on that one later). I learned to play this whole album by ear on my guitar, only to discover some years later the guitars were tuned to B and not the standard E. This was Anathema's last album with the B tuning.

There is also a funny story about how I got this album in the first place. Everybody knows that the nineties were the tough times for Serbia, so we had this black market in front of the SKC (Student Cultural Centre) with the guys selling dubbed tapes and stuff. I got this on tape and I guess it was dubbed from tape to tape on hi speed; but the motor engine of the stereo was malfunctioning because the whole album sounded a bit off-key, lower than it should be. I didn't have Hope's and Ascension's endings recorded either, so you could imagine my happiness when I finally went to Thessaloniki that summer, bought the original CD at Joe's Musicland and listened to it properly.

2. The 3rd And The Mortal - Painting On Glass (Voices Of Wonder)

Wow. This record was just that - wow. A friend Mirko lent me this tape (yup, a SKC one) and it floored me.

I didn't get into the first four tracks easily at first, but the rest was pure bliss. This record was an ambient record landmark for me. Grand reverbs and delays, acoustic guitars entwined with electric ones... Dreamscapes, Horizons and Veiled Exposure were my favorites. I discovered Brian Eno years after hearing this record, but these moody Norwegian five-guys-and-a-gal's music still mean to me much more.

They also had an ARP synth used on the second track and that was the first time I started to get an interest for synths and stuff. They also had the three guitars (plus the bass) thing years before Maiden.

3. My Dying Bride - Like Gods Of The Sun (Peaceville)

I believe that the first records you hear by any band, the ones that get you introduced to the band, are often your favorite ones. Gods was no exception.

There was this show on Serbian television named Hard Metal and that was the only thing promoting heavy metal music here at the time. I already knew Anathema, and read in some magazines (Terrorizer and Metal Maniacs) that Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost were the British Big Three doing this sort of music called doom/gothic metal, which I seemed to enjoy mostly at the age of 13-14. Who says teenage years aren't bitter eh?

Anyway, For You was the clip I liked instantly. I taped it and watched it back and forth, even though the clip version was cut from 7 minutes to 4 and a half or something. That video showed what was this band all about - depression, romance, religion, sex, bitterness, love, agony, death. That sort of funny stuff teenagers mostly think about.

For You, For My Fallen Angel and A Kiss To Remember were my favorites back then... And still are.

I remember I had a crush on this girl in primary school that was one year older than me, and I never had the ball to ask her out. I played For My Fallen Angel infinitely at my room, for nights and nights while writing down some diary nonsense, filled with romantic reveries. I never asked her out in the end, so this record is not the best example of boosting your go-for-it self-confidence, but still... It's a great record if you're in a self-pity mood.

4. Samael - Passage (Century Media)

I was checking this band out just because they were on the same label as Tiamat were - and Tiamat were my favorite band back then. I also remember seeing a bootleg CD in Thessaloniki (I think it was this shop called Alone) with a Tiamat/Samael live split CD. Never bought it, but the desire to check this band out remained.

I think it was Hard Metal again where I saw the clip for Jupiterian Vibe. I liked the vibe (sic) of the song and taped the whole album. I think that someone, somewhere described this album as Slayer in outer space. And it was, at least with the punchy grooves, catchy riffs (oh the riffs!), the cosmic themes lyric-wise and the cryptic voice of Vorph, that made me sweat in a funny way. Shining Kingdom and Rain were also the highlights, but this record had no fillers either (maybe Chosen Race). Cosmos was shaking along with this one.

5. Amorphis - Elegy (Nuclear Blast)

Another wow. The mid-nineties were so great for the underground because all these metal bands were expanding the horizons of their music and metal genre too, so the kids like me started to show affection for bands such as The Doors, the mighty Allman Brothers, Hawkwind etc., after listening to something diverse as this.

This was one of my first CD's I ever bought and more important fact was that I bought it without even listening to it. It was a risky thing to do, especially for a boy with only 60 deutschemarks in his pocket. (this CD's cost was 30 DM's and the other 30's went for that 1994 record I mentioned earlier on). Anyway, I already knew the band for their Tales From The Thousand Lakes masterpiece, so I wanted to give them a shot.

The record turned out to be fantastic. Better Unborn, My Kantele (both versions, electric & acousic), Cares, On Rich And Poor... All highlights. The lyrics were taken from the old Finnish book called Kanteletar and were roughly translated to English. Who says metalheads are stupid and don't care for their culture? The Orphan has to be one of the most beautiful-yet-unusual ballads I've ever heard.

This band was marrying the brutality of death metal with the riffs of heavy metal, doomy atmosphere with Allman bros. twin-guitar harmonies, proggy keyboards with clean rock singing as well. It sounded so fresh you could drink the icy water from the songs themselves.

6. Opeth - Morningrise (Candlelight)

The only thing I knew about this record was this one minute sample of Nectar Mirko downloaded off some site and dubbed to me. It was in 1999. I liked what I heard and decided to take a wild guess again by ordering the CD without even listening to it. It was April or May 1999 when I got it. And it blew my away.

I liked Death's Symbolic already for some time and this band was marrying Death with classical guitar style. Now, I was very fond of the classical guitar playing since I was learning/playing classical guitar since 1992.
I always missed some bands incorporating that kind of playing into their music, because classical guitar playing was usually a solo player thing. And these guys married it with death metal and prog. I was never a fan of prog such as Dream Theater (although I do have a copy of Awake tape somewhere), but this band incorporated prog in music in their own unique way. The vocals were a cross between black metallish roar and melodic stuff a la Anathema.

The band was playing acoustic guitars with nylon strings, which I loved. No need to tell I learned all the acoustic stuff to play by ear, by myself. Advent, Nectar and especially the closing To Bid You Farewell rocked my world. I've always been a sucker for ballads...

7. Katatonia - Brave Murder Day (Avantgarde)

There were two tiny samples off this album on the same tape and off the same site that Nectar was taken from. I didn't realize back then it was the same singer in both bands, but then there's this satisfaction in reading all the info when you get the original CD hehe.

This album was really a fist in the face. A fist full of rusty nails that screamed in agony, melancholy and despair. Rainroom will always be my favorite track because of the chords in the intro - something called nines I think, where there are for example A and E and B in the same chord. I know i used it in Consecration's Aimless, although there are loads of songs it could be heard too - The Police's Message In The Bottle springs to mind.

Anyway, Katatonia didn't have a singer at this time, so Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt offered to help on this one (this one and the following EP named Sounds Of Decay). Needless to say he did a terrific job. Every roar is simply mean and meant that way. The lyrics, although minimalistic, had that special suicidal vibe, but with only a glimpse of things that will turn out even better later. Jonas (then the drummer, now the singer) sang clean vocals on Day and made a huge homage to Robert Smith and Slowdive.

Someone once said this was the only record you'd ever need to hear from Paradise Lost. I won't go that far, but it's a nice compliment anyway. Not for the brightest days of life, this one.

8. Ulver - Kveldssanger (Head Not Found)

This was a very dark album. Ulver were considered black metal band back then, since their Bergtatt debut was a masterpiece of the genre. Yet, Kveldssanger was more folk/dark oriented. It was based on acoustic guitars, a capella singing and some nice cello playing as well. It would be considered a milestone of dark/folk genre later, as other bands such as Empyrium and Tenhi would base their whole discographies upon Kveldssanger. The influence of the album was huge among metalheads.

Each of thirteen tracks were highlights in their own distinct way, although I would consider østenfor Sol Og Vestenfor Maane, HøyfjeldsbildeKveldssang and especially the closing Ulvsblakk as exceptional. The atmosphere of Norwegian woods at night and scents of nocturnal nature, filled with pagan thoughts were never described better than on this album. Go figure.

9. Def Leppard - Slang (Mercury)

It might be weird to have this pop album among all those dark/goth/doom/black/uuurrrghhhhaaarrggh records and I was having second thoughts if I should include Leps at all, but hey, why to be close minded.

I loved Def Leppard since my early childhood (it was 1989 I guess) and I was eagerly waiting for all of their new releases since Hysteria.

This record was so good because the guys got fed up with all the arena rock star debauchery, got themselves isolated at some house in Portugal and sat down to write some songs. The songs were bare to their bones, without the billion dollar production that the previous producer Mutt got them famous for. Rick Allen, the one-handed drummer, decided to return to the acoustic kit for the first time after the accident, to see what he could do with it. The result was awesome.

These were the dark times for glam rock as the grunge got stronger, but the Leps got every song to be either nice or rocking. Or both. All I Want Is Everything is excellent ballad. Blood Runs Cold too. Where Does Love Go When It Dies seems like a ballad according to the title.Um, yeah, it was. But it also had a nice E-bow touch at the intro. Pearl Of Euphoria had this drumming groove-out-of-hell that resembled Led Zep's When The Levee Breaks, which is understandable - the Zepps were always a huge influence on the band.

This might be my favorite Def Leppard record. If not the favorite, then surely the one near the top, as the band had the balls to experiment.

10. Moonspell - Irreligious (Century Media)

This was actually not the first thing I heard from this Portugese weirdos. I got hooked on Sin first, the album that's released in 1998. But since I liked it so much, I started to dig the back catalog pretty soon.

They were these dark romantics that were heavily influenced by Type O Negative. And vampires. This was their big breakthrough album onto the gothic scene. I liked the flow the Opium, Awake and For A Taste Of Eternity had, and the diabolic twistedness of  Mephisto and Full Moon Madness. The frontman/singer Fernando was clearly an intelligent man, since he incorporated lots of poetry and quotes of other artists/writers and stuff. I remember there was a quote from the book Perfume by Patrick Suskind and I got the book years later, only cause of this record. And it wasn't a mistake - the book was very good.

11. Theatre Of Tragedy - Velvet Darkness They Fear (Massacre)

I always have mixed feelings about this record. No matter how cheesy some of the songs and elements might sound today, I still love it. These Norwegians were one of the first that used that beauty-and-the-beast thing on the vocals, the male growls/wailings/spoken words vs. the female squeaks/sopranos/spoken words.

This was a charming record nevertheless and the band's crowning achievement, since they turned to some other, more alternative things on their next album (which I liked more, but we'll get there on the 1998 list). My favorite song was And When He Falleth and it had this sample with a very distinct voice, a dialogue of a man and a woman.

There was one of the Serbian television channels that used to broadcast all kinds of horror movies back then at Friday nights, and I remember I watched  this Roger Corman's movie called The Masque Of The Red Death. There was something familiar to me as the film went on, but I couldn't detect what it was. Anyway, there comes the sequence with the legendary Vincent Price, where he's arguing with the girl and it clicked to me immediately - how do I know this dialogue from before? Yeah, needless to say I was playing the track over and over again after the movie ended. Good stuff, those movie samples - they make nice bonds between music and cinema.

Oh, and the staring breast on the cover was a nice touch too.

12. Therion - Theli (Nuclear Blast)

I remember someone in Terrorizer mentioned that it's so funny if you put Samael against Therion - they're so juxtaposed one to another, like the darkness (Samael) opposed to the light (Therion). I'd agree.

This was very unusual record and the breaking point for them. Also a breaking point for all the operatic metal nonsense that got released after this by other bands. Anyway, this record was one hundred per cent bombastic with mighty metal riffs, with the epicness provided by dozen of keyboards and choirs of angels and demons calling the spirit out for a headbanging contest.

I heard To Megatherion first on the Beauty In Darkness sampler and liked its craziness. It remains to be the best track on the album although The Siren Of The Woods will let those goth girls wonder alone in the park where they could pretend they're in the woods with horny elves or whatever fantasy turns them on.

honorable mentions:

13. Empyrium - A Wintersunset... (Prophecy)

A Wintersunset was lent from Mirko, the same guy that lent me Painting On Glass. This tape was the absolute winner of all the SKC bought tapes - two tracks were missing completely, it was off-key (lower for half a step than it should sound) and one or two tracks had their endings cut off.

Mirko was really a fan and soon enough I started to like this band too. This was their debut and the two German guys who made it were so young while making it - only in their sweet sixteens and seventeens. The album itself was a mix of paganish black metal (Moonspell debut, Ulver, In The Woods...), gothic, doom, folk and of course, some heavy metal.

Under Dreamskies and The Franconian Woods In Winter's Silence were the absolute highlights on the album. The keyboards (strings) were so upfront in the mix everything else got a bit drown every now and then, but one can't really be harsh to the guys doing the debut so good this young.

Funny thing is that they never published lyrics to any of the songs (except one). Maybe they were ashamed of them back then already?

14. Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers - Swansongs (Seven Art Music)

This album had so many flaws but those flaws were so charming. This German band was very young when they did the Swansongs debut. The band was heavily influenced by Anathema and My Dying Bride and it could be heard clearly through eight songs of proper doom.

The flaws were many - the drummer was slipping off the beat every now and then, every song ended with the long fade out (some fade outs were timing over three minutes even) and the spoken words of Manfred Bersin were so shy at times, the pronunciation of some words were pretty funny (I was young / and didn't know). Yet it was funny in a good way - it was just plain charming because the guys were really into it. The guitars were great though. The riffs and the solos resembled Pentecost III and some Turn Loose The Swans. Occasional acoustics reminded of some 3rd And The Mortal too. Keyboard pads were simply wonderful, I have to say the melodies influenced me a lot when I decided to toy with my own synth back in 1999 while creating my own songs for Amaranth. The sound of the drums and guitars and the overall production reminded of Tiamat's Clouds and there were Tiamat influences all over the record, which I adored - Tiamat were my favorite band at the time.

The interesting part about this album was that it was so heavy to find. Seven Art Music was a small Italian label and it was impossible to find this CD pretty much anywhere. A friend Mirko bought the dubbed tape at SKC and it was the only thing we had, until I found the guitarist's email couple of years later and asked him to burn the CD for me. He was kind enough and did it, although he burned seven tracks and not eight. Thank God for the internet, ha.
Flowers In The Rain, Waterbride and Flowing Tears & Withered Flowers were highlights, although every track had some nice detail about it - Crystal Dance and ...Along A Dreamin' Ocean... with the acoustic driven atmosphere reminded much of Anathema's Suicide Veil. And the two albums were even recorded the same year.

15. Sentenced - Down (Century Media)

It is always unfortunate for a band to lose the singer. Just don't tell this to Blaze Bayley.

Amok really did the breakthrough thing among the Century Media followers (if there were any besides me) and it was everybody's guess what would happen to the band after the original singer Taneli Jarva announced he'd rather prefer living alone in some cabin in the Finnish woods stuffed with sixty hundred gallons of vodka per day than doing this boring rock n' roll thing with the band, touring etc.

I was also skeptical about this new singer thing, but after seeing the first clip Noose, I decided to give them a try.

This was downright the most autumnal album of the year (next to the #16 spot on the list below). Marrying gothic atmosphere with Metallica's voice n' riffs and Maiden licks, Finland finally showed that not only Amorphis were talented enough for metal and rock.

Noose was the absolute winner here. Bleed had the super guest appearance of Vorph of Samael, which was a great touch. Crumbling Down was also this great track and for some reason I was always so much into the closing I'll Throw The First Rock. The new singer was very good and he would become more charismatic later. The James Hetfield influenced singing would improve later on too.

This album is the most heavy metal album (in its traditional heavy metal way) of all albums on this 1996 list, so feel free to headbang like crazy to this one.

16. Type O Negative - October Rust (Roadrunner)

I know I know. Many of you gothic lovers would kill me and put this album on the first place on the list, but opinions are like assholes, right? Smelly and (un)touchable.

I didn't like this band much during my teenage years. Don't know why. Maybe because I tried to like Bloody Kisses first and never cared enough for this one. What a mistake.

Love You To Death is a fantastic song. Their finest I reckon. It emphasized every shining aspect from this band - the Beatles/The Cure harmonic bliss clashed with Sabbath/doom heaviness and dark imagery of what embryonic gothic was about.

Like Bloody Kisses, this album was also about twenty minutes too long. It had good tracks and some fillers, but Love You To Death just put a giant shadow on the rest of the album like the crow's dying feather. Peter Steele might have already begun with his self-destructive pilgrimage on this album, but if you see October Rust as his testament, it's a rather one both he and the guys in the band should be proud of.

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