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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Top Ten Metal and Screamo Albums

10.  Pressure on the Hinges - Haste the Day (2007)
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks - White Collar, Stitches, Chorus of Angels

When listening to this album for the first time, I was skeptical about the new direction of Haste the Day.  After the departure of vocalist Jimmy Ryan, in 2005, I was wondering if the band could legitimately survive the loss of an original member. Being the first album with Ryan’s replacement, Stephen Keech, Pressure the Hinges proved to be a major turning point for the group.  Even through lineup changes, Haste the Day fully demonstrated that they had the talent and resolve to continue as a major force in the metal scene.  Pressure the Hinges is not only a solid piece of metal, but it literally paved the way for a new chapter in Haste the Day’s career.

9.  Safety in the Sea - Sever Your Ties (2008)
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks - Voice Like A Nova, Captive, Don’t Fear the Reaper

Sever Your Ties had a very short-lived career.  Yet, even with only one album to their name, the group still managed to release some great hardcore music.  With talented screaming, raspy vocals, synths and an amazing cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” this was a phenomenal debut from the group.  Safety in the Sea will not go down as a historic or game changing album, but it does serve as an enjoyable experience of hardcore rock.

8.  No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical - Showbread (2004)
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks - A Llama Eats a Giraffe (And Vice Versa), Mouth Like a Magazine, Matthias Replaces Judas

With song titles like “A Llama Eats a Giraffe,” “If You Like Me Check Yes, If You Don’t I’ll Die,” “Mouth Like a Magazine” and “Stabbing Art to Death,” you know that Showbread is going to offer a wild and crazy ride.  Featuring everything from punk to hardcore emo, No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical is all over the place musically, and, in hindsight, raw rock seems to be the only good description.  Further adding to their unique and ever changing style, Showbread also features two lead singers, both of which freely exchange raging screams with melodic vocals.  But, in between their raucous and wild rock and roll nature, Showbread also manages to slow things down.  “Matthias Replaces Judas” is not only grounded in Biblical metaphors and images, but this ballad proves to be a sincerely moving and even heartbreaking worship melody.  With an array of intense and frenzied choruses, Showbread knows how to produce crazy rock and roll.  However, in between the raw rock sounds and piercing screams, one can also find some moving and quiet worship.  

7.  Plagues - The Devil Wears Prada (2007)
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks - Number Three, Never Forget, Hey John, What’s Your Name Again?, Nickels Is Money Too

The best way to describe Plagues is organized chaos.  Easily the best album of their career, Plagues is a chaotic thrill ride of nasty breakdowns, powerful clean vocals and brutal screams.  On this record, Mike Hranica literally stretches his voice to its very limits, by frequently mixing together high pitched shrieks and death metal growls.  Plagues not only placed The Devil Wears Prada on the map of metalcore greats, but this album forever solidified Hranica as one of the best vocalists in all of screamo.  

6.  The Lost, The Sick, The Sacred - Inhale Exhale (2006)
Rating – 4 Stars
Top Tracks - Redemption, A Call to the Faithful, Tonight We Die Together

Featuring 11 songs and the former bassist of Relient K, The Lost, The Sick, The Sacred is filled with gut-busting anthems and melodic choruses.  For their debut on Solid State Records, Inhale Exhale doesn’t create an overly unique sound or make any huge strides in the world of heavy music.  Instead, they craft a passionate attack of rock and roll, which serves as a must have for any screamo or metal fan. 

5.  Children of Fire - Oh, Sleeper (2011)
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks - Endseekers, Hush Yael, Children of Fire

For this record, Oh, Sleeper once again feature their popular symbol of a pentagram cut in half.  However, instead of using it to promote satan, they portray the pentagram with the sole purpose of representing Christ’s eternal power.  If you want more information and a full description of this symbol, please check out my post on Christian concept albums.  

Just like their two previous records, Children of Fire is exhausting and, at times, even violent.  Always looking to push the boundaries, Oh, Sleeper not only challenges listeners with the thematic cover, but lyrically, this album is as brutal as ever.  In “Hush Yael,” the group violently portrays the horrific Nahariya terrorist attack.  Told from the perspective of a small child named Yael, this song graphically depicts the slaughter of an Israeli family. With other honest and striking themes of faith, murder, conscience and even atheism, this album is not for the faint of heart.  Yet, for those select few who want to stretch their musical boundaries, Children of Fire is the perfect metal record to pick up. 

4.  They’re Only Chasing Safety - Underoath (2004)
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks - Young and Aspiring, Reinventing Your Exit, It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door, Some Will Seek Forgiveness, Others Escape

Serving as one of the modern pioneers in combining hook driven choruses and punk vocals, Underoath managed to craft a record filled with radio-friendly screamo.  “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” expertly mixes together harsh screams and a simple children’s choir, while “Reinventing Your Exit” and “A Boy Brushed Red Living In Black and White” serve as prime examples of pop hardcore.  With a combination of catchy choruses and headbanging jams, They’re Only Chasing Safety proved to be the spark that catapulted Underoath directly into hardcore royalty.  

3.  Storm the Gates of Hell - Demon Hunter (2007)
Rating – 4 ½ Stars
Top Tracks - Storm the Gates of Hell, Lead Us Home, Carry Me Down, Thorns

A musical and lyrical masterpiece, Storm the Gates of Hell takes listeners on an intense, 50 minute journey of pounding rhythms and guttural screams.  With the unashamed lyrics, haunting ballads and chugging guitar work, Demon Hunter comes as close as possible to writing a perfect metal album.  Arguably a loose concept record, Storm the Gates of Hell features the blatant themes of adversity, perseverance and courage.  On top of their metal anthems, Ryan Clark and the guys of Demon Hunter urge Christians to take a stand in this world, by boldly fighting for Christ.  Even though Demon Hunter has crafted the best metal work of their career, the main highlight truly comes through the passionate and inspiring lyrics of proudly living for the Gospel.

2.  Define the Great Line - Underoath (2006)
Rating – 5 Stars
Top Tracks - A Moment Suspended In Time, You’re Ever So Inviting, Moving for the Sake of Motion, Writing on the Walls

From the opening lines of their first single to the blasting rhythms of “In Regards to Myself,” Underoath truly matured in every area of their sound and style.  Gone are the pop flavors and teenage angst of their previous album, and instead, Underoath embraces a much edgier and darker form of metalcore.  Their attention to detail is impeccable, and the dual vocals of Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain truly shine.  Back in 2006, Define the Great Line was probably the most anticipated release of the year.  After the exploding success of They’re Only Chasing Safety, everyone wanted to get their hands on this record. Underoath not only handled the added pressure of their past hit, but they fully proved they had the talent and creativity to be counted among the metalcore elite.

1.  Captors - Wolves at the Gate (2012)
Rating – 5 Stars
Top Tracks – Awaken, Dead Man, Amnesty, Man of Sorrows

By combining the truth of Scripture with hardcore screams, each song on Captors serves as a bold witness to the life changing power of Christ.  “Dead Man” describes the freeing power of grace; “Step Out to the Water,” is a stirring depiction of courageous faith.  Before its end, “Man of Sorrows” will have you on your knees in worship.  Every lyric and musical note on Captors literally functions to proclaim the Gospel.  Not only do they put their faith on full display, but Wolves at the Gate also offer an album filled with unified and masterful musicianship.  Nick Detty’s screams are intense and forceful without being overpowering. Steve Cobucci easily has the best clean voice in Christian hardcore music today.  Not to mention, Jeremy Steckel, Ben Summers and Ben Millhouse all perform a clever and subtle style of post-hardcore rock.  After multiple spins, Captors can easily be described as musical perfection.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at My Top Ten Metal and Screamo Albums. This list would not be complete without honorable mentions. These releases were very solid, but ultimately did not make it into the top ten.

Honorable Mentions

New Medicines – Dead Poetic
Messengers – August Burns Red
I Call This Abandonment – Chasing Victory
The Triptych – Demon Hunter