Presenting the third installment in this ongoing, self-obsessed series. A Spotify playlist featuring all available recommended tracks is being built daily alongside the list, and can be found by clicking here.
80. Scissorfight – ‘Mantrapping For Sport And Profit’ (2001)
Rust-covered, sunburnt sludge metal seemingly written more or less specifically as a soundtrack to outdoor bare knuckle boxing. If you have a beard longer than 2 inches, there is an 85% chance you will love this album. That’s a scientific fact. If you also own a trucker cap the ratio goes up to 97%. Swamp-addled guitars and vocals delivered straight after huffing gas go very, very well with the ability to write good riffs and the willingness to layer gang vocals and the occasional gospel-style female backing singer over the top of your material.
Recommended Tracks: “Acid For Blood”, “Rats U.S.A.”, “Blizzards, Buzzards And Bastards”
79. Matisyahu – ‘Youth’ (2006)
It doesn’t come much more niche than this. Hasidic Jewish reggae with a healthy dose of hip-hop, rock and pop mashed in to the fabric. Yet despite that, MC Matthew Miller manages to achieve a strong mainstream sound that could certainly be bothering charts worldwide with a bit more exposure (and assuming people aren’t turned off by the his occasional political posturing). Music with a populist appeal that is actually carving its way forwards through a mass of sound-alikes is a rare thing, and perhaps more than any other album on this list, ‘Youth’ sounds defiantly positive and – dare I say it – happy. Obviously, everyone therefore needs more Hasidic Jewish reggae in their life.
Recommended Tracks: “Fire Of Heaven/Altar Of Earth”, “Youth”, “Time Of Your Song”
78. Clutch – ‘Blast Tyrant’ (2004)
Stoner/sludge heroes Clutch are one of the most reliable solid rock bands out there, whether in the studio or on the stage. This decade saw them slowly reduce the heaviness on their records in favour of a more blues-rock approach that still keeps the off-kilter esoteric lyrics and flawless musical performances at the forefront. But ‘Blast Tyrant’ could perhaps be seen as the last hurrah for their older, wilder incarnation. And what a way to move on – packed end-to-end with expertly crafted songs. It’s stainless stuff, Hendrix, Iommi and Page blended and concentrated down to an anti-homeopathic remedy of pure rock. And with lead single “The Mob Goes Wild”, the band finally broke out to a wider audience with some airplay on radio and TV.
Recommended Tracks: “Mercury”, “The Mob Goes Wild”, “Cypress Grove”
77. Curse Of The Golden Vampire – ‘Mass Destruction’ (2003)
The first Justin Broadrick project to make the list is also easily the most extreme. Taking the title of a more old school noise-industrial album co-created with Alec Empire and Kevin Martin back in 1998, Curse Of The Golden Vampire saw Empire drop off the roster for a seething cacophony of drum n’ bass beats with grindcore guitars and guttural, barely-distinguishable vocals. Some of the aforesaid noise-industrial provides further background detonation, and the ensemble sounds not unlike a jam session between Mr Broadrick’s former band Napalm Death and Mr Martin’s ongoing jazz industrial freakout project GOD. Totally unrelenting for its entire length, ‘Mass Destruction’ is anything but easy listening. Few releases manage to combine sonically and thematically to give such an overriding sense of the impending self-destruction of mankind. Not exactly listening to pump you up for an enjoyable evening out, but for those who like challenging music it provides a perfect cataclysmic soundtrack.
Recommended Tracks: “Parasite”, “Iron Ghetto Man Crusher”, “Murderer”
dälek peddle a pretty much unique trade in hip-hop with shoegaze distortion and dirty industrial-style beats shuffling under the mix – MC dälek himself delivers his rhymes with both intelligence and confrontation over the top, and the whole of each track typically settles in a shuffling groove that can hypnotise and incite in equal measure. ‘Absence’ is in my opinion easily their finest work, and would likely come much further up the list if it still didn’t contain a couple of tracks that feel like half-measures rather than the stunning pieces of art-hip-hop they are fully capable of throwing at you two or three times per album. Notwithstanding that, ‘Absence’ is usually the first album I play to people if they say they need something new or unusual to listen to. 7 years on, I can’t think of any other records that sound as fresh and different as this does.
Recommended Tracks: “Culture For Dollars”, “Ever Somber”, “Opiate The Masses”
75. Killswitch Engage – ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ (2002)
Like most genres, metalcore kicked off in the early days of this decade with a group of strong and individualistic forerunners, then swiftly decayed into a rotten morass of copycats, also-rans and scene arseholes. For me, this is the strongest release from that initial burst of music and it’s mostly down to a combination of the hook-laden riffwork of Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel in concert with the soaring vocal performance of Jesse Leach. The latter was replaced by new vocalist Howard Jones shortly after this album, and while he is a damn fine performer in his own right - and arguably a more distinct and unique voice in metal - the beautifully brutal balance achieved with ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ has been somewhat out of reach ever since.
Recommended Tracks: “Numbered Days”, “My Last Serenade”, “Just Barely Breathing”
74. School Of Seven Bells – ‘Disconnect From Desire’ (2010)
A prime example of why hastily arranged ‘Best Of’ lists don’t really work. When I first head (and reviewed, on the pages of this very site) ‘Disconnect From Desire’ I was somewhat less than impressed. It seemed like a backpedalling from the intriguing pop/shoegaze blend of debut release ‘Alpinisms’, with some only partly successful electronica perched on top like an awkward cake decoration. But time makes fools of us all (especially you) and I am now firmly convinced that this release is a progression rather than a relapse. There’s a delicate strength in the vocals of the Deheza sisters, and the added electronic elements allow a stable centre for the shoegaze to wrap itself around and prevent from blowing away in the winds of self-conscious abstraction. Coming across like a arthouse fuckbuddy encounter between Cocteau Twins and New Order, the only unresolved question surrounding this album in my mind is the mystery of why more people haven’t bought into School Of Seven bells already.
Recommended Tracks: “Windstorm”, “Heart Is Strange”, “Bye Bye Bye”
73. Mistress – ‘II: The Chronovisor’ (2003)
A dirty mass of rage, spitting curses and bile with equal enthusiasm. If you like squalor-ridden metal with an undercurrent of hideous groove this album may well have been written specifically for you. The appealingly named Dave Cunt (also known as V.I.T.R.I.O.L. when singing for Anaal Nathrakh, who sat pretty at #100) bellows over the top of the entire unpleasant ensemble until you feel like you’re being beaten into the ground feet-first like a character in an old Warner Bros cartoon. Only instead of Bugs Bunny with an oversized comedy hammer it’s an infuriated and filthy Midlands metal freak with a tetanus-infected rusting metal club.
Recommended Tracks: “Rat Piss”, “Piss For Blood, Shit For Brains”, “38”
Fine-tuning the digital hardcore of Atari Teenage Riot for this solo release, Alec Empire spat out a shard of mechanical venom mainly utilising his natural talents at both music production and usage of anti-capitalist/fascist inflammatory imagery. Tightly fused industrial and hardcore beats are slammed into place with the power of a thousand raised fists, while ragged but razor-sharp guitars and samples are aimed right at the jugular. There’s nothing here that moves too far beyond what ATR did (and are now starting to do again), but the reduction to a sole creative force does lend ‘Intelligence And Sacrifice’ a focus that they lacked.
Recommended Tracks: “Path Of Destruction”, “Everything Starts With A Fuck”, “Addicted To You”
71. 30 Seconds To Mars – ’30 Seconds To Mars’ (2002)
Look, I’m sorry. Alright? I’m sorry. I know how you feel. The video for “Closer To The Edge” is possibly the worst thing I’ve seen in my life. Worse than footage of high body-count humanitarian disasters. It makes me want to drive Jared Leto’s face into the ground at the speed of a charging velociraptor. If you haven’t actually seen it, I’d recommend you go to YouTube and do so – it will lead you to a far better understanding of my mindset as a shameless, violent misanthrope. I’m not linking to it here for fear of corrupting my site forever. Regardless of all that hyperbolic preamble, why have I placed their debut release here at #71? Because their debut self-titled release really doesn’t sound very much like anything they have done since. It’s a solid prog-influenced hard rock release with some excellent production, catchy melodies and a decent (and comparably understated), confident vocal performance from Leto. But by all that’s holy, it makes me feel guilty to put this above acts like dälek and Alec Empire. But that is the price to be paid for such a personal, self-obsessed list. Even I have bad taste sometimes. Let’s just all agree to deny this ever happened and move on.
Recommended Tracks: “Buddha For Mary”, “The Mission”, “End Of The Beginning”