1. Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty
Something about the fact that Every Time I Die's vocalist, Keith Buckley, once taught English before realizing that touring the country playing a freakish chimera of hardcore punk and southern-esque metal would make him a better living and afford him better times makes me love this band all the more. The Big Dirty, their paramount album, only furthers this conclusion. Rarely do I come across an album so fluid and well-built that I can listen to it from start to finish as a single harmonious unit; this album is one of those rare cases. From the energizing opening track, "No Son of Mine," to the final line of "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Battery" (It is better to destroy than to create what is meaningless, so the picture will not be finished), The Big Dirty is a tour de force of cacophonous glory. For reference: listening to this album garners the same satisfaction one might feel if one were a viking warrior of yore, sinking his mace deep into the fleshy gut of his enemies, for about 36 minutes and 20 seconds.
2. Protest the Hero - Fortress
Protest the Hero is the Tango to Every Time I Die's Cash. If you don't understand that reference; first, get out of my house and educate yourself; second, here's what I mean: where Every Time I Die is a viking collapsing cranial cavities, Protest the Hero is a samurai decapitating noggins with a single fluid slice. Their second album, Fortress, is a brilliantly executed intersection of flawless technical performance, bizarre time signatures, and brutal lyricism. The one unfortunate thing about this album is that the opening track, "Bloodmeat" (a song referencing the violent escapades of a one Genghis Khan), outshines the rest. That is not to say that the rest of the album isn't notworthy, "Bloodmeat" is just the best thing they've ever written.
3. Children of Bodom - Are You Dead Yet?
I once heard somebody call Children of Bodom the Disneyland of metal and, truth be told, the title is pretty spot on, though not in the sense that they are overcrowded with children and, as a result, lousy with germs. They are, however, fun, upbeat, and even whimsical (as far as ear-drum rupturing metal is concerned). Also, experiencing Children of Bodom is a good deal more fun than going to Knotts Berry Farm. Are You Dead Yet?, their fifth album, while short, is the best of the bunch (and stands the test of time, it came out in 2005). A point of interest: the lead vocalist, Alexi Laiho, is also the lead guitarist and does a good deal of writing for the band and, though he comes across as a silly little Finn, he is an exemplary musician. Furthermore, this band boasts the best keyboarding I've ever heard.
As I have decided to finish this post so that I might make myself a cocktail, I'll do my usual rundown of the rest of the list, but with a bit more gusto:
4. Balzac - Beyond the Darkness
Japanese Punk brought to the states courtesy of the Misfits... except these Japanese dudes are far better musicians than their deathlock toting American counterparts, regardless of how silly their bag-wearing mascot may be. That is, with the exception of their vocalist, who pretty much just growls and yells indistinguishably (so I'm not sure what language they perform in half the time).
5. Cancer Bats - Hail Destroyer
Another hideous love-child of metal and punk, this band occupies the speedier route and does so with raw baditude. If I were in a modern version of the Warriors (oh, great, another cult film reference), not only would I want this album to be my soundtrack, I'd want these dudes in my street gang.
6. Bring Me The Horizon - Suicide Season
Unlike the previous entrant, these skinny limey Brits are not a group of fellows whom I would want to back me in a street fight. They do, however, manage to spew out an especially brutal and well put together hodgepodge of grindcore, death metal, and maybe even a dash of screamo.
7. Gallows - Orchestra of Wolves
And lastly, I give you another set of skinny limey Brits, Gallows. Their music, however, is vastly different from that of BMTH and, were I a roman emperor determining which group lives or dies, it'd be no contest; Gallows would be the victors, even if I did only keep them around to feed them to my rather corpulent lions (I'd be a tad to generous with their feeding in this fantasy). Anyway, Gallows occupies a large portion of the space in my brain reserved for the musically and lyrically punk rock elite. I know, it sounds like a terribly narrow brain-region, but I assure you there's not a lot of room up there for much else.
And that about wraps it up. Time for a gut-wrenching adult beverage.