(Last year TheMadIsraeli posted the first two installments in this irregular series, and now brings us a third one.)
Another installment of irrelevant listening where I share albums in my rotation lately that aren’t current. Let’s get started.
Killswitch Engage – Alive Or Just Breathing: Top-Shelf Edition
Alive Or Just Breathing is the melodic metalcore album that in my mind has never been topped. Even the band themselves admitted in an interview, I think it was this year, that this is STILL their best album. I’ve written about this album before on the site and stumbled upon the so-called “Top Shelf” expanded edition (released in 2005) some time ago.
This is one of those few times where the original album’s omission of songs left out from the recording sessions feels like a total crime. Three new songs were added to the record, “When The Balance Is Broken”, “In The Unblind” (a re-recording from their debut), and an acoustic outro track called “Untitled and Unloved”. The inclusion of these makes the album feel SO much more complete than it did before — and I already felt the original was a perfect album.
I do think they should’ve tried to incorporate these songs in a more inclusive way in the running order of the tracks, however; instead, they were all thrown in at the end, in a bonus disc. My suggested re-arranged track list would look like this…
1: Numbered Days
2: Self Revolution
3: When The Balance Is Broken
4: Fixation On The Darkness
5: My Last Serenade
6: Life To Lifeless
7: Just Barely Breathing
8: To The Sons Of Man
9: Temple From The Within
10: The Element Of One
11: Vida Infra
12: In The Unblind
13: Without A Name
14: Rise Inside
15: Untitled and Unloved
It would be the best metalcore album created. Again. But even more so.
Decapitated – Blood Mantra: Special Edition
Another example where songs were left off a record that should’ve been on the original. I’m at a weird place with Decapitated. I love this band, I love everything they do, although you certainly wouldn’t think that if you read my Facebook feed or talked to me about them. I’m alienated and weirded out by the obsession with not being Decapitated these guys seem to have lately. with the massive influx of aggro and groove metal influences in which they’ve seemingly decided to bathe themselves, but I STILL LOVE IT. I don’t want them to go back to making the older material, but it’s an interestingly jarring experience to be a Decapitated fan right now.
I’ve been going back through the albums since the band’s comeback, to evaluate this one and Carnival Is Forever against Anticult (an awesome album, btw, one of the year’s objective best records) and it’s been interesting looking back.
Blood Mantra is an excellent album, and one that I came to like more and more with time. The special edition helps, because I’m an album guy. The entire thing needs to be good. I can’t STAND bad album flow, bad structure, and worst of all a bad closer. The original version of this record ends with “Blindness” and the instrumental “Red Sun”. As a song standing alone, “Blindness” is a cool tribal Meshuggah-esque drone, but as a proper closing song it was a horrendous choice. The song the special edition adds as a bonus, a track called “Moth Defect”, is much more of a proper send-off, a grooving machine-gun titanic battle tank in a very Organic Hallucinosis kind of way that gives this album the punch it needed going out.
Also, that breakdown in “Instinct” is one of the most cathartic moments in all of metal in the 2010s.
Decapitated – Carnival Is Forever
In my opinion this is still Decapitated’s best of the comeback material. It’s so heavy, so fast, the grooves are so hypnotically titanic, and the mechanical/industrial precision and rhythms work to create an unrelenting oppressive attack of acid being spewed in your face. In the band’s entire body of work, Winds of Creation, Organic Hallucinosis, and this one are the top three to me. It may also just be the emotional resonance of this record. Vogg came back from the brink following the death of his brother — he must have — on an emotional and psychological level, and I feel like you can absolutely feel it in the music. It’s definitely the most emotionally charged Decap album.
Man Must Die – Peace Was Never An Option
If you wanted to assemble a list of the top 50 records of the 2010s, Peace Was Never An Option would be such an objectively obvious choice that you’d just be fucking wrong for even considering leaving it off. It’s so emotionally charged, the riffs are great, and the stylistic fusion and cohesion of thrash, death, grindcore, hardcore, and melodic death metal is its own sonic ecosystem, one that functions with efficiency and passion in a way that hasn’t been accomplished much in metal’s history.
I also love the lyrics on this album. I’ve always been more of a fan of rubber-meets-the-road lyrics, lyrics that deal with the world in the here and now, social commentary. I sometimes wonder if Joe McGlynn isn’t a version of Barney Greenway transported from an alternate universe into ours to fill the void whenever Greenway passes.
Extol – Self-Titled
I’ve been spinning this a lot since the announcement of the upcoming Fleshkiller record. Extol really accomplished something special on this record, but they always did with every record. Their brand of anti-death metal is a powerful testament to stretching genres and styles to accomplish something musically transcendent. The thing about Extol is that they know how to disregard the death metal roots of their sound, even if that means doing it most of the time. The style may not be there, but the spirit is.
I think other bands have done or attempted to do this anti-death metal approach, the most recent example being the Exist record that came out this year, but everyone who has ever tried to step into Extol’s territory has failed, and in some cases failed miserably. They OWN this approach and this sound. No one can take it from them.
That’s it for now guys. I’ve got reviews coming up and hoping to start a new series by the end of the year. Curious on y’all’s thoughts on the albums mentioned here.