21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century... So Far




Neurosis, The Eye of Every Storm (Relapse, 2004)
Scott Kelly – Guitars/Vocals
Steve Von Till – Guitars/Vocals
Dave Edwardson – Bass/Keyboards/Synths
Noah Landis – Organ/Piano/Samples
Jason Roeder – Drums
Produced by Steve Albini and Neurosis

Part of the difficulty of trying to come up with nominations for the best albums of the 21st century is trying hard to remember when the fuck your favorite albums even came out. A lot of the albums I voted for were released before I’d ever even heard of the bands who wrote them and sometimes before I was even into metal at all (the three Staind albums under lock and key in my attic will forever haunt all of my cred). The millennial cut-off point meant that any of my instinctive choices that come into my head whenever the words “Best Metal Albums” pop up weren’t even close to matching the criteria (Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane). Some of my favorite bands released good albums in the 21st century but certainly didn’t come close to releasing the “best” ones (Emperor’s Prometheus) and even though I wanted to include them just to be represented, I couldn’t justify it.

It would be criminal, however, not to at least mention Neurosis considering the debt that Mastodon (who snatched the #19, #13 and #1 spots on the list) and a slew of others owe this band. Even though the fan census favorite album is ineligible (1999’s Times of Grace), even though their newer releases don’t have the far reaching influence of their 90’s work, and even though I am now sure that I was the only person to vote for this album, I urge each and everyone of you to take a first or second glance at the underrated glory of The Eye Of Every Storm.

Neurosis has gone through immense changes through over twenty years of creativity, but the common link between most of it has been the aggressive use of dissonance. Listening to a release like Through Silver In Blood is a challenge the first times through just because of its density and the relentless heaviness. Figuring out what’s going on is downright uncomfortable. So with that kind of legacy and reputation, it’s amazing that the same group of musicians could release something as accessible as this one.

Neurosis really took the time to tread new ground on this release, taking the listener through psychedelic textures and exploring the space between notes. Songs like “Left to Wander” are so stripped down they’re naked. It’s amazing to think that it was mostly recorded live in the studio with super producer Steve Albini at the helm, and the type of restraint it requires for a room full of metal musicians to play so little. The result is trippy and moving. “Bridges” experiments with cascading drone guitars, and in “A Season in the Sky” the lyrics lead the song with an apocalyptic vision:

There was another bridge on fire
And the last wrecks were counted
The sky opened and the blood flowed
A distant cancerous season was upon me
I had a hook in my back and a light to guide me
My words were useless again

The title track is pretty clever, too. Sure, it’s structured somewhat predictably with a big throbbing ambient keyboard at the center of it, but the edges aren’t destructive and heavy, they’re mournful and folkish instead. There’s even a wordless sing-along chorus. The contrasts between quiet parts and loud parts are integral in post-metal, but while most bands trudge through excruciating build-ups and decays, the changes on this album are deliberate and sudden. The climax usually takes you by surprise and it’s usually near the end. Every  features something different from the last and each one is instantly memorable.

Often times I find that I love when a really artsy band puts out an album of equal parts quality and accessibility. Not because it’s less challenging, but because it’s more easily enjoyed. It’s as if the band just gave out a big thank you to all its fans by releasing something they can understand right away, something they can even sing along to and feel a part of. The Eye of Every Storm isn’t a Neurosis sell-out album, but it’s one more people can relate to. All the passion and sorrow that streams from Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till’s voices (sounding alike yet distinct, like they were brothers) really has the potential to be moving and intimate. The finale “I Can See You” makes this literal, playing off the album title and stirring up a storm inside of you.


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