Nothing like doing a Year in Review feature for a year that happened
just 9 years ago at the time of writing this. But fuck it. If I
remember correctly, 2003 was a fairly uninteresting year historically
speaking. Let’s see what happened to our fucked planet that year:
The UN went into Iraq and decided there was no link between Iraq and
Al Queda, rendering the United States’s invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan,
Mars, and your mom’s panties ridiculously stupid. US troops capture
Saddam Hussein though. Fuck that guy. Norah Jones and John Mayer win
Grammies, reinforcing my hatred of mankind. The Devils beat the Senators
in 7 games. About 17 people (including myself) watched. Arnold
Schwarzenegger is elected governor of California causing the number of
predatory alien species in the state to dwindle. Great White’s weak-ass
pyrotechnics extravaganza causes a fire at a Rhode Island club that
kills 100 people. This immediately becomes the most interesting thing
Great White has ever been responsible for. The first Kill Bill, The Return of the King, and Pirates. Wow. That was a pretty fucken lame year on the whole (not on the hole, pervert).
Lucky for all of us, this is a site dedicated to music (and the occasional book and DVD…
we’re diverse fuckers here at GD), so we’re here to discuss the music
of 2003. Ze metals from this year destroyed everything else. There was a
new Maiden disc, so it’s automatically a good year. Black metal was
making a comeback, Dan Swanö breathed one last breath into Edge of
Sanity, and Metallica shattered the record for shittiest album ever
produced by humans. Let’s check out the tunes from:
Black Metal You could call 2003 the year black
metal reared its ugly head and gasped one final hideous breath and
belched out the last batch of borderline classics of the genre. What
basis do I have for this claim? All I have are my opinions (and I’m
writing this, so blow me) and this list of killer black metal albums
from just under a decade ago.
Following on the heels of Immortal’s classic “Sons of northern
darkness” from 2002, black metal in particular seemed to discover a
revitalized sense of purpose, and some of the genre’s heavyweights like
Darkthrone and Marduk roared back from a period of fading subpar quality
to pen albums that would usher in a new era of success for them. Still,
other bands like Funeral Mist and Naglfar produced records in their
then-new careers that cemented their status as some of black metal’s
best new blood.
What brought on this influx of black metal awesomeness? No idea. The
scene had been declared dead a thousand times before 2003 and has been
declared dead a thousand times since, but thankfully it still continues
to produce excellent records. Let’s take a look at some of the blackest
ov the black from 2003.
Dimmu Borgir: Death cult armageddon
Say what you will, but the mighty Demon Burger sent ye olde black
metal world spinning in its frostynekrocrypt with this album. “Death
cult Armageddon” featured everything you’d come to expect from Dimmu,
such as its majestic symphonic orchestration and a laughably ridiculous
random-three-word title (like their previous works: “Enthrone Darkness
Triumphant” or “Spiritual Black Dimensions” or “Puritanical Euphoric
Misanthropia” or “Storm blå st”). However, the shocking part of “DCA”
was its sleek production and relentless down-your-throat style of
promotion. I still remember owning the album for a few weeks and liking
it a good bit before hearing the intro to “Eradication Instincts
Defined” in the Hellboy movie previews and wondering to myself
if it was still acceptable to like “DCA” or even continue to accept
Dimmu Borgir as a tr00 black metal band. Regardless, it’s hard to deny
the impact Dimmu Borgir had on the black metal landscape and the extreme
metal world in general with this release.
Marduk: World funeral
In 2003, it felt like Marduk was beginning to lose steam. Their 1999
offering “Panzer division Marduk” was a polarizing effort that fans
either liked just enough or abhorred for its over-the-top relentless
break-neck speed (Personally, I hate it.). The 2001 follow-up “La grande
danse macabre” came out and was just flat-out boring and oozed
mediocrity. Then came “World funeral”. With this album, Marduk finally
seemed to combine all of their best qualities. They provided a healthy
dose of their signature speed, but also sprinkled in slower, more
brooding tracks like “Bleached Bones” to give the album a little more
diversity and groove. The result is an album that was strong enough to
re-energize the band and keep them rolling as one of black metal’s
biggest names. It was also their last album to feature vocals from the
Darkthrone: Hate them
I’ve expressed my love
for this era of Darkthrone’s existence countless times before, and this
album is probably one of their more underrated efforts. This was during
that period of time when Darkthrone was just beginning to make one of
their many transitions in style, this time from the raw, traditional
black metal, for which they are well known, towards the more
punk-inspired version of whateverthefuckitistheyaredoingnow. “Hate them”
is still quite a very “black metal” album. You’ll still find a lot of
Fenriz’s classic groovy speed, but there is a lot more of the straight
ahead punk drumming and even some slower doomy dirges. Overall, there is
a lot to like on here.
Enslaved: Below the lights
Enslaved was already the cream of the crop when it came to black
metal, but in 2003 they were fresh off their “Monumension” album which
yielded mixed results. The band was clearly beginning to sound bored and
stale with their standard black metal approach and had been growing
ever more progressive through the years. However, it was with “Below the
lights” that Enslaved really hit their stride, mixing their brand of
viking-powered black metal with numerous progressive elements to produce
what is what can truly be described as “a thinking man’s black metal
album”. Tracks ebb and flow with movements that seem to tell stories
wrought with a dark sense of hopelessness. When I first heard “Below the
lights”, I remember how hard it was to truly embrace it, but much like
the rest of Enslaved’s work, it grows on you and into you.
Funeral Mist: Salvation
Funeral Mist will forever be known to me as “the band that Mortuus
came from”. I absolutely love Mortuus’s work in Marduk. I even feel like
he has taken that band to a whole new level in the pantheon of
excellent black metal bands. Now, Funeral Mist and their 2.5 albums
worth of material is not in the same league with Marduk, but “Salvation”
actually serves as a little piece of greatness in its own right. It’s
fast, evil, and ugly, and it’s quite easy to see how well Mortuus would
fit a band like Marduk in retrospect.
We all love Naglfar here at Global Domination. It’s a requirement.
Not really. But this band gets their salad tossed quite a bit around
here and with good reason. “Sheol” was the band’s third (overall) and
final album with vocalist Jens Rydén. While it doesn’t get the kind of
love and respect as “Vittra” or “Now, diabolical”, “Sheol” is actually
quite a solid slab of melodic black metal. The production is glossy yet
icy, and the numerous melodic guitar leads really make the album
infectiously catchy. The record kind of loses a little steam down the
stretch as the second half of it isn’t as good as the first, but the way
this thing opens up with that first handful of tunes has always been
I think it’s safe to say that Melechesh is the best black metal band
from Jerusalem. Their desert-inspired themes and scales blend amazingly
well with the standard black metal sound to create a truly enjoyable
masterpiece that sounds like it was belched straight out of the desert
wastelands of the Middle East. The drumming, courtesy of Absu’s
Proscriptor McGovern, is blazingly fast, yet rhythmically solid, and
vocalist Ashmedi is one of the most underrated vocalists of the genre.
Melechesh’s two follow-ups to “Sphynx” are probably more immediately
enjoyable slabs of melodic blackness, but as far as a pure black metal
assault is concerned, “Sphynx” excellently captures that dark essence of
the desert and is quite possibly one of the best black metal albums of
Death Metal It wasn’t just black metal that had
some tasty goodness in ’03. There was some delicious death metal to be
heard that year as well. Several of the genre’s traditional
heavy-hitters were absent from ’03, but some still found a way to do
The mighty Cannibal Corpse even released their fantastic boxed set,
“15-year killing spree” (which is fan-fucken-tastic, by the way, if you
can get your mitts on a copy). Vader released their little “Blood” EP
which featured one of my favorite Vader tracks (“Shape Shifting”) and
was really cool for such a small package (huh-huh…small package).
Suffocation was gearing up for rebirth. Deicide gave us all a craptastic
You get the picture. It was a bit of a slow year for death metal
especially considering some of the stuff the previous decade had
yielded. But here are the choice cuts from ’03.
Edge of Sanity: Crimson II
There was a period of a few months where I was convinced that this
was the best album that could ever possibly be produced by mankind. I
loved every second of it. It was epic, catchy, melodic, brutal, groovy,
and it had it all. “Crimson II” had a charisma about it that just
forced you to love it as soon as you heard it. Dan Swanö did it all and
did it perfectly. His guitar solos were a thing of beauty. His growls
were immense. His drumming was tasty. And his crooning was beyond words.
This album still holds a special place in my heart, and I still think
it’s one of the best records I’ve ever heard. Crimson. Roll Tide,
The Project Hate MCMXCIX: Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate
It just wouldn’t be a Global Domination feature without a little TPH
worship, now would it? This album is actually my second-favorite by The
Project Hate (just behind the debut, “Cybersonic Superreverb), and with
good reason. Of course the riffs are fantastic, Jörgen Sandström’s
vocals are incredibly powerful, the production rocks, etc., etc., but
what really shines on this album to me is the programming. The synth
sounds are so intricately formulated and so catchy that the whole
package here is just plain beautiful. Mix all of that with the
absolutely gorgeous vocals by the absolutely gorgeous Jo Enckell, and
ladies and gentlesperms, we have a classic.
Krisiun: Works of carnage
I’ll never understand why this album doesn’t get treated with more
love and respect than it gets. It’s genuinely fantastic. Krisiun is a
killer band in the first place, but I could argue that “Works of
carnage” is one of their best albums. The production is dry and raw and
really cranks up the general brutality quite a bit. After 2001’s
“Ageless venomous” and its overly phony kick drum sound, Krisiun got
back to basics on this one and gave us all a 31-minute beating that’s as
good as anything they’ve ever done aside from “Conquerors of
Armageddon” (Seriously, that album is from a different planet).
Vital Remains: Dechristianize
If you like quality br00tal death metal, then as you read this,
you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I totally forgot about this
album”. I know this because I forget about how good this one is all the
time. Vital Remains was synonymous with quality death metal up until
2003. “Dechristianize” featured Glenda Benton on vocals, and she hadn’t
sounded this good since the first two Deicide albums (See what I did
there?). The über evil duo of Tony Lazaro and Dave Suzuki deliver the
instrumental goods on with ridiculous and incredulous (and pretty fucken
fake) speed and precision, and the result is one of the most brutal
religion-hating albums I’ve ever heard.
I love this album. When mentioning Nasum, one is obligated to mention Mieszko Talarczyk and say RIP.
I just did that, so now let’s talk about “Helvete”. I’m not much of a
grind fan, but this album is slathered with enough death metal
influences to make me believe that it’s just a badass death metal album
with a lot of really peculiarly short songs. The guitar sound is huge
and fuzzy, and Mieszko sounds pissed off on every track. It’s a shame
about what happened with these guys. I feel like they were just starting
to hit their stride with this album as one of the most elite
death-grind bands the world will ever fucken see. Oh well.
This one ain’t death metal per se, but Opeth is death metal (at
least they were in 2003…they’re fuck-knows now), so fuck you very much.
I’m putting them right here. Opeth owned the world in 2003. How do I
know this? Well, because they put out two albums during the span of six
months that were both good. “Damnation” was the soft rock,
pussified acoustic album which followed up “Deliverance” from November
of 2002, and it can be argued that this album was the beginning of the
end for Opeth. The album featured eight tracks of ‘70s-inspired
atmospheric prog-rock that (even though I hate to admit it) was actually
fucken good, dammit. Lyrically, everything was very emotional and
thought provoking, and all the clean guitar licks were just complicated
enough to find a balance between interesting and catchy. A killer album.
And for the record, Opeth sucks now. Fuck you.
Children of Bodom: Hate Crew Deathroll
Taking a cue from Dimmu Borgir, Children of Bodom puts three random
words together and calls it an album title in 2003. “HCD” is, in all
likelihood, the last good album that Bodom will ever create. It’s
actually loaded with excellent tracks that are easy to enjoy. It’s a
mere 9 tracks and 36 minutes, and at least 7 of those tracks are ones
that I would listen to over and over again. I still dust off “HCD” from
time to time just for nostalgia purposes, and it’s held up surprisingly
well over the past decade. Also, I don’t think there’s ever been a more
straight-up dumbass song title than “Lil’ Blood Red Ridin’ Hood”. Kill
Heavy & Power Metal Much like many of the death
metal bands out there in 2003, heavy metal and power metal was stuck in
a bit of a between-albums lull but still found a way to fill the void
with live albums (like Gamma Ray, Edguy, Blind Guardian, or Hammerfall)
or compilations. Even Manowar found a way to kill time and fuck fans
with yet another DVD of their shtick. Seriously, Manowar annoys me more than UGS
and Ted Nugent naked and making out at a Nickelback concert. And now
that you can’t unsee that image in your head, let’s move on.
Iron Maiden: Dance of death
It took a while for me to come around to “Dance of death”, but when
it finally clicked with me, I absolutely fell in love with this record.
With “DoD” Maiden cranked the prog influences, even opting for a
surprisingly fantastic acoustic sing-along track in “Journeyman”. A few
of the tunes on this album are even regular stalwarts at modern live
shows, and the tracks that aren’t just simply need time and a few
listens before they can be truly appreciated. “Paschendale”, the
8-minute opus about World War I, is still one of the most thoroughly
great songs I can think of. And as a bonus, it features some of the
shittiest cover art you’ll ever fucken see.
Human Fortress: Defenders of the crown
Make no mistake. This is one of the most underrated
heavy/power/whatever metal albums out there. They’re as dorky as it
gets, and they look like this,
but they’re also absolutely loaded with talent. Human Fortress is total
garbage nowadays, but the first time I heard this album, I was in awe
of the vocal capabilities of Jioti Parcharidis. He sounded like Bruce
Dickinson 2.0, and single-handedly makes this album an instant classic.
Just listen to him wail on the opener, “Knights in Shining Armor” to get
an idea of the kind of skill the dude has. There are also easily a
half-dozen tracks on here that you’ll want to hear time and time again.
If you’ve never heard “Defenders of the crown” and you like power metal
even a little bit, track it down and check it out. Trust me. It’s great.
Sonata Arctica: Winterheart’s guild
Join Winterheart’s Guild for a permanent +10 boost to magic.
Seriously though, liking Sonata Arctica might cause you to be called gay
and be laughed at, but “Winterheart’s guild” is a fantastic power metal
album that features a seriously talented vocalist (Tony Kakko) and an
insanely virtuosic guitarist (Jani Liimatainen). There are loads and
loads of undeniably catchy tracks and catchy solos to be found on this
album. It was actually so good, it somewhat set a standard for Sonata
Arctica that they’ll probably never be able to reach again.
The Darkness: Permission to land
You don’t have to be retarded to like Teh Darkness. You can even be
dumber than that. This is a band with loads of charm and catchy hooks,
and they’re an absolute joy to listen to from time to time. This is an
album that is essentially a big batch of brainless lyrical content,
groovy AC/DC riffs, surprisingly good guitar leads, and nut-squeezin’
falsetto vocals. This album is way more than simply the
super-duper hit single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”. I’ll never
get tired of the middle-school humor you’ll get on “Permission to land”
either. Seriously, what’s not to love about a band that writes a song
about herpes and calls it “Growing on Me”?
Pants-Shitters The year of 2003 was not spared from
its fair share of utter shit either. Some really big names dropped some
really big deuces on fans all around the planet. While some bands like
Helloween opted for albums that were just full of forgettable
mediocrity, these bands went above and beyond to cook up an epic turd
sandwich for metal fans everywhere.
Morbid Angel: Heretic
This album wasn’t necessarily terrible, but it definitely wasn’t
great. Or even good. Or even mediocre. Okay, it was terrible. It was not
extreme enough. The production by itself actually killed most of the
miniscule amount of promise this album ever had to begin with. The
guitar sound sounds like the amps were sealed in ziploc bags, thrown
into a swamp and submersed, and then pressed record. It’s not fun. At
all. And if that wasn’t enough, the album also included a bonus disc of
what can only be described as some of the most insignificant, shitty,
and unnecessary guitar wankery ever laid down on a recording.
Six Feet Under: Bringer of Blood
SFU was never really that great to begin with, but with BoB,
the band had apparently smoked themselves to a state of worthlessness
that was just laughable. The riffs sounds like they were written by a
12-year old, the drums and bass are boring as sin, the lyrics are fucken
retarded, and the vocals…those damn vocals…are just…just…yeah. There
aren’t very many albums out there that are just this laughably bad.
It’s almost impossible to believe that Chris Barnes was once good, let
alone amazing, after hearing this thing.
Album of the Year You don’t have to be good to be
considered “The Album of the Year”. In fact, you can completely suck and
still be considered “The Album of the Year”. Why? Well first of all,
this is my list, and I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, and second, when
you look at all the albums from 2003 that you’ll remember 10 years from
now, you’ll remember “St. Anger” because it was indeed so
transcendently, and absolutely fucken terrible.
Metallica: St. Anger
I think K will agree that this one is fucken epic.
I’ll be honest. I’ve never heard the whole thing all the way through. I
can’t make it. I just can’t. It’s that bad. Jaymez’s vocals have
degenerated to a point of utter idiocy on here. He can’t carry a tune in
a dumptruck. The detuned guitars just make it sound like the band is
trying to be Korn. And then after all that, there’s that god-forsaken
snare drum. Fuck you, Metallica. Fuck you.
So there you have it, a comprehensive look at some of the sounds of
2003. It wasn’t the greatest year ever, by far, but it featured more
than enough material to make it beyond respectable. And just for fun,
here are few other albums from ’03 that are well worth checking out:
Akercocke: “Choronzon” – Pretty good album by a band with a lot better stuff.
Amon Amarth: “Versus the world” – Much like every other album of
theirs, Amon Amarth gives you a lot of melodic death metal tunes about
Vikings and their lore. Surprise!
Belphegor: “Lucifer incestus” – It’s fast. It’s loud. It’s good.
Carpathian Forest: “Defending the throne of evil” – This is my favorite album by CF, and I have no idea why.
Destruction: “Metal discharge” – And that sounds painful.
Dream Theater: “Train of thought” – Probably my favorite DT album.
Then again, I think it’s the one of the only ones of theirs I like.
Falkenbach: “Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty” – Don’t hate it until you’ve heard
it. This album was some excellent atmospheric folk metal before the
genre got overcrowded and ruined.
Gorgoroth: “Twilight of the idols” – Yeah, not so much.
Kalmah: “Swampsong” – Underrated slab of melodic death metal that sounds like a mix of Children of Bodom and In Flames.
King Diamond: “The puppet master” – I’ve expressed my endearing love for this one before. Excellent stuff.
Lost Horizon: “A flame to the ground beneath” – One of the best power metal albums ever. I think so, anyway.
Misery Index: “Retaliate” – It’s a Misery Index album. It’s fast. It’s brutal.
Monstrosity: “Rise to power” – Mike Poggione. That is all. Seriously though, this is a fantastic album.
Pelican: “Australasia” – I’ve got a soft spot for this band for some reason.
Zyklon: “Aeon” – This album features a lot of good death metal with just enough blackened influences to keep things interesting.