Metalunderground.com's Best of 2008 Awards Announced
Band Photo: Lamb of God (?)
2008 was a great year for metal releases. What's more, it was a great year for real metal. Never before have I seen a "best of" poll with so few mentions of trendy and mainstream metal bands. Despite a slew of hugely anticipated releases by bands such as Metallica, Guns N Roses, AC/DC, Testament, and more, it was the many other intriguing metal releases that made 2008 special.
That said, let's get down to the details and talk about those bands that made 2008 such a good year for heavy metal by announcing the Metalunderground.com staff picks for 2008. As in previous years, I've polled the entire staff here at Metalunderground.com about their favorite albums and performances of the year.
Here are the Metalunderground.com staff picks for the following categories: Best Metal Album of 2008, Best Metal DVD of 2008, Best Metal Newcomer of 2008, Best Live Act of 2008, and Most Anticipated Release for 2009.
Best Metal Album of 2008
Technical and progressive metal dominated this category this year, and quite frankly overshadowed most of the releases in 2008. Bands like Opeth, Ihsahn, Nachtmystium, and Cynic had highly touted releases in 2008. But the band who came out on top was...
Not even the reunited Cynic would top Opeth this year, but they certainly came close. For the first time ever, we had a tie in points in deciding on the best metal album of the year. Our tie-breaker criteria is number of nominations, which Opeth had over Cynic's "Traced In Air." As expected, also receiving multiple nominations and significant votes were Ihsahn for "AngL" and Nachtmystium's "Assassins: Black Meddle Part I." Other releases receiving multiple nods for best metal album of 2008 included Amon Amarth's "Twilight of the Thunder God," Testament's "The Formation of Damnation," Metallica's "Death Magnetic" and Trivium's "Shogun." Most anticipated last year, Meshuggah's "obZen" received only one nomination for "Best Metal Album" this year.
Best Metal DVD of 2008
The category of "Best Metal DVD" is traditionally a difficult one to vote on, given that most of us listen to far more music than we watch DVDs. But this year we had an easy consensus and landslide victory winner, getting more nominations than any other band in any category this year, of...
Lamb of God's "Walk With Me In Hell"
Opeth's "The Roundhouse Tapes" got a respectably high number of votes as well, while the only other DVD releases with multiple nods were Arch Enemy's "Tyrants of the Rising Sun" and Cannibal Corpse's "Centuries Of Torment."
Despite releasing "Killadephia" not too long ago, Lamb of God got it right with "Walk With Me In Hell" with just the right amount of live footage, behind the scenes footage, and up close and personal insight and schenanigans to make an entertaining DVD release.
Best Metal Newcomer of 2008
Bands eligible for "Best Metal Newcomer of 2008" included bands who have released their first full length album or released their first album on a somewhat major metal label, or even have no formal release at all. With hundreds of new metal bands popping up each year with limited exposure, this category is also usually difficult to gain any sort of consensus. However, just like the Best Metal DVD category, we had a surprisingly clear winning this year with:
Having a fairly unique sound and drawing comparisons to Mastodon, Bison b.c. definitely stands out from the crowd. The real surprise is that so many people have heard of them to earn them the designation of "Best Metal Newcomer of 2008."
The only other bands who got multiple nods were Tim Lambesis' (As I Lay Dying) Arnold-worship metalcore band Austrian Death Machine and retro-metalers Black Tide, who both have a considerable amount of notoeiety compared to Bison b.c. That's not to say that there were not plenty of quality underground bands making a name for themselves in 2008. There certainly were. But their limited exposure makes it difficult to get enough votes to make our list. Still, we're happy to spread the word of the underground, so I'll list all of the nominations for this category at the end of this article.
Best Live Act of 2008
"Best Live Act" is typically a fairly competitive category since it is not restricted to releases from this year, only performances. Typically bands make this list the year after a big release, as they do widespread touring. But an early release and heavy touring cycle can easily buck the trend as we've seen this year's winner do. The winner of "Best Live Act" for 2008 is:
While I've heard mixed reports of Opeth's live show, their music certainly pleases and they must be doing something right to beat out bands like Judas Priest, Testament, and In Flames, who also got multiple nominations for this designation.
Most Anticipated Release of 2009
Now that the hype of 2008's big releases is finally over, we can see that the lineup of releases for 2009 looks very promising. The most anticipated releases that got the most votes should really come as no surprise, as the watering mouths can be seen in any of their respective comment threads since late last year. But the band whose next release seemed most anticipated by our staff was:
Lamb of God for "Wrath"
In what might be a surprise to some, Megadeth came in a solid second place. While Metallica has gotten votes for being highly anticipated, it has not been to this degree that we're seening here. Hot on Megadeth's heels in votes was Mastodon's "Crack The Skye," with Slayer, Obscura ("Cosmogenesis"), Cannibal Corpse ("Evisceration Plague"), Between the Buried and Me, and Sepultura ("A-Lex") all garnering multiple nominations for "most anticipated."
As "overrated" as many seem to think Lamb of God is, the band comes home with decisive victories in our staff picks nearly every year it seems, also having won Best Metal Album in our innaugural awards in 2004 for "Ashes of the Wake" and again in 2006 for "Sacrament," and also Best Live act in 2007. This year they come home with two. But seeing how the most anticipated albums don't usually make the best albums, we'll see if they can repeat their success next year.
Each year we talk about popular trends dying out, such as nu-metal and metalcore. In between those major trends, some micro-trends may be seen within the core metal community as well. For some time, melodic elements were making their way back into metal. Now it seems that adding progressive elements to metal is the new micro-trend. The growing popularity of progressive death and black metal bands as well as the number of newer metal bands from all sub-genres appearing with progressive and technical elements is a sure sign of the growing trend. Fortunately, this isn't a "trendy" trend and you probably won't see teens jumping en masse from emo and metalcore to Opeth and Obscura anytime soon. At least this new direction leads to new and interesting sounds rather than repetition of the same style ad-nauseum.
2009 looks to fuel this trend with highly anticipated releases from Mastodon, Obscura, and Between the Buried and Me among many others on the way.
Finally, here is the entire list of nominations for the "Best Metal Newcomer" category in 2008, provided simply because these nominations should make good leads for you, our readers, to discover some new bands:
Dead Mens Dreams
Five Finger Death Punch
Grief Of War
Haeresiarchs of Dis
Order Of Ennead
Quest For Blood
Salt The Wound
Scars on Broadway
Winds of Plague
No doubt there are others worth checking out, but these were our staff picks, limited to five bands per person.
Having Lamb of God and Opeth wind up winning four out of the five designations may make this year's picks seem a little boring overall. But the momentum of both of these bands is undeniably enormous, and both have stayed true to themselves and earned the endearment of many metal fans around the world. With all of the blockbuster releases hardly getting a mention, I expect many of you will have differing opinions than ours, however. Feel free to share them in the comments.
Here's to an even better 2009! \m/
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