This year marks the birthdays of some of the most important metal albums of all time – from Master Of Puppets and Raining Blood to Roots and Antichrist Superstar. But while 1986 and 1996 were both landmark years for heavy music, it’s amazing to look back just one decade to see how many brilliant, significant albums appeared in 2006.
Mastodon – Blood Mountain
The world had rightfully started to salivate over Atlanta’s Mastodon when they unleashed the monstrous Leviathan in 2004, and the follow-up to Metal Hammer’s Album Of The Year didn’t disappoint. Taking Leviathan’s thunderous riffs and endless creative scope up a conceptual mountain filled with one-eyed sasquatches, dizzying inventiveness, fiendish hooks and an even heavier edge no doubt brought on from global touring alongside Slayer, Blood Mountain ticked every box and invented a few more for good measure. Intricate guitar work, Brann Dailor’s mesmeric drumming and the overpowering weight of Crystal Skull and This Mortal Soil once again earned the band Hammer’s highest accolade again, as well as legions of new disciples across the globe.
Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death
Bruce Dickinson’s return to the helm resulted in two great albums and saw Maiden’s stock rise to its 1980s peak, but the sheer fanaticism that followed A Matter Of Life And Death’s has set the band on an upward, all-conquering trajectory that they’ve continued to ride with glee ever since. Steve Harris’ love of prog shone through, pushing the band’s trademark sound to its darkest and most grandiose limits, from the triumphant Different World and These Colours Don’t Run to For The Greater Good Of God’s opulent majesty. The band toasted its juggernaut success by playing the album in its entirety every night, to the disdain of no one.
Lamb Of God – Sacrament
It wasn’t just Iron Maiden taking metal into the charts in 2006. Virginia’s Lamb Of God might not have been the most obvious candidates to seize the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal’s standard and charge headlong into the mainstream conscious, but by expanding on the grizzled thrash and weighty, Pantera’s groove, Sacrament delivered the vehicle they needed. With Redneck issuing an entry point with its murderously catchy riff and Randy Blythe’s confrontational call-to-arms, the album revealed new depths in the form of the self-explanatory bite of Walk With Me In Hell to Descending’s beastly undercurrent, still standing as the band’s best work in a glittering CV.
Dragonforce – Inhuman Rampage
Though they came to everyone else’s attention amidst a frenzy of coloured buttons and plastic instruments on Guitar Hero, power metallers Dragonforce were a band the British scene could justifiably be proud of with their third release. Living up to the album’s title with a light-speed twin guitar and keyboard assault that delivered more notes per second than seemed humanly possible, skilfully coupled with massive, plastic-sword aloft choruses on Through The Fire And Flames and Body Breakdown. Turning some of metal’s most maligned and unfashionable subgenres into a undeniably enjoyable listen, Inhuman Rampage was a genuine triumph.
Satyricon – Now, Diabolical
Alongside countrymen Dimmu Borgir and Ihsahn, frontman Satyr and drummer Frost were the chief visionaries responsible for bringing extreme music, specifically Norwegian black metal, to worldwide attention and acclaim in the 21st century. Following on from Volcano’s more stripped down approach to the chilling riffs and blastbeats on which the genre had made its hallmark, Now, Diabolical’s rock n’ roll dynamics were again delivered with deft touch, albeit still drenched in blackened menace and primal force. The colossal rumble of The Pentagram Burns and K.I.N.G. may have had purists baulking, but it created a visceral, exhilarating experience that still sounds thrilling.
Tool – 10,000 Days
Remember when five years between Tool albums seemed excessive? Though we’ve been waiting impatiently for a follow-up ever since, 10,000 Days gave us plenty of progressive wonder to help pass the time. Whether it was the CD’s immersive artwork being brought to life through stereoscopic lenses – you certainly don’t get that on Spotify – to the meandering, brooding brilliance of Vicarious and centrepiece double-header Wings For Marie, the musicians proved yet again they were without equal, with frontman Maynard James Keenan stealing the show with his painfully heartfelt vocal performance. Absence makes the heart grow… oh just hurry up with the new one lads!
Alexisonfire – Crisis
Emo and post-hardcore acts were still ruling the rock world a decade ago, with Taking Back Sunday and My Chemical Romance conquering all throughout the year. But despite not setting the world alight commercially, it was the third album from Canadian misfits Alexisonfire that stood out as 2006’s highlight, and still stands out as a jewel in the genre’s crown. Mixing punk’s boisterous spirit and jolting hardcore edge with impossibly addictive melodies and heart-breaking sentiment, the impassioned Drunks, Lovers, Sinners And Saints and irresistible This Could Be Anywhere In The World cemented the band as post-hardcore’s most beloved representatives.
Gallows – Orchestra Of Wolves
This snarling punk nailbomb from out of nowhere detonated with an atomic force when it was unveiled in September 2006, and its effects are still being felt today. Swaggering out of Watford with an unapologetically aggressive attitude, incendiary live shows and songs that could stand toe-to-toe with a bare-knuckle boxer, Gallows’ debut gave the unsuspecting British rock scene a vicious and much needed kick in the teeth. A major label deal, the even better Grey Britain and a burgeoning roster of exciting hardcore talent would all follow, all thanks to the likes of Come Friendly Bombs and Frank Carter’s venomous lyrics.
Decapitated – Organic Hallucinosis
Few bands have had as much as impact on the current death metal and deathcore crop as Poland’s Decapitated. Delivering a devastating swarm of intricate but memorable riffs and synapse shattering rhythms, their fourth album cemented the band as the most exciting sound in extremity. That they’ve persevered since the 2007 bus crash that tragically robbed them of frontman Covan and killed drummer Vitek is testament to Decapitated’s ferocious spirit, displaying Organic Hallucinosis as a ground-breaking tribute to their comrades rather than a premature swansong.
All That Remains – The Fall Of Ideals
The Fall Of Ideals isn’t just All That Remains’ best release by a considerable distance, but the pick of the albums in what was a premier year for metalcore, beating out the likes of Killswitch Engage’s As Daylight Dies and Unearth’s III: In The Eyes Of Fire. Oli Herbert’s scintillating riffs and razor sharp hooks were deployed with lethal precision, elevating This Calling and Whispers (I Hear You) to genuine world-beaters, with Phil Labonte in commanding form belting out the likes of Not Alone and death metal payload of The Weak Willed. Ten years on it can still comfortably beat down any up-and-comers you care to mention.