The decade long duration of the noughties (2000s) saw a vast array of cutting edge releases crafted by myriad Progressive Metal masterminds. In today’s edition of Shaping Metal, we will be taking a look at five albums that kept Metal innovative, vivacious and virtuosic moving into the 21st century.
Dream Theater – Octavarium (June 7, 2005)
No list of Progressive Metal masterpieces would be complete without at least one Dream Theater release. Octavarium, the band’s eighth full-length studio album contains all the hallmarks that defined Dream Theater as one of the most awe-inspiring acts within contemporary music culture. Across the album’s one hour and 15-minute run time, listeners can expect to be flabbergasted by seemingly endless time-signature changes, blistering guitar and keyboard gymnastics, experimental song structures and unforgettable melodic themes. Dream Theater’s Metal influences shine through with brilliance on tracks such as ‘The Root of All Evil’ and ‘Panic Attack.’ By far the most impressive piece on the album can be found on the self-titled, final track of the eight-track album, ‘Octavarium.’ Arguably the band’s magnum opus, running at 24 minutes in playtime, ‘Octavarium’ takes listeners on a journey through ambient keyboard arrangements, majestic orchestral ostinatos, acoustic interludes and face-melting riffage/solo sections.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Octavarium,’ ‘The Root of All Evil,’ ‘Sacrificed Sons’
Opeth – Blackwater Park (27 February, 2001)
Swedish Progressive Death Metal titans, Opeth had released an extensive range of albums and EPs before their fifth studio album Blackwater Park, but arguably none that have matched its level of excellence since (though they have come close). Fusing the oppressively brutal aspects of Death Metal with the unlikely presence of folk / psychedelic influences, Opeth crafted an album that still inspires extreme Progressive Metal acts to the current day. Produced by Steven Wilson of British prog rock heavyweights, Porcupine Tree, Blackwater Park marked a distinct stylistic departure from the band’s earlier Black / Death output towards a more cerebral and multifaceted approach to song writing and production. Furthermore, this album highlights the impressive development of Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocal capabilities, containing both earth-shattering growls and angelic cleans. Mind-bending guitar riffage, tasteful drum fills and atmospheric folk passages adorn this record from start to finish throughout its 67-minute run time.
Stand out-tracks: ‘The Leper Affinity,’ ‘The Drapery Falls,’ ‘Blackwater Park’
Mastodon – Leviathan (31 August, 2004)
Mastodon have a released a lengthy catalogue of classic modern Metal albums, but their second album released in 2004 is often cited as their most accomplished work to date. Leviathan is an album that combines sludge-laden guitar riffs, bombastic drum fills and electrifying vocal performances together in order to construct a concept album surrounding one of the most fabled pieces of Western literature, Moby Dick. The ten-track album moves through a range of pieces that capture the listener’s attention with fierce tenacity, refusing to let go until its closing seconds. Although Mastodon would go on to release more excellent psychedelic Metal records, Leviathan is still the one that will stand the test of time in decades to come.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Blood and Thunder,’ ‘Aqua Dementia,’ ‘Hearts Alive’
Gojira – From Mars to Sirius (27 September, 2005)
Despite Gojira’s consistently excellent discography, it would be remiss to look past the French quartet’s third studio album, From Mars to Sirius as one of the most influential Progressive Metal albums of the past decade. From Mars to Sirius saw Gojira combine the raw energy of their earlier Death Metal stylings with an approach to song writing which took influence from 60s and 70s psychedelic rock acts such as King Crimson and Rush. With a run time of over an hour, From Mars to Sirius features some of Gojira’s most crushing riffs, head-spinning grooves and most memorable melodic themes to be found within their entire catalogue. Furthermore, Gojira brought a new perspective to lyrics dealing with environmental issues previously unexplored within the terrain of genres such as Death Metal and Progressive Metal. From Mars to Sirius is a masterclass in extremity as well as virtuosity and a definite point of interest in Gojira’s musical history.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Backbone,’ ‘From the Sky,’ ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe,’ ‘Global Warming’
Tool – Lateralus (May 15, 2001)
Perhaps the most critically-acclaimed release featured on this list, Tool’s third full-length album Lateralus is often cited as not only one of the most influential Progressive Metal records of the past decade but also as one of the greatest rock albums released so far in the 21st century. Lateralus clocks in at over one hour and 18 minutes in length, and never fails to maintain audience engagement despite its enduring run time. Experimental production choices, disorienting time-signature changes, hard-hitting riffs, atmospheric segues and hypnotic vocal phrases are all contained within Lateralus and its 13 varied tracks. In comparison to the band’s earlier releases, Lateralus opts for a more intricate and technical approach both to the instrumental performances and song writing sensibilities. This is most easily observed on the album’s self-titled track, containing lyrics and rhythmic motifs directly inspired by the mathematical concept of the Fibonacci sequence. Overall, Lateralus is an album that sounds like it was released yesterday and will no doubt hold the same effect in 20 years.
Stand-out tracks: ‘Schism,’ ‘Parabola,’ ‘Lateralus’