As the '90s came to a close, heavy metal was in pretty good shape. 1999 saw the release of some really good albums, and the continued success of up and coming bands like Opeth and In Flames coupled with the ongoing popularity of veteran bands made the future of the genre look bright. One troubling thing about the end of the '90s was the rise of rap metal and groups like Limp Bizkit, but their reign would be short. Here are my choices for the best heavy metal albums released in 1999.
Dreaming Neon Black was Nevermore's third full-length album, and marks their first appearance on one of these lists. The Seattle, Washington band delivered a really diverse effort, with fast, thrashy songs tempered by soaring ballads. Jeff Loomis and Tim Calvert showcase outstanding solos and do some serious shredding. Warrel Dane shows a lot of versatility as well, with vocals ranging from aggressive screams to melodic singing. This is an emotional and powerful concept album, and the best of 1999.
Opeth makes their third appearance in a row on my year end list. Still Life is a concept album that finds the band getting even more progressive and eclectic. Opeth are masters of blending intense and aggressive parts with slow, melodic and sorrowful sections. Mikael Akerfeldt has the versatility to croon melodically and utilize harsh death metal vocals. Everything flows together really well, and with every album Opeth becomes more creative and original.
For the second time in the '90s Dream Theater made my year end list. Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory marked the debut of keyboardist Jordan Rudess, an important addition to the band. It's a concept album with a complicated storyline and long, complicated songs. Those songs are ambitious, and the band's musicianship and skillful compositions make them extremely compelling and epic in scope.
Just a year after Gallery Of Suicide was released to mixed reviews, Cannibal Corpse responded with Bloodthirst, one of their best albums. The songwriting is very consistent, and the production makes their brutal death metal sound even more devastating. Lyrically it's what you'd expect from Cannibal Corpse, with gory titles like "Hacksaw Decapitation" and "Blowtorch Slaughter." Corpsegrinder's vocal performance is also very strong on this album.
Like Opeth, for their third album in a row In Flames finds their way onto the year end best of list. Colony finds the band refining and perfecting their style of melodic death metal, often referred to as the "Gothenburg Sound." Anders Friden increased the amount of clean vocals on this album, and the songs are very catchy and melodic. Overall it's a very consistent and enjoyable release.
Hatebreeder was Children Of Bodom's second album. The Finnish band improved in all areas on this release. It is heavier, more intense and the songs are better. Their style has been classified as extreme power metal, with stellar dual guitar work, atmospheric keybords, plenty of melody and harsh vocals. It's a relentless and angry album that wreaks mayhem for under 40 minutes, but its effects definitely linger.
After topping my year end list with their first two albums, Emperor slipped a little with their third release. Following up masterpieces like In The Nightside Eclipse and Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk was a tough task, but IX Equilibrium is no slouch in its own right. What it lacks in diversity it makes up for in raw power, brutality and darkness. The songs are furious black metal with walls of guitars and keyboards punctuated by blastbeats. While it's not Emperor's best, this is still a very good album.
While some debate their metal credentials, there's no denying Dillinger Escape Plan's musical chops. Calculating Infinity was their debut, an album packed with stunningly technical musicianship, complex song structures and harsh vocals. It's an angry and sometimes abrasive album that also has a lot of depth, and even though it is sometimes a difficult listen, it is a worthwhile one.
The Gathering was a welcome return to form. It saw Testament incorporating more of their thrash metal roots with faster songs and some shredding solos. In addition to thrash, there were modern metal influences and death metal grooves. The songwriting is really strong on this album with razor sharp riffs and focused, yet memorable hooks. Chuck Billy's vocals are also improved. He shows a lot more range and diversity than on the previous album.
Beyond The Veil was the second album from the Norwegian gothic metal band Tristania. One of the things that makes them unique is the use of three different vocalists: a harsh male vocalist, a melodic male vocalist and an operatic female vocalist. The songs are dark and symphonic with extensive use of keyboards. Tristania are one of the best in the gothic metal genre, and if you've never heard their stuff, this is the perfect place to start.