But my intention is not to write up a massive amount of each one of these as time is of course at a premium often for myself. In other words, the following are just brief comments that perhaps more elaboration can be made if/when time is available.
I also think I easily could
a) be forgetting something
b) may discover records soon or long after that also would belong in this mix.
That all being said, there is no ranking/specific order for these.
Orphaned Land - Mabool (2004)
Probably their best record still. I love the charging riffs and mix of middle eastern instrumentation and blend of clean vocals (including harmonies both male and female), and growls. There is a great energy and storytelling element to this album.
Tracks: A Call to Awake, Ocean Land, Mabool, The Storm Still Rages On
Subterranean Masquerade - Suspended Animation Dreams (2005)
Great blending of 70's tinged progressive folk rock with stuff like sax and flute and some infectious and soaring string arrangements, with clean and growling vocals from Paul Kuhr. This record just got more impressive with time. The concept is neat as well, about well, someone whose caught in a nightmare. The chanting "Wake Up, Wake Up from this dream!" I always remember.
Tracks: Six Strings to Cover Fear, Awake, Wolf Among Sheep
maudlin of the Well - Leaving Your Body Map/Bath (2001)
I consider these 2 releases from 2001, a double LP really. They connect in various ways, including just styles and thematically. The music on here uses dynamics and blends of heavy harsh/to beauty/soft so well. I swear everytime I go back to these records I discover new things and become more in awe of them.
Among many other things, I think I totally fall for the guitar textures and tones Toby Driver uses.
Tracks: Birth Pains of Astral Projection, Heaven and Weak, Gleam in Ranks,Sleep is a Curse, Riseth He Numberless (Parts 1 and 2)
Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness (2001)
1 song, 60 minutes. The biggest thing about this record is how it is 1 piece that does last 1 hour, yet, it doesn't seem like an hour. Or rather, I have never felt there is any dragging or filler while listening to it. In other words, it flows incredibly well. I guess you could say they trumped A Pleasant Shade of Gray in a sense by creating 1 piece of music that is even longer in actual length.
Musically, it's very intense at times, melodic, a lot of epic, soaring, big, layered sections. In due time, a re-listening probably could warrant more detail. But for now, I can just say I have enjoyed probably a little more each and every time I've listened to it.
Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Dream Theater's last amazing record. A double album, which like maudlin of the Well I suppose, this could be regarded as 2 LPs, but the concept sort of still at least loosely goes together throughout all 4 sides.
I think part of why this record stands out and seems to be their last really great album is it doesn't really have any filler on it. No extended solos that go on too long. I actually really like "The Glass Prison" (including the chapman stick solo), but probably regard it as the worst song on this album, which tells you how good I think this record is.
Tracks: Blind Faith, The Great Debate, Misunderstood, About to Crash, Solitary Shell, About to Crash (reprise)
Pain of Salvation - The Perfect Element I (2000)
A massively emotional and layered record with a plethora of moments of beauty and distortion. This record is always a trip, whether it be for the music itself, or the nostalgia. More details are here of course.
tracks: The Perfect Element, In the Flesh, Her Voices, Reconciliation, King of Loss, Used
Pain of Salvation - Remedy Lane (2002)
The follow up to 2000's breathtaking The Perfect Element I, did not disappoint really in any way. This record still has a handful of just incredible moments to look forward to. Whether it be the climax at the end of "Beyond the Pale" or the crescendo in "A Trace of Blood." "Undertow" over time I have come to love even more. The middle eastern element in "Chain Sling" as well.
tracks: Beyond the Pale, A Trace of Blood, Ending Theme, This Heart of Mine, Chain Sling, Rope Ends
Opeth - Ghost Reveries (2005)
Opeth's last great record. I guess I see Opeth's catalog from Still Life through this record as being pretty consistent (sans for Damnation I guess given that's not really a Metal record at all). But I guess I really enjoy the textures, atmosphere and flow on this album probably more than any other. Some fans find "The Grand Conjuration" to be one of if not the band's worst music from that period (or ever), but actually, I think I find it to be my favorite part of this album. It has this great energy to it, in a Deep Purple-kind of way.
While it's not new territory for the band, the dynamics where they go from intense to dreamy back to intense I fell totally for, probably more than any other record. I suppose it's worth adding their 1st 3 records I haven't spent as much time with as the albums that have followed. And in due time, I may compare those more favorably at that point.
tracks: The Grand Conjuration, Ghost of Perdition, Reverie/Harlequin Forest
Opeth - Deliverance (2002)
This is the 1st record I ever spent much time with, in Opeth's catalog. I probably never will get past the grinning (or just laughing in fact) while hearing Mikael's growls. That was of course way back when it came out and my experience with growls was very limited-to-none. But they certainly grew on me and this album did as well.
The intensity of many of the riffs and how they build just became so enjoyable and addictive. This is a wonderful record for energy (especially in my line of work, needing to increase my production level).
tracks: Deliverance, Master's Apprentices, A Fair Judgement
SikTh - Death of a Dead Day (2006)
Like maudlin of the Well to an extent, this band and both their records I have been more or less in awe of since checking them out. However, I also haven't spent incredible amounts of time listening to them, I suppose mainly due to mood. But when I have, I have have enjoyed more or less all of their music. They have this incredible unique yet crazy quality of being theatrical and melodic. The singer sounds like Gonzo from the muppets, and while initially I found it kind of childish, I fell in love with it the more I heard of him.
Some of the playing here is off the charts, Changing time signatures, to layers of vocals and other instruments.
Tracks: Another Sinking Ship, Flogging the Horses
SikTh - The Trees Are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild (2003)
I came to feel this record to basically be about as good as their 2006 follow-up. It was crazy technical, funny, dynamic, and theatrical. I suppse you could say both the production and the maturity of the songwriting isn't quite at what they achieved with Death of a Dead Day, but their charm and ambition to experiment is still all over this record.
tracks: Scent of the Obscene, How May I Help You?
uneXpect - In Flesh Aquarium (2006)
Like SikTH and motW, another crazy technical band blending genres with Metal that worked successfully. I love how this band uses characterized vocals both clean and growls from both male and female perspectives.
This is circus Metal, but it stays with you long after you've listened to it.
tracks: Psychic Jugglers, Feasting Fools, The Shiver suite
Burst - Lazarus Bird (2008)
I loved this record very early on. It is probably the perfect blend of progressive rock and sludge metal. The vocalist, while he can sound constipated, somehow complements the music really well.
I've said countless times seemingly, but this is basically what Mastodon could sound like if I loved them. The guitar work and the crescendos are so well constructed. The vocal harmonies and layers and tones work so well in sort of a dirty-to-cleaning-up-the mood/vibe/tone sort of way.
I really love this record, and the band in general. It's too bad they will likely never find a larger audience (and even this record among some of their more earlier hardcore sound).
Tracks: (We Watched) The Silver Rain, Cripple God, Momentum, City Cloaked, We Are Dust
Sculptured - Embodiment: Colllapsing Under the Weight of God (2008)
Similar to Subterranean Masquerade, this record used black metal vocals at times mixing with progressive rock in a dark, gloomy way musically. Also they use samples, like Don Anderson's primary group Agalloch, to add some wonderful atmosphere. Love their use of piano as well as many other elements to this album.
tracks: Embodiment Is the Purest Form of Horror, Bodies Without Organs.
Between the Buried and Me - Colors (2007)
A trip of immense emotion and ebbs and flows of tones and textures. More details here of course.
It really has become as I've seen it, BTBAM's peak into writing extended song structures that flow together (and reprise some elements).
tracks: White Walls, Sun of Nothing, Ants of the Sky, Prequel to the Sequel
Between the Buried and Me - Alaska (2005)
I came to enjoy this record almost as much as Colors. It has "Selkies" on it, which probably is as good as anything on Colors (sans for perhaps "White Walls"). I love that Three of a Perfect Pair riff they use to perfection.
tracks: Selkies: The Endless Obsession, Backwards Marathon, All Bodies, Alaska
Protest the Hero - Kezia (2006)
This album is a trip, with vocal harmonies and acoustic interludes that totally remain in your brain for hours afterwards. This is Protest the Hero's debut album, and sadly, they have not managed to come close to recapturing on an entire record what was so special about it (Volition might at least be moving closer to that however).
Time isn't available, but I would love to write in great detail how incredible an album this is. They just hit the nail on the head so well by using those acoustic sections, female vocals, catchyvocal melodies along with the great dynamics and guitar work.
tracks: Divinity Within, Blindfolds Aside, Nautical, Bury the Hatchet
Fates Warning - Disconnected (2000)
The follow-up to A Pleasant Shade of Gray, which like APSOG did include contributions from ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore. This record really has a wonderful mix of atmosphere, epic tracks, moods, trademark Jim Matheos guitar riffs and Ray Alder vocal lines (which I believe Terry Brown was involved with).
This is Fates doing a very modern sounding record with some new textures and styles that I got a ton of mileage in the early 2000's out of. And "Still Remains" may still *remain* the best single track the band has ever recorded.
tracks: Still Remains, Something From Nothing, So, One, Pieces of Me
John Arch - A Twist of Fate (2003)
Nearly 28 minutes of perfection. This 2-track EP is just so good and addictive, that it wipes the floor with so many other records that don't even include a fraction of music even close to as good.
John's return to recorded music after 17 years or so, was such a breath of fresh air. To hear him and his signature style voice with modern production and with Jim Matheos was one of the greatest out-of-nowhere releases of music I've ever experienced. Both "Relentless" and "Cheyenne" have countless moments to enjoy, I can't pinpoint that many specifics.
The vocal harmonies, to the lyrics, to the piano and strings, to the chanting, to Mike Portnoy's drum work.
This really is as good as progressive metal can get to me.
In Vain - The Latter Rain (2007)
This is one massive, epic, layered, varied in styles Metal record. Blackened vocals at times. Some incredible riffs that soar for extensive amounts of time. It's really a journey of an album, like Green Carnation's Light of Day, Day of Darkness, the trip is so good, it almost doesn't seem nearly as long as it clocks in at.
Tracks: As I Wither, The Spirits Ride with the Wind, The Titan, October's Monody, I Total Triumf.
Martyr - Feeding the Abscess (2006)
This album, I can mainly cite a couple of things. I read some glaring reviews on some other sites about it a few years ago and gave it a go and was more or less immediately impressed by its uptempo energy. The guitar work is fast, rhythmic and always keeps my attention.
I liked this so much, I eventually purchased it on cd. And I just noticed it came out on vinyl in 2013. The price isn't outrageous, so I'm on it. Like The End, one of Canada's best kept secrets in Metal.
Tracks: Nameless, Faceless, Neverborn, Dead Horizon suite, Perpetual Healing
Zero Hour - The Towers of Avarice (2001)
I've loved this record for a long time, as I purchased it in 2001 at the inaugural Prog Power USA festival which Zero Hour performed at. This is an intense, incredibly dark, technical record. The production is pristine. The vocals from Erik Rosvold are incredibly character driven.
"Demise and Vestige" in particular has some of the highest of highs in terms of crescendos and climaxes. It's one of those epic tracks that lasts 15 minutes, but I could go for it lasting twice as long.
Tracks: Demise and Vestige, Stratagem, The Towers of Avarice.
Thurisaz - Circadian Rhythms (2007)
Similar to In Vain's The Latter Rain, a journey record of melodic blackened prog metal with fantasy kind of lyrics I suppose. The energy and flow are what stands out the most on this album.
Tracks: Falling, Circadian Rhythm, Point of No Return
Shaman - Ritual (2002)
Andre Matos along with Luis Mariutti and Ricardo Confessori left Angra in the late 90's and formed this band. They continued much of the style of Angra's Holy Land record with a great blend of progressive/symphonic Metal that includes a fair amount of ethnic-brazilian ovetones. Andre does some of his best operatic vocal work on this, and even guitarist Hugo Mariutti shines on many tracks.
tracks: Fairy Tale, Over Your Head, Blind Spell, For Tomorrow