This is the forty-seventh of the “50 Albums of Note” series.
Across the naughties, two bands - Opeth and Mastodon - acted as high watermarks in the loosely defined Prog Metal genre. Mikael Akerfeldt’s group steadily morphed from a run of the mill black metal band in their first three albums into a powerhouse of epics with contrasting light and dark passages, clean and guttural vocals, beautiful melodies and brutal drums. Apex effort Blackwater Park is one of the albums reviewed in this set. Mastodon meanwhile produced two seminal concept albums - Leviathan and Crack The Skye - with an equal mix and match of styles. Come the terrible tens though and both bands moved on, Opeth to a lighter, more classical prog rock and Mastodon to a more conventional hard rock format, presenting some pretty big boots to fill.
Come 2014 and up stepped Pennsylvania-based quintet Black Crown Initiate with their début album The Wreckage of Stars to present the first real claim to that throne. Not the first to present a dual threat of intertwining guitars or of crushswitches between songs and across the album as a whole, TWoS also treads the fine line of crossing styles and genres while remaining cogent as a whole. Centrepieces A Great Mistake, Withering Waves and Purge anchor the album as if an LP at one, five and nine, with their flawless technical chops while This Human Lie Manifest and Shape’s Collapse pound and Linear soothes. There’s a pleasing symmetry to the whole of something greatless planned and executed. A new high watermark for the middle of the decade.