Ever since Bhagpuss made me aware of Pitchfork’s 25th Anniversary People’s List I’ve been thinking about which albums of the last 25 years I would choose as my favourite ones. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy as a lot of my most beloved albums were released between 1985 and 1995. I gotta say though, being restricted to 1996 and onward actually made browsing through my stuff, filling out the list and mulling over the exact rankings all the more fun – and also quite surprising.
I mean, who would have thought that not even one of my list’s top four spots can be clearly categorized as Metal? I sure as hell wouldn’t have. Pick number four isn’t even Rock, for crying out loud.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Without further ado, here are my top 25 albums released since 1996:
- Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
- Meteora – Linkin Park
- Billy Talent II – Billy Talent
- The Fat Of The Land – The Prodigy
- Ghost Reveries – Opeth
- 10,000 Days – Tool
- Scenes From A Memory – Dream Theater
- Bannkreis – Subway To Sally
- Herzblut – Subway To Sally
- Toxicity – System Of A Down
- Follow The Leader – Korn
- Human Nature – Alphastates
- Morningrise – Opeth
- Passage – Samael
- In Absentia – Porcupine Tree
- The Family Jewels – Marina & The Diamonds
- Where Shadows Forever Reign – Dark Funeral
- Issues – Korn
- And Thou Shalt Trust… The Seer – Haggard
- And This Glow… – Joy Of Colour
- Kasmodiah – Deine Lakaien
- Ten Thousand Fists – Disturbed
- Take To The Skies – Enter Shikari
- Wishmaster – Nightwish
- Heaven & Hell – Ava Max
Of course everything below the top three our four spots is more or less interchangeable. I don’t think it’s really possible to nail down such a subjective evaluation permanently, not least because it can vary even from one day to the next depending on mood, nostalgia or whathaveyou.
I’ll probably not talk about each and every one of these here because some of those posts would pretty much just amount to “Well…I really like it, is all”. It would be an easy way to get my Blaugust post count up, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?
So how about I just start off with the first two spots for now, what with those being performed by the same band and also, well, being my top picks?
I didn’t have Linkin Park on my radar until a colleague of mine brought along their Live In Texas DVD one day in early 2004. I’d heard one or two songs before (at least I immediately recognized One Step Closer when I watched the video) and liked them, but hadn’t looked into it any further at the time for one reason or another.
This show though, holy crap. The raw energy the band brought to the stage gripped me and didn’t let go anymore. I immediately bought the studio outputs too, and they’ve become two of my all-time favourite albums for several reasons.
First of all, said energy is there in full. Studio albums often tend to sound a bit too clean and thus lose some of their power, but not these. If anything they’re even more powerful, the production is just superb.
Of course the music itself is what matters, and this is where all that energy comes from. I’ve read that Chester Bennington (rest in peace), the band’s lead singer, used these albums to process his very troublesome childhood and youth, and I think you can clearly hear it. I’m lucky enough to not have experienced most of the things the songs are about, but they still always carry me away on a wave of passion and sometimes even anger – in a good way. I’ve always said that channeling one’s bad feelings through aggressive music is a much more healthy way to deal with them than most others. At least it works for me.
The alternation between Bennington’s clear vocals and primal screams, and Mike Shinoda’s backing vocals and rapped parts are another of the band’s standout features that I really love. I’ve always liked polyphonic singing, and these two really did a phenomenal job at it (listening recommendation: Papercut, from two minutes onward). The rapping and screams add another dimension and fit the overall sound and feel very well.
What’s also great about both albums is that there are no duds on it. How many long-players have you bought because you knew and liked one or two songs, only to then realize that those are really the only good songs on there? My answer: too many. These two albums are great from start to finish, and given that some of my all-time favourites are among those songs that’s a high bar to clear indeed.
Lastly, the wave of excitement Linkin Park made me ride on in 2004 even rekindled my love for making music myself, and I went looking for a new band to join after a three-year break, resulting in me regularly hanging out in rehearsal rooms and on stage again for the following four years.
A playlist that consists of nothing but those two albums plus the song What I’ve Done from their third studio output, Minutes To Midnight, still runs regularly in my car or on my earpods, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon, if ever.
And there you have it. What are your favourite albums of the past 25 years?
Blaugust 2021 post count: 5