Blast Beats, Dark Harmonies and Monstrous Melodies

The Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums of 2006

3. Gojira, From Mars to Sirius (Prosthetic): Gojira's leading the latest wave of red-hot French metal bands, and one listen to this potent and progressive album shows why. This is a band that can create both extremely heavy, grinding, guttural songs ("Backbone") and gentler, technically twisted tunes ("Unicorn," "From Mars") without sacrificing either power or precision. On From Mars to Sirius, the band expresses its concerns about our environment in almost every song, but takes a positive rather than apocalyptic stance. Gojira's often compared to Swedish tech metal band Meshuggah, which delves even deeper into experimental song structures, but Gojira's scorching compositions-wrapped-in-optimism make the band an anomaly in a genre characterized by darkness and violence.

2. Sulaco, Tearing Through the Roots(Willowtip): Sulaco re-creates grindcore as a fluid, forward-reaching form that will still sound vital and ultra-heavy a hundred years from now. Bandleader Erik Burke has got jaw-dropping guitar chops, but it's Sulaco's imagination that yields song structures so staggeringly complex that your memory will go slack trying to grasp them. Throw in an unprecedented infusion of buzzing, darkly colored melody, and the future of grindcore looks promising, indeed.

1. Lamb of God, Sacrament (Epic Records): Sacrament — which surprised a lot of people by debuting at No. 8 on the Billboard charts this year — is Lamb of God's most technical album to date, favoring atmosphere over aggression. The band still slays us with thundering thrash and death metal, but except for a few tracks — most notably "Foot to the Throat" and "Beating on Death's Door," which assail the listener with LoG's usual jackhammer-to-the-head vibe — Sacrament is a sonic step forward for the band, employing more guitar solos, more demonic vocal dubs, and more furious fills that show off skin hitter Chris Adler's dexterous drumming. Producer Machine (Clutch, King Crimson) helped clean up the band's usually raw sound, simultaneously capturing the group's mind-blowing musical prowess in layers of dark harmonies and monstrous melodies.

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