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Fifteen records at 15: the class of 2005

18 February 2021 | 1:46 pm | Alex Sievers

'Killing With A Smile,' 'Wake The Dead,' 'Silent Alarm,' 'Vheissu,' & more.

2005 was a big 12-month window for music! Fall Out Boy's breakout 'From Under The Cork Tree,' The Mars Volta's first step toward glorious self-indulgence with 'Frances The Mute,' the core of The Black Dahlia Murder's evil sound on 'Miasma,' Bullet For My Valentine exploding due to 'The Poison,' Trivium making their claim on 'Ascendency,' Avenged Sevenfold blowing up more by way of 'City Of Evil,' and 30 Seconds To Mars getting big off the 40% of 'A Beautiful Lie' that people actually remember and like.

As for the great fifteen albums from 2005 that are covered here, they might not necessarily be the biggest from their respective creators, but they are some of these artists' strongest offerings. Equally important, these are releases that I dearly enjoy and deeply respect. Albums that I personally revisited many times during 2020 when they all hit this milestone; albums that have withstood time, the harshest critic of them all. (Technically, they're 16 years old as we're now in 2021, but I wrote most of this in 2020, so you get the point.) 

Parkway Drive - 'Killing With A Smile'

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'Killing With A Smile' is my favourite Swedish metal album. Because Parkway Drive and the rest of the Australian metal scene in the 2000s was hell-bent on riding the coattails of whatever their European and American peers were doing; blatantly ripping off everyone from Heaven Shall Burn, Hatebreed, Unearth, Killswitch Engage, In Flames, Soilwork, and At The Gates. (Speaking of Sweden, Soilwork also put out a neat album in '05, 'Stabbing The Drama.') But whilst Parkway were deeply unoriginal at the time of conception and their debut album, you cannot fault the Byron Bay boys for doing it very well, making one of the sickest metalcore albums from around that era. It properly started here for one of metal's biggest acts of today.

The laughably edgy title of 'Killing With A Smile,' with that corny artwork, is a lame leftover of what Aussie heavy music looked like 15 years ago. And lyrically, it's pretty juvenile. ('Romance Is Dead' is dope in song form but the words behind it are pretty childish.) But musically? Parkway Drive's debut LP remains as some of the most thoroughly enjoyable metalcore they made, featuring downright awesome songwriting. From the erratic riff changes and tempo shifts to the kinds of breakdowns that biggest dickhead around, Crafter, famously dubbed as the biggest he'd ever heard. All these years later, he's not wrong; stopped clocks twice a day and all that. Guided by the mechanical hand of Adam D, who performed on and wrote much of this album and 'Horizons,' out came some of Parkway's finest creations. Personal favourite 'Pandora,' the underrated 'Blackout,' the menacing 'A Cold Day In Hell,' the melodic-metal of 'It's Hard To Speak Without A Tongue' and the punishing 'Smoke 'Em If Ya Got 'Em' are old-school gems from their huge, diverse catalogue.

Between The Buried & Me - 'Alaska'

2005 saw some weird but bold underground heavy records come to fruition: Horse The Band's electro-post-hardcore work on 'The Mechanical Hand,' The Number 12 Looks Like You's chaotic mathcore hurricane of 'Nuclear. Sad. Nuclear.' and Genghis Tron's 'Cloak Of Love' EP (a clear blueprint that Enter Shikari followed for 'Take To The Skies.') All sweet records! However, one of the biggest underground heavy moments of '05 came in one of its heaviest and most extreme shapes: 'Alaska.'

Kicking off an insane three-album run that Between The Buried And Me would embark upon with 'Colours' (2007) and 'The Great Misdirect' (2009), this enormous 2005 offering is a stupidly heavy, experimental, and super dynamic behemoth spanning prog, death metal, avant-garde, metalcore, and jazz. 'Alaska' is undyingly varied and technical, but also masterful in its brushstrokes of grace, riffage, heaviness and melody. This was a peak for weird and extreme music in '05, and it forever remains a highpoint for BTBAM. Simply just off the backs of 'Autodidact,' 'Selkies: The Endless Obsession,' 'Backwards Marathon,' 'Croakies And Boatshoes,' and of course, that killer titular monster, backed up by one of the dopest riffs ever.

Darkest Hour - 'Undoing Ruin' 

2005, a burly year for hardcore and metalcore. Just count 'em: Every Time I Die's 'Gutter Phenomena,' 'Ion Dissonance's 'Solace,' The Agony Scene's 'The Darkest Red,' Johnny Truant's 'In The Library Of Horrific Events,' and as seen above, 'Killing With A Smile.' On their third album, this D.C. band sounded like all of their other contemporaries; mixing hardcore and thrash with sweeping harmonies and melodic death metal, as was the style at the time. But boy oh boy, did Darkest Hour pull it off or what!?

'Undoing Ruin' is a throat-shredding melo-death/metalcore listen with hooky guitars, skitz riffs, and well-used breakdowns setting down a  familiar but solid template, with a burning ethos of less is more. There's nothing wrong with not doing something new so long as it's, you know, good. Which is precisely what they did. Just like Parkway were doing on the other side of the planet, they captured the core tenets of this style and replicated the best parts. Take opener 'With A Thousand Words to Say But One.' It's fully indicative of what was coming out in the sub-genre in the middle of the naughties - a highly consistent if admittedly singular experience - but it's executed near-perfectly that I can't even begin to turn my nose up at it. That's really this whole Victory Records-released album in a nutshell. Throw in a cool little acoustic interlude, a brief instrumental melodic-metal number, and you've got eight killer core jams, all capped off by the six-minute metalcore dirge of 'Tranquil.'

Protest The Hero - 'Kezia' 

Protest The Hero pre-dates the likes of Periphery, Veil Of Maya and a slew of other modern prog-metal acts. In some ways, they were very much ahead of the curve, and records like 'Keiza' are a cornerstone for this genre. 'Kezia' exists at a sweet spot between being a "musicians record" and something that everyday casual listeners can enjoy. All resulting in songs that have defined Protest's career: 'Nautical,' 'Bury The Hatchet,' 'Heretics & Killers,' Blindfolds Aside,' and the anthemic 'Turn Soonest To The Sea.' The quick staccato riffs, wicked solos, tapping runs, odd-time rhythms and jumpy time signatures, the awesome harmonies and counterpoint melodies, Rody Walker's soaring falsetto singing and chest-beating roars, dope discordant breakdowns, all with little piano interludes (the start of 'No Stars Over Bethlehem', the outro of 'Divinity Within'); there was so much going on with this masterpiece.

Protest The Hero have always been a thinking man's band; a progressive act with actual progressive ideas imbedded into their political lyricism. At its core, 'Kezia' is about social rot, in modern times and throughout history. It's a metaphorical and literal tale about the kind of future, the kind of values, that we wish to instil in our children, mixing Middle-Eastern and white European culture and history together. The vivid imagery of men just following orders no matter how questionable, the poison of religion, those who are martyred for not giving up their beliefs, and the gross demonising and subjugation of all things feminine, Protest The Hero provided a seriously thought-provoking debut LP.

The Fall Of Troy - 'Doppelgänger'

Three teenagers from Washington formed a post-hardcore band called The Thirty Years War in 2002, released two cool EPs, and after a line-up change in 2003, changed their name to The Fall Of Troy. Hungry to prove themselves, they then made one of the best math-rock/post-hardcore albums of the 2000s, 'Doppelgänger.' And the rest was history!

The greatest skill The Fall Of Troy has was being able to make complex compositions with spasmodic meters, fiendish screams, stacked chords, slick tapping, and doing shit-loads with odd-time drumming and riffing within mostly 4/4, but then twist that glorious chaos into something genuinely masterful. The talent of this group beyond their years was evident on the brilliant opening three-track run of the record; 'I Just Got This Symphony Goin',' 'Act One, Scene One' and their career staple, 'F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.' You can also find this in the re-recorded demo of the jazzy eight-minute album closer, 'Macaulay McCulkin.' The Fall Of Troy were one of the few bands out there at the time to come close to capturing the kind of manic energy At The Drive-In possessed. All on their first fucking album no less!

System Of A Down - 'Mesmerise'

"You and me, will all go down in history, with a sad statue of liberty and a generation that didn't agree" sings Serj Tankian on 'Sad Statue.' Those words have never felt as relevant as they did in 2020 or now in 2021. This is why System Of A Down's music is still so feverishly loved and consumed today: their music isn't just well written and memorable, it's still so timely!

If there was ever a record to come close to the perfection of 'Toxicity' (2001), it was 'Mesmerise.' The first-part of their 2005 double albums - the other being the so-so 'Hypnotize' - 'Mesmerise' is one of most consistent and fully-stacked System albums. The quiet and humble 'Soldier Side' erupts into the volcanic riffs and violent pace of the Bush-era anti-war classic, 'B.Y.O.B.' for what is a mammoth introduction. Their hard-on for sexual innuendo and phallic imagery appears in the brutal but cheeky 'Cigaro'; a silly but heavy allegory for "my gun is bigger than yours", about how old white men smoking cigars continually fuel weapons trades and arms races. SOAD's songwriting trope of "fast-and-manic-then-slow-and-calm" is on full display with 'This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song.' The moodier and restrained finale of 'Lost In Hollywood' is a warning of what fame does to people, how it distances them from what reality is, marking the finest closer SOAD ever wrote. And the time-signature pivoting, dynamic and irregular 'Question!' exemplifies why System was one of the most beloved rock acts of the last twenty years.

As this is SOAD we're talking about, there are some less serious songs strew within 'Mesmerise.' Like the rock and reggae of 'Radio/Video,' about guitarist/co-vocalist Daron Malakian having strange feelings about hearing his music on the radio or seeing the bands videos on television. Then there is 'Old School Hollywood,' being about a baseball game that Daron played in. But whether or not it was silliness and mundane topics, or important hot issues of morality, ethics or politics, SOAD were on top of their game with 'Mesmerise.' If 'Toxicity' is their biggest record, then this is my personal favourite.

Comeback Kid - 'Wake The Dead'

Whilst Comeback Kid's 'Turn It Around' dropped in 2003, it's not unfair to say that things truly kicked off for the Canadian melodic hardcore band with their sophomore LP. 'Wake The Dead' was an underground smash-hit; an anthemic, high-octane record from front to end with break-neck drumming, towering choruses, an authentic passion, simple but fun distorted hardcore guitars, and bigger crew vocals than A Day To Remember or Cro-Mags could muster. A pivotal Victory-era release. 'False Idols Fall,' 'Partners In Crime,' 'Final Goodbye,' and one of hardcore's greatest songs, that red-hot title song, are all searing bangers too. While I will forever die on the hill that 'Symptoms + Cures' (2010) and 'Outsider' (2017) are leagues better records in the context of Comeback Kid's overall output, one cannot deny the sheer quality songwriting and impact 'Wake The Dead' had.

The Red Chord - 'Clients' 

The best way I can put 'Clients' is that it is fucking bonkers. The Red Chord come from that over-the-top era of extreme music in which every second band was blending random jazz breaks or short clean instrumental passages into their punishing, grinding gears of tech-death and mathy hardcore. (Core all the way down.) Next to their final album, 2009's decent 'Fed Through The Teeth Machine' - with the Massachusetts act still on hiatus now - 'Clients' is an impressively heavy and interesting record even now. When people talk about how heavy bands are nowadays, they either forget or just plainly don't know about groups like The Red Chord. For their overwhelming extremity is only matched by their technicality and sudden bouts of melody and virtuosity. Note 'Upper Deck,' or the differences between brutal opener 'Fixation On Plastics' and the seven-minute melodic instrumental of 'He Was Dead When I Got There,' two very different songs that make complete sense at opposite ends of this record. Over 15 years later, 'Clients' holds up way more than it realistically should.

Alkaline Trio - 'Crimson'

Matt Skiba might be a cop-loving boot-licker, but fuck me, the guy can write some incredible refrains! 'Time To Waste,' 'Settle For Satin,' 'Mercy Me,' 'Burn,' 'Fall Victim - the list just goes on with their fifth album. 'Crimson' was a more "adult" version of Alkaline Trio; them being more rock than pop-punk, outside of 'Back To Hell,' if we're going to split hairs about it. It was them being more "produced," seeing minor pianos begin the record on the towering 'Time To Waste' (their best album-opener next to 'Calling All Skeletons'), and dramatic violins and strings dotting 'Prevent This Tragedy' and closer 'Smoke.'

Whilst still macabre in tone - seeing the trio write songs about the West Memphis Three and the Sharon Tate murders - the band's slight shift in vision didn't come at the cost of them losing their spirited hooks or heartfelt poeticism. Derek Grant played deep in the pocket of this album's grooves, remaining their longest-running drummer, and the vocal-trading between bassist Dan Andriano and Matt on each song is classic Alkaline. Looking back at their career, there is no highpoint like 'Agony & Irony' (2008) without 'Crimson' coming before it.

Circa Survive - 'Juturna'

Ah, 'Juturna.' Circa Survive's debut album and Anthony Green's return to the music right after leaving Saosin and changing the game with 'Translating The Name'. The name Juturna is pulled from the Roman goddess of fountains, wells and springs, and all that nice stuff, with the title meant to be a metaphor of new beginnings for Circa Survive's members. Damn, talk about making your own destiny! AS Circa Survive has since made five other records and are easily one of the most cult bands to come out of the 2000's Myspace alternative and post-hardcore era. Yet the pay-off of that sustainability really isn't hard to see in retrospect; Circa just had the songs. Those cold, sombre, emotional and melancholic songs. Numbers like 'Holding Someone's Hair Back,' 'Stop The Fucking Car,' 'In Fear And Faith,' 'We're All Thieves,' and 'The Glorious Nosebleed' are all fantastic.

Thrice - 'Vheissu'

With the exception of 2016's returning 'To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere' effort, as well as their highly-popular 2003 rager, 'The Artist In The Ambulance,' 'Vheissu' (pronounced "vee-sue") is the most important Thrice record. It's their big one; their claim to fame. Though it is also the start of an interesting shift in their sound, and how they would courageously, boldly, from here onwards grow their music and art further into the unknown, asking their fans to come with them on this new journey. And all of us did so, quite happily. (Those of us with a brain, anyway.) At the time, 'Vheissu' was still the rock and punky Thrice that many knew and loved, just now bolstered up by Rhodes pianos and synthesizers, folk, more controlled dynamics, and deeper experimentation. But it also featured just as much heart, anger, creativity, poignancy and hope as anything else they've done. All these years later, remember to still put your faith in more than steel.

Funeral For A Friend - 'Hours'

Mental health and suicide awareness, domestic abuse, romanticized fantasies and the difficulty of relationships fraying, sticking to your guns, and the passing of time in our fleeting youth all barrel to the lyrical forefront on Funeral For A Friend's masterclass in post-hardcore, 'Hours.' Hours' had to face down the very tall order of topping 'Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation,' their 2003 debut LP that's for some reason considered their best but I do not see why. This was the Welsh band proving themselves, that they weren't just a one-album deal. And they succeeded with flying colours! From start to end, you enter banger territory - 'Recovery,' opener 'All The Rage,' 'Streetcar,' one of their biggest tracks 'History,' 'Drive,' the almighty bounce of 'Roses For The Dead' and the wall-of-death inducing 'The End Of Nothing' - and you come out the other side with the best Funeral For A Friend release next to 2011's 'Welcome Home Armageddon.' I still feel the same about you, FFAF.

Gojira - 'From Mars To Sirius'

Flying whales forever! 'From Mars To Sirius' could come out today and it would STILL sound amazing in performance and feel; it would still feel current in its range of negative emotions about climate change, warfare, and economic strife. Gojira's third album - a concept record about a dead planet being resurrected, about from war to peace - is often cited as their best, or at least, most notable. This French groove-metal/tech-death band weren't fucking around when they titled the sixth song 'the heaviest matter in the universe.' This shit is so big, so heavy, it has its own orbit. Beset by the sounds of whales, Joe Duplantier coarse screams, colossal licks, surgical and shattering grooves, and pulverising guitar pick scrapes, this is a monumental album full of planet-sized riffs, of scathing critique for how hopeless wars are brought on by economic and environmental ruin. 'From Mars To Sirius' helped place Gojira on the map next to Lamb Of God, Mastodon and Meshuggah. This paved the way for the rest of their mighty career.

Bloc Party - 'Silent Alarm'

'Silent Alarm' lives rent-free in my top-ten albums of all time. Seeing Bloc Party perform 'Silent Alarm' in full, but backwards - starting with the understated mood of 'Compliments' and ending on a high with 'Like Eating Glass (plus the very surprising but very welcome addition of the album's B-sides, 'Two More Years' and 'Skeletons') in 2018 remains as one of my favourite live music experiences. I couldn't not include this cherished album here!

What's so good about Bloc Party's debut is how hyper-focused and razor-sharp the songwriting is. Seeing a then very young and new U.K. band present themselves to the world, without compromise, and never once having to sacrifice the authenticity of vision or performances is astounding. This marriage of rock, indie, and post-punk, driven forward by Matt Tong's kinetic drumming, wasn't unique to them, but it's a sound that Bloc Party solely and best exemplified during the 2000s than any of their peers. Even then, it's an album that Kele Okereke and the band never really reattempted too. 2007's exceptional 'A Weekend In The City' follow-up has glimpses of 'Silent Alarm' in the vocals and guitars, but also saw the band greatly spread their wings and branch out their concepts and sounds. And their debut is very far removed from what they write nowadays. One of the best debut albums ever made.

Children Of Bodom - 'Are You Dead Yet?'

Fronted by the late great Alexi "yeeeoooow" Laiho, Children Of Bodom's fourth album remains one of their best moments. Standing proudly next to other highlights like 2003's 'Hate Crew Deathrool,' Bodom's 2005 LP is a cornerstone of their career. Here, their bright keyboards were brought down a little, and the band's power metal shenanigans took a slight backseat to slower BPMS, hulking rhythms, and a (somehow) heavier focus on all-out riffage, having them tune to Drop C, and seeing the group head-bang like their very lives depended on it. This is a key album of their output that marked how they were truly one of the rare cheesy Euro-metal bands whose music was still so much fun. Speedy, powerful, satisfying metal. They didn't take themselves too seriously; these guys had song titles with "Bodom" in the name on every album but two. Yet that's what people loved about them. 'Are You Dead Yet?' is slammed through the head with great "fuck you" tunes that hold no quarter. They don't make 'em like Bodom anymore, and if they do, they just aren't as good. Rest in power, Alexi.