2006 In Retrospect

author PP date 12/01/07

By now everybody's seen our and numerous other sites' top ten lists of the year. But are they really relevant to you? In most cases the answer will be either maybe or no, and therefore a recap of the past year or so will be more than necessary in order to make sure you didn't miss anything awesome from your choice of genre. Because without overestimating at all, everything with even the most miniscule relationship with guitar, drums, and bass to the most balls-to-the-walls metal genres had some amazing releases this year, with some renowned names underlining why they are legendary, all at the same time while bands nobody expected to do well wrote albums now considered some of the best of 2006, while not forgetting the huge failures and flops of 2006 either. This is an article that links all of these together, genre by genre, with the best and the worst, and a link to the review of each to fulfil your curiousity over how we dared to trash your favorite band or how we loved your ultimate hate-band to death. Read on for the most thorough recap of 2006 you will ever get out of Rockfreaks.net (no it is not all about Panic! At The Disco even though the front page and their achievements in 2006 could justify it).

Logically it makes most sense to start from the indie rock and the experimental genres, especially because these two often tie together more than just by a few knots. But even the indie scene isn't as predictable as you might imagine, as the renowned britpoppers The Killers demonstrated by radically changing direction on "Sam's Town". At the same time, the Coheed & Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez showed off with the debut album of his indie meets electronica outfit The Prize Fighter Inferno, all while Portugal. The Man exploded onto the scene with one of the most weirdest and most appealing indie releases I've ever heard to date, Waiter: "You Vultures". Not that it wasn't a hard contest, though, as The Sound Of Animals Fighting's Lover, The Lord Has Left Us (featuring Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green and Chiodos members) gave them a run for the money. At the same time, both Placebo and Razorlight went for the safe bets and produced awesome indie rock albums each in "Meds" and Self-Titled respectively, while laughing off at the risks taken by Saves The Day's miserable failure in "Sound The Alarm". With a more Danish note, though, Veto released a good album in "There's A Beat In All Machines" while Morrissey wrote his eight studio album called The Ringleader Of The Tormentors.

While the indie scene certainly released some gems, I think all fans of complicated/complex music had waited for Tool's new album "10,000 Days" more than anything else this year, only to see it receive mixed reactions from critics and fans alike, much unlike the new Deftones album "Saturday Night Wrist" which received plenty of critical acclaim in October. On the other hand, the more indie-style experimental/post-rock act Mogwai released the hyper-experimental "Mr. Beast", which has grown on the reviewer since, while The Mars Volta's "Amputechture" and Muse's "Black Holes & Revelations" seemed to take more than just two steps backwards. This, of course, does not compare with the biggest flop of the year, the so-called 'best album of the decade', "We Don't Need to Whisper" by Angels & Airwaves. Fortunately, Incubus wrote an album almost as good as their previous one with "Light Grenades" and saved the face for at least some gigantic names in the experimental scene. Moving onto the more harder stuff, a 16 year old musician going by the name of Jack Chuter released his debut album with his band Excido in "This Is Happening", which certainly would make those Tool fans drool if only they had a chance to hear the record. On the more metallic side of the experimental genre, Yakuza's "Samsara" mixed together middle eastern sound and metal, while Intronaut went for a thicker, more organic sound with their critically acclaimed debut "Void", and the now-broken up Dog Fashion Disco went for a film-noir atmosphere with their excellent album "Adultery"

Grunge rock and its subgenres still stayed in the unpopular grouping, despite Pearl Jam's return to form on their self titled album and Audioslave actually writing an album with a bunch of great songs on it ("Revelations"). Papa Roach continued to be some of the staff's guilty pleasure by writing an album almost as good as their previous one: "The Paramour Sessions".

But the big winner of 2006 was without a doubt emo. More emo bands than ever blossomed onto the knowledge of the mainstream, and whether or not that is a good thing for you niche-loving readers I'll let you to decide. But regardless, I think all of us can agree that My Chemical Romance playing Wembley Arena is completely justified by their fantastic concept album "The Black Parade", Taking Back Sunday equally deserved their chance of supporting Green Day at the 60,000 capacity Milton Keynes Bowl with their third album "Louder Now", and while we all knew Lostprophets wouldn't return to the sound of their debut album with "Liberation Transmission", they still did a great job compared to what the cliche-emo guys from Cute Is What We Aim For managed with The Same Old Bloodrush With A New Touch". The big surprises of the year arrived in form of A Heartwell Ending's successful aping of Taking Back Sunday with "Trust Us, We Lie", Halifax's ability to actually write catchy songs in "The Inevitability Of A Strange World", and I Am Ghost appearing from seemingly nowhere with their My Chemical Romance style "Lover's Requiem. Lets not forget The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus either, as their debut album "Don't You Fake It" became one of the favorites of the year for most emo lovers and actually went gold by the end of November, or Death Before Disco's surprise push "Barricades". Whether Billy Talent II can actually be considered emo or not is in the hands of the reader, but there is no doubt that Saosin's long-delayed self-titled debut is emo as Cove proved with his extended singing capacities reaching Anthony's levels. But of course, nothing of this can be compared to the incredible Canadian emo act (perhaps the best in their genre) Moneen, whose third album "The Red Tree" took some time growing into, but turned out fantastic unlike the mediocre, horribly produced "A City By The Light Divided", that didn't even include the Converge collaboration many had looked forward to. The Early November was another cult act soon forgotten after their overhyped, too experimental triple album "The Mother, The Mechanic & The Path", that never caught onto their fans still cherishing the days of "Room's Too Cold" and "For All Of This". But forgotten is a word not to confuse with the highly political emo/screamo/punk/experimental act Boysetsfire and their best album to date "The Misery Index: Notes From The Plague Years", nor with the over-hyped but still great Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me".

But it wasn't only emo that finished the marathon under the world record time this year, as the punk scene still stood up strong showing the middle finger to those who think punk is dead, Bush is cool or Socialism sucks, as "The Sufferer & The Witness" and "Dead FM" by Rise Against and Strike Anywhere respectively demonstrated. Speaking of demonstration, our favorite political punkers Anti-Flag and their lesser known genre mates Good Riddance both released so-so albums with "For Blood And Empire" and "My Republic respectively, all while NOFX cleaned the table with their incredible social and political commentary album Wolves In Wolves' Clothing. AFI followed in the footsteps of the prior two bands and flopped their much anticipated new album "Decemberunderground" with Ministry's newest album "Rio Grande Blood" not receiving many props from the editors either. Not to worry, though, as not all oldschool acts failed to deliver this year. First The Lawrence Arms reminded us what punk rock is all about with what was possibly the most underrated album of 2006, namely "Oh Calcutta", then Latterman took us back on the memory lane with "...We Are Still Alive", and finally Over It reminded us how awesome they used to sound 'back in the day' with a reissue of their first two skatepunk/pop punk EPs under the name of "Outer Banks" - an effective contrast of how horrible their newest studio album "Step Outside Yourself" is.

The punk paragraph is getting long and we're not even half-way yet, but that's good right? You can't help but agree when you've checked out a great return to form by Bowling For Soup and their album "The Great Burrito Extortion Case", the long-awaited disco/electronica debut "Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!", or the surprise in the electro-pop punk front, namely Brandtson and their album "Hello Control", not to forget Hit The Lights' attempt to copy Fall Out Boy's success with the summer album of the year: "This Is A Stick Up...Don't Make It A Murder". But it wasn't all smiles for the pop punk scene as New Found Glory went to a more poppier direction with "Coming Home", but fortunately the other two thirds of Blink 182 came into rescue in the form of +44 and their debut "When Your Heart Stops Beating", leading us nicely to the ska-punk/prog ska genre (don't ask me how, I just write this stuff okay!?), where third-wave ska'ers Catch 22 delivered one of the best concept albums of the decade in "Permanent Revolution" and RX Bandits didn't fall much short either on "...And The Battle Begun". It's too bad Less Than Jake resorted to professional hit writers on a few songs of "In With The Out Crowd", because it really wasn't as bad as the score might suggest, they just lost my respect that's all.

Two thirds through and we're on the third paragraph. Everybody knows the real punk lives underneath the layers of pop punk and corporate rock, as Good Clean Fun so cleverly articulated on their record "Between Christian Rock And A Hard Place". Set Your Goals demonstrated a sense of this as well by poking fun at themselves on the pop punk meets hardcore meets energy debut "Mutiny!". But when it comes down to the music with the message, the punk hardcore outfits The First Step, Sinking Ships and Shook Ones put it together the best with their respective albums of "What We Know", "Disconnecting", and "Facetious, Folly Feat". What more can you ask from punk rock than raw attitude, rough vocals and plenty of speed, right? Righteous Jams didn't fall short on this category either with "Business As Usual", and of course not to forget about theDropkick Murphys soundalikes from Street Dogs and their album "Fading American Dream".

Now what might come after punk hardcore, I hear you ask? Do not fret, for the mightiest of all genres is about to be unleashed upon you, namely modern hardcore (no I am not biased, what are you talking about?). And what better way to open the year than with Some Girls's debut Heaven's Pregnant Teens, a crushing combination of hardcore punk, intense breakdowns and indecipharable vocals - something which now sounds tame after hearing the mighty Converge destroy all images of happiness and soft music in your mind with "No Heroes". This is of course not to discredit other heavy weights in the genre such as Hatebreed and their new album "Supremacy", or the always incredible Sick Of It All and their best album in 10 years "Death To Tyrants", who both showed what hardcore is all about in 2006, while Terror proved it's not only Hatebreed who reign in straight-forward hardcore with "Always The Hard Way". 108 reissued their classic releases in a huge package called "Creation. Sustenance. Destruction." and reminded us of their legacy as one of the most influential hardcore bands of the last decade, much like Zao who instead decided to release a new album called "The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here", which never reached the kind of proportions it was expected to by the scene. Luckily, the void was filled by a release by Norma Jean that many consider as the best album, and as the most complete hardcore album of 2006. That release was "Redeemer", and it is the only album I absolutely require you as a reader to get before you reach the end of this article. This despite the perfect 10 score to the reissue of their debut EP and album by the best hardcore band to date, As I Lay Dying (no, no bias here either, you're just seeing things). Raised Fist's new effort "Sound Of The Republic" kicked you in the face hard, while Ed Gein finished you off with their almost-as-chaotic hardcore disc "Judas Goats & Diesel Eaters" as Converge's, all while Misery Signals both mutilated and teased your senses with their combination of hardcore and beautiful melody on "Mirrors". The most confusing hardcore record title is shared by the ever so odd Heavy Heavy Low Low's "Everything's Watched, Everyone's Watching" and the most experimental and simultaneously one of the best hardcore releases of the year, namely "The Always Open Mouth" by Fear Before The March Of Flames.

If there was one genre that could be labeled as the 'losing' genre, it was post-hardcore. This genre virtually disappeared over the course of the year, with only one release worth mentioning, that being the ex-Busted Charlie's new band Fightstar and their album "Grand Unification". But does this matter when one of the genres eating up living space from the genre was screamo, with UnderOATH's utterly fantastic "Define The Great Line" at the forefront of the genre? Probably not, because the variety of releases this genre spat out was nothing short of astonishing. On one end we had the nu-metal influenced 36 Crazyfists album "Rest Inside The Flames", and on the other extreme the pure 'WRAAH' band Drop Dead, Gorgeus with their album "In Vogue". In between you had everything else starting from Senses Fail's long-awaited album "Still Searching", through the pure metal-meets-screamo of Phoenix Mourning's "When Excuses Become Antiques" and the British hardcore-meets-screamo of Penknifelovelife and their EP "Porphyria's Lover", without forgetting the scene favorites Across The Five Aprils' "Collapse" or Escape The Fate's "Dying Is Your Latest Fashion". The disappointing name was of course Alexisonfire, whose third album "Crisis" didn't meet the overly high expectations of their fans. Whether it did so live, is a completely another story.

Another winner of 2006 was most definitely metalcore, which had probably the most innovation of all genres on display this year. All you need to do is to take a look at Protest The Hero's album "Kezia" to see where the genre developed from It Dies Today's "Sirens" or Atreyu's mediocre third album "A Deathgrip On Yesterday". On the other hand All That Remains and I Killed The Prom Queen delivered awesome metalcore albums in "The Fall Of Ideals" and "Music For The Recently Deceased" respectively, all while Killswitch Engage casually droned along with "As Daylight Dies" and the legendary Unearth released their worst ablum to date, namely "III: The Eyes Of Fire". We must not forget the two heaviest releases in the genre either, namely Bring Me The Horizon's "Count Your Blessings" and Lamb Of God's "Sacrament", although it is debatable whether or not the latter even belongs to this genre at all.

From metalcore it's always easy to progress to metal, and what better genre to start out from than Thrash metal. Early on in the year, both Bleeding Through and Demiricous raised the bar for bands to come with "The Truth" and "One" respectively, but these were quickly cleared away by what is the best Sepultura album in who knows how long, namely "Dante XXI". All of this is of course irrelevant, because the Gods of thrash Slayer returned also with their best album in ages with "Christ Illusion", and after this releases like The Haunted's "The Dead Eye" and Trivium's "The Crusade" sounded largely irrelevant, regardless of the sudden change in sound by the latter.

The melodic metal scene was one of those losing ground this year, with only a couple of releases worth mentioning here. Many might argue that Himsa's "Hail Horror" might belong to the thrash side here, but its melodic parts oppose this common belief loudly. Among the grey mass of bands who sounded each more like each other, an old band shined and a few new entrants surprised. The Gothenburg metal heavyweights In Flames wrote their best album in a long time with "Come Clarity", but Darkest Hour's reissue of old material fell on its face as seen on the review for "Archives". Light This City showed how a bunch of 19 year olds with a hot frontwoman can easily challange the throne of In Flames with their new album "Facing The Thousand", while the New York-based Cruachan demonstrated that you don't need to be Irish in order to have folk influences in your music. But all of this is of course irrelevant with both Enter My Silence and Communic releasing the best albums by far in this genre, namely "Coordinate: D1SA5T3R" and "Waves Of Visual Decay" respectively, with the prior being the album In Flames has wanted to write for the last 10 years now.

On the heavy metal side, though, Finnish bands reigned as Benedictum and Sinamore modernized the 80s heavy metal sound into something that can be listened today without prejudice with "Uncreation" and "A New Day" respectively. Don't worry, we haven't forgotten Iron Maiden's album either, we just didn't get around to reviewing it this year, sorry folks. But with that note, it's time to move into the Death Metal scene, which neither produced too many gems, aside from a few. Both Decapitated and Cattle Decapitation wrote albums powerful enough to rip you into shreds with "Organic Hallusinosis" and "Karma.Bloody.Karma" respectively, all while Suffocation tore you apart with their self-titled album and Torture Killer! released the most disgusting - yet still great - album of 2006: "Swarm!".

The goth and doom metal genres weren't exactly reigning either, with the prior only shining with Elis' "Griefshire", and the latter only saved by the brilliance of the Danish doom metal kings Saturnus and their effort "Veronica Decides To Die". Of course we shouldn't forget about Ahab's surprise in the form of "The Call Of The Wretched Sea", but who listens to doom metal anyway, right?

Last but not least it is important to focus on the metallic acts rising from Denmark, the promised country of chart and indie music. Not surprisingly, Mercenary's "The Hours That Remain" and Raunchy's "Death Pop Romance" reigned in this section, but one shouldn't forget the swirling riffs of Urkraft's "The Inhuman Aberration" or the bay-area thrash of Lipid's "Deliver Us From Evil" either. Melted was one of the new entrants to the scene with their curious mixture of nu metal and metal, and the underground heroes Submission and The Arcane Order released 'okay' efforts each in the form of "Failure To Perfection" and "The Machinery Of Oblivion". Unfortunately, the Danish hardcore scene still did not get a kick start as neither Barcode's "Ahead Of The Game" nor As We Fight's "Midnight Tornado" were 'ahead of the game' to play with the words a little.

All in all, year 2006 was amazing for music as this article should prove to you, and we should all keep our eyes locked at 2007 with great new releases on the way from bands like Fall Out Boy, Boys Night Out, Darkest Hour and many more editorial and fan favorites. But if you insist that all of this was a bunch of bullcrap and our reviews sucked, let us know in the comments. If on the other hand, you loved them all the way, let us know too, because that's what drives us forward as a community of writers. Happy new year!

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