Who is your favorite One-Album Wonder?
In this very special guest post, our buddy Zeke is asking you a question: Who is your favorite One-Album Wonder?
Evolution is a good thing in music. Bands like Enslaved and Ulver are so widely revered because they’ve been releasing music for decades which shows them constantly reinventing themselves from album to album while maintaining a consistently high quality. Without forward-thinking bands that are constantly looking to break new musical ground, we would have no respite from the Slayers, Hatebreeds, and Meshuggah’s of the world (yeah, I said it; fight me nerds).
But musical evolution can have negative repercussions as well. Sometimes the forward thinking mindset which leads a band to stumble onto a sweet spot will also cause the band to progress past it too quickly, leaving us with just a single album that captures a particularly magical style. Unfortunately, this has seemed to happen with many of my favorite bands. Some bands are able to evolve into other equally fantastic styles (as much as I would love to have more music that sound like In the Nightside Eclipse, I don’t mind that Emperor evolved into Anthems or Prometheus territory). However, most musicians aren’t black wizards (plural, not singular)* like Ihsahn; so unlike everyone’s favorite turtleneck sweater wearing Norwegian**, they don’t have it in them to hit multiple musical peaks throughout their career.
Here are a few of my favorite albums that are sadly one-offs:
Amorphis – Tales From the Thousand Lakes
Amorphis started off playing a really great melodic version of old school Swedish-style death metal. But on their second album they added a moog, a little Finnish folk, and lots of 70s prog to create one of the most singular “death metal” albums of all time. Unfortunately, they immediately moved right past this sound with their next album, Elegy, which although decent, never had the same magic for me. I loved Tales so much that I bought Elegy the day it came out and then was so bummed by their change in direction that I sold it a few weeks later. I have only warmed up to it in recent years.
Sentenced – North From Here
Like their Finnish compatriots in Amorphis, Sentenced originally played a melodic version of old school Swedish-style death metal (although not as high level as Amorphis). But with their second album they released an absolute burner. Think of a mix of the speed and ferocity of Legion-era Deicide with the dueling melodic guitars that the Gothenburg crowd would soon make famous. Sadly, Sentenced never released another death metal album after this; instead moving on to the more boring Euro-metal style that they became known for.
Celestial Season – Solar Lovers
Celestial Season started out playing a fairly unextraordinary version of Peaceville-style violin doom. But on their second album they dove deep into the stoner side of the doom world and released my favorite doom album of all time. Solar Lovers combines the mournful dueling guitars that you’d find on early Anathema and My Dying Bride albums with layers and layers of fuzzed out psychedelia. I’ve never heard another album that sounds quite like this. Unfortunately (albeit somewhat unsurprisingly) after this album Celestial Season totally dropped the doom/death aspect of their sound and went full on stoner rock, much to my dismay.
Necromantia – Scarlet Evil Witching Black
Necromantia’s early work was promising with its crusty bass-driven distortion and hints of orchestration. But with their second album they brought their songwriting and orchestration skills to an entirely different level. Scarlet Evil Witching Black has the orchestration and hook-driven songwriting of old Arcturus or Cradle of Filth, but with a MUCH more ferocious and grinding edge to it. Unfortunately, Necromantia’s subsequent work doesn’t touch this album. Unlike the rest of the bands on my list, I think this is less of a situation of a band progressing into new, less interesting territories, and more of an example of a band that just wasn’t able to recreate their most successful work.
So what does the toilet have to say on this topic? What are your favorite one album wonders? Am I a complete idiot because you like The Karelian Isthmus more than Tales From the Thousand Lakes? Am I a poser for implying that early Cradle of Filth had good songwriting and orchestration? Do you believe that Meshuggah’s act of inventing an interesting musical style 20 years ago should excuse them from subjecting us to the same album over and over again for the rest of eternity? Sound off below; it’s Sunday and we’re having an open swim.
* Credit Richter with correcting me every time I refer to Ihsahn as just a singular black wizard.
** Ihsahn has also been known to rock this snazzy see-through pants/spiked shoulder pads ensemble from time to time.
Big thanks to Zeke for writing this piece!