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Various Artists

Metal for the Masses II (Century Media/ Nuclear Blast)

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The Century Family (Century Media, Nuclear Blast, and Olympic Recordings) is pretty much the premier metal outlet in the country right now. They dominate in sheer number of bands, and the quality of their recent releases has frequently been astonishing.

This double-CD set sprawls the full range of Century Family. Disc one is solid, featuring 20 tracks (one per band) from Arch Enemy, God Forbid, My Ruin, Dimmu Borgir, and 16 more. But disc two is, frankly, an amazing act of generosity: It contains 160 MP3 files, running the gamut from 2003 releases by Grave, Krisiun, and Shadows Fall to classic back-catalog tracks from Eyehategod, Borknagar, Immolation, and many more. Between the two discs, a full portrait of the Century Family emerges, and it's a strong one. All told, this compilation gives the listener more than 12 hours of solid metal, hard from beginning to end, but with bursts of melody and occasional clouds of gothic darkness. Anybody looking to understand where metal is today could start with these two discs and be doing just fine.

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