Sargon the Terrible
1. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
No other album comes close this year. A monument to power, style, and grace. The deepest, most meaningful album of the year.
2. Melechesh - The Epigenesis
Melechesh's most varied, adventurous, and complex work to date. A massive, multilayered, and addictive album.
3. Mael Mordha - Manannan
The second-best band in Ireland makes their best album. Rawer and more emotional than their last, yet still epic and haunting.
4. Ea - Au Ellai
Moving, mysterious, and powerful. Nobody does Funeral Doom as well as Ea.
5. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
Mystical, occult, heavy-assed Doom Metal. If Black Sabbath did a soundtrack to a Hammer movie, this would be it.
6. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Their best album in twenty years proves they are not dead yet. Combines the complexity and seriousness of their late work with the energy and catchiness of their classics.
7. Procession - Destroyers of the Faith
Fantastic Trad Doom that puts this band on the map. A better album than Candlemass have made for decades.
8. Crosswind - Opposing Forces
An amazing disc that is really a demo compilation, and it's a shredding epic riff-fest of speed and power. A frighteningly good band.
9. Sig:Ar:Tyr - Godsaga
Magnificent, atmospheric Pagan Black Metal that conjures Bathory without imitating.
10. Grendel - Dragon's Awakening
Deeply musical and ruthlessly heavy. This band keeps getting better.
11. Arkheth - IX & I: The Quintessence of Algaresh
A big surprise from this young band. A massive double album that just fucking owns.
12. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
This veteran band put out the vilest, blackest, nastiest album of 2010.
13. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
The band that won't die comes back with another great album. It may not equal Hardworlder or Traveller, but it stands head and shoulders over most other bands' finest works.
1. Kamelot - Poetry for the Poisoned
Overblown and lacking good songs, this album signals that Kamelot are burning out.
2. Skyforger - Kurbads
What happened to the great band that made Thunderforge? Because all I hear is a third-rate imitation.
3. Grand Magus - Hammer of the North
Grand Magus cleaned up and pussed out for this. In trying to make an album that would appeal to the mainstream, they made one that appeals to nobody.
2010 was a great year for metal. I say that because all of my favorite bands seemed to release albums this year. Being a fan of traditional heavy metal in 2010 was kind of like finding a bunch of $100 bills on the sidewalk. It was just great, and there were a ton of really inspired, deeply spirited releases to sink my teeth into, from underground bands and from mainstream ones alike, that were definitely a lot better than your garden variety White Wizzard junk. But what specific albums made it onto my personal best of 2010 list? Let's see.
1. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
A mighty album of true metal splendor. Simply the one that represents best what heavy metal was and is still about in 2010. The rich, thick production, the rootsy, masterful riffing and Phil Swanson's iconic vocal performance combined with the awesome lyrics make this album of the year.
2. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
The charismatic, individual and ever so strange Slough Feg release another album with their trademark stamp of wonderful, heartfelt rock/metal. This one is their best in years, with songs so enjoyable they are simply undeniable by anyone...with ears.
3. Avantasia - The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon - Deluxe Edition
Tobias Sammet has been releasing his brand of attitude-filled hard rock-influenced power metal for years, and growing more professional at blending the two genres with each release. This double-album set is packed with more Sammet than you know how to handle, with lucrative guest stars, hooky choruses and epic, sweeping songs.
4. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
The venerable Maiden marches on and puts out their best album in years. Emotive, sweeping, adventurous music, with one of Dickinson's finest performances ever.
5. Excalion - High Time
Excalion are a powerful new band and this is their third album, in what I am sure will be a promising career. This is simply outstanding music, with rich melodic constructions and excellent vocal work adding to a stunning listen.
6. Black Majesty - In Your Honour
Black Majesty's answer to Painkiller. Fast, furious, intricate and relentless, In Your Honor shows this fine Australian band gaining momentum at ridiculous speeds. Who knows how good their next one will be?
7. Hanker - Conspiracy of Mass Extinction
Hanker's best album since The Dead Ringer shows this excellent Canadian band powering out their fastest, most intense songs ever. And not only is it fast, but the riffs are simply some of the best Hanker has ever penned. Invaluably awesome.
8. Mael Mordha - Manannan
Mael Mordha's third album is a sweeping Pagan hammer of death and destruction to all enemies of metal. This flows masterfully, with some really great, complex riffing woven into the majestic, pounding base of the music. Vital and meaningful music with real presence and charisma.
9. Angra - Aqua
Angra release their best album yet in this tour de force of emotion, power and wild native influence. Aqua shows the band mastering their songwriting technique with some of their most hooky, yet complex, tunes to date.
10. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
A folksy, moving and majestic piece of metal from this very promising young outfit. A lot of the material on here is some of the best True Metal to come out this year. Next time I hope they can wrap up a more coherent set of songs, but for what it is, this album simply bleeds heart, passion and triumph.
11. Hooded Menace - Never Cross the Dead
Awesome, churning death metal guitars mixed with horror movie lyrics, low growls and a thick, enveloping production...this is one of the coolest things around and I wish I had given it more attention this year, so I'm giving it my honorary #11 spot.
With every year there come disappointments. And several bands happened to release below-standard albums this year. So here they are:
1. Freedom Call - Legend of the Shadowking
It's still a shame to see this once-good band peddling out piss poor crap like this album. Better than Dimensions, but then, most sounds that come out of your ass are better than Dimensions. This album is clumsy, confusing and has no flow at all between songs.
2. Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia
This legendary band has put out a real flop in 2010 with The Black Light Bacchanalia, an album in which most of the runtime is taken up by meaningless, overly self-indulgent prog jerking and ridiculous, over the top castrati wailing with no real sense of songwriting.
3. Orden Ogan - Easton Hope
Orden Ogan's last album Vale was one of the best of 2008, and come 2010 I was hyped to hear this. Unfortunately Easton Hope is merely OK, with some good tunes but a lack of the subtlety and charisma that their last album had. Mostly just kind of generic, sadly.
4. Kiuas - Lustdriven
Kiuas used to be a very unique, individualistic band with real vision and vitriol to them, but now they make watered down pop metal. Oh well.
5. Astral Doors - Requiem of Time
A kid banging on pots and pans is more enthusiastic than this fifth rate slop. Embarrassing beyond belief.
So that's my top 11 and bottom 5 albums of 2010. I hope you enjoyed reading it and I also hope 2011 will be even better. Stay metal. Live long, rock out and keep true to what you believe in.
There were a lot of good albums I had the pleasure to listen to this year and, of course, a lot of not-so-good albums. I have included the Top 10 albums for 2010 that I reviewed for The Metal Crypt (no one cares if there was some album I thought was great, but that I couldn't be bothered to write a review for, right?) No disappointments, as I wasn't expecting anything from any band this year.
1. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
OK, I lied in my introduction; I was expecting The Golden Bough to be awesome. Quite simply, it is the best metal album of the year, bar none. The band not only lived up to, but exceeded any expectations I had with killer riffs, engaging melodies and a dedication to their sound very few bands display.
2. Accept - Blood of the Nations
Nearly 24 years after the end of the "classic" Accept recording career, the band rises from the ashes and blows everyone away with a monster Heavy Metal album, full of killer guitars and Mark Tornillo's powerful vocals. Only Atlantean Kodex stood in the way of the number one spot. Blood of the Nations is the comeback album of the year, if not all time.
3. Edenbridge - Solitaire
A masterpiece of female-fronted, symphonic Power Metal, infectious barely comes close to describing Solitaire.
4. While Heaven Wept - Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence
Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence is the record of a band at its peak, caught live. If you've never heard While Heaven Wept, make it a priority for 2011, and you can start here.
5. Melechesh - The Epigenesis
Black Metal only covers part of what Melechesh bring to the table on The Epigenesis. It is an amazing fusion of Black Metal and traditional Middle Eastern melodies that works perfectly, despite the seemingly disparate styles.
6. Black Majesty - In Your Honour
In Your Honor is excellent, soaring Power Metal from Australia's Black Majesty. Every chorus is huge and immensely catchy. An example of what can happen when you don't mess with a style, just play it as it is meant to be played.
7. Züül - Out of Time
This U.S. band expertly captures the doomy, NWOBHM sound of the early 80s. If I still had my denim jacket, there would be a ZUUL patch across the back.
8. Ancient Bards - The Alliance of the Kings
An amazing debut of epic, fantasy-themed Power Metal, the first in what will hopefully be a cycle of great Power Metal from these young Italians.
9. Mob Rules - Radical Peace
Radical Peace is dense and layered, with thought provoking lyrics that are political without being preachy. Not an easy task for a Power Metal band, but Mob Rules makes it look easy.
10. Triosphere - The Road Less Travelled
Amazing what improved songwriting can do for a band. Triosphere take their already powerful playing and marry it with some catchy, hooky writing and created a winner.
Another year, another year's best. What made this year's list peculiar is that it was so damned difficult to choose the top spot. There were so many albums worthy of that distinction and although this list can change tomorrow, I believe this was its best possible ranking. Overall, 2010 had better records than 2009 and I just hope that things get only better in 2011.
1. Steelwing - Lord of the Wasteland
It took much deliberation, but after listing and listening to all the albums here, I truly believe this is the best one of 2010. Why? Because this thing just fucking explodes out of the speakers, giving Heavy Metal a billion volt charge.
2. Hellish Crossfire - Bloodrust Scythe
The best Thrash Metal album of the year hands down. Raw, fast and aggressive with a take no prisoners attitude, it has everything that thrash fans would want/need.
3. Skelator - Death to All Nations
This album could easily have been in the top spot as their brand of metal can get very addictive in a short time. If you were waiting for a new American band to take over the metal scene in the U.S., this is the one.
4. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
Just a year after the marvelous Ape Uprising! this band comes back with a brand new album. It is pure Slough Feg all the way through and if you liked them before there is no reason why you shouldn't worship this.
5. White Wizzard - Over the Top
There has been so much shit and backlash about this album and band that I wonder what in the blue hell am I missing. This debut provides plenty of air guitar moments and combined with its unbelievable vocals you'll have a hard time getting these songs out of your head.
6. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
At first, I didn't fall in love with this like so many people did, but after repeated listens I did and can clearly see why people love this album. If they can continue to produce more records like this, I anticipate bigger things for them in no time.
7. Overkill - Ironbound
When I reviewed this, I said that this was their best since Horrorscope but after listening to both albums recently, I think this is better by miles. In my humble opinion, this is their second best album ever behind only The Years of Decay.
8. Star One - Victims of the Modern Age
Arjen Anthony Lucassen has done it once again. After the goodness of Space Metal, I didn't expect that he could make an album just as good. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait; I just hope that their next record comes sooner than 8 years.
9. Züül - Out of Time
This is what happens when you make an album as if the 80's never ended. It has everything that a metal fan of that era would want without sounding retro or lame. I anticipate big things for the band in the very near future.
10. God Dethroned - Under the Sign of the Iron Cross
I didn't think that they could make an album as good as Passiondale, but this one is better by a hair. It is my favorite Black/Death album of the year, keeping the momentum achieved last year.
11. Procession - Destroyers of the Faith
The best Doom Metal album of the year. No other disc in the genre managed to keep my attention for its entirety. Hell it deserves to be here just for the title track alone.
12. Heathen - The Evolution of Chaos
After an almost 20 years hiatus this band comes back and makes one hell of a record. This is how you are supposed to do Progressive Thrash, a never boring album with great musicianship while slaying everything in your path.
13. High On Fire - Snakes for the Divine
I didn't know much about them before this record, but this trio have a made a Thrash album to remember. Don't be fooled by that name, this record can easily rival anything released in Thrash this year.
14. Enforcer - Diamonds
For me, this is the surprise of the year. I didn't think that there was a band that could capture the essence of the NWOBHM so vividly. But with this album, the Swedes have proved that you can still make something amazing no matter how many times has been done before.
15. Avantasia - Angel of Babylon
I really enjoyed The Metal Opera - PartOone, but the for some reason the other discs from Tobias's side project didn't appeal much to me. Not until I heard this one. It was close but I think this is the best pure Power Metal album of the year.
There have been many disappointments during the past year but none hit me as hard as the death of Ronnie James Dio. I was eagerly waiting for an album from him but now sadly I'll never get that chance (at least I got to see him live once). On the other hand, it wasn't very difficult to find the worst albums of the year and unlike the best-of list, there is little chance that I'll change the order in which they are arranged.
1. Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
Without hesitation, this is easily this is by far the shittiest metal album I've heard during the past year. This is depressingly bad, enough proof that this guy should never release an album again.
2. The Wounded Kings - The Shadow Over Atlantis
This is a prime example of why people cannot stand Doom Metal. Long, tedious and generic, only Doom Metal fans could enjoy this disc.
3. Antares Predator - Twilight of the Apocalypse
This is what happens when a record is made by people who forget that the Thrash part is supposed to be just as important as the Black part. Avoid.
4. Mekong Delta - Wanderer On the Edge Of Time
This is such a mess of jazz, blues, classical and metal without any focus whatsoever. As far as I'm concerned the next time I want to listen to a new album by this band will be in 2033.
5. Angra - Aqua
This was the only album on this list that wasn't horrible but after the hype surrounding it, it was a major disappointment to say the least.
Well, well, well. Another year down and another good year for metal music, 2010 saw a constant slew of quality albums by reliable bands. Of course there were disappointments but the good far outweighed the bad. Hell, my short list numbered around 50 albums and there are still a few I've yet to spend quality time with (Briton Rites springs to mind in particular, don't get me wrong it's excellent on first impressions but I can't place it here due to hearing it for the first time recently). Now before I get into the list I will say this reflects more what the albums mean to me as opposed to my critiques of the albums.
1. Virgin Steele - The Black Light Bacchanalia
Picking an album of the year for 2010 has been very difficult; I don't believe there is a flat-out album of the year so I thought I'd gave the number one spot to the album I enjoyed the most. Virgin Steele are one of my favourite bands and since the Marriage albums I don't believe they've put a foot wrong. The Black Light Bacchanalia hits me on not just an aesthetic level but a personal, emotional level too. I understand I'm in a massive minority and you know what it is, I don't care. Fucking awesome!
2. Heathen - The Evolution of Chaos
Beyond superlatives, Heathen really hit the nail on the head this time around, rivalling my 2009 album of the year Endgame for the spot of the finest thrash album I've heard since the glory days. It's great to see a band come back and take names, and with The Evolution of Chaos Heathen became responsible for many a sore neck.
3. Orden Ogan - Easton Hope
Orden Ogan are one of the finest power metal acts to rise up over the last few years, and while opinions have been divided over Easton Hope I feel it's the finest release in the genre this year. One of those albums that can make you fall in love with the genre all over again.
4. Labyrinth - Return to Heaven Denied Pt. II - "A Midnight Autumn’s Dream"
Make no mistake about it; the original Return to Heaven Denied is a personal favourite of mine which I hold in high regard. I was dubious about a sequel album, and I couldn't be happier with the end result. They managed to recreate the atmosphere and magic which made the original so special to me, not to mention superb song-writing to boot. Heart-stopping melodies, passionate performances and stunning musicianship are the order of the day here.
5. Triosphere - The Road Less Travelled
Holy shit, this album keeps getting better and better. Easily the best female-fronted album of the year. The Road Less Travelled is a meticulously crafted album, dripping with energy and passion, soaring through moody passages and dragging you along for the ride with many a hook. Triosphere are certainly a band to watch.
6. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
This one will no doubt top quite a few lists, and I can't really argue with that, Atlantean Kodex have created an album that is pretty much mandatory listening for any self-respecting metalhead. This is an album that makes you proud to be flying the flag of metal, and I'm sure we've all raised our fists to the air and sung out the chorus to "Pilgrim" at the top of our voices.
7. Angra - Aqua
Another album to divide opinions, those of us who persisted with repeated spins were certainly rewarded. I can't shake the album now, an excellent listen and while not the flat-out technical power metal assault I had hoped for, Aqua ended up a charming progressive metal album that comes across as both heartfelt and well thought out. Angra really can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.
8. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
The marriage of the Blind Guardian of old and the Blind Guardian of present, At The Edge of Time is a welcome addition the band's near flawless discography. Blind Guardian are at the top of their game, and this would be the perfect swansong for the band (let's hope not though).
9. Masterplan - Time to be King
Masterplan are another band ia the top of their game, and Time to be King is the sound of the band comfortable and proud and doing what they do best. A smashing collection of brilliant songs that never grow old or stale.
10. Sadist - Season in Silence
This album is just so goddamn cool. With so many typical death metal albums over the year, Sadist delivered a fistful of sharp ice to both my face and the proverbial face of their competition. Season In Silence is pretty much a master-class in how to progressive death metal.
11. Seventh Wonder - The Great Escape
From the moment I heard "Alley Cat" The Great Escape was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list. I had anticipated this to be my album of the year, although I think I set my hopes a little too high. Don't get me wrong this is an undeniably great album, I just think they bit off more than they could chew in the title track – sorry guys, 30 minutes is too much.
12. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
Slough Feg are one of the coolest bands around, and this is more of what they do best. These guys seriously can't go wrong.
13. Myrath - Desert Call
This one had to be here, seriously awesome eastern-tinted progressive power metal. Myrath played their hand well here and are certainly a band I look forward to hearing more from.
14. Overkill - Ironbound
It's great to see Overkill kicking ass again, and seriously, I mean fucking seriously man, the band are on fire here, and this is one of the finest headbang fests of the year. I took one listen to "The Green and Black" and I was floored flat on my arse. Heavy as hell, this is mandatory for the thrashers.
15. Avantasia - The Wicked Symphony & Angel of Babylon - Deluxe Edition
The logical step after The Scarecrow, Tobias Sammet is on top form here. Some people will never be able to get over the fact this isn't The Metal Opera all over again, but they're the ones missing out.
1. Atheist - Jupiter
I had ridiculously high hopes for this. Sadly the album couldn't suck more if it tried. Atheist also win the award for gayest moment of 2010; see 1:51 into "Live and Live Again". This one left me really quite sore, I saw a comment on the Internet somewhere saying; Atheist, take Jupiter and shove it up Uranus. I'd have to second that.
2. Forbidden - Omega Wave
Not bad by any stretch of the word, and in fact there are some superb songs on the album. They're just stuck between a lot of filler, and there's some shameless overtly modern sounding moments throughout. The album is honestly too damn long. I'm not writing these guys off completely though. I was just expecting better from one of my favourite thrash metal acts.
3. Symphorce - Unrestricted
Maybe I was a little unfair to these guys giving them the bottom of the barrel 0/5 treatment. Then again, the album is a bit of a stinker and well and as far as I'm concerned has well and truly soiled the name of this once great band.
Honourable mentions go out to Iron Maiden, Vanden Plas, Martriden, Rhapsody of Fire, Helloween, Briton Rites, Nomad Son... Bloody hell, I could go on and on. You get the drift though: there has been a load of excellent stuff this year. Here's hoping 2011 kicks our asses, I have to admit things are already looking mighty promising. Not to mention the fact we're off to a great start with Stratovarius' latest opus.
This was a great year for metal, one of the best in memory. From all corners of the metal world, 2010 delivered great releases from both established and new acts.
1. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
The very welcome comeback from a band I had left for dead, proving once again that they're one of the best bands the genre has ever seen.
2. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
Sweeping, rapturous, and undeniably beautiful. One of the most artistic and soulful bands in the genre releases possibly their best album yet.
3. Noctum - The Seance
Wow, now this was a great debut. There's seemingly almost no information on this mysterious Swedish doom act, but the men behind it will have my ears desperately awaiting a follow-up.
4. Enforcer - Diamonds
With this infectious nod to traditional metal, this Swedish outfit will around for a very long time.
5. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
Not deserving of all the heraldry thrust upon it, but still one of the year's strongest and powerful albums.
6. Ereb Altor - The End
Certainly the year's most depressing album, in a great way.
7. Ihsahn - After
Metal's resident iconoclast is back with a genre-bending slice of very moving, and surprising gentle music.
8. Ghost (Sweden) - Opus Eponymous
Germans have a word that translates to "earworm" used for the most catchy of songs. It's the perfect way to describe this album.
1. Sabaton - Coat of Arms
A collection of simply made, humdrum songs that sound like the deleted tracks from previous Sabaton albums.
2. Annihilator - Annihilator
Not so much a disappointment, as I knew it would be awful. But it was still the worst album I heard all year long. It's not all that surprising coming after the unfathomably heinous Metal. The worst band in the world strikes again.
3. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
Before everyone kills me, let me say that this album is far from bad. However, I certainly didn't understand why it received the extremely high praise it did, making it nothing short of a large disappointment.
2010 has been a solid year for metal with releases that span several different genres occupying my listening time. It was also a year several established sounds were redone in a slightly different form for added impact.
1. Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini
This black metal act continuously progresses into more interesting territories with each release and they've simply brought everything together for a masterful work with Axioma Ethica Odini.
2. Immolation - Majesty and Decay
This album is furious and intense. Immolation continues to up the ante for quality death metal and they've created another monster with Majesty and Decay.
3. Heathen - The Evolution of Chaos
Thrash is back with a vengeance on The Evolution of Chaos. Heathen manage to extract a classic sound and make it relevant for a more modern Thrash audience here.
4. Intronaut - Valley of Smoke
This album has intricate progressive sounds that straddle the line between aggression and subtlety in a wonderful fashion. The work as a whole is coherent, spacey and inventive in equal measures.
5. Ihsahn - After
This album infuses jazz and other styles into a black metal mix for a varied and compelling work. It shows there still can be interesting music in the Emperor mould.
6. Melechesh - The Epigenesis
An ambitious album that pushes the intricacies of what Egyptian sounding black metal can attain. There's certainly a strong thrash vibe here as well that gives the songs a rollicking nature.
7. Overkill - Ironbound
This is simply another solid release from the thrash greats that has catchy and memorable riffs. It may not quite live up to classics like Horrorscope, but it's another great effort regardless.
8. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones
This is a unique listen that continues the Celtic Frost vein with slight changes. The release is slightly more avant-garde than Celtic Frost, but still packs a punch.
9. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits
This album has a vibrant, energy filled style that likens it to classics by bands such as Iron Maiden. Led by a unique vocalist, I'm disappointed I didn't start listening to this band earlier.
10. Pensées Nocturnes - Grotesque
A compelling work that stretches the boundaries of metal by adding symphonic elements, for example. It requires multiple listens to fully grasp the band's thoughts.
11. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden's latest has evolved song structures and is one of their more interesting releases. It is an album that gets progressively better as it reaches towards the end of the release.
12. Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
There are excellent middle-eastern influenced sounds to be found here. This work is very ambitious and perhaps overly so at times.
13. Myrath - Desert Call
A progressive work that has a middle-eastern tinge that is simply classy to listen to. It is actually rather subtle in its delivery rather than being over-indulgent.
14. Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
While this isn't as good as albums like Dreaming Neon Black, there is a lot to like with the new Nevermore, including an exciting title track that is amongst the band's best.
15. Heathen Foray - Armored Bards
This outfit have a very upbeat folk sound that is heroic and pleasing to listen to. They faithfully bring the spirit of bands like Amon Amarth to the forefront and have the ability to be uplifting.
1. Tears - Memories Of Things Unnecessary
I had high hopes for this album as it begun with an interesting avant-garde style, but it became very dry minimalistic music towards the end. The album has a sub-par ending to a promising beginning.
2. Blood of the Black Owl - A Banishing Ritual
This album was relatively well done, but was simply somewhat boring to listen to. I was expecting a compelling atmospheric listen, but it just ended up being tedious.
There you have my favorite moments as well as a couple let downs from a great year for metal in 2010. Hopefully in 2011 there are even more powerful and interesting releases than there were this year.
Well folks it's almost upon us, the end of 2010. Just like 2009, it has been an exceptionally good year for metal with some surprising releases both positively and negatively. There were so many great albums to choose from to try and squeeze into 15, but I've managed to narrow it down and here are my choices of what I believe to be the absolute best to showcase metal from 2010.
1. Alcest - Ecailles de Lune
The enigmatic Neige managed to perform the incredible feat of actually topping the band's debut, Souvenirs d'un autre ,onde. This fantastic fusion of majestic yet unrelenting Emperor-esque Black metal and sullen shoegaze guitar passages comes together in scintillating fashion, eclipsing all the would-be imitators to their debut in 2007 and showing them how it's really done. And to be honest, I can't ever see anyone other than Neige himself coming anywhere near to bettering this style. Monumental.
2. Sargeist - Let the Devil In
This latest unholy plague unleashed by mastermind Shatraug exploded completely out of the blue and struck me senseless. Shatraug may be a bit of a vagrant when it comes to black metal, but when push comes to shove he does it extremely fucking well. Yes this is even better than Behexen. Uncompromising and beguiling, this is how black metal should be done.
3. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
I have a feeling this will be at the top of many people's lists, and it's not hard to see why. The doom-tinged epic metal of these Germans is straight out of the instruction manual of Hammerheart-era Bathory and Doomsword. If you thought The Pnakotic Demos was impressive, you're in for a surprise. The next time someone asks you to define metal? Just hand them a copy of this CD.
4. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
A surprise addition for me here, mainly because I was never that big a fan of Inquisition. They often receive a large amount of flak for their comical image and ridiculous titles. It's slightly unfair as many pass them off without even listening to them because of this, especially when they've managed to release an album of this standard. Immortal worship at its most pompous and grandiose without ever becoming self indulgent from these Columbian veterans.
5. Enforcer - Diamonds
The traditional heavy metal revival peaked in 2010, and while many bands were just looking back through rose-tinted glasses and completely lacking in substance, Enforcer rose to the top of the heap. Quitely rightly so too, as with Diamonds, Enforcer have managed to carve out a sound of their own yet retaining all the pizzazz and attitude which made heavy metal in the first place. Dense, commanding and extremely catchy, Enforcer are an exciting prospect for the future and surely destined for big things.
6. Watain - Lawless Darkness
Sweden's satanic trio Watain returning in 2010 with the follow up to Sworn to the Dark, and continue the form that saw them so revered ever since Cacus Luciferi was unleashed upon us. Unashamed Dissection worship, only now with an added touch variation, it's the logical step forward from their previous release. They even managed to fit a fourteen minute blasphemous epic in the form of "Waters of Ain", which features the legendary Carl McCoy. It may just be the best black metal song of this year.
7. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
This is a band which need no introduction. If you know metal music at all, you know Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier removed any doubt about the band's ability these days since the disappointing A Matter of Life and Death. Kevin Shirley has worked a fantastic production here, and with the band's extremely progressive approach to the songwriting yet still retaining that unassailable identity which make Maiden who they are, they've produced their most memorable album since Brave New World.
8. Weapon - From The Devil's Tomb
A band who I've only recently come across, Weapon play caustic brand of blackened death metal. Blistering drum work and riffing with a bile-draped atmosphere to boot, Morbid Angel are just as much influences as Mayhem. The alternation between blood blasted brutality and macabre processions are the record's forte. The Ajna Offensive have a seriously impressive roster, of which Weapon are another compelling addition to.
9. Aorlhac - La cité des vents
A high flier in my end of year list last year, Aorlhac have managed to return again this year with La cite des vents. Still spewing forth their own brand of Occitania-influenced black metal with the medieval tendencies of Peste Noire, it's a worthy successor to Opus I. They haven't made the impression on the scene I imagined they would, but provided they keep releasing material of this quality, the breakthrough is bound to happen sooner than later.
10. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
Probably the most anticipated metal album of 2010 finally hit the shelves in late November. Their brand of heavily post-rock influenced Black/Doom hybrid draws influences from everyone from Sol Invictus to Katatonia. There was extremely high expectation placed upon this release, but Portland's favourite heathen's have done it again. If you are looking for the textbook soundtrack to the dreary, washed out portents of Autumn, I don't know a better album.
11. Witchrist - Beheaded Ouroboros
Invictus have been releasing some extremely impressive albums lately, and this is top of the pile. Possibly one of the most downright putrid and unrelentingly heavy albums you'll hear all year, with insanely decadent gutturals from this esoteric horde. Genuine old school death metal with a big middle finger to the vapid facade of 'technical' death.
12. Kerasphorus - Cloven Hooves at the Holocaust Dawn
It's Helmkamp, need I say more? For those unfortunate enough to have completely passed by Order from Chaos and Revenge, primitive war metal tyrants James Read and Pete Helmkamp join forces once again to conjure up a release of nothing more than all out depraved violence. Comparable to no less than a bullet straight down your throat. Utter barbarism.
13. Christian Mistress - Agony & Opium
Bearing the Fenriz seal of approval, Christian Mistress and their take on classic heavy metal put many to shame on much bigger labels. The raw, DIY ethic and solo littered songs with Christine's enamouring vocals show all the self-indulgent 'gothic' metal bands how proper metal is supposed to be performed, for here, the flame of the eighties is brighter than ever.
14. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
Hour of 13 mastermind Phil Swanson joined forces with Howie Bentley of Cauldron Born fame here, and though on paper it's hard to comprehend how it could possibly work, it does. Taking the blueprints from Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General, add an occult horror movie-esque atmosphere and Phil's unmistakable vocals and you get this; the best doom metal album of the year.
15. Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere
How could you not love a cover like that? Weathered atmospheric black metal in the same vein as Drudkh with a heavy acoustic slant to it, Winterfylleth are a gem in the British scene at the minute. Focusing on their Anglo-Saxon heritage rather than typical Satanic musings, it's a welcome change. Dynamic and brooding, yet exceptionally vicious as well, with The Mercian Sphere Winterfylleth are cementing their place as important players in the UK scene.
1. Blind Illusion - Demon Master
The Sane Asylum, an absolute thrash metal classic and one of the most sought after metal albums ever. This? A shocking, direction-less attempt at some sort of hippy grungy nonsense. Blind Illusion are about sixteen years too late with Demon Master, and even then it still would have been shit.
2. Skyforger - Kurbads
Previously with four classic albums under their best, together with a seven year wait amounted to the second biggest disappointment of the year. With Kurbads, Skyforger diluted much of the folk that made them popular in the first place and downtuned the guitars to almost nu-metal levels at times. Boring and completely uninspired riffing and awful vocals from a band who should know better.
3. White Wizzard - Over the Top
They chose wisely in picking the title track as the single, because along with 40 Deuces, they are the only two decent songs on this. Utterly shallow and lacking in substance, Jon needs his ego deflating slightly, because he hasn't actually ever done anything noteworthy to warrant it.
4. Drudkh - Handful of Stars
Drudkh were, and still are a favourite band of mine, so when I heard the new album had begun to incorporate shoegaze into their sound, I was quietly grinning with anticipation. Then I listened to it. What shoegaze? Someone needs to read up on their definition of what shoegaze really is. Insipid riffing and a horrible sterile production, just what the fuck exactly have you done Drudkh?
5. Negura Bunget - Virstele Pamintului
Not horribly bad as such, but when you put it up against the magical Om, it doesn't even come close. The Dordeduh EP was what this should have sounded like.
Well, 2010 saw some incredible releases from both veteran and new bands, but unfortunately, being a bit strapped for cash, I didn't get to experience many of the "essential" releases for the year. Fortunately, this also meant I only bought those I deemed inevitably good, eliminating the prospect of disappointments. Here's my Top Ten, in no particular order, save for the first two, which tied for the best of the year.
1. Atlantean Kodex - The Golden Bough
When I first put this in, I must admit, I was slightly underwhelmed, but within days, the album unfolded and got me addicted to its magisterial might. HUGE epic metal not to be missed by anyone.
1. Pain of Salvation - Road Salt One
Being a Pain of Salvation nerd, this was a no-brainer, seeing them push their already strange talents into ever-weirder 70s hard rock territory. Trippy, warm, and sometimes outright disturbing, Road Salt One is a welcome addition to my collection, and a tie for Album of the Year.
2. Vanden Plas - The Seraphic Clockwork
Their densest album to date, this thing just screams epic the whole way through. It has the same kind of kinetic songwriting from Christ 0, with the atmosphere of Beyond Daylight making appearances. A must-have for proggers.
3. Overkill - Ironbound
Definitely one of the bands best, Ironbound sees the crazy New Jesrsey thrashers dabble in epic songwriting married to killer thrash riffs and a production job that levels buildings, and made one of the best albums of 2010.
4. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Adventurous and compelling, these guys have made an album that is at once familiar and yet very progressive. Plus Bruce turns in the performance of his career on some of these tunes. Awesome album.
5. Kamelot - Poetry for the Poisoned
Their weirdest effort to date, I think Kamelot finally has an album fans will polarize over. I personally appreciate it as a whole, with all the bells and whistles adding into a much more convincing album than a collection of songs.
6. High On Fire - Snakes for the Divine
I had heard a lot about these guys and had a bit of extra money, so I thought "Hey, might as well check this out." For the next 45 minutes I had my head torn off by some of the ugliest, heaviest thrash I've ever heard. Focusing on fuzzy, nasty riffs played with a dash of Motorhead thrown in, this is a pretty damn cool album.
7. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time
I seriously don't know why anyone could think this is anything but stellar. A perfect collaboration of almost every sound the band has ever had, soaked in orchestral bombast. Plus, "Sacred Worlds" is one of the best power metal songs of all damn time. Essential for fans of the band or genre.
8. Briton Rites - For Mircalla
Holy shit, who that has heard this doesn't like it?! Simply incredible old-school heavy metal from beginning to end is what you get here, with a never-ending assault of incredible riffage and solos cloaked in a warm, fuzzy, perfect tone, backed by arcane lyrics and weird warbly singing, this thing might as well be a time portal to the 80s.
9. Seventh Wonder - The Great Escape
I wonder if my sweet tooth will one day wear out and render me incapable of listening to these guys... Until then, I'll continue to enjoy their saccharine blend of prog time signatures with sugar-sweet power metal melodies, sung by one of the best throats in the melodic metal scene.
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