I thought continuing the top 13 was a good way to go, but for every album I thought of, a parallel arose. So the list turned out as it did (with top slots held by bands found on few metallic year-end lists). Plus more stuff came to mind in the process—perhaps categories will be in order next year.
13. Arsis – Starve for the Devil
Wracked with inner turmoil on a number of levels, James Malone invited us into the deepest and darkest corners of his psyche. Admittedly, I expected this to end up on my best-of list by virtue of track record alone, but between the wry humor, unforgettable tunes, and amazing reformed band (with original drummer Michael van Dyne), everything works.
13a. Allegaeon – Fragments of Form and Function
If you like catchy melodeath with blackened vocals but not the tortured past, consider Allegaeon, whose excellent debut dominated my summer. Arguably the best tech death debut of the 21st century thus far.
12. Pin-Up Went Down – 342
342 is one of the most adventurous albums released this year. Carnival in Coal fans now have more madness to admire.
12a. Ufomammut – Eve
Maybe you’d like something just as experimental, but more in the vein of sludgy post-metal, and one giant track. Also a three-character title like 342, Ufomammut chose the “first woman” Eve as their centerpiece (though Cradle of Filth may contest this, having recently written about Lilith).
11. Alcest – Écailles de Lune
Some of the mellowest and most beautiful black metal I have heard was composed by Alcest on this release. Neige is now a leader in the burgeoning French black metal movement.
11a. Les Discrets – Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées
Joshua Perrin—who reviewed both Alcest and Les Discrets—mentioned to me that this album “seems a 5/5 in retrospect”. It would be silly to not parallel these two releases, especially since Winterhalter drums on both, and they even put out a split in 2009.
10. Holy Grail – Crisis in Utopia
Just the best NWOBHM-influenced music of the year, and a complete surprise considering the hullabaloo surrounding the White Wizzard split-up. But that band just cannot hold onto its members, and my money—as well as Brad Barratt‘s, who did the review—is on Holy Grail.
10a. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
Perhaps the young bucks are not your cup of tea. That’s fine, because Maiden‘s latest is their best since reforming with Brave New World a decade back. A sprawling sci-fi masterpiece, the band still reminds us who helped write the book on epic metal, with their longest album yet at 76 minutes!
09. Karma to Burn – Appalachian Incantation
You don’t notice how strong or how stealthy these hooks are until they have already subtly burned into memory. A blend of mostly new material, with a surprisingly single-worthy track in “Waiting for the Western World” that even included vocals for the first time since they booted the original singer (and a great job done by Daniel Davies). Definitely worth waiting the 9 years.
09a. Judgement Day – Peacocks/Pink Monsters
Heavy instrumental strings that are not Apocalyptica? Hell, sign me up for variety’s sake, if nothing else. But you know that’s not enough, nor would reflexively pulling for the underdog. Still, at year’s end Judgement Day‘s innovative self-released sophomore effort is here and 7th Symphony is not. Find out why, won’t you?
08. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow
Just like their last effort, I approached this album with begrudging reluctance. Last time, it was because I was underimpressed with the previous release, but this time I feared unrealistic expectations since Static Tensions was #3 on my Best of 2009. Spiral Shadow was a slow-grower for me, but just like the guy on the couch, once it got comfortable it was difficult to remove.
08a. HowL – Full of Hell
The sound of Hotlanta in convenient Rhode Island form! Seriously, if you wanna bring the dirty, HowL are your people. Detractors can nitpick Full of Hell all day long, but must never lose sight of the fact that the album sounds exactly as it should.
07. Norma Jean – Meridional
I never would have guessed this one. Norma Jean had yet to strike so potently before Meridional, and I discussed the process with Jake Schultz shortly after its release.
07a. The Empire Shall Fall – Awaken
I had all but lost track of one Jesse Leach, who formed TESF after Seemless split up, and funny enough, one of my favorite interviews happened with Jesse this past April Fools Day. Both bands in this #7 slot drove welcome rifts in what some may call the “metalcore” genre, but if you read both those interviews, neither necessarily identify with that label.
06. Ihsahn – After
My first pick for the Best of 2010 remained for the entire year, with the Norwegian black metal giant pushing progressive boundaries further than he ever had before. The crazy saxophone work was a perfect addition to one of Metal’s most fearless composers.
06a. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit
I was originally going to put the Shining album Blackjazz opposite Ihsahn‘s After since both feature Jorgen Munkeby on sax, but instead decided on a late entry by Willie Strausser (who actually wrote both reviews); sometimes recency wins over primacy.
05. Atheist – Jupiter
Frighteningly fluid and precise, this is the year-end spoiler to end all year-end spoilers. Listen/read to my interview with Steve Flynn for even more insight!
05a. Accept – Blood of the Nations
Want another album written by an archetypal band who has not released new material in (blank)teen years and absolutely slays? Enjoy.
04. High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine
So not only is this the strongest High on Fire album yet, but they begin with their best song and it’s also the title track? Matt Pike has always had a big set of brass ones, and I wish E1 Music luck containing them, as their amazing year of releases from newly labeled artists as diverse as the classic Overkill to the newfangled Powerglove still aren’t quite as heavy as this crown jewel.
04a. Monster Magnet – Mastermind
Speaking of label jumps by stoner rock bands, I forgot Monster Magnet was jumping to Napalm Records until Mastermind was actually released. Their only other band that seems similar in style is the aforementioned K2B (which came out this year, too). No matter, good for all parties involved. Check out a happily revitalized Dave Wyndorf HERE.
03. Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini
The ultimate sonic realization from the Norwegian pioneers. My imagination can scarcely contain what the future now holds from these modern masters. Big thanks to all the work from our regional correspondent Mats Johansen, who reviewed this and the following album (in addition to much more).
03a. Kvelertak – Kvelertak
By comparison, the devastating debut from these death rockers likewise draws from a breadth of influences, but the fanciest thing found here is John Baizley’s artwork.
02. Consecration – .avi
We may lay Isis to rest. The sacred texts written by the American band surfaced in Serbia, and have been interpreted with honor. This was my favorite for quite some time, and one of the few albums I can admit to indulging on ‘repeat’ during an entire work shift.
02a. Fields of Locust – Subtopia
Of course, there are many bands seeking to fill the sizable gap left in the absence of Isis. And as it turns out, self-released seems to be the way to go this year. Head about 500 miles south of Consecration and you’ll come to Fields of Locust in Greece, whom I foresee in a mighty double-bill.
01. Killing Joke – Absolute Dissent
You need to hear this album—NOW. Trust me.
01a. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
Just as Killing Joke was off my radar, so were Swans. And in similar fashion, neither have a Metal core, yet turned out some of the heaviest music in 2010.
Top three live releases:
03. Dio – At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987
02. Heaven & Hell – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell
01. Opeth – In Live Concert at The Royal Albert Hall
Three websites that made impressive advancements for the Metalverse:
03. DarkLyrics — thank you for reducing text size to make searching faster… and, you know, just existing
02. Encyclopaedia Metallum — Android app, Add-ons, & ‘Random Band’ search… oh, my!
01. Horns of the Devil — aggregated Metal reviews = perfect… and getting perfect-er
That’s all, folks. Sincere thanks to all contributors, subscribers, and visitors… we have loads more for the future, and hope you’ll join us there! m/om/