Alright folks - I'll just be doing a top ten albums and top ten live performances this year. Look for the live performances list on New Year's Eve after I see Clutch again, but I figure since I know what my album list is gonna look like, I'd just slave over it tonight.
So without further ado, here's my honorable mention albums, in alphabetical order only. (The next post in this thread will have my top ten.)
[B]Arcade Fire, [I]The Suburbs[/I][/B] (Merge) – Okay, I'll be the first to admit I'm not very interested in so-called "indie rock" anymore, and this is the only album I heard this year that could earn that genre tag. But God, if it all sounded this good, I might still give a shit. The third long-player from Quebec's favorite suburbanites is lyrically Rush's "Subdivisions" expanded to record length and musically somewhere around the crossroads of Guided By Voices, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Blondie. It's tender and emotional when it needs to be and synth-driven and upbeat when the songs demand it. It's probably the worst of Arcade Fire's three records, but don't be fooled: [I]The Suburbs[/I] is still a gem.
[I]Key Track: "Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains"[/I]
[B]Coffinworm, [I]When All Became None[/I][/B] (Profound Lore) – Black metal is a pretty grim, ugly genre in the first place, but fusing it with NOLA-styled sludge makes a toxic cocktail that only the foulest of palates should attempt to taste. If you're feeling up to it, though, the six songs on Indianapolis natives Coffinworm's debut are about as good as that sound gets. The riffs are thick, disgusting and, most importantly, heavy as hell, and the screamed-from-a-skyscraper vocals and some incredibly well-chosen samples complete the ungodly package.
[I]Key Track: "Start Saving For Your Funeral"[/I]
[B]Dawnbringer, [I]Nucleus[/I][/B] (Profound Lore) – It's hard to believe that this Pennsylvania band used to make poorly-produced Swedish death metal worship, but that's thankfully all in the past on their first disc as a traditional heavy metal outfit owing its key debts to the likes of St. Vitus and Thin Lizzy. There's solos, leads, and soaring choruses in every damn one of these songs, and while it'll probably take another record before some of the fretboard wizardry gets reined in enough not to feel gimmicky, [I]Nucleus[I][/I][/I] is an incredible start by a band that I expect will put out some of the best metal of the next decade.
[I]Key Track: "Swing Hard"[/I]
[B]Howl, [I]Full of Hell[/I][/B] (Relapse) – Sometimes there's an album that doesn't quite have everything in place but it's just [I]so fucking good[/I] at one particular thing that you can't stop listening to it. That's [I]Full of Hell[/I] and riffs. The vocals aren't great, the songwriting leaves a lot to be desired, and the production is stale, but goddamn, these Rhode Islanders wrote approximately 100 of the best riffs of the year. There's not a whole hell of a lot else to say about this one, just turn it on and bang your goddamn head.
[I]Key Track: "The Scorpion's Last Sting"[/I]
[B]Johnny Cash, [I]American VI: Ain't No Grave[/I][/B] (American) – If five previous [I]American[/I] albums didn't exist, this one would be a top ten record, no doubt. Unfortunately for Johnny Cash (or really, for Rick Rubin, since everything but the voice is his on the album), those albums do exist, and some of the emotional resonance of the sixth installment is lost as a result. Still, when Cash is on, he's [I]on[/I], and a few of these tracks are just as tear-jerking as "Hurt" was the first time we heard it.
[I]Key Track: "I Corinthians 15:55"[/I]
[B]Kvelertak, [I]Kvelertak[/I][/B] (Indie) – Here's a candidate for the most fun album of the year: I don't know what any of these Norwegians' lyrics mean and I [I]still[/I] sing them at the top of my lungs when I'm listening to their album at full blast. This LP has been most usually called a fusion of punk and black metal, but I get more of a "D-beat with Baroness parts" vibe from it – no surprise, then, that John Dyer Baizley bestows upon it another masterpiece of an album cover. Great, great disc.
[I]Key Track: "Fossegrim"[/I]
[B]Overkill, [I]Ironbound[/I][/B] (Nuclear Blast) – This album would have fought for my #1 spot back in 2004 or so, I'm sure of it. Today, I've just too heard too much metal to be quite as impressed by solid execution of tried-and-true formulas. [I]Ironbound[/I] is still pretty badass, though, and in spite of a few dud tracks ("The Head and Heart" is sooooo bad), it's probably my favorite thrash album by an old guard band to come out in the last ten years. 2004 me is shitting his pants to some of these riffs, dude.
[I]Key Track: "Ironbound"[/I]
[B]Nevermore, [I]The Obsidian Conspiracy[/I][/B] (Century Media) – 2005's [I]This Godless Endeavor[/I] was one of my favorite metal albums of the last decade, so the fact that the new Nevermore disc didn't completely blow my brain out of my skull makes it technically a disappointment, but it's still a great record. They've swapped out the technical, jagged songs of their last record for a more polished, melodic approach, but as long as Warrel Dane is howling and Jeff Loomis is shredding, Nevermore is Nevermore, and this is another instant semi-classic.
[I]Key Track: "And the Maiden Spoke"[/I]
[B]Off With Their Heads, [I]In Desolation[/I][/B] (Epitaph) – I feel like I'm being a little bit unfair making this an honorable mention album instead of a top ten album, because before I saw Off With Their Heads live, this was one of my favorite records of the year. Their brief, flaccid performance that night made me unable to revisit [I]In Desolation[/I] with much excitement, even though it is some of the best, leanest punk rock I've ever heard. Fair or not, that gig, paired with the fact that their previous LP, [I]From the Bottom,[/I] is better, keeps this album down.
[I]Key Track: "Clear the Air"[/I]
[B]Sailors With Wax Wings, [I]Sailors With Wax Wings[/I][/B] (Angel Oven) – This is a psychedelic, minimalist post-rock album made by the dude from Pyramids (who used to collaborate with Romance of Young Tigers), with guest vocal appearances from My Dying Bride's Aaron Stainthorpe and Katatonia's Jonas Renkse, and all of the song titles are lines from Stephen Crane's poetry. Need I fucking say more?
[I]Key Track: "There Came a Drooping Maid With Violets"[/I]
I've only heard 4 of these albums. *Overkill, Howl, Nevermore, Kvelertak* But it's a good list.
My Top 10 Albums of 2010
[B]10. Landmine Marathon, [I]Sovereign Descent[/I][/B] (Prosthetic)
I really liked this album when it came out, but didn't honestly think much about it for a few months leading up to the Skeletonwitch/Landmine Marathon show I saw last weekend. It's been documented how face-ruling their set was that night, and when I revisited [I]Sovereign Descent[/I], I remembered why I thought it was so awesome in the first place, and came to like it more than I ever did in March when it came out. This one's a fucking monstrous slab of [I]Symphonies of Sickness[/I]-inspired deathgrind, filled to the brim with crushing riffs, subtle-but-phenomenal guitar melodies, and, of course, skin-searing vocals courtesy of one Grace Perry.
[I]Key Tracks: "Exist," "Shadows Fed to Tyrants," "Chained By the Same Fate"[/I]
[B]9. The Ocean, [I]Heliocentric[/I][/B] (Metal Blade)
Unfortunately, this is probably the only album by The Ocean that I will ever truly love – it shows their mellower, more melodic, progressive side, which I think they're infinitely better at than their heavier material – but I'm very glad it exists. It's like Isis-meets-Tool-meets-saxophone-and-cello, and it's awe-inspiring at every turn. It's a pretty ambitious disc that tries to sell an unbelievable amount of German-accented crooning and classical instrumentation to a metal fanbase, but all of its experiments are blistering successes. Here's hoping they release something else like this at some point.
[I]Key Tracks: "The Origin of Species," "The Origin of God," "Firmament"[/I]
[B]8. Slough Feg, [I]The Animal Spirits[/I][/B] (Profound Lore)
They're still underground, true, but Slough Feg are stalwarts of heavy metal at this point. Everybody's heard of them, and everybody who likes them expects each album to become a minor classic in the scene. Their Profound Lore debut is no exception; Mike Scalzi has cranked out yet another batch of brilliant traditional metal tunes, this time reverting to a rawer, more stripped-down production, presentation and songwriting approach than his past several Slough Feg discs. I was a fan of the overblown nature of songs like "Tiger! Tiger!" and "Ape Uprising," but his newfound primitivity suits the material well, and it's nothing shy of excellent.
[I]Key Tracks: "Ask the Casket," "Heavyworlder," "Tactical Air-War"[/I]
[B]7. Man's Gin, [I]Smiling Dogs[/I][/B] (Profound Lore)
Cobalt's [I]Gin[I][/I][/I] was my favorite album of 2009, and their multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder is the man responsible for my seventh-favorite album of 2010. [I]Smiling Dogs[/I] has been called a tribute to Bruce Springsteen's [I]Nebraska[/I] – the cover art suggests as much – but I kind of see it as the folk/Americana version of [I]Gin[/I]. A lot of the lyrics and atmosphere are similar to that album, they're just adapted to a dark folk context instead of black metal. Whatever this album is, though, it works, and it's one of the most addicting listens of the year.
[I]Key Tracks: "Nuclear Ambition Part 1," "Nuclear Ambition Part 2," "Free"[/I]
[B]6. Iron Maiden, [I]The Final Frontier[/I][/B] (Universal)
It wouldn't be a top [I]anything[/I] list from me if Iron Maiden wasn't on it, so it shouldn't come as any shock to see this record place this highly. Hell, #6 is probably lower than I would have expected a Maiden album to fall. Describing the sound of this disc would be like retelling the plot of [I]Star Wars[/I], so I'll spare you. Needless to say, it's an Iron Maiden album, and it rules.
[I]Key Tracks: "Starblind," "Isle of Avalon," "Coming Home"[/I]
[B]5. Watain, [I]Lawless Darkness[/I][/B] (Season of Mist)
I can't think of many bands who are more serious about their image than Watain; I'm still not entirely sure whether they've convinced themselves that they're in bondage with the dark arts or if all that animal sacrifice is just for show. For being so extremely extreme on stage, their actual music is shockingly worldly – this is a tr00 black metal album, yes, but it incorporates influences from just about every subgenre, perhaps most notably NWOBHM in some of those enormous guitar harmonies and unlikely scream-along choruses. [I]Lawless Darkness[/I] is a great album because of those influences, not despite them.
[I]Key Tracks: "Reaping Death," "Waters of Ain," "Malfeitor"[/I]
[B]4. Blind Guardian, [I]At the Edge of Time[/I][/B] (Nuclear Blast)
Can't say I really saw this coming when I surveyed the year's release calendar back in January. I don't really care very much about power metal, and I certainly didn't think a power metal band would crack my top ten in 2010. I had forgotten that Blind Guardian are the eternal exception to the rule, a power metal band that embraces the swords-and-sorcery imagery, the bombastic production, the minstrelsy acoustic guitar bits, the uber-melodic and omnipresent solos and leads, the billion-tracked vocals...[I]and still totally fucking rules.[/I] [I]At the Edge of Time[/I] may be my favorite BG disc, and every single song is great. Classic, classic shit.
[I]Key Tracks: "Sacred Worlds," "Valkyries," "Wheel of Time"[/I]
[B]3. Atheist, [I]Jupiter[/I][/B] (Season of Mist)
The mere fact that you see this album sitting at #3 after a seventeen-year recess from recording says that Atheist lived up to their very high expectations, right? They managed to take the prog-death-defining sound they forged on [I]Piece of Time[/I] and [I]Unquestionable Presence[/I], fused it with some of the more out-there jazzy bits from [I]Elements[/I] and a healthy dose of current-gen Between the Buried and Me influence to make the most memorable technical death metal album I've heard since [I]The Sound of Perseverance.[/I]
[I]Key Tracks: "Live and Live Again," "Second to Sun," "Faux King Christ"[/I]
[B]2. Alcest, [I]Écailles de Lune[/I][/B] (Prophecy)
This was probably my most anticipated album of 2010, and an Iron Maiden album came out in 2010. That's how good 2007's [I]Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde[/I] was, and how much hearing "Perceés de Lumiere" after it leaked as a part of a split with labelmates Les Discrets convinced me that hearing [I]Lune[/I] would be a life-affirming moment. It basically was – the album's only crime is being too short. I could listen to this shit for two hours if Neige let me.
[I]Key Tracks: "Écailles de Lune - Part 1," "Écailles de Lune - Part 2," "Perceés de Lumiere"[/I]
[B]1. Ludicra, [I]The Tenant[/I][/B] (Profound Lore)
Well, here it is. My favorite album of 2010. It was an underdog since I had never actually heard of Ludicra until this started getting good reviews earlier this year, but after countless spins, I'm completely satisfied with giving it the gold. Every song has no less than three parts – a chromatic riff, a harmonized solo, a gut-punching lyric – that absolutely makes you stop what you're doing and pay the album your full attention. I also believe, as several reviewers have before me, that this album is a perfect snapshot of the recession we're living through. I'll let the chorus to the title track sum this album up for you: "For all within your rooms/Your narrow rented tombs/Within your walls of want/The frame in which you haunt/Inside your restless storm/The paint is cracked and worn/Four walls, bubbled and pocked/Marked with shame, a bolted lock/A facade hides your worn-out pride/A shoddy view of others just like you/A window rattles you with what you hide." If you're not moved by that, somehow, then you might not like this album.
[I]Key Tracks: "Clean White Void," "The Tenant, "Stagnant Pond"[/I]
[QUOTE=DethMaiden;318562]the most memorable technical death metal album I've heard since [I]The Sound of Perseverance.[/I][/QUOTE]
I have to say, that is quite the statement.
[QUOTE=idrinkwine732;318564]I have to say, that is quite the statement.[/QUOTE]
It helps that I basically hate all of the cool kid tech death bands nowadays. ;)
I agree with one of those haha.
Though to be honest I've heard maybe half of them at most.
Slough Feg needs doing... it's only just coming out over here this month...
[QUOTE=DethMaiden;318584]It helps that I basically hate all of the cool kid tech death bands nowadays. ;)[/QUOTE]
In general, I do as well, but there are at least three or four that I think merit consideration for that title.
All 10 albums are in my top 40 or so, and all of them are great.
[QUOTE=idrinkwine732;318595]In general, I do as well, but there are at least three or four that I think merit consideration for that title.[/QUOTE]
One has to be A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis.
Obscura by Gorguts also comes to mind.
By the cool kid tech death bands are you talking about bands like Opeth or bands like Necrophagist?
By the cool kid tech death bands are you talking about bands like Opeth or bands like Necrophagist?[/QUOTE]
Necrophagist, The Faceless, Obscura, Brain Drill, weedlyweedlywoo.
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