Not a bad year for metal by any means, though I will be honest coming up with this list did cause me to struggle a little bit. Waiting far too late in the year to start actually listening to any new albums left me struggling for numbers, unfortunately almost entirely missing the explosion of djent-heavy music that seemed to take place in 2010.
Regardless I have a list, and this is it:
10. Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Not a usual album by any means (though the existence of such a concept I guess is debatable), there is something strikingly entertaining about this band’s attitude to song writing. Taking what sounds often analogous to old-fashioned 4 chord punk music, with the occasional southern/stoner style riff then mixing in frantic blast-beats and harsh barked vocals. This may not break any boundaries or redefine any genres but it is still a great bit of light-hearted metal and maintains an amicable momentum throughout. Sometimes being fun is enough to make an album worth many a listen.
09. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow
Upbeat stoner/sludge marking Kylesa’s follow up to last year’s spectacular Static Tensions. It’s the balance between psychedelic haze and driving aggression that stands out on this release. Though a lack of coherency puts it a little behind its predecessor, Spiral Shadow is still a very solid LP. I would lodge the consistent complaint however that for a band with 2 drummers, they don’t really seem to take noticeable advantage of that USP.
08. Rosetta – A Determinism of Morality
This album has solid production, varied writing and a good balance of aggression and ambiance. Nothing utterly spellbinding but after a few listens the depth within this 50 minutes of music becomes more apparent. It struggles a little to maintain the balance between building tension and simply being repetitive but nevertheless is my favourite post metal release of the year and a good sign of a band to rise into the gaping void left in the genre since Isis split.
07. Intronaut – Valley of Smoke
More sludge, hoorah! The first I’ve ever heard of Intronaut and I certainly hope the sign of more releases in the same vein. An album with complexity beyond the impression it gives and a great balance of feels and moods. I feel if I’d gotten round to listening to it sooner and spending more time doing so, this album would have crawled up a few places.
06. God is An Astronaut – Age of the Fifth Sun
As I mentioned above, I did have a little bit of trouble finding 10 of this year’s metal releases that really left a lasting impression, so I think delving slightly outside of the genre restriction might be necessary. A follow up to an absolutely seminal self-titled album released in 2008, Age of the Fifth Sun may not be quite as spectacular as its aforementioned predecessor, but it is a very successful middle ground between their softer earlier albums and fast-paced, effects-driven intensity of later releases. Having seen a lot of the tracks on this album live, the clarity of song-writing is much greater than a listen on ear-buds on the tube may reveal.
05. Periphery – Periphery
Judging by the hype surrounding this album’s release, I would be shocked not to find it on several writers’ top albums of the year. Though the song writing may not quite have the depth it could, sticking to technical playing in relatively simple songs, this album is nevertheless quite a feat. Even the seemingly controversial vocal performance is, I feel, treated rather unfairly. Though not the strongest singer, the solid performances on guitar and powerful rhythm section more than cover for the loss of momentum this might cause. I will say though, that if I have to hear the silly little interlude after “Icarus Lives!” One more time I might lose my mind.
04. The Ocean – Anthropocentric
I adore sludge and post-metal so two releases in one year by The Ocean really was a godsend (though judging by the lyrical content of both releases I am not sure that is a sentiment they’d appreciate). I understand I may be in the minority for ranking Anthropocentric as the album I have less preference for but that is not to degrade it at all. The song-writing is intelligent and complex, the vocal performances are flawless and the musicality hard to criticize. “The Grand Inquisitor” trilogy really is something quite special.
03. Deftones – Diamond Eyes
It’s been a while but what a comeback. Though most talk of this album was in reference to the decision to move on after to hospitalisation of Chi Cheng, simply as a piece of music it is very much deserving of all the praise it receives. Masters of the brooding atmosphere and driving noise, this album shows a progression from their earlier sound while still maintaining the traits that made them such a success. It’s mature, it’s powerful and the vocal performance is original and intense, I can’t think of a lot wrong with it.
02. Oceansize – Self Preserved While the Bodies Float Up
Having only written my review for this a few days prior to writing this I’m not sure I have a lot to say that I didn’t mention in that slightly longer write up. To me Oceansize have created an album that defines a clear zenith in their career. Mature, calculated, catchy and varied, Self is a remarkable release. Containing so many of what I would consider the group’s best, the only major fault for me was a lack of consistency. If this album had managed to maintain some of the momentum in its spectacular opening track for its entirety it would have been conformably at the top of this list.
01. The Ocean – Heliocentric
I guess through what I said about Anthropocentric and the process of elimination, this wasn’t exactly a surprise number one. It may lack the aggression of Anthropocentric (or their previous albums for that matter), but it really isn’t to a fault. Great lyricism, partnered with a fantastic and consistent vocal performance, match up with the crushing guitar and pounding rhythm that this band has established a name for to produce something really quite special. It is the feeling in each song, the rising tension and the dynamic subtlety that have allowed me to listen to Heliocentric more times than I can count without ever tiring of it. Heliocentric is a deserving victor in the contest for album of the year.