Well, another year has come and gone, and while certain parts of the world are still dealing with economic shenanigans and corrupt leaders, there was a bright side. This year saw a monumental amount of amazing albums from the vast genres of metal and hardcore. To narrow it down to ten albums was a challenge, but here they are, my top 10 albums of 2010…
10. Watain – Lawless Darkness
Watain is not a band for everybody, then again black metal itself is not as well received as other genres of metal, and if you fall into that category, then you are missing out on one hell of a band. Their newest full-length, Lawless Darkness, is fast, heavy, harsh and epic. These guys have been around since the late 90’s, but rather than releasing a plethora of albums, they take their time with each release and when the time comes, they put out one great album after another. Watain is not your typical blast beat black metal band, they mix up the tempo to keep things interesting and Lawless Darkness is filled with brutal drums and guitar work, catchy leads and harsh (yet clear enough to understand) vocals. The highlight of the album though, is the final song “Waters of Ain”, a majestic 14+ minute epic masterpiece. That song alone is enough to warrant a listen.
09. Kvelertak – Kvelertak
A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this Norwegian band and I’m glad he did. After hearing a few of their songs on their myspace, I eagerly awaited their debut record. And suffice to say, it was well worth the wait. Kvelertak blend black metal, punk and rock & roll seamlessly and never once let up through all eleven tracks, making their debut self-titled album one of the best of 2010. You can’t help but bang your head song after song as they deliver catchy riffs and choruses. The song titles as well as the lyrics all being in Norwegian makes it unique and all the more gnarly.
08. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
Since Miss Machine, The Dillinger Escape Plan have been pushing the boundaries of their musical ability, giving us their patented aggressive, jazz infused math metal, but now incorporating more melody and singing. And I’ll admit I was hesitant at first with their updated sound, but it eventually grew on me, especially their newest endeavor, Option Paralysis. From beginning to end, there are countless shifts in direction, sound, and technique which make Option Paralysis an album to digest over time, rather than getting full upon first listen. Tracks like “Good Neighbor”, “Crystal Morning” and “Room Full of Eyes” harken back to the classic sound of DEP, while “Gold Teeth on a Bum”, “Chinese Whispers” and “Parasitic Twins” continue the experimental side they’ve been delving into. One track in particular though, just stands out among the rest, “Widower”, with it’s mellow key arrangement and patton-esque vocals from Puciato, which eventually culminates into a burst of chaotic goodness at the end. Option Paralysis didn’t win me over right away, but in time it became one of my go to albums of the year.
07. Agalloch – Marrow Of The Spirit
This album took a bit to grow on me, but then again, so do the rest of their albums. But that’s what makes Agalloch one of my favorite bands, you have to really listen to their music to fully enjoy it. In my opinion, Marrow Of The Spirit doesn’t live up to Ashes Against The Grain (which is still my favorite), but that doesn’t stop this from being an album of epic proportions. The whole atmosphere of this album is captivating, from the opening instrumental “They Escaped The Weight of Darkness”, to the completely immersive closing track “To Drown”, this album will draw you in and keep you wanting to hear more.
06. The Sword – Warp Riders
Either you like or dislike this band, I see no in between. Their latest album, Warp Riders, shows that The Sword have matured as musicians and wrote an album that has not only exceeded my expectations, but has shown they are a still force to be reckoned with within the metal/rock scene. I know people are on the fence with this album mainly for their departure from being straight up heavy metal, but the hard rock/progressive sound they put forth in Warp Riders fits their vision of a sci-fi themed tale and I’m all for it.
05. Intronaut – Valley of Smoke
I know this album has it’s fair share of pro and cons amongst listeners, but I can find no flaws with Valley of Smoke. Although not as heavy as previous albums, the smooth balance between being heavy and melodic had me hooked. Intronaut have gone above and beyond with their musicianship, giving us another well-written and structured album. The guitars shift from calm ambiance to precise destruction flawlessly without missing a beat, and the vocal work is spot on with it’s delivery. You can actually hear the bass, which is a key factor in this album, and the drumming, fills and all, are all accounted for in clear presentation. Valley of Smoke is a massive undertaking of musicianship and should be heard by anyone who has an appreciation for music.
04. The Chariot – Long Live
This year I’ve found myself enjoying less technical, yet more aggressive bands that just go balls to the wall with their sound and give an outlet of aggression that brings me back to a time when I was a teenager. Between the rampant riffs, feedback aplenty and Josh Scogin’s vocals, I’m surrounded by utter chaos and loving every second of it. I can’t get enough of “The City”, with it’s rampage of vocals at the end that lead up to harmonious chanting, to the quirky “David De La Hoz”, that not only features guest vocals from Dan Smith, but closes with an angelic choir over a subtle touch of piano keys. There’s enough variety on Long Live that it never comes across tiresome, but keeps you enticed and waiting to hear what the next note will be. It’s the simple execution and crushing sound that The Chariot do so well that has this album on repeat listens.
03. NAILS – Unsilent Death
This may be the shortest album in length on my list, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of my absolute favorites. At just under 14 minutes, NAILS doesn’t hold anything back and delivers fast, in your face, chaotic hardcore/grind that will either have you running away or be the dude chasing after the guy who is running away. It hits all the right spots, and being a kid who grew up on hardcore as well as metal, I felt right at home when I listened to Unsilent Death, so much that I’ve been delving into my catalogue of albums and going back to old school hardcore bands I haven’t listened to in ages. If an album can do that, it has to be special.
02. The Ocean – Heliocentric
This year gave us two releases from progressive metal band The Ocean, Heliocentric and it’s sister album, Anthropocentric. Both albums are amazing, but when it comes down to it, I have to say I enjoyed the former just a bit more. The album maintains a constant flow throughout, ranging between many styles, so it never grew tiresome on the ears. Heliocentric is based on the idea that the earth revolves around the sun, and that the sun is stationary and at the center of the universe. The Ocean took this idea and put forth an album that bounced back and forth between the views of church and science durning this debate, to give us one of the best concept albums to come out in a long time. Heliocentric is a perfect blend of heavy and melodic riffs, wood/brass instruments, pianos, clean/harsh vocals and all around atmosphere, that makes this a very memorable release from The Ocean and one of the best of the year.
01. TesseracT – Concealing Fate
One word… flawless. It didn’t hit me at first, in fact I found myself favoring certain tracks more so than others, but something just clicked and I soon found myself playing this album on repeat, countless times in a row and not losing the slightest bit of interest at all. Concealing Fate seamlessly blends from one track to the next, which makes sense, since it was written as one song and broken up into 6 individual tracks. But I just love the flow of this EP, it’s god damn mesmerizing, with the soaring vocals of Daniel Tompkins, to the clean, melodic and low polyrhythmic chugs of the guitars, this EP is epic. Concealing Fate is amazing, and I can only imagine what their full-length is going to be like… pure eargasm.
Orbs – Asleep Next to Science
Bison B.C. – Dark Ages
Ihsahn – After
High on Fire – Snakes of the Divine
The Contortionist – Exoplanet
Iron Thrones – The Wretched Sun
Lair of the Minotaur – Evil Power
Mar de Grises – Streams Inwards
Cloudkicker – Beacons
Rosetta – A Determinism Of Morality
Integrity – The Blackest Curse
The Ocean – Anthropocentric
This list can go on forever, to many damn albums that kicked ass this year. 2011, lets see what you got…