While there are only 10 on my list, there were many, many good albums this year. But not all of them rocked the socks off me. The following 10 did. Enjoy!

10. Carbon Based Lifeforms – Interloper

Ambient Blog Is Ambient. In fact, as you’ll notice progressing through this list, Interloper is one of two ambient albums on my top 10. Perhaps I’m breaking the rules here, but I don’t care. Carbon Based Lifeforms has been an interest of mine for about 2 years now and the Swedish duo have yet to put out a bad album. Honestly, anything on Ultimae Records is phenomenal and if you’re into a more relaxed side of music, that is the label to start from. But Interloper manages to do what so few ambient albums don’t: draw the listener in. With enveloping pads and keys (“Central Plain”), abstract arrangements of vocals (“Right Where It Ends”) and just an overall atmosphere that projects utter zen, this is a must-have.

9. High on Fire – Snakes For The Divine

The theme of my list seems to revolve around underdog bands. High On Fire has always been pretty good in my eyes, but I never saw their music as must-haves. However, Snakes For The Divine went from good to great with tracks like “Fire, Flood & Plague” and landed the number 9 spot on my list for being badass stoner metal (something I’m also not hugely fond of). Its thick, grungy sound is unprecedented. FROST HAMMAH!

8. Cephalic Carnage – Misled by Certainty

The name Cephalic Carnage up until a few months ago always slipped my mind. Simply because being the presumptuous d-bag that I am, I thought this band would be lame goregrind act #3486. And yet, they aren’t. Forgetting the assuming label I bestowed upon this band, Misled by Certainty had further proven me wrong. This is an amalgamation of many genres that is not only heavy as fuck, but catchy and memorable too. If you haven’t listened to their music before because the name puts you off or whatever bullshit you’ve heard, don’t hesitate any longer. Check out this amazing genre-fusion slab of metal.

7. Piotrek Gruszka – Cosmogenesis

Ah, instrumental metal. Where would the world be without you? This is a nobody album of 2010, but for reasons I can’t understand. When amazing musicianship like this gets the backseat to garbage bands like Attack Attack! it frustrates the living hell out of me. The soaring, bright melodies, underlying space-y synths and rhythmic approach really capture the intentions of the album. Best of all: it’s free. If you’re looking for something to tide you over until the next Animals As Leaders album, you might want to check out Cosmogenesis. It’s guitar wizardry without the sloppy.

6. Cloudkicker – Beacons

Beacons is the defining moment and magnum opus of Cloudkicker‘s short lifespan, in my opinion. Not only can you hear the maturity and evolution, but the emotion as well. It’s an absolute masterpiece of proggy instrumental metal that ups the ante on all fronts. Like Cosmogenesis, this album is free as well. Although I’m sure all of our readers have it… right? Either way, this deserved a spot on my top 10 list. It may not be better than the albums below, but it’s certainly a reason why 2010 kicked fucking ass.

5. Solution .45 – For Aeons Past

God damn do I love Christian Alvestam. Do I seriously even have to repeat myself? The man is a master of his profession and that, my dear readers, is a feat to praise. His dynamic range of brutal growls and the most beautiful, harmonious of singing make Solution .45‘s debut the sole reason for checking this out. While the poppy melo-death instrumentals supporting Christian’s perfection aren’t bad per se, the eternally-catchy singing pushed this album up to number 5. If you’re looking for an album that showcases how good a vocalist can be, look no further than For Aeons Past.

Oh and Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility has a couple of lines, too.

4. Solar Fields – Altered – Second Movements

I bet you didn’t expect the other ambient album I mentioned to be this far, did you? Altered – Second Movements is a remix album of last year’s ambient masterpiece, Movements. Yet it doesn’t feel like a remix album. It feels brand new. The melancholy and vibrant aesthetic of the music here is refreshing and entrancing. Solar Fields, like Carbon Based Lifeforms, has not put a bad album out yet. If you played Mirror’s Edge, you know who this guy is. He made the soundtrack for that wonderful first person platformer and you can expect the same quality out of all his music.

Overall, Altered – Second Movements is a must-have for downtempo/ambient fans. The rich, deep soundscape is truly something to admire and is only outshined by the next three albums.

3. The Absence – Enemy Unbound

Now here’s an album I didn’t expect to even get on my top 20. Hell, I’d be reluctant to calling myself a fan of The Absence before this. This is the living embodiment of the underdog theme, but I digress. Enemy Unbound is a riff monstrosity. Quality after quality riff. It’s as if At the Gates came back from the dead and modernized itself. It’s not only an assault of riffs, but catchy as fuck, too. That’s something I don’t see often out of bands who only utilize harsh vocals. Nevertheless, coming from nothing to something is why this is #3.

2. Decrepit Birth – Polarity

After being sucked into the previous album for the longest time, I eagerly awaited the release of Polarity. And when it was finally out, I got hit by a truck. The sheer virtuosity here is remarkable, ranging from crazy sweeps to blazing arpeggios. The album almost never lets up, but Polarity is one of the few albums where it works. The album is just one giant angular catchy-passage-to-passage technical death metal extravaganza. Growls and guttural vocals from the homeless-by-choice badass that is Bill Robinson reinforce the brutality and contrast the melody. While its production isn’t perfect and there is sometimes too much double bass, Decrepit Birth‘s latest release is something everyone should listen to. Many times. Unless you’re an elitist. Then you should probably stay far away.

It also features my favorite instrumental of 2010. But even though it embodies my musical taste, there was one album that trumped all this year. And that is:

1. The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – Danza III: The Series of Unfortunate Events

Where to begin? The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza is not a band, like The Absence, that I had any intentions of ever seeing on a ‘best of’ list. And yet here it is. The layers of atmosphere, the heaviness and the technical prowess all done by 3 members. Like Polarity, Danza III fits my musical taste perfectly. Sure, the songs are almost all breakdowns, but it’s the execution here that propels it to #1. The infusion of post-metal also fits EXTREMELY well. In fact, that’s what got me into the album. Hearing the post-metal section in “W.A.L.L.S.” splattered my brains on the walls behind me (ba dum tsh).

I can’t think of much to say. I really wish I could. This album is fucking heavy, fun to listen to and also has a lot to digest. To me, Danza III is the quintessential release of 2010.

Honorable mentions:

The ContortionistExoplanet

The SwordWarp Riders

Amogh Symphony The Quantum Hack Code

UniversumMortuus Machina

The 25th HourMonsters

Minus the Bear OMNI

I Am Abomination To Our Forefathers

Hour of Penance Paradogma

Fear Factory Mechanize

The Dillinger Escape Plan Option Paralysis

Mnemic – Sons of the System

Farewell, 2010. You were an excellent year in metal. But I have this itching feeling 2011 will top it. Last Chance To Reason‘s Level 2? Uneven Structure‘s Februus? Hell, even the new In Flames record? It’s gonna be good.

-MK

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