I was a little pressed to come up with this list at first attempt. Much of my listening for 2010 had consisted of releases from 2009 that I found my-self late to the party to from bands like Animals As Leaders, Circle of Contempt, and Poison the Well. But with a little mental elbow grease I was able to work it out, remembering a few albums that had fell under my radar as a result of my infatuation with the groovier releases of 2010. Speaking of, groove is definitely a word that will be mentioned plenty here due to the nature of my selections. That being said, I present my Top 10 of 2010:

10) System Divide – The Conscious Sedation

I found this to be a very enjoyable follow up to System Divide‘s EP, meeting all my expectations. The Conscious Sedation included a few choice tracks from The Collapse while also demonstrating a growth in sound and song structure. The highlight of System Divide for me is undoubtedly their female vocalist, providing the perfect contrast to the growls and screams of Sven De Caluwe. The melody of Miri Milman’s vocals could lull me to sleep no matter how many times I hear them. For me, this was a fresh breath of air in the genre of metalcore.

9) Wretched – Beyond The Gate

This was very strong follow up to Wretched’s The Exodus of Autonomy. Wretched opted for less chugs and more shreds with this release and it worked great. They also chose to again include perfectly crafted instrumentals that experimented with music from Spanish culture, while also dabbling in Eastern Indian culture as well. Combine this with relentless shredding, blast beats, and carefully placed proggy riffs with choice chugs, and you’ve got a great death-metal album that stands out from the rest.

8 ) Veil of Maya – [id]

I loved this release from Veil of Maya, but as a follow-up to the The Common Man’s Collapse it did leave me a little torn. I loved their previous release and was personally hoping for something along the same lines of The Common Man’s Collapse only better as a follow up. id left me torn because I felt the album delivered neither, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. First, while it’s certainly not a better album than The Common Man’s Collapse it still stands right next to it. The grooviness and riffs that caused me to fall in love with Veil of Maya are all there. And yes, the chugging is there too, and I shamelessly love me some VoM chugging. Second, even though id experimented with different sounds and showed some change in direction it still all came together sounding great. Further, thinking of these two albums in conjunction gets me thinking about what a third release will sound like from these guys. Whether or not they’ll draw from both albums or expand their sound further in a different direction is an interesting thought indeed.

7) After The Burial – In Dreams

Many fans seemed divided over After The Burial’s latest release. Most of the criticism seemed to stem from the fact that In Dreams just did not stand up to Rareform in terms of song structure, riffs, or quite simply the catchiness of their previous release. While I do agree that song structure definitely changed with In Dreams, I personally thought it was for the better. In Dreams sounds much more streamlined as an entire album, and I think it works great. As for the other points of criticism I mentioned, I have to completely disagree. Every time I start playing this album and hear “My Frailty“, I find my self bouncing and moving immediately, and this energetic atmosphere does not let up the entire album for me. Another facet of the new release that I loved, that also seemed to draw plenty of heat, was the clean vocals. I thought the clean vocals offered a solid contrast to the growls, and they never tire or wear for me. After all this being said, I do sympathize for After The Burial fans. I’ve been meaning to start a column for bands that broke my heart by releasing an album that just seems to fall flat on its face compared to their previous work. I just happened to be on the other side of the spectrum this time around.

6) Amogh Symphony – Quantam Hack Code

A perfectly executed dystopian instrumental concept album. If I was to sum up this release with a few words it would be pure creative genius. When I first read Jimmy’s review I was skeptical; an instrumental concept album? How the hell do you tell a story of the collapse of human civilization and cyborg preservation with no lyrics? With a robotic sounding narrator of course. I think Jimmy’s review said it best when he mentioned “Animals As Leaders on meth.” If you liked Animals As Leaders or enjoy intense technical riffing, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be listening to this album. The song writing here is superb and completely well structured. Vishal J. Singh payed great attention to detail when he created this. Personally, what I enjoy most about The Quantam Hack Code is that through narration, bleak looking album art, and atmospheric songs to follow suit to the story, I feel completely immersed in a dystopian environment every time I listen to this album. To describe The Quantam Hack Code in other words, imagine the experience of reading a book or seeing a movie only having it delivered through the medium of music as an atmospheric technical riffing epic.

5) Norma Jean – Meridional

Wow, did Norma Jean blow me away with this album. For me, this was quite certainly their magnum opus. Meridional included a little bit of everything from Norma Jean’s previous work by borrowing some of the experimental riffs from O God The Aftermath and the catchiness of Redeemer and Norma Jean Vs The Anti-Mother. While drawing from the best of previous works, Norma Jean also managed to create a new fluid and consistent sound with Meridional. This album certainly treats the listener with a range of experiences from wanting to sing/scream to wanting to thrash my head to songs like “The Anthem of The Angry Brides” or “Bastardizer”. On the point of headbanging, Norma Jean definitely capitalized on their ability to build tension and close heavy and strong with song structure throughout this album. Through all this, Meridional is also an album that just sticks with me. I’m definitely guaranteed to have one two songs off this album stuck in my head when I’m done listening to it. Again, this is an album that excites me because when I consider how great it is. I get chills thinking they could write something new that picks up where Meridional leaves off.

4) Periphery- Periphery

I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but goddamn do I love me some Periphery. Yes I shamelessly drool over this album, and I don’t care. I personally think its unfuckwithable. Not one track on this self-titled ever comes off as sounding like filler, with the exception of the interlude. This is impressive in itself, given the length of the album. To the point of criticism I see most regarding this album, I actually love Spencer’s vocals and think they’re a perfect fit. I would actually credit not only the exceptional songwriting, but Spencer’s voice as to why I find this album’s music stuck in my head when I’m done listening to it. Groovy, bouncy, and catchy are the perfect adjectives to describe Periphery. Songs like “Icarus Lives!”, “Ow My Feelings”, and “Buttersnips” definitely have me moving no matter how many times I hear them. Periphery also brings the heaviness as well. The outro on “Letter Experiment” and the intro on “Zyglrox” still leaves me headbanging violently as ever given countless listens. The production quality also deserves mentioning as every song sounds very crisp and clean. From start to finish, I found Periphery’s self-titled to be perfect.

3) Son of Aurelius – The Farthest Reaches

I’m going to keep this explanation rather brief for two reasons. First, this album seems to have gotten coverage already by other writers. Second, I wrote a review for this album earlier this year and I honestly can’t write about this album without sounding like a broken record. So instead, I will simply offer my review as testimony as to why this is a melodic death metal album that gets everything right.

2) Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – Danza III: The Series of Unfortunate Events

I can remember very vividly the first time I heard “Yippie-Kay-Yay [email protected]#$%^”. One moment I was doing household chores listening to satellite radio, the next headbanging and thrashing in my living room like a mad man. After hearing that track alone, and only knowing that it had gotten a 5/5 on Heavy Blog Is Heavy I knew I had to buy this album. And hot damn did Danza deliver with this album. This album opens chaotic and doesn’t let up for the entire listen. I absolutely love how Danza manages to be dissonant and groovy at the same time. Songs like “The Union” and “There’s A Time And Place For Everything” highlight this bouncy dissonance. Further, each song swims and swings very fluidly while also being very heavy. Danza III delivers the perfect amount of chug. Not only is the songwriting here awesome, but Jessie Freeland offers some great vocals and very notable lyrics. He made it fun to scream along with lyrics like“I’ve seen these walls move!”, “Believe me!”, and “Terrorist! Lyricist!”

1) The Contortionist – Exoplanet

I had a very hard time picking my number one album for 2010. But after some internal struggle, I consistently come back to Exoplanet by The Contortionist. First, I’ll start with the replayability of this album. Every time I finish listening to Exoplanet, I have absolutely no problem leaving it on for a second or third listen. Its no surprise many of the tracks here hold seats on my iPod’s most played list. Second, The Contortionist did an exceptional job of creating a very sonic and atmospheric listening experience. I’ve gotten lost in this album many times listening to it at night while walking my dogs, or on a nice a long car drive on my way home from work. “Primal Directive” does a great job of setting this up from the beginning with a nice clean instrumental interlude. On this point, I also love the instrumentals found between the later tracks of “Oscillator”, “Axiom”, and “Exoplanet I – Egress”. These tracks seem to explore different emotion-landscapes, and I find them to be a highlight of the album. Third, this album definitely brings everything I love that I described about previous selections. Bouncy, groovy, proggy, pick one as they all apply here. And while “the chug is strong with this one,” again I don’t care. I shamelessly headbang to every breakdown The Contortionist has to serve up. If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the one found in “Vessel” that follows the lyrics “And we will survive by our…Deeds!”

There you have it, lets hope 2011 brings more great things!

Honorable mentions:

  • How To Destroy Angels – How To Destroy Angels
  • Devil Sold His Soul – Blessed and Cursed
  • Volumes – The Concept of Dreaming
  • Returning We Hear The Larks – Ypres
  • Assimilated Mind Phase – Omega

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