It’s that time of the year again. 2010 flew by so fast, I’m actually leaning against the desk here so I don’t fall over from the headspinning dizziness. I thought 2009 was pretty sweet, given the two Devin Townsend Project albums and the new BTBAM (which will be the case for 2011!!), but I think 2010 just blew last year out of the water when it comes to the piles of new releases that I’ve enjoyed.

As arbitrary as it may be, it is customary for us to assert out opinions once again by making a huge ruckus about how awesome 2010 was in regards to how awesome metal is. Here’s my take on the matter.

COMMENCE THE COUNTDOWN!

15. Veil of Maya – [id]

This album didn’t really get me at first like I had originally hoped, but it grew on me like a fungus—especially after I saw them perform live on this year’s Summer Slaughter Tour. They can put on a mean live show; they played flawlessly and they can command the crowd with gusto. The grooves are infections and the weird guitar lines are catchy, giving Veil of Maya’s [id] just enough momentum to find themselves at the tail-end of my list of favorites.

14. After the Burial – In Dreams

I was surprised by this album. I was kind of just expecting another Rareform, which I wasn’t too fond of, to be honest. In Dreams sports more developed songwriting, catchy, yet sparingly used clean singing, and top-notch production, which Rareform seems to be lacking. I know a lot of people thought In Dreams was a step down for After the Burial, but I must be in the minority in singing its praises as a step up. After the Burial capture both a groovy and anthemic vibe in In Dreams, and that’s something I can get behind.

13. Iron Thrones – The Wretched Sun

Iron Thrones made their presence know damn near out of thin air when they signed up for Scion’s No Label Needed contest earlier this year. Everyone went to check out the competition and the blogosphere was practically unanimous in its love of Iron Thrones and their debut album Visions of Light, which was released last year. While technically an EP, The Wretched Sun beats out many alleged full-length albums that came out this year in length (ie. the two guilty parties above that barely crack half an hour). There has been a slight growth as a unit on The Wretched Sun when compared to Visions of Light, which speaks volumes considering there has only been a year between the two releases. There’s no doubt in my mind that Iron Thrones will someday be huge names in metal; hell, they’re already on their way right out of the gate.

12. Cloudkicker – Beacons

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone say anything negative about Cloudkicker. Ben Sharp is a master at his craft at bringing a balance of post-metal and Meshuggah-influenced polyrhythms. Beacons is no doubt his best work yet, showcasing a strangely emotional and momentum-building atmosphere of guitars. It is very phenomenal adventure music.  There’s not much else to say about Beacons other than GET IT NOW. IT IS FREE.

11. Intronaut – Valley of Smoke

I’ve admittedly blown off Intronaut for a while. It’s shameful, really. It all worked out though, as my first taste of Intronaut came in the form of Valley of Smoke. After taking a look at the band’s discography, I’m convinced that this is their opus. The introduction of clean vocals on this record were certainly put to good use, adding extra textures via smooth harmonies that make the songs that much more memorable. The title track, featuring two drum and bass tracks, will definitely blow minds. This is what I wish Baroness were. Shout out to commenter/friend/troll/TNOTB writer Alex_P for this recommendation!

10. The Contortionist – Exoplanet


I normally don’t like music that has this many breakdowns, but there’s enough prog, atmosphere, and experimentation here to transform the banal into extraordinary composition, complete with spacey post-rock climaxes, Cynic and The Faceless-like use of vocoder, and earth-shattering tone that actually sounds huge and amazing. This is not your typical -core record, and for that, they round out the top 10-best records of the year for me.

09. Alcest – Écailles de Lune


Who knew anything related to black metal could sound absolutely beautiful? This year, post-black metal came into the spotlight, and I was fascinated. My favorite album from this fringe genre is definitely Alcest’s Écailles de Lune. While hardly metal at all through most of it (let alone blackened), this is some deep and introspective stuff. The black metal-influenced shoegaze present here is certainly thought-provoking. Listen to the final track “Sur L’Océan Couleur de Fer” and tell me you didn’t feel something. Simply wonderful.

08. Shining – Blackjazz


Holy fuck, is this different. Effectively combining jazz with industrial metal (with a hint of black metal), Blackjazz is a rollercoaster of an album that took me by surprise when it dropped. This album is littered with frantic drumming, fuzzy guitars, weird synth bleeps, throaty screams and shouts, and most importantly: saxophone solos! It’s an excellent listen for those interested in the avant-garde side of metal.

07. The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – Danza III


This is probably the most pissed off record I’ve heard all year. It’s crazy how Danza can take what makes Brain Drill and Oceano so absolutely terrible and decide not to fucking suck. Danza III is a controlled chaos, somehow turning atonal guitar wank into something exhilarating, memorable, and somehow catchy. They’ve also incorporated a touch more melody with the addition of post-metal style atmospheric layering. This works surprisingly well, especially in the album’s closer, “12-21-12.”

06. Deftones – Diamond Eyes


Scrapping an entire highly anticipated album after bassist Chi Cheng’s tragic accident left many wondering when we’d ever hear from the seminal alt-rock group Deftones again, and if they’d even be in form. Those fears were completely unfounded when Deftones finally released Diamond Eyes, their best work since White Pony. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Deftones is sexy time music for fans of heavy music. It’s beautiful, it’s raw, it’s fucking Deftones.

05. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis


The Dillinger Escape Plan have to be one of my favorite bands of all time; so why aren’t they my number one? I dunno! When the record first came out, I was sure it was going to be. This record is absolutely amazing and it defines their sound better than any other release. There’s the mindfuck moments of chaotic technicality and the Faith No More-esque respectable pop sensibilities. The diverse influences on this album shine through, all while still sounding like Dillinger—not a lot of bands can pull this off. Dillinger can, and they do.

04. Ihsahn – After


Ihsahn is no doubt one of the greatest frontmen in extreme music. He’s got a trademark rasp that was heard with seminal and influential black metal band Emperor for the better part of 20 years. While he maintains roots deep in the genre of black metal, Ihsahn’s third solo album After is one of the best progressive metal albums of 2010. After also features Shining’s Jorgen Monkeby on saxophone, and he is certainly a highlight when his talents are utilized.

03. Karnivool – Sound Awake


Surprise! I added this album at the last minute when I was listening to it this week. While it was released in Karnivool’s homeland of Australia in mid-2009, it got a proper American release earlier on in 2010, so for that it squeaks by at my number three spot. I know it isn’t metal (but if we’re splitting hairs, neither is Deftones), but if you look over there in the upper right side of this page, we mention that this site is dedicated to “heavy music and all of its friends.” I’d say top notch progressive rock is a friend to heavy music. This album is all kinds of excellent, going from guitar delay-driven atmosphere and angelic choruses to some of the catchiest riffs I’ve heard all year, Karnivool is a must-hear.

02. The Ocean – Heliocentric/Anthropocentric


It’s almost cheating to load up the number two spot with both of the new The Ocean albums, but it seemed pretty fair to me, considering Helio/Anthro serve as a double album of sorts. A thought-provoking exploration of philosophy and the critique of Christianity, The Ocean’s -centric albums offer more than just pissed off anti-christian ramblings. There’s lyrical substance here to go with the crushing riffs, memorable choruses, and beautiful ballads.

01. Periphery – Periphery


A lot of people had a problem with this album, mainly in Spencer Sotello’s vocals. I happen to find the vocals a nice change of pace in the world of metal. When I first discovered Periphery last year, there was nothing else out there like them. They had the complex Meshuggah-style rhythms with an intensely melodic approach at songwriting added on top with an emotive and passionate, soaring singer. Since before the release of their debut album, there have been cohorts and copycats that have softened the blow of their uniqueness. This album, whether you like it or not, will probably become a very important and influential album later down the road. Copycats be damned! Regardless, this album is my favorite from 2010.

Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for sticking with us this year. We hope to improve with time!

– JR

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