Adios, 2010. On a personal level, you were a bastard of a year that I’m happy to finally see in my rear-view mirror. If I could throw a bag over Father Time’s head and bust him in his ancient stones for dishing out so much grief to the people in my world, I most certainly would. But, life is all about the peaks and valleys, so onward and upward.
Like many of you, I thought 2010 started off scarily soft. But nestled amongst the mild-to-severe disappointments were some gems I fully expected to hang all the way through December: Truppensturm, Ares Kingdom, Overkill, Ramesses and Apostle of Solitude, for example. I still hail those records and love spinning them, but they’ve been eclipsed by some big guns that rumbled down the conveyor belt during the second half of the year.
I’d say the most surprising thing I noticed about my top ten this year is the lack of death metal. Not because it’s been a particular powerhouse amongst my favorites the last few years, but because one of 2010’s trends certainly emphasized that classic Autopsy/Incantation approach to the genre– definitely my favorite. Perhaps over-saturation is to blame, as by year end you basically couldn’t toss a rock without hitting a band infected by the deathly bog-flu. Still, if a release such as Grave Desecrator‘s Insult had hit my hands sooner, my list might’ve shifted just a little.
One last thing before we hit listville: a very special thank you goes out to all of our MR readers out there — the anonymous drop-ins, the bands and record labels, and most certainly our regular contributors in the lashes, blogs and forums. You guys keep the machine worth cranking, so a gracious tip of the hat to all of you! Here’s to another year of beating the hell out of our ears.
und jetzt, die Listen…
TOP TEN METAL RELEASES OF 2010:
1. Dawnbringer – Nucleus
Chris Black and I have never met in person, but I can guaran-gatdamn-tee you we’d play in the same sandbox if we lived on the same block. Between his work in Pharaoh, Superchrist, High Spirits and Dawnbringer, I’d say I owe him about four cases of drinkable beer and a bottle of an even more drinkable hooch for the hours of enjoyment his music’s delivered to me. I’m not sure what else to say about my nerdly love of Nucleus that I didn’t already hammer to death in my review, so I’ll just reiterate that I think it’s 2010’s crowned King because it sounds like a kickass traditional metal album that wouldn’t have come out in 1985; modern traditional heavy metal done very right!
2. Place of Skulls – As A Dog Returns
A lot of metal fans seem to get thrown off the trail the moment Jesus enters the picture. I personally draw the line with pirates and vampires (and even there I afford a little wiggle room.) In any event, Victor Griffin certainly stands as one of the top living doom metal guitarists in the genre today, so I’d say it’s a damn-shame if folks let a prejudice for hearing shout-out’s to Jesus stand in the way of enjoying a record as phenomenally crafted as this. As A Dog Returns is packed to the rim with the smoky jams, thrilling leads and dark, reflective psalms doom aficionado’s have come to love and expect from Griffin and crew.
3. Suma – Ashes
Ashes was probably the biggest surprise for me in 2010 because prior to its release, I had no idea Suma even existed. Now I’m elbow-deep in the band’s material and entirely enamored with their crushing approach to their style of atmospheric, down-tempo sludge. Thinking back, I believe it was a snippet from Allthatisheavy that drew a comparison to The Melvins‘ Lysol that initially sparked my interest in this record, and I’d say that analogy is right on the mark. But I’d also throw in a pinch of Kongh and a light sprinkle of classic Godflesh to help round out the weighty Suma formula. Just a stellar, heavy-heavy-heavy record.
4. Slough Feg – The Animal Spirits
The Animal Spirits is the best thing to come out of the Slough Feg camp since the kingly Traveller. I ain’t even playin’. So I’ll admit I’m confused as to why some fans of the band have reacted so indifferently to this record. Sure, it leans harder on “harder” as opposed to “heavier,” but the fucker rocks, simply put, and there’s nary a clunker amongst the bunch. And during a year when multiple shits have hit my fan, The Animal Spirits has really done the trick of blissfully delivering me to a far away land of duped popes, Thorwegian explorers and other such fun and frivolity. The album also boasts a masterful production, as well as my favorite song of the year — “Lycanthropic Fantasies”.
5. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit
Coming off a lengthy four year wait, there was obviously a hell of a lot of hype behind this release. But most interesting to me is that, even more so than Feg‘s latest, Marrow of the Spirit seems to have driven a healthy number of their long-time fans to the point of all-out rage with their “new sound.” There’s undoubtedly a re-established emphasis on primitive, root aggression this time around that’s bolstered by the hefty hands of Aesop Dekker behind the skins, but the record also reaches new grounds in terms of exploring the more ambient/atmospheric side of the Agalloch fence. In the end, great art really shouldn’t have a lot of middle ground populated by folks waffling between “sorta-like” and “sorta-don’t,” so in that regard I’d say this record is a true achievement for the band.
6. Christian Mistress – Agony and Opium
Drinkin’ booze, chaisin’ tail, rippin’ it up and…not landin’ in jail? — that’s Agony and Opium for me in a nutshell. And it’s a nutshell that’ll shell you square in the nuts if you don’t play the game loud and proud. I can’t tell you how often I’ve cranked this record while pushing through a yellow light, stealing some square’s parking spot or throwing a finger at yet another withered vulture trying to cut me off on the freeway — I live on the razor’s edge, people. Agony and Opium is the perfect soundtrack to the fiery lightning that is every living second of my explosive life. Or at least it makes me wish I lived a more explosive, action-packed life. And really, it’s the thought that counts, right? Thanks for thinking about me, Christian Mistress.
7. Mirror of Deception – A Smouldering Fire
Sometimes I feel like the loneliest man in the world on my little island with all my Mirror of Deception albums and scribblings on palm leaves about them being “one of the best kept secrets in doom metal.” Then I realize I live in the U.S. where it’s often quite difficult to find their material, so I feel a little better about the fact that more Stateside folks don’t jump up and down about them. Still, A Smouldering Fire is whoop-ass enough that I shelled out serious clams for an overseas import, and I’m certainly glad I did. If you dig somber ‘n’ smooth traditional doom done very righteously, you should find a way to check Mirror of Deception out. And A Smouldering Fire is an ideal place to start.
8. Ludicra – The Tenant
I’ve gotten more than a few earfuls from people stating they’d love a band like Ludicra if it weren’t for Laurie Sue’s banshee-screech vocals. I’d say those folks should go back to listening to their James Taylor cds, have a good cry about it and leave me alone. Yes, her voice has a way of hitting your face like a steady spray of rock salt pitched from snowplow, but it is black metal; it ain’t supposed to be a romantic picnic. The Tenant also gets my vote for the year’s best production. There’s not a moment during these tunes where you don’t notice what everyone’s up to.
9. Atlantean Kodex – The Golden Bough
As of this moment, I’m still not quite as enamored with The Golden Bough as I was with The Pnakotic Demos. But this thing’s a serious grower with all kinds of layers, so the scales may eventually tip in the opposite direction given a little more time. If the idea of a heavy metal formula that incorporates the epic doom of While Heaven Wept marching alongside the fantastical romp of 80’s era Fates Warning sounds good to you, this album is undoubtedly something that deserves your immediate attention.
10. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
I saw some gray flecks in the ol’ facial hair this year. I also witnessed the last tour of the Scorpions and bummed myself out about Judas Priest finally calling it quits. I guess there’s just no way to stop the pummeling hands of time, so as a life-long fan of Iron Maiden I’ll do whatever I can to make sure our paths continue to cross and push into the future. And honestly, when the end result is as kickass as The Final Frontier, it’s easy to justify my continued giddiness when I hear about a new release from the boys. Maiden‘s still got it; The Final Frontier is sound proof of just that.
THE REST OF THE BEST IN 2010:
11. Weapon — From the Devil’s Tomb
12. Wolvserpent — Blood Seed
13. StarGazer — A Great Work of Ages
14. Darkthrone — Circle the Wagons
15. Deathspell Omega — Paracletus
16. Rhapsody of Fire — The Frozen Tears of Angels
17. Accept — Blood of the Nations
18. Solace — A.D.
19. The Dead — Ritual Executions
20. Vasaeleth — Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin
The “Not Yet in My Clutches/Not Enough Time to Absorb/Could-A Might-A Been Contenders” Top Five of 2010:
1. Urfaust — Der freiwillige Bettler
2. Furze — Reaper Subconscious Guide
3. War Injun — Tribal Eulogy
4. Procession — Destroyers of the Faith
5. Inquisition — Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
Top Three EP’s of 2010:
2010 had quite a few noteworthy EP’s hit the racks. So, rather than wrastle them like an angry bahr into my top twenty, I’ve given a few their very own spotlight. What, I didn’t mention I’m a lazy-good-for-nothin’ cheater?
1. Autopsy — The Tomb Within
2. Jex Thoth — Witness
3. Innumerable Forms — Dark Worship
Top Three Demo’s of 2010:
1. Dispirit — Rehearsal at Oboroten
2. Pallbearer — 2010 Demo
3. White Medal — Agbrigg Beast
Top Five Reissues of 2010:
1. Pagan Altar — Judgement of the Dead LP: Buried by Time and Dust Records
2. Apocalypse — Stormchild LP: Buried by Time and Dust Records
3. Pagan Altar — Lords of Hypocrisy LP: Buried by Time and Dust Records
4. Ludicra — Hollow Psalms LP: 20-Buck Spin
5. Candlemass — Epicus Doomicus Metallicus LP: Peaceville Records
Top Record Label of 2010:
I don’t think there’s any way I can deny Profound Lore their just due this year. With four records in my top ten and six in my overall top twenty, I’d certainly say they’re doing something extremely fucking right in my book. I’d also like to give a tip of the hat to Buried by Time and Dust — there’s simply no one currently in the business of vinyl reissues doing it better than these cats. And what a crop they’ve delivered this year: classics from Pagan Altar, Apocalypse, Bleak House, Witchfinder General and Max Planck, along with soon to arrive essentials from Solstice and Cloven Hoof!
Biggest Disappointments of 2010:
I was most disappointed in what the power metal genre delivered this year. In fact, if it weren’t for Rhapsody of Fire‘s excellent Frozen Tears of Angels and (the really oddly monikered) Arryan Path‘s Terra Incognita, power metal would’ve been a total bust in 2010. Helloween‘s 7 Sinners didn’t do as much for me as it apparently did for others, Manowar dicked-the-fuck-around (again) re-recording Battle Hymns, Masterplan‘s triumphant return of Jorn Lande proved to be far less than triumphant, and even the long awaited return of Wuthering Heights — while still a far cry from a facepalm — didn’t exactly live up to the expectations built up by the long four year wait. Still, there were bigger disappointing fish to fry in 2010…
To illustrate the difference between a terrible album and one that’s truly disappointing, consider the following: Cathedral‘s The Guessing Game is a terrible album, but not really disappointing because I no longer expect to hear good things from this crew. Cathedral have become the cartwheeling minstrels of our court — not a good thing.
In terms of truly disappointing albums, I’d say I was really looking forward to each of the following with varying degrees of shitty results:
1. Drudkh‘s abysmal Handful of Stars: a guitar tone better suited for a Stray Cats album.
2. Halford‘s Nascar: his first two solo records pound the living shit out of this thing. And that’s easily the worst album cover of the year.
3. The Melvins The Bride Screamed Murder: the marching band bullshit in that first cut could be the most unlistenable thing I’ve heard from the band.
4. Electric Wizard‘s Black Masses: certainly not a terrible album (I love the snugly “Satyr IX”, for example), but a disappointing follow-up to Witchcult Today.
Top Twenty Non-Metal Albums of 2010:
1. Solar Bears — She Was Coloured In
2. ROME — Nos Chants Perdus
3. Barn Owl — Ancestral Star
4. Swans — My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope to the Sky
5. Four Tet — There is Love in You
6. Emeralds — Does it Look Like I’m Here?
7. Fennesz, Daniell, Buck — Knoxville
8. Wolf Parade — Expo 86
9. Sabbath Assembly — Restored to One
10. Woods — At Echo Lake
11. A Broken Consort — Crow Autumn
12. Clubroot — II – MMX
13. Jaill — That’s How We Burn
14. Mugstar — Lime
15. Brian McBride — Effective Disconnect
16. Philip Jeck — An Ark for the Listener
17. Pernice Brothers — Goodbye, Killer
18. Umberto — Prophecy of the Black Widow
19. Neil Young — le Noise
20. Indignant Senility — Plays Wagner