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Top 10 Metal Albums of 2010

Now into their fourth decade of rocking, Iron Maiden produced one of 2010's best metal records. Now into their fourth decade of rocking, Iron Maiden produced one of 2010's best metal records.

Heavy metal won’t die. There were more great metal releases in 2010 than almost any other year in recent memory, and bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Iron Maiden continued to be among the few in the rock world still able to pull off arena tours. In a music industry in a state of extreme flux, metal albums are still selling, in some cases charting higher than ever before. And the internet abounds with some of music’s most voracious fans. So without further ado, here are the 10 metal albums I enjoyed the most in 2010. I’ve drawn from a variety of genres (and even include a bonus discussion of the year’s best black metal at the end). Enjoy!

Kylesa – Spiral Shadow

Kylesa made a believer out of me in 2010. I haven’t always appreciated the American South’s penchant for sludgey stoner-metal, but these Georgia-based metallers have infused their take on the genre with special energy that makes their fifth full-length, Spiral Shadow, stand out.

The dual male and female vocals give the record a special flavor, as does the ambient attack of the double drum kits. But most of all it’s the unique execution of otherwise classic sounding metal riffs that mark Spiral Shadowas one of the best heavy releases of 2010.

 

 

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

I hate to repeat myself, and I know I mentioned The Final Frontier in my year-end music review, but when it comes to a Top 10, Iron Maiden has got to be here. The Final Frontier is the UK heavy metal legends’ 15th studio album, and it is classic Maiden through and through, recalling their Piece of Mind/Powerslave-era output.

As classic metal starts to make a comeback, and with the glut of yawn-inducing power metal bands still producing the same album again and again, Iron Maiden stands up as a bastion of awesome metal. Modern acts can still learn a lot, not only from the Maiden of the early ‘80s, but from the sextet of fifty-somethings still out there rocking hard.

 

Aeternam – Disciples of the Unseen

Here’s another genre-redeeming metal blast from 2010. This time it’s Quebec City’s Aeternam delivering Middle Eastern-tinged metal, and doing so without sounding off-puttingly strange. Instead, the music is rooted in metal, and the Middle Eastern influence is incorporated therein. Most bands attempting an ethnic or folk tie-in make the mistake of rendering the crushing riffs secondary. That formula often results in pure garbage.

But for fans of brutal metal with something unique to offer, Aeternam is the antidote to all the other grating attempts at genre fusion. Disciples of the Unseen is one of the most auspicious metal debuts in years, and is probably the best metal album out of Canada in 2010, which is saying a lot in a year that Bison B.C. released their excellent sophomore full-length, Dark Ages.


 

Black Breath – Heavy Breathing

The most badass record of 2010, Heavy Breathing shows Bellingham, Washington’s Black Breath serving up heaping fistfuls of their crossover thrash with hints of black metal influence. Although not strictly a hardcore record, this one has enough elements to appeal to that segment of the heavy music listening public. I can’t say enough good things about this record. Get it.

 

Enforcer – Diamonds

2010 featured two of the best retro-metal releases of the 21st century, but Sweden’s Enforcer comes out ahead of L.A.’s White Wizzard by a hair (ha!) on this list. While White Wizzard’s debut full-length Over The Top is a super fun, headbanging listen from top to bottom, Enforcer’s Diamonds is a little more consistent in bringing catchy vocal hooks and rockin’ riffs from beginning to end.

If this is the crest of a wave reviving the classic heavy metal sounds of the ‘80s, count me in. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more albums like these as this decade progresses.


 

Kataklysm – Heaven’s Venom

Montreal’s Kataklysm hit a new level of excellence with 2008’s Prevail, and their 2010 release, Heaven’s Venom, finds them reclaiming their place atop the death metal heap. Incredible machine gun riffs, brutal vocals, and one of the best drummers in the biz all help make Kataklysm unforgettable listening. But most of all it’s their ability to balance their controlled chaos with the ability to break it down and rock out.

 

Winterburst - Winterburst

Symphonic black metal may not be the hippest metal sub-genre out there, but thanks to the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, it is one of the most popular. And while both of those behemoths released new albums in 2010, neither was as much worth listening to as the self-released debut by France’s Winterburst.

Whereas both Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir have reached a point bordering on self-parody with their over-the-top theatrics, Winterburst attempts to return an inherently gaudy genre to a focus on music. And to great effect. The half dozen songs on their debut are solid, rocking metal tracks that remind me of what I loved most about the whole symphonic thing when the genre seemed to have peaked about a decade ago. (That said, if I’m being honest, there’s a lot of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, including their newest albums, on my iTunes.)


 

Dawnbringer – Nucleus

Chicago’s Dawnbringer dished out the year’s best New Wave of British Heavy Metal-influenced rock with their full-length Nucleus. Dawnbringer is aptly named, as the group brings us back to a time when the quintessential heavy metal sound was taking firm shape. Mind you, there are substantial portions of Nucleus that mark it as a modern album, including the occasional use of blast beats, but for the most part, this is a great band with an unmistakable passion for metal paying tribute to the roots of the genre.

 

Destinity – XI Reasons To See

The melodic death metal release of the year belongs to French veterans Destinity. Their career has seen the band drawing from a variety of metal sub-genres, but XI Reasons To See finds Destinity delivering memorable sonic gems that sound a bit like a latter day Gothenburg band, but with more symphonic/synth elements. In fact this record is easily better than either of the 2010 albums by Swedish melodic metal mainstays Dark Tranquility and Soilwork. XI Reasons To See is non-stop metal gold.

 


Gamma Ray – To The Metal

There’s nothing original about Gamma Ray. You pretty much know what you’re going to get every time out, but fans of great power metal wouldn’t have it any other way. To The Metal finds German metal legend Kai Hansen doing what he does best, producing the kind of classic metal tunes he made famous as part of the seminal Helloween back in the -80s. In 2010, he’s doing the same thing he did a quarter century ago, and with just as much aplomb.

You’re not sitting at the cool kids’ table if you’re listening to this one, but you will be enjoying a record that outdid the also awesome ninth studio album, At the Edge of Time, from fellow German power metallers Blind Guardian, who did a fine job of keeping the flame alive in 2010 as well.


 

Top 10 Black Metal Albums

2010 was such an exceptional year for metal’s most extreme sub-genre that I had to create a separate list just for black metal. This year the French continued their ascension, while American black metal finally started to capitalize on its potential. And of course, the stalwart Scandinavians, who are responsible for making the genre what it is today, popped up and continued to make their presence felt.

Woe – Quietly, Undramatically

Philadelphia’s Woe absolutely nailed it in 2010 with Quietly, Undramatically. It’s not only the black metal album of the year, but the best American black metal album to date.


 

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit

Haunting, folk-tinged black metal from Portland, Oregon, Agalloch's evocation of despair echoes through Marrow of the Spirit, which ranges from acoustic moments of melody to weird chaos and then into the harsh moments most characteristic of black metal.


 

Watain – Lawless Darkness

Sweden’s poster-boys for arousing controversy, Watain showed with 2010’s Lawless Darkness that they are more than just sensationalists. It's a work of stunning black metal that incorporates all the genre’s classic elements with a hint of rock-influence poking through now and then. This is absolutely one of my favorite records of the year.

 

1349 – Demonoir

Norway’s 1349 returned to their roots with Demonoir. Sounding much like 2004’s Beyond the Apocalypse and 2005’s Hellfire, 1349 maintained elements of the ambient exploration heard on 2009’s Revelations of the Black Flame by supplying short, atmospheric interludes between every song of blistering black metal on Demonoir.

 

Deathspell Omega – Paracletus

France has long been at the forefront of the avant-garde black metal movement, and Deathspell Omega keep that tradition alive with 2010’s excellent Paracletus. This isn’t for everyone, but for me the band walks the line between esoteric and accessible with perfection.


 

Lightning Swords of Death – The Extra Dimensional Wound

L.A.’s Lightning Swords of Death raged into 2010 with a brutal blast of classic black metal to rival Europe’s best. The Extra Dimensional Wound sounds like it belongs somewhere in the frozen winter of Bergen, not the blazing sunshine of Southern California. But whatever the geography, this one is worth checking out.

 

Nachtmystium – Addicts: Black Meddle Part II

Nachtmystium kicked at the edges of the genre to produce Addicts: Black Meddle Part II, and the result was a little uneven. But when they hit it, they hit it hard, delivering some of the most compelling and interesting black metal tracks of the year.

 


Ludicra – The Tenant

San Francisco’s Ludicra made the year’s best case for women in black metal, but produced an exceptional album regardless of gender.


 

Sargeist – Let the Devil In

Finland’s Sargeist weren’t pushing any boundaries with Let the Devil In, but they delivered a convincing dose of black metal in the classic style. Definitely worth a spin.

 

Weapon – From the Devil’s Tomb

Canadian/Bangladeshi black metallers Weapon came through on the promise of 2009’s Drakonian Paradigm with a new and better blast of darkness on their second full-length, From the Devil’s Tomb.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2010



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Last modified on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 17:25

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