Metalholic’s 50 Best Metal Albums of 2010
Finally, 2010 is over. Most would agree that overall it was a pretty rough year all around. In the metal world we had our share of tragedies. We began the year reeling from the loss of Avenged Sevenfold stick man, James “The Rev” Sullivan, and just as spring hit we lost Peter Steele (Type O Negative), Paul Gray (Slipknot) and of course Ronnie James Dio. Dio was perhaps the most iconic voice in metal. Certainly up there with Ozzy, Halford, Dickinson and other throat gods. But the loss of Dio hits especially hard as he was truly one of the nicest guys in world. A genuine soul with a powerhouse voice. I cried for the first time since Randy Rhoads died. Take my man card if you must, but it was that hard to see him go.
But if there was a silver lining for metalheads in 2010 it came in the form of an unusual amount of blistering new material from bands old and new. Spectacular debut releases from bands like Periphery, Mutiny Within, Triptykon, Taking Dawn and Kverlertak build expectation for even greater things to come. Old school bands like Death Angel, Krokus, Iron Maiden, Ratt, Y&T, and Overkill all returned to the glory of their past with new records that recaptured their original metal magic.
Now that the year is over, we begin the process of making our “best of” lists. This year that task is more formiddable than ever, and given the broad scope of metal music, near impossible to cull into one all encompassing list. While some albums have grown on me others have lost their luster. You will find NO “live” or “greatest hits” albums in this list. While endeavoring to parse down the hundreds of great metal albums of 2010 into our top picks, ranking them is even harder. Any one of the Top 10 on this list is deserving of #1 in their own right. In the end it’s all simply a matter of taste and opinion after all. I hope you will all sound off at the bottom of this article with your thoughts and picks of your own. \m/
+++31-50 are at the end of the top 30 picks (bottom of the page)+++
30. Krokus ~ Hoodoo (AFM Records)
The Swiss import returned this year with their early 80′s line-up, and the result was are turn to form from the metal quintet. This is their best work since 1983′s Headhunter. While there is a weak moment here and there, overall this album is as good as any Krokus fan could ask for. It’s all about the songs, and their staying power, and Hoodoo is full of catchy tunes that will get stuck in your head. Air guitar away…
29. The Ocean ~ Anthropocentric (Metal Blade) Anthropocentric was the second 2010 album from Germany’s The Ocean, and the book end to Heliocentric. Though the latter was a great album in its own right, it was merely the stepping stone to this one, which is ultimately stronger in most every way. While they tap into their older hardcore sound, they also venture into new territory here, and they succeed in the effort.
28. In This Moment ~ A Star Crossed Wasteland (Century Media)
Let their detractors say what they will, but this is ITM’s best and most complete album. They manage to bring together the best elements of their heavier sound with their commercial side. This record rocks from beginning to end, and Maria Brink sounds better than ever whether she’s melting your soul with her clean vocals or melting your face with her harsh guttural growling. Blake Bunzel and Chris Howarth make their unique guitar voices blend into an addictive fusion. Fuck the naysayers–this album rocks! If not for a bit of over-production by Kevin Churko (Ozzy Osbourne), I’d rank it higher.
27. Avenged Sevenfold ~ Nightmare (Warner Bros.)
Speaking of naysayers, there are many who would say this album is only here as a sentimental pick. And while there is some truth to that in the sense that I went into this album wanting to like it, the truth is, it was hard not to like what I heard. I won’t even try to define this record. Our own Maven did a hell of a review which you can read here. Is it commercial? Yes, but I’ve never felt that commercial viability and metal were mutually exclusive. This record seethes with attitude and strong material, and that’s enough for me.
26. Christian Mistress ~ Agony & Opium (20 Buck Spin)
Talk about a throwback to the NWOBHM. These guys sound like they fell right out of a garage in the 80′s. Their debut EP sounds like a demo recorded on an old Tascam 40 back in the day. It’s old school rocking that is perhaps all the more lovable for it’s flawed production. These guys and White Wizzard offer hope for a return to those classic glory days. Vocalist Christine Davis is raw in her delivery–she is Lita Ford with Janis Joplin gruffness and attitude.
25. Exodus ~ Exhibit B: The Human Condition (Nuclear Blast)
With their new album Exhibit B: The Human Condition, Exodus, a band many consider to be the fifth member of the Big Four, have given us a bone-crushing gift. If you’re one of the old school metalheads that still pulls out “Kill ‘em All” and “Reign in Blood,” lamenting the days of great thrash metal, check this album out. Angry, violent lyrics, and vocals full of aggression, intensity, non-stop fury and brutality— this album has all the elements of great 80′s thrash! If I had to describe this album in one word, that word would be monstrous! Click album cover for full review.
24. Charred Walls of the Damned ~ Charred Walls of the Damned (Metal Blade)
A walloping debut from Richard Christy’s new project, featuring Tim “the Ripper” Owens on vocals and maniacally brilliant producer and guitarist Jason Suecof. Rounding the band out on bass is the fretless wonder Steve DiGiorgio. The album is steeped in classic heavy metal with a terrific overlay of technical and melodic thrash.
23. City of Fire ~ City of Fire (Candlelight)
Burton C. Bell and Byron Stroud of Fear Factory have put together a side project that is as explosive and heavy as anything they’ve done with FF. I keep finding myself drawn back to this record for it’s grinding riffs, moody nuances and raw brutality. Don’t expect the industrial sound of Fear Factory here. This is straight up metal with groove and drive. The album grows on you.
22. Nachtmystium ~ Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2 (Century Media)
Blake Judd continues to push at the edges of every metal preconception. Addicts picks up where Black Meddle Pt. 1 left off. It’s almost foolish picking up a Nachtmystium album with anything but an open mind, as you will always be surprised what Judd can do with the ever-evolving limits of extreme metal forms. Addicts, as the title much suggest deals with addictions and excess. The music is dark, maniacal, and atmospheric. I can hear a definite feeling of homage to early 70′s Sabbath…at least to my ear.
21. Waitain ~ Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist)
From its ominous intro on “Death’s Cold Dark,” listeners are on the edge of their seats waiting for the hammer to drop… And drop it does. Lawless Darkness is an unforgiving, committed and caustic foray into what black metal is about. Or at least what it used to be about. Waitain have dipped into their closets on this one for a more basic black metal field, before the genre became trendy and overdone.
20. Fear Factory ~ Mechanize (AFM/Candlelight)
Just the fact that guitarist Dino Cazares and vocalist Burton C. Bell got back together to make another album is reason enough to find them on this list, but Mechanize deserves its place in these ranks. Industrial bone-pulverizing metal is defined in these pounding grooves. This is the ultimate soundtrack for a Terminator movie; cold, relentless and impervious.
19. Red Line Chemistry ~ Dying For a Living (Bulldog Productions)
The Kansas City quintet finally dropped their debut album, and it’s a crunchy, gritty beast of modern grunge-tinted metal, that pays homage to bands like Alice and Chains, while exploring more modern-edged sounds. They are equal doses heavy and melodic. While on the lighter side of the metal spectrum, they have plenty of punch and balls. They represent one of the strongest debut albums of 2010.
18. Overkill ~ Ironbound (E1)
Overkill marked their 25th anniversary with a beast of a record. Ironbound doesn’t break new ground, but rather returns us to the hallowed footing of their humble beginnings. Their 15th studio record is a straight foward chunk of classic Overkill thrash metal. Nothing new or fancy, just a continuation of what they do so well. The guitar work is especially mammoth: intricate, powerful and thick.
17. High On Fire ~ Snakes For The Devine (E1)
A power trio of old school mettallers in the Motorhead vein, laying down a barrage of doomy groove-laden metal. The album, which sadly contains only8 tracks, is raw and powerful, fast and furious, dirty and explosive. These guys bring it all together on a mother of an album.
16. Periphery ~ Periphery (Sumerian Records)
Progressive metal guitarist Misha Mansoor spent years working on what ultimately became the debut Periphery album. One of 2010′s best debut’s. Finding the right chemistry among band members took a while, but was worth the wait. He put the band together in 2005, and it took a half decade to bring us this gem. The album is well over an hour of intriguing and technical progressive metal. There are a few moments of over-indulgence as Mansoor extended a few pieces too far, but the album is uniquely dynamic so it’s hardly worth quibbling over.
15) Agalloch ~ Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)
It’s been a long 4 year wait for fans of the Portland, Oregon based band for their newest full length release, and their first on the Profound Lore label. There was the White EP in 2008, but still, we needed more, and Marrow of the Spirit provides it, in spades. Whether you call Agalloch folk metal, doom metal, black metal or any other genre defining tag you want to slip on them, they do it all quite brilliantly. Each track is intricate and detailed. From the lulling intro, “They Escaped The Weight of Darkness,” Agalloch takes you on beautiful, yet at times eerie, journey of both serenity and darkness.
14. Melechesh ~ The Epigenisis (Nuclear Blast)
Jeurusalem’s premier black metal outfit returns after 4 long years with some of their best work. The Epigenisis melds their Mesopotamian flavored metal with oriental and middle eastern influences. The result is their longest album to date and some damn brilliant songs. Lots of tempo shifts combine with sheer heaviness and an appropriate amount of melody. The title track closes out the album and it’s an epic piece of ear candy for fans of the genre.
13. Immolation ~ Majesty and Decay (Nuclear Blast)
New York’s Immolation returned with their ninth album; a thick slab of death that will triturate your bones. Majesty and Decay was aptly named. The album is dark, heavy and unrelenting. Robert Vigne’s guitar work is at once menacing and majestic, crossing from complex riffage to wailing solos.These veterans are a reminder of why the old school is still where it’s at. The album is, simply put, fucking brutal!
12. Decrepit Birth ~ Polarity (Nuclear Blast)
Decrepit Birth may have reached their apex on this record. From here on out it will all be death metal mediocrity in comparison. Though I beg them to prove me wrong. This stands as the best death metal album of 2010. DB have elevated their game across the board, and you can hear it in every track. The drums, the guitar work… just fucking buy it before I hit you with a hammer.
11. Ratt ~ Infestation (Roadrunner)
Ratt was one of the iconic hair metal bands of the early to mid-80′s, but like so many of their bretheren; grunge, drugs and shifting musical tastes derailed the band. Still they carried on, as Ratts do, scurrying around the scene, returning to daylight to make 2010 the year of the Ratt. Their first studio album in a decade, Infestation is the epitome of Ratt at their 80′s peak. With former Quiet Riot guitarist Carlos Cavazo pairing off with Warren DeMartini, the band have not only recreated their signature sound, but crafted songs that will become as classic as “Round and Round” and “You’re In Love.”
10. The Dillinger Escape Plan ~ Option Paralysis (Party Smasher/Season of Mist)
Option Paralysis is a brutal and eviscerating disc of maniacal math metal. From the opening track (and first single), “farewell, Mona Lisa,” your ears are left bruised by the blistering onslaught. That pounding you hear is your blood vibrating in your veins. The boys are back better than ever, and a huge leap ahead of their 2007 Ire Works CD.
9. Kvelertak ~ Kvelertak (Indie Recordings)
Another sonically dynamic new band from Norway. Kvelertak is metal for people with A.D.D. Their sound and style is all over the place and changes from moment to moment throughout their eponymous album. They are the proverbial “kitchen sink” of metal bands, weaving elements of classic rock, with punk, sludge, hardcore, black and progressive metal all into one aural kick in the gut. And that hardly covers all the flavors you’ll discover as you listen repeatedly to this epic debut. This record is simply a debaucherous party on a disc, and a name I can’t fucking pronounce.
8. Taking Dawn ~ Time To Burn (Roadrunner)
This album brings the best of what we loved about 80′s cock-of-the-block strut and swagger and pairs it with a fresh and edgy modern feel.If you could define this album with one word, it would be “attitude,” with a capital Fuck YOU! Time To Burn is simply no apologies, anthemic, in your face, party in your pants rocking metal. If you wanna feel good, get pumped up, and adrenalize your ears, this is the album you want to put on, hands down, tits up! A thunderous debut for these Las Vegas rockers.
7. Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (Century Media)
Celtic Frost may have hung up their axes, but from those ashes crawl the debut of Triptykon, and arguably Thomas Fischer’s best work to date. Eparistera Daimones is a nine track beast which uses the first twenty minutes of the album to suck the listener into a dark and dreary soul dooming dirge called “The Prolonging.” The second track, “Goetia,” is only about half as long at 11 minutes, but equally brooding and heavy. The third 9 minutes… The guitar work throughout is appropriately sludgy and rottingly atmospheric. The vocals are equally woeful and seething with venomous rage. If man’s anguished soul were to cry up from the bowels of hell, this might be what he would sound like. A hellacious debut!
6. Deftones ~ Diamond Eyes (Reprise/Warner Bros.)
Sacramento’s Deftones return with perhaps their best album since 2000′s White Pony. While laboring over the as yet unreleased Eros album, the band found themselves dealing with the tragic car accident to bassist Chi Cheng, which left him minimally conscious. Stepping back the band recruited Sergio Vega to fill in and recorded a completely different record from Eros, and Diamond Eyes is just an all around stunning metal album.
5. Iron Maiden ~ The Final Frontier (Universal)
Some 30 years into their storied career, Iron Maiden continue to prove they are not only still viable, but capable of continued growth. The Final Frontier, their 15th studio release, has songs that evoke the essence of early Maiden (“El Dorado,” “The Alchemist”), to newer more progressive leanings (“Isle of Avalon,” “Starblind”). This is also their longest album to date, with several songs clocking in at 7 minutes plus. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson has lost nothing off his powerful voice. This album is intruiging in that it grabs fans differently. Ask any five fans of the record to name the album’s best cut and you’ll likely get 5 unique answers. That’s the magic that Maiden has once again brought to our ears.
4. Orphaned Land ~ The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR (Century Media)
While the album’s title was fairly lame, the album itself was one of the more eclectic and diverse metal albums released in 2010. Filled with extraordinary depths and nuance. Lots of layers and sounds mixed together with near genius perfection. Middle eastern passages combine with progressive and traditional elements for an aural feast. They create intense musical tapestries with each track.
3. Enslaved ~ Axioma Ethica Odini (Nuclear Blast) Axioma Ethica Odini is the eleventh album by these Norwegian progressive black metallers, and they’ve returned with a less psychadelic sound that one can truly appreciate over more recent offerings. Two decades from their birth Enslaved are still defining the future of progressive black metal. Axioma Ethica Odini blends most every element that defines metal today with deft experimentation and without excess and waste. Threading intricate riffing with progressive passages, hammering blast beats and dark ambience, they toss in just enough melody hold it all together. Arguably their best work to date, and the best black metal album of 2010.
2. Isahn ~ After (Candlelight)
This is undoubtedly the best of Isahn‘s solo albums. A sonically complex gem shimmering with intricate layers. Words like nuance and textures come to mind as you journey through this album. There is even some unexpected sax work here, and surprisingly it not only works but pushes the music. Listen to the 10-minute epic “Undercurrent,” and to dip into a touch of prose cheesiness, you’ll be swept away.
1. Mutiny Within ~ Mutiny Within (Roadrunner)
This may take some by surprise, especially since so many metal writers have failed to notice them, but as I said almost a year ago, the debut album from these guys is likely to be one of the year’s best releases. Now a year later, I stand by that statement. The debut from these Jersey/English boys is nothing short of stunning. They blend the best of technical shredding, tight jams, and melodic yet furious grooves, with well contructed songs with intriguing lyrics, all brought home on the incredible throat of Chris Clancy. Bassist, principal songwriter and band founder Andrew Jacobs took a great band to the next level when he unearthed Clancy, whose tonal charisma evokes a new age Bruce Dickinson. The recent departure of skinpounder Bill Fore has me concerned as he is a beast behind the kit and an integral part of their sound. However, that does not displace my belief that Mutiny Within has released not merely the best metal debut of 2010, but the best metal album of the year overall. And to think, they’re just getting started.
There you go. My top 30 for 2010. And arguments can be made for many others not on the list. Many critics were big on Shining‘s BlackJazz, but it never moved me. Korn‘s return to their original sound on Remember Who You Are sounded like a group of guys going through the motions, and there were several others that simply didn’t grab me as they did others.
Some Honorable Mentions (aka 31-50):
32. Intronaut, Valley Of Smoke
33. Disturbed ~ Asylum
35. We Are The Fallen ~ Tear The World Down
36. Sigh ~ Scenes From Hell
38. Kissin’ Dynamite ~ Addicted To Metal
39. Forbidden ~ Omega Wave
41. Accept ~ Blood of the Nations
42. Woe ~ Quietly, Undramatically
44. Sevendust ~ Cold Day Memory
45. Dimmu Borgir ~ Abrahadabra
47. Black Anvil ~ Triumverate
48. Cradle of Filth ~ Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
50. Ozzy Osbourne ~ Scream
Thanks for reading. Let the debate rage. Who are your top picks?