As the title says, these are the top 50 albums that I enjoyed, played the most, loved, the most this year. I know a lot of people will probably disagree with me, feel free to comment and mention some of your favorites. Hope you had a great 2010.
50) Celeste - Morte(s) Nee(s)
An aggressive fist to the face record of blackened hardcore. This was my first encounter of the genre, and it opened my eyes to many newer groups also working within a similar style. These guys will always be first for me in that regard. A totally aggressive that slows down just enough to get in breath or two.
49) Stargazer - A Great Work of Ages/A Work of Great Ages
Technical, progressive, atmospheric, and very unique. Stargazer are truly one of the most original death metal bands to come out in the last few years. Making use of a very stripped down sound that allows the songs to feel much more organic. If more bands started learning from how these guys do it, death metal might actually become a well respected genre again (meaning little-to-no-deathcore).
48) Vit - -
An oddball this year, this one really came out of nowhere and defied expectations. Combining elements of sludge, black, and crust punk with Americana folk to great success. A brooding record that really fills the gaps between country/folk and blackened sludge.
Highlight: Ascension Ritual
47) Withered - Dualitas
Very raw and very dark sounding. This is an album that combines the best parts of sludge, black, death, and grind together into a single mass. Containing a wall of sound that is literally just that, a wall.
Highlight: From Shadows
46) Intronaut - Valley of Smoke
Taking their post-metal sound to the next level and moving up into prog-metal while retaining their individuality. This album incorporates the band's post-metal sound with elements of fusion and prog-rock to really create something unique. This is the goal for bands within this genre, not to sound like Neurosis or Isis, but be original.
Highlight: Core Relations
45) Nekrasov - Cognition of Splendid Oblivion
An aural assault of black metal, noise, and ambient music. This was an album that can really transport you to a completely desolate place, maybe not one that's all that appealing, but totally crazy. While "Extinction," his follow-up to this album, contained a more black metal sound, this one is just a blast to the eardrums of raw noise.
Highlight: Psychic Epilepsy In The Butchery of Light
44) Hooded Menace - Never Cross The Dead
A brutal death/doom record that definitely shows the younger generation how to do the genre right. This is slow, but maintains a sense of both groove and melody, being able to turn what could have otherwise been a mess, into a very catchy record. Full of heavy hitters moving at a slug's pace, this is a true tribute to horror movies.
Highlight: Never Cross The Dead
43) Fear Factory - Mechanize
The first album I had ever reviewed, Fear Factory with Dino again, great. Burton and Dino combine their signature sound with the rhythm section of Strapping Young Lad and end up making their most lively sounding record in years. Full of numbers that are both catchy and heavy.
42) Ludicra - The Tenant
This album really showed a large leap forward for the band, taking their black metal sound and pushing it into multiple directions. From sludge to prog to traditional metal, they managed to succeed on all fronts. Riffing is extremely solid and memorable while retaining their blackened core.
Highlight: The Undercaste
41) Alcest - Écailles De Lune
This was the first album from Neige that I actually anticipated, after having been absolutely blown away with the Amesoeurs debut and listening to the first Alcest release. This album was everything I wanted it to be and more, it captured the dreamy shoegaze elements while mixing in the perfect amount of metal. A very introspective record that has become one of my favorites from Neige.
Highlight: Écailles De Lune I
40) Spirit of The Forest - Kingdom of Despair
A seriously melodic black metal record that really embraces folk music into it's being. The interludes take folk music in it's purest form while the actual tracks manage to show actual melodies from the genre. Despite it's length, every track feels like it belongs.
39) 11 As In Adversaries - The Full Intrepid Experience of Light
A record that surprised many for how experimental it turned out to be, enough so that the band changed this from the fourth Glorior Belli album and made a new band. Full of clean vocals and more experimental tendencies, embracing what's been cited as blues, jazz, and progressive rock, and making it sound very unique. It's trippy and a bit left-field, but that's what makes it so good.
Highlight: The Full Intrepid Experience of Light
38) Pryapisme - Rococo Holocaust
This is a record full of surprises, a totally original sounding avant-garde record. Everything from dance electronica to reggae to black metal is brought in and made to sound like it actually belongs. Like I said in the review for the album, I haven't heard anything this original from avant-garde since Mr. Bungle.
Highlight: Sanglié Par Un Cornid
37) Blindead - Affliction XXIX II MXMVI
An album I'd found recently that I found really blew away almost all the other doom records this year. Totally fresh sounding doom/post-metal that managed to take a very highly regarded sound and really did it originally. This album is one of the most original albums to come from the post-metal genre in general and will hopefully come to be regarded as such in years to come.
Highlight: So It Feels Like Misunderstanding When
36) Sael - The Sixth Extinction
A record that really shows a lot of progression, both in terms of growth and actual sound. From their post-black metal EP to now, the band has embraced a much more adventurous sound, and cleaning up their sound, production wise, along the way as well. Full of odd songs that keep a black metal sound while experimenting all over the place.
Highlight: I Searched For The End of The Spiral
35) Sorgeldom - Inner Receivings
This is a band that embraces their background in what appears to be shoegaze as well as folk music and ends up integrating it into black metal to much success. Being progressive enough to embrace both worlds, the heavy and aggressive metal side as well as the softer and more dreamy side of their influences. While it may not be the most catchy, it is certainly very unique.
Highlight: I Kloaken Lättar Vi Ankar
34) Hexenmeister - ...And Life In Insomnia
While not totally devoid of it's depressive black metal tag, this album sees the genre being taken into a more avant-garde direction. Being much cleaner sounding than most from it's part of the world and expressing a desire to move into a more original sound, this album sees that otherwise commonly mocked genre being transformed. Beautiful, yet dark and morose at the same time.
Highlight: Melancholia Attonita
33) Pensées Nocturnes - Grotesque
Honestly, this is a record I'm still not quite getting, it's so abstract and bizarre sounding. Easily one of the most unique blends of classical and black metal, bringing enough of a progressive, or avant-garde, influence to just turn it upside down and make it totally weird. Filled with a sense of adventure unlike that of any other record I've heard this year, this one stands out as being the most out there.
32) Hesper Payne - Unclean Rituals
This was a record that really brought doom and sludge back to it's roots for me. Covered in grime and filth yet keeping doom's sense of melody and catchiness. It's slow, gross, crusty, and at times morbid, but that's how doom/sludge should sound.
Highlight: Lord of The Green Abyss
31) Deftones - Diamond Eyes
As great sounding now as when it first came out, this is a very good record. The praise it's received has been well deserved, as this is one of the band's heaviest records, but it still maintains their unique sense of artiness. The heavy songs are groovy and pounding and the arty songs are dreamy and tranquil.
Highlight: You've Seen The Butcher
30) Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
Bursting forth with easily their most concise record of the three in their trilogy, this album is dissonant and chaotic. Pushing the boundaries of modern black metal back into obscure and occult territory in ways that are completely original. Brutally discordant and entrancing at once, this is one album that took me a few listens before I even decided that I liked it.
Highlight: Wings of Predation
29) Averse - The Endesque Chants
This was an album I didn't expect to find, I knew about this band's demo and was impressed by it, but this album just blew my mind. In a similar way to what Shining (Nor) did on their most recent album, "Blackjazz," this album takes a very similar idea of combining black metal with jazz. On here the idea of black metal is melded into 70's King Crimson-esque jazz-rock parts while also taking influence from more singer/songwriter stuff like Tim Buckley.
Highlight: Translating Your Name Into Numbers
28) Dawnbringer - Nucleus
I was debating on whether I liked this or the new Slough Feg album more, but it came down to sheer enjoyment, and this was an album I really loved. This was the first Dawnbringer album I'd ever heard, and from what I'd expected, something between melodic death metal, old-school black metal, and late 70's heavy metal, it's the latter. Totally ripping heavy metal sounding like it used to in the good old days.
Highlight: The Devil
27) Thorngoth - Leere
A record that really blew me away with how adventurous it was, yet held a very strict traditional black metal sound. Flirtations with progressive, melodic, atmospheric, and other sub-genres kept this album very fresh. The riffing is also very well done, with several riffs being quite memorable.
Highlight: Leere II
26) Odem Arcarum - Outrageous Reverie Above The Erosion of Barren Earth
This is a record that, as for the score I gave it originally, after that I found this record a bit impenetrable and hard to kind of get into. After listening over and over again, to various degrees of success, I found not only parts that were much more atmospheric a almost "misty" in a sense, but also quite catchy. It's a record that's very off the wall, but a very cool record none-the-less.
Highlight: Hell & Revelation
25) Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
A more simplistic album in terms of performances, but an album that has a stronger sense of songwriting. This album truly divided their fanbase, some thinking it's songs were catchy and ready to be played live, while others found it to be too simplistic and were unable to grasp the songs because of it. This is an album where songs take priority of performance, and that's it's strength.
Highlight: And The Maiden Spoke
24) Star One - Victims of The Modern Age
Arjen Lucassen has written more than his fare share of both prog epics and classic records, but this is just another brick in his growing wall. Easily one of his heaviest records, bringing back the original cast from the first album and bringing out performances that just trump those on that one. This album is catchy and heavy all at the same time, while Lucassen still has his signature sound.
Highlight: Digital Rain
23) Ihsahn - After
One of the first records I championed this year, and it remains to be one of the best examples of progressive metal this year. Less of a black metal sound is on here, it's there, but a more progressive rock and avant-garde sense dominates it. The use of a saxophone may be a bit weird, and to some it ruins the album, but for the songs it's used on, it works.
22) Haken - Aquarius
This was a record that was a surprise to me, it had everything I love about prog held within it's multiple epics. Being heavy enough to be metal, soft enough to be retro-prog, but quirky enough to be fun, it had all the elements of a good prog band and album. I can imagine that some might have trouble getting through some of these songs due to length, but there's enough movement going on to make it all worth while.
Highlight: The Point of No Return
21) The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
This album got a lot of attention when it came out, it totally diserved it, but sadly it kind of died down as the year went on. This album saw the band taking an almost progressive element into their sound, while "Ire Works" had the band experimenting with full pop and electronics, this album sees those concepts being integrated with their signature brain boggling riffs. Really catchy, yet maintains their mathcore roots.
20) Castevet - Mounds of Ash
I had read good things on this album, and it coming out on Profound Lore Records only solidified my idea of how great it would sound, and it didn't let me down. An odd combination of black metal, dissonant hardcore, death metal, and post-rock all fighting their way into the front of this album's sound. A really refreshing record that sounds like no one else yet takes influences from places we all regularly hear.
19) Cloudkicker - Beacons
The best instrumental album this year by far. Ben Sharp takes his djent sound and revolutionizes it by puting that near the back of this album's sound, bringing in a far greater influence from post-rock. Different melodies and rhythms all going on at once, yet this album is still very ambient sounding, really, really good.
Highlight: Push It Way Up!
18) Sailors With Wax Wings - Sailors With Wax Wings
A record I really didn't have a whole lot of expectations for, I found it, thought it had a different looking cover, and checked it out. Having never heard Pyramids, this album stuck me as being incredible. This is ambient and melodic, while not totally devoid of metal, I wouldn't go so far as to call this a metal album.
Highlight: There Came A Drooping Maid With Violets
17) Ólafur Arnalds - ...And They Have Escaped The Weight of Darkness
A great instrumental piano record that really goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. Despite it being non-metal, I really enjoyed this album and found that it struck a chord with me. Some tracks are more uplifting, while my personal favorite really felt like something that would fit perfectly at a funeral.
Highlight: Loftið Verður Skyndilega Kalt
16) Pain of Salvation - Road Salt One A record that probably surprised a lot of their fanbase, as it's mostly dominated by vocals. Not really progressive, or metal, but having more of a 60's psyche/blues rock vibe to it. Despite it's criticizm, it's really catchy, and pretty raw sounding compared to their other stuff.
Highlight: No Way
15) Agalloch - Marrow of The Spirit
A totally mindblowing album that takes you into nature and paints you pictures of your surroundings with every little detail being pointed out. This is an album that gets better with each listen and is still growing on me. I honestly feel like a jerk even putting it here at number 15 on this list and feel like it should be higher up.
Highlight: Black Lake Nidstång
14) In Lingua Mortua - Salon Des Refuses
This is a crazy record, including everything, genres and instruments, on it. A very progressive influenced and sounding black metal record that definitely pushes symphonic and jazzy sounds within it's very big walls. Sometimes it's a bit chaotic, but there's always something new to hear inside.
Highlight: Open The Doors of Janus
13) Lantlôs - .neon
Adding Neige (Alcest) into the fold really brought this group to another level. While his presense does add a lot to this album, the songwriting is strong enough to grasp any fan of black metal. Taking what was essentially a blackgaze record and morphing it into something that resembles more progressive black metal.
12) Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
This was an album that I didn't even expect to be up so high on this list when listening to it. My original score for it said it was too bright sounding, and that still remains true, but I found myself returning to this album over and over for it's songs. These songs capture the right amount of atmosphere while still be very catchy and accessable.
Highlight: Dreaming Light
11) Todtgelichter - Angst
Having not been familliar with this band's past two albums and coming into this pretty fresh, this thing blew me away. I was not expecting this to be as progressive and unique as it turned out to be. It really pushed the whole post/progressive black metal boarders by including female vocals along with male vocals.
10) Martriden - Encounter The Monolith
This was an album that was released earlier this year that just blew me away. Their debut had a more melodic black metal sound, but this new album just embraces progressive influences and is engulfed by them, making this sound extremely fresh. Songs are longer, but demonstrate a much better sense of layering while performances are stellar all around.
Highlight: Encounter The Monolith
9) Transcending Bizarre? - The Misanthrope's Fable
This was a record that I had been waiting for since I learned of these guys working on it. Their last record was really something unique to me and really sounded like no one else. This album is essentially what I wish Dimmu Borgir could have been, it's symphonic, but very theatrical and progressive.
Highlight: Envisaging The Ideal Planet
8) Vulture Industries - The Malefactor's Bloody Register
This was one of the records that I had awaited since I knew about it, looking forward to it's arrival, and it didn't let me down. This album really hones the band's Arcturus-esque sound and makes it much more catchy while also making it a lot weirder. The melodies on this album are much more complex and bizarre sounding compared to their debut.
Highlight: The Bolted Door
7) Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini
Everyone else has championed this record, so I'll join in as well and say that this is a really, really good record. The riffing, the vocals, the entire record is a masterpiece, from the masters of progressive viking/black metal. I honestly don't think this year would have been as good as it was had this record not come out.
Highlight: Ethica Odini
6) Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Meddle II
This was an album that took me by surprise as to how "accessable" it actually is. Filled to the brim with influences ranging from indie rock to 80's early industrial and post-punk coming into the band's own blend of psychedelic black metal. This album contains so many catchy songs and a sound that is unlike that of any other record this year.
5) Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones
It's a crushingly heavy sounding record with riffs that are just massive. Tom G. Warrior lives up to his legacy by making this record extremely heavy but retaining a sense of experimentalism. While it's obvious that this thing is rooted heavily within a blackened doom core, realms of the old thrash and bits of industrial come into the fold as well.
4) Solefald - Norrøn Livskunst
I wouldn't have expected anything but excellance from these guys. This was their first record in a while, but it's easily their most metal influenced in even longer. Though in a different language for most of the album, a lot of the melodies on here just got stuck in my head.
Highlight: Norrøn Livskunst
3) Dark Fortress - Ylem
This album came out a long time ago, early this year, that I praised a perfect album. Here we are, months later, and I still champion this album as one of the best black metal albums to be released this year. This album has everything I want from black metal, progressive, melodic, catchy, and unique.
Highlight: The Valley
2) Periphery - Periphery
This was a record that I could not put down from the minute I heard it. A friend originally told me about the band, but it wasn't until I listened to this album that I just became obsessed with it. Totally catchy and melodic, but also very technical and progressive, Jeff Loomis guests on it you know.
1) Yakuza - Of Seismic Consequence
This album is a masterpiece in my mind, it totally captures the essence of progressive and avant-garde while putting it into a very focused format. From the more doomy and sludgy songs to the shorter grindcore/death metal influenced track, this is an album that shifts dynamics and is really fantastic all around. This was a record that managed to capture my imagination from first listen.
Highlight: Be That As It May