Jukebox:Metal's Best of 2010
After much careful consideration each of the Jukebox:Metal staff have drawn up their top 20 albums, and named the best live release and live event of year
Andy Lye (Editor)
The Guessing Game
Bravery should always be rewarded and The Guessing Game is the boldest, bravest record to be released in 2010. It's two discs of the most adventurous Cathedral music to date, including what will become some of their finest moments. Simply impossible to ignore.
No other album in 2010 combined heavy, groove and melody in quite the way Per Wiberg and Markus Kallstrom did on Mojobone's second release, with a heavy dose of blues into the bargain. Essentially self-produced and published through Wiberg's own label it's a labour of love, and it shows.
Evolution of Chaos
It may be some 19 years after their last full-length release, but Heathen's return has heralded no only the best album of their career, but the best and most intelligent thrash metal album of 2010, beating some very stiff competition.
4. Enemy of The Sun - Caedium (Massacre Records) - review
5. Angelus Apatrida - Clockwork (Century Media) - review
6. Red Sparowes - The Fear Is Excruciating But Therein Lies The Answer (Conspiracy Records) - review
7. Death Angel - Relentless Retribution (Nuclear Blast) - review
8. DoomDogs - DoomDogs (Doomentia Records) - review
9. Divided Multitude - Guardian Angel (Silverwolf Productions)
10. Groan - The Sleeping Wizard (Doomanoid Records) - review
11. Nomad Son - The Eternal Return (Metal On Metal Records) - review
12. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones (Century Media) - review
13. Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition (Nuclear Blast) - review
14. Empires of Eden - Reborn In Fire (7Hard Records) - review
15. Masterplan - Time To Be King (AFM Records) - review
16. Overkill - Ironbound (Nuclear Blast) - review
17. Therion - Sitra Ahra (Nuclear Blast) - review
18. Phase Reverse - Phase Reverse (self-published) - review
19. Soulspell - Labyrinth of Truth (Inner Wound Recordings)
20. Autumn Hour - Dethroned (Cyclone Empire)
Live Event of The Year
Cathedral 20th Anniversary Show, Islington Academy, London - December 3, 2010 setlist
Live Release of The Year
The Big 4 Live From Sofia, Bulgaria (review)
Brad Sanders (Reviewer)
The best album of the year is a melodic black metal rumination on the claustrophobia and artificiality of city life, as well as the best yet reflection on the aftermath of the recent financial crisis by a metal band. Every riff, every lead, and every strangled vocal from frontwoman Laurie Sue Shanaman is rife with the agony of job loss and tenanted living. Sometimes the grimmest and most frostbitten thing is reality.
Écailles de Lune
Following up their debut EP Le Secret and first full-length Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde with a marriage of the styles found on each, France's Alcest has set the bar once again for atmospheric beauty in black metal. It's not cold mountaintops or steamy city sidewalks they seek to evoke with their music; it's green pastures and idyllic dream worlds. The way everything-but-drums mainman Neige alternates between his enchanting, childlike clean vocals and his tortured black metal shrieks is truly a thing to behold.
Season of Mist
After a seventeen-year hiatus, the highly anticipated fourth album by technical death metal pioneers Atheist was almost certain to be a letdown; the expectations were just too high. Kelly Shaefer, Steve Flynn, and their new hired guns wouldn't let that happen though, and the band dropped its most impressive and complete disc aside from the classic Unquestionable Presence. Shaefer's vocals may have changed since the band's '90s heyday, but his musical vision hasn't.
4. Blind Guardian - At the Edge of Time (Nuclear Blast)
5. Watain - Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist)
6. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier (Universal Music)
7. Man's Gin - Smiling Dogs (Profound Lore)
8. Slough Feg - The Animal Spirits (Profound Lore)
9. The Ocean - Heliocentric (Metal Blade)
10. Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (Prosthetic Records)
11. Dawnbringer - Nucleus (Profound Lore)
12. Kvelertak - Kvelertak (Indie Recordings) - review
13. Coffinworm - When All Became None (Profound Lore)
14. Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (Indie Recordings) - review
15. Sailors With Wax Wings - Sailors With Wax Wings (Angel Oven)
16. Overkill - Ironbound (Nuclear Blast)
17. Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy (Century Media)
18. Howl - Full of Hell (Relapse Records) - review
19. LantlĂ´s - .neon (Prophecy Records)
20. Jucifer - Throned in Blood (Nomadic Fortress)
Live Event of The Year
Landmine Marathon Frankies, Toledo, OH - November 20, 2010
Live Release of The Year
Clutch - Live at the 9:30 Club
Chris Poling (Reviewer)
High On Fire
Snakes For The Divine
Typically, my criteria for Album of the Year are simple. The album has to be perfect (or at least, closer to perfect than all other releases I heard that year). The reasons I feel comfortable labeling this album as "perfect" (or close enough), are primarily that all of the tracks are essential (the only "filler" track is Path, which is actually an intro for the following track Fire, Flood and Plague), the production value of the album is not only very good but well-suited to the music, and that every song on the album makes me want to bang my head fiercely. The fact that the version of the album I own also includes bonus tracks Mystery of Helm as well as live versions of perennial favorites Eyes and Teeth and Cometh Down Hessian are just a bonus.
As I stated above, many other excellent albums finally did emerge as 2010 marched on, but none of them managed to supplant Snakes for the Divine in my listening queue for very long. This album was a stalwart companion for me on many a long car ride as well as a personal trainer of sorts for many a workout in the gym. The songs on this album are some of the best - and most experimental as well, in some cases - that High on Fire has ever written, and that's saying a lot. The title track is a monster, with a killer intro such as High on Fire have never written or performed before, and many tasty riffs / solos galore. Frost Hammer is another beast, with some of the best vocals and drumming of Pike's and Kensel's careers thus far. The appeal of the experimental (at least by High on Fire standards) track Bastard Samurai is only surpassed by its sublime presence when played live. The point is, this album is the total package, and it may ultimately prove to be High on Fire's finest album to date.
When a band this good releases a collection of songs that are this solid, it's awfully difficult - and in this case, impossible - to keep from elevating the collection it to sublime status - and so, for the above reasons as well as many others still left unstated, High on Fire's Snakes for the Divine is simply my favorite metal album of 2010.
In 2008, my year-end list included a #1 and #2 pick that were a great struggle for me to ultimately differentiate. Meshuggah's phenomenal powerhouse obZen managed to eke out the top spot against the now-defunct Swedish progressive post-metal(core?) outfit Burst's masterpiece Lazarus Bird. The former was a relentless, punishing assault on the senses, wheras the latter was a beautiful, progressive (yet still plenty heavy in places) work of art that literally gave me goosebumps on more than one occasion.
Two years later, a similar pattern has emerged. Ludicra's incredibly beautiful-yet-crushing magnum opus (at least up to this point) has been eclipsed by only the narrowest of margins by the stalwart powerhouse that is Snakes for the Divine. Call it survival of the fittest, if you will. Such is the way of the world; such is the way of metal.
However, if lists like these were based only on albums which demonstrated perfect combinations of carefully-balanced beauty and power (as some would argue that perhaps they should be), then The Tenant would indeed reign supreme this year - at least, on this reviewer's list. It is a truly wonderful and vital album, and like its competitor Snakes for the Divine, includes nothing but highly compelling music - there is literally no filler here.
The album simply drips with memorable passages (to call them "riffs" I fear would be crass), and the songs flow effortlessly into one another. The musicianship, songwriting and production values on this album are all superb. In the end, all that stood between this album and the number one spot on this year's list for me was a burly behemoth named High on Fire, and as I said, such is the way of metal.
It seems as if line-up changes have always been a constant for this experimental German post-metal outfit, which has always been led by Robin Staps but has included literally dozens of other members - both permanent and collaborative - over the years. In fact, the group's membership is so fluid that they are often referred to as The Ocean Collective.
Accordingly, Heliocentric marks the recording debut of vocalist Loic Rossetti, who provides a range of different vocal styles on an album which is itself a demonstration of perhaps the widest range of musical styles within an album from this band to date (and this is an outfit which is already known for having a wide sonic range). The vocals are, quite simply, astounding. The harsher screams are evocative of those which can be heard on much of The Ocean's earlier work, and they are sufficient for their purpose - but it is the clean vocals (which again, are really nothing new for The Ocean) that are one of the true signature aspects of this fine album. Often, Rossetti's vocals change from full screams to beautiful melodies almost instantaneously. This provides an additional level of beauty to the songs, which are already incredibly complex, yet well-written.
Also, a very wide range of instrumentation is used on this album - which again, is not completely unusual for this band - but the range of instrumentation used here is perhaps the widest yet for The Ocean. The best part of this aspect of the album is the skill with which the addiitonal instruments are used. Instead of being employed merely on a whim or pretentiously to show a high degree of skill, the added parts are instead rather fitting and altogether complementary to the songs. Various strings can be heard at different points, as well as a variety of horns such as saxophone, trumpet and trombone. In fact, a total of eleven additional musicians - besides the five permanent band members - contribute to this beautiful album.
Last but certainly not least, the album is one of two volumes released in 2010, which together form a concept album which form a critique of Christianity from different philosophical and personal angles. The lyrics are thought-provoking and powerful, and again, this adds yet another layer of appeal to this outstanding album.
4. IntrOnaut - Valley of Smoke (Century Media)
5. Lair of the Minotaur - Evil Power (Southern Lord)
6. Red Sparowes - The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer (Conspiracy Records)
7. Julie Christmas - The Bad Wife (Rising Pulse Records)
8. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones (Century Media)
9. Kvelertak - Kvelertak (Indie Recordings)
10. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist)
11. Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II (Candlelight Records) - review
12. Howl - Full of Hell (Relapse Records)
13. Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (Prosthetic Records)
14. Unleashed - As Yggdrasil Trembles (Nuclear Blast) - review
15. No Hawaii - Snake My Charms (self-published) - review
16. Karma to Burn - Appalachian Incantation (Napalm Records)
17. God Is an Astronaut - Age of the Fifth Sun (Revive Records)
18. Aeon - Path of Fire (Metal Blade)
19. Deathspell Omega - Paracletus (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
20. Atheist - Jupiter (Season of Mist)
Honourable mentions: Watain, Cloudkicker, Shining, Lightning Swords of Death, Gifts From Enola
Live Event of The Year
Scion Rock Fest, Columbus, OH - March 13, 2010
Live Release of The Year
Meshuggah - Alive (review)
Jackson May (Reviewer)
The ultimate comeback from the ultimate black metal musician. Varg being incarcerated was the best thing to happen to black metal. It froze his idea of what black metal is, and Belus is what black metal should be.
The Voice of Steel
The first time I heard The Voice Of Steel, my jaw dropped. Nokturnal Mortum has entered a new era of their long and storied career. This album is so progressive that I would ever recommend it to diehard Opeth fans.
Thrash album of the year! It's fun, it's catchy, and everyone is in top form. Blows their past several lacklustre albums out of the water. Overkill is re-invigorated and ready to tear the world a new one. And when's the last time an old-school thrash band made a song as catchy as Ironbound?
4. Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones (Century Media)
5. Hail of Bullets - On Divine Winds (Metal Blade) - review
6. Hammerlord - Wolves At War's End (Conspiracy Records)
7. High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine (Century Media)
8. Blind Guardian - At The Edge of Time (Nuclear Blast)
9. Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier (EMI Music)
10. The Sword - The Warp Riders (Kemado Records)
11. Lair of The Minotaur - Evil Power (Southern Lord)
12. Envy - Recitation (Rock Action Records)
13. Ghost - Opus Eponymous (Rise Above Records)
14. Master - The Human Machine (Pulverised Records) - review
15. Acid Witch - Stoned (Hell's Headbangers Records)
16. Immolation - Majesty And Decay (Nuclear Blast)
17. Hero Destroyed - Throes (Relapse Records) - review
18. Hellish Crossfire - Bloodrust Scythe (I Hate Records) - review
19. Decrepit Birth - Polarity (Massacre Records) - review
20. Children of Technology - It's Time To Face The Doomsday (Hell's Hellbangers Records) - review
Honourable mentions: 1349, Terror, Rhapsody of Fire, Dark Funeral, Unleashed
Live Event of The Year
Vektor, Kansas City, MO - July 26, 2010
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