Category Archives: 2010 Top 10s

mk’s 2010 Non-Metal Debarcle

Why so, you might ask? Read below – no drum roll required this year

4. Filter – The Trouble With Angels

To me, this is a bit of a step backwards. Probably needs some more listens, but I thought 2008’s Anthems… was catchier.

3. Godsmack – The Oracle

Yeah OK, do you get the picture now about Non-Metal in 2010? Ordinarily this might stretch to make the cut, but again, there are some catchy tunes in here, despite the fact Sully is a boob!!

2. Alter Bridge – III

Have given this a number of listens and have to say the first half trundles along quite nicely until we run into a couple of fillers in my opinion towards the end. Still musically this hits all the right spots and Myles Kennedy and his new-found fame have not done themselves a disservice here.

1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes

OK, might be a stretch placing this to non-metal but we all know they have toned down the angry guitar considerably these days. Regardless, I’ll stick my neck out and say this was a pleasant surprise. Haven’t taken much notice of these guys over previous releases, but for some reason this has hit the right spot for me – just enough catchiness in the chorus added with elements of those angry guitars works well. They’ve leapfrogged Katatonia for the time being in my opinion.

Honourables

Not a chance seeing I couldn’t even find 10 in the first place.

Dishonourables

Slash – Slash

Slash plays on this does he? No really, does he? I didn’t mind it, and what a ‘Supergroup Slash, Grohl and Mckagen would make, but apart from this one track don’t hear any fire breathing solos from Slash.

mk’s 2010 Metal Top 10

Alright a few suprises and a bit of variety in this years list. Make sure you take a look at dishonourables – they’re HUGE…..and sad unfortunately.

10. An Autumn for the Crippled Children – Lost

Wow, what a debut!!! This is indeed a atmospheric, sonic journey through the depths of deep, deep sea of doom-tinged black-metal. On repeated listens I just keep finding new layers, all handled by three guys.

9. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Am not entirely sure if it’s the fact this particular album has had promotion to the point you could but not pick it up for a few listens, or the actual fact that I might just like this album. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a huge Iron Maiden fan – I missed all the classic 80’s recordings at the time and thus the early 90’s period is the recordings I am most familiar with, but beside that, the past 4 or 5 albums haven’t interested me the slightest. The Final Frontier however is a different story. Probably more a case that the particular guitar riffs loaded up for this record have attracted my attention more than anything else. All else is generally stock, including Bruce’s vox of course. But messers Murray, Gers and Smith put some tasty treats on the table for this release.

8. Ozzy – Scream

After the debarcle that was the genre definition for Black Rain, I’m more than comfortable not putting Scream in the ‘Non-Metal’ category. Whether it’s Gus G himself or Ozzy, there is a more aggressive edge to this release than the last. Another brilliant collection of songs which still has me with an annoying itch behind my ear questioning just how much writing is going into these songs from Ozzy, but eh, I’ll ignore it as much as possible and just get down to continued enjoyment of this release.

7. Soulfly – Omen

This is 11 tracks of pure fucking relentlesness!! Rizzo and Max work their axes like I have never heard before on a Soulfly release. With Igor providing the cornerstone, lets just close our eyes for a moment and pretend Rizzo is wearing a Kisser mask (and who cares about Pablo – he was tuned down anyway according to Max). Truly Max has a confusing main course on the dinner table for us at the moment to consume – Cavalera Conspirecy touching on the rawness of early Sep, Soulfly doing a darn good impersonation underneath the carrots and then there is of course desert to come into the future – a Nailbomb ‘like’ collaboration……..I canna take any more captn’!! But I sure as hell can’t give up the addiction anytime soon.

6. Kingdom of Sorrow – Behind the Blackest Tears

Well this is clearly stating the obvious, but this is what you get when you join Hatebreed and Crowbar masterminds together in the same room. The opening track for example is entrenched with the Crowbar sludge formula with a hint of Hatebreed sharpness in places, and then Jasta singing in typical rage over the top, for me makes for a good mix. There are some tracks where Kurt sings only, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were actually listening to the new Crowbar album. Still this is a musical marriage I wouldn’t have expected, but I have given it plenty of spins. Crowbar newbie out in 2011 trendsetters!!!!

5. Black Label Society – Order of the Black

Ease up on the ivory Zacky and bring back that trademark ‘TWANG’!!! Something a little different going on here when compared to previous releases. The album certainly has that Zac sound to it, but just not raising the hair on the back of the neck as much as The Blessed Hellride for example. To be fair, there are three killer tracks to open the album before we peeter off into a ‘album-closer-type’ track. Two more killer tracks then keys. Another two tracks, then keys again. He can write a damn good ballad it must be said. I guess I just prefer less of this. Still I’m a Zac groupie and he can’t really do any wrong, so he’s in the Top10

4. Burzum – Belus

This has indeed been the most anticipated release for the past decade, now that Guns and Roses rubbish is out the way. The Counts’ two efforts while in jail can only be described as working with what you have – a keyboard and a computer. Nothing more to be said. Out of jail and with all the tools of the trade at hand, this was expected to be a monuments return. And indeed it has been!! The first track after the intro is a killer and quickly affirms him adding his stamp on the traditional black metal footprints. ……Nedstigning has a surprisingly upbeat chorus, but the guitar undertone holding the track together is just mean. The mostly instrumental Morgenroede is very repetitive but mesmerising at the same time. Only disappointment is after this we have another 9 minute instrumental, repetitive also. Would have preferred some vox. But regardless this is a brilliant return!! Oh and I can’t but not mention as is always the case – track titles being in Norwegian – makes it tough to remember them let alone pronounce them!

3. Cardiac Arrest – Haven for the Insane

Holy fuck this is fast and brutal!! I typically have something like this pulling the skin off my face each year and this year it’s Cardiac Arrest!!!! Short! Ultra Fast! and Brutal!! The intro to “Rage On…..Fuck Off” is truly unique (“One, Two. One Two Fuck You”)

2. Armored Saint – La Raza

Holy crap, I think I just saw a pig fly past. I clearly recall summing up my impression of Mr Bush’s intrusion into the Anthrax camp all those years ago as ‘pigs will fly before I’ll say he can sing as good as Joey!!’ Well water goes under bridges (and over in some places these days) and wounds collected while stubbing your toe heal. All is good in the world – John is out, Joey is back, which empowers me with the ability to judge this latest release from Armored Saint without bias.
The guy can sing and he and Joey, the Vera kind, make a damn good song-writing partnership. The catchy chorus’ and and simple but effective guitar licks ooze from the sides of this release like a toasted sandwich overloaded with cheese. Has been a hell of a long time between drinks for these guys – 10 years. Lets hope the gap is smaller for the next one.

1. Flotsam and Jetsam – The Cold

Whoa yeah, Eric AK is one angry dude on this one. Head straight to the title track for a prime example. This is by far the best performance from him in a while. Musically they have mixed up the tempo a little more than on their most recent release (2005’s Dreams of Death) and the two go together very well. After being a huge fan of their early stuff I thought they had lost their way mid 90’s onwards. Dreams was a stepping stone in their return to greatness and The Cold has just upped that a further notch. Here’s hoping lineup changes are over with and these guys continue to write good songs.

Honourables

Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

The Celtic Frost rulebook hasn’t been thrown out the window just yet. The epic opener Goetia would sit more than comfortably among the Monotheist pack. I have to say though, after this initial excitement, the rest has taken a while to sink in. The first track is 15% of the album though (20% if we ignore the 20 min closer). Is that enough to warrant Top10 selection? As much as I want it to, I’m afraid the need to pose the above question is answer alone. 🙂 Alas I really had this at the top of my list at the sart of the year, so I guess I owe an explanation:
First two tracks are brilliant
Track 3 takes a good 4 mins to get going before I hear what I expect/want
No idea of the purpose of the 1:44 track 4 sound. Intermission perhaps
Track 5 sees the pace build up and I guess this is where I’m a little a-taken back. I love that drone he had through Monotheist that this is out of kilter. He also has a guest vocalist I suspect, but can’t find any proof – perhaps it’ him laying vox over himself?? Anyway, the vox is slightly annoying.
Track 6 – yes, expectations are restored somewhat
Track 7 – in addition to the first track a stand-out for sure.
Track 8 – hmmmmm
Track 9 – very moody and a worthy track to include. Possibly a good closer.

So all up possibly not the best argument – like a lot of releases there will be ups and downs. It may be a case of expectations here. I was expecting the most brilliant release from Tom and ended up with this, which is by no means a failure.

1349 – Demonoir

Strangely enough I seemed to have listened to this album the most out of all my Top10 entries. This is simply because 1349 are a band I’ve been trying to ‘get’ for a little while now. With there being strong links between 1349 and Tommy G, there must be something to like about their music. I was a fan of Hellfire from 2005, but their 2009 effort (Revelations of the Black Flame) put me offside. Demonoir seems to be a return to the Hellfire like sound. Fast-beats and crusty production. Some very cool instrumental bits through the songs. The ‘Tunnel of Set’ musical interludes I guess designed to allow the listener to catch their breath are my only real gripe here. Dare I say however, this rates higher than Triptykon for me? I probably need to give Triptykon the same attention I have given 1349. Time will tell. Oh the Morbid Angel and Exodus covers rock!!

Lair of the Minatour – Evil Power

Evil Power does a good job of fitting an hour of slab of abrasive metal into approx 30 mins!! If you can remember back to the days when the school-yard bully chocked your mouth full of sand and made you chew, then you’ll get a sense of the taste this release leaves in your mouth after a listen. It proves that 2008’s release was merely a hiccup after the killer release that was The Ultimate Destroyer in 2006. These guys are at the top of their mark on Evil Power.

Nachtmystium – Addicts Black Meddle Pt II

This is a very brave release in my opinion. There is some sounds on here that you wouldn’t normally associate with a Black Metal sound. Very modernised musically and quite varying through each track. It didn’t make my top 10 as it wasn’t what I was looking for after Part 1, but is worthy of a mention and certainly a band to keep an eye out for in the future.

Pensees Nocturnus – Grotesque

With all the hailing going on, there’s certainly something grotesque going on in the studio when Pensees Nocturnus knocked this one out. There are a few bands with the name Pensees included in their title and I’ve been quite disinterested in the avante guard-like soundscape rubbish. The first track had me heading towards the same feeling before opening up a coffin a bitteness, hopelessness and desperation that continues on for most of the remainder of the album. Quite a surprise really for me, it rates a special mention.

Immolation – Majesty and Decay

Looking back, a straight-up, in-your-face death metal release always nudges close or into my Top10. This year it appears Immolation get the tick. What sets this apart from other DM releases I’ve listened to this year? ‘Simple’ riff/timing changes into the mix.

Deathspell Omega – Paracletus

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but these guys are always around the mark for me with each release. It’s a guitar sound that weaves it’s way through each track is quite unique. Not to the point of repetitiveness, just well placed and a constant reminder of who you are listening to really. They’ve once again put 10 individual tracks together, however in a single listen give you the impression you are listening to a single track. There are a couple of times on this release that you notice the move from one track to the next, but it mostly flows really well. Hope we continue to hear more from these guys.

Dis-Honourables

Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons

This is a big decision for me to make. The guys so real it’s unreal have tipped the cheesiness over the edge I’m afraid. Things were travelling along OK until the title track. From this point onwards the decent is rapid, almost to the point of repetition. Perhaps it’s time to take ‘some’ time off from writing and recording – the one album per year has run it’s course sadly.

Korn – III Remember Who You Are

Insipid!!! Just completely uninspiring and dull. The cover says ‘Korn return to their blistering roots’. Now it could be said that this is an element of a mix of sounds – certainly not as structured as recent releases, but lets make one thing clear – this aint no Blind or Twist, that’s for sure. Extremely far from it. I’m really bummed by this and Darkthrone – two releases I was sure to have in my Top10 before the start of the year.

TheBigBlack’s 2010 Non-Metal Top 10

10. KornKorn III, Remember Who You Are

I have never been the biggest Korn fan anyway, but I did find this a lot more enjoyable than most of their recent albums. It also felt a bit more genuine – like they we not trying to be trendy or chase sales – They were just making an honest album. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say it is ‘back to old school’, which was of course their claim, but it was certainly a lot more 1998 than 2010.

9. Jakob Dylan – Woman + Country

Jakob’s first solo album ‘Seeing Things’ will always stand alone as a one-off masterwork. A beautifully executed acoustic modern-folk album. This album immediately presents itself as something different, with a lot more instrumentation and an almost country tinge. It took longer to grow on me, and I will never like it as much as its predecessor, but it still has its merits – and a distinctly different vibe.

8. The Damned Things – The Damned Things

Having Scott and Rob from Anthrax in your band is obviously gonna bring some attention, but honestly – metal-heads are a very closed group when it comes to anything trendy. When the other half of your band have the pedigree (HA!) of Fall Out Boy, the concerts are more likely to be full of knee length denim cut offs, thin black ties, and square rimmed ‘for show only’ spectacles than leather and spikes. So, this was bitter pill to swallow. As a rock album, it is quite good. The vocals are a tad dull, and I only say that as they are that typical modern rock style that is just a bit tired (sickly nice with a long fringe combed to the side), but otherwise it has some surprisingly catchy tunes. As far as the Thrax connection, any guitarist could have played on this – there is no Scottisms to be heard. Anyhoo – I hoped I’d like it, expected I’d hate it, and ended up thinking it was not as good as I’d hoped but not as bad as I expected. Understand?

7. Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man

Any Bad Religion fan knows that to make a new Bad Religion album, you just take the previous one, rename all the tracks to something slightly political and witty in its wordplay – and then stick your iPod on shuffle. Whoo-hoo! Must be the new album. I say this with appreciation, not resentment, as that is precisely what bands like Bad Religion are for. Some artists you want to hear innovation from, some you just want to slip on like an old pair of comfy underpants – and this band will always be that comfy latter. The best part is though, that after close to 30 years in the business they still do a better job of making punk-rock fun, catchy, melodic, and just plain infectious than any of the current bands on the scene. And most importantly, they do it with a belt on – so their pants aren’t around their fucking knees. Good luck to them. I hope they keep showing the 15 year olds how to wear a faux-hawk for some years to come.

6. Neil Young – Le Noise

This is such an odd album. Masses of distorted electric guitar, without bass or drums, and some of the most passionate vocals of Neil’s recent efforts. It’s not the easiest album to find the entrance to on first listens, but like most of releases it pushes the boundaries of want has and can be done. It is almost and electric folk album. I’m not sure if there is such a thing, so I’m going to copyright the term right after typing this. Not one for a quick listen – this will take repeated listens to really open up.

5. Slash – Slash

Slash’s first solo album (Seriously? Aren’t all the Snakepit albums solo albums?) is something of a mixed bag, that took quite a few listens to really unlock. With a string of different vocalists (and a mixture of styles) it leaves you feeling a bit like a 92 year old trying to work out how to use a mobile phone – confused, and a little bit like you are stupid. “It is obviously good, but why don’t I understand it?”. It just takes a few tries – and once the songs start to grow on you, it all sinks in. The only downside is that using well known vocalists often sounds like an album full of their own solo tracks, and that happens often here (the Ozzy or Lemmy tracks for example). I hate to say it, but the single featuring Pop diva Fergie is amazingly catchy. Miles Kennedy of Alter Bridge gets 2 tracks – I dare say because his voice is so Axl Rose-like.

4. Alter Bridge – ABIII

It took me a long time (and a lot of prodding by various people) to finally take the time with Alter Bridge. I think I get it now musically, although the vocals I’m still only buying on sale, as I’m not quite ready to pay full price for them. If nothing else, I gotta give these guys some cred for being one of the very few bands around still flying the true rock flag. It’s usually a good yard stick that they are loud and heavy, and won’t see much pop-FM air time anytime soon. Yeah, I know there are a couple of ‘hard rock ballads’ here that have been spit polished using the funky-spunk of the Sony Board Of Directors, but all-in-all it’s pretty solid. The riffs are a plenty (and Tremonti again proves himself to be one the current guitar greats), with plenty of hard rock chops to show The Darkness how it should be played. The dude was actually only born a couple of weeks before me, so when you really think about it I could actually be him (in guitar status that is), but maybe he was lucky enough not to start smoking hooch until AFTER he learnt to play guitar?

3. Robert Plant – Band Of Joy

Robert Plant has become this amazing organic synthesis of earth and human and roots music. I can understand why he isn’t really into a Zeppelin come-back if this is the sort of music he enjoys playing. It is blues and folk and a whole pile of retro production chic all mixed into one great album. I love the way he takes parts of his previous album and blends them with something new on each release. His albums have an amazing narrative thread that connects them all going right back to 1982. I don’t expect we’ll see too much more of the ol’ blonde rock God now that he is reaching his twilight years – but as he winds to a close sometime soon he is ending it with class.

2. Stone Temple PilotsStone Temple Pilots

So first up let’s state that this is the not the STP that created Core, but it is a similar band to No. 4 and Tiny Music. Slightly experimental, a rock band – but not a hard rock band, and with the nuances that we have come to expect from Weiland’s roller-coaster vocal style. If you don’t want your rock too heavy, this is quite possibly their best album. The song writing is better than a soft-shelled taco, and there are some great STP style sing-alongs. But what is with that boring shit cover?

1. Devo – Something For Everybody

I know Devo have been seen as a bit of a joke in recent years, and a lot of that they brought on themselves with their silly outfit and videos, but in the 80s they really were WAY ahead of their time. A Devo album today actually proves that. This album (complete with amazing modern production) could sit with any of their others quite comfortably – but also with anything released by anyone else in the alternative rock genre today, proving that the world has finally caught up.

 

Honourable Mentions

Jimi Hendrix – Valleys Of Neptune / West Coast Seattle Boy [Boxed Set]

I’ll put these suckers side by side, although they are quite separate releases, and were even released months apart. Sony is now the distributor for all things Experience Hendrix LCC, which does mean we will be guaranteed a quality product – but I am already a little ‘unconvinced’ with the marketing. Valleys Of Neptune was marketed as the first ‘new’ Hendrix ‘album’ since First Rays Of The New Rising Sun in 1997. This isn’t an album at all – it is a collection of left overs, similar to every other Hendrix release in the last 14 years since the family took ownership.

Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings [Boxed Set]

Like most great albums of the sixties, Dylan’s albums were mixed for glorious mono by him personally – whereas the stereo versions (that are all we hear today) were done by the studio tea lady on her day off. Whether you prefer mono over stereo is a personal choice (and I even couldn’t give a definite answer, as different equipment reveals different shades of the personality of each), but the important thing about these 8 albums is that they are in places substantially different to the stereo mixes. The masterpiece that is Blonde On Blonde in particular has longer track lengths and completely different versions of some of the instruments (usually from alternate takes).

Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos [Compilation]

These recordings (from 1961-1965) have circulated for years amongst collectors, so there wasn’t many surprises here. The true gem was the sound quality, near perfect for every track. Keeping in mind that these are near 50 year old demo recordings made on a reel to reel tape deck in a publisher’s office, and you begin to appreciate why that is so amazing. These are early sketches of some songs and hasty run-throughs of other well played material. Just another small piece in the puzzle of what drove the early Dylan to become the greatest songwriter of our time.

John Lennon – Signature Box [Boxed Set]

It was the year of the ‘old guy’ boxed sets really, but that is fine by me – as most of the music released in this box in particular far eclipses anything released today but any rock musician or band. John Lennon’s solo years were a rocky road, and not everything he released was by any means a masterwork – but listening to these remasters (done by the same team that remastered The Beatles last year) brings a new life and perspective to even some of his quirkiest work. I did think there was the opportunity to include a complete set of a/b sides of singles (and the 3 early soundscape albums), but unfortunately the estate only saw us as worthy of a handful of non-album tracks.

 

Dishonourable Mentions

Deftones – Diamond Eyes

I got nothing to say. I once took a shit, and when I looked at it I found more of interest than listening to this. I know they can only play 3 chords, but they could at least try to play them in a different order for each song – and at a different tempo.

Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 1 & 2 – Songs For A Sailor / The Solstice Bare [E.P.s]

I have no issues with artists being led by their muse wherever it wants to take them, but if you are gonna to veer this far off track change your name, or at the very least stop saying “this is the best thing the band has ever done”. These tracks are soppy (and actually quite boring), and apart from the vocals of Corgan lend very little to where the pumpkins began.

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

I have no issues with altering your style. Every musician has to grow after all. But seriously, what the fuck is going on here? This is like some sort of beats driven movie soundtrack for Taylor Swift fans. And what’s with all the 20 second songs? That sort of shit is reserved for grindcore and punk thanks. To use a phase both those styles are fans of, FUCK OFF.

TheBigBlack’s 2010 Metal Top 10

Metal Top 10

10. Danzig – Deth Red Sabaoth

I’m tipping if Danzig ever releases a ‘best of’, it will be called ‘The Many Faces Of’. The band has certainly evolved over the years – although its evolution isn’t always forwards. They have moved from spooky gothic rock, to metal, to industrial – but this release feels like the first time they have every really been predictable. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but that they have finally found the exact black cape they like to wear when weaving their dark magic, and you can ensure Glenn Danzig will be wearing that particular one every time he hits the stage, ranting his deranged Elvis vibe. It’s dark and broody, but a little angrier that the classic trilogy (that it most closely resembles), but still in a similar musical style – with all the lyrical cheese any fan could hope for. Weve waited a long long time for this, and I for one got exactly what I had hoped for. Kids today possibly won’t understand a 5 foot tall brick-shit house-buff-Elvis singing goth tunes with his fans swaying slowly in black, but those same fools are still making him rich by buying Misfits t-shirts, so I don’t think Glenn cares either way.

9. Alcest – Écailles de Lune

Alcest are fascinating band. A French (former) black metal band, that are often referred to as shoe-gaze (generally because their black metal ain’t so black these days), with occasional vocals by a woman, that are actually by a man that sounds like a woman. They have strong early links to Peste Noire, one of my favourite French BM bands, but the sound is quite removed from their progressive-carnival aggression. Main-man Neige was also part of Amesoeurs (R.I.P.), and this is closer to their sound than any others on the scene at the moment. There is a lot of shit going on here – melodies, harmonies, distortion. There is gracefulness along with power. All this sits in a big cauldron and when you stir it at the right volume, and in the right frame of mind, it’s pretty magic stuff for the soul.

8. Ozzy Osbourne – Scream

Early 2010 Ozzy made the following statement – “Errr… I.. Fuck Err… Sharon!… Er… Zakk.. <burp> Er… I don’t… <fart> fucking hell… A fucking bat…” us fans were blown away! Holy crap? Are you serious Ozzy? An Ozzy Osbourne album without Zakk Wylde? Jot that date in your diary, you madman! The anticipation was like that feeling when you need to poo so bad, but you try really hard not to let any farts escape – It felt like relief was coming, but would it be just a pile of shit when it finally did arrive? As it turned out (much like my ‘fore mentioned poo), this pile smelt like fresh roses. This is hands down the best Ozzy album since No More Tears (and you can hear the Zakk fans removing their leather motorcycle gloves to henceforth smack my mouth with them, and challenge me to a gentlemanly pistol duel). The last few albums sounded tired, and were full of yawn worthy ballads with multi-tracked vocals (the Under Cover album full of Ozzy’s favourite songs was just plain embarrassing really). This is energised, and full of metal – and the best thing – not so Zakk Wylde sounding as to blend in with every other Ozzy album. It stands alone with its own personality. Let me hear you scream like you want it. Let me hear you yell like you mean it!*.

*Dear Sony / Sharon. Any similarity between the two preceding lines of text and any lyrics of an actual Ozzy Osbourne song are purely coincidental. Please don’t sue me and/or rape me until dollar coins fall from my nose, you money hungry knobjockeys. Thank you.

7. Nachtmystium – Addicts: Black Meddle Part II

I was initially not enveloped as quickly by this one as I was by the Part 1. Assassins kinda grabbed me by the shirt collar and smacked me around the chops a couple of times. I think the ties to Pink Floyd had a little to do with that, and also the fact that it was experimental, but still within the black metal boundaries. Part 2 has moved a bit out of those boundaries, and as such was a hard medicine to swallow until I got used to the taste. Like Benadryl. There is far more experimentation here, but the two still blend nicely as a pigeon-pair, even though there was a distinctly different E.P. released in between them. I wouldn’t say this is for everyone, and it still has a black metal slant, but it is certainly introducing a broader sound and song writing scope. Considering these two albums are intentionally stretching perceptions, I wonder if they will continue in this style – or if the experiment ends here? I’m happy either way to be honest.

6. Exodus – The Atrocity Exhibition: Exhibit B (The Human Condition)

This doesn’t quite have the catch of Part A, but it doubles the punch. If there was ever a band that could be the best example of carrying the flag for 80s thrash – it would be… well, it would be Slayer probably – but Exodus should be damn-well second! It is angry and in your face. There is no pretentiousness here. No ballads. This is intended to take you prisoner, and make you watch as it murders your family. Exodus has made it no secret that the pure thrash crown is now theirs, and with a couple more albums like this, no one will be able to argue otherwise.

5. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Only at number 5 you ask? Ultimately not as good as A Matter Of Life And Death (but a lot better than Dance Of Death). This is a lot more mature (for want of a better word – and as if I know what mature means anyway?) than any previous IM album. The songs are generally bigger and more epicatious, but also slower than previous releases – There is barely any trace of Aces High here, but there is lots of Hallowed Be Thy Name. These dudes are all about 200 hundred years old, so it’s a wonder they can play at all I guess. It scores pretty high marks in the song writing, except for a couple of tracks (Where The Wild Wind Blows, The Talisman etc) that seem to follow a little too close to the current template of soft middle earth bit / heavy screaming chorus stuff / soft middle earth bit. If the songs were shorter that wouldn’t matter, but when you are pushing 10 minutes, it makes it lose momentum. Hopefully this ain’t the final album, but if it is – it’s a worthy end to a band that has left one of the greatest musical legacies of all time, and inspired moolions of kids to pick up an axe (timber or air), and rock out. It was certainly my main reason.

4. Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini

Enslaved are a band that deserve so much more praise, but only a handful of lost souls will ever be able to decipher their vision. They still are quite obviously a black metal band (and presumably intend to stay that way), but they are one of the few that 20 years after the genres inception still find new and interesting ways to work within its confines. For all the reasons I love them, most of the Norwegian purists hate them – their ability to repeatedly break the musical mould they have built themselves, without losing the distinctive Enslaved sound. From the early days, while the Count and Euronymous were out burning churches in corpsepaint, these guys were hunkered down in the cellar practicing their art, finding what would make them unique – and all these years later the fruits of these labours can be heard in the music, not in the legends surrounding it.

3. An Autumn For Crippled Children – Lost

It  isn’t very often that a new band sweeps me off my feet. Sure, I’ve had a few albums take me out on a couple of dates and with enough wine in my belly convince me to give them a quick handjob – but this band had me in the sack on our first date. It is everything a true goth/doom band should be, without overkilling anything by saturating it in too much orchestration etc. It is dark, and leaves a blight on your mood and your soul that doesn’t shift very easily. It is like the sound of cancer growing, but also has a melancholy beauty. Not for the beginning metal fan, but recommended to any experienced rattlehead looking for something wonderful.

2. Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones

Fuck me. What an album. After Celtic Frost’s amazing recent comeback, and then implosion it seemed Tommy G was spent, but then he slapped us with this filthy animal. This is essentially Celtic Frost 2 performs Monotheist 2, so for fans like myself there was no disappointment. This is angrier than its predecessor, and possibly a little more darkness creeps out, but still nicely sits alongside, clearly with songs written during the same period. It’s brilliant to see old timers like these showing the kids that heaviness isn’t speed or volume – its pure evil. Still.

1. Burzum – Belus

After waiting 17 years for a new album, I was prepared for possible disappointment here. I mean Varg has never really been a man who’s word can be relied on (contradicting the details of his beliefs and incarceration on numerous occasions), but as a musician I was prepared to give his art a chance <insert fanboi girlie giggle here>. As it turns out he was true to his word for about the first time ever, and provided the closest thing to a 1993 black metal album since… Well, 1993 really. I loved it back then, so of course I love it now. The main difference here is the production – while still being gritty like good Burzum should, it is quite modern and very listenable. Hopefully it won’t be 17 years before the next one…

 

Honourable Mentions

The Big 4 – Live From Sophia, Bulgaria

How could The Big 4 NOT get mentioned? All 4 thrash titans – the absolute backbone of everything I am musically and have ever been – in one show together. Anthrax opens, and any fan knows that Joey (even in his prime) has never had the strongest lungs for pumping it out live. Well, actually his lungs do the job – it’s his vocal chords that struggle – and the performances here are certainly not spectacular. Good to see the John Bush era ‘Only’ played (a song once described by James Hetfield as the greatest metal song ever written…), and ‘Medusa’ was a massive surprise – I didn’t think we would ever see that one in a set-list again. Megadeth play a varied set, with a little bit of unpredictability in there… Tracks like ‘Hook In Mouth’ and ‘Wake Up Dead’ are welcome surprises. Their set is just the right length, as most can attest that at about the 1 hour mark Mustaine starts to lose his vocal stamina, and the rest of the concert can sometimes end up sounding quite terrible. Musically they are tight as always, and considering the rain was quite heavy during this point of the show, they still play with 100% devotion. The tracks from World Painted Blood translate well for Slayer live, and stand up nicely next to legendary (and probably superior) tracks like ‘Chemical Warfare’. Of the four bands, these guys give the ‘paint-by-numbers’ feel a bit more than the others, but Slayer have never been known as band that have had huge personality on stage – there is no room for it alongside the 3 guitarist egos, and Kerry King’s massive fucking head. Still, a perfect performance as always, and the crowd of goes insane. Mosh it up Slaytanic Army. And then there was Metallica. As I am sure I have said in previous years, Metallica is more a machine than a band live. They are four people so perfectly rehearsed that the energy their performances transfers to the crowd almost feels corporate, rather than artistic. That being said though – it is watching the machine perform rather than the individuals that becomes the focus – and whereas some of the magic of the horrendously overplayed music is sometimes missing, it is the artistry of the perfectly choreographed performance that become the focus. The only point during any of the 2 hour set we see any real personality (rather than what has been rehearsed and performed for 30 years), was when they were joined by the other bands for the historic (but ultimately pretty dreadful) 15 man all-band performance of ‘Am I Evil?’. If nothing else, it was all worthwhile for any thrash fan of my vintage to finally see Mustaine and Hetfield side-by-side playing together on the world stage. I never thought I would.

Opeth – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

3xCD / 2xDVD of a special concert for the band’s 20th anniversary. A religious experience. In fact I think I saw Jesus on the DVD in the mosh, but then again he probably wouldn’t be wearing a Morbid Angel t-shirt – so it is unlikely. I see Jesus every morning when I look in the mirror anyway, so what would I know? So raw in live performance, and his voice like a demon, this truly is the greatest death metal band on the planet. Don’t ever change.

Soulfly – Omen

TheBigBlack’s usual Soulfly response – “Yay! New Max Cavalera!” is cried, and then a week later I usually go “Keyrist this all sounds the same again!”. We all know Soulfly are pretty much a one trick pony. They wrote one song back in 1996, and just play it at different tempos 12 times on each album. But then – along came Omen. This <insert lowered head of shame> is the first Soulfly album I have bought brand new for full price. Why you ask? Has Max written a new song, so he now has 2 on each album? Well, no – but I think the band has finally found that sweet-spot plateau, where they are in the skins they have made for themselves. The one song now sounds like at least 5, maybe 6. It isn’t the greatest thing Max has ever done, but in light of recent “there will never be a Sepultura reunion” conversations, it will have to do – until there is a reunion of course.

Fear Factory – Mechanize

A fairly stable offering, although no new ground was broken here. Special mention to the track ‘Final Exit’. Possibly one of the finest songs Fear Factory have ever written, and a brilliant ending to any album.

Overkill – Ironbound

Overkill lost their identity in the 90s. They went from being one of the premier second tier thrash bands, to being Machine Head groove-metal wannabes. Finally, after a couple of decades in the post ‘Metallica black album’ fallout (those were dark days my friends, dark days…, they have come home to the farm. Fuck me in every hole twice if this isn’t the best, and most unexpected, comeback of the year. Welcome back. Be sure to make yourself at home, and stay as long as you like.

Metallica – Live At Grimey’s

After so many years of Metallica, and so many live albums, E.P.s, and b-sides over the years, even the most diehard fan (such as myself) begins to tire of the same tracks live again and again and again. When Metallica finally hang up their britches and say farewell, we aren’t really left with a massive musical legacy (compared to say, Motorhead…), and considering they only seem to play about a third of it live, it means we get Enter Sandman one time (or 100 times) too many for my liking. So why is this release any different? It’s the proof that after a quarter century you can still enjoy what you do. This was recorded in a basement with only a couple of hundred fans, and it feels ALIVE. Hetfield jokes (“someone’s at the door” when Hammett plays the Sanitarium doorbell harmonics) and chats with the crowd. The guitars sound raw and real. Hammett makes mistakes on solos he has played a billion times. All in all it reminds you of why Metallica is the biggest band in the world, but also makes you wish they weren’t, so you would one day get the opportunity to see them at a gig (not a stadium tour) like this yourself…

Accept – Blood Of The Nations

Any Accept album without Udo has to be rubbish, right? I mean he is the heart and soul (and voice, obviously) of the original band. But wait, who is this new comer that has revitalised this spent force as something that may be almost cool again?*. That’s right – the most Accept sounding Accept album since Metal Heart in ’85 ‘delivers the goods’ in a major way (I was actually saving that pun for the next good Judas Priest album – but like that is ever going to happen! – so instead I’ll use it for some other 80s metal band that no doubt also has members that like to hide sausages in the gravy pot while pretending they like chicks during recreation time on their pink tour buses).

*Note – This coolness is conceptual only. A 32 year old German stud n’ leather metal band will never actually be cool again. Ever. Sorry guys. Take off the gimp masks and try denim.

At The Gates – Purgatory Unleashed (Live At Wacken 2006)

Holy crap Batman! At The Gates broke up 15 years ago! Seems like just yesterday, especially when you hear how tight the band is at this reunion show. Even if the rules of the Top 10 were revised that a live album could be in there, I don’t think this would be – it really only gets a mention due to its nostalgia appeal more than anything else. Nostalgia is probably a strange word to use for a band that broke up in 1996, but for those uneducated out there At The Gates were the key to the door that unlocked the Swedish melodic death metal scene, and although they have been mimicked by every Gothenburg band since on every damn album they release (JUST STOP IT), not one of them have every really captured what made At The Gates a band that countless thousands chose to mimic in the first place. It wasn’t just about the style – when At The Gates played fast there was a sense of violent urgency (like when you have to poo so bad it feels like a needle is sticking into you bum), and when they played slow a dread calm washed over the music. Good metal is more about the feel than the style (hear that fanbois, genre isn’t important), and ATG always captured a feel few have even come close to since.

Megadeth – Rust In Peace, Live

The fact that Megadeth brought this show to Oz, and I witnessed it, makes it worth a mention. It isn’t the best live album I have ever heard, but it is great snapshot of a band that at this point would probably be capable of blowing their younger selves off stage easily.

 

Dishonourable Mentions

Christopher Lee – Charlemagne, By The Sword And The Cross

I was actually excited about this album – I saw it as a novelty, sure – but Christopher Lee (the ultimate horror / fantasy actor) backed by members of Manowar (amongst others) doing a symphonic metal album – Fuck yeah! Even Gandalf was ready to bang his white-haired head. Unfortunately, where it all comes a cropper, is when I have to skip to about 45 minutes in before the guitar even starts (damn symphonic metal and it’s orchestrations), and even then it cranks to about the level of a Jesus Christ Superstar stage show, rather than a metal concert.  I’d call this a ‘dark opera’ maybe, but a metal album – no sir. Go fuck your Golem, Christopher.

Darkthrone – Circle The Wagons

Didn’t these guys have an album called Fuck Off And Die? Maybe they should go listen to it. In fact, don’t bother even listening to it – just read the title, and follow any instructions you may see – then all is good in my world again.

Sigh – Scenes From Hell

If this is what Hell apparently sounds like, frankly I’m surprised. Sigh have a rich black metal history, and I’m all for some experimentation – but the fiesta trumpets throughout this make it sound more like Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ than Venom’s ‘Welcome To Hell’. Lift your game lads. But wait – by track 6 I have now gone on some sort of English Hammer Horror Film extravaganza akin to Cradle Of Filth’s best spoken word… Strike 1, 2 more and you are OUT, batter.

Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy

Maybe Dishonourable was a bit harsh, but I am surprised that a band that only 1 album earlier released the best of their career has now released this on us. I fell asleep. Twice. It was like a double sleep. A sleep inside a sleep. <yawn> It’s happening again just thinking about it…

Metallica – Six Feet Down Under (I & II) [E.P.s]

Volume I. The concept was great – release tracks from all previous Australian tours to make a souvenir for the current one. Filling it with bootleg quality tracks as soundboards weren’t available? Fail. What is the point when it is 90% unlistenable? Volume 2. Release this after the tour with tracks recorded on it to complete the Oz collection. Good idea, and luckily dragged Volume 1 up a notch. Still, it should have just been a single disc with all current tracks instead of this 2 disc low quality debacle. But at least there is no ‘Enter Sandman’…