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’…

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