Gruhamed's Top 10 Albums of 2010
As the year is comes to a close, we will be taking you through the Best of 2010. Over the next couple of days, expect top 10 album lists from most of our writers, as well as the top stories & videos of the year. Don't forget, you can still submit your Top 10 album list to be included in the overall Top Albums As Decided by the Metal Injection Junkies list.
By: Graham "Gruhamed" Hartmann
It seems like Italy has been stealing some Scandinavian thunder lately when it comes to breeding quality metal bands. Accompanying acts such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and Graveworm, Hour of Penance have been responsible for giving their boot-shaped homeland a reputation for more than just good food and women with mustaches. Hour of Penance have been shelling out some of the most aggressive and finely-crafted brutal death metal for over a decade, and Paradogma is no exception.
Who the fuck are ORCumentary? A better suited question would be, "Who the fuck is ORCumentary?" The answer is simple, a 21-year old kid/orc from Southington, Connecticut. Orc Adams is the sole pioneer of Orc Rock, and with hilarious songs such as "Caramel Desires", "BLOOD" and "Orc in my Bathtub", it's definitely something worth checking out. Unfortunately most people probably aren’t going to “get it” when it comes to ORCumentary. A select minority however, who share a similar sense of humor and possess an understanding of the subtext, which playfully mocks Lord of the Rings influenced genres of metal (as well as those who take it too seriously), will find themselves unable to stop listening.
I was introduced to Early Graves at about 2 in the morning on the very day that their vocalist Mahk Daniels, was tragically killed in a van accident while on tour. I was immediately drawn in by the title track and the lyrical content of the album, which deals heavily with suicidal thoughts. Following the lyrics now that Mahk has passed, adds an additional sense of despair to an already strong performance from the booming vocalist. To me, the unrelenting aggression and heavy d-beat presence gives Goner a power which could be compared to Skitsystem's Stigmata.
“Cry for help.” A single drum sounds, echoing into nothingness. Time after time it comes, foreshadowing the dark and depraved auditory assault, which has yet to begin. The bell of a cymbal is heard in the distance, responding to the echoing drum. The band is patient and allows the moment to fester as guitarist and vocalist Blake Judd enters. He begins to recite letters, slowly delivering the album’s opening cryptic phrase:
The echoing drum subsides, and Nachtmystium’s highly anticipated Addicts: Black Meddle Part II begins. Addicts kicks in seemingly where Assassins left off, but after a few songs it becomes clear that this album will take a new direction. The inclusion of pop and dance undertones would have never worked for any other black metal band, but the constant experimentation by Blake Judd is what makes Nachtmystium so intriguing. And it's why Addicts will make many Top 10 lists this year.
Have you ever tried to describe Sigh to a friend? "It's kinda like, Japanese, experimental black metal that sort of sounds like Mozart or Chopin, but with a hot chick singer who also plays saxophone." I've seen a lot of dead stares after attempting to explain Sigh's sound, but I promise that after listening to Scenes from Hell, the band makes a lot more sense. Sigh deliver some of their most incredible tracks to date such as "L'art de Mourir" and "The Summer Funeral", and although it doesn't quite match up to Hangman's Hymn, Scenes from Hell still kicks ass.
I once read online that Daughters vocalist Alexis Marshall’s style could be accurately compared to the sound of Elvis Presley being tortured. I would argue from more of a Jerry Lee Lewis on hallucinogenic drugs standpoint, but both are pretty damn accurate. A lot of grind/math fans were disappointed when Daughters pulled a 180, becoming a more experimental, noised based act. But just as many, if not more, embraced the change and praised Daughters' second album, Hell Songs. The band's self-titled 2010 release took the experimentation even farther, resulting in what I believe to be their greatest work to date. From the infectiously catchy "The Hit" to the absurd "Sweet Georgia Bloom", Daughters delivered once again with an aural Frankenstein which both captivated and terrified.
I admit it, I'm a sucker for anything Katherine Katz (my future bride) commits her vocals to. Agoraphobic Nosebleed's Agorapocalypse blew my mind last year, just as Salome's Terminal grabbed me by the balls this year. Salome's strengths are deeply rooted in their commitment to raw power and patience in transition. They can lure you in far enough with a heavy groove to keep you there when they hang on to unrelenting feedback. Salome expanded these aspects on their first full-length album, most notably on "Epidemic" leading into the 17-minute noise track, An Accident of History. Additionally, Katz once again put on her "war face" and brought another memorable vocal performance to the forefront of the album. (Most notably on her low gutturals) If you're a fan of 2000's doom, this album is a must.
Kälter recorded their first full-length album, Spiritual Angel in July and August of 2009. To me, it was almost as if they had picked up where Children of Bodom had left off after Hate Crew Deathroll. I wasn't going to add it to my Best of 2010 list, but the band just had an official release with CDMR Records on December 7th, so it comes in at #3! The musicianship on Spiritual Angel is breathtaking. From the start of Darker by the Day to the final track, the assault relents only to deliver finely crafted and elegant neo-classical melodies. Perhaps the most impressive track, Time Out of Mind, showcases not only Kälter’s signature sound, but also African style drumming, and an unforgettable performance by female guest vocalist Leilindel of Unexpect. This band blew me away after my first listen, and continues to intrigue me with each additional play. With the right kind of promotion and a bit of luck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kälter become a big name in metal households very soon.
Yeah yeah it's not a metal album, but I resisted adding the new Rufio and Venetian Snares albums to my list, so consider yourselves lucky. The fact of the matter is that Bad Religion's fifteenth studio album is simply too good to ignore. Celebrating their 30th year as a band, Bad Religion crafted one of their greatest albums to date, overflowing with new classics such as "Only Rain", "Wrong Way Kids","The Resist Stance, "The Devil in Stitches" and many more. Their trademark vocal harmonies and powerful song structures are just as prevalent as ever, solidifying their reputation as one of the greatest punk rock bands still active.
This was a huge year for old-school metal bands releasing new albums (here's the kicker) that were actually good; Overkill, Accept and Ratt being only a few examples. But the greatest live band on the planet and reigning kings of metal successfully retained their crown in the most legendary of ways. When Iron Maiden released the first piece of The Final Frontier, "El Dorado", the metal community reacted with a collective "meh." A few months later, Maiden revealed the first single off the album, "Satellite 15… The Final Frontier", which in all honesty sucked a fat, veiny one. Expectations for the band's 15th and rumored "final" album were low, but Maiden delivered one of the biggest surprises of their career when the entire album became available. After the first two tracks, Iron Maiden landed hit after hit with an album full of gigantic masterworks, the shortest of which clocked in at 4:29. One of my favorite aspects of The Final Frontier is that each member of the band brought something to the table in terms of writing. Bassist Steve Harris, who is well known as the mastermind of the band, shared writing credits with guitarist Janick Gers on "The Talisman", guitarist Dave Murray on "The Man Who Would be King", and with guitarist Adrian Smith and legendary vocalist Bruce Dickinson on "Coming Home."
If this truly is Iron Maiden's final album, they ended it in the perfect way with final track, "When the Wild Wind Blows." This 11-minute piece fictionally chronicling the soon-to-be end of the world will drop the jaw of the most seasoned of Maiden fans in a way that classics such as "Fear of the Dark" and "Hallowed be Thy Name" have done in the past. As a Maiden fan, I find it difficult to describe the band's greatness in mere words. The allure of this British sextet and their laundry list of songs which seem too big to fit on this planet is something that is greater felt than analyzed. The proof is written on the faces of the millions of fans they've played to all over the world and heard in their voices as they sing along with as much passion and heart as Bruce himself. All I can say is I can't wait to accompany them the next time Iron Maiden comes to New York, and I absolutely can not wait to hear these new songs played live.