Top 20 Albums of 2010

20. Burning Love – Songs For Burning Lovers

I was really excited about this release because I am a firm believer in Chris Colohan having the Midas touch.  Cursed is one of my favorite bands of all time, and everything else he has played a part in has been extremely solid.  Burning Love follows up their stellar demo with their first full length, and they don’t miss a beat.  Burning Love has dirty, punk rock feel that makes it sound like a soundtrack to a bar fight.  Cursed was one of those perfect bands where the stars aligned when they came to be, and I was a little nervous about Burning Love because I am not really a punk rock dude, but Songs For Burning Lovers is an exceptional release from a band I look forward to hearing from in the future.

19. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

This was another highly anticipated album.  The Swans are one of the most intense groups I have ever heard.  This album isn’t as intense as Filth or Children Of God, which are my personal favorites, but it’s a superb album nonetheless.  M. Gira and Co. mix in equal parts Ennio Morricone and Nick Cave into their already brilliant repertoire and create a brilliant an album that is unlike anything else this year.  The highlight of the album (which brings in the intensity of previous works) is “Eden Prison”.  How long is this welcome return?  Only time will tell.

18. Cough – Ritual Abuse

The first album I heard from Cough was Sigillum Luciferi, and based off the band’s sound and the title, I immediately thought of Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone, and that is a very good thing.  Now with Ritual Abuse, they’ve added a little more Eyehategod (and this time, the band’s name and the album title made me think of EHG’s Take As Needed For Pain) into the mix and that is an even better thing.  The vocals have a little Mike Williams tone and the band rides some excellent Sabbathian blues riffs throughout the album.  They really don’t do wrong on here.  They really do a great job producing an excellent album that leaves you anxious for more.

17. Bastard Noise – A Culture Of Monsters

I am not sure exactly where to start with this.  Eric Wood of Man Is The Bastard has continued to carry The Skull with Bastard Noise and has combined power violence, noise, samples and everything else under the sun, to include lounge music to create a truly eclectic album.  I have a very hard time just listening to one song off this album, but I also find it hard to just listen to this type of music casually.  This music demands attention, and I think it should be given.  This is the best kind of noise.

16. Hooded Menace – Never Cross The Dead

I don’t know if it is the bearded skeletons on the cover, the horror references or the sheer awesomeness of the band themselves, but Hooded Menace will always make me think that they are the real life cooler version of Sacrifyx, the ridiculous, demon-summoning band from the movie The Gate.  These guys blend doom and death metal into some of the coolest sounding songs since… well since a very young Stephen Dorff played Sacrifyx’s album The Dark Book backwards and ruined everyone’s day.  Thanks Stephen.  For everyone else- crack a beer, get your air guitar ready and prepare to make those ridiculous faces like the guitar is actually hurting you.  You know which faces I am talking about.  Yeah, those faces.

15.  Kylesa – Spiral Shadow

Georgia really does put out some awesome music.  Kylesa is no exception.  On Spiral Shadow they follow suit with their fellow Georgians in Mastodon and Baroness and expand upon their already awesome sound.  Fortunately they seem to be closer to Baroness than to Mastodon though in that they incorporate all the right elements of prog rock and psychedelia without losing anything in the vocals or overall presentation.  The riffs on this thing are beyond gnarly and Laura Pleasants’ decision to incorporate more singing is very welcome as well.  I always hear about people wanting them to go back and replicate the same sound from their early days and from Damad, but I have to say, I like this stuff just as much.  There is a really cool classic rock sound to this that also let me know that this has a lot of replayability.  Plug in, tune down, turn up, drop out.  Awesome.

14. Coffinworm – When All Became None

This is one of those bands that comes out of nowhere and pushes you down and just forces you to hear them out.  I’ve been lucky enough to see Coffinworm a handful of times and they always surprise me at how good they are and how they are just now getting noticed.  This is doom that is made by fans of doom.  They have taken all their favorite elements of doom and black metal, blended them together, and come up with a really cool sound.  Plus they get bonus points for having an awesome logo and the giant floating eyeball from Lord Of The Rings.

13. Salome – Terminal

Brutal, ugly and heavy as hell, Salome’s Terminal is the musical equivalent of dinosaurs drowning in a tarpit.  While the level of sludge this doom trio brings is staggering, what sets them apart, really is Kat Katz.  I know that the fact that she is an itty bitty yoga instructor who sounds like she is being exorcised is a big draw, but her vocals are impressive regardless of her sex.  She bounces between lows and highs effortlessly and it’s not so much the vocals themselves, it’s the tone and the lyrics as well.  That doesn’t mean the music is anything to ignore though, the band is comfortable going from a sludgy slugfest into a more traditional sounding doom riff with relative ease.  I look forward to seeing what these guys put out in the future.

12. Kill The Client – Set For Extinction

I have heard Kill The Client’s sound described as IEDs on two separate occasions.  That is pretty applicable.  They are both unpredictable and explosive.  They do not let down on this release at all.  This is straight up grind.  And while they still are very much the pissed off, no frills grind band they always were, they apply more riffs to this outing and have slightly tweaked some of the vocals to where they take on a sound that is not unlike Nasum (this is a great thing).  As with their previous efforts this engineered to be played LOUDLY.  I encourage you to not let them down.  You need to hear this like a monkey needs red onions. Read my review of Kill the Client – Set for Extinction.

11. Deathspell Omega – Paracletus

Paracletus ends the French black metal trilogy that began with the excellent with Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, and the headache (not in a good way) inducing, Fas- Ite, Maledicti, In Ignem Aeternum. Paracletus brings it back to simpler playing which, in all honesty, makes for a better listen.  Deathspell Omega is one of those bands that can do no wrong in a lot of fans’ eyes because they are highly regarded by the black metal elitists due to their philosophy and the fact that very little is actually known about them.  Paracletus is an exciting listen that defies something that has become a norm with some black metal bands—they make their brand of black metal listenable.  They cut a lot of the fat that was on Fas and it shows.

10. The Austerity Program – Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn

The Austerity Program is a two-piece noise band with a drum machine which in itself is pretty interesting. The drum machine’s perfection plays a pretty unique counter to the off-key vocals, but the best part of the album is the level of intelligence applied to the lyrics.  They manage to sound pretty tight while playing on the brink of total collapse.  They are a band that I have come back to repeatedly and always find something new.  The level of sarcasm and smart assery on this album is very welcome in a world where musicians seem to take themselves far too seriously.

9. Integrity – The Blackest Curse

Without a doubt, The Blackest Curse as my most anticipated album of 2010.  Like most Integrity fans, I didn’t care for Integrity 2000, but I always kept Integrity in the back of my mind.  This album did not let down at all.  They maintained their mystery and showed why they were one of the frontrunners in blending hardcore with metal.  The Blackest Curse harkens back to the days of Humanity Is The Devil and Season In The Size of Days and proves that they never left.  They were just laying in wait.  This album has also caused me to do some research on some very interesting subjects.

8. Unearthly Trance - V

Unearthly Trance build on their already strong canon with the cold, arcane and ritualistic album, V.  This time they slow it down a little bit more, add just a bit more sludge than was in previous ventures.  It is complex and demands a lot of the listener, but that is not a bad thing because this album is clearly a grower.  There is a serpentine quality to their songs… like a creature that lurks in the darkness, you are aware of it, but not until it’s coiled around you and squeezing the life out of you.  I have to say, that they’ve developed some Neurosis Through Silver And Blood characteristics that are quite nice. Read my review of Unearthly Trance – V.

7. Man’s Gin – Smiling Dogs

Erik Wunder, one half of the excellent black metal group Cobalt, has made a booze-soaked Americana masterpiece.  This is the type of music that makes me want to ride my Triumph Bonneville out to a dirty bar in a rougher part of town and find trouble.  It reminds you that the best type of fun means that you should be at risk of getting arrested.  I really hope that this is not just a one off for Wunder between Cobalt albums.  The foot stomping  song “Stone On My Head” might just be my favorite song of the year.

6. The Body – All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood

The Body, who cite Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara and Charles Manson as influences, make one of the most unique, intriguing and downright scary albums of the year.  I listened to this while driving through a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the night from Louisiana to Missouri and I have to say, it scared the hell out of me.  It is completely unnerving and uncomfortable.  They use noise, unintelligible, chanted vocals, stringed instruments seldom heard in this type of music and the Assembly of Light choir.  They also have played with burlap sacks and nooses on their heads and are apparently only a duo.  While that may sound like a mess, it comes together in one of the best, disconcerting packages of the year.

5. Electric Wizard - Black Masses

I was not expecting such a quick follow up to the excellent Witchcult, Today.  Not only did they write something just as great, but ultimately it may be better.  There is a certain level of grime and atmosphere to Electric Wizard, and especially this album, that is just unattainable by other bands.  Electric Wizard is the cool, older dude that makes every nerdy thing you are into seem awesome.  They like everything you like, just cooler versions of it.  It’s like they drove up on a chopped motorcycle that runs off dopesmoke and the occult, stole your wallet and your girlfriend and you could care less because you simply hope some coolness rubbed off on you.

4. All Pigs Must Die – All Pigs Must Die

Admittedly, this group was in my top albums of the year without hearing a note.  Once again, like Nails, this group had the entire package of name, art, lyrics and for them, line-up.  APMD is made up of members of The Hope Conspiracy, Bloodhorse and Converge and the talent and legitimacy brought to the table shows.  They also brought a viciousness that had been absent in a lot of this year’s hardcore releases.  Every song feels like it needed to be released.  They formed this band because they had to.  They break no new ground here, nor do they need to (and once again, like Nails, they managed to write a couple breakdowns that brought a smile to my face.  Maybe it has been long enough).  This is hardcore comfort food. Read my review of All Pigs Must Die – All Pigs Must Die.

3. Nails – Unsilent Death

Nails came out of nowhere with Unsilent Death.  I think one would be hard pressed to find a band that brought it harder than Nails this year.  They have a level of energy and sheer audio violence that hasn’t really been present in hardcore, or even grind, in quite some time.  They have a very special blend going for them.  Their name, the title of the album, the stark black and white Hellhammer-esque artwork on the cover, the lyrics and the infectious riffs are all immediately classic.  Oh, and for someone who hasn’t given a rat’s ass about a breakdown since metalcore beat them slowly to death over the latter half of the decade, Nails sure made me get excited about them once again.  Put this on, stalk the streets and try not to get caught committing the random of acts of violence this surely inspires.

2. Thou - Summit

Thou, of course, had quite a few releases this year.  All of their releases are special, but they really accomplished something with Summit.  Throughout their other albums they have evolved constantly, incorporating new sounds and influences to their already devastating brand of sludgy doom, but everything really gels on Summit.  It is, without a doubt, their most visual album.  It inspires some pretty wild visuals.  It is the sound of a dying planet being consumed by humanity and then put out of it’s misery with fire, in order to be born anew.  I still have yet to see Thou put out a bad release. Read my review of Thou – Summit.

1. Munly & The Lupercalians – Petr & The Wulf

My favorite album of the year comes from Denver, Colorado’s mysterious Jay Munly.  Munly, and his new band The Lupercalians, come to tell you the true story of Peter & The Wolf with their own brand of gothic country and Americana.  The music world continues to not be ready for Munly, he is so far advanced in terms of musicality and telling a story, that he seems to have just blown right past the rest of the musical world.  If you have heard Munly before, either with his solo albums or The Lee Lewis Harlots (his band before The Lupercalians), then you know what are in store for.  It is beautiful, yet unflinchingly dark.  This is the music that prevents you from going into the woods at night.  For those of you who think the dark, spooky stuff only comes from metal bands….  You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.

Nearly made it:

Coliseum, The High Confessions, Those Poor Bastards, Kvelertak, Black Breath

Letdowns:

Cephalic Carnage, Howl, Watain, Landmine Marathon, Helmet

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