(As part of our continuing year-end Listmania series, we welcome back guest contributor Happy Metal Guy. This post may make somewhat more sense to you if you also read Happy Metal Guy’s Metalocalypse Survival Guide.)
The unmetal horde is spreading its presence faster than I thought, and I dread the day their inferior presence taints the great, freezing kingdom of true metal in the North.
I can see the horde approaching in the distance. I need to plan my escape route to the next safehouse as soon as possible. But first, if you are reading this and this abandoned safehouse seems deserted and bloodless, it means that I have already safely made my way to the next safehouse.
This fateful year, I could not have made it through the unmetal apocalypse without the aid of the following soundtrack. These are the records that get me “into the mood” to slaughter those unmetal beanpoles as mercilessly as Scyther slashing through a field of burnt Bellsprouts. However, listen to them at your own risk! ‘Cos if they don’t work for you, you might be better off not listening to them at all while on the run; better to have your ears unplugged while escaping than to stubbornly adhere to someone else’s personal playlist. You wouldn’t want to end up like Egoistic Metal Guy, who is now that emaciated figure shambling about the floor just above you. The following soundtrack did not work for him, but he plugged those earphones into his ears anyway to give himself a “handicap”, so that the “piteous unmetal poseurs” could have a fair fight with him.
Well, so much for his valor.
10. Black Breath – Sentenced To Life (Southern Lord)
These foul-breathed gentlemen are back to serve up another bout of aural dirt. Their brand of blackened thrash metal, befouled further by a crust punk influence, is ideal for moments when you want to stain the jackhammer with some unmetal blood and pound unmetal skulls into dust.
(Here’s my full review.)
9. Ne Obliviscaris – Portal Of I (Welkin)
Due to its geographic seclusion, Australia is one of the few countries left in the world that has not been overrun by the unmetal yet. Therefore, it may not come as a surprise to many metal survivors that such an impressive album from an up-and-coming metal band has emerged from its womb. This band’s brand of violin-infused, progressive black metal makes you yearn for uninterrupted sleep that is punctuated only by fleeting dreams of the celestial realm; something which brave metal crusaders such as myself have not had in weeks. It is metallic yet emotional salvation for every struggling metal survivor out there. Get it via the trusty metalvine and start cranking it up on the beat-up iKvlt to get some peaceful sleep in preparation for the days ahead.
(Here’s my full review.)
8. Spawn Of Possession – Incurso (Relapse)
The sub-genre of technical death metal has experienced the same banality of every other established extreme metal sub-genre. Once popular, bands of a particular movement typically churn out music in generally similar song structures via the same methods of execution with slight variation from band to band. Every now and then, though, you get a gem that shakes things up a little. This year, it is in the form of this classically influenced Swedish technical death metal quintet. Their music blazes at a furious pace, as is typical for the sub-genre, but the technicality behind the frenetic barrage of notes and chords feels restrained and purposeful rather than chaotic and meandering. Note that delightfully audible bass guitar too. When surrounded or backed into a corner, play this record and feel yourself morph into a brutal killing machine. Then, you will be swinging that stainless steel chainsaw around like its origami chainsaw and messily cleave your way through those bony pricks like Koko Krunch bear chomping its way through a strawberry-flavored chocolate wheat field.
7. Sabaton – Carolus Rex (Nuclear Blast)
With spirit-raising grandiosity and unmatched patriotism, this record will make you feel as though the war against the unmetal is the American Civil War instead. When you are feeling exhausted from swinging the jackhammer around too much (see #10), listen to this album to rejuvenate your metal spirit with righteous energy. Then, use it to deliver divine, metallic justice to the unmetal scum.
6. Be’lakor – Of Breath and Bone (Kolony)
Another record spawned from the metal nation of Australia, this is the best Insomnium-ish melodic death metal album to come out since Insomnium’s 2009 masterpiece, Across The Dark. The melodic hooks and acoustic interludes between passages in the songs are highly memorable, and they will give you an urge to sit atop a moist tree branch on a rainy afternoon to meditate. It’s great for regaining composure if you ever experience trauma from slaying a family member who succumbs to the unmetal plague!
5. Dawnbringer – Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore)
It is possible that no heavy metal band has ever attempted to tell a fantastical tale in such an unorthodox manner. The story of a man on an ambitious quest to slaughter the Sun God is told over the course of 9 songs, with each song representing a chapter and titled accordingly in Roman numerals. The guitar solos are absolutely refreshing, and the drumbeats are as consistent as your pet rock awaiting your return from work every day without fail before the Metalocalypse. This is a melodic audiobook that is best enjoyed while watching the sunset in the evening amidst pools of stinking, unmetal blood.
4. Sigh – In Somniphobia (Candlelight)
As every single atom in the multiverse knows by now, Phro is a living testament to the weirdness that Japanese citizens bring to virtually anything they do in the realm of entertainment. Hence, a Japanese metal band was bound to turn up in this list, and it is none other than this avant-garde metal duo. Drawing influences from a diverse range of musical genres—which includes classical music, jazz, black metal, heavy metal and musical whistling—to concoct a delightfully spontaneous brand of extreme metal, the duo have crafted a record that will make you heave a huge hedonic sigh. Then, it will make you wheeze with fatigue as it exhorts you to laboriously dice unmetal corpses and stir-fry the little red cubes with a generous amount of melted goat fat. What’s that for? To feed your pet wolves as a reward for their being so naturally metal, of course!
3. Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Piñata (Candlelight)
Candlelight has good taste this year. Providing Sigh with some much-needed company in the eclectic metal department, this Swedish avant-garde metal band has a diverse range of musical influences too. The list includes swing revival, classical music, oriental music, and even nu-metal. It sounds cultured and simultaneously bombastic. Its slickness is rivaled only by George Clooney’s slicked back hair, and you should only listen to this record when you are lucky enough to find a luxurious five-star hotel suite to rest in for the night. Even in the angular and ugly face of the Metalocalypse, such refined entertainment can only be enjoyed to its fullest extent in the appropriate environment.
2. Kontrust – Second Hand Wonderland (Napalm)
This Austrian sextet has redefined what it means to be “eclectic”. If you think Sigh and Diablo Swing Orchestra are eclectic, think again. I cannot stress enough how eclectic this bunch of folks is. Not only do they utilize plenty of pop vocal hooks (with silly lyrics), they dish out catchy nu-metal riffs frequently too. But if you think that’s all, you are gravely mistaken. Reggae makes a brief appearance in the album’s hit single, “Sock ‘n’ Doll”, and jazz rhythms and dance tempos are utilized in other songs as well. It’s basically an audio cocktail that leaves you with a sugary aftertaste so addictive and unforgettable that you just gotta drown your ears in it and forget about phenomenal reality once and for all. Er, okay, maybe it might be better not to do that. After all, we are still waging war against the unmetal horde. It is vital not to escape from reality and forget about our chivalrous quest for true metal preservation. Still, I have found that playing this album out loud on a portable radio can be helpful in situations when you are overwhelmed by the unmetal. It gets them dancin’ in a manner somewhat similar to this, distracting them long enough for you to make your getaway.
(Here’s my full review.)
1. Dethklok – Dethalbum III (Williams Street)
The best metal bands do not take themselves too seriously while still being capable of producing damn fine music. Hence, it is only natural that the world’s most successful animated metal band tops this list. If you ever wanted silly humour and top-notch American melodic death metal in one record, this is it. Dethalbum III is a noble, space-faring metal steed that gallops around the celestial sphere, chomping down on the celestial constellations like a starving Snorlax (and with a mean nigh!). This beast is comprised of such gargantuan riffs and powerful melodies that it vibrates in all 11 dimensions of the M-theory universe. Additionally, it could very well be the common starting point from which all dimensional beings can start discovering one another. When you finally get on that damn helicopter evacuating you from whichever city you are in, request demand for permission to fire the missiles. Then, play this album as you watch and laugh at members of the unmetal horde explode in showers of blood, flesh and bone shards.
(Here’s my full review.)
… And I’m not done yet.
The following two albums weren’t released this year, but they have been consistently aiding me in my righteous war against the ignorant, unmetal bastards. In fact, if Agalloch’s Marrow of the Spirit had been released this year, it could easily nudge Dethklok out of the top spot.
2. Wormrot – Dirge (Earache)
The second studio album by Singapore’s (and Southeast Asia’s) most famous grindcore trio has aged well. Released more than a year ago, this record boasts 18 minutes full of blast beats and grooves, and it is perfect for the moment when you whip out your bow ‘n’ arrows on the rooftop to spray death onto the hapless unmetal poseurs gathering around street-level Hot Topic stores below.
1. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)
The 2010 magnum opus of this American melodic blackened doom metal band has aged incredibly well. It is a gloomy, sonic snowstorm that rages with so much melancholy and anguish that one could easily mistake it for the presence of a nearby Dementor. With no remorse at all, it digs deep into one’s private memories to unearth life’s heart-wrenching moments, flashing them before the mind’s eye, one after another, in the form of a rolling strip of sepia film. Whenever I journey through deserted towns and swampy farms, or am caught in a thunderstorm, this record never fails to heighten the feelings of isolation and despair that I already experience from the less than jolly surroundings. For all you masochists out there, if y’all are experiencing more joy than the daily, recommended dosage (only 666 cubic centimeters!), listen to this record and bring that dreadfully unmetal number back down to the awesomely metal 666 and feel pleasantly depressed once more! No need to thank me. Now get back to extracting spines from unmetal slopsuckers with those sharpened vernier calipers.
Happy Metal Guy is currently making his way to Norway for obvious reasons. If Norway is overrun by the unmetal horde by the time he reaches there, he will fall back on his contingency plan and head for Finland instead (again, for obvious reasons). In the mean time, all of you metal survivors out there ought to check out his guide on how to survive the Metalocalypse.