(Today we forge ahead with year-end Listmania by bringing you a guest post by a dude who calls himself Punman. So far, every list we’ve published has brought us something new, and this one is no exception.)
I’ll preface this with an immediate apology that many of these bands break the nominal rule of this site. But these are the albums I’ve found most compelling this year. Are they the best? Maybe. Most listened to? Not necessarily. The material I enjoyed the most — yes, that’s more like it. They’re not genre-busters, they’re not necessarily the most innovative (though some are), they’re just what I liked, what caught my ear, what I played and replayed and said “WOW THIS SHIT IS GOOD” or something like that.
I find lists of this sort to be a real masturbatory exercise, but that can be fun sometimes. Mostly, I just like looking at others’ lists. (And … shit just got creepy, didn’t it.)
So, here we go:
10. Obsidian Kingdom: Mantiis
This might be higher on the list if it had come out earlier in the year and I had a chance to listen to it more. I had to include it even though I don’t have much to say about it, as I’m still mentally decoding it. Their sound is infectious and dynamic, a mix of black, death, and atmospheric technical metal.
Highlights: “Through the Glass”, “Answers Revealing”, “Ball-Room”
9. 7 Horns 7 Eyes: Throes of Absolution
One of the “Absolutions” that blew my mind this year. Catchy riffs, mid-tempo chugs, everything I love about melodic death metal. I personally don’t care what he’s singing about, if Christian themes aren’t your thing, you are missing out on a great band.
Highlights: “Divine Amnesty”, “Cycle of Self”
8. Rush: Clockwork Angels
The Rush-iest Rush album since 2112. This is truly a work of art, from experienced musicians who haven’t faded in 36 years one bit (though I have, for sure.) They even got a little edgier on this album, their sound a little more heavy, though one will never call prog Gods such as these “heavy” in the general sense. Just a beautiful, well-crafted album.
Highlights: “Clockwork Angels”, “Seven Cities of Gold”
7. The Contortionist: Intrinsic
I try to evaluate albums as much as possible on an individual basis, but I can’t help but compare this one to their previous release, Exoplanet. There’s a maturity coming out of their music that is really fun to see developing. Heavy, meaty prog metal that I could listen to for days (and I did).
Highlights: “Feedback Loop”, “Geocentric Confusion”
6. Gorod: A Perfect Absolution
The other “Absolution” album that caught my ear this year. The first few listens to this, I went “holy shit!” about once a track when something in the music made my jaw drop. Brilliant technical death metal from a band I’ve been following a while, eagerly awaiting their next release. It did not disappoint.
Highlights: “Birds of Sulphur”, “Carved in the Wind”
5. Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
Yeah. Including … especially including … disc 2. Just, yeah. Everything that makes Devin’s music enthralling is in here. A huge wall of feel-good sounds and, oh yes, quite a bit of Anneke.
Highlights: “Grace”, “The Mind WASP” (disc 2)
4. Between the Buried and Me: The Parallax II: This Time It’s Personal!
Woops, I might have gotten that title confused with some other band? Anyway, this is the perfect modern heavy progressive metal album. There’s an epic story? Check. There’s soaring, orchestrated movements and melodic progressions to the music? Check. Read-along with the liner notes required? Check. What can I say? We will probably all be listening to this one for a long time.
Highlights: “Astral Body”, “Telos”, “Melting City”
3. Meshuggah: Koloss
From the eerie strains opening “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion” when it leaked early, I was hooked. More organic than technical, this album takes a step away from their previous work, though again, I hate to compare albums by the same band in lists like this. Not so much a step away as a step to the side, because it’s unquestionably Meshuggah, and undeniably brutal.
Listen to: “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion”, “Do Not Look Down”
2. Diablo Swing Orchestra: Pandora’s Pinata
Holy shit. What else can I say about this? It’s heavy, it’s jazzy, it’s melodic, and it’s got riffs and solos and fucking opera, for crying out loud. And it manages to be METAL in every sense of the word despite being so diverse. This album shows off why I love metal, because metal can be almost anything. There’s even some fucking dubstep at the end, in what may be my track of the year.
Listen to: “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball”, “Honey Trap Aftermath”, “Justice for Saint Mary”
1. Oddland: The Treachery of Senses
There’s no question about album of the year for me. And, OK, I lied just now about track of the year, but it’s not even close. (It’s definitely “Ire.”) This is their debut? First ever? Really? These guys sound this great already? Oh man, I can’t wait to see what they do next. I’ve written a full review of this particular album already, so there’s not much more I can say. It’s perfect. One of the few perfect albums I’ve ever heard.
Highlights: “Above and Beyond”, “Past the Gates”, “Ire”
Arjen Anthony Lucassen: Yeah, it’s Arjen. It’s good, it’s catchy. I love it. Just barely missed the list.
The Sword: Perhaps the best Sword album to date, better than Age of Winters. But again, just barely missed. Blame Obsidian Kingdom!
Be’lakor: Again, I wish I could count it in the top 10. Probably one of the best melo-death releases in recent memory.
Numbers: Alas, only an EP. Self-styled “electro-metal jazzcore,” or something like that, it’s full of screams and angst and energy. Really fun, and I look forward to these guys building on it and coming out with a full release.
TOP SONGS OF THE YEAR
(No particular order, they’re all great.)
Diablo Swing Orchestra, “Justice for Saint Mary”
Meshuggah, “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion”
Nile, “The Gods Who Light up the Sky at the Gates of Really Long Song Titles”
Zonaria, “Desert Storms”
Ex Deo, “I, Caligula”
Ihsahn, “The Paranoid”
Swallow the Sun, “Cathedral Walls”
The Sword, “Cloak of Feathers”
Gorod, “Carved in the Wind”
In Mourning, “Convergence”