[EDITOR’S NOTE: SoCal’s Nekrogoblikon is an NCS favorite. If you doubt that, go here. And today we’re favored with a retrospective on the year that’s almost ended from one of the goblikons — Timbus, who helped bail us out while I was on vacation in November. To see his previous post, visit this location. To see what he thought of the year in metal, simply light your heads on fire and continue reading. I’ve heard a grand total of two albums on this list — which is awesome . . . more discoveries lie ahead.]
The past few years have been an interesting time to be in the metal scene. Technicality has made a comeback in a big way and combined with a giant improvement in modern metal production, has produced some of the most intricate, precise, heavy, fast, dense, mind-bending, ferocious music ever created. If someone had gone back in time with After The Burial‘s Rareform or Periphery‘s self-titled and given me those albums say in 1999, I would have probably shat my pants and said that nobody could possibly do this. Arguably, this response would have been correct, since most metal albums nowadays are heavily, heavily quantized (every note of the drums and guitars aligned with a grid).
Anyway, the point is, metal music is moving forward and we’re quickly approaching the second decade of the third millenium. EPIC AS FUCK, YOU GUYS. I have been asked to provide my view of the best albums of 2010, and so I shall. First though, a disclaimer:
I do not listen to a large number of bands on a regular basis. I am not really one of those people that will actually check out every album stream or new release that comes (though I do read Lambgoat pretty regularly). I will check out lots of things, but it takes something visceral and unexplainable to get me to incorporate a new album or band into my regular rotation.
Therefore, if I’ve left out an awesome album or 50, this is why. Also, despite the fact that this blog is called “No Clean Singing”, I unfortunately must admit I listen to very few bands nowadays that don’t have at least “some” clean singing. There haven’t really been very many good straight-up death/black/grind releases in a while, so I have to make do with all sorts of other shit. (see the shit that Timbus makes do with after the jump . . .)
The albums I am about to list are the ones that stuck with me this year. These are the albums that I will probably still be listening to 4 years from now and enjoying, for whatever crazy reason. They are in no particular order.
1. Finntroll – Nifelvind.
Oh man, these guys surprised the FUCK out of me. Just when I thought that Finntroll was moving off into irrelevance, they drop this fucking monster. Their previous effort, “Ur Jorden Djup”, had recovered their black metal roots that were almost completely gone on their previous two albums (Nattfodd and Jaktens Tid), and so I had assumed they were going to do one of two things – release an even more drony black metal effort, light on the keyboards and heavy on the blasting, OR something incredibly silly to try and win their fans back. Instead, they got back to what they do best – finding the perfect balance between being a heavy earnest death metal band and being a catchy pagan/folk performance act. They brought back weird instruments (this album has kazoo on it, no bullshit) and did some very off-the-wall things (two versions of the same song, metal & acoustic). Also, this album is self produced, and it sounds AMAZING.
2. Upon A Burning Body – This World Is Ours.
In an endless sea of Sumerian-core bands that all have the same mechanical production and endless sweep arpeggios over breakdowns, these guys actually tried to do something a bit different. I had heard pre-production versions of some of the songs on this album, and a few things immediately struck me: First off, their singer sounded fucking PISSED. I don’t mean like brutal vocals or super low pig squeals or whatever, I mean this guy’s vocal delivery sounds like he’s about to yell “YOU ARE ALL FUCKING PUSSIES” in the middle of a federal prison yard and proceed to beat the living shit out of everyone there.
Second, the drummer for this band is really creative. He’s technical and fast and all that, but what impressed me more was the fact that the beats he played genuinely surprised me. That is rare nowadays in metal. Plenty of drummers can blast at 240 bpm or play a complex breakdown pattern, but this guy did a 2 over 3 cymbal/snare pattern over a fucking punk beat (the punk beat is in 3 with snare on downbeats and kick on upbeats, while he plays the china twice for every 3 snare hits). Lots of really really awesome creative drumming on this album. Finally, when their album track listing came out, I realized that all of their songs are named (and themed) after Al Pacino movies. Every single one. OK, I’ve seen plenty of gimmicks, but that is fucking bad ass. Oh and the production on this album is thick and juicy and doesn’t sound like it was played by robots. Highly recommended. Top deathcore release of this year by far.
3. Veil Of Maya – [id].
Yes, I think UABB’s album was better than [id]. I know some of you may think that is complete horseshit, but hear me out. [id] has some great material on it, and I really enjoy listening to it, which is why it’s on this list. However, my general impression after about 200 listens is that [id] is just not done. It seriously feels like they didn’t spend enough time on it. Each individual idea is fantastic, but the ideas feel underdeveloped. I realized this when I learned “Mowgli” on guitar and figured out that the song has 3 riffs and a breakdown and no transitions. That is not songwriting, that is embarrassing.
The saving grace of course, is that the riffs are phenomenal and utterly unique. I have never heard another band that sounded like this. Marc Okubo is truly original when it comes to riff and melody writing and frankly I don’t even understand how he plays & memorizes some of their material. Anyway, [id] is still rad and super heavy, I just wish there was more flow and more development. “The Common Man’s Collapse” was more structurally interesting.
4. Attack Attack! – Attack Attack!.
Oh man I’m gonna catch some heat for this choice. Here we go though. This album is the absolute pinnacle of this style. Fusing deathcore with autotune vocals, electronica/dubstep parts, and a goofy bro sense of humor may not be your thing, and that’s totally fine. However, listening to this album makes me bang my head and occasionally dance, so I don’t give a shit. The negatives for me are that 6 of the songs are very very similar and Caleb’s growl is kind of awful.
The best songs are “Sexual Man Chocolate”, “I Swear I’ll Change”, “Shut Your Mouth”, and “Lonely”. Yes, the last two are a full-on dance track and a goofy power ballad respectively. Sorry, they’re really really well-written, awesome songs. I guess if you’re looking for some serious brutal metal, this is definitely not for you, but if you can forget about preconceptions and judge these guys for what they are – pop music – I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
5. Versailles – Jubilee.
I wonder how many of you have ever heard of this band. Well, they’re Japanese power metal. Actually, “visual kei” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_kei), which you should read as “a bunch of dudes that look like Victorian-era upper-class women playing songs about vampires and roses and stuff”. Get past the utterly ridiculous image and the goofy Japanese vocals though, and the album is just a really solid phenomenal slab of symphonic power metal. Occasionally really shreddy, occasionally sounding like anime theme music, definitely will stick in your head. Watch this video for a good introduction: . And yes, they are all guys. Yes, all of them. I promise.
6. Blind Guardian – At The Edge Of Time.
Speaking of power metal, this album rocks. I’m not really a fan of Blind Guardian in general – though the song “Nightfall” is pretty rad – but their 2010 release was pretty solid all around. I think maybe it’s because it’s a little more straight-forward and doesn’t overtly dive headfirst into fantasy, which their older stuff is more guilty of. My favorite song is “Ride Into Obsession”, because that song just fucking rolls. So good. Not much to say about this one so let’s move on.
7. Bleed From Within – Empire.
Really really solid Scottish deathcore band. Anyone that says these guys are a Bring Me The Horizon ripoff is a fucking moron and has never listened to either band. “Empire” is generally pretty light on the boring chug-only breakdowns – they like their groove parts and their fast parts more, and when they break it down, they’ll put a sweet lead over it most of the time. A lot of modern-core bands sound like they just used leftover Unearth/AILD/Acacia Strain riffs circa 2002 or something, and these guys feel like they came out of a slightly different place.
Also, whoever produced this album made it sound really juicy and fat. Scott Kennedy’s vocals sound like he’s ripping it his vocal cords with every breath, which is exactly how you SHOULD sound in this genre. Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcvqiObZVCQ; also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY27BtVz3uE
8. The Damned Things – Ironiclast.
Super groups… hit-or-miss, for the most part. Bloodbath is probably the best example, as far as metal goes, and there are plenty of pretty unmemorable ones. Well, this one couldn’t be weirder. You’ve got half of Fall Out Boy (digression: Fall Out Boy’s last album “Folie A Deux” is highly highly underrated. If you can ignore their fanbase and the fact that everyone will think less of you when you listen to it, check it out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. In particular, listen to “27” and “Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet” for a taste of how fucking weird this album is), two dudes from Anthrax, and two dudes from Every Time I Die. WTF?
Yes, super-weird. Somehow though, they’ve managed to capture a hard rock sound that I have not heard in years. Keith Buckley’s voice brings to mind a more on-key James Hetfield, the three guitars provide fatness and plenty of harmony, and the rhythm section is strong and laid back. If you were one of the people that thought Load-era Metallica was kind of a cool hard rock band instead of being pissed off at them for selling out, then this will be right up your alley; that’s certainly how it went for me.
Finally, I have some honorable mentions. These albums are either non-metal or pretty sweet, but for whatever reason didn’t grab me as much as the eight above. Still, worth checking out
Periphery – Periphery.
The Acacia Strain – Wormwood.
Machinae Supremacy – A View from the End of the World
A Loathing Requiem – Psalms Of Misanthropy
Cerebral Bore – Maniacal Miscreation (Som has a more brutal voice than I ever will. Respect.)
We Butter The Bread With Butter – Der Tag An Dem Die Welt Unterging (German goofy-as-fuck deathcore, really hilarious)
For Today – Breaker (yes they’re christian and really silly, but fuck it, good riffs on this thing)
Ratatat – LP4 (not metal, which is why it’s not on the main list. Really, really sweet though)
Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More (gorgeous folk album)