Écailles de lune
The enigmatic Neige managed to perform the incredible feat of actually topping the band's debut, Souvenir's D'Un Autre Monde. This fantastic fusion of majestic yet unrelenting Emperor-esque Black metal and sullen shoegaze guitar passages comes together in scintillating fashion, eclipsing all the would-be imitators to their debut in 2007 and showing them how it's really done. And to be honest, I can't ever see anyone other than Neige himself coming anywhere near to bettering this style. Monumental.
Let the Devil In
This latest unholy plague unleashed by mastermind Shatraug exploded completely out of the blue and struck me senseless. Shatraug may be a bit of a vagrant when it comes to black metal, but when push comes to shove he does it extremely fucking well. Yes this is even better than Behexen. Uncompromising and beguiling, this is how black metal should be done.
Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
A surprise addition for me here, mainly because I was never that big a fan of Inquisition. They often receive a large amount of flak for their comical image and ridiculous titles. It's slightly unfair as many pass them off without even listening to them because of this, especially when they've managed to release an album of this standard. Immortal worship at it's most pompous and grandiose without ever becoming self indulgent from these Columbian veterans.
The traditional heavy metal revival peaked in 2010, and while many bands were just looking back through rose tinted glasses and completely lacking in substance, Enforcer rose to the top of the heap. Quitely rightly so too, as with Diamonds, Enforcer have managed to carve out a sound of their own yet retaining all the pizzazz and attitude which made heavy metal in the first place. Dense, commanding and extremely catchy, Enforcer are an exciting prospect for the future and surely destined for big things.
Sweden's satanic trio Watain returning in 2010 with the follow up to Sworn to the Dark, and continue the form that saw them so revered ever since Cacus Luciferi was unleashed upon us. Unashamed Dissection worship, only now with an added touch variation, it's the logical step forward from their previous release. They even managed to fit a fourteen minute blasphemous epic in the form of “Waters of Ain”, which features the legendary Carl McCoy. It may just be the best black metal song of this year.
The Final Fronteir
This is a band which need no introduction. If you know metal music at all, you know Iron Maiden. The Final Frontier removed any doubt about the band's ability these days since the disappointing A Matter of Life and Death. Kevin Shirley has worked a fantastic production here, and with the band's extremely progressive approach to the song-writing yet still retaining that unassailable identity which make Maiden who they are, they've produced their most memorable album since Brave New World.
From the Devil's Tomb
A band who I've only recently come across, Weapon play caustic brand of blackened death metal. Blistering drum work and riffing with a bile draped atmosphere to boot, Morbid Angel are just as much influences as Mayhem. The alternation between blood blasted brutality and macabre processions are the record's forte. The Ajna Offensive have a seriously impressive roster, of which Weapon are another compelling addition to.
La cité des vents
A high flier in my end of year list last year, Aorlhac have managed to return again this year with La cite des vents. Still spewing forth their own brand of Occitania influenced black metal with the medieval tendencies of Peste Noire, it's a worthy successor to Opus I. They haven't made the impression on the scene I imagined they would, but provided they keep releasing material of this quality, the breakthrough is bound to happen sooner than later.
Marrow of the Spirit
Probably the most anticipated metal album of 2010 finally hit the shelves in late November. Their brand of heavily post-rock influenced Black/Doom hybrid draws influences from everyone from Sol Invictus to Katatonia. There was extremely high expectation placed upon this release, but Portland's favourite heathen's have done it again. If you are looking for the textbook soundtrack to the dreary, washed out portents of Autumn, I don't know a better album.
Invictus have been releasing some extremely impressive albums lately, and this is top of the pile. Possibly one of the most downright putrid and unrelentingly heavy albums you'll hear all year, with insanely decadent gutterals from this esoteric horde. Genuine old school death metal with a big middle finger to the vapid facade of 'technical' death.
Cloven Hooves at the Holocaust Dawn
It's Helmkamp, need I say more? For those unfortunate enough to have completely passed by Order from Chaos and Revenge, primitive war metal tyrants James Read and Pete Helmkamp join forces once again to conjure up a release of nothing more than all out depraved violence. Comparable to no less than a bullet straight down your throat. Utter barbarism.
Agony & Opium
Bearing the Fenriz seal of approval, Christian Mistress and their take on classic heavy metal put many to shame on much bigger labels. The raw, DIY ethic and solo littered songs with Christine's enamouring vocals show all the self indulgent 'gothic' metal bands how proper metal is supposed to be performed, for here, the flame of the eighties is brighter than ever.
Hour of 13 mastermind, Phil Swanson joined forces with Howie Bently of Cauldron Born fame here, and though on paper it's hard to comprehend how it could possibly work, it does. Taking the blueprints from Black Sabbath and Witchfinder General, add an occult horror movie-esque atmosphere and Phil's unmistakable vocals and you get this; the best doom metal album of the year.
The Mercian Sphere
How could you not love a cover like that? Weathered atmospheric black metal in the same vein as Drudkh with a heavy acoustic slant to it, Winterfylleth are a gem in the British scene at the minute. Focusing on their Anglo-Saxon heritage rather than typical Satanic musings, it's a welcome change. Dynamic and brooding, yet exceptionally vicious as well, with The Mercian Sphere are cementing their place as important players in the UK scene.
2010 also threw up a few surprising disappointments...
The Demon Master
The Sane Asylum, an absolute thrash metal classic and one of the most sought after metal albums ever. This? A shocking, direction-less attempt at some sort of hippy grungy nonsense. Blind Illusion are about sixteen years too late with The Demon Master, and even then it still would have been shit.
Previously with four classic albums under their best, together with a seven year wait amounted to the second biggest disappointment of the year. With Kurbads, Skyforger diluted much of the folk that made them popular in the first place and downtuned the guitars to almost nu-metal levels at times. Boring and completely uninspired riffing and awful vocals from a band who should know better.
Handful of Stars
Drudkh were, and still are a favourite band of mine, so when I heard the new album had begun to incorporate shoegaze into their sound, I was quietly grinning with anticipation. Then I listened to it. What shoegaze? Someone needs to read up on their definition of what shoegaze really is. Insipid riffing and a horrible sterile production, just what the fuck exactly have you done Drudkh?
|Negura Bunget |
Not horribly bad as such, but when you put it up against the magical Om, it doesn't even come close. The Dordeduh EP was what this should have sounded like.
Written for http://www.metalcrypt.com