Plain and simple, these are the albums I enjoyed most this year:
20. 3 Inches of Blood - Here Waits Thy Doom (Century Media)
Here Waits Thy Doom is metal in its purest form. This thing is as old school as it gets. Driven by excellent songwriting and pre-historic riffage, I'm thoroughly enjoying the album. The vocals are awesome, and the songs are hilariously infectious. "Will you be there to rock in hell?"
19. Converge - Axe To Fall (Epitaph)
I've honestly never been able to get into Converge. As much as they rage, some element of their dissonance has always turned me off. With all the critical acclaim surrounding Axe To Fall, I gave it a try and found it quite enjoyable. Axe To Fall rolls along with absurdly diverse riffing and rampaging rhythms. It's unstoppable and unforgiving. I can dig this.
18. Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade (Southern Lord)
Sure, it doesn't live up to the glory of Two Hunters, but Black Cascade is still an excellent album. Trance-like rhythms accompany melodic black metal movements to create visions of grim Cascadian mountainscapes. I frequently use Black Cascade's monumental wall of blackness to block out background noise.
17. Kylesa - Static Tensions (Prosthetic)
Static Tensions provides a listening experience like no other. Duelling drummers attack your ears in stereo while the band rages with psychedelic sludge mayhem. Did I mention the dueling vocals? Thankfully, this isn't just a novelty - awesome riffage and songwriting combine to create a complete listening experience.
16. Be'lakor - Stone's Reach (Prime Cuts Music)
Stone's Reach is pure, raging melodic death metal. It's definitely my favorite album in that genre for the year. It's a festival of riffage, memorable songs and shifting rhythms that require mandatory headbanging. If you dig the melodic death metal, you should be rocking to Be'lakor.
15. Gorod - Process of a New Decline (Willowtip)
This was my favorite tech-death album of the year. Process of a New Decline is pure awesome. To me, it was the best combination of technicality, riffage, innovation, melody, soul and songwriting. The demented hammer-on madness is perfect for one man circle pits. Disavow Your God!
14. Deafest - Eroding Peaks (Ninth Meridian Records)
This mountain of instrumental black metal blew me away. Although self produced with the rawest of sound, the bombastic post-rock movements and excellent sense of melody have put this album in constant rotation for me since it came out. Eroding Peaks works with any mood I might be in – it's just gorgeous stuff.
13. Fen - The Malediction Fields (Code666/Aural Music)
I totally dig Fen's wide open, progged out vision of black metal. The Malediction Fields is filled with the sound of vast spaces and raging blackened storms. The clean guitars and vocals set it apart as truly unique. The lyrics are as bleak and beautiful as the music. Great album.
12. Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough (Profound Lore)
This one snuck up on me at the end. I really liked their debut album, but Dimensional Bleedthrough rules. The warp-speed melodic black metal magic is enthralling and mesmerizing. This album also grew on me quite a bit since it came out. Dimensional Bleedthrough puts me in a thoroughly enjoyable metal trance.
11. Swashbuckle - Back to the Noose (Nuclear Blast)
I don't go for much in the way of folk or pagan metal. Swashbuckle get unfortunately lumped with those bands due to their attire, I suppose. Seriously, this is just dead sexy New Jersey thrash that happens to be about pirates. Sweet-ass riffage and hilarious songwriting make BttN the most fun album of the year for me.
10. Kreator - Hordes of Chaos (Steamhammer/SPV)
I've never been much of a Kreator fan, but this album ripped my fucking head off. The best production on any album this year helped a lot. The righteous Teutonic thrash benefits from superb riffage and memorable songwriting. These dudes sat in a room and recorded the music together as a band. Who would have thought such glorious organic metal madness could result? If you skipped your dose of German thrash this year, take notice; violence is conquering the world.
9. Pelican - What We All Come To Need (Southern Lord)
The Ephemeral EP dulled my expectations, and at first I didn't know what to make of this thing. Alas, this album rules - a slow grower of instrumental glory. A reinvigorated rhythm section and lots of chug make WWACTN excellent driving music. Actually, it's excellent anything music. Yes, I'm still a Pelican fanboy.
8. Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave (Century Media)
This was the most excited I've been for a Napalm Death release since Enemy of the Music Business. The sheen wore off a bit, but the album has remained a staple of my playlist for the near. How these guys continue to churn out the righteous grind is beyond comprehension. Napalm for the win, always. Napalm for strength.
7. Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise)
This was the toughest album for me to place. After lots of listening and seeing the thing performed in its entirety in May, I definitely burned out on Crack the Skye. I think my initial impressions weren't too far off the mark - perhaps only the rating. The vocals are the weak point, but if I get past that, it makes for an enjoyable progged out jam of a listening experience.
6. Black Anvil – Time Insults the Mind (Relapse)
Black Anvil have popped the lid on a blackened, frosty brew that goes down easy like Celtic Frost. Brooklyn's own have infused thrash and whiffs of hardcore into a black cauldron that is boiling with incredible riffage. This album moves like a fucking freight train and makes my head bang every single time I put it on. I seriously love this shit.
5. Cobalt - Gin (Profound Lore)
Gin is a thunderous, filthy slab of crusty American black metal. This is an innovative and ultimately personal album that took me a while to appreciate and comprehend. It's bursting with animalistic emotions, alcohol drowned guitar glory and unhinged, rampaging drumming. "Burn me down, shoot me in the chest."
4. Wormrot - Abuse (Scrotum Jus Records)
Abuse is the best grind album of the year, hands down. Singapore's greatest have ripped open some of the most unbelievable grooves you'll ever hear. Just enough cheek, unbelievable drumming and superlative riffage make Abuse a pure win. Wormrot are redlined at perfection for 22 minutes and 23 tracks. This thing is unbelievable; if you haven't heard it yet, fix your broken mind. Abuse is probably my favorite grind album since Nasum's Helvete. "Here's your fucking abuse of power."
3. Tombs - Winter Hours (Relapse)
My first impressions of this album were off the mark. Winter Hours has become my go-to album in all seasons. The raging black/sludge/core ambiance has become a bottomless pit that will accept any emotion I pour into it. Winter Hours cures anger, sadness, anxiety and most likely, cancer. As original as it is sublime, this album grew on me like my beard. Thank you Mike Hill.
2. Skeletonwitch - Breathing The Fire (Prosthetic)
This album was a revelation to me, striking at the heart of everything I hold dear in metal. Sweet thrashing and often blackened riffage speaks in tongues of NWOBHM glory. Filled with top-notch songwriting, this is one of those absurd albums that gets better and better towards the end. Breathing the Fire fucking moves, and will propel you triumphantly through anything life puts in your way.
1. Baroness - Blue Record (Relapse)
From the first note of fuzzed-out Hendrix-hallucination that is "Bullhead's Psalm," I was hooked. Baroness have written an album for the ages. Blue Record was built to destroy, front to back. A seamless blend of classic rock glory dipped in sludge, I just can't get enough of this thing. Is it really metal? Fuck off, wrong question. John Baizley and Pete Adams rage with righteous triumph on every track, and I sing along every time. From album art perfection to endlessly quotable lyrics, this thing has got it all. I can't remember so instantly falling in love with an album since my formidable years. Blue is triumph. You're my boy, Blue.