Ben's Top 10 Albums of 2010
As the year is comes to a close, we will be taking you through the Best of 2010. Over the next couple of days, expect top 10 album lists from most of our writers, as well as the top stories & videos of the year. Don't forget, you can still submit your Top 10 album list to be included in the overall Top Albums As Decided by the Metal Injection Junkies list.
By Ben Apatoff
It's no secret that the album as we know it is dying. Filesharing and digital media players are making the art of the finely-crafted full-length obsolete, and artists are complying. But as concepts like "track listings," "liner notes" and "release dates" plunge towards extinction, the artists that dedicate themselves to putting together a great collection of songs become all the more valuable. In a time where good albums (and good metal) are increasingly rare, these artists deserve more respect than ever.
How did Sigh combine the worst stereotypes of black metal (shoddy production, unintelligible vocals and goofy satanism) with sea shantey melodies, a comically intrusive saxophone, a blaring organ and numerous sound clips to somehow make a listenable record? If that weren't hard enough, somehow Scenes from Hell is an enjoyably weird and ingratiating art-metal album that helped keep black metal off life support in 2010.
I previously liked Kylesa, but they never blew me away. The hype behind Spiral Shadow didn't change my mind, but the music did, taking listeners to a desert where stoner metal is concise, busy, energetic and fresh. The choruses stick instantly, but after more spins the psychedelic tones and heavy groove start to reshape your cerebral landscape in a way that only the best sludge metal does.
Any technical death metal band can play; very few of them can write. Veil of Maya take a more progressive turn on [id] without losing sight of their deathcore roots, giving the guitarist and drummer a chance to show off while the riffs get breathing room. The result is a chaotic but controlled record that keeps you guessing over repeated listens (and it will get a lot of those.)
Deathgrind isn't supposed to be this catchy. American death metal bands aren't supposed to have hummable music. Political metal isn't supposed to be relevant. The fourth album is where bands start to mellow out and experiment portentously. Misery Index are still defying perceptions, unleashing 35 minutes of screaming anthems that are as heavy and as infectious as their very best.
Early Graves sound like they're seconds away from exploding all throughout Goner, soaking wildly unhinged thrashcore in feedback that hits harder than most metal bands' actual hooks. Sadly, the senseless death of singer MAKH DANIELS earlier this year received more press than his music, but Goner is a chilling, complex and vital statement that needs to be heard.
You may have heard it all before, but you haven't heard it all in one place, and it probably never sounded this good. The year's best prog-metal album stars an agile rhythm section and guitarists who decided that post-metal would sound better with fast riffs, tight harmonies and a perfectly reigned-in jazz influence. They were right.
High on Fire acclaim is now as much of a cliche as a MUSTAINE tantrum, but how many other bands, metal or not, made five great albums in the last ten years? Snakes for the Divine is one of their best, with an onslaught of killer riffs, guttural screams and mile-a-minute drumrolls that will keep your index and pinky fingers almost as busy as your neck.
Why didn't anyone tell me how awesome the Deftones are? Probably because if they had, I would have retorted that they were a respectable band that wasn't heavy enough for my refined tastes. Being wrong has never felt so rewarding–Diamond Eyes is a sonic roller coaster with hooks galore and the band's most smoothly primal and imaginative music to date. Every song on Diamond Eyes sounds like a hit, and every song on it should be a hit.
DEP made a business of making nearly every metal band in the '00s look like amateurs. If Option Paralysis is any indication, they'll be doing the same thing for the '10s. For all its clean singing, slowed tempos and melody-based songcraft, Option Paralysis should be Dillinger's poppiest record to date, but it makes the noisy blasts of their previous records more potent by streamlining them with haunting, eerily restrained movements that feel like they crept in from a David Lynch movie.
The first solo album by the greatest frontwoman in metal sounds like a nightmare captured on tape, yet I can't stop returning to it and recommending it. The Bad Wife is a beautiful and terrifying exorcism, an innovative sludge metal cabaret that packs an emotional wallop almost never heard in metal, past or present. I pity anyone who doesn't appreciate these songs, and I fear for anyone that she is singing about.