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The Best Records by Year: The 2010s

I've been running web pages since 1995 and my ears are still so thrilled to hear what's coming out. I can't get enough of this shit. It's hard to believe metal got so bad for a few years there, but music was great overseas. I just didn't know about it. Now, all those years later, it's been consistent ever since those dark years ended well over a decade ago.


This entry comes several months into 2020, an anomaly of my usual timeliness. The delay is a product of the time and place I am in life but also due to my indecision at naming an actual Album of the Year. The runner-ups were also afflicted with a 'meh' sense of inspiration. In short, I wasn't too fond of 2019 - both from a personal perspective and a musical one.

However, that's no excuse to bail out on a long-standing tradition. I've been compiling these lists for over 20 years, with my original ones being done way back when I was in radio. This list will be more brief than in prior years. With that, let's begin.

To get some out of the way: one-man band Hermóðr issued three records, all reasonably good and the Slovenian solo act Veldes is equally as impressive, though I find myself returning to each rather infrequently. Former triple-A acts Abbath, Children Of Bodom, In Flames and Overkill all released records with a stand-out song or three though I couldn't name any those tracks off the top of my head, giving a sense of their impact.

Further down the line we have the return of Sacred Reich - their first LP in 23 years. My opinion of them hasn't changed - I like what I like while other material is middling. The good songs on their new one are really quite cool and it feels as if they haven't missed a beat. Similarly, Babymetal has some profoundly-memorable and catchy songs, though I skip all but those I consider essential listening. Neither album appears in my top listing due to this. The final entry is Opeth's newest which is nigh unlistenable for a vast majority of its lengthy runtime. However, at a friend's recommendation, I listened to the final few minutes of the final track which inspired and moved me greatly. My departure from Sweden is one of the reasons 2019 is a low-tier year for me and that song, its lyrics and overarching feel hit me deep in the cockles and the sensation remains profound. That itself does not a good album make, however.

Thus, we get to the top 8 - five shorter than last year's tally. It's OK, 2018 wasn't impressive on a quantity scale either.

8: Tool - Fear Inoculum (USA)
This release was a long time coming and its arrival was certainly thrilling. The album delivers with precisely what one would expect: long expositions, rhythmic adventures and Maynard's brooding ventures. Unfortunately, Maynard is once again the album's weakest link, losing any fire or flair that made the band's original efforts so inspiring and exciting. The good here is quite good, but it's almost entirely when the album is in its instrumental mode. Fortunately, there's plenty of that, as the album is quite lengthy.

7: Rodrigo Y Gabriela - Mettavolution (Mexico)
I've loved RodGab's unique acoustic rock/metal blend for many years and hearing they'd be covering Pink Floyd's Eclipse - one of my favorite songs ever - was an enticing promise! The downside to this is that the remaining songs - which are quite good - only clock in at 20-something minutes. My emotional ties to Eclipse and its 19-minute time make it an every-so-often listen thus halving the album's longevity. Still, the good is quite good and when I'm in the mood, Rodrigo Y Gabriela really have no competition.

6: Amon Amarth - Berserker (Sweden)
I played Amon Amarth's first record during my waning radio days - considering it an elite entry at the time. Their efforts have waxed and waned - and done so again as the years have progressed. Their second and third efforts never inspired me, but the following three did. A few average records followed with Jomsviking really hitting some memorable spots. Berserker feels like a less-integral entry with only a few songs truly standing out in my memory, even after seeing them live supporting it. Still, average Amon Amarth beats many bands on their best days and as such, at #6 they land - the same placement as the superior prior effort. I suppose 2019 was rather weak after all!

5: October Tide - In Splendor Below (Sweden)
This is one of those bands you want to like more than you often do. Their storied heritage is part of that dedication, as their initial efforts are legendary. However, recent records vary from the truly memorable re-launch A Thin Shell to its meandering follow-up. In Splendor Below is fucking heavy with a mix of the two - some average journeys into familiar territories alongside catchy themes sometimes hearkening records decades ago. Guide My Pulse was stuck in my head for days. It's not a truly consistent record, but it does a better job at it than Amon Amarth.

4: Borknagar - True North (Norway)
Like its predecessor, this is not a contender for AotY despite Urd placing second in 2012. I quite like this record and it has everything I like by the band. However, while it didn't top the charts, it does feature the best song of the year: Up North. Personally, this affected me as much as Opeth's Allting Tar Slut and I heard this just after moving to Italy. ICS Vortex's voice and his words all sing to me on an emotional level about the majesty of the North. While I miss Vintersorg's iconic vocals, the album in general is quite good, but it's one I found myself rarely revisiting as the months passed. Still enough to make it in the top 4!

3: Soilwork - Verkligheten (Sweden)
Another band who has had on-again, off-again promise, Soilwork's follow-up to 2015's AotY was one that couldn't rise to the lofty heights of its predecessor. It's the same affliction as its prior two efforts: 2010's AotY and the less-than-memorable double-CD that followed. Verkligheten has a handful of stand-out tracks and a number of very good ones. As an entire experience, however, the culminating feeling falls short of the Fuck Yeah! sensation the best of the year offers. Some are poppier sounding, reminiscent of those years I wrote them off, but others have just the right balance of catchiness, heaviness and speed. The production is stellar and while replacement drummer Bastian Thusgaard does a consistent job, I did miss Dirk Verbeuren on a few occasions. It feels more of a by-the-numbers record which, when it comes to Soilwork's sound, is right up my alley. Unfortunately, it didn't do enough to really catch me.

2: Insomnium - Heart Like A Grave (Finland)
There was really no way to follow up Winter's Gate, the band's magnum opus. That album arrived just as I moved to Sweden and features everything I love about music: speed, melody, contrast and phenomenal production. While Heart Like A Grave checks all those boxes, it simply never moves outside of the band's familiar confines and can't live up to WG's perfection. While the last album didn't get the AotY nod (Moonsorrow foils music for everyone else), this one also resides at #2 despite being leagues inferior. A bad album it is not - Winter's Gate it is not as well.

1: Alcest - Spiritual Instinct (France)
This one surprises even me, especially considering Insomnium does everything I love about music so wonderfully. However, while their effort makes me want to revisit prior material, Alcest's makes me want to replay this very one. Spiritual Instinct may or may not be the band's best record. It builds off of Kodama and summons wonderful albums of yesteryear to give the sublime balance of beautiful and chaotic. The first single, Protection has the build-up of the year, if that were a category, revealing a potent explosion of Neige's screams and Winterhalter's beats. I don't know what genre you call it, but I don't care. The weaving path the album brings me on simply makes me want to replay it. Where Insomnium dishes out exactly what I thought I'd get, Alcest goes above and beyond resulting in my favorite album of 2019 and France's first-ever AotY title. Fantastique!

Top 8 of 2019
1. Alcest Spiritual Instinct
2. Insomnium Heart Like A Grave
3. Soilwork Verkligheten
4. Borknagar True North
5. October Tide In Splendor Below
6. Amon Amarth Berserker
7. Rodrigo Y Gabriela Mettavolution
8. Tool Fear Inoculum


I finished up this list, a bit underwhelmed and I struggled somewhat with identifying the final AotY. My top three was no real surprise, but even among them, finding an absolute victor took some deliberation. This goes against history where one usually stands out. But then in late December, I stumbled upon an album that somehow, magically destroyed them all and alleviated me of any of that mental duress of finding a bona-fide #1.

Decent live records include Opeth, Amon Amarth and Anthrax, but I find the allure of live albums isn't quite what it used to be for me. Overkill's rendition of two full albums, however, is worthy of my time. Both the original records and the live presentation of them are spectacular.

Ihsahn's record is better than his prior efforts, I think, but I never really give it much time. Other good-but-forgettable albums? Ministry, Hoth, Dragonlord, Tenacious D and even Immortal, all living in the shadows of prior albums. I find myself skipping them like the aforementioned live releases. The same goes for Judas Priest though there are a few truly catchy songs I'll toss on here and there.

So, with a whole lot of 'meh', does anything really stand out? Hell yeah, of course it does! Missing the top-13 list are some good albums like another Antti Martikainen entry. The Finn put out some epic music and while his take on pirate themes isn't particularly new, it's quite good. Summoning's early 2018 effort may have been long forgotten, but a few songs on there are genuinely rather catchy...if you can remember to toss the album on! Drudkh, In The Woods... and Illvilja are all good, though not spectacular. Ghost's album was more straightforward and poppy but also contains some of the year's most memorable tunes, and even my kids quite enjoy some of them.

So, what's in the top 13? It's a strange mix of new stuff and the usual suspects. I feel less confident placing any of these in iron-clad positions but for the sake of tradition, I shall try to do so. Enough ado! Let us go!

#13: Bend The Sky - Expanse (USA)
I wouldn't have been surprised to hear this band a decade ago, when heavier music was more prominent in the mainstream world. Not surprisingly, that's about when this Washington-based band started crafting their own unique instrumental music. Their Facebook bio describes their music as 'symphonic post rock djent metal'. Don't let that dissuade you from checking them out, however. Expanse is an excellent passive listening experience which every so often demands you perk up those ears. I'm no stranger to instrumental metal, with Tempel being #2 of 2015. This isn't near the level of that record, but it sounds great and is well worth a listen.

#12: At The Gates - To Drink From The Night Itself (Sweden)
It was four years ago when both ATG and Einherjer battled it out for #1 on my list, with my friend offering the throne to the Swedish legends. Precisely four years later, both bands put out follow-ups to their crushing efforts and I've all but forgotten At The Gates. I don't know why, really. The eponymous single has one of the most mammoth riffs I've ever heard and they were poised to battle my Norwegian heroes once again. But just a few weeks after the record dropped, I stopped playing it. A few standout tracks notwithstanding, this is sadly a forgettable entry into their memorable catalogue. This isn't to say it's bad. Quite the opposite. But it just doesn't stand out and make me want to play it again - a sin that relegates good albums to #12 on annual lists such as these.

#11: Moon Dweller - Meridian (Australia)
I took a chance at this one and was outrageously stunned. This two-person band's record is surprisingly strong and sounds awfully mature for the Australians' debut. Excellent production and catchy, yet dissonant songs total a memorable and headbangable first record. Even their logo is pretty fantastic. The self-proclaimed atmospheric black metal doesn't feel like it properly addresses their style of music, but I don't think I could explain it any better. But that's what I love about music and metal in particular. Who would've thought a pair of unknowns could place higher than the mighty At The Gates? "Not I," said the old man.

#10: Omnium Gatherum - The Burning Cold (Finland)
This is one of those bands who I always should have liked. The Finns are simply masters nowadays, after Amorphis, Kalmah, Insomnium and that little old greatest band ever Moonsorrow graced mine ears. But, for some reason, Omnium Gatherum never quite beckoned for me to return. This album is solid, heavy and memorable, even if they feel like a less varied Insomnium.

#9: RÛR - RÛR (Norway)
This one-man band issued a three-track EP in 2017 and then a one-track (15-minute) follow up this year. Combining those four songs into one self-titled record, RÛR has put forth a remarkable blackened-inspired debut. The 45-minute journey advances through several genres and I can't even keep track of what's what in 2018. Atmospheric black metal likely fits the bill with a good balance of the two. What else is there to say? Just listen to this album. It's good.

#8: 1914 - The Blind Leading The Blind (Ukraine)
With Marduk addressing extreme-metal World War II fanaticism, who would have thought a Ukrainian band would turn the clocks back and name themselves after the start of the Great War itself? This was a late-in-the-year adoption but its blending of genres, melodicism, crushing riffs and passionate vocals make for an incredibly-memorable effort. It's got one of the year's best album covers and is one I'll continue to return to throughout 2019.

#7: Shylmagoghnar - Transcience (Netherlands)
Shyl-ma-gogh-nar. Gotta break that name up otherwise it'll always be Shyl plus a few odd syllables. What the hell is this? The Netherlands? When's the last time a Dutch band would end up on a list o'mine? Likely The Gathering with their 1992 record Always. OMG, that's a long time ago.

I don't know what to say about this band. A Dutch duo crafting...wait for it...atmospheric black metal? It's not the first time that combo has been on this list, but I can't say that any of those receiving the categorization are even remotely related. The sophomore effort is, a lot like Moon Dweller, surprisingly mature and ventures throughout genres swiftly and smoothly. Strange that one member merely does vocals and nearly 30 of the 72-minute play length is instrumental only. The five 'normal' songs are no less impressive, with vocals suiting the bill perfectly. The album's finale, the 13-minute instrumental Life may be the highlight, once again deftly jumping between genres to craft a spectacular goodbye to a wonderful record.

#6: Amorphis - Queen Of Time (Finland)
This may be the most diverse record by the legendary Finns. I often wonder about the consistent quality when I see words like 'diverse' in reviews. However, this band has truly been rather dependable in recent years. The mighty Amorphis has issued seven LPs, a re-recorded session and a live album since returning to form in 2006, never really putting out a disappointing effort. As high as this may rank in my annual list here, I find myself not listening to it completely throughout, likely due to that diversity. Individually, it's remarkable, with changing pacing, instrumentation, female vocals complementing Tomi's powerful growls and the standard Amorphis melodies. The bonus tracks fit in really quite well and missing out on those in the standard editions is actually a detriment. This is a great record with an excellent cover and may only truly be forgotten due to the band's pantheon of consistent records.

#5: Dimmu Borgor - Eonian (Norway)
I absolutely loved Dimmu Borgir back in 1997. Hearing Enthrone Darkness Triumphant effectively changed my view of the world. Well, it kinda helped that 1997 is when I got Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk and Nemesis Divina as well. Shit, Norway slayed in 1997. I digress.

But nothing ever lived up to that Dimmu offering. The following EP was solid, but the next few records couldn't quite capture the magic. Death Cult Armageddon renewed my excitement but then Nick Barker left. Quite the contrast to the steady Amorphis above, we've now only seen our third record since DCA in 2003 including a hefty eight-year wait since the last and I only truly like a handful from Abrahadabra. So, when Eonian dropped, it was with hesitant excitement. That level of enthusiasm and expectation was generally met with a heavy, catchy, harmony-infused and relatively traditional outing. It's a solid record which I often listen to straight through, unlike Amorphis. It sounds great, and it's familiar comfort food, despite decades having passed since being genuinely passionate about the band. While it doesn't reinvent anything, it doesn't need to. I quite like this and toss it on consistently, with songs like Lightbringer and Archais Correspondence sounding like a 21st-century Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. That's about the best compliment I can offer and that's why it lands itself as #5 on this prestigious list.

The (Former) Top Three!!!
Now we hit (what was originally) the top three. As I write this, I'm not certain if the order listed here is correct. Each of them could be place in each position equally. I've never struggled quite like I have with this part of the list before. Thus, as of today, this is correct but who knows if I'll emend things to reflect how I feel on another day. Having said that, let's begin...

#4: Einherjer - Norrøne Spor (Norway)
Easily my most anticipated album of 2018, Einherjer's follow up to 2014's AotY is excellent. However, with a ceiling as high as "the best record of the year", anything less feels like a step down. This record has a pair of songs I don't love and the remainder is solid, catchy and entirely Viking. I love this band, their sound, their lyrics (which I usually couldn't care about) and the Norwegian they sing in. But as good as it is, handily topping every other band so far on this list, it doesn't stand toe-to-toe with its own predecessor and I struggle placing it as AotY. It's difficult when "Not #1" is the worst critique I can have for a band.

But as negative as this all may sound, the album's highlights are spectacular. Mot Vest, Spre Vingene, Døden Tar Ingen Fangar and Fra Konge Te Narr all inspire me to sing along and make me wonder if #4 is at all an accurate placement.

#3: Skeletonwitch - Devouring Radiant Light (USA)
I've been waiting for Skeletonwitch to put out this very record. After liking them for several years, the change of vocalist was followed by a change in focus. Their four-song EP was my #3 of 2016 even with its abbreviated duration. 2018 brings the LP and I was psyched beyond belief. The first single, Fen Of Shadows is likely my Song Of The Year, but the rest of the album couldn't live up to the bar set by that track. I find the last few songs just to be good, and after four of the first five being fucking killer, I struggle with the same issue as Einherjer: Is this AotY? Had it just been five songs instead of eight, it very well could have been.

Regardless of its position in my insignificant list, I will say that this is my favorite Skeletonwitch material ever - well, along with the aforementioned EP. Its maturity was a long time coming and the highlights of this record are the highlights of the entire year.

#2: Kalmah - Palo (Finland)
Palo is, by all accounts, exactly what you expect when you play a Kalmah record. Some bands can pull off that feat album after album with no issue. Others get stale. My former favorite Finnish band has never put out a bad LP. Ever. That's impressive. 2008's For The Revolution was their weakest effort, yet it still won AotY.

But for some reason, my anticipation for Palo wasn't quite what it was for the last 15 years. In fact, it likely suffered from Einherjer's fate - the follow up to a prior AotY. And while I loved Av Oss, For Oss by the Norwegians, Kalmah's Seventh Swamphony was my Album of the Year 2013 and possibly the best album in their entire catalogue. So, once again, a consistent and high-quality follow-up isn't quite enough to secure yourself as the best of the year.

However, final end-of-the-year spins left me with the easy tiebreaker (among the original top 3): Palo doesn't have any bad moments. Its highs may not match Skeletonwitch, but its lows never dip. It is 100% Kalmah awesomeness from the opening notes to the finale. My tastes may be changing, thanks to the life-ruining Moonsorrow, but that makes this album no less impressive. Five AotY records in a row? That would've been six if not for this surprise AotY.

#1: Sulphur Aeon - The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos (Germany)
I really quite liked this band's last offering: an outrageously-heavy and fast-as-hell effort that I didn't listen to a ton, but which impressed upon each spin. After struggling with those prior three bands, I was never fully confident in naming any of them as #1. In some other end-of-the-year lists, I noticed the German band issued a record on the 21st of December. I grabbed this quickly and tossed a middle track on just to get a feel. O.M.F.G. I was essentially hooked immediately. Like its predecessor, it absolutely fucking crushes. Its fastest moments are just blistering with a oppressive heaviness accompanying it. At 42 years old, I sometimes wonder if the extreme music I love is all in the past. And then this comes out and I realize that is never going away.

No, this is right up there with the heavy records of yesteryear and the speed of my favorite Norwegian artists. But if it were simply the last record again, that wouldn't allow it to rise up above names like At The Gates, Dimmu Borgir, Einherjer or the mightiest Kalmah. No, the nameless German quartet elaborated on its melodicism which simply put it over the top. They aren't to be found in every song, but then they do, they sing and sail and offset the sheer brutality of the rest of the album perfectly. I wonder how fair it is to name an AotY after such a late start, but that hesitation I get while debating other band's outings doesn't apply here. This record is just goddamn spectacular, it makes me want to roar and it cannot be played loud enough. Fan-bloody-tastic.

Top 13 of 2018
1. Sulphur Aeon The Scythe Of Cosmic Chaos
2. Kalmah Palo
3. Skeletonwitch Devouring Radiant Light
4. Einherjer Norrøne Spor
5. Dimmu Borgir Eonian
6. Amorphis Queen Of Time
7. Shylmagoghnar Strength In Numbers
8. 1914 The Blind Leading The Blind
10. Omnium Gatherum The Burning Cold
11. Moon Dweller Meridian
12. At The Gates To Drink From The Night Itself
13. Bend The Sky Expanse


It's now been 20 years since the dark ages of metal ended and that means there's a high bar to maintain in the glorious AotY category. 2017 stands among its peers with some diverse and truly memorable records. I'll do another top-10 with some honorable mentions like I've done in recent years. Shall we?

Noteworthy Releases
Alestorm No Grave But The Sea
Anathema The Optimist
The Black Dahlia Murder Nightbringers
Galactic Empire Galactic Empire
Godflesh Post Self
Ithilien Shaping The Soul
Tony MacAlpine Death Of Roses
The Moon And The Nightspirit Metanoia
The Night Flight Orchestra Amber Galactic
Overkill The Grinding Wheel
Witchery I Am Legion

I'll admit a bit of disappointment in a few. It may be a situation where I am changing, not as much as the records or bands themselves. Particularly-good was Ithilien, a new band to my ears, and the final three Overkill songs, the last being a great cover song. Godflesh is one I feel needs time to breathe, I cannot really say whether I like it, dislike it or love it. Strange indeed.

There were a few rather average live records (Dimmu Borgir, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden), but nothing to write home about. OK, now on to the top!

#10: Arch Enemy - Will To Power (Sweden)
Alissa's second album may be a great record, but it's only a good Arch Enemy one. Several songs fit perfectly in the band's lengthy catalogue, but few really stand out among their peers. The attempt at clean singing is noble, but not very fitting and ends up entirely skippable. I'll go back to two or three tracks but likely won't play the entire thing as a whole. Yet another top-10 album, however, is hardly bad.

#9: King Of Asgard - :taudr: (Sweden)
Several former members of the incredible Mithotyn went on to Falconer but I simply can't listen to that band. I'd never heard of this King Of Asgard, but it is a worthy follow-up to one of my favorite late-90s Viking/folk-metal bands. :taudr: is a great, short EP culminating in a cover of a Mithotyn classic, even if I haven't a clue what the album name signifies. This is the first of several bands on this list I wasn't familiar with prior to 2017.

#8: Skyfire - Liberation In Death (Sweden)
After naming Esoteric my AotY of 2009, the band effectively disappeared. I was utterly surprised this past summer when a new EP dropped with little fanfare. The four songs sound just like I remember, not a bad thing at all. I was a huge fan of the band (#3 in 2004, #7 in 2003) and was disappointed to see them so quiet for so long. I'm hoping this is a sign of more to come!

#7: Satyricon - Deep Calleth Upon Deep (Norway)
Oh Satyr. There was simply no way to ever live up to Nemesis Divina and he never really tried. But while he explored more and more, the distance between modern Satyricon and their greatness grew. That culminated in an unlistenable eponymous record four years ago. Once again, where do you go from there? With this new record, I can't even say what genre it is. It begins with Frost being Frost, playing fast where it oughtn't fit...but yet it totally does! It skips to catchy choruses, modern-sounding riffs and it's...surprisingly-good! It's such a weird record, more for passive listening than active, but is easily the most-listenable album in over a decade.

#6: The Haunted - Strength In Numbers (Sweden)
While Exit Wounds landed at #12 of 2014, I only really listen to four songs or so. My favorite part of the album is its sheer heaviness. It's crushing. But it wasn't as memorable as I had hoped it would be and didn't capture the majesty of earlier Haunted albums. The new record suffers from similar issues but improves with more catchy tracks and equal sheer, fucking heaviness. I don't believe the band can ever recapture the greatness of a decade-and-a-half ago, but that's OK. You want someting that just utterly crushes? Toss on a few of these songs!

#5: Druadan Forest - The Lost Dimension (Finland)
Move over Summoning! This one was a rare, lucky guess. I liked the band name. I liked the album cover. I tried it out and loved the record! This band is strange. The name itself is based on Tolkien's work and their late-1990s demos had familiar names like Mirkwood and Minas Tirith but then they disappeared for nearly 20 years. While they have a few recent releases, I have yet to listen to any of it. However, The Lost Dimension is a remarkable record that sounds much like my favorite Austrian band, Summoning. This Finnish project (yeah, another great Finnish band!) is just as good and this album is better than what I've heard of the upcoming Summoning LP.

If epic, ambient black metal is a genre, then Druadan Forest is atop of the field.

#4: Wintersun - The Forest Seasons (Finland)
I'm relatively new to this band, formed by yet another Finn, Ensiferum's Jari Mäenpää. It was one of those bands I'd always wondered if I'd like and with a new record on the horizon, there was no time like the present! And so, this spring, I picked up 2012's Time I and was blown away. It's got a little of everything and sounds remarkable. And so when this summer's The Forest Seasons arrived, replete with some ridiculous packages (an eight-disc version?), I eagerly gobbled it up. Three of its four songs are remarkable, sweeping, grand and technically spectacular. I love this record.

#3: Nargaroth - Era Of Threnody (Germany)
Nargaroth represents the fourth band on this list whom I'd never heard prior to 2017. This German outfit is the brainchild of Ash, yet another band on this list which is essentially just one member. Harsh yet melodic, fast yet groovy, it covers the gamut of what I love about music. Its finale is triumphantly-epic and a surprisingly-hummable black metal outro. There are a few so-so songs in the middle, but the remainder are just so good that it brings the Era Of Threnody all the way up to #3!

#2: Kreator - Gods Of Violence (Germany)
Back-to-back bands from Germany? In fact, no band from the nation has been this high up on a list since Blind Guardian's AotY in 2002. I quite liked People Of The Lie, then somewhat liked Outcast in 1997 (and managed to meet Mille that same year!) but never listened again for a solid two decades. Something inspired me to check out their new LP and OMG, it's phenomenal! Thrashy, speedy segments are offset by catchy harmonies. The riffs and the choruses are memorable. This is a pure thrash record and while the genre hasn't been my favorite in a number of years, there's no disputing this record's greatness.

#1A: Moonsorrow (Finland)
While no Moonsorrow record came out in 2017, the band was easily my most-listened-to of the year. Sometime in the early autumn, I ventured into the band's back catalogue to truly learn and love the splendour of this remarkable band. As it turns out, the Finnish quintet has never put out a bad record thus making them the best band in the history of music. In case you didn't know. But, since they have no album this year, they shouldn't be on this list. Instead, move on to the true #1. Sorry for that...

#1: Vintersorg - Till Fjälls - Del II (Sweden)
Very few bands can pull off a sequel record. More often than not it is a lackluster attempt to cash-in: Queensryche and King Diamond come to mind. And while Vintersorg went from greatness to average and back, I expected a return to Till Fjälls would fall in line with those aforementioned bands. And my first spins didn't do much to convince me otherwise.

But upon further inspection, this album has a multitude of layers which require time to appreciate. Choruses contain several vocal tracks with memorable themes. The Swedish lyrics, now somewhat understandable, flow much like albums from 20 years ago. Riffs and melodies, sometimes simple, other times complex, all stick in my head for hours. It is a better record than 2014's Naturbål, but not quite as good as the band's first AotY 2012's Orkan (or the original Till Fjälls or Ödemarkens Son, for the record.) I digress.

But the real highlight is the subset, Tillbaka Till Källorna, a four-song EP within the record (it's strange). The song itself is the strongest on the album and its chorus I can recall on demand at any moment. That tune represents precisely what is so great about the band.

Top 10 of 2017
1. Vintersorg Till Fjälls - Del II
2. Kreator Gods Of Violence
3. Nargaroth Era Of Threnody
4. Wintersun The Forest Seasons
5. Druadan Forest The Lost Dimension
6. The Haunted Strength In Numbers
7. Satyricon Deep Calleth Upon Deep
8. Skyfire Liberation In Death
9. King Of Asgard :taudr:
10. Arch Enemy Will To Power


A pretty solid year with some stand-out records. Recapping a top-10 this year...


Witchery - In His Infernal Majesty's Service
Exactly what I expected here.

October Tide - Winged Waltz
So much better than the boring last album. But I never find myself putting it on. It's heavy as hell at least!

Borknagar - Winter Thrice
So much weaker than the 2nd-best album of 2012. The disappointment is hard to swallow.

Good Shit

Dark Tranquillity - Atoma
In Flames - Battles

So, I moved to Gothenburg and within two months two of the most notable Gothenburg metal bands release albums? Both are good, DT has been solid the last few years and IF is catchy. Good albums.

Final - Live Reprocessed - Birmingham 2009
Justin Broadrick is prolific as ever and his diversity is his 2016 efforts. JK Flesh, Final and Council Estate Electronics all had strong albums, one making into my top-10.

Ghost - Popestar
A poppy new song and four covers? They may not be my favorite style of music but they are spectacular at what they do. I expect album #4 to be wonderful as well.

Now to my Top Ten!

10: JK Flesh - Rise Above (UK)
JKB conjured up a 2016 version of Techno Animal for a gritty entry into the top 10. It's heavy and bleak and is what I've been missing from his discography as of late. It's been 15 years since TA folded and even without K. Mart, Justin proves he still has what it takes to push the genre forward.

9: Abbath - Abbath (Norway)
After Abbath's well-publicized split from the mighty Immortal, he issued an impressive and blistering-fast 'debut'. The record feels a bit uneven, with some that I will often skip and others I'll listen to far more frequently. This is a memorable record worthy of the top 10 and some songs are staples of my "I need speed" playlist. I'm curious to see what Demonaz and Horgh can pull together to counter this.

8: Metallica - Hardwired...To Self-Destruct (USA)
It was the summer of '89 and I, a 13-year-old boy, had just gotten into Metallica. It was prime because that is the critical point where Metallica was the best band that had ever existed. I still stand behind this. The 1989 version of Metallica was the best any band has ever been. I think we can fast-forward 20 years with no real issue as we know that story.

Death Magnetic was probably the second-best album in 2008 and I knew there was no way this double-CD (why?) could live up. However, the twelve songs could be culled down to make a pretty kick-ass EP. The singles were about the best songs on the album, of course barring the epic finale. Spit Out The Bone is clearly the album's best. Just writing this makes me want to listen.

However, some of the songs on that second disc are just cringe-worthy. I respect the band. Essentially they can do whatever the fuck they want. Of anyone, they've earned that! OK, I'll say this album is ranked #6 in their 30+ year library. The classic four, DM and then this. We fast-forwarded past it, but oh how I loathe that black album. Just writing this makes me angry. Let's move on.

7: Einherjer - Dragons Of The North XX (Norway)
This isn't fair. Dragons Of The North was released 20 years ago and it remains a classic in the era of budding Scandinavian metal. Just after I got into Einherjer I got their 'new' album. Odin Owns Ye All was my first purchase and after hearing their awesome, trademark sound, I was left utterly disappointed. Sure, they came back later with maybe the second-best album of 2003, then broke up, then released the best album of 2014...but back then, I wrote them off.

And here we are, the twentieth anniversary complete re-recording issued as Dragons Of The North XX! It sounds better. Sections were tinkered with and overall it's a spectacular record. Does it belong on 2016's list? I don't care. This album is just as good as it was then and the outro of Conquerer is actually improved. So good.

6: Amon Amarth - Jomsviking (Sweden)
I was in radio when Once Sent From The Golden Hall came out and I've followed this band ever since. My interest waxes and wanes but they've yet to really put out a bad album. I listen to each and like each and then they get shelved. Perhaps due to 2016 being a very weak year for the first half (or 2/3rds!) I listened to this a lot. Perhaps it's due to it being a solid and fun album! The metal anthem Raise Your Horns is deliberately catchy but The Way Of Vikings is the album's best. It's altogether heavy and memorable and it ends on a high note. It's the first Amon Amarth record in a while that I've put on again after listening to it...always a sign of a solid entry.

5: Alcest - Kodama (France)
Alcest was done. You know how it goes. You love a band and then they change and well, that was fun. You know they'll never get back to the form that you loved. And after 2014's Shelter, that was where I was at. Nothing will live up to 2010's Écailles De Lune. While that's true, Kodama destroys the last album and when, on the third track, Neige lets loose, I lost it. They're back!!! I don't need a full album of raspy vocals. But when that contrast hits, it stands out all the more. This is the first victim of genre bias. At one point this album was my #2. But since my numbers 4, 3 and 2 are more of the style I'm into...Alcest dropped. Not fair, but what will I go back to and listen to in 5 years? Despite that unfairness, Kodama still made the top 5. Pretty solid for a band that was done, right?

4: Testament - Brotherhood Of The Snake (USA)
I know their last two records were good and people quite liked them, but I never loved them. But, the band has not really made a bad album since the entirely-forgettable The Ritual album 25 years ago. And here we are, almost 30 years after The Legacy with a consistent, solid and spectacular 11th studio LP. It is a heavy and crushing record from start to finish with impeccable production. Hoglan's drumming is the relentless and mixed perfectly. Skolnick's solos are the most metal he's done in years (far less jazz influence IMO) and I welcome back DiGiorgio after a 15 year absence. I always felt he was better than Christian anyway. Peterson's writing is top-notch, riffy and catchy, heavy and melodic. And Chuck is in top form, doing everything right. His voice has that natural deep end and this is among his best efforts.

Brotherhood is a great album front-to-finish, with more fun, anthem songs breaking up the thrashy groove. To me, this album is right up there with the best in their catalogue. Not as good as 1999's The Gathering, but much better than anything since (well, only 2 LPs came out). This one will be a record I go back to and a reminder, it sounds fantastic. Just like they did in '99, there's no excuse for any album to sound less than this. Guitars, bass, vocals, drums...all sound perfect.

3: Skeletonwitch - The Apothic Gloom (USA)
The only problem with The Apothic Gloom is that it's a mere four songs long. The twenty-minute listen is essentially perfect despite its brevity. While many people rue the loss of their original vocalist Chance, I was never really loyal. A new vocalist in tow, the band's new EP tinkers with some new concepts including a 7-minute epic (by Skeletonwitch standards). The four songs offer a more mature feel without losing anything that made me love the band on prior releases. Like the record, this review has little more to say. It feels as if it's over as soon as it begins. So, like the record, go back and re-read this review again. I promise it'll be just as good, if not better, each time!

2: Insomnium - Winter's Gate (Finland)
I never stopped liking Insomnium like I did with Alcest. I just figured they wouldn't recapture the magic that made me love them so much. My experience with "our new album is going to be one long song!" concepts always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Green Carnation's Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness comes to mind. Sometimes you just want to hear that one bit, but oh, damn, it's 40 minutes into the song and I'm not fast forwarding that much! (that was mostly a pre-digital complaint).

So, with the band's last really not impressing me and with the one-long-song concept, my expectations were low. But the long-song idea gives the band time and freedom to explore lengthy passages before returning to their best metal segments in a decade. The melodic parts are beautiful and the heavy parts crush. The album flows and feels like a journey through the frozen seas in search of a fabled island. The record has everything I love in music and it's why I placed it above Testament and Skeletonwitch. The clean sections are beautiful, Niilo's vocals are equally strong in singing and growling segments, and the production is spectacular. I'm fortunate enough to have the record split into seven tracks for easier digestion, but it wouldn't matter. This record doesn't suffer the issue that Green Carnation did. The whole thing is fucking awesome. Finland represents again as it has been in recent years, and if only it weren't for that pesky Moonsorrow, this would be #1.

1: Moonsorrow - Jumalten Aika (Finland)
It took me about three days. My first listens resulted in, "This is good. Not as good as Varjoina, but good." By day #3 or so, it was Album Of The Year. I'll remind you that this LP came out on the 1st of April.

There was no question. The epic scope of a Moonsorrow song (the four main songs average 14 minutes in length) cannot be immediately appreciated. But if this was already deemed AotY on the 4th of April, imagine how much I loved it two weeks later. It was spun endlessly. Despite the so-so nature of Suden Tunti, the other four are just utter masterpieces. Let us not diminish the strength of that word. Masterpieces they are, embarking upon a musical trek of vast proportions. Additionally one of the two bonus tracks is among my favorite cover songs of all time.

I know of no band whose sound is like Moonsorrow's and I know of no way to perfectly convey what a glorious gem Jumalten Aika is. In the eight months since its release, I've gone back to it thinking, "Is it still *really* that good?" And after I listen to the entire thing, I somehow marvel, not only at its brilliance, but at how I could ever have doubted it. Pagan, folk, black metal? I don't care what genre it is. It is hands-down the Album Of The Year much as its predecessor was five years ago. As good as that one? I can't say, but since that was probably favorite album of the last 15 years, it could be forgiven if it were #2. This is the best of the year without question. Finland #1 and 2 this year. Impressive.

Top 10 of 2016
1. Moonsorrow Jumalten Aika
2. Insomnium Winter's Gate
3. Skeletonwitch The Apothic Gloom
4. Testament Brotherhood Of The Snake
5. Alcest Kodama
6. Amon Amarth Jomsviking
7. Einherjer Dragons Of The North XX
8. Metallica Hardwired...To Self-Destruct
9. Abbath Abbath
10. JK Flesh Rise Above
Good Records
Witchery In His Infernal Majesty's Service
October Tide Winged Waltz
In Flames Battles
Dark Tranquillity Atoma
Final Live Reprocessed - Birmingham 2009
Ghost Popestar
Council Estate Electronics Artika
In The Woods... Pure
Korn The Serenity Of Suffering
Lamb Of God The Duke
Opeth Sorceress
Anthrax For All Kings
Denner/Shermann Masters Of Evil
Megadeth Dystopia
Soilwork Death Resonance
Katatonia The Fall Of Hearts


2015 was a rather weak year with this list generally being a 'least-worst' list rather than a 'best of!' It's also very varied both in musical style and country of origin. Shall we?

8: Ghost: Meliora (Sweden)
I never really got into this band. Satanic, Beatles-inspired metal? Just weird. But with the release of the single Circe, I was sold. The album is pretty solid, catchy and the evil undertones are worthwhile. I don't know if it has the longevity of other great albums, but it's good enough to land at #8.

7: Lamb of God: VII: Sturm Und Drang (U.S.A.)
I like these guys, then I love 'em, then I don't...however this album is easily better than the last. There are some killer, catchy riffs and I haven't any real complaints. However, that's only enough to place it at #7 on this list. Good album.

6: Amorphis: Under The Red Cloud (Finland)
So, Tales is now 20+ yrs old. They went prog rock and arose back on the metal side years ago. I think this is their 6th album since 'coming back'. I find every second album is great and I quite liked their last. This is another solid album with some varied, worldly themes and the staple Amorphis sound. I like it, but like Lamb of God, I don't love it.

5: Sulphur Aeon: Gateway To The Antisphere (Germany)
OMG, this band is heavy. Their second album is the first I've heard by them and while it's a bit heavier than a lot of what I listen to, it absolutely crushes. This needs to be played loud. And repeatedly. Not an every-day listen for me, but one that impresses me every single time I give it a spin.

4: Korpiklaani: Noita (Finland)
I never really liked these guys but for some reason, months after this album came out, I gave it a try. And I dug it! It's catchy, cheesy, ridiculous and awesome! Its upbeat rhythm and sound are a complete opposite of Sulphur Aeon. But that's OK and Finland makes its second offering in my top 10.

3: Svartsot: Vældet (Denmark)
Another band I liked but never loved. There are some excellent tracks on this album, mostly in the second half. The last two are spectacular and capture what Svartsot does best. I only wish there were more just like these. Ultimately, it's an excellent record, but it wouldn't have landed in last year's top 5. Or 7. This year, it's my #3.

2: Tempel: The Moon Lit Our Path (U.S.A.)
Now the list goes from least-worst to BEST. These next two albums make me roar and press play again. Tempel is a band I only heard of in December and within one month it raced to the top of my list. This US duo's sophomore instrumental effort is a triumphant journey. This record is utterly amazing. The first tracks of my first spin left me indifferent but the soaring peaks of track 3 left me overwhelmed. By the end, it was another "I MUST LISTEN AGAIN" album and one that impressed more with each subsequent experience. Bits hearken to Opeth and entire segments call to Agalloch but this is an example of not even realizing I needed this in my life. As cliché as calling an album an 'experience' might be, this one as a whole is a remarkable voyage that grips and doesn't let go. American atmospheric doom, progressive, instrumental black metal? *Shrug* OK! Second-best album of 2015!!!

1: Soilwork: The Ride Majestic (Sweden)
The coveted AotY award goes to the same band who won all the way back in 2000 making the 15-year lapse the longest between AotY winners. This album is no Chainheart Machine, but it is more consistent than the surprisingly-excellent Panic Broadcast. Much like Amorphis, the awesome-then-dreadful band has come back with a more sporadic sequence of excellence but The Ride Majestic is a fun, fast and heavy outing. The pair of title tracks are the album's strongest, with Soilwork doing what they do best, melding speed, melody and catchy, chunky riffs into a pristinely-produced and hum-worthy tenth album. Dirk Verbeuren's drumming may be the best the band has ever seen and the new guitar duo of Coudret and Andersson proves to capture exactly what I love about classic Soilwork. While it sometimes descends into the band's common formula, it is still a consistently-solid record and one that trumps all others in a very weak 2015. AotY 2015 is Soilwork. I think I'm going to go listen to it again...if I can stop listening to Tempel, that is. And that's the only real downside. While las year's AotY went to Einherjer over At The Gates for offering something totally different, I don't think I can say the novelty of Tempel bests the consistency of Soilwork. Either way, #1 and #2 were incredible albums while the rest of the list is just good.

Noteworthy items:

Fastest Song: Marduk - Thousand-Fold Death
OMFG this song is fast. I never loved this band and think the album is a good record. But nothing is as good as this. It's fantastic.

Top 8 Of 2015
1. Soilwork The Ride Majestic
2. Tempel The Moon Lit Our Path
3. Svartsot Vældet
4. Korpiklaani Noita
5. Sulphur Aeon Gateway To The Antisphere
6. Amorphis Under The Red Cloud
7. Lamb Of God VII: Sturm Und Drang
8. Ghost Meliora
OK Records
Thulcandra Ascension Lost
Marduk Frontschwein
Blind Guardian Beyond The Mirror
My Dying Bride Feel The Misery
Final Black Dollars
Slayer Repentless
Children Of Bodom I Worship Chaos
Joe Satriani Shockwave Supernova
Iron Maiden Book Of Souls
Just Couldn't Get Into
Arcturus Arcturian
The Black Dahlia Murder Abysmal
Armageddon Captivity & Devourment
Cradle Of Filth Hammer Of The Witches
Faith No More Sol Invictus
Solefald World Metal Ð Kosmopolis Sud


Gonna do something different this year. Here are my thirteen favorite records of 2014.

#13: Agalloch - The Serpent And The Sphere
I follow this band though my love will never match the passion I felt when I first heard them in 1999 or when The Mantle blew my mind. With each subsequent release the music is oh-so-familiar yet broadened into new territory. I like this album, though the first spin left me unimpressed and it isn't an every-day listen.

#12: The Haunted - Exit Wounds
When Eye Of The Storm was released I was pumped. That song is perfection and the whole album surely must be that good! Of course, it wasn't...maybe half was...but the bigger issue here is the god-awful production. Sure, it's heavy as hell, but it's muddy and there are no dynamics that can shine through that brickwalled mix. Go back and listen to the single (demo) version. It's perfect! The rest of the record has some shining moments, but they are brought down by mediocrity. Still...it's solid enough to get a spot on this list.

#11: Rodrigo Y Gabriela - 9 Dead Alive
Once again before an album's release a band issues a remarkable single that is possibly the best song on the album. This album expands RodGab's possibilities by stepping into a more peaceful realm...but those are my least-favorite songs! The good is real good here but overall I'd probably sooner put on one of the first two LPs than this. Still, tracks 1 and 3-5 are killer.

#10: Godflesh - Decline & Fall / A World Lit Only By Fire
Nothing for a decade and then an EP and an LP in the same year? Crushing! These two give precisely what you want out of Godflesh: A pummeling, nihilistic experience. My love of the band is evident by the two-decade-long run of their site but perhaps my dedication is attributed as much to tradition as it is to passion. I like these records but I don't listen to the band as much as I once did.

#9: Vintersorg - Naturbål
I loved this band. Then I didn't. Then Jordpuls and Orkan gave me exactly what I wanted, the latter being my favorite record of the otherwise-weak 2012 year. My excitement for the third part of the four-part nature series Naturbål was massive and perhaps that contributed to my lack of enthusiasm as of release. It's not bad! Perhaps there are too many female vocals, perhaps it just can't live up to the last two, but a very good record didn't get the love it deserved.

#8: The Moon & The Nightspirit - Holdrejtek
I had only just gotten into this Hungarian folk band when the new album was set to come out. While their prior efforts were remarkable in their own right, the newest shows a matured band with an incredibly strong singer and unique sound. This release may stand out amongst the metal crowd but it's easy to appreciate their varied musicianship (each is credited with no fewer than four instrumentals) and Ágnes Tóth's soothing voice. This is a spectacular record if it's your cup of tea.

#7: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out
Much like Vintersorg, when a band consistently puts out amazing albums, it's hard to continue that trend. Eventually something falters, but it certainly doesn't mean the record is bad. Such is the fate of the new Exodus album. It could be the riffs, Souza's return, Gary's commitment to two bands, but this album wasn't as good as I had hoped. Some songs, like Wrapped In The Arms Of Rage shine while others fizzle. The record sounds incredible and has some killer riffage but it is eclipsed by the last and some other fantastic LPs of 2014.

#6: Ewan Dobson - 12-String Guitar
One of my favorite records of 2013 was this Canadian guitarist's acoustic offering. His 2014 sequel, Acoustic Metal 2 just didn't catch me the same way it did last year. On the other hand, his 12-String Guitar LP is a marvel in its own right. This guy is amazing and while I skip a few bluegrass-sounding tracks, I'm still left with almost a dozen technical masterpieces. Impressive particularly when you realize it's his fifth album in three years.

#5: Hoth - Oathbreaker
A Star Wars obsessed band putting out a top-five album? I would never have thought it possible. Towards the end of 2014, a friend sent me a link to a song from the duo's debut and impressed I was! Their second record ditched the incessant Star Wars banter for a concept album. Whatever the story is, this album has some sections that are totally Opeth (good Opeth) and some Skeletonwitch all while being more approachable and awfully melodic. I could listen to this type of music forever and envision their third effort to be another top-5 contender.

#4: Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls
The band's 17th LP is easily their best since their 12th and dare I say, better? I find Redeemer of Souls to be a fun album with melodic offerings, excellent Tipton solos and a very adept Richie Faulkner filling KK's shoes. Songs like March Of The Damned and Sword Of Damocles are catchy and heavy (for a 45-year-old band!) and even my little kids were singing Down In Flames this last summer. There are only a few songs I'll skip and the bonus disc may have one of the best as Tears Of Blood is as memorable as any rock anthem of the '80s. I love this album and the fact that Halford and Priest are still going strong.

#3: Arch Enemy - War Eternal
So, they recorded the whole album with a new singer without anyone even knowing? No Angela? No!! The news of a new, blue-haired chick singer really left me concerned. I liked the last two but didn't love them. How could this turn out? Listen to the LPs cover version of Breaking The Law and you'll know. The production on this album is impeccable. Listen to the bonus disc of instrumentals and you'll find a new appreciation for the magic Arch Enemy creates. Alissa is no Angela and in some songs I feel as if she's trying too hard. Regardless, this album is crazy heavy, Michael Amott's riffs seem rejuvenated and this is the band's best since Doomsday Machines IMO.

#2: At The Gates - At War With Reality
I remember getting Slaughter Of The Soul back in 1996 and its impression never waned. That album is a shining example of everything metal was doing right at the time (and in the U.S., no one was doing anything right in 1996). And the cruel punishment of perfection is a band breaking up due to it. Leave us wanting more...brilliant! Fast forward to the announcement of a new record...there's simply no way it could possibly live up. Critics would slam it if it were too similar or too different. The teaser sample released a month early only excited us more. The final product has every right to be #1 on this list. It's exactly what it's supposed to be. Heavy. Melodic. Fast. Riffy. Solos. Perfect awesomeness. Not too many bands can take 18 years off and come back with such a spectacular offering. This album rules.

#1: Einherjer - Av Oss, For Oss
While At The Gates was everything I expected it to be, Einherjer was nothing at all what I thought it'd be. The first single wasn't anything great and it remains a song I'll skip every time I play it. However, I've always loved this band and even if the last one was only pretty good, my expectations remained high. It's weird...70s Viking Metal. That genre doesn't exist but this album created something I never knew I wanted to hear. It's dynamic, it's catchy as shit, it's VIKINGY! What set this apart from At The Gates was that I have nothing in my catalog that sounds like this. It's retro, it's modern, it's melodic, it's metal and the title's translation, "By Us, For Us" tells me Frode and gang don't care if you liked Aurora Borealis or Dragons Of The North more. They don't care if you disliked Norrøn. They don't even seem to care if you want to listen to this album!!! And that's the most metal thing ever.

AOTY 2014 - Einherjer

Other Notes (i.e. The disappointments!)

#1: Lantlôs - Melting Sun
Oh Lantlôs...How I loved thee. I can't listen to your newest.

#2: Alcest - Shelter
Coincidence that Lantlôs and Alcest, the incestuous post-rock/shoegaze/whatever bands release disappointing albums the same year? I wish I cared....So sad...

#3: Opeth - Pale Communion
I just can't....I just.......

Top 14 Of 2014
1. Einherjer Av Oss, For Oss
2. At The Gates At War With Reality
3. Arch Enemy War Eternal
4. Judas Priest Redeemer Of Souls
5. Hoth Oathbreaker
6. Ewan Dobson 12 String Guitar
7. Exodus Blood In, Blood Out
8. The Moon & The Nightspirit Holdrejtek
9. Vintersorg Naturbål
10. Godflesh A World Lit Only By Fire / Decline & Fall
?. Godflesh Decline & Fall
11. Rodrigo Y Gabriela 9 Dead Alive
12. The Haunted Exit Wounds
13. Agalloch The Serpent And The Sphere
14. Burzum The Ways Of Yore
Lantlôs Melting Sun
Alcest Shelter
Agalloch The Serpent & The Sphere
Overkill White Devil Armory


After a surprisingly weak 2012, 2013 had it easy. Topping that lackluster '12 year was a simple task, but '13 did so in crushing style. 1-2-3 is Kalmah, Skeletonwitch and Carcass, each giving a straightforward, kick-ass LP from front to finish. Kalmah may not have had an album of the year for a few years, but this is their best since The Black Waltz (which itself isn't so long ago!) and it solidifies the band as my favorite of the last 15 years. Skeletonwitch may not top their Beyond The Permafrost sophomore effort but it's a consistent beatdown worth playing again as soon as it finishes. It doesn't hurt that it clocks in at under 32 minutes! And we cannot forget the epic rebirth of Carcass, an offering which had much to live up to, and easily exceeded any expectations. I never thought they could pull this off. For a while it was my album of the year.

Unlike recent years, I tried to bang out a top 10 as you can see below. It's all iffy after #3 though so things may shift upon looking back on this list. I loved the Amorphis, though not as much as Skyforger a few years back. The My Dying Bride EP is fantastic and lives up to their better LPs of the last 15 years. Black Dahlia, Summoning and Amon Amarth are all somewhat predictable but each is an incredibly strong showing of why I love them; although none get as many spins as I think they deserve. Jesu's lengthy title is an equally-lengthy five-song LP which restores my faith in Justin's ability to use that project as a vehicle for the moody, drone rock I loved six years ago. And...what is this chiptune garbage? I don't give a fuck, Chipzel's LP is awesome. The fact that it was recorded on a GameBoy just makes it more impressive!

Beyond these, I've omitted some of the otherwise so-so entries I would've included in the past. However I did have to mention my disappointment in the new October Tide. The band's second LP of its second life is heavy as shit but only really caught me on a few occasions. And...we all knew the new Soilwork would end up just like it did. Sad too because I thought the last LP was incredible.

Top Ten Of 2013
1. Kalmah Seventh Swamphony
2. Skeletonwitch Serpents Unleashed
3. Carcass Surgical Steel
4. Amorphis Circle
5. My Dying Bride The Manuscript
6. The Black Dahlia Murder Everblack
7. Summoning Old Mornings Dawn
8. Amon Amarth Deceiver Of The Gods
9. Chipzel Spectra
10. Jesu Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came
Good Shit 'Tis...
Ewan Dobson Acoustic Metal
Insomnium Ephermal
Children Of Bodom Halo Of Blood
Final Infinite Guitar 4
Helloween Straight Out Of Hell
Good Enough To Mention
The Fall Of Every Season Amends
Testament Dark Roots Of Thrash
Hypocrisy End Of Disclosure
Suidakra Eternal Defiance
Witherscape The Inheritance
Korn The Paradigm Shift
Pale Sketcher Warm Sunday
October Tide Tunnel Of No Light
Soilwork The Living Infinite


If you would have told me the year would have new albums from RodGab, Agalloch, Lamb Of God and Naglfar (!!!) I would expect a kick-ass year. Expectations aren't everything of course, and I'm sad to say that none lived up to anything I expected. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that 2012 was the weakest year for metal since the 90s.

However, this is a first: Vintersorg appears on his solo band's album and as a vocalist on the Borknagar and these are my two favorite records of the year. That's never happened before. I started getting into Alcest though 2012's offering isn't their strongest. Module, the creator of the Shatter soundtrack, put out a very cool solo album.

Sadly, beyond that, I was not wowed by anything. Testament and Anathema's LPs were OK. The new Burzum had a good first half. Rodrigo Y Gabriela put out reworked songs with a Cuban band...but I'd heard those songs before and I enjoy the quaint nature of the two-piece. Tenacious D has some good songs.

Everything else was either disappointing or just plain 'meh'. Quite certainly the weakest year in an age. Sad...really.

Album D'Année
1. Vintersorg Orkan
2. Borknagar Urd
Alcest Les Voyages De L'åme
Module Imagineering
Anathema Weather Systems
Burzum Umskiptar
Rodrigo Y Gabriela Area 52
Tenacious D Rize Of The Fenix
Testament Dark Roots Of Earth
Just Couldn't Get Into
Naglfar Téras
Lamb Of God Resolution
The Blood Of Heroes The Waking Nightmare
Council Estate Electronics Longmeadow
Down The Purple EP
Agalloch Faustian Echoes
Worth Mentioning?
Final Burning Bridges Will Light Your Way
Katatonia Dead End Kings
Neurosis Honor Found In Decay
Christopher Amott Impulses
Cradle Of Filth Midnight In The Labyrinth
Citizen Cope One Lovely Day
JK Flesh Posthuman


2011 was a year to be excited about. It was also a year of the epic horrible. There were some surprises, some delightful surprises. Let's see...

First off, I got into three new bands. Moonsorrow is the first, and their album was AotY back in spring when I first heard it. So good. So heavy, so fantastic. As for the other two, Skeletonwitch is perfect thrash/speed/riff/death/excellence. Sadly, their newest isn't their best, but it's so riffy I forgive them. Insomnium suffers the same fate. So good, but their prior albums were better. Still, I love their sound and am psyched to have been introduced to three new, awesome bands.

The long wait for Einherjer's reunion LP left me...unimpressed. However, after subsequent spins, I'm thrilled they're back. It's a great blend of viking and metal, just it's different from what I expected. I love it. Lantlôs is back with their 3rd release and I am in love. It's heavy, but it's mellow. It's just greatness...as is My Dying Bride's 30-minute, one-song EP. I love it. After being disappointed by their last, this was a welcome surprise.

Amon Amarth is solid, if not the same as everything else (forgiven).

Children Of Bodom is solid, if not the same as everything else (but I'll never listen to it...why is that so? Just not fair.)

Demonaz! Haha...that's a cool record. Sounds like what I used to write back in '98...just more Immortal-y. The new Arch Enemy has no flaws, but I find myself skipping it a lot. Same for Amorphis. The Anthrax, you know, the first in 20 years with Joey, well, I love it. It's got some really catchy songs and man, Joey's voice is still there! ROck on! I love the MDB 'classical' record, whatever you might call it. Not an every-day listen, but it's so perfect when you are in the mood.

Please don't make me talk about Megadeth. You were great, then SUCKED, then were awesome again and....THIS? I knew once Junior rejoined it would go to shit. I can't even make it through a whole song.

Speaking of unlistenable. Two words: Opeth and Heritage. Listen, they can do whatever they want, but this is just bad on every level. I don't want to talk any more...so bad.

Album D'Année
Moonsorrow Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Einherjer Norrøn
Lantlôs Agape
My Dying Bride The Barghest O'Whitby
Oh Yeah
Amon Amarth Surtur Rising
Amorphis The Beginning Of Times
Anthrax Worship Music
Arch Enemy Khaos Legions
Children Of Bodom Relentless Reckless Forever
Demonaz March Of The Norse
Falkenbach Tiurida
Insomnium One For Sorrow
My Dying Bride Evinta
Pale Sketcher Seventh Heaven
Skeletonwitch Forever Abomination
Merely Good...If That...
Burzum Fallen
Jesu Ascension
Please Make The Pain Stop...
The Haunted Unseen
Megadeth Th1rt3en
Metallica & Lou Reed Lulu
Opeth Heritage


A new decade perhaps, but nothing major is new. Just a solid year of metal records! This list received two major changes after posting. The first is that Alcest's Écailles de Lune was a late entry. I got into them a bit after the fact. The second was a change in AotY voting. Initially, I said the following:

"I think the Exodus is AOTY. It's just a riff & solo masterpiece. I read a complaint that the songs were too long, but I don't care. People still herald Justice as brilliant and those songs just go on and on and on! Exodus...OH YEAH."

Now, I've gone back (10 years later) to emend this. While Exodus is still heavy as fuck, I turn far more often to Soilwork's return. 13 years after A Predator's Portrait showed their new direction, The Panic Broadcast brought back both Peter Wichers and their iconic sound and is friggin' fast! Posthumous AotY vote!

Does Kalmah know how to put out a bad record? While the last wasn't as good as earlier efforts, 12 Gauge is better, returning to the riffy/doodle roots which I love. It's not as memorable, again, as older albums, but I never tire of Kalmah.

Some albums just don't do much for me. The new Blind Guardian, for one, was a highly-anticipated CD that...well...I feel as if I've heard before (and better). Why listen to this when A Night At The Opera does it better? On the other hand, Belus, the long-awaited Burzum return sounds exactly like Filosofem...and I couldn't care less! I love it. I suppose that's not fair, is it?

Anathema. Man, I've been waiting for this one for a long time. Now it's here and...I don't listen much. I prefer the original versions of the 3 songs released, and I love the album but...don't know. Yeah, reviewing isn't fair.

Fear Factory, Witchery, Borknagar...all good, not great, and I won't likely listen much. Maiden's album is better than the last, but who cares? The record is selling like crazy in Europe. I like a few tracks that feel different. They'll never live up to Chemical Wedding. Oh, Overkill. Put track 6 on. Damn, that shit rules. That's metal right there.

Dimmu is good. Forbidden is good. Amorphis' re-recording is...yeah. Good. None are killer.

Did I say killer? October Tide is fantastic. The new Lantlôs is utterly phenomenal! Agalloch! They aren't powerful metal records, but they are all powerful.

Album D'Année
Soilwork The Panic Broadcast
Alcest Écailles de Lune
Exodus Exhibit B: The Human Condition
Kalmah 12 Gauge
Lantlôs .neon
October Tide A Thin Shell
Oh Yeah
Anathema We're Here Because We're Here
Iron Maiden The Final Frontier
Burzum Belus
The Blood Of Heroes The Blood Of Heroes
Dimmu Borgir Abrahadabra
Forbidden Omega Wave
Amorphis Magic & Mayhem
Pale Sketcher Jesu: Pale Sketches Demixed
Borknagar Universal
Dark Tranquillity We Are The Void
Overkill Ironbound
Blind Guardian At The Edge Of Time
Fear Factory Mechanize
Witchery Witchkrieg
Cradle Of Filth Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
Solefald Norrøn Livskunst
Obscurity Tenkterra
Live Records
Megadeth Rust In Peace - Live
Amorphis Forging The Land Of Thousand Lakes
Immortal The Seventh Date Of Blasrykh
Down Diary Of A Mad Band