If you’ve been a regular reader of Thrash Hits over the last 12 months, you’ll be familiar with the name Tom Dare – the man’s written over sixty album reviews for us in 2010. He also likes to stink up Twitter and the Gill and Beez Facebook page, so we’re sure those of you of an argumentative persuasion will be very familiar with Mr Dare by now. Tom’s tastes run to the darker, more br00tal side of metal, so you can his Top 10 albums of the year to focus a lot more on black and death metal than those of our other contributors.
Tom also like power metal and Fairyland, but we don’t hold it against him.
10. Blind Guardian – At The Edge of Time
In a generally shocking year for power metal, Blind Guardian stood head and shoulders above everyone and everything else in the world of the camp and heroic. At The Edge of Time showcases all that they do so well, from the faux-Medieval ‘Curse My Name’ and the more traditional German speed metal riffing of ‘A Voice In The Dark’ to the sumptuous 9 minute symphonic anthem ‘Sacred Worlds’. Blind Guardian shine like the heroes they are.
9. Agalloch – Marrow Of The Spirit
Admittedly it doesn’t take much to make me ascend up my own arse in chin-stroking pretension, but no one has made it happen so quickly as Agalloch this year. The misery and genre-mangling individuality shine out of the gloom like the sun cutting through a winter mist. Marrow Of The Spirit is a magnificent colossus combining the nihilistic atmospherics of black metal and the crushing weight of doom with stark melody in a glorious odyssey of emotional honesty.
8. Aeternam – Disciples Of The Unseen
This one turned up at the start of the year as the debut album from an unknown Canadian death metal band, and did not leave the stereo. Atmospheric and majestic, Aeternam insert the occasional soaring Emperor-esque clean vocal line amid the brutality of their attack to tremendous effect. The result is a sound more akin to a veteran band who have spend years honing their sound than a debutant bursting out of the underground- first albums aren’t supposed to get all the aspects this sensationally right. Only Nile at their best make Ancient Egypt sound this good.
7. Myrath – Desert Call
Initially advertised as a Symphony X clone to stave off withdrawal symptoms, Tunisia’s Myrath shocked by releasing an album easily good enough to stand alongside their obvious inspirations. Even more surprising, the “clone” tag turns out to be completely unfair, as Desert Call takes the symphonic prog metal titans as an inspiration and stamps their own identity on it in spectacular fashion. Consistent and engaging with some stunning guitar work, lush symphonics and huge vocal hooks.
6. Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini
The ever-evolving Enslaved roar back into savage territories after the comparative calmness of Vertebrae, striding effortlessly out of the darkness into the warmth of dawn. Few bands are as capable and comfortable reinventing themselves as them, and Axioma Ethica Odini retains their unique, progressive sound from recent years while still doffing it’s cap in the direction of Bathory’s mighty legacy. The complexity belies an accessible nature that lures you in and ensnares your heart with its power and beauty.
5. Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here
Anathema may be about as far metal as pink candyfloss these days, but they are better because of it. This is a gorgeous emotional journey that can make even the most manly, bearded man start wiping his eyes and cover a trembling bottom lip. The floating atmospherics are at times completely overwhelming, and the spacey Steve Wilson-mixed production casts the soul adrift in a wondrous sea of progressive ecstasy.
4. Watain – Lawless Darkness
Watain’s claim that, with the release of their fourth album, black metal would be reborn sounded like bullshit. While Lawless Darkness may not reinvent the wheel, it does do the seemingly impossible- take the classic BM blueprint and deliver a record that could have been released at the second wave’s creative peak and barged its way into the very elite records. Simultaneously melodic and evil, Watain prove that they are every bit the equal of their now-legendary predecessors. This is the finest record from the best Scandinavian black metal band of the last decade.
3. Melechesh – The Epigenesis
Expectations were high. They were exceeded. The extraordinary creative might of Melechesh sails beyond their own lofty standards and cements them amongst the very best in the game. Ferocious and melodic, with an arsenal of riffs that puts any mortal band to shame, and with a skill of songwriting that at times beggars belief, The Epigenesis is a shining beacon in modern metal, and a hugely confident statement of distinctiveness and self. This is the kind of record that represents everything that is great about heavy metal.
2. Winterfylleth – The Mercian Sphere
From the opening “Aaaahhhh!” you know something special has arrived. The Mercian Sphere is a savage and nostalgic journey through ancient Britannia, taking a spectrum of black metal sounds and creating something totally English with it. This is an honest and heartfelt expression that girds the loins and tugs the heartstrings just as easily, and displays a level of musicianship of potentially game-changing proportions. Britain’s best black metal record in Satan-knows how long, and the point at which a band from these shores demands the rest of the world start paying attention. In a brilliant year for the style, an English band has outshone the Scandinavians.
And so to Tom Dare’s album of the year…..
Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
It’s Tom G Warrior. It’s the evolution of Celtic Frost’s creative mastermind. It’s yet another step forward into originality and artistic vision. It’s a doom-laden record of titanic heaviness that opens with a cry of “Satan! Saviour! Father!”, and takes in a piano-led track that begs you to “fall asleep in my arms, never to wake up ever again”. It’s an absolute fucking masterpiece, and the heaviest record anyone’s made in years.
Tomorrow we’ll have the Top 10 from that surly sonofabitch, our Deputy Editor, Hugh Platt. We were beginning to wonder whether he liked any records at all this year. Click the respective links to check out part 1 and part 2 of the rest of our contributors’ Top 10s of 2010.