Angry Metal Guy’s Top 10(ish) of 2010

2010. Wow, man. 2010. We’re counting months now until we all die in 2012. So how do you think it’s going to happen? Do you think that terrorists will get a nuke and fuck up the world? Or do you think that a meteor will hit? Or should I wait until the end of 2011 to ask that question?

Well, either way, now that I’ve given your children nightmares that they will never get over, I’d like to say THANKS. Thanks to everyone for reading this blog of mine (and Steel Druhm’s, who gets a special thanks for writing for this blog of mine). Thanks for responding to posts, for donating to the website to help keep it afloat and thanks for your patience when I can be a little bit inconsistent due to having a life and not doing this for a living (and thanks to Mr. Steel Druhm especially, but also Lord Doom and the others who have helped pick up the slack). It’s really cool that you do that. That you get an RSS feed of reviews that we write. That you debate and that you feel as passionately about metal as we do even if we don’t all agree. That’s awesome.

Also, a big WTF to Southern Lord and Profound Lore for not sending me promos despite repeated requests. What’s an Angry Metal Guy gotta do to get some love from y’all? I’m not going to download your shit illegally to review it, but I’d like to review it! So send me promo already for fuck’s sake!

Lastly, I want to say a word first about the fact that 2010 saw the loss of two of my personal heroes: Ronnie James Dio and Peter Steele. Let’s not forget both of these metal icons who gave in their own very unique ways to the fabric of the thing that we all love. Metal will definitely not be the same with them gone.

In honor of 2010 being a pretty good year (aside from the untimely deaths), I’ve got to present my top 10. And more importantly I have to declare the Record o’ the Year!

#1: Orphaned Land // The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR – I can tell you that I was skeptical about this record. I really, really was. The name turned me off, plus it had been 5 years since Mabool was released and I wasn’t sure that they could grip me like they had the first time around. Oh how horribly wrong I was! The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR is the best record that came out in 2010 hands down. I’ve heard all sorts of different critiques of it, but I don’t understand any of them. Every note on here is perfectly placed, the instrumentation is perfection and the mix is astounding. The level of creativity, bound up with the message and the political “movement” this represents means for me that this record deserves to be the best record of the year. I strongly recommend you read my review, read the interview I did with Kobi Farhi and purchase the record. It is a testament to this amazing band and to the global nature of heavy metal in 2010.

#2: Rhapsody of Fire // The Frozen Tears of Angels – Oh man. Rhapsody of Fire is back in a big way. While the EP they released later in the year could never live up to this record, The Frozen Tears of Angels blows everything the band has done since Power of the Dragonflame out of the water. The record is a pure neoclassical guitar orgasm, with the orchestrations making it back to interesting again and a high energy attack! This is everything Rhapsody of Fire is supposed to be and hopefully it is everything they will be long into the future. It’s possible that this record may also set a standard so high that anything they ever release again will never live up to it. But I suspect that this energy that they’ve got after being stranded for a few years due to a stupid lawsuit has more fantastic cheese in store for us! Bring on the cheese (OF FIRE!)!!

#3: Sigh // Scenes from Hell – You know what I don’t fathom? How this record has missed people’s lists and hasn’t even been mentioned near the top of these discussions that I’ve held on Facebook or Twitter! I cannot fathom how this record is being overlooked. It is easily the coolest orchestral black metal record to be released in years. People have complained about the production, but those people are stupid. What’s so cool about this record is how incredibly claustrophobic it sounds at the same time as having some mind-blowing tracks including “L’art de Mourir” and “The Summer Funeral”. I have come back to this record repeatedly throughout the year and I have continued to be impressed with the consistency and sophistication of this record. I cannot wait for more if they keep heading down this path. Hangman’s Hymn, eat your heart out!

#4: Finntroll // Nifelvind – Oh, you didn’t see this one coming, did you? The metal scene has been rather quiet about the new Finntroll since it came out, but not this Angry Metal Guy. Nope, this Angry Metal Guy has been listening to a shit ton of Finntroll just wishing that they’d tour Sweden (seriously, dudes! Do Finnish bands have a fucking Swedish boycott or something?). This record officially is the best Finntroll record in my book, it doesn’t shame Nattfödd, but it definitely makes their other stuff just not look nearly as good as I thought it was. It’s everything I was hoping it would be and, frankly, it was more. Plus, the band’s new image is totally wicked. Like they’ve been reading Changeling books or something. No matter what the causes are, these guys still rule in my book, even if they’re not in vogue anymore.

#5: Barren Earth // Curse of the Red River – OK, so since my favorite bands in the world are pretty much Opeth and Amorphis it should come as no surprise that this record makes my top 10. It’s funny because I haven’t really had the chance to come back to too many records this year, and this one is no exception. But when looking at my list of the stuff that I genuinely loved from this year, these guys immediately came back to me. Breaking it out again, there’s no doubt in my mind that my review was totally correct. Barren Earth’s Curse of the Red River is a truly enjoyable CD that will live on in my playlist. Sure, it feels like Amorphis! Yeah, it’s a super group! But who cares? It’s awesome and worthy of your consideration when thinking about the best records of the year.

#6: Solefald // Norrøn Livskunst – I did just write this review, so the blurb probably won’t be as long because there should be no need to remind you of how amazing this album is. There may be a moment or two of non-perfection, but it’s pretty few and far between and what’s left is one of the most addictive records I heard this year. The beauty of this album is that it surprised the hell out of me! I was honestly expecting that Enslaved would be the Norwegian band that made this list (or Borknagar), but instead it ended up being Solefald who I have been pretty lukewarm on in the past. But this album just nails it home. How do you argue with this approach? It is truly a magnificent record and one of the best progressive offerings of the year.

#7: Demiurg // Slakthus Gamleby – It’s been a weird year for me and death metal. I have yet to find that technical death metal record that drives me to angry glee like I did last year (really it was two tech death records that made up 2/3 of my top three in 2009). No, indeed, this year the death metal records that I’ve liked have been of a decidedly more old school approach, and Demiurg has a nice blend of doom in it as well. This whole record is a masterpiece, in my opinion. I know that fans of the old school death metal Rogga Johansson projects were particularly critical of this album, but I think that it’s a well-constructed record that is worth every cent you would pay for it. The touch of Swano, the vocal arrangements of Warby and the unique approach really made this record a shoo-in for my top 10 list. And 7 seems too low. Gah.

#8: Blind Guardian // At the Edge of Time – Sometimes, it’s hard to admit when you’re wrong. In some cases, it’s even harder when the people who are saying that you’re wrong are douchebags on the Internet who are convinced that “objectivity” means “agreeing with me.” But in this case, I have to admit that I was wrong. This record has drawn me back again and again and it has grown on me. I still think that it has some weak tracks, but the more and more I listen to it the less and less I care. The well done parts are really well done and the parts I didn’t like at all have started to grow. To be honest this one surprised me because it grew like a power metal record has rarely done for me. Power metal has long been binary choices in my opinion; but with Blind Guardian it turned out to be a much different experience. And I’m glad I kept giving this record a chance.

#9: Iron Thrones // The Wretched Sun – I thought about whether or not I should include this one because these guys aren’t signed, but in a way that should make me put this record even higher on this list. These guys aren’t fucking signed! It blows my brains! Away! Anyway, this record fucking rules and that you don’t own it yet makes me question your metal cred. The tracks are tight, heavy and these guys blend the best of a lot of different worlds to make a really fantastic and solid record. If you’re disappointed that In Mourning isn’t on this list, then you should go out there and find this record. Because it will blow your brains away, too!

#10: Torture Division // Evighetens DÃ¥rar – #10 is always the hardest to choose, isn’t it? I mean, there’s a ton of records that could go in this spot. And I weighed at least 4 different records that I felt could have gone here. I know that technically Evighetens DÃ¥rar is a compilation because it’s made up of three demos (Evighetens DÃ¥rar IIII), but those demos put together into a long play format are stunning, excellent death metal that I have listened to quite a bit since I got it. Really, this record has gotten under my skin. I know that there are some non-believers out there who aren’t convinced by this one and think their first demo set was better, but I don’t think they’re listening to the same record that I am, because Evighetens DÃ¥rar is awesome.

#(ish): Fejd // Eifur — I’ve been beating around what I should do with it and I really couldn’t decide. This list was finalized before I even took a listen to it, having just gotten swamped down in the day-to-day of being an Angry Metal Guy. What a miss I made. I really whiffed on that one and for that I apologize. If you’re a fan of folk metal you owe it to yourself to check this record out. It isn’t what you’re used to and that’s what makes it the best. This band is sophisticated, interesting, intelligent and fun. The melodies are amazing, the production is perfect for the material and the talent of these musicians should impress the hell out of you. I can’t recommend highly enough that you give these guys a chance. It has been a long time since I’ve heard a folk metal band that really nails it home like these guys do. And unless you already listen to Hedningarna you probably haven’t heard anything quite like this before.

It goes without saying that by its very nature a Top 10 leaves out great records. Because I don’t want to do that, I’m also going to include some honorable mentions that could have made the list and maybe even should have made the list. Though, if they didn’t, then you’re probably wrong. Also, you lack objectivity.

Honorable Mentions:
Rage // Strings to a Web – This one was weighed for number 10. I had a hell of a time not including it on that list because this record is just loaded with fantastic riffs, great choruses and blistering solos. It is probably the most traditional power metal that I’ve liked in years and I highly recommend it to everyone. It is a fantastic album and you should own it already. Why don’t you?
Grand Magus // Hammer of the North – I weighed this one for #10 as well, and man, that was a tough decision. Grand Magus is just an awesome band doing traditional metal in a way that is super convincing, incredibly enjoyable and very addictive. This record fucking rules and you are definitely encouraged to go and check it out.
Winterhorde // Underwatermoon – Oh man. This record rocked my world. I definitely feel bad about leaving this one off the Top 10(ish).
Watain // Lawless Darkness – Having already lost my metal cred for not making this #1, I probably shouldn’t include this. If you don’t know already, you probably shouldn’t, as they say.
Deathspell Omega // Paracletus – This record is an aural mindfuck. I haven’t had time to let it sink in long enough to make sure it belongs on this list. But it is definitely something that I will be listening to a lot in the coming year. Best black metal record of the year?
Pain of Salvation // Road Salt One – I’m not going to make any friends by including this only on the honorable mentions list because I had given it a 5/5 early this year. I still think it deserves to be towards the top of my list, but in the end other bands just pushed it out for various reasons. This doesn’t stand up quite as well as it did when I first got it, but I still love almost all the tracks and think that it is a triumph for the boys from Eskilstuna.
Istapp // Blekinge – Penalized for being a compilation, but still a pretty wicked record. This isn’t exactly in the same league as bands like Watain or Deathspell Omega or Arckanum when it comes to being black metal, but it’s an incredibly entertaining record.
Vex // Thanatopsis – This record cannot come highly recommended enough for me. This band has been sorely overlooked because they’re just on a tiny label from the US, but it is an album that you should own.

Biggest Disappointments:
// After – This record never sat well with me. It had moments, but I ultimately gave it a higher score than it deserved. After angL which I thought was pure genius this record was just a massive letdown. I suspect that future Ihsahn records will be better now that he’s gotten that out of his system. Or at least I hope so.
Enslaved // Axioma Ethica Odini –  I know, this record was made record of the month and got 4/5. And it’s true, that it’s a good record that fits well into Enslaved’s discography. This record tops other people’s lists for good reason, I guess. But it was just not at all what I had expected and/or wanted and my expectations were so incredibly high that I just couldn’t handle ‘run-of-the-mill’ when it showed up.

What Am I Looking Forward to in 2011?
Oh man!! There’s a new Rhapsody of Fire coming as well as a new Symphony X! Opeth announced a new record and it sounds like a new Amorphis records is in the works (if I remember correctly) and that would be pretty amazing as well and early on we’ll be getting the newest Vintersorg record. That’s definitely reason for celebration! And what about the new Shining record that should be on its way soon? And Indie Recordings just announced that Einherjer will be releasing their first record since 2004 in the spring! 2011 could be a fucking amazing year assuming that all my favorite bands don’t shit out on me. But the best part will be all the new shit I get to hear. Fuck yeah.

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