Steel Druhm’s Top 10(ish) of 2010

steel druhmWell, it’s been a very interesting year for me, Steel Druhm since joining Angry Metal Guy Industries in April. Despite the no pay, brutal hours, an Angry Metal Boss based overseas and enough hate mail to choke a Belgian aardvark, it’s been tons of fun and I wouldn’t trade one minute of it for a million Amorphis CDs. This year, like every other year, saw it’s fair share of shining metal moments and plenty of steaming crap as well. All things considered though, it’s a great time to be a fan of metal and there’s so much out there to choose from, it can get overwhelming trying to stay current and hear all the worthwhile releases. As the year winds down and we get set for the start of 2011, I want to wish all our readers a happy holiday season and give a big metal salute to all of you (and an extra big salute to the Angry Metal Guy himself for giving me a forum for my metal rants). I hope we were able to turn folks on to some quality music and generally entertain with our opinionated and self-righteous musings, ramblings, tirades, manifestos and diatribes.

Without further ado, here is my top 10 list for 2010 and my 10 honorable mentions. Up the horns and down with false metal!!

Stormzone - Death Dealer

#1. Stormzone // Death Dealer – Although it’s as old school in delivery as it gets, the second album by Northern Ireland based Stormzone came from left field and blew me away with it’s Iron Maiden/Diamondhead inspired metal attack and in the process received the only perfect score I gave out this year. In an era where nearly every CD is overlong and containing filler, Death Dealer contains none and every song is a triumph of metallic majesty. No other album got as much Steel Druhm airtime this year, not even close. If you like traditional metal or power metal and don’t check this out, consider it the musical mistake of 2010.

#2. Accept // Blood of The NationsClearly the Comeback Album of the Year, Accept’s new opus very nearly qualified as the overall album of the year as well. After a long period of inactivity, these old pros defied expectations and surprised everyone by coming back with this molten metal onslaught of enormous proportions and they did it without legendary vocalist Udo Dirkschneider no less. Not only is it one of the finest of the year, it’s one of the finest of their long and storied metal career.

#3. Monster Magnet // Mastermind – Runner-up for best comeback has to be Dave Wyndorf’s return to stoner rock/metal royalty with the best Monster Magnet release since 1995’s Dopes to Infinity. Featuring all the things that once made Monster Magnet so much fun and amplified by truly inspired songwriting, Mastermind is the perfect soundtrack to a lost weekend of alcohol fueled mayhem and probably the most fun album of the year to rock out with. It’s all the more impressive considering how boring the prior few releases were. Kudos Dave!

#4. Grand Magus // Hammer of the North – No surprises here, these guys stand for high quality doom tinged heavy metal and Hammer of the North may be their ultimate statement on the topic. Featuring brilliant songwriting, powerhouse vocals and riffs of pure gold, Hammer of the North is the type of album you would play for someone you’re trying to get into metal. There’s an air of pure class hanging all over this thing like a blanket and every song works, no filler, no missteps. With so many bands doing the doom/stoner throwback sound, very few can hang in the same league with these guys.

#5. Avantasia // The Wicked Symphony | Angel of Babylon – No, this isn’t cheating since these albums were released together and should be considered one long album so shut your yaps! Showcasing both the ambition and arrogance of Tobias Sammet in equal measures, his Avantasia project somehow avoided disaster and resulted in some truly phenomenal metal tunes. Featuring a virtual who’s-who of metal vocalists, many of the tracks benefit from extensive vocal layering and elaborate vocal trade offs between the likes of Jorn Lande, Sir Russell Allen and Michael Kiske. While clearly not for everyone, if you like symphonic power metal, these albums were hard to ignore this year.

#6. The Crown // Doomsday King – Returning to show how Swedish death-thrash should be done, The Crown roared back to life this year in a big and angry way. With a new vocalist and a seemingly new found hunger and aggression, Doomsday King is a clinic on how to bash, crush, shred and pillage and feels like a return to the form displayed on their classic albums. High energy brutality with enough melody and musicianship to satisfy nearly any metal head. Another amazing metal comeback!

#7. Allen/Lande // The Showdown The third in a series of joint projects by vocal gods Russell Allen and Jorn Lande, the style is the same and the results are even better than before. Hook-laden hard rock/metal with an emphasis on big choruses and letting the vocals of these two titan carry the songs over. Nearly everything on here is immediate, accessible and high class and at this point it’s tough to argue with anything these two do together. When you need more melody than mayhem, this is the album to turn to.

#8. Grave // Burial Ground – The veterans of Swedish death/doom come crawling back from below ground with a stellar batch of new tunes and heavier emphasis on varied tempos and lots of ugly, sludgy death/doom riffage. In a year with several standout death metal releases, this one stands out and keeps me coming back for more. The evil and murky atmosphere combined with effective riffing and great gurgling vocals really made this one tough to beat. The Grave never sounded so good.

#9. Istapp // Blekinge – Another out of nowhere hit, Blekinge brings cold and frigid blackness mixed with plenty of melody and some very cool dynamics. Taking the best ideas from bands like Vintersorg, Borknager, and the viking/folk sub genres, Istapp managed to craft one of the most accessible black metal albums I ever heard without sacrificing the evil and frowning black metal creed and ethos. By no means the blackest or bleakest release of the year but it is the best.

#10. Atlantean Kodex // The Golden Bough – The debut full length from these epic/doom metallers was everything people had hoped for and a lot more, taking cues from While Heaven Wept and viking-era Bathory, The Golden Bough is a mammoth and crushing doom metal opus with everything the style needs and cries out for. Dramatic moods, mournful riffing, soaring vocals, it’s all here. While the musicianship is sloppy here and there, the overall product is still a total triumph. A great moment in doom.

#(ish) Volbeat // Beyond Hell/Above Heaven – Now THIS is cheating! Yes, I included an extra pick in my top ten and I did it because I’m Steel Fucking Druhm! Anywho, I had never heard of these guys and their weird rockabilly/thrash/country whatever they hell they are style until this year. However, upon hearing I was hooked and this is my favorite of their albums. They write excellent songs, have a cool sound and there’s something very likeable about them. I’m also a big fan of lead singer Michael Poulsen’s voice and style of singing (somewhere between Danzig and Elvis). If you haven’t checked these guys out, you should.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Briton Rites // For Mircalla – Outstanding doom metal of the highest order
  • Demiurg // Slakthus Gamleby – Brutal death metal with some twists
  • The Ordher // Kill the Betrayers – Good old fashion blasting death metal
  • Entrails // Tales From the Morgue – Throwback Swedish death metal
  • Fireball Ministry // Fireball Ministry – Dirty and grungey biker rock/metal
  • Wino // Adrift – Wino and his acoustic guitar and some heartfelt tunes
  • Star One // Victims of the Modern Age – Way heavier and more Russell Allen
  • SIG:AR:TYR // Godsaga – Epic viking/black metal, haunting and beautiful
  • Spiritual Beggars // Return to Zero – stoner/doom done with class
  • Hooded Menace // Never Cross the Dead – Brutal and creepy doom/death

Biggest Disappointments:

  • Halford // Made of Metal
  • Annihilator // Annihilator
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