Thursday, December 23, 2010
2010 marked a change in the way I approached music. Two years ago I was making an effort to keep on top of every single genre there was and I felt like I was missing out if I didn’t listen to everything that came out. There was less of that last year, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered investing so much time into what essentially resulted in a single list at the end of the year that some people read and then quickly forgot. This year was different because I still listened to quite a few new releases but I mainly listened to new releases from bands I already liked, or new stuff in a couple of specific sub-genres that I listen to more of these days. It was of course far more enjoyable.
I stated in the blurb for my 09 list that anyone who ever thinks a single year is ‘bad’ in terms of releases is probably retarded. There are records being released every year which are great, and of course some years may have a higher quantity of really great albums, but generally if you haven’t found a good album in a particular year, you are most certainly not looking hard enough.
However, 2010 was in fact a year where nothing remarkably ‘essential’ was released. Some bands further perfected their style, while newcomers released fantastic albums in abundant styles. Indie rock had some ups and downs – The Gaslight Anthem failed to impress with the follow-up to their ’59 Sound record, but the slack was picked up by what is on par with Deerhunter’s best record thus far, Halcyon Digest. Titus Andronicus apparently released the best indie rock record of the year, but my single casual spin of that has yet to make any revelations. One of the more anticipated albums out this year was Arcade Fire’s third record, The Suburbs. Initially I found the record to be underwhelming but soon enough I began to realise its potency. It’s as good, if not more, as Neon Bible (neither touch Funeral at all though). The Magnetic Fields, one of my favourite bands, released their 9th record – it was a hit and miss record, but still had all the usual (therefore good) MagFields characteristics.
Death metal was of course on top again this year. The death metal underground is still seething with a constant stream of new bands playing old styles, but contrary to what some may think, this is fantastic. Vasaeleth, Begrime Exemious and Adversarial were very impressive with each of their debut LPs, while Immolation saw a return to form with their 8th record Majesty and Decay. There was a plethora of other releases among those, such as demos from Burial Invocation and Innumerable Forms, not to mention new material from Incantation and Imprecation. The best of the bunch you can view below.
Regardless, 2010 was of course a great year musically, and some really great albums were released. There were most definitely many I didn’t listen to, or even hear about, but I think it’s beyond me now to even try and keep up that level of consistency. The list below is in a rough order, but don’t take the ordering too seriously. I’ve made it in such a way so that everything on it is worth your time.
1. Vasaeleth – Crypt Born and Tethered to Ruin
Ordering my top 5 albums was rather difficult because I like them all almost equally, but Crypt Born... comes out on top. Vasaeleth burst out of nowhere with this debut release, reviving everything that Incantation did right in the early 90s. This record is filthy, fuzzy and utterly dank, and thus deserving of the top spot.
2. Encoffination - Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh
I discovered this band through the underground label that distributed the tape pressing, Ritval Death Offerings. I admit it was a bit of a blind buy because the hype behind it had yet to materialise, but it was definitely a good decision. The level of improvement from their first EP is considerable, a level of consistency they’ve maintained on their most recent EP Seventh Temple of Laodicean Scripture. I’m confident the full length and EP they have scheduled for release in 2011 will not disappoint.
3. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
My summer record. I still like Microcastle more but that has had over two years to grow friendly. Halcyon marks a change in Deerhunter’s style, moving on from the wacky psychadelia of earlier releases to a much more lush and relaxed sound.
4. Begrime Exemious - Impending Funeral of Man
Thrashy and very satan. Begrime Exemious improved upon their already stand out demos to release a well rounded slab of black/death.
5. Adversarial - All Idols Fall Before the Hammer
The ‘controversial’ death metal release of the year. While it’s received many favourable reviews, it has also been harshly criticised for its production values and ‘that snare’. Regardless, All Idols... is a dense and resolute death metal record – it brings new light onto the Canadian black/death scene and certainly is setting Adversarial up for great things.
6. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Great things were expected of Arcade Fire in 2010 and it’s safe to say these expectations were met. The album took a little time to click in but now months after its release I’m still listening to it regularly. ‘Suburban War’ is pretty much the best thing ever.
7. Immolation - Majesty and Decay
After a drop in form, Immolation are again living up to their reputation as hardened death metal veterans with the release of their 8th record. Unlike the previous two albums which were stale and uninteresting, the American group managed to write some killer riffs which make Majesty and Decay very listenable.
8. Ash Borer/Fell Voices – Split
Count’s number one. This could possibly have been higher for me but after hearing it once I didn’t touch it again until recently and so I haven’t had a chance to completely absorb it yet. Regardless it’s good enough to make the top ten easily, and is my top black metal record of the year (though if I had properly listened to the new Panopticon compilation, this may have been different).
9. The Men – Immaculuda
I didn’t really listen to much punk this year, in fact this is the only album that has made the list and is perhaps one of only several punk albums I bothered to hear (which were probably average grind records). The Men play a noisy and feedback-ridden style of punk that shifts from a hardcore aesthetic to a dreamy, almost shoegaze-esque atmosphere with the change of a song. A captivating record.
10. Eibon - Entering Darkness
A huge improvement on their s/t EP, Entering Darkness showcases a band finding what they do best and doing it really fucking well.
11. Burial Invocation - Rituals of the Grotesque
Other than a few brutal death bands, Turkey ‘s death metal scene is rather sparse and lacking in anything remotely worthwhile – this was true until Burial Invocation released their debut EP, Rituals of the Grotesque. It’s perhaps the only Turkish band who is buying into the old school resurgence, but for a lone act they’re certainly doing very well. Recalling the likes of Incantation but in a more contemporary form, similar to Dead Congregation, Burial Invocation wreck out four tracks of punishing and solid death metal on this EP. Well worth a listen and a good indicator of a band on the rise.
12. The Magnetic Fields – Realism
Stephin Merritt releases his ninth record under his Magnetic Fields moniker, and while it is certainly no 69 Love Songs, Realism still channels Merritt’s wistful pop parody to a great effect.
13. Ocean of Zero - The Wake
Out of Queensland Australia, Ocean of Zero is a group of young stoners or surfies or whatever playing crushing old school death metal. It’s obscure as shit but so good at the same time. Only a hundred copies of this cassette were pressed and if you happen to want your own (provided there are any left) contact their label Bloody Oath Records at this address – email@example.com
14. The Dead - Ritual Executions
Originally released in 2009, this album was remastered this year after the band signed with Diabolical Conquest Records. As can be read in the review below, the band sounds like Church of Misery playing death metal. The remaster is also tastefully done.
15. Father Befouled - Morbid Destitution of Covenant
I think I like the idea of Father Befouled more than their music, or at least I did before they released Morbid Destitution of Covenant. Their debut LP was all right but suffered from sloppiness and was uninteresting in some parts. Luckily, the band found their feet with Morbid Destitution... and have released a very good, if derivative, death metal album.
16. Cardiac Arrest - Haven for the Insane
This is my first experience with Cardiac Arrest and I have to say, this band is relentless. It has enough filth to rival Autopsy, but plays it at twice the speed and with three times the brutality.
17. Swallowed – Swallowed
Their last demo was a decent stab at copying Autopsy (which is okay to do I guess), but Swallowed just came out of the blue with this s/t demo and blew shit apart. This is slow and crushing death/doom that takes elements from early Finnish bands and plays them even slower. Well worth any death metal fan’s time.
18. Innumerable Forms - Dark Worship
Another death metal demo, and this one could definitely be higher but it’s here so deal with it. Fuzzy production that could be better but doesn’t really make a difference because this crushing and full of riffs. If you like any Finnish death metal of the early 90s (or just death metal in general), this is a must.
19. Diocletian - War of All Against All
New Zealand’s Diocletian released their Decimator EP a couple of years ago which I really enjoyed, but their debut LP Doom Cult was a step back and I subsequently let the band go (other than spinning the shit out my Decimator vinyl). Fortunately, Diocletian have improved on the mediocrity of Doom Cult with their follow up LP, War of All Against All – the pseudo-brutality of the first LP has been replaced with a sound and style that actually sounds evil and satan, which is a plus in my book.
20. Prosanctus Inferi - Pandemonic Ululations of Vesperic Palpitation
I won’t go into how much I love this band, but their demo Sacreligious Desecration in Excelsis is a non-stop rollercoaster ride in getting your arse kicked, so when I found out that a full length was in the works, I developed a boner. Unfortunately, Pandemonic Ululations... was somewhat disappointing. It could have been so much more, but just didn’t have that somfin somfin that the demo had. Still, it’s good enough to make it into my best of year list, and is still a worthy listen.
Coffinworm - When All Became None
The Wakedead Gathering - Tenements of Ephemera
Aesahaettr - Aesahaettr
Doombringer - Abhorrent Dreams of the End
Defeated Sanity - Chapters of Repugnance
Aidan Baker - Lifeform/Liminoid
Incantation - Scapegoat
Imprecation - The Sigil of Lucifer
Furdidurke - Furdidurke
Ophis - Withered Shades