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#25 Ensiferum's Unsung Heroes
I know a lot of people were rather disappointed with this album, especially after the phenomenal From Afar. But despite the letdown, it still is an incredibly solid album filled with the rocking and epic riffs that we expect from this band. Is it their best work? No way, but it continues their trend of releasing solid albums. Not every album will be perfect.
#24 Testament's Dark Roots of the Earth
Testament has been an incredibly consistent band throughout their career; releasing lots of high quality thrash metal albums. This album is no different. Coming off of the very well received Formation of Damnation, the band decides to do more of the same. This isn't exactly a bad thing, and the album has a bunch of fun, high energy songs. And isn't that what a thrash album should be?
#23 Dethklok's Dethalbum III
I am consistently surprised by how entertaining and well put together Dethklok's albums are. And they seem to be getting better with each release. They play melodic death metal in the vein of early In Flames, but with their own silly twist on the formula. If you've merely brushed them off as a gag band, you might try their latest album. It might change your mind.
#22 Kamelot's Silvethorn
I honestly was not expecting to enjoy this album as much as I did. It's always tough to replace a lead vocalist, especially when he's widely considered to be the driving force of the band, or at least the most well-known element of it. Yet despite Khan's departure, this album is arguably the best sine The Black Halo. Tommy Karevik fills in admirably, his vocal style meshing well with the band. In fact, I would say his new blood has energized the band and created much more interesting songs than their past few albums. If you're a fan who's wary of the album, I strongly recommend checking it out.
Torn (Couldn't find a video, sorry)
Sacrimony (Angels of the Afterlife)
My Confession (Another one where there is no video)
#21 Gojira's L'Enfant Sauvage
Gojira is one of the first extreme metal bands I really liked, so they hold a special place in my heart as part of my evolution into a true metalhead. So, obviously I was really looking forward to their new album. While it isn't their best work (I would say From Mars to Sirius still is their crowning work), it continues their refinement of sound, resulting in a much more polished and refined work. If you weren't a fan before, this won't change your mind. But for the fans, this is exactly what we wanted.
#20 The Sword's Apocryphon
The Sword continues their path of fun, rocking stoner metal, releasing an album that's arguably their most accomplished to date. While this album has heavier influences from classic rock than in the past, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It still rocks. Hard. And that's really all you want from The Sword, isn't it?
#19 Primal Fear's Unbreakable
Primal Fear has been around for a long time. Formed after Ralf Scheepers got rejected for the job of replacing Rob Halford in Judas Priest, Primal Fear has been producing Painkiller-esque metal for years. And these guys still rock. This album is chock full of sing a long choruses, huge riffs, and of course, Ralf's epic vocals. One aspect of this album I would like to point is the sheer anthemic quality of many of the songs. Seriously, these are near perfect metal anthems on this album. If there are any faults with the album, it might be there are too many anthem-style songs. But, you know what? That's ok.
#18 Silencer's Great Bear
This is one of those albums that just come out of nowhere. An album I picked up by recommendation of a friend, and it turns out to be one of the best thrash metal albums of the year. A concept album about the US-USSR Space Race, told from the perspective of the Soviets, it's a lot of fun to listen to. It's good thrashy fun, with a good dose of melody.
The Great Bear (No video)
The Roar (No video either)
I am Thunder! (Still no video)
#17 Pharaoh's Bury the Light
Pharaoh is a power metal fronted by Tim Aymar, who is most famous for also being the vocalist for Chuck Schuldiner's Control Denied. And if you are fans of that band, you would probably like Pharaoh too. An excellent power metal band, they have tons of technical skill with some simply jaw dropping riffs. One thing that really stood out to me is how prominent and audible the bass is. There are a few moments where the bass takes the lead and really shines. Simply put, one of the best power metal albums of the year where it seems there were very few stand outs.
#16 Dawnbringer's Into the Lair of the Sun God
Dawnbringer has been putting out some solid old school heavy metal since their first album, but the formula didn't really click until 2010's Nucleus. Full of traditional style riffs and solos, the album manage to feel retro without being derivative. That continues with this year's album, where they've refined the formula and managed to make the whole album seem a lot more epic that their previous work. There are galloping riffs, soaring vocals, and punishing drums.
#15 Wintersun's Time I
This is one of the most anticipated albums of the year, and with the eight or so years of anticipation, I knew it wouldn't be able to live up to it. Yet I was pleasantly surprised when it actually did manage to meet most of my expectations. While it isn't as nearly riff driven as the debut, it still manages to be consistently exciting and fun. One thing that really impressed me was the near immaculate flow of the album; no transition feels forced or awkward. The synth melodies feel almost like a full blown orchestra at times, especially on the album highlight, the thirteen minute Sons of Winter and Stars. Another note is that Jari's clean vocals are massively improved from the debut, which is a good thing in my book. And despite being pretty much an extended intro to Sons of Winter and Stars, When Time Fades Away is surprisingly poignant and beautiful.
#14 Aeternam's Moongod
Aeternam is a rather recent discovery of mine, a melodic death metal band with some really solid Middle Eastern-influenced riffs. This really makes them stand out in a year that I thought was a fantastic year for melodeath. This Canadian band features some fantastic riffs and some excellent cleans, and the small, but tasteful use of synths is superb. I strongly recommend it for fans of melodic death metal in general, but everyone should check it out.
#13 Gorod's A Perfect Absolution
Gorod is one of the best technical death metal bands around with their album Leading Vision being one of my personal favorite tech death albums. Well, they continue to being pretty awesome. If you've heard them before, you know what to expect. Cool jazz influenced riffing, some sweet bass, and pummeling drums. This band pretty much takes tech death and perfects it, refining it to an awesome sweet spot.
#12 Ofermod's Thaumiel
You know what? I generally am not a big fan of black metal, yet I consistently find black metal bands that surprise me and I enjoy a lot. This is another one of those releases. This is an old school black metal album, with thrashy riffs and some excellent harsh vocals. Yet this band refuses to completely adhere to the black metal rules. The production is actually pretty decent, good enough that everything can be heard but still gritty enough that it keeps its old school credibility. This is just solid black metal all around.
#11 Sophicide's Peridition of the Sublime
Remember everything I just said about Gorod? Yeah, take all that and apply it to Sophicide. And do you know what? It's all by one guy, Adam Lazslo. It's all written and played by him. The riffs are fast paced and amazing. The drumming is brutal. It shreds. It destroys. It is the best tech death album of the year. I honestly wanted to place this higher, but there was so much good stuff this year that it missed the top 10.
#10 Devin Townsend's Epicloud
In my not-very-humble opinion, Devin Townsend can do no wrong. He has consistently released albums that are highly entertaining, yet they are incredibly diverse. Compare his first solo album, Ocean Machine: Biomech's calm and ambient style to his more recent Deconstruction's fury and absurdity. Hell, even compare albums that came out in the same year, the aforementioned Deconstruction and Ghost. They are as different as different can be. Yet both are highly entertaining and uniquely Devin. This year he puts out a weird pop-metal-hard rock mix, and it's superb. It's Devin's signature style and vision that let's this stand out among the crowd. While no one will claim this is his best work, it continues his track record of strong, yet unique albums.
#9 Rush's Clockwork Angels
Rush is one of the greatest bands of all time. If you disagree, you are wrong. Simple as that. Despite that, I found their post-Moving Pictures material to be rather unremarkable. They did produce some more solid stuff, but this is the first album since Moving Pictures that I felt really shows the band at their full potential. Outstanding guitar work from Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee continues to be an outstanding bass player and one of the most unique vocalists of all time, and then there is Neil Peart. Do I really need to go into the sheer amazingness that he is? This is Rush doing what they do best. And that makes it well worth any fan's time.
#8 Skalmold's Born Loka
I was not all that impressed with Skalmold's debut. It was pretty generic Viking metal. But it did have some good moments. Then this landed. And it was awesome. This is bombastic and epic. It takes more influence from traditional heavy metal than most Viking metal albums, which helps it stand out a little more. The gruff vocals are phenomenal and the album manages to feel epic without being over the top or cheesy. This is a truly awesome album. Check it out.
#7 Be'lakor's Of Breath and Bone
Remember how I said this year was pretty good to melodic death metal? This is another album that proves it, and it's the best melodic death metal album of the year. The riffs are beautiful but fierce; the album feels epic without being overblown. This sounds like Dark Tranquility or Insomnium on their best days. This album truly shows that melodeath isn't dead yet, there is still plenty of room for new bands willing to tinker a little with the formula (in this case by making absolute monsters of tracks, the shortest song beside the 1:30 To Stir the Sea is just over 6 minutes). Check this out if you haven't yet.
#6 Kreator's Phantom Antichrist
Kreator has been around for quite a long while. They are considered one of the most important and influential thrash bands of all time, especially on the German scene. And despite their 90s missteps, they have an extremely solid career. Their stuff post-90s have been great thrash metal albums that show the retro-thrash bands how it's done. This album is pretty much standard Kreator (which is never a bad thing), but the band adds a bit of melody to their uncompromising thrash. It's still recognizably Kreator, but it's a tad catchier, more reminiscent of Coma of Souls than Pleasure to Kill. Mille's vocals are still angry and violent, the riffs are as strong as ever, and Ventor's drumming is superb. This is easily the best thrash album of the year
#5 High on Fire's De Vermis Mysteriis
I still think that Sleep breaking up is the best thing to happen to Matt Pike. It lead to him creating High on Fire, who, in my eyes, are vastly superior. Anyway, this album is dirty, fast, and crushing. It's High on Fire doing what they do best. While I loved Snakes for the Divine, I do admit it was missing some of that griminess that High on Fire is known for. Well, this album brings it back in force, with lotso dirty riffs and solos. Pretty much, this is a High on Fire album where they do what they do best. That's it.
#4 Xanthochroid's Blessed He with Boils
This is one of those albums that blindsided me. I saw several positively glowing reviews for this piece of work, and I could hardly believe the near unanimous acclaim this debut by an incredibly obscure band was getting. And then I got my hands on this little number. It blew me away. The symphonies are incredibly layered and complex, yet never too overpowering. The riffs are strong and moving, the cleans and harsh vocals are both powerful enough to stand on their own, the drumming is excellent. Really, I am surprised such a polished and refined album came out of a young band. These are guys I am definitely keeping an eye on; I expect more great things to come from them.
#3 Hellwell's Beyond the Boundries of Sin
I still have some disappointment left over from Manilla Road's last release. So when I heard Mark Shelton had a side project, I was both worried and excited. Maybe this album will be the Manilla Road epic I was expecting. And it pretty much is. This album feels like it was plucked from their mid-80s glory days, filled with epic riffing and solos, some truly awe inspiring keyboard work, and some rough production. But at this point, that's become more and more of a lovable quirk of these guys. Basically, this is a Manilla Road album in every aspect except name. It's awesome old school heavy metal epicness.
End of Days (No video)
Eaters of the Dead
Tomb of the Unnamed One (No video)
#2 Vintersorg's Orkan
Vintersorg is one of those bands I wish I encountered earlier in my listening career. I've listened to a lot of their stuff and really liked it. Orkan is another incredibly solid release from the band, arguably one of their top 5 efforts. It has lots of flowing and simply beautiful melodies, and some surprising harmonized guitars that seem straight of the NWoBHM. Every single song is pretty excellent in every way.
#1 Sigh's In Somniphobia
Sigh is one of those bands. I love all of their albums, even their more raw and primitive early stuff. And they keep releasing excellent stuff. This album leans more towards their experimental style, but there is still plenty of ferocious black metal, like the first two tracks. But the highlight is what is called the Somniphobia suite, the middle section of the album that's around 42 minutes. One of my favorites is Amnesia, the weird lounge jazz black metal fusion. I honestly couldn't think of another band who could pull this off with the style and just expert songwriting that Sigh does. It's just so hard to describe this album...it's just so odd. And it rocks.
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