I suppose I'm not going to buy any more music this year, so now's as good a time as any to enumerate my top 10 albums of the year, especially since I have a spare half hour or so. Admittedly I only bought about 20 albums, so you're going to see everything that I think was above average for me in 2010.
In alphabetical order:Agalloch
- Marrow of the Spirit
I'll confess: I've only listened to this album once. But I gave it my full attention, which must count for something, right? It's incredibly intricate and detailed, a real work of art. I'm not entirely impressed with the mix and production - I wouldn't settle for such dead drums or fuzzy guitars, and at one point a guitar seems to be quite out of tune. And I may be getting too far into music tech territory for complaining about the room reverb on the opening cello when there's another sample playing suggesting an outdoor environment, to be fair. But you can see past all this to the majesty beneath. I'd say this is essentially a reworking of their 'Pale Folklore
' album - fans of the mellow moments on 'The Mantle
' or the more accessible riffs of 'Ashes Against The Grain
' may take a while to adjust to this one.
- Ecailles De Lune
A disproportionate quantity of girls like Alcest. Why is this? Perhaps it's because it's black metal that is 'pretty'? Answers on a postcard please. This album at least has some weight to it, unlike predecessor 'Souvenirs d'un autre monde
' which, in my opinion, is a little weak (but might suit non-metal fans). There are some great passages here, beautiful melodies over sporadic blastbeats that strike a perfect balance between feeling organic and being clinically precise - something most black metal bands fail at, one way or the other. My only criticism is that the end of the album tails off somewhat.Barren Earth
- Curse Of The Red River
It's a Swallow the Sun and Amorphis supergroup. As such it sounds like Swallow The Sun covering Amorphis. 'Nuff said. Actually, while that is an accurate enough description in that fans of those bands will find something to enjoy here, there are some progressive and 70s elements here added to the mix too - again, both of which you see to a degree in the aforementioned bands, but brought more to the front here.
I'd never heard of these lot before seeing this album in Clint's shop The Heavy Sounds
and was pleasantly surprised. They sound typically Scandinavian - just, in several different ways. It's melodic death metal, it's doom-death, it's progressive death, it's all of those things in one package. You can also hear their singer on the new October Tide album, mentioned below.October Falls
- A Collapse Of Faith
Not many people know of this band, which I believe is pretty much a one-man project. He releases black metal with acoustic folk interludes and overlays, and has been doing it for 10 years, so it's a shame that popularity has passed him by when that sort of thing is all the rage at the moment. The songs here are simple but effective, long enough to draw you in but short enough to not outstay their welcome. October Tide
- A Thin Shell
The long-awaited and unexpected return of October Tide! This 3rd album comes many years after the previous one and as a result does not sound terribly like a direct continuation of the earlier work. But, you can hear the links if you pay attention, with Fredrik Norrman's dissonant lead sounds that were a trademark of mid-period Katatonia albums making a return here. If you like doom-death or ever find yourself wishing that Katatonia had some of their old weighty riffs back, this record should hit the spot.Remembrance
- Fall, Obsidian Night
I don't have a vinyl player at present so I couldn't hear the new Shape of Despair EP. However, Remembrance play something very similar - melodic funeral doom with strings and occasional female vocals - so that's good enough for me. It's beautiful stuff, but not going to be packing any dancefloors any time soon.Shadowgarden
Draconian don't seem to be doing much at the moment, so main songwriter Johan Ericson (hey, I never knew the Swedish language had the letter 'C'...) has taken the opportunity to indulge his gothic metal side with this project. Apart from the obvious similarities to Draconian, people have rightfully compared it to Sentenced too, but most interesting to me is that it sounds reminiscent of the mostly-forgotten Swedish band Cemetary, who had a pretty unique sound that is hinted at in places here. To be sure, this is 'just' gothic metal and not going to win any awards for progressive song-writing or deep meanings but if you like your metal singalongable on occasion then you can't go far wrong with this.Throes of Dawn
- The Great Fleet Of Echoes
Throes of Dawn are another gem mostly overlooked by the scene - historically playing slightly avant-garde black metal with keyboards that aren't afraid to actually sound like keyboards rather than pretending to be an orchestra in a box. Compared to the previous 3 releases this one is a lot less extreme, coming across more like recent Tiamat, harsh vocals almost (but not) entirely replaced by clean ones. Only the title track really sounds like their previous albums, the rest being the same instrumentation as before put to much mellower effect. For the most part this is an album you'll listen to in the background, or while relaxing, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.Winterfylleth
- The Mercian Sphere
Many of you are familiar with this album already so I won't say too much. While their first album felt quite unique, possibly with slight hints of early Satyricon in places, this one has a clearer sound and better execution, while perhaps losing just a touch of the variety as a result. Don't get me wrong, it's hard to fault the album and every track is great, but I felt predecessor 'The Ghost Of Heritage
' had a little more
to it. I find myself wondering whether - to draw an analogy to another English band in a similar position 30 years ago - this is their well-produced but slightly sterile "Killers" album after an invigorating "Iron Maiden". In that case the third album was arguably the real masterpiece, combining the best of both worlds, and maybe we'll see that from the 'Fylleth next time around too.