This right here is some crushing shit. These Finnish doomsters approach the style with a less melancholy and more sinister attitude. This is death/doom at one of the most literal mashups imaginable. Not satisfied with the traditional approach of slow, suffocating atmosphere, Hooded Menace is, in essence, a slowed down death metal band. Think Asphyx or Autopsy, slow, riff heavy, no blasts, grandiose soloing, and deep, guttural growls. Listen and be killed.
The remnants of Gallagher's backing band during Dying Fetus's finest hour, Destroy the Opposition, has again cranked up the grindy, blasting death metal mentality for their fourth full length. While Heirs to Thievery may not carry a nut shattering standout like "Conquistadores" or even be as overall exhilarating as Traitors, it's just as solid as anything the band has done in the past. And "solid" for Misery Index is "fantastic" for most of their contemporaries. There's a more hardcore aggression present here, but this is still metal to the bone and suitable for any violent outburst.
Has this band ever made a truly BAD album? Hell, even their worst (A Twist in the Myth) has a few classics (Fly, This Will Never End). This, At the Edge of Time, continues the band's storied legacy as one of the finest power metal bands to ever grace us on Earth. It's clear the band is trying to shoehorn all of their different eras of their career into this record, kind of haphazardly jumping between epic, sweeping symphonics, and fast, aggressive riffing, but they prove that they still kick ass at both styles.
While the Oilers still need a year or two to fully bloom, Edmonton doesn't need any excuses when it comes to their metal. Weapon here delivers an extremely death heavy blend of death/black metal that shits upon most of its competitors from a great height. Behemoth be damned, this is what the style should sound like. Black in atmosphere and tremolo scaling, death in brutality and execution. Also unlike many other practitioners of the style, nothing here feels like a wasted track. This entire record is memorable, and that combined with stellar songwriting and musicianship earns it a spot on this list.
These guys are death metal legends for a damn good reason. Even after all these years, Immolation has yet to slow down or cop out. Their style is unique to the point that I've yet to hear a really blatant clone. Hell, even insanely creative and unique bands like Demilich and Incantation have their share of imitators, yet Immolation remains untouched. Majesty and Decay is a monument as to why that's the case. Crushing, twisted, maniacal, and overall just brutal as fuck. You know exactly what you're going to get here, but Immolation ain't about to fix was isn't broken.
So I was very disappointed with Hour of 13's newest album, The Ritualist, but my woes were quickly assuaged when the existence of Briton Rites became known to me. Phil Swanson has lent his vocal talents to one of the better traditional doom albums I've heard in a long while. Instead of the pure Sabbath worship of his other aforementioned band, Briton Rites keeps their sound reminiscent without becoming a clone. This is epic, powerful, galloping, occult doom for fans of the old school. The songs never feel as long as they are, everything stays fresh and interesting despite being so rooted in the past. A definite must hear.
My anus has only recently fully recovered from the punishing rape that was The Vile Conception, but Hour of Penance has once again ravaged me in ways that Genghis Khan's worst victims have shown sympathy for. Everything about the previous record is actually improved on. The vocals are more hellish, the riffs are more thought out, the percussion is even more devastating, there is almost nothing to fault here. This brutal tech death style gets old at times, but Hour of Penance have avoided that pratfall by never losing sight of what really matters... strong songwriting. One of the most brutal releases of the year, hands down.
After twenty goddamn heartbreaking years, Overkill have finally managed to return to the heights they used to attain with alarming regularity in the 80s. All of the groovy pretenses are absent, Blitz is at the top of his game, the production, while clippy at times, is far better than what they've had over the past few albums, the riffs are top notch, just everything is finally back in order with these thrash giants. I guess they were just waiting for thrash to be cool again.
There are some that believe that bands like White Wizzard are leading a charge of "new old school" heavy metal bands. If that's the case, then Sweden's Enforcer seems to be one of the only bands to really grasp the meaning of pure, straight, fast, and energetic heavy metal. You never once get the feeling that the songs sound the way they do because the band is following a strict, unwritten code as to what metal is supposed to sound like (like the aforementioned White Wizzard do). This sounds like it could have been released in the 80s simply because the band makes kick ass metal influenced by bands of that era. One of the most fun records released this year.
Enforcer only released ONE OF the most fun records this year because the king of kings in that department was released by Striker. This album is so fucking cheesy, I swear I'm gonna need bypass surgery soon, but no other album this year even came close to eclipsing this in terms of how often I spinned it. This is very similar to Enforcer in the sense that this is pure, undiluted heavy metal, but the only reason this took the top spot over it was because there is just no way Diamonds is anywhere near as fun as Eyes in the Night. The wailing vocals, the upbeat riffs, the pounding drums, the anthemic choruses, there is just next to nothing wrong here. Proving once again that Edmonton is way better at metal than they are with hockey nowadays (For an added hockey trivia bonus, the vocalist's name is Dan Cleary. I want to knock it down due to the Red Wing connection, but it's too damn awesome for me to do such a thing).
So there ya have it, Canada's Striker brings home the very first BH Award for Album of the Year. Congratulations guys, keep this shit up in the future.
And now for a few other bits of unfinished business...
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Mafia: This would have easily cracked the top 5 had I included it. The reason I didn't was simply because it was an EP. Three new songs, and At the Gates cover, and an instrumental outro. The fact that it all kicked ass was a little unfair to the albums with 10 tracks that kicked equal ass. Oracles was amazing, and if this EP is any clue, their next full length will be as well, they'll just have to wait a year to make the list.
Accept - Blood of the Nations: I, like most fans, was very upset and disturbed by the notion of an Accept album without Udo. Also like most fans, I was knocked on my ass by the sheer power of his replacement, Mark Tornillo. Yeah, no doubt at all, this man can wail. Even better is that most of the songs were pretty good and just as anthemic as ever. So why no place on the list? It's just too damn long. All of the songs go on forever, it feels like the album finishes at just under three hours, it's just too much. Trim the fat and this would have been a top 5 contender.
Witchaven - Terrorstorm: My favorite underdog has finally released a full length. And while all of the building blocks are in place, it just doesn't seem as unrestrained and frenzied as the previous demo comp, Totalitarian State of War. So their charm has been toned down a notch, and that unfortunately was a huge factor in their appeal. This is still a great album, just not better than the top 10. I have faith in you, boys. You'll kill 'em next time, I'm sure.
Rhapsody of Fire - The Frozen Tears of Angels: Rhapsody is awesome, we all know this, and this was their heaviest release in a long while, it was just unfortunately BORING AS HELL. This is the case except for one track, "Reign of Terror". That song is Rhapsody's best song by a galactic mile, absolutely no question. The fact that they manage to crank out a universe shatteringly awesome track along with a bunch of mediocre borefests is baffling to me. Seriously, check this out purely for that track, everything else can suck it.
Melechesh - The Epigenesis: After two thundering juggernauts with Sphynx and Emissaries, Melechesh finally broke their streak. The style here is slower, more atmospheric, and focused on the grandiose mystery of the middle eastern culture. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work as well as the more blistering and riff centric style the band initially flourished on. One of my favorites took a bit of a tumble here.
Heathen - The Evolution of Chaos: Kind of a difficult one since it was officially out in 2009, but a majority of the world didn't see a release until 2010, so I'll allow it. The issue here is that all of the best tracks just happen to be the three from the unnamed demo from 2005. Yeah, they're cleaned up, but the new songs just pale in comparison. Once this is realized, there's really no reason to listen to this album.
Hour of 13 - The Ritualist: Just boring, not much else to say. The occult eccentricity of their previous, self titled album just seems to be missing. It was Sabbath worship before, but now it's just not interesting. A damn shame, I had high hopes for this band.
Mighty Midgets - Raising Ruins for the Future: I'm fairly new to melodic hardcore, but if this is what it is, I want a hell of a lot more of it. Fast, frenzied, furious punk/hardcore/whatever the hell this is classified as.
God is an Astronaut - Age of the Fifth Sun: The post rock band that found popularity with shorter songs and accessible melodies. Yup, same formula is at work here, and it's just as great as usual. Fans shouldn't be worried at all.
Army of the Pharaohs - The Unholy Terror: I know next to nothing about rap, but I know that this posse of undegroud Philly rappers make some of the best I've heard, Celph Tilted especially. I don't expect there to be many fans reading this, but if you have an interest, you won't be disappointed.
Shadow of the Colossus - Shadow of the Colossus: Damn skippy, this is probably the best of the few deathcore bands I've managed to really enjoy. Heavy, aggressive, and enough on the metal side to find a metalhead like myself thoroughly enjoying it.
The Browning - The Browning: I should hate this, I really should. It's nothing but techno beats and breakdowns, BUT IT KILLS. It's an odd mashup, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
So there ya have it, my opinion blasted all over your face, just how we both like it. I'll do my best to keep this updated semi-regularly, at least once a week. So now that I'm public, all I can say as we journey forwards is "Welcome to my lair..."