OK, so the world hasn’t ended, which only means that there will be more metallicious albums in the coming years. This year had its fair share of hits and misses, with quite a few letdowns and surprisingly, not a single power metal album I heard managed to enthrall me enough to make it to my top 10. Maybe I haven’t heard enough, who knows. However, here is my list. Again, I haven’t heard every album released this year so this list may not be to your agreement, and that’s absolutely fine.
10. Circus Maximus- Nine (Progressive Metal|Norway): Four years since their 2nd epic release ‘Isolate’, Circus Maximus released a more emotive album this year. The riffs are less fiery and more brooding and plaintive, and the the entire album is one beautiful thought-provoking piece of music. Vocalist Michael Erikson continues his great run of high-pitch control and the music is a lot more calculated, to the point where the very heavy Dream Theater influence clearly shines through. A perfect balance of heavy and soft music, mixed together in one great homogenous release.
Track Pick: Burn After Reading
9. Marduk- Serpent Sermon (Black Metal|Sweden): Mortuus leads the hate charge yet again on this sonic fist to the face. The tremolo lightning raids are there, interspersed intermittently with haunting chordplay and the beats are a lot more varied than any previous release by the band, ranging from blasts, to the D-beat to even slow waltzes. The music is well structured and crafted, creating pockets of light only to accentuate the overall darkness surrounding them. Forward Panzer Division!!
Track Pick: Coram Satanae
8. Swallow the Sun- Emerald Forest and the Blackbird (Melodic Doom Metal|Finland): After a not-so-great 4th album that shares its name with a piece of teeny-bopper fantasy literature, these Finnish masters of Gothic Doom have made a bit of a comeback with this haunting new album, based on a Finnish bedtime story. While this release is less replete with heavy palm-mutes, the soundscapes the band creates with tremolo/arpeggio harmonies and chords is just masterful work. The mood of the music changes smoothly from hope to despair and back to hope, covering all the other emotions in between. The vocals have a greater presence of clean singing and they fit perfectly like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Lastly, any band that can make Anette Olzen sound good (she guests on ‘Cathedral Walls’) gets a tip of the hat from me.
Track Pick: Labyrinth of London (Horror part IV)
7. Hour of Penance- Sedition (Death Metal|Italy): Fast and abrasive, chaotic yet structured…that’s how Hour of Penance’s music can be summed up. The band’s mantra of music at the speed of light continues on this album. None of the magic has been lost. The vocals are more powerful than ever, the drums just slaughter everything in the path of the beats and the riffwork is akin to the beauty that a Jackson Pollock painting exudes. A proverbial jackhammer to the head, in a really glorious way.
Track Pick: Deprave to Redeem
6. Destruction- Spiritual Genocide (Thrash Metal|Germany): 2 albums in consecutive years and both are awesome pieces of music? How? Only this deadle pioneering trio of teutonic thrash can answer the question. A groovier approach to their music, yet the band hasn’t compromised relentless aggression. This album is everything you love about Destruction and more. And a song with Tom Angelripper as guest vocalist can only sound even better than a regular one. If anything at all, the band sounds fresher than they ever have in terms of music.
Track Pick: Legacy of the Past
5. Aeon- Aeons Black (Death Metal|Sweden): Bludgeoning riffs with sadistic growls that are tied in with masterfully hate-filled songwriting, Aeon’s sermons of anti-Christianity continue on this tasty album. No worries of dumbing down music here, the structured chaos has only been taken a notch higher. If you want a truly delicious serving of heavy riffs and groovy-yet-relentless blast beats, this is the band for you.
Track Pick: I Wish You Death
4. Enslaved- RIITIIR (Progressive Metal|Norway): Soothingly powerful is how I would describe Enslaved’s music. This album is no less. Creatively written ambient sequences pepper the otherwise fast and abrasive extreme parts and yet both fit right into the same context. Keyboard player Herbrand has been given more clean singing opportunity and he has used it to the fullest. Every song on this album is an anthem.
Track Pick: Roots of the Mountain
3. Wintersun- Time I (Melodic Death/Folk Metal|Finland): 8 years is a long time to wait for a new album. And to make the fans believe its releasing that year, every year of those 8, only to delay it further is even worse. But when it finally releases and is everything you hoped for and more, it is a celestial feeling. And this very celestial feeling is captured by the musical charms of Jari Maenppaa. The album is one gigantic song, one can say, being an ambient and haunting experiences that transports you to a land of frost and snow, where time itself stands still, only to let it pass on this album itself. All I ask for now, is some more ‘Time’.
Track Pick: Time
2. Mors Principium Est- …And Death Said Live (Melodic Death Metal|Finland): 5 years is not a very short waiting time either for a new album. For Finland’s melodic death metal saviours Mors Principium Est, this album being released is a feat of its own. After having almost disbanded, the band has stuck to their belief in their music and have releases this masterpiece of an album. The formula is the same at its core, just a new form of it. The riffwork is melodic yet aggressive and unbridled, the vocals are well-maintained growls and the drums are a delectable set of varying tempos. The haunting keys and added sound programming add another epic dimension to the music. A truly fitting name for a band who’s name itself means ‘Death is the Beginning’.
Track Pick: Birth of the Starchild
1. Carach Angren- Where the Corpses Sink Forever (Symphonic Black Metal|The Netherlands): Never has such ingenuity in songwriting resulted in such creative music as this Dutch trio have generated. With their minds set on telling spectral stories, this new album is a concept within a concept. A story of 7 ghosts of war being plagued by immoral ends ravage a World War II executioner as he gets ready to execute 7 soldiers. Each song is a horrifying story of war schizophrenia. The band’s music is homogenously amorphous, with each song written as a symphony. Vocalist/guitarist Seregor’s emotive shrieks echo despair and anger like no other band, Ardek’s haunting keys and symphonic strains are married perfectly to the stringwork and Namtar’s crafty drums march on with groovy, intelligent and shape-shifting grace. One of the most creative forces in metal ever, there is a really bright future that lies ahead for this paranormal powerhouse.
Track Pick: Bitte Totet Mich