What goddamn business do I have writing one of these one might ask? I've spent much of the year listening to Budgie, Phantom Blue, Tesla, Yes, Deep Purple, and falling asleep early on Saturday nights. Ok, so maybe I have gone to a large amount of shows to burn it down with the crew but I've barely written in months and sure as hell don't understand what's "in" right now. On the other hand, 9/10 doctors agree that chilling the fuck out makes you less of a cynical asshole. I would humbly suggest that this bodes well for the musical palette. Once you realize the kind of massive hubris that's involved in thinking you could cover all the bases in metal on top of a 40-50 hour a week job, firing a flaming arrow into the floating carcass of your former blog is actually damn liberating. It's nice to no longer be drowning in press releases that lionize artists destined to be also-rans, for one. Trying to be concise in culture that thrives on extravagance is also sort of an absurd exercise. It's not giving up; it's throwing the bloody ring into Mt. Doom.
When one is no longer crushed under the jackboot of running a website, it's remarkable how much time is left to listen to things you genuinely enjoy and, ya know, have a social life. Nonetheless, I do need to scratch the proverbial itch from time to time. ThrashHead, being the wonderful patrons of the arts they are, have given me a stage from which yet another internet philosopher can tell you why what you're listening to is wrong and why you should be listening to other stuff. Now, we're all entitled to our over-puffed opinions and I hope mine will at least provoke some search and discovery, but the next dude who tells me that Black Sabbath's latest collection of studio wizardry constitutes an album ---I will do no less than throw my shoe at such a man. Word to mother.
So, without further adieu....
#25 Ihsahn – De Seelenbrechen
I can just hear the laptops slamming shut with a start like this but I found this album to be a very sound progression from Eremita. It's less convoluted than some of Ihsahn's more ambitious compositions and the first three tracks just sound colossal. Plus, brother's Tvietan's love for Radiohead shines through during the album's more tranquil moments in a very cool way.
#24 Kongh – Sole Creation
Doom is boring and doom bands that solely write songs of 10 minutes or longer usual make me crave death, which is maybe the point? Kongh is a wonderful exception. An undoubtedly massive sound doesn't hinder their ability to infuse these doomy jams with giant, lingering vocal hooks.
#23 Frigoris – Wind
If there is some sort of central committee for this whole New Wave of German Black Metal for Soon-to-be-unemployed Philosophy Majors, then this band is definitely in there. Though they won't win you any cool points with the kvlter-than-though crowd, Frigoris' melodic phrasing on this album is undeniable. Along with Agrypnie, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Fäulnis, Eïs, and Imperium Dekadenz, this band only reinforces the notion that German black metal is ahead of its time.
#22 Imperium Dekadenz – Meadows of Nostalgia
Same as above. Both gritty and ethereal, Meadows of Nostalgia is the band's best work yet.
#21 Falkenbach – Asa
Tugging on the nostalgia a bit here but this album is indeed a very nice return to the hymns of olde. Is it original? Not at all, but the vocal lines per usual are outstanding and a great reminder of why this dude is credited with one of the finest Viking metal albums ever. No, I'm sorry it doesn't have any crazy time signatures , 23 string guitars or whatever the crap. Now shut up and hoist the sails.
#20 In Solitude – Sister
Having once eaten lunch with the heshers, these guys have now moved to the table with the goth kids where they can discuss their love for The Cure without getting their lunch money taken. The 4 minute mark of "A Buried Sun" is the kind of soundly constructed bluesy goth groove that sends otherwise normal metalheads into binges of David Bowie and Danzig for weeks on end.
#19 A Storm of Light – Nations to Flames
Are you a post metal denier like me? Let's face it, it's a real genre in the same way psychology is a science. Meaning, not. Well, these songs are so memorable and heavy that it won't matter. These guys have been at it a while but Nations to Flames sees a mature band with their songwriting logistics finally in order. Like a sludgier Ministry or White Zombie singing of a time to come where the nation-state, as a concept, will inevitably become obsolete. Seems unpleasant but if the new order sounds this supremely righteous, then sign me up.
#18 Noisem – Agony Defined
I am stupidly excited to see this band on tour with Carcass. Agony Defined taps into the same areas of the brain that light up whenever someone throws on Reigning Blood or Epidemic of Violence. Notably however, Noisem doesn't lose that sense of cadence which is so crucial at high speeds.
#17 Deeds of Flesh – Portals of Canaan
Sweep-happy technical death metal with bronze age biblical themes? You betcha. Melts more faces than your local plastic surgeon.
#16 Pretty Maids – Motherland
Witch Cross and Saxon may have both put out great records this year but don't sleep on Pretty Maids. Ken Hammer and Ronnie Atkins can still rip it up. Keyboardist Morten Sandeger is also a righteous dude. Just started spinning this one and I'm hooked.
#15 Ereb Altor – Fire Meets Ice
There's a lot of hullubaloo surrounding Twilight of the Gods but this is the only Bathory worship band worth their weight in mead.
#14 Enforcer – Death by Fire
Some people think this album is better than Diamonds. That is a colossal lie. However, it is still a rip roarin' tour de force of everything that makes heavy metal great.
#13 Hela – Broken Cross
Doom metal with drifting melodies and lots of melancholy. Hela succeeds where most doom metal fails: in achieving something memorable and engaging.
#12 Black Fast – Starving Out The Light
I'm probably overrating this because of how much I want a new Vektor release...
#11 Cage – Pilots
Ya know what's high praise? Putting this at #11. It's a grindcore band devoted to Nicholas Cage. "And?" I'm sorry, did I stutter? *reads from CD booklet* It's the sound of Nic Cage LOSING HIS FUCKING SHIT.
#10 Pest (SWE) – The Crowning Horror
This album is so far down the "We Love The First Wave" rabbit hole that it's almost satirical but the tunes are righteous. For fans of Master's Hammer, Venom, Nifelheim, and late 00s Darkthrone
#9 Kvelertak – Meir
Deep down in the musical DNA of every hesher is a good dose of rock n' roll gusto. There is no better reminder of this than Kvelertak's popularity, every ounce of it thusfar well-deserved.
#8 Satan – Life Sentence
It's getting pretty hard to name a band that's not "back together" --in the modern sense, with a couple of scabs in tow-- but in Satan's case, you're sure glad these fogies decided to answer the call. They obviously love their craft more than most bands ever will.
#7 Carcass – Surgical Steel
Michael Amott may be the Beethoven of crafting death metal for teenage girls but Surgical Steel just goes to show that he was not the driving force behind Carcass all those years. Thunderous grooves, twisting harmonizations, and good old fashioned grind-blasting all find a place on Surgical Steel.
#6 Slutvomit – Swarming Darkness
The only thing better than a rotten, riff-stuffed, false-crushing album is one you can get through in about 35 mins. Of course, some people just like saying this band's name in front of grandma. I actually like the riffing. It's honest, inspired, and reeks of early Sodom and Bathory.
#5 Týr – Valkyrja
Heri Joensen puts in another fantastic vocal performance and the band drifts further in the direction of traditional heavy metal. This is the soundtrack to every epic thing that's ever happened.
#4 Queensrÿche – Self Titled
Geoff Tate walks out of a Washington court room completely bewildered. Did he hear that right? "Yeah, sure you can both use the Queensrÿche name on tour. *Judge slams gavel* "haha, what's for lunch, bailiff? We still on for Applebee's?" The words echo in his mind, reverberating endlessly over Todd La Torre belting out "The Needle Lies" like Geoff hasn't been able to do in years, the harrowing symphony driving him insane.
Just imagine how not fun Geoff is at a party. Always bringing his own wine to a kegger, telling you how he's "over" metal, pretending he doesn't get all the Anton Levey jokes thrown his way. The guy was once a lyrical and vocal powerhouse but, the string of atrocious Rÿche records in the 00s aside, his being existentially repulsive would be grounds enough to kick him out of the band.
So, while Tate is making the rounds with scabsrÿche, do not even hesitate for one second in making up your mind on which side to you're to land on. Todd La Torre and crew have released the band's most dynamic record since 1994's Promised Land.
#3 Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.
Can you duplicate the haunting verses of a man who stared down his own mortality nightly? Of course not but if Sabbath's half-century career is any indication, it is more than possible to write new, monumental chapters in music without the voice the defined the band's early career. In fact, there's no telling what creative doors unloading the baggage might open. I am sorry for those who can't be bothered to understand how badass this record is.
#2 Borrowed Time – Self Titled
While masses of online critics are stuck showering praises on Atlantean Kodex's tepid vocal arrangements and long-winded song writing or the formulaic Bathory worship of Twilight of the Gods, Borrowed Time frontman J. Priest has equipped his band with a bottomless arsenal of hooks and wails. Matt Preston's guitarwork on this album is likewise rich and indulgent. This band just gets it.
#1 Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance
A bro sage of mine once said, "metal is about one thing: being true". That said, your norsecore band is bad and you should feel bad. Vive la Résistance!