I love compiling annual lists because (1) it chronicles my own self-discovery of new metal, and (2) it turns on Spence to new bands so that we can share a true hive mentality for at least one episode! This year, my list seems to be even broader than before, mixing relatively disparate subgenres into one big, Jean de Crèvecœur-esque melting pot, to borrow one of my fave S. statements. It runs the gamut of death, doom, stoner, grind, goth, prog, and tech metal, and the countdown is…
#10: “A Thousand Martyrs” from Vallenfyre’s A Fragile King (Century Media). Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh steps up to the mic for the first time for a godly death/doom album with beaucoup PL guitar flourishes.
#9: “All Shall Float” from Junius’ Reports from the Threshold of Death (Prosthetic). Finally getting the exposure they deserve, Junius are prêt-à-porter for metal fans weaned on The Fixx. Would be a top play on Robert Smith’s iPod if there were any justice in the universe.
#8: “Eyes” from Alaric’s Alaric (20 Buck Spin). A throwback death-rock band made of members of Bay Area grind/crust outfits? Hell yeah! Alaric answers the burning question of why modern metalheads should indeed worship Killing Joke.
#7: “Midnight Serenade” from Arch/Matheos’ Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade). Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos reunites with original Fates vocalist John Arch for 54 minutes of pure prog-metal bliss. Loved Dream Theater back when “Hold Me Under” was on the radio? This is for you.
#6: “G.U.T.” from Believer’s Transhuman (Metal Blade). You may remember this Pennsylvania tech/death-metal band from their salad days on Roadrunner in the early ’90s. They’re back with suntans, two decades of musical maturity, and poised to teach you whippersnappers a lesson in brutality, tech-style. All this and day jobs, too.
#5: “In Death’s Path” from Deadfall’s New Light (Self-released). Deadfall are proponents of the relatively new djent subgenre, onomatopoeia for the start-stop guitar sound popularized by Meshuggah. Expert instrumental tech-metal that makes us wonder why they’re not signed to a label yet.
#4: “Of This Flesh (Novus Deus)” from Nader Sadek’s In the Flesh(Season of Mist). A conceptual artist-turned-musician, this Egyptian-born guitarist plays guttural death metal with Steve Tucker (Morbid Angel) on vocals and Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy) on drums. The best death metal album of the year, hands down.
#3: “There There” from Thou’s The Archer & the Owle (Robotic Empire). This unconventional Baton Rouge doom outfit combines death, black, sludge, and ambient metal into a heady brew of awesome. Irrefutably the most phenomenal doom band in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
#2: “1993; A Week Before Graduation” from Graf Orlock’s Doombox (Vitriol). Film school dropouts Graf Orlock—Gorlock to the converted—wed movie samples to punk/grind blasts, with all lyrics cribbed from movie scripts. The Doombox packaging is a full-sized pop-up ’80s boom box. Like Killwhitneydead covering Napalm Death…utterly titanic.
And the #1 song of the year: “Thee Absurd” from End of Level Boss’ Eklectric (Exile on Mainstream). Wrongfully lumped in the stoner genre, End of Level Boss are so much more. Their bad-ass band name veils rippling, EBow-ed chords and rock melody with enough hooks to land a school of trophy sport fish. Undeniably the years’ most creative metal album!