This is album more of an honorable mention since I only listened to this album once. They are generally a band that is not my thing as they are too straight forward for me. If I want to feel like I am strutting to the ring on Monday Night Raw while I'm working out, I'll put on Pantera. These guys surprised me with this one. For what they do, they have grown as song writers and are much more melodic than the last album I heard by them which was "Sacrament". Outstanding production which comes with the kind of budget they work with, brings a wall of mean guitar that slaps you in the face and challenges my golden rule, "Cool riffs alone do no make a good song' . Like these guys or not this album is hard not to head bang to .
9-Unleashed- "Dawn of the Nine"
I remember when I saw these guys opening for the "Blessed Are the Sick" tour, they seemed heavy as fuck. Now they strike me as a death metal like version of Manowar. If you are a fan of their foray into viking metal, then you already own this album and have raised thy horn of mead to it already so I'm preaching to the Valkyries on this one. Didn't occupy my iPod for long , but it is still on my hard drive in case I need to storm the gates of Isengard or narrate a barbarian raid for our Sunday D&D game. As much fun as you can have without raping a shield maiden.
8-Paradise Lost- "the Plague Within"
Here come the cries of why isn't this on the doom list. It's an impressive album and I applaud it's creation. However when it comes to how I like my doom it's darker and more depressing than what these guys dished out on this one. A vast improvement on the more Metallic turn they took on "Draconian Times" which is where I parted ways with these guys until "Tragic Idol" and one day I'll go back and see what I missed out on while we were broken up, but in the present His clean vocals a shine for most of the album. As a whole this album took me off guard and the band really proved themselves to me.
7-Enslaved -"In Times"
Like Paradise Lost and Unleashed reconciling the past to the present was a them with some of the veteran bands, as Once upon a time when the long boats sailed east these guys were one of my favorite bands , even up til "Axioma Ethica Odini" they still had my attention and were killing it live. Then there was a bump in the road and sounded like they were following in Opeth's footsteps. This is not their triumphant return to black metal, it is an album that reconciles me with who they are today with it's stunning musicianship and evolved song writing, I am not OK with who they are again as they hey have hit one of the better balances between their more classic sound and the progressive angle they have been going for.
6-Vattnet Viskar - "Settler"
It might have had the year's worst album cover, but inside was an impressive display of chops and arrangements. These guys are on top of their game Like Enslaved they take the songs through some interesting twists and turns. When they pound the point home and get mean on this album it feels meaner than the last album, despite the fact that as a whole this album is slicker If you miss when Mastodon wasn't writing radio songs and instead was really heavy with a sense of adventure, then you will certainly dig this album.
5- Khaotika - This is where we cross the line into bands whose albums have remained in rotation on my iPod. This band from Atlanta is More noted for the tragic accident they were involved in which killed members of the band Wormreich, This album grew on me. If bands like In This Moment ;and Huntress actually played metal and committed to their more power metal moments then the result might be something more along these lines. But this is also serves as lesson in just because you wear corpse paint doesn't make you black metal Not black metal but a orchestrated mix of power metal to heavier and darker tones that hits the same sweet spot for me as Dimmu Borgir's symphonic circus act. It's my kind of fun, their singer has some killer pipes on her and never makes me think I'm listening to Night Wish.
Having been a fan of her work in the 90's this might not have the raw power of "Deathshead Extermination" but holds it's own creative merit. Back in the day the only other female fronted band that played music as dark and heavy as Crisis was the criminally underrated Fear of God. Both bands were ahead of their time, but it's evident the times have caught up with them. Karyn's melodies sound more assured and her voice is even more powerful on the more classic Crisis albums. Along with husband Epel Duath guitarist Davide Tiso who handles the bulk of the guitar on this album, she is backed by members of Tombs, Immolation, Vaura and Intronaut and the end result is like a mixture of those bands if they were fed on a steady diet of A Perfect Circle and the Cocteau Twins. This is the least heavy album on this list , but makes up for that with honest emotive power and convincing song writing.
3-Deafheaven- "New Bermuda"
How could this band live up to the hype that surrounded this album is the question when I first pressed play. They have had the metal community very split and accusations of being hipster metal, they had something to prove and the point was well made. It now makes more sense why a band like Tribulation is opening for them. The dreamy parts on this album work better for me on this one than they did on the last album, due to the heavier moments and the fact Clarke's vocals are not the same old same old helps give this an edge over "Sunbather". This album doesn't pander to the mainstream, though the mainstream metal community might finally give these guys more of a shot if they actually bother to give this one a listen. Live the crowd might have been more like being at Modest Mouse show, but that is something I can try and forget while this is blaring in the car.
2- Killing Joke- "Pylon"
Before you scream they are not metal, first listen to the album, secondly you have to admit they are much more metal than many bands I have seen on Metal lists thus far like Royal Thunder, Faith No More, Ghost and Strung Out. Not too mention the obvious influence that can be heard on this album that they have had on bands like Metallica, Voivod, Ministry,Amebix ,Neurosis, Faith No More, Tool...you can see where this is going. On this album they touch on the varied sounds they have collected through out their career, some heavier than others , but together give a broad range of dynamics. Some things are pretty constant like Jaz Coleman's voice which is smooth over the frantic drive of Youth's bass lines. This is more organic than most of their out put since "Pandemonium" . Flourishes of futuristic effects passing over the mix and some of their more tribal post-apocalyptic chugs would not have been out of place on the soundtrack for the last Mad Max movie.
1- Iron Maiden- "the Book of Souls"
Right behind Black Sabbath when it comes being one of the most revered classic metal bands of all time. This is for good reason as they have they have maintained tons of integrity over the years even if they did break down and use keyboards and made the poor choice of trying to replace Bruce with Blaze. This album upholds their legacy and I would not be surprised if it was their last as it feels they want to try everything they have yet to do and make the most of every solo. It would not be out of place if I decided to make a top ten power metal albums of the year or a top ten prog albums of the year... the latter being more likely as I doubt I listened to ten power metal albums this year, however they transcend both of those genres. Have done better and it might not be on the level of the albums that came before "Fear of the Dark", which is a bar held incredibly high, But they never outright miss the mark and even if this was just dialed in it would still be better than everything else. But that is the beauty of this they are still committed to putting their all into what they do and there is a lot of heart put into this, they are just older and wiser with that wisdom compensating for the fire that was in their music when they were a younger band, this is still an album made by one of the greatest bands ever.