So let's go ahead and get a few things out of the way, while there is a balance between the old guard and some newer faces, the old guard was disappointing this year. Albums by Cannibal Corpse, Obituary and Incantation, all sounded like lets dial one in so we can go on tour. So these albums had to be more inspired than those. Not a lot to ask. For most part I defaulted to what Last Fm said I listened to the most this year. I did however include reasons why certain bands ranked over other ones, to clear that up. There will be no weak ass noodling tech death on this list, so if that what you want go put the death in metal and suck on a shotgun. Here you go...
10-Cannabis Corpse -"Left Hand Pass"
This band might have started off as a joke, but they have evolved into a punchline into something pretty bad ass. They have a great guitar and command you to bang your head on groove the verse of the opening song hits. They can revert into death metal cliches at times , but that is still more than I expected from this band going into this album. This a side project of Land Phil from Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan. He is joined by other high ranking metal pedigree such a members of Six Feet Under, Gatecreeper and Arsis. So when they lock into a chug is pretty devastating. There are some interesting effects applied to the guitar at times which provide some ambiance, as death metal themed around smoking pot needs plenty of that.
9-Jordablod- "Upon My Cremation Pyre"
Imagine if you can a death metal band from Sweden who is not trying to be Entombed or At the Gates. The band from southern Sweden is not trying to emulate Entombed. There are some guitar passages that work together to breathe a sense of melody into things. The solos often lingers past the allocated sections. This is done with a very organic sense to both the tones on the album and the arrangements. They walk the line between death metal and black metal in a manner not unlike their country men in Tribulation.Though they are heavier than Tribulation's more recent efforts carrying a complex density that makes you take them more seriously than Cannabis Corpse.
8- Forgotten Tomb- "We Owe You Nothing"
This band from Italy has changed greatly over the years. The went from being an almost depressive black metal band to a doomy sludge band and now to thrashy grooved death metal. This is their 9th album so something would be wrong if it was not as dialed in production wise as it is. In fact the sharper distortion of the crisp production leads you to believer these riffs owe as much to Pantera in places as the do Celtic Frost. There is a groove that is hard to deny or to not bang our head to.
7--Ever Circling Wolves "Of Woe, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gloom"
This band from Finland is certainly worth championing due to their originality. This doesn't mean they have forsaken key components for metal and twisted them into something no recognizable to the average metal head in a Morbid Angel t-shirt. After a three minute introductory instrumental that throw some melodic death metal at you that is mid to doom paced. The organic guitar tones allow the riffs to breathe and the notes to remain distinguishable. This ear for production that was put into the production of this album certainly lends it self to supporting their adventurous style of songwriting.This sense of adeventure is so great it propels them over Jordablod.
6- Ruins of Beverast- "Exuvia"
This German project is back in less than a years time with more music. This time it seems like things are going in a darker more death metal direction. The album Opens with the title track which finds this project feeling more like atmospheric death metal with major melodic touches. Clean sung vocals are sprinkled in. The guitar solos really rip as they take you on this incredible fog coated journey.
5-Acid Witch_"Evil Sound Screamers"
When this album kicks in the vocals don't follow a typical death metal grunt but have a fiendish cackle to them. The 60's keyboards add spooky camp, while their With a bass tone that reminds me of Acid Bath. They are aggressive enough to be death metal without forgetting about songwriting or just trying to bludgeon you.The Halloween theme works just as well for me in December as it did in October.
4-Paradise Lost- "Medusa"
Most metal bands will tell you their new album is heavier. From the sound of the first song this might be true. The sung goth vocals come in to bring them out of the more death metal direction it seems this album starts off in. There is a little more of a lumbering doom feel to "Gods of Ancient" due to the more mournful feel that competes with the aggression of the growled vocals. These guys are obviously old pros, the guitar tones are dialed in to give the needed crunch and the drums pack the punch required for this kind of music though the double bass is mixed back a bit and doesn't trample you. It is the polish that coats every ounce of this album that beats out the rawer Acid Witch.
These guys have always been a death metal band rather than black metal band.Though it is easy to see why they would appeal to fans of black metal They are now mired firmly in a more Morbid Angel form of tightly coiled dark death metal. Vocally there is trade off with the high snarl giving more of a call and response. This is extremely well produced, written and performed. There would be no excuse for it not to be considering these guys have been around since 1992. This is their 11th album, so not stranger to the studio. The show you can be extremely heavy and still write songs that demand repeat listens, this heaviness is what puts them over the more melodic Paradise Lost.
2-Goatwhore- "Vengeful Ascension"
Sure there is not a wild deviation from their sound, but the song writing is more focused and highlights the band's strength and energy. This might also be one of the band's most melodic albums. It seems like they have more readily embraced their death metal side. So in the swirl of hybrid sub-genres that make this band up death metal is the predominant ingredient this go around. The second song "Under the Flesh, Into the Soul" finds more of the blackened thrash like sound that has colored the past two albums. There are some pretty hooky riffs, and it would make you think that my rule of "cool riffs alone , don't make a good song" would hit a band like this hard. This is not the case as a key component to their song writing is having every thing is the perfect place, which is why it beat out Belphegor.
1-Morbid Angel-"Kingdoms Disdained"
This shows you that my initial response and review of an album sometimes needs time to soak in the full scope of what an album is about. With this one I had to get past the fact that this is not the classic line-up, but a line up that has made a new classic. While I have yet to go back and give the other Steve Tucker album's a second chance, I would find it hard to believe that they could come close to picking up where this album which is more bombastic than "Domination" picks up the torch. The post- "Domination" out put to me was hard to wrap my head around as being Morbid Angel, this album is clearly Morbid Angel, so when one of your favorite bands that your grew up with re-kindles the flame and takes you back to place in time, then they are edging out Goatwhore, though it's pretty neck and neck and one of the rare cases on this list where I actually listened to Goatwhore more, but Morbid Angel came out last month so it's almost not fair.