Friday, January 31, 2020

The 30 best albums of the decade (2010-2019)

So the end has finally arrived for Forsaken At The Gates, a full nine year journey through the depths of metal music has reached its final destination. While there have been some rough patches throughout the years, I would be lying if I said that I regretted taking it on me to make this blog happen, to spew out my opinion on the wretched anger filled hell hole we all know as "The Internet". It has mostly been a fun ride, and I would like to thank each and everyone of you who visited this small Blogger site, no matter if it is just once, or if it has been repeated visits. As stated before, I might be back in video form some time this year, but I still have to work out some of the kinks if that is going to happen, so I am making no promises (but if it does happen, I will inform you through this site and my twitter @ForsakenReviews).

As the final act, I will now reveal my top 30 albums of this last decade that we just left in the dust. It has been tough ranking 10 years of amazing metal music, but it was insanely satisfying going back to all of these albums, listen to them again, and reassess my opinions on them to see if they have stood the test of time, which some have, and some did not. For this list, there are only three rules. Only official studio releases, they have to be released from 1st January of 2010 to 31st December of 2019, and only one album per band/artist may enter the list. Let us start off by calling out some of the albums that did NOT make the list, some being top records of my previous top of the year lists, and some probably being in the top for others.

Behemoth - The Satanist (2014)
Everyone seem to rave over "The Satanist" to be a once in a lifetime record that Nergal and his men has created, and while I do enjoy this record a lot, I just cannot connect to it. It is definitely the band's greatest achievement, but this music is simply not my cup of tea.

Carcass - Surgical Steel (2013)
The entire decade was filled with excellent comeback records, and the ones that started the craze was Carcass, unloading an excellent record after a 9 year hiatus and 17 years since their last record. "Surgical Steel" is pin point precision death metal that certainly made a ton of people happy. I applaud the band for their efforts, but this is not the type of music I gravitate towards, still enjoyed it though.

Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)
I feel like a lot of people absolutely adores this record, but to be perfectly honest, I do not even think this is the strongest Enslaved record of this decade. Maybe I need to listen to this one more to get it, but my heart belongs to "In Times" and has done so since its release in 2015. That one did not make the list, so this album will not either.

Fear Factory - Genexus (2015)
So this album was my number 1 in 2015, and looking back at it, I can only scratch my head wondering what 2015 me was thinking. "Genexus" is still a highly enjoyable record with few lows and a lot of catchy robotic grooves, but it stood perfectly clear to me upon revisit that this is not the masterpiece I once saw it as.

In Flames - Sounds of A Playground Fading (2011)
This is probably the record I have listened to the most in the 2010s, which is no surprise since I am a sucker for In Flames, both old and (mostly) new. I still stand by that this is one of the best In Flames record ever made, with an impressive array of catchy tunes and memorable riffs, so this one was really hard for me to cut.

Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls (2015)
So not only did I cut the number 1 album of 2015, now the runner up gets the axe. I still love "The Book of Souls" and I still think it is the strongest Maiden record since "Seventh Son...", but I do see the flaws a little better now than I did back then. Some songs are pure fillers, and the length is an issue, yet Maiden is still Maiden, and they are still awesome.

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic (2017)
"Nightmare Logic" swept the metalverse as an old school turned new school thrash metal record that I called a 2017 version of "Reign In Blood". It did not stick with me as well as most other people, but it is still a damn fine record that deserves all of the recognition.

Rush - Clockwork Angels (2012)
Finally, a big shout out to the recently passed drummer of Rush, Neil Peart. While I am not the biggest Rush fan out there, and I have not nearly listened to all of their releases, I still hugely respect what Neil has done to the progressive music scene, and his final work with Rush is a underrated beauty of proggy goodness. May you rest in peace.

Enough of the albums that did not make the cut, here is the top 30.

30. Gloryhammer - Space 1992: Rise of The Chaos Wizards (2015)

When fantasy themed power metal could not look any more cliché and stale, this Scottish groups barges in to the bar, screaming "Hold my hammer!", and goes on a mission to make three of the freshest power metal releases in decades. Gloryhammer is truly a sight to behold, taking us to epic journeys through the kingdom of Fife (also known as Dundee), while the glorious king Angus and his army takes on Zargothrax and his evil empire. It is cheesy, yes, but the band is so much fun to listen to that you can easily ignore some of the more lactose intensive parts. While the other two records are fine pieces of music, the band did hit the nail with their hammer in "Space 1992...", blending immense power with hooks mere mortals would kill for, all landing in one hell of an epic tale. Also, it has "Universe On Fire", probably the best power disco song ever made. That alone gives this album a place on this list.

Other albums in the 10s: Tales From The Kingdom of Fife (2013), Legends From Beyond The Galactic Terrorvortex (2019)

29. Cain's Offering - Stormcrow (2015)

Some more power metal for you all, this time of the more symphonic kind. Jani Liimatainen's post-Sonata Arctica project has now fallen into obscurity thanks to other jobs (including The Dark Element and Insomnium), but Jani managed to squeeze out one album before his schedule became busy, and it is a beauty. Together with excellent musicians such as Timo Kotipelto and Jens Johansson from Stratovarius, Jani delivered a splendid mix of catchy, epic Finnish power metal with heartfelt lyrics and marvelous musicianship. It is truly a work of art that has stood the test of time, showing that Jani might have been the true mastermind behind Sonata Arctica, as evident by the work the band has released since his departure.

28. Teramaze - Esoteric Symbolism (2014)

This is just one of many cool bands that I have discovered over the decade, and to find out that these Australians has been around since the 80's with very little recognition to show for is just strange to me. The band certainly came back with a vengeance in the 10's, delivering 4 really nice records. To me, "Esoteric Symbolism" stands at the top not only because it was the album that opened up my eyes to this band, but also because it displays the band's skill in a fantastic manner, bringing a heavier edge to progressive metal that certainly stands out amongst the crowd. No matter how many times I listen through this album or just individual tracks such as "Parallels/Dual Reality" and "The Divulgence Act", I always end up Teramazed.

Other albums in the 10s: AnhedoniA (2012), Her Halo (2015), Are We Soldiers (2019)

27. Moonspell - Extinct (2015)

Here we have an album that is full on satisfying. It is not the heaviest record, nor the most complex, but Moonspell's excellent execution in both song writing and performance is more than enough to make "Extinct" a pleasant experience of gothic metal. It just might also have one of the strongest album openings of the decade, with the trio of "Breathe (Until We Are No More), "Extinct", and "Medusalem" forming the most solid of foundations for the rest of the album to build upon. The rest of the album is no slog either, keeping the momentum going to the very end with excellent craftsmanship.

Other albums in the 10s: Alpha Noir/Omega White (2012), 1755 (2017)

26. Redemption - Long Night's Journey Into Day (2018)

So Redemption is a band I have to do some more background check on in the future, but if "Long Night's Journey Into Day" is telling me something, it is that this band is for real. Everything that you want from a progressive masterpiece is here. Odd time signatures, emotional song writing, technical skills, grand choruses, and of course, long songs are all found on this brilliant 1 hour and 15 minute long album. The addition of Tom Englund from Evergrey, replacing Ray Alder from Fates Warning, is not bad either, giving the music even more emotional weight to it. It is a long journey that is worthwhile taking any time.

Other albums in the 10s: This Mortal Coil (2011), The Art of Loss (2016)

25. Mastodon - Once More 'round The Sun (2014)

Mastodon had a pretty good decade, even if none of the three albums did reach the same heights as either "Crack The Skye" or "Leviathan", yet they still managed to swipe a win in 2014 with "Once More 'round The Sun", showing just how god damn consistently awesome this group is. What makes this album so great is that it displays a ton of creativity and technicality, while still having a relative simplicity in its structure to make each song as easily digestable as possible. It is Mastodon's grooviest album to date, and tracks like "Halloween" and "The Motherload" are insanely hard to just sit still to while listening (a good twerk is necessary for the latter example). One thing is for sure, every time we make another lap around our star, I am hoping for a new Mastodon album to take shape, because you will never be bored when these madmen are on the loose.

Other albums in the 10s: The Hunter (2011), Emperor of Sand (2017)

24. Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising (2011)

It has been a very solid decade for Amon Amarth, yet choosing their best album was actually quite easy for me. While I do highly enjoy all the other three records they have put out, "Surtur Rising" stands as a giant amongst mortals, ready to crush them all. This album is a personal favourite of mine, impressing with great variety and many, many memorable moments, like the magnificent solo in "War of The Gods", the crushing heaviness of "A Beast Am I", the brilliant riffing of "For Victory Or Death", and the epic chorus of "Destroyer of The Universe". There is a lot of goodies on this album that you can easily digest any time, any where. A mighty record from a mighty band.

Other albums in the 10s: Deceiver of The Gods (2013), Jomsviking (2016), Berserker (2019)

23. Novembers Doom - Hamartia (2017)

If any doom metal band is going to reach out to me, it needs something different to their music besides the basic slow, long riffs and gloomy tone. This is why Novembers Doom is one of few doom bands I actively follow, because they bring a lot of heaviness to their music and their lyrical themes, while also adding some kind of twisted beauty to it all. They have been solid throughout the decade, but "Hamartia" is just something special, a deep dive into the darkest depths of melodic death doom metal that is hauntingly beautiful to behold. So when this one plays, be sure that I will be the one who smiles.

Other albums in the 10s: Aphotic (2011), Bled White (2014), Nephilim Grove (2019)

22. Amorphis - Queen of Time (2018)

Amorphis has always been one of those bands that I have acknowledged as great, but has never really made an album that blew me completely away, until last year when they released "Queen of Time" and also managed to win the list of that year. Maybe I got a little too carried away back then, because while this album is still awesome as all hell, it is now only the fourth best 2018 album on this list. It has lost some of its shine, but it is still a wonderful experience to listen to this record and its multifaceted way of taking on melodic death metal. The biggest achievement for "Queen of Time" though is that it managed to convert me into a full time lover of Amorphis, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Other albums in the 10s: The Beginning of Times (2011), Circle (2013), Under The Red Cloud (2015)

21. Persefone - Aathma (2017)

Andorra has metal, and it is god damn awesome. Yes, that tiny ass country that is squeezed in between France and Spain has groomed one of the most promising acts in the progressive death metal scene in recent memory, and Persefone seems to just getting started. It was tough to choose between "Spiritual Migration" and "Aathma", but the ladder one takes the W thanks to some more polished production and a magnificent guest appearance from Cynic's Paul Masvidal. This band is just insanely talented, and I cannot wait to see what they will come up with in the future, because I got a feeling that they might unveil an even better outing or two in the next ten years.

Other album in the 10s: Spiritual Migration (2013)

20. Sunburst - Fragments of Creation (2016)

It seems like it is easy for a band from Greece to garner success, just get a guitarist named Gus and you are set to go. Gus Drax and the rest of Sunburst literally bursted out to the scene in 2016 with their debut full length effort "Fragments of Creation", an explosive barrel of power metal goodness that you cannot get enough of. Making a humble start in "Out of This World", the band gets a grip on you, shakes you to the core, and does not let you go until they have played their last note. It is a refreshing piece of mastery in a genre that rarely see any change ups from the regular formula. Cannot wait to hear more from these guys.

19. Rivers of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name (2018)

The more I think of Rivers of Nihil and their new release from last year, the more impressed I become over their unique style of saxophone infused melodic death metal. The whole album is a masterful display of how inventive we still can be with metal today, how there are still territories that have yet to be explored. It is bands like Rivers of Nihil that keeps the evolution of metal going, never settling into a basic format, challenging themselves to make stunning, inspirational music. "Where Owls Know My Name" is truly a landmark album that will be remembered for generations, and it is one of the biggest proofs that the inclusion of saxophone makes anything better.

Other albums in the 10s: The Conscious Seed of Light (2013), Monarchy (2015)

18. Alter Bridge - Fortress (2013)

Hard rock had a rough decade, mostly relying on old tricks and old bands, starting to feel like boomer music to the younger generations. There is still some hard rock out there that still succeeds out there, like Volbeat and Alter Bridge. While I have always been 50/50 on Volbeat and their place in the music world, AB have been a constant quality place to revisit, and their fourth full length effort "Fortress" is just as the title say, a sturdy fortress of great heavy hard rock where song writing is on point, Mark Tremonti's riffs hits hard, and Myles Kennedy's voice pierces through any barrier with ease. This is as solid as you can get, a record that is built to last through the ages.

Other albums in the 10s: AB III (2010), The Last Hero (2016), Walk The Sky (2019)

17. Overkill - Ironbound (2010)

One of the hardest decisions I had to do while making this list was which Overkill album I should include, "Ironbound" or "The Electric Age"? Both are excellent pieces of thrash metal mastery, bringing tons of intensive riffs that dig deep into you skull. I ultimately went with "Ironbound" because it had just a couple more highlights on it that just could not go unnoticed. How can you not love tracks like the title track, "Bring Me The Night", "The Green And Black", "In Vain" or my personal favourite, the insanely groovy "Give A Little". This album was also the start of a new golden age for the band, shooting them into the front of the thrash pack, and they have stayed there since, thanks to the other four albums that has come since "Ironbound". Thrash consistency at its finest.

Other albums in the 10s: The Electric Age (2012), White Devil Armory (2014), The Grinding Wheel (2017), The Wings of War (2019)

16. Lör - In Forgotten Sleep (2017)

Talk about a stunning debut record, and to believe that I almost missed out on it. The epic nature of "In Forgotten Sleep" was obvious from first listen, but I needed more time to really understand the scope of it all, to see just how grand this record was. Not only does Lör treat us with a unique style of progressive folk metal that we have never witnessed before, they execute it with such precision that it leaves you with a dropped jaw that demands quite the force to get it back to its natural position. All these crazy rhythms, sudden tempo changes, and epic vocal performances makes this a truly special record, and Lör is certainly a band to look out for in the future.

15. Haken - Affinity (2016)

I can already hear you screaming "Why isn't "The Mountain" the best Haken record?". While I love that album too, I just could not get into it as much as "Affinity". To me, "Affinity" has perfect knowledge of what it wants to do, and does so close to perfection, creating a retro styled album that still fits well in the 2010s. This album flows really nicely, every song being in its right spot to make the experience as pleasant as possible. There is also a little thing called "The Architect" in here that seals the deal for me, a close to 16 minute monstrosity that is hands down my favourite progressive metal song of this decade, maybe even ever. The fact that this song still gives me goosebumps every time I put it on is crazy, it just should not be possible. If you have not heard it, go put it on now before you continue reading. DO IT!

Other albums in the 10s: Aquarius (2010), Visions (2011), The Mountain (2013), Vector (2018)

14. Ghost - Infestissumam (2013)

Think it is safe to say that no other band have made a greater impact world wide this decade than Ghost, a mysterious Swedish doom rock band that was the brain child of one Tobias Forge. The success of the band is undeniable, and so is the fact that there is a ton of quality in the music as well. I guess most people would chose "Meliora" as their favourite, but "Infestissumam" stands to me as an incredibly even record with little to no weaknesses throughout its run time. Sure, the heaviness is toned down for a more pop like feel, but the message of the band still comes across, if not even stronger. Besides, there are still some brilliant darker moments in here, like "Ghuleh/Zombie Queen", "Per Aspera Ad Inferi", and "Year Zero". While the whole mystery aspect of the band is now gone, the music still lives on strong, and "Infestissumam" is the biggest proof of its brilliance.

Other albums in the 10s: Opus Eponymous (2010), Meliora (2015), Prequelle (2018)

13. Oceans of Slumber - The Banished Heart (2018)

Normally, I fall asleep when bands try to lower the tempo, going for a more somber mood with longer riffs and mellow sections. Oceans of Slumber managed to keep me awake though, and they did so by putting me in some kind of hypnotic state. "The Banished Heart" is a dark, but oh so beautiful album that does not rush things, makes sure that every little note is in its right place. What makes this album go to the next level is singer Cammie Gilbert, an insanely talented vocalist that squeezes out every little bit of emotion she can get out from her vocal chords to elevate everything, whether it be by screaming ("At Dawn"), going low ("The Decay of Disregard"), or high (the title track). There are tons of killer moments in here that makes your skin crawl from how mighty it feels, and more of this is hopefully to come in the future.

Other albums in the 10s: Aetherial (2013), Winter (2016)

12. Soen - Lotus (2019)

The best Opeth record of the decade does not go to Opeth, but to a band that has a couple of former Opeth members. Soen has been really solid throughout the decade, but they took it to another level with "Lotus", pulling out all the tricks to make this album as delicious as possible. In every nook and cranny, there is a tasty riff, a cool drum pattern, a catchy chorus, and basically anything else that makes progressive music so awesome. It is a smorgasbord of technical skill that has been compiled to fantastic tunes, a display of five guys cooperating with each other in close to perfect symbiosis. What more do I need to say, it is progressive metal candy at its best.

Other albums in the 10s: Cognitive (2012), Tellurian (2014), Lykaia (2017)

11. Judicator - At The Expense of Humanity (2015)

Now this is a record I did not appreciate enough when it came out, and I appreciated it quite a bit still. "At The Expense of Humanity" opened me up to Judicator and their Americanized version of the Blind Guardian formula, but it was not until much later that I understood the lyrical weight of the record, a concept taken from singer John Yelland's own life about him losing his brother to cancer, and how he and the rest of the family handles this tragedy. The music is awesome in its own right, blending some cool progressive elements to the blazing speed, but it would not be the emotional masterpiece it is today without the lyrics, and we are immensely grateful to John for sharing his story and feelings with us.

Other albums in the 10s: King of Rome (2012), Sleepy Plessow (2013), The Last Emperor (2018)

10. Fallujah - Dreamless (2016)

I absolutely love records that sends me off to some distant dimension where nothing exist except the endless tones of hypnotizing metal. Fallujah made the best album of that kind this decade with "Dreamless", a record that puts you in some sort of dream state, sweeps you away with beautiful riffs, crushing blast beats, deep growls, all creating an atmosphere that mere words cannot describe. It is one of those albums that once you start it, you have to finish it, without any piss breaks or song skips, all of it in one fellow swoop. That in itself is a sign of a great piece of metal music, and it also helps that most of the songs are great in their own right. More of this please, and less of last year's disappointment "Undying Light".

Other albums in the 10s: The Harvest Wombs (2011), The Flesh Prevails (2014), Undying Light (2019)

9. Insomnium - Winter's Gate (2016)

Insomnium has really grown to become a juggernaut in the melodic death metal scene in the last decade, unleashing quality album after quality album, so choosing one for this list should have been difficult, yet it was pretty simple when you think about it. While I dabbled with the idea of taking "Shadows of The Dying Sun" or the recently released "Heart Like A Grave", none of them could match up to the grand epic known as "Winter's Gate". One singular song divided into 7 parts, creating a 40 minute experience that is incredibly hard to match. It is not the first time anyone tried the one song album gimmick, but Insomnium might have perfected it with this release.

Other albums in the 10s: One For Sorrow (2011), Shadows of The Dying Sun (2014), Heart Like A Grave (2019)

8. Wilderun - Veil of Imagination (2019)

How much creativity can you cram into a single record without making it sound like a brick wall? That is seemingly the question Wilderun asked themselves before making "Veil of Imagination", and they certainly managed to fit in a whole lot. This record is overflowing with imagination juice, so many melodies, riffs, beats, rhythms, growls, and a whole lot more musical terms. It should not work, all of this should end up with a dense as hell chunk of lead, yet it flows perfectly, being smooth as silk in its execution, leaving you thirsting for more despite having been exposed to over an hour of symphonic progressive death metal. It is just an incredible record from an insanely talented band.

Other albums in the 10s: Olden Tales & Deathly Trails (2012), Sleep At The Edge of The Earth (2015)

7. Unleash The Archers - Apex (2017)

There is no other power metal album from this decade that has delivered more power (and metal for that matter) than "Apex", a tour de force that melts brains and hearts with its powerful intensity. Unleash The Archers really shocked me with their flawless ability to just go all in with the music, combining the relentless juggernaut mentality that every power metal band should strive for with one of the strongest metal voices, no matter the gender, in Brittney Slayes. How can you not be in awe of songs like the powerful "Awakening", the epic "Ten Thousand Against One", and the melodic "The Coward's Way". Man, this album is what power metal is all about, an unstoppable force that not even an immovable object could slow down.

Other albums in the 10s: Demons of The AstroWaste (2011), Time Stands Still (2015)

6. Devin Townsend - Empath (2019)

Those of you who have visited this blog before know my love of Devin and his maniacal skills of seamlessly transfer his mind from genre to genre, so that he would be in this top 30 was given, and surprisingly enough, so was the album. "Empath" is most easily described as all of Devin on a singular disc, since you get the epic nature that his DTP could create, the soothing sounds his more ambient projects went for, and of course, the dense brutality that we love from Strapping Young Lad. The man is insane, but he somehow manages to channel that insanity into brilliant music that I just cannot stop loving. This album has literally everything that you could ever expect from HevyDevy, even Ziltoid himself can be found in the booklet artwork. Well it does miss a cheeseburger, but that is maybe good news for all you vegimaterians out there. EFFERVESCENT QUALITY!!!

Other albums in the 10s: Deconstruction (2011), Ghost (2011), Epicloud (2012), Casualties of Cool (2014), Z² (2014), Transcendence (2016)

5. Michael Romeo - War of The Worlds, Pt. 1 (2018)

So no Symphony X album managed to crack its way into this list despite a solid decade (both "Iconoclast" and "Underworld" are excellent records), but the guitarist of the group decided to release his first solo record in 24 years, and what a decision that was. Michael Romeo completely floored me with "War of The Worlds, Pt. 1", letting loose all of his riffs and solos that he has surely saved throughout the years, and they are all awesome. There are two things that impress me even more than Romeo's playing, one being the variety the album offers, with straight up bangers, epic ballads, and even a god damn dubstep track that does not suck. The other impressive part is singer Rick Castellano, who lifts the album even higher with his god sent vocals, like if Russell Allen found a way to turn back his age to the mid 20's. Now, give me the second part and HOOK IT TO MY VEINS!

4. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage (2012)

Is there anyone out there that genuinely dislikes Gojira? In my lifetime, I have not found a single person that out right have said that these guys suck, and no wonder, they are so amazing that their "worst" album "Magma" still has a lot of brilliance to it. Before that experimental weirdness hit the shelves, the French group released a massive bang called "L'Enfant Sauvage", a technical masterpiece of polyrhymtic beats, ultra heavy riffs, and environmental friendly lyrics. This is a massive record that pummels you time and time again until you fall down black and blue, yet you rise up when the referee screams 9 and get ready for another round of beating. It really hurt me to not put it in the podium, because it is so freaking good, but there were three albums that made an even bigger impact on me this decade.

Other album in the 10s: Magma (2016)

3. Astronoid - Air (2016)

The most defining trait of the 10's might be that we saw the boundaries of metal pushing farther than we have ever seen, even to territories where we can't tell if it is metal or not. This whole Shoegaze, blackgaze, whatevergaze craze is certainly not for everyone, but it has opened up the floodgates for some incredible music. Astronoid's debut album "Air" is a rare sight nowadays, an album that does not sound like anything we have heard before, mixing these uplifting guitars and angelic vocals with fast paced, aggressive drums. The end result is a positive album, yet heavy in its undertones, creating a feeling I have never felt before, a sense of brutal joy. This is a magical album through and through, a wonderful experience I keep coming back to time and time again.

Other album in the 10s: S/T (2019)

2. Pain of Salvation - In The Passing Light of Day (2017)

There have been ton of emotional albums this decade, all trying to tug the heart strings in one way or another. Out of them all, there is no album that moved me more than "In The Passing Light of Day", a record that tells the very personal tale of how singer Daniel Gildenlöw dealt with a flesh eating bacteria that threatened to end his life. This album does not only see Pain of Salvation get back to their heavier roots after two softer efforts in the "Road Salt" albums, but the lyrics is heavy as hell, forcing you to live through the pain, hopelessness, and despair that Daniel felt throughout this process. Daniel has written a record that comes straight from his heart, and it feels with every note played and every syllable sung. It demands its listener, it will not get to you at first, but give it time, because it grows on you a hell of a lot. An incredible effort all around.

Other albums in the 10s: Road Salt One (2010), Road Salt Two (2011)

1. Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)

So I went back and forth with who should be number 1 or 2 here, but after a lot of thought and beers, I could not deny the album that I most likely have listened to the most throughout the decade. BTBAM is an incredible band, probably one of the leaders of progressive metal right now, always coming up with inventive concepts and music that it is close to ridiculous. Yet, after releasing two amazing albums in "Colors" and "The Great Misdirect", they managed to raise the bar yet another time with this record.

Following the EP "The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues" that was released a year prior, "The Parallax II: Future Sequence" continues the expansive concept of two prospects and their journeys through space, dreams, planets, and more. It is an insane story that would take me hours to write down, it is just better for you to listen through this 1 hour 12 and a half minute album (and the first Parallax album AND "The Great Misdirect") while reading the lyrics to better understand it. Like that was not enough, the music accompanies the lyrics brilliantly, using tons of different styles, instruments, and rhythms to make this one of the most diverse records I have ever come across in my entire life. Every time I revisit this album, there is something new to latch on to, some cool beat or part that gets its moment to shine (together with the xylophone on "Extremophile Elite", the ultimate highlight of the record). This album is perfection to me, I have had 7+ years to get tired of it, but not once in my life have the thought of shutting down this record mid play ever occurred to me. There is no doubt here, Between The Buried And Me takes home the honor of making my favourite record of the 2010's.

Other albums in the 10s: Coma Ecliptic (2015), Automata I (2018), Automata II (2018)

Once again, thank you for reading this, and please remember, to stay metal.
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

Monday, December 30, 2019

Best of 2019: Top 20 albums & Top 50 songs

So here we are once again, at the end of a year, and at the end of a decade too. It has been quite a year for me personally. I finally got my own apartment, also got a newer car (and not an old scrapheap), and I am finally free from student loans. As far as my reviewing goes though, it has been a very rough year, and my half year break has only confirmed what I tried to deny for some time, that I just do not have the urge anymore to write these reviews. I still listened to a lot of metal over this year, but the writers block has been as big as that boulder that chases down Indiana Jones. I could have absolutely written something, but then it would just be poor quality that would be spewing out of my fingertips, and no one wants that. So see this as my final end of the year list, and the second to last post on this blog as well (a "Best of 10-19" list will come some time in January).

As far as the year in metal was, it had its ups and downs like any other year, but I feel like there were no truly genre defining records this year, or any album that pushed the boundaries like Rivers of Nihil did last year. There is still a lot of quality to be had, and it just might be my taste, but as you will see in this list, I think progressive metal had a massive year, with several high profile bands releasing great music, and some more underground acts showing off some marvelous writing. Anyway, let us start with some honorable mentions, then get to the 20 chosen ones. Enjoy.

Arch/Matheos - Winter Ethereal
It is Fates Warning, yet it is not Fates Warning

Atlas Pain - Tales of A Pathfinder
Nice and solid folk melodeath

Obsidian Tide - Pillars of Creation
Interesting debut from this Israel group

20. Gloryhammer - Legends From Beyond The Galactic Terrorvortex
Let us start this list with a little... sorry, a lot of cheese. Gloryhammer is once again treating us to a cheese platter of insanely fun and goofy power metal that makes other fantasy based acts like Blind Guardian and Twilight Force look like stamp collectors. "...Terrorvortex" may not be the insane power trip as "Space 1992..." was, but it still takes us through a story that is engaging and exciting. All hail Angus McFife and his kingdom.

19. Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas
This is my first go around with this band since I am not that much into everything involving grind in its genre name, so I am probably not the best one to judge how good this album actually is (The reviews I have read are literally all over the place so maybe no one is). Nonetheless, "Death Atlas" impressed me with its stellar composition of black, death, prog, and also a little grind to make something really unique. The most impressive thing though is the vocal work by Travis Ryan, his range is fucking insane.

18. Avandra - Descender
The first of many progressive acts on this list is a little group from Puerto Rico that impressed me a lot with their calm, melancholic style that seemed to hit a lot of emotional strings on me. There is certainly a lot of Dream Theater elements in here, but there is enough of a personal touch in the music to make it their own, and the execution is all around stellar for a band that is not even a decade old. Be on the look out for these guys in the future.

17. Lacuna Coil - Black Anima
Well this one is a surprise. Lacuna Coil has certainly been a mixed bag for the last couple of albums, and now they finally put it all together in "Black Anima", presenting one of the band's heaviest records to date, with excellent vocal work from both Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro to boot. Don't believe me that this band has found their way again? Just listen to "Under The Surface", and just try to not listen to the rest of the record. Trust me, you will not be able to.

16. Allegaeon - Apoptosis
Science metal at its finest, Allegaeon pummel us once again with their now trademarked style of technical death metal, filled to the brim with complex drum patterns, hooky guitar riffs, and scientific language. It is truly an experience to behold what these nerds have cooked up in their studio lab every time they publish their thesis, and it rarely disappoints to engage and astound. All hail science!

15. Avantasia - Moonglow
Tobias Sammet knows how to make excellent ensemble pieces, he has been doing it for over two decades now after all, and "Moonglow" is not that much better than any other recent release, but everything just clicks into place here. The song writing is exquisite, the cheese is at just the right level, and the guest list might be the best we have seen from an Avantasia release. Just the fact that we finally get to hear Hansi Kürsch in one of these albums makes it all worth it.

14. Idle Hands - Mana
If you had said to me at the beginning of the year that I would put a gothic rock album in my top 20, I would probably have laughed at your statement and moved along. Nothing against this type of music style, but it is very rarely I find an album of this type to be engaging and groundbreaking. Idle Hands' debut LP does not feel like a debut at all, it has a seasoned character to it that you would normally see from long time veterans, but with a lot of youthful power added. A nice surprise in an otherwise mediocre landscape.

13. Eluveitie - Ategnatos
I have always enjoyed the works of Eluveitie, but there was just something with "Ategnatos" that finally made me go "man, these guys are great". It is hard to pin point exactly what makes this album stand out from the rest, but one way to generalize it is that the songs are just fantastic folky fun. Everytime I turn it on, I have a blast listening to it, which has made me coming back to it several times.

12. Thank You Scientist - Terraformer
There was a big hype train for this band back in 2016 that I completely missed out on, so I was pretty determined to not miss it again now that they would unveil their third full length effort. "Terraformer" might ultimately be a little long for my taste, but there is certainly enough quality to make it a non factor. Their unique style of jazzy progressive rock is certainly memorable enough to make you indulge yourself into its glory time and time again, losing track of time with ease.

11. Mystik - S/T
There were not many truly great debut records this year, at least none that completely shook up the metalverse. Fortunately, we have an underground scene that delivered one really nice debut, and that is the self titled album from the Swedish group Mystik. This band gave us some nice darkened speed metal that takes you back to the finest King Diamond works, while also adding a nice female touch to the vocals. A cool end result that we will hopefully see more of in the near future.

10. Rammstein - S/T
I think it was quite given that our favourite Germans would unravel a competent release after not releasing any new material for a decade, but I was genuinely surprised that "Rammstein" was as solid and infectious as it was. It is not an album that will completely shock you, it is just good old German industrial heavy metal at its best, just as catchy and fun as always. The only downside to this album is the boring title and cover. You had 10 years to figure this shiesse out, and THIS is what you came up with? Goodness gracious...

9. Insomnium - Heart Like A Grave
Insomnium is on an insane roll right now, having released three straight banger albums in "Shadows of The Dying Sun", "Winter's Gate", and "Heart Like A Grave". This album continues to cement the band's legacy as one of the big guns in the melodic death metal scene, pumping out some great, emotional music that is just a wonder to behold. Seems like these guys do not know how to make a mistake, and I am all for it.

8. Dream Theater - Distance Over Time
Like many others, I thought Dream Theater had reached a point in their career where they would still make serviceable music, but no more genre defining masterpieces. Well, just when you think they are done and out, they pull you back in with one hell of a display. "Distance Over Time" has a lot of the old school DT stamp over it, an album that is filled with marvelous technical skill, without any of the snooty "look at me, I can play this hard as shit thing" attitude. After the letdown that is known as "The Astonishing", it feels insanely good that this band is back on track, making awe inspiring music again.

7. Teramaze - Are We Soldiers
Ever since "Esoteric Symbolism", I have been a huge fan of Teramaze and their special style of progressive metal. It is a group that try to push boundaries with every release, trying out new things to perfect their craft even further. "Are We Soldiers" is another step in the right direction, creating some truly epic moments throughout the record. It is still mind boggling to me that these guys have been around for over 25 years, and still has not gotten the recognition they deserve. Highly underrated band.

6. Astronoid - S/T
It is extremely hard to follow up such a magical debut album as "Air", but I think Astronoid did the right thing in giving us more of the same here. Sure, this self titled sophomore effort might not show any real evolution in the band's sound, and nothing in here can really match up to the highs of "Air", but just to deliver a well constructed, quality dense product of uplifting metal is mighty impressive, showing that these guys are no one album wonders. Let us see if they can make a treble in the future.

5. Tool - Fear Inoculum
So it did not take exactly 10.000 days for this album to see the light of day, but you have to give credit to the guys that their sick obsession of perfection did eventually pay off. "Fear Inoculum" is just what a Tool album should be like, a strange journey to an unknown realm where time and space do not seem to exist, only hypnotizing patterns of string and percussion instruments are there cooperating to give an experience like no other. Was it worth the 15 year wait? I cannot answer that question because I got to know the band several years after "10.000 days", but I probably would not mind waiting that long if I knew the quality would be at this level.

4. Opeth - In Cauda Venenum
It has taken its time, but I think Opeth has finally found just the right formula to pull off this new era they are in the middle of. While the previous three non-growl records have not been bad (and "Pale Communion" was even fantastic), they have missed that little extra that Opeth normally adds. I definitely would not say "In Cauda Venenum" is as good as "Blackwater Park" or "Ghost Reveries", but it has a nice mix of heavy moments and intricate musicianship that would make any prog fan happy. It certainly makes me interested in what Mr. Åkerfeldt and crew will construct in the future.

3. Soen - Lotus
Since it was released in the beginning of the year, it seems like "Lotus" has been kind of forgotten amongst all other high profile prog releases this year, but I have not lost touch to this magnificent effort from the Swedish prog masters. Soen has always been excellent at what they are doing, but "Lotus" is on a whole different level, mixing marvelous song writing with brilliant techniques to blend cool, imaginative riffing with emotional atmosphere. This is truly prog metal candy at its sweetest, and I could gobble up a full bowl of it in no time.

2. Wilderun - Veil of Imagination
A ton of people (including the entire Angry Metal Guy headquarters) raved all over Wilderun's sophomore record "Sleep At The Edge of The Earth" back in 2015, and while I enjoyed the album, I did not see why everyone went nuts over it. Well, 4 years later the unsigned (how is that even possible?) Boston group roundhouse kicked me with "Veil of Imagination", an album title that is a perfect description of the album. There is so much awesome creativity put into this 1 hour and 6 minute long epic that it is kind of hard to wrap your head around why this album was not longer. You know that you have made an awesome record when a 1+ hour run time is too short. It was insanely tough to not put it at the number 1 spot, but there was this one guy that had a say in things...

1. Devin Townsend - Empath

This should not come as a surprise for those of you who have been to my blog before that this album is at the very top. I am a huge Devin Townsend nerd, and have enjoyed every new release he has made ever since I started follow the madman from the early DTP days. Yet, I believe that "Empath" might be his biggest achievement as a musician. Throughout his career, we have seen Devin tackling a wide range of musical styles, like death metal, prog rock, ambient, punk, and comedy, so you would think that creating an album that more or less adds all of these influences into a singular record would be impossible. Well, Devin did it, and also managed to add even more to this crazy gumbo (disco for the win!), while still maintaining some type of cohesion throughout it all. "Empath" is as expansive as "Avengers: Endgame", literally everything is in here, and it certainly demands effort from its listener, but the final result has that perfect scientific mix of HevyDevy magic that is oh so irresistible, and just the fact that this record is not as dense as a black hole is a small miracle. There is no doubt about it, this man and this album is 50% insanity, 50% genius, 100% awesome.

To end this blurb, I will also present you my top 50 songs of the year, which I normally would present in its own post, but I did not want to speak about every single song this time around. As always, it is a clusterfuck tracks, including everything from Japanese power metal, a new type of NU-metal, EDM black metal (or whatever you call that BMTH track), long epics, short catchy bangers, songs from some previously unknown bands, and of course some tracks from regulars that I have talked to death over in this blog over the years such as Devin Townsend, Mechina, Teramaze, Demon Hunter, Overkill, Amon Amarth, and more.

50. A New Revenge - The Distance Between
49. Steve Dadaian - On Silver Shores
48. Obsidian Tide - Seven
47. The Offering - Lovesick
46. Mechina - The Archivarius Chaos Ritual
45. Avandra feat. Richard Henshall - The Narrowing of Meaning
44. Gyze - Camellia
43. Elvenking - The Misfortune of Virtue
42. Thank You Scientist - Anchor
41. Cyhra - I Am The One
40. Lacuna Coil - Under The Surface
39. Opeth - Heart In Hand
38. Mark Morton feat. Chester Bennington - Cross Off
37. Allegaeon - The Secular Age
36. Savage Messiah - The Bitter Truth
35. Demon Hunter - The Negative
34. Arch/Matheos - Wrath of The Universe
33. Eluveitie - Ambiramus
32. Galneryus - Fighting of Eternity
31. Mother of Millions - Amber
30. Mystik - Ancient Majesty
29. Insomnium - Pale Morning Star
28. Overkill - Last Man Standing
27. Amon Amarth - Shield Wall
26. Slipknot - Critical Darling
25. Battle Beast - The Hero
24. We Are The Catalyst - Innan Allt Faller
23. Swallow The Sun - Firelights
22. Leprous - Alleviate
21. HammerFall - And Yet I Smile
20. Vanden Plas - Fall From The Skies
19. Idle Hands - Give Me To The Night
18. Dream Theater - Pale Blue Dot
17. Gloryhammer - Legendary Enchanted Jetpack
16. Atlas Pain - Shahrazãd
15. Periphery - Reptile
14. Bring Me The Horizon feat. Grimes - Nihilist Blues
13. In Flames - I, The Mask
12. Within Temptation - Mad World
11. Babymetal feat. Alissa White-Gluz - Distortion
10. Source - Sinking
9. Astronoid - I Wish I Was There While The Sun Set
8. Soilwork - Arrival
7. Wilderun - The Unimaginable Zero Summer
6. Tool - 7empest
5. Devin Townsend - Hear Me
4. Soen - Covenant
3. Teramaze - From Saviour To Assassin
2. Avantasia feat. Hansi Kürsch and Jørn Lande - The Raven Child
1. Rammstein - Deutschland

A happy new year to everyone, and I will see you some time in January 2020 for my top list of the decade that we are leaving behind.

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson