Coming up with this list revealed a sad thing about me- I didn’t even listen to ten albums this year. I didn’t even check out the new Iron Maiden… after Dance of Death I didn’t have the heart to pop back in on my erstwhile favorite metal band and hear what they’re not doing. I tend to be pretty monogamous to the classics and down on what’s happening these days in metal, so it’s rare for me to even try something new. Couple that with my legendarily limited range of taste- I only like so much- and you’ve got a recipe for the most absent metal fan out there.
That said, Ewen’s a lovely chap and he’s asked me to list my top 10, so I guess I’ll put the nine albums I did hear in order.
9. Bonded By Blood – Exiled to Earth
No disrespect is intended to our friends in BBB by putting them last- I’ve always been (almost coldly) up front with them on that their style of music isn’t really to my taste. They’re beginning to go a more technical progressive speed route, and I’m over here in ExodusWorshipsburg. I admire what they’ve done, though, coming out with a thrash metal concept album about an alien occupation of earth. It’s cool stuff, and an example of the kind of nonlinear thinking we need as a subgenre.
8. Vindicator – The Antique Witcheries
I’m pals with these guys but I’ll be honest, there’s a much better album hiding here under a number of problems. The vocalist is clearly phoning it in, maybe after too many takes and a diminished urge to sound engaged. The sound is almost too clean and the crunch suffers for it. It’s a step away from the destructive sound on their split with Metal Witch, but it’s still a better album than what you’ll hear from most bands on the covers of metal magazines these days. Here’s hoping their next effort reflects what I know they’re capable of.
7. Razormaze – Miseries
The new wave of thrash metal is rightly criticized for being awash with clueless and styleless Slayer clones, wherein riffs and thrash costumes abound but originality is a hard thing to discover. Razormaze have one of the most distinct sounds in modern thrash. It’s best described as “what if you turned up the metal, speed and aggression in Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind?” I realize that doesn’t really tell you that much, but hey, listen for yourself… Miseries is a free download. razormaze.bandcamp.com
6. Witchaven – Terrorstorm
The only band with blackened influence that I can stand, Witchaven are the kings of the midtempo riff and this album’s got a lot to headbang to. Shortly into Dawn of the Unholy there’s a monstrous moment that will get any room banging. I take issue with a lot of what makes Witchaven Witchaven- most notably their insistence that using a photo of a murdered child as an album cover isn’t for shock value, it’s to educate you as to what’s going on in the world. Rolling my eyes that hard sours the experience a bit but ehh. The metal’s good.
5. Violator – Annihilation Process
There’s a feeling in music that I once heard described as “the ‘OH SHIT’ effect.” The song starts and the energy grabs you and takes you with it, almost against your will, and you exclaim “OH SHIT” from the sensation of all that desperate anxiety. Violator’s one of the best bands to evoke the OH SHIT effect since Vio-Lence, and the first minute of Poisoned by Ignorance hits you hard. Overall, though, the feeling is the same as their superior album Chemical Assault and the songwriting hasn’t developed. Each song seems tailored to evoke the same emotion- and very well- but an album needs at least a bit of diversity.
4. Lich King – World Gone Dead
That’s right, I put our album in my own top ten list and I placed it fourth. Eat me.
3. Overkill – Ironbound
This album would be first for me if not for a number of little confusions- why that acoustic bridge in the otherwise stellar Ironbound, why this lyrical theme, why that riff and so on. I’d be lying if I said these choices weren’t completely in keeping with Overkill’s writing style, but that’s why I’ve never quite understood them to the level I’d like. At any rate, this album’s incredibly strong and that’s why you’re seeing it at the top of so many top 10 lists this month.
2. Exodus – Exhibit B: The Human Condition
Exodus takes a lot of shit these days from the thrash body politic. The majority of it is aimed squarely at vocalist and professional scapegoat Rob Dukes, but it all comes down to the pissy sense of betrayal fans feel when a band doesn’t sound like it used to. Whine whine whine. The album isn’t exactly what I’d want from them but what a work ethic- they’re not displaying the tired feeling they did around Force of Habit, this is 1.3 hours of dense songwriting they were obviously very engaged in… in fact, most of the songs could stand to end about three minutes before they do. They’re almost showing too much passion for the songwriting. It doesn’t always pay off but it’s heavy, it’s worthwhile, it’s Exodus, it’s good.
1. Heathen – The Evolution of Chaos
Heathen makes the kind of riffs I want to hear more of. Barring the squidgy this-is-a-Thomas-Kinkade-level-of-corniness feeling I get during the spoken word segment of A Hero’s Welcome, the album is thick with my kind of metal. Heavy and speedy riffs, coexisting in harmony, the way nature intended.