Friday, March 05, 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the Last Decade: 2009

Once again, the ground rules: each band can only be on the list once. Each year is allotted five albums, i.e., 5 for 2000, 5 for 2001, and so on. I do not attempt to rank them from 1 to 50, or even 1 to 5 within a year, because they are all excellent. Ranking them would be a pointless endeavor.

Also, instead of filling out all 50 slots, I actually have only picked 3 for each year, because, as I learned with my last top X list, I don't know everything about metal (though I do know a lot more than I did then). I probably am unaware of at least two other great metal albums in each of these years, and I want to encourage you to add the rest by commenting.

Now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the top list for 2009.

Artillery: When Death Comes

Danish thrash metal veterans Artillery showed nothing but pure genius on this, their first new album in ten years. Allmusic's Phil Freeman has this to say:
On this disc, the band's core -- the guitar-playing Stytzer brothers, Michael and Morten -- remain, but longtime vocalist Flemming Rönsdorf has been replaced by Søren Nico Adamsen, a change that had some of the band's longtime fans worried. Fortunately, he's a terrific addition to the group, a mid-range singer (neither a growler nor a Rob Halford-esque shrieker) who may remind some of former Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna, especially when the group's thrash riffing becomes particularly '80s-esque. Which it does quite a bit. Artillery is not a band that's changed with the times -- they're still doing exactly what they did at the beginning of their career. . . . One of the best things about When Death Comes, though, is the powerful production and mixing; every instrument is clear and thunderous, especially Peter Thorslund's bass. This is a quality disc recommended to any metalhead, not just thrash diehards.
I think he puts it pretty well. Top tracks include the title track, "10,000 Devils," and "The End."

Eryn Non Dae: Hydra Lernaia

These guys are so completely unknown, as I write this, that they don't even have a Wikipedia article, so you may have to check their web site to learn more. The music is difficult to categorize: It's sort of a progressive post-deathcore, evoking comparisons to the likes of Meshuggah, Neurosis, and Eryn Non Dae's countrymen Gojira. It's an extremely bass-heavy, brutal, and experimental album, both original and excellent. Metal Blade found something extremely special with this group. This is what the label's web site has to say about the album:
As per its mythological definition - the mythical nine-headed serpent, slain by Hercules, that grew two heads in place of each one that was cut off, unless the wound was cauterized - Hydra Lernaia explores nine human feelings as many-sided problems that present new difficulties each time one aspect of them seems to be solved or overcome. Each song is a feeling; each feeling is an incurable disease that tortures the heart of man.
My favorite tracks include "Existence Asleep" and "Pure."

Baroness: Blue Record

As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, the 2000's saw the rise of sludge metal, due in no small part to the success of Mastodon. And after Mastodon, fellow progressive sludge metal band Baroness is the band on everyone's short list. At times they sound like Black Sabbath, at other times Thin Lizzy, and still at others Mastodon, but always with their own unique take and in a coherent style. Coherence throughout the album is something that's often thrown by the wayside in the days of single-song downloads, but these guys haven't forgotten how to make a true album. The numerous interludes help the whole thing flow together, often incorporating elements from the prior song which are then followed up in the next, until finally the last track (a reworking of the first track) brings the whole thing to a thoughtful and fully-explored ending. While some groups get a lot of hype without deserving it, Baroness has earned the hype. See especially "Swollen and Halo," a psychedelic metal triumph.

That just about does it for the list--except, as I noted, I've only picked 30 out of the top 50 metal albums for the decade. Be sure to add your picks for the remaining two in the comments to each decade. You can see the whole list by clicking here. I will follow up next Friday with a recap.


  1. I still have not managed to get the Artillery album, although it is definitely on my list. You're right, I haven't heard of Eryn Non Dae. I'll check them out, but from your description, they probably won't be something I'm terribly interested in. Baroness is okay, but I'm not a big fan of sludge.

    My list:
    10. Thanatos: Justified Genocide (Dutch thrash/death, if you like Artillery, check 'em out)
    9. Heaven & Hell: The Devil You Know (Dio-era Black Sabbath lineup, great doom metal).
    8. Amorphis: Skyforger
    7. Dawn of Azazel: Relentless (New Zealand black/thrash/death)
    6. Seance: Awakening of the Gods (Swedish old school death)
    5. Cauldron: Chained to the Nite (Canadian traditional metal band)
    4. Goatwhore: Carving Out the Eyes of God (kind of a mix of death, black, and sludge metal)
    3. God Dethroned: Passiondale (Dutch death metal band, concept album about WWI)
    2. Razor of Occam: Homage to Martyrs (Australian blackend thrash)
    1. Destroyer 666: Defiance (Australian blackened thrash and the leader of the "war metal" movement)

    Feel free to check out my blog for more recommendations.

  2. The Amorphis album was on a draft list I made, and it stayed there until the Baroness album came out. The fact they didn't make my list is the thing that perturbs me more than anything else--but I laid down rules for the list and I couldn't get it to work with them in it.

    I am a huge Black Sabbath fan--I have all of their albums, including the lackluster Born Again--but I didn't really care for The Devil You Know. It just seems they've run out of steam in their old age.

    The other albums you mentioned I'm not too familiar with, but I'll have to look into them.