Well it's that time of year again. Time for the annual list of the best albums of the year. I went with 40 this year as I heard a lot of music this year alone. I will have some random lists after I finish with the Top 40.
Gorod has been quietly making a name for themselves in the technical death metal arena for several years now. This was the first chance I really had to check them out but they definitely made an impression. Their album was fairly short but there is a lot to hear in it. The last half with sort of a jazzy style and random outside influences is particularly impressive. It avoids technicality for technicality's sake and just sounds like a complete album.
A lot of what I said about Gorod also applies to Spawn of Possession. They too have released an album that sounds incredibly complete while avoiding the sterility that plagues a lot of technical death metal bands. Spawn of Possession is easily one of the most interesting technical death metal bands going today. Their only flaw is the fact that they take forever to release new material, with this being their first since 2006. Looking forward to the next one, whenever it comes out.
Ahab was the first funeral doom metal bands I checked out and have persisted as my favorite to this day. I was somewhat disappointed with the direction they took on this release on my initial listen, but I quickly got over that on repeated listens. This is a much more melancholic and melodic release from Ahab. There is a glimmer of hopefulness in their sound on this instead of the utter hopelessness and despair that the band has become otherwise known for.
I once had some concerns that the fertile well of extreme metal in Australia was starting to dry up. Fortunately, this year brought some more incredible releases from the land down under. Mongrel's Cross released their debut full-length this year which shows off the blackened thrash metal style that many other groups from the continent have perfected. Theirs is a strong debut album but there is some room to grown yet.
I have often referred to Pathology as being a band able to make slam death metal accessible and surprisingly catchy. This remains true to this day with each new release from Pathology being an exercise in brutality, yet retaining their brutal edge. I was concerned when this band showed up on Victory Records, a hardcore label, but Pathology has not changed at all. Their brutality and power increases with each new release. This is their best album yet.
This is likely the folk metal album of the year. I have never been the biggest fan of folk metal but when it is good, it is really good. Finsterforst is definitely really good. What I like the most about this release is that it avoids the kind of upbeat "beer metal" cliches that a lot of other folk metal bands fall into. This is solemn and melodic yet epic and awe-inspiring. It took a little while for me to get into it, but after a few listens it has really sunk in.
The best power metal album of the year came from Germany, of course. Long known for great power metal acts like Blind Guardian and Helloween, the country still manages to birth great bands even today. Paragon has been around for a long time, but not really broken through. This is their first release for Napalm Records and it is definitely an impressive one. This is an aggressive and ass-kicking album.
Great black metal often comes from unexpected places and Melencolia Estatica definitely qualifies. Hailing from Italy, the band is a one-woman juggernaut with a little bit of help from some friends. This release is influenced by the cinematic masterpiece Metropolis and just like its influence the album is dark and ominous and profoundly disturbing. Great black metal it is.
I have been a fan of Naglfar for several years now, and yes I do strongly enjoy their much more melodic take on black metal that they have taken on since Wrath took over on vocals. Naglfar is one of those groups attempting to position themselves into Dissection's abandoned throne and they do a damn fine job of it. This is their first album in several years, but Naglfar has done nothing to lose any of the energy that they brought.
It was not my intention to have three black metal albums in a row here, but it could not be helped. God Seed had a ton of hype leading up to this release, which hype was well-deserved as this is a truly impressive album. Featuring two former members of Gorgoroth who were engaged in a bitter dispute over the band's name, God Seed is a new beginning. And they have presented a terrific debut release.