Thursday, 30 December 2010


It's that time of year again, where we look back on what's gone on in the past 12 months.
Normally there would be a load of gigs in my list as well, but not this year.
There has, however, been a wealth of releases in 2010, so much so that when I was compiling this list I was utterly amazed that some of these were only released this year!
So, in no particular order, let's see what we've got.

Ghost - Opus Eponymous
Long awaited debut by Rise Above's new signings.  Initially a bit disappointing after the Mercyful Fate-esque darkness of the preceding 7" and demo, however, a grower that is actually just as good, if not better than them.

Black Breath - Heavy Breathing
Skogsberg-worshipping Seattleites kick out the jams on this from Southern Lord.
Total Motorhead/Crust punk knife fight in Chris Reifert's back yard.

Watain - Lawless Darkness
Harking back to the good old days of early black metal, Watain strip down to a melodic Hellhammer/Sodom type vibe, a refreshing change from overproduced modern black metal.

Darkthrone - Circle the Wagons
What can be said about Gylve and Ted that hasn't already been said on here?  Polarising opinions again, they are back with a slab of 80s Metal, filthy crust and dark humour that is over the head of quite a few people in the so-called scene.
Total class.

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
The build up to the release of each new Iron Maiden album raises the same questions, and each time Maiden answer them emphatically.  As relevant as any release on this list, The Final Frontier is Iron Maiden's best album for 20 years.

Black Sun - Twilight of the Gods
Glasgow terrorist's sixth album shifts through anger, sorrow, hate, anger... it's a very angry album.
Don't listen to it whilst you're driving.

Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2
Shifting away from all out Black Metal, more experimental prog/hard rock influences creep in, which is no bad thing.  Still filthy.

Alcest - Écailles de lune
French Black Metal that is as far away from LLN as you could imagine.  Introspective and brooding, akin to Amesouers etc (there are two members of the band in Alcest after all).  Rewarding, kind of post-Black Metal.  Now that symphonic BM seems to have gladly bitten the dust, we seem to be moving off in two directions; vltra-kvlt and feeling sorry for ourselves.  I like both.

Electric Wizard - Black Masses
Spooky cover of Venus In Furs aside, Electric Wizard have released an album that has had people scratching their heads, I'm on the side of people who actually like it. They've made an artform of jamming a riff until it means something else.

Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
It would have been hard to top last year's Static Tensions, and Kylesa do, and don't at the same time.
Energetic and dynamic, set side by side with mellower, trippy passages.  The only respect in which it doesn't top ST is because it shouldn't have to.

Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow
Guess which branch of Black Metal Xasthur's (apparent) final album falls into? That's right.
Cloying and suffocating, you get drawn in to this album before you realise there's only one way out.

Cathedral - The Guessing Game
Twenty years on, and Cathedral are still releasing fresh sounding albums like this.
A double disc with songs covering all kinds of ground.

Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
Quite experimental, even by DSO's standards, a less polished release than we are used to, and absolutely all over the shop.  Manic and demanding, but rewarding.

Autopsy - The Tomb Within
I know it's only an EP but hopes were high for this one and Reifert and the boys didn't dissapoint.
In no way is this a tribute or cash in, the new tracks here sit comfortably against their back catalogue.

Grand Magus - Hammer of the North
A worthy follow up to 2008's Iron Will, this saw the development of the band into a more classic-sounding metal band, without ever quite crossing over into the pastiche of metal that is power metal.
Every song on the disc is an anthem, and it gets better with every listen.

Orisha Shakpana - Spectral Duppymaan Black Metal
Jamaica's Lord Ifrit plays all instruments on this, and embraces the evil of man that is evident on the islands in the Caribbean to create some 80s style, hissy, monochrome, necro Black Metal.
Jamaica is just as scary as anywhere in Europe, filled with it's own mythology the heat and darkness of the islands can be felt throughout this album.
Even finishes off with a Slayer cover. 

All Pigs Must Die - All Pigs Must Die
A couple of "big" names in this group (Ben Koller, Kevin Baker) but don't worry about that, this is nast WB2D style hardcore with a metallic edge.  Reminds me of mid-period Discharge.

Bongripper - Satan Worshipping Doom
Sleepy instru-Mental fuzziness from Chicago. Four songs; HAIL - SATAN - WORSHIP - DOOM.
Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Conan - Horseback Battle Hammer
Local boys come good.  Stringbending, skullrattling low end dementia, momumental riffs in a sea of overdrive.
For fans of sunn/Burning Witch etc.

Grave Desecrator - Insult
Coming out of The Brazilian darkness...Rio's favourite sons return with more ultra-thrash.
Much respected at Claw Towers, this Sodom/Hellhammer/Sarcófago style classic has been getting a lot of airplay.


Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini
Enslaved sit atop mountains at the top of the world with the latest in their fusion of psychadelia, black metal and full on vikingness.  Did Vikings listen to prog? They do now.
A great mix of the epic and the claustrophobic, Enslaved transcend their Black Metal roots to create a unique fusion of seemingly unrelated genres, prog-rock style basslines mixing with tremolo picked guitars, leaving me thinking more than once of ships sailing out from harbours under cold, cloudless night skies.
A prime example of where Black Metal should be in 2010.

Which brings me nicely onto the Turkey Of The Year...I don't know what exactly it was that I expected, but you still let me down Varg.  Belus was as if time had stood still, but not in a good way.
Like when you bump into an old friend you haven't seen for years and he's still telling the same jokes.

I know that they don't really count, but I must draw your attention to two reissues from this year, namely the Sanctuary Records deluxe editions of Black Sabbath's Seventh Star and The Eternal Idol, two massively underrated albums from a turbulent era of Sabbath's past, both firm favourites with Thee Claw.
It's the extras that really shine here; nine tracks from a 1986 gig with Ray Gillen on vocals, and the Gillen version of The Eternal Idol, remastered and properly produced.

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