Well, here you go, the culmination of a truly wild decade for me as a metal critic/writer/fan/nerd. This list of 66 titles isn’t meant to be THE FINAL WORD. Hell, no metal list should ever be so arrogant as to claim that. Heavy metal has become so huge that not only is it impossible to accurately assess the progress of the genre anymore until well after the fact, but we all have our own prejudices, whether we want to admit it or not.
For instance, you’ll quickly see that there’s barely any black metal on my list at all. After immersing myself in black metal for so many years, sometime in 2016 I realized that the form, which is not without merit, attracts too much of an extremist element for my own liking. If you have to google “is [band name] racist”, that alone should be a sign that you’re wasting your time. As my esteemed colleague Phil Freeman often says, “Black metal is racist until proven otherwise.” I know there are a lot of black metal bands who are not racist, and I know plenty of genuinely good black metal musicians, but I am in a much better place now that I’ve turned my back on the subgenre. Plus, aside from the more experimental side (hello there, Ihasahn and Schammasch), not to mention the classic ’90s stuff (and Gin and Death Cult Armageddon!) I can’t be bothered to waste my time with some suicidal jerk in a bedroom mimicking Leviathan. You guys wear clown make-up. Smile for once; if Abbath can smile, so can you. Anyway, life’s too short for me to waste my time on black metal anymore, and I am the better for it.
Still on a personal note (hey, it’s my blog, my own arbitrary rules) my relationship with metal in the 2010s rose, peaked, plummeted, and peaked again. After very intense immersion for years, writing hundreds upon hundreds of reviews and articles, the bottom fell out in summer 2015, and although I kept going as much as I could, the passion for writing about metal had waned severely, and my brutal anxiety, diagnosed that year but undiagnosed for 31 years before that, had me reeling. The smallest things would set me off, I’d get lippy, and before I knew it I’d have a new set of adversaries on twitter. So some self-care was in order. Medication, meditation, therapy, living well. I coincidentally met the amazing woman who would become my wife in October 2015, and I steadily eased my way back into a much more manageable writing pace while at the same time overhauling my real-life situation. Today I am very happily married with a great job and superb benefits, and I am back to loving so much metal music, new and old. And after a lifetime of saying yes to every offer because I’m a people-pleaser to a fault, I only write when it fits my life schedule.
Personal highlights from the 2010s? At Decibel I wrote two Iron Maiden cover stories, which were phenomenal experiences (I got to meet the band in 2010 for the first assignment, which was the high point of my writing career). I completed a Decibel Hall of Fame piece on the making of Cryptopsy’s None So Vile album after years of work, and then I was asked to write liner notes for their best-of compilation. I wrote loads and loads of pieces for Terrorizer (Louise Brown, Tom Dare, Darren Sadler, you are all wonderful human beings). I did a lot of fun things for Hellbound, wrote some pieces for NPR that I’m extremely proud of, enjoyed a two year run at MSN that had me making good money for the first time ever. I interviewed Lemmy and we talked about Little Richard, the Beatles, and the one thing left he wished he could do (“I’ve never been Pope! But I’m not Catholic! Hahahahahaha!”). I went on five metal cruises, went to Europe four times, and saw some truly incredible shows across the country. I made loads of new friends, experienced so many new things, and learned a lot about myself. I somehow, incredibly, am a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voter (four years and counting!) and love working with the Juno Awards helping oversee the metal category. Life is good. Really, really good.
And yes, lots of great music came out. It was fascinating putting this list together, and I was often surprised how my opinion changed on a lot of titles. Some slipped down, while others, like Black Sabbath and Behemoth, skyrocketed. I love variety, of course, so I can guarantee there’ll be a lot of picks you’ll agree with, and more that’ll make you angry. That’s the whole fun of these projects. Just remember, don’t take it personally.
Before I begin, allow me to jot down a very random list of ten favourite metal memories from the 2010s:
- Being threatened legal action by a veteran musician after I wrote that he looked like a homeless dude onstage.
- Experiencing a raucous, drunken muster drill at the first 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise and hearing Kevin Stewart-Panko say, “If this ship goes down we’re fucked.”
- Bruce Dickinson offering me tea.
- Seeing Voivod perform Dimension: Hatross at Roadburn 2012.
- Dragging Stacey to see Judas Priest on Halloween nine days after we met, and then taking her to see Priest in 2019 weeks after getting married.
- Meeting so many wonderful people at Roadburn and Noctis. I miss you all.
- Watching my good friend Sean Palmerston play hoops with Gary Holt on a cruise ship.
- Seeing bands that are near and dear to me flourish (Shooting Guns, Untimely Demise, KEN Mode, Anciients, Mares of Thrace, Smoulder, Hexripper, and more).
- Writing the promotional bio for an album that won a Grammy Award.
- Turning around to see Tom Warrior behind me and being too petrified to say hello.
Okay, strap yourselves in. Happy reading, and bring on the Roaring ’20s, version 2.0.
66. The Soft Pink Truth, Why Do the Heathen Rage? (2014)
65. Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (2017)
64. High Spirits, Motivator (2016)
63. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors (2015)
62. The Devil’s Blood, The Thousandfold Epicentre (2011)
61. Iron Maiden, The Final Frontier (2010)
60. Motörhead, The World is Yours (2010)
59. Cannibal Corpse, Torture (2012)
58. Delain, We Are the Others (2012)
57. Gojira, L’Enfant Sauvage (2012)
56. Locrian, Return to Annihilation (2013)
55. Witch Mountain, Cauldron of the Wild (2012)
54. Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
53. The Body, I Shall Die Here (2014)
52. Anciients, Voice of the Void (2016)
51. Atlantean Kodex, The White Goddess (2013)
50. Baroness, Yellow & Green (2012)
49. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction (2012)
48. Sabaton, Carolus Rex (2012)
47. Cobalt, Slow Forever (2016)
46. Spirit Adrift, Earthbound (2017)
45. KEN Mode, Loved (2018)
44. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (2018)
43. Oranssi Pazuzu, Valonielu (2013)
42. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (2017)
41. 40 Watt Sun, The Inside Room (2011)
40. Tribulation, Down Below (2018)
39. Nachtmystium, Addicts: Black Meddle Part II (2010)
38. Darkthrone, The Underground Resistance (2013)
37. Midnight, Satanic Royalty (2011)
36. In Solitude, Sister (2013)
35. Amon Amarth, Deceiver of the Gods (2013)
34. Enslaved, Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)
33. Kvelertak, Kvelertak (2011)
32. Audrey Horne, Youngblood (2013)
31. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (2018)
30. Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
29. Pallbearer, Heartless (2017)
28. Dawnbringer, Into the Lair of the Sun God (2012)
27. Hammers of Misfortune, 17th Street (2011)
26. Meshuggah, The Violent Sleep of Reason (2016)
25. Shooting Guns, Brotherhood of the Ram (2013)
24. Liturgy, Aesthethica (2011)
23. Lingua Ignota, Caligula (2019)
22. Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light (2012)
21. Panopticon, Kentucky (2012)
20. Nightwish, Imaginaerum (2011)
19. Black Sabbath, 13 (2013)
18. Shining, Blackjazz (2010)
17. Judas Priest, Firepower (2018)
16. Tool, Fear Inoculum (2019)
15. Voivod, The Wake (2018)
14. SubRosa, More Constant Than the Gods (2013)
13. Opeth, In Cauda Venenum (2019)
12. Sleep, The Sciences (2018)
11. Gojira, Magma (2016)
10. Metallica, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (2016)
9. Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls (2015)
8. Ghost, Prequelle (2018)
7. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Blood Lust (2012)
6. Behemoth, The Satanist (2014)
5. Carcass, Surgical Steel (2013)
4. Ghost, Opus Eponymous (2010)
1. Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
Melana Chasmata (2014)