Well folks, 2010 is rapidly drawing to a close, which means it's time to do the obligatory "best of" countdowns. However, it's difficult to label bands, albums and songs as the "best" of anything, because it all comes down to personal taste and the mood you're in. As such, I thought it would be more prudent to just compile a list of some of the releases that I particularly enjoyed this year, albums and EP's that I wouldn't necessarily put above everything else but were noteworthy and stood out. In essence I guess it's pretty much the same thing, but whatever. The compilation in question is as follows.
Defeated Sanity- Chapters of Repugnance
A lot of people might not think that slam could be tech, but those people haven't heard Germany's Defeated Sanity, and those people are missing out. Chock full of crushing riffs, spastic tempo and meter changes, jazzy drums and skull-caving slams, this album is a must-have for any brutal death fan. When it was first released, Willowtip Records marketed it as the single heaviest release of 2010, and after being subjected to the aural assault of songs like "Consumed By Repugnance", "Coerced Into Idolatry" and "Blissfully Exsanguinated", most people would be hard-pressed to disagree. The music is all over the place to be certain, but the members are all perfectly in sync with each other. Tech death naysayers may complain about the album's nonstop complexity, even going so far as to call it soulless and pretentious, but more often than not the people who say that are the elitist kvlt dumbasses who think Gorgoroth are the peak of musical prowess, so fuck them. As far as I'm concerned, Chapters of Repugnance is a landmark achievement, and not just for Defeated Sanity but for all death metal.
Circle of Dead Children- Psalm of the Grand Destroyer
After a brief hiatus, the underground deathgrind champions have returned with some of their best work to date. This album offers fifteen tracks of sheer insanity that easily stand up to CODC's earlier works, which is fitting since one of the songs is a re-recording of "Ursa Major", the opening track of their notorious first album Starving the Vultures. All of the elements the band is known for- grating guitar tones, spastic yet precise drumming, well-written abstract lyrical concepts, and vocalist Joe Horvath's ability to apparently do every vocal style known to man- are on display here, but never have they all come together so clearly and cleanly. Tracks like "Avatar of Innocence", "We Who Move with the Graven Worm" and "Refuse To Kill the Same Way Twice" will undoubtedly leave those with weak constitutions pulverized, deliriously asking if anyone got the plates on that truck. It's not for everyone, but if you can get past the grating atonality then Psalm of the Grand Destroyer will thoroughly satisfy your deathgrind appetite.
Misery Index- Heirs To Thievery
If you're looking for something to really get your head a-bangin', look no further than Misery Index's latest offering. Since this band is essentially the bastard child of Dying Fetus, it's fitting that every one of this album's eleven tracks are jam-packed with ferocious grooves that are guaranteed to get your head bobbing. For me, listening to songs like "The Carrion Call" and "The Illuminaught" is like eating potato chips- I can't do it just once, I have to keep doing it until I hate myself for it. Another highlight of Heirs To Thievery is its thought-provoking lyrics. Now, Misery Index has always had well-written anti-establishment lyrics, but I found them to be particularly pertinent to our generation on this album, most noticeably in the song "Plague of Objects", which calls out modern society's borderline parasitic dependence on the Internet (says the guy who regularly forgoes hanging out with his friends to write on a blog). Prime example: "Feeding online, absent of mind, a chorus of billions thrive", and "Troll and evade, lurk and persuade, the worst you'll find's an Error 404". Think about that the next time you're pwning n00bz or whatever the hell it is you gamers do, and go listen to this album while you're at it.
Woe of Tyrants- Threnody
Christian melodic death metal? I'd never heard of it either, but here we are, and wouldn't you know it, they're awesome. This is the third full length from this Ohio quintet, who wasted no time after last year's Kingdom of Might and expanded on their signature quality songwriting. This time around they've added a touch of keyboards to the mix, and not in a flashy, cheesy way a la Dragonforce, but rather as a simple and subtle way to compliment the guitar melodies, and it works beautifully. As with the last album, the music is powerful and has an almost triumphant feel to it, like the band made it through a long and arduous journey just before writing the songs. Maybe that's the religious overtones shining through, but whatever it is it gives the band a very unique sound that puts them at the head of the pack in their genre. Listen to the tasteful use of fret tapping in the song "Bloodsmear" and you'll see what I'm talking about. Mark my words, if Woe of Tyrants can keep this up, they're going places.
Intestinal Alien Reflux- Illegal Aliens
Now what kind of Baby Killer list would this be if it didn't have at least one good slam band? This two man death machine got my attention with their 2008 full length Exogenocide, but this album is where they truly came into their own. The production is crystal clear, the riffs are killer, and the slams are brutal to say the least. What more could you want? These Lansing, Michigan brothers are seriously underrated and deserve much more widespread attention than they're given, but then again this is slam we're talking about, so that may be wishful thinking. In any case, Illegal Aliens is not only brutal, but also a bit of a step into new lyrical territory for the band. There is plenty of gore to go around with songs like "Gurgling Vaginal Discharge" and a re-recording of "Blood Semen Orgasm", as well as tongue-in-cheek humor (watch out, he's got his probe!), but the guys also seem to have taken a bit of a political stance on this record, particularly on the subject of drugs. Songs like "Republicant", "Demacraddict" and "Drugs On War" demonstrate a clear distaste for America's drug policies (not surprising, I'm pretty sure they're both total stoners), and while this doesn't really mean too much musically, it is nice to see a slam band thinking outside the box a little bit for a change. Good on ya, guys.
Decrepit Birth- Polarity
Speaking of drugs, let's talk about Decrepit Birth. The metal community eagerly awaited the release of their followup to 2008's Diminishing Between Worlds, and to say they exceeded expectations is a gross understatement. Polarity is everything that was good about both of the band's previous albums, from the melody and technicality of their last album to the straight up brutality of And Time Begins. Matt Sotelo's expertly-composed riffs, leads and harmonies sound just as amazing as ever, KC Howard managed to lay down some of his best drumming to date on the album before leaving the band, and Bill Robinson's unique growls tell stories of space, time and the ethereal that will make you look up at the sky and wonder. Of course we all know the reason why Decrepit Birth is so damn good is because they smoke shit that would kill us mere mortals on a daily basis, but hey, whatever gets the job done. And oddly enough this is one of my favorite albums to put on when I spark up, so it all works out nicely.
Cerebral Bore- Maniacal Miscreation
In case you guys haven't realized by now, I really, really, REALLY like Cerebral Bore. I was super excited to hear that they'd signed with Earache Records, but that was well after they'd put out this monster of an album. These Scotts are proof that you don't need to play solos to be one of the best tech death bands out there; all you need are killer riffs, greased-lightning drums and a smoking hot Dutch girl on vocals. Throw in a slam or two to keep things grounded and you're good to go. You can tell by listening to the music that this is a band that truly loves what they are doing, and now that they're signed to a respectable label they have the means to keep doing it. I'm expecting big things from you Cerebral Bore, big things!
I have a specific reason for why Magrudergrind's new EP is the last entry on my year-end list, and it actually doesn't have much to do with the music itself. It's very good, don't get me wrong, but it's really nothing special, just your typical good grindcore, as we've come to expect from them. No, the reason Crusher makes the list is because Scion sponsored and endorsed it. Many people gave Magrudergrind a lot of grief for this, saying that they were selling out and what have you; after all, grindcore is pretty much as underground as it gets, so it's understandable that there would be a huge amount of hesitation when a major company showed interest in it. Luckily for us, Magrudergrind didn't sell out at all. The new EP is just as good as anything they've put out before, and rather than using the music as a gimmick to make more money, Scion gave Magrudergrind the means to potentially reach out to more people that they wouldn't have been able to reach without Scion's help. Basically, Crusher is worth mentioning because it's impressive to see such an extreme genre getting mainstream attention without softening up.
There was plenty more cool shit this year in metal, but it's late, so I think I'll leave it at that. Let us know your favorite releases from 2010 in the comments, and here's to another year of rebellion.