Matt Coe Top 30 of the 2010sSunday, 19th January 2020
When looking back at the 2010s personally, a ton of activity happened as I spent most of my ’40s in this decade. Gaining the opportunity to write for Dead Rhetoric from the start, I’ve been fortunate to meet and hang with most of the main writers/editors during this time, taking in some killer shows in the process across the East Coast. I moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut to start a new part of my life, got divorced and learned to live on my own for the first time in my life, as well as handle a significant health scare towards the end of the decade. Throughout it all, metal has been a constant. The genre continues to provide me fuel for the good times and the tough times, give me renewal in hope and channel those frustration/emotional components in a healthier direction.
It’s never easy narrowing down the best albums of a decade, especially considering the various genres and amount of music consumed. But here is what I consider the 30 best albums of the 2010s. Hopefully, you find enjoyment in my takes, and possibly spin some gems in the process.
30. Dynazty – Firesign (AFM Records)
Although vocalist Nils Molin currently does double duty with Amaranthe, Dynazty is his original heavy/power metal band with melodic hard rock nuances, and they were firing on all the right cylinders for Firesign. Fans of Pretty Maids and older Europe would be wise to seek this gem out.
29. Accept – Blood of the Nations (Nuclear Blast)
Traditional Teutonic institution Accept came back after another long layoff – sans Udo, featuring Mark Tornillo. They keyed in on their classical touches, steadfast power, and killer choruses – and hit it out of the park for Blood of the Nations.
28. Onslaught – VI (AFM Records)
The UK thrash movement may have slipped under the radar in the 80’s – but there were some strong offerings. Onslaught near the top – and VI feels like a sturdy reminder that these veterans can still pound your head into submission through their energy, riffs, and hooks.
27. Angra – Secret Garden (earMusic)
Featuring Fabio Lione on vocals, these Brazilians intertwine progressive, melodic and Latin influences into their metal style unlike anyone else on the planet. Secret Garden bristles with energy, dynamic diversity, and a killer cover of “Synchronicity II” from The Police to boot.
26. Idle Hands – Mana (Eisenwald)
A current favorite around most of the Dead Rhetoric staff, Idle Hands embrace a sound that is alternative/gothic as much as it is traditional and powerful. Mana provides hope that metal’s depth and future is in ‘great’ hands.
25. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist (Nuclear Blast)
The best thrash albums contain the right mix of speed, aggression and power while balancing out those mid-tempo transitions or catchy melodic earworms in some manner. Phantom Antichrist indeed delivers in spades – “From Flood into Fire” and the title track two of many slamming cuts. There’s a reason why people still want to witness this band in their natural live comfort zone.
24. Armored Saint – Win Hands Down (Metal Blade)
California’s Armored Saint may not necessarily release albums very quickly – but it’s hard to dispute the quality album to album. Between John Bush’s charismatic vocal prowess and the killer stream of musical ideas at their disposal, Win Hands Down proves the veterans have plenty left in the musical tank to display.
23. Dark Tranquillity – Atoma (Century Media)
Originally a part of the 90’s Swedish melodic death metal movement, Dark Tranquillity has turned into so much more. Atoma living up to the standards they’ve created, injecting the material with confidence, clean vocals against death, and keyboards when appropriate in a modern context against the heavy riffing. There’s a reason why they remain headliners worldwide – consistency.
22. Soilwork – Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast)
Allowing the band to paint broader strokes in those hidden crevices sonically, the band on Verkligheten continue to navigate their songwriting with precision, focus, and enjoyment. Melodic guitar runs over insane blast beat combinations one moment – bluesy and calmer sections can impose their will the next – all in a melodic death/thrash context. Brilliant to stand the test of time.
21. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Century Media)
Comeback records from bands of the 80’s and 90’s could be brilliant – or a stain on their otherwise impeccable discography. Slot Surgical Steel in the former – as I don’t think most thought these UK death mavens could achieve anything close to Necroticism, but they did. Vicious and memorable, we only hope the follow-up maintains this standard.
20. Enforcer – From Beyond (Nuclear Blast)
This Swedish band incorporate the best of 80’s speed and traditional metal, creating addictive anthems of power and glory. From Beyond contains addictive galloping songs from “Undying Evil” and “Hell Will Follow” on through to the slower, epic closer “Mask of Red Death”. Hoist your axe high and the fists to the sky.
19. Insomnium – Winter’s Gate (Century Media)
Remembering Edge of Sanity and their 90’s Crimson album that was one forty-minute track, Finnish melodic death metal act Insomnium would execute their long-song record in 2016 for Winter’s Gate. Broken into seven parts, it’s equal parts atmospheric as intense, rocking and transformative – so many elements to wrap your head around and discover deeper as more passes take shape. Rewarding for those who enjoy bold moves in a band’s career arc.
18. Wolfheart – Winterborn (Self-Released)
Another Finnish masterpiece, melodic death/black metal that touches the heart and soul. Wolfheart takes Before the Dawn to that next level, a mix of winter, nature, wolves, bloodshed, and channeling that into this aural storm.
17. Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel (Season of Mist)
Australian progressive death metal that takes musicianship to another level, Ne Obliviscaris have made worldwide in roads through their discography. Unafraid to be New Age or classical/progressive rock the next, it’s the element of surprise that makes Citadel fascinating.
16. Icarus Witch – Goodbye Cruel World (Cleopatra Records)
Pittsburgh’s own Icarus Witch dug deep into their creative well for Goodbye Cruel World – and came out with an exhilarating effort. It’s not often that names like Rainbow, Y&T, Iron Maiden, Kansas, and Styx get thrown around to describe an album – but that is the case here. This record could be that new ‘classic’ you need in your life.
15. Queensrÿche – The Verdict (Century Media)
Their third album with Todd LaTorre firmly in the vocal position, The Verdict bristles with a mixture of classic elements that put this progressive metal band on the map, as well as solid melodic songwriting that still is relevant to the modern era. They’ve worked hard to rebuild the following set during the 80’s and early 90’s – and we the fans reap the benefits.
14. Striker – Striker (Record Breaking Records)
Edmonton is home to Striker – a Canadian act that assembles a host of melodic hard rock, power/traditional metal, and sometimes heavier influences to make some damn infectious material. Given their penchant for the little details, including four-part vocal harmonies at times, it’s no wonder why “Former Glory” and “Over the Top” get listeners alive and kicking through catchy riffs, solid tempo mechanics, and Dan Cleary’s commanding vocals.
13. Omnium Gatherum – Beyond (Lifeforce Records)
Melodic death metal is a staple of my diet (and many others on the Dead Rhetoric crew). Finnish act Omnium Gatherum could easily have a couple more records in this list – but for my money, Beyond elevated their game as far as memorable runs, surprises and depth of material. “The New Dynamic” and “Nightwalkers” two future setlist staples that still sound fresh today.
12. Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light (Dark Descent Records)
Doom as a genre has had a resurgence in the hands of bands like Crypt Sermon. Taking their approach from equal parts Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus as say Bathory or Grand Magus, the outsider perspective pays dividends in the attention to every detail for the songwriting and performances.
11. Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath (Metal Blade)
Epic/true metal is in good hands with Utah’s Visigoth on their second full-length. Taking in their 80’s influences and paying homage without ‘ripping’ liberally from those influences, they will continue to deliver their style to multiple generations craving for their own Omen, Manilla Road, or Iron Maiden – an American band that embraces those traditional values and aesthetics.
10. Khemmis – Desolation (20 Buck Spin)
Injecting their doom metal template with more traditional, twin-guitar laden harmonies for Desolation, Colorado’s Khemmis take Thin Lizzy and Candlemass and smash those sonic platforms together. Along with vocals that can be majestic and clean one minute, savage and brutal the next – it’s no wonder why this band is gaining momentum through their records and live work. Epic doom that’s well-crafted and super catchy, not an easy feat in this genre to achieve.
9. Sorcerer – The Crowning of the Fire King (Metal Blade)
An original late 80’s outfit who couldn’t get arrested for a record deal back then, Swedish doom metal act Sorcerer are reaping the benefits of the current era. Their second full-length The Crowning of the Fire King brings Dio and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath back to the masses, along with heavy/progressive nuances, killer leads, and a production value that isn’t as throwback as one would expect.
8. Fates Warning – Theories of Flight (InsideOut Music)
Progressive metal masters Fates Warning feel inspired to keep creating challenging compositions that are very melodic, balancing out the many prisms of the genre. Theories of Flight succeeds because of it’s mixture of streamlined material like “Seven Stars” and “SOS” along with ten-minute plus epics such as “The Light and Shade of Things” and “The Ghosts of Home”. Pushing parameters, engaging the listener on multiple levels, Fates Warning remain one of the premiere acts in this genre.
7. Leprous – The Congregation (InsideOut Music)
Scandinavia is probably better known for its extreme music output, but there are numerous progressive outfits to check out – Leprous being one of the best from Norway. The Congregation contains a rhythmic-like swagger and charm in its songwriting and delivery, along with some emotionally engaging vocal acrobatics that hypnotize the listener throughout. Evolving as progressive bands should.
6. Riot V- Unleash the Fire (SPV)
Melodic metal with a mixture of power and traditional / hard rock offerings, Unleash the Fire showcases the US band firing on all cylinders of their skillsets. If you love any era of the band – there’s something to be treasured here. Todd’s versatile and upper tier vocal range plus the riffing, lead play, and professionalism on all accounts proves Riot V do not have to rest on past laurels – they are here to create new ones.
5. Anathema – Distant Satellites (Kscope Music)
Probably the lightest entry on my list, Anathema have evolved from their doom/death metal roots to more of an alternative/progressive rock-oriented entity with flashes of their metal spirit. Distant Satellites would take simpler, quieter passages and build out the arrangements, guaranteeing huge payoffs as the songs take ahold. ‘The fear is just an illusion’ from “The Lost Song (Part 1)” touching the depths of my soul.
4. Evergrey – The Storm Within (AFM Records)
Probably one of my favorite bands of all time, Evergrey continue to engage listeners through touching that emotional aspect in the rich, expressive vocals and equally intoxicating hooks musically. The Storm Within coming close for this scribe to the magnificence of Solitude Dominance Tragedy in their early years – just with the advantage of more seasoning and modern production technology at their fingertips.
3. Arch/Matheos – Winter Ethereal (Metal Blade)
John Arch and Jim Matheos are two musicians for the early period of Fates Warning that set the US progressive metal movement in motion. Winter Ethereal reminds us of their collective creative and musical genius. Powerful, emotional, moving – this is a record that grabs at every fiber of your being with every listen.
2. Voivod – The Wake (Century Media)
Canadian veterans Voivod are an entity onto themselves – forward thinking in their left-field approach to the metal genre. The Wake continues that exploration to the benefit of the faithful – songs like “Obsolete Things” and “Spherical Perspective” progressive, jagged, alternative, and twisted, not of this universe. And we wouldn’t want them to be any other way than they are.
1. Night Demon – Darkness Remains (Century Media)
Ventura, California three-piece Night Demon understand the power and energy of heavy metal through and through. Channeling that inner child in us all yearning to scream and shout along with our favorite anthems – to let our daily struggles fade away and just be happy. Darkness Remains contains all of the versatility and variety one should expect from a band that loves Motörhead and Iron Maiden as much as Scorpions, Judas Priest, and the NWOBHM scene.