"Dio has rocked for a long, long time
Now it's time for him to pass the torch
He has songs of wildebeasts and angels
He has soared on the wings of a demon."
Thus sang Jack Black on "Dio" from Tenacious D's debut album, and while the words still bring a smile to my face, Ronnie James Dio's death earlier this year makes them bittersweet. Yes, 2010 had the long shadow of Dio's passing over it, but it also brought honor to his kingdom by providing an incredibly diverse crop of ass-kicking metal.
Here in no particular order are the first five selections for the year. And please keep in mind that I call this list "Most-Played Metal Albums of 2010", as opposed to the "Top 10 of 2010", which would indicate I had somehow managed to listened to every single album released this year and formed an opinion about each and every one, an impossibility for a lone metal fan with a limited budget and time. So it comes down to this:
I listened to a lot of metal albums in 2010. Some I didn't care for, some I dug. This is the result.
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
From the moment the very un-Maiden like atmospheric intro "Satellite 15" segues into the title track, this album gets into a massive groove and never strays. Gone are the maddening repetitious choruses that have plagued every release since Brave New World, replaced with tight song structures that incorporate the band's more epic, progressive tendencies seamlessly into their old-school gallop. The album is filled with instant classics, and "Coming Home" is one of the best Maiden songs ever put on record. The band sounds reinvigorated, and Bruce sounds absolutely phenomenal, adding up to my favorite post-Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album thus far (sorry Brave New World).
Iron Thrones - The Wretched Sun
What are you smoking, labels? Somebody step up and sign these guys and put them on tour now, because they could be huge. This Minnesota troupe play a blend of melodic black...er...progressive doom...er... alright, I'm just going to call it "brutal progressive". Whatever it is, it's terribly beautiful in that awful, swirling vortex end-of-the-world way music like this can be. And heavy as hell. And awesome.
Ghost - Opus Eponymous
A late-year arrival (only available in the states via import or download until early 2011), this gem quickly shot to the top of my playlist for days on end. Like the great commercial crossover record Mercyful Fate never recorded, or the doom album Blue Öyster Cult never made, Opus Eponymous is a unique mixture of pop hooks and doom riffs that defies categorization and distills everything that's great about occult metal into 35 short minutes. Read my full review.
Accept - Blood of the Nations
Yeah. You're all like, "Balls to the Wall!" and remembering a short dude wearing fatigues and having a laugh then this album comes from out of nowhere like a set of brass knuckles to the bridge of your nose. If this album had released in '88, it would be hailed today as a classic. Of course, it wouldn't have sounded like this in '88 without today's recording techniques and the crisp, full-bodied production from the talented Andy Sneap. "Teutonic Terror" is the immediate standout, a riff-tastic, fist-pumping throwback, but I submit to you, sir or madam, that if you can get your hands on it, the bonus track "Time Machine" is where the real money is.
And the singer, Mark Tornillo (formerly of T.T. Quick), man. This dude's voice IS metal, period. Listen to it. The grit, the power, the range. If I had this guy's singing voice, I'd use it ALL THE TIME.
Mose Giganticus - Gift Horse
Am I crazy or did this album not come out this year? I ask only due to its conspicuous absence from other Top Ten lists I've been reading, because in my opinion this flat-out rocks. Mose Giganticus is actually one man, multi-instrumentalist Matt Garfield and assorted hired hands, who deliver a sound like nothing I've ever heard. It's a mid-tempo, thick soup of stoner, grunge and electronic, with heavy use of the vocoder and synthesizer, emphasis on the heavy, because this album has a huge sound. Album-closer "The Seventh Seal" goes out on a riff so huge and brain-pleasing I could ride its thundering wave forever.
Stay tuned for Part Two.
Edit! Here it is!