With the end of the decade approaching fast I thought it would be good to look back at album releases over the last 9 years to see what we could pull out as a “Best of” list. There have been some major shifts in mainstream taste over the last decade. We also lost some great music talents in all genres this decade, some too early, some not surprising. In this installment I decided to start with my favorite and most present genre of music throughout the last 30 years. While some of these albums may be considered more hard rock than metal and there will be a contingent that will want to crucify me for not putting Tool’s long awaited release on the list (spoiler alert), it is me writing this thing and you can always comment if you disagree with my list. I’ve pulled two albums per year from 2010 to present and while some years had a lot of great releases that were runners up in my head, this list is based on my personal tastes.
I hope that you all have enjoyed these albums as much as I have and if you are unaware that they exist, I recommend you check them out. So without any further rambling on my part, let’s get to the list!
Album: Cold Day Memory
If you were a 7D fan like me, you were more than a little disheartened when Clint Lowery left the band. While the band continued to put out three good albums without him, the sound and chemistry just didn’t seem the same in his absence. Cold Day Memory was Lowery’s first album with the band in over 5 years and his presence is noticeable in every track. This album spawned four singles over the years after its release and contains some of my favorite tunes of most recent Sevendust albums. Songs like “Splinter”, “Unraveling”, “Last Breath”, and “Nowhere” are standouts on an album packed to the gills with good songs. This was indeed a triumphant return to form for the band.
Album: AB III
Artist: Alter Bridge
It may be easy to pigeonhole Alter Bridge as being ‘Creed 2.0’ with the core of the band being all of Creed minus the annoying singer but with each subsequent release the band has proved that their musical ability continues to grow and change. 2010’s AB III was somewhat of a departure of earlier albums with Miles Kennedy increasing his songwriting skills on the album. Heavy guitars and anthemic choruses are found throughout the album with some of the best heavy solos of their career being on this album. The album has little to no filler and is great as an album that you digest in full or on a song-by-song basis. Noteable standouts on the album include the album’s heavy opening track “Slip to the Void”, as well as more pop oriented rock tunes like “Ghost of Days Gone By” and “Wonderful Life”. Heavy hitters like “Isolation” and “I Know it Hurts” keep the album moving at steady clip before ending on one of the fan favorites “Words Darker Than Their Wings”. If you never checked the band out due to their association with their former nu-metal light act Creed you owe yourself a listen to at least this album to gain an appreciation for the abilities of the members.
Album: Worship Music
I haven’t really explored it much in these articles, but I’ve been a pretty big fan of Anthrax for a long time. I tended to lean more toward the John Bush years rather than the first few albums but that was my preference for the singing style that he brought to the band. The band took a bit of a hit in the 2000’s due to the Anthrax attacks after September 11th but the band took a stand and decided not to change their name due to the events. This was the first album that they released in over 8 years and the first with Joey Belladonna in a long time.
The album was a great return for the thrash masters and continued to prove why they were one of the names in the ‘Big Four’ of the thrash scene of the late 1980’s. The music has energy and heaviness that keeps your head banging through the album’s 13 tracks. Built on strong song structures that incorporate fast riffs, groove, and slick solos, tracks like “Earth on Hell”, “The Devil You Know”, “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t”, and “Judas Priest” show that the band was not losing any footing in their advancing age and that the return of Belladonna at vocals was the right choice.
I didn’t really get to heavy into the hardcore scene back in the day, however, I have always liked the music of Hatebreed and E-Town Concrete since I saw them in Boise as a teenager. The hardcore breakdown is one of my favorite parts of the genre because it brings so much heaviness to a song and it is a marching stomp in the middle of a circle of chaos of music. Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta’s first solo album Jasta hits a lot of my favorite spots in the genre while showing his musical expansion into more commercial fare. The album contains a few different guest appearances that don’t distract from the core songwriting that has been consistent from Jasta for along time. Songs like “Walk That Path Alone”, “Mourn the Illusion”, “Anthem of the Freedom Fighter”, and “The Fearless Must Endure” continue the in your face motivational themes that have been on Hatebreed releases for years. “Something You Should Know” shows a more mainstream style of hardcore that could have very well been a big hit off of the album if it would have garnered a little more attention from the industry.
Album: Koi No Yokan
I know that the Deftones have not been considered a “Metal” band in over a decade and a half and that they have worked to distance themselves from the label during that time with their ever expansive sound, but I cannot separate them from the genre and cannot ignore this album on a best of list. While more atmospheric and less heavy than their earlier albums, Koi No Yokan stands in my mind as their best album since 2001’s White Pony. The album kicks off with an uptempo and guitar heavy riff in “Swerve City” and peppers the heavy guitars throughout the 11 song set. This album is great in terms of pacing and song placement. The songwriting wanders between heavy alternative metal songs (“Swerve City”, “Leathers”, “Gauze”) and atmospheric soundscapes (“Romantic Dreams”, “Entombed”, “Rosemary”) with a deftness hardly seen on a lot of releases. This is by far my favorite Deftones album of the last 15 years.
Album: All I Was
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Mark Tremonti’s guitar playing. I’ve said it in previous articles as well as earlier in this one. That being said, I was excited that he was releasing a solo album of material because I knew that if anything it would contain some good guitar riffs and solos. I was a bit cautious about him singing as well as he has only served as a background vocalist (with only a few exceptions) on his previous releases with Creed and Alter Bridge but he proved that his voice suits his own tunes pretty well. The album is full of great guitar heavy tracks and well written lyrics and arrangements. This is not surprising considering Tremonti has been writing commercially successful songs for over a 15 years before his first solo release. From the opening tracks “Leave it Alone” and “So You’re Afraid” it is noticeable that this album would contain elements of his full band work but also include some unhindered riffing. The lead off single of “You Waste Your Time” has some of the best fast paced guitar work of the time and I spent some time learning the riff because it is challenging and heavy. The album is great and its heaviness is not without purpose. Songs like “New Way Out” shows that Tremonti can still write a song with a commercial sensibility while keeping the artistry of guitar at the forefront and is something that he expanded on with subsequent solo releases.
Album: Disarm the Descent
Artist: Killswitch Engage
While I’m a huge fan of Howard Jones and was introduced to KSE while he was vocalist I was not a huge fan of the band’s 2009 Self titled release. I personally thought that it lacked the energy and hope that made the band great and I think by the content of that album it was a good thing in the end that HoJo parted ways with the band. That being said, I was excited when I heard that instead of finding a third singer, the band had reunited with Jesse Leach who was the original vocalist. Disarm the Descent not only harkened the return of the vocalist but also the heaviness that was lacking on the previous effort. The album starts out heavy with “The Hell In Me” and from the opening scream to the last track “Slave to the Machine” the music stays in your face with only a few breaks in the pace. One of my favorite tracks off of the album is the upbeat “In Due Time” which is still one of my favorite tracks to rock out to. While showcasing the heaviness that the band is known for, the album offers enough breathing space for Leach to expand with some slower songs like “You Don’t Bleed for Me” and “Always”. The song has plenty of heavy anthemic bangers to satisfy any fan of either era of Killswitch Engage and helped move the band into a new era without missing a beat.
Album: Hail to the King
Artist: Avenged Sevenfold
This choice may catch me some flack from anybody who reads this and is a bigger fan of the other AV7X albums, however, I think that the stripped down approach that the band took with Hail to the King had brilliant results. Allowing their roots to show while maintaining their own signature sound and style allowed the band to release an album that is enjoyable while not being overly complicated in terms of arrangements. From the opening bell tolls of “Shepherd of Fire” to the signature intro riffage of “Hail to the King” it was obvious that this album was different enough to not sound stale while keeping the elements that make the band in tact. I like that the band were able to wear their influences on their sleeve with songs like the G ’N R sounding “Doing Time” and ‘Black’ album era Metallica influenced “This Means War” and still maintain their identity. While the first half of the album showcases a more slimmed down writing style the back half of the album contains songs more complex and loosely tied together with a theme. The final two tracks of the album show the more complex songwriting that Avenged fans are used to while maintaining a sparseness that is a central idea of the album. I can honestly say that there is not a song that skip over on this album.
Album: La Gargola
Chevelle has been a band that has been kind of “Hit and Miss” with their albums for me. It seems like they seem to hit the right notes on every other album. This happened to be the case with La Gargola as well. While their previous album Hats Off to the Bull did have some good songs, I felt it had a lot of skippable material. La Gargola has a lot of energy and a good set of songs that are catchy and heavy. Songs like “Take out the Gunman”, “Hunter Eats Hunter”, “An Island”, and “The Damned” are heavy rockers that will satisfy any fan’s need for the staple sounding tunes of the band. However, the standout track for me is the more melodic “One Ocean”. The songs lyrics point out the importance of saving earths one connected resource from pollution and destruction while having an entrancing mid-paced groove. I think this is one of the best songs that the band has written in its entire catalog.
Album: Ronnie James Dio- This is Your Life
The passing of Ronnie James Did in 2010 was a huge blow to the metal community. Long considered one of the forefathers of the metal movement he not only left a lasting impression on music but also everyone he ever met. Nobody could believe that a man so small could have a voice so big. This album serves as both a tribute and a send off from some of the mans friends and admirers. The song selection and execution is nearly flawless and shows the kind of talent and unique musical mind of one of the greatest heavy singers of all time. Standouts for me are Anthrax’s version of “Neon Knights”, the Corey Taylor helmed version of “Rainbow in the Dark”, Rob Halford’s version of “Man on the Silver Mountain” and of course the Killswitch Engage version of “Holy Diver”. Some surprisingly great tracks are Halestorm’s cover of “Straight Through the Heart”, Doro’s version of “Egypt (The Chains are On)” and Tenacious D’s “The Last in Line” which contains probably the only recorder solo ever in the history of metal.
Dio was a formidable force in heavy music for four decades and the breadth of his output is well represented by those who took part in the songs presented on this album.
Artist: Fear Factory
I have been a fan of Fear Factory since I was introduced to Demanufacture by my brother way back in my teens. I have always loved the blend of tight, percussive guitar playing with the machine-like precision of the drums in addition to the story telling of Burton C. Bell. A.I. and the machine apocalypse are subjects that have not faded in the 20 years between the seminal Demanufacture and the release of Genexus. While a lot of people lost track of Fear Factory over the years, I have always supported the band in both purchasing their albums and telling anyone who will listen about their unique and hard hitting sound. Genexus was their third release after the departure of Christian Olde Wolbers and Raymond Herrera on bass and drums, respectively, and the return of original guitarist and founder Dino Cazares. I like that the band hasn’t strayed much from the conceptual portion of their albums and the theme of ‘Man vs. Machine’ evolves with each album without getting stale. All of the elements of prime Fear Factory are still present and the album moves well through the narrative with each track. The opening tracks of “Autonomous Combat System”, “Anodized”, and “Dielectic” kick the album off with a heavy attack of guitars with the swirling synth elements that made their albums consistently multidimensional over their career. The singing maintains the signature elements of Bell’s style. Flipping between heavy distorted singing with melodically sung choruses. Fear Factory never gets old for me and I hope that they can release more material in the future.
Album: Silence in the Snow
I have liked Trivium for quite a while, however, it always felt that they were struggling with finding their identity through their albums. A trend that I feel started with their two preceding albums In Waves and Vengeance Falls was that they were finally starting to find their individuality while also keeping their roots in their music. Silence in the Snow is one of their most diverse yet cohesive offering and really showcased their identity as a band. The album still showcases the musical talent and songwriting ability of the band, but also moves the vocals to a more digestible approach. The shift in vocals from heavy screaming to more melodic passages was something that was required as guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy had blown out his voice prior to the album.
I think having to go outside of the crutch of heavy vocals helped Trivium to better place the heavy vocal elements in their songs going forward. In addition to the change in vocal style the band also managed to change their style to a more simplistic formula while still including their amazing guitar solo ability. The result is a more digestible and focused approach to their songwriting that helped move the band forward into a new direction that works well for their abilities and style.
There isn’t a bad song on the entire album and tunes like title track, “Blind Leading the Blind”, “Dead and Gone”, “The Ghost That’s Haunting You”, “Until the World Goes Cold”, and “Beneath the Sun” are some of my favorite songs in their catalog. While songs from earlier in their career like “Shogun”, “Down from the Sky”, and “In Waves” are still some of my favorite heavier complex songs, I for one like the new direction the songwriting was forced to take.
Album: The Poison Red
Nonpoint, in my opinion, is a band that never really got the credit they deserve. Much like Sevendust, they have spent the majority of their career just below the mainstream with only a few notable exceptions. However, I think this is what makes their following as well as their consistency one of the things that makes them great. I first discovered the band when I randomly bought their major label debut Statement because it was metal and inexpensive. That purchase was particularly influential because I have listened to every album and iteration of the band since. While the band may have had some nu-metal elements, they have grown musically and have shed those elements to become a solid heavy band. 2016’s The Poison Red builds upon their solid catalog and has some great songs with serious social commentary. From “Generation Idiot” to “Divided… Conquer Them” to the final track “My Last Dying Breath”, the band put together a 14 song set that spans subjects from societies reliance on technology to the unneeded pursuit of material things. They put forth a thoughtful social commentary throughout that, if the listener pays attention, points out what is going wrong and why they should stand up for themselves and reject the conformity of consumer culture. The entire effort is enjoyable and hard hitting even if you want to rock out and not focus on the lyrical content.
Artist: The Devin Townsend Project
I have to admit that it took me longer to check out the Devin Townsend Project than it should have. I am drawn to more mainstream music in regard to the metal realm but I am not too big to admit that sometimes I’m wrong about an artist. Transcendance is an amazing album that spans the soundscape so well that it is impossible not to like. It contains heavy, well utilized guitars that intersect well with the symphonic elements of the work. The album is ambitious while still remaining accessible.
This reminds me a lot of some of the earlier Steve Vai and Joe Satriani records without a lot of the needless flash of guitar. Here, the guitar serves as the bedrock of the soundscape and without overwhelming the listener. Altogether the 10 tracks span over an hour but upon listening the time does not seem that long. The mark of a good album is to make you lose track of time and be somewhat confused when you get through the entire thing and it not seem like you spent an hour listening. From the opening track “Truth” on you are invited into the world inside of Devin Townsend’s head and I can tell you that it is a trip worth taking. I cannot say enough good things about this album. Just go and listen to it because my clunky words cannot do it enough justice.
Album: In Droves
Artist: Black Map
I first checked this band out because they were an opener at a Chevelle show that I was supposed to go to (but subsequently didn’t) and I wanted to know what they were about. I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Their sound is full for being a three piece group and they manage to meld heavy songs with focused lyrics. Their songs are heavy yet they still manage a level of atmosphere to their sound. The album spans 12 full tracks with three interlude tracks. The pacing is not too fast but also not sluggish. Songs like “Run Rabbit Run”, “Heavy Waves”, “No Color”, and “Just My Luck” spin a heavy, groovy sound that becomes the band’s signature sound. Other tracks like “Foxglove”, “Dead Ringer”, “Octavia”, and “Cash for Fears” let the rhythm section anchor the song while guitarist Mark Engles adds coloring to the mix. The album is great to sit back and relax to or to rock out to. I hope that this act puts out another full album soon because their style is so unique and pleasing to the ear.
Album: The Sin and the Sentence
Trivium is one of two artists that have more than one album on this list for good reason. As stated earlier when talking about their album Silence in the Snow, Trivium is a band that I feel started to finally hit its stride and establish its identity over their last two releases. While Silence in the Snow contained a more scaled back vocal and musical approach, the band managed to take the lessons learned on that album and apply them to their more complex compositions. The inclusion of new drummer Alex Bent was quite possibly the best addition to the band in a number of years. I feel with Bent that the band finally has a drummer that can find the groove while showcasing a musical ability that matches the caliber of the rest of the band. While bringing back a number of songs that employ a screaming vocal, the album manages to balance these out nicely with the more straightforward sung lyrics. While the majority of the album is hard hitting tracks (“The Sin and the Sentence”, “Beyond Oblivion”, “The Heart from Your Hate”, “Betrayer”) the band also leaves enough space in songs for them to maintain a catchy singable element (“Other Worlds”, “Endless Night”, “Beauty in the Sorrow”). Collectively, I think this is the most focused outing by the band and an example of how you can meld the more intricate writing style of earlier albums with the pop sensibility of more mainstream metal albums. I can only hope that the band can continue to move forward with albums of this caliber going forward.
Artist: Light the Torch
I’ll admit that after Howard Jones left Killswitch Engage I was still a huge fan but did not really listen to stuff he put out with The Devil You Know. However, after the band changed its name for legal reasons and tweaked its sound a bit I was interested in checking them out. The first video for a track off the album caught my attention. The album has great metal riffs, well written song structures, and HoJo’s signature vocal style. Songs like “Die Alone”, “The God I Deserve”, “Calm Before the Storm”, “The Safety of Disbelief”, and “The Bitter End” are so good that the deserve to be in regular rotation on hard rock radio. Heavy, anthemic, and thoughtful are just a few words that can be used to describe a number of the songs on the album. I’ve been listening to this album on a near constant basis since it’s release over a year and a half ago. I hope that the band can follow up Revival with another great album of this level.
Album: A Dying Machine
Tremonti is only the second artist to occupy multiple spots on this list. While the band did release two other albums throughout the decade, their fourth album A Dying Machine deserves to be on the list as a complete album. The album was ambitious for Mark Tremonti because, along with writing a novel with the same characters, this was the first solo concept album release by the band. If I wasn’t already a sucker for the guitar playing, the concept of the album pulled me in as well. I’m a huge science nerd and the concepts of A.I. and its potential effect on humanity is something that I find very interesting. Harnessing a similar concept to Fear Factory’s, Tremonti manages to add more melody and humanity to his songwriting on this album. From the martial march intro of “Bringer of War” to heavy hitting songs like “From the Sky” and “Throw them To the Lions” paint a stark picture of the future. Conversely, songs like “Trust”, “The First the last”, and “Take You With Me” (one of my personal favorites on the album) let the humanity and empathy of the narrative show through. Filled with highs and lows and a moving narrative mixed with the high level of song writing and guitar work that Mark Tremonti brings to all of his work, this album never gets old.
This is one of the most recently released albums and you might ask how it can be considered as one of the best of the decade. The answer is simple. Pure musicality. Normally I’m not a big fan of the more heavy progressive side of the genre, but the musical ability of every member within Jinjer got me interested. This album is solid from beginning to end. From the opening punch in the face that is “On the Top” to the reggae infused “Judgement (& Punishment)” the band show that there is more substance to them than vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk’s good looks. The beauty can belt in this band. There are few female vocalists that have the distorted voice abilities and the clean vocal chops as Tatiana. I can state for a fact that she can pull off both sides of the performance live because I saw this for myself a few months ago. The intricacy and heaviness of the band itself is amazing because they mange to write complex musical parts without making your head hurt. Some progressive acts have a tendency to stray too much in the music itself to make the actual sounds enjoyable but Jinjer manage to make the songs listenable while being complicated in form.
Album: We Are Not Your Kind
It had been a few years since Slipknot released it first post Paul Gray/Joey Jordison album .5 The Gray Chapter and the masses of maggots were ready for something new and exciting. There was some concern when the band stated that the new album would be their most experimental to date and made a lot of us wonder if the influence of Stone Sour would have infected Slipknot and turned them into a more singles driven band. Luckily, with the release of We Are Not Your Kind those concerns were put to rest. While .5 was a great album, I felt that there were not a lot of solid songs that I liked on the album. Luckily the newest release solved that issue. I have to admit that when the video was released for the lead off single “Unsainted” hit Youtube I was hooked and preordered the album. I listened to the song repeatedly because it had the aggressive style of early Slipknot but the anthemic chorus that was just too catch to be denied.
Other songs on the album are solid and maintain the signature sound of the band while pushing the boundaries a little farther than previous efforts. Luckily it isn’t all the craziness that we have come to experience from Shawn “Clown” Crahan is know for producing because that would have been a bit too much. Outside of the ultra catchy lead single there are a number of good songs on the album that fit into a very structured and focused album. “Nero Forte” and “Critical Darling” have quickly become two of my favorite tracks as well. “Red Flag” is a song that will become a staple at live shows, if anything for it’s mosh worthy pacing. Other songs like “Spiders” and “Solway Firth” offer some of the experimentation that the band hinted at with delightful results.
I know that a lot of people hate this band for being too big or they say that they write songs that sound too much alike, but for digestible energetic music I don’t think you can do any better than the nine.
Well, that’s it for this list. Favorite album not make the list? Feel like the list wasn’t expansive enough? Comment below and let me know about it!