Derek J. Smith
As 2019 comes to a close, I decided to go back and think about what really impressed me over the last ten years. There was so much new music this decade, one may think it was difficult to come up with a list.
You know what? It was!
On average, I listen to about 50 new albums every year. Times that by a decade and holy smokes – that’s a lot of music!
Initially I had started this list with thirty albums that really impressed me. However, I felt that was a bit too long. Cutting down to twenty was surprisingly easy. It was the painstaking task of sorting the top twenty which really took time.
I only put one album from 2019 in my list as I felt most of the albums released this year are still too “fresh” for me to make a decent judgement call on. You’ll notice what I mean when you see songs that were #1 from 20XX suddenly not holding their own – or even on the list at all!
Albums that are labelled “DNR” means they “Did Not Rank.” This may mean they were in my Honorable Mentions from that year, or maybe missed getting recognized entirely!
Starting off at number twenty. . .
20. Ozric Tentacles – Technicians of the Sacred (2015 – #3)
Fav. song: Changa Masala
This all instrumental double album from these psychedelic English prog rockers is some of their best work in their over thirty year career. Grooving, atmospheric, and just downright fun – it’s definitely their most accessible album for all listeners.
19. Gridlink – Longhena (2014 – #5)
Fav. song: Island Sun
It’s still something I like to call “beautiful grindcore” – there’s something very angelic to Gridlink’s Longhena. Intense as it may be, there’s a sense of beauty and poetry behind all of the chaos.
18. Riverside – Love, Fear, and the Time Machine (2015 – #1)
Fav. song: Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By a Hat?)
While not all #1 albums can make it to #1 again, in 2015, Riverside’s LF&tTM hit me in the right spot at the right time. Still melancholic, this prog rock album is most peaceful when listened to in the right mood.
17. Spaceslug – Eye the Tide (2018 – #4)
Fav. song: Spaced by One
This is one heck of a dirty album. Sludge/doom/stoner – whatever the genre you wish to call it, Spaceslug’s Eye the Tide delivers. A couple of years later, I still have a bit of the spaceslug in me.
16. Barenaked Ladies – Fake Nudes (2017 – DNR)
Fav. song: The Township of King
Not everything needs to be metal, y’know. The first album on this list which eluded getting ranked before. When one removes the obvious pop-fueled “singles” from the album, what is left is an incredible mix of musicianship and production. Fake Nudes is a relaxing joy to listen to.
15. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper (2017 – #5)
Fav. song: Mirror Reaper
One of the bleakest albums on the list, Bell Witch’s funeral doom album stretches over an hour and twenty minutes. Foreboding and crushing in darkness, Mirror Reaper is something I play for introspection rather than entertainment.
14. Cannibal Corpse – Torture (2012 – DNR)
Fav. song: Scourge of Iron
One of a few albums that originally had not ranked before, Torture turned around on me. Impacting, aggressive, intense, great production – all these things and more is why I’ve listened to Torture more than any other Cannibal Corpse album this decade.
13. Khôrada – Salt (2018 – #2)
Fav. song: Seasons Of Salt
Salt is still an album that weirds me out – I still haven’t heard anything like it before. With the strangest of production, composition, and sounds, I feel Khôrada will keep me interested for years to come.
12. Marillion – Fuck Everyone and Run (FEAR) (2016 – #10)
Fav. song: Living in F E A R
FEAR has grown on me a lot over the few years it has been out. I spin it regularly and each time I feel something truly historic and beautiful about it. Marillion created an album which continues to give. It’s a wonderful album.
11. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2017 – #2)
Fav. song: So Falls the World
The production on this album won me over, as did the enchanting journey it provided. It’s a producers delight and brilliant fun with headphones on.
10. Aborted – Retrogore (2016 – #7)
Fav. song: Retrogore
In your face and direct, Retrogore ranks high for being self aware and ridiculously good death metal. It’s fast, brutal, and something I spin regularly for having a good time. It has easily became my favourite album of theirs.
9. YOB – Our Raw Heart (2018 – #1)
Fav. song: Beauty in Falling Leaves
An emotional thrill ride, Our Raw Heart delivers with the slow burns of intensity. It’s still one of the most beautiful doom metal albums I’ve ever heard, and most certainly their best sounding release this decade.
8. Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust (2016 – #3)
Fav. song: Pleiades’ Dust
A modern-day epic, Pleiades’ Dust is a monument to songwriting. As the song/album ebbs and flows, one can really pick out the instrumentation and true “orchestral” beauty that Gorguts puts into their music.
7. Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016 – #1)
Fav. song: Recharging the Void
Bringing me chills by the end of it, Terminal Redux may be one of the best thrash albums I’ve ever heard. With a great story to boot, Vektor knocked it out of the park with such an impactful piece of art.
6. Devin Townsend – Empath (2019 – #1)
Fav. song: Singularity
The only album from 2019 on my list, Empath ranks so high because it certainly deserves it. Much like Khôrada’s Salt, Empath brings something new to the table. For that, it must be recognized.
5. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (2014 – #1)
Fav. song: Tree of Suffocating Souls
Where would I be without Triptykon? Some of the most extreme and honest music on the list; this album sings right from the depth of the soul. Melana Chasmata something I spin regularly.
4. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015 – #2)
Fav. song: Happy Returns
Initially getting beat out by Rivierside in 2015, Steven Wilson now jumps ahead of the pack. The metaphorical lyrics, the subtle musical moments and technical prowess – Hand. Cannot. Erase. is truly one of the best concept albums of the decade.
3. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (2010 – DNR)
Fav. song: Black Lake Nidstang
This Agalloch album is VERY closely contended with my #1 and 2. I’ve been going back and forth for a couple of weeks debating and choosing one over the other. Alas, I had to decide. But first: Marrow of the Spirit, I believe is the best Agalloch album. Not The Mantle and not Pale Folklore. Don’t @ me. Marrow of the Spirit has something rustic, intense, and intrinsically beautiful lingering among all of the chaos.
2. Anathema – Weather Systems (2012 – #1)
Fav. song: Untouchable, Part 1 & 2
Anathema’s Weather Systems may be one of the most beautiful, yet surprisingly sad albums to have ever graced this planet. Musically, it’s genius. Lyrically, it’s poetic and sincere. Weather Systems is a triumph for both the mind and ears.
1. Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones (2010 – DNR)
Fav. song: The Prolonging
From the incredible album cover created by the late and great H.R. Giger, Eparistera Daimones encapsulates all I love in the heavy metal genre. From start to finish, this album absolutely dominates the listener and refuses to let them breathe. Its lyrical content is brutally honest and the music properly reflects that. Songs like Abyss Within My Soul are heavy in both sound and content. My Pain is hypnotically ethereal yet devastating at the same time. It being the segue into the nineteen minute epic, The Prolonging, is absolute genius.
I debated putting both Triptykon albums in my list. It may seem like both albums in my list here are the same: but they’re most certainly not. Eparistera Daimones, coming out of the ashes of Celtic Frost, has a unique quality and sincerity about it. There’s purposeful cracks in the armor. There’s noticeable pain, bleakness, anger, and darkness. I really cannot stress the honesty of this album enough. It’s a masterpiece and work of art wrapped around in doom, aggression, terror, atmosphere, and chaos. The album is non-apologetic for what it is and proudly wears its wounds.
For those reasons and a ton more, is why Eparistera Daimones is truly one of the greatest albums of the decade.
Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!