HSS Top Twenty of 2010

Okay, I should start by saying that I don't usually do one of these lists, because it's generally pointless. But I decided to go through with it this year simply to give some more recognition to artists that have achieved remarkable things this year.  That's not to say that artists not recognized here didn't do that, but these were just my favorite moments. It was a great year for metal - so many bands released amazing pieces of work, and that made this nearly impossible to do. I spent far too long trying to make this list perfect and include everything that blew me away, but with only ten spots, I couldn't really do that... so I expanded to fifteen at the last minute. And then I expanded to twenty. I could have expanded further, but that would just get ridiculous, so I'm sticking to twenty, with a handful of "honorable mentions."

There are general rules you're supposed to follow for these things - no compilation, no splits, blah blah blah. Fuck that. What I'm giving you are the best records I heard this year, in my opinion.

 1. Panopticon - On the Subject of Mortality

"There is no god.... there is no god.... there is no god in buildings..."

I originally gave my feelings on this album here, and things have not changed. This is seriously one of the best metal albums ever, and a masterpiece by every meaning of the word. The more I hear it, the more that conviction solidifies in my mind and heart. Technically, it came out on two splits - one with Skagos (on Flenser) and one with When Bitter Spring Sleeps (on Pagan Flames), but when I first heard the rough mixes, it was one album, and will eventually come out as one double LP. In July, I wrote this:

"Without getting too analytical, this would seem to be the most honest and revealing Panopticon record yet. It is organic, stripped naked, and uncompromising. It feels sad, yet somehow hopeful... that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance for us if we turn around fast. But maybe it's best to leave hope aside, knowing that all we really need to do is look in the mirror for the answers we need."

That still rings true to me. If you haven't heard this, you're seriously missing out.

It shouldn't be overlooked here that the splits this album was presented on contained absolutely stunning work by the other artists. The two Skagos tracks are incredibly beautiful and moving. Definitely among their best material, which, to me, is saying a lot, as their Ast remains one of my all-time favorite albums as well. When Bitter Spring Sleeps continues to amaze, and the three songs on their side of the split just made my mouth water for more. Can't wait til they release a full-length. The fact that so few people know of them is criminal.

2. Nechochwen - Azimuths to the Otherworld (Bindrune Recordings)

As I said back in March, this transcends mere music. An absolutely phenomenal recording that removes me from the tangible reality of this fucked up world every time I hear it. And I've heard it a lot. It shows the listener that despite how wretched this world can be, there is still beauty to be witnessed if we just open ourselves up to it. From the opening acoustic passages to the relentless metal attack, from the spoken word sections to the savage growls, this album just takes one into the beyond, and does not promise to ever let you come back. This album does not get old, and does not fail to deliver anything that a perfect metal record should.

3. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)

I will fail to be able to say anything about this unbelievable record that hasn't been said already. Sometimes, words can only fail anyway.

4. Thou - Summit (Gilead Media)

Was there any doubt that the gentlemen from Baton Rouge would deliver an amazing slab of fierce sludge? Not here, there wasn't. They turned up the melodicism on this record and still managed to destroy all in their path. Without a doubt Thou's finest to date, and gets better with every listen. Intense, passionate and absolutely uncompromising.

5. Njiqahdda - Divisionals (EEE Recordings)

HSS faves for a reason. This record explores the life process, from pre-birth to death, and in doing so, explores a wide variety of metal as well. Black metal, doom, psychedelia, drone, noise, and other sounds all come into play on this record. Nearly 77 minutes of sprawling metal that will twist and turn you in every direction. Seriously can't get enough of it; whenever I go to put something in my CD player, it seems I have to take this out first.  A remarkable achievement.

6. Menace Ruine - Union of Irreconcilables (Aurora Borealis)

Dense, textured, and catchy as can be. These guys raise the bar again, as they always do. There is so much going on here that this record refuses categorization, but what is definitely for sure is that it doesn't stop playing once the record is done. It will go on in your head for hours, perhaps even days to come (and not in an annoying way). Mind-blowing.

7. Fell Voices/Ash Borer - Split Cassette (self-released, coming soon on vinyl from Gilead Media)

Bleak and black metal chaos from northern California. Neither of these bands is capable of putting out music that doesn't kill. Sooo good.

8. Worm Ouroboros - Worm Ouroboros (Profound Lore)

Simply one of the most beautiful records you'll ever hear. Ever. I don't recall if this came out before 2010 started or not, but it was close, and I don't care anyway. Hard to overstate how gorgeous this is.

9. Heaven in Her Arms - Paraselene (Denovali)

I think this record is only officially out in Japan, but no matter. I never would have thought that hardcore could do this much, and do it so fucking well. (Call it post-hardcore if you like, but these post- tags are stupid.) Often melodic, sometimes dissonant, always intense. Not nearly enough people know about this band, but that's going to change once people start hearing this album. These folks know when to bring the full-frontal assault, but more importantly, they know when to reel it in a bit. I love this record so much, it may end up on next year's list as well.

10. Ehnahre - Taming the Cannibals (Crucial Blast)

Unbelievable. The musicianship at work here is equaled by the intensity, and that's a dangerous combination. Pure awesomeness.  It's elegant in its raw filth, and somehow jazzy in its pummeling heaviness. It kisses you goodnight as it tears your face off.  Another record that I simply cannot get enough of.

11. Forgotten Spell - Desecrated, Decayed and Still Holy (Parasyte Curse) 

I know few people have heard this, but you really should. Epic occult black metal of the absolute highest quality. The 90-minute cassette is still available in a number of places.

12. Nekrasov - Extinction (Crucial Blast)

Nekrasov's exploration of void just keeps getting better. Wantom, rhythmic, chaotic-yet-systematic destruction. Go below once and you'll be hooked.

13. Harvey Milk - A Small Turn of Human Kindness (Hydra Head)

Harvey Milk's most despondent album by far, and any top albums list of 2010 would be in err not to include this. If this doesn't knock you on your ass, then you're doing it wrong.

14. Odz Manouk - Odz Manouk (Crepusculo Negro)

One of the latest demo cassettes from the infamous Black Twilight Circle, and definitely one of the best. Not as raw or primitive as some of the other BTC releases, but still mind-altering in how heavy it is.

15. Envy - Recitation (Temporary Residence Limited)

Sadly, I only first heard these guys this year.  Powerful and highly moving.

16. Locrian - The Crystal World (Utech)

17. Suma - Ashes (Throne Records)

18. Negurã Bunget - Vîrstele Pămîntului (Code 666)

19. Deathspell Omega - Paracletus (Season of Mist)

20. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Hells Headbangers)

Just couldn't find room in top 20, but still deserving of mention as top records of 2010. And let me tell you it's criminal that some of these are not in the top twenty. What can I say, I'm a failure at this. Anyway, in no particular order:
- Dødsengel, Mirium Occultum (Terratur Possessions)
- Black September, The Forbidden Gates Beyond (Shaman / Iconoclast) 
- Nadja, Autopergamene (Essence Music)
- Life in the Dark, The Sunya is Rising (Sunyata Recordings)
- Necrite, Sic Transit Gloria Mvndi (Flenser) 
- Wolvserpent, Blood Seed (20 Buck Spin)
- Dispirit, Rehearsal at Oboroten (self-released?)
- Ludicra, The Tenant (Profound Lore [CD]/Throne Records [vinyl])
- Blood of the Black Owl, A Banishing Ritual (Bindrune Recordings)
- The Body, All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood (Aum War Records)
- Hooded Menace, Never Cross the Dead (Profound Lore/Doomentia) 
- Deafheaven, Demo Cassette (self-released/Deathwish)
- Vit, -
- Vestiges, The Descent of Man (self-released)
- Alcest, Écailles de Lune (Prophecy Productions)
- Les Discrets, Septembre et ses dernières Pensées (Prophecy Productions) 
- Celestiial, Where Life Springs Eternal (Bindrune Recordings)
- A Forest of Stars, Opportunisitc Thieves of Spring (Transcendental Creations)
- Enslaved, Axioma Ethica Odini (Indie Recordings)

Ah... and a good year it was. Here's to hoping 2011 will reach the same heights in terms of quality and quantity.

Now the fun part: tell me what I screwed up on and tell me what I missed. What are the best records of the year that I failed to put on my list. What's too high on the list, and what's too low. I'd really like to hear from all of you, so don't be shy.


N. said...

Incredible list, the best I've seen so far. 2010 has been great indeed.

Krumbled Kookie said...

Thanks. I'm already realizing my first major blunder: Locrian's The Crystal World is not on it, and definitely needs to be.

I'm gonna have to fix that.

Krumbled Kookie said...


Anonymous said...

-Monarch - Sabbat Noir (heathen skulls)
-Pallbearer - demo 2010
-Woe - quietly, undramatically (candlelight)
-Æsahættr - s/t (media tree)

...you've covered pretty much anything else i can think of.

Krumbled Kookie said...

Woe's album was on there, I don't know where it went. But yeah, definitely.

I know everyone loves that Pallbearer demo, and I think it's good, but I don't think it's as great as all the hype. Maybe I just need to listen to it more. I know Beau loves it.

Monarch and Æsahættr are good choices too.

Anonymous said...

gotta give some love to my fellow brits conan with 'horseback battle hammer'- really love their somehow tuneful take on thick doom and i will also say that i enjoyed wodensthrones 'loss' more than i thought i would

Krumbled Kookie said...

Wodensthrone is surely a great record, but it came out in 2009. Horseback Battle Hammer is a really good album as well.

I've also neglected to mention Unearthly Trance, Electric Wizard, Man's Gin (which I absolutely think should be in the top 10)... the list goes on and on... it was SUCH a great year for music.

Anonymous said...

sorry, yeah, guess i waited so long for the vinyl version of 'loss' to appear- that happens alot, not realising original release dates...

Flesh Monolith said...

Nice list, a year ago I feel like I would of been all over the black metal releases of the year; but now I've gotten lazy. Thanks for reminding me about Menace Ruin; really enjoyed their first release.

Check out my top 10 over at Chainsaw Justice.


Jonas said...

I would definitively add:
Ramesses, Take the Curse (Ritual Productions)
Eibon, Entering Darkness (Aesthetic Death)
Man's Gin, Smiling Dogs (Profound Lore)

Anonymous said...

-i second eibon! great band!
-ludicra should be higher on the list.
-i was completely underwhemled by that vit album... wooden box be damned!
-the new electric wizard is ungood.
-i will have to check out the new envy album. they usually leave me pretty cold though.

Korihor said...

i consider Absum's "Purgatoire 2007-2009" as the best of the latest batch of btc tapes and maybe the best release of the year. skull-crushingly heavy, with thick cassette fuzz intensifying the drone.

barn owl's "ancestral star" is also very high up in my book. transcendental drone that tops all of their previous (also stellar) efforts.

moon's "Caduceus Chalice" is nothing groundbreaking but it's still very excellently executed depressive/ambient black metal and in my opinion deserves a place on any best of the year list.

aside from that this list is certainly spot on, and yes it was indeed a great year for music when it is this hard to narrow down your selections.

Anonymous said...

Very nice list! Lots of stuff there that I need to check out. Did you miss Fell Voices - Tour CD-R, or didn't you find it as amazing as me? Easily my favourite of the year.

Anonymous said...

good stuff - mine list would definitely include the new Urfaust, killer release if you haven't checked it out - much richer and bigger production than there previous work which really suits the record, cheers

Anonymous said...

what's deafheaven doing here, those stupid hipster fucks. they released their demo on tape because it's "cool" and "kvlt" even though they actually recorded it digitally, pretty fucking lame.

Anonymous said...

oh, shut up...

Krumbled Kookie said...

Yeah, ya know what's more cool and kvlt? Calling someone "hipster" when you have no idea.

Cool story bro.

Anonymous said...

but, they ARE hipsters.
-bay area resident.

Krumbled Kookie said...

but... who cares?

Paraquat said...

Excellent choices. I would just like to add Castevet, Thrall and Petrychor to the others mentioned in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Hey Harold... a hearfelt thanx for keeping HSS going so fucking strong.

Glad you broke down and did a list. They may seem silly, but believe me, they are great to look back on in a year or two, as a time capsule to see where your head was at.

My list is pretty short... of what I could remember...

Pallbearer, Emeralds, Drekavac, Goatmoon, Caverns (!!!).

Anonymous said...

on the subject of deafheaven all i know is they were complete dicks when i saw them live and their lead singer unwantedly groped sexually/harrassed a bunch of girls in the audience and fucked up house equipment

that and their music is overproduced and extremely derivative of this whole west coast "new wave" of black metal

N E K R A S O V said...

an honour to be included!
thanks Harold.