My annual review of what I’ve most enjoyed listening to during the last 12 months, and my albums of the year.
Two-thousand and ten didn’t feel like a very prolific album-buying year for me. I bought 16 albums in 2010; but a quick check has just shown me that I only bought four more than that in 2009.
Here are my highlights:
10. Triptykon – Shatter EP
After Tom G Warrior left Celtic Frost in 2008 he formed Triptykon. They released two recordings this year: their debut album Eparistera Daimones and this EP called Shatter.
While the album is everything you might want from a Celtic Frost/Triptykon album I just love the title track from this EP.
Stand-out track: Shatter
9. Calamateur – Each Dirty Letter
Each Dirty Letter is the latest and probably most accessible album from Scottish singer-songwriter Andrew Howie. This album moves beyond the lo-fi, sampled offering of previous albums and emerges as a warm, semi-acoustic album of pop/folk songs that reminds me of a cross between (and I hope Andrew will forgive me) Matt Redman, Del Amitri, Deacon Blue and… well, Calamateur.
Stand-out track: Banoffee
8. Down – Diary of a Mad Band
This is Down’s fourth album, a live compilation of songs from their 2006 tour of Europe. I bought the deluxe CD and DVD package which also shows the songs being played live. It’s like a live best-of compilation of solid, southern groove metal.
Stand-out track: Lysergic Funeral Procession
7. Danzig – Deth Red Sabaoth
This is former Misfits frontman Glenn Danzig’s ninth studio album. His first four albums (Danzig, Danzig II, Danzig III How The Gods Kill and Danzig IV) are classics, number five (Blackacidevil) went a bit weird, number six (6.66 to be precise) I rarely listen to, number seven (777) has been one of my favourite albums of the last decade and number eight (Circle of Snakes) was solid but nothing extraordinary.
Deth Red Sabaoth, however, is fabulous: reminiscent of his first four albums. It has the riffs, the twists and turns, and the warm, Evil Elvis voice is back.
Stand-out track: Hammer of the Gods
6. Shutter – Pillars
Shutter are an instrumental four-piece from Inverness and I’m only sorry that I’ve never seen them live, although I did have lunch with one of the guitarists in October of last year because we were visiting his parents!
Pillars is their debut album and it doesn’t disappoint, assuming that what doesn’t disappoint you is progressive, guitar-led grooving, intertwining rock music that is beautifully melodic one moment and crushingly heavy the next.
Stand-out track: Pillars of Creation
5. Melissa auf der Maur – Out Of Our Minds
I can’t remember how I first came across Melissa auf der Maur, former bassist for both Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, but it was probably watching MTV when we had cable in Edinburgh. I saw her live in Glasgow, with the fantastic Amplifier in support.
I loved her 2004 debut solo album Auf der Maur and have been looking forward to this album for the last six years. I wasn’t disappointed, although it did take me a few listens to get into the album.
More than an album though Out Of Our Minds (OOOM) also checks in as a film, a comic and, well, an entire artistic experience.
Stand-out track: Out Of Our Minds
4. Stone Sour – Audio Secrecy
Stone Sour’s third studio album (not including the special edition of Come What(ever) May released in 2007) came as a bit of a surprise: it is far less heavy than either of its predecessors.
This was one of those albums that took a few listens to before I heard beyond my prejudices and expectations to hear what the band were offering. And when I did I liked it. I really liked it.
Stand-out track: Hesitate
3. Soulfly – Omen
Formed in 1997 after Max Cavalera left Sepultura this is Soulfly’s seventh studio album and, like pretty much everything else Cavalera has done, it’s as heavy as it is melodic. This is grooving, thrash metal.
There is something spiritual about Soulfly’s music, something that Cavalera has testified to in numerous interviews, which really connects with me. This was always going to be in my Top 5 and here it is at number three.
Stand-out track: Lethal Injection (featuring Tommy Victor from Prong)
2. Amplifier – The Octopus
I caught the last 10-15 minutes of Amplifier’s set when they supported Melissa Auf der Maur in Glasgow years ago. I hadn’t intended to see the support act at all but I’m glad I did because they were incredible! I ordered their debut album the moment I returned home.
The Octopus has been a few years in the making but this double album has been worth the wait. Amplifier have crafted one masterpiece of an album that I would love to see played live from start to finish.
This is progressive rock in the purest sense of the word. Every song takes a different, twisted journey from start to finish. There are songs which wouldn’t feel out of place on albums by Genesis, Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater.
Stand-out track: Interglacial Spell
1. Opeth – In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall “Evolution XX – An Opeth Anthology”
Opeth are probably in my Top 3 all-time favourite bands, alongside Metallica and Queen. They are currently number 7 on my Last.fm top artists chart.
2010 saw the tenth anniversary of Opeth’s Blackwater Park album and so to celebrate they played the album in its entirety at a number of prestigious venues across Europe, including London’s Royal Albert Hall.
I bought the deluxe 2-DVD and 3-CD box set and it is simply spectacular. The packaging is special too, a homage to Deep Purple’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra.
Following the Blackwater Park set, the second half of the concert sees Opeth play one track from each of their remaining eight studio albums, in chronological order.
Opeth announced recently that they intend to enter the studio to begin recording their tenth album on 31 January. I fully expect that to be number one on my list next year.
Stand-out track: Harlequin Forest