Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of the Best

No, not that horrible Eric Roberts karate tournament movie. Just a compilation of the best songs from the best five metal albums of 2K10. Considering that old stalwarts like Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, and KoRn released albums this year, the pickings were surprisingly slim, owing mostly to the fact that many of the heavily anticipated albums released this year were very uneven. Soulfly’s “Omen” is a representative example of this problem. The album features three excellent songs (“Bloodbath and Beyond,” “Rise of the Fallen,” and “Off with their Heads”) interspersed amidst a rubble of mediocre efforts. Here’s hoping that Max Cavalera’s next album with Cavalera Conspiracy, scheduled for release in March of 2K11, will not be as patchy.

In chronological order of release, then:

Fear Factory – Mechanize – Christploitation

I’ll confess that I had no idea who Gene Hoglan was until I first heard this album. Well, I know who he is now. Good Lord, the drums on this album are un-fucking-believable. Coupled with the return of Dino Cazares, the current line-up of Fear Factory is, pound for pound, hard to beat. And I mean that literally as well as figuratively. Even including the normal-sized Burton C. Bell, the average weight of each member of Fear Factory has to be upwards of 300 pounds. Nonetheless, “Mechanize” is a fantastic album, quite possibly the best one of the year. It was hard to pick one individual song out of this album, but I settled on “Christploitation” because of the über-creepy piano riff. I won’t ruin the song by trying to describe it, but I will encourage anyone reading this to buy the album. It’s well worth it.

As I Lay Dying – The Powerless Rise – Anodyne Sea

I heard the first two songs off this album on the radio while coming back from a Rays game with my nephews. Oddly enough, the only reason we had gone to said game was the post-game concert, featuring the venerable baddies from Texas, ZZ Top. There’s no over-the-top evolution or shift in this album. It’s just a solid 45 or so minutes of well-polished metalcore. “Anodyne Sea” is a terrific song, and is a good indicator of the band’s consistency.

Black Label Society – Order of the Black – Crazy Horse

This was probably the most pleasant surprise of the year. I’m glad Zakk Wylde took a little time away from his busy beer-drinkin’, deer-killin’, dumb-ass redneckin’ schedule to put out his first decent album since “The Blessed Hellride.” The first song, “Crazy Horse,” is a nice little throwback, although it’s a bit disheartening for an old fart like me to note that Black Label Society’s 2K10 album is much, much better than Ozzy’s new album.

The Sword – Warp Riders – The Chronomancer II - Nemesis

Big, big ups to my niece’s boyfriend Rick for alerting me to the fact that The Sword had released a new album, which he rightly described as “fucking epic.” And as a bonus, it looks like these guys have finally learned to play in more than just one key! Just like their previous two albums, “Warp Riders” is heavy, groovy, and greatly influenced by Black Sabbath. This influence is readily apparent in the album’s best song, “The Chronomancer II – Nemesis.”

Mushroomhead – Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children – Harvest the Garden

There’s no way these guys will ever recapture the magic of their “Superbuick” and “XX” days, especially since J Mann left the band. That having been said, this is still a terrific album, and J Mann’s successor, Waylon, does a fantastic job providing “rap” in addition to clean vocals. The keyboards return to prominence here, something that was oddly missing from the previous album, “Savior Sorrow,” and Mushroomhead appear to have regained their edge. “Harvest the Garden” starts off sounding like Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy,” then turns into a funk-laden, furious five minutes of pure awesomeness.