Top 5 ListEnd-of-year list season is upon us again. We're just over a week into December, and it seems I'm already behind everyone else in releasing my lists. They're coming next week, just so I can keep up with everyone else. But if I had my way, best of year lists wouldn't come out until February of the following year. The reason is, it's tough to hear everything by the beginning of December.
My list from last year was published on December 19, and there were at least 5 albums that could have gotten mention on the list, but for the simple fact that I hadn't heard them yet. This top 5 list will rectify that.
5. Ludicra: The Tenant
The Tenant was so good it made me check out Ludicra's entire back catalog. Then, the news came that the band had broken up. I don't feel enough emotional attachment to the band to make me feel sad, but the strength of this discography is proof enough that their end is a tragedy. The Tenant is the capstone of a fantastic career. My review noted the music is feminine without being girly; that is, a pure form of femininity unburdened by societal expectations. A unique take on black metal that will be missed.
4. Man's Gin: Smiling Dogs
I've mentioned Man's Gin a handful of times on this blog, beginning with my review. It is, in case you didn't know, the dark Americana project of Cobalt multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder. I'm a huge Cobalt fan, and a huge fan of dark Americana, so it's really no surprise I love this album. It's every bit as bleak as Gin, without resorting to abrasive black metal techniques.
3. Ghost: Opus Eponymous
For a period of about four months, you couldn't go to any metal site without hearing about Sweden's Ghost. The album was said to be such an infectious collection of occult hard rock that no metalhead could resist. The only problem was, it didn't come out in the US until 2011, and I didn't feel the need to drop a bunch of money on an import. It turns out, though, that it IS good enough that it would have been worth the extra money to get it early. It's often accused of being overrated. But it's not.
2. Vasaeleth: Crypt Born & Tethered to Ruin
For all the talk about the resurgence of old-school death metal, you'd think the finest album in the genre from the finest label out there would get more credit. Yet you rarely hear about Vasaeleth from anyone. And it's a damn shame, too. The recording is a bit quiet, but really that just adds to the impression that you're standing outside a demon-infested crypt at 3:00 a.m., and these are the sounds coming from inside.
(For those of you keeping track, that's three albums on this list from Profound Lore.)
1. Solefald: Norrøn Livskunst
Norrøn Livskunst is perhaps the most underrated album of 2010. I never saw it on any end-of-year lists, except for a few unheeded message board commenters who declared it the best album of the year. And if anything could even come close to toppling Triptykon's Eparistera Daimones, this is it. My review said it "has everything I ever want in music: catchy riffs and vocal hooks, great atmosphere, and well-executed experimentation. . . .
"It's all built on a solid viking metal core with a cohesive style, but each and every song has something unusual it brings to the table. And they all have a memorable riff or melody, or a number of both, to draw you in and keep you coming back."
Read the review. Seriously. I can't recommend it enough.