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Albums of 2010

After looking at all the albums I have reviewed throughout the year, it seems fitting to make a personal “Best of” list. But first, there are a few things I would like you to know before you crucify me in the comments section.

  • I like metal; I love prog. But I try to give everything a chance.
  • Black/Death metal – not so much my thing.
  • Only albums reviewed here are eligible; some of the better releases may get shafted (Agalloch, Enslaved, Kanye West, etc.).
  • My reviews are extremely thorough and independent. Therefore, so is this list (in a sense).
  • By no means am I claiming this list to be anything official. It is an opinion, and everyone is entitled to one – please comment!

And without further adieu, here is The Golden Bird’s best albums of 2010. Starting off with number 5:

5) Salt (Wuthering Heights)

At number 5, we have the wonderful Salt by the prog-power-folk metal band Wuthering Heights. It is similar to other releases by the band but not quite as good as the last two, which is why it isn’t any higher than number 5. However, Salt is a great release that is on my regular listen. The instrumentals are excellent, from drums to vocals to guitars… basically every instrument on the album. They retain their unorthodox, in-depth song structuring along with the signature time and tempo changing techniques. Much of the overall sound is similar, but draws from a different folk influence than their previous albums. With Salt, you basically get a fair bit more of the same, but some pleasant differences as well. It is an excellent album worth numerous listens for fans and soon-to-be fans.

4) Artificial (Unitopia)

Next up is the Australian progressive rockers Unitopia and their latest release Artificial. If you have not heard this album’s predecessor, The Garden, be sure to check that one out; it will blow you away. This one had a similar effect, but not to as great an extent. Still, I was simply amazed by Artificial. There is a great deal of depth and variety to its music. For a prog band, there is little showing off on the instrumental end. That is not to say they aren’t great (they really are), but they all contribute to the tight, thorough musical composition. There are distinct elements of jazz, symphony, classical, classic rock… all music, really. There are heavy sections along with softer ones. There are complex parts along with simple ones. Anything you could ask from an album; Artificial is likely to have it. It is well-crafted, thorough, complete – a fantastic album all around.

3) At The Edge of Time (Blind Guardian)

The German power metal veterans Blind Guardian show that they still have it in them with their newest record At the Edge of Time at number 3. This album gives what is expected from the band: choir-like vocal harmonies, powerful high-pitched vocals, epic symphonic elements, harmonized guitars, powerful drumming, beautiful melodies… that’s pretty much Blind Guardian in a nutshell. Don’t expect At the Edge of Time to live up to Imaginations from the Other Side or Nightfall in Middle Earth, but it surely won’t disappoint. It is familiar, yet refreshing. The instruments are great, and the vocals have shown very little signs of diminishing. There is much diversity on this album, especially for a power metal album. There are ballads such as “Curse My Name” and “War of the Thrones,” epic tracks such as “Sacred Worlds” and “Wheel of Time,” and thrashy metal moshers like “Tanelorn (Into the Void)” and “A Voice in the Dark”. It is a purchase without regrets; a phenomenal album, indeed.

2) Victims of the Modern Age (Star One)

After more than eight years, the band members of Star One reunited and released more spectacular space metal; Victims of the Modern Age is at number 2. This release is almost as good as the band’s first album Space Metal, if not on par. And surprisingly enough, it is quite different. One would question the limits of the “space metal” genre, but this album is a fair deal heavier and more metal than the former release and is able to add a respectable amount of depth to the band discography. The instrumentalists do an amazing job here, especially the vocalists (my personal favorite being Russell Allen). The remainder of the instruments mainly serve to support the vocals, but do an exquisite job of it nonetheless. Victims of the Modern Age is an album to love if given the chance. Power metal, heavy metal, progressive metal, space metal… it doesn’t get much better than this.

1) Aquarius (Haken)

Haken… they only needed one try to earn my utmost admiration. Aquarius is the band’s debut album and it is pure brilliance. However, it is a patient person’s album. In fact, the song lengths average at almost ten minutes. It has a pure, uncompromising progressive nature, not shying away from heightened complexities or irregular musical aspects. Every instrument lives up to the high standards placed upon them by the progressive metal genre, and does so in a well-composed, creative manner. Creativity and originality are at a commendable high, as is its overall technical execution. Over half a year of regular listening and the album still has not lost its value. Aquarius is a long-term relationship type album, to say the least. To put it in sappy words: it’ll steal your heart and never let go. The Album of the Year goes to Aquarius.

I hope that didn’t disappoint you (but it probably did). Anyways, feel free to comment and/or check out where your favorite albums (if reviewed) are ranked on the list below. Hope you all had an A+ year 2010, and I wish you the same for 2011!

A+

Haken – Aquarius

A

Blind Guardian – At the Edge of Time (July)
Star One – Victims of the Modern Age (October)
Unitopia – Artificial (May)
Wuthering Heights – Salt (April)

A-

Canvas Solaris – Irradiance (June)
Cloudkicker – Beacons (September)
Dark Moor – Ancestral Romance (November)
Kaipa – In the Wake of Evolution (March)
Labyrinth – Return to Heaven Denied Pt. II: A Midnight Autumn’s Dream
Lunatic Soul – Lunatic Soul II
Overkill – Ironbound
Rage – Strings to a Web (February)

B+

Accept – Blood of the Nations
Allen-Lande – The Showdown
Aspera – Ripples
Astrosoniq – Quadrant
Avantasia – Angel of Babylon
Avantasia – The Wicked Symphony
Creation’s End – A New Beginning
Dakrya – Crime Scene
Enforcer – Diamonds
InnerWish – No Turning Back
Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier (August)
Juvaliant – Inhuman Nature
Masterplan – Time to Be King
The National – High Violet
Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy
Orphaned Land – The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR
Paul Gilbert – Fuzz Universe
Sabaton – Coat of Arms
Scorpions – Sting in the Tail
The Sword – Warp Riders

B

Amberian Dawn – End of Eden
Angra – Aqua
Atlantean Kodex – The Golden Bough
Black Label Society – Order of the Black
Darkwater – Where Stories End
Eternal Reign – The Dawn of Reckoning
Firewind – Days of Defiance
Joe Satriani – Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards
Mutiny Within – Mutiny Within
Pain of Salvation – Road Salt One
Place of Skulls – As a Dog Returns
Ratt – Infestation
Tarot – Gravity of Light

B-

Dream Evil – In the Night
Freedom Call – Legend of the Shadowking
Kamelot – Poetry for the Poisoned
Monster Magnet – Mastermind
Rhapsody of Fire – The Cold Embrace of Fear (EP)

C+

Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
Meat Loaf – Hang Cool Teddy Bear

Ozzy Osbourne – Scream
Poisonblack – Of Rust and Bones

Various Artists – God of War: Blood and Metal

C

Danzig – Deth Red Sabaoth
Jeff Beck – Emotion and Commotion

C-

Apocalyptica – 7th Symphony

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