Metalunderground.com’s Best of 2010 Awards Announced

Photo of Children of Bodom Children of Bodom

The Grammys have been awarded, February is winding down, and we are officially late with our Best Of Year in Metal acknowledgments. So let’s get to it. Like every year, I polled our diverse staff of metalheads to obtain their picks in several categories for 2010.

2010 was an interesting year in metal. Was it good? Yes. But not what one might expect at the outset. There were a lot of releases by big names, but most did not make the splash one would expect. Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie, Fear Factory, Dark Tranquility, and Living Sacrifice all put out decent albums, but nothing too bold or worth raving over. 2010 was one more year removed from the fading metalcore trend; a year in which we could savor thrash’s second life, and melodic death metal is still living strong. When the trendiest things are a return to thrash and technical metal (despite losing much of its death metal influences), that’s not too bad from a metal perspective.

It’s hard to say 2010 was a year for the underground to shine. The true underground bands rarely get widely noticed. But there were quite a few lesser known bands making names for themselves and grabbing their fair share of attention last year. Why is this? Is it a sign of a changing of the guard in light of the aging greats, and perhaps despite the thrash revival? It’s hard to say, but personally, I discovered a lot of new bands that I thoroughly enjoy, so I am all for continuing along this path.

Let’s get down to the details and talk about those bands that made 2010 a solid year for heavy metal by announcing the Metalunderground.com staff picks for 2010. The staff picks include the following categories: Best Metal Album of 2010, Best Metal DVD of 2010, Best Metal Newcomer of 2010, Best Live Act of 2010, and Most Anticipated Release for 2011.

Best Metal Album of 2010

As mentioned, many of the bigger releases of 2010 failed to have the impact that was expected, and this left our voting completely fragmented this year, and with something less than a consensus for the first time ever in the “Best Metal Album” category. There really were a lot of fantastic albums in 2010, but none that I would see as a sure winner. In the end, one band garnered two #1 votes from our staff and narrowly escaped with the honor of “Best Metal Album of 2010”:

 

Kataklysm’s “Heaven’s Venom”

We’ve never had this category decided by any less than 4 or 5 people agreeing on the same band, so this pick may seem controversial. But it’s hard to argue that Kataklysm hasn’t been growing in popularity over the past few years or that “Heaven’s Venom” (reviewed here) is not their best album to date. It is perhaps one of the best melodic death metal albums this decade, capturing the brutality of death metal with some fantastic melodic lead work.

Both Triptykon’s “Eparistera Daimones” (reviewed here) and Dawnbringer’s “Nucleus” were just a point below Kataklysm’s “Heaven’s Venom.” The other albums that got multiple nominations but fewer points included Kamelot’s “Poetry for the Poisoned” (reviewed here), Melechesh’s “Epigenesis” (reviewed here), Iron Maiden’s “Final Frontier” (reviewed here), Dark Tranquillity’s “We Are the Void” (also voted “Most Anticipated” last year and reviewed here), Nevermore’s “The Obsidian Conspiracy” (reviewed here), Enslaved’s “Axioma Ethica Odini” (reviewd here), and Deftones’ “Diamond Eyes.” That’s a lot of bands with very little consensus, with nearly 60 different releases nominated for this category this year.

 

Best Metal DVD of 2010

The category of “Best Metal DVD” is typically a hard one to reach consensus on, since most of us have less time for watching DVDs than for listening to music. But unlike the “Best Metal Album” category, we had the strongest consensus ever in this category this year in choosing the winner:

 

Opeth’s “In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall”

Opeth is clearly a favorite amongst a wide segment of metalheads and “In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall” garnered votes from six of our staffers. Down’s “Diary of a Mad Band” earned a distant second place, with other DVD (or Blu-Ray) videos that earned multiple nods including Black Sabbath’s “Classic Albums Paranoid” (reviewed here), “The Big Four Live From Sofia, Bulgaria,” Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace Live,” Meshuggah’s “Alive,” Amorphis’ “Magic & Mayhem – Tales From The Early Years” and Behemoth’s “Evangelia Heretika” (reviewed here). Those all sound like some killer DVDs that I wouldn’t mind seeing.

 

Best Metal Newcomer of 2010

Like every year, there were a good number of newcomers to the metal scene in 2010. Moreso than in previous years, however, 2010 had some new projects formed by veterans of other bands that made the biggest splash. When it comes to getting a consensus on votes, these bands hold a clear advantage over the other lesser known bands. That paid off for this year’s winner, who has been making waves with a Texan take on thrash:

 

Warbeast

Featuring Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, as well as Scott Shelby and Rick Perry from Dallas thrash band Gammacide, and with the support of Phillip Anselmo’s Housecore Records, we expect to see great things from Warbeast in the coming years.

Other bands featuring veteran metallers that shared a decisive advantage in the voting were Charred Walls of the Damned, featuring drummer Richard Christy (Iced Earth, Death, etc.), Triptykon, featuring Tom G Warrior or Celtic Frost fame, and super group The Damned Things, who got more votes than anyone else but was lower on their list of picks. The few other new bands who managed to get multiple nods were Ghost (Sweden), Solution .45, and Cerebellion.

 

Best Live Act of 2010

“Best Live Act” is always hard to gain a consensus on, as the field of bands to vote on is even wider than other categories, but total shows attended are typically less than albums listened to. Additionally, there is often added diversity to voting on this category due to differences in regional lineups. This year, out of over 40 bands nominated in this category, only one band got multiple nominations to earn the title of “Best Live Act Of 2010”:

 

Between The Buried And Me

In my experience, Between the Buried and Me’s live show surpasses the band’s studio albums. The group’s music is much more than the sum of its parts and the label of progressive hardcore/metalcore doesn’t do the band justice. If you like progressive metal, you should make a point to see Between the Buried and Me live, even if you’re not particularly a fan of hardcore/metalcore.

There’s no doubt many bands put on great performances last year, especially with the raved about Big Four shows in Europe. However, it seems that there simply were not many of our staff going to the same shows all year long.

 

Most Anticipated Release of 2011

2011 looks to be a solid year for heavy metal. New releases are expected from big names like Motorhead, Testament, and Lamb of God. Releases from metal stalwarts such as Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom, Deicide, and Unearth are surely highly anticipated as well. And for progressive metal fans, 2011 appears nothing short of a wet dream, with Opeth, Steven Wilson, the collaboration of Wilson and Akerfeldt, Dream Theater, Between The Buried and Me, and even the lesser known Obscura planning to come out with new albums in addition to Tommy Giles’ (Between the Buried and Me) new solo effort that has already dropped (reviewed here). But perhaps all those choices left progressive metal fans split just enough for another popular band to steal the “Most Anticipated Release of 2011” and score a huge upset:

 

Children of Bodom – “Relentess, Reckless, Forever”

Scoring a narrow win over Opeth’s planned new studio album shows that, despite its detractors and lukewarm reception to the last couple of albums, Children of Bodom is still hugely popular and people are looking forward to the next album. But will that carry over to “Best Metal Album of 2011” recognition? It hasn’t happened yet.

Opeth came in a close second place, with Steven Wilson’s second solo outing, Dream Theater’s first release without Mike Portnoy, Deicide’s “To Hell With God,” Lazarus A.D.’s “Black Rivers Flow” (reviewed here), Amon Amarth’s “Surtur Rising,” Obscura’s “Omnivium,” The Human Abstract’s “Digital Divide,” and Korpiklaani’s “Ukon Wacka” (reviewed here) all getting multiple mentions.

 

In Conclusion…

Despite some lackluster big name releases, 2010 seems like a good year in metal in retrospect. It should be interesting to see if the thrash revival trend continues to grow in 2011 or overstays its welcome, and if this “djent” trend becomes something more than an obscure term used to make cheesy band names.

As per tradition, we’ll share with you the complete list of “Best Metal Newcomer” nominees, to give you a good place to start for investigating new bands and discovering new metal music.

Aeternam
Allegaeon
Amaranthe
Arcane Grail
Arkhum
Arma Gathas
Barnburner
Barren Earth
Blood Revolt
Cerebellion
Charred Walls of the Damned
Diamond Plate
Enthrope
Ghost (Swe)
Grey
Haarp
Haggatha
Holy Grail
Kvelertak
Midnight Odyssey
Pallbearer
Return To Earth
Sleepbringer
Solution .45
The Contortionist
The Damned Things
The Man-Eating Tree
Triptykon
Warbeast
White Wizzard
Witchsorrow

No doubt there are others worth checking out, but these were our staff picks, limited to five bands per person. Feel free to share your suggestions, thoughts, and comments!

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