Napalm Flesh: Best Metal of 2010 You Might Not Have Heard

Posted January 6, 2011 in

I’ve never been one for “best of” or year end highlight lists. The main reason is because I can rarely choose such a small amount of albums from the plethora of damn good metal released every year. Also, even though every metal publication or blog you read may claim to have their own original thoughts, many of the year-end lists I’ve seen mostly contain the same releases. The metal listening masses or minority (whichever way you look at it) all have their own minds and opinions, myself included. I’m a pretty cynical guy about half the time, so this also serves as a spouting off point for myself to give a platform to some lesser promoted and lesser heard albums from 2010. To wrap things up this year l, even though I already had my “official” top 5 albums published in the December issue of SLUG, I’ve chosen a few of the ever-growing subgenres of metal and picked top albums from smaller labels or releases that I personally think kick ass and somehow fell under the bigger metal media’s radar. Yes, there will be some releases that I can’t ignore from the larger labels, but all in all I’m trying to keep this as underground as possible.

Death/Thrash Metal

Ares Kingdom

Nuclear War Now!
Street: 01.15.10

Ares Kingdom = Sadus + Poison (Ger) + Mefisto + Death

Ares Kingdom take listeners on a metallic trip back both to the past of thrash/death metal glories and forward into new territories, all culminating in the fervent, guitar-shredding, beyond-awesome Incendiary. Adding to the classic thrash/death vibe is a record swimming in engaging, mind-enrapturing songwriting bearing classic metal influences as well. While it brings up thoughts of bands long gone yet still worshipped—i.e., Germany’s death/thrash heroes Poison—the record also feels like nothing I’ve quite heard. It enters this weird middle ground of being a hybrid and a flat-out face-melter. There is a wealth of mad guitar-soloing structured right into the songs instead of playing on top of the rhythms. Albums like this don’t come along too often, so don’t miss out—this record will burn your expectations to the ground and feed the appetite of any classic-loving, forward-thinking thrasher. –Bryer Wharton 

Best EP
Autopsy – The Tomb Within: Peaceville Records: Released: 09.21.10

Black Metal
Valdur – Raven God Amogst Us: Bloody Mountain Records: Released 07.07.10

Read an interview with Valdur HERE.

Brutal Death
Severe Torture – Slaughtered: Season of Mist: Released: 06.28.10

Fear Factory

Street: 02.09.10
Fear Factory = Godflesh + Sybreed + Napalm Death 

Behold the amazing industrial strength of Fear Factory. Mechanize is the best the band has sounded since Obsolete. It’s a well-oiled concoction of precision in its machine-gun-style guitar-riffing mixed with the best damn double-bass drum sound ever. It’s a style the band has basically trademarked— yeah, it may be unofficial, but they made it sound the best—absolutely devastating, like having one of those auto-hammer power-tools pounding on your very brain. The guitar riffs on Mechanize are not only damn catchy, but the most diverse and interesting they’ve sounded in over a decade, and that’s easily attributed to the return of Mr. Dino Cazares coupling his riffs with the laser-like-jackhammer-heavy precision drumming of none other than Gene Hoglan. The result is humans skillfully crafting songs that sound like a demonic machine could’ve created them, and that’s truly the point with the futuristic, apocalyptic and technology-fearful-themed Fear Factory. The most humanly raw element is vocalist Burton C. Bell’s harsh screams and haunting, clean vocals. If ever there was a time to rejoin the love for Fear Factory, it’s with Mechanize—it’s an audio war of the future, it’s the grease in the treads of tanks. As the song “Powershifter” exclaims, “If you want war, you’ve got war.” –Bryer Wharton

Mael Mordha – Manannan: Grau Records: Released: 05.14.10

Black/Death Metal
Denouncment Pyre – World Cremation: Hells Headbangers Released: 08.30.10

Proggressive Metal


Sensory Records

Street: 03.30.10

Haken = Porcupine Tree + Dream Theater + Winds + Spheric Universe Experience
I’m no prog-metal geek, but I know what I like and I quite like the UK’s Haken’s debut album, Aquarius. It’s a highly textured musical experience in almost an hour and fifteen minutes that seems to float by effortlessly and magnificently. At times, the songs are calmly serenading with rich backing keyboards and fluid guitar harmonies. Then there are moments of an almost fervent brutality, with some growled vocals popping in briefly and big, thick-sounding grooves. There’s also an off-kilt personality to the record: there are abruptly avant garde and oddball, jazz free-form rhythms and baroque, elegant-sounding piano parts with quirky or just plain jaw-dropping guitar soloing. If ever there was a time to venture into prog-rock land, Aquarius offers a brilliantly diverse set of songs that defy prog-metal stereotypes and genre standards. –Bryer Wharton

Symphonic Black Metal
Carach Angren - Death Came Through A Phantom Ship: Maddening Media: Released: 02.26.10

Coffinworm – When All Became None – Profound Lore: Released: 04.05.10


Earache Records

Street: 04.06.10

Wormrot = Insect Warfare + Napalm Death + Nasum
Being a sucker for good grindcore, there’s absolutely no getting around the fact of how damn good Abuse, the debut album from Singapore trio Wormrot, is. It seems like it ends in a blink of an eye because of how fast the songs actually are. The fact that it’s only 22 minutes helps that perception, but it feels like the album is done in five minutes and that’s a good thing, because you’re just going to go back and listen to it again. There are no frills or niche styles for the genre on Abuse—it’s just pure, crusty-punkified-groove n’ thrash snarling grindcore played at Mr. Sulu’s-head-is-smashed-in-the-console warspeed. It also has swirling drumming that will have you turning your music-listening area into a circle pit. To put it simply, this is old-school-flavored rotten grindcore with a great modern production value, made by grindcore fans for grindcore fans. – Bryer Wharton


Dark Metal
Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit: Profound Lore: Released: 11.23.10


Overkill – Ironbound: E1 Music: Released: 02.09.10

Heavy Metal

Christian Mistress - Agony & Opium: 20 Buck Spin: Released: 08.24.10


Napalm Records
Street: 03.09.10

Varg = Bathory + Ensiferum + Unleashed + Ulver (early)
There seems to be a debate about Varg being labeled as pagan metal, because of the band’s obvious forefront of ravishingly cold, fast and raw black metal and some devastatingly brutal undertones of death metal. Yet Varg does have a pagan metal rhythmic and subtle musical core with some darkly sinister acoustic guitars to accompany the raw mentality, along with the themes of Vikings and Norse mythology, which if I knew German (the sung language), I’d know more about. This is pagan metal that splits the mediocrity and fluffiness of bands like Turisas like a blunt battle-axe to the forehead. The production of Blutaar is executed to near perfection; the tones retain a raw feeling but are crisp and pristinely sharp. The vocals have the quality of a bleeding throat delivering as much raw pain as they can. It is with a triumphant scream that I will honestly proclaim this as one of the best metal albums thus far this year, wherever your tastes may lie. –Bryer Wharton

Hooded Menace – Never Cross the Dead: Profound Lore Records: Released: 03.26.10

Death Metal

Majesty and Decay
Nuclear Blast

Street: 03.09.10
Immolation = Morbid Angel + Incantation + Drawn and Quartered

There’s brutality and then there’s Immolation, pure unrivalled devastation—looking into the abyss and having it stare back at you with fervent hate and disdained power. That’s what Immolation is. The song structures, rhythms and drumming is all very psychotropic in nature, possessing your mind and initiating a hateful trance, beating your aural senses into submission until the noise of the down-tuned guitar riffing ruptures blood vessels in your cranium and everything on Majesty and Decay becomes your darkest and most delightful focus. Each track is like dragging you by your feet down the steps to hell and it’s not torture in any form; it’s pure monolithic death metal that disturbs and violates the core of your imagination, transcending any death-metal trends or fads. No blood and guts, just a disarray of dissonant guitar soloing amongst pummeling after pummeling of the heaviest bottom-end riffing one can handle without their ears bursting with blood and sinew and lyrical manipulations that will make any God-fearing folk run for the hills and rejecters of the faith empowered. –Bryer Wharton

AA.VV. - Yogsothery: Chaosmogonic Rituals of Fear: I Voidhanger Recordings: Released: 11.15.10

Power Metal

Rhapsody Of Fire

The Frozen Tears Of Angels

Nuclear Blast

Street: 05.11.10

Rhapsody of Fire = Blind Guardian + Avantasia + Dragonforce + Manowar
Epic is too small of a word to describe this seventh full-length album from Italian symphonic power metal crew Rhapsody of Fire. Epic is becoming an overused word"no, this record is brobdingnagian. The crew that comprises Rhapsody of Fire take most symphonic metal bands to school in terms of scope and depth of music. Not only is there plenty of blazingly fast and intricate guitars that feel very baroque in sonic excess, but the keys and orchestration with The Frozen Tears of Angels are some of the most well done I’ve heard. They give listeners that sense they are witnessing a grandiose metallic operatic symphony. The vocals change up the feelings and atmospheres of the songs from falsetto howling to choir-type singing, as well as some gritty snarls, not to mention spoken word portions by none other than Christopher Lee. Pure and simple: If you don’t mind a bit of heavy metal cheese, this record will get every hair on your body standing on end. –Bryer Wharton