The Top 10 Best Albums of 2010
By NecroVMX

An unusually easy list to put together this year, and a very esoteric one. A lot of post-metal came out this year, and a lot of other experiemental and crazy albums, but still some great good old fashioned rock and metal. For the most part, I prefer last year's albums, but this year's number one spot is one of the most deserving albums ever.

#10    Asia - Omega

Released 04/23/10 on Frontiers

  • Geoff Downes - Keyboards, backing vocals
  • John Wetton - Bass, lead vocals
  • Steve Howe - guitar, backing vocals
  • Carl Palmer - Drums, percussion
  • Mike Paxman - Producer

  • Asia again. Pretend I just sighed. A few years back, I featured their previous album "Phoenix" on my Top 10 List, admitting that I had been wrong to dismiss and ignore the band for so long, and having heard that album, had to admit there's not only some very real talent there (something we all knew anyway) but that they used it properly. I think most people's problem with Asia is here you have a group of guys known for progressive rock having fun and playing stuff with a more pop oriented sound. But really, as you get more and more immersed in progressive music, you can occasionally feel like you're drowning and you need a fix of something catchy, damnit.

    So no, Asia haven't wasted their time and their talents, it just took me a while to see it for what it truly is, an outlet to have fun and play good songs without the need to be hampered by a dozen different time signature and a legion of pretentious fans snooting at how their beloved Pain of Salvation managed to do the same thing while being almost infinitely more irritating. "Omega", which by the way does not connotate a last album, after all they did "Alpha" and it wasn't their first, is slightly a step below "Phoenix" only in the way that it doesn't keep up the same mix of high energy and surrealism throughout the entire album, but occasionally manages to just be fun. There's nothing wrong with that, especially considering it's still good enough to make the list. It's just a shame it's being released in 2010 and not decades earlier when it would have been appreciated by the mainstream, songs such as "Liste Children" and "End of the World" might have found their way to becoming radio classics, while those who went out and bought the album would appreciate the anthematic "Holy War" and the melancholy "There Was a Time". The version I reviewed also contains a bonus track, stuck inexplicably in the middle of the album called "Emily" which sounds like the a sort of Foreigner B-Side, but doesn't break up the album at all. There's a feeling of familliarity here, especially on "Don't Wanna Lose You" which closes the album, you can't possibly feel like you've done anything other than listen to an Asia album. Reccomended for those who don't mind seeing amazing talent cut loose and just have fun, and for those who want to sing along.

    Also Recommended

    • Phoenix
    • Alpha
    • Asia

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    #9    Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition

    Released 05/18/10 on Nuclear Blast Records

  • Rob Dukes - Vocals
  • Gary Holt - Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Lee Altus - Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Jack Gibson - Bass
  • Tom Hunting - Drums, Percussion
  • Brendon Small - Guest guitar solo
  • Peter Tägtgren - Guest vocals
  • Raymond Anthony - Guest keyboards, guitar and engineering
  • Angy Sneap - Producer

  • I am a firm believer in mixing musical styles together, this is how new genres of music are discovered, however if you want examples of some of the best music in a particular genre, you tend to go with the vanguards, the ones who play the most pure form of that particular style. Exodus, in the most simplist terms, are nothing more glorious than a thrash-metal band who refuse to compromise the thrash-metal aesthetic. It's the sort of raw, uncompromised sound that you usually only find in more underground bands, but successful acts such as Exodus, Testament and Slayer serve up slices of pure unadulterated thrash every few years. Exodus's brand of thrash is fairly similar to Slayer, in the way that it's not only raw and uncompromising, but heavy and complex to the point of almost venturing towards the border of Death Metal, and yet not quite crossing that line.

    Exhibit B: The Human Condition is the followup to 2007's "The Atricoty Exhibition...Exhibit A" and in a lot of ways the better half of the duo. The album is an all out assault of fast, complex riffs, pounding drums, crazy bass and vocals filled with energy and vitriol. You believe every word and line that Rob Dukes barks out, he's filled with enough rage and violent indignation to really bring the point home, while never resorting to the sort of tongue in cheek self referentialism that Slayer does. While there's no mistaking Slayer's status as a band that does serious music with lyrics that are more satirical than anything, Exodus, whether or not this is the intention, are more believable in their delivery. Whether this is due to the lyrics being genuine or Dukes just being a better actor in his vocal delivery may not be known, but it's unimportant.

    The lyrical content is worth mentioning again for the controversy it might have created if people hadn't gotten over heavy metal lyrics ages ago and focus on even more ridiculous matters, such as websites that can get your children high. "March of the Sycophants" is a blasting diatribe against organized religion, nothing new in the thrash scene, but with lyrics such as "Hypocrites, their rules they don't apply to you/Parading in the name of Christ/Former leader in a hotel room/Smoking crank and sucking cock" are visceral enough to raise an eyebrow, and yet delivered with enough panache to get your head banging. You might even find yourself headbanging to "Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)" a first person account of a school shooting. While the members of Exodus are now far too old to be the sort of angry young ment that might need songs such as this to get their aggressions out in a more healthy manner, they step into the role enough to make you forget that for a few minutes. When the album ends, you'll feel energized, as if you just ran a few warmup laps. You'll rarely find a thrash record as heartfelt and vicious as this one, and for that reason you'll rarely find one more fun.

    Also recommended:

    • The Atrocity Exhibition...Exhibit A
    • Force of Habit
    • Pleasures of the Flesh

    Tracks of note (click for samples)

    #8    Charred Walls of the Damned - Charred Walls of the Damned

    Released 02/02/10 on Metal Blade Records

  • Richard Christy - Drums
  • Steve DiGiorgio - Bass
  • Tim "Ripper" Owens - Vocals
  • Jason Suecof - Guitar, producer

    Charred Walls of the Damned MySpace page

  • I can't help but wonder what Jon Schaffer thinks of this record. Ostensibly, the last good Iced Earth record was "The Glorious Burden" after which saw the departure of drummer Richard Christy. The band then slogged on with the absolutely generic "Framing Armageddon" which afterwards led to the departure of vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens, bowing out to make room for returning vocalist Matt Barlow. Although many fans, including myself, would applaud Barlow's return and surmise that the next album "The Crucible of Man" would be a vast improvement, it turned out to be much worse. So that leads me to the conclusion that perhaps the missing element was Richard Christy after all. Although Christy remains successful as a comedy writer and all-around prankster, he's still one of the best metal drummers of all time, something that I don't think even he realizes. Having listened to Iced Earth you might wonder what's so special about this guy, but it's clear that when you're a member of Iced Earth you bow down to Schaffer's vision. However his work in bands like Death and Control Denied can't be ignored, and now reuniting with Tim "Ripper" Owens for his new project, Charred Walls of the Damned (a name taken from an angry religious diatribe by a victim of one of Christy's elaborate telephone pranks), I can't help but wonder if this is the followup to "The Glorious Burden" that hoped for, but never got. If I could levy one criticism at that album, it was that it was very clearly written with Barlow's vocal delivery in mind, and Owens didn't really fit in well. As most of the album was written while Barlow was still in the band, it's easy to come to the conclusion that Owens would come into his own, if given the proper chance. This sort of Schaffer-less Iced Earth is exactly where Owen's vocal delivery shines. He's a better fit here than in Iced Earth, or even Judas Priest, another band he warmed the vocalists seat in.

    But for all of Owen's vocal acrobatics, it's Christy who steals the show here, completely cutting loose with all of his chops, mixing and matching styles seemingly on the fly, going from Power Metal to Thrash to Prog to Death Metal, whichever seemed to bring the drums to the forefront for that song. The songs themselves also benefit from Seucof's guitar, as he handles both riffs and solos on his own better than most bands will do with two guitarists. Lastly we cannot forget Steve DiGiorgio, another of Christy's alumnus from Death, Control Denied and Iced Earth, and a giant in the world of Bass playing. You might need to fiddle with the settings to really bring him out though, as Seucof's production lends itself more towards treble, highlighting his own guitar and Owen's vocals than the bass. Comparisons to Iced Earth are inevitable, but the band owes more to Control Denied, who incidentally have a posthumous release coming out next year, with their mixture of Death and Power metal, with a progressive edge and vocal style. It's not often a debut would mark such high praise, but with the combined experience of each member, it's almost like they got the band back together again.

    Also recommended:

    • Iced Earth - The Gloriouis Burden
    • Death - The Sound of Perseverance
    • Control Denied - The Fragile Art of Existence

    Tracks of note (click for samples)

    #7    Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One - Victims of the Modern Age

    Released 10/25/10 on InsideOut Records

  • Anthony Arjen Lucassen - Guitars, hammond, mellotron, analog synths, solina strings, vocals, producer
  • Ed Warby - Drums
  • Peter Vink - Bass
  • Joost Van Den Broke - Keyboards
  • Gary Wehrkamp - Guitar
  • Sir Russell Allen - Vocals
  • Damian Wilson - Vocals
  • Dan Swanö - Vocals
  • Floor Jansen - Vocals
  • Tony Martin - Guest vocals
  • Mike Anderson - Guest vocals
  • Rodney Blaze - Guest vocals

    Star One at

  • Star One is most interesting because it was clearly supposed to be something that would happen only once. Arjen Anthony Lucassen created the band to sort of be an alternative to Aryreon, they'r still thematic and progressive, but with more of a lean towards Power Metal and without the opera styled concept albums. Star One had only released one album previously, "Space Metal" way back in 2002. Lucassen seemed content to focus more on Ayreon in the interim, but after finishing "01011001", which topped my list in 2008, the entire concept seemed ready for a break, when you peak like that, a few years off to reflect on how you could top it is called for. There are some differences between "Space Metal" and "Victims of the Modern Age" but for the most part you get what you expect, great anthems based on classic sci-fi properties that feature amazing instrumentals but almost seem created to showcase great vocal talents. Russel Allen, Damian Wilson, Dan Swanö and Floor Jansen all share lead vocalist duties, with a few guests and of course Ed Warby on drums, Peter Vink's capable bass and Lucassen himself flitting around on various instruments, producing the album and writing the songs.

    As for the songs, the big standout for me was "24 Hours" a powerful anthem based on "Escape from New York" that will lodge itself somewhere in your cranium and refuse to leave, ever. "It All Ends Here" ends out the album with a "Blade Runner" inspired longer track. The more whimsical nature of the band's sound comes out on "Cassandra Complex" which has a surprisingly bouncy chorus despite being based on the dark "12 Monkeys" and "Human See, Human Do", inspired by "Plnaet of the Apes" has some great back and forth vocal stylings. The title track, sort of (It's called "Victim of the Modern Age") dramatizes "A Clockwork Orange" and has a sound that would almost seem at home on an Aryon album, perhaps "The Human Equation".

    There is also a bonus disc you can get, and my philosophy on bonus discs in relation to my lists remains that they can help, but never hurt, and you get songs based on "Logans Run" and "Gattaca" among others, as well as a great cover of ELP's "Knife Edge" but without the bonus disc you still have a great album. Hopefully it won't be another seven years until the next go for Star One, but something tells me that even if it was, the members would find time to congregate, as creating and playing songs such as these can't be anything but fun.

    Also recommended:

    • Space Metal
    • Live on Earth
    • Ayreon - 01011001

    Tracks of note (click for samples)

    #6    Alcest - Écailles de Lune

    Released 03/29/10 on Prophecy Productions

  • Neige - Bass, vocals, guitar, synths
  • Winterhalter - Drums

  • Go online and find yourself any discussing of Alcest's music and I guranatee you that it will sooner rather than later degrade into an argument about what genre Alcest fits into, which in turn will degrade into an argument between those who think putting labels on music is stupid and wrong, and those who insist classification is helpful and needed. Alcest certainly is the posterboy for this sort of debate, as they started out with a demo of good but fairly run-of-the-mill black metal songs, but after a lineup change (leaving the band with exactly one member) it became something that people seem to want to describe as "shoegaze" I've heard shoegaze, and while there's an influence there, I think the term people are looking for is "Post Metal". You basically have to read a simple three word description of the album "French Post Metal" and if those words interest you, you're bound to love it. If not, then just look elsewhere. Perhaps the confusion is due to the fact that elements of Shoegaze, Ambient and Black Metal still creep in, but it helps to mix things up to avoid falling into the common post-metal trap of sounding like a constant stream of music that never occasionally increases in intensity, but usually goes for a more hypnotic, calming feel.

    This is the second Alcest album, and doesn't lend itself to comparisons to the previous effort "Souvenirs d'un autre monde" as it's a richer more complex sound, while at the same time remaining soothing and beautiful. The album starts out with the two part title track, which is everything you'd want it to be, intense, hypnotic and spiritual, while giving enough edge to keep the listener from drifting off into lala land. The album ends with "Sur L'Océan Couleur de Fer" which showcases the shoegaze part of the band's sound more, almost as if the album is telling you "We're at the end now, NOW you can drift off" It's the sort of album you put on as you go to sleep, but don't expect to fall asleep DURING the album, as it will keep your attention throughout. Neige proves himself to be the Arjen Lucassen of the post-metal world, singing as well as playing bass guitar and keyboards, employing only one other member, Winterhalter, for drums. Knowing that it's all basically the creation of one man, can be somewhat mind boggling, but it all flows together so well that it makes perfect sense.

    Also recommended:

    • Souvenirs d'un autre monde
    • Le Secret
    • Tristesse Hivernale

    Tracks of Note (click for samples)

    #5    Scorpions - Sting in the Tail

    Released 03/14/10 on Sony Music germany/New Door/UME

  • Klaus Meine - Vocals
  • Matthais Jabs - Lead guitar, backging vocals, talkbox
  • Rudolf Schenker - Rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Pawel Maciwoda - Bass, backing vocals
  • James Kottak - Drums, percussion
  • Tarja Turunen - Guest vocals
  • Mikael "Nord" Andersson - Producer
  • Martin Hansen - Producer

  • It's easy to feel a pang of sadness after listening to "Sting in the Tail" as barring a miracle, this will be the last Scorpions album. Announcing that after 45 years they would be retiring, and that "Sting in the Tail" would be their last album, and that the current tour would be their farewell, it seemed like such a shame, as their previous album "Humanity: Hour I" seemed to revitalize a band so very, very old (and it was good enough to come in at number 7 on my list in 2007) and the band even courted the idea of following up with a Humanity Hour II, but decided against it. Instead we're treated to a deliberatly old-school album, harkening back to their work from the late 70's and early 80's, particularly the "Blackout" album. True to this, seeing the band live earlier in the year, I was astonished how well the song "Blackout" and the song "Sting in the Tail" went well together in a live setting. The opening "Raised on Rock" seems like the kind of arena song that would have gone over really well back when the band had a surge in popularity with songs such as "Rock You Like a Hurricane", and perhaps "Lorelei" is the modern equivalent of "Winds of Change"

    When I first listened to the album, I took some umbridge with the tracklisting, as I felt if you're going to do a final album "The Spirit of Rock" made the perfect closer, and the more optimistic "The Best is Yet to Come" was just a tease, but I've come to support the more optimistic feel, after all "The Spirit of Rock" is itself optimistic, just in a more esoteric way. Although there are enough power anthems and ballads to get by, the band doesn't shy away from their heavier nature, giving us "Sting in the Tail" and "No Limit" and the band clearly had fun going crazy on tracks like "Sly" and "Slave Me". You can hear elements of the musicians that they probably inspired along the way, the leadoff track "Raised on Rock" harkens to Bon Jovi, but then even Tarja Turunen's guest vocals on "The Good Die Young", it still sounds like the Scorpions. It may not be their best album, and I would put Humanity Hour I above this, but if you're going to go out, go out with a bang. The Scorpions did this.

    Also recommended:

    • Humanity - Hour I
    • Virgin Killer
    • Blackout

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    #4    Ihsahn - After

    Released 01/26/10 on Candlelight Records

  • Ihsahn - Vocals, guitar, keyboard, piano, producer
  • Lars K. Norberg - Fretless bass
  • Jørgen Munkeby - Saxophone
  • Asgeir Mickelson - Drums

  • Released in January, Ihsahn's "After" was one of the first albums I heard this year, and I thought to myself "This is it, this will be number one" It wasn't, with three albums managing to top it, but considering how long it took for that to happen, it's quite impressive that so early in the year an album would impress me enough to tentatively call it the best of the year. If I was one to overly simplify things to the point where I could describe a band in an almost insultingly simple way, I'd call Ihsahn "Opeth with Saxophones" which if you were to apply that style of comparison in most cases would be demeaning, but in this case, it's anything but. Comparison's to Opeth are nothing new, but usually one winds up talking about how a band manages to not live up to Opeth's unique sound. In this case, Ihsahn gets it, the careful blend of 70's style progressive rock, Scandanavian death metal, prog and jazz fusion. Adding saxophones to metal is something that's almost always welcome as far as I'm concerned, but most bands do it in a subtle sort of noir-ish way, resulting in the great sound you'd expect from a band like Callisto. However Ihsahn instead decides that the saxophone can shred like any other instrument, and often times the sax sounds like it's having some sort of divine seizure, contrasting the more meticulous and deliberate nature of the guitar, bass and drums. It's almost the opposite of Callisto, where the crazy heavy metal is offset by the noir-ish sax, here the intricate but cool and collected music is offset by the absolutely bonkers sax playing by Jørgen Munkeby.

    Brass instruments aside, the jazz influence is always there, thanks in no small part to Lars Norberg, who likes is bass guitars sans frets. Ihsahn himself gives us two styles of vocals, as well as guitar and keyboards. The drummer in this case, Asgeir Mickelson, isn't there to play complex fills and blast beats, but to almost bring a sort of cohesion to all the insanity, something that's done not only well, but with enough panache to warrant accolades.

    For all the Jazz and Death Metal stylings though, the progressive aspect of Ihsahn's work can't be denied, as he changes time signatures and styles on the fly, incorporating as many styles and times as he can into one song, while managing to never deviate from a central theme. Sometimes the sounds you hear can be so outright insane that you might question whether or not they're really possible, most skillfully demonstrated during "A Grave Iversed" and "On the Shores", which is one of the best album closing tracks I've heard. One might find themselves almost fooled by the comparatively straightforward "The Barren Lands" that opens the album, making you think it's just any album, but throughout the album you get the blastingly heavy "Frozen Lakes on Mars", the 10 minute epic "Undercurrent" and "Heaven's Black Sea" which plays like a trip that's not quite bad, but toes the line in that direction. If you know Ihsahn, you know how impressive the previous album "angL" was, and all you need to hear from me is that "After" is even better. If you're not familiar with Ihsahn, then there's no time like the present to familiarize yourself.

    Also Recommended

    • angL
    • The Adversary
    • Emperor - Prometheus: the Discipline of Fire & Demise

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    #3    James LaBrie - Static Impulse

    Released 10/28/10 on InsideOut Records

  • James LaBrie - Vocals, producer
  • Matt Guillory - Keybaords, background vocals, producer
  • Marco Sfogli - Guitar
  • Peter Wildoer - Drums, vocals
  • Ray Riendeau - Bass
  • Jens Borgen - Mixing, mastering

  • Over time, if I've learned anything about James LaBrie's solo albums, it's to not have any sort of expectations, as they'll likely be dashed by whatever new direction he takes. With the first two, released under the name "MullMuzzler" due to issues with the record label, we first got a sort of progressive rock meets techno vocal showcase mashup followed by something more like LaBrie's work on Dream Theater, though it was more "Images and Words" than "Train of Thought". Returning for the previous album "Elements of Persuasion" (which made a previous list) LaBrie went ball-crushingly heavy, creating a sort of Queensryche meets Megaeth sound that was energetic, fun and heavy while at the same time melodic and progressive. So I had no idea what to expect for the next album, which took five years to release due to LaBrie's commitments to Dream Theater, but it wasn't this.

    Hearing "One Last Time" the first track, I actually would compare it much less to Queensryche, Megadeth or even Dream Theater, and much more to In Flames or Amorphis. You'll hear drummer Peter Wildoer's death metal growl not only before LaBrie's own voice, but more often. LaBrie comes in to sing the chorus and remind us that he's the one behind this sudden switch. Peter Wildoer features prominently as a second vocalist, though he doesn't overshadow LaBrie on every song, and there are a few he doesn't sing on, so it's almost like your expectations are broken twice, first you get surprised by the modern death metal sound, and then when you expect the rest of the album to sound like that, you're surprised again as it breaks it up enough, with Wildoer sometimes being absent and othertimes working really well as a backup vocalist to a more traditional LaBrie sound such as "Who You Think I Am", a song with lyrics that almost angrily poke at a listener for thinking they knew what LaBrie was all about.

    One thing I have to say is there's not a whole lot of softness here as well, with only "Coming Home" being a ballad, and songs such as "Jekyll or Hyde" dialing it up to 11, but while still having LaBrie's very melodic sound. I have to once again also praise guitarist Marco Sfogli, who is enough of a virtuoso to handle progessive music and crazy solos, but has enough metal edge to bring the band in the right direction. While I never really know what sort of sound to expect from James LaBrie, I can tell you one thing, I always expect a quality album.

    Also recommended

    • Elements of Persuasion
    • Mullmuzzler 2
    • Keep it to Yourself

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    #2    Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

    Released 03/13/10 on EMI/UME

  • Bruce Dickinson - Vocals
  • Dave Murray - Guitar
  • Adrian Smith - Guitar, backing vocals
  • Janick Gers - Guitar
  • Steve Harris - Bass, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Nicko McBrain - Drums
  • Kevin Shirley - Producer

  • My first experience of Iron Maiden's "The Final Frontier" album was seeing the band live at Madison Square Garden, where they played mostly their newer songs, something I appreciated greatly, and treated the audience to their new song "El Dorado" which I was immediately impressed by. My first listen of the album itself I was initially a little bit put off by the first track, "Satellite 15...The Final Frontier" which is really two songs. If you can forget the initial "Satellite 15" part ever happened, then what you're left with is a nearly perfect album. The sound has some elements of their previous album "A Matter of Life and Death" an album I still maintain was their finest effort, but mixes in some old school sounds as well as some new tricks. "El Dorado" is the most exciting and engaging song, and "When the Wild Wind Blows" give us a rare extended track from the band, going over 11 minutes and giving us the true epic feel we remember from "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" way back in the day.

    The sound of the album can best be described as "classic" it's not as wild as "A Matter of Life and Death" or as familiar as "Brave New World" but somewhere in between, giving us sort of a Iron Maidne portmanteau. It's old-school, it's new-school, it's classic Iron Maiden and it's new Iron Maiden, and it's 100% awesome. It's hard to single out individual members of the band for praise, as Iron Maiden always has operated as a sort of well-oiled machine, wich each part doing it's job admirably, but special attention has to be given to Bruce Dickinson, who over the years has had his voice start to wane (you can hear this begin in "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son") but returned to the band better than ever, and seems to get even better with each successive album since "Brave New World" his soaring vocals lend credence to songs like "Mother of Mercy" and "isle of Avalon" which perhaps couldn't be done justice by any other vocalist. Nicko McBrain and Steve Harris in particular seem to be in perfect synch with each other, you'd swear the bass and drums on this album are really one instrument.

    Perhaps it was smart of the band to not try to repeat "A Matter of Life and Death" as this album features significantly less keyboards and symphonics, and much more metal, I suppose they feel it was something that couldn't be improved on, so they went in a different direction. Though I prefer that album, The Final Frontier is immensly impressive, and nearly the best album of the year. Except for...

    Also recommended

    • A Matter of Life and Death
    • Brave New World
    • Dance of Death

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    #1    Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here

    Released 05/31/10 on Kscope Records

  • Vincent Cavanagh - Vocals, guitar, producer
  • Daniel Cavanagh - Guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals, producer
  • John Douglas - Drums, percussion, keyboards, guitar, producer
  • Jamie Cavanagh - Bass, producer
  • Lee Douglas - Vocals, producer
  • Les Smith - Keyboards, producer

  • I'm going to be perfectly honest and to the point with this one. There really was no difficult decision here. Usually I spend some days agonizing over the top three, and what order to put things in for this list, but this year, it couldn't possibly be easier. There's such a huge gap between #1 and #2 here, and that's simply becuase Anathema's "We're Here Because We're Here" is one of the most beautiful records ever released. This is especially impressive as upon my first listen, I though the opening track "Thin Air" sort of initially came off as a more energetic version of something from The Kings of Leon, but with each listen, the album reveals itself to you more. It's Anathema's first release since "A Natural Disaster" way back in 2003. I couldn't tell you the story about why they took such as long hiatus, but it seems they returned at the exact moment they needed to.

    We're Here Becuase We're Here was mixed by Steven Wilson from the band Porcupine Tree, which just enforces my idea that he should spend less time working on his own music and more time working on other people's music. I'm not even making a knock at Porcupine Tree, though I am known to do that on occasion, but rather just praising Wilson's abilities as a mixer or producer. It seems that he brings out the best in other bands, whether it's Opeth, Orphaned Land or in this case, Anathema. Even a guest vocalist stint from Ville Valo, infamously from the band HIM, manages to not only be inoffensive, but work very well. Describing the style of music is a challenge, as Anathema dabbles with Post Rock and Progressive Rock, while also having influences of Shoegaze and Blues Rock hidden in there.

    The standout performance of the album is defnitely Vincent Cavanah, whose vocals are sublime and multi-layered, bringing the perfect sound to top the already rich instrumentals. The album is relaxing, but never tiring, calming but never boring and beautiful, but far from wimpy. I can't reccomend it enough, and the sound on it is perfect, it's expertly self-produced and mixed wonderfully by Wilson. The centerpiece of the album is "A Simple Mistake" probalby the best song the band has written, and coming off the back of the unique and spiritual "Presence" it comes off amazingly well.

    I can't reccomend the album enough, this is a mandatory, must-have album, one of the best records ever written, and one of the best sounding records I've ever heard. I do reccomend if you have the setup to properly apprecaite it, to spring for the special edition with DVD 5.1 audio, or failing that, buy a better pair of headphones tahn whatever you're currently listening. It's worth it, even if you only ever use them to listen to this album.

    Also recommended

    • A Natural Disaster
    • A Fine Day to Exit
    • Judgement

    Tracks Of Note (click for samples)

    Honorable Mentions

    Blind Guardian - At The Edge of Time A true return to form, and very close to making the list. If it was a top 11, it'd be on the list.

    Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare Another close one, a great album with a strong Metallica influence to it, and great drumming from guest Mike Portnoy

    Rhapsody of Fire - The Cold Embrace of Fear: A Dark Romantic Symphony and The Frozen Tears of Angels - Two albums, both great, though A Dark Romantic Symphony is significantly better.

    Avantasia - Angel of Babylon A great followup to "The Scarcrow" They also released another album, on the same day (why?) this is the better one.

    Rosetta - A Determanism of Morality in a year of great post-metal, there were albums that unfortuantely wouldn't make it.

    Gamma Ray - To The Metal Shockingly good from a band I usually don't care for very much

    Finntroll - Nifelvind One of their better efforts, but not quite the best.

    Tarot - Gravity of Light Extremely solid prog, it just got lost in the deluge here.

    Red Sparrowes - The Fear is Excrutiating, But Therein Lies the Answer More great post-metal, this year I could almost have done a top 10 best post-metal albums list.

    Accept - Blood of the Nations The only problem is it seems to diminish with each listen, but definitely a fun album.