Before I start into my Top 20, it’s disclaimer time. I base these picks on what I like to listen to. Not necessarily based on musicianship alone. It’s not totally based on play counts either. It’s based on how much I WANT to listen to it. If it draws me in. If I can’t scroll past it and not want to hear it. Also, for much of the Top 20, the actual rankings are pretty fluid. So don’t have a fit.
20. Mastodon - Crack The Skye: I may get some flack for placing this so low but it’s my list. It’s a great album and everything but I didn’t find myself coming back to it the way I have previous Mastodon releases. That being said, it’s still better than everything but the 19 albums above it. More or less. Album highlight: “Oblivion” (and the artwork)
19. Skeletonwitch - Breathing the Fire: Worship the ‘Witch!!! Skeletonwitch rips flesh from your bones and keeps on shredding. The vocal delivery is superb. It’s totally evil without resorting to balls out screaming. I’d hate to be his throat doctor. Someday I’ll have the chance to see them live. And it’ll be awesome!! Skeletonwitch define “metal”. Album highlight: They’re all solid but I’ll pick “Crushed Beyond Dust”
18. Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares: I love these guys. I really don’t think they get enough credit. They bring a sense of honesty and fun to the table. Great to scream along with. The production here deserves credit as well. I can really hear the bass. And unlike some thrash, the bass plays an integral part. Definitely near the top of the “new thrash” heap. Album highlight: I can’t choose just one. “Living in a Whirlwind” and “Shadow From the Tomb”
17. Lamb of God - Wrath: See disclaimer. I haven’t seen LOG on many lists this year. So fucking what if they haven’t “evolved” or whatever criteria are needed. They still kick ass. I actually bought this one so I lost count on how many times I’ve heard it. You can’t listen to LOG and not get pulled into the energy. It’s riff-tastic. My throat and my steering cringe at the thought of me listening to this. Look out!! Album highlight: “Set to Fail”
16. Buried Inside - Spoils of Failure: Ottawa’s Buried Inside have been known for being very cerebral. I can’t tell. I can’t discern most of the bellows. I’m not complaining at all. I’m a big fan of the gut emotional delivery. Musically, they bring the heavy and work in lots of little atmospheric guitar work. The certainly plant and image in your skull. An image of highs and lows, pain and pleasure, triumph and sadness. Album highlight: This one is easy. “V” (de facto title track) One of the best songs of the year. The outro riff is phenomenal.
15. Birds of Prey - The Hellpreacher: Birds of Prey have taken a bit of a departure from previous works and given us a concept album about incarceration. The blatant vulgarity may be missing but the brutality is still there. The vocals are some of my all time favorites. Whiskey soaked, broken glass, gravel throated. Love it. Seriously headbang inducing. Oh, and it makes me want to fight someone. Did I mention the incredible vocals? Album highlight: “Juvie”
14. Suffocation - Blood Oath: I’m relatively new to Suffocation. When Decibel inducted Effigy of the Forgotten into the dB HOF, I checked it out and was blown away. Shortly thereafter, Blood Oath was released. It could be inducted itself! Brutal and technical. No self-indulgent horseshit. They have a great sense of groove too. I want to circle headbang nice and slow. So now I’ve heard near the beginning, and their latest. Time to bite into the rest. Album highlight: “Dismal Dream”
13. Alice in Chains - Black Gives Way to Blue: Man, oh man! The triumphant return of AIC. When Staley died I thought I’d never see the day. William Duvall does a great job of stepping into Layne’s shoes. He and Cantrell compliment each other perfectly. I feel like I’m in high school again! I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a new era. The band sound like they never missed a beat. Now let’s see if Soundgarden can pull off a feat as great as Black Gives Way to Blue. I doubt it. Album highlight: That RIFF in “Check My Brain”
12. Goatwhore - Carving Out The Eyes Of God: Anything with “goat” in the name is usually good. Even better if it’s paired with “whore“. If there was a God, this album would carve out his eyes. It’s a huge chunk of everything that is great about Metal. Speed, tone, throat shredding vocals, thunderous drums and a skull on the cover. But it’s not just metal. There’s a real punk flair to much of it too. I know something is special when I get the urge to start a pit in my living room. Or play air guitar without bothering to close the curtains. I feel bad ranking this one this low. On any given day this could easily be Top 5. Album highlight: (Why did I start doing this?) “The All Destroying”
11. 16 - Bridges to Burn: Just when I thought I’d hate a band with a number for a/in their name (36 Crazy Fists, The Number 12 Looks Like You, etc) along comes 16. I love the energy! Dude is pissed! It’s obvious (I think) that the lyrical content revolves around personal pain. But sappy emo shit this is not. With song titles like “Man Interrupted”, “So Broken Down” and “ What Went Wrong” there’s no doubt. However, like I said, this is no roll over and die record. 16 fight back. I can’t get over how they channel all their internal crap into 12 seriously fucking awesome tunes. I would not want to piss these southern heavy crust bellowers off. Possibly my 2nd favourite “scream along” band of the year. Album highlight: “Monday Bloody Monday”