I find that there’s a very big difference between a band’s best album and what is considered to be their most important album. So for this list, I’m not here to mouth off about what were the most significant records of the previous decade for a particular style, trend, scene or band. (I’m actually saving that for a different piece altogether.) No, I’m here today to draw attention to what I feel were the finest records from the 2010s that have stuck with me over the last ten years, both recent gems and older nu-classics. Time is the harshest yet fairest judge, after all.
There have been countless releases brought into the world over the last ten years that I’ve quite liked and frequently enjoyed, but this list is for those stand-out, top-tier favourites. Although, I’m very sure that there are some albums I’ve loved dearly within that arbitrary time-frame that I will have somehow missed or forgotten about, and in two weeks’ time will suddenly think: “fuck, how’d I forget that!?” [Update: two weeks? More like two dats.] But as it now stands, from me to you, here’s a comprehensive list of some of the best and brightest albums, in my mind, released between 2010 and 2019.
Deftones – ‘Diamond Eyes’ (2010)
Few records come jam-packed with vocal melodies and riffs that are equally huge and impactful, but Deftones aren’t most bands and their 2010 effort, ‘Diamond Eyes,’ wasn’t like most records. Out of the three releases that they dropped in the last decade, ‘Diamond Eyes‘ was the closest that Deftones ever came to perfection. The sheer size of the title song makes for a stunning opening statement; the aggressive extremity of ‘Rocket Skates‘ cuts like a knife; the nu-metal bounce of ‘CMND/CTRL‘ is wicked; the off-beat grooves and bounce of ‘Beauty School‘ is infectious; ‘Sextape‘ is pure beauty; and ‘You’ve Seen The Butcher‘ may very well be the best intro hype riff to any of their heavier-leaning songs, let alone from many of their peers. Time may see us realign, but the passing of time has been very kind to Deftones‘ immense sixth LP.
Letlive. – ‘Fake History’ (2010, re-released 2011)
The not-so-secret weapon of ‘Fake History‘ was that of powerhouse vocalist, Jason Butler. The charismatic vocal performances that he cut for this whirlwind record ran the gamut from soulful cleans, breathy but passionate transitions, burly growls, ecstatic shrieks, rapping, spoken-word, and everything else in between. He was delivering cleverly layered political lyricism, brutally raw personal sentiments, and switching pitches and styles at the drop of a hat. All in such an arresting manner that it was damned hard not to fall in love with his characterful delivery. Yet it’s not just the vocals that make ‘Fake History‘ such an impressive work. As it’s how the band kept the production simple: what you heard, what you saw, was all you got. Vocals, drums, bass, and guitars all playing with killer chemistry, placing the art first and everything else second. Letlive. clearly took heavy influence from the likes of Glassjaw, Refused, and At The Drive-In, but injected those inspirations with such vigor that they crafted one of the 2010s finest post-hardcore records. One that wasn’t afraid to pull from other genres in subtle ways in order to make a new breed of rock that was sorely needed at the time.
The Chariot – ‘Long Live’ (2010)
The Chariot brandished nuclear-grade guitar feedback, harsh waveform edits, and volatile mathy hardcore on ‘Long Live‘ to an incredible degree. An insane aural assault of passion, pain, spirituality, humanity, and resilience, The Chariot’s fourth record sounds like copping a guitar-spin to the face; it is sweaty, messy, red-faced emotion fully embraced and displayed. The band may have ended in 2013 – one year after the release of their phenomenal final outing, ‘One Wing‘ – but they left their mark in so many ways. So much of this kind of hardcore, mathcore, and metalcore wouldn’t be the same nowadays without the records that this wild Georgia-based act produced; bold, challenging releases like ‘Long Live.’ They were (and still are) a breath of fresh air. Long live The Chariot!
My Chemical Romance – ‘Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys’ (2010)
Out of all the bands that rose to prominence during the alt-rock and pop-punk explosion of the 2000s that’d later go onto to embrace synths and pop – your Fall Out Boy’s, your Panic! At The Disco’s – and with maybe the exception of Paramore’s 2013 self-titled effort, My Chemical Romance arguably did it the best with ‘Danger Days.’ A bright, colourful comic-book-like concept LP about a group of heroic outlaws known as The Killjoys fighting against dominating corporations, MCR’s highly-anticipated follow-up to ‘The Black Parade‘ was a huge 180-degree tonal shift. Yet it wasn’t in any way lesser for doing so. After all, one could only dream to recreate such a huge album like their 2006 smash hit, so why even bother? With vibrant synths, disco parts, downright huge choruses, and slick pop vibes, but with a strong arm for rock and crunchy riffs still maintained, ‘Danger Days‘ is banger central. ‘Destroya,’ ‘Planetary (Go!),’ ‘The Kids From Yesterday,’ ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W,’ and ‘Na Na Na‘ – this thing was just a maximalist pop-rock record and then some. It was a band not being restricted by preconceptions and simply doing whatever the fuck they wanted to do with their art and music, fan opinions be damned! Theories that MCR’s shocking 2019 return was first hinted at by this record’s narrative also being set in 2019 are peripheral; this renegade is as hooky and as fun as it was when it first dropped back in 2010.
No Devotion – ‘Permanence’ (2015)
Starring frontman Geoff Rickley (of Thursday fame) and all of the members of Lostprophets that aren’t pedophiles, No Devotion held nothing back on their one and only full-length, 2015’s stunning ‘Permanence.’ If you’re in a band and you’re going to hope to do just one record, then you want to go all-in, and that’s exactly what No Devotion did here. They had their vision, knew what they wanted to do, and executed it beautifully. It’s filled in with loud, catchy, and immensely saturated compositions front to back. ‘Addition‘ drives forward with a bleak post-punk mood; ‘Break‘ is a shimmering 80’s electro-pop tune; ‘Permanent Sunlight‘ glistens with giant vocal tracks, huge reverb times, and lengthy delay effects; and ‘10,000 Summers‘ is as feel-good as a 2000’s alt/pop-punk-leaning jam could ever be. The whole thing sounds like where Geoff wished to take Thursday before they disbanded; it’s by no accident that this band’s moniker is the English translation for Thursday’s 2011 final album, ‘No Devolución.’ Whilst more Thursday records never materialized, No Devotion instead came to fruition, and with them now teasing new material, maybe it was all meant to be. These songs have all stuck to me like glue for the past five years and they will all be in my heart for the next five too.
Hopesfall – ‘Arbiter’ (2018)
“Comeback albums” have a lot of stigmas attached to them. Some of it fair, some of it uncalled for. But for every five shit comeback efforts that no one needed, there’at least one phenomenal return that was always welcomed. Hopesfall is the latter instance with their sensational returning outing, 2018’s ‘Arbiter.’ A radiant, emotive and shining post-metal/post-hardcore record, the intensity, soul, melodic heights and legacy of Hopesfall was all kept soundly in-tact with what is very much their most special album. You couldn’t ask for much better in these situations.
Ulver – ‘The Assassination Of Julius Caesar’ (2017)
Ulver has one of the most diverse catalogs out there. Growing from folky black metal to experimental electronica, to terrifying neo-classicalism, art-rock, improvised instrumental post-rock, to then dark, synth-loaded new-wave on this spell-binding 2017 effort. The style and direction of ‘The Assassination Of Julius Caesar‘ wasn’t a matter of ‘if,’ just simply a matter of ‘when.’ In that regard, choosing a favourite Ulver album can be very tricky because barely any two of their albums are alike. But as a preference, it’s this moody, artsy dark-wave piece that wins my affections each and every time. A staggeringly detailed album, thematically and lyrically, it tackles Christianity and Catholicism throughout human history, crises of faith, religious ecstasy, 20th-century cultural touchstones, apocalypses, and more. There was so much depth to what Ulver discussed here, and that followed right on through to the exquisite songwriting and 80’s-heavy musical style as well: a deep well of spatial atmosphere, synths, resounding refrains, well-curated harmonies, pulsating bass lines, pedal-affected guitars, loops. vocal layers, and really subtle production. With ‘The Assassination Of Julius Caesar,’ Ulver were absolutely world-class, and the presence of its grace hasn’t dimmed in the last three years.
Defeater – ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Nights’ (2011)
The gut-wrenching “Empty Days” portion of Defeater’s immense second album is some of the best melodic hardcore released in the last decade. That’s just pure facts. ‘Empty Glass,’ ‘Dear Father,’ ‘Waves Crash, Clouds Rolls,’ and ‘White Knuckles‘ are heartfelt, concept-driven modern hardcore epics, with some of the darkest melodies, panicked moods, desperate tones, and urgent guitar work from a band of Defeater’s ilk. Everything is emotionally-pained, meticulous, and teetering on the very edge of complete collapse. This is why it’s so exciting; that’s how their hooks and riffs get under your skin. Not only that, but the closing acoustic-folk “Sleepless Nights” four-parter was also wonderfully written and performed, better detailing and nicely serving the story of two wayward brothers and a tragic family story in the post-WWII era torn apart by grief and mental illness exceptionally so. It’s a bigger, lusher record than 2008’s solid ‘Travels‘ debut LP ever was, and it greatly deepened the aggression, heart and musical story-telling of Defeater more than anyone could’ve guessed at the time. ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Night‘ is a bonafide modern hardcore classic.
Pianos Become The Teeth – ‘The Lack Long After’ (2011)
Multiple Sclerosis is a cunt, and the disease is the focal point of Pianos Become The Teeth’s heart-rendering sophomore LP, ‘The Lack Long After,’ focusing on the father of vocalist Kyle Durfey passing away. Starting with the punchy, dry guitar riffs of the chaotic and careening screamo attack of ‘I’ll Be Damned,’ eventually ending with the emotionally-exhausting yet somehow uplifting heart-swelling closer, ‘I’ll Get By,’ Pianos made one hell of a musical statement with this thing. A record so good that the band changed their style right afterward to a softer, calmer, and prettier indie alt-rock vibe as if they knew they could never top this full-length. I thought long about including 2018’s ‘Wait For Love‘ in this list – a touching and bittersweet listen in its own right – but felt it fitting to go with the older, more definitive LP of Pianos, one that cracked open our chests before stitching them all back up again.
Bring Me The Horizon – ‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.’ (2010)
‘There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen It. There Is A Heaven, Let’s Keep It A Secret.’ is the greatest BMTH album. It’s a true sweet spot for their career; the band existing at their most consistent and most competent. This was when Oli could genuinely scream and have it feel so palpable. Lee Malia’s hectic drop A chugs and driving riffs are everywhere, and the breakdowns are instantly gratifying, aided by Matt Nicholls’s rock-solid drumming. Then there’s how well the band’s subtle atmospheric, electronic and melodic tendencies were expertly expanded upon; seeing bigger and better arrangements take shape. It holds up today with an incredibly polished sound and the album is exceptionally cohesive, right down to the cleaner, sparse guitar figures that drift into nearly every song. Along with a litany of great guest features, it was exciting seeing BMTH incorporate wider experimentation with ‘There Is A Hell…‘, from symphonic elements, more edits, synths, cleaner vocals, choral samples, acoustic forays, and even strings. The first time I heard ‘There Is A Hell…‘, I was speechless. This was BMTH really proving themselves, holding up a big chip on their collective shoulders that they’d carry well into the ‘Sempiternal‘ era. This was the crossroads between the metal underground the band had just conquered and the mainstream world they were about to trail-blaze right through. ‘There Is A Hell…‘ was a career-best.
Collapse Under The Empire – ‘Shoulders & Giants’ (2012)
For many people, their favourite post-rock album is often a big release from the usual suspects of the genre: This Will Destroy You, Explosions In The Sky, Caspian, Mogwai, etc. Yet for me, just because I like to be different, my all-time fave is the 2012 magnum opus from Germany’s Collapse Under The Empire. ‘Shoulders & Giants‘ is an album that has stuck with me for the last eight years of my life. It’s a modern post-rock gem that cannot be beaten; one that has been there for me in sickness, health, love, sadness, and boring, procrastinating contempt. The combinations of electronic production, classical pianos, glitchy synths, huge drum sounds, tremolo-loving and arpeggiated guitars, and overwhelming crescendo’s makes for a familiar-sounding yet utterly fantastic instrumental post-rock experience. With an expert-ear for chilling tones and melancholic but touching melodies, whether written and performed on a six-string or on a keyboard, Collapse Under The Empire created an emotional and hooky listen without uttering a single word; the first two titular opening tracks are literal proof of that. This LP will leave you blissfully lost as per the protagonist on its front cover, venturing out into some unknown isolated waste to explore and discover new sights and experiences. So take that first step.
The Armed – ‘Only Love’ (2017)
The Armed’s ‘Only Love‘ LP sounds like something has gone terribly wrong. Like the microphones were set-up incorrectly when recording, like the mix was incomplete, like something in the whole process went horribly awry and now all that you’re left is this harsh beautiful noise. A super glitchy, synthy, hardcore-awash, power-electronic, black-gaze assault on the five senses, ‘Only Love‘ was a bizarre, maddening, furious, but essential noise-punk record from the 2010s. Will we ever find out which exact members found in their band promos actually perform live? Will we ever know which actual members of this semi-anonymous group perform on-record? Probably not, and to be honest, when the music is this damn good, I don’t care to.
Sierra – ‘Reality Redefined’ (2014)
Threading the needle so closely between powerfully raw, demo-sounding melodic hardcore and polished, smoothed-out alternative came Sierra’s second and subsequently final EP, ‘Reality Redefined.’ Released in 2015, and with but five songs, this Mt. Gambier bred and born five-piece created some of the best alternative and melodic hardcore to ever come out of Australia. The candle that burns twice as bright extinguishes just as quickly, and Sierra burnt harder and brighter than most, ending soon after this EP’s release in September 2014. They were one of the most well-loved Australian underground acts of the 2010s, and with very good reason. The societal-dread of the explosive 6/8 opener ‘Bittersweet Youth‘ or the pains of depression and medication detailed in ‘Suburban Fame‘; the thrilling alt-rock heights of ‘Hideaway Revolution‘ and the compelling mourning felt deep within ‘Memoirs‘; to the final aggressive, literary bounce of ‘The Great Charade,’ this was basically a perfect swan-song. Sierra, forever.
La Dispute – ‘Rooms Of The House’ (2014)
Let me be clear: I really do love 2011’s ‘Wildlife‘ but I have, perhaps somewhat bravely, chosen its follow-up release, 2014’s improved ‘Rooms Of The House‘ for this here ‘best of’ piece. (Don’t worry, ‘Wildlife‘ is saved for that other “most important records” listicle.) Like the dense concepts and themes that prop up their other records, ‘Rooms Of The House‘ contains 11 songs detailing the different areas and rooms of a house lived in by many; the relationships formed and broken, the renovations, the fixes, the changes, the storms braved, the experiences, and the memories created. It’s a shared universe, like how a house isn’t but a single wall or room, and these songs bleed over one another; like how the finale of ‘Hudsonville, MI 1956‘ sees the instruments drop in and out like flickering power bracing a cruel stormfront, with new lyrics sliding in that would later be heard in ‘35‘ about wires snapping and “moments of collapse.” Stories detailed about powerful high-pressure systems separating families, bridge collapses seeing people stuck in their cars under the flowing river below, plummeting into ice as a metaphor for love, getting lost on old midwest highways were compasses don’t work, the mornings after snowstorms, watching your partner in their mundane daily routines, and arranging random paraphernalia to re-build a life together all creates a rich, meticulous post-hardcore/rock tapestry with more art and jazz undertones than it lets on. This is La Dispute’s history.
Enter Shikari – ‘The Mindsweep’ (2015)
When it comes to 2012’s forward-thinking and ambitious ‘A Flash Flood Of Colour‘, I love nearly every single second of it. The one part I’ve always disliked, however, is the cheesy “yeah yeah, we’re nice guys… UNTIL WE’RE NOT” line that Rou Reynolds sings before the breakdown in ‘Sssnakepit.’ You know the one. However, as for 2015’s brain-melting ‘The Mindsweep,’ I really do love every single second. The worldly, relevant messages of Enter Shikiar’s music has never felt so dire and urgent as it did here. This record sounds like a looming colony collapse is upon us, like a final broadcast of sanity being desperately sent out to screens around the globe in order for us to finally realize our grave miss-steps. Angular, synth-washed hardcore ragers like both parts of ‘The Appeal & The Mindsweep‘ that start and end the record were classic Shikari at its best. Playful and semi-mathcore songs about class warfare such as ‘There’s A Price On Your Head‘ showed the band was as creative and as political as ever, as did the more upbeat, simpler and catchy refrains of ‘The Last Garrison.’ Honest, stripped-back and personal ballad ‘Dear Future Historians…‘ revealed softer sides and the low-key moods of ‘The Bank Of England‘ or the riffier notions of unity in ‘Torn Apart‘ remind us all Enter Shikiar could easily make it as a mainstream rock band. Critiques of the NHS came hard and fast with the rabid groove of ‘Anaesthetist‘ and the truth-peddling philosophies in ‘Never Let Go Of The Microscope‘ felt like the final defense of rationale-thought. This was boundlessly heavy and electronic-driven music written for free-thinkers who feel like they’re losing their minds in the modern world.
We Lost The Sea – ‘Departure Songs’ (2015)
Death is never an easy step to overcome; loss isn’t something that you just move on from. For We Lost The Sea, tragedy struck in 2014 when vocalist Chris Torpy passed away. Whilst hard to overcome and not easy to move on from, the healing process began with this masterful instrumental record (a first for the band at the time), dedicated to the life and memory of their fallen brother. A tribute to those throughout history who attempted extraordinary feats for the greater good, it’s a record steeped in tributes to human will, the power of failure, how frail life is, and the beauty of our expressions and emotions. The five tracks off ‘Departure Songs‘ each tell their own story, in their own unique way, and they’ve resonated with so many people over the last five years. From edge-lord Ricky Gervais, to filmmakers and even other bands around the world. It’s bleak, it’s hopeful, it’s long, it’s progressive, it’s post-rock, it’s ‘Departure Songs‘ – one of Australia’s finest instrumental records of the 2010s.
Silent Planet – ‘Everything Was Sound’ (2016)
Mental health has become such an important talking-point in heavy music over the last ten years, but the grey areas, brutal realities, and complex nature of mental illnesses is something that genres like metalcore can seldom discuss with any real depth and care. Yet ‘Everything Was Sound‘ was primed to do, as it’s such a rare record for metalcore. Inspired by the 360-degree, all-seeing design of a prison panopticon, Silent Planet created a stellar metalcore release that paired thoughtful-lyrical observations about history, religion, philosophy, and politics – tying it all back into how these topics corrode our mental health via a kind of toxic cultural osmosis – with purposefully meandering atmospherics, dense musical layers, hugely technical metal riffs, Garrett Russell’s gripping vocal performances, some mighty clean refrains, and two killer guest features from Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain and Norma Jean’s Cory Putman. Silent Planet had the message, the musical chops, and maybe even the best medium to present it all with, opening up the door on the uglier yet human side of mental illness. It’s a harrowing, intricate, definitely their greatest work by leagues, and one of the last decade’s finest metalcore offerings.
Polyphia – ‘New Levels New Devils’ (2018)
‘New Levels New Devils‘ will be a cornerstone for so many guitarists and progressive bands moving forward. Polyphia’s most experimental and adventurous album to date was a melodic rich and harmonically lavish kaleidoscope; a hedonistic, instrumental math-prog record that was well ahead of the curve with songwriting cues taken from pop, EDM and trap. With more hybrid-picking, tone shifts, slap bass, tapping, and polyrhythms than you could wave an Ernie Ball at, Polyphia leveled up their technicality in what was a massive XP boost. Making dark video game synths, sampling Ariana Grande, lifting progressions and song ideas from Jayden Smith and Kanye West, to having a singer lend their vocals to Polyphia song for the first time ever? Just all in an expensive but fun days work for these nerds. If Gucci was to ever djent, this is what it would look and sound like. Sign me the fuck up for more!
Tycho – ‘Dive’ (2012)
American ambient/electro producer, Scott Hansen, AKA Tycho, conquered a real labour of love with ‘Dive,’ the first ten-song album in what would be a “trilogy” of releases for him. An album about the connections between the past and the future, one that took five years to make, this gorgeous work was brought to life by Reaper, synth pads, analog delays, old reverbs, electric licks, acoustic guitars, vocal samples, and Scott’s incredible vision of making chilled-out, downtempo ambient electronica. The kind whose tones bleed together much like the pink sun and the barren earth on the cover. It’s a jaw-dropping, comforting 50-minute listen, one that he struggled to beat in the years since, excluding 2019’s hot ‘Weather.’ Take a breath and dive into this masterpiece.
Far West Battlefront – ‘Status Cross’ (2015)
‘Status Cross‘ is a long-forgotten album by Far West Battlefront, a so often forgotten and underrated Australian metal band. Before this 2015 epic, they sounded just like any other deathcore-metalcore band with raw, boomy production that was circulating the scene in the early 2010s and late 2000s. But with this eldritch, strange musical beast, they suddenly didn’t sound just like all of their extreme peers. Everything was tighter, bolder, and fresh on so many other levels. In short, there was so much going on here now, and the band’s time away from the scene saw them expanding their musical horizons brilliantly. The snappy, polished production hit as hard as any other deathcore band going, but the Adelaide band took on many other influences, threw in subtle layers and effects, weirder experimental shades, and just started doing all manner of odd-shit with their production, editing, and mixing. ‘Status Cross‘ deserved so much more love than what it ever received, and it also deserved to make Far West Battlefront a bigger household name. That’s obviously not how it all went down, however, but this is an underrated classic just waiting to be discovered.
Refused – ‘Freedom’ (2015)
I’m aware I might be one of ten people who’ll place Refused’s 2015 comeback record in such a list, but everyone else can blow me. ‘Freedom‘ was a killer punk rock record that was as fired up as it’s seminal predecessor, whose title I don’t even need to mention, yet this great returning affair was unfairly and, sometimes, illogically compared to what came before it. But it stands on its own two feet, feeling like the mighty solid follow-up to a punk rock and post-hardcore classic. Showing different experimental qualities without having to re-hash funkier or jazzier moments, Refused pushed down harder on the pedal of their throttling metal moments with thrash vibes and ballsy riffs, wrote some killer pop hooks, maintained their outspoken left-wing views, still fitting within the re-sharping punk rock frame-work of what we already knew of the Swedish band. All in, creating some of their best songs: ‘Françafrique,’ ‘Elektra,’ ‘Dawkins Christ,’ and ‘366‘ – banger, banger, banger, banger! Refused got big by doing whatever the hell they wanted (and breaking up after releasing their best record), and with ‘Freedom,’ they were still doing whatever the hell they wanted to do. All power to them, I say.
Vein – ‘errorzone’ (2018)
When ‘errorzone‘ dropped, we may have all been living in 2018, but Vein were coming at us from motherfucking 3018. Sprinkled with influences ranging from Deftones, Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, Slipknot, Misery Signals, Hopesfall, and so much more, this wild Massachutes heavy act felt like the future of hardcore was happening right before our very eyes. With a maelstrom of off-kilter riffs, vehement screams, strange samples, glitchy electronics, hectic breakdowns, and some rare yet wonderful moments of melodic respites, ‘errorzone‘ was a big gulp of fresh air in a room full of mundane stenches. (Hell, it still is two years on.) This was the fiendish, furious hardcore record that we all needed.
Anytime that Chelsea Wolfe released an album (2011 – 2019)
Chelsea Wolfe was a high-profile, much-lauded and prolific name in the 2010s, with the American singer-songwriter releasing five records that felt like five different artists. Starting out with the first record that brought her real attention, it was the eerie, witchy indie-folk sounds of 2011’s fan-fave ‘Apokalypsis,’ before 2013’s bigger ‘Pain Is Beauty‘ LP took her that next step forward, with moody, borderline-conceptual gothic-rock and post-punk tracks. The experimental moods of that third album would only grow deeper, harsher, and larger on 2015’s exceptional ‘Abyss,’ feeling more like a doomier, noise-rock album and becoming her first charting record too. The doom and industrial qualities of ‘Abyss‘ then distorted again, into that of the sludgier, noisier, doomy post-metal style of 2017’s favored and well-received ‘Hiss Spun,’ the “fullest” and heaviest Chelsea Wolfe record yet. But then in a surprising 180-degree shift, she returned to the ghostly, mystical dark-folk singer-songwriter approach of her earlier works on 2019’s wonderful ‘Birth of Violence.’ Chelsea Wolfe is a unique outlier, a genre chameleon, and a visionary; someone who ruled the 2010s with honest, forward-thinking, and stunning artistry.
Whitechapel – ‘The Valley’ (2019)
Hearing ‘The Valley‘ for the first time felt like a dream come true for me. Having one of the biggest names in modern death metal and deathcore taking some big musical risks, growing more melodic and dynamic, playing hard into their groovier and extreme strengths, and seeing frontman Phil Bozeman honestly opening up about deep family traumas from his childhood is the kind of emotion and heart I wish we’d see more of an in this realm of metal. This is what I look for in death metal and deathcore today and it’s sadly so fuckin’ rare. ‘The Valley‘ is one of Whitechapel’s finest creations without having to rely on campy, cheesy lyricism, keeping it all raw and authentic in story and tone, with some of their best production and songwriting in years. Welcome to the valley.
Hand Of Mercy – ‘Last Lights’ (2012)
The breakdown is an interesting concept. Because it’s either the sickest thing about heavy music or its the most tiring aspect. For Hand Of Mercy, they mastered it on their second record, the musically and emotionally heavy ‘Last Lights.’ What elevated this mosh-heavy album well above their peers – one that took many cues from your Bury Your Dead’s, your For The Fallen Dreams, and your Ghost Inside’s – was its deep melancholic undercurrent that made you feel like the forsaken, despondent man as seen on its cover art. This particular brand of sadness and depression, the use of washing distortion and murkier guitar tones isn’t something that I hear or feel in a lot of other Australian hardcore and metalcore records from that time or before, and if I do ever notice it in newer releases or in younger bands’ music, it’s just never to the same depth or degree as what Hand Of Mercy so powerfully struck all the way back in 2012. This is one of the finest examples of not needing to redefine a sound, but rather just perfect it. One of the best mosh albums from an Aussie band in the 2010s? I sure as shit think so!
The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ (2013)
The wicked meter changes, the kooky jazz chords, the odd-time madness, the face-melting quality of Greg Puciato’s screams and his personalized but cryptic words, ‘One Of Us Is The Killer‘ was the classic Dillinger Escape Plan mathcore/progressive song-writing formula ramped all the way up to ten. It had everything and anything that fans loved about TDEP’s music, making for perhaps the most complete and essential record of their catalog this side of ‘Miss Machine‘ or ‘Calculating Infinity.’ 2010’s ‘Option Paralysis‘ (a great way to describe me choosing this list) was a close second yet its this spasmodic creature that must take the cake.
The Contortionist – ‘Clairvoyant’ (2017)
Never vibing with the tech-death of their earlier records, and while I have since the rediscovered (ha) the band’s 2016 dynamic, and at times, heavier LP, ‘Language,’ ‘Clairvoyant‘ is the top-pick. Awash with earthy tones, proggy rhythms, jazzy chords, interesting hooks, progressive-rock songwriting, shimmering synths, and Michael Lessard’s jaw-dropping and soothing vocals that are embued with such a balance of heart and technique all create something akin to an out of body experience. ‘Clairvoyant’ takes what ‘Language’ did and pushes it further in that even more intricate progressive rock direction. If the songs and tones of ‘Language’ made you feel dwarfed, as if some giant planet was bearing down upon you, as per the front cover, then ‘Clairvoyance’ made you feel at home; like you’d just plunged your hands into cold, soft and familiar soil with its rich tones and larger emphasis on memorable vocal melodies and BIG choruses. But it was by no means a “simpler” album. For the best thing about The Contortionist in the last decade was how they towed this line between levity and density; between artistry and technicality; between grief, relapses, addiction, and loss.
The Black Queen – ‘Fever Daydream’ (2016)
With the high-achieving and often crooning vocals of Greg Puciato, some exceptional synth-work, and crystal clear electronic production, The Black Queen’s first album was a hazy, electro-pop synth-wave record that is damned hard to shake from one’s mind. A subliminal, seedy and cryptic album, The Black Queen’s success since can be traced right back to this phenomenal debut. At the time, this was a whole other side to Greg being shared, but one that was no less well-written than any other mental Dillinger Escape Plan sonic assault. Ebbing synths, razor-sharp electronic stabs, meaty and gated drum machines, big reverbs and bigger vocal tracks; ‘Fever Daydream‘ sounded like just that. A fevered, 80’s-returning dream of neon sounds and sights, but created with pristine modern touches and the honest, personal touches of one of the metal’s most enigmatic vocalists, bearing a new part of his soul.
Employed To Serve – ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’ (2017)
Informed by the likes of Norma Jean, Coalesce, Botch, and Converge, Employed To Serve performed savage metallic hardcore the loudest, the hardest, and ultimately, with few other exceptions, the best in the 2010s with their dissonant, discordant second effort. With ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun,’ Employed To Serve essentially leveled up as a band. The songwriting grew tighter, the execution deadlier, the emotional content put even more lumps in your throat, the intensity never had its punch pulled, and the various musical nods to their very clear influences were always done in a sincere and respectful manner. To quote our own Owen Morawitz from his original review at the time in 2017: “This shit will break you in half, and you will enjoy the fleeting, transient moment of your own destruction.” And I couldn’t agree more.
SeeYouSpaceCowboy – ‘Songs For The Firing Squad’ & ‘The Correlation Between Entry and Exit Wounds’ (2019)
With both records released in 2019, no other band out there right now best captures the metalcore and hardcore ‘Myspace-era’ revival than that of SeeYouSpaceCowboy. Taking the former sassier compilation LPs chaotic, math-tinged, rumbling metalcore sounds and then cultivating it into a dynamic, more serious, and more melodic iteration of the most notable hardcore and metalcore from the past two decades on the latter bittersweet album, SYSC are defining the new-wave of these artists. And at the rate they’re going, they will continue to help define the new wave of bands amongst this current metalcore-revival. Because with the strengths of these two gnarly, off-kilter and nostalgic records, they’ll play a vital role in this new decade’s direction for fresh and exciting metalcore. They also pull-off this sound better than most new and old bands alike.
Daughters – ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ (2018)
In eight years, an entire band’s career can pass by, but for Daughters, that time frame was the long wait between the noise-rock of 2010’s ‘Hell Songs‘ and whatever the fuck they were making on 2018’s distorted, poetic, noisy nightmare, ‘You Won’t Get What You Want‘. This album sounds like you’re trapped in an old horror movie and can’t escape; an uncomfortable, overwhelming hellscape that is pure, disorientating viscera more often than not with dissonant sheets of hair-raising sounds. Borrowing post-punk ideas and eerie math-core vibes, guitars shouldn’t sound like… this, but they do in the harsh noise-core world of Daughters, and I love it.
Oathbreaker – ‘Rheia’ (2016)
‘Rheia‘ is a blistering, compelling post-black-metal record, and one of the most powerful listens to skirt hardcore, post-rock, black metal, all with Caro Tanghe’s ghostly singing and skin-eeling screams, during the 2010s. I honestly don’t think there is a more impactful or more terrifying one-two opening punch to a record than the first two movements about death in ‘10:56‘ and the vulnerable pain of childhood trauma that is ‘Second Son of R.‘ To be honest, the album could’ve just ended right after that intense pair and the Belgium band’s masterwork would still be worlds better than most other pretenders out there. Yet it continues on for another eight unpredictable songs, another 40+ minutes of caustic, diverse and emotionally-crushing “post-everything” music that’s been untouched by time; Oathbreaker is yet to follow this up with another LP. From the pummeling blackened buzz of ‘Being Able to Feel Nothing,’ the reverb-soaked acoustic memento ‘Stay Here / Accroche-Moi,’ the drawn-out haunts in ‘Immortals,’ the ambitious musical triptych of ‘I’m Sorry, This Is‘, ‘Where I Live‘, and ‘Where I Leave,’ and the ethereal ‘Begeerte,’ Oathbreaker, with zero expectations surrounding them, crushed all preconceptions and promptly set the bar scarily high.
Counterparts – ‘The Difference Between Hell & Home’ (2013)
In 2013, Misery Signals would release their fourth album, ‘Absent Light,’ which at the time was their first album in five years and their final release with Karl Schubach. And yet, while a good album nonetheless, it was grossly overshadowed by the hardcore/metalcore records that came out around the same time from the younger bands that Misery Signals themselves heavily influenced. Bands like Canada’s Counterparts, for instance. Their third album, ‘The Difference Between Hell & Home,’ was so fucking good that Counterparts have basically repeated it three more times ever since and have yet to even best it. It took the strongest elements from both ‘Prophets‘ (the fight riffs and aggressive metalcore) and ‘The Current Will Carry Us‘ (the melody, emotion, and dynamism) and then slammed them into a single, mesmerizing whole. There ain’t a bad song here, and ‘Outlier,’ ‘Wither,’ ‘Witness,’ ‘Decay‘, ‘Soil,’ and ‘Compass,’ were some of their finest tunes by a country mile. 2013 was Counterparts‘ year and from this third record, the remainder of the 2010s were extremely kind to this hard-working band.
My Ticket Home – ‘Strangers Only’ (2013)
A brash, loud, youthful hardcore punk album nicely tinged with the grooves and anger of the nu-metal greats is exactly what the doctor ordered for My Ticket Home’s 2013 barn-burner, ‘Strangers Only.’ Seeing the then-young Rise-signed band re-shifting musical gears from their cleaner, post-hardcore/metalcore traits into that of a dirtier, filthier, darker nu-metalcore work on the cusp of said genre’s insane resurgence during the last decade was a stroke of genius. Perhaps ‘Strangers Only‘ was just at the right time and the right place for ever-changing heavy music trends. Or maybe the violent pull of this record, the aggression of balls-to-the-walls fight riffs and its no-nonsense vocals just simply clicked with so many listeners. Whatever it was that made stomping tracks like ‘Hot Soap,’ ‘Spit Not Chewed,’ ‘Teenage Cremation,’ and ‘Ayahuasca‘ stand out, I’m just so glad it happened how it did.
Every Time I Die – ‘Low Teens’ (2016)
Every Time I Die is pretty much a universally loved and respected band; I can only think of one person that I who doesn’t like ETID. (You know who you are.) My personal choice of theirs is ‘New Junk Aesthetic,’ but as that album was released in 2009, I can’t justify waxing lyrical about it here. An album that I can blow lots of smoke about, however, is ‘Low Teens.’ Released in 2016, ‘Low Teens,’ written about the blood-chilling and life-threatening complications frontman Keith Buckley’s wife suffered during the birth of their child in December 2015, is a 13-song masterclass in riff delivery, modern hardcore songwriting, Southern rock, ingenious lyricism, and honest soul. When it all finally ends with their new-classic of ‘Map Change,’ ETID’s claim to fame as hardcore ring-leaders is assured; one of the most cleverly written and greatest songs that a hardcore band could’ve recorded over the last ten years. Whenever ETID’s final show arrives, that will be THE song to have them bow out with. But then there are the other dozen gems that they could pull from as well for such a set; ragers like ‘Religion Of Speed,’ ‘Just as Real but Not as Brightly Lit,’ ‘The Coin Has a Say,’ and ‘Glitches.’ Eight albums in, ETID made one of their best works with ‘Low Teens.’
Health – ‘Death Magic’ (2015)
Before doing the GTA V online soundtrack, before they collaborated with the likes of Perturbator and Ghostemane, and before they were even heard in season three of 13 Reasons Why, Health took their brand of noise-rock into a darker, more surreal and electronic-bathed yet no less jarring direction with 2015’s exceptional ‘Death Magic.’ This fucker could be released tomorrow and it would still hold up with any other current release due to the excruciatingly depth and polish of its mix and production. ‘Death Magic‘ takes you into the lowest clubs, deep down into the bowels of the earth where there’s no limit to how loud one can play and where the most dangerous drugs are consumed feverishly. It’s a blissful, noise-pop record infused with industrial elements, danceable beats, rave synths, and atonal electro-pop hooks. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does, and cuts like ‘Stonefist,’ ‘Dark Enough,’ ‘L.A. Looks,’ ‘Drugs Exist,’ and ‘Life‘ are huge staples for the band. More melodic and memorable than their harsher noise-rock roots, though no less big and bold, the perfect evolution from ‘Get Color‘ to ‘Death Magic‘ was more than worth the six-year wait between albums.
Sleep Token – ‘Sundowning’ (2019)
Writing about music can be pretty draining when you get emailed new music from bands around the world that all sound like one another; bands who all grew up on the same artists and records, and who sadly think to themselves “yeah, no one does it quite like us.” (Oh, honey.) But truly, no one quite does it like Sleep Token. ‘Sundowning‘ makes listening to and writing about heavy music fun again for someone as jaded as me; a creative, imaginative hymn-like metal record infused with aspects of djent, progressive, trap, pop, religious metaphors, and real dynamism. Despite the fact it came out in November 2019, this cultish record about a former lover masked by metaphorical spiritual themes was deftly unique, with the only thing even remotely like it being Sleep Token’s previous works in the few years leading up to this stunning debut LP. The 2020s will be a decade of worship, that’s for damn sure.
Hellions – ‘Opera Oblivia’ (2016)
‘Opera Oblivia‘ is a record better than any Hellions fan or hater could’ve dreamed of. People who love Hellions LOVE this record and people who desire the band for whatever reason love this album also. This is what more bands should do: say fuck it and make interesting art and take things in bold new directions. The success and response of ‘Opera Oblivia‘ show that when its done right, when it’s written in an authentic manner and not in some cynical, cheap fashion, the sky is the limit; the results speak for themselves with these resonate anthems. Hang on, I’ve gotta go listen to ‘Thresher‘ again, be right back.
From Indian Lakes – ‘Everything Feels Better Now’ (2016)
From Indian Lakes haven’t sounded as pretty, as heart-wrenching, as tasteful, nor as soulful as they did on ‘Everything Feels Better Now.’ I am one-hundred-percent convinced that this detailed, lush LP is what remembering an old dream sounds like. Mixing rock, folk, emo, dream-pop and indie, Joey Vannucchi’s fourth album under the From Indian Lakes moniker, mixed rock guitars, pop hooks, and synth-heavy arrangements into stunning chemistry. It all creates a vulnerable record about intimacy and relationships, glimmering with the sights and sounds of the actual Indian Lakes community found outside of Yosemite National Park over in the States. A fluttering day-dream of an indie-rock record, everything still feels better with From Indian Lakes‘ best album.
All Human – ‘Teenagers, You Don’t Have To Die!’ (2016)
‘Teenagers, You Don’t Have To Die‘ is the genre-mashing, heavenly emo collaboration of two musicians separated by state-lines and joined together by the internet. All Human’s 2016 LP is new-age alternative music for a new age of listeners and fans, people who don’t just listen to a single style of music. It’s a 17-song-long, open-ended, imaginative and at times, quite a forlorn record for lovesick, depressed postmodernists who are just looking for closure and some company. ‘Teenagers…‘ is what happens when a band doesn’t set themselves boundaries or guidelines, and just fucking goes for it, letting the chips fall where ever they may. A beautiful, underrated surprise from the 2010s, All Human created an eclectic emo album that sits on par with some of the genre’s greatest cuts.
Lodz – ‘Time Doesn’t Heal Anything’ (2017)
Lodz looked at the works of The Ocean, Cult Of Luna, and God Is An Astronaut and said: “we can do that, but better.” To their very real credit, they did just that with ‘Time Doesn’t Heal Anything.’ An immense, crushing post-metal and post-rock record about pian and reflection came to fruition for the French band on album number two; a melancholic, depressive listening experience that saw the four-piece leave no stone unturned and improved every single aspect of their songwriting and musicianship from 2013’s already-grand ‘Something In Us Died‘ LP. What an album.
Peripery – ‘Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal’ (2012)
Periphery’s debut album from 2010 is one of the most notable records in kicking off and better popularising progressive metalcore and djent at the start of the last decade, but it lives deep within the shadow of its bigger and better successor. This 2012 monster saw Periphery firing on all cylinders, making some of their greatest songs to date. For real, just look at the track-listing for this mofo and tell me that you don’t love or at least know and remember massive tracks like ‘Scarlet,’ ‘Make Total Destroy,’ ‘Ragnarok,’ ‘Have A Blast,’ and ‘Ji.’ And if you don’t, I know you’re lying.
Rivers Of Nihil – ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ (2018)
It was Rivers Of Nihil’s ‘Where Owls Know My Name,’ a record that’s just shy of a masterpiece for extreme metal in the decade that’s now departed us, that confirmed to me what I look for in heavy music: adventure. Surprises, daringness, experimentation, variety. All of the things that I admire about my most-loved heavy bands or records are heard across ‘Where Owls Know My Name‘; a one-off electronic dubstep piece that sounds like experimental-era Korn, progressive-jazz saxophone passages, crushing technical death metal moments, vast sense of melody, prog-metal sensibilities, and the sickest riffs. Rivers Of Nihil nailed all of this without it ever feeling tacky or repetitive. ‘Where Owls Know My Name‘ is a true accomplishment and is destined to be one of the greats.
Numenorean – ‘Adore’ (2019)
Sounding like a Gojira covers band simultaneously discovered Deafheavn and The Cure – mixing huge tech-death riffs, emotive blackgaze, and purple-drenched, new wave post-punk in jaw-dropping fashion – Numenorean’s ‘Adore‘ is a sublime experience. So much so, that it almost makes you forget that it’s a depressive funeral dirge about losing family, learning to say goodbye and honour their life and memory. Numenorean didn’t need any shock-jockey tactics like their 2016 EP for this one, instead leaving it all on the table with this excellently-paced and beautifully flowing blackened, post-punk-tinged metal record that wasn’t afraid to be delicate, dynamic and different.
Architects – ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us’ (2016)
What 2012’s ‘Daybreaker‘ first started up, 2014’s ‘Lost Forever // Lost Together‘ truly refined, yet it was ‘All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us‘ that pushed that current metalcore sound we’d all recognize as Architects‘ own to that extreme end. ‘All Our Gods…‘ is the final will and testament of guitarist/songwriter, Tom Searle. His hopes and dreams, his worldly beliefs and politics, his love for people, and the battle with the cruel sickness that lived within him. When news of his passing broke just months after this record’s initial release, these already heartfelt, poignant and monolithic metalcore anthems took on a whole new light, a brand new meaning, and in death, he helped Architects to leave behind what will be their greatest body of work. Forever be mindful of death.
Glassjaw – ‘Colouring Book’ (2011)
When people talk about the greatest Glassjaw records, they obviously bring up 2002’s ‘Worship & Tribute‘. Because it’s the best album ever made, of course. But in the previous decade, sandwiched between a solid singles compilation EP and their 2017 comeback record, ‘Material Control,’ Glassjaw put out ‘Colouring Book.’ A characterful, integral, and artistic five-song post-hardcore rock release, it saw a smarter, leaner iteration of the New York legends take graceful form. The driving riffs of ‘Black Nurse‘ make it sound like you’re speeding and have just stuck your head out the window; ‘Stations of the New Cross‘ has the kind of dynamic delicacy that many expect from the band; the droning guitars and synths of ‘Vanilla Poltergeist Snake‘ are arresting; ‘Miracles In Inches‘ has the distorted chaos that we all love about Glassjaw; ‘Daytona White‘ is stripped-back and heartfelt, and when it gets noisy, it doesn’t hold back. And the slightly metaphorical yet also not-so-subtle lyrics about the love-life of singer Daryl Palumbo getting his dick wet are all laced with such intrigue, layers and care that these five tracks could so easily convince someone of them being about anything else. Colour me in love!
Zeal & Ardor – ‘Stranger Fruit’ (2018)
I will forever die on the stanning hill that Zeal & Ardor mastermind, Manuel Gagneux, is a musical genius. His vision for a crazy mixture of black metal, blues, African spirituals, trippy electronica, and very subtle pop and rock songwriting ideas is a head-scratcher when written out, yet on-record it all comes together impressively so. In fact, that only touches the surface of Zeal & Ardor’s sound. ‘Stranger Fruit,’ an allegory for racism throughout the annals of American history, is a magical metal LP unlike few others. The metaphorical lenses of slavery-meeting-satanism are joined at the hip by riffs and vocals that switch from bluesy notes and scales, and then caustic blackened styles with blast beasts, backing chants, keys, and experimental, genre-bending moments. It’s oppressive but beautiful. ‘Stranger Fruit‘ is a lengthy, in-depth and smartly-written record, a release really pushing black metal into new and exciting directions. There’s still a storm out there, so let’s brave it out together.
The Midnight – ‘Nocturnal’ (2017)
Synthwave was rarely as moving, as satisfying, and as hooky during its gargantuan resurgence in the 2010s as what American duo, The Midnight, pulled off with their second EP, ‘Nocturnal.’ Very few other retro releases come as close to capturing the rainy streets, seedy moods, late nights, reverb-gated drum sounds, and giant vocal melodies as the seven songs found on ‘Nocturnal.’ A sexy, feel-good, and sometimes heart-broken themed record, songs like ‘Shadows,’ ‘Crystalline,’ and ‘ ‘ are some of the best you can find for this style. The Midnight basically made an essential synth-wave release with this bad boy; a top-tier 80’s obsessed EP that carries on the soul and heart of the beloved media and music from over three decades ago. Void of cynicism and empty nostalgia, The Midnight’s finest work is cultivated by a genuine passion for the bygone era they re-create. And that love makes all of the difference in the songwriting and the performances. Take another lonely drive through this EP’s neon-lit city.
Animals As Leaders – ‘The Joy Of Motion’ (2014)
Trading their past over-polished djent tones for drier, punchier and livelier sounds, Animals As Leaders broke new ground with 2014’s ‘The Joy Of Motion.’ Doubling-down on their progressive-rather-than-prog and jazzy ideals, the trio’s third-record was another mind-bending virtuosic-instrumental journey, but one that felt more tasteful, more alive, and let’s be honest, more real. The almost-inhuman, over-bearing technicality of the three-piece’s respective playing was matched by some deceptively killer hooks on certain songs, far more memorable passages, thick harmonic layers, a great equilibrium between casual listeners and music nerds alike, and some of the most interesting and creative song-writing of their entire career. This Animas As Leaders was S-tier, an absolute joy to experience time and time again.
The Wonder Years – ‘The Greatest Generation’ (2014)
Pop-punk records often either age like stale beer or they become rose-tinted classics that people in their late 20’s and early 30’s exclaim “oh my god, yes, I remember this one” when it comes on a Spotify playlist designed to make white people lose their minds at parties. Yet The Wonder Years‘ well-crafted and bleeding-heart fourth album, ‘The Greatest Generation,’ felt like the newly-crowned true king of a weak-wristed generation of cheap, phoned-in pop-punk. Seeing the Philly six-piece gong for broke and pulling out all the stops with red hot track after searing hook-filled track, the most consistent Wonder Years album to date, next to ‘Sister Cities,’ pressed onward like the very generation that the album borrows its name from who, decades prior, were engulfed in strife and unknown progression. The sheer strength and success of this palpable record has sky-rocketed the U.S. band to become one of the biggest names in emo/pop-punk/alt-rock of today, and deservedly so. And six years later, I’m still just trying to sleep. Thanks, Soupy.
Blood Command – ‘Cult Drugs’ (2017)
Few records of the last decade made me feel like an insatiable drug addict as Blood Command’s ‘Cult Drugs‘ did. Taking the DIY attitudes and riff-driven nature of Refused, the stadium-sized hooks and choruses of pop-punk acts like Paramore, and the chaotic energy and urgency of groups like The Blood Brothers, Norway’s Blood Command then slathered on neon synths, mariachi trumpets, tabla drums, spaghetti-western, and even some staccato hardcore for good measure. Written about the similarities between drug use and cult indoctrination, ‘Cult Drugs‘ doesn’t hold anything back. Coming out of nowhere in 2017, Blood Command showed everyone else how it’s fuckin’ done!
Julien Baker – ‘Turn Out The Lights’ (2017)
I honestly hate listening to Julien Baker’s ‘Turn Out The Lights,’ yet it’s one of the few perfect scores I’ve ever given a record here on KYS. Why is that? Because of the way that it makes me feel, the things it makes me think about, and the memories that it rushes back into my mind when listening. I almost cannot put them into words for you, and to be blunt, I sort of don’t want to, even for this piece. ‘Turn Out The Lights‘ wasn’t just an album, it was a record; a pure, one-off experience of naked soul-bearing that’s nearly impossible to recreate. ‘Honest’ or ‘heartfelt’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Julien Baker’s intimate vocals, minimal compositions, carefully-constructed folk songwriting, dynamic heights, and thoughtful sentiments here all put my heart back together at the time when I maybe needed it the most, and I’m forever grateful for that. I might still sink faster the harder I swim, but at least I’ve still got this record.
Ocean Grove – ‘The Rhapsody Tapes’ (2017)
Heaps of great Australian records came out in the 2010’s: Belle Haven’s ‘You, Me & Everything In Between,’ Justice For The Damned’s ‘Dragged Through The Dirt,’ Gravemind’s ‘Conduit,’ Cursed Earth’s ‘Cycles Of Grief‘ (before Jazmine Luders ruined it), and so forth. Yet one debut release sticks out in my mind, and that’s Ocean Grove’s other-worldly debut LP, ‘The Rhapsody Tapes.’ I honestly can’t think of another band in Australia right now that so seamlessly, so masterfully, bridged together the weird, experimental variety of nu-metal, alt-rock, metalcore, noise, pop, dub, electronica and more together than what OG did here, on what was their first full-length album no less. This is perhaps why there’s been a backlash from some fans and listeners on their newer material; because they know that these 2017 tapes were a unique one-off record for this out-there Aussie collective. And that’s why it’s so special; it’s lighting getting caught in a VB bottle, right before being skulled on a night out with the boys.
MØL – ‘Jord’ (2018)
Deafheaven may have had the most important and influential black metal record of the 2010s, but was ‘Sunbather‘ the best one out there? I’m here to say no, ‘Jord‘ was. MØL’s top-shelf modern black-metal debut is nothing but awesome power embodied with its thunderous storm of post-black metal; it’s utter beauty envisioned via its heavenly, dreamy shoegaze sections. This new Danish group harnasses the sonic power of the gods with ‘Jord‘; an earth-shattering release that pulls the ground up around you, suspends it all mid-air and then hurls you right up into the skies with such staggering riffs, cacophonous instrumentals, and Kim Song Sternkopf’s piercing screams. No question, this was the benchmark for blackgaze music in the 2010s.
Lingua Ignota – ‘Caligula’ (2019)
Kristin Hayter’s most recent LP said “fuck it” to the idea of genre, taking industrial, polyphonic cuts, throat singing, harsh noise, metal, neo-classical, darkwave, and churning it all into this, reverberant, arresting and magnificent beast. ‘Caligula‘ is Hayter at her most vulnerable and ambitious, reaching a new peak for her vocals and compositions, but also her storytelling. Vast in scope, deeply felt, and wrecked with personal authenticity, ‘Caligula‘ is dramatic and sinister; uncomfortably heavy and brutally unnerving. Discussing the horrors of an abusive relationship, ‘Caligula‘ conveys an ugly narrative about transgressions that define both the victims and culprits. It’s pure wrath and sorrow. A metaphor about the sadism, decadence, and corruption of Roman emperor Caligula imposes a commentary about abuses of power, in all their twisted forms. How those who suffer on the receiving end of these abuses are left invalidated and isolated. It’s a scathing record not about defeating trauma but about learning to endure its turmoil. A more sobering or realistic portrayal of such wasn’t heard in the 2010s.
Northlane – ‘Alien’ (2019)
When hacks shoot the shit online about sonic reinvention and bands revitalizing their careers, they’d best bring up Northlane’s ‘Alien‘ or else I’m coming in hot for ’em. Northlane hasn’t sounded as energized as driven, as bold, and as heavy as what they were doing on last year’s ‘Alien.’ Taking their familiar djenty, prog-metalcore roots and blending them in with the dark, rave-like industrial qualities of Health and Prodigy-esque synths created something otherworldly, with Marcus Bridge giving us not only his most honest and personal life moments but also his best vocal performances on all fronts too. Just like ‘Discoveries‘ and ‘Singularity,’ this is going to be a highly-referenced album in the Australian heavy music scene, and the wider metalcore community, for years to come.
Rolo Tomassi – ‘Time Will Die & Love Will Bury It’ (2018)
In piecing this mammoth-sized list together, I often thought about what I would consider being the BEST album of the 2010s, the one singular record that I would rate above all else when the dust had all but settled. And every single time I had that thought, this particular Rolo Tomassi LP came to mind. This record has basically set-up permanent residence in both my heart and head since it came out in March 2018. ‘Time Will Die & Love Will Bury It‘ is essentially perfect. There is literally nothing I’d change about it; it’s uncompromising. I’ve recommended this album to others more than any other in my entire life so far. It’s consumed my life for the last two years, and I can see it doing so for the next ten.
Maybe it’s the wicked breakdown that book-ends the mathy metalcore monster of ‘Alma Mater‘? Perhaps it’s how the airy, ambient opener of ‘Towards Dawn‘ has its key melody beautifully transition into the salt-rock/shoegaze masterpiece of ‘Aftermath‘? Or is it the oceans of synths, instrumental layers, deep feelings of loss, and Eva Spence’s longing vocals of “And there you, always” in ‘A Flood Of Light‘? Could it be the extensive, progressive compositional build-up of the brilliant ‘Contretemps‘? It’s all of these things and more that are so terrifyingly gripping. Rolo Tomassi outdid themselves in all ways here, creating a record that reflects not only what they’ve done over the last ten years, but where their sound could reach, nailing these shifting styles better than what most bands adhere to on a single full-length. It’s an album of grief and loss, of piecing yourself back together following shocking bereavements, of learning that the sun may set, but that it will rise again.