2022 Album of the Year

1 – Zeal & Ardor – Zeal & Ardor
2 – Absent in Body – Plague God
3 – Porcupine Tree – Closure/Continuation
4 – Lacuna Coil – Comalies XX
5 – Bloodbath – Survival of the Sickest
6 – Strigoi – Viscera
7 – League of Distortion – League of Distortion
8 – Chat Pile – God’s Country
9 – Muse – Will of the People
10 – Clutch – Sunrise on Slaughter Beach

2022 produced A LOT of good albums. In the 19 years that I’ve been coming up with these lists, this was possibly the most difficult one that I’ve done. But, for someone that enjoys new music as much as I do, that’s a good problem to have.

I had never heard of Zeal & Ardor until this year. They’ve been around for just under 10 years and they were recommended to me by a friend due to their unique blending of genres. Their Wikipedia profiles describes them as “avant-garde, black metal, and neo-soul.” That alone was enough to get me interested. Then I started looking on YouTube for videos and I could not stop listening. I got a copy of their latest album and again, I could not stop listening. They have such a unique sound that (as I’ve said) combines so many genres into one cohesive musical vision. Being that I like more some more extreme metal, blues, and soul music, this is the band that I never knew that I needed to hear. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live in Brooklyn a few months ago and it was an incredible experience.

Some of the songs that got me hooked on this album and band include “Run,” “Death to the Holy,” “Golden Liar,” “Feed the Machine,” “Church Burns,” and “Götterdämmerung.”

If it wasn’t for Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body’s debut album, Plague God, would easily be my number one album this year. I know that sounds like an almost silly thing to say, but it’s true. This album is THAT good. And just like last year’s Album of the Year, Amenra’s De Doorn, I became aware of Absent in Body because of All Elite Wrestling’s Malakai Black. He uses a song from De Doorn as his entrance theme for this singles matches and he uses a “Rise from Ruins” from Plague God for one of the teams he’s in. Absent in Body is actually sort of a “sludge metal” supergroup that has members of Amerna, Sepultura, and Neurosis. I would list what tracks stand out more than others, but there’s only five songs on the album, and they’re all pretty good.

Porcupine Tree broke up in 2011. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet, was my Album of the Year. They had others ranked high in my lists. Their last album before their split, 2009’s The Incident, was not good. In the time since their split, their front man/main song writer, Steven Wilson went on to do some really good stuff with his solo band and some others. I was not sure what to expect from the Porcupine Tree reunion, but Closure/Continuation, was excellent. I was able to see all of the songs on the album and a lot more of my favorite songs from them at Radio City Music Hall in September and it was such a great show. Not only did I get to hear some of their “classics,” but hearing the new songs live really made me like them more. If you were a fan of Porcupine Tree from their original run and didn’t listen to Closure/Continuation, I highly recommend that you give it a listen.

“Harridan,” “Of the New Day,” and “Herd Cullling” are the songs that I consider to be my favorites on this album.

I put a lot of thought into whether or not Lacuna Coil’s Comalies XX was even eligible to be considered for this list. For many years, I’ve had an established set of rules that include “the album must be new material (for the band or artist).” Comalies XX is Lacuna Coil paying tribute to the 20th anniversary of their 2002 album, Comalies. They didn’t just re-master it or re-mix it, they re-imagined it. While the melodies are very close to the original and the lyrics are the same, that’s where the similarities end. They re-wrote every song and played them in a style that more accurately reflects their current sound. And after hearing a few songs from Comalies XX, I joked that some of them were the versions of the songs that I’ve always wanted to hear. But, even after that, I still wasn’t sure about if I could include it in my list. I was lucky enough to see Lacuna Coil a few times in September and was able to discuss the album with members of the band and they told me about the effort that they put into making this version of Comalies different from the original. They succeeded.

The track listing is the same as the original so it starts off with “Swamped.” The new version of the song is (in my opinion) the most similar to the original than any of the others, which is probably a good way to ease the transition for any skeptical fan. The next song, “Heaven’s a Lie” goes in directions that I wouldn’t have expected, but I’m glad it did. Hearing Andrea Ferro do the growling vocals that he’s enjoyed doing over the last few years really added to that for me. I’m not going to go song by song on this, as it would take up so much time, but in addition to the ones I’ve already listed, the other new versions that really stood out to me include “Daylight Dancer,” “The Ghost Woman and the Hunter,” and especially “Unspoken” (where Ferro growls vocals orginally done cleanly by Cristina Scabbia, who sounds great on this album too).

Bloodbath makes another appearance in my Top 10 Albums of the Year list with Survival of the Sickest. I believe this album is easily the best one that the Death Metal Supergroup has done with Paradise Lost’s “Old Nick” Holmes as their vocalist and the best one from the band since 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh. It’s just a good Death Metal album. And if you’re a fan of Paradise Lost, Katatonia, and/or Opeth, you should be aware of Bloodbath.

The opening track of “Zombie Inferno” is one of the better songs on the album, and the video for it is perfect for the song. I also recommend checking out “Malignant Maggot Therapy,” “Affliction of Extinction,” and my personal favorite song from the album “No God Before Me.”

Continuing with albums that feature members of Paradise Lost, the 6th Best Album of 2022 is Strigoi’s Viscera. Strigoi was founded in 2018 by Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh. Instead of just playing guitar, like he does on Paradise Lost albums, Mackintosh is the vocalist for Strigoi, and like Bloodbath, this album is just a good Death Metal album. And like I said about Bloodbath, if you’re a fan of the bands I mentioned earlier, you should check this one out.

Some of my favorites from Viscera include “King of All Terror,” “A Begotten Son,” and “Byzantine Terror.”

Like Zeal & Ardor, Absent in Body, and Strigoi, League of Distortion are also making their first appearance on my list with their debut self-titled album. YouTube suggested to them to me and YouTube did well. Not only did YouTube introduce me to League of Distortion, but it also made me aware of it’s lead singer Anna Brunner’s other work, which I hope will make this list at some point. But in the meantime, League of Distortion’s sound reminds me a bit of Butcher Babies, Snake River Conspiracy, and Drain STH.

“Wolf of Lamb,” “It Hurts so Good,” and “I’m a Bitch” are my favorite songs from this album.

The final band making their first appearance in my Top 10 is Chat Pile. They’ve been around for a few years, have released a few things, but their first full-length album, God’s Country, is my 8th Best Album of 2022. I was not aware of Chat Pile until a just before I finalized my list. They were recommended to me and I listened to some songs and I was immediately in need of more from them. Maybe it’s just me, but I think this album reminds me of early Clutch, some IDLES, with late 1980s era Mike Patton style vocals. I listened to the entire album and knew it was one of the best of the year. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them in the years to come.

The opening track “Slaughterhouse,” “Why?,” “Wicked Puppet Dance,” and “I Don’t Care if I Burn” stand out a lot.

Muse is the most well known band on my list. I’ve enjoyed all of their releases, and this one is no exception. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Muse a few times. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to on this tour. I would have liked to have heard some of the new songs in person.

The title track, “Compliance,” “You Make Me Feel Like it’s Halloween,” and the last track on the album with the “f word” used a few times in the title stand out as some of the better ones.

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While Clutch’s Sunrise on Slaughter Beach is obviously good enough to be ranked as the 10th Best Album of 2022, it still wasn’t close to their best work. I don’t want to really make it seem like I’m disappointed by it, but it didn’t draw me in as much other other releases of theirs. If you’re a fan of Clutch, as I certainly am, this album is worth listening to, and at only 33 minutes and 10 seconds, it’s a very quick listen. Maybe I just expected more.

Regardless of what I just said, the songs “Slaughter Beach,” “Nosferatu Madre,” and “Mercy Brown” do stand out a lot.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2022. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– Amorphis – Halo – This album really didn’t do much for me. I’m hoping that after the last few really good albums from them, that this is just a mis-step.
– Dead Cross – II – This is a good album that barely missed the Top 10.
– Downset – Maintain – This is easily the best thing that Downset has done since 1996 and could have made the list if the Top 10 wasn’t so stacked.
– Florence & the Machine – Dance Fever – Another album from a band that I like that didn’t really do anything for me.
– IV and the Strange Band – Southern Circus – IV is the 4th Generation of Hank Williamses to be in the music industry. This was a solid debut and I look forward to hearing more from him.
– The Gathering – Beautiful Distortion – I wanted to like this, but I’ve never been able to get into the Gathering since Anneke Van Giersbergen left in 2007.
– Ghost – Impera – This was a good album that also could have made my Top 10. It has the least progression of any Ghost album from the previous, but that’s probably intentional since they didn’t change the character of the singer this time.
– The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost – It took a bunch of ex-In Flames members to reunite and do a good In Flames record.
– Patriarchs in Black – Patriarchs in Black – This was a solid “stoner rock” album.
– The Pineapple Thief – Give it Back – Their 2020 album Versions of the Truth was ranked as the 4th Best Album of the Year. This one didn’t come close to being as good as that.
– Slipknot – The End, So Far – It just didn’t do anything for me.
– Tedeschi Trucks Band – I am the Moon (volumes I – IV) – The Tedeschi Trucks Band released four albums in the year, and while they’re good, I think they may have been better off releasing just one with maybe two of them combined. And then maybe do it again next year. There was just too much in 2022 and not much stood out as a result.
– Those Poor Bastards – God Awful – I REALLY want this group to have an Album of the Year. God Awful, while A LOT better than the name would allude to, wasn’t their best work. It does have some good songs though.

I know 2023 will have a new album from Katatonia. Will they receive their 3rd Album of the Year from me? I also know of the debut album from Host, which is Nick and Gregor from Paradise Lost returning to the sound of their underappreciated album of the same. Other than that, I don’t know what else 2023 will bring as far as new music goes. But, I do know that I’ll enjoy listening to some stuff along the way.

A note about eligibility for my 2022 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2022.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

2021 Album of the Year

1- Amenra – De Doorn
2- Garbage – No Gods No Masters
3- Tomahawk – Tonic Immobility
4- Steven Wilson – The Future Bites
5- Whitechapel – Kin
6- Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra – Songs for the Apocalypse
7- Lord of the Lost – Judas
8- Dave Neabore – Retro Inferno
9- White Stones – Dancing into Oblivion
10- IDLES – Crawler

For all that was wrong with 2021, and there’s a lot, it was a really good year for new music. Six of the ten bands that are in my Annual Top 10 list are appearing for the first time. I actually gave some consideration to doing a Top 15 for the second time, and I easily could have, but I kept it to a Top 10. Yes, I did copy this paragraph from last year’s entry and just changed the year.

Amenra is a Belgian band that I had never heard of before 2021. While watching an interview with Professional Wrestler, Malakai Black (aka Tommy End), I heard him mention Amenra as one of the bands that he had been listening to a lot of. I went to YouTube to find what I could find from them and I was blown away. I also noticed that they had a new album out in 2021 and I ordered a copy of it. What I got was De Doorn. The vocals are not in English and feature a lot of screams. To be honest, I have no idea what they’re saying, but it doesn’t matter. The melodic sound of this album works so well. There’s only five songs on De Doorn, and they all flow together. I won’t recommend specific songs on this album because it’s something that needs to be listened to from beginning to end. It’s such a good listen. I’ve also recently purchased a few other albums from Amenra and I hope to enjoy those half as much as De Doorn.

Garbage is one of my favorite acts, and their albums are usually very good. No Gods No Masters is no different. Although, I do remember when I first heard the album, I recognized the distinct sound that Garbage produces, but I thought it may need to grow on me. And since I’ve ranked it as the 2nd best Album of 2021, it’s safe to say that it did grow on me. The lyrics on the album really do reflect the times and Shirley Manson’s take on the world. If you’re a fan of this band, I wouldn’t skip this album.

Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “the Men Who Rule the World,” “Uncomfortably Me,” and especially “Godhead.”

I never know what to expect from a project that Mike Patton is a part of. Tomahawk is no exception. This group has put out some incredibly rocking albums. They’ve also put out an album of nothing but Native American songs. Tonic Immobility is more of a “normal” album from Tomahawk and one of the better ones from their library.

The opening track, “SHHH!,” hooked me and the rest of the songs kept me interested all the way to the last track, “Dog Eat Dog.” I also recommend “Fatback” and “Business Casual” as songs to listen to.

Steven Wilson’s the Future Bites was originally supposed to be released in June of 2020, but it was pushed back until January, 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wilson’s solo work is a hit or miss with me. But when it’s a hit, it’s usually very good. This album was a hit. The first single “Personal Shopper” (released in January, 2020) features a guest cameo by Elton John and really made me want to hear more of the album. When I finally did, I liked a few more songs on it as well.

I recommend tracks such as “Self,” “12 Things I Forgot,” and “Eminent Sleeze.”

Whitechapel was recommended to me a few years ago when their last album, the Valley, was released. I liked it and it made my 2019 Top 10 list. Their latest album, Kin, is another good one. There is so much raw emotion in their songs. It’s sometimes difficult to convey that with growling vocals, but they pull it off very well.

Some of the tracks that stuck out to me include “I Will Find You,” “A Bloodsoaked Symphony,” and “Orphan.”

Jason Bieler And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra is another act that is new to me this year. I saw a friend raving about their album, “Songs for the Apocalypse” on Twitter and decided to check it out. The first song that I heard was “Bring Out Your Dead.” I couldn’t get enough of that track.

“Down in a Hole” (not the Alice in Chains song), “Alone in the World,” and “Born of the Sun” are also good songs to check out.

YouTube suggested Lord of the Lost to me in 2020. While they’re basically a gothic metal band, I found them to be an interesting mix of styles. Reading more about them, I learned that their lead singer and founder, Chris Harms, says that he’s been influenced by Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, and Lady Gaga. As I said, an interesting mix of styles. Their 2021 album, Judas is a double album with 24 total songs on it. I expected to lose interest while listening to the album, but I didn’t. It held my attention. That says something. By no means are all tracks great, but there’s definitely enough very good ones with “For They Know Not What They Do” as the best one.

I also like “Priest,” “Viva Vendetta,” and “the Heart is a Traitor.”

Dave Neabore is the bass player from one of my favorite bands, Dog Eat Dog. Horror movies and movies scores are a big interest to him. During the year, he released Retro Inferno, an album of 1980s style synth music. If I wasn’t already aware of him, this album would not have been on my radar. But, I gave it a listen and I really enjoyed it. The opening track was good enough to keep me interested and I kept listening.

“Space Driver,” “Destroy All Robots,” “Electric Sky,” and “Samhain” are currently my favorite tracks from the album, but it’s a good listen from start to finish.

White Stones was founded by Opeth’s bass player, Martin Mendez. Their 2020 debut album, Kuarahy, sounded like Opeth demo tapes and songs that didn’t make the cut with Opeth. However, their 2021 album, Dancing Into Oblivion, is MUCH better. It’s so much better that I may go back and listen to Kuarahy again just to see if I like it any more than I did originally.

Some of the better songs on Dancing Into Oblivion include “New Age of Dark,” “To Live or To Die,” and “Freedom in Captivity.”

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2021. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– Anneke van Giersbergen – The Darkest Skies are Always the Brightest: As much as I love her voice, this album didn’t do anything for me.
– Carcass – Torn Arteries: This is a solid album that could have easily made the Top 10.
– Dion – Stomping Ground: Another VERY solid album from Dion. This is a great blues album.
– Ministry – Moral Hygiene: If the Top 10 wasn’t so solid this year, this album would be high on it.
– Moonspell – Hermitage: A good album, but not a great album.
– The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Dance Songs for Hard Times: See Moonspell.
– Sumo Cyco – Initiation: This was a fun listen, but I don’t see myself going back to it often.
– Those Poor Bastards – Old Time Suffering: This is definitely not their best work.
– Tom Jones – Surrounded by Time: Tom Jones has a great voice. I enjoyed this album when I heard it, but it very easily got lost in the shuffle.
– Vola – Witness: This is another band that I was introduced to this year. I really liked this album, and it came very close to making the Top 10.

Steven Wilson’s band, Porcupine Tree, has reunited and will release an album in 2022. Their 2007 album, Fear of a Blank Planet was good enough to be my Album of the Year. Can they do it again? Clutch may also release a new album in 2022. They also had an Album of the Year with 2004’s Blast Tyrant. I don’t know who else will be releasing new records, but I look forward to listening to some new stuff during the year.

A note about eligibility for my 2021 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2021.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

2020 Album of the Year

1- Paradise Lost – Obsidian
2- Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo
3- Katatonia – City Burials
4- The Pineapple Thief – Versions of the Truth
5- The Amity Affliction – Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them
6- Scott H. Biram – Fever Dreams
7- Dark Tranquillity – Moment
8- Human Impact – Human Impact
9- Body Count – Carnivore
10- Gangstagrass – No Time for Enemies

For all that was wrong with 2020, and there’s a lot, it was a really good year for new music. Six of the ten bands that are in my Annual Top 10 list are appearing for the first time. I actually gave some consideration to doing a Top 15 for the second time, and I easily could have, but I kept it to a Top 10.

From the moment that I heard the first notes of the first song on Paradise Lost’s Obsidian, I knew it was a special album. That song, “Darker Thoughts” starts off slow with clean vocals and then, at the right time, breaks into a rage with growling vocals. It perfectly set the tone for another great album from a great band with a great legacy. This is actually their second consecutive Album of the Year in my rankings, with this following their 2017 album, Medusa. I joked after that album that they should retire because their sound have gone full circle, and after 30 years and 15 albums, how could they keep going as strong. But, they did.

Not only does “Darker Thoughts” set the tone for their 16th studio album, but it kind of set the tone for 2020 as a whole. In addition to that great song, I also recommend “Fall from Grace,” “the Devil Embraced,” “Ravenghast,” and especially “Forsaken.”

Mr. Bungle broke up in 2000. They reunited in 2020 and released a new album, but in reality that album is their (previously unreleased) 1986 demo tape. I don’t know what type of impact it would have had if it were released in 1986, but in 2020, the Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, is one of the best records to be (officially) released during the year. I saw Mr. Bungle play this album in its entirety in February. That was actually the last concert that I was able to attend before the pandemic put a stop to that. I knew basically none of the songs that were played that night, but it was still very memorable. The album was released on October 30th and the band did a live streaming concert on Halloween, where they played it again. It’s just a really good 1980s style thrash album released in 2020. In fact, this entire story is a very 2020 thing, and also a very (Mr. Bungle front man) Mike Patton thing to do.

Tracks that I think stand out a bit on the Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo include “Anarchy Up Your Anus,” “Hypocrites / Habla Español O Muere,” “Eracist,” and “Methematics.” In fact, “Methematics” sounded somewhat familiar, because it’s obvious that Mr. Bungle used parts of this unreleased song and used it in their 1991 self-titled (official) first release in the song “Love is a Fist.”

Before Paradise Lost in 2017 and 2020, Katatonia was the only band that got the top spot in my Top 10 list (2009’s Night is the New Day and 2012’s Dead End Kings). Their 2020 release, City Burials is really a great album, and could easily have given Katatonia their third Album of the Year, if it wasn’t for the two albums that I’ve already spoken about. Like Paradise Lost’s Obsidian, this album starts off with a great song, “Heart Sets to Divide,” that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Other good songs that I like include “Lacquer,” “the Winter of our Passing,” and “Flicker.” I also want to state that “Behind the Blood” is a great song that includes one of the best lines that I’ve head in a long time, “You’re a torch to the temple of depression.” Seriously, that’s a powerful line.

I’ve been aware of Bruce Soord’s The Pineapple Thief since he and Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse collaborated on 2013’s album of the year, Wisdom of Crowds. I’ve heard some stuff from The Pineapple Thief over the past few years, but not much of it really did much for me. That changed with Versions of the Truth. The first track that I heard was the title track from the album and it peaked my interest enough to listen to more, and I’m glad that I did. I think the album is a great combination of what I like from bands like Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, and Anathema. It’s a good album that did not bore me at any point while I was listening to it.

Other tracks that I think stand out a bit include “Demons,” “Too Many Voices” and “Our Mire.”

While six of the ten bands to have albums on this year’s list have never appeared on it before, The Amity Affliction is the only one that I didn’t know of until 2020. I heard their song “Soak Me in Bleach” while I was driving and I really liked it, so I looked into them and saw that they had just released an album, Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them. I got a copy of the album and enjoyed it quite a bit. I don’t generally listen to things in the Metalcore genre unless the albums really stand out. This one did.

The first three tracks of the album “Coffin,” “All My Friends Are Dead,” and (the already mentioned) “Soak Me in Bleach” start the album really well. “All I Do is Sink” and “Born to Lose” are also good songs to check out.

Scott H. Biram’s Fever Dreams was released on the day after Thanksgiving. It was basically a surprise. There was no advanced notice. No singles were released. And while, I’ve been listening to Biram for 15 years, and basically knew what I could expect from one of his albums, I still didn’t know what to expect. What I got was one of the most polished, yet still raw sounding, albums that I’ve heard from him. The title track is one his more heartfelt songs in his library and the song “Can’t Stay Long” sounds like it would fit on the Smokey and the Bandit soundtrack, which (to be clear) is complimentary. This is another really good album from “the Dirty Old One Man Band.”

Other great songs from the album include “Single Again” which I would put up against any popular country song and “Drunk Like Me” which has the trademark Biram sound that made me a fan from the start.

Very few bands that I listen to are as consistent as Dark Tranquillity. They put out quality album after quality album, and Moment is another example of that. Like Mr. Bungle, Dark Tranquillity had a streaming concert where they played their new album in its entirety on the day after it was released. I made it a point to listen to the album one time before seeing the show. The songs that I liked upon the first listen were great during their live performance. The song “Identical to None” IMMEDIATELY stood out to me and quickly became one of my favorite songs from Dark Tranquillity’s entire 30 year career.

“The Dark Unbroken,” “Empires Lost to Time,” and “Phantom Days” are some of my other favorite songs from Moment.

Human Impact is considered to be an “American Noise Rock supergroup.” I don’t quite know what “American Noise Rock” is, but I know that I like Human Impact’s self-titled debut album. They are on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Records label and I’m pretty sure that I discovered them through a YouTube suggestion. The video that I saw on YouTube was for their song “Cause.” I really liked that song and searched for more. I liked that and got a copy of their album. Just like Amity Affliction, I was thrilled to find another new good band that I liked to listen to.

If you’re inclined to listen to songs from this album to check them out, in addition to “Cause,” I like “E605,” “Respirator,” and “Protestor.”

If you’re surprised to see Body Count in my Top 10 Albums of the Year list, so am I. I’ve listened to them on and off since their 1990 debut. Over the past few years, I’ve really liked some of their newer songs, but I didn’t go out of my way to get any of their albums. Then I heard the title track from their 2020 album, Carnivore. I liked the song. I also noticed that they were going to be playing in my area not long after that. In order to get myself up to speed on their newer stuff, I bought a few albums, including Carnivore. Unfortunately, the pandemic happened and the show was canceled. But, that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the album. It’s a really good, aggressive, hardcore style album.

My favorite tracks from Carnivore include the already mentioned title track, “Another Level,” “Thee Critical Beatdown,” and the updated version of “Colors.”

A found out about Gangstagrass just a few years ago. They’re a bluegrass/hip hop band. Yeah, you read that correctly. I saw them in concert shortly after first discovering them and I had a great time. I got a bunch of their albums and became familiar with some of their back catalog. 2020’s No Time for Enemies is their 6th studio album and the first one that they’ve released since I’ve known of them. It’s the 10th Best Album of 2020, as far as I’m concerned. I’m also pretty sure that some of their other releases could have made my lists if I had known about them earlier.

Some of the songs that I like the most from No Time for Enemies include “Freedom,” “Do Better,” and especially “Nickel and Dime Blues.”

As I stated at the beginning of this post, there were a lot of good albums in 2020. Here is a listing of other albums that came out during the year (in alphabetical order by artist):

– The Allman Betts Band – Bless Your Heart. This is a good album, but it just missed the list.
– Blackfield – For the Music. Blackfield without Steven Wilson as a main song writer is just boring.
– Corey Taylor – CMFT. This record has some good stuff on it, but it’s a bit disjointed with different styles of songs on it.
– Dion – Blues with Friends. In my opinion, this is the best album that Dion has put out since 1989’s Yo Frankie.
– Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters. A good album with some good songs.
– Hatebreed – Weight of the False Self. This was a Hatebreed album. I got what I expected.
– Heaven Shall Burn –Of Truth and Sacrifice. This was a double album that had a few good songs, but of the 19 tracks on the album, the good ones were lost in the shuffle.
– Lamb of God – Lamb of God. There’s some good stuff on here and in a year that was stacked with GREAT albums, it may have made the Top 10.
– Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks – Dream Curse. Lonesome Wyatt puts out good stuff, but I think he’s better when he’s with Those Poor Bastards.
– Mina Caputo – The Mones. There are some wonderfully poetic songs on here.
– Mushroomhead – A Wonderful Life. This is first Mushroomhead album without their founder Jeffrey Nothing, who left in 2018. His replacement sounds a lot like him, but it’s not the same.
– Spy Machines – Spy Machines. This is a jam group consisting of Clutch’s JP Gaster and some people that Clutch has toured with. It’s a fun album, but I don’t see myself listening to it often.
– Tetema – necroscape. This is one of those “I don’t know what I’m listening to” Mike Patton projects.
– Trivium – What the Dead Men Say. See Lamb of God.
– White Stones – Kuarahy. White Stones was founded by Opeth’s bass player, Martin Mendez. Their debut album sounds like Opeth demo tapes and songs that didn’t make the cut with Opeth.
– William Elliot Whitmore – I’m With You. A solid folk/blues album.

I’ve enjoyed listening to all of these albums this year, and all of them did get a full listen.
I know that (2009 Album of the Year winner) Moonspell and Steven Wilson (2007 winner, as part of Porcupine Tree) have new albums coming out in 2021. I’m not sure about other acts. I know some bands are holding off on releasing new material until that they can properly tour for it. I’m hoping to have a list half as good as this one when I start compiling my 2021 Top 10 about a year from now.

A note about eligibility for my 2020 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States release date in 2020.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

2019 Album of the Year

1- Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
2- Lacuna Coil – Black Anima
3- Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
4- The Allman Betts Band – Down to the River
5- Those Poor Bastards – Evil Seeds
6- Within Temptation – Resist
7- A Bad Think – The Savior
8- Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
9- King Hobo – Mauga
10- Whitechapel – The Valley

Life of Agony’s 1993 debut album River Runs Red is their masterpiece. That’s pretty much not debatable. That album was a concept album about someone going through a very rough time and at the end of the album, it appeared that the main character had killed himself.

They’ve put out some very good albums since then, but none of them had the impact that The Sound of Scars had, in my opinion. The Sound of Scars is the follow-up to River Runs Red, in that it tells the next chapter of the life of that character. As it turns out, he didn’t die and this album is that story. This album is also, (in my opinion) easily, their best work since River Runs Red.

The day that The Sound of Scars was released, I made sure that I had free time in my day and listened to the album from uninterrupted, from beginning to end, while reading the lyrics. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when any new album gave me the emotional response that this one did. I often get goosebumps when discussing it. Yes, I think it’s THAT good.

Usually, I’ll recommend a few tracks from each album that stand out as my favorites, but I feel doing that here does the album a disservice. This album is intended to be listened to from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Life of Agony and have not heard this album, you’re missing out. If you haven’t listened to Life of Agony for a while, this is when you should start again.

Lacuna Coil’s last album, Delirium was my 2016 Album of the Year. When talking about that album, I said it was ” was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for.” Well, they followed it up with Black Anima, which I consider to be just as good and they almost got the top spot again this year.

They’ve embraced a darker, heavier sound and it really does work for them. Their “new” style is continuing to evolve and I hope it continues on this path.

Tracks I recommend from Black Anima include “Layers of Time,” “Sword of Anger,” “the End is All I Can See,” and especially “Reckless.” Although, I do have to say the video for “Reckless” was a bit, ummm… interesting. If you watch it, you’ll understand.

Slipknot has been around for almost 25 years. While I’ve known about them and have heard their songs, I’ve barely paid attention to them until recently. I am completely willing to admit that I have probably missed out on a lot of good music. We Are Not Your Kind is Slipknot’s 6th studio album, but the first that I’ve ever really listened to. I think it’s a really good record and I’m glad that I got it. At some point I’ll go back and listen their older stuff.

Some of the tracks that I think I really good from We Are Not Your Kind include “Unsainted,” “Solway Firth,” and “A Liar’s Funeral.”

Between 1996 and 2014, I saw the Allman Brothers Band in concert 45 times. You could say that I’m a fan of their work. When I heard that Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of founding Allman Brothers Band members Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts (respectively) were forming a group called the Allman Betts Band, I was intrigued. They released their debut album, Down to the River, in the summer. Without hearing a single song from it, I purchased the album. Any fan of the Allman Brothers Band should love this album. Not only does it sound like early Allman Brothers’ albums, but Duane Betts sounds almost exactly like his father. He looks like him too. In all seriousness, there are a few songs on Down to the River that could easily be on the Allman Brothers’s albums such as Idlewild South or Brothers and Sisters, and I think that is a big compliment to them.

Songs that I think stand out “Autumn Breeze,” “All Night,” and especially “Shinin’.”

I’ve been listening to Those Poor Bastards for a few years now and while I have liked some of their albums more than others, they’ve yet to disappoint me. How many American gothic country doom bands do you know? I mentioned earlier that I like that Lacuna Coil was able to put out consecutively good albums, but not only did Those Poor Bastards do it, they’ve done it two years in a row. 2019’s Evil Seeds gets the 5th spot on my list 2018’s Inhuman Nature was ranked as the 8th Best Album in my list.

Tracks to check out on this include “One of Us,” “Just Tonight,” and “Wake Up in the Gutter.”

I’ve thought that Within Temptation has relied on guest vocalists too much in previous years. Many of their songs have had a second singer on them. But, there’s something about them doing it on Resist that really worked well. They have a very rich and elegant sound that not many other bands that they’re associated with also have.

Some of my favorites from Resist include “Endless War,” “Raise Your Banner,” and “Supernova.”

I had never heard of A Bad Think until this summer. I didn’t know they were a group. I honestly didn’t know they existed. But then I started seeing ads for their new album pop up all over my social media sites. I remember one saying “If you like Blackfield, you’ll like A Bad Think.” Well, I finally checked out songs from A Bad Think on YouTube. I don’t understand the Blackfield comparison at all, but I ended up liking A Bad Think. A Bad Think is Michael Marquart, a former member of Flock of Seagulls. A Bad Think is his project. I believe it’s him doing every instrument and writing every song. And it’s good. I’m glad I gave in to the advertising pressure online.

“Feel Me” and “Falling Star” are good tracks to check out.

I don’t know what to expect from Opeth albums now, and at the same time, I do. I know they’re probably not going to feature any death metal growls, but they’ll still take me on a ride like they used to. Their latest album, In Cauda Venenum, is a good example of that. I do have to admit that this album took a little while to grow on me. It’s got a bit more of a jazzy tone to it than previous Opeth albums do. That isn’t an issue for me, but I don’t know that I expected it. See what I’m saying? The songs on this album flow very well together, almost to the point that I don’t know where one song ends and the next begins. That’s almost a flaw in the album, but I still liked it enough to rank it as the 8th Best Album of 2019.

Songs I was able to figure out the beginning and end to that I liked include “Dignity,” “Lovelorn Crime,” and “Universal Truth.”

King Hobo formed by accident. During the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour, members of Clutch and Opeth would hang out and jam between sets. That sparked a friendship and eventually their self-titled album in 2008, which I ranked very high in my Top 10 list that year. Their second album, Mauga, is also very good and worth checking out, especially if you like Clutch, “stoner bands,” or “jam bands.”

The opening track on Mauga is “Hobo Ride” which immediately became one of my favorite songs from this year. The title track and “King Blues” are also good ones to try.

Finishing off my Top 10 list is another band that I wasn’t aware of until this year, Whitechapel. Apparently, their 2019 album, the Valley, is their 7th studio album. Who knew? Well, actually a good friend of mine knew and she texted me about one of their songs and she said it was “depressing as Hell. It’s amazing.” She got my attention. I watched the video. It was very emotional. It “went there” in ways that I’m not used to seeing. It was actually a very graphic video, which she warned me about. But, based on that, I wanted to see/hear more. I got the album and listened to the whole thing. Wow. They have a new fan. They’re classified as Deathcore and Progressive. That’s a weird combination for bands, but it works for them.

If my vague description of the Valley didn’t do enough for you, check out their video for the song that my friend recommended to me, “When a Demon Defiles a Witch.” But, be warned that it deals with serious stuff. My other favorite song from the album is “Doom Woods.”

Other albums that were in consideration for my Top 10, but just didn’t make it were Le Butcheretts’ bi/Mental, Corpse Flower from Mike Patton and Jean Claude Vannier, Signs by the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Agonizing Love from Lonesome Wyatt (from Those Poor Bastards).

The Black Keys put out Let’s Rock during 2019 and I just think it’s very forgettable. That’s a shame, because I’ve really liked their albums up until this point. I saw them in concert this year and the new songs didn’t win me over.

I became aware of Jinjer during the year and liked one song that I heard. I got the album, Macro, and thought it sounded too much like other bands that I’ve heard. I lost interest quickly.

Imperial Teen’s second album Now We Are Timeless really isn’t timeless.

I’m not too aware of which bands will be putting out new albums in 2020. I believe Paradise Lost and Clutch may have ones. I’m hoping to discover a new band or two during the year. Who knows, maybe social media ads will work again. But, I hope that 2020 gives me a few good albums to enjoy. If any of them are half as good as some of the ones in this year’s Top 10, I won’t have much to complain about.

A note about eligibility for my 2019 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2019.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

2018 Album of the Year

1- Ghost – Prequelle
2- Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
3- Ministry – Amerikkkant
4- Amorphis – Queen of Time
5- The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Poor Until Payday
6- Bloodbath – the Arrow of Satan is Drawn
7- Muse – Simulation Theory
8- Those Poor Bastards – Inhuman Nature
9- William Elliott Whitmore – Kilonova
10 – Mayan – Dhyana

If you’re surprised by my choice for Best Album of the Year, well so am I. Even though I saw Ghost live back in 2012, I barely paid attention to them that night or at all ever since. Not long ago, I put a metal station on the TV in the living room to entertain my parrots. A song from Ghost’s new album came on and they went nuts. They loved it. The song was “Faith” and every time I heard it, I liked it more and more. I listened to a few more songs from the album and liked them too. So, I finally bought a copy. I don’t know the last time an album from a band that I’ve never listened to before got to me like this one did. I really feel that Prequelle is one of the best albums from beginning to end that I’ve heard in a very long time. I don’t think there’s a bad track on it. I’ve also recently read articles about the story behind the band and I’m all in. I’m almost upset that I didn’t pay attention to them in the days of Papa Emeritus I, II, or III. But, I am amused by Cardinal Copia.

Although I said that I didn’t think there was a bad song on the album, if I had to pick just a few to sample, I would suggest “Rats,” “Faith,” “See the Light,” “Dance Macabre,” and “Pro Memoria.”

Clutch’s Book of Bad Decisions had to grow on me a little bit. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was good, but not close to their best work. But, it I liked it more and more with each listen. Songs like “Gimme the Keys,” and “Spirit of ’76” stood out from the start, while “In Walks Barbarella” ranks as one of their all-time best songs. “Hot Bottom Feeders” is a hysterical song about making crab cakes, and the video is definitely worth checking out. “Loralei” is a song that I was iffy on at first, but seeing it done live made me like a lot. If you’re a fan of Clutch’s “Pure Rock Fury” style, you’ll love their mix of “Weaponized Funk” on this album.

There is significant evidence to show that Ministry puts out their best albums when a Republican is President of the United States. And furthermore, the less that Ministry likes that President, the better the music is. Amerikkkant is a good example of that. Ministry’s frontman, Al Jourgensen is not a fan of the current President, which is quite obvious by the lyrics of the majority of songs on this album. If you don’t believe me, check out the songs “Twilight Zone,” “Victim of a Clown,” and “We’re Tired of It.”

A few years ago I had given up on Amorphis. They put out a few albums in a row that just bored me. At the insistence of a friend, I listened to their 2015 album, Under the Red Cloud and was very impressed by it. I actually ranked that album as the 6th Best of 2015. Their latest record, Queen of Time is just as good, or maybe even slightly better, since I’m ranking as 4th Best of 2018. It’s difficult for a band to have a unique sound that doesn’t seem cliche for themselves after a while. I felt they were going that way, but they’re back on a good path. “The Bee,” “Daughter of Hate,” “Heart of the Giant,” and especially “Amongst the Stars” are my favorite tracks from this album.

I’ve been a fan of the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band ever since I saw them as an opener for Clutch about 10 years ago. As much as I liked them then, they’ve become so much better of the years. Reverend Peyton’s guitar work is amazing and it’s a shame that he’s not well known. He’s that good. Their most recent album, Poor Until Payday is a great example of how good he is. Some of my favorite tracks from the album include the title track, “You Can’t Steal My Shine,” “Dirty Swerve,” and “It Is or It Ain’t.”

Bloodbaths’s the Arrow of Satan is Drawn is basically what you should expect from the Death Metal Supergroup. It’s a brutal Death Metal album. It’s exactly what I would want it to be, and a little more. “Old Nick” returned for a second album on vocals with the group and I love how rejuvenated his experience in this band and Paradise Lost. My favorite tracks on this album include “Bloodicide,” “Wayward Samartan,” “Deader” and “March of the Crucifiers.”

Muse’s Simulation Theory is the album that I ranked as the 7th Best of 2018. I think it’s good in 2018 and it would also sound great if it came out in the mid-1980s. It has almost a “New Wave” feel to it. This band is consistent in their quality and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live a few times. I’ve never been disappointed. “Algorithm,” “the Dark Side,” and “Thought Contagion” are the songs I recommend checking out from this album.

Those Poor Bastards may be the only band to have appeared on my Top 10 list more than once (three times to be exact) that I’ve never seen in concert. I don’t think they tour often, and if they do, they certainly don’t come to my area. Their latest album, Inhuman Nature, is just what I wanted from them: A miserably depressing album with their unique Gothic, Country, and Doom sounds. Check out the songs “Snake Tongued Deceiver,” “Cult of Lonliness,” “Heap Bad Medicine,” and “Lonely Dreams.”

Like the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, I first became aware of William Elliott Whitmore when I saw him open for Clutch. Usually, it’s just him and his banjo, but on Kilonova, he has some extra musicians on some of the tracks. The songs on the album are all cover songs, and they’re done very well. Whitmore’s style is very traditional folk and blues. I’m hoping to see him in concert again sometime soon so I can see some of the songs from this album, such as “Fear of Trains,” “Busted,” and “Run Johnny Run” done live.

I have to give YouTube credit for the 10th Best Album of 2018. A suggestion on YouTube one day was a video from Symphonic Death Metal Band MaYan’s album, Dhyana. I had never heard of them, but I checked them out and I liked it. The fact that one of the female singers in the group is Marcela Bovio helped, since I’m fan of her work with Ayreon and Stream of Passion. Songs on the album range from under 3 minutes to over 9 minutes. It’s a good blend of various musicians and styles. If you like Symphonic Death Metal, you should check MaYan out. Try “the Rhythm of Freedom,” “Saints Don’t Die,” and “the Illusory Self” as tracks to start with.

Some albums that didn’t crack the top 10, but were under consideration include Madball’s For the Cause, the Pineapple Thief’s Dissolution, and BillyBio’s Feed the Fire.

Florence & the Machine’s High as Hope, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ Tearing at the Seams, Sick of it All’s Wake the Sleeping Dragon, and Buddy Guy’s the Blues is Alive and Well didn’t keep my interest or just flat out bored me.

I know that Within Temptation will have a new album in 2019. I believe Lacuna Coil will as well. Life of Agony could be recording a new record soon. Other than that, I don’t know who could possibly be appearing on next year’s list. I’m hoping for some surprises. I would also really love for a band that I didn’t have any interest in, like Ghost, to win me over with something that I consider as good as Prequelle. We’ll see what happens in 2019.

A note about eligibility for my 2018 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2018.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

2017 Album of the Year


1- Paradise Lost – Medusa
2- Blondie – Pollinator
3- Depeche Mode – Spirit
4- Life of Agony – a Place Where There’s No More Pain
5- Dead Cross – Dead Cross
6- Butcher Babies – Lilith
7- Arch Enemy – Will to Power
8- Fozzy – Judas
9- Scott H. Biram – the Bad Testament
10- Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy

Paradise Lost need to retire.
Yes, that’s how I’m starting off my Album of the Year post. Yes, that’s how I’m talking about the band responsible for the album that I believe is the best album to come out in 2017. The reason I say they need to retire is that their sound has gone full circle. The evolution of Paradise Lost from beginning to now makes a lot of sense if you listen to their albums in order. You may be confused if you skip around without prior knowledge of their changes. Medusa’s sound is very much like their original sound. That does not mean they’ve regressed, it means they just got back to the sound. And I’m glad they did. This album has a great mix of death metal vocals and clean vocals. It also has the signature doomy sound from the guitars that Paradise Lost is known for. I don’t know where they can go from here. They keep reinventing themselves and genres, but what’s left? If you’re a fan of Paradise Lost and you haven’t heard this record, you’re really missing out.

Some of the better tracks on Medusa include “the Longest Winter,” “Shrines,” “No Passage for the Dead,” and especially “Fearless Sky.” I’ve joked that “Fearless Sky” is the best Opeth song to be released in 10 years. It’s over 8 minutes long and it takes me on a slow musical rollercoaster. It’s a great song.

I don’t know if I could praise Blondie’s Pollinator enough. Like Medusa, it’s reminiscent of its band’s early work. Blondie has been around since the mid-1970s and there’s songs on this album that will most definitely be a “best of” compilation one day. It’s just a damn good record. It starts off with “Doom or Destiny” which reminds of their hit “Call Me” with the tempo. It has a few good songs after that one, my favorite song on the album, “Fun” comes on. It sounds like it could have come out during the end of the disco era, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Just like I said about Paradise Lost’s Medusa, if you’re a fan of Blondie and you haven’t heard this one, you’re really missing out.

“Long Time,” “Too Much,” and “Love Level” are also some of my favorite tracks from Pollinator. “Love Level” also features the What Cheer? Brigade as the horn section. They’re a fun act to see.

Depeche Mode’s Spirit is a bit political. But, it resonates with me. And it resonated enough to be ranked as the 3rd best Album of the Year. “Going Backwards” is the opening track and it is a damning view of the world’s political scene as it currently is. The album continues to strike chords about the direction of the world, but with the classic Depeche Mode sound.

“Going Backwards” is my favorite track from the album. I think it’s the most damning song I’ve heard about the current state of the world. “Poor Man” is another song that I relate to. “Where’s the Revolution?” and “Poison Heart” are also worth checking out.

Life of Agony hadn’t put out an album of new songs since 2005. Their 2017 release, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, picked up right where they left off. It’s like they didn’t miss a beat. Of course, they had been touring on and off since then, but that doesn’t necessarily mean new material would be good. In this case, the songs are good. They didn’t play a lot of the new songs during their 2017 tour, and honestly I like the album enough that maybe if I had heard a few more of them done live, I may have ranked this album higher. Live performances can make a difference sometimes, but regardless of that, they put out a damn good album.

“Meet My Maker,” “A New Low,” “Right the Wrong,” and the title track are some of my favorites from this album and I think they fit in with the Life of Agony catalog very well.

Mike Patton has appeared in my Top 10 lists with Faith No More, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, and his Mondo Cane project. He’s one here again with Dead Cross. I never know what to expect with Patton. Dead Cross’s sound is a mixture of punk, thrash metal, and grind core. With Patton screaming and growling throughout most of the album, it just works. I saw them perform this album in its entirety in September and it was worth it. I’ve never seen Mike Patton so aggressive on stage.

The album starts off with “Seizure and Desist,” which I really enjoy. I also really like their cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But, I think my favorite track is “Shillelagh.” It’s probably the best example of what Dead Cross is. This album may not be for everyone, but if you’re a Mike Patton fan, it’s worth checking out.

I had never heard anything from Butcher Babies until a few months ago. They were recommended to me and I sought out a few songs. I was impressed. I noticed they had a new album coming out and I ordered a copy. I was even more impressed. I have no idea how they had escaped my radar. Their album Lilith is one that I will definitely be listening to for a long time. I’ve already listened to it A LOT. Their sound is a heavy and guitar driven. They have two female singers and I really enjoy how they trade back and forth.

“Burn the Straw Man” opens the album and blew me away. The title track “Lilith” is the second track and I had heard that before I got the album because they had a video for it. They continued with “Headspin,” which I really like, but the 4th track, “Korova” is probably my favorite track. Give them a listen.

It’s because I like bands such as Arch Enemy that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Butcher Babies before. Arch Enemy also put out an album in 2017, Will to Power. This is their second studio release with Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. As I said about her debut with them, I think she’s breathed new life into them. I know some fans weren’t happy that she incorporated clean (non-growl) vocals into one track, “Reason to Believe,” but I liked it. It was not expected and it works with the Arch Enemy sound. It’s my favorite song on the album.

Other tracks I really like include “Dreams of Retribution,” “the Race,” and “the World is Yours.”

Chris Jericho is a promotional genius. He knows how to get his name out there and how to get attention on himself. He had been playing the title track from his band Fozzy’s new album, Judas, on his podcast for months before it was released. I didn’t mind because it’s a good song. He was able to market the album in a way that I was very excited about the release date. Fozzy is consistently good. I’ve ranked them in my lists a few times.

“Burn Me Out,” “Drinking with Jesus,” and “Weight of My World” are other favorite of mine from this album.

I don’t know why Scott H. Biram’s the Bad Testament took a while to grow on me. But, once it did, I realized how damn good it is. Maybe I was thinking it would sound differently, but what I got was an album that reminded me of (what I think are) his best albums the Dirty Old One Man Band and Graveyard Shift. Those two albums were the first things I heard from him after I had been introduced to his act after I saw him open for Clutch. What I like about Biram’s stuff is that while each album is good by itself, I can put his catalog on random and just lose myself in his blues/country/punk style. That’s needed sometimes.

I know I’m saying this a lot, but if you’re a fan of Scott H. Biram, you need to hear this album. Some of tracks that stand out (more than others) to me include “Set Me Free,” “Still Around,” “Train Wrecker,” “Crippled & Crazy,” and “True Religion.”

2015’s 10th best album was A Raw Youth from Le Butcherettes. I saw them open for Faith No More and I was intrigued. Their singer, Terri Gender Bender is a captivating performer. She’s different. Along with some other people on the Ipecac Records label, she formed Crystal Fairy, and their debut album is this year’s 10th best album. They have a heavy sound and her vocal style ranges from singing, to screaming, to screeching, none of which is bad.

I recommend “Chiseler,” “Necklace of Divorce,” the title track “Crystal Fairy,” and “Secret Agent Rat” as songs worth trying.

A few albums that were good, but just didn’t crack my Top 10 list include Steven Wilson’s To the Bone, the Front Porch Sessions by the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.

Some notes about other albums from the year:
Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new project VUUR released their debut album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. She’s my favorite female voice in music, but this album didn’t draw me in.

Anathema’s the Optimist starts off great, but lost my interest.

Moonspell put out 1775. But, all the lyrics are in Portuguese. I couldn’t follow along.

Ayreon’s the Source was a major disappointment.

Blackfield V was just boring.

Gov’t Mule’s Revolution Come, Revolution Go has good stuff on it, but it nothing too special.

Gregg Allman released what will likely be his final album, Southern Blood. He died during the year and that made this album difficult for me to listen to. There’s definitely good songs on it, but some of them deal with his impending demise and that made it too real. Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band meant so much to me for so long. I wish this album wasn’t his last.

Neither Garbage nor Muse released new albums in 2017, but they both released one new song. “No Horses” and “Dig Down,” respectively. Both songs are fantastic and make me look forward to their next albums.

I know Clutch and Lacuna Coil have new albums being worked on and I think both will be relased in 2018. Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, Delirium, was my album of the year. I really hope they follow up with something good. I guess time will tell.

A note about eligibility for my 2017 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2017
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

2016 Album of the Year


1- Lacuna Coil – Delirium
2- Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
3- Opeth – Sorceress
4- Katatonia – the Fall of Hearts
5- Heaven Shall Burn – Wanderer
6- Garbage – Strange Little Birds
7- Those Poor Bastards – Sing it Ugly
8- Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct
9- Eric Clapton – I Still Do
10- Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

I’m genuinely proud that I’ve been able to announce my 2016 Album of the Year is going to Lacuna Coil’s Delirium. I have wanted to give this award to Lacuna Coil before, and I came close with 2012’s Dark Adrenaline , but they were just edged out by Katatonia’s Dead End Kings, and I mean JUST edged out.  I ranked Lacuna Coil’s 2014 album, Broken Crown Haloat number 10. It was okay, but not great. When I first heard tracks on Delirium, I was taken aback a bit. I was surprised by the sound. With a slightly modified lineup, the album was louder, heavier, and more aggressive than Lacuna Coil had been in years. Their male singer, Andrea Ferro was performing growling death metal style vocals for the first time since their early demo tapes, while their female singer, Cristina Scabbia’s voice was hitting ranges I hadn’t heard before.

Not long after the album came out, I saw Lacuna Coil perform live. I got to see some of the new songs in person for the first time and was BLOWN AWAY. That’s when I realized that Delirium was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for. It just fits perfectly. While other bands, such as Paradise Lost, have also embraced their death metal beginnings , so has Lacuna Coil, and both bands have blended those sounds together flawlessly with what they had done in since those days. Again, this is the album I’ve waited for from them. And having been friendly with members of the band for a few years, I’m so proud to finally be able to say they’ve got my Album of the Year.

Tracks I recommend listening to from Delirium include “the House of Shame,” “You Love Me ‘Cause I Hate You,” “Blood, Tears, Dust,” “Ghost in the Mist,” and the title track “Delirium.” I also seriously recommend their cover of Madonna’s “Live to Tell.” But, if there’s one song on the album stands out to as unique, it’s “Take Me Home.” That one definitely threw me off at first, but easily stood out as a favorite quickly.

I’ve said this before, but bands in the “Gothenburg Sound” genre have all fallen by the wayside and have mostly become impossible to listen to. Except one:
Dark Tranquillity has not only not fallen by the wayside, they’ve remained consistent to what their sound is and put out album after album of quality music. Atoma is another example of a great album from them. Before the album came out, they flooded YouTube with new videos from the album. As I heard each one, I got more and more excited about the album. And, like Lacuna Coil, I got to see songs from this album performed live early on, and they fit perfectly into the show. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re one of the most fun bands I’ve ever seen live. I’ve said they’re the “Happiest Death Metal Band” ever. Go see them live and you’ll understand.

Songs that stand out to me from Atoma include the title track, “Encircled,” “Forward Momentum,” “the Pitiless,” and “Our Proof of Life.”

I’ve always liked the ride that Opeth albums took me on. Their brutal death metal sound and their more mellow approach during songs were often a roller coaster for me. When they started to downplay the death metal and then outright abandon it on their albums, I felt I didn’t go on that ride anymore, ot at the very least, it was a different ride. Sorceress is their third album without any death metal vocals on it, and I feel it’s the first one that successfully takes me on the ride I’ve wanted from them without that style of vocals. And they’ve pretty much said the same thing, this is the album that they’ve found where they want to be now. And also, like the new Lacuna Coil songs, I saw some of the new Opeth songs performed live and they fit right into the show. Opeth may be where I want them to be again.

Songs I recommend from Sorceress include the title track, “the Wilde Flowers,” “Will O the Wisp,” and “Strange Brew.”

In all of the years that I’ve been doing these lists, I’ve never ranked at Katatonia album lower than third. That is, until now. Katatonia’s the Fall of Hearts is my 4th Best Album of 2016. The album is very good. The songs that stand out are great songs. But, there’s a few factors in them being ranked at only 4. The first one is that the albums ahead of them are THAT good. The second is that while the songs that are good are very good, the other songs are not as good. I said that seeing Lacuna Coil, Dark Tranquillity, and Opeth perform some of their new songs live helped win me over if it was necessary. Katatonia hasn’t toured the United States for this album yet. I think it’s possible I would have thought more of this album if I had seen songs done live. 4th Best Album of the Year isn’t bad, by any means. But, for a band that I’ve given Album of the Year to in 2009 and 2012, I have certain expectations. They weren’t necessarily met here.

The songs that I feel are the real good ones from the Fall of Hearts include “Takeover,” “Serein,” “Sanction,” “Last Song Before the Fade,” “Decima,” and especially “Old Hearts Fall.” And if you get a chance to hear their cover of Judas Priest’s “Night Comes Down” I definitely suggest you do.

Not only had I forgotten about Heaven Shall Burn, I didn’t even know they had a new album out in 2016. I hadn’t heard anything new from them since 2008. I looked them upo one day and saw they had a new album called Wanderer. I saw the video for “Bring the War Home” and had to heard more. I ordered the album and when I got it, I heard some of the angrist, most agressive, brutal, and good new music I’ve heard in a long time. I got the special edition which had a second disc over cover songs. Some of the songs on that were some of my favorite songs from some of my favorite bands. I was completely won over. I’ve never seen Heaven Shall Burn play live. I had tickets to see them back in maybe 2008, but for various reasons, they canceled the show. Maybe one day I’ll tell that story in a blog.

If you feel the need to listen to some angry music, listen to “the Loss of Fury,” “Bring the War Home,” “Downshifter,” and “Save Me.” If you want to hear some interesting takes on Paradise Lost and Life of Agony songs, listen to the “True Belief” and “River Runs Red.”

I like Garbage. What can I say? Before you make any snide remarks, I’m talking about Garbage, the band. Strange Little Birds is the second album they’ve put out since they got back together in 2012 and it’s a solid record. It is definitely Garbage. And when I say that, it’s a good thing. The opening track is “Sometimes.” It reminds me a lot of their early b-sides and rare songs, which immediately made me excited to hear more. And from that song, the album goes right into “Empty,” which is a solid candidate for a “best of” album one day. Garbage is consistent. They’re Garbage. That’s what I like about them.

In addition to the songs I’ve mentioned, I really like “If I Lost You,” “Even Though Our Love is Doomed,” and “So We Can Stay Alive.”

Those Poor Bastards are a band with a unique sound. I don’t have many albums from their library, but the two that have come out since I’ve been listening to them have both been ranked in my Top 10. 2014’s Vicious Losers and now, 2016’s Sing it Ugly at number 7. I haven’t ever seen this band live, and without question, they’re at the top of my list of acts I would like to see. I find whatever I’ve heard from them to be unique and seriously different for a modern band.

“No Light,” “Unwanted,” “Headed Nowhere,” “Ten Ton Hammer,” and “Sorry for Everything” are the songs that I listen to the most from this record.

Sometimes I just want to hear a good straight-up Blues album. I don’t want fancy Blues with lots of bells and whistles. I feel that takes away from what I’m supposed to feel with the Blues. Eric Clapton has been guilty of putting out albums with bells and whistles, but in recent years he’s returned to the roots of the Blues. And his album, “I Still Do” is a good example of that and is my 8th Best Album of 2016. There is much more I can say to talk about with this album. It’s just a good Blues album, which should be a good enough description.

I like “Alabama Woman Blues,” “Spiral,” and “Cypress Grove” on this album as the standouts.

I am not the biggest Metallica fan and I probably never will be. But, I do like them. To be clear, I like them when they put out a good album. Their critics are right, they’ve put out some bad ones over the past 20 years. But, they seem to have found themselves again. The 9th Best Album of 2016 is Metallica’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. It sounds like Metallica. It doesn’t sound like Metallica trying to be Metallica again. It just sounds like Metallica. That probably makes sense to some of you.

“Hardwired,” “Moth into Flames,” and “ManUNkind” are my favorite tracks from this record.

The 10th Best Album and the last one on my list is Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker. Sadly, Mr. Cohen died right after this album was release. But, if you listen to it, he was aware his days were coming to an end. He’s always been very aware of depression and darkness, which was why I liked him. This album is a great farewell for him and from him. He went out well.

The title track, “Treaty,” “Steer Your Way,” and “If I Didn’t Have Your Love” are the songs I would play to someone to hear the best from this album.

Some albums that didn’t crack my Top 10, but were close include Let Me Get By from Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Dion’s New York is My Home, and Michael Kiwanuka’s Love & Hate.

Steven Wilson put out 4 1/2 in 2016 and it probably would have been ranked high, if it wasn’t just unreleased and re-done versions of some of his older songs. But, because it’s not necessarily new material, it wasn’t eligible.

Mike Patton joined a few other people as Nevermen and put out an album. Like much of what Patton does, I don’t know what to make of it. It’s good, but I don’t know how often I’ll ever think of a song from this album I need to hear.

And I have to make a note of David Bowie’s Blackstar. Like Leonard Cohen, Bowie knew he was dying and released one last album, which happened to come out two days before his death. I don’t know how much attention this album would have received if it wasn’t for the sad circumstances. There’s a few songs on it that I really like, but I just couldn’t rank it. Die-hard Bowie fans may feel differently, and I respect that, but it just didn’t do it for me.

2016 was a pretty good year for new music. My Top 5 albums could all have been #1 in other years. I don’t know of many new albums coming out in 2017, but I’m looking forward to a new one from Clutch. I also can’t wait to hear what the new Life of Agony album, which should be very interesting. I’m also very anxious to hear Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new band, VUUR. We’ll see how these all rank next year.

A note about eligibility for my 2016 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2016
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

2015 Album of the Year


1- Faith No More – Sol Invictus
2- Paradise Lost – the Plague Within
3- Clutch – Psychic Warfare
4- Moonspell – Extinct
5- Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase
6- Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud
7- Florence & the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
8- Muse – Drones
9 – Warren Haynes – Ashes & Dust
10- Le Butcherettes – A Raw Youth

If you know me, you know Faith No More is my all-time favorite band, but just because they put out their first album of new material since 1997 they were not promised the top spot in my list. In fact, it was pretty close. I gave serious consideration to each of the top 4 albums as a possible Album of the Year. However, Faith No More’s Sol Invictus did in fact get the prize.

Despite having heard a few songs from Sol Invictus prior to its release and really enjoying them, I was iffy when I first heard the album. I wasn’t sure if it was a really good Faith No More album I was listening to or if it was an excellent Tomahawk album. Of course, Tomahawk being another project from Faith No More’s Mike Patton. But, I couldn’t stop listening to Sol Invictus. And the more I listened, the more I liked it. It’s THAT good. Tracks 4 and 5, “Separation Anxiety” and “Cone of Shame” may be the best 1-2 punch of songs they’ve had since “Caffeine” and “Midlife Crisis” from 1992’s Angel Dust. I could seriously go on and on about this album, but I have others to discuss here as well. Trust me, Sol Invictus is THAT good.

If I had to pick out just a few tracks that showcase the diversity of Faith No More better than others do from this album, I would say “Superhero,” “Separation Anxiety,” “Cone of Shame,” “Motherfucker,” and “Matador.” But, the rest of the album does a good job of it too.

So, how can I praise Sol Invictus so much and say that other albums has such a good chance of getting the top spot? It’s easy, the other albums were also THAT GOOD. Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes stopped doing death metal growl vocals over 20 years ago. When he stepped in as the frontman in Bloodbath last year, he returned to that style. Then Paradise Lost recorded a new album and I was curious to see if he would incorporate that style with Paradise Lost once again. He did. And it was great. The first track on the Plague Within was “No Hope in Sight” and it was released a few weeks before the album was. I must have watched the video for it on YouTube dozens of times. I couldn’t get enough of it.  The mixture of growls and clean vocals was exactly what Paradise Lost needed to remind the world that the whole death metal thing, it’s theirs. If you’ve ever listened to Paradise Lost and have not heard the Plague Within, I strongly urge you to get a copy. You won’t be disappointed.

Tracks worth checking out on this album include:
“No Hope in Sight,” “An Eternity of Lies,” “Victim of the Past,” and “Cry Out.”

Clutch’s Psychic Warfare threw a monkey wrench into my list. It came out later in the year than some of other albums. I was starting to figure out what order I would be ranking things and then this album happened. If you want to talk about “1-2” punches, “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds” delivers that very well. But, Clutch often does that. This album is a great example of Clutch’s Pure Rock Fury style of music that sprinkles in some of their more bluesy songs as well. Just like I said about Paradise Lost, if you’re a fan of Clutch and haven’t heard Psychic Warfare you’re missing out.

Some top tracks that I haven’t already discussed include “A Quick Death in Texas,” “Son of Virginia,” “Noble Savage,” and the track that is currently my favorite on the album, “Our Lady of Electric Light.”

Moonspell has been so consistently good over the past 10 years. They were awarded my album of the year in 2008 and were in my top 10 two other times since I started doing this list. This year’s album from them, Extinct is another album that easily could have been #1. It’s THAT good. From the first song “Breathe (Until We Are No More)” all the way to the last song, the quite different “La Baphomette,” there isn’t a track I haven’t wanted to hear. In fact, some of the songs on this album rank among some of my favorite songs from Moonspell.

In addition to the songs I’ve mentioned, listen to “Extinct,” “Domina,” “Funeral Bloom,” and especially “Malignia.”

I used to start off every review of an album Steven Wilson was a part of with the line “Steven Wilson is a genius.” Well, his genius wore thin on me. His former projects, Porcupine Tree and Blackfield went from being can’t miss albums to “ugh, what did I just listen to?” I wasn’t too into his solo work either. And don’t get me started on his Storm Corrosion project. However, I gave him another chance with Hand.Cannot.Erase. I could not be happier I did. In my opinion, this is easily the best album he’s released since Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet in 2007, which was my Album of the Year. It doesn’t get quite as heavy as Porcupine Tree stuff would, but it takes me for the ride that Porcupine Tree did, which is really what I’ve been hoping for in his solo work.

I recommend the title track, as well as “Perfect Life,” and “Routine” as tracks worth checking out.

I had completely given up on Amorphis. The last few records from them bored me to the point that I just didn’t want to listen to the band anymore. A friend had told me that they put out a new album and insisted I listen to it. I got a copy and I couldn’t believe what I listening to. It was basically everything I wanted Amorphis to be again. Seriously! I don’t like using the term “return to form,” but it’s true in their case. This album Under the Red Cloud is just good. I know I’ve been repeating myself a bit here, but if you’re an Amorphis fan and, like me, you gave up on them, give them another chance.

The title track, “Sacrifice,” and especially “Death of a King” are the tracks to check out on Under the Red Cloud.

Florence & the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is just one of those albums I like. They’re a well-polished machine, see what I did there? Their albums are well produced and I just really like Florence Welch’s singing voice. I have to admit to being a bit surprised when I saw the video for “What Kind of Man.” The only thing I’ll say about it here is that it’s on the “NSFW” side. Go watch it if you want to. You’ll know what I mean.

“Ship to Wreck,” “Third Eye,” and “Make Up Your Mind” are also tracks that I like.

Muse is another very consistent band that I enjoy listening to. Since I first got into them a few years ago they’ve put out a few albums and they’ve all appeared on my Top 10 list. 2015’s Drones is just like their previous releases in that it’s just really good. It’s one of those things that I can’t really describe, but it’s known when it’s heard. They have the “it factor.”

My favorite tracks on the album include “Dead Inside,” “Psycho,” and “Mercy.”

I like “Porch Music.” What that means is the type of blues/bluegrass/country style that is simple, stripped down, and somewhat relaxing to listen to. Warren Haynes’ Ashes & Dust is one of the best examples of that style that I’ve heard in a very long time. I also really like how, with a full band behind him, he was able to create such a basic sound on this album. It’s so very folk like in its core, yet it still rocks. Listen to it and it’ll make sense. Trust me.

“Company Man,” “Stranded in Self-Pity,” and without question “Is it Me or You” are the tracks to check out from this record.

I had never heard of Le Butcherettes before this year. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single song from them at all before I saw them as the opening act for Faith No More in May. I was very captivated by their stage presence. They’re singer, Teri Gender Bender has an interesting way of conducting herself while performing. Basically, after seeing them live I decided to check out their newest record, A Raw Youth. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I liked it more than I thought I would and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

“Witchless C Spot” is my favorite song from the album, but other favorites include “Shave the Pride,” Lonely & Drunk,” and “Reason to Die Young.”

And now that I’ve covered my Top 10 Albums of 2015, here’s some notes on some other releases:

While Faith No More’s first album since 1997 didn’t disappoint me, another of my favorite groups from the mid-90s, Veruca Salt’s new album really did. I saw them on their reunion tour in 2014 and it was perfect. It was so much fun and exactly as good as I expected. I was excited to hear they were putting out a new album, Ghost Notes, but it did NOTHING for me. I really can’t stress that enough. It’s just disappointing.

William Elliot Whitmore’s Radium Death and the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band’s So Delicious were both strong choices for the top 10, but were just a little short.

Anneke van Giersbergen is my favorite female singer. And I usually like stuff that Arjen Lucassen produces, but not even her singing could stop their Gentle Storm project from boring me.

I hadn’t listened to Leaves’ Eyes in many year. I found out they put out a new album, so I gave it a listen. To me, it sounded like they’re trying to be Therion now. I don’t know if that’s the direction they were going in for a while, but their newest album, King of Kings, also did nothing for me.

I don’t mind country music when it’s good. I definitely prefer the more classic stuff. I also didn’t mind when Kid Rock went in more of a country direction. I ranked 15 albums in 2015 and Kid Rock’s Rebel Soul made the list in the 15th spot. It was good enough, but lacked the power I was used to from him. Whatever power was left 3 years ago was certainly not on this year’s album, First Kiss. I listened to it all the way through one time. I had no desire to go back. That says something for his direction, and it’s not good.

I guess it doesn’t matter how many times Nightwish changes singers if they’re not going to put out a good album, does it? Yeah, that’s how much I didn’t like their new album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

The Screaming Females, Iron Maiden, and Doug MacLeod also had releases in 2015, and they were just okay.

2016 could be very interesting for this list. I believe Katatonia could be putting out a new album. Since I’ve been doing this list, they’ve been awarded with Album of the Year twice, but with a few lineup changes, they may be a bit different. Their singer, Jonas Renkse teamed up with Bruce Soord to put out Wisdom of Crowds in 2013, which was also album of the year. I believe they’ll also be putting out another album in 2016. I also know Lacuna Coil will have a new album and I want it to (at least) as good as 2012’s Broken Crown Halo, which was my runner up that year. I also look forward to the new Tedeschi-Trucks Band record. I hope it’s a good year.

A note about eligibility for my 2015 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2015
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material

2014 Album of the Year


1- Mushroomhead – the Righteous and the Butterfly
2- The Black Keys – Turn Blue
3- Those Poor Bastards – Vicious Losers
4- Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral
5- Fozzy – Do You Wanna Start a War?
6- Scott H. Biram – Nothin’ But Blood
7- Within Temptation – Hydra
8- Arch Enemy – War Eternal
9- Opeth – Pale Communion
10- Lacuna Coil – Broken Crown Halo

Mushroomhead’s the Righteous and the Butterfly was dedicated to two of their fallen friends and they did them proud. From beginning to end, the album did not disappoint me. In fact, there’s not a single track on the album that I dislike. And also considering the lineup changes and the fact that their old singer J. Mann returned while not replacing his replacement Waylon, just joining him and Jeffrey Nothing to make Mushroomhead have three vocalists made it a very interesting dynamic. Their album prior to this one, 2010’s Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children was a weaker effort for them. The Righteous and the Butterfly is a great return to form and then some. And besides, they covered Adele’s “Rumor Has It,” which is a must hear.

Tracks I highly recommend hearing on this album include “Our Apologies,” “How Many Times,” “Qwerty,” “Portraits of the Poor,” “Childlike,” “We Are the Truth,” and “Rumor Has It.”

In early June I went for a long ride in my car and the Black Keys’ Turn Blue was the soundtrack for that ride. It was the perfect soundtrack for the day and my mood. I’m somewhat new to the Black Keys, having only been listening to them for the last few years, but they’re good. I probably should look into their old albums. But, Turn Blue is one I think most people would like. It’s got a nice moden bluesy feel to it that I really appreciate.

I recommends songs such as “Weight of Love,” “In Time,” “Turn Blue,” “Waiting on Words,” and “Gotta Get Away.”

A few years ago Hank Williams III talked about his friends Those Poor Bastards on his Facebook page. I downloaded am album and occasionally listed to it. Maybe two months ago I decided to really give it a listen and it just clicked with me. I decided to see if they had any newer releases and to my pleasant surprise, they had a new album out. I ordered it and haven’t stopped listening to it and this group has shot up to the top of my list of bands I would like to see live. Their style is described as “miserable and primitive old-time gothic country music.” That sounds good to me, literally and figuratively. If any of this sounds interesting, check out Vicious Losers.

Some of the better tracks from Vicious Losers include “I am Lost,” “Give Me Drugs,” “Lonely Man,” “Trouble at Home,” and “Born to Preach.”

Bloodbath’s Grand Morbid Funeral is their third consecutive album with a new singer. On this album, they went deep into their Death Metal roots and got Nick Holmes from Paradise Lost to return to his own Death Metal roots and be the new singer. Once I heard that news I was IMMEDIATELY interested in this album. Seriously, how could an album featuring members of Katatonia, Opeth, and now Paradise Lost disappoint? Well, it didn’t. It’s just pure Death Metal at its best. If you’ve ever been a fan of the genre, and even if you’ve fallen out of it, this is an album you need to hear. Holmes was able to belt out some good growls that we haven’t heard from him in nearly 20 years.

I suggest “Let the Stillborn Come to Me,” “Anne,” “Church of Vastitas,” “Beyond Cremation,” and “Unite in Pain” as good sample tracks.

Some people still don’t take Fozzy seriously just because it’s a band featuring a professional wrestler as its singer. Well, I can honestly say that I may not have given them a chance if that connection didn’t exist. But, I’ve been listening to them almost since day one and they’re damn good. Chris Jericho’s vocal range is not as appreciated as it should be. He’s very influenced by hard rock bands of the 1980s, but he’s able to sing a bit more than just their style of music. There’s been some lineup changes since their formation, but Fozzy pretty much started off as Stuck Mojo with Chris Jericho singing, but even with those changes, the integrity of their style has remained intact. They appeared in my Top 10 Albums List in 2010 and they’re back now in 2014 with Do You Wanna Start a War.

“Do You Wanna Start a War,” “Lights Go Out,” and their cover of ABBA’s “SOS” are some of the better tracks on this album.

I’ve been listening to Scott H. Biram for almost a full decade now. His songs range from straight up Southern Blues to Hellbilly to Punk. And he’s yet to release an album that I didn’t like. Nothin’ But Blood is no exception to that rule. This album has a mix of everything I just described. Sometimes it’s very nice to listen to something that doesn’t have a lot of production and effects. I appreciate and respect it. If you like an old fashioned Blues album with a mix of a few different influences, check out Biram and Nothin’ But Blood.

Tracks such as “Gotta Get to Heaven,” “Alcohol Blues,” “Jack of Diamonds,” “Church Point Girls,” and especially “Slow & Easy” are the highlights of this really solid album.

Within Temptation has an almost majestic sound to them. Hydra is not any different from their previous releases, in that aspect. They are one of two former Album of the Year winners to appear on this list, as 2011’s the Unforgiving won the award. Hydra is not necessarily weaker than the Unforgiving, but it didn’t pull me in as much as the Unforgiving. However, that doesn’t mean Hyrda is bad at all, obviously not, if it’s the 7th best of 2014. It’s definitely a Within Temptation album, and that’s a good thing.

“Let Us Burn,” “Paradise (What About Us),” “And We Run,” and “Covered by Roses” are some of the standout tracks, as well as their cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” which appears on the bonus disc.

Over the last years, Arch Enemy has been a band that I pretty much gave up on. It’s not that they put out any particularly bad albums, but I just lost interest in them. When I saw the news earlier in 2014 that their singer, Angela Gossow was stepping away and their new album, War Eternal would have a new singer Alissa White-Gluz, I thought I would give them another shot. Maybe they would be rejuvenated. Well, I was not disappointed. I had not liked an Arch Enemy album this much in years. Their musical style remained intact and White-Gluz fit right in to the vocal style perfectly. It also made me want to hear more of her catalog, and I may check that out as well.

“War Eternal,” “You Will Know My Name,” and ” As the Pages Burn” are my favorite tracks on this album.

Opeth, Opeth, Opeth….. Well, Pale Communion did not disappoint me. This was their first release since they’ve stopped doing Death Metal style vocals that I knew what I was getting into and didn’t miss it. That says a lot. Actually, Pale Communion makes me want to makes want to listen to the last two Opeth albums a bit more. It makes me dislike them less, because now they have more in their library that doesn’t have the Death Metal vocals and the “new” style is more focused. They’re definitely more of a progressive band than a death band now, and I don’t necessarily miss the old style anymore. I do admit that Pale Communion DID have to grow on me, but it did. And I do like it more with each listen.

My favorite tracks on Pale Communion are “Eternal Rains Will Come,” “Cusp of Eternity,” and “Voice of Treason.”

Lacuna Coil’s 2012 Dark Adrenaline was the best release they had in a decade. They followed it up with Broken Crown Halo, which was not as strong. When I first heard the name of the album, I thought it sounded like a Katatonia album without the ironic humor. But that doesn’t matter, the quality of the music does. And while it’s not a bad album, it doesn’t come close to their best work. I think it starts off great with “Nothing Stands in Our Way.” In fact, I had such incredible hopes when I first heard that track. The fact that there were some growling vocals on it got me a lot more interested in the rest of the album, but not only did they not reappear, the rest of the album didn’t live up to the opening track. I saw Lacuna Coil perform live in September and some of the songs of Broken Crown Halo were done in the show and they grew on me a little bit. The album is good enough to be in my Top 10, but they’ve done better.

Besides “Nothing Stands in Our Way” I recommend “Die & Rise” and “In the End I Feel Alive” as good tracks to hear.

So with my top 10 out of the way, that brings me to some other releases in 2014.

After waiting almost 20 years to see Downset live, I finally had the chance in July. The show was what I hoped it to be and I was 100% satisfied. They had a new album called One Blood with all new tracks. I got the album and gave it shot. It sounds exactly like their 1994 release. And while that should be a good thing, it isn’t. It’s too formulaic and cliche for them. I’m glad they’re back together and doing stuff, but this wasn’t great.

Anathema’s Weather Systems came out in 2012 and if it wasn’t for so many great albums that year, it would likely have been ranked higher than 4th on my list. It was that good, and so was 2012, in general, for new music. So, the anticipation for their 2014 album, Distant Satellites, was high. Not only did it not live up to the anticipation, it just annoyed me. There is only one track on it that really stood out, and it was for the wrong reasons. When I first heard “You’re Not Alone” I contacted some friends and told them the song sounded like Steven Wilson at his most pretentious. Later on, I found out that he actually produced that song, and it all made sense. Bottom line, Distant Satellites is not the best effort from Anathema.

There was also another new CD from Hank Williams III, but like some previous years, it’s just a money grab from his former record label. They keep releasing compilations of songs that he did on other things and making some money off of his name, so that album is not eligible for Album of the Year.

I don’t rank live albums on my list, but there were some damn good ones this year, including:
– Timeless by John Hammond
– All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman
– Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theater 1992 by the Allman Brothers Band
– Last Fair Day Gone Night from Katatonia

I am very much looking forward to 2015’s releases. I know that Clutch is working on new material and I look forward to that. Lacuna Coil has already discussed what direction they’re going in for their next album, and I hope it’s a good one. Nick Holmes has stated he’s been inspired by his work on Bloodbath and it’s possible that the next Paradise Lost record could have some more Death Metal elements in it. And that leads to the most anticipated release I’ve known of in a very long time. In early Spring, Faith No More will release their first new album since 1997. I am biased and I admit now that I hope it’s ranked #1 at this point next year. Although, I also hope it’s good enough to be there, but other albums make me question it.

A note about eligibility for my 2014 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2014
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material