A Round Up Of The Decade.

Intro:

Its getting to that time of the year where normally I’d make an album of the year list. However; this year I haven’t been buying many new releases, focusing more on boxsets of older bands and filling in missing pieces in my existing music collection. That or discovering bands for the first time. For example, even though I bought one album by them each back when I lived in Manchester, I never really got into Aerosmith or Alice Cooper properly until this year. I also expanded my Thin Lizzy collection to include the seminal Live And Dangerous and all their studio albums after Black Rose which was my previous cut off point. I’ve also been toying with getting into Opeth for years and years, but this year is the year I finally bought a bunch of their albums myself and actually clicked with them.

Anyway; with not enough new releases bought or listened to, I can’t exactly make a convincing or well informed list of 2019’s best albums, so I thought I’d focus on the decade overall instead. Its been an interesting decade personally as well as musical. I started the decade as a single tram conductor in a seaside town in Northern England, and ended the decade as a husband and father in Wales with an actual career. In terms of media, I went from only owning a few comics that were gifts, to having read thousands, from never having heard a podcast to having listened to one every week for 9 years, and from thinking blogs were silly to having written this one for nearly a decade.

Another interesting thing with this decade is that I started using LastFm to track what I listen to in mid-2011, and I had a nice milestone recently, when I found out I had listened to over a quarter of a million songs since starting using LastFM. That’s a lot of music. This year has also been the year of the most listens since joining.

What follows next is a list of what I’ve been listening to, and then a list of my albums-of-the-decade…

Part 1. What I’ve Been Listening To This Decade:

Here’s a round up of my most listened to artists of this year:

Some interesting things here. Volbeat have been my in-the-car band for most of the year, but I didn’t realise just how much music I listened to in the car. Slipknot have skyrocketed back to near top position this year, with the new album and all the surrounding excitement, as have Motley Crue with their The Dirt movie coming out and renewing my interest. Then next up are bands I got boxsets from, like Annihilator, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper (and to the lesser extent, ZZ Top). The rest is a mixture of new faces and old favourites. There’s some Hair Metal, Thrash Metal, Classic Rock and even a few Death Metal and Indie bands.  

Next up, a list of my most listened to artists since joining LastFM in 2011 (close enough to the whole decade that it gives a good picture):


Over the decade as a whole, the list is more what I expected, with favourite bands like Queensryche, Slipknot, Saxon and Helloween (who thank God, I’ve got concert tickets for next year, doing another United Alive set with Kai and Kiske back in the band, hell yeah!) at the top.

Volbeat are surprisingly high given that I only got into them at Download Festival 2018, so the majority of their listens are from this year alone.

C.O.C and Protest The Hero, while high enough, feel like they should be a bit higher still, given that I like them more than some of the bands that I listened to more often, but I guess they have fewer albums than the likes of Judas Priest and AC/DC.

Part 2. My ‘Albums Of The Decade’ List:

20. Saxon – Thunderbolt (2018) – To be honest I was struggling to decide whether to include either both this and Battering Ram or either this and Battering Ram and it was quite a toss up, but in the end I wanted to include 20 different bands and not just show too much bias for one band. Its difficult to put such a recent album in the list, that has to cover a whole decade, but one listen to ‘And They Played Rock And Roll’ and that thought is gone from my mind.  Saxon have been too good for too long that you can use terms like comeback, but this record and the one before it are just marvelous.

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19. Helloween – Seven Sinners (2010) – I only got into Helloween after this album came out, but as you can see above they have become one of my favourite bands. This is probably their best album in the 2nd half of their career, with the most metallic guitar tone, but not afraid to have a flute solo. Fun and satisfying both. There’s plenty of great material on here. Check out ‘Where The Sinners Go’ and ‘If A Mountain Could Talk.’

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18. Ghost – Meliora (2015) – Before this album came out, I was a Ghost skeptic. I thought it was all gimmick, no substance. I also expected a Black Metal band given Papa’s image. After this album came out I was a convert for sure, finally understanding what the band were going for. It varies day to day whether I prefer this album, the more metallic debut, or the more ‘70s sounding Prequelle, but I feel like this one may have the best set of songs. If only ‘Square Hammer’ was on this album instead of a nearby EP. Then it would be even higher on this list.

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17. Lamb Of God – Resolution (2012) – Not as good as their previous record Wrath, but still good enough to make it on my albums-of-the-decade list. There’s a great mix of Groove-focused ‘Redneck’ clones, a grand semi-progressive closer, a doomy concussive intro, and even a Sex-Pistols referencing speedster. Highlights include ‘To The End,’ ‘Ghost Walking’ and ‘Desolation.’ History hasn’t been too kind to this record, but given how much of it they still play live, I’m glad the band still believe in it.

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16. Accept – Stalingrad (2012) – The album before it introduced new singer Mark Tornillo, formerly of TT Quick, but this was the album where everything gelled. Brilliant songs, brilliant production, great fired-up performance. I guess I am a bit sentimental about it as it was the first new Accept album in my time as a fan, but there’s more to it than just personal attachment. This is pure heavy metal perfection. There’s nothing flashy, no gimmicks, but you can’t argue with the quality of the material.

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15. Architects – All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us (2016) – The band were on a roll with the last two albums, and then this one evolves it even further. I flip flop between favouring this album, or the previous one, Lost Together // Lost Forever, as this one has more passion and feels more like an artistic triumph, and the other has more bangers and catchier tunes (in context, for a band as techy as this, catchy is a relative term).

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14. Queensryche – Queensryche (2013) – I also could have included their The Verdict album from this year, which has some higher highs, but this one is more consistent all the way through. There’s just something about these songs that really chimes with me. When Todd sings that ‘’with God as my witness’’ bit in ‘Where Dreams Go To Die’ I get chills nearly every time. I have no time for people who don’t give Toddryche a chance. I like albums like Tribe and American Soldier, but I love this album. Comeback of the decade? Quite possibly.

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13. Black Country Communion – S/T (2010) – Its hard to choose a favourite BCC album as they are a very consistent band and everything they’ve done has been gold. However, this one has probably the best set of songs of the lot. Opening with ‘Black Country’ and going into ‘One Last Soul’ next is almost criminal! Leave some talent for the rest of us.

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12. Mastodon – The Hunter (2012) – Mastodon’s most commercial, catchy and instantaneous album. The four albums before it are better. However that’s only because Mastodon are one of the greatest bands out there. If this was a band’s debut album, the media and fans would loose their absolute shit over this. Its not just all comerical and accessible though, it is quite an ecclectic release too. If a band can put ‘Curl Of The Burl’ ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Creature Lives’ all on one record, you’re onto a damn special band there.

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11. Rishloo – Living As Ghosts With Buildings As Teeth (2014) – Speaking of special bands; Rishloo are a truly special band. Seattle’s answer to Tool, but so much more. After they broke up, I was pretty bummed out. The reunion album was one of the better reunion albums I’ve ever heard. A perfect continuation of the band’s legacy and the introduction of some of their finest material to date. Tracks like ‘Dark Charade’ ‘Winslow’ and especially ‘Just A Ride’ are perfect examples of what make this band stand out from the crowd. There’s just something magical about this band when they really let loose. The fact that this band are not millionaires is one of the greatest crimes in music. Manowar once sand ‘’If you’re not into Metal, you are not my friend.’’  Quite often I feel like if you aren’t into Rishloo, you are not in your right mind.

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10. Trivium – The Sin And The Sentence (2017) – Pure and simple, this is Trivium’s best album. The best production, the best drumming, and the best fired up, ‘’balls out, let’s just go for it’’ performance. This is the sound of a band playing the fuck out of songs they believe in. Ascendancy may be their equivalent to ‘Burn My Eyes’ but this is their ‘The Blackening.’

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09. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (2013) – I haven’t been into the band for long enough to feel like I have the right to include them on this list, but damn, just look at how much Volbeat I’ve listened to this year, I’d say I am catching up quickly enough. Choosing a favourite album is tough, as I came to the band late when they have so many albums and all of them are so good and all my favourite songs are scattered across all of them. I also more often listen to the band more on shuffle than I do listen to them on an album basis, which makes it even harder. However, when I think of Volbeat, I think of standing in the Summer sun, listening to ‘’a little tale about a shady lady called Lola’’ (as track ‘Lola Montez’ was introduced live, the song that made me fall in love with the band). To top that off, this album has everything, from the groovier metal track ‘Dead But Rising,’ as well as the speedier metal track ‘Black Bart’ and the King Diamond influenced and guest-featuring track ‘Room 24’ in addition to big commercial hard rock moments in ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ and country flavoured ‘Lonesome Rider.’ There’s a bit of everything here, and some very high highlights.   

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08. Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent (2013) – So many concert favourites. Many singles. A great mixture of the heaviness and aggression of the early days, and the melody and songcraft of the Howard Jones era, arguably eclipsing any album from either previous era. A damn fine album, with some of the band’s all-time best songs on it; ‘In Due Time’ ‘The Turning Point’ ‘The New Awakening’ and ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ I mean, damn, that’s more 10/10 songs in one album than some bands have in a career. Along with Clutch below, the album on this list that feels the most like a greatest hits compilation.

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07. Creeper – Eternity In Your Arms (2017) – Best debut album I have heard in a long time. This album is a fiendishly catchy mix of drama, melancholy and fun. Perhaps a bit too emo-laced for most of my readers to get into, but with amazing song-writing, surprising depth & complexity, and very lively performances. Astounding vocal diversity and damn catchy choruses to boot! So good I played some Creeper at my wedding! If you don’t know this band, but like any pop punk or emo, do yourself a big favour and check out ‘Suzanne’ or ‘Black Rain.’    

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06. Against Me – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014) – Its hard to disentangle the music from the story behind this. The concept very much in tune with what was going on in singer/guitarist Laura Jane Grace’s real life. It feels kind of cheap to talk about bravery or try and explain what she must have been going through, but it is difficult to talk about just how superb the lyrics and vocals are without doing so.

‘Black Me Out’ for example, is one of the best vocal performances of anyone in this list, for its sheer raw emotion and pure honesty. I’ve never heard more anger and disappointment and raging against the machine in one song. Listen to the audiobook of her autobiography, especially the bits about the therapist and the blacking out of the old tattoos, then listen to this song, and you’ll be moved near to tears. It also helps that the music is 10/10 perfection. That drum fill on the title track is more fun than any Green Day album this decade.

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05. Machine Head – Unto The Locust (2012) – It must have been difficult following up The Blackening, which is rightly seen as an absolute classic nowadays. That album saw such a serious turnaround in the band’s public perception, and was one of their most musically accomplished works to date. I’ve been a Machine Head fan almost as long as I’ve been a Metal fan, and The Blackening absolutely blew my mind when it was new. But The Blackening isn’t even my favourite Machine Head album, and that’s because they managed to write something even better, they managed to write Unto The Locust. ‘Darkness Within’ is such a memorable and emotive track. Album closer ‘Who We Are’ after a questionable children’s choir intro, is a Manowar-referencing red blooded heavy metal odyssey. Opener ‘I Am Hell’ manages to marry the speedy and the mid paced parts of The Blackening and congeal them into one track that covers it all. The title track is still the song I want to hear the most live out of any song in their discography. I think the album’s real success is that there are only eight tracks, all of which are necessary. There’s no fat, no filler.

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04. Letlive – Fake History (2011) – Definitely one of the more unique albums on this list. I’ve heard it described as a mixture between Glassjaw, Old Dirty Bastard and Michael Jackson. I mean, I wouldn’t have used those reference points myself, but all I know as it is one of the most memorably, hooky, well constructed and explosive albums I’ve heard in recent years and there is a damn good reasons its looked upon as a modern classic. Masterpiece is an understatement.

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03. Protest The Hero – Scurrilous (2011) – Sometimes Protest The Hero get a bit of a ‘the wacky band’ tag because of their on stage banter, music videos and Roddy’s personality in interviews, but when it comes to music, they are dead serious. Definitely the most progressive album on this list, no one has ever made music that sounds like this before. People have made technical metal before, people have made prog metal before, people have made metalcore before, but there is no one out there that sounds like Protest The Hero. My favourite album from these unique Canadians is the superb concept album Kezia, but that wasn’t released this decade. My next favourite album is the diverse and eclectic third album, Scurrilous. There are more ideas per song here than many bands have on the first side of an album. There isn’t one weak track here, it’s a whole album of solid gold, but highlights include the very impressive ‘Sex Tapes,’ the lyrically captivating ‘Cest La Vie’ and the powerful ‘Dunsel.’ I can’t say enough about this underrated genius of a band. Please check them out if you haven’t yet.

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02. Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) – Clutch are one of the best bands on the planet, and they have a broad and varied discography that covers a lot of musical ground, with many fingers in many musical pies. However, I always like them best when they are focused and rocking hard. Earth Rocker sees the band at their most laser beam focused, and is arguably the hardest rocking album of their whole career. What is not to love. Every song on here is a banger. This has more quality songs than most greatest hits albums. Anthemic and raw in equal measure, with so much fun and personality, and one of the best lyricists in the game. A real treasure of an album, from a real treasure of a band. If you don’t own this, fix that as soon as you can!

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01. Parkway Drive – Ire (2015) – Before this album, PWD were one of the better bands in the subgenre. On this album, PWD became one of the best bands in the world. There are songs on this record that will never not be one of my favourite songs, for the rest of time. The sheer amount of all time unarguable classic tracks on this is damn near criminal. How can one band write something as brutal as ‘Crushed’ as catchy as ‘Vice Grip’ and as interesting as ‘Writings On The Wall’ on just one album? How can they come up with the venomous ‘Destroyer’ and the pounding ‘Dying To Believe’ in the same writing sessions as the heroic sounding ‘A Deathless Song’ ? How can a band with a vocalist who never sang clean before this record have such a varied vocal approach just all of a sudden? How can a band who were originally marketed to me as a decent Killswitch clone, suddenly turn in a better modern metal album than Slipknot or Machine Head did this decade?

(Honourable mentions to the new Slipknot album, which probably deserves to be here but as I’ve not had it long enough I don’t feel I can include it yet, and Fear Factory’s Genexus, which was in here before I counted properly and realised I actually had made 21 entries).