Admittedly, “Accessible Metal” is a fairly broad section. The albums found here can be anything from classic heavy metal to metalcore or alternative metal. Traditional heavy metal made a bit of comeback in 2010, while the only metalcore representatives this year are of a more progressive nature. Overall though, 2010 was a great year for metal, and these ten albums prove that you don’t need to be brutal (extreme metal), artsy (power/symphonic/folk metal), or depressing (melodeath, doom, goth) to make great metal music.
Blood of the Nations
One of the most underrated metal bands of all-time is still going strong in 2010. They have a simple formula, but it works. The riffs are fast and heavy, the vocals are strained and high-pitched (but in a good way), and the songs just simply kick ass. Blood of the Nations is classic heavy metal in its purest form, and it’s every bit as good as some of the better 80’s metal albums. And no, I’m not referring to hair metal. This is true heavy metal, and it’s a perfect album for fans of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and other classic metal bands. Furthermore, fans of those bands who haven’t yet heard Accept would be wise to pick up their 80’s classics like Balls to Wall and Restless and Wild as well.
Requiem of Time
With the untimely passing of Ronnie James Dio earlier this year, it’s become easier to recommend a band like Astral Doors. For all intents and purposes, Astral Doors is a Dio-clone. They have a strong Iron Maiden influence as well, and they incorporate some elements of modern power metal, but the real core of Astral Doors is Dio. More specifically, the core of Astral Doors is just how much vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson sounds like the late Ronnie James Dio. While I’m usually not high on bands that sound like other bands, it’s no small feat to be able to sing like one of the most talented and recognizable men in heavy metal. Requiem of Time is a more consistent album than past Astral Doors records, and despites its unoriginality it’s an entertaining listen, albeit a potentially difficult one, in wake of Dio’s death.
Devil Sold His Soul
Blessed & Cursed
Devil Sold His Soul’s A Fragile Hope was one of my favorite albums of 2007. The band’s second album, Blessed & Cursed, is a solid follow-up. The progressive metal of A Fragile Hope is still there, although sludge metal is more prominent this time around. The songs are longer and a bit more varied, but the meat of the album is the same incredible ambient post-hardcore that made A Fragile Hope such a strong debut. While the vocals are pretty hit-and-miss, especially for those who aren’t interested in screamo, they compliment the music nicely. The instrumentals build up tension, and the screaming is used as a way to break it. It works quite well, and Devil Sold His Soul is one of the best bands in the recent trend of ambient screamo. Blessed & Cursed isn’t as mind blowing as Devil Sold His Soul’s debut, but it’s another great album from a band with a bright future.
The Dillinger Escape Plan
It’s really a feat in and of itself than The Dillinger Escape Plan can remain accessible amidst the chaos and seemingly random time signature changes. It would be easy to call them pretentious, but that would be missing the point. DEP take technicality to a ridiculous level, messing with time and tempo for no reason other than because they can. Option Paralysis is certainly a technical album, and yet it uses its technicality purely as entertainment. It’s the chaos that comes from this type of music (dubbed “math metal” by some) that makes it so interesting. There’s no progressive wankery to be found, but instead a truly entertaining mix of technical riffs, metalcore screams, and constant tempo changes. Option Paralysis is Dillinger Escape Plan at their best, and while they don’t make the masterful artistic statement that some critics praise them for, they play music that is truly fun to listen to.
Opus Eponymous is the debut album from what seems like the twelfth band I’ve discovered named Ghost. Thankfully, their music is far more original than their name. Opus Eponymous is a psychedelic hard rock/metal album that should appeal equally to casual hard rock fans and metalheads who prefer their music on the slower side. The instrumentals have a strong Black Sabbath influence, but they use that as a jumping point to do their own thing. Ghost sound much more modern than your average “retro-rock” band. In that sense, they remind a lot of Priestress, another hard rock band from a few years ago that plays legitimately great 70’s music that has evolved enough to warrant a release in modern times. Opus Eponymous is a very strong debut album, and it’s certainly one of the better retro albums released in the last few years.
Heaven Shall Burn
Heaven Shall Burn make up for their lack of variety by having the heaviest and most interesting sound in metalcore. In a genre filled with generic trends, it’s refreshing to hear a band that refuses to water down their sound. Invictus is proof that metalcore can be brutal and unique, while still being accessible enough to appeal to fans of the lighter genres of metal. Again, variety isn’t its strong point, but the core sound is simply too good to ignore.
There is no way that mixing hardcore punk, black metal, and rock and roll should work. Not only are those genres almost entirely unalike musically, but they are also made of overpowering sounds. For example, there’s a reason that black metal is often combined with ambient and shoegaze music, as those elements can be put into black metal without taking away the core elements that make black metal distinct. Somehow though, Kvelertak works. Even after numerous listens, it’s hard to tell why it works, but there’s little doubt this hardcore black n’ roll (or whatever the hell you want to call it) sound is pretty awesome. Kvelertak is raw as hell, often brutal, and oddly catchy at times. Fans of metalcore and hard rock will like it, as well as open-minded extreme metal fans. This is one of the best albums of the year and Kvelertak are almost certainly the most interesting new band of 2010.
The Animal Spirits
Do you like heavy metal? Great, then you’ll like Slough Feg’s The Animal Spirits. This is another great heavy metal album in a long line of great heavy metal albums from 2010. The real strength with The Animal Spirits is that it really appeals to all types of metalheads. It has a doom-y Black Sabbath sound that can appeal to classic metal fans, but it’s heavy enough to satisfy fans of the more extreme subgenres as well. Again, The Animal Spirits is a pure heavy metal album. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, but there’s something for every metalhead here, and it absolutely deserves your attention.
It’s rare to hear a great speed metal album these days. Space Eater released a fairly decent one a few years back, but that debut in no ways prepares the listener for Aftershock, an excellent speed/thrash metal assault. This is quite possibly the best thrash album of 2010, and any fans of the genre should check it out. Space Eater play a classic style of thrash, reminiscent of Megadeth and Testament, only with high-pitched vocals and a more direct Judas Priest influence. However, that doesn’t mean Aftershock is a throwback. This is a full fledged thrash metal album, classic in nature, but undoubtedly modern as well. Space Eater incorporate elements from modern thrash and power metal, resulting in a unique sound that could only come from a 2010 band. Often times, modern thrash metal albums are stuck between portraying a classic sound and going farther into death metal territory. There aren’t many albums that ignore the line and take thrash in a completely different direction. Aftershock does this, and the result is an excellent album, as well as one of the best speed metal releases in years.
It’s no secret that The Sword sound like Black Sabbath. While they still use the Ozzy-era of the classic metal band as their prime influence, Warp Riders sees the doom metal group branching out. Warp Riders is a solid mixture of classic British heavy metal and a more modern doom and sludge sound, and it’s easily The Sword’s best album yet. It would be nice to see them branch out even farther, but this is a big step in the right direction. Fans of early Sabbath would be wise to give this album a listen.