Despite being low on “album of the year” contenders, this section of the guide was one of the hardest to narrow down. There weren’t many pure goth albums in 2010, but doom and melodic death metal both had very strong years. There were throwback albums, progressive works, and ones that fell somewhere in between. Regardless of what type of doom metal or melodeath you like, 2010 had something for you.
The Absence have clearly settled into a groove, as Enemy Unbound features a very similar style to their last two albums. While Riders of the Plague saw the band maturing into a modern riff-based melodeath great, Enemy Unbound is largely the same. As such, there’s not a ton of progression here. Still, there is no band that plays melodic death metal quite like The Absence, and anyone who heard their last album should know that more of the same isn’t a bad thing at all.
Curse of the Red River
The debut album from this heavy metal supergroup is hopefully the first of many. Curse of the Red River is a very solid album, mixing progressive metal with melodeath, doom, and thrash metal. The members are from bands that cover all four of those genres (Swallow the Sun, Kreator, Moonsorrow, and Amorphis), and each member brings their own style to the music. It actually works quite well, and is far more cohesive than most supergroup albums. The death doom vocals work surprisingly well with the thrash and melodeath instrumentation, and due to the contrasting styles of doom and thrash that’s no small accomplishment This is a solid and original album, but it’s certainly filled with untapped potential. That’s really the sticking point of Barren Earth, as it’s hard not to shake the feeling that this is only the start, and really only a fraction of what this group is capable of.
The Piper at the Gates of Doom
When you put “doom” in the title of your band and album, you better be good at playing doom metal. Thankfully, Doomshine live up to their name. This is doom metal in its purest form. It doesn’t have My Dying Bride’s emotion or Swallow the Sun’s creative vision, but The Piper at the Gates of Doom is very effective at what it tries to do. That is to say, it’s a heavy and sludge-y throwback to the 80’s doom of bands like Candlemass and Trouble. Fathermore, Doomshine do a great job of paying tribute to their influences without copying them. This is an album all its own, despite being traditional and even predictable. If you like classic doom, you’ll probably enjoy this album. It’s effective at taking the genre back to its roots without ignoring the advancements in production that have taken place since Candlemass’ album lo-fi debut.
Tomorrow’s Dead Days
Enthrope’s debut album is proof that melodic death metal has evolved from the Gothenburg sound of the mid 1990’s. It’s often hard to tell where the genre is at this point, but Tomorrow’s Dead Days throws together a lot of the changes different facets of the genre have undergone in the last 15 years. There are dark metal influences, borderline symphonic sections, strong atmospheric qualities, Scar Symmetry-esque guitar solos, well placed clean vocals, and pretty much every other element that has become a staple in various forms of modern melodeath. It’s actually fairly unique to hear them come together like this, and it’s certainly satisfying. Enthrope has little appeal outside of melodic death metal, but for fans of the genre Tomorrow’s Dead Days a very easy album to recommend.
I’m not sure what’s weirder- the fact that a gothic doom metal band decided to cover a Sting song, or that it actually turned out pretty awesome. Even if the rest of The Foreshadowing’s second album was mediocre, I’d be willing to let it pass simply for that. Thankfully, Oionos is a very solid doom and goth metal hybrid. It’s almost a gothic post-punk album in a way, as it’s clear that The Foreshadowing have been listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, or other similar bands. However, it’s still heavy and distinctly doom metal. This a doom album that creates a dark and moody atmosphere without overdoing it, and again, there’s a doom metal cover of a Sting song on it. That in and of itself make this album awesome.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness
Not all doom metal is made the same. There are doom albums that are melodic, doom albums that are more extreme, and then are the doom albums like Harvey Milk’s A Small Turn of Human Kindness. This is a rough slude-y album, stuck in the Black Sabbath side of the 1960’s in some respects, but also heavy and modernized in others. Honestly, there’s not much more than can be said. It’s far from an artistic masterpiece, but anyone who likes their metal slow and heavy will find an album that excels at both.
It’s pretty common for bands to say close to their influences on their debut. However, it’s important for artists to branch out from there. In Mourning does exactly that on Monolith, the follow up to their Opeth-inspired first album. Some metal purists may not be able to tolerate the band’s surprising use of breakdowns, but to be clear Monolith is far from a metalcore album. This is a melodic death metal album through and through, but it’s In Mourning’s willingness to deviate from even their non-Opeth influences that makes this such a strong and unique album. Monolith has moments that are completely insane, but they somehow work. This is incredibly raw metal that is melodic and heavy in equal measure, and even the breakdowns work on some strange level. It has its flaws, as some of the transitions seem forced and a few of the songs sound the same, but this is the first melodic death metal album to come out since Scar Symmetry’s Pitch Black Progress to actually push melodic death metal into interesting new territories.
Mar de Grises
Part doom, part death, and part prog album, the latest from Mar de Grises is heavy on atmosphere and full of awe-inspiring moments. Streams Inwards is the type of album that can go from brutal to beautiful and back again through the course of a single track, but it spends most of its time occupying an atmosphere somewhere in between. That may sound typical for atmospheric metal, but Streams Inwards has plenty of unique moments, and the tracks often build into truly remarkable territory. It’s slow and certainly not for everyone, but fans of doom metal and atmospheric music should give this album a good listen.
After hearing an album like Underwatermoon, it’s a bit of surprise that melodic black metal isn’t as prominent as its death metal counterpart. Between the raw blackened vocals, the symphonic instrumentals, and the gothic atmosphere, Winterhorde have developed the perfect melodic metal sound and thrown the heavy sound of black metal into the equation. Somehow, they’ve done this without watering down their incredibly varied influences. This is a kind of unique metal album that doesn’t let its heavy side get in the way of accessibility, nor does its accessibility bring down its brutality. Underwatermoon is one of the best metal albums of 2010, and it can be recommended to just about any fan of heavy metal.
Year of No Light
Post-rock and doom metal work perfectly together. Year of No Light’s Ausserwelt is proof of that. This is slow building, almost minimalist metal, but it’s still as heavy as anything else in the doom and sludge metal genres. This is a dark and apocalyptic album, and one that builds seamlessly. Every sound is placed meticulously, and as a result each riff and drum beat is as dark and effective as possible. With that being said, there are some noticeable flaws, as the songs often go on for a little too long. What should be the climax comes a few minutes before the end of a few tracks, and the listener is often left with uninspired post-rock to finish things off. It’s a bit unfortunate because up until those points the tracks are really quite incredible. Still, fans of atmospheric metal would be wise to give Ausserwelt a listen.