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Best Sounds of 2010 (the first half)

I’ve done books and films for the first six months of 2010, so now it’s the turn of albums. I don’t seem to have bought that many albums so far this year, and most of those I have bought were remastered CD editions of ones I’ve had on vinyl for a long time. Having said that, a couple of new albums immediately jumped out as best of the year so far – and are likely to remain so for the rest of the year.

We Are The Void, Dark Tranquillity (2010). This definitely counts as a return to form for the Gothenburg masters of melodic death metal. I posted the promo video for the first single from the album here, and the rest of the album is just as good. I can’t wait for them to tour the UK to promote the album. (Band web site)

Curse of the Red River, Barren Earth (2010). I bought this after a positive review in Zero Tolerance magazine, and I’m extremely glad I did. It’s progressive death metal, much like Opeth – but where Opeth incorporate 1970s acoustic guitar into their songs, Barren Earth instead feature weird 1970s hippy rock with flutes. And it works superbly. This is going to be a favourite for a long time. Barren Earth, incidentally, is a Finnish metal supergroup, featuring members of Amorphis, Moonsorrow, Swallow the Sun and Kreator. (Band web site)

The Never Ending Way of Orwarrior, Orphaned Land (2010). A long awaited album. Orphaned Land’s last album, the excellent Mabool, was released in 2004, and a follow-up was promised a couple of years later. And then put back, and back, and back… Until finally it was released this year. Was it worth the wait? It’s more progressive than Mabool, perhaps even a little more commercial. It’s certainly very good, and some of the tracks on it are excellent. Not quite sure yet if it’s better than Mabool, however. (Band web site)

The Engines of Armageddon, The Engines of Armageddon (2009). These are a Nottingham-based band, and currently unsigned – the album is self-released. They describe their music as stoner-thrash-prog-doom-groove metal, and that’s as good a description as any. I’ve seen them live three times now, and they’ve been excellent on all three occasions. I bought the CD and T-shirt the first time I saw them live – any band which performs a song about RFID chips titled ‘Fuck the Chip’ definitely deserved £10 of my money.  (Band web site)

Escaping the Abyss, Fornost Arnor (2009). This is also self-released (although the band formed their own label, Witch-King Records, for the release). It’s a mix of black, death and progressive metal, and works extremely well. I particularly like the acoustic bits, which are not your usual progressive black metal. (Band web site)

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