So a few months ago, Chris put the challenge to me to revisit the top ten lists we had done at the end of each year and evaluate how well they stood up, with particular attention to whether we still stand behind our #1 picks. Naturally this gets more fluid as more years go by, but the argument in and of itself intrigued me as an exercise in introspection and judgement of the moment. Life kept getting in the way and preventing me from taking on the task in a timely manner, but the end of the year seems as fitting a time as any. Here we go – each year is marked by the countdown of my top ten from that year.
10) The Foo Fighters – “Wasting Light”
9) PAIN – “You Only Live Twice”
8) Red Fang – “Murder the Moutains”
7) Powerwolf – “Blood of the Saints”
6) Crowned By Fire – “Prone to Destroy”
5) Indestructible Noise Command – “Heaven Sent, Hellbound”
4) Children of Bodom – “Relentless, Reckless Forever”
3) Lazarus A.D. – “Black Rivers Flow”
2) Graveyard – “Hisingen Blues”
1) Turisas – “Stand Up and Fight"
Album That Got Underrated – Actually, none. This was a really strong year, and while some of the numbers might jockey for minor changes in position, all of these albums deserve to be here.
Album That Got Overrated – As one might imagine, no changes here, either.
Does #1 Hold Up? – Unequivocally yes. In a year of giants, “Stand Up and Fight” was a pure titan. All the albums I had ranked from one through eight could have feasibly challenged for the title in any other year, but 2011 was that rare year when home runs seemed to be flying out of the ballparks at an alarming rate. Nevertheless, the blend of metal, arena rock and rousing drinking anthems that Turisas brought to the table was king of the heap.
10) Goatwhote – “Blood for the Master”
9) The Sword – “Aprocryphon”
8) The Casualties – “Resistance”
7) Brendon Small’s Galaktikon
6) Cradle of Filth – “The Manticore and Other Horrors”
5) Meldrum – “Lifer”
4) Exumer – “Fire and Damnation”
3) Cancer Bats – “Dead Set on Living”
2) Graveyard – “Lights Out”
1) The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – “Don’t Hear It…Fear It!”
Album That Got Underrated – The Sword. Looking back four years later, “Apocryphon” should have been at least #4. I admit that that album took a little while to unfold for me, and it probably didn’t help that it was released not long after I had started a new job and moved to another state. I probably never gave it the initial inspection it really deserved.
Album That Got Overrated – Exumer at #4? My God, what the hell was I thinking?
Does #1 Hold Up? – Short answer, no. As quirky and good as that album was, I screwed this one up. You would think that means that I believe Graveyard should have been #1, and there’s an argument there, but that’s not where I’m going. #3, Cancer Bats “Dead Set on Living” was the true #1, and of all the selections listed, it’s the one I’ve listened to the most often in the intervening years.
11) Vista Chino – “Peace”
10) Destruction – “Spiritual Genocide”
9) Warbringer – “Empires Collapse”
8) Monster Truck – “Furiosity”
7) Soilwork – “The Living Infinite”
6) Scorpion Child – “Scorpion Child”
5) Devil to Pay – “Fate is Your Muse”
4) Blood Ceremony – “The Eldritch Dark”
3) A Pale Horse Named Death – “Lay My Soul to Waste”
2) Finntroll – “Blodsvept”
1) Turisas – “Turisas2013”
Album That Got Underrated – Vista Chino probably should have been at 8, with the ones it would jump subsequently moving down at least one spot.
Album That Got Overrated – I liked Destruction’s record, but I honestly don’t know if I’ve listened to it since. Without scouring through reams of unorganized reviews, I’m forced to believe that there may have been another record that could have claimed that spot.
Does #1 Hold Up – Oh, yes. Turisas turned in two all-timers in consecutive albums, and “Turisas2013,” lame title aside, is the stronger between the two. 2013 was a strong year, but all of those other records, while great, were racing for second. If I’m being candid, “Turisas2013” is probably my favorite album all time, which is doubly laudable for the fact that it wasn’t released until I was thirty years old. How many people’s favorite album ever changes after age thirty? Hell, after age twenty-five?
11) Nim Vind – “Saturday Night Séance Songs”
10) Cripper – “Hyena”
9) John Garcia – “John Garcia”
8) Emigrate – “Silent So Long”
7) Powerman 5000 – “Builders of the Future”
6) Red Dragon Cartel – “Red Dragon Cartel”
5) Lacuna Coil – “Broken Crown Halo”
4) John 5 – “Careful With That Axe”
3) Anti-Mortem – “New Southern”
2) Destrage – “Are You Kidding Me? No.”
1) Red Eleven – “Round II”
Album That Got Underrated – Nim Vind. Such a catchy record, so many bright but goth moments. Which is a weird, unexpected juxtaposition, but a welcome one. Great record.
Album That Got Overrated – Here’s the problem, though – this was the strongest year since 2011. So how far up could Nim Vind really move? One spot? Two? So, by definition, I guess Cripper’s record is mildly overrated, but I don’t even want to put that out there. Basically, 2014 should have had a top four, then albums 5a, 5b, 5c and so on.
Does #1 Hold Up? – Whenever I contemplate this question, I sigh heavily. In the original rough draft of my top ten for this year, I had Red Eleven and Destrage ranked as 1 and 1a, before I ultimately decided that I had to make a decision and declare one the winner. And it wasn’t easy. I probably didn’t feel I had cemented a selection until I hit ‘publish’ on the article, and maybe not even then. They traded places about fifteen times in the final week before the article ran. Right now, today, if you ask me if I had them in the right order, I think I would say no, but only by the barest of margins. “Are You Kidding Me? No.” benefits from having a few more blind curves on its road map, which meant that there was some additional discovery for the listener upon subsequent listens. That might be enough to give it a razor’s edge advantage over Red Eleven, but only because you’re asking me today. Tomorrow the answer might be different. And the next day different again. Just know that I love both of these albums dearly and I can’t unilaterally marry myself to one of them as the #1 selection.
11) The Great Game – “The Great Game”
10) Annihilator – “Suicide Society”
9) Pentagram – “Curious Volume”
8) Children of Bodom – “I Worship Chaos”
7) 6:33 – “Deadly Scenes”
6) Cancer Bats – “Searching for Zero”
5) Midnight Ghost Train – “Cold Was The Ground”
4) Mountain of Wizard – “Casting Rhythms and Disturbances”
3) Powerwolf – “Blessed and Possessed”
2) Graveyard – “Innocence and Decadence”
1) Shawn James and the Shapeshifters – “The Gospel According to Shawn James and the Shapeshifters”
Album That Got Underrated – Maybe Annihilator by a spot or two, just because it’s so fun. But nothing serious.
Album That Got Overrated – No one in particular; again, no significant changes.
Does #1 Hold Up? – Absolutely. Which means it sucks to be Graveyard, because that means you still finish in second place three times on this list…but hey, two of those albums (“Lights Out” and “I&D”) were named consensus Albums of the Year between me and Chris, which is actually the only two times that’s happened. So take that for what it’s worth. As for Shawn James, I am almost never so enamored with a vocal performance as to call it the primary focal point for listening to an album, but I do in this case. James’ voice is so authentic and bellowing that it feels like his independently released little-album-that-could was the most honest and captivating album of the past half-decade. So I’m sticking to my guns here.
In conclusion, I've made some mistakes along the way, but by and large, I'm willing to put my stamp on this list as pretty solid. Three and a half of five number one picks still hold, which is a way better rate than we've seen in recent NFL or NBA drafts (zing!) Stay tuned for 2016!