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Top 10 Albums of the 2010’s

21 December 2019 xdementia No Comment

This was a very difficult list to compile because merely 10 releases over 10 years is extremely limiting. For what criteria do I possibly rate a “best of” for an entire decade?! Do I simply list my most listened to albums?
The criteria I’ve used to choose this is music that shows a big step up for the artist, music that draws the listener in and builds interest over repeated listens, music that pushes the envelope, music that achieves a certain unique atmosphere or mood, and of course music that has had a big impact on my spirit, mind and my own work.

There are many, many more albums released in these last 10 years that deserve to be on this list but I hope you will find these releases to be intriguing, surprising, and representative of a spectra of sonic exploration that is unlike anything you have heard before. This is music that doesn’t just get stuck in your head but music that steals your soul.

10. MZ.412 – Svartmyrkr [ Cold Spring ] 2018


Death industrial isn’t a genre known for it’s innovation and it’s not too often that an album is presented that pushes it into territories unknown. However, Svartmyrkr is one of those rare gems that manages to grasp hold of an entire genre and jolt it out of it’s ignorance.

Svartmyrkr is cinematic in its magnificence and awe inducing in its blackened terror. Presenting a true symphony of the damned MZ.412 solidifies once again their proper place at the top of the genre.

9. Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God [ SIGE / Profound Lore ] 2014


Experimental noise and heavy doom-laden riffs converge in this monstrosity of a masterpiece. The Ape of God is an album complete with peaks and valleys overlooks where you can see the entire landscape laid out before you and depths where you feel so suffocated you might just drown.

As any good artist knows to obtain the heights of effectiveness you have to first present enough negative space to have your audience be able to reconfigure their expectations to that before blowing them out of the water with intensity. Well Old Man Gloom have become masters of their craft and with The Ape of God they have reached their apex.

8. Rumunija/Obšrr/Vilkduja ‎– III [ Terror ] 2014


This release came out of nowhere and simply knocked me off my feet. This is true folk noir from the outer reaches of eastern Europe and really unlike anything I’ve heard. These three artists just bring their absolute best to this three way split and somehow make it into an artifact that seethes of strangeness and mysticism.

Although each artist has their own unique style it is less recognizable on this specific album. With III you will find weird time signatures, guitars that sounds like saxophones, and noise and power electronics adeptly mixed into folk tunes. It’s a a perplexing work of art but also one that is quite mesmerizing. Since it tends to be the perfect soundtrack for a nighttime rainy drive it’s one that I spun incessantly over the last few years.

7. Ruins of Beverast – Exuvia [ Ván ] 2017


I don’t listen to a lot of metal anymore but Exuvia is an album that breathed new life into the genre for me. By putting atmosphere at the same level of importance as musicianship and heaviness Ruins of Beverast created a monument that surpassed even some of the classics of the genre that I had come to know and love.

The band adeptly combines elements of doom, death metal, and black metal to form a perfectly crafted opus of underworld dreams. Most importantly the band combines non-metal elements into their sound that sews a tapestry of detailed sonic layers. It’s a fantastic world of dark passageways; a labyrinthine journey into the soul that feeds the abyss.

6. Swans – The Seer [ Young God Records ] 2012


It’s tough for me swallow the fact that it’s been 7 years since the release of The Seer because it’s a gift that just keeps on giving. Even on listening today it still feels fresh and expansive. Frontman Michael Gira described the album as taking “30 years to make. It’s the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I’ve ever made, been involved in or imagined.” and it’s clear that The Seer is the triumphant pinnacle of work that represents the return and reunion of the band the best.

Although the band has released several albums since they reunited in the 21st century The Seer stands just a head above the rest. The work is an exercise in meditation spanning two discs and several songs clocking in at over 10 minutes with the mammoth title track reaching past the 30 minute mark. Yet it’s a soundtrack that pulls the listener in ever deeper the longer it plays with moments of intimacy that brings a feeling of vulnerability into focus only to zoom out to a bird’s eye view of cinematic vistas.

5. Burial Hex – The Hierophant [ Cold Spring ] 2014


Clay Ruby’s Burial Hex began as a death industrial and noise project but has since evolved into a multifaceted creative outlet spanning the reaches of dark ambient, neoclassical and gothic music as well as retaining certain elements of the project’s origins. But it was clear that in the life of the project The Hierophant marked a turning point into a more expansive and atmospheric direction.

The album plays out like a piece of theater, each track acting as a movement in an arching story of drama based around the occult. Lyrics are present here and there and range from mumbled melody lines to unearthly screams and growls that – in contrast – are often accompanied by the more beautiful moments on the album. It’s a juxtaposition that seemed to precede many imitators later in the decade in various forms of music.

Over it’s 46 minute running time The Hierophant envelopes the listener in a dark and esoteric shroud of mystery that is simply otherworldly.

4. Oathbreaker – Rheia [ Deathwish ] 2016


This album was my introduction to the group and what a great one it was. Oathbreaker are a band from Belgium and with Rheia they take their first serious foray into a more black metal stylistic direction while keeping their stripped down hardcore aesthetic. Although previous albums were strong there is a snapping into place with all elements seeming to work toward a very focused and unique sound.

In Rheia you can find blazing guitars, blast beats, and over the top sonic spasms that may sound chaotic on the surface but are in fact carefully controlled; where every minute detail is accounted for. Rheia is at times moody, aggressive, aching, intense, and contemplative with songs that weave a complex web of intensity that forms a journey that the listener will not forget.

3. Ô Paradis – Llega El Amor, Asoma La Muerte [ Dark Vinyl ] 2015


Ô Paradis is one of my favorite projects and I love almost everything the alias of Demian Recio releases yet I knew the instant I decided to do this list that Llega El Amor, Asoma La Muerte would be my pick out of his discography for the best of this decade. There is simply nothing like the atmosphere of this album with it’s mysterious overtones of flamenco, calypso, and folk, experimental noise intertwined in lounge-influenced vignettes yet always containing a sense of dark energy.

It is important that you realize Recio hails from Barcelona, Spain because the sound of the Mediterranean is inseparable from the material featured within. Each song is painstakenly composed which makes the album play out much like a labyrinth featuring unusual twists and turns yet always toward the same destination. Instrumentation is varied here where all compositions centered around fantastic guitar work coupled with adept use of samples, drum machines, and synthesizers that sound so organic as to barely interrupt the atmosphere.

For me personally, this album acted as the perfect soundtrack for the dark nights and rainy days after moving to Seattle in 2015. This is perfect night driving music which evokes a sentimental nostalgia for a life I never had.

2. Sutcliffe Jugend – Slaves [4iB Records] 2016


Slaves not only culminates the work of the long running noise and power electronics legends Sutcliffe Jugend’s career but also represents one of their landmark contemporary works. SJ is a project that is so highly conceptually driven that to see their ideas realized at such an incredibly high level as on Slaves is an aural monument that is a glory to behold. Spanning six compact discs this symphony is not music to be enjoyed with others and that is certainly part of the concept here. In the words of 4iB – the label who released the box set: Slaves was intended to remind us about how we are all passive slaves to our slowly evolving tastes, and ultimately doomed to fail in our struggle with life and ultimately death.” This is a work that is meant to be experienced privately as we ultimately all are; with our own thoughts and internal dialogue reflecting on the fact that we have little power over our final destiny.

Sonically Slaves is a near perfect representation of instrumental experimental music. Abstract in every sense yet incredibly engaging over it’s 6 discs. Channeling a absolutely unique atmosphere there isn’t really a subgenre that Slaves falls into. The sonorities and sounds are creative and haunting unparalleled in their execution and composition.

1. Of The Wand and The Moon – The Lone Descent [ Tesco] 2011


The audience for neofolk is small, maybe even shrinking but I would make a bet that there are a good number of fans who were introduced to it through The Lone Descent. This is an album that transcends the genre but retains all the pitch-black darkness and melancholy that also defines it.

The Lone Descent features soaring harmonies that collide with subtle but completely unforgettable melodies to create a syrupy sweet wash of seemingly familiar themes. Themes which harken to the most beloved folk music motives yet are twisted into something so much more woeful. The album is deeply layered and composed complete with a full band lineup, strings, synthesizers, sound effects and vocal samples all topped with Kim Larsen’s softly sung/spoken lyrical poetry to create a tapestry so detailed that repeated listening always presents another secret to be discovered. Yet above all Larsen evokes such a profound sadness with this work that it will leave an indelible mark on even the most hardened of hearts.

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