The 50 best albums from 2010
It feels absolutely bamboozling that 2010 was a whole decade ago. From the devastating Haitian earthquake and Chilean miner’s miracle to the vuvuzela-infested South African Football World Cup and spiralling Wikileaks fiasco, there was plenty – good, bad and downright ugly – to stick in the memory.
In terms of rock music, though, it was a resounding annus mirabilis. As the pop-punk and metalcore trends that had dominated the ’00s had stagnated, we saw a return to a truly alternative sound. Whether in the establishment of new artists who would go on to dominate (Ghost, Kvelertak, The Menzingers, letlive.), in the daring diversification of existing heavyweights (Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Bring Me The Horizon), or in the return to form of the most reliable standard-bearers (Deftones, Avenged Sevenfold, Jimmy Eat World), rock music was exciting, thought-provoking, thoroughly alive.
Ten years down the line, many of those albums have been heightened by retrospect: love, loss and the inexorable artistic evolution of our greatest performers all impacting the contemporary listening experience. It’s fascinating to think how these records shaped sounds – and attitudes – today. Which of this Top 50 do you still have on heavy rotation? And which rippers have we missed? Let us know in the comments…
50. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
A concept album strung around themes relating to the American Civil War (its title is a reference to the USS Monitor – the first iron-clad battleship in the U.S. Navy), the second album from New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus is a deceptively complex, occasionally unwieldy beast. Following the troubadour path laid by songwriters like Billy Bragg (who is heavily referenced) and Bruce Springsteen, every beat between majestic bookends A More Perfect Union and The Battle Of Hampton Roads feels both wistfully timeless and somehow still painfully relevant.
49. Alter Bridge – AB III
After 2004 debut One Day Remains saw gifted vocalist Myles Kennedy come aboard with ex-Creed men Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, Scott Phillips, and 2007’s more openly-collaborative Blackbird fully began to realise their potential, it was AB III that really established Alter Bridge would be one of the biggest bands in rock. Lead single Isolation would be their first U.S. radio Number One, but a further four were dropped, emphasising the deeper emotions and darker, more dynamic songcraft at play throughout a winding 65-minute run.
48. Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise
The third album from Philadelphian post-hardcore collective Circa Survive felt like both a logical progression and creative gambit on release, leaving behind the edgy post-hardcore of 2005’s Juturna and 2007’s On Letting Go in favour of an airier, more accessible indie-rock feel. Vocalist Anthony Green’s dreamy, high-pitched delivery emanates from a swirl of thick-woven six-strings on songs like Strange Terrain and Get Out, luxuriating in the possibilities of this major label debut but never bowing to any kind of narrow expectation.
47. Slash – Slash
Although it’s nominally a solo album, the self-titled release from legendary guitarist Slash has more of a party-hearty get-together feel, with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Lemmy, Kid Rock, M. Shadows, Iggy Pop, Fergie, Alice Cooper, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and eventual long-time collaborator Myles Kennedy cropping up – amongst others. Reportedly inspired by the equally-legendary Carlos Santana’s genre-hopping 1999 LP Supernatural, Slash delivers less dynamism but far more down’n’dirty swagger.
46. Stone Sour – Audio Secrecy
Stone Sour had properly transcended many metal fans’ appraisal as “the Slipknot guys’ other band” by 2010, settling into their own groove of grungy alt.metal. Picking up where 2006’s Come What(ever) May left off, they worked again with renowned producer Nick Raskulinecz to bring out the deep emotional textures on songs like Mission Statement, Say You’ll Haunt Me and Hesitate as vocalist Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root processed the loss of their friend Paul Gray just five months before release.
45. You Me At Six – Hold Me Down
The second album from Surrey pop-rockers You Me At Six felt like a transitional release in some ways, and a happy middle-ground in many others. Shifting away from the saccharine pop-punk of 2008 debut Take Off Your Colours in favour of a heavier approach, but not yet fully committed to the growing-up seen on subsequent releases. Tracks like Underdog and Liquid Confidence strike that precious balance between adolescent wonder, adult frankness and arena-straddling cool.
44. Harvey Milk – A Small Turn Of Human Kindness
Harvey Milk – the experimental noise-rock collective from Athens, GA named after the United States’ first openly gay elected politician – had been churning away in one form or another for the best part of two decades by the time they released eighth (and still latest) studio album A Small Turn Of Human Kindness. Sonically, it was the ultimate statement of their monolithic, slab-heavy quality, but its real stand-out attribute was the arch melancholia of tracks like I Just Want To Go Home and I Know This Is All My Fault, which owed as much to more mainstream miserabilists like Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave as Sunn O))) and Black Sabbath.
43. Melissa Auf Der Maur – Out Of Our Minds
While iconic bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur will always be best remembered for her time with Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, it is as a solo artist that she’s delivered some of her most distinctive work. Her second solo release – oddly, a concept album based on the Viking era – creaks and groans with the bobbing momentum of a longboat gliding past the high fjord walls of her rich alt. and post-rock soundscapes.
42. HIM – Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice
Following frontman Ville Valo’s time in rehab, Finnish love metallers HIM returned with an accessibly sunny-sounding seventh LP that, for some, jarringly counterpointed with its far darker 2007 predecessor Venus Doom. With much of the lyrical content fixated on an undisclosed romantic partner, there is an authenticity and textural consistency about tracks like Heartkiller, Scared To Death and Katherine Wheel, even if they’re not the hardest rocking.
41. Cathedral – The Guessing Game
The ninth (and penultimate) LP from revered Coventry doomsters Cathedral was a proggy, double-disc behemoth as unwieldy as it was imaginative. There are moments of conventionally bracing brilliance in the charging likes of Painting In The Dark and The Casket Chasers, or across suffocating animal rights epic Requiem For The Voiceless. But there are moments of loose-slung madness, too, such as the brilliantly-titled, totally vegged-out Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine.
40. Motionless In White – Creatures
The creepy-crawly debut LP from Pennsylvanian gothic metalcore ghouls Motionless In White remains a firm fan-favourite for good reason. Having already gouged out their place in the scene with excellent 2009 EP When Love Met Destruction, they galvanised their following with this gnashing follow-up, even inviting lyric submissions which were eventually compiled into the title track. Those same fanatics would go to refer to themselves as MIW’s ‘creatures’ in the album’s honour. With bangers like Abigail and Immaculate Misconception completing a truly killer package, it’s easy to understand why.
39. Ihsahn – After
The final entry in a pre-planned trilogy of concept albums that began with 2006’s The Adversary and continued with 2008’s angL, After found legendary Emperor frontman Ihsahn on mellow, contemplative form. Set in the aftermath of the narrative’s central conflict, there is further room to experiment, with the use of saxophone and eight-string guitars broadening the sonic landscape, while the philosophical musings of tracks like A Grave Inversed and On The Shores harked back to its creator’s deep, dark earlier works.
38. Daughters – Daughters
The self-titled third (at the time, ostensibly final) LP from Rhode Island noise-rock experimentalists Daughters offered something more accessible for mainstream musos but consequently split their hardcore fans. Leaving behind the spasmodic explosions of their 11-minute 2003 debut ‘LP’ Canada Songs and 2006’s Hell Songs, the eight songs in 28 minutes here are allowed to breathe, writhe and awkwardly contract, with the likes of The Virgin and Sweet Georgia Brown sounding feeling positively poppy by comparison to what had come before.
37. Triptykon – Eparistera Daimones
Triptykon’s soul-rattling debut was a break-up album fuelled by righteous anger. Less fixated on supergroup swagger or side-project experimentation, Eparistera Daimones found legendary frontman Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s (Tom G. Warrior to his mates) in infernal form following the falling apart of avant-garde metal trailblazers Celtic Frost. With an album title translating as ‘Demons On My Left’ (a reference to Western esotericism) and epic compositions like Abyss Within My Soul and (aptly-titled, at a staggering 19 minutes) The Prolonging winding deeper and deeper, it is still of hellish significance.
36. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow
Generally overshadowed by Mastodon and Baroness in terms of post-millennial, deep-southern metal, Savannah, GA collective Kylesa only managed two albums since 2010, going on indefinite hiatus in 2016. It’s our loss. Their fifth album since 2002, 2010’s Spiral Shadow showcased them at their absolute best. A mixture of Phillip Cope’s soft/loud punk singing, massive metallic hooks, Middle-Eastern-alike noodling, colossal percussion and co-singer Laura Pleasants’ woozy vocals, songs like Cheating Synergy and the winding title-track are among modern metal’s most cruelly underrated.
35. Bad Religion – The Dissent Of Man
The 15th (and, at 43 minutes, longest) album from iconic punks Bad Religion was an ambitious – if unfocused – offering that nonetheless reaffirmed their relevance as a political punk force after three decades in the game. There is a measured maturity and pointed energy about the opening salvo of The Day That The Earth Stalled, Only Rain and The Resist Stance as well as slower-paced lead single The Devil In Stitches that remains stirring, though the other 11 tracks are of more uneven quality.
34. Cancer Bats – Bears, Mayors, Scraps And Bones
2008’s Hail Destroyer set an almost impossibly high bar for Canadian hardcore stalwarts Cancer Bats, but its successor took a hell of a swing at matching up. With a title referring to each member’s nickname (Mike Peters – Bear; Scott Middleton – Mayor; Liam Cormier – Scraps; Jaye Schwarzer – Bones), the Southern-fried sounds of album three cranked the heaviosity to 11, with the snarling Doomed To Fail and Darkness Lives smashing into full-throttle bangers like Black Metal Bicycle and Fake Gold. Their cover of Beastie Boys’ classic Sabotage is the icing on a chaotic cake.
33. Motion City Soundtrack – My Dinosaur Life
Motion City Soundtrack’s endearingly gawky pop-rock sensibilities were at their peak on album number four. All witty lyrics, hooky melodies, smashing riffage and wilful weirdness, this was a sonic expansion on what they’d achieved with 2005 high watermark Commit This To Memory and 2007’s Even If It Kills Me, guided by a sterling production job from blink-182 legend Mark Hoppus. Singles Disappear, Her Words Destroyed My Planet and A Life Less Ordinary (Need A Little Help) ensured their enduring reputation.
32. Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini
By 2010, the peerless progressive brilliance of Enslaved was well established. In a sense, 11th album Axioma Ethica Odini (Latin for ‘Self-Evident Truth’) was just that, ramping up the aggression after 2008’s relatively subdued Vertebrae but otherwise doubling down on the Norwegians’ established greatness. Closer examinations of songs like Ethica Odini (the Latin translation of Old Norse poem Hávamál, roughly translating as ‘The Ethics Of Odin’) and The Beacon are rewarded, however, with intriguing semi-philosophical ruminations and musical inflections taken from recent tour-mates Opeth (which often surpass the Swedish originals).
31. Alkaline Trio – This Addiction
“I remember that we were doing a lot of drugs at this point,” Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba has reflected to K! on the making of his band’s aptly-titled seventh album. “As a result, it was a really, really fun record for us to make, but totally not for very good reasons. But, like all Alkaline Trio records, the songs on there are really honest.” The first record released through their own Heart & Skull label, This Addiction’s tales of narcotic infatuation, love, death, divorce, grief, suicide, politics, and war offered fans their clearest view thus far into the Chicagoan songwriters’ hearts, while the economic compositions of songs like Lead Poisoning, Piss & Vinegar and Dorothy brought back the blackened pop-punk mega-hooks with which they’d made their name.
30. Electric Wizard – Black Masses
There’s a lo-fi, comparatively chaotic feel to the seventh album from Dorset doomsters Electric Wizard that stands out in their otherwise suffocatingly quilted catalogue. Described by the band as a follow-on to 2007’s Witchcult Today, there are obvious comparisons in its Hammer Horror high-dramatics and the playful use of occult imagery, but there is a more brutal sense of violence in tracks like Patterns Of Evil and Scorpio Curse that outstrips its predecessor. Bow at their broken altar.
29. Korn – III: Remember Who You Are
After a period of experimentation, Korn returned to the formula they knew best for album number nine. For detractors, the tellingly-titled Remember Who You Are is just that: formulaic. Recording as a four-piece and reuniting with uber-producer Ross Robinson, however, there is much to enjoy here. Singles Oildale (Leave Me Alone) and Let The Guilt Go are amongst their roughest-edged latter day promos, while there’s an unchained energy about album tracks like Pop A Pill and Trapped Underneath The Stairs that still concussively connects.
28. Black Veil Brides – We Stitch These Wounds
Having signed with indie label StandBy Records in September 2009, Ohion metalcore upstarts Black Veil Brides set to work on the debut that would send them stratospheric. By July the following year, We Stitch These Wounds was on the loose, establishing that trademark sound, aesthetic and attitude. There were still rough edges evident on tracks like The Outcasts (Call To Arms) – which featured guest vocals from frontman Andy Biersack’s grandfather Urban Flanders – and The Mortician’s Daughter, but mega singles Knives And Pens and Perfect Weapon proved these lads were about to catch fire.
27. The Menzingers – Chamberlain Waits
Although there’s a compelling argument that Pennsylvanian blue-collar punks The Menzingers see meaningful evolution (and improvement) with each passing release, their 2010 sophomore LP was a turning point. Having just moved to Philadelphia and gotten into the house show scene, they were leaving behind the high school contrivances of 2007’s A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology to discover an identity of their own, with the unrefined warmth, relatable sentiments and massive, communal choruses of Home Outgrown and Time Tables truly introducing the band we love today.
26. A Day To Remember – What Separates Me From You
Although it arguably lacked the cohesion of the previous year’s Homesick, ADTR’s fourth album What Separates Me From You saw them compellingly embrace both sides of their Jekyll & Hyde sound. The saccharine pop-punk of tracks like All Signs Point To Lauderdale and All I Want are loaded with earworm hooks, while the bruising likes of Sticks And Bricks and 2nd Sucks proved they could get close to deathcore levels of heaviosity.
25. The Wonder Years – The Upsides
When it came to writing his band’s breakthrough sophomore LP, The Wonder Years frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell came to a realisation: perhaps the overwhelming depression he’d been suffering was being exacerbated by the sad music with which he’d been surrounding himself for so long. Aptly titled, The Upsides saw him striving to find the silver linings while still acknowledging the internal darkness. Songs as heartfelt as Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack and Hostels & Brothels made this the powerful first entry in a trilogy that would continue with 2011’s Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing and 2013’s The Greatest Generation.
24. High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine
So often has the description been repeated that referring to High On Fire’s unstoppable brand of overdriven stoner metal as “Motörhead-alike” has long since passed into cliché. Lemmy and the lads would’ve needed to be on a small mountain of speed to churn out a record as relentless as this, mind. Frontman Matt Pike sounds utterly possessed as the eight-and-a-half minute title-track burns into Frost Hammer and out across the likes of The Path and Fire, Flood & Plague, with the Des Kensel’s war machine drumming and Jeff Matz’s emphatic bass perfectly complementing the unyielding horns up/heads down composition.
23. Anathema – We're Here Because We're Here
Although Liverpudlian progsters Anathema had almost entirely left behind the death-doom sounds that had once placed them alongside Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride as early as 2001, there was a pervasive melancholy about their work that lingered on. Eighth album We’re Here Because We’re Here saw them step into the light. From that sun-dappled artwork to the broader progressive atmospherics of songs like Thin Air and A Simple Mistake, this was the sound of a great band chasing the possibilities of a new day.
22. Trash Talk – Eyes & Nines
The fire at the heart of Californian thrashcore crew Trash Talk was burning bright on their explosive third LP. There were ambitions (realised, to some extent) that Eyes & Nines would expose them to a broader audience, but there was absolutely no compromise in rapid fire tracks like Vultures, Flesh & Blood and Hash Wednesday. The appearances of Circle Jerks/Bad Religion’s Greg Hetson and The Bronx’s Matt Caughthran did little to distract, only emphasising the punk rock cred of this rising force.
21. Rolo Tomassi – Cosmology
Picking up where they’d left off with 2008 debut Hysterics, Sheffield mathcore experimentalists Rolo Tomassi drilled deeper and pushed further with this superb second offering. Produced by Thomas Wesley Pentz (aka American EDM supremo Diplo), there is a greater sense of control about Cosmology, with a more richness in Eva Spence’s vocals and the space rock/shoegaze dabbling of the record’s second half. More importantly, there was a ramped-up sense of fun across brainsick bangers like Unromance and Party Wounds.
20. Black Breath – Heavy Breathing
If Seattle metallers Black Breath’s greatest strength was their no-frills approach to down’n’dirty heavy metal, then their debut LP might just be their most compelling statement. We could talk about the clenched-fist hardcore inflections that add abrasion right from balls-out opener Black Sin (Spit On The Cross), or the thematic reckoning on their primal fear of mortality in songs like Escape From Death, but these are songs that deserve to be banged along to, not picked apart.
19. Grand Magus – Hammer Of The North
After 2008’s Iron Will cemented their transition from the bluesy, Sabbath-indebted stone metal of their early albums to a steelier true-metal stance, Hammer Of The North delivered the ultimate Grand Magus experience. From the heads-down full throttle of opener I, The Jury through the title track’s ominous, bass-led riff and on out to the monumentally craggy soundscapes of Black Sails and Mountains Be My Throne, the stripped-back interplay between vocalist/guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson and bassist Mats “Fox” Skinner stood apart with its sheer clenched-fist directness. The cleaving, Viking-worthy Ravens Guide Our Way might just be their greatest ever composition.
18. Agalloch – Marrow Of The Spirit
The disbandment of atmospheric Portland black metallers Agalloch in 2016 robbed heavy music of one of its most compelling and distinctive forces. After 2002’s brilliant sophomore release The Mantle, Marrow Of The Spirit is probably the best example of why. With six tracks running to over 65 minutes, there is a raw, rustic feel underlying the beauty and chaos of songs like Into The Painted Grey and Ghosts Of The Midwinter Falls. Scandinavian black metal might’ve set the bar, but this frostbitten masterpiece from the other side of the world raised it.
17. Alcest – Écailles De Lune
Translating, with minimal comprehensibility, as ‘Moon Scales’, the second album by French blackgaze masters Alcest was their first to feature now-integral drummer Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre, and marked a proper sonic breakthrough with the scourging black metal of their roots stretched over shoegazey, post-rock soundscapes. A concept album about one man’s transcendent journey to another plane of existence, it has often been interpreted as a metaphor about death and the hereafter. Instead, frontman Neige has noted that its imagery should be less abstractly construed, and that songs like Percées de Lumière (Openings Of Light) and Solar Song simply depict the melancholic beauty of the imagined netherworld on which all of his music is based.
16. Jimmy Eat World – Invented
Sitting down to write his band’s seventh album, Jimmy Eat World mainman Jim Adkins made the unusual decision to pore over a collection of assorted works from photographers like Cindy Sherman and Hannah Starkey, formulating each song as a closed narrative based on the figures depicted. His aim was to delve deeper into character study than ever before. The results were intriguing, with the patchwork nature of Invented lending itself to a retrospective exploration of the band’s subtly shifting style up to that point, while the move away from personally reflective songwriting allowed new shades of urgency and melodrama to seep into songs like the swooning Cut and surging My Best Theory.
15. Far – At Night We Live
The fifth and final album from Sacramento underground alt. heroes Far was an overdue emotional culmination. Twelve years since Water & Solutions – after which the band initially called it quits – they dropped this final parting statement. More confident and commercial-sounding than their earlier brand of outsider post-hardcore, songs like Give Me A Reason and The Ghost That Kept On Haunting burst with catharsis and wonder. It’s the title-track, though – written for Deftones bassist Chi Cheng shortly before his passing – that best encapsulates the pent-up frustration and sadness of their extended hiatus.
14. Watain – Lawless Darkness
At the turn of the decade, Swedish terrors Watain seemed to be at something of a crossroads. Once a throwback to the self-indulgent chaos and carnage of second wave black metal (infamously fond of throwing bucketfuls of pig’s blood over the stage and into their audiences), attention had grown to the point where they might seriously attempt to infect the mainstream. Lawless Darkness is their gloriously overblown, blacker-than-a-burnt-church attempt to do just that without toning things down one bit.
13. Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
The death of drummer, founding member and talented songwriter Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan on December 28, 2009 was a hammer-blow to his Avenged Sevenfold bandmates, and could very well have spelled the end of the band. Refusing to meekly fade away, the Huntington Beach metallers recruited Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy (one of The Rev’s great influences) and channelled their internal tumult – that grief, uncertainty and rage – into a record that was heavier (both sonically and emotionally) than anything they had produced before. Tracks like Buried Alive, So Far Away and Welcome To The Family stand as enduring tributes to their lost friend.
12. Ghost – Opus Eponymous
From the moment that baroque organ intro of Deus Culpa burst into the throbbing bassline of Con Clavi Con Dio, it was clear that a new force – equal parts retro-rock accessibility and Stygian darkness – was about to possess popular metal. Archly titled (Opus Eponymous is Latin for ‘self-titled work’) and featuring artwork openly indebted to the 1979 TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, naysayers dismissed Ghost’s debut LP as the derivative effort of a gimmick outfit. A decade later, tracks like Ritual, Elizabeth and Prime Mover are the foundation stones on which the mysterious Swedes have built their way into arenas.
11. Parkway Drive – Deep Blue
In 2010, metalcore was at its lowest ebb for years, with scene leaders Bring Me The Horizon openly moving towards a more melodic, modernist sound while most other “fourth generation” stalwarts spun their wheels. A band of unlikely surfer dude saviours were rising out of Byron Bay, Australia, however, building on the raw potential of 2005’s Killing With A Smile and 2007’s Horizons with the strongest iteration of their original metallic hardcore formula. Even now that they’ve moved into arenas, the serrated edge and massive feel of songs like Karma, Sleepwalker and Home Is For The Heartless remain crucial in the Parkway package.
10. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
The Dillinger Escape Plan were deep in their jagged groove by the time they reached fourth album Option Paralysis. Having traversed genres as disparate as lounge jazz and grindcore on previous releases, this represented their first real attempt to fully meld them. Opening with the unhinged brilliance of Farewell, Mona Lisa, we’re taken on numerous attention-deficit detours through the orchestrally augmented staccato of Gold Teeth On A Bum and Tommy-gun tumult of Room Full Of Eyes. Perfect insanity.
9. Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden mainman Steve Harris had commented long before The Final Frontier’s release that he envisioned the band calling it a day after their 15th album. Coupled with that leading title, many believed this LP (number 15) could be the end. That it wasn’t – and was so dramatically surpassed by 2015’s towering The Book Of Souls – has lessened its impact in many fans’ hindsight. That’s a real disservice to a record that aims for the moon, however, and overcomes the hiccups of a patchy (by their standards) first half with a second comprised entirely of seven-minute-plus epics, culminating with the outstanding Where The Wild Wind Blows.
8. Kvelertak – Kvelertak
The eponymous debut LP from Stavanger black’n’rollers Kvelertak remains the defining statement of their narcotic blend of punk rock attitude, extreme metal edge and hard rock energy. Featuring distinctive artwork by Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley, produced by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou and featuring guest-appearances from Trap Them’s Ryan McKenney and Taake’s Hoest, there were high expectations before release. They were easily surpassed by the breathless, runaway brilliance of songs lie Ulvetid (Wolf-time) and Blodtørst (Bloodlust).
7. Against Me! – White Crosses
Against Me!’s fifth album was born from a period of uncertainty for the band. There had been a minor fan backlash to the apparently “overproduced” sound of 2007’s New Wave. They had suffered a bus crash on I‑80 in October 2008. Long-term drummer Warren Oakes left the band in 2009. Vocalist Laura Jane Grace was in the final stages of her gender transition and welcomed her daughter Evelyn with visual artist Heather Hannoura on October 30, 2009. Working, again, with legendary producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins), however, they delivered a classic, with songs like I Was A Teenage Anarchist among their biggest, while Because Of The Shame and Bamboo Bones are among their under-appreciated best.
6. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
The Gaslight Anthem’s third LP is an often overlooked gem. Having fallen between The ’59 Sound’s breakout blend of energy and nostalgia and the potent iconography of Handwritten, its lightness of touch (indicating, to a degree, the direction in which frontman Brian Fallon would head as a solo artist) has stubbornly endured. Attaching their punk soul to tunes that are slicker and often more defiantly upbeat, however – The Diamond Church Street Choir is a finger-clicking favourite while the heartwrought title-track tugs on all the right strings – American Slang remains one of the decade’s landmark U.S. rock records.
5. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys
There is a lingering sense that Danger Days… is the poor relation to 2004’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and 2006’s The Black Parade. Fair as that may be, it should not be overlooked. The fourth and final(?) My Chemical Romance LP saw the New Jersey punks ditching the darkness with which they had burst onto (then taken over) the scene in favour of a post-apocalyptic wasteland bathed in blinding light. Drawing on the psych-rock, power-pop and proto-punk of the ’60s and ’70s, tracks like Sing, The Kids From Yesterday and the brilliantly-titled Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) saw the band bow out with a defiant grin.
4. Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns
Ten years after Hybrid Theory made them the biggest rock superstars of the millennium, Linkin Park took a daring creative gamble that proved their greatness beyond the broad-stroke luridity of nu-metal. That didn’t stop it being wildly divisive at the time, of course. A daring concept album grappling with the anxiety of a society piling into the unknown – technology, nuclear power, the tensions around political and sociological progress – this was a different band to the one who’d dropped the simple, crowd-pleasing Minutes To Midnight only three years previously. Hell, that the title expands on the imagery of the Doomsday Clock with a reference to Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad-Gita (as quoted by nuclear innovator Robert Oppenheimer) confirmed that before a note even dropped. Scaling back the rock instrumentation, ramping up the politics and allowing Mike Shinoda to come to the fore, there were justified comparisons with Public Enemy’s 1990 masterpiece Fear Of A Black Planet. Tracks like When They Come For Me, Waiting For The End and Wretches And Kings still feel hauntingly relevant today.
3. Bring Me The Horizon – There Is A Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is Heaven Let's Keep It A Secret
Bring Me The Horizon’s rapid evolution had already paid dividends in moving from the scattergun chaos of 2006’s Count Your Blessings to the more measured melodic metal of 2008’s Suicide Season. It was with their third LP, though, that they began to look like the arena-conquerors we know today. Still awaiting the arrival of electronic genius Jordan Fish, there was an occasional awkwardness in the collisions between tracks as biting as Alligator Blood and warped ballads like Blessed With A Curse, but the growing confidence in that experimentation meant that their ascendancy was almost assured. Some fans were quick to label them sellouts, but held up against the more pop direction of the last few years, bangers like It Never Ends absolutely slam.
2. letlive. – Fake History
It took a minute for the shockwave unelashed by letlive.’s explosive second album to register on the K! radar. Dropping on April 13, 2010 via North Carolinan indie imprint Tragic Hero, it wasn’t until the following year’s re-release on Epitaph that the Los Angelinos’ soulful art-punk/post-hardcore really bled into the UK consciousness, winning a rare belated-entry at Number Two on our 2011 end-of-year run-down. The record’s lightning-in-a-bottle power and poignancy has only grown over the decade since. The sound of a group of musicians – chief among them vocalist Jason Aalon Butler – who’d been toiling for eight years already on the City Of Angels’ gritty underground, there was a rare mix of pent-up combustibility and open vulnerability in songs like Casino Columbus and Muther that owed as much to Refused or Glassjaw as Prince or even Jason’s father’s band Aalon. There are (valid) arguments that the album’s front-loaded structure leaves it feeling unbalanced, and that the socio-political message at its heart has been more clearly espoused by Jason’s subsequent outfit FEVER 333, but along with the band’s incendiary live shows from the time, Fake History simply burned that much brighter and hotter than the majority of 2010 releases.
1. Deftones – Diamond Eyes
Deftones’ intended sixth album – an experimental but relatively quick-fire follow-up to 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist tentatively titled Eros – was derailed by the cruel whims of fate. When bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a serious traffic accident in November 2008 and slipped into a coma, the band were thrown into personal and professional turmoil. The strange, dark music they had composed thus far, they realised, was no longer representative of where they were at as people and artists. Rapidly reconfiguring with new bassist (and old friend) Sergio Vega, the band headed into the studio for two months with renowned rock producer Nick Raskulinecz (who had a busy year…) and emerged with a more direct record that balances delicately between Carpe Diem positivity, elegiac reflection and subliminal turmoil. From the snarling, propellant likes of You’ve Seen The Butcher and Rocket Skates to the almost-celestial scope of Beauty School and the probing title-track, Diamond Eyes harked back to the immediacy of the Sacramento masters’ early releases while hinting at impossible new light flickering on the horizon.
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