My 10 Favourite Albums of the 2010s

Man, I really left myself a lot of work for the end of this year. Not only did I do my “Best of 2019” albums ranking, but it’s also the end of a decade, which means that it’s also the time for “Best of the 2010s” lists. We’re going to start out today with my favourite albums of the 2010s. Standard caveats apply here – music is not only incredibly subjective, but there is so much of it and my tastes are somewhat niche, so I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to declare that these are “the best” albums of the decade. That said, they’re all great and have affected me in one way or another, so I would certainly recommend checking them out if you have not!

Honourable Mentions:

Asylum, Disturbed (August 31, 2010)
I waffle between Asylum or Ten Thousand Fists being Disturbed’s best album, but it’s pretty much unquestioned that this was the last time they were such a self-assured band. Whatever your thoughts about their last couple albums are, the post-Asylum hiatus changed the band significantly and I don’t predict that we’re going to get another album from Disturbed that I’m going to like nearly as much as Asylum.

Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, Volbeat (April 5, 2013)
They say there’s nothing quite like your first… Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies was the album where I decided to give Volbeat a chance and I fell in love with their style. Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie would also have a pretty good shot at being one of my favourite albums of the decade, but they both fell just short of the top 10. Still, I love the band so much that I had to at least give them an honourable mention.

10) We’re Just Really Excited to Be Here, Countless Thousands (June 4, 2011)
Countless Thousands’ debut album is such a joy to listen to. Their brand of enthusiastic nerd rock is infectious and energetic from the outset and there is so much variety and experimentation that it never gets boring. Want a pirate rock song? Try “A Pirate’s Shanty”. Want something political? You’ll love “The Patriot”. How about a version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, but rewritten to be about bassist Davey Munch battling Satan? Try “The Devil and Davey Munch”, it’s amazing. There’s even stuff like “No Contest”, where there is no instrumentation, only vocal layering which gives the song an interesting and haunting feel. On top of all of this, the songwriting is all top-notch, with one exception – personally, I just can’t stand “The Asskickers’ Union”, a sickly-sweet love song which is just too goddamn happy for my tastes. It’s not like that’s a major blemish though on a 16 track album and there are plenty of other styles and standout tracks that it’s easily washed away.

9) of Beauty and Rage, Red (February 24, 2015)
Red were a band that I got into with their first two albums, but gave up on after their next two albums were very disappointing. Imagine my joy then when they managed to not only course correct and return to form on their fifth album, but they actually managed to put out their best album yet. of Beauty and Rage sees Red firing on all cylinders, putting out an album which is equal parts heavy, haunting, epic and beautiful in various measures. It certainly feels like a Red album, but there’s a maturity to it and everything has clearly been crafted painstakingly. At this point, I’d consider of Beauty and Rage to be Red’s magnum opus. They have set the bar very high for themselves going forward, but they’ve shown that they know what it takes to come back. If Red ever manage to put out something that can match this album I would be delightfully surprised.

8) Dark Before Dawn, Breaking Benjamin (June 23, 2015)
In my opinion, Dark Before Dawn is Breaking Benjamin’s best album. Perhaps this is because I got into the band pretty late into their career, but as far as I’m concerned it is by far their best overall. You’d be justified in saying that Breaking Benjamin just cover the same ground over and over again, but Dark Before Dawn is the best execution of this by far. All of their previous albums were uneven at best, even ones I genuinely like such as Dear Agony or Phobia. However, Dark Before Dawn is great from start to finish, with no track being weak or feeling like filler (other than the mood-setting, instrumental opening and closing tracks, but they’re harmless in my opinion). On the contrary, there are so many standout tracks here, from “Failure”, to “Angel’s Fall”, to “Close to Heaven” and “Ashes of Eden”, all of which show off Benjamin Burnley’s fantastic voice and make you want to sing along.

7) Carolus Rex, Sabaton (May 22, 2012)
While Heroes might be the point when Sabaton hit the peak of their popularity, its predecessor Carolus Rex is still the height of the band’s talents. It’s perhaps their most focused and personal work ever, detailing the rise and fall of the Swedish empire. In fact, it’s so interesting and compelling that it has taught me more about this period of time in Europe than any history class I’ve ever taken. THe songs straight into history. A particular highlight in this regard is “A Lifetime of War”, which make you feel how awful a decade-long war is, and then pulls the rug out and reveals that this war would go on for another two decades. Songs like “The Carolean’s Prayer”, “Carolus Rex” and “Ruina Imperii” all demonstrate the religious fanaticism of the time, how it was used to control men and dehumanize others. “The Carolean’s Prayer” in particular is easily one of the best songs of Sabaton’s career. Oh and I would be remiss to forget that Carolus Rex also has some amazing B-sides, most notably a cover of Amon Amarth’s “Twilight of the Thunder God”. When I was in university and this song came out, I would play it on repeat over and over again and try to death growl along. It’s so good and the fact that it’s a B-side better than what most bands can manage to put onto full albums is insane.

6) Marrow of the Spirit, Agalloch (November 23, 2010)
Most of the albums on this list are my favourite by their respective bands. With that said, I feel it’s worth emphasizing that Marrow of the Spirit is actually only my third favourite Agalloch album – seriously, if you haven’t listened to them before, do it. Agalloch tend to dabble in atmospheric doom metal with clear nature- and pagan-inspirations to each of their songs. Marrow of the Spirit is perhaps their rawest album in that regard. Having come off of two fairly polished albums, Agalloch were looking for a grittier sound and so opted to record Marrow of the Spirit on vintage analog equipment. The difference in production quality is immediately obvious when you compare Marrow of the Spirit to The Mantle or Ashes Against the Grain, but it works very well within Agalloch’s sound. The album immediately sets the tone with “They Escaped the Weight of Darkness”, a sombre mood-setter which is almost entirely composed of a cello and a recording of water running. From there, each of the remaining 5 tracks is just incredibly well-composed doom metal, equal parts sombre and epic, ranging in lengths from 9:40 to a staggering 17:34 on “Black Lake Niðstång”. “Black Lake Niðstång” is a particular highlight for me – it certainly feels like a 17 minute song, but it goes through so many changes throughout that it never stagnates. Marrow of the Spirit might not be Agalloc’s most accessible album, but it’s certainly one that gets better the more you listen to it.

5) Through Glass Eyes, At Dawn’s Edge (September 30, 2017)
Oh hey, the first pick from one of my annual album rankings! As I said back then, Through Glass Eyes is ambitious, diverse, mature and has impeccable production values, all of which are even more impressive when you consider that this is not only a debut album but also an independent release! They also don’t fit into cliches – many female-fronted, symphonic/melodic metal bands can get dismissed for sounding like Evanescence-wannabes, but At Dawn’s Edge have more maturity to their songwriting and singing which gives them their own unique flavour. It’s a fantastic debut album and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its follow-up ever since. Owing to the independent nature of this band, I would implore you to check them out if you have not yet, they’re seriously this good.

4) Blood, In This Moment (August 14, 2012)
In This Moment are unquestionably one of my favourite bands right now. Every album they put out has its own unique flavour, but in my opinion Blood is clearly their best overall. It maintains the band’s metalcore edge while dipping into more experimentation to make the album feel a bit more unique than its more standard-metal predecessor, A Star-Crossed Wasteland. Of course, experimentation doesn’t mean much if the music isn’t great, but luckily Blood has so many good songs that it’s practically a greatest hits album. “Blood”, “Adrenalize” and “Whore” are all top-notch and kick the album into high gear right out of the gate. They’re not the only highlights though, there’s also the fantastic “Burn” which shows off Maria Brink’s ability to go from melodic vocals to blistering screams. Tracks like “Beast Within”, “The Blood Legion” and the haunting “11:11” also bear mentioning and, like Carolus Rex, the B-side cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” is also an absolute treat. My fiance loves it… and I’ll let you fill in the blanks from there. Blood is also notable for “sexing up” In This Moment (to the point where they would feel the need to address it on their next album in the song “Sex Metal Barbie”). The album deals with themes of abuse and manipulation, but it always reclaims sex and turns it into something empowering. It gives this album a bit of a sultry, even kinky, edge that I really enjoy and gives it a much different vibe than any other metal band I listen to.

3) Wait for the Siren, Project 86 (August 21, 2012)
Wait for the Siren came out at a time when it looked like Project 86 were about to implode – after 7 very solid albums, their guitarist, drummer and bassist all quit the band, only leaving frontman Andrew Schwab to continue on. Luckily for us, Andrew Schwab was always the primary, most dominant creative force in the band, so the loss of the other band members didn’t completely sink Project 86 (that said, Schwab’s overbearing control might actually have been why the other band members quit, they wanted to experiment more and he wouldn’t let them, or so the rumours say). Having also quit Tooth and Nail Records in favour of crowdfunding, Schwab was free to rebuild the band in whatever way he saw fit, and Wait for the Siren is a fantastic mixture of old and new. Right off the bat, the band shows off some of this new creative expression with “Fall, Goliath, Fall”, which features such distinctive instruments as uillean pipes, mandolin and hammer dulcimer. That said, these additions to Project 86’s sound are just that – additions. The band is still as heavy as they ever were, as shown off in tracks such as “The Crossfire Gambit”. Songwriting has always been Project 86’s greatest strength and Wait for the Siren is no exception, with every track being diverse and interesting in their own regard. My personal favourite track on the album is the rousing “Take the Hill”, easily one of the best tracks in Project 86’s history. While Drawing Black Lines will probably always be my favourite Project 86 album, Wait for the Siren is easily my second favourite, which is pretty incredible considering that they haven’t had a bad album in their lengthy career.

2) Eat the Elephant, A Perfect Circle (April 20, 2018)
Oh hey, another pick from my annual album rankings! Eat the Elephant really impressed me last year. Nearly every track is expertly crafted and has something to say, from the hopeful title track, to political and social commentary in tracks such as “The Contrarian”, “The Doomed” and “TalkTalk”. The particular highlight though is “So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish” a song which is apocalyptic and beautiful at the same time (to the point where it’s probably going to end up getting played at my wedding… seriously). While the second half of the album is weaker than the first half, the fact that this album still managed to take the spot of my 2nd favourite album of the decade should go to show that that doesn’t lower it in my estimation too much. The stuff that’s here is just too damn good to pass up.

1) Devotion, Anberlin (October 15, 2013)
I love Anberlin. When they released their 6th album, Vital, I thought that it was almost as good as the band’s fan favourite, Cities. However, just over a year later, the band reissued the album as Devotion, adding 3 new tracks and 4 B-sides to the original album and retooling the tracklist somewhat. This was, in my opinion, enough to put Devotion over the top to be the clear best album in the band’s history. Vital already boasted some great music, such as the aptly-titled opener “Self-Starter”, “Other Side”, “Orpheum” and the absolutely fantastic “God, Drugs & Sex”. You’d think that throwing a bunch of new songs and B-sides into an already-completed album might mess with the flow of the music, but the new additions are all solid and more than good enough to stand side-by-side with the existing tracks, although the best is definitely “IJSW”. Devotion was by far my favourite album of the 2010s, I knew for sure going into this list that it was going to be my #1.

And that’s it for my favourite albums of the 2010s. Tune in soon when I go through the best movies of the 2010s!

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IC2S Playlist Update 27/04/2016

In case you haven’t been paying attention, we are now just past the IC2S Playlist’s 1 year anniversary. At 9 1/2 hours and 104 songs long, I find it quite enjoyable to throw on shuffle when I’m at work. I’m going to continue to update it irregularly from here on, but I don’t think I’ll write up big update posts like this anymore, mainly because I felt like they spammed the blog with useless posts that people didn’t care about, and the effort I put into writing them was taking up potential effort that could have been going towards the backlog of topics that I actually had some interest in writing about. That’s more-or-less why I started making the playlist updates into more “regular” blog posts a couple months ago, but it’ll be nice not to have weekly updates hanging over my head from here on out.

Anyway, we’re gonna close out the year with 2 songs I wanted to add for months now. First is “Dear John Piper” by Showbread. I had been debating picking this song for a while because it’s a very IC2S-type song (it’s about the destructive theology of Calvinism/predestination… which, again, is totally something I’m into). I kind of wish that the whole song wasn’t being yelled out, but after a few listens it works pretty well, and contrasts well with the furious preaching towards the latter-half of the song. I quite enjoy it, it’s my kind of deliciously angry.

Secondly we have “Empire of the Clouds” by Iron Maiden, which closes us out with the longest song on the entire playlist. It’s also worth pointing out that this epic was written and performed by a group of nearly 60 year old men, which is just insane for an 80s rock/metal band in this day and age. Very few artists can remain relevant for a decade, let alone the 35+ years that Iron Maiden has been rocking our faces (although they did start to slip into irrelevance through the 90s, releasing their 4 indisputably worst albums back-to-back, but have been putting out high quality stuff again since 2000). I mean, just think about how irrelevant The Rolling Stones have been for years, or even other bands with mini-comebacks like Aerosmith have long since slipped back into obscurity (even Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne to some degree). Even better, they seem to be edging back towards my preferred era of Iron Maiden, the Powerslave/Seventh Son of a Seventh Son sound with its heavy concepts, sweeping epics and technical virtuosity. I maintain that Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is my favourite Maiden album, and it’s too bad that they ditched that sound in favour of the mediocrity they chased throughout the 90s. Now that we have The Book of Souls, who knows what limits Maiden still has within them?

Also, coincidentally, I have put together a small one-off playlist which just happened to coincide with this 1 year anniversary. Basically, I was listening to Sabaton’s “The Rise of Evil” the other day, which got me wondering whether it could be considered part of a “musical trilogy”. “The Rise of Evil” would be part 1, followed by “The Final Solution” as part 2 and then finishing with… well, I wasn’t sure if they had a third song that could fit in well enough. The result of this is a playlist I titled “Sabaton – The Rise and Fall of Evil”, which basically is a recounting of the history of Nazi Germany in WWII. I personally think that the compilation gels together very well and tells a rather compelling story: a madman rising to power, the Nazis’ early victories, the Holocaust, the Allies uniting and turning the tide, and then the German people coming to grips with the evil they had been fighting in the name of for almost 6 years. I definitely recommend checking it out, either search it on Spotify or go to the IC2S Playlist sidebar and then click on my username.

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IC2S Playlist Update 06/01/2016

First up this week we have “Blind” by Korn from their self-titled debut. I have a bit of an odd history with Korn: I saw them live in 2011 when they were double-headlining a concert with Disturbed, but didn’t really care for much of their music. However, I grew to really like the band’s (former, at the time) guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch, his conversion story and fantastic side-projects The Whosoevers, Save Me From Myself (the book and the album) and Love & Death, which make significantly better music than Korn proper. Through Head, I have retroactively been finding more interest in the band, and actually can appreciate a few of their earlier albums now. Their first, self-titled album is arguably their best though, and so I figured it was appropriate to put their first big hit, “Blind”, on the playlist as it exemplifies the best of their sound.

I was pretty torn between a couple other songs though. I had been seriously considering “Ball Tongue”, although deferred from it because I only really like the first 40 seconds of it. I was also really mulling over “Daddy”, but decided against it for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s excessively vulgar. More importantly though, it’s a rather strange song with some really sloppy craftwork. However, it makes up for this by being extremely passionate. By the time that “mother” is singing softly while Jonathan Davis literally bawls like a baby, you can tell that this is a really special moment and that Jonathan is working some major issues out in front of us. For that reason I rather like it, but it just wouldn’t work particularly well on its own in a playlist.

…so, uh, yeah I picked “Blind” this week.

Secondly, we have “Hearts of Iron” by Sabaton from their most recent album, Heroes. The album recounts the accomplishments of exceptional individuals during wars, from archetypal war heroes (Audie Murphy), to brave medics (Leslie “Bull” Allan), to the lesser-known efforts of units who fought back in spite of overwhelming odds (“Night Witches”, “Resist and Bite”). “Hearts of Iron” is an interesting choice in all of this as it recounts the heroism of the German 9th and 12th armies, who fought through the Soviet army to allow German refugees to surrender to the West. I like that Sabaton acknowledges that, even if you’re on the losing side of a conflict and have been in support of a horrifically evil regime, you can still be a hero by doing good and saving innocent people. Not only did this action allow these refugees to get on the nicer side of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, but this also allowed these innocents to avoid the Rape of Berlin, an action which I would put up amongst the most despicable actions of the entire war. Considering that we have mythologized the Second World War as being a “good” conflict and placed ourselves upon the moral pedestal, it’s absolutely despicable that these sorts of atrocities have been swept under the rug of history for not fitting into our narrative. War, even one that is justified, is still a source of great evil and should be avoided at all costs.

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IC2S Playlist Update 14/10/2015

EDIT: I’ve been working on a little update for the blog, going through past, current and upcoming posts to tag them with their subject matter. If you’re interested in what I’m talking about in any blog post, click one of the labels at the bottom of the post and it’ll link you to all of my posts on the subject! Considering that I’m often calling back to previous topics, this should hopefully be quite handy for everyone, myself included!

So it looks like we’re going for an anti-war theme this week (or at the very least, songs which explore the human cost of war). This wasn’t entirly intentional, but as soon as I made my selections the theme clicked and I quite like how it all worked out. First up this week, we have “One” by Metallica from their album …And Justice For All. I decided to pick this song this week after a particularly epic air-drumming session that spontaneously commenced when this song came on the radio at the end of a late-night road trip. Like many people, I first got exposed to this song by Guitar Hero 3, and it really ignited a love for early Metallica music. “One” is just a natural fit for me – as you might have noticed from some of my earlier selections, I really love longer songs with a slow build-up which supports the epic musicianship/lyrics later and just makes them stronger overall. “One” is pretty much a text-book example of this.

I also like the story that the song tells: losing all of your senses but only being able to feel pain seems like it would indeed be the very definition of hell on earth. For the longest time I thought that the song was based on a real person, but thankfully not. It seems to be based on an anti-war novel and film called Johnny Got His Gun (or, at the very least, was based on the same concept).

Secondly, we have “The Price of a Mile” by Sabaton from the album The Art of War. The Art of War is, in my opinion, the first good Sabaton album, and “The Price of a Mile” is a good example of why. I’d argue that it’s one of their all-time best songs and stretches their usual formula of singing about great historical victories, this time singing about a horrific, senseless waste of life. It is especially resonant for me as a Canadian, since we are all brought up being told about the thousands of Canadian soldiers who died in the Battle of Passchendaele to win a few measly miles which were soon lost again. It’s a really sombre, and yet bad ass, song which really hammers home the meaningless nature that war can take on, and questions the costs that are associated with victory at all costs.

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IC2S Playlist Update 03/06/2015

I have to apologize for the reduced blogging output this past week – I have been temporarily transferred to a different department at work so it has been cutting down on my thinking and writing. I should be done this in a week or two with any luck though, so I will hopefully be putting out stuff other than Playlist updates and Quick Fixes soon enough.

First up this week is “Devil’s Cave” by Sleeping Romance, from their debut album, Enlighten. I believe that a couple months ago I called Sleeping Romance “Evanescence, but slightly more metal and significantly less angsty”, which has to be the most accurate description of the band that there is. They’re a really young symphonic metal band, having only released Enlighten and a single since 2013, but their sound is already shaping up to be quite promising. “Devil’s Cave” is probably their most “metal” song, but it is easily their best as far as I’m concerned, and I hope that they continue to explore this side of their sound more in the future. That wicked guitar solo near the latter-half of the song is particularly noteworthy.

Secondly, we have “Rise of Evil” by Sabaton, from their album Attero Dominatus. As a power metal band, Sabaton is simultaneously silly and epic, and is one of my favourite bands. For the most part, their songs are all based on historical wars (their best album, Carolus Rex, taught me more about the rise and fall of the Swedish empire and European politics than any other educational source before or since). I wasn’t a big fan of them until The Art of War, at which point their musical quality shot up significantly with each successive album. However, I recently decided to go back into their first three albums and found some old gems that I missed the first time I went through. Perhaps the best of these old gems is “Rise of Evil”, a rather disturbing track about the rise of the Nazi government and the days leading up to the second World War. Sabaton have been accused of being neo-Nazis many times in the past, and I kind of wonder if this song has something to do with that… despite the song itself simply stating the facts really obviously condemning Nazism in the title. There is actually an even more tragic companion piece to this song dealing exclusively with the evils of the Holocaust, called “The Final Solution” (from the album Coat of Arms), which I recommend checking out as well if your day was looking just a little too positive.

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2012 in Media

With 2013 just a few days away, I think it’s worth looking back on the year that was. While it may be tempting to do this from the perspective of movies, I think that this was actually a rather disappointing year overall (or, at the very least, underwhelming). I mean, we had more than our fair share of mindless cinematic drivel (Wrath of the Titans, Resident Evil: Retribution, etc), extremely disappointing films (Taken 2, The Amazing Spider-man, etc) and decent films which didn’t reach their potential (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, PrometheusLooper [the 3rd act was horrible in my opinion], The Dark Knight Rises, etc). To top it off, Dredd bombed at the box-office. That said, there were some great films, but aside from Skyfall, The Avengers and Argo, most of the good stuff seemed to be skewed towards the first couple months of the year.

Anyway, I really didn’t start writing this to mope about the year in movies. I wrote to say that 2012 was the best years in music I can remember as most of my favourite artists not only released new albums, but they were almost universally amongst the best material in their discographies. Now I’ll preface this by saying that while taste in movies tends to be more agreeable, it seems like almost everyone has their own segmented tastes in music. I mean, my tastes are focused largely on various forms of rock/hard rock/Christian rock/metal, but even in that niche then there’s a good chance my tastes don’t overlap with most people. So while I had an amazing year in music, you might have had a terrible one, or you had an amazing one for completely different reasons. In any case, let me enthusiastically take you through my epic 2012. 🙂

Beginning the year was the very odd, but nevertheless catchy, Gorillaz/James Murphy/Andre 3000 collaboration, “DoYaThing”. The song was completely bonkers, but there is an unusual charm to it that grows on you with subsequent listenings (sort of like Gorillaz’s previous Plastic Beach amendment, “Doncamatic”). It wasn’t amazing, but I’d give the song a 6.5/10.

Next up was a busy April, which had 3 releases: True Defiance by Demon Hunter, which released the same day as Fighter by Manafest, and then the Chemicals E.P. by Love & Death at the end of the month. I was never much of a fan of Demon Hunter, but one of my friends recommended that I check them out again, and I’m glad that I did. True Defiance was a good album, amongst my favourites of the year. True Defiance opens with a bang with “Crucifix”, an amazingly intense headbanger of a song. The album is just strong throughout, carrying through to the melodic closer, “Dead Flowers”. If you love metal, then this is definitely worth checking out, even if you aren’t a Christian. I’d give it an 8/10.

As for Fighter, I admittedly have been a bit more cautious of Manafest since Citizens Activ came out. He is now 3 albums removed from his amazing Glory, but hasn’t recaptured the (ahem) spirit of that epic release. Fighter doesn’t really inspire any renewed confidence that he will be doing so anytime soon, and really feels like Manafest is just coasting off of his past success. The album sounds a lot like The Chase did. While it sounds like I really didn’t like the album, this isn’t really the case. It certainly is decent to listen to and has some catchy songs, but it’s nothing new. It’s a 6.5/10 for me.

Rounding off the month of April was Love & Death’s Chemicals E.P. I first started listening to Brian “Head” Welch about a year or 2 ago, and was blown away by Save Me From Myself. Naturally, I awaited his next album with bated breath. While the Chemicals E.P. isn’t as good as his previous album, it’s a decent interlude while we see how things shape up. I give it a 6.5/10.

After the packed month of April, May was where the trifecta of awesomeness began with Sabaton’s Carolus Rex. Some friends of mine introduced me to Sabaton a couple years ago, and while I liked a few of their songs, most of their albums were very weak… well, until I listened to The Art of War and Coat of Arms anyway. Each of these albums had built upon the others and produced some legitimately good music as a result. Of course, I wondered if Sabaton would continue this evolution, or if they would fall back into formulaic war-songs again. Luckily for all of us, they unleashed Carolus Rex, easily their best album, bar none. The album features a host of amazing tracks, including “The Lion From the North”, “A Lifetime of War”, “The Carolean’s Prayer” (their best song imho), “Carolus Rex” and “Long Live the King”. Hell, even the album’s b-sides are amazing, as I constantly find myself blasting their covers of “Twilight of the Thunder God” and “Feuer Frei”. All-in-all, Carolus Rex is a freaking landmark for Sabaton, firmly establishing themselves as a legitimately awesome metal band and giving themselves a major challenge to overcome next time they release an album. A 9/10, easily.

The 2nd entry in the trifecta of awesomeness was one which I had awaited for years, P.O.D.’s Murdered Love. P.O.D. has been my favourite band for over a decade now, through ups and downs. When I heard they were going to be returning to their hard rock/rap/reggae roots, I was stoked and the end product did not disappoint. Murdered Love is the best P.O.D. album since Satellite (which happens to be my favourite album, period… questionable taste maybe, but refer back to the 2nd paragraph please). The album features some great tracks, especially “Murdered Love”, “Lost in Forever” and especially “Babylon the Murderer”, while the other tracks are mostly solid. The only two which are questionable are “Bad Boy” (which is stupid but enjoyable) and “Panic and Run” (which I found “meh”), but they hardly sink the album. Also, the album spawned a fair bit of controversy for the song “I Am”, but that’s a matter for a later date. All-in-all, Murdered Love sated my P.O.D. appetite, and hopefully is a portent of greater things in the future. I give it a totally biased 8.5/10.

Rounding off the trifecta of awesomeness was Project 86’s Kickstarter-funded album, Wait for the Siren. Project 86 are an unfortunately under-appreciated hard rock band, but they have never had a bad album in their 15+ years as a band. Wait for the Siren doesn’t disappoint in this respect, delivering a characteristically strong and very heavy war-call to the masses. P86 are also known for changing up their sound on each album, and this one sees them experimenting with unorthodox instruments (mandolin, glockenspiel, etc), in addition to flowing between different tones and degrees of heaviness. The album opens on a very strong note with “Fall, Goliath, Fall”, and doesn’t let up once. I also quite enjoy “The Crossfire Gambit” (if only because it features Brian “Head” Welch) and “Take the Hill” (my favourite on the album). Wait for the Siren just goes to show that Andrew Schwab knows what he’s doing, crafting another excellent album and cementing P86’s legacy as a force to be reckoned with. 8.5/10.

With summer nearly done, August was rounded out by tobyMac’s newest release, Eye on It. tobyMac was actually one of the first Christian artists I heard and liked, and I count myself as a fan to this day. Welcome to Diverse City is one of my favourite Christian albums, period. Almost every song on it was a hit, and Portable Sounds basically carried on the same unique sound. I was worred that tobyMac was going to become stale, but lo-and-behold, he reinvented himself with a more modern sound in Tonight, making me believe he had the future in hand. However, when I found out that he was releasing his new album, Eye on It, a mere 2 years later, I was a bit worried (he typically runs on a 3-year rotation). Furthermore, toby was now taking inspiration from… dubstep artists. Blehhhhhhh. The finished product confirmed my suspicions: tobyMac had finally screwed up. Eye on It, put simply, sucked. I can honestly say I did not like any of the songs on the album (that’s not to say they were awful, but they failed to break the level of mediocrity). This was a combination of the dubsteb editing ruining the songs, the fact that most of them feel incredibly uninspired, or just plain stupid lyrics. Formerly, stupid tracks like “Whoopsi-Daisy” were forgivable because they were insanely catchy, but somehow toby seems to have lost that magic. Even the songs which are obviously being pruned to be singles (“Me Without You” and “Eye on It”) fail to differentiate themselves. Eye on It was a massive disappointment, and (thankfully) the only album this year which I can honestly say I hated. I’d give it a 4/10.

After the disappointment that was Eye on It, I was a little more cautious about the remaining releases of 2012 (of which there were still plenty). One of these I eyed most suspiciously was Showbread’s Cancer. I like Showbread, but they have always been an odd band and I am always apprehensive of their newest release. However, I really liked Who Can Know It?, and so decided to back their Kickstarter campaign. Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed by the end result: Cancer was very good, sort of like a cross-section of Showbread’s past. The message is similar to Who Can Know It?, with the instrumentation of The Fear of God and Age of Reptiles (a little bit of …No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical too) with frequent tonal shifts, leading to a very diverse album. It tooks a couple listen-throughs to come to a final decision, but from the start I knew I enjoyed Cancer. It’s a very strong album, probably their most solid since Age of Reptiles. 7.5/10.

Rounding out 2012 was another duo of albums released on the same day, Anberlin’s Vital and Dethklok’s Dethalbum III (was there ever a more paradoxical pairing?). Anberlin have been gaining mainstream momentum the past few years and are quite prolific, putting out a ton of quality work despite quick turn-around times. The latest result of this is Vital, which certainly lives up to its name. Cities was a fantastic album (and “(*Fin)” is amongst my all-time favourite songs), and Vital stops just short of surpassing it. The songs are all strong, with particular highlights being “Self-Starter”, “Other Side” and “God, Drugs & Sex” (which is hypnotic and really kicks into overdrive when the duet begins). Vital is another feather in Anberlin’s cap without a doubt. 8/10.

Finally, Dethalbum III by Dethklok finished off 2012 in “brutal” fashion. I am a fan of Metalocalypse, and while The Dethalbum featured some fun songs, it was largely a light-hearted affair and clearly not meant to be taken to seriously. However, Dethalbum II reversed this trend, delivering an epic metal album which could easily be taken on its own merits. Dethalbum III follows in this pattern, although it’s not quite as strong as the previous album was. However, there are some very good songs on display which are instantly recognizable from the show, particularly “I Ejaculate Fire”, “Crush the Industry” and “Impeach God”. 7/10.

All-in-all, 2012 was a great year for me in music as you can see. It was almost better though, but unfortunately Love & Death’s first full-length album was delayed to January 2013! Damn… well, hopefully that’s just the start of another epic year – Love & Death and RED are both confirmed to be putting out new material, and with any luck we’ll see a new album from Disturbed (please get off hiatus!), Guns N’ Roses (lol), Art of Dying, Gorillaz and Mastodon!

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