2010 was a year of contrasts in the metal world. While we mourned the sudden loss of greats, there was some brilliant music on offer. As some continued on their path of consistent brilliance, other artists came storming back with their strongest material in a long time. Worldwide, rock seemed to make a comeback as Bon Jovi, AC/DC, U2 and Metallica became four of the top five highest grossing acts of the year, and all four of them came to Australia to undertake mindblowingly successful tours. Metallica's 19-date tour accounted for ticket sales of 170,000, easily eclipsed by the Jovi's phenomenal 300,000-selling extravaganza. But even that was dwarfed by the AC/DC juggernaut, whose 35-year homecoming tour shifted a staggering 660,000 seats. That's twice the population of Canberra.
In terms of comebacks, Australia's love affair with Faith No More continued as if the group had never ended, with both their Soundwave sideshows selling out almost as soon as tickets went on sale. Fear Factory's reunification with Dino Cazares culminated in their most ferocious album ever, Mechanize, hitting the Top 30 and saw them in Australia not once but twice. Soilwork too defied the critics with their heaviest and most elaborate album for almost a decade. Other comebacks were not so successful: even getting Ross Robinson behind the desk couldn't stop Korn's album from falling flat, despite it being their best one in years.
Then there were the complete surprises, the biggest of which was Mike Portnoy's announcement in September that he was quitting Dream Theater after 25 years to play in Avenged Sevenfold, a proclamation so dramatic it all but disturbed the cosmic harmony of the universe. It made December's notice from Judas Priest that their next tour would be their last seem like a mere footnote in comparison. There was also Dave Ellefson's unexpected return to the Megadeth ranks, and speaking of which, metalheads around the country swarmed to movie theatres late at night to see Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Dave from Slayer all on stage together performing "Am I Evil" and watched jaws agape as Dave Mustaine gave Kirk Hammett a big hug.
From an Australian perspective, the incredible success of Parkway Drive continued unabated, selling out rooms the size of Festival Hall and the Hordern Pavilion within hours, scoring a #2 album and claiming a long-deserved ARIA Award. All without significant mainstream press coverage or major industry support. Airbourne also went from strength to strength with No Guts. No Glory going Top 20 in Australia and eight other countries including Germany (#4!), New Zealand, Greece, Canada, Austria, Finland and Sweden. That two bands from small country towns could amass such success in such a relatively short time with little or virtually no major industry support in this country is testament that the rock n' roll dream is still very much alive for those who chase it hard enough.
And for some who did, 2010 brought the end. On April 14, Type O Negative's Peter Steele died of heart failure aged only 48, just as he had begun to finally claw his way free of crippling depression and drug addiction. While the world was still reeling from that, there came the terrible news on May 16 that the almighty Ronnie James Dio, for whose voice heavy metal could well have been created, had lost his six-month battle with stomach cancer. Tributes poured in from all corners of the globe and from all spheres of the music world, one of the first of which was from Ozzy Osbourne, whose feuds with Dio were the stuff of legend. Yet as if that wasn't enough, the blackest two month period in metal history continued when Slipknot founding member Paul Gray was found dead in an Iowa hotel room on May 24 from a morphine overdose, leaving behind a wife and unborn daughter and a dark stain on the career of the decade's most upwardly mobile metal band. He was 38. When Dio was buried six days later, more than 2000 people attended his funeral service. But the Reaper still wasn't done: on October 5, 47-year old vocalist Steve Lee of Switzerland's most successful-ever hard rock band, Gotthard, died in a motor vehicle accident while on holiday in the US.
In that respect, 2010 was a very dark year. But like all years, the good comes with the bad. We here at Loud have taken a look at the releases and shows from the last twelve months and offer our own opinions about what was good, what stank and what was merely OK. And without further ado, here are the verdicts.
Top 10 of 2010:
1. The Dillinger Escape Plan: Option Paralysis
2. The Red Shore: The Avarice of Man
3. Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
4. Fear Factory: Mechanize
5. Five Star Prison Cell: Matriarch
6. Overkill: Ironbound
7. Nevermore: The Obsidian Conspiracy
8. Helloween: 7 Sinners
9. Cradle of Filth: Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa
10. Black Label Society: Order of the Black
Honourable mentions: Lots! Among those that also impressed: Astriaal: Anatomy of the Infinite, Armored Saint: La Raza, Alter Bridge: III, Pearl Aday: Little Immaculate White Fox, Fozzy: Chasing the Grail, The Devil Rides Out: The Heart & the Crown
None of these were terrible by any means, just failed to live up to expectations. It's sheer coincidence that three of them were by bands starting with "D".
Daysend: Within the Eye of Chaos - While there was some truly devastating songs here, I felt that WtEoC veered too close to the generic uniformity of so many others, something they had skilfully avoided up to now.
Dimmu Borgir: Abrahadabra - Too much fluff and fancy trimmings and not enough meat. An improvement on the last album, though.
Death Angel: Relentless Retribution - Not bad, but not up to their usual standards.
Periphery: Periphery - For all this was built up to be, it was essentially fairly standard sub-Meshuggah prog fare with terrible vocals.
A toss-up between Custom Built by Bret Michaels and Sonic Syndicate's We Rule the Night, I decided that any album that caused one of the guys in the band that made it to quit and decry it had to be so bad there couldn't be much worse. Michaels' album is pretty terrible though, and ended up destroying Billy Ray Cyrus' marriage. So they ended up even, really!
Biggest surprise: City of Fire - City of Fire
1. Nevermore- The Obsidian Conspiracy
2. Deftones- Diamond Eyes
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan- Option Paralysis
4. High on Fire- Snakes for the Divine
5. The Red Shore- The Avarice of Man
6. Spiritual Beggars- Return to Zero
7. Fozzy- Chasing The Grail
8. Enslaved- Axioma Ethica Odini
9. Black Label Society- Order of the Black
10. Iron Maiden- The Final Frontier
Honourable mentions: Grand Magus- Hammer of the North, Danko Jones- Below the Belt, Airbourne- No Guts. No Glory, Kingdom of Sorrow- Behind the Blackest Tears.
Most disappointing album of 2010: Dark Tranquillity - We Are The Void. Not an awful album by any means, but very by-the-numbers.
Biggest surprise of 2010: Whitechapel - A New Era of Corruption. Stripping away much of the deathcore influence and becoming a nastier, tighter death metal outfit has paid dividends. Also, while they played it a little too safe, Alter Bridge's III was far better than expected. Soilwork's The Panic Broadcast was also a welcome return to form, while City of Fire's self-titled album proved to be a much different beast than anticipated.
Best gigs of 2010: Faith No More at the Hordern Pavilion, Behemoth at The Metro, Mastodon at the UNSW Roundhouse, The Dillinger Escape Plan at The Metro and Metallica at Rod Laver Arena (November 18).
1. Solution 45 - For Aeons Past
2. The Red Shore - The Avarice of Man
3. Soilwork - The Panic Broadcast
4. Fear Factory - Mechanize
5. The Ocean - Anthropocentric
6. Sahg - III
7. Spiritual Beggars - Return to Zero
8. The Absence - Enemy Unbound
9. Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy
10. Trigger The Bloodshed - Degenerate
Top 5 Shows
1. Dillinger Escape Plan
4. Despised Icon
5. Napalm Death/Dying Fetus
My biggest disappointment was Cynic's Re-traced album, such a pointless 're-imagining' of already fantastic tracks!
Top 10 International Releases -
1. Spiritual Beggars - Return to Zero
2. Filter - The Trouble With Angels
3 Grand Magus – Hammer of the North
4. Alter Bridge – III
5. Accept – Blood Of The Nations
6. Danko Jones – Below the Belt
7. Barren Earth – Curse of the Red River
8. Black Country Communion - Black Country Communion
9. Deftones – Diamond Eyes
10. October Tide - A Thin Shell
Honourable Mentions –
1. Armored Saint – La Raza
2. Helmet – Seeing Eye Dog
3. Pearl – Little Immaculate White Fox
4. Dark Tranquillity – We are the Void
5. High On Fire – Snakes for the Divine
Biggest Letdowns –
1. Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy
2. Pain Of Salvation – Road Salt
3. God Dethroned – Under the Sign of the Iron Cross
4. The Crown – Doomsday King
5. Death Angel – Relentless Retribution
Australian Top 5
1 . Shihad – Ignite
2. Daysend – Within the Eye of Chaos
3. Five Star Prison Cell – Matriarch
4. Hemina – As We Know It (EP)
5. Astriaal - Anatomy of the Infinite
Gigs of 2010
1. Katatonia @ No Sleep Til, Sydney – December 18, 2010
2. Faith No More – Festival Hall, Melbourne – February 24, 2010
3. Metallica – Acer Arena, Sydney – November 11, 2010
4. Joe Bonamassa – The Factory Theatre, Sydney –March 31, 2010
5. Voyager – The Gaelic Theatre, Sydney – October 29, 2010
Special Mention - Fozzy "Let The Madness Begin" Tour – December 2010