2010 doesn’t seem to have been quite as strong a year as 2009, when I did a top 15 on my own blog – this year I struggled to name ten, with some albums getting a lot of hype in my musical circles doing nothing much for me at all.- Iron Maiden and Pineapple Thief being two of them. There is utterly zero overlap with The Guardian’s own top 40, or even the top 10s of any of The Guardian’s writers. Somehow I don’t think any of the RR crew will be surprised by that…
10: Rhapsody of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels
More Dungeons and Dragons operatic pomp-metal from the Italian quintet, again featuring narration from Sir Christopher Lee and a corny plot featuring a Dark Lord called “Necron”. All good fun in a cheesy sort of way, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground for the band. Twenty-sided dice are not included.
9: Parade – The Fabric
Parade is the brainchild of Fish guitarist and former Mostly Autumn keyboard player Chris Johnson, with the collaboration of Anne-Marie Helder, Gavin Griffiths, Patrick Berry and Simon Snaize. It took me a few listens for this one to click; on the surface it’s an indie-sounding album with it’s sparse chiming guitars and clattering drums; but listen more closely and there’s some real musical depth there.
8: Anathema – We’re Here Because We’re Here
The former doom-metallers return after a lengthy absence and drop just about all traces of metal from their sound in favour of atmospheric soundscapes. It’s a musical journey that works far far better as one continuous listen than as a collection of individual songs.
7: The Reasoning – Adverse Camber
The Cardiff band’s third album continues in a similar prog-metal vein as 2008’s “Dark Angel”, albeit with Rachel Cohen handling the majority of the lead vocals. A solid piece of work with some great songs, even if it doesn’t (for me at least) quite reach the heights of their first two albums.
6: Pure Reason Revolution – Hammer and Anvil
PRR describe their third album as “Disco-prog”, meaning they’ve put electronic dance, prog and metal into a blender. At times atmospheric, at times sounding like The Prodigy at their most mental, it puts the progressive back into prog.
5: Therion – Sitra Ahra
Not quite as bonkers as their last album “Gothic Kabballah”, this one is the slightly more accessible side of Therion’s choral metal. It’s still filled with complex multi-part vocal arrangements using multiple classically-trained singers, which when combined with twin lead guitars makes for a very rich sound indeed.
4: Black Country Communion
The combination of Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian is in danger of giving supergroups a good name with this album of classic 70s-style hard rock. Hughes, despite his age is on fine form vocally, Bonamassa shows he can do hard rock as well as blues, and Jason Bonham is in the same league as his famous father. Sherinian really only has a supporting role given that cast, but still delivers some great Hammond playing. The best album Led Zeppelin never recorded in the 70s? Maybe.
3: Karnataka – The Gathering Light
Five years in the making, the second incarnation of Karnataka finally deliver an album of old-school symphonic prog on a truly epic scale. Features heartfelt female vocals from the now-departed Lisa Fury and some fantastic guitar playing from Enrico Pinna, as well as guest appearances from Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes, and Hugh McDowell, formerly of ELO, on cello.
2: Panic Room – Satellite
Compared with it’s complex, multilayered predecessor, Panic Room’s second album is made up simpler, more direct songs. The very different musical backgrounds of the five members combine in an alchemical mix which results in far more than the sum of the parts. Elements of hard rock, prog, pop, folk and jazz contribute to a sound that defies easy pigeonholing, with some very thought provoking lyrics from Anne-Marie Helder.
1: Mostly Autumn – Go Well Diamond Heart
OK, so you all know I’m a huge fan of this band. But this is the first time since I’ve been blogging that they’ve come up with my album of the year. It’s an immensely varied album containing atmospheric celtic moments, belting hard rockers, shimmering four-minute pop songs, and soaring ballads. They’ve managed to take the spirit of 70s classic rock and made it sound relevant for the 21st century with great songwriting, singing and musicianship. And they’ve done it straight after the departure of a much-loved lead singer too.