In 2010, a massive earthquake hit Haiti affecting more than 3 million people. Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" was the biggest song of the year. Toy Story 3 ruled the silver screen. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Dennis Hopper died. And a slew of heavy-music artists released badass albums — including the 10 below.
Recorded shortly after the 2009 death of Avenged drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, Nightmare captures the audacious Orange County outfit's response to the tragedy in brutal, high-definition detail; it's a document of real-life despair from a band previously known for mythologically-inspired tales from the dark side. Instead of proggy fantasy, you get emotional intensity, on bruising rockers like "Natural Born Killer" and 10-minute closer, "Save Me," as well as heartfelt ballads such as "Victim" and "Fiction." It's a testament to A7X's strength and passion that their eulogy to their fallen brother ended up such a triumph.
Bring Me the Horizon – There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let's Keep It a Secret
Bring Me the Horizon have come a long, long way from the mosh-focused deathcore and metalcore of their early days, and their lengthily entitled third album saw them take major steps towards their current embrace of pop, EDM and other non-metallic styles. There Is a Hell ... positively bristles with both unhinged energy — frontman Oliver Sykes delivers his anguished chants with an explosive conviction — and forward-thinking ambition — experimentation abounds, from the digitally manipulated choirs on "Crucify Me" to the violins on "Don't Go."
Alt-metal heroes Deftones pulled great art out of tragedy with their 2010 magnum opus, Diamond Eyes. Two years before, bassist Chi Cheng was in a car crash that left him in a coma (he would die in 2013), an event that clearly crystalized for his bandmates the need to make a new beginning — they scrapped an album, Eros, recorded before the accident — and truly seize the day. As a result, their sixth full-length seethes and bursts with vibrant, primal, sexual urgency, simultaneously embracing the youthful adrenaline of their earlier material ("Royal," "Rocket Skates") and the sultry atmospherics of 2000's White Pony ("You've Seen the Butcher," "Risk"), a watershed album topped here.
In a year peppered with triumphant reunions of weirdo-metal dinosaurs (Faith No More, Soundgarden, Godflesh), their spasmodic spawn in the Dillinger Escape Plan were tirelessly proving that art-fucky brutality will always be a young man's game. For their fourth album, the calculus cut-ups culled their biggest, brightest and boldest batch of hooks, masterfully dragging melodies seemingly borrowed from a mid-Nineties episode of Alternative Nation though their trademark slice-and-dice disorientation. With Bowie's pianist adding mellow melancholy and more of frontman Greg Puciato's swoony singing voice than ever, Option Paralysis is the brainy crossroads between vulnerability and violence.
In 2010, a mysterious band called Ghost burst out of Sweden and onto the international underground scene. Their singer dressed as a satanic pope; his backing band, the Nameless Ghouls, appeared in cloaked robes with shadow-cast faces. Their spooky, throwback sound evoked Mercyful Fate and Blue Öyster Cult. Listening to it then — or now — no one could have imagined the arena-headlining heights the band would evolve to, but their debut LP is still an undeniable modern classic.
Boasting massive cock-rock riffs, snotty punk-rock attitude, black-metal fury and a weird fetish for owls, Norway's Kvelertak blew down the doors when they dropped their self-titled debut in 2010. Within short order, they'd have James Hetfield and Dave Grohl singing their praises. They also laid the groundwork for their current incarnation, by welcoming Ivar Nikolaisen — the band's frontman since 2018 — to guest on ripping standout "Blodtørst."
On their excellent follow-up to 2008's Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1, Chicagoland black-metal sorcerers Nachtmystium upped their dark psychedelic ante with triumphant rock & roll guitars, infectious new-wave synths, and session drums from Jef "Wrest" Whitehead of Leviathan. Variously invoking Queens of the Stone Age ("Nightfall") and a denser, faster Depeche Mode ("No Funeral"), Nachtmystium mastermind Blake Judd and his latest backing cast transcended black metal at every turn, delivering a diverse meditation on damage done by pills, powders and needles in 10 hypnotic parts.
Oxnard, California, metallic hardcore crew Nails, led by irascible main man Todd Jones, are widely considered to be one of the most pissed-off and punishing bands in the land. Their debut album, Unsilent Death, set the stage — and then burned it down — for savage things to come across 10 neck-snapping cuts delivered in less than 14 harrowing, exhausting, exhilerating minutes.
Triptykon frontman Tom G. Warrior has seemingly been down for the count several times: first, with death-metal firebrands Hellhammer in the Eighties, and then when he broke up extreme-metal masters Celtic Frost twice(!) in 1993 and again two years ago. But he's always bounced back, and the debut album from doomy deathsters Triptykon is also a triumph. The metal Rasputin kicks off this 2010 magnum opus with his trademark "Ugh!" and closes it with a slow, stomping 20-minute epic, "The Prolonging," which he underscores with what might as well be his mantra: "As you perish, I shall live."
Since it's beginning, metal has lent itself to successful hybridization, from thrash (metal meets punk) to nu-metal (metal meets hip-hop). Now four Danes have given us heavy music's latest, and perhaps unlikeliest, crossbreed in their fusion of latter-day Metallica's power-groove and Elvis-style rockabilly, as heard on Volbeat's excellent fourth offering. It's easily singer-guitarist Michael Pouslen & Co.'s poppiest and most experimental album to date, from the radio-ready "Fallen" to the slap-bass-heavy "16 Dollars," but fear not headbangers: Tasty contributions from members of Napalm Death ("Evelyn") and Mercyful Fate and Kreator ("7 Shots") prove that these innovators still have their hearts firmly planted in metal hell.