I don’t usually write about music on this blog, but I decided to compile a list of what I think is a list of the most essential, most groundbreaking, heaviest metal albums of the decade. I’ve listened to hundreds of albums over the decade, thanks to Spotify.
My music system goes like this- each year has a “To-Listen” and “Approved” playlist. Everything I hear about that sounds decent, including bands I’ve never heard of, go into To-Listen. I gather album information from Sputnik Music, Angry Metal Guy, metal magazines, bands I follow on Facebook, recommendations from friends, and bands that open concerts I go to. I also scanned new release websites and added albums that appealed to me by their title and description, assuming they were a band I had not heard from before.
If the album is good, it gets put into that year’s “Approved” list and I can play the playlist on shuffle if I feel like it.
I will confess that I spent the 2013-2015 period most invested in keeping up with the genre as a whole (the 2014 “Approved” list is 1,450 tracks long, and over 111 hours in length). Other years I didn’t drive or otherwise commute as much, and so my exposure was more limited, especially in regards to bands I didn’t know.
Without further ado, here are 33 essential metal albums of the 2010s, in no particular order.
Anything marked with a * is something I was genuinely surprised by, an album I didn’t think was going to be great based on a band’s resume to that point.
Chevelle – La Gárgola (2014) *
Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner (2016)
The Offering – Home (2019)
Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call in Jonestown (2013)
Black Crown Initiate – The Wreckage of Stars (2014)
High on Fire – Luminferous (2015)
Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)
Chthonic – Bú-Tik (2013) Amia Venera Landscape – The Long Procession (2010)
Fightstar – Behind The Devil’s Back (2015)
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction (2015)
Clutch – Earth Rocker (2013) Karnivool – Asymmetry (2013)
Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal (2013) *
Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (2012)
Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I (2012)
Enslaved – Axioma Ethica Odini (2010)
Kvelertak – Kvelertak (2011)
Zoroaster – Matador (2010)
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage (2012) The Sword – Warp Riders (2010)
Steak Number Eight – The Hutch (2013)
Red Fang – Murder the Mountains (2011)
The Ocean – Pelagial (2013)
Cult of Luna – A Dawn to Fear (2019)
Between the Buried and Me – Automata I & Automata II (2018)
Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology (2018)
Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms (2018)
Once Human – Evolution (2017) *
Prong – X – No Absolutes (2016)
Soen – Lotus (2019)
Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages (2015)
Botanist – VI: Flora (2014)
Content Warning: This post discusses mass shootings and other acts of terrorism, along with the racism and xenophobia that surround it.
It is uniquely American that, for record-keeping purposes, I have to mention at the beginning of this post which mass shootings I am writing in response to. When I began forming this post there was white supremacist shooting in El Paso, Texas. That has been joined with another mass shooting, again by a young white man with access to high-end body armor and weaponry, in Dayton, Ohio.
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, noted the importance of naming the ideology of the El Paso shooter, and how that aligned with the policies and rhetoric of the Trump Administration:
The manifesto of the El Paso shooter indicates that white supremacist violence is an international contagion, wherein earlier shooters form a model, in their rhetoric and actions, for later terrorists. Though most mass shootings, and most mass shootings by white supremacists, happen in the United States, high-profile terrorist acts like the Christchurch shooting earlier this year in New Zealand, and going back further, the violence of Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011, show that this is an international phenomenon in white, developed countries.
Efforts to address white supremacist terrorism at the state level have been largely token, and programs started under President Barack Obama have been either reversed or cut. White supremacist violence has spiked since 2016. Even admitting that white supremacists are the top terrorist threat, and that home-grown terrorism is much more an existential threat than Islamic radicalism, remains a political third rail. Thus discussions after white supremacist attacks often avoid ideology and instead talk about mental health and video games (among the right) and gun control measures (among mainstream liberals).
It’s important to avoid political amnesia and treat this phenomenon as uniquely connected to Trump. The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Rightby David Neiwert, which talks about white supremacist rhetoric and how it informed violent acts against liberals, people of color, and other communities, was published in May 2009. Even it is quite dated, because of the many acts of violence tied to an ever-radicalizing media and conservative establishment under the Obama Administration. But white supremacist terror has existed my entire lifetime, going back to the Patriot movement of the 1990s and acts like the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
What has existed for a while, and is most nakedly apparent since January 2017, is a rise in state-influenced stochastic terrorism (n.), which is defined as:
thepublicdemonization of a person or groupresulting in theincitement of a violentact,which is statisticallyprobablebutwhosespecificscannot be predicted:
Thelone-wolfattackwasapparentlyinfluenced by therhetoric of stochasticterrorism.
Acts of terror presently are in essence state-sanctioned, in that the President, and his political party which holds most of the power at the federal level, operate under the same rhetoric and influences.
The increasingly-punitive immigration policy, family separation, and demonization of asylum-seekers, all aim to do the same thing the El Paso shooter was doing- reverse demographic shifts that lead to white-minority societies.
I’m 29. Of all the presidential elections held in my lifetime (seven of them), the Republican Party has won the popular vote in exactly one of them (2004, which many would argue was the result of a badly botched Democratic campaign). Despite arguments made that the Republican Party needed to broaden its base and become more competitive among non-white populations (which followed consecutive defeats in 2008 and 2012), the Party has just steadily migrated further to the right, becoming even more the party of a particular sub-set of white people. The links between Republicans and evangelicals, forged in 1980, have continued to deepen. 2016 saw the “death of a euphemism“, as the latent white supremacy in conservative arguments about immigration and diversity was brought forward and made the explicit policy of a winning presidential campaign.
The American Right has gained and retained power through victories in low-turnout elections, widespread vote suppression, and policies of intimidation that maximize the political power of an ever-narrowing white majority. In many places, like California where I grew up, and in Texas where the mass shooting was, the society has become “majority-minority”, presaging a time about thirty years from now where the entire country will be white-minority. Texas especially is a point of huge right-wing anxiety, as demographics and organizing make the possibility of Blue Texas more possible, which would fundamentally change American elections. About half of white people are deeply fearful and apprehensive about these demographic shifts. Changes, made clear by developments like a rise in progressive legislators of color, threaten white elite rule. “Lone-wolf” stochastic terrorism is just another tactic to sustain minority white rule, one that is at a surface level condemned by the right-wing establishment, but below that is clearly being encouraged.
Some issues that are emerging in the past few years include three shifts in the media landscape:
The rise of Sinclair Broadcast Group and its consolidation of local news stations. Many people avoided being radicalized by Fox News- even at its peak, most Americans don’t watch any cable news, including Fox. But an entire population that thought they could trust the local news is instead exposed to a right-wing reactionary politics.
The talk-radioization of cable news. The rise of outright white nationalists like Tucker Carlson has made cable news more like the more radical, openly white supremacist talk radio landscape. Talk radio has always been a beta test for televised news- new reactionary arguments emerge there then are laundered into Fox News and Sinclair. The separation between talk radio and TV news has become increasingly blurred.
The rise of predatory online reactionaries. As I stated in the “A Unitarian Universalist Pipeline to the Right?” series, especially part IV: Anatomy of a Pipeline, the online right-wing landscape has become filled with figures whose job it is to hook people on far-right politics and talking points. Individuals like Dennis Prager, Ben Shapiro, Dave Rubin and others make their money through radicalization. Spaces like 4chan and 8chan are so toxic now that they are dumping grounds for mass shooter manifestos, like the El Paso shooter’s.
More must be done than trying to wait out the clock until November 2020. The actors moving to preserve white minority rule never rest. And the policy of the state, and the actions of “lone wolf” terrorists, are ever-more entwined.
Due to serious moderation issues in the existing Facebook UU group “Unitarian Universalism – Faith of the Free“, which saw an influx of outright white nationalists, and a subsequent crackdown on both racist users and users pointing out said racism, a new Facebook group has been created to better introduce people to our living tradition.