5. Ludicra—The Tenant (Profound Lore)
When I listen to The Tenant, I don't think "Hmm, I have determined that Ludicra has created the ideal blend of black, classic, and progressive metal." No, I'm too busy going, "METALLLL!" I've long considered Ludrica the awkward cousin to Bay-Area bands like Slough Feg and Hammers of Misfortune, but with The Tenant they've broken through and finally got my full attention. They have a lot in common with Enslaved, but this is a much better record than Axioma..., with a spartan, street-level approach and the perfect mix for this type of music: drums and bass up front, vocals howling down from the attic. The songwriting has an organic quality. Riffs and sections don't sound stitched together; instead each epic track flows with beauty and logic. My admiration for this record grows every time I listen to it.
4. Horseback—The Invisible Mountain (Relapse)
I bought this on pretty flimsy pretenses, having given one of my own pretend albums a very similar title (2009's Invisible Mountain Day). Of course the Relapse blurb got my attention as well: "An intensely heavy, psychedelic, post-metallic, kraut-rock journey..." Schwing! This record sucked me in. I can't listen to it in pieces; I gotta have all 38 minutes of this glorious black morass at once. The psychedelic/kraut-rock elements lie in the simple, driving fuzztone bass riffs and intense repetition. Keyboards (sounds like a Rhodes) swirl around the pulse while raspy vocals add menace to the atmosphere. The first three songs build the momentum, climaxing with the stridently melodic title track. The album ends with the 16-minute exhalation "Hatecloud Dissolving into Nothing"; the start-to-finish arc is is where the "journey" part comes in. In other hands, this could have added up to drone boredom. What makes the album transcendent is the powerful drumming. Not only does the kit sound fantastic, but the performance gives the songs dynamics, applying boots to ass with well-placed fills and crashes. Nothing else sounded like this in 2010. Proof that evil has no boundaries.
3. Rotting Christ—Aealo (Season of Mist)
I'd long been kind of/sort of a Rotting Christ fan, but Aealo's passionate, battle-ready approach got me on board last year. It seemed like every record on Century Media between '95 and '97 sounded like this...maybe it was only the Rotting Christ albums. Exotic and intense, it manages to rock in lock-step, mighty 'n' militant.
2. Blood Revolt—Indoctrine (Profound Lore)
I'm almost embarrassed by how many Profound Lore releases made my list this year. I think everyone will admit the label was on fire this year, though. For me, much of the inferno was sparked by this long-promised Irish-Canadian collaboration. Based on the talents involved, Indoctrine promised much, then delivered something unexpectedly dramatic and explosive.
1. UFOMAMMUT—Eve (Supernatural Cat)
One song. One huge song. One huge, heavy song. One huge, heavy, perfect song.