Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Alexis Kings + Mashiri - Watford The Railway Club - Friday 4th March

Alexis Kings and Mashiri are the latest musical exports from St. Columba’s College, St. Albans. They follow in the long line of...err, well...Julian Peretta...oh, and Saving Aimee (although personally speaking I think the less said about them the better). Although some may expect a certain rivalry to have developed between these two bands, such competition has barely materialised beyond jokey banter and tonight’s show at The Railway Club in Watford sees the first occasion in which the two bands play together, at the top of the same bill at this charity gig.

After a few other acts, whom I’ll do the honour of not mentioning so I don’t have to be nasty about them; it’s time for Mashiri to take to the stage. They kick off their half-hour set with a top notch rendition of their original ‘hit’ “Banter”, a song that immediately gets the crowd going with its Rage against the Machine esque dynamics and its shout along chorus. Indeed the assembled masses, which were largely immovable bar some horrific eighties dancing throughout the sets of previous acts, soon spill into a fair-sized moshpit (blame Stuart Smith for that one I reckon). The energy in the room rises even further as the set progresses. A large reason for this is Mashiri frontman Danny Edwin who successfully goads the crowd into keeping the intensity going as the band roll through their songs. The rhythm section of drummer Hugo Beardsall and bassist Joe Clapham gives all the tracks on display the sort of forceful, driving foundation that all good heavy rock songs need. Having lost a little of their original Rage-esque dynamics, the quartet now have a sound more along the lines of more melodic hard rock bands such as Alter Bridge but also retaining some elements of classic metal acts like Metallica. The key cog in the wheel is guitarist Mark Goodfellow. His riffs are the missing link in all the songs and his solo in the penultimate song of the set is so impressive that at least two members of the crowd unfamiliar with the band approach him to congratulate his guitar slinging prowess. A rousing run through of the wonderfully fun “Yeah Roy!” ends Mashiri’s set on a high, with the mosh pit extending across the entire dance floor and including both Edwin and Clapham, the latter of whom leaves his bass onstage so as to dive into the crowd. The set finishes on a high and it’s hard to see how Alexis Kings can top it.

To be fair to the Kings, it’s hard to really compare the band with Mashiri. Whereas Mashiri are more of a heavy rock act, Alexis Kings place their stock defiantly in the indie corner. Whilst this may on the surface sound like a bad thing (I for one have a tendency to bash indie bands for being overly generic), Alexis Kings have actually managed a fair few songs of note. Kicking off with the instantly memorable “Niuq”, the band clearly has a fair few fans in the audience and despite the fact that they are not as heavy as Mashiri they still get a fair bit of movement within the crowd with their danceable, jaunty tracks. Singer Brendan Aherne leads the way with his vocals which gel perfectly with the riffs of lead guitarist Sam Privett and rhythm section of Rory McCarthy and Luke Carolan. Including a snippet of potentially the most famous song of the nineties, Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit”, proves masterly in upping the energy of the crowd and the band’s set gains even more rock ‘n’ roll credibility when it is curfewed halfway through the encore; the sound rig closing down and the lights coming on, much to the disappointment of the crowd. Despite not quite living up to the high standards set by Mashiri earlier on in the night (sorry Sam), Alexis Kings certainly provide a good deal of entertainment and if you like your music based around hooks and spiky riffs, they are certainly the band for you.

Mashiri - 8/10
Alexis Kings - 7/10

Mashiri go all psychedelic - reviewer's head in bottom left makes picture

Sadly that's not the sight of Hugo Beardsall doing a drum solo

Mashiri guitarist Mark Goodfellow rocks the fuck out (that's a technical term)

Alexis Kings: so cool they come in black and white

Yeah, ok, Alexis Kings are definitely more photogenic than Mashiri

Alexis Kings guitarist Sam Privett poses for the camera

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Top 100 albums of 2010

100. GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT - Age Of The Fifth Sun
99. OCTOBER TIDE - A Thin Shell
98. CATHEDRAL - The Guessing Game
97. OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ & JOHN FRUSCIANTE - Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & John Frusciante
96. SOILWORK - The Panic Broadcast
95. FREDRIKA STAHL - Sweep Me Away
94. DEMIANS - Mute
93. LIGHTGUIDES - Past & Present
91. BAND OF HORSES - Infinite Arms
90. ORPHANED LAND - The Never Ending Way Of ORWarriOR
88. AUDREY HORNE - Audrey Horne
87. UNDEROATH - Ø (Disambugation)
86. COHEED & CAMBRIA - Year Of The Black Rainbow
85. JONSI - Go
84. JUROJIN - The Living Measure Of Time
83. ASTROHENGE - Astrohenge
82. PHOSPHORESCENT - Here's To Taking It Easy
81. SOULFLY - Omen
80. TOM MCRAE - The Alphabet Of Hurricanes
78. ADEBISI SHANK - This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank
77. A GENUINE FREAKSHOW - Oftentimes
76. SLEEPY EYES OF DEATH - Toward A Damaged Horizon
75. JIMMY EAT WORLD - Invented
74. DEAD LETTER CIRCUS - This Is The Warning
73. LOS CAMPESINOS! - Romance Is Boring
72. SIGH - Scenes From Hell
71. JAGA JAZZIST - One-Armed Bandit
70. EF - Golden Mourning
69. HARVEY MILK - A Small Turn Of Human Kindness
68. FAR - At Night We Live
67. ERRORS - Come Down With Me
66. FRIGHTENED RABBIT - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
65. PULLED APART BY HORSES - Pulled Apart By Horses
62. ALCEST - Ecailles De Lune
61. KYLESA - Spiral Shadow
60. PERFUME GENIUS - Learning
57. INTRONAUT - Valley Of Smoke
56. ROSE KEMP - Golden Shroud
55. RINOA - An Age Among Them
54. ROLO TOMASSI - Cosmology
53. THE OCTOBE GAME - Wildblood
52. TRIPTYKON - Eparistera Daimones
51. KAKI KING - Junior

50. HIGH ON FIRE – Snakes For The Divine
Matt Pike may have been playing some shows with his old band, monumental stoners Sleep, but High On Fire are still in action and “Snakes For The Divine” sees the collection of some of their best material to date. Their drug-induced bouldering riffs and melting solos all collide to create what is, nothing but glorious heavy metal...and, let’s be honest, that’s all we really need.

49. GRINDERMAN – Grinderman 2
Nick Cave’s good time garage rock outfit are back for more fun and games, and singing about sex, of course. To be fair they have stepped it up in the seriousness stakes a bit this time but it is clear that, at the end of the day, this is a project in existence so that Cave and his cronies can rock out without fear of spoiling the Bad Seeds aura of mystique. Not something that’s going to win Cave any plaudits that he hasn’t already won but something that might win him a few new fans.

48. HER NAME IS CALLA – The Quiet Lamb
In parts this record is possibly the finest art/post-rock release of the year, especially with the three pronged “The Union” that closes the record. Let down by occasional moments where the ideas seem to have run a bit dry, “The Quiet Lamb” is, overarchingly, a work of great presence, proving that the UK is full of bands with the potential to achieve greatness if allowed, as Her Name Is Calla have done here. Featuring flourishes of strings, brass and flute amongst the standards of guitar, bass, keys and drums, this is perhaps what GY! BE might sound a bit like if they had Thom Yorke as a vocalist.

47. BIRDS OF TOKYO – Birds Of Tokyo
To those familiar with Australian vocalist Ian Kenny purely through his work in Karnivool, the third record of his other band Birds Of Tokyo may come as something of a surprise. This is certainly rock at the poppy end of the scale with the likes of “Plans” being perfect for mainstream radio airplay. That does not make it bad at all though. Although some of the songs are less fully formed than others, things only ever get as bad as Scarlett Johansson looks on an off day (i.e. still pretty amazing). In fact it’s fair to say that if only all mainstream rock records had the sumptuous songwriting present here then the music world would be in far better health.

46. PAIN OF SALVATION – Road Salt One
It’s easy to understand why some hate Daniel Gildenlöw and Pain of Salvation. They can be a fairly pretentious bunch at times, especially on their last two records. However “Road Salt One” sees the band returning to slightly more restrained paths and sounding all the better for it. Whilst there are still plenty of, perhaps unnecessary to some, proggy flourishes and weird voices thrown in this is a rock record first and foremost with the likes of “Sisters” and “Innocence” being amongst the best songs the band has created to date.

45. WOMEN – Public Strain
Despite seemingly being in a permanent state of band infighting, to the extent where they cancelled their last tour after an onstage brawl during one of the first shows, “Public Strain” is a delightfully coherent art rock record. Shimmering shoegazey guitars work with glistening post-punk melodies to create a wholesome batch of glistening indie. Let’s hope the band can stay together long enough to produce something just as good.

44. SHEARWATER – The Golden Archipelago
Blessed with the unique vocals of ex-Okkervil River man Jonathan Meiburg, Shearwater’s “The Golden Archipelago” is Steven Wilson’s favourite album of the year and it’s not all that difficult to see why. This is one of those albums that is genuinely uplifting, not because of any particularly happy subject matter but because of the soaring, yet downbeat, instrumentation. An intriguing record that hopefully points to further excellence when the band release their new effort in early 2011.

43. MURDER BY DEATH – Good Morning, Magpie
Murder By Death may sound a little too much like a post-metal band for your tastes but rest assured they’re actually intent on delivering arty post-punk of the highest order. Bluesy, with a sound boosted (as usual with their records) by the use of cello to create almost Morricone-esque soundscapes, Adam Turla’s crew can always be relied on for something just a little bit different, unlike lesser contemporaries such as Interpol.

42. THE OCEAN – Anthropocentric
Providing a seemingly more thought-out follow up to “Heliocentric”, which was delivered earlier in the year, “Anthropocentric” sees The Ocean closer to their best than on the aforementioned predecessor. Although still showing elements of the sound introduced with “Heliocentric”, this record sees the collective return somewhat to their dense layers of sound. Vocalist Loïc Rossetti is also on far better form, which makes a major difference.

41. IN MOURNING – Monolith
Although they could be criticised for being a little bit too Opeth, In Mourning’s brand of progressive death metal (albeit a brand that is heavier on the death than their more famous Swedish counterparts) is rather delightful. Heavy, yet showcasing a similar degree of songwriting nous to melodeath legends At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity, this is Scandinavian metal at its finest and its always great to see another band coming through the ranks as In Mourning have with this release.

40. GNAW THEIR TONGUES – L’Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante
It’s hard to imagine what makes anyone want to create music as horrific as this. The title is just the tip of a grotesque iceberg with five lengthy tracks of progressively damaging musical experimentation. Taking black metal as a starting point and ending up in a region that must be somewhere close to insanity, elements of classical and ambient music can be found here but only in coalition to create something painfully powerful, like the soundtrack to the triumphant death that the title refers to. Although it’s a little too wearing to be truly brilliant, there’s enough here to impress any avant-garde music fan. Perhaps not one for listening to at night though...

39. ILIKETRAINS – He Who Saw The Deep
The Leeds based quartet produce a record of impressive grandeur with “He Who Saw The Deep”. Having freed themselves to an extent from the historical reigns that constricted rather than aided them on previous efforts, this album sees the group focus more on actual songwriting than ever before. Although musically this is still a post-rock album, there’s more of a sense here that iLiKETRAiNS could move ahead into something far more daring. A promising release for sure.

38. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – This Is Happening
James Murphy is clearly set upon making himself the unenviable task of putting fellow dance acts like Hot Chip and Simian Mobile Disco in the shadows by creating another record that is both full of genuine emotion and exciting beats. The likes of “I Can Change” are also fully formed pop songs, helping this record stand as one not just for fans of electronic music but also ones for fans of honest, soulful songwriting as well.

37. 65DAYSOFSTATIC – We Were Exploding Anyway
65dos’s journey from the style of post-rock to electronic music has culminated in “We Were Exploding Anyway”. Yes there are guitars buried in here but they are layered under driving synthesizers and bewitching dance rhythms. Some moments fall rather flat (see the Robert Smith featuring “Come To Me”) but some of the stuff on here is completely outrageous in its willingness to break the musical barriers the band had previously set for itself. This is definitely one of the most enjoyable releases of the year and prompts audiences to go joyously nuts live just as it will prompt individuals to go joyously nuts sitting listening at home.

36. MASSIVE ATTACK – Heligoland
Massive Attack seem to delight in making everyone doubt them but they always deliver and “Heligoland” is no exception to that rule. The likes of “Pray For Rain” and “Splitting The Atom” are amongst the best songs that the trip-hop pioneers have ever recorded. This record may not see the band treading new ground in as much of a way as “100th Window” but it’s a wholesome, cohesive effort with a seemingly infinite replay value. It’s good to see one of Britain’s best bands return so emphatically.

35. DEERHUNTER – Halcyon Digest
Only imperfect in that it is not quite as good as it might of been, “Halcyon Digest” is another excellent album by Deerhunter with the quartet again proving adept at translating frontman Bradford Cox’s tales of woe into widescreen indie rock anthems. Perhaps something of an acquired taste, Cox’s vocals are often left to take centre stage as guitars and drums make a racket in the background, allowing the listener to focus in on the lyrical content. Occasionally there are moments that don’t quite fit in but overall this is a fine effort from the Atlantans, although that cover art is perhaps a little too weird.

34. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – Forgiveness Rock Record
Forget Arcade Fire, if you want someone to combine indie, baroque pop, post-rock and experimental music then do not dare forget that Broken Social Scene are still around at the top of their game. Despite their being frequently overlooked by the mainstream music press, “Forgiveness Rock Record” shows the Canadians somewhere near their best and determined to impress. Not flashy, just defiantly unique and charming. If forgiveness sounds like this then perhaps we should all do a little more of it.

33. CIRCA SURVIVE – Blue Sky Noise
It’s about time that Circa Survive truly stepped up to the plate and delivered a record of undeniable excellence and that’s what they do with “Blue Sky Noise”. Previous efforts have suffered from a lack of focus and too much filler but these flaws are cleanly extracted here. Anthony Green’s vocals are still as marmite as they come but fans of both prog and pop will find much to love in the band’s widescreen approach to alternative rock.

32. FLYING LOTUS – Cosmogramma
Flying Lotus is undoubtedly one of the most important electronic musicians of our time and “Cosmogramma” is an excellent follow up to 2008’s stunning “Los Angeles”. A brilliant collaboration with Thom Yorke on “...And The World Laughs With You” provides a notable highlight and, although not quite up to the standards of previous collections, this is another superb release.

31. THE PINEAPPLE THIEF – Someone Here Is Missing
Regularly compared to Radiohead and Porcupine Tree, Bruce Soord’s west country crew have created what is by far their best album to date with “Someone Here Is Missing”. More of a straightforward rock record than a prog album, this record sees concise songwriting alongside dashes of experimental flair. Highlights include the excellent “Preparation For Meltdown” and the memorable title track. It is certainly satisfying to get a record that finally sees the group live up to their potential.

30. CLOUDKICKER – Beacons
A solo project from Columbus, Ohio resident Ben Sharp, “Beacons” is an even finer set of work than last year’s predecessor. This doesn’t sound anything like the work of one man in his spare time, instead bearing more resemblance to a work borne out of hours of a band jamming away in the studio. Some moments are startlingly beautiful in their completeness and others beguiling in their complexity, smouldering riffs reigning down on one another as if this form of music was the most natural thing in the world.

29. THE FLASHBULB – Arboreal
In 2008 The Flashbulb (Benn Jordan) created one of the most sumptuous electronic albums for years and 2010 sees him follow that up with another slice of genius in “Arboreal”. Emotive in the same way as a perfectly balanced movie soundtrack, this is a work of great artistic skill. The ambient pieces flow into one another to startlingly attractive effect, proving that music far from traditional song structures can still inspire one to a state of true awe.

28. SUN KIL MOON – Admiral Fell Promises
Maybe one day, in the distant mists of the future, Mark Kozelek will cheer up. When that day arrives then hopefully his music career will have reached a natural conclusion because it is hard to believe that the man is really suited to anything other than the stupendously miserable slow folk that has become his trademark, through Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon and his other exploits. What matters is that Kozelek is still the master of his craft and “Admiral Fell Promises” is a brilliant return to form from the man after a bit of a patchy period. It’s not even that depressing...

27. ELECTRIC WIZARD – Black Masses
It’s hard to compare “Black Masses” to some of the more experimental and original releases that 2010 has seen but it’s not hard to proclaim it as one of the most enjoyable records of 2010. Dorset’s psychedelic stoner doom merchants have produced a slab of deliciously dense, fizzing riffage on this album, which is probably their finest since “Dopethrone”. It may be totally in thrall to Sabbath and it may well have sounded totally different to its creators when they were stoned recording it but its bloody hard not to love.

26. ARCADE FIRE – The Suburbs
Do you know what annoys me about Arcade Fire? It’s that, despite being constantly hailed as this oh-so-original art rock behemoth, they consistently create music that is unashamedly indie in nature. This doesn’t stop their music being very, very good as “The Suburbs” proves, but it does mean it’s hard to give them as much credit for the artistic flair that is present. This album is a great, no, a fantastic, collection of songs but it doesn’t carry the mark of a band that the rest of the rock world should look up to as pioneers. Leave that role for other bands and let Arcade Fire carry on writing their brilliant songs.

25. RED SPAROWES – The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer
Although there are plenty of people out there loving the chance to bemoan the quality in today’s post-rock scene far more than is actually necessary, the genre is still producing plenty of fine works. The latest Red Sparowes effort is certainly one of the finest in many years. More accomplished than the band’s previous works, this sees the group’s expansive sound restrained but all the more powerful as a result. A soaring example of instrumental brilliance.

24. FEAR FACTORY – Mechanize
When it was first revealed that Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell had reunited in Fear Factory the metal world paused in shock. Thankfully the resulting album is a beast. A progression of Fear Factory’s purest sound, circa “Demanufacture”, but with occasional new stylistic aspects (like the guitar solo on “Fear Campaign”) this is better than anyone could have realistically hoped for. Whether the band will continue in the same vein is a mystery to all but this is one hell of a statement to make and it is one of the best metal records of 2010.

23. KVELERTAK – Kvelertak
Nutty Norwegians Kvelertak have decided that there is no point choosing your favourite genre to play when you could choose about seven different approaches and throw them all in a blender. A ludicrously enjoyable mix of black metal, hardcore punk, good time rock and sludge, all sung in angry sounding Norwegian, Kvelertak have created something as exciting as it is catchy, which considering the fact that I don’t speak Norwegian, is quite an achievement.

22. ROSETTA – A Determinism Of Morality
Rosetta claimed, before it was released, that their new record would be a seething hardcore journey rather than a brooding post-metal opus. In reality it is somewhere between the two and, perhaps as a direct result of that, is the group’s best work to date. Although the ambient soundscapes of their earlier work are still present here, they never threaten to lessen the blistering heaviness that Rosetta always have at their best. The epic closing title track might just be the best piece the band ever pen whilst this is also a lesson in conciseness that many similar bands could learn from. Nothing on “A Determinism...” overstays its welcome nor oversteps its mark, creating a sumptuous full-length.

21. SUFJAN STEVENS – The Age Of Adz
Having confirmed everyone’s suspicions that the whole “I’m gonna record an album for each US state” thing was a jokey marketing ploy, Sufjan Stevens returns with another album of pretty sensational experimental indie folk pop with added electronica. “The Age of Adz” is probably Stevens’ best full-length yet. The likes of “Vesuvius” and “I Want To Be Well” are pretty much pop songwriting perfection despite their instrumentation. Of course the term ‘pop’ might put some off but this isn’t the sound of Stevens catering to the mainstream; it’s the sound of Stevens at his most inspired and creative. Even the 25 minute (yes, 25 minutes long, you read that right) closer “Impossible Soul” somehow works out as being a 21st century pop anthem of true greatness.

20. LIARS – Sisterworld
“Sisterworld” is a record of such dark intensity that the likes of “Drop Dead” and “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” are actually quite frightening, albeit brilliant. This experimental rock trio really are determined to be one of the most wonderfully unique acts around today, not so much in terms of musical structures but in terms of the melding of sounds into music that, for a change, is truly ‘alternative’. Liars are going to be remembered for their art and “Sisterworld” may just be the pinnacle of their career.

19. ENSLAVED – Axioma Ethica Odini
Some may be complaining that Enslaved have left their black/Viking metal roots too far behind them but, let’s be honest, those people are fools. Enslaved have grown into a band apart from any extreme metal scene and are all the better for it. More than any previous record by the band, “Axioma Ethica Odini” sees Enslaved outstripping their peers and creating something that is a work of supremely confident, heavy, atmospheric, progressive metal. Certainly the Norwegians’ best effort yet.

18. IHSAHN – After
The ex-Emperor man’s third solo record sees him pushing further into the progressive sphere than ever before, with the help provided by Shining saxophonist Jørgen Munkenby being especially crucial. What is perhaps most impressive is that, despite the fact that this is a record in which all the instrumentation is par de excellence, nothing is allowed to extend into the wankery that Dream Theater can occasionally be guilty of. Ihsahn has created something here that is deserving of the label ‘progressive metal’.

17. U.S. CHRISTMAS – Run Thick In The Night
Combining elements of psychedelia, prog, metal and country, U.S. Christmas (USX) have produced a fascinating journey with “Run Thick In The Night”, their debut for the Neurot label. The band’s sound is certainly as free flowing as could be hoped, no doubt assisted by the fact that all the individual members are given free reign over their instrumental parts. Hard to categorise, harder to criticise, this is the work of a band that have the potential to go on and create album after album of near perfection.

16. LETLIVE – Fake History
“Fake History” is an astonishing record in its determination to stand out from the post-hardcore crowd. Firstly because the band seems perfectly happy to chuck in bits of anything they want, from soul to jazz, and secondly because the consistent quality of the songs is of the highest standard one can ever expect from this kind of album. Letlive are one of the best new bands to emerge for many a year.

15. THE UNWINDING HOURS – The Unwinding Hours
Craig B and Iain Cook working together again is a dream for Aereogramme fans. This debut self-titled album sees the duo moving in similar circles to the last Aereogramme record; they could have got away with releasing it as an Aereogramme record I’m sure. The quality of the songs is undeniable and the gorgeous melodies are propelled into the skies by soaring vocals and frequently beautiful soundscapes. Closer “The Final Hour” may just be the best song to emerge in the entire history of the duo’s creative partnership. Let’s hope more is to come.

14. AMIA VENERA LANDSCAPE – The Long Procession
This Italian sextet provides post-metal both at its most aggressive and it’s most peaceful. The likes of opener “Empire” are rabid in their ferocity whilst the tranquillity of the ambient moments (including all of “Ascending”) is really something to behold. It is rare for a debut album to be as convincing as this and it suggests a special band. “The Long Procession” is certainly a special album, although one could argue that a bit more editing might be appropriate on occasion. This is certainly up there with the best underground metal debuts of the twenty-first century.

13. KANYE WEST – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
After a couple of disappointing records Kanye West returns to his very best with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Featuring some brave moves, such as sampling King Crimson on the brilliant “Power”, and hooks aplenty (see the spellbinding “Monster”), this is a triumph of a genre that has been wading through treacle for many a year. West has proven himself an artist first and a pop star second. This is hip-hop at its very best.

12. TITUS ANDRONICUS – The Monitor
Titus Andronicus are essentially an old school punk rock band, except their songs can go on for anywhere between two and fifteen minutes and their lyrics are less political rallying cries and more a sea of self-dissatisfaction and odes to drinking, all related in varying degrees to the concept of the American civil war. With the charming quality of sounding like it was recorded whilst the entire band were rather drunk and proud of the fact, “The Monitor” takes a couple of listens to get used to but when it hits home it is difficult not to like. This is far from being a groundbreaking record but it’s a record that clearly means something to its creators and it will mean a hell of a lot to many fans as well.

11. SHINING – Blackjazz
The combination of jazz and extreme metal may not immediately leap to mind as something that should work but work it does and Norwegian loons Shining are determined to prove it to everybody. The shrill sax of Jorgen Munkenby alongside devilishly heavy, occasionally painful riffs and growls is something that really has to be heard to be believed and, although it should come with a health warning of some description, “Blackjazz” is one of the finest pieces of musical art for many years.

10. THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN – Option Paralysis
Whilst some would have you believe that “Option Paralysis” sees DEP going all soft in actual fact they have produced a record more complete in its aural devastation than any of their previous efforts. Yes, there are soaring clean vocals (Patton-esque of course) and even soothing piano (see “Widower”) buried in amongst the band’s trademark twisting mathcore but this album still has more than its fair share of ear shredding brutality as well, with the increased free jazz influences present on this record turning it into something utterly inhuman in its precision. In fact, “Option Paralysis” is the record that will enshrine DEP’s position as one of the landmark metal bands of an era.

Kristian Matsson is the folk singer of the 21st century thus far. His beautiful hymns to the natural world, love and hope are reminiscent of Bob Dylan at his absolute finest. In fact the Swede is well on the way to becoming one of the most notable folk artists not just of a generation but of musical history. From the bouncy opening title track to the sombre, piano led closer “Kids On The Run”, this is truly sublime.

8. ANATHEMA – We’re Here Because We’re Here
Anathema released “A Natural Disaster” in 2003 and then took seven years to record and release the follow up. When a band takes that long over a new record there are two obvious possibilities. The first, and perhaps most likely, is that the band has lost what made them a good band and has struggled to come up with any new material. On the other hand the band could just have been taking their time in order to create a masterpiece. “We’re Here Because We’re Here” is probably not quite a masterpiece, but it comes pretty damn close. Anathema are at the top of their game with rock songs that are artistically cultured as well as frequently anthemic, with the brilliant “A Simple Mistake” being possibly the best song the band has ever written.

7. DEFTONES – Diamond Eyes
It has been a traumatic couple of years for Deftones without bassist Chi Cheng. Yet somehow 2010 has seen them deliver what is unquestionably their best release since “White Pony”. An incredible collection of metal that is both headbanging good fun, and full of artistic merit, “Diamond Eyes” is a record without filler and the likes of “Rocket Skates” and “CMND/CNTRL” are already Deftones classics. Some may have questioned whether this band was still relevant but perhaps they are more relevant than ever they were. This is a stunning reinvigoration of a band still missing a brother.

6. SWANS – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
When it was announced that Michael Gira was going to make a new Swans album the reaction from the world of experimental music was one of great excitement. The reaction from everyone else was non-existent. One of the truly great rule defying bands in the history of rock, Swans have veered from crushing noise (they were notoriously so heavy live as to cause some punters to throw up) to creepy melodies alongside frequently bizarre song structures, not to mention disturbing lyrics. While “My Father...” is one of Swans’ quieter works musically, it is full of Gira’s surrealist imagery and carries the same haunting atmosphere as the band’s previous works from a decade or so ago. This is a quite phenomenal return.

There are some bands that seem to specialise in making music more emotive and powerful than any other art form. Crippled Black Phoenix is such a band. With “I, Vigilante” they have created a record that is, from first minute to last, a statement of the power of music. Despite the broad selection of styles on display, the band are able to blend everything together into something that is simultaneously tear and smile inducing, a rare gift. Whether it’s the soaring melodies of opener “Troublemaker” or the epic guitar soloing on a fabulous cover of Journey’s “Of A Lifetime”, CBP are near perfection.

4. OCEANSIZE – Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up
Oceansize should be one of the biggest bands in the world because they are certainly one of the best. With their fourth album the band strip things back a bit and craft songs that are restrained rather than overtly long (nothing stretches past the ten minute mark) and ‘proggy’. They also take themselves to new places, whether these places are heavier (the sludgetastic opener “Part Cardiac”) or more simplistic (the delicately sparse “Ransoms”) than where the band have previously trodden. What this record makes perfectly clear is that Oceansize are brilliant at writing songs as well as pure works of art and with this album they have made this clearer than ever before, even though it should never have been in doubt. SPWTBFU is another definitive statement of skill and intent from an act that the UK should hold up as true homegrown musical heroes.

3. DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL – Blessed & Cursed
British metal hasn’t had too much to shout about in recent years. Bands like Devil Sold His Soul are changing all that. Their expansive post-metal sound was only partially formed on 2007’s “A Fragile Hope” but on “Blessed & Cursed” the London sextet have created a sound that is as definitive as it is heavy...and, believe me, it is pretty damn heavy. The band have clearly come a long way, especially singer Ed Gibbs, whose clean vocals are now on par with his throat shredding growls. This is one of the few metal releases of the last few years that can genuinely be considered something of a classic and DSHS are a band that deserve the acclaim that this release has given them.

2. THE XCERTS – Scatterbrain
The Xcerts are the best young band in Britain today. With “Scatterbrain” they have proved that their debut “In the Cold Wind We Smile” only hinted at the brilliance that the Aberdeen/Brighton trio could achieve. Frontman Murray Macleod has proven himself one of the best songwriters around with the likes of “Distant Memory”, “Hurt With Me” and the Brand New-esque “He Sinks. He Sleeps”. A short record dominated by clattering guitars, bass and drums; this is perhaps more Nirvana than anything else. There is no room for anything other than what is necessary and, as Macleod’s painful screams testify, what is truly meaningful. There is no filler just anthems juxtaposed with oft-disturbing imagery and an air that is more than slightly mournful in tone. The Xcerts are more than just another band with promise; they are already a great band that the UK should be proud of.

1. THE NATIONAL – High Violet
There was much discussion before this record was released as to whether The National could release another album as brilliant as 2005’s “Alligator” and 2007’s “Boxer”. The general consensus seemed to be that it was most likely that the band would produce something good but not up to the greatness of its predecessors. Such talk was nonsense. With “High Violet” The National have not merely matched previous works but surpassed them. From the opening moments of “Terrible Love” to the closing chords of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, this is a record of absolute perfection. In Matt Berninger, The National has one of the finest and most unique lyricists and vocalists of a generation, and surrounding his tortured tales of life and love is soaring, yet confined, musical bliss. The National is not a band to allow musical experimentalism to overtake songwriting and when they produce an album of songs as good as this it is easy to see why. Not just the best album of 2010 but one of the best albums of all time.