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Old-school death metal was hard to escape this year. New bands played it, old bands played it, your mother probably played it. What began as a rebellion against the trend of over-produced death metal became its own trend. At one point, my inbox was getting several albums a day of Swedish death/Autopsy/Incantation clones. Some of that stuff was enjoyable. But, as with other metal, I gravitated to bands that sounded like themselves (mostly).

Here are my 10 favorites from this year. None of these bands sound "new" - that's kind of the point - but at least I can tell who they are (mostly).

— Cosmo Lee

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TOP 10 OLD-SCHOOL DEATH METAL ALBUMS OF 2010

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10

Abominant - Where Demons Dwell

"The Wolves of Hate"

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Kentucky death metal that's been around since '93??? You'd best believe it. Wiry, mean riffs make like early Morbid Angel, then splay out into bat-winged melodies at close range: deadly. Mike Abominator of Gravehill wrote an enthusiastic, accurate review here.

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9

Hooded Menace - Never Cross the Dead

"Night of the Deathcult"

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It's fun to hear this record's influences bubble up: Swedish death! Autopsy! Celtic Frost! Classic doom! Other bands have these ingredients, but Hooded mastermind Lasse Pyykkö combines them in a way that's definitely his. (See also Claws.) Production is key to his sound; his self-production here is heavy as hell.

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8

Master - The Human Machine

"The Human Machine"

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My main takeaway from this record is how rhythmically exciting it is. Sure, it's not exactly Meshuggah. But it's much more than OSDM's usual "caveman riffs plus gruff growls plus, oh yeah, there's a drummer" deal. Zdenek Pradlovsky blasts, d-beats, and cymbal clutches the hell out of this record.

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7

Nominon - Monumentomb

"Kevorkian Exit"

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This is another drum-intensive OSDM record. (See review here, interview with drummer Perra Karlsson here.) I've been up and down on Nominon's catalogue, but they stepped it up big-time for Monumentomb with actual riffs and actual songs. Nominon were around before the OSDM trend, and they'll be around after it.

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6

Bloody Sign - Chaos Echoes

"For the Unknown"

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I don't know why this didn't get more exposure (other than market-level explanations like "no publicist", "not trendy", etc.). Imagine if Deathspell Omega played death metal and channeled a serious Morbid Angel fetish, down to the aching, jagged solos. Yes, Bloody Sign are that good.

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5

Nocturnal Blood - Devastated Graves

"Ghouls Wrath"

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"Wind tunnel death metal" - others place this in the vicinity of Teitanblood and Vasaeleth. The former doesn't do much for me; the latter is good, and gets honorable mention here. Nocturnal Blood gets my vote for sheer single-mindedness. This is the sound of vengeful souls ripping out of corpses.

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4

Mutant Supremacy - Infinite Suffering

"Sic Semper Tyrannis"

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As an adrenaline rush, this record is hard to top. Few recordings are like this anymore - foaming at the mouth, careening almost out of control. This is the Floridian spirit, not as historical study, but as lost artifact. It is fresh with the rawness of new discovery: something called "death metal".

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3

Autopsy - The Tomb Within (EP)

"Seven Skulls"

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Not just an EP, this was a mighty statement from Reifert & co.: "We are back". Pretenders - and there are many - should step aside for the real thing. The doctors of death have sharpened their tools and are in top form. We eagerly await their next kill.

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2

Cardiac Arrest - Haven for the Insane

"Insanity's Grip"

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Raw, thick, and bloody - this is why I got into death metal in the first place. The recording is as brutal as the live show. I don't get why kids now craft delicate arpeggios, while these old farts hack everything to pieces. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

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1

Hail of Bullets - On Divine Winds

"Kamikaze"

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The production is so modern that this record almost doesn't belong here. But the material and the attitude are definitely old-school, in the best possible way. These Dutchmen one-upped their fantastic debut and delivered towering, unflinching reportage about WWII's Pacific Theater.

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HONORABLE MENTION

1. Ares Kingdom - Incendiary

More thrash than death, but it lives up to its name. [Review]

2. Slaughter Strike - At Life's End

A promising debut EP with one foot in the clichéd, and the other on deliciously unbroken ground. Go forward, Canucks, and move ahead.

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