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IO readers: you guys don't know me too well (I generally write about metal over at BrooklynVegan), but what better way to get to know a person than with their top 10 list? Ok, I can think of a few better ways, but we should probably ease into things. Let's get on with it.

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Honorable Mentions:

15. Kowloon Walled City – Grievances (Neurot, USA)
14. Bosse-de-Nage – All Fours (Profound Lore, USA)
13. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns, USA)
12. Tau Cross – Tau Cross (Relapse, UK,Canada,USA)
11. High on Fire – Luminiferous (eOne Music, USA)

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10. Valkyrie – Shadows (Relapse, USA)

Pete Adams' other band Baroness gets all the attention, but Valkyrie wins me over by simply providing a format for Pete and his brother Jake to riff-duel to the death. If you like your rawk beer-battered and doused in barbecue sauce, you can't do much better than this. One majestic lick, beamed down from the top of a mountain, after another.

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9. Immortal Bird – Empress/Abscess (Manatee Rampage, USA)

After seeming to emerge fully-formed with the Akrasia EP back in 2013, the release of their debut full-length Empress/Abscess proved that Immortal Bird were just warming up with that one. The vicious 5-song LP showcases compositional nuance that eludes many metal bands. Managing to be at once concise and sprawling, Immortal Bird goes for the throat at every opportunity. Rae Amitay's vocals are some of the most gutting in metal right now, her scream a furious conduit for rage that lends these songs a weight that complements the standout churn of her bandmates perfectly.

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8. Tribulation – Children of the Night (Century Media, Sweden)

Forget Ghost or Deafheaven (ok don't forget about Deafheaven [Or Ghost, either - Ed.]), this is the catchiest metal record of the year, classic yet weirdly new in its unique cocktail of genres. Classic-rock histrionics abound on this hugely pleasurable thing; these guys have stopped really writing riffs and started writing serious hooks. Drenched in reverb, righteous shredding, and musical fist-pumps, Children of the Night takes some of the glam-rock elements that lurk in the background of a lot of NWOBHM and weds them to a death metal foundation, a union that seems as natural as it is jarring to consider that we haven't really heard it before.

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7. MGLA – Exercises in Futility (Northern Heritage/No Solace, Poland)

For the level of classical frill-lessness with which MGLA approaches black metal, it's a testament to the old-fashioned skill of the band that this record manages to be so memorable while working on such well-covered ground. The band knows just when to pull back or charge forward for maximum impact, and the current of melody that runs through everything they write brings welcome shading to the monochromatic beauty of their music. A concept album through and through, the repeated motifs and single-minded song titles, which can so often seem meaningless, are noble expressions of purpose when deployed by a band who writes songs this damn good.

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6. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (Bindrune, USA)

Not much to say about this one that hasn't already been said, given its appearance on practically every single IO top 10 list, so I'll hit the grand main points one more time: Austin Lunn is a master, and this is a masterful album, an expansion and refinement of the sound of one of the most expressive voices in heavy music, period. Colin Marston is also a great effing producer (more on him in a minute).

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5. Black Breath – Slaves Beyond Death (Southern Lord, USA)

Slaves Beyond Death is such a huge step forward for a band that I always liked but could never quite love. The kind of statement album that makes you sit up and stare the first time you hear it, a focused, brutal piece of death metal that comes the closest to capturing the spirit of early Entombed since, well, early Entombed. They do this by finally not worrying so much about their influences, cutting waaayyyy down on the hardcore stuff, and just making a pure, bludgeoning death metal record that takes no prisoners and expresses its bleak worldview one face-punch at a time.

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4. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (ANTI-, USA)

Once again, I'm aligning myself with popular sentiment on these pages. This album is so much better than its predecessor, which I also loved. But the songs here are just better. New Bermuda is obviously more, you know, metal than Sunbather, not that that should be one's metric for evaluating its quality. But its also catchier, prettier, more stuffed with melody and emotional climax and just everything than that record. Kerry McCoy has turned himself up to 11, and, armed with one of the best drummers on earth right now, this is an album that cuts fully loose. When I first heard closer "Gifts From The Earth," I actually laughed out loud when the faux-Oasis tones of the climax came in, which is another reason that the idea that this album is more metal and therefore better than Sunbather misses the point. Again: the final song closes with an extended Oasis tribute. Doesn't get less metal than that. Doesn't get crazier either.

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3. Krallice – Ygg Huur (Self-released, USA)

When Krallice dropped Ygg Huur with no advance notice whatsoever back in the summer, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was the work of an imposter. They sounded like a new band, the challenging but ultimately quite beautiful blur of Dimensional Bleedthrough and Years Past Matter had given way to something that was knotty and almost impossibly dense. Colin Marston's time in Gorguts has rubbed off in a profound way on Krallice: as you listene to Ygg Huur more and more, trying to unravel its tangled compositional web, they emerge as maybe the best tech-death band in the game today (other than, you know, Gorguts). This is a complex, detailed listen that rewards continued attention. I come out of a playing of this album wrung out, exhausted but strangely exhilarated, awash with the feeling of trying to keep up with a band that's operating at a level just above my head.

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2. Elder – Lore (Armageddon Shop, USA)

Boston's Elder make gloriously nerdy, endlessly listenable prog-sludge. Every bit as melodically sophisticated as someone like Baroness, but a refreshing sense of limitation that only rare bands of this caliber show. This is music that is ambitious in form but ultimately aims squarely to please a specific demographic of fans who like their music serious but not too serious. Elder walks an incredibly fine line between prog grandiosity and southern-fried crunch (again, they're from Boston) that suddenly occupies an underground now that Baroness, Mastodon and Kylesa have found a different kind of success. Along with like-minded contemporaries Inter Arma, they infuse their easy looseness with genre with a seriousness of feeling, a disdain for histrionics that seems to come from the newer generation of underground metal. It makes for a powerful brew on Lore, which runs five songs, one hour, and zero fat.

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1. Horrendous – Anareta (Dark Descent, USA)

Horrendous don't really have a precedent in the current metal landscape. They don't really tour, they're not really part of a scene. They formed in Philly before moving to South Carolina and then back to Philly, but they practice in their mom's basement halfway between Philly and DC (where one of the bandmates lives). All they have to speak for them is their music, and with two LP's in two years, they've suddenly vaulted to the top of the musical heap because of the undeniability of their material.

This is an album of standout songs, riffs that make you want to jump out of your chair, melodies that come out of nowhere, suprises around every corner. Rhythmically and tonally detailed like nothing else on this list, this is a band in full command of a considerable songwriting arsenal, and they have the listener by the scruff of the neck, taking you wherever they want. Take your pick; the wails at the end of "Ozymandias," the stunning riff that closes "Siderea," the I'll-cut-your-fucking-throat intro to "Acolytes," its all just goddamn monstrous. The Death comparisons have come fast and furious, and they're apt, if a bit overplayed. This band is good enough to draw comparisons to many of the greats of the genre that they so strictly adhere to, but also good enough to stand on their own without those comparisons. So I'll just call Anareta what it is: my metal album of the year.

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