I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to cram in all the albums that I’ve been meaning to listen and re-listen to this year, and there’s never enough time. It’s especially tricky when the first few “Best of” lists break out and I start sifting through those wondering if there’s some gem I overlooked. And while I wish I had more time, it was still relatively easy for me to pick out a few albums that really stood out from the pack this year. An album’s true test is how well it ages, and I know for sure there’s music on here I’ll be coming back to well into the next decade.
10) Dream Theater, Distance Over Time (Inside Out)
It might seem unusual for Dream Theater, a band known for 10-20 minute songs, to put out an album where the longest track is little over 9 minutes. But make no mistake: this is a Dream Theater album through and through, offering an hour’s worth of tight and efficient songs packed with all the virtuosity the band is known for.
Key Track: “Pale Blue Dot”
09) Abigail Williams, Walk Beyond The Dark (Blood Music)
Abigail Williams has had an interesting journey this past decade between a breakup announcement in 2012 that never happened and Ken “Sorceron” Bergeron’s stint in The Faceless. All of this has led to what might be the band’s finest album to date. Walk Beyond The Dark dishes out raw slabs of black metal on “I Will Depart,” but also opts for melodic strings on the album’s centerpiece “Black Waves”.
Key Track: “Black Waves”
08) Saor, Forgotten Paths (Avantgarde Music)
This was an early year favorite for me. Saor’s blend of atmospheric black metal and folk evokes visions of vast green landscapes layered in mist and fog. That the album is the work of one man Andy Williams (with a guest spot from Neige of Alcest!) makes Forgotten Paths all the more impressive.
Key Track: “Bròn”
07) Opeth, In Cauda Venenum (Nuclear Blast)
Being able to hear an album in two different languages makes for a unique listening experience, and what better band to bring that experience than Opeth? There are many layers to his album meant to be uncovered through multiple listens, even without engaging in the two different versions. “Svekets Prins/Dignity” is one of the hardest hitting tracks the band has put out post Watershed and tracks like “Banemannen/The Garroter” slow things down, but are no less sinister or complex.
Key Track: “Svekets Prins/Dignity”
06) Devin Townsend, Empath (HevyDevy)
Devin Townsend always draws from a pool of different sounds and sources to craft his albums, so it seems like a disservice to say Empath feels like a culmination of all that he’s done up to this point. And yet, that’s what the album is. It’s a big sweeping love letter to any and all of the fans Townsend has garnered over his storied career. The album’s 23 ½ minute closer “Singularity” alone stands a testament to Townsend’s unparalleled skill.
Key Track: “Singularity”