As noted in the Introduction (which I hope you read first, link here), I have not actually ranked these albums, they are listed in alphabetical order. They do not differ from each other enough for a ranking to even make sense. They are albums that I play reasonably often, and/or have qualities that make them interesting, enough that others might find them worth pursuing (in fact some already have — some of these albums rank pretty high in other people’s lists). And fully seven of the ten here are instrumental.
Dead Letter Circus: Dead Letter Circus
This Aussie post-punk/indie bunch burst onto the scene in 2010 with a powerful first album, which contained some thoughtful, heavy tracks and a lot of promise. Alas, they never really seemed to be able to live up to that promise. Their second album, The Catalyst Fire, quite frankly was a mess, while the third, Aethesis, was about halfway listenable.
This, their fourth, finds them converging towards shorter pieces that are focused on their strengths: intense melodic rock, nicely-constructed, very consistent, even if the tracks begin to sound a bit the same towards the end. If they continue in this direction they may finally come up with the album they are capable of making.
Dope Default: Ofrenda
A debut album from a Greek blues/hard-rock outfit, and it seems to promise something that might be worth following up on, if this is the kind of music you like. The album is a bit variable, and quite rough, but it does rock.
The Fierce and the Dead: The Euphoric
This album has received a lot of critical acclaim, landing high up in a few year-end lists, and given that instrumental rock/prog/whathaveyou albums are not normally the top-sellers in the genre, the guys should be very proud. That being said, I have to confess that a real love for TFatD has eluded me, despite the fact that I own most of their output. Obviously I like them, but I think the issue here is their technicality — I find it overrides the emotion I look for. Lots of chops, not so much feels. Still, The Euphoric is upbeat and cheerful and no chore to listen to, and better than a lot of the other stuff I heard this year.
Floex (Tomáš Dvořák) and Tom Hodge: A Portrait of John Doe
Clarinetist Floex (Tomáš Dvořák), best known for his game soundtracks (Samarost, Machinaria among others) pairs with British composer Tom Hodge to make an album marrying ambient/electronica with modern classical. Interesting stuff, actually, maybe not for everyday listening or to all tastes. It mostly works.
Front Line Assembly: WarMech
A few years ago FLA contributed the OST for the game AirMech, and it was pretty well-received, so it only makes sense they would also provide the soundtrack for the follow-up game WarMech.
It’s a pretty good album, has some killer tracks, but I find it variable. It is, of course, a soundtrack so mood and style must accommodate the scenes.
Gösta Berlings Saga: Et Ex
Gosta Berlings Saga. I have to say I am not as crazy about this as I am about Sersophane … they seem to have gotten away from the lush emotion of that album, and veering towards more technical — but it’s good. These guys are no tyros.
Judas Priest: Firepower
An album from some old pros that got a lot of people excited because it hearkens back to the classic Priest sound. Which I was never fond of, not being a a fan of those operatic metal singers, or actually much in the way of metal/hard rock back in the day. But … tastes change, and voices can improve. Halford is listenable, and the album is quite good.
Leech: For Better or for Worse
A few years ago I played an album just because I liked the way the cover looked. That album belonged to Leech, and it had been released way back in 2012. I liked it a lot — lush and heavy instrumental post-metal, and hey the guys are from Switzerland, not a country that churns out a lot of bands anyway. After 6 long years they released their new album, and it sounds pretty much like Leech. Long, complex, atmospheric tracks that often start slow and gradually build to real stompers.
Necro Deathmort: Vol. 4
Well, another year, another ND album. These guys never quit. Vol. 4 is mostly ambient drone metal with some unsettlingly metallic sections — not metal, but metallic; listening to a couple of these tracks is like biting down on copper.
The Spanish quartet drops their fifth, which I think is their most consistent effort to date, dense post-metal with some folky influences, but hard-edged. They can jug along pretty relentlessly.