Year in Review: Heavy Metal's Best Albums of 2009 Take It Over the Top

This year was such a good one for heavy music, I wound up having to cheat when putting this list together. I just couldn't settle on ten albums that kicked my ass the hardest in 2009; there were dozens of candidates. The best I could do was fourteen, so each of my top four slots are ties.

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Mastodon

Crack the Skye
(Reprise)
2009 was Georgia's year. Atlanta-based Mastodon released a prog-metal epic that holds its own with the most ambitious hard rock of the '70s, combining lyrics that told the most bizarre, convoluted story (it involves astral traveling, the Russian monk Rasputin and more) since Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The music was brilliant, too -- less assaultive than earlier efforts, but just as awesome. No wonder they played the whole album on tour this year. Meanwhile, their friends in Savannah's Baroness issued a sophomore full-length that displayed a rare combination of ambition and restraint, building on the successes of 2007's Red Album without feeling pressured to go as prog as Mastodon, or get heavier for heaviness's sake. Blue Record is unashamedly beautiful.

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Baroness

Blue Record
(Relapse)

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Marduk

Wormwood
(Regain)

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Funeral Mist

Maranatha
(Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
In 2004, Marduk hired Daniel "Mortuus" Olsson as its new frontman, and this year the band released its greatest studio work to date. This is not a coincidence. Like its predecessor, 2007's Rom 5:12, Wormwood builds on the blasting black metal of the group's 1990s catalogue with complex songwriting and more thoughtful lyrics. The same qualities were also present on Mortuus's second solo album, the breathtaking, thoroughly blasphemous (yet deeply philosophical) Maranatha, released under the name Funeral Mist.


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