1. Slayer – World Painted Blood: “You would think that even a pioneering thrash metal band would evolve and head in a different direction at some point during a career that spans nearly 30 years. Not Slayer. On World Painted Blood, Slayer is just as devastating, fast, and angry as they were in 1986…delivers thrash perfection offering musical aggression at its finest…World Painted Blood is flawless and immaculate, a 5-star performance, and the album of the year” (Full Review).
2. Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue: “DuVall’s vocal performance proves to be an adequate replacement for Staley, exceeding expectations of quality, capability, and image. He is no Brian Johnson to Bon Scott, but he does make the group better for what they are today. As for the rest of the band, Jerry Cantrell reclaims his throne as a guitar god and great vocalist, Mike Inez rocks the bass as if he is still in his 20’s, and Sean Kinney is the premier drummer he has always been. The survey says: Black Gives Way To Blue was worth waiting for. In other words, this record makes Chinese Democracy eat sh*t” (Full Review).
3. Megadeth – Endgame: “Dave Mustaine and company are back with an even thrashier and, once again, unapologetic lyrical effort on Endgame. The guitars of Mustaine and Chris Broderick prove to be the best work since Rust in Peace and arguably the most compatible in Megadeth’s history. Tracks such as “How The Story Ends” and “Head Crusher” unleash the classic headbanging euphoria that cannot be mistaken for any other group…another fine moment in thrash metal history” (Full Review).
4. Kiss – Sonic Boom: “Raise up your horns kiddies and let the ol’ Knights in Satan’s Service take you on a nice and rockin’ ride! Sonic Boom reinvents Kiss and brings a whole new respect for the band. They follow the formula that best suits them: Keep it Simple, stupid! Tracks like “Never Enough” and “Stand” make me forget that its 2009 and feel like im listening to the vintage Kiss records of the 70’s…Sonic Boom is the best stuff the originators of the rock n roll circus have to offer in merely two decades” (Full Review).
5. Mastodon – Crack The Skye: Whether you love or hate Mastodon, you cannot deny the success and attention that Crack The Skye has garnered for the band and the heavy metal genre this year. Since tearing up the main stage at last year’s Mayhem Festival, the band has grown stronger and more powerful than anybody ever expected of them. The release of Crack The Skye offers satellite radio gems “Divinations,” “Oblivion,” and the title track. If you appreciate metal, you can appreciate this album.
6. Pearl Jam – Backspacer: “Once again Pearl Jam takes the unpolished rock and roll approach, a page directly from the holy book of The Ramones. For most of the record, Eddie Vedder shows he has no shame in allowing his voice to rip and roar in a slew of continuous streams while leading us all to the chapel of rock…While this is not the greatest record in the band’s repertoire nor does it offer a stunning new direction, it is always refreshing to hear rock music that is done right” (Full Review).
7. Dream Theater – Black Clouds and Silver Linings: “What better way to begin a record with the words “Black Clouds” in the title than to include a disturbingly haunting intro on the first number — think stormy earth like the opening to “Black Sabbath” and combine that with the spooky keyboards of Jordan Rudess that would make the Cryptkeeper grin. After the opening horror show, John Petrucci shifts gears with a heavy riff for James LaBrie’s vocal entrance. Mike Portnoy’s double bass drum playing during the first movement is as fast and devastating as ever…The lyrical melody combined with the progressive groove is purely exhilarating” (Full Review).
8. The Last Vegas – Whatever Gets You Off: “If you are down with the classic hard rock sound of Airbourne and The Answer, then you will adore the trash glam band, The Last Vegas from Chicago. Whatever Gets You Off features plenty of obnoxious headbanging cuts and power ballad blitzes that will blast you back to the Sunset Strip circa 1982. There are plenty of catchy hooks on this record that will stick to your thick-ass skull for weeks…The Last Vegas brings an updated and fresh vibe to the 80’s glam culture” (Full Review).
9. Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot: “The supergroup concoction of legendary hard rock frontman Sammy Hagar, guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith offers an eleven trackself-titled debut that confirms some recent speculation: “Satch” is the best guitarist to ever play alongside Hagar… For best results, find an open highway just before dusk, preferably along a coastal landscape, hit the pedal, crank it up, and cruise the lonely gray pavement into the pitch-dark sky” (Full Review).
10. Queensrÿche – American Sodier: “Queensrÿche is back with the conceptual release American Soldier, which fuses some modern rock elements with their progressive hard rock edge…the highlights of the record consist of the dramatic ballad “Home Again,” featuring the vocal talent of Geoff Tate (that would make him suitable for a Broadway lead), and the heavy groove prominent on the power hungry “Man Down.” Queensrÿche did not create the greatest concept album of all-time but one worth giving a shot” (Full Review).
Runners-Up: Heaven & Hell The Devil Knows Your Name, W.A.S.P. Babylon, Ace Frehley Anomaly, The Answer Everyday Demons, Otep Smash The Control Machine
Editor’s Note: The Top 10 Albums of 2009 list was compiled and based on the official Gears of Rock reader’s poll.