1. “Head Crusher” Megadeth – Endgame: The first single from Megadeth’s recent release contains a devastating intro featuring Dave Mustaine thrashing on the low E string while Chris Broderick shreds the octave riff on the high e. The opening instrumental “Dialectic Chaos” contains some very similar thrash metal magic. “Head Crusher” is a punishing number and a great way to introduce the feel of Endgame to the masses.
2. “Rite of Passage” Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings: There is no better lead guitar-drum combo in progressive heavy metal today than John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy. The drum production (0:38) on this track is the best that you will find from 2009. In addition to the production and triumphant riffs, the tune is marked with haunting licks (4:33) and an some 80’s thrash influence (4:56).
3. “Death To All But Metal” Steel Panther – Feel The Steel: Whether Steel Panther is mocking metal or worshiping metal is irrelevant. This song is pure lyrical genius in a similar manner to early Eminem, except these guys can play instruments and play them just as well as any metal band out there. From the “Live Wire” inspired riff, to the shout outs to Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe, to the nasty and highly inappropriate shots at Kanye West and Madonna, it’s just brilliant.
4. “Hate Worldwide” Slayer – World Painted Blood: This Slayer track proves to be the best fist throwing and hard stomping pit-pleaser of the year. Check out the nasty breakdown points for more info. What makes “Hate Worldwide” so great is how it alternates between aggressive speed riffs and its powerful groove. It is real difficult to not enjoy this one especially with the brutal guitar work from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.
5. “Bible Black” Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know: Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio delivers this evil gem in a purely sinister manner, that is an instant classic, and melts your face with its gloomy rhetoric and riffs of impending doom…like I said purely sinister. The opening acoustic guitars with the melodic lead set the tone perfectly for the heaviness that soon kicks in, and kicks your ass.
6. “Heaven is Gone” Seventh Void – Heaven is Gone: Earlier this year, Big Vin Records released this hard and heavy riff-fueled tune by Kenny Hickey and Johnny Kelly from Type-o-Negative, aka Seventh Void. One of the best features of this band is that the dark sound is a little rough around the edges, which means there is no useless over-production here. A very refreshing release that did not receive nearly enough credit this year.
7. “Check My Brain” Alice in Chains – Black Turns To Blue: Seattle rock pioneers Alice in Chains came back with their first studio album in 14 years and since the death of frontman Layne Staley in 2002. This track demonstrates everything we would expect from AIC: Sludgy riffs from Jerry Cantrell and very dark vocal harmonies. I must admit, this was a pleasant surprise this year.
8. “On and On” – The Answer – Demon Eyes: There are several good bands out there in, what I like to call, the “neo-classical hard rock” genre and one of the best ones is The Answer. “On and On” provides a hard edged rock and roll boogie that honors rock royalty, from Black Sabbath to Queen. Just a great feel-good track. If you enjoyed Airbourne’s album from last year then you will dig these guys too.
9. “Whatever Gets You Off” – The Last Vegas – Whatever Gets You Off: “Whatever Gets You Off” works the same way as “On and On” above, except The Last Vegas has more of a trash and glam feel. This is another fine example of ne0-classical hard rock music done right. The key ingredients: sleazy lyrics and way, way over-the-top energy.
10. “Babylon’s Burning” W.A.S.P. – Babylon: Blackie Lawless has shown that he can still put out great material. On this song you are dealt 5 minutes of classic 80’s sounding riffs with demonic gallops and “666” lyrical madness. This entire album was a late surprise from 2009.
Note: The 10 tracks above are based on pure opinion, obviously, and you probably completely disagree. These are tunes that have grown stronger with more listens as the year progressed. Basically, I have yet to grow tired of them. Comment below and let me know your favorite songs of 2009.