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Editorial: Was 2012 This Decade’s Strongest Year for Metal? Was 2015 Its Weakest?

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Today our industry poll countdown of The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019 finally arrives at the top five, which is pretty darn exciting. And yesterday, after singing the praises of Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic, I was looking over the list thus far — the bottom twenty entries, if you wanna be cruel about it — when I had a kind of startling realization that somehow had not occurred to me before:

There are a fuckload of albums from 2012 on here, and none from 2015 (or 2019, but that’s more understandable, because people haven’t had as much time to form emotional attachments to releases from this very year).

Here, take a look at the list so far:

#25: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas, Mariner (2016)
#24: Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones (2010)
#23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner (2012)
#22: Yob, Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)
#21: The Black Dahlia Murder, Ritual (2011)
#20: Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (2014)
#19: At the Gates, At War with Reality (2012)
#18: Meshuggah, Koloss (2012)
#17: Gorguts, Colored Sands (2012)
#16: Between the Buried and Me, The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)
#15: The Ocean, Pelagial (2013)
#14: Kvelertak, Kvelertak (2010)
#13: Judas Priest, Firepower (2018)
#12: Metallica, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016)
#11: Converge, 
All We Love We Leave Behind (2012)
#10: The Dillinger Escape Plan, 
One of Us Is the Killer (2013)
#9: Rivers of Nihil, Where Owls Know My Name (2018)
#8: Deafheaven, Sunbather (2013)
#7: Baroness, 
Yellow & Green (2012)
#6: Power Trip, Nightmare Logic (2017)

I’ll do the counting for you: there are seven albums from 2012 on there. So even if none of the albums in the top five are from that same year, releases from 2012 will comprise 28% of the list. The closest runner-up is 2013, with four albums — so it would need at least three more to tie with 2012. After that, 2010, 2014, and 2016 are all tied, with two albums each, so one of them would need to be the release year of every album in the top five to compete. The other years are completely out of the running.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that each band was only allowed to have one album on the list. So for example, if, after compiling the 180 or so votes from various members of the industry, Baroness’ 2012 album, Yellow & Green, got more votes than their 2015 album, Purple, well, buh-bye Purple (and in the case of Baroness and several other bands, that is actually what happened). So it’s not fair to conclude from this list that 2015 was just, like, a shitty year with no good releases (in fact, plenty of great metal came out in 2015). But then you still have to wonder why it was that releases made by bands on the list in 2015 were so completely bested by releases made by bands on the list in other years.

It’s not like 2015 can use the same “Listeners haven’t had as much time with the albums!” argument as 2019. It’s right there in the middle of the decade. It should have something on the list, right? For that matter, if time and sentimentality were the strongest driving factor behind all the votes, 2010 and 2011 would, presumably, be coming in much stronger.

So why did these two years so succeed or fail? Normally, I’d posit a theory, but after thinking about this for 24 hours, I have to admit: I’m stumped. So I ask you, dear readers: was there something really great about 2012 or really awful about 2015? Or is this all just a coincidence? Or a product of the manner in which we conducted the poll (you can read all about our methodology here)? Head to the comments section to discuss and let me know what you come up with.

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