Top 10 Canadian Metal Albums of the Decade11 December 2019 / by Manus Hopkins (author)
Over the past four decades or so, Canada has produced its share of top metal acts. These past 10 years in particular have seen Canadian metal go in exciting new directions, with hungry new bands ripping onto the scene and older bands solidifying their places as relevant stalwarts. Between technical death metal, mind-bending prog, eerie doom metal and more, there’s been a lot of musical ground covered by Canadian bands. Here’s our list of the 10 best Canadian heavy metal albums of the 2010s.
10. Cryptopsy - Cryptopsy (2012)
While it doesn’t quite live up to the material Cryptopsy released at the beginning of its career, Cryptopsy’s 2012 self-titled effort was a welcome return to form after the real dud that preceded it in The Unspoken King. Cryptopsy is packed with the technicality that was sorely missed the previous time around, and the edge of its sheer brutality is razor-sharp throughout the entire record.
9. Kobra and the Lotus - High Priestess (2014)
Kobra and the Lotus unleashed their strongest effort to date with 2014’s High Priestess. With their third album, the band found their own comfortable footing in their song-writing ability and commercial appeal. These dangerously catchy, operatic vocal-laced hard rock bangers are nearly impossible not to enjoy. Kobra and the Lotus may be more rock-oriented than some of the other brutally heavy bands on this list, but their music should make the metal gods of the ‘70s and ‘80s proud.
8. Despised Icon - Purgatory (2019)
It was an unfortunate day for Canadian metal when Despised Icon announced its disbandment in 2010. Fortunately, the breakup didn’t last long and the group reunited in 2014, originally for live shows, but new music came eventually and the band was just as strong, if not stronger, than before. Their newest release Purgatory is a testament to this, with Despised Icon reaching new highs and shows no signs of another impending break. The heavy metal world is happy to have Despised Icon back, and will remain that way if more albums like Purgatory are on the way.
It’s never easy for a band to make a new album after going 12 years without one. It’s even harder to make a good album in this situation. Yet Gorguts managed to pull it off, and produced one of their best records to date in 2013. The highly acclaimed album is well-deserving of the praise it’s received, to put it simply. They unfortunately used the American spelling of “colored” for this record’s title, and the album may feature a few American musicians, but at its core, Gorguts is still very much a Canadian band.
6. The Agonist - Orphans (2019)
The Agonist is one of those not-so-common cases of a band managing to thrive after replacing its singer. The band may make headlines more for getting caught up in drama with former vocalist Aliisa White-Gluz than it does for its music, but that’s no reason albums like newest effort Orphans should be overlooked. This release saw the band continue to move forward in a clearer direction with vocalist Vicky Psarakis, who’s done more than enough by this point to prove she’s more than just a replacement singer. The third full-length album with Psarakis fronting the group, Orphans is The Agonist’s unfiltered, unabashed sound, and the album they always had the potential to make.
5. Beneath the Massacre - Incongruous (2012)
The full metal onslaught that is Beneath the Massacre’s 2012 album, Incongruous, is enough to leave listeners gasping for breath by the time its 11 short tracks are over, and that’s not even in a live setting. The record boasts jaw-dropping musicianship and meticulous precision, all while being played at a breakneck pace. There are many reasons Canada is known in the metal world for its technical death metal, and Beneath the Massacre is easily one of those reasons.
4. Archspire - The Lucid Collective (2014)
One of the most renowned Canadian technical death metal acts to rise to prominence this past decade, Vancouver’s Archspire hit their stride with their second album, The Lucid Collective. A face-melting listen, the musicianship displayed throughout the album is enough to win over even the most jaded critics, and with this much aggression packed into eight songs, Archspire creates an effective sense of danger, rivalling the scene’s biggest international bands.
3. Woods Of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light (2012)
Woods Of Ypres’ mastermind David Gold died in a car accident in December, 2011 and was sadly never able to see the release of his band’s fifth album. The world is lucky to have gotten the five Woods Of Ypres records it did, and Woods 5 may be the best of them all. Even without any background, it’s easy to listen to this album and call it a masterpiece. Of course, the tragic circumstances surrounding the record adds a new emotional layer to the experience, but even listeners who are not familiar with the band’s story should be awestruck by this behemoth of an album.
2. Devin Townsend - Empath (2019)
There’s no way this list would be complete without Devin Townsend’s latest release, Empath, which is arguably his crowning musical achievement. The former Strapping Young Lad mastermind has been waving the flag for Canadian metal in various groups since the ‘90s, but this record is undoubtedly the culmination of a roller coaster career. The album is immersive, epic and nothing short of mind-blowing. A triumph not just for Canadian metal, but Canadian music in general.
1. Beyond Creation - Earthborn Evolution (2014)
As is hopefully evident by now, there have been some incredible records the number one Canadian heavy metal album of the 2010s has had to nudge over in order to claim this spot. But the record that deserves this rank is none other than Beyond Creation’s sophomore effort, 2014’s Earthborn Evolution. The Montreal technical death metal outfit immediately sparked interest within the extreme metal world with 2012’s The Aura, but it was with the next record that took Beyond Creation to the top. Earthborn Evolution is worth a million re-listens, and there’s not a track on the album that couldn’t become a setlist staple for the rest of the band’s career. Let’s hope the ‘20s are kind to these guys.