9. Buzzcocks: Sure, they've gotten plenty of credit for pioneering the first wave of Brit punk, and we've been reading about it for the past 30 years. But that's ancient history. The thing is, the Buzzcocks from 2006 didn't need to remind you of the Buzzcocks from 1976. They've been too busy doing new stuff to get fat on their laurels. Not only did Manchester's finest release Flat-Pack Philosophy this year (their fifth studio album since reuniting and eighth overall); but their decision to join the Warped Tour proved they can still keep up with the kids — and show 'em what real pop-punk is.

10. Paul Weller: Any Brit rock band worth a shit today will cite Weller and his long-defunct band, the Jam, as an influence. Those who don't are either lying or just not worth listening to, period. And in 2006, Weller's importance to British music was codified at the Brit Awards, where he received the "Outstanding Contribution to Music" award (or, what we in the States call a "Lifetime Achievement Award"). Still, America has yet to pay any real attention to the man known as the "Modfather." Maybe that'll change next January when Weller performs a three-night, career-spanning concert in New York City. Either way, it's bound to be out-standing. Jason Budjinski

Blast Beats, Dark Harmonies and Monstrous Melodies: The Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums of 2006

The criterion for this list was simple: Only the hardest, heaviest metal albums were considered. Bands who play a hybrid style of metal that is not thrash, speed, death, black metal, hardcore, grindcore, or some amalgamation thereof were not included. What follows is pure f'n metal. Bang your head off.

10. Cretin

Freakery

(Relapse)

This entire album consists of songs which tell sensationalized tales of deformed/mentally handicapped people from isolated rural communities who do things like kidnap babies and raise them as feral animals, drag young girls into vans and climax while shocking them with Tazers, etc. As the CD booklet declares, "the stories in this album are mostly true...we are everywhere." Now, in the time it takes to say "gimmick," it also becomes clear that Cretin brings rickety punk energy to its grindcore. That's no small feat, considering that Cretin forgoes precision altogether for a slurring, repetitive approach that sounds like you're listening from inside a nearby garbage can but still manages to hold your interest. With two alums from gore-grinders Exhumed and such gleefully graphic lyrics, you'd think that Cretin would overplay the shock hand. With some wit up its sleeve, however, the band comes up with a rousing work of comedy-horror.

9. Goatwhore

A Haunting Curse

(Metal Blade)

This New Orleans quartet manages to stay faithful to a traditional black metal style while adding ambient elements to its songs. Prime examples here are the songs "Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult," which combines mid-tempo grooves with sadistic riffs, and "In the Narrow Confines of Defilement," which employs trippy bridges over a relentless drum beat. Singers Sammy Duet and Louis Benjamin Falgoust II have toned down their usual high-pitched screams and opted for more howling and rasping here (the title track contains some particularly vicious vocals), and ex-Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan's production is immaculate.

8. Napalm Death

Smear Campaign

(Century Media)

After a mid-'90s experimental period, Napalm Death returned to its straight-ahead grindcore roots, but it's only now that its return has been captured with optimal production. Any band that invents a genre must eventually come to terms with its past, and Napalm Death has found the balance to work within its legacy with dignity, renewed drive, and freshness. On Smear Campaign, Napalm is at the peak of both its writing ability and anger, thanks to the Bush administration. No other band has channeled left-wing politics into hard-hitting outrage on par with Napalm Death's, and in our political climate, the band's caustic soundtrack to power abuse sounds reassuring.

7. Children of Bodom

Chaos Ridden Years: Stockholm Knockout Live

(Universal Music)

This live album from these Finns is packed with the band's melodic mashup of black metal, thrash metal, and death metal. Culled from a February 5, 2006 concert in Stockholm, Chaos Ridden Years provides a variety of songs from CoB's five-album catalogue for newer listeners, including a wicked rendition of "Follow the Reaper." Some longtime fans complained that this album wasn't as intense as CoB's first live album (1999's Tokyo Warhearts), but the band was able to pull material from three more albums for this release, and the Bodom basics we love so much — the blast beats and breakneck tempos, the elaborate keyboard and guitar solos, the croaky vocals — are all alive and kicking hard here.

6. Celtic Frost

Monotheist

(Century Media)

Ambitious to a fault, Celtic Frost returned this year with its most challenging work to date. And, as fans know, that's saying a lot about a band that could never keep still. After an initial rush of energy in the first two songs that resurrects classic, signature thrash with breathtaking modern production clarity, the reunited Frost proceeds to make short work of your expectations. It's slow and at times even plodding, but this music rewards the faithful. More than ever before, Celtic Frost captures the despair, rage, and tragedy of a human race marooned in the middle of a universe with an absent god. As if to grasp the infinite sprawl of this solitude, the band seems to reach into space itself and returns with a picture as beautiful as it is bleak.

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