If I were to make a list of things in life that are indisputably excellent, the art of making lists would be very near the top (along with electric guitars, pizza and the original Die Hard movie). We all love lists – even shopping lists are quite pleasant, if only for their memory saving capacity. So to help quench your unrelenting thirst for all things list-based, here is one I made myself, compiling the ten best rock and metal albums I have heard in the last 12 months. No, don’t thank me, the pleasure was all mine.

1) Enforcer – Diamonds

If you yearn for the classic era of British heavy metal, when Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon were in their prime, then get a ticket to see Enforcer next time they’re in town, and let these Swedish traditionalists make you think it’s still 1983. You won’t be disappointed.

2) Armored Saint – La Raza

Leaving Anthrax seems to have paid off for John Bush, as the reformation of Armored Saint has resulted in what is quite possibly the best album of his career. There is not one duff track on La Raza, every song is a melodic metal masterpiece.

3) Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Refusing to live off their impressive legacy, Iron Maiden has released their most ambitious album to date. It’s an epic, progressive leviathan of an album, with many songs that approach or pass the 10 minute mark. There are no 4 minute anthems to be found here, but if you accept this direction, rather than pine for their past, you’ll find that this British heavy metal band is still very much world class.

4) Overkill – Ironbound

Overkill are often much overlooked in favour of their more successful contemporaries in American thrash metal, but Bobby Blitz and co. have put every other thrash band to shame in 2010, releasing an album with an intensity that many bands from the 80s have long since lost.

5) Firewind – Days of Defiance

Despite Gus G recently becoming Ozzy’s new guitarist, the Greek power metal quintet has not lost any momentum, having put out a barnstorming new album that ranks among the band’s finest releases.

6) Marty Friedman – Bad DNA

Technically this album is still not released over here in the UK, but having been already been released in Japan some time ago, anyone who decides to import it will get an album full of the best guitaring you’re likely to hear this year, or any other year for that matter.

7) Blind Guardian – At the Edge of Time

Here we have power metal done the proper German way: completely OTT. Orchestras, folk melodies, and blazing speed metal collide resulting in the most epic and diverse Blind Guardian album to date.

8) Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy

Despite their heavily progressive tendencies, The Obsidian Conspiracy proves to be one of Nevermore’s most accessible albums yet. That’s not to say that they’ve oversimplified things though, Jeff Loomis is still one of the most insanely talented guitarists out there, so rest assured that there will be mind-blowing riffs on show here.

9) Slash – Slash

It’s been a while since Slash has recorded anything truly great, but his first true solo album is remarkably strong throughout, featuring high quality guests such as Ozzy, Lemmy, and, er, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. Turns out she’s a pretty good rock vocalist though!

10) Ratt – Infestation

The surprise success of the year is undoubtedly that Ratt have somehow come out with an album that is actually good. In fact, I’d say this album rivals their 80’s output in terms of catchy hair metal anthems, which is really saying something, given that Ratt wrote more than a few classic tunes in their heyday.

Honourable Mentions

Great albums that didn’t quite make the cut:

Death Angel – Relentless Retribution

Dark Tranquillity – We Are The Void

Annihilator – Annihilator

Helloween – 7 Sinners

Ghost – Opus Eponymous