So, this is definitely a controversial pick for number one on this list: Junius's third album, Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of the Light, isn't the heaviest album of the year, nor is it the most progressive, nor is it the most powerful. Yet it is an innately gorgeous album, one that stretches the boundaries of typical metal by blending the post-modern Tool and the doomy edge of late-'90s Anathema with symphonic rock and harrowing, ghostly choirs.
Eternal Rituals... is a dark journey for the mind, but it is also an enlightening one, demonstrating the archetypal nihilism of heavy metal while doing so in a subtle, contained manner. It never goes over the top to get its points across, using almost entirely clean vocals and never going all-out in terms of speed. But make no mistake, its riffs are still gorgeous, even finding time for what may be the only breakdown in doom metal on the track "Beyond the Pale Society".
Add in the fact that it was only recorded by two people (Joseph E. Martinez performing lead vocals, guitars and bass with Dana Filloon on drums), and you have an undeniable masterpiece of modern metal.