Best of 2011—The Metal (Part 2)
Best Metal Albums 2011 (Part 2)
Well, here’s the top 20, which was a much easier task to compile than the rest. Again, you’ll note that I have cheated, and double-ups abound. But then, it’s my list so I get to make the rules and there are albums on here that evoked such similar reactions in me, or comprised such similar themes, that I felt I couldn’t leave them off the list.
I hope there are a few bands on the top 45 (or so) that you’ve not heard before. And feel free to leave comments or suggestions of bands I should be checking out.
So, again, for what it’s worth, and without any further ado, here’s my top 20 (or so) best metal albums for 2011.
Part 2: 20-1
20. Vastum—Carnal Law (20 Buck Spin)
Carnal Law’s strengths lay on two distinct levels. Its rancorous vigor offered up an excellent measure of mid-tempo dual-vocal death metal that was toxic and impure. But there were also cerebrally stimulating delights to be found, with philosophies of sexual dysmorphism and personal isolation interpreted in the most intellectually brutal fashion.
19. The Wounded Kings—In the Chapel of the Black Hand (I Hate)
Witch Mountain— South of Salem (Mountastic)
The Wounded Kings came back this year with a new singer to raise villages and burn the crops with grinding ’70s doom that had all the tensile weight of Sabbath. Witch Mountain provided a potent mix of late ’60s/early ’70’s hard rock and psych-infused proto-doom that infused their album with a great deal of mind-bending stoner atmospherics.
18. Mournful Congregation—The Book of Kings (Weird Truth Productions)
Huge, atmospheric and fissure-ridden riffs of smothering doom were set to fine use on The Book of Kings. Sepulchral shifts in temperament, and a scouring, throat-shredding undercurrent made for an uneasy but completely captivating album that’ll no doubt see the band preaching to a larger flock very soon.
17. Årabrot—Solar Anus (Fysisk)
If you’re not onboard with Årabrot you’re missing out. Solar Anus was a torrent of noise built around a miasma of philosophic ideas stretched to their most abstract, unexpected conclusions. A clear case of raving Norwegian insanity, Årabrot mixed the highbrow with the low in an offhand dismissive fashion, belting out ragged tunes with uninhibited, and definitely un-medicated, fanaticism. Are they even metal? Who cares?
16. Altar of Plagues— Mammal (Profound Lore)
Billowing atmospheric passages mixed with the palpable, visceral thrust of Celtic-tinged black metal defined Mammal and Epoch. Both albums were all-encompassing, overwhelming listens. Firmly setting the listener on sacred plains ringed with metal’s most potent symbolism, their tendrils of post-rock combined with all those raging raw riffs to birth something truly exceptional.
15. Bosse-De-Nage—II (Flenser Records)
I’m all for weirdness and obscurity, and Bosse-De-Nage fulfill all the requirements on both counts. The band’s second full-length, II was a baffling and beguiling fragmented slice of black metal eccentricity and post-rock propulsion. Their splintering sound merged all the detritus of modernity with a perfect counterweight of histrionic Bohemian unconventionally.
14. Blood Ceremony— Living with the Ancients (Rise Above)
The Devil’s Blood—The Thousandfold Epicentre (Metal Blade)
Blood Ceremony and The Devil’s Blood provided everything you’d ever need to fuel your esoteric fantasies this year. Forget pigs’ heads on a spike and dead crows stuffed in your luggage, in an orgy of ’70s psychedelic escapism these two bands’ theatrical, ritualistic and completely spellbinding occultist rock conjured up the true sprit of devilishness.
13. Antediluvian—Through the Cervix of Hawwah (Profound Lore)
Through the Cervix of Hawwah was an occultism-heavy crawl through a shit and razorblade filled trench of bile, primitivism and hate. It was a celestial call from the quagmire of rationalism to remind us of that rudimentary fuck-or-fight spirit that religious dogma has always sought to tame.
12. Oranssi Pazuzu—Kosmonument (Spinefarm)
Album number two from this Finnish psychedelic black metal band was just as deranged and spectacular as their debut. Knowing no bounds, and with tangents galore, Kosmonument was utterly enthralling. With a chromatic, mind-expanding depth, its ’70s prog and psych deviations were balanced perfectly by its screeching, baleful harshness.
11. Craft—Void (Southern Lord)
Thrall—Vermin to the Earth (Moribund Records)
Craft and Thrall represented the finest in lo-fi, punk-infused, crust-laden misanthropic black metal this year. Both stabbed at the jugular with blazingly filthy riffs, showing a level of repugnance towards humanity that was admirable, but more importantly, utterly believable.
10. Corrupted—Garten Der Unbewusstheit (Nostalgia Blackrain)
On this, their final recording, Corrupted took a detour from their previous walls of crusty, doom-ridden sludge to come up with something, well, quite beautiful. A poignant send-off, the album’s expansive, soporific threnodies firmly adhered to the band’s enigmatic funereal nature but were enriching, and full of transcendent promise. A fittingly capricious end for one of the true titans of underground metal.
9. Cormorant—Dwellings (Self-Released)
Cormorant’s Dwellings was a sublime blend of NWOBHM, progressive metal and, of course, abundant blackened textures. Insightful, intelligent lyrics, stunning compositional virtuosity and a genuinely innovative blend of all the hallmarks of ambitious mind-expanding metal Dwellings was a masterful accomplishment.
8. Deafheaven—Roads to Judah (Deathwish)
Surely the warmest black metal release of the year, Deafheaven’s Roads to Judah was a shoegaze-heavy wash of tremolo highs. Wave after wave of avalanching riffs and visions of bleak horizons didn’t change the fact that even at its most furious the band sounded ecstatically hospitable, welcoming all to join the fray.
7. Panopticon—Social Disservices (Flenser Records)
Social Disservices was exactly the album I hoped A. Lundr would eventually deliver. His previous releases pointed to a masterpiece in the works, and Social Disservices, with its magnificent combination of ferocious unfinished black metal, droning post-rock and astute political observations, was a consummate work of art. Exposing the true wounds of capitalism in the most tangible, instinctual fashion possible.
6. The Atlas Moth—An Ache for the Distance (Profound lore)
Delighting in kaleidoscopic twists and mind-expanding turns, The Atlas Moth’s An Ache for the Distancewas packed to the gunnels with labyrinthine psychedelic excursions. Reverberating with layer upon layer of differing sounds smashing up against one another, the album was ceaselessly inventive and highly idiosyncratic.
5. Blut Aus Nord—777 – Sect(s) (Debemur Morti Productions)
Enigmatic and wildly eccentric black metal prophets Blut Aus Nord truly delivered on all their promise with 777—Sect(s). An innovative narrative backed by a corrosive mix of gloomy atmospheres and blazing riffs saw the band’s already malevolent reputation amplified to hellish new levels.
4. Yob—Atma (Profund Lore)
From the rampant opening of “Prepare the Ground”, Yob produced a psych-heavy banquet of doom-laden tunes offering a host of nuance and rich rewards. Swathed in mystical themes, Atma was an exercise in the totality and outright mind-fucking dominance of the riff.
3. Disma—Towards the Megalith (Profound Lore)
With a gut-punch trawl through horrorscapes of OSDM delights, Disma strode forth bearing the finest accoutrements of cavernous and noxious metal. Concentrating on suffocation and brutality, without a thought given to populist appeal, Disma stomped ’em all into submission.
2. Hammers of Misfortune—17th Street (Metal Blade)
Reaffirming the universality of metal, The Hammers’ masterful, harmonious suites resonated with fans across the globe. The fact that a tune like “The Day the City Died” was so applicable to my own life, 7000 miles away from the band’s home-base, spoke volumes about their sublime ability to tap into omnipresent undercurrents of unease and loss. A feast of classic riffs, propulsive percussion, progressive flourishes and evocative vocals, and those keys—oh those keys—pure magic.
1. 40 Watt Sun—The Inside Room (Metal Blade)
Gargantuan riffs and heart-wrenching vocals comprised this breath-taking meditation of blunt sentiment and raw emotionality. Flawlessly matching its poignancy with an immaculate aural counterweight, The Inside Room is a masterpiece of lugubrious doom that I found myself returning to daily. As far as debuts go, this will surely be recognized as an absolute classic. It took the band just 72 hours to record The Inside Room—imagine what they could conjure up in a week