A place for me to spew out my opinion on music mostly of the heavy kind.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2011 - Top 40

It was a pretty great year for metal. Particularly death metal. I didn't really listen to a lot of black metal that I liked and the same goes for stoner rock although there were a few. I guess the new Morbid Angel and Weedeater albums were my biggest disappointments but overall the great stuff more than made up for the few bad albums I heard this year. This is my Top 40 for 2011, listed in order of preferance and after running these albums through a complex algorithm to determine their position. First though are my 10 favourite EPs and demos.

EPs, Demos and Splits

1. Dephosphorus - Axiom
This is a fantastic band from Greece. Mix of grind and black metal and I've never heard anything like this before. Short album and the band is giving it away as a free download. Must listen.

2. Archgoat - Heavenly Vulva (Christ's Last Rites)
Ultra satanic death metal from Finland. Completely over the top and very extreme but also very good and one of my favourite satanic bands.

3. Apocryphon – Apocryphon
Terrific debut EP from this American band. Mixes death, black and thrash metal and sounds killer.

4. Vastum - Carnal Law
Very good doom-death from this American band. Sound and recording quality is not great but the songs are very good.

5. Venenum - Venenum
New band from former members of Excoriate. Ultra heavy and distortion laden debut EP. Worth checking out.

6. Krypts - Krypts
Bunch of teenagers from Finland and just 2 songs on this EP but its fantastic. This band is going to be huge provided they don't break up for whatever reason.

7. Corpsessed - The dagger and the chalice
Another Finnish band and excellent heavy death metal.

8. Grime - Grime

American sludge band. Dark and oppressive stuff and quite heavy.

9. Stresscase - Cut Me Off
Ridiclously loud hardcore band. Really short and catchy songs.

10. Bell Witch - Bell Witch
Traditional doom metal. 2 song EP/ demo and worth checking out.

Top 40 Albums of 2011

40. Young and in the way - I Am Not What I Am

Who would have thought few years ago that hardcore and black metal would be combined into one cohesive and relatively new sound? Young and in the Way does just that to frightening effect. This is dark hardcore with face ripping intensity and the band's ability to write catchy riffs is matched by their ability to slow things down just a little and make sure the album has variety. A young band to keep an eye out for.

39. Across tundras - Sage

With 7 albums, 3 EPs and a collection in just 7 years, Across Tundras has been a remarkably prolific band but Sage is the first time the band has been pretty fucking great. Its still the same psychedelic rock meets American folk sound of previous albums but the songs are great on this one. Might take a few listens to get into but well worth the effort.

38. Trap Them - Darker Handcraft

Mixing hardcore with grind, death and thrash elements and knowing just when to drop the hammer and slow things down is what makes Trap Them such a fantastic band. Darker Handcraft is the bands best yet and would have rated a lot higher in an another year.

37. Miasmal – Miasmal

The leaders of the new wave of old school Swedish death metal or NWOOSSDM. The songs are classic Entombed and Nihilist worship with some modern d-beat drumming for that crusty edge. Great sound, an old school production and memorable songs. Sweden really showed the way this year. Just like most years.

36. Morbus Chron - Sleepers in the Rift

Another in the fast swelling ranks of the NWOOSSDM bands but Morbus Chron are a bit different from the pack. Sure Nihilist is still an influence but Autopsy and early Death make an appearance too and the band seems quite Lovecraft obsessed. More excellent old school death metal.

35. Septic flesh - The Great Mass

On my initial listen I was disappointed. The Great Mass doesn't have the massive death metal attack of Communion. What it has is a full orchestra backing the band and some of the catchiest songs the band has ever written. Took me a while to get into and while not even close to the bands best work, this is still a very good album.

34. A Storm of Light - As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade

This band has shown some major progression from the last album and its straight up post metal sound. Here, the band add a grungey, almost Soundgarden type feel to their post metal along with a melancholic atmosphere and some doom metal. The result is almost like a more melodic Neurosis, Kim Thayil lays down lead guitar on a couple of songs and overall this sparse but heavy music is very impressive.

33. Creeping - Order of Snakes

New Zealand's Creeping mix and match doom, black, crust and death metal into a slow burning but highly enjoyable potion. The band's use of dissonance to heighten atmosphere and their ability to write long songs that vary in tempo makes this quite an impressive debut. A bit like Agonia's Host of the Winged from last year in a conceptual sense.

32. Isole - Born from Shadows

This band gets better with every release. Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus are still the bands most visited reference points but greater attention to dynamics, killer guitar playing and probably the best trad doom song of the year in The Lake kept this album in constant rotation.

31. Disma - Towards the Megalith

Of all the bands giving praise and worshiping at the altar of Incantation, Disma are the most unapologetic and closest to their idols. Having Craig Pillard on vocals and a member of Funebrarum on guitar surely helps but it doesn't seem to matter. Towards the Megalith is very derivative and almost an homage to Incantation but it's still very very good.

30. Antediluvian - Through the Cervix of Hawaah

Almost like Portal and Incantation fucked and the resulting offspring was this ugly twisted death metal beast. Great atmospheric death metal where some intense riffing is hidden beneath layers of distortion. The dual vocals (one deep and gurgly and other harsh and raspy) are buried in the mix and just add to the unsettling atmosphere.

29. Necros Christos - Doom of the Occult

Necros Christos came back with their sophomore album this year and it's a step up from their debut in every way. The songs are more powerful, the musicianship more confident and the thick occult atmosphere has been notched up by a few degrees. Excellent death metal with hints of doom and black.

28. Will Haven – Voir Dire

Kickass groovy noise rock. Very technical but also very catchy. Reminds me of the last Cable album. Has some great songs.

27. 40 Watt Sun - The Inside Room

Remember The United Kingdom's Warning? This is basically Patrick Walker and Christian Leitch with a new drummer but sound pretty much like Warning. The Inside Room is the logical follow up to Watching from a Distance. Maybe a bit better too. Morose and depressing doom held up by Walkers distinctive vocals and a dark atmosphere.

26. Ravencult - Morbid Blood

Morbid Blood was the most enjoyable black thrash release I heard all year. Bewitched, Venom, Desaster, Darkthrone, old Marduk all get name checked by these Greeks but in the end, this is an album filled with killer songs and while black metal and thrash might help in defining the sound, this is proper heavy fucking metal the way it should be.

25. Pulling Teeth – Funerary

It's like Pulling Teeth spent all of 2010 getting their heads around the last albums from Integrity and Starkweather and then decided to do a mash up of The Blackest Curse and This Sheltering Night. Heavy metal and hardcore hasn't collided with this much force since Integrity's last album and Funerary is a superb example of what metalcore ought to sound like. Brutal, heavy as fuck and those mid album doomy dirges are just the icing on a very hateful cake. Pity they broke up but after this but there really wasn't much else they could do.

24. The Project Hate - Bleeding the New Apocalypse

Modern death metal with a heavy electronic influence and guest spots from a host of Sweden's finest. This is some complex extreme metal with kick ass riffs, great grooves, a thick and heavy bass sound and a strong female vocalist often dueling with Jorgen Sandstrom's powerful growls. Also has one of my favourite songs of the year in Summoning Majestic War.

23. Autopsy - Macabre Eternal

The return of Chris Reifert and gang. This is Autopsy as they always were but with a few new tricks. Sick and brutal death metal with hints of punk on a few songs and a kickass production. The chaotic leads of old are a lot more subdued and the last couple of Abscess albums might have played a part in the songwriting direction but overall great stuff. Welcome back.

22. Mortal Sin - Psychology of Death

Veteran Australian thrash band and they've finally made an album that stands up to their first two albums from back in the day. Psychology of Death is catchy, groovy and vintage thrash metal with absolutely no fat. Great fun.

21. Blut Aus Nord - 777 (Sects)

First part of the trilogy and as good as anything the band has released. Dissonant, atmospheric and almost hypnotic while being immensely powerful music. BAN can do no wrong in my book and (Sects) is further proof (if it was needed) of their greatness.

22. KEN Mode – Venerable

Canadian noise core veterans KEN Mode released their 4th album this year and Venerable is the perfect blend of the jagged dissonance of noise rock and post hardcore. Like Jesus Lizard met Cave In at Converge's jam room. Excellent musicianship, terrific songs an yet another band that just seems to get better and better.

19. Lento - Icon

Italian post metal band. Instrumental songs that are short but have a heavy progressive vibe to them. I don't normally like instrumental bands but this is some special stuff. The songs vary from heavy sludge and intricate post metal to calm ambient passages. Worth checking out.

18. Dead Flesh Fashion – Thorns

With thick, lumbering, dissonant grooves and dynamic songs Dead Flesh Fashion showed remarkable growth between their debut and second album Thorns. At times the band comes across like a heavier The Ocean. Superb musicianship, great songs and fucking heavy.

17. Encoffination - O' Hell, Shine in Thy Whited Sepulchres

When Elektrokutioner and Ghoat get it right, the duo are absolutely unstoppable. This is a step up from the debut in every way and being a concept album about Ghoat's time spent working in a mortuary, its dark, insanely heavy and oppressive. Like Incantation gone funeral doom. Scary shit and not for the weak of heart.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - Blood Lust

Retro psychedelic doom rock and recorded in analog with vintage 70s recording equipment. This had all the hallmarks of being a hipster outing but Uncle Acid has fantastic songs. Easily the most enjoyable of all the retro hard rock/ metal outfits that put out albums this year. Uncle Acid and his pair of Deadbeats can eat the likes of Graveyard and The Devil's Blood for breakfast and shit them out in time for lunch. Awesome stuff.

15. Shub Niggurath - A Deadly Call from the Stars

Julio Vitterbo brought this band back to life this year and it's a fantastic return. A slight black metal feel to the music probably due to the vocals than the actual musicianship but it's basically staying true to Viterbo's roots in Cenotaph and The Chasm. Atmospheric, melodic metal of death that captures the mid 90s Mexican death metal feel perfectly while being completely updated at the same time.

14. Sub Rosa – No Help from the Mighty One

13. Sigiriya - Return to Earth

The fellows from Acrimony return after more than a decade with an album of some suprememly confident and groovy stoner metal. People looking for Acrimony ver. 2.0 will be disappointed but the album shows the growth in the band as they effortlessly pull of groove after groove of memorable stoner metal with fluid leads a terrific rhythm section and great vocal hooks. Addictive.

12. Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan's Hand

Epic. From the heavy, melodic riffing, the ebb and flow of songs, the melodies that are Celtic folk but never descend to ridiculous polka levels and most importantly, the bellowing of Nemtheanga. His vocals give Primordial a completely unique touch and here he's backed up by some of the finest songs of the band's career. This is up there with A Gathering Wilderness and better than To the Nameless Dead. Enough said.

11. GodOx - Abyssal Gigantism

Strange new sludge band. A vocalist who sounds like a drunk Keith Caputo, music that mixes and matches Sleep, Sabbath and Soundgarden and a concept about an Ox God and a whole new religion. This is some special music and a band to watch out for.

10. Zygoatsis – S.K.U.D. (Satanik Kultus – Unholy Desecration)

This band from Thailand may not be for everyone. Its like they channeled the best bits of Sadistik Exekution, Blasphemy, Angel Corpse and Impiety while managing to retain their own identity. This is ferocious and chaotic black death with Satan worshiping being high on the agenda and absolutely unstoppable songs.

9. Bloodiest – Descent

Bruce Lamont of Yakuza has been a busy man this year and Bloodiest is the best thing he's been a part of. Unlike the highly over rated Yakuza, Bloodiest sounds like the bastard child of a gang bang between Godflesh, Neurosis, Swans and Oxbow without any of the industrial noise. Huge riffs, distinct vocals and great songs.

8. Mitochondrion – Parasignosis

Mitochondrion are like Portal's deformed twin who's been locked up in the basement all his life. A dark and murky atmosphere and technical riffs buried beneath waves of distortion. This is some intense death metal. An easy comparison would be Averse Sefira jamming with Portal but that doesn't really do Mitochondrion enough justice.

7. Today is the Day - Pain is a Warning

The return of Steve Austin. He's dropped most of the grinding heaviness of the last few albums and gone back to the math meets hardcore of old. Still insanely heavy and intense and very technical but these are some of the best songs he's written.

6. Indian – Guiltless

The best sludge album released this year. Guiltless is some ridiculously heavy stuff and makes up for a slightly inconsistent past. The songs are intensely heavy but memorable at the same time and new guitarist Will Lindsay gives the songs a slight dissonant black metal feel that just adds to the atmosphere of bleak, oppressive claustrophobia.

5. Saturnalia Temple - Aion of Drakon

These Swedes have dropped most of the Electric Wizard worship of UR and instead gone into a slight progressive bent on their first proper full length. Wizard is still an influence but Aion of Drakon with its occult vibe, terrific musicianship and atmosphere is better than anything Electric Wizard has done in years.

4. Deceased - Surreal Overdose

King Fowley returns with the bands strongest album in years. I rate this along side Fearless, Undead Machines as a definite highpoint in the bands career so far. Each song is filled with kickass riffs, grooves and just a hint of melody. It can feel like too much is crammed into the songs on initial listens but the songs grow on you. Proper headbanging stuff.

3. Orthodox – Baal

These Spaniards have been on the experimental fringe of doom metal for a while now and Baal is where it all comes together. Mixing some crushing doom metal with Ennio Moriconne influenced orchestral music, free jazz and a true avante garde spirit. Orthodox has delivered their best album yet. Superb stuff.

2. Ulcerate - Destroyers of All

Almost like Immolation decided to slow down but forgot to tell their drummer. The result is an album that's strangely captivating and immensely heavy. The band mix a heavy Immolation influence with post metal and dissonant French black metal to craft a truly memorable album.

1.Mournful Congregation – The Book of Kings

This Australian funeral doom band has been releasing quality stuff for years but The Book of Kings surpasses all expectations. Magnificent doom metal that manages to be crushingly heavy, melancholic, delicate and absolutely beautiful. This is a landmark relase for the band and for the genre.

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