PRE-BEST OF 2011 LIST: Before I state my cases for the best albums of 2011, I still have a couple of lingering reviews from this year that I need to touch on quickly before we get this show on the road.
All Pigs Must Die – God is War
God is War brings the same level of ferocity and chaos that All Pigs Must Die showed off in their self-titled release from 2010. My favorite part about APMD is that, in a somewhat lackluster genre, they shine. While this album can get repetitive, the attitude shows through every time. Frontman Kevin Baker has been one of my favorites since his work with The Hope Conspiracy and Bars, and his delivery once again matches perfectly with this style of music. Harsh, rugged riffs, crusty blast beats and gravelly squawks make up a well-rounded and pissed-off thirty-two and a half minutes of music. 4/5
Textures – Dualism
Plainly put, Dualism did almost nothing for me. I enjoyed a couple of tunes on the first listen, but by the time I got to the end of the album, I had already forgotten what I liked and why. My biggest problem is the new vocalist, Daniël de Jongh. Don’t get me wrong, de Jongh is a talented vocalist with solid range but the shoes he had to fill were enormous. Eric Kalsbeek, the former vocalist, was a MONSTER and truly pulled this band together. Now, with de Jongh aping Kalsbeek as much as he possibly can, it just sounds drab. It’s by no means a bad album, nor does it display poor musicianship, but it just doesn’t draw me in. 3/5
So that’s that. Here we are, at the very end of the last month of 2011. [Yeah… sorry, Cole—this should’ve gone up sooner! ~Ed.] This year has been an odd one and a somewhat off one for music. I was geared up for a year of truly great music as both Opeth and Mastodon would be releasing new albums. Lo and behold, I disliked them both. If you told me those two bands were releasing albums, neither would appear on my 2011 year-end list, and an old-fashioned rock band would top it… I probably would have given you whatever change I had in my pockets and kept on walking. Still, 2011 has not been a terrible year for heavy music (despite Lou Reed and Metallica’s efforts). Here’s hoping for more metal and less “post” in 2012.
Lets get started.
10. Abysmal Dawn – Leveling the Plane of Existence
No frills here, just top-quality Californian death metal. Great vocals on top of an explosive assault of modern day death metal make for a very solid album.
9. Revocation – Chaos of Forms
I am honestly still a little shocked at the turnaround this band made. I know a lot of people liked Existence is Futile, but I just did not get it. I decided to give them a second chance with Chaos of Forms and was blown away. Dave Davidson shows off his true skills on this album and has put himself on the map—big time. A master of his craft and maybe one of the best pure metal guitarists to surface in years.
8. Insomnium – One for Sorrow
I have never really let myself like Insomnium. On a past blog I had to deal with some internet creature who wouldn’t let up about how they were the best melodic death metal band ever, and At The Gates and Opeth were nobodies. I can’t stand fanboys, so that’s probably where my sourness stems, but these guys are seriously good. Their previous two albums have been great and this one is even better. Insomnium is definitely close to—if not on top of—the melodic death metal renaissance that is happening in Finland right now.
7. Animals As Leaders – Weightless
Tosin Abasi is still batting 1.000. AaL’s keen ability to transform chaos into serenity is mind-blowing. Outstanding album.
6. Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand
Every so often, the metal world needs Crowbar, and that is just what we got in 2011. Kirk Windstein went through a pretty rough stretch in his life prior to recording this album, made a miraculous comeback, and put in his all. Excellent work from the kings of sludge.
(The next five are almost interchangeable, in terms of where they belong on this list; all have a solid argument for top slot.)
5. Cannabis Corpse – Beneath the Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise
Cannabis Corpse has made me a big fan with this album. Usually humor and parodies in music are insipid and embarrassing, but the boys in Cannabis Corpse use just enough humor to get a chuckle, yet still write blistering death metal. While their style of “weed metal” isn’t all humor, for any Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and/or Morbid Angel fan, their song titles are pretty goddamn funny. However, despite their pothead puns, these guys can play thrashy American ’80s/’90s death metal better than the bands that started it all. Beneath the Grow Lights… is a dream for anyone who has ever wanted to hear an album like Tomb Of The Mutiliated with 2011 production values. Love these guys and can’t wait for more.
4. Obscura – Omnivium
Necrophagist is dead; long live Obscura. If you haven’t heard this album or are on the fence about it, YouTube “A Transcendental Serenade” and make sure you’re seated with a clean pair of underwear in grabbing range.
[Get ready to swap those drawers! ~Ed.]
3. Decapitated – Carnival is Forever
This is a comeback. You lose your brother to a car crash and your band falls apart, so what do you do? You regain your strength, refill your band lineup and write a vicious, technical barrage of relentless death metal. Carnival is Forever sounds different than any other Decapitated album but still sound like themselves—no easy task. But most importantly, Decapitated is back.
2. Tesseract – One
I would never ever listen to this vocalist in any other band, but for whatever reason, he works with this “djent/polyrhythmic” style that’s so popular today. [We’ll miss you, Dan Tompkins—peep his Soundcloud. ~Ed.] However, Tesseract‘s approach is more tasteful and confident; not some djenty deathcore band showing off its ability to imitate Meshuggah. Their unique compositions work phenomenally well, and the album itself has a strong flow from start to finish. I hope these guys continue to push themselves because their potential is limitless.
1. Gentlemans Pistols – At Her Majesty’s Pleasure
Yup, this album rules. It’s not Metal but it definitely has some metal flavor, thanks to their new guitarist (some guy named Bill Steer who played in some band named Carcass). I can’t really explain why I like this album but I definitely listened to this more than anything this year. Since first reading Keith Spillett’s fantastic review on this very blog, I have been beyond addicted to it. It’s got a solid dose of Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Cream and even a little bit of metal here and there. For me, this was the true bright spot of the year. If I had to pick out some albums that I thought I would still be listening to in twenty years, this would be one of them. It’s real rock and roll.