What Stays on MetalMattLongo's iPod

As Metal Director/DJ at WRUV, plus owner of this website, I get sent a metric shit ton of new music every year. I was once able to house my entire MP3 collection on a 160 GB iPod Classic, but as the inevitable digital shift progressed, my virtual library grew exponentially. For a time,  just all of my Metal (including new stuff) lived on the 160 gig …but then it died. The 64 GB iPod Touch became the most attractive option as a better overall tool for my needs, albeit at the sacrifice of ~100 GB in potential storage. So I had a decision to make:  what would now live on this iPod?

My inbox influx only expands. And in the Metal world these days (especially with radio) the average promotion cycle of a new album is 3-4 months—if not less. So my ‘Recent Adds’ and ‘Recenter Adds’ playlists would obviously make the cut during the albums’ “new” periods for review purposes, but I wanted some perennial favorites in there, too; a man cannot live on new music alone. So here is the initial list of 85 artists who never leave my iPod. It may be amended in the future.

~MetalMattLongo


A.L. Lloyd & Ewan MacColl
Alice in Chains
Alive & Well
Anaal Nathrakh
Arsis
Baroness
Bathory (added 2012Feb23)
The Beatles
Black Sabbath
Blind Melon
Carcass
Carnival in Coal
Clutch
Cormorant
Crooked Still
Cynic
The Damned Things
Death
Deftones
Dethklok
Elysian Fields
Faith No More
Fall of Efrafa
Fantômas
Frank Zappa
The Fucking Champs
George Carlin
Ghost
Glyder
Hammers of Misfortune
Hank Williams
Isis
Johnny Cash
Junius
Karl Sanders
Killing Joke
The Kinks
Kylesa
Kyuss
Led Zeppelin
Lesbian
Lovage
Mad Season
Made Out of Babies
Mastodon
Megadeth
Melvins
Mercyful Fate
Meshuggah
Metallica
Michael Jackson
Minibosses
Motörhead
Mr. Bungle
Necrophagist
Neurosis
Nile
Nirvana
Om
Opeth
Pearl Jam
Peeping Tom
Pin Up Went Down
Queens of the Stone Age
Rasputina
Regina Spektor
Slayer
Sleep
Sly and The Family Stone
Strapping Young Lad
The Sword
Syd Barrett
T.Rex
TesseracT
Testament
Thin Lizzy
Tom Waits
Tomahawk
Tool
uneXpect
Voivod
Volbeat
Ween
Yat-Kha
YOB
ZZ Top

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Cole Dougherty's Top 10 of 2011 (+2 Bonus Reviews)

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 DieGod 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

TexturesDualism
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. RevocationChaos 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. InsomniumOne 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 LeadersWeightless
Tosin Abasi is still batting 1.000. AaL’s keen ability to transform chaos into serenity is mind-blowing. Outstanding album.

6. CrowbarSever 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 CorpseBeneath 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. ObscuraOmnivium
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. DecapitatedCarnival 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 PistolsAt 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.

~Cole Dougherty

Willie Strausser's Top 10 of 2011

2011 was a difficult year to summarize. From the death of Osama bin Laden to the universal explosion of protest over the release of Lulu, it’s been a year of mixed emotions and frenetic thoughts. Musically, I would characterize these last twelve months as just so-so. There have been some incredible albums, some decent albums, and some albums that make me want to punch the nearest person or inanimate object (and not in the good way). However, the stellar releases stand out like a sore thumb. Here are some of my picks:

10. Abysmal DawnLeveling the Plane of Existence (Relapse)
Of all the CDs I purchased in 2011, this one spent the most time in my car’s stereo. These guys have really outdone themselves with another album filled with catchy, yet technical, death metal. At times it’s derivative, with some riffs sounding as if they were cut straight out of the Deicide songbook, but even when it is, it’s the best kind of derivation. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong when you’re imitating some of the best metal bands this world has seen.

9. RevocationChaos of Forms (Relapse)
On their sophomore release, Revocation have proved themselves a stalwart in the extreme metal world. Unlike most other thrash bands out there, they are not finding themselves stuck doing Slayer over and over. Chaos of Forms is the crossroads of thrash, death, and NWOBHM. However, it’s woven together so neatly that you hardly even notice when they’re changing styles. I don’t see these guys going away any time soon.

8. XerathII (Candlelight)
“Hey guys, what do you think it would sound like if we took Howard Shore and combined him with Meshuggah?” This is essentially how Xerath was born–with the idea that film score music could be seamlessly combined progressive metal to create something both brutal and heart-wrenching. II is one of those albums that helps you realize that metal as a whole has progressed much farther than simply being about blood, guts, and Satan.

7. TesseractOne (Century Media)
I will not be able to do this album justice. Please read Longo’s review if you don’t know about this record. [Hey, thanks! ~Ed.]

6. SubRosaNo Help for the Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)
It’s hard to find formidable female vocalists these days. However, SubRosa—a band composed of 3/5 of pure woman—is one of the most solid doom bands around. Plus, Sarah Pendleton plays a mean violin without sounding enormously cheesy.

5. Devin Townsend ProjectDeconstruction (Hevy Devy / InsideOut)
Deconstruction is, without a doubt, one of the most extreme emotional roller coaster rides in existence. Themes range from anger to happiness to humor to lustfulness to grief. Both it and its counterpart, Ghost, are extraordinary achievements that deserve much attention.

4. TombsPath of Totality (Relapse)
There isn’t a band out there today who weaves so many different genres into one stylistic quilt as deftly as Tombs. From the post-metal atmosphere to the black metal overtones to the sheer heaviness of the riffs—they defy pigeonholing. Path of Totality is an excellent addition to their discography… and also trounces Korn‘s album of nearly the same name.

3. Red FangMurder the Mountains (Relapse)
Okay, so “Malverde” is probably the best song of this year. Seriously, Murder the Mountains is one of the best sophomore releases I’ve heard, and a damn fine Relapse debut. Everything here from the gritty production to the bellowing vocals to the roaring guitars is a sight and sound to behold. Red Fang opened for Mastodon earlier this year, but I have a feeling they’re bound for even bigger and better things.

2. YOBAtma (Profound Lore)
I love Mike Scheidt—a total metal crush—and it’s not because he can shred or has an incredible growl or because his lyrics are witty and awesome; it’s because, over the course of the last decade, he has crafted the most profoundly unique sound in the metalverse. Atma is partly an exercise in patience (YOB have always been a band that keeps you on the edge of your seat) and also a prominent example of how interesting repetitive music can be. The songs are long and the riffs are deep, but even at these plodding tempos, the music sounds fast; it’s the feeling of thrash put into a slow-churning, doomy body.

1. Wolves in the Throne RoomCelestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
For years, man has attempted to explain the Earth’s connection to the heavens. Volumes have been written in the Bible, Torah, Tao Te Ching, Qur’an, and hundreds of others. People have contemplated what lies in and beyond perception, and how it relates to mortal subjective consciousness. Well, it turns out that it’s not Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, or Lao Tzu who would come up with the definitive canon, but those Cascadian Weaver brothers. Celestial Lineage is both powerfully organic and majestically ethereal, a true example of how to experience your life without words, and a potential tool for personal ascension.

Honorable Mentions (+Non-Metal)
Kate Bush50 Words for Winter
The Pains of Being Pure at HeartBelong
OcoaiThe Electric Hand
Bill CallahanApocalypse
RwakeRest
BjörkBiophilia
SepulturaKairos
Stephen Malkmus and the JicksMirror Traffic
GhostOpus Eponymous
DestroyerKaputt

Breath Of Mozym's Top 5 Black Metal Albums of 2011

So as not to make too much work for myself, I’m posting only my top five Black Metal albums of 2011. I should also mention that my fiscal year begins and ends on Halloween, but I’ll post this on New Year’s Eve for all you normie squares. Also, one really needs a couple of months to digest the albums fully, so albums released after October 31, 2011 do not apply here.


5. VoidVoid

I did not review this album this year, but I thought it deserved mention. London’s Void only had one other release, Posthuman, and that was eight years ago. Posthuman is, by far, one of my all-time favorite industrial black metal albums—up there with classics by …And Oceans and Red Harvest. This self-titled album was a little disappointing because they threw in a lot of techy grind parts and featured fewer industrial parts, but even so, it’s very well done.

4. Vreid—V

Vreid is one of those bands that stands apart from most black metal. They’re full-shred, they have skill, and their music speaks for itself, rather than any black metal ideology (I’m thinking Windir right now… oh wait, they used to BE Windir). The production value on this album is crisp, and the songs are heavy and black, yet fun and catchy. I also think the vocalist sounds a lot like Gallows from New York’s Mythology, which is a compliment to both bands. V has some classy solos, great melodies, devastating riffs and plenty to enjoy for all sorts of headbangers.

3. Urfaust – Der Freiwillige Bettler

This album is fucking brilliant. The riffs, the chord progressions, the key modulations, the tempo changes—all just brilliant. The production is perfect. Black metal producers, especially ones of the depressive variety, should use this album as reference. Der Freiwillige Bettler sets a very dark mood, it’s got some catchy melodies, and oh yeah… they have a motherfucking SINGER. He’s got the operatic vibrato and everything. This keeps the album fresh and interesting. The only thing keeping this album from being #2 is that the vocalist only seems able to say “yah yah yah”.

2. Blut Aus Nord – 777 Sect(s)

I’ve only been a modest fan of Blut Aus Nord until this album came out. A lot of the stuff on this album sounds like their typical mechanical blast beat atonal black metal, but there’s a few gems in there. Epitome II, IV and VI (that’s half the album right there) are slow, dark industrial pieces. They set an amazing mood that both engages you intellectually and works well as background music. Definitely a top pick of 2011.

1. Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

You know when you find that album that you have to listen to on repeat? This is one of those albums, except with one big difference: I fucking hate listening to the same album twice in one week. I don’t care what I’ve said in past reviews, this album has stood the test of time and I play the shit out of it on a weekly basis. The title track is absolutely glorious—it’s got that catchiness that makes melodic black metal bands jealous, yet it is so dismal and dark that it could rival Mayhem‘s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. And like Urfaust, the vocals are unique to typical black metal. In this case, they’re this jarring rattle that almost sounds inhuman—especially in “Desolate Funeral Chant”. Without contest, this wins black metal album of the year.

Honorable mention: Unexpect—Fables of the Sleepless Empire

Unexpect has long been a favorite of mine. I had to wait five years for this album, and it did not disappoint. I can’t say I’ve heard a better avant-garde metal band than Unexpect. But that’s just the reason I can’t put it on this list—it’s not black metal.

So there you have it—six albums that made 2011 a good year for this black metallist. [Just adding this to make 666 total words  ~Ed.]

Forever Hail Mozym,

~Mutis Tkålomsen, The Breath of Mozym

MetalMattLongo's BEST OF 2011 …With Categories, Bitches!

I’ve seen year-end Metal lists prefaced by people claiming that it will “probably piss you off” or some such shit …and this is one of those lists. Whew, good to get that out of the way! I have a good reason to guess this, dudes—categories. So that means quibbling and eyebrow-raising and harrumphing, yesyesyes, but it’s also a hint toward a new site feature for Mind over Metal in 2012. Something awesome surfaced last year, involved and affected many of us scribes, then disappeared. We can rebuild it. We have the technology. We can make it better than it was. I fucking hope.

We lost some good ones in 2011, including David Gold from Woods of Ypres just a week ago, Cory Smoot/Flattus Maximus (Gwar), Jonas Bergqvist/Nattdal/B (Lifelover), Phil Vane (Extreme Noise Terror), Seth Putnam (Anal Cunt), Jani Lane (Warrant), and Michael ‘Würzel’ Burston (Motörhead). Plus Macho Man, dudes—Randy fucking Savage; I definitely shed the most tears for one of my favorite wrestlers, and watched a lot of old matches. The IC battle with Steamboat at Wrestlemania III is the work of legends.

Mind over Metal continues to grow, and for that I am grateful. Muchas gracias to all the bands we cover and the peeps that pimp them to us, especially Liz & Dave/Earsplit Compound, Scott & Ryan/Clawhammer PR, Grim Kim/Catharsis PR, Nathan T. Birk, Munsey & Ralph/Skateboard Marketing, and Bram at The Syndicate. Also gotta shout out to my blogger brethren, so here’s looking at Josh Haun at That’s How Kids Die, Atanamar Sunyata at Mindful of Metal, Angry Metal Guy & Steel Druhm, the Heavy Blog is Heavy dudes, and really anyone spilling digital ink for the good of the Metalverse. And obviously, there are people out there reading this thing—more than ever, recently. (Hell, we had our heaviest traffic just yesterday!) Thank you for your continued infernal patronage, from the bottom of my bloody heart. There will be lots of changes and additions to the site throughout 2012, and all signs point to kickass.

The first band in each list are my main picks. I’m not numbering, because the rest vary from descending favorites to second-place ties. But if you must, I guess just count the first ones in each category, and this becomes a Top 12 (or 11 if you exclude “Biggest Let-Down”). I’m not gonna wax nostalgic too much over these; a complete sentence at most to recap. Because how many of the damned things do we read each year?


BLACK METAL
Cormorant – Dwellings (Album of the Year)
Never has a band branched so bravely from blackened roots, AND the cover art replaced Baroness‘s Blue Album on my desktop.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage
Probably the most consistently-loved band on this site in 2011.

Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm
More outer space black metal, thank you.

Anaal Nathrakh – Passion
A devastating din from the dynamic duo; glad I got to ask questions.


CLASSIC/TRADITIONAL METAL
Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street
SOUND-OFF: Lizzy! Tull! Floyd! Mac! Sabbath! All present and accounted for!

Ghost – Opus Eponymous
Satanism never sounded so sweet.

Satan’s Host – By the Hands of the Devil
Welcome back, Conklin.

Benedictum – Dominion
Love the ladies who bring the darkness—we need more like Veronica Freeman.


DEATH METAL
Bones – Bones
A twisted torsion made more infectious by pervasive grime.

Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising
Yup, I never get sick of this band, either; Willow even wrote them our first “thank you” letter.

Decapitated – Carnival is Forever 
Your adversity is shit compared to this band.

Cannabis Corpse – Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise
The best-running one-joke premise I’ve ever heard.


PROGRESSIVE METAL
TesseracT – One 
Not sure how the new vocalist will work out, but my first 5/5 of 2011 still holds up.

uneXpect – Fables of the Sleepless Empire
Still in awe of a quirky avant-garde metal septet that’s this much fun.

Gigan – Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes 
Good thing Eric Hersemann gave us a track-by-track breakdown—it’s quite complicated!

Obscura – Omnivium 
Reaching past extremes to achieve the impossible.


SLUDGE/DOOM
YOB – Atma 
Holy hell, so Mike Scheidt can really keep getting heavier; watch out, Tool fans!

Tombs – Path of Totality 
Genres? Where we’re going, we don’t need genres.

Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand 
I had a joke about The Evil Dead, but it’s gone—sorry, do you need a reason to listen to Crowbar?

Black Cobra – Invernal 
Antarctica: it’s not just for Gwar anymore.


THRASH
Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination
The Ohio troupe has always been about more than just thrash; this proves it.

Machine Head – Unto the Locust
Honestly? Can I say it? It’s their best album, barring (and maybe even including) Burn My Eyes.

Havok – Time is Up 
Beyond re-thrash; the best of its breed. Hear what David Sanchez himself thinks of all this.

Untimely Demise – City of Steel 
This kept me sated until Skeletonwitch dropped—find out why!


EPs
Immolation – Providence 
OH. MY. FUCK. It’s so heavy! And you just wanna keep playing it! Aaaaaahhh!

Cynic – Carbon-Based Anatomy 
Soooooo, Re-Traced never happened, right?

Mithras – Time Never Lasts
Excellent stopgap; the new full-length can’t come fast enough. That’s what she said?

USX – The Valley Path
Did as they please, not a fuck was given, one amazing track resulted. We yakked at length about it here.


BIGGEST LET-DOWNS
Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
What more can you say that hasn’t been beaten to death again and again?

Killing Joke – Live at Hammersmith Apollo 16.10.2010
My favorite album of last year fell victim to a terrible live recording session.

Opeth – Heritage
Maybe you’re into it. I approached with open ears and mind, but Heritage just doesn’t resonate with me.


SWEETEST SURPRISES
Anthrax – Worship Music
I was pretty much prepared to hate this, denied the hype, and then ate a bunch of crow.

HeadCat – Walk the Walk…Talk the Talk
Anything that involves Lemmy these days turns to gold.

Motörhead – The Wörld is Yours
Like I said.

Morkobot – Morbo 
Nothing bad from the Supernatural Cat folks thus far!


NON-METAL LOVES
Tom Waits – Bad as Me
My favorite since Alice. I probably played the preview stream at least twenty times.

Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1
Willie did a great review and spoke with Dylan, but only my interview is on the site (for now).

Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors 
By far the most poppy music I enjoyed in 2011, it also helped keep me alive once.

Junius – Reports from the Threshold of Death 
While heavily played since release, it’s still not reviewed, which brings us to our next category.


BEST STUFF WE NEVER REVIEWED
The Living Fields – Running Out of Daylight
Revocation – Chaos of Forms
Absu – Abzu
Glorior Belli – The Great Southern Darkness
Exhumed – All Guts, No Glory
ChrystPhantasmaChronica


FAVORITE REISSUES
Death Human and The Sound of Perseverence
Discharge Desensitise/War Is Hell
Coalesce Give Them Rope
sunn 0))) øø Void
Neurosis  Souls at Zero and Sovereign EP
Winter Into Darkness
Augury – Concealed


Because compiling these lists feels like beating Contra w/o the Konami Code. See ya in 2012, fuckers!

~MetalMattLongo

Mats Johansen – The Best Heavy Metal Records of 2011!

The year didn’t start that well; only a few records tickled my fancy during the first quarter. Luckily, something happened during the spring, and the rest of 2011 has been an explosion in heavy music: doom, drone, black metal, industrial and hard rock has just poured out through the speakers. I’ve finally decided on which fifteen records really stood out this year, but it hasn’t been easy—take a look at the talent in the honorable mentions section!

Let’s celebrate a great year in heavy music and hope for a great soundtrack to an apocalyptic 2012!

1. Wolves In The Throne Room: Celestial Lineage

Sadly, this fantastic black metal duo has decided to bid us farewell. [I think this is still unconfirmed  ~Ed.] Luckily, they conclude with their best record yet – fusing classic black metal with drones, choir song and industrial music. The Weaver brothers are undoubtedly two of the finest songsmiths in heavy metal and I look forward to their next projects.

2. The Atlas Moth: Ache For The Distance

This band took me by surprise at the end of the year; their heavy music is psychedelic, bluesy and hard as nails. They are just another band in a flood of music which fuses several genres with a foundation of heavy metal, but do it better than most. This record is full of pop hooks, blackened vocals, thundering drums and great riffs.

3. Rwake: Rest

This darkened rock group has listened to their share of Neurosis records, but have managed to create a mythology all their own. It sounds as movies like Deliverance look: claustrophobic, dangerous and epic.

4. Deafheaven: The Road To Judah

I always discover gems in year-end lists; last year it was Agalloch, this year Deafheaven. Their mix of shoegazing and black metal reminds me of both the French Alcest and the British My Bloody Valentine.

5. Mastodon: The Hunter

I felt Mastodon took a ”wrong” turn after Blood Mountain when they made Crack The Skye too complex and progressive. Don’t misunderstand—the album is great. But remember this is Mastodon we’re talking about, the band that went from the garage to the stadiums in under a decade. The Hunter makes it alright, with plain and simple loud and fun heavy metal, setting the band up for another ten years of fantastic music.

6. Shining: Live Blackjazz

Who could have known that Shining would end up as one of Norway’s heaviest metal bands when they released their debut jazz record less than ten years ago? Live Blackjazz is a great live document from this era, fusing heavy metal, industrial and free jazz in a blistering soundscape like few others before them.

[Even though i’m a vinyl connoisseur, I have to recommend the CD digipak version as it includes the entire concert on DVD – brilliant!]

7. Black Tusk: Set The Dial

This record has turned into one of my favorites this year. At first glance it seemed like a copy of its predecessor Taste The Sin, but after a few more spins it felt like i was listening to the band’s next phase—following in Kylesa’s footsteps and fleshing out their sound without ever leaving heavy metal behind.

8. Falloch: Where Distant Spirits Remain

This Scottish duo has introduced themselves in much the same way as Irish black metal group Winterfylleth did last year: dressed in darkness and mythology with a foundation in their native folk music. Falloch follow in the footprints of Americans like Agalloch or Wolves In The Throne Room as well as a burgeoning wave of British bands led by Altar of Plagues and the aforementioned Winterfylleth.

9. Tombs: Path of Totality

The record that many critics proudly lauded halfway through 2011 has not lost any of its power. It’s the ideal fusion of blackened metal, ravaging hardcore and sweet shoegaze, all blended with brutally unique alchemy.

10. A Storm of Light: As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us Our Silver Memories Fade

It’s a joy to see A Storm of Light venture from the shadow of Neurosis. The doom-laden darkness and the bleak visions absolutely envelop the listener with primal intensity.

11. *Shels: Plains Of The Purple Buffalo

Even though this group isn’t strictly metal they’re getting very close on Plains Of The Purple Buffalo. They’ve found their own blend of indie rock and post metal, making me feel the equal presence of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Isis, while still bearing the mark of individuality.

12. Graveyard: Hisingen Blues

This Swedish band has released one of this year’s most exciting hard rock records which fits perfectly between fellow countrymen Ghost’s occult doom and Witchcraft’s traditional tendencies.

13. Altar Of Plagues: Mammals

This Irish group became a cult legend with their incendiary debut White Tomb, and have made a brilliant follow-up with Mammal. Their blackened ambience meshed with monumental songwriting could make them heir apparents to Wolves In The Throne Room.

14. Motorpsycho: RoadWorks Vol. 4: Intrepid Skronk

The fourth installment in their RoadWorks live album series is quite possibly the best. The record documents the band’s output since Kenneth Kapstad enlisted as their drummer a few years ago and proves that Motorpsycho is undoubtedly one of the finest live outfits in rock today.

15: Trap Them: Darker Handcraft

This record was the perfect follow-up after being crushed by the might of Black Breath a few years ago. [Okay, I literally have no idea what Mats means there, but I’m glad someone gave my NH brethren some love!  ~Ed.] Trap Them took me apart with their brute force, crushing riffs and exploding melodies.

Top three – non-metal albums:

1. Grails: Deep Politics

I consider heavy music as a wider concept than the traditional heavy metal genre. Grails matches this understanding and Deep Politics succeeds Doomsdayer’s Holiday well. It’s gloomy and brooding, yet with strong pop sensibility.

2. Tom Waits: Bad As Me

The weird lyrical universe born by the pen of Tom Waits has intrigued me since I first heard his resplendent Rain Dogs. Waits unfailingly blends beautiful ballads, carnival show music, and pitch black blues into a mesmerising whole. Bad As Me—his first studio record in seven years—is easily his best since Mule Variations.

3. Barn Owl: Lost In The Glare

With their eighth record, This American drone duo started to explore post-psych. While locking in on a slow and gazing tempo, they decorate their atmospheres with myriad instruments and end up with a fascinating and blissful fuzz.

Honorable mentions: Earth, Blood Ceremony, Burzum, Boris, Devil’s Blood, Bloodiest, Explosions In The Sky, Ocoai, Young Widows, This Will Destroy You, US Christmas, My Morning Jacket, Opeth, Cave In, Primordial, Amebix, Red Fang, The Fucking Wrath, Indian, Bonnie ”Prince” Billy and Morne.