My Favourite Releases of 2011 (in no particular order)
Decapitated - Carnival Is Forever
The polish masters return after the loss of most of their band with a strong release, possibly their most progressive yet.
Chthonic - Takasago Army
Another slab of awesome from Taiwan's finest.
Puscifer - Conditions of My Parole
Maynard James Keenan returns with more eclectic electronic weirdness.
The Wolves of Avalon - Carrion Crows Over Camlan
Supergroup side project featuring members of Meads of Asphodel, Mael Mordha and Yydraggsil - this was only ever going to float my boat!
Machine Head - Unto The Locust
Sometimes I just like my metal to be plain and pure - the essence of what metal is generally all about. Hairy men playing guitars loudly, and shouting at you angrily. For me, Machine Head fill this void perfectly, and follow up their brilliant "The Blackening" album with another solid release.
Hammers of Misfortune - 17th Street
John Cobbett and Co. return with their heaviest album for a long while, but also their catchiest. Great stuff.
Dornenreich - Flammentriebe
German Folk/Black metal at it's absolute finest.
My Dying Bride - Evinta
A new experiment from the yorkshire masters of doom, and much more interesting than the disappointing "For Lies I Sire" - this 3-cd opus is stripped back, re-arranged orchestrations of recognisable MDB melodies, minus the guitars. Won't be for everyone, and not an easy listen in one sitting, but brilliant all the same. Closer to the likes of Dargaard and Dark Sanctuary than traditional MDB. One for the headphones with a glass of wine. And possibly a cry and a wank at the same time.
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
Despite initially not grabbing me, this has become a firm favourite of mine not only of the year but from all Dream Theater releases. It really does seem that the problem was Portnoy - and now we have DT returning with a stellar album. Disgruntled older fans should find something worth listening to here, especially considering the conspiracy theorists believe the entire thing is a reworked "Images and Words"!
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Quite a surprise for me to include a band like the Foo's in my yearly favourites list - they've been churning out the same dull pop/rock bobbins for about the last 3 albums - then they go and make the album of their career, up there with "Colour and the Shape". Who'd a thunk it.
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony
The sound of the end of the world. With death metal. And full orchestra. A very scary, mind-shattering 50-minute end of the world. Exhausting to listen to, but genius none the less. Dear Nightwish - THIS is how you make symphonic metal.
Pain of Salvation - Road Salt Two
Not a patch on "Road Salt One" but still manages to make my album of the year list! Loving their new retro Led-Zep/road movie direction more with every listen.
Mastodon - The Hunter
It's no "Crack the Skye", their pinnacle IMHO, but this collection of catchy metal tunes still floats my boat. As usual my favourite track features Scott Kelly from Neurosis :)
Falkenbach - Tiurida
After a long hiatus, this Icelandic 1-piece returns sounding better than ever, with his distinctive brand of jaunty viking metal.
iwrestledabearonce - Ruining It For Everybody
This sort of "kerrazy" and "all over the shop and out of tune" hipster shit normally annoys the jolly christ out of me. They even have one of those band names that makes you want to slap them all upside the head. But for some reason I love this band. And I can't tell you why, because anything else of this ilk makes the urge to kill rise. I guess for me they have just the right level of "bonkers", I love the vocalist, and their use of electronics in places. It's a shame I'll probably never see them live because I will probably want to murder all their fans.
The Project Hate MCMXCIX - Bleeding the New Apocalypse
The new singer Ruby (Witchbreed) absolutely nails it on this one, despite my initial reservations. A great album, and much better than their last effort, which was quite frankly a load of shite. Yet more brutal, epic death metal tinged with electronica.
THE CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR SECTION...
A few good albums that didn't quite make it to my yearly favorites list...
Magenta Harvest - A Familiar Room (EP)
Die Apokalyptischen Reiter - Moral and Wahnsinn
Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions
Fair to Midland - Arrows and Anchors
Septicflesh - The Great Mass
Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
KMFDM - WTF?!
Radiohead - King of Limbs
THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2011
...and my list of releases that made me a SAD PANDA this year :(
Nightwish - Imaginaerum
An extreme lesson in DULL. Dear Tuomas, please just pack it in and become a film composer.
Turisas - Stand Up and Fight
Seemed more like a vanity project for Nygard, who in turn seems desperate to get noticed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is NOT the band I jigged merrily in the rain to at 2am during Wacken 2005. Poor.
Opeth - Heritage
I had to take a good few listens to work out whether I just didn't "get" this album, or whether it just wasn't THAT interesting. Sadly, as retro-prog-deep-purple covers albums go, it's pretty uninspiring. I guess if the "death metal" isn't in them anymore, it's best not to force it, but I know they can do miles better than this - just look at Damnation. Oh well.
Devin Townsend Project - Ghost
As much as I love Devin - he to me is such an inspiring person and musician - this is NOT my bag I'm afraid. If you went into one of those hippy shops that sells crystals and wicca books, where they play ambient "wellbeing" music, you wouldn't buy one of their tacky cd's now would you? You might even make fun of it while you were there. But somehow because Devin has done it, it's genius? Don't get it I'm afraid.
Anaal Nathrakh - Passion
The release where the joke of being so extreme it's funny no longer became funny. Over the top for the sake of it but foresaking any kind of memorable songwriting. Such a shame as the last two albums have been killer.
Riverside - Memories in my Head
Ironic for the title, I cannot remember a single thing about it no matter how many times I listen.
Stream of Passion - Darker Days
Dull, dull, dull. Come back Arjen, for gods sake.
Wolverine - Communication Lost
I so desperately WANT to love this album. They guys that make it put so much effort and time into it, but no matter how much I try, I just can't get it to sink in. I just don't know what it is that is missing... Sorry chaps! :(
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
And here it is! Usually I can never decide on an outright album of the year, but for once the choice for me is totally obvious. My personal winner of 2011 is...
Amebix - Sonic Mass
Coming completely out of nowhere for me, an old crust/punk band from a bit before even my time, reforms to make something completely fresh and relevant in the modern metal scene. I won't pretend to know much about their original material, but having checked it out since, there is no "trying to replicate former glories" here - just something new that has no right being as good as it is. Epic is a term thrown around too much, but it certainly fits here - and I don't just mean the usual "metal band tries to make a film score" rubbish. Soaring, heavy, crushing, beautiful - and just about pisses on everything else released this year from a great height. Trying to explain it doesn't do it justice, but it's like a strange marriage of Neurosis, Swans, Mastodon, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure.
Just check this wonderment:
And that's it, thanks for reading :)