There are dozens of factors that go into creating a "great" record, and I try to consider them all while listening to music of any sub-genre, in any time period, from any geographical location (3 important elements that play a roll in critiquing music as far as I'm concerned). It's easy to simply write something off you don't like, and just as easy to fake something you do for the sake of continuously supporting a band you enjoy for one reason or another. These are mistakes I find amongst my peers in the music industry everyday (but I'll blog and rant more about that later), and none more pungent than the end of each year where we're unofficially obligated to grade bands into a competitive structure for which it doesn't belong. The mentality of art is not one of sport, but I'll blog and rant more about that someday too.
With that said, I'd like to provide you NOT with a structured list of favoritism or competitive nature, but merely 22 releases in no particular order that I listened to a lot this year. Why 22? because that's just how many I had something to say about. Like last year I've listened to hundreds of releases, and thoroughly enjoyed many more than you'll see on this list (like Scar Symmetry, Fucked Up, Absu, Ulcerate, Lock Up, Skeletonwitch, Noiser, and Dead In The Dirt to name a few), but I'm the kind of guy that can talk about music for hours if you let me. I know some of you don't read these forwards, and probably less of you read the description for each LP, but for the 1% of genuine music lovers and groove seekers out there like myself who spend endless nights on a quest for quality metal around the globe, I hope you at least find something new you might have missed, or something you'd like to revisit. After all this list isn't about me or you, it's about awesome bands, and sharing our love for music that reminds us why we do what we do in the first place.
Are there still people in the world not listening to Revocation!? I've said it to many people before so I might as well go on record to say it here, but I think Revocation is the best thing to happen to thrash metal since "Rust in Peace", and Chaos of Forms only fortifies that remark.
The Black Dahlia Murder made a record this year. Do I really need to justify my decision why they're on this list further than that?
Insomnium has been, and probably will always be an all time personal favorite band of mine. It's because of this fact I wont say it's the best effort I've heard from the band, but that doesn't change that it's a great LP. It came as no surprise that One For Sorrow fulfilled my quota of "sad metal" this year, my only wish is that the production was better. I'd like to see it remixed and mastered in the future to be on par with previous (flawless) efforts. Till then, I cant take away that the music is every bit as epic as I've come to expect from Insomnium.
This record is groovy as fuck, and the production is seriously some of my favorite from the entire year. It has that clean articulate sound without feeling processed, and that is so incredibly rare today. It also helps that the music is nothing short of stellar and with the addition of new singer Daniel these guys seem unstoppable. I cant wait to see them live again and again.
I had the pleasure of "Motley Cruing" through the U.S. with these guys for a few weeks earlier this year and take it from me, they are every bit of crazy, intense, fun, humble, and epic as their music would lead you to believe. I love their EP, but you're just going to have to see it live to fully understand the scope of what this band has to offer. Don't forget to bring a fresh pair of tighty whities.
Why did I string these 2 LP's together? Because if you're anything like me, 15 years ago BOTH of these bands meant the world to you. They were two of the most unique, creative, extreme metal bands that were paving the way for pretty much 90% of metal bands today. Maybe they didn't get the love Carcass, or At The Gates did, but they also didn't fight or break up causing you to miss them. Instead both bands continued to re-create themselves every couple years in "experimental phases". To be honest with you, when I heard Samael and Amorphis were putting out another record this year I simply imagined it to be more of the same filler. So it gave me tremendous pleasure that both of these records are so much closer to home, and some of the best written material I've heard in years from these two groups. I am so incredibly stoked they'll both be aboard the 2012 70K Tons Of Metal. I can't wait to rock out to these two like I'm 16 again.
I feel like I have an equal amount of friends who love and hate this band, but at least everyone is very vocal about it. There is something to be said about a band that can strike extreme emotion in people. I personally love this band, and I can't admit that was always true, but like a fine wine I think this band always had the gift to play, but now they've harnessed the gift of song writing. It's erratic, it's soulful, it's progressive, it's cheesy, but most of all it's unique in a world where there is little to be found.
In what is probably one of the biggest metal news stories of the year, Dream Theater made a name for themselves to some, and simply dragged their name through the mud to others. If you know me personally, I generally loose interest real fast when things become a spectacle. So when I popped in the new DT record every ounce of me wanted to hate it, especially considering I haven't been happy with the stuff they've done since 2007. Damn was I off! After I sat there in shock from the first song, I stopped everything and literally sat in my room staring at the wall to take it all in. For hardcore DT fans, this is really meaningless because like me, you already know. However for the rest of you, get with the program, give this record a chance, it's truly some of the best examples of the word "prog" I've heard in years.
I've always kinda liked Leprous, but Bilateral completely took me by surprise as becoming a favorite in my collection this year. It's an incredibly hard LP to describe, and perhaps that's half the appeal. It's like putting Ihsahn, Porcupine Tree, Mike Patton, Opeth, Enemy of The Sun, and A lounge band in a blender. Does that make any sense? Probably not, but if you like anything I just listed chances are you'll love Bilateral.
At first listen you might right this off as just another melo-death or metal core band,but you'd be wrong. Besides, as our buddy Albert Mudrian at Decibel Magazine once said "Despite popular belief not all metal core is bad, some of it is actually really good, but of course lots of it is really bad." Well I'm here to tell you call this band what you will, but they have their shit on lock down. Take it from a guy who hates mediocre melo-core, if the sub-genre were a science I'd call Anterior the James Clerk Maxwell of their kind.
I had the pleasure of touring with these guys for a bit this year, and my favorite part was being able to watch them play every night. I've seen plenty of bands with 2 guitar players where I ask myself "are 2 even necessary in this band?" Well East of The Wall has 3 guitar players and a bassist, none of which ever seem to jam on the same note at any given time. If you like really groovy, progressive music full of fretboard frenzy and insane drum chops, you'll love The Apologist.
The much anticipated follow up from the incredible Australian quartet. These guys are a breed of their own as far as I'm concerned. They run the gamut from technical death to prog fusion jazz and stretch the boundaries as far as humanly possible. I'm not going to lie, we waited since 2004 for this record and generally after that much time and hype you sort of ruin it for yourself, this however was not the case with Natural Causes. This LP fucking shreds your testicles and crosses into a whole new higher caliber of technical music since their last release. Good work dudes.
If I could bottle pure hate into a 3 fl oz container and let it unleash at will, I'd call it Maruta. I've always raged hard to this band, but Forward Into Regression has this certain formula to it that brings out the aggression in people, and that has a lot to do with the relentless fury this band lashes onto their instruments. When people say "the music made me do it" they're probably talking about this record.
Ben Sharp aka Cloudkicker and I go back over a year ago now when we shared a few moments behind a mostly vacant hotel, in a dark parking lot, in 30 degree weather. Despite how awful that must sound I truly still feel honored to have a few minutes of his time, because he really is one of my favorite music writers out there today. I know some of you felt deterred at the "new sound" of Cloudkicker, and I bet some of you even cried at the loss of all the heavy djenty parts, but how many of you actually gave it pure undivided and un-biased attention? I've said before that Cloudkicker to me is like "a soundtrack to life" and if that logic were true, I'd probably call Let Yourself Be Huge my eulogy. Make no mistake, it's a very beautiful and powerful thing.
So this EP was the first bit of Circle Takes The Square music since their last release in 2004, and holy shit does it not dissapoint. It's pretty amazing that despite personal life changes, geographical changes, and a matter of 6 years, this band has lost none of it's edge we all came to love from them. In fact I dare say they got even better with time as Decompositions takes a slightly more mature approach, especially in the production department.
I want to tour with this band so god damn bad just because I want to be able to watch them every single day, and I've already seen them like 7 times this year. They're raw, disgusting, un-apologetically fucked up and I love every second of it. This is what you bring home to mom and dad when you want to piss them off.
So you guys know the drill with this record yeah? Each and every song was meticulously scored to a scene from a movie. If being one of the most technical metal bands the world had to offer wasn't enough for this super group, they went and made it harder on themselves. The outcome is pure genius though, even with out the aid of visuals you can tell there is a fuck ton going on in this EP. Not to mention this EP has more notes than some double discs I've heard. I'll admit this band isn't really for everyone, and I think you probably need to be a musician to fully appreciate the intensity of work going on here, but I know a handful of non-musicians who love this band regardless, so there's really no excuse.
Without a doubt djent was HUGE in 2011, in fact I think I probably heard more variations of djent or dance infused groove metal records from all over the world than anything else this year. And you know what? Some of it is really fucking good. However like any other movement that becomes popular, it's going to be harder and harder to break through the mediocrity. So I was completely stunned that despite the huge influx around the world, it was Texas bred Nociceptor that really kicked my ass. Maybe because they're one of the heaviest djent style bands I've ever heard, who knows. I can't help but bang my head and air drum through this record on a weekly basis.
I think my fan boy nature for this band is well documented here on Metal Injection. Great band, great dudes, absolutely stellar music that just seems to fit the mood I'm in most of the time. I'd have no problem telling you when one of my favorite bands put out a shit record, but Transcendence is in fact the opposite. I could be mistaken, but it almost sounds like the vision Mathieu had for this band all along finally come to fruition in this release. I for one, love it.
Describing this record to me, is basically like answering the following question. "What is metal?" It's heavy, aggressive, groovy as fuck and unrelentlessly fast and catchy. Carnival Is Forever is by far one of my most listened to records of the year and has everything a grown metal head seeks. I even went as far as saying "I hope they play mostly new stuff" when seeing them live. If you know me, you'd know that might be the one and only time I've ever uttered that sentence.