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Best of 2011

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011

It's been a pretty kick ass year for metal. A lot of great follow ups from established bands, a few new surprises, and plenty of riffs. This list is organized in reverse order. Hope you enjoy!

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Animals as Leaders – Weightless

Guitar wizard/classy gentleman Tosin Abasi brings forth his second effort under the moniker Animals as Leaders, only this time with more electronic influence and a full band at his back. Weightless showcases basically every ridiculous guitar technique imaginable, ranging from Victor Wooten-esque tapping to shredding that would make even Thor Shredsteen weep. Animals as Leaders have tamed down the heaviness, but conjured another extremely progressive and interesting instrumental album. Mark my words; this band will be massive in the upcoming years. (Essential listening: “Weightless”)

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Blut Aus Nord – 777 Sect(s)

Filthy French black metal is filthy! Blut Aus Nord’s first installment of a trilogy of albums is my favorite example of the genre in 2011. This is no easy feat, considering I generally don’t care about black metal past 1996. 777 Sect(s) is awash in a sea of noise, bile, sludge, terror, and misanthropy. But don't confuse these guys with fellow Frenchmen Deathspell Omega; Blut Aus Nord is an entirely different animal. With the second installment being recently released and the third on the way, Blut Aus Nord are quickly solidifying themselves as one of the few bastions of original and genuine black metal in today’s metal scene. (Essential listening: “Epitome IV")

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Last Chance to Reason – Level 2

By far my favorite discovery of the year. Level 2 is wildly random without being overbearing, absurdly technical without sounding like Dream Theater, and catchy as all get out (thanks to Michael Lessard’s superb vocal performance). While this album takes a little bit of time to get used to, and some may be put off by the somewhat cheesy synths and video-game inspired lyrics, Level 2 ‘s pros vastly outweigh its cons. I can't wait to see what these guys come up with next. (Essential listening: “The Prototype")

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Scale the Summit – The Collective

While I only thought Carving Desert Canyons was ok, this one has solidified me as a staunch supporter of the band. Separating themselves as yet another Between the Buried and Me and Cynic clone, Houston’s Scale the Summit have slowed down and stopped to smell the riff-covered roses. Needless to say, it pays off in spades. Each track seems like a journey and less like a pile of random guitar leads, and also gets way heavier than ever before for the band. A great album for both music theory geeks and groove fanatics. (Essential listening: “Whales")

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Mastodon – The Hunter

Mastodon combines their progressive and melodic tendencies of Crack the Skye with the energetic bursts of Leviathan to further their reign as the titans of mainstream, modern metal. With a new look and more melodic vocal style, The Hunter could alienate older fans, but anyone who still clings to Remission as their only good album probably needs a helmet. Mastodon is still as unpredictable as ever, with songs like “Bedazzled Fingernails” and “Creature Lives” pushing both the band's musicianship and songwriting ability to new levels. You probably should have already listened to The Hunter this year, but if not, here’s another friendly reminder. (Essential listening: “Octopus Has No Friends")

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues

BTBAM trim the fat off of The Great Misdirect and reemerge with a more concise, unpredictable, and, dare I say, the heaviest album of theirs since the 2003 metalcore classic, The Silent Circus. While Parallax is no major departure for the band, it rather establishes the band as more consistent songwriters and musicians. The album’s three songs are just as unpredictable as before (without seeming completely random), the guitars are just as ridiculous, and Blake Richardson plays the drums like a goddamn rock star. Maybe the band should start making shorter albums more often. (Essential listening: “Augment of Rebirth”)

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011TesseracT – One

After years of subpar demos, English chuggernauts TesseracT emerge with quite a bitchin’ debut. Though it's obvious to see the influence of bands like Meshuggah and the Deftones, this album still carves out a unique niche for the band in today’s modern prog-metal scene. With soaring, melodic vocals and one of the tightest rhythm sections around today, this is a must-hear for anyone who doesn’t mind bobbing their head relentlessly for eleven straight songs. Don't call this djent; TesseracT are way more than just a few polyrhythmic riffs. (Essential listening: “Lament”)

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Opeth – Heritage

What Heritage lacks in death growls and blast beats, it makes up for immensely with a new-found progressive take on the Opeth sound. While comparisons to classic bands like King Crimson and Rainbow are inevitable, this album is undeniably the voice of Mikael Akerfeldt. And while fans of Opeth’s more brutal tendencies will be put off by the less abrasive style, Heritage is by far the darkest and most sophisticated album since the band’s 2003 curveball, Damnation. Martin Axenrot's drum performance on here is also one of the year's best. Essential listening for fans of a more retro take on progressive rock. (Essential listening: “I Feel the Dark”)

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011KEN mode – Venerable

Underground Canadian metal/hardcore badasses KEN mode have concocted the best album of their careers, and the year’s best example of the genre. With Converge’s Kurt Ballou behind the mixing board, the band simply bludgeons the listener with noisy, complex, and furious riffs and vocals. Venerable is also deserving of such praise due to its diversity; no two songs really sound alike. Check out tracks like “Obeying the Iron Will” for some of the best technical hardcore since Botch, and “The Irate Jumbuck” for the year’s best take on post-metal. (Essential listening: “The Irate Jumbuck”)

Kit Brown's Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2011Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction

Easily the most bombastic of Devin Townsend’s new string of four masterful and diverse albums, Deconstruction is far and beyond the most essential metal listen of the year. It’s farty (no, really), heavy as balls, theatrical, unpredictable, sensitive, and is chock-full of references to countless other Devy records. This album is an absolute roller-coaster ride and manages to sustain constant interest, despite being over seventy minutes in length. With appearances from members of metal heavyweights like Opeth, Emperor, Gojira, and The Dillinger Escape Plan, how could you not want to check this out? Good lord, it's a cheeseburger! (Essential listening: “The Mighty Masturbator”)


Honorable Mentions:

Wolves in the Throne Room Celestial Lineage

Unexpect – Fables of the Sleepless Empire

Protest the Hero Scurrilous

Wormrot – Dirge

Electro Quarterstaff Akyroyd

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