Not too long ago, I went over to Double-Down Saloon to celebrate Frank’s birthday with the rest of the crew from Metal Injection and MetalSucks. Amidst the smoke and the booze, there was one obvious question I had to ask everyone: what were some of your favorite records of 2011? Having posted their lists a couple weeks ago, I already knew what some of the MetalSucks people thought. More interesting however was my conversation with the boys about the validity of “Top Lists” in general. Some of them considered the whole exercise pointless. While I understand their reasons, I still like countdowns and “best-of” lists simply for their informative value. If you admire the opinion of a certain writer, maybe their list would be worth reading. I’ve found out about countless artists from such lists, artists who have then turned into favorites or opened doors for others. So if anything, I hope this list can serve that purpose for you.
2011 has been an incredible year for Metal and Hardcore. With so many great records being released, I could not ask for a better soundtrack to what has been one of the most insane and epic years I’ve experienced. Having missed the boat last year, I wanted to do my best to listen to as many albums possible. I soon discovered how daunting this task was (I don’t know how Corey Mitchell does it, but I am eternally grateful for his column). Therefore, I’ve put these records in no particular order and have included a selection of honorable mentions at the bottom.
Toxic Holocaust – Conjure and Command
With few exceptions, I like my music straight-forward and to-the-point…Behold! Toxic Holocaust!!! As I’ve said in the past, I’m very fond of the neo-thrash movement, and I would happily nominate these guys as one of the very best of that group. Conjure and Command has a very pure thrash-metal sound, with some of the band’s Punk and Black Metal influences extracted out. But this does nothing to diminish this amazing, riff-laden album of its glory. Somehow, they’re just able to make that open-E chug sound new again. THRASH! THRASH! THRASH!
Dragged into Sunlight – Hatred for Mankind
If you wanted a good metaphor for this album: imagine a sledgehammer…dipped in sulfuric acid…with razor wire wrapped around it…on fire. One of the most violent records I have ever heard, Hatred for Mankind certainly lives up to its title. Distorted and overflowing with rage, the vocals on this album strongly resemble those of bands like Black Witchery and Eyehategod, but with an even deeper low-end. The bass and drums are mixed in such a way that they propel the music ferociously out of your speakers. Check out Volcanic Birth to see what I mean. Oh, and then there are the creepy voice-overs…seems like a requirement these days.
Mastodon – The Hunter
A surprise favorite for me, it took a few listens for me to warm up to The Hunter. In a way, the band sounds more like a hard-rock act now, but they do so in a way that retains their characteristic sound. These are of course: excellent vocal melodies, watery and dynamic riffs, and dazzling compositional creativity. To my ears, The Hunter resembles a blend of all previous Mastodon records, but with a certain emphasis on Remission and Crack the Skye. The Hunter contains some of the catchiest and memorable songs of the year, and is one of the few records that get progressively better from one song to the next. And dude…honestly…there’s a song on it called Octopus Has No Friends– C’MON NOW!
Mother of Mercy – IV: Symptoms of Existence
When I went to the Metal SuckFest this October, I spent some time chatting with Hardcore reviewer extraordinaire Gary Suarez. After talking about a few of our favorite records of the year, he made an extremely strong pitch for Mother of Mercy. On first listening to Symptoms of Existence, I would definitely second the motion. Mother of Mercy incorporates just the right amount of metal riff-and-groove that lets their sound retain an authentic hardcore edge. You know you love an album when it makes you want pump your fist and spin-kick the lamp off your desk!
Tombs – Path of Totality
n enormous improvement over their previous record, Tombs provides the ultimate in doom and gloom on their 2011 release. Tombs craft’s a brilliant blend of sludge metal heaviness with all the grim rage of Black Metal- perhaps a less folky and more dissonant version of Agalloch. With winter approaching, I feel I will be listening to this record a lot more soon. (Apparently I have a telepathic connection with the folks over at Decibel, as they have picked this album as their #1 album of the year.)
Origin – Entity
I don’t care what anyone says about how much of a “disappointment” they thought Entity was- I love this album. With the storm of riffs and blast-beats, Expulsion of Fury gets the record off to an explosive start. I have an obvious preference when it comes to death metal- that being one for the low-end tremolo riff style perfected by bands like Incantation and Drawn & Quartered. Along with their lightning fast sweeping and drum-kicks, Origin has packed this album with exactly those 1,000,000-ton riffs I crave. For perfect examples, listen to Saliga and Consequence of a Solution. A great record to get a noise complaint for!
Today is the Day – Pain is a Warning
Where the hell have I been for the past 15 years!? I just discovered these guys at Metal Suckfest and I feel like such a moron for not checking them out sooner. Today is the Day gave an incredible performance, supplemented an array of disturbing video footage played behind them. Pain is a Warning burns with noisy yet intelligent energy through dramatic numbers like Expectations Exceed Reality and the title-track (which sounds like a strange yet exhilarating mix of NIN and Converge).
Protest the Hero- Scurrilous
In all honesty, it was Rob’s hysterical interview with Rody Walker that sparked my interest in Protest the Hero. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to check out this band. Their name sounds like some band that would be on the Bamboozle tour circa 2008 and I didn’t have much else to go on. When I heard Rody sing for the first time I had one of those bug-eyed moments of the “I must listen to this band!” quality. So despite my sub-conscious silliness, Protest the Hero has become one of my favorite bands. Yes, the album drops and plateaus after the first two songs, but C’est la Vie and Hair-Trigger made such an enormous impression on me that I had to listen to everything else the band put out. As I dove into the band’s music, I found I couldn’t get enough of the spiraling guitars and harrowing vocals that seemed to be limitless in their range and variety. Whenever I think of summer 2011, I will think of Protest the Hero.
SubRosa- No Help for the Mighty One
An ominous beast of an album, these ladies know how to make a Heavy Metal record that is both beautiful in its themes, yet still aggressive in its delivery. Like the genre they are named for, SubRosa plays like the ultimate doom-metal funeral elegy. The lyrics, the riffs, the melodies are all among some of the best I’ve heard this year over the last five years. If our Metal Injection assignment was to make a list of our Top Songs of 2011, it’s highly likely that Borrowed Time Borrowed Eyes would be at the top of my list. I can never get that ending refrain out of my head, and I’m glad.
And now for something completely different…Singapore’s finest export! If you can play a record without skipping any songs, you know you have a classic on your hands. On this metric, Dirge delivers and pulverizes everything in its path. Just when you think “Oh, I could skip this part…”, you’re suddenly slammed with a sonic neutron bomb of grindcore perfection. In fact, I could listen to this album all day non-stop, and have…and felt amazing because of it. The album is so ridiculous in its screaming energy that I cannot help but laugh at certain moments at how awesome it is. And, because I can’t help myself when it comes to song titles…just read these: Overpowered Violence, Principle of Puppet Warfare, Back Stabber Mission Aborted, Butt Krieg Is Showing (lololololol), and perhaps my favorite song title of the year…Meteor to the Face
Whenever you try to make a list of ten anything, the hardest part is what to cut. If I had numbered my list from 1-10, any one of these albums would have easily qualified for #11. I remember back in January driving to work every day while listening to Desultory’s Gothenburg-style masterwork. I remember hearing Line of Scrimmage for the first time and having one of those “Holy Shit, this is awesome!!!” moments (they’re like a beatdown version of All Out War). I also remember being pleasantly surprised by Unearth and Anthrax for making solid new albums, and by Decapitated’s glorious comeback. Any Punk fans reading this should find hope in SSS for their raw and dirty blend of Crossover and Discharge. Like most of the people who I’ve spoken to, I love the new Revocation album, one that shows a band truly on their way to do great things. And yes, I’ve begun to warm-up more to the new Megadeth album as well.
The Black Dahlia Murder– Ritual
Anthrax– Worship Music
Decapitated– Carnival is Forever
Unearth– Darkness in the Light
SSS– Problems to the Answer
Warbringer– Worlds Torn Asunder
Revocation– Chaos of Forms
Desultory– Counting our Scars
Earth Crisis– Neutralize the Threat
Line of Scrimmage– Penance
Amon Amarth– Surtur Rising
Thank you all for reading, thank you for your comments*. Let's hope for a new Tool Album next year!!!