2011 was an absolutely absurd year for not only metal, but music in general. Such marvelous records from the best names in music. But no doubt that you know this, so lets not waste time, eh?
21. White Arms of Athena – Astrodrama
The fact that an album that would’ve been number one any other year except this one is at the tail end of my list is a true testament to this year. Anyway, this album is an absolutely beautiful, crushing, epic motherfucker of a record for a band that no doubt will be huge stars in the future. The band sounds like BTBAM but with more cleans, both in guitar sounds and vocal technique. The bass is top-shelf on this album, giving a much-needed breath of fresh air to metal, which always seems to alienate the low-end. Definitely check it out.
20. Krallice – Diotima
Krallice is one of the best black metal bands around, and this album proves their complete and total dominance. Everything about this album just screams epic, from the intense, distorted, tremolo picked guitar chords, to the emotional vocals, to the perfectly performed drums. This album is beautiful.
19. Born of Osiris – The Discovery
Catchy breakdowns, intense vocals, capital guitar solos and leads, and awesome drums. What else do you need? Born of Osiris has really become one of the best deathcore bands around with this record, and with this trend of improving records spread across their entire discography, who knows what the fourth album will accomplish?
18. Picture it in Ruins – Solipsism
This super-catchy piece of metalcore may be the best album of it’s genre released this year. The guitar leads and solo are top-notch, putting more emphasis on melody and hook, rather than technicality (though the licks are quite technical). The vocals are top-shelf, and the songs are super-catchy. It’s absolutely criminal that this band is unsigned, and the astute record company would sign them immediately.
17. Taake – Noregs Vaapen
This is black metal, but the thing is, it doesn’t really feel like black metal. The riffs are very rock-esque, with obvious blues influence. The vocals and blast beats are the only thing that would tell me that this is black metal. There is even a freaking banjo solo. This record does what not many black metal albums can (or aspire) to do: to make black metal fun. And that is why I love it.
16. Leprous – Bilateral
This super-catchy, super-heavy, awesome beast of a record would’ve definitely been number one hadn’t it been for all the amazing records released this year. From the proggy goodness of “Thorn” to the sing-a-bility of “Restless“, this record must be experienced.
15. Turisas – Stand Up and Fight
I’m a folk-metal freak, and the best folk-metal record released this year was definitely Stand Up and Fight. Every single track on this beast screams epic. Standout tracks include “Take the Day!” and “End of an Empire“. Play this record during you’re next Skyrim session; it’ll fit right in, and you’ll feel awesome.
14. Unexpect – Fables of the Sleepless Empire
Holy shit. The only way I can describe this album is “insane”. So much is going on, it’s hard to keep track. However, everything works, and you have a listening experience that is like few others. Get on it.
13. Ana Kefr – The Burial Tree (II)
A while back I claimed that this record was one of the best in a long long time. I’ve since cooled my opinion since then, but I still think that this epic record is one of the best of the year, and you should definitely get to listening to it.
12. Touche Amore – Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
Coming out of nowhere for me, this seminal slice of hardcore is inspiring, heavy, and beautiful. The vocals just reek of emotion, and the music behind it is top notch, being both melodic and heavy, making each song’s point in quick, 2-minute bursts. The lyrics are also some of the best lyrics ever. “If actions speak louder than words, I’m the most deafening noise you’ve heard”; you just don’t have gems like that anymore, do you?
11. Opeth – Heritage
An absolutely astonishing record from one of metal’s best. Trading their more well-known progressive metal sound for a more classic, 70’s rock sound, this record has proven to be quite divisive among Opeth’s fans. However, I am a massive fan of this record, as shown by it’s placement. The band sounds like what they should, a veteran machine. And Mikael’s vocals are some of the best this year. Stay classy, Mikael. Stay classy.
10. The Odious – Last Night a Forest Grew
Probably one of the best bargains in all of history; you get one of the best records of the year, and it’s for free! This album is a masterpiece from one of the best new bands around. What shines about this record is it’s composition: the record has a clear theme and circles around the theme for the entirety of its 26 minute playtime. The vocals are also a personal favorite of mine, showcasing layers upon layers of top-shelf technique that span the range of harsh vocals to cleans that reminds me of a Dirt-era Alice in Chains with the vocal harmonies. Much like Picture it in Ruins, someone should sign these people immediately.
9. Bispora – The Cycle
It’s the year of the independent artist; Bispora, who are ALSO unsigned, released the absolutely amazing The Cycle in late August, showcasing a great mix between BTBAM, Animals as Leaders, Periphery, etc. While the songs are top-notch, the thing I absolutely love about the record is it’s structure. Themes recur throughout the album, and because of this, the 17 minute run time feels more like thirty. Definitely check this out, as you won’t find better independent metal this year.
8. The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual
Proving once again that they are the best melodic death metal band in America, Ritual is TBDM’s opus. Trevor Strnad has never sounded better, and the band feels like a complete band for the first time since Miasma. Ryan Knight’s integration into the band feels complete, and Shannon Lucas’ drumming has never been better.
7. The Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction
Goddamn holy shit what the hell just happened here? What you have here is the best record from one of the best musicians of our time. All of the orchestrations feel perfect, and all of the guest appearances augment this album perfectly. Devin has released his masterpiece, and it may be the best record of the year…but it’s not my favorite.
6. Oh, Sleeper – Children of Fire
I raved about this record in my review, and it has only gotten better with age. Don’t let their appearance or their signing to Solid State records fool you; these guys are absolutely intense. Micah Kinard gives the best vocal performance of the year, and the band creates a completely engrossing story that you want to get involved with. It’s definitely the “sleeper” album of 2011, and you should buy this record immediately, as you will never feel more crushed yet uplifted in your life.
5. Botanist – I/II
While most humans are completely baffled by this release (and I don’t blame them, this record is a perplexer), I immediately fell in love with it. Besides it’s unorthodox instrumentation, strange drums, and croaky vocals, this record has some amazing songs on it, and it reeks of emotion. And that emotion is fear. Listen to this record and see if you don’t get scared of flora.
4. Woods of Desolation – Torn Beyond Reason
There has truly been no better black metal record released this year, and it’s also the fourth best record this year. This record manages to mesh emotional vocals, major key, tremolo-picked guitar melodies and harmonies, and powerful drumming for one of the most inspirational records I’ve heard in all my life. Even though this band is tagged as a DSBM band, this album will make you feel anything but. Also, the ending of the album is the best ending of the year. If possible, go outside on a snowy day, play this, and stare out into the infinitely snowy void. Just trust me on this one, guys.
3. Vildjharta – Masstaden
This album hasn’t left my car in two months. This record does for me what Uneven Structure and Tesseract did not, and that is to create a djent experience that I would want to revisit and enjoy more. The vocals may be some of the best of the year, and the atmosphere provided by the band is unmatched. Thall, bitches. Motherfucking thall.
2. Pulling Teeth – Funerary
I didn’t give this band or this album any coverage on this website. I have been selfish and I am sorry. Pulling Teeth are a hardcore band based in Maryland, and this album is the best hardcore album I’ve heard in a long, long time, perhaps ever. This masterpiece is arranged in what can be two parts: the first half being quick bursts of hardcore, and the second half being more doom/melodic, with the title track eclipsing the ten-minute mark. Everything about this album is perfect, and you must listen to it.
1. The Human Abstract – Digital Veil
I have not enjoyed a record more this year than Digital Veil. Every song is pure perfection, and vocalist Travis Richter gives an astounding vocal performance. The record is also extremely catchy (listen to “Complex Terms” or the title track and see how long those tracks are in your head). The album also shows a clinic on the proper use of breakdowns, which are sparingly used, yet make more of an impact that any other breakdown I’ve heard. Finally, the album is composed virtuoistically. This album is essentially an orchestral album for metal instrumentation. Prove me wrong. Anyway, this album is my favorite album of the year, and no other album comes close.
In terms of honorable mentions, there has been too many to list. However, I will list a few. These can be considered more honorable than others, and are in no particular order.
- Unkind – Harhakuvat
- Arsonists Get All the Girls – Motherland
- Obscura – Omnivium
- Beyond Creation – The Aura
- Last Chance to Reason – Level 2
- Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony
- Gridlink – Orphan
- Skindred – Union Black
- Wormrot – Dirge
- Fuck the Facts – Die Miserable
- Cloudkicker – Let Yourself Be Huge
- Revocation – Chaos of Forms
- Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors
- BTBAM – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues
- Cynic – Carbon-Based Anatomy
- Fallujah – The Harvest Wombs
- Betraying the Martyrs – Breathe In Life
- Ulcerate – The Destroyers of All
- 3 – The Ghost You Gave to Me
- Dead in the Dirt – Fear
- East of the Wall – The Apologist
- Protest the Hero – Scurrilous
- Becoming the Archetype – Celestial Completion
- Spellbound Dazzle – Unreal Fairy Tales
- Before the Fall – Antibody
- Intensus – Intensus
- Mastodon – The Hunter
- Atlas Moth – An Ache For The Distance
- Alpinist/Masakari – Split
- Of Legends – Stranded
- Origin – Entity
- Thomas Giles – Pulse
- SEES – TheenD
- Uneven Structure – Februus
- TesseracT – one
And that does it. 2011, you were amazing. 2012, bring on the apocalypse.