Farewell, 2011: Gein’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

2011 has been a great year. A lot of excellent music came out and no doubt is probably my favorite release year in recent memory. Check it out:

10. Revocation – Chaos of Forms

The guitar work here is incredible. While I don’t agree with MetalSucks’ choice of Dave Davidson being the best axe-wielder in metal, he’s definitely up there. And frankly that’s what steals the show here. His ability to change styles at the drop of a hat is remarkable. I suppose if I had one gripe it would the production. It’s a little too punchy for my tastes, but it’s something I can overlook because it’s not actively taking away from the music. These guys are damn good for a 3-piece and Chaos of Forms is a worthy successor to the majority-acclaimed Existence Is Futile. “The Watchers” having a horns section helps, too.

9. Fallujah – The Harvest Wombs

This album came out of nowhere. One day I’m reading Nayon’s first post about this album and the next I have a physical copy of it sitting in my car being played in rotation with a few others. I love Death and to see more death metal bands essentially worship them then mix in their black metal influence, a genre I’ve repeatedly said I dislike quite a lot, is what puts The Harvest Wombs at number nine. There’s always a place in my heart for a band that manages to take a genre I dislike and make me want to listen to it. While it does fall short in the riff department, it overachieves in leads and that’s what keeps me coming back to it. Just a damn good death metal release and I’ll no doubt be interested in what their future holds.

8. The Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction

Oh, Devy. You’re number one on my Last.FM and probably my favorite artist of all time. You do just the right things to get me interested and your expansive career lets me enjoy all kinds of sides of you. You’ve never made a bad album and Deconstruction is no different. It’s the chaotic, insane metal album in his four-part project that definitely lives up to everything Mr. Townsend said it would be 2 years ago. Not to mention it has an all-star lineup in its guest vocalists, with the likes of Ihsahn and Tommy Rogers of BTBAM. While I do miss the denser approach to his famous wall of sound seen in Ocean Machine, Infinity and Alien, Deconstruction definitely gives those who nearly died when Strapping Young Lad broke up a stellar record in what may be his last album of this kind.

7. Blue Stahli – Blue Stahli

Unlike last year’s list, this is the only release that borderlines unmetal. Fusing glitchy electronic sounds with uptempo rock and catchy vocal lines, Bret Autrey’s first true release is one to check out. There’s just something so appetizing about the fusion of those genres. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in love with PvP games since I got into them and his music is the perfect soundtrack to such high octane fun? Who knows. In any case, Blue Stahli‘s self-titled debut is deservedly at the #7 spot.

6. Beyond Creation – The Aura

Yet another band I had no fucking clue existed until HBIH owner Alkahest gave this album a perfect score. With djent gaining more and more popularity it almost feels like quality death metal is fading so to see such a glaring recommendation for The Aura is completely awesome. It definitely lived up to the hype as well. Nevermind the excellent riffs, tight drumming and complete disregard for incoherent wanky bullshit, Dominic Lapointe on bass guitar elevates the album to a new heights. His bass grooves and solos coming in and out of the mix is utterly kickass. Make sure to check out this underrated progressive tech death album.

5. Paul Wardingham – Assimilate Regenerate

Imagine Scar Symmetry, but instrumental. Throw in a bit more guitar wizardry and that is Assimilate Regenerate in a nutshell. Melo-death is one genre that I think most people will admit has gone down the toilet, but the occasional gem still exists. I still stand by everything I said in my review. It’s no doubt my favorite instrumental metal album this year.

4. Vildhjarta – Måsstaden

What a release from a band I had average expectations for. Sure, I had always been looking forward to see what they did, but I never expected them to be this good. Thick, chunky djent mixed with a dual vocal assault and dark ambiance makes Masstaden one of the best of the year. It may not push any boundaries, but it’s god damn fun. As Alkahest said, it’s “The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza if they went djent.” Easily the heaviest and most dissonant this year.

It helps the album title is “seagull town” in Swedish, too.

3. Born of Osiris – The Discovery

This is the biggest turnaround in the past few years. Born of Osiris have gone from generic -core band #137 to a premier act. It’s saying something when I put their proggy deathcore magnum opus at #3 when I hate the genre more often than not. But saying something about The Discovery is difficult because it’s just deathcore done right. There’s nothing new or innovative being done here. And even then it doesn’t feel like a deathcore release. The breakdowns are not predictably forced and the leads and keys mesh with the chugs to make them very enjoyable. It’s flipping back and forth between straight progressive metal and deathcore with a heavier emphasis on the former. Taking the best of both worlds and fusing them in an effortless, natural way is what makes The Discovery great.

2. Last Chance To Reason – Level 2

I had to put this album at #2 because their vocalist is on my Facebook friends and he’d probably kick my ass if I had them any lower.

Just kidding, it deserves to be here. Incredibly technical prog metal inspired by awesome video game nerdy shit, Level 2 simply slays. Whether it’s wanky, over-the-top offbeat insanity or slow, droning and churning, these dudes have come out of nowhere and released the 2nd best album of the year. What impresses me the most about this album is Michael Lessard’s vocal techniques of layering different melodies that result in this vocoder effect. Many of us at HBIH had our jaws open when we found out it wasn’t a vocoder. In any case, Level 2 is an original and fresh take on prog metal that I’ll be spinning for years.

1. Uneven Structure – Februus

No surprise here. I’ve been drooling over this album for 2 years now. In fact I’m pretty sure my first post on this website was about Uneven Structure. To see it finally released and live up to all the expectations was amazing. Nearly everything about this album is perfect. That includes production, too. Februus took home just about every award for me this year and with good reason. It’s just so fucking good. The ambiances, the melodies, the djent, the vocals, the drumming, hell even the artwork – it’s all so good. It’s living proof that when you have hardworking, dedicated musicians that spend time refining their work and craft you end up with an outstanding product. The depth is something special, too. Every listen I’m hearing something new, whether it’s a subtlety or something I just got too lost in the music to notice. Februus is a massive progressive metal effort that blew the competition out of the water and took my #1 spot.

Honorable Mentions:

Animals As LeadersWeightless
DecapitatedCarnival Is Forever
Protest the HeroScurrilous
TorchbearerDeath Meditations
Scale the SummitThe Collective
Tyler, The CreatorGoblin

That’s all for me folks. Here’s to hoping 2012 is even better!

-MK

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