I know this is usually done in the form of a countdown list, but I honestly couldn’t really decide on the placement of these albums. And in the end, who am I to say which album is better than another? I’m just an 18 year old kid who listens to music for fun. I love all of this albums, and I appreciate every band on this list, as well as the multitude of other bands that didn’t actually make it on my list. This year was crazy and there could have easily been 30 or 40 other albums on here, but of course time and space are an issue when dealing with writings. Hell, my original drafted featured 20 different albums, and 6000+ words. So thank me for cutting it down. Anyways, without further ramblings on my part, here are some of my favorite albums from 2011.

Becoming the Archetype – Celestial Completion

BTA just keep getting better and better. I was a bit worried that they wouldn’t be able to successfully followup the amazing 2008 record that was Dichotomy, but these guys pulled it off without a hitch. In my book this is one of the few perfect albums to have been released this year. It’s amazing.

Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction

I’ve been waiting for this record for nearly 2 years when Townsend first announced it around the time Ki came out. Of course I wasn’t entirely expecting the crazy carnival ride of a musical journey that we got in the end product, but that doesn’t matter. Deconstruction is the album that will define Devin’s career for years to come; whether it’s because of how amazing it was, or because of how silly it was, either way it’s not going to be forgotten any time soon.

East of the Wall – The Apologist

I was one of the few people originally slated to review for this album for the site, but I was just unable to pinpoint what it is that makes this such a great record, and even now I’m finding it hard to fully express my thoughts on the matter. There’s just something so fundamentally different about this album, what with the trade-off of vocals, the masterfully done instrumentation, and the general atmosphere that’s created throughout the songs. I was deeply enticed by this album from the very first listen of “Whiskey Sippers” over at Metalsucks, and that song has remained one of my favorite tunes of the year ever since.

 Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony

Man, where to begin with this record? I wasn’t a big fan of the first two releases by Fleshgod, but there was something so striking about Agony. I remember being violently moved by the first track that was streamed from this album all those months ago on Metalsucks. Like a lot of records on my list it’s hard for me to actually express why I like this album. Normally I try not to use the term “brutal” when talking about an album—it’s pretty cliche at this point—but that’s one of the few words that come to my mind when I think about this. A lot of the songs kind of meld together after a certain point, and with most records that would be a draw back, but that homogenization of sound was what kept me coming back to this album. Oh, and the clean vocals are phenomenal. Fuck the haters.

Mastodon – The Hunter

There’s not a lot more I can add to The Hunter that wasn’t already said during Alkahest’s review, but this album definitely deserves a spot on everyone’s best of list. While not as deep or moving as Crack the Skye, or as powerful as Leviathan, The Hunter is a fun alternative to the usual Mastodon flavor we’re used to. I welcome it.

Obscura – Omnivium

This is another one of those records where I new it would end up on my year end favorites from the very first listen. Omnivium was my first outing with Obscura, I still haven’t heard their debut, and the mesh of tech death and progressive metal breathed new life into me during a particularly low point of the year. This record means a lot to me and I will definitely be paying much closer attention to Obscura in the future.

Omnium Gatherum – New World Shadows

By now I think a lot of metal fans have grown tired of melo-death. I’ve certainly come close to that point. Unfortunately the past couple of years have seemed kind of stagnant for the genre; Omnium Gatherum were the band to break that trend. I can’t quite put my hand on WHY I like this album so much, but I do know I spent many nights listening to this on repeat while studying for my exams. It’s moody, powerful, and pretty vast. I feel like I’m floating through the city depicted on the album cover when I listen to this. It’s just epic.

Pain of Salvation – Road Salt Two

I was a bit wary of this album when it first came out. Actually, let me rephrase, I hated this album when it first came out. Or so I thought. I listened to it numerous times for the first few weeks, and every time I couldn’t help but think it was just a rehashed and “Darker” version of Road Salt. I bashed it when discussing it with friends and other fans of the band, but I kept listening to it, even though I supposedly “hated” it. I don’t know what was wrong with me at the time, but eventually I came to my senses, and took the album for what it was. A deeply honest look at the past. It’s odd to think that my opinion of this shifted so suddenly, but it did, and even when I was hating on it, I was listening to it several times per day. I’m just an idiot sometimes.

Septicflesh – The Great Mass

Septic Flesh was never my favorite band out there. I thought their earlier albums were kind of boring, and meandering, but when they released Communion a few years ago, I started paying much closer attention to these Greeks. The Great Mass continues the trends of the last album and enhances the formula ten-fold. The orchestration is beautiful, the vocals are dynamic and visceral, and the songs are just so well-written, some of them are heartbreaking. I new this album would be a favorite from the very first listen. Sidenote; “Pyramid God” is one of the catchiest metal songs of the year.

Thomas Giles – Pulse

This is going to get me a lot of flak, but Pulse is the best thing Tommy Rogers has ever done. It’s better than Alaska, it’s better than Colors, it’s better than The Great Misdirect, it’s just better than everything he’s done in BTBAM and his other solo project. This album came out of nowhere for me, but I scooped it up as soon as I heard about it. I don’t know what took Tommy so long to release an album like this, but I’m certainly glad he did. It’s been on a constant rotation since I first got it. In fact, I listened to it 11 times the first day I got it. Yeah.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

The List of Black metal I listened to this year is tragically short, but even so I don’t think anything would have toppled the love I have for CL. This is the culmination of the all their albums, and it is possibly the best thing they’ve released to date. There are some murky areas toward the end, but as a whole this album is amazing. The atmosphere this album creates is like nothing else. I mentioned this to multiple people, but I haven’t said it on the site yet — This is one of my all time favorite black metal albums.

Non-Metal Round Up:

I know this is a metal site, and it’s probably getting annoying seeing me mentioning a lot of unmetal music, but I wanted to highlight a few non-metal albums that really caught my interest this year. Now I’m not going to mention as many albums as I did for the metal side of things, but here a handful of spectacular 2011 releases that just happen to be unmetal.

The Antlers – Burst Apart

The follow up to the indie smash hit, Hospice, Burst Apart contains a lot of the same elements from the earlier album, but pulls them together into a more focused, song oriented fashion. Instead of a continuous story like Hospice, this album focuses on making each and every song as good as possible, and contained within itself. While not as somber as their last album, Burst Apart still features a wide range of emotionally hard hitting songs that will probably find a way to make you cry, if you open yourself up to it.

The Decemberists – The King is Dead

If I had to pick, this would be my favorite album of the year, right after Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction. It’s just so amazing in every capacity. The instrumentation is well thought out and compliments each other perfectly, and the vocals soar and caress the listener’s ear like never before. Colin Meloy has been one of my favorite song-writers for years, but with this record he has shown just how diverse and capable of a musician he really is. I urge everyone to go pick up this record. It’s life changing.

Devin Townsend Project – Ghost

Everyone by now knows that I’m in love with Devin’s music, and Ghost is one of the most powerful musical statements of his career. It’s kind of surprising that this album didn’t come out until now. It’s been alluded to for years, and you can find elements of it scattered throughout every album he’s ever done. While not as dynamic as Deconstruction is, Ghost is powerful; Ghost is warm; Ghost is exactly the kind of music that should be on every man and woman’s shelf for those days when life is just too much.

Tyler, The Creator – Goblin

Hardly the best rapper or producer out their right now, but Tyler has a lot of heart, and his songs hit home with me. Call me a hipster or a whatever, but Goblin is one of the most powerful records released this year. It’s true that Tyler needs to work on his rapping skills, and the beats were kind of same-y throughout this record, but this is a great album. It’s worth a spin.

After Thought:

This year has been spectacular for so many reasons. Tons of bands have come out of the woodwork and released records that will be loved for years to come. It really is amazing to sit back and just think about all the music that has come out this year. Hell, I can pick 3 or 4 really great albums from each month of the year, and I think this and last year have been the two most paramount years in my career as a metal fan. The releases from 2010 and 2011 have shaped and molded the way I see metal and they’ve made me realizes just how diverse of a genre it is, and how much it can teach people.

A week or two ago Metalsucks ran an interview with Devin Townsend. In that interview was a lot really neat information, the kind you can find in any interview the man does, but one thing really stuck out to me as I was reading:

“Metal is not defined by oppressive, negative bullshit. Metal is defined by a creative freedom and a type of power that’s visceral in a way that no other kind of music is.”

This is the sentiment that I have been trying to express for years, but I’ve never been able to find such an eloquent way of putting as Mr. Townsend has. Really, I don’t know why I’m mentioning this right now. Maybe the season is just getting to me, or the Doctor Who Christmas special has made me emotional, but for whatever reason I just want to say that It’s fantastic to be able to be involved with something that I feel so passion about. Metal truly is amazing. I want to think you all for reading this and being a part of this with me. Happy Holidays and have a splendid New Year.

– Evan Clark

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