My Personal Top 10 Albums Of 2011

I personally rarely embark on anything resembling a Top Anything at the end of a year, purely because I am aware of how much GOOD stuff I missed, especially since I quit downloading. That said, I thought I’d have a stab at it this year, or at least a recap of the stuff I discovered this year. As mentioned, this list is severely lacking, and there is another list of things I should have checked out this year at the bottom. Feel free to add to it!

N.B. These are in alphabetical order and bear no semblance of preferential order. Where the preferred songs to link have been Track Of The Year or previously used in the review, I have chosen another one.


Anaal Nathrakh – Passion
Starting with a fairly obvious one, given they are one of my favorite bands. The new album is certainly fairly different to In The Constellation Of The Black Widow, increasing the industrial element (although the black metal and grindcore are still there), and quick bursts of insanity are counterbalanced by a 7-minute epic. Dave Hunt’s vocal torture is on fine form, both harsh and clean, and Mick Kenney’s musicianship is top-notch. The album does feel a little like Nathrakh And Friends given the number of collaborations, including the entire vocals of “Tod Huetet Uebel” by Rainer Landemann of Bethlehem, while Gnaw Their Tongues, Alan Dubin and Drugzilla also get a look in, which at least avoids any complaints of musical stagnation. The fact that Passion also contains my favorite song of the year may have had some bearing on the choice, but other tracks like “Volenti Non Fit Iniuria” and “Ashes Screaming Silence” are also very strong. Extreme metal has taken a boost with this record, and I cannot wait for the new album.
Song choice: Le Diabolique Est L’Ami Du Simplement Mal


The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual (REVIEW)
The most mature record from a band who know how to have fun, Ritual is the natural darker transition point from Ryan Knight’s début back in ’09. The album blasts through both infectious leads in “The Window” to the heavy riffs of “On Stirring Seas Of Salted Blood”. The solos are still more Arsis-like, but their incorporation works a lot better, and Trevor Strnad is still his maniacal self in both brutal lows and screeching highs. TBDM have come a long way since Unhallowed, and I reckon this is the album that’ll convince the skeptical veterans of a change of heart. Their sudden inclusion of classical elements is a bit jarring at first, but it resulted in a couple of more powerful tracks as opener and finale, and such diversity is more than welcome in their sound, and will make for an interesting follow-up.
Song choice: A Shrine To Madness


Maybeshewill – I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone
A jump in style to something a bit lighter, I discovered them as openers for the Earthtone9 reunion tour. One of post-rock’s newer faces, they combine piano and violins with a noisier overdriven sound than most of their ilk, and it sounds spectacular both on CD and live. I Was Here…is a fantastic introduction to the band’s enveloping and poignant sound, from the uplifting “Red Paper Lanterns” to a pensive “Words For Arabella” . The songs are very digestible in length, and work shuffled or consecutively, so take your pick and delve into a brilliant if less well-known release.
Song choice: Take This To Heart


Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa (REVIEW)
Little surprise with this release given how much I said I enjoyed it, and this is still the case. A frequently-spun CD that never gets old, Moonsorrow’s recognizable style of folky pagan metal has created 4 lengthy tracks filled with emotion and cinematic atmosphere, especially in one of my tracks of the year. The instrumentation is beautiful, and Ville Sorvali’s rasp fits in well with the plot. The journey that listener and narrator goes on is hardly cheerful, but empathy is unavoidable by the end, when Varjoina… reaches its final climax. I cannot recommend this album enough to those interested in any of the related genres.
Song choice: Kuolleiden Maa


Primordial – Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand (REVIEW)
Unlike many of the fans who disliked the doomier approach taken after the anthemic To The Nameless Dead, this album bowled me over. Everything I loved about Primordial was here: the raw power and energy of the music at a variety of paces, pristinely mixed and produced, and Alan Averill’s emotive lyrical narration in both singing and screaming. There are few if any problematic moments for me within this hour, and whether it’s the blackened “God’s Old Snake” or the folkier anger-fueled “Death Of The Gods”, each track is its own entity. Reaffirmed as a fan, I await the successor with impatience.
Song choice: The Puritan’s Hand


Rise Against – Endgame
These guys have been a main staple of my punk rock listening habits for a long time. Each album they’ve released has been solid, and Endgame is certainly no exception. The lack of a ballad is barely noticeable as they blast through a variety of tracks, from the powerful anti-homophobic “Make It Stop” to the political “A Gentleman’s Coup”. Tim McIlrath’s recognizable voice is on top form, and his bandmates show no end of creativity, even if the style change from Appeal To Reason to now is almost negligible. It’s the same familiar Rise Against, but when it’s this good why complain?
Song choice: Satellite


Scale The Summit – The Collective (REVIEW)
I was incredibly fortunate to discover this album when asked to review it, otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered Scale The Summit’s brand of instrumental prog. On paper, the album appears it’d interest only guitar freaks, but within the first couple of tracks you know this is an album for all to try. The band’s motto of “Their Strings Are Voices” fits perfectly, given there are around 18 strings involved, and each instrument has its own opportunity to shine. Further developments will certainly be followed very closely, either on the road or in the studio.
Song choice: Alpenglow


*shels – Plains Of The Purple Buffalo (REVIEW)
Given how much I extolled the virtues of this release in the original review, it’s hardly surprising that post-rockers *shels’ sophomore was going to make the final cut. The journey on which they take you is awe-inspiring, and a pleasure to hear. The voices, the brass, the floating guitar melodies and occasional crushing heaviness, it all comes together in a fantastic way. Read the review for more information, but suffice to say, this is an album not to be missed.
Song choice: Plains…Pt. 1


Symphony X – Iconoclast (REVIEW)
Those who recalled my review of this may be surprised to see it here, but I can say I had a change of heart about the album. Continuing in their darker sound since Paradise Lost, prog metal quintet Symphony X have released a huge album. Not just the fact that it’s 1hr20 in length, but its a fairly compact release at that. Romeo’s songwriting has crafted some powerful tracks (“The End Of Innocence”, “When All Is Lost”). Those familiar with the older melodic albums may not enjoy this so much, but I got a kick out of it, if maybe not spinning the whole thing frequently.
Song choice: The End Of Innocence


Wormrot – Dirge
I’m a sucker for good grindcore, and this blew pretty much everything out of the water. Instead of pushing for the most technical or the tightest playing like more modern bands, these crazy Indonesians instead opt for a more Insect Warfare-inspired approach. Arif’s vocals are incredibly varied in their growls and screams, backed up by insanely fast drummer Fit, and Rasyid’s guitar fits in perfectly. The lyrics (mostly incomprehensible) range from the violent (“Complex mass killing field/Global domination/Overpowered violence”) to the hilarious (“And in the end you pull it up/But with few seconds/The immortal butt krieg is showing”). The production suits it all perfectly; like everything else, it’s messy, it’s angry and I love it.
Song choice: Erased Existence

Have I missed anything important? Let me know in the comments!

Possible contenders I didn’t hear:
Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Iced Earth – Dystopia
Insomnium – One For Sorrow
Mastodon – The Hunter
Obscura – Omnivium
Opeth – Heritage
Times Of Grace – The Hymn Of A Broken Man

2 responses

  1. Pingback: 5 Unconventional Reasons To Own An Anaal Nathrakh Album « In Angel's Headphones

  2. Pingback: Metal Shards Vol. 2 « In Angel's Headphones

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