My Personal Top 5 Songs Of 2011

Normally, I hate the idea of ranking albums as first, second, third etc. It was hard enough for me to select my Top 10 albums out of what I had heard, which was woefully little compared to what was released this year. But for this, the Top 5 Songs, I forced myself to choose some semblance of order for these songs, and I will also attempt to justify the reasons why. It is also a complete coincidence that most of these songs feature in my Top 10 albums, the longer list had many which were not!

5. The Black Dahlia Murder – Blood In The Ink
Most of TBDM’s work (Miasma aside) has been an instant love affair of mine, particularly with the release of “I Will Return” two years ago. But this track took time for me to fully appreciate it, and the appreciation came in stages. At first I was amazed at the classical inclusion within the death metal itself, then the vocals themselves and the musicianship (solo in particular) clicked, and finally the lyrics. Trevor plays devil’s advocate to one of the most controversial topics in the metal sphere: the apparent encouragement of Satanic rituals and suicide, and it’s never fully clear if the song is a parody or not: “Kill your parents then yourself/Push your life right off the shelf/Die for metal, leave this hell”. The rest of the band are on top form as well, particularly Ryan’s rip-roaring solo after Trevor declares “Now part your skin and sign below”.

4. Symphony X – When All Is Lost
This, for me, is the perfect summary of SymX’s style: a pseudo-ballad opening, a powerful and melodic chorus, a section to showcase the band’s talents and a way to tie it all off in the end. Russell’s voice resonates throughout, and all three Michaels along with Jason are at the top of their game. It seems to be the stepping stone between the band’s older melodic releases and the darker material on Paradise Lost, and the balance is perfectly struck. I dare you to try not to sing along when “What went wrong, where have all the heroes gone? Trading futures for a song we gave away” kicks in.

3. Moonsorrow – Huuto
Given how much love I have given these guys recently, really no surprise that this song would feature here. The entire album is a masterpiece, but this track in particular struck a chord; from the bookending relaxed folk elements to the heavy fist-pumping parts in the middle, this is a 16-minute ride which at the same time complements and juxtaposes the lyrical material. Those who don’t speak Finnish can easily find a translation of the texts, which contain lines such as “Survivors of the wilderness rarely show themselves/The ones left behind never reaching the tranquillity of a grave”, delivered in Ville’s usual harsh scream. It’s a powerful track, and one of Moonsorrow’s best.

2. Anaal Nathrakh – Paragon Pariah
The balance between unbridled chaos and intelligent thought is a hard one to strike in extreme metal, but Anaal Nathrakh have always executed it well for me. The pounding drums, black metal-esque guitarwork and melodic solo is a controlled burst of aggression from Mick, and great fuel for Dave to deliver a lesson in nihilism in the vein of Max Stirner (on my list to read). From what I can scavenge of the lyrics, they are thought-provoking to say the least: “To tear consciousness from a world in ataraxy and aphasia”* as an example. Both his cleans and screams are on fine form, the chorus in particular being very powerful and addictive.

* Transcription, owing to the band not releasing their lyrics.

1. Primordial – Bloodied Yet Unbowed
This song hit me first on an emotional level. I’m no stranger to the fact that Primordial make powerful music, but this track is something else entirely. The band, somber and slouched over their drinks, deliver the trademark Celtic metal tones in a bar somewhere as Alan the storyteller narrates his view on something incredibly close to his heart: the Irish Troubles, and specifically the people who stood at the wayside while the battle raged, and the resulting destruction of the country. But the song is not confined to this one incident, instead stretching to a broader audience and declaring proudly “Yet these are the scars of war/And we remain yet we stand/Bloodied yet unbowed”. It’s not just metal camaraderie, it’s something much greater, encapsulated in both the dirge-like sections and the black metal fury. This, for me, is metal’s true face.

Honorable Mentions:

Eumeria – Father
Foo Fighters – Walk
Maybeshewill – To The Skies From A Hillside
Neuraxis – Purity
Nightrage – Solar Corona

Anything you think should have been in the list? Leave a comment!

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