30. Fen - Epoch
In the post-Agalloch love time that I had at the beginning of the year, I was afraid that the atmospheric metal like my favorite Oregon black metallers would die out for a year. However, I knew there was a lot of hope after I saw that Fen were releasing their follow up to 2009's excellent The Malediction Fields. With Agalloch making the pain in brilliant albums like Ashes Against the Grain sound emotional, Fen make the pain in their music sound physically tortuous. In the 8 minute epic that kicks off the first climax of the album, vocalist "The Watcher" kicks his vocals into a gear sounding akin to a medieval torture chamber.
29. Red Fang - Murder the Mountains
Listening to Red Fang is pretty much what I think would happen if a band had a jar of various riffs labeled Sleep, Isis, Crowbar and Electric Wizard and just grabbed a collection from each and wrote an album with those riffs. The chunky and fun Murder the Mountains puts a lot of Pikean riffs on display, that makes you want to just grow a beard and sing a long. This is an album that I'd had fluttering around the mid fifties for a while, but after seeing this quarted live with Mastodon, it deserved a revisit. I was reminded of the days of truly entertaining stoner metal, and Red Fang brought it to me on a silver platter.
28. The Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual
Probably the only album on here that will make me blush a little bit. Yeah, I fucking love this band, and their brand of death metal is one that isn't brought together without some interesting elements. For every person that will call this band deathcore or metalcore, they could be right, but if they are, they aren't the same as everyone else. With Ritual, the band take another evolutionary step by fooling around with some symphonic elements in Blood in the Ink and A Shrine to Madness, while they open their arms to a more blackened sound on songs like Stirring Seas... and Carbonized in Cruciform. Basically, this is an album that I would love to hate on, but it's too heavy, the riffs are too good and Strnad sounds too awesome for me to place this any lower than it is on this list.
27. Falloch - Where Distant Spirits Remain
Probably the first of a few 2011 crushes that I just couldn't take my hands off of all year. Falloch are one of the myriad of Agalloch impersonators, but with this album, they strike closer to The Mantle than any band ever has. With a majority of the album clean sung and the acoustic guitar sticking around the whole album, listening to this album reminded me of being a young'un and listening to the first notes of A Celebration for the Death of Man. They fool around with some really cool guitar distortion around the end of the album and fly towards an ambient influenced sound while still bringing in a sad tone with the acoustic guitar. Definitely a surprise this year.
26. Deafheaven - Roads to Judah
I first saw Deafheaven in my favorite dive bar in SF opening for Marduk with Bosse de Nage, and I fell in love with their ferocity, intensity and strangely enough, their clean cut look. I zoomed back home and checked out their self titled demo and found out they expected to release a new album just that next year. Around came April and I had Roads to Judah in my hand, and it blew me away. I was used to the Deafheaven that was releasing Libertine Dissolves, a gritty black metal track that was then followed by the flowery and acoustic Bedrooms, but Roads to Judah fit the self titled demo package into a tighter and more interesting release. Vocalist George Clark's live intensity doesn't quite shine through on the album, but his sound at the end of Language Games is stellar. The aforementioned track and Tunnel of Trees are both brittle black metal tracks that have the organized discord of a band like Anaal Nathrakh and the perpetual motion sound of early Immortal. This is an album that we'll be talking about for a while, and with any luck, the band should have the same success with their second album.
25. Amorphis - The Beginning of Times
There aren't very many metal bands who are doing what Amorphis are doing right now. Along with Primordial, they are releasing some of their best material very late in their career. Although Amorphis have undergone a big change in sound since Tales from the Thousand Lakes, they still maintain enough of their death/doom elements to keep the old folks around. By the time the end of the year rolled around, I was surprised to not see this on many year end lists or even in honorable mentions, but this band still has it. With the Adrian Smith esque leads in Mermaid and the catchy You I Need, I couldn't help but have this album wind up beginning my top 25.
24. Loss - Despond
Holy shit. What a downer. This album began making a lot of buzz and once I saw Aesop Dekker call it one of the best albums he'd heard in years, I knew I had to sit down with it. But man, I didn't know I'd be running into shit with lyrics like this
"You sat alone
You sat so long
Your words make very private scars
You suffered down low
And you saw no light
Made knots of your fingers
While weathering the blight"
The lyrics of the album became a focal point for me after reading these lyrics to the album opener, Weathering the Blight. I had to have a really nice day before I started Despond, because otherwise I knew I'd just read the lyrics and sit in bed with some Cookie Dough ice cream and just waste the day away. Despond, musically, is just as ambitious as its lyrical content is, with its meaty death/doom riffs tearing away with more melodic and melancholic leads making the album seem as if its a soundtrack to a funeral. Definitely a heart-wrencher of an album, and if I had sat listening to it much more, it would have been in my top ten. However, I probably wouldn't have lived to post it.
23. Long Distance Calling - Long Distance Calling
I got this album from postrockxchange as well, and it was one of the first ones that I listened to. I noticed the last song had a cameo from John Bush of Anthrax, and this album's intrigue only grew. I knew of its predecessor, Avoid the Light, but I hadn't heard it and I didn't care to hear another of the same post-rock band, because that's what it seemed like to me. But then, I heard the sample of The Day the Earth Stood Still that hailed in Into the Black Wide Open and I knew this band and I should be friends. The whole album consists of slow and melodic noodling riffs, but not that tech death sort of noodle. Invisible Giants ends on a twisting and incredibly catchy series of scales and a heavy post-metal sort of chord progression that you don't hear a ton in post-rock. The Figrin D'an Boogie is a song that demands an Elvis vocal part in the middle, but then jumps into an Area-51 sort of sounding riff that made me shiver with delight. It's cool that bands are still making music that appeals to a sci-fi sort of listener like me, with no lyrics sung the entire time.
22. Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
There are a few albums that came out after I was in college that really got a little shafted, now that I think about it. Celestial Lineage is one of those albums, and considering that the three previous to it are some of my favorite metal records of the last decade, it shouldn't have been that way. The Weaver duet combine some shoegazey kind of elements with their atmospheric black metal that I hadn't really noticed before, and toy around with some female guest vocals in the opening track, as well as Woodland Cathedral. As always, they bring a varied set of instrumentals to the screamed-from-hell black metal vocals that Nathan offers, with an organ making its voice heard in Woodland Cathedral. Although it's the least "out there" track on the album, Astral Blood stood out the most to me, with its galloping pace and steamrolling effect that isn't present in Wolves in the Throne Room's other albums. This is a band that has come a long way since Diadem of 12 Stars, and Celestial Lineage could go down as their best, with Two Hunters right at its heels.
21. Autopsy - Macabre Eternal
It's really not fair what Autopsy did these last few years. They release undisputed classics at the beginning of their career, and subsequently the not up to par of their predecessors Acts of the Unspeakable and Shitfun, leave the metal landscape for 15 years and jump right back into it with their best since Mental Funeral. I don't know how I didn't see this album coming, since The Tomb Within was awesome as well, but Macabre Eternal is a surgically recreation of the good ol' days of Autopsy, with each track reminding of a Mental Funeral or Severed Survival. Perhaps my only gripe with the album is its length, which makes a tired listener by the time the 11 minute and a half minute epic, Sadistic Gratification, starts. Still, you'll be hard pressed to find another band who have achieved as much as Autopsy have in their career, and if this album is any indication, they aren't done yet.
Alright, it's time for an In N Out break then I'm gonna get writing the rest of this. I'll finish this up by Wednesday.