So tomorrow I'm going to officially move my parents into their place in New York City, leaving CA behind for good. Sort of. Kinda. Big day. So, I'll be wrapping this up until the top 10 which will be placed at the end of the day on Wednesday. There's still some cool stuff to come though if anyone's actually interested in it.
20. The Project Hate MCMXCIX - Bleeding the New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis)
Project Hate were a band that I'd known I'd like for a long time, but never got enough time to really check them out in the way that I now know they deserve. But holy shit is this band an animal or what? With an industrial but not quite industrial edge to their progressive death metal, this band could remind of Meshuggah, Autopsy, Dark Tranquillity and Epica during the same 9 minute chunk of an album. Upon review of their back catalog, this band didn't even release their best with Bleeding the New Apocalypse, after losing an essential member, Jonna Enckell. However, Bleeding the New Apocalypse features a more polished production style than its predecessors and with its hearty stock of ambitious songwriting, influence varied solos and good ol' death metal fury, it has to be discussed as one of the finer death metal releases of 2011.
19. Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
After becoming very familiar with their dynamite EP Tulimyrsky, Moonsorrow's newest became a very anticipated record for me, and during the time of its release, I was in a particular mindset for an epic Pagan metal album. With their previous records all being of the same high quality, they had a lot to live up to, and they delivered well, considering both the pressure and my high expectations. Although never really having a breakneck pace, Moonsorrow seemed to have mellowed out on...this album, reminding more of a calmer and blackier Ensiferum. When the band decide to break down their folk instrumental breaks with a heavy riff section, the production gets ironclad and the contrast is enticing. The opener, Tahdeton, is a fine representation of the sound that is achieved throughout, with the Finnish quintet creating an epic piece filled to the brim with folk charm and metal spirit.
18. Subrosa - No Help For the Mighty Ones
As some will tell you, this is an album that warmed up to me since the period where I started keeping my opinions on some albums on the hush, hoping to surprise some people come year end. Before I start though, chalk up another one for Profound Lore. In 2011 they released 7 albums that ended up in this top 50, with all of them being standouts from the rest of the bunch. There isn't a finer metal label in the game today. No band proves what Profound Lore have achieved more than Utahean (Utahist? Utahos?) doom metal band Subrosa and their sophomore release. What stands out more to me on this album than the thundering doom riffs that populate this album or the saddening vocals is the production. The guitars and bass hover around a distortion based sound that creates a really cool fuzzy feeling the whole album. Another thing that sticks out from this album is its soul, which is portrayed best in the clean spoken sections and the late folk track, House Carpenter. For an album that I thought wouldn't be jammin' in my top 40, I listened to this album a lot and enjoyed it far too much for me to keep it there.
17. Falls of Rauros - The Light that Dwells in the Rotten Wood
Well, this was a late as fuck addition, considering I only listened to it the first time a few weeks ago when I saw it on another list, and boy am I glad that this was on that list. As black metal continues to be twisted and changed by the shoegaze and post world, its changes on the folk metal landscape aren't very widely noticed and the permeation of folk metal into its ranks is less and less of a noticed trend. The acoustic guitars of Falls of Ruaros' third release hail in a more jazzy and improvised feel to the introduction of the album that quickly get brushed aside with the black metal filled beginning of the second track, Banished. Its riffs and vocal intensity immediately reminded me of Deafheaven, and the cave-produced vocal sound sent shivers down my spine. As the riffs coagulate throughout this album, it seems to be more and more of an achievement. I really wish I got my hands on this sooner, because I couldn't justify putting it higher, but maybe it should have been.
16. Elder - Dead Roots Stirring
For as much as I'll talk about quality, originality and excellence of artistic work in this list, I think I sometimes overlook something, and that is what my damn favorite album is. Although Elder's Dead Roots Stirring isn't it, it deserves more than a #16 placement, because it is a sludge/doom metal classic in its own right. Its first track, Gemini, is a steamroller of an album with a riff that makes you think "oh, this again" until the southern twist of a few chords redefines the whole track. Frontman Nick DiSalvo's Jim Beam soaked vocals cap off a collection of awesome southern tinged Stoner metal tracks that aren't afraid to pack a whollop as well as a nice joint smoking atmosphere. Just as this band finds itself playing one too many Sabbath or Sleep riffs, they pull something new out and just when you want to feel like Iommi is crushing your head again, they drop into it. I don't think I've ever heard a doom metal album that hits all of the right spots at every time quite like this one. This is a band that could blow up metal in the next 4 years.
15. Insomnium - One For Sorrow
You know what you're going to get with Insomnium. Just like Moonsorrow, just like Amorphis, just like Primordial. There haven't been many bands more consistent than them. With that said, however, their previous release, Across the Dark, was my favorite of theirs because it brought back the clean singing element as well as a more keyboard heavy sound, which made me feel like they were trying to differentiate themselves from their admittedly repetitive past releases. Inertia kicks off the album in a way similar to how I felt Amorphis did, with their slow lead building into a much heavier representation of what they wanted the rest of the album to be. This album pounds through in a similar manner to Across the Dark, with Songs of the Blackest Bird and Through the Shadows immediately standing out as particularly catchy with that classic Insomnium sound. Yeah, perhaps they made the same album three times before changing, but now they're starting to grow into a more varied group. For a band that has been so consistently great and fun over the years, this band deserves a lot more from the melodic death community.
14. Wolvhammer - The Obsidian Plains
I remember finishing this album and feeling slightly sweaty, as I felt like I had just heard the grittiest album of 2011. There aren't many more albums as raw as Minneapolis black metal plus some sludgy twang whatever act Wolvhammer's The Obsidian Plains. It isn't normal for me to think that both a black metal act like Darkthrone and a band like Kylesa would both be proud of this group after hearing this effort, but I think it's true. The snare is snappy, but the whole album has a dark feel to it that made me feel like I was hearing an occult swedish black metal act, but it all had this home-rooted sensation to it. This isn't an album really easily described, because its so defined by its raw and crude production and atmosphere created by the soul crushing vocals. Truly an out of nowhere album.
13. *Shels - Plains of the Purple Buffalo
This was an album that I didn't know was as good as it is for a long time. I had it sitting around for a little bit, having spun it here and there a few times, but something about waiting at a Honduran airport for about an hour made it all make sense to me. After forming mainly out of the ashes of British hardcore band Mahumodo, *shels went in a different direction and formed in a manner similar to A Silver Mt. Zion, with no solid lineup and built around vocalist/guitarist Mehdi Safa and drummer Tom Harriman. Their second release, Plains of the Purple Buffalo, is a walk down the line of a hardcore tinged post-rock that is best expressed in my favorite part, the second part of the title track. After entering with a (no doubt intentional) circular riff intertwined with a violin and Safa's soaringly high vocals, the song, and arguably the album, reaches a zenith with a horn piece playing a scale to a beat, with a guitar joining in on the scale, then a choir, then Safa providing a beautiful counter-melody to the scale. The second part that I particularly enjoyed was the beautiful Butterflies on Luci's Way, which stood out to me because it made me feel so damn good. I just couldn't really be a grouch when Safa was saying "as long as I have you, I don't feel so bad." Immediately following is the intense "Crown of Eagle Feathers," which features Safa's hardcore screams and the horn's resurgence, another high point of the album. Basically, this is an album that is a four course meal that isn't really easily enjoyed with one huge mouthful, and over time, I think I'll enjoy it a lot more than the enormous amount I did this year.
12. Dragged into Sunlight - Hatred for Mankind
I don't think there's any album that could better be described by the word "experience." That's exactly what this band created with Hatred For Mankind, as it is such a theatrical collection of artistic representation. Starting with the soundbites chosen by the band to fill the background of their gratuitously dark and brutal tracks, it immediately reminded me of Impaled's Death After Life, with each sample getting a sensical reaction from me, with To Hieron's "You're an inhumane bunch of fucking living bastards and bitches and you're gonna get your asses nuked in the end," being the most revolting. Then the slow and skin crawling riffs in Volcanic Birth that make me feel like I'm slowly getting eaten second by second was truly the part in the album where I started enjoying every sick and twisted turn in the album, so much that to the point where I get to the excessively violent "Lashed to the Grinder and Stoned to Death," I find myself wanting a more and more violent result, as I didn't think music got this disgusting. Where Despond is depressing, Hatred for Mankind is sickening, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
11. Wintersun - Time
Well this is awkward. I had my #9 and my #11 on this list twice and I didn't notice it till just now. I can't believe this. I guess this is a top 49.