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  #101  
Old 12-22-2011, 05:48 AM
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  #102  
Old 12-22-2011, 11:37 AM
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Thanks, I think...

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Originally Posted by idrinkwine732 View Post
A great start to the top 10. Few will have Earthshine in it, but damn that's a fine album.
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Great calls on Bloodiest and Cormorant. I've heard of Tides of Nebula before, but now I'll definitely check 'em out.
Thank you, both of you. Slap, definitely check out Tides From Nebula. Given your gusto for post-rock, I feel you'll really enjoy it.

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Man, you should become a professional reviewer or something.
Thanks man. In an attempt to be humble, however…

1) DethMaiden and ravenheart and probably a handful of others deserve that remark more than I do.

2) plenty of people on this site could write reviews as well or better than mine if they put the time into it, yourself included (honestly, I'd be in favor of the mods prohibiting folks from making EOY lists if they're not even going to bother reviewing the albums… call me a Nazi, that's just the way I feel).

and
3) not all my ideas are original… some of the material in these reviews have come from interviews with the bands, interpretations of prior comments and reviews, etc.
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  #103  
Old 12-25-2011, 06:29 AM
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I want a top five now sir.
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  #104  
Old 12-25-2011, 06:55 PM
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I want a top five now sir.
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  #105  
Old 12-26-2011, 06:21 PM
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Sorry everyone for the delay. Now that all the holiday festivities are over, I've had time to finish this up. So...



#5 SubRosa - No Help For the Mighty Ones

This is the only album in my top 5 that's achieved a decent amount of acclaim on this site. I can't help but to compare it to Bloodiest's Descent. Both contain such unusual approaches to sludge/doom. This album is another case of brilliant unorthodoxy.

Whereas Bloodiest's Descent was a product of seven musicians, one of which sounds like a Native American, No Help For the Mighty Ones is SubRosa's second album that again features three females (not the same ones, however) and two males. Four of the five members show up on vocals at one point or another, but almost the entirety of the album features female vocals. So yes, SubRosa's one of the few famale-fronted doom bands out there, thus making for yet another somewhat uncommon lineup, and as you'd guess, an uncommon record. As if the female-frontedness wasn't enough, the album has violins. Any doom fan knows that's a rarity. There are only a handful of doom bands that've ever really incorporated violins/strings as an integral part of their music. My Dying Bride did it in the early days with Martin Powell on Turn Loose the Swans and The Angel and the Dark River, for sure, and Virgin Black, Elegeion, Anathema (a little bit), etc. come to mind, but overall it's a pretty unique trait in the doom department. The album also features what any great doom/sludge album should feature: heavy trance-inducing riffs. But what makes it such an unorthodox album for its genre is it's folk vibe, and at times psychedelic vibe. "House Carpenter" is a straight up traditional English folk song. The vocals, which as mentioned already are predominantly all female, aren't particularly skillful, but they're extremely soulful, and they sure work well with SubRosa's style of music. The females lead and one of the male's does rhythm (I believe). Memorable male vocals appear in the end of "Whippoorwill," when we hear "one day I'll be like a bird in flight..."

I will say the album ends stronger than it begins, at least I thought. The last four tracks are, as a group of tracks, better than the first four. The dirty bass is ever present, except on the one aforementioned track ("House Carpenter"). The drums are scarce, very slow (which isn't to say they're not accomplished - slow drums can be extremely difficult when timing is taken into consideration), and they're used more as a filler than what most metal listeners are probably used to. SubRosa might easily be compared to bands like Acid Bath. They've found their niche, it works beautifully, and there's not another band that's going to sound like them. They're a rare type of unique. I'm not kidding when I say this album is unorthodox for its genre, which is why the fact that everything clicks so perfectly is such an accomplishment.

Also, the one non-metal track has been the topic of some debate. I'm going to include it in my highlights just because I think it's pivotal for the completion of this album as a whole.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Beneath the Crown," "Attack on Golden Mountain," "Whippoorwill," "House Carpenter," "Dark Country"



#4 Falls of Rauros - The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood

Falls of Rauros is a band that lurks in the shadows behind bands like Wolves in the Throne Room. My reaction to this album was the opposite than what it is to most. Instead of flipping out and placing it high on my list at first before moderating it after a few more listens, this album slowly crawled up to its position on the list. The more I listened to it, the more genius it became. At first I thought the sound quality was inferior to its two predecessors (Hail Wind and Hewn Oak, and Into the Archaic), but be that as it may, I've grown to like it the best of the three. It's far less folkish, and more black metal. That may account for the change in sound. Or it may be the producing/mixing, I'm not sure. Where on their previous releases there was a clear dividing line between aggression and melody, on this record the two are fused together. Whatever Falls of Rauros did differently, it worked. From the beginning of "Banished" to the end of "Silence," we hear the greatest display of emotional black metal written this year.

There are only six songs on this album, so I'm going to break this album down track by track:
1. Earth's Old Timid Grace (3:52) - You needn't even get to the black metal before Falls of Rauros' brilliant songwriting ability becomes transparent. This is the intro to the album. And it's not just some lame intro that has the same notes played over and over, maybe with a chant or something (the likes of which you might get from Ensiferum or Empyrium or Eluveitie). This intro continues to evolve throughout its duration. At 2:07 a lead guitar becomes noticeable, and from this point to the end of the song, Falls of Rauros demonstrate their masterful ability to intertwine melodies into a continuous flow.
2. Banished (10:46) - In the last seconds of "Earth's Old Time Grace" all that melody fell to a wall of black metal. This song begins with an aggressive riff that really makes a dramatic impression on the listener, especially considering it's the first black metal on the album. There's a great solo at 3:13. Close to the 5:30 mark the heavy sound collapses into soft melody and acoustic work (not unlike something you'd get from Opeth). But it builds. That's one thing this band never stops doing. With each variation in tempo or sound they never settle. They constantly build. The vocals are bleak and desolate. I absolutely love the drum beat that starts at 6:26. By the end of this song it's fairly apparent Falls of Rauros aren't nearly as folkish as they once were.
3. Awaiting the Fire or Flood That Awakes It (13:25) - This song opens with an acoustic intro that lasts for about the first 1:40. This is the longest track on the album. And it's probably the best structural piece of work on the album. This song shows that no matter what Falls of Rauros are doing at the time, they always give you something to grab onto. Such as the lead melody at 4:10 that plays a few times. Or the solo at 7:22. From the scream at 10:53 that marks the resurgence of black metal after a soft interlude, to the end of the song, is some of the most emotional material on the album. If you ever doubted Falls of Rauros' ability to construct complicated songs, this song should easily lay that misconception to rest.
4. Nonesuch River Chant (1:36) - The only song of little consequence on the album. It basically serves as a nice little single track interlude. I won't say it's a filler, because I don't think it is. It is, however, the only song on the album that features no real evolution.
5. Silence (9:38) - By the time this track rolls around it becomes obvious to me that this album is the smoothest of the year. The ability of this band to put so much into their music, so as to always keep the listener's attention, yet keep it flowing so smoothly, is really really really impressive. 7:22 marks my favorite part of this song, and one of my favorite parts on the album. It's just so damn emotional. The tone of this song is one of sorrow, and at the same time one of consolation. If you ever feel guilty of something, or feel guilty of acting a certain way, this track will humble you.
6. The Cormorants Shiver on Their Rocks (4:29) - The album's outro. Like the intro, it's acoustic. Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WahwxcrE16A. The previous track was one of sorrow, this one is one of grace. If you don't like it you don't have a soul.
All of these tracks, save Nonesuch River Chant, are highlights. The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood wins best black metal album of 2011.



#3 Loss - Despond

Pain is something dreaded by nearly every human being. We do all we can to avoid it and forget it and remove it from our lives. We do everything possible to exist without it, yet, ultimately, it's something humanity will never rid itself of. Loss' debut embodies the notion that, as Carl Jung would say, pain is ever present, and as much a part of life as the dance of shadow and light, and that it's something we hate, deny, and fear in ourselves. Loss has just chosen to deal with it and express it. To quote the band, "Life isn't worth living 99% of the time," and that's what Loss tries to convey with their music. And they've succeeded to an impressive extent. The despair this band projects is so authentic it's scary. It's the work of musicians who've truly been there. And it's this that makes it so genuine.

Doom metal has grown on me a lot this past year. A large percentage of albums on this list have been doom albums of some sort or another. But this one is truly exceptional. Despond is one of the most emotionally stirring albums of the year, and the only album even close to expressing such deep depression and misanthropy that burns its way to the heart of the psyche. Novembers Doom, Tombs, The Atlas Moth, etc., have all released doom albums hailed by many metal critics as the best of the year. None of those compare to this. In 2004 Loss released a demo, Life Without Hope...Death Without Reason, which spread fast and caused quite a buzz in the underground. Seven years later, Loss debuts their first album, Despond. Two of the tracks on this album are actually re-recordings of two of the tracks on the demo. These include "Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (of Being)," and "Cut Up, Depressed And Alone."

This album features ultra heavy bass and guitars, and sparse but steady drums. It's slow, it's melodic, it's tormented. The vocals are anguishing. "Silent and Completely Overcome" features guest vocalist Brett Campbell, from Pallbearer (who's set to release a debut in January), who provides the only clean vocals on the album, and man, they're fantastic. This track is my favorite on the album. "I do not remember depression such as this" will echo in your mind long after it's over. This song also features a brief intermittent section of black metal at 6:10 (when the tempo actually peaks above a crawl) before converting back to megadoom at 6:38, when a crushingly heavy and painfully slow riff finishes out the song. Loss doesn't only include elements of death into their doom, but black as well. The atmosphere throughout the whole thing is super intense.

There are piano-led interludes ("Despond"), which add to the gothic sound of the album. "The Irreparable Act" closes the album with clean guitars, synthesizers, and a monologue in a manner that, despite the lack of heaviness, is just as haunting and depressing as the rest of the album. There's strange eerie guitar work (such as what we hear at 0:35 in "An Ill Body Seats my Sinking Sight" and what we hear at 0:03 in "Silent and Completely Overcome"). One of the most impressive aspects of this album is the way each song is distinguishable. Each song is recognizable. You can tell one song from another. There's very little "meandering," which just isn't the case with 95% of funeral doom. Creating a funeral doom album that's a truly memorable complete body of work isn't an easy task. Loss has done it. This is the metal album of the year.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Open Veins to a Curtain Closed," "Cut up Depressed and Alone," "Conceptual Funeralism Unto The Final Act (Of Being)," "Silent and Completely Overcome,"
"The Irreparable Act"

The band stated in an interview that they won't stop writing music until they've created the perfect funeral doom atmosphere. And they made it sound like this album is basically just a preliminary glimpse of what's to come. That aside, I have a hard time believing they'll ever top this record.



#2 *shels - Plains of the Purple Buffalo

It should be known that the last time my #1 and #2 albums of the year would've been post-rock records, had I been making these lists, was 2000. That would've been Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and A Silver Mt. Zion's He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… The first being a contender for the greatest album of all time and the second being a top 10 album of all time. My #1 and #2 this year aren't even close to that caliber, but they're absolutely excellent albums. I realize these top 2 won't be massively popular on this site, so I hope the ending to the list isn't too terribly anticlimactic.

Plains of the Purple Buffalo is a massive, mind-altering, journey that shows how far post-rock/metal can branch off if artists are willing to venture past the confines of the conventional second wave post-rock rut. This album isn't characterized or limited by a single formula. It's melodic, it's intense, it's beautiful, it's soft, it's heavy, it's aggressive, it's enthralling, and it succeeds brilliantly in painting a picture much like the album title and cover art suggest. I know you all are probably sick of the Alcest analogies, and not to juxtapose with Alcest, but the sound of this album gives the impression it was an "inspiration," much in the same sense Neige claimed Écailles De Lune was an inspiration he acquired after experiencing in a dream a vision of a world where music was ethereal and sounded nothing like the music of our world. But this album does give off some of that ethereal ambiance vibe we got with Écailles De Lune, but in a very different way. One way, of which I'm sure, is the brass. Beautiful brass segments are woven in amongst some of the tracks, as are choral arrangements, both of which result in brilliant atmospherics. One might call this record "easy listening." It's like the air conditioning inside your house that greets you after you've been out in the hundred degree heat all day. "Searching For Zihuatanejo," "Vision Quest," and "Butterflies on Lucy's Way," three of the best tracks on the album, are all just therapeutic. While that's true for a lot of this album, it's not true for all of it though. Some parts of this record are just downright difficult to listen to. One example being the opening track, "Journey to the Plains." Others being (parts of) "Crown of Eagle Feathers" and "Bastien's Angels." All are considerably heavy for post-rock songs.

Few records can remain captivating and stimulating for a complete 75 minutes. Every track here has something different to offer... something different than the track before it or after it. This album is a journey across a land very different than our own.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Plains of the Purple Buffalo - Part 2," "Searching For Zihuatanejo," "Vision Quest," "Butterflies on Lucy's Way," "The Spirit Horse"



#1 The Seven Mile Journey - Notes for the Synthesis

This is easily the best post-rock release since Sigur Rós' last album in 2008. It's as close to perfect post-rock as you'll get from any band not named Godspeed You! Black Emperor or A Silver Mt. Zion, and without a doubt, it's my favorite album of 2011. I can't say how many times I've listened to it. It's done more for me emotionally than any album in a long time. And part of that's due to the environments I listened to some of these songs in. Not only has this album been played more than any other album in 2011, it's been played during some of my most special moments of 2011.

Notes for the Synthesis pretty much covers the entire emotional spectrum except for joy and happiness. "Departures" starts off as a painfully depressing intro which evolves directly into "Alter Ego Autopsies," which is, from a musical standpoint, the most accomplished track on the album. It represents, over the course of twenty minutes, neurosis, psychosis, mental instability, and a mind that's trying to come to terms with its insanity. It's twenty minutes of structural magnificence, starting out as sounding like something horrific and extremely unsettling, before finally building into something a little more stable. It's just a giant of a song - right up there with some of the more powerful works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (which I really don't say lightly). "Simplicity Has A Paradox" represents a juxtaposition of desolation and self-preservation. "Transits" might be the most poignant track on the album, which is a piano-led passage of introspection, nostalgia, and something we all fear at some point in our lives... "moving on." "The Etiology Diaries" is kind of an extension to "Transits," signifying the passage of time, reliance of the self, and fortitude. It's super impressive how seamlessly the songs fade into each other.

It should be noted that The Seven Mile Journey limits themselves instrumentally to bass, drums, guitars, and an occasional keyboard. That's an automatic red flag to me. It tells me, like any other record featuring these instruments would tell me, it has the potential to be great, but also a handicap in that it lacks that extra element that could push it over the edge. No horns, no violins, no strings, etc., means almost invariably an inability to compete with bands who've mastered the usage of these instruments with their music. This isn't the case with The Seven Mile Journey, which is a further testament to their artisanship. They don't need that extra element to distinguish themselves from other post-rock bands.

"Transits" -> "The Etiology Diaries" is the most powerful sequence on the album. It's difficult to explain in terms of technicality, but the way the songs move forward is just exceptionally impressive. It's so subtle at times, yet noticeable. At one point in "The Etiology Diaries" I feel like I'm completely unstable emotionally. Like I'm going to lose it. I think music that has an effect of this magnitude on the listener is truly something special.

Overall, this album paints a hauntingly beautiful picture. It's full of climaxes, build-ups, twists, colossal arrangements, juxtapositions, and different sounds that are layered perfectly to mesh together. I don't know how to better explain it. It's just a colossal piece of work. It manages to build suspense and momentum over very long periods of time. This band's career spans over a decade, and this is only the third album they've released. This makes one thing clear... they like to breathe. They aren't in it for the quick kill. And this definitely comes across in their sound. It's the product of a lot of time and a lot of patience. Popular post-rock releases of the year like 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' by Mogwai and 'Take Care, Take Care, Take Care' by Explosions in the Sky are pale in comparison to this masterpiece. Any fan of post-rock who hasn't heard this is missing out not only on the best of 2011, but one of the genre's best ever.
HIGHLIGHTS: "The Alter Ego Autopsies," "Simplicity Has a Paradox," "Transits," "The Etiology Diaries"
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  #106  
Old 12-26-2011, 06:28 PM
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I haven't listened to your number 4, I'll take a gander and start my thread tomorrow.

A killer top 5. All incredible albums.
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  #107  
Old 12-26-2011, 06:35 PM
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Best year-end list on here. I have some homework.
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  #108  
Old 12-26-2011, 06:40 PM
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I don't have the attention span to read those long descriptions

Also, I think you and my younger brother would get along. His list:


1. Cormorant - Dwellings

2. Fall of Rauros - The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood

3. Rwake - Rest

4. Morne - Asylum

5. Subrosa - No Help for the Mighty Ones

6. Blood Ceremony - Living with the Ancients

7. Craft - Void

8. The Gates of Slumber - The Wretch

9. Terra Tenebrosa - The Tunnels

10. Atriarch - Forever the End

11. Feral - Dragged to the Altar

12. KEN Mode - Venerable

13. Light Bearer - Lapsus

14. Trap Them - Darker Handcraft

15. Solstafir - Svartir Sandar
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  #109  
Old 12-26-2011, 06:43 PM
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I don't have the attention span to read those long descriptions

Also, I think you and my younger brother would get along. His list:


1. Cormorant - Dwellings
...son?
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  #110  
Old 12-26-2011, 09:57 PM
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Awesome finish to the list man. Great picks all around, especially #4 that's a sleeper more people need to hear.
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