(NCS contributor Israel Flanders steps up with his nominations for the year’s two best albums of the year to date. Agree or disagree in the Comments, won’t you?)
Let’s just address something here . . . A ton of kick-ass new music has been unveiled in the year thus far, but some of the new releases have obviously been better than others. While my choices are controversial, I’m going to talk about, IMO, the two most essential albums of 2011 to date: Sylosis‘s Edge Of The Earth and Xerath‘s II.
I know, you’re asking me, “No TesseracT!? No Devin Townsend!?” Believe it or not (given my tastes), I liked Deconstruction, but it just felt like Devin repeating himself and starting on the path to self-parody, and I love One, but it was too little too late, on top of suffering from a syndrome of repetitiveness. With that said, let’s dig into these two albums shall we? I’m not going to go into real depth here; instead, I’m gonna let the songs I’m providing speak for themselves. I will give a brief overview of what you are getting yourself into, though, so let’s get started.
SYLOSIS: EDGE OF THE EARTH
This is the best melodic metal you’re going to hear all year. Sylosis has been well on the way to taking their place amongst the metal greats, but this album surely will seal the deal. What we have here is a combination of old school metalcore, early Metallica, and Forbidden that provides a stunningly vicious, thrashing melodic assault. This band doesn’t play around one bit, wasting no time in laying down the punishment with a plethora (and I do mean a HUGE ASS plethora) of riffs — every single one of them memorable, every single one of them hitting hard with technicality and tasteful execution. (more after the jump . . .)
The drums are tight, to the point, and inhumanly perfect in terms of lining up with the riffs. The vocals of now-vocalist AND lead guitarist Josh Middleton are savage, brutal, yet emotive and filled with power. There is also a hefty amount of SUPERB shredding on this album, buttressing my opinion that Josh Middleton is one of the new up-and-coming guitar heroes. Seriously, do not underestimate this guy — he knows what he’s doing. His style is very legato-oriented, and he has an ability for inserting “mini hooks” into his solo’s that make every single one on this album memorable. Whether it be the trashing, all-out assault of the opener “Procession”, the grooving trudge of “Awakening”, or the emotional ambient style of “Where The Sky Ends”, it’s bound to catch your ear. You’ll be insane if it doesn’t. This album is definitely worth checking out — it really sticks out in today’s scene, as it manages to mesh old school with modernism in a potent way that we aren’t hearing much these days.
Xerath’s II is another stand-out album in metal right now. Anyone hearing the term “Orchestral Djenty Groove Metal” pitched to them for the first time would probably say you were out of your mind, but Xerath has done it anyway and they do it quite excellently. While I did enjoy the band’s first album “I”, it did have its shortcomings. “II” seeks to amend all of that, and I’m proud to announce that it not only succeeds, it’s made Xerath one of the newest metal MVP’s out there today.
The approach of this album is very much along the lines of Fear Factory and SYL, with big walls of sound, machine-gun or open-note groove riffing executed with powerful intensity, all backed up by film-score styled orchestral arrangements behind it. The product here is absolutely immense. This is the most original sounding album I’ve heard all year, to be quite honest.
The vocals of Richard Thomson are very much in the Devin Townsend vein, but more pissed off, more forceful, almost like the shrieks of a death-dealing banshee. The riffing of guitarist Owain Williams is ASTOUNDINGLY simple yet effective. I can’t believe how hard some of these riffs hit, like the verse riff of “Enemy Incited Armageddon” or the bombastic outro to “Unite To Defy”. The drums are locked in tight, the bass has real presence, and the orchestral parts are EXCEPTIONALLY well written. I’ve never heard orchestral music complement metal this well. Ever.
Get this album, as well as the Sylosis — it’s absolutely essential. It’ll be in my top 10 of this year for sure, as well as will Edge Of The Earth. I’ve included 3 songs from each album; if they don’t sell you on these works, I don’t know what will.
To me, the best album of the year is Viatrophy’s Viatrophy, which isn’t even from this year, but from 2009. It’s just so stunningly perfect that it resonates through time and space and can be at multiple places and times at once. It’s just that special.
Seriously now, I loved those chunks of Sylosis. It’s going on my list of stuff to buy. Liked Xerath too, but to a slightly lesser extent.
I Viatrophy fan! Should have known. I fucken love that album too. So sad that band broke up.
That was a black day, though I’m happy I didn’t consciously live it. I didn’t know them yet back then.
Anyway, it has been a long time since I’ve blasted an album so long, so hard and so without-fuckin’-pause in my car.
I’ve really been enjoying Aurora Borealis’ Timeline: The Begining and End of Everything. Both of these are good too.
I’ve not heard the Xerath record yet, but if Sylosis have made one of the best albums of the year then this year is going to be a bit disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the record, the vocals are better now, the riffs are great, the drums are great, many of the songs are really good…. but there’s not much actually SPECIAL about the album as a whole. Some great playing, some cool bits here and there, definitely a respectable and enjoyable album.
But best of the year? There’s not anything special enough about it to say that. It’s good. But it’s not the best.
I agree with you here. However, I’m slowly but very steadily becoming hooked to that second song that was included (Awakenings). Flows and grooves like a mad man on roller blades!
I’m not sure how we can even begin discussing this topic until Origin release their new album!
(I’m really looking forward to Eternity.)
That said, what about Deicide’s newest album? I fucking love that album!! I felt like it captured the Deicide sound and maintained it’s deicidalness while adding something as well. (Though I can’t rightly tell you what was added…)
Oh, and I almost forgot: Krisiun MIGHT (I really, quite hope) also be releasing a new album this year. (http://www.centurymedia.com/newsdetailed.aspx?IdNews=9600&IdCompany=3)
So…I’m not calling album of the year until Origin and Krisiun have brutally raped my beheaded cerebral cortex and then vomited acid into my neck stump.
Neck stumpage! That’s what I’m waiting for too. Couldn’t agree more that Origin and Krisiun should be highlights of the year. Krisiun was supposed to have recorded the album in May. Here’s a vid of them performing a new song live in April:
Despite the poor audio, this is pretty awesome!
The intro groove was…so….wonderfully groovy!!!
Also, I love Alex Camargo’s voice (had to look that up on Wikipedia). He has a pretty unique voice as far as death metal goes, in my opinion.
Fuck yeah. That song is a massive stomp, squishing your brain into a smear of paste littered with bits of cranium and then putting the goo in a blender and pushing the puree button. Yum!
Cause I don’t like Origin and while Krisiun has always been great, they aren’t anything special either. I’m a Suffocation and Dying Fetus fanatic though, nothing beats those bands for me.
Why don’t you like Origin?
I know alot of people don’t really care for their excessive use of sweeps and such, but that’s what I love most about them, I think.
I haven’t exactly heard Xerath yet. I’ll have to listen to the songs later. I don’t really like Sylosis at all, though. I don’t like TesseracT either, and if anyone menions that musician whose name rhymes with Seven Houdsend, I’ll smash my keyboard across my face. I’ll have to wait for Origin, too, but I have to admit I couldn’t get into their earlier stuff. There is a lot of great metal in the pipeline from what I’ve heard so I think I’ll just have to withhold judgment until December at the earliest.
There’ve been so many good releases so far, including Krallice, Moonsorrow, Amon Amarth, Deicide, Darkest Hour, Becoming the Archetype, Septic Flesh, BTBAM, Hate, 40 Watt Sun, Ulcerate, Born of Osiris, Demonical, Infestus, Ajatarra, Puteraeon, Rudra, Archspire, Nomad, Satyros — and even though they’re not officially out yet, the new Anaal Nathrakh and DT’s Deconstruction are high on the “YTD” list for me.
And more that are out which I really want to hear but haven’t caught up with yet: Nervecell, Tombs, Batillus, Blut Aus Nord, Benighted, Norther, Altar of Plagues, Hate Eternal among others.
I have so many I’m eagerly anticipating in the months ahead, including Insomnium, Origin, Revocation, Disma, Kroda, Black Dahlia Murder, Amorphis, Goatwhore, Unearth, Book of Black Earth, Pain, Decapitated, Arch Enemy, Thulcandra.
Oh, shit! I forgot about the new Nervecell album…damnit!
Even buying mp3s at a cheaper price than physical media, keeping up with new music is fucking expensive.
Altar Of Plagues is very, very good.
I’d have to go with Amon Amarth, Vried, or Satans Host as my favorites so far.
Damn, I meant to include Vreid in that list of albums I really want to check out though I’m late doing it. Don’t know Satans Host, but I like your other two choices, so it goes on the list too.
I think it’s nuts that people aren’t essentially digging my two choices considering they are, IMO, what truly stands out. Sylosis HAS an original sound that you can’t compare to anyone else (and you can try me on that, I will prove you wrong =p ) and so does Xerath. I guess the thing is, I’m noticing A LOT of death metal coming up and while I am A HUGE death metal fan, I find the genre to be mostly stale as of late. My logic should be explained I suppose… these two albums I picked are the best of their respective yearly quarters. Sylosis for Q1, Xerath for Q2.
I DID love Deicide, but it was average in comparison to some other death metal albums that’ve come out this year (The Archspire, Pestilence).
Damn — I forgot to add Pestilence to the list of albums I mean to check out. I can’t believe I still haven’t made time to do it.
I personally am not really familiar with Sylosis or Xerath. The songs that came with the post were good songs, but they’re not really what I’m into.
It is interesting that you mention death metal as being stale. Perhaps it’s because I’m still new to death metal, but it doesn’t feel stale to me.
And the Archspire album IS definitely pretty damn good…but I found the newest Deicide a lot more memorable.
And I realize that it’s nuts for me to say that Deconstruction didn’t earn the spot but it seriously hasn’t. Is it a great album? Yes. But it’s an INSANELY flawed one to me and I’m afraid the albums just going to be elevated to great heights SOLEY because it has Devin’s name on it.
Pestilence is the best death metal album of the year. Undoubtedly.
What about new Opeth! OOOOPPPPPEEETTTHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Goddammit, how could I have overlooked this? From an April 6 news blurb:
“OPETH entered Atlantis studios (formerly Metronome studios) in Stockholm on January 31 to begin recording its tenth album for a fall 2011 release via Roadrunner Records. Jens Bogren (SOILWORK, KATATONIA, PARADISE LOST, BLOODBATH) engineered the effort while mixing duties ere handled by Steven Wilson (PORCUPINE TREE). The new material has been described by the band as ‘good.'”
Yes indeed — highly anticipated!!
God i’ve been hooked on that Reform Pt. III bass part, so sweeeet! My personal favourite for album of the year(so far): Septic Flesh’s The Great Mass, BoO being right behind them.
We’re not even half way through the year and we’re already proclaiming album of the year? I’ve found the year so far to be quite underwhelming, new Anaal Nathrakh will undoubtedly change that, and both Belphegor and Kampfar released surprisingly good albums. Still waiting on my Blut Aus Nord vinyl to arrive, but that will probably add another album to list.
You know how it is with metal blogs and “best of” lists. But I plead innocent on this one. I blame Israel. 🙂
I really do need to listen to the Blut Aus Nord, which I’ve had sitting on my iPod for far too long. Sounds like I need to check out Belphegor and Kampfar too.
How can you not have checked out the latest Belphegor? What are you, a girl?
Alright already! I’ll listen to the damned Belphegor as soon as I finish shopping for my summer miniskirts. Sheesh!
Welp, I’ve never listened to Belphegor….
Whoopsiedoodle and all that!
Oh goodie! Maybe you and I can compare notes on summer skirt fashions. 🙂
Once you’ve finished remodelling your ovaries no doubt.
That’s what women like to do right, remodel their ovaries?
Sadly, Andy, I must tell you that if you’ve come to NCS looking for ovarian advice, you’re barking up the wrong uterus. After many years of study, trial, and error, I’ve resigned myself to a state of perpetual ignorance about the many mysteries of womankind.
For me, Sylosis’ “Edge Of The Earth” is the best album of the first half of 2011. However, the albums that I think will match and/or surpass it later this year are Vader’s “Welcome To The Morbid Reich”, Opeth’s “Heritage”, and Insomnium’s as-of-yet untitled release (I would also include Necrophagist in this list, but until they provide some promising news about their new album, I’m not getting my hopes up). However, the reason I love “Edge Of The Earth” so much is that, like Israel said, it embodies both brutal thrashiness and deep emotion to produce an album that is executed with the utmost tastefulness. Plus, Josh Middleton is an incredible guitarist and vocalist.
I’m also highly anticipating all 3 of those albums you mentioned — I just found out about the Opeth album title and projected release date this morning (what wonderful news!). And the new Necrophagist has been on my most anticipated list for, uh, 2009, 2010, and now 2011, and probably 2012. 🙂
I agree completely; any time Opeth announces something new, it is indeed wonderful news! And about Necrophagist, I guess I shouldn’t have said that I’m not getting my hopes up about their new album, because In reality, I most definitely am. I still listen to Epitaph on a regular basis, and I’m sure the new album, whenever it finally comes out, will annihilate. 😀