Nov 302011

NPR isn’t the “go to” source of metal recommendations for anyone I know. They’re not exactly known for having their fingers on the pulse of the underground. But I’m not turning my nose up at NPR either. They’re covering metal on a big platform that’s mostly read and heard by people who could use some metal education (not to mention some sphincter-loosening), and that’s a good thing in my book.

What’s more, they’re not giving metal just a half-hearted, brush-of-the surface kind of attention either. They’ve been featuring music from some bands (e.g., Portal) that are guaranteed to turn even white people white and make treacly blood plasma ooze from ears more used to hearing the kind of mainly soporific music that dominates the rest of NPR’s music coverage.

Therefore, when NPR published its metal columnist’s list of the 25 Best Metal Albums of 2011 today, I took a look — first, because I was curious, and second, because I was interested in seeing what the non-metalhead super-majority of NPR fandom is being exposed to as representative of the best metal.

Guess what? It’s a mixed bag but it’s a decent list. Those of you who thought Pitchfork’s list was hipsterish may have a similar reaction to the NPR list. But on the other hand, it includes names whose 2011 albums we’ve praised here at NCS this year — Cormorant, Tombs, deafheaven, Ulcerate, Krallice, 40 Watt Sun, Disma, and Flourishing. You’ll also find other names to which you’ll probably give a throaty “Fuck yeah!”, as I did. Check it out after the jump. What do you think?

1. Cormorant, Dwellings
2. YOB, Atma
3. Tombs, Path of Totality
4. Witch Mountain, South of Salem
5. Hammers of Misfortune, 17th Street
6. deafheaven, Roads To Judah
7. Negative Plane, Stained Glass Revelations
8. Ulcerate, The Destroyers of All
9. Krallice, Diotima
10. 40 Watt Sun, The Inside Room
11. Trap ThemDarker Handcraft
12. Altar of Plagues, Mammal
13. Ilsa, Tutti Il Colori Del Buio
14. Nader SadekIn the Flesh
15. Today is the DayPain is a Warning
16. Disma, Towards the Megalith
17. BatillusFurnace (stream)
18. Autopsy, Macabre Eternal
19. Mournful Congegation, The Book of Kings (stream)
20. Ash Borer, Ash Borer
21. Blasphemophager, The III Command of the Absolute Chaos (stream)
22. Exhumed, All Guts, No Glory (stream)
23. Botanist, I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose from the Dead
24. RobocopRobocop II (stream)
25. FlourishingThe Sum of All Fossils (stream)

To read the descriptions offered by NCR’s writer Lars Gotrich for his Top 10 and to stream a song from each of those, go HERE.

And, in case you don’t recognize it, the art at the top of this post, which also graced the NPR post, is a detail from Alice Duke’s tremendous cover artwork for Dwellings by Cormorant.


  1. Bunch of stuff I expected from NPR, then suddenly, Blasphemophager. I didn’t see that one coming.

  2. just wnted to point out my two favorite lines on the internet today: “people who could use some….sphincter-loosening” and “guaranteed to turn even white people white”. That’s like the inverse of “slapping the black off you”. Bitchin.

  3. I was just extremely surprised that we (robocop) were mentioned. Its weird we were even on their radar. I thought this list was a lot better than pitchforks, but then again, I’ve been really bad about following metal this year.

  4. Going through the lists thusfar, I came to sad realization. I’ve only listened to a handful of records listed, and most of those struck me as BORING. This is rather disconcerting to me because I feel like Im thoroughly missing out/missing the point. I feel stupid because I don’t “get it”.
    I actually do like challenging music; The records by Trap them and Gridlink are fiercely difficult to listen to and I enjoyed the experience of trying to get a handle of them. On the other hand, I found most of the other picks like the Opeth and Skeletonwich albums to be significantly underwhelming.
    Whats even more upsetting is the realization that the records that have have the most rotation in my listening by the largest margin (Trivium, Skindred, All Shall Perish) will be on the list of other shit on Revolver Magazine’s best of 2011 list. I really don’t know what to make of this.

    • Yeesh. That’s a scary position to be in. I’ve been in positions sort of like that, but cheer up mate, it’ll all blow over eventually and you’ll be happy as Phro at an octopus exhibit!

    • I think it’s rare for one of these metal critic’s lists to match up with what most people really enjoy listening to. It’s almost like enjoying mass popularity disqualifies an album from serious consideration. Plus, I think lists from sites like NPR or Pitchfork or magazines like DECIBEL make a conscious effort to provide variety in their selections (especially when the selections are a composite of different writers’ opinions, as in DECIBEL’s case). The result is that the lists don’t go very deep into any one sub-genre, or maybe don’t even tap into some sub-genres at all (e.g., power metal or deathcore).

      • Heh, that sounds so fucking backwards doesn’t it?;”If its too fun, it can’t count as good”. If you dont enjoy listening to music, Whats The Fucking Point?? It seems that metal press in general is stuck on the idea of legitimizing the art even though everyone swears up and down “we don’t give a shit what mainstream people think.” They say that, but the shit becomes so insular it promotes elitism and snobbishness. Like you need an excuse or you need to justify why a powermetal record is of superior quality. To be fair, I do like a lot of the records on these lists. But real talk, a lot of this shit sounds like the same droning wall of noise that I get absolutely no emotional resonance out of.

        It’s very similar to film criticsm. I read a huge amount of movie blogs and criticism covering mainstream, genre, indie and arthouse films. Melancholia is being heralded as one of the finest works of cinematic art this year. As great a technical work as it may be, I have absolutely no intention of venerating a movie about a bunch of sad rich spoiled fucking white people.
        Attack The Block: Movie of the year.
        Union Black: Top record of 2011

        • Good point about the direct parallels between art criticism in movies and in music. And speaking of movies, I’m dying to see Attack the Block. Someone in the UK sent me a trailer for it a couple months back and it looked absolutely awesome — though I hope it comes with subtitles. 🙂

          And fuck me, but I can’t believe I haven’t tracked down Union Black yet, especially since I’ve got two other Skindred albums in my collection that always get me off (figuratively speaking, of course).

          • Meh, I was underwhelmed by Attack The Block, and hated most of Melancholia (though i did have some strong elements to it).

  5. Goddamnit, I don’t think I’ve heard any of these albums either.

    I know I’m not the most up-to-date on anything, but surely the music I listened to this year wasn’t ALL shit.

    • No, it wasn’t ALL shit, because I know you listened to what we played here. Or at least some of it. Plus, I know you listened to Krisiun and Fleshgod Apocalypse because you reviewed them. For us. Here.

      • I think I’m just pissed I don’t have enough money or time to listen to everything.

        • I myself don’t have enough money, which is why I probably won’t hear a good portion of what I wanted to hear from this year until after Christmas when I’ll probably get a gift card to f.y.e or something.

          • Man, when it comes to music, there is never enough money. I havent been able to get music from a fraction of the bands I actually found out about this year. On the plus side, theres nothing better than finally finding that album that youve been hunting down forever

    • I haven’t heard any either… but that isn’t because I don’t want to hear them, I’ve had Krallice on my “ALBUMS TO GET” list for some time as well as Disma and Autopsy, I’ve also had Exhumed on there, but I don’t know if my interest is peaked enough to pick that album up.

  6. I really need to check out Cormorant. Ziltoid doesn’t stop talking about them and now NCS is posting stuff listing them… I’ve only heard part of one song I think.

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