(It may be Christmas Day, but we’re still open for business, and today we’re happy to welcome a visitor from another site.)
Hello NCS readers. I am Tr00 Nate, master of all that is tr00 and kvlt. You might be familiar with me. You might not. It makes no difference to me. I write for NCS’s sister/rival site The Number of the Blog. If you visit that site, you might have noticed that it is currently down due to technical difficulties. Seeing as how I have a perfectly good year-end list, it would be a shame if it never got posted. So I contacted Islander to see if he would let me post my list on his esteemed website. He graciously agreed, and now here we are.
What follows are the 30 albums that had the biggest impact upon me this past year. The ones that stuck with me the most. My favorite albums one could say. This list was made while taking everything that I have listened to this year into consideration. So consider yourself warned if you see something unexpected. If you wish to sample one of these fine albums, all you have to do is click on the album art, and it should take you to a youtube video (as that is how we do things over at TNOTB).
30. Ceremonial Castings – March of the Deathcult
This is an album that just barely snuck onto this list. I’ve been a big fan of Washington’s masters of symphonic black metal for a long time now (their 2008 album Salem 1692 was one of my favorites of that year). March of the Deathcult is a return to form for this band, with excellent black metal riffing and the best use of keyboards in black metal today. A long awaited album for me and a great return to form for Ceremonial Castings.
29. Blasphemophagher – The III Command of the Absolute Chaos
I was not too big on Blasphemophagher’s last album, but with The III Command of the Absolute Chaos the band came out and wowed me. The bestial style black/death scene has been done to death these past few years with bands like Witchrist, Diocletian, Vasaeleth, etc., all releasing excellent albums. But Blasphemophagher have managed to carve out a niche for themselves with excellent, if not all too complicated, songwriting, with songs that manage to stick with you.
28. Voyager – The Meaning of I
You might not know this about me, but I’m a huge fan of power metal. Which is why 2011 has been a disappointing year for me on that end, especially compared to the amazing year that was 2010. Anyways, Voyager is an Australian power/prog group that has captivated me these past few months. I think it has a lot to do with Daniel Estrin’s voice. It’s unique and unmistakable, which is a huge plus for any power metal band. Their songwriting is catchy and memorable, and the prog leanings never stray into the unbearably wanky. It’s also an incredibly laid back album, and is extremely easy to listen to. So that’s a plus.
27. Solstafir – Svartir Sandar
Solstafir haves been wowing me ever since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness. And with each album, Solstafir just get better and better. Having found the guitar tone with Kold, Solstafir have stepped-up their songwriting game for this double album. Every song on this album feels massive and is able to stand out on its own merits, while managing to co-exist together as a coherent whole of an album. I hear influences of everything ranging from black metal to Ennio Morricone-style spaghetti-western soundtracks. The fact that all the elements blend together seamlessly is a testament to the talent of this band.
26. Grouper – A I A : Alien Observer/Dream Loss
Another thing you might not know about me is that I listen to more than just metal. Grouper’s double album is one of the most relaxing and captivating albums I’ve heard this year. Minimalism is the name of the game, with the sparse sound buried underneath layers and layers of fuzz, with Liz Harris’s voice barely breaking through the murk. I’m not sure if a double album is really necessary, but it’s nice to have this much Grouper music all the same.
25. Speedwolf – Ride With Death
I really only need to show the video for “Denver 666”, which has a guy in a werewolf costume playing air guitar whilst surfing on top of a van, Teen Wolf-style, to explain why this album is great. But there’s more to this than just awesome van-surfing action. Imagine a dirtier, punkier Motorhead, and you’re close to why this album rules. Easily headbangable, easily moshable, easily drinkable, this album is the best party album of 2011. The energy and passion of this band just shines through on every moment of Ride With Death.
24. Forest of the Soul – Restless in Flight
Another non-metal album. Forest of the Soul is a project of Aaron Carey and Andrew Cagna, who you might be familiar with, as they are the guys behind Nechowen, whose album Azimuths to the Otherworld was my favorite album of 2010. Forest of the Soul doesn’t combine acoustic folk music with metal like Nechochwen does, but rather, combine the acoustic guitar with a grungy, Alice in Chains – type sound. It’s a combination that really shouldn’t work, but Carey’s expert guitar playing makes the album one of the more enjoyable performances of the year.
23. Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brume of Eos
Since this is a Minnesota band, I feel obligated to mention them. Obsequiae is one of the more exciting bands to show up on the folk/black metal scene in a while. Their unique approach to songwriting, fusing the black metal with a very medieval sound, creates a refreshing and captivating sound. This album has stuck with me since I first heard it this summer, and it’s more than deserving of a spot on this list.
22. Skull Fist – Head of the Pack
There’s a song on this album that sounds exactly like a George Lynch-era Dokken song. I don’t think I need to explain further to you fine folks why this album is fucking awesome.
21. Nightbringer – Hierophany of the Open Grave
Nightbringer has consistently been one of the strongest black metal bands in the US, and Hierophany of the Open Grave proves why these guys should be taken seriously. Every song on this album is absolutely massive, with a sound that doesn’t quite reach wall-of-noise levels. The songwriting is strong and memorable, the production is actually really good, and the riffs are all fucking great. This album is just everything that black metal should be.
20. Antichrist – Forbidden World
Re-thrash is a dead genre, let’s face it. Bands like Municipal Waste, Gamma Bomb, and Revocation just aren’t that good, with dull lifeless albums that do nothing but make the listener pine for the glory days of Destruction and Kreator. Well, here’s an album that does those bands of old justice. Forbidden World sounds almost exactly like something Destruction would have released in the 80’s, with a sound so old-school that you would swear it was from 1987. Antichrist have a bright future ahead of them as purveyors of the finest thrash metal around.
19. Woods of Infinity – Forlat
Possibly the weirdest band on this list, Woods of Infinity’s final album is a glorious capstone to the career of one of the most creative bands in black metal. If there were a band that I would have to compare these guys to, it would probably be Lifelover. Woods, however, had a greater spark of creativity, crafting beautifully twisted melodies to complement the insane screams of Ravenlord. Plus, this is the only album that has a black metal cover of “Walking in the Air”, which is just fantastic.
18. Volcano – Mythology
Japanese power/thrash is one of the more underrated scenes in the metal world. Along with Gargoyle, Volcano sits comfortably atop this genre. The insanely fun riffs, solos, and melodies that I’ve come to expect from Volcano are all intact, and returning are Nov’s great engrish vocals. This album seems to have slipped past a lot of people, so consider yourself now better informed.
17. Amebix – Sonic Mass
After 24 long years, Amebix has fucking returned. The masters of crust punk have matured a lot since 1987’s Monolith, but the passion for music is still there. Anchored by Rob Miller’s still strong vocals, Amebix manage to forge a new sound for themselves, rooted in both metal and post-punk, that still remains identifiably Amebix. I know that some long-time fans think this album is a total piece of shit, but they are merely misguided. This album is a strong return, and one of the finest offerings of 2011.
16. Barn Owl – Lost in the Glare
Barn Owl’s Ancestral Star was my favorite non-metal album of 2010, and while the ambient/drone duo couldn’t repeat that feat this year, they still came awfully close. Not as lonely as Ancestral Star, Lost in the Glare nevertheless manages to create a soundscape of vast empty mountains with a more guitar-driven sound. The ambient drone parts are still intact, but the increased use of more traditional guitar parts on this album offers a nice change in sound to contrast with the sparseness of their last offering. Really, check this album out, as it’s exactly how one does drone correctly.
15. Antediluvian – Through the Cervix of Hawaah
You’ve probably been reading a shitton about this band lately, as Through the Cervix of Hawaah has been showing up on a lot of people’s year-end lists (at least the people who know what they’re talking about). And for good reason — it’s one of the best death metal albums of 2011. Antediluvian manage to push the genre forward with their dark, chaotic sound, that out of a formless murk, while showing off varied and creative songwriting. Easily the second best death metal album of 2011.
14. Blut Aus Nord – 777 – Sects/The Desanctification
Blut Aus Nord’s latest pair of albums has been on fucking everyone’s list. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before. Blut Aus Nord continue to push black metal forward with complex, beautiful albums. If you haven’t heard them yet, what the hell is wrong with you?
13. Midnight Odyssey – Funerals From the Astral Sphere
This album is just so beautiful. It’s the easiest album for me to listen to and just get lost in. Great cosmic ambience mixes with simple songwriting to create something wholly hypnotic. Music to get high to.
12. Seidr – For Winter Fire
Everything that Austin Lunn is involved with is fucking great, and Seidr is no exception. Incredibly naturalistic doom metal, this album is like an ancient pagan ritual, invoking the great spirit of the earth. Earthen tones and heavy riffs combine to bury the listener in beautiful sound, leaving one in awe of all the beauty the world has to offer. In a strong year for Doom, For Winter Fire easily stands out as one of the best of its genre.
11. Tukaaria – Raw to the Rapine
The fucking Black Twilight Circle delivers again. This album basically epitomizes the entire scene. While complex and raw, this album is a bit smoother than some of Tukaaria’s scenemates. However, it’s still an amazingly strong album, with a lot to offer the listener. I have yet to get tired of the BTC sound, and I suspect that until I do these albums will always rank highly.
10. Epheles – Je Suis Autrefois
Cause this list ain’t French enough. This album is a ferocious beast, pulling no punches. Every song is a simple, straightforward black metal assault. Epheles doesn’t really need to do anything all that unique here, as they’ve pretty much created the perfect black metal album, mixing ferocity with an icy cold atmosphere. One of the most enjoyable albums of 2011.
9. Mitochondrion – Parasignosis
Another album you’ve probably heard a lot about. Mitochondrion’s dark, twisted take on death metal is exactly what the stagnant genre needs. This evil and atmospheric album demands attention from its listeners, drawing them into the murk and formless void. Complex and creative songwriting add to the attraction. Best death metal album of 2011, hands down.
8. De Magia Veterum – The Divine Antithesis
Mories de Jong is best known for his twisted noise band Gnaw Their Tongues. De Magia Veterum is his twisted and demented take on black/death metal. This huge wall of twisted, complex sound will utterly destroy you. This album has no quite moments, no moments that will let you breathe or regain yourself. There is no relent from Mories de Jong’s assault. The Divine Antithesis leaves the listener battered and broken, thankful that it’s over. But after I finished listening to it, I played it again. And again. And again. It’s just an amazing and exhausting experience.
7. Manilla Road – Playground of the Damned
Fucking Manilla Road. One of my all-time favorite bands, releasing their 15th full-length album in 34 years. The production is surprisingly lo-fi, but the strength of the songs carries through. Hellroadie manages to carry out his vocal duties, occasionally switching up with Mark Shelton, whose voice is admittedly almost gone. But Mark is still one of metal’s best guitarists, and every riff on this album rules, and Mark still solos like a motherfucker, putting many younger wanky guitarists to shame. While not as great as 2008’s Voyager, Playground of the Damned is still fucking great.
6. Of the Wand and the Moon – The Lone Descent
Kim Larsen is a master of neofolk. His previous albums were dark and mysterious, yet strangely engrossing. The Lone Descent is a bit more straightforward than his previous albums. However, the band retain its signature dark feel, whilst creating something surprisingly catchy and memorable. The mix of lightness and dark creates a unique feel, and it’s one of the strongest neofolk albums that I’ve heard to date.
5. Arizmenda – Without Circumference Nor Center
More Black Twilight. Not much to say about this album, as everything I said about Tukaaria basically applies to Arizmenda as well. I just really enjoyed this release.
4. Midnight – Satanic Royalty
Ohio’s Midnight deliver the catchiest, most fun album of the year. Dripping with early Venom and Bathory influence, with just a hint of Abigail, Satanic Royalty just fucking rocks. The riffs are great, the solos are fun and bluesy, and the pure energy of the album is overwhelming. Turn it on and bang your fucking head.
3. 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room
I’ve talked about this album to death over at The Number of the Blog, so I don’t think I’ll say too much over this. Slow and full of despair, this album yet retains an air of hope. The fuzzy plodding riffs give rise to warm melodies, and Patrick Walker’s voice is pretty much the most emotional voice in the entire genre. This album is just pure emotion from start to finish.
2. Rome – Die Æsthetik Der Herrschaftsfreiheit
Yes, my second favorite album of 2011 isn’t metal. Deal with it. Rome started out as a martial industrial band that eventually became the best neofolk band currently operating. Die Æsthetik Der Herrschaftsfreiheit is an ambitious triple album that allows Jérôme Reuter to play with and expand upon every sound that has made up his career. Some songs are ambient, some martial industrial, some spoken word, and some the best neofolk songs you’ll hear all year. The neofolk songs are all catchy and memorable, with excellent lyrics sung in Jérôme’s beautiful deep voice. The other parts complement everything else, and work to create a unique experience, dealing with ideas of anarchy and liberty (indeed, the album’s title means “the aesthetics of freedom from domination”). Easily the best album of Rome’s career, and I have seen it mentioned absolutely nowhere. Get on this shit people.
1. Panopticon – Social Disservices
I did say that everything Austin Lunn touches his amazing. Fanboyism aside, this album is easily the best album of 2011, at least for me. Nothing comes close to touching it on any level. This album is emotionally charged, and emotionally draining. It is Austin’s rage at the social services of this country, and how abused children who enter this system are mistreated, further abused, and treated like criminals by a system that seems to despise them. The lyrics are formed out of the six years that Austin spent working with victims of child abuse, and the personal nature of this music shows.
But it is not all rage and anger and pain. In the final song “Patient”, Austin offers the listener of glimpse of beauty and hope, the promise of better days to come. The four songs on this album are all excellent on their own, but each builds on the other to create an atmosphere of total emotional commitment. Social Disservices is the most emotional, the most painful, the most hopeful, and the most personal album that I’ve heard all year. And for that, it is my favorite album of 2011.