(The Number of the Blog may have drifted out to sea in a blazing longboat, its spirit soaring on flames toward the Valhalla of metal blogdom, but its writers are still with us, and we’ve opened our doors to them until something new rises from the ashes. Today, we’re delighted to post a series of year-end lists and awards from that pillar of TNOTB, DemiGodRaven.)
Hey folks! So uh….how are you all?
I’d honestly thought that I would take the time that TNOTB was down to disappear for a little bit and recharge, then come back full steam ahead, but sadly things didn’t go the way Grover and I had planned them, so we find ourselves in the welcoming arms of Islander and the NCS crew. It has been an absolute pleasure being the court jester/news guy/reviewer over at TNOTB, so thanks to those of you who read my various ramblings over the past two years.
But enough reminiscing, because it is 2011 and I have to fulfill my last obligatory duty as an egomaniacal blogger and issue my top arbitrary number of reasons that my music taste is better than yours for 2011. Originally, I wasn’t planning to number this list since I think that, as I have gotten older (you know, by a whole year), the blood in my veins has cooled somewhat and my desire for conflict has dropped dramatically. This was supposed to be a sort of peaceful declaration of how I had moved beyond numbering things and just wanted to list 10 discs that really stood out for me this year. I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t find myself subconsciously ordering the damn thing anyway because as soon as I wrapped up this list and gave it a quick glance over I noted that the way this thing lined up was pretty fucking close to my enjoyment of each album.
A note though: 2011 was an absolutely incredible year for music, and even though the albums on here may not be consistent with the ratings I gave them over at TNOTB (you guys can go look them up if you want!), this really became an archive of albums that got the most spins from me this year. Also, as I wrapped up this list I started writing out stuff that I wanted to include as well, which I didn’t bother to order and kept small, so once you are done with my 10 keep scrolling down and see what else I thought about this year.
10) Mastodon – The Hunter
The reaction to this album has been somewhat mixed but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find myself enjoying the hell out of it. The Hunter saw Mastodon returning to a stripped-down, less progged-out style of music. Each song on this disc was an entirely different story, with some of them delving into the band’s acid rock glory, others being decidedly more metal, and one being such a radio rock song that even the sham of a radio station that is 98 Rock in Sacramento actually plays the damn thing.
I was of the decided minority that didn’t really get into Crack The Skye all that hard and found myself wishing for a return to the spastic, heavier stylings of Leviathan and Remission, and The Hunter managed to scratch that itch really well. It was also reminiscent of the heavier moments on Blood Mountain while still avoiding sounding exactly like that disc. The album was also a great value for the money, giving you 15 songs if you went for the special edition of the disc. To top off my enjoyment of this disc, when I saw them live back in November the group played a 22-song setlist that included a large chunk of The Hunter, and it holds up amazingly well live. You can actually watch that show here if you would like, courtesy of the amazingly sexy gentlemen over at Capital Chaos.
9) Sylosis – Edge Of The Earth
My love for Sylosis is incredibly storied by this point. They were one of the first bands I ever really threw my weight (the hefty amount there is) behind, back when TNOTB first started out. It was my belief that the group’s previous disc Conclusion Of An Age had ascended past the generic metalcore label into something decidedly more epic. There were a million and a half different guitar leads on that release, and that was something that Edge Of The Earth continued in full force. The band managed to recover from a pretty hefty lineup shift that saw them change into a four piece and a disappearance of quite a few years.
With Edge Of The Earth, Sylosis moved fully into an epic thrash direction, with almost every song stretching well past the five-minute mark. There were solos for days, and those aforementioned million riffs will likely keep budding guitarists busy for a long time coming. Vocals on Edge Of The Earth were also markedly different from the group’s previous release, yet they were still really good. They sounded like a younger Joe Duplantier (of Gojira fame) in some sections, and in others the screams were reflective of how the group used to sound. Edge Of The Earth was an excellent recovery for a younger band that had to go through a pretty rough time. Hopefully, the group has exorcised those demons. Here’s to what they bring us in the future.
8) Septic Flesh – The Great Mass
You’ll note that from this point on, the list exposes the quirks in my personality pretty hard. I absolute love a flair for the dramatic in my music, and Septic Flesh captured that incredibly well with The Great Mass. The whole disc is completely intertwined with the orchestral sections behind it so that every movement that happens is humongous sounding and grand. Even a more straightforward death metal song like “Five Pointed Star” sounds huge on this disc. Septic Flesh are in their comfort zone on The Great Mass, and the album proves that even if they aren’t making gigantic steps forward in sound, they still sound incredible. This whole disc is just booming in terms of production and is one of the few that I would recommend running through an expensive sound system. You hear every single subtle trill of the instruments behind the band, as well as the explosive drumming and hammering of the the guitars. The band absolutely killed it on this release.
7) Lock Up – Necropolis Transparent
Here is one disc that find its groove and then over the span of 17 songs proceeds to beat the everliving fuck out of you with it. Relatively un-discussed super group Lock Up released an absolute monster of an album in Necropolis Transparent. The band’s legacy pretty much guaranteed that this release was going to be a disgustingly huge slab of deathgrind, and that is exactly what you got with this release.
It’s difficult for me to explain why this disc appeals to me so much, but a large part of it is the fact that it just never seems to let up. Necropolis Transparent is this year’s equivalent of screaming at a wall in absolute rage. It just hammers away at your very existence. While it didn’t do anything incredibly new, it remained consistently good throughout. The various members of this band excel on this release, including frontman Tomas Lindberg, whose incredibly hoarse vocal delivery has proven to be incredibly divisive throughout the years. Here, it fits in well because it actually sounds like he is yelling at the top of his lungs, while the musicians behind him do the equivalent of such an act on their instruments as well.
6) Xerath – II
I honestly couldn’t get through a 2011 list of my favorite releases without paying some lip service to the underrated II by Xerath. Bar none, this is the band who should be the leaders of the bastardized genre known as ‘Modern Metal’, not the radio friendly garbage that is pedaled by groups like Sonic Syndicate and Dead By April. Xerath effectively combine several different genres on this release into a monstrously progressive and amorphous blob that is incredibly difficult to define moment to moment. II has so many different epic moments and songs on it. One moment the band could be doing a straightforward stomp of a rock song before rolling into something that wouldn’t be out of place on a death metal disc. Behind it all lays a massive layer of synths and orchestration that fully develops the background drama as if it were a chaotic stage play. Rest assured though, Xerath are completely in control of the wall of sound that they lay before you and II is an excellent example of that skill.
5) Symphony X – Iconoclast
Oddly enough, this was the one ‘power metal’ release that really stood out for me this year. Symphony X lie in that weird divide between power and progressive, and yet something like Iconoclast comes along and proves that the band just make really good music. This was a disc that was a long time coming, too, with the group’s previous release hitting back in 2007, leaving the band’s fans to chomp at the bit for any scrap of information regarding a new disc for the next four years.
The special edition of Iconoclast is incredible (it should have just been the regular edition of this album — you seriously give up 50 minutes of music by getting the ‘regular version’). Symphony X continue down the path that they began to travel on Paradise Lost, only to get much darker and heavier than they had ever been, while at the same time retaining enough of the flair in their sound that makes you fully aware that, yes, this is a Symphony X disc — including tons of choral pieces as well as numerous keyboard and guitar solos that border on the performers spasming on their instrument. This disc is full-on prog wankery at its finest, while still retaining the fact that the band are still within the confines of a song. There are also very few ballads on this disc but man, when they do show up they are written incredibly well.
4) Mechina – Conqueror + Andromeda
Mechina’s Andromeda single came out of nowhere for me. It was a late night videogame session with Last.fm running in the background, and all of a sudden I hear this amazingly epic orchestral/industrial metal song come blaring through my speakers. Almost ten minutes later I found myself on a quest to find this band that had somehow managed to combine my love for symphony in metal with the industrial elements of a group like Fear Factory into this amazing monster.
I found myself at the doorstep of Chicago-based group Mechina, who earlier this year released a disc called Conqueror that literally barely qualifies to be on a best of 2011 disc (Release date: 1/1/11). It exceeded my every hope by essentially just being an hour-long version of the song “Andromeda”, delving into elements of sci-fi, astronomy, and philosophy in a way that made it seem like the band wrote the whole CD with me in mind.
Andromeda was actually released as a single for free over at the group’s home website after Conqueror came out, but I am literally unable to talk about one without mentioning the other. The group also have a disc called Empyrean that was supposed to come out in January of 2012, but the release has since been pushed back a bit so the group could refine the music some more. Judging by the samples that the band have put up so far, we may be looking at the possibility of a Mechina release appearing on my best of 2012 as well.
3) The Black Dahlia Murder – Ritual
With Ritual, The Black Dahlia Murder continue their upward trend into the pantheon of my favorite bands. When the guitarists for this band came out and said that this disc contained some of their strongest writing ever, they weren’t lying. Every song on the album hits incredibly hard, and the hooks on this disc sink themselves into your skin and just pull at you. If the last.fm scrobbler ever worked correctly with my ipod, I’m there would probably be a million listens to “A Shrine To Madness” alone, not counting the humongous number of times that I listened to this CD all the way through. This one wound up in my car for the better part of four months, and I never felt the need to change it.
The Black Dahlia Murder have refined their formula to the sharpest it has ever been with Ritua ,and the group deserve serious commendation for that. This disc is tied with Nocturnal as my favorite so far by this band, so here’s hoping that they are able to continue this upward swing if/when they get around to doing another release.
2) Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony
This one came damn close to being my album of the year. It has everything I want in metal these days and on top of that it had a ton of orchestral work. Earlier in this list I made a note of my love of drama in music, and no band is better at that these days than Fleshgod Apocalypse. This album is opera in metal form, no doubts about it. Agony rarely lets up and everything it does, it does absolutely huge.
I acted for a small bit of time back in my schooling days, and one of the things that always stuck in my mind was the conviction that on-stage you had to overact everything – not to the point of being absolutely ridiculous, but enough that people could see and hear what you were doing from the seats all the way in the back. This meant you had to talk louder, make grandiose movements, and leave barely any room for subtlety. While I doubt this lesson holds up as you move to bigger stages and more professional plays, that amateur’s acting lesson seems to be the motif that Fleshgod Apocalypse abide by when they make music.
There are zero subtleties in this band’s music, and if they can do something louder, then you better believe they will. From the obnoxiously dramatic high-pitched singing to every single flare of the orchestra, Fleshgod Apocalypse are essentially making a stage play in musical form for people to listen to. Every song flows into the next one, and occasionally you get something that resembles a fairly catchy single (see “The Violation”), but most of the disc is just one battering after another. It is an incredible listen and one that I feel everyone must give a shot in order to get a feel for where the bar was set in 2011.
Also: Bonus points for a fucking badass cover of Carcass’ “Heartwork”.
1) Insomnium – One For Sorrow
A lot of you probably guessed that this would be my #1 album this year, considering my rampant fanboyism for Insomnium. You’re talking to a guy who literally wrote a love letter to the group’s 2006 release Above The Weeping World (seriously! Look it up!), so you can imagine I was incredibly excited at the prospect of new Insomnium in 2011. Of course, I wouldn’t be including this release if I honestly didn’t feel it was my top disc for the year, but imagine my excitement as I sat down to listen to the album only to discover that the band had written something that was somehow at least on par with and occasionally exceeded both 2006’s Above The Weeping World and 2009’s Across The Dark, yet still remained defiantly it’s own distinctive release.
The group remained as melancholic as ever on One For Sorrow, whilst adding more clean singing and some orchestration to their sound. They even managed to write an incredible melodeath song in “Every Hour Wounds”. Insomnium are one of those bands everybody needs to hear by this point, as their collective discography contains some of the best music available. They make an excellent rainy-day band as well. One For Sorrow slides itself almost flawlessly into this group’s repertoire, and listening to it is bound to make any Insomnium fan feel like they are in the comfort of their own home. This one was easily my 2011 album of the year, and nothing else, no matter how hard it tried, was going to knock it out of that spot.
And now, for the shit that got bubbled off this list throughout the year…
Neuraxis – Asylon – This one was on this list until literally the very last second when Insomnium’s One For Sorrow showed up and gave it the boot. A solid slab of tech-death where you couldn’t even tell that it was essentially a whole new band. V!!!! V!!!!!
Opeth – Heritage – This one was just a little too familiar for me as it saw Opeth fully giving in to their progressive roots and releasing a prog-rock album. Unfortunately, it’s all composed of stuff they were comfortable with, and as a result it sounds like they are taking it easy. It’s an excellent listen, but this was not a year when the band should have kicked their feet up.
Tesseract – One – Sadly, this disc never had a chance of making it. The djent movement to me just feels like a hollow gimmick, and very few bands are worth a fuck. Tesseract is one of those groups, hybriding a sound that became something akin to Tool + Meshuggah and it turned out awesome. Then the frontman quit, so the one thing that was a large part of why I enjoyed the band isn’t there anymore. New guy sounds decent though, so I’ll be watching these guys in the future.
The Haunted – Unseen – The group finally made a disc that continued down the twisted path of The Dead Eye and it pissed a lot of people off. I enjoyed the musical variety and outright oddball-ness that the disc presented. “The Skull” is a fantastic song.
Blood Stain Child – Epsilon – Yep, even though Blood Stain Child had another huge lineup shift that led to a new leading lady taking over for an ostensibly male vocalist and a shift toward a combo of J-pop + Trance + Melodeath, I still found myself enjoying Epsilon. The combo works out well as long as you accept that this disc is like candy. It rots your fucking teeth out by being so sweet, but the first nine or so songs are great. Just stop the CD before you hit “Dedicated To Violator”.
Obscura – Omnivium – Cosmogenesis 2.0 you say? Sold. However, there were just too many bands doing interesting things this year for Obscura to do the same disc again.
Born Of Osiris – The Discovery – I fucking hated this band up until this disc. I even thought their previous release was just the same song 12 times, but I guess when you combo an ambitious group with a new producer you can still get an awesome album. The Discovery just grooves, and each song has its own little gimmick to make it sound different from the rest, whether it be a melodic guitar lead or a section of just the frontman screaming over drums. It’s a simple trick, but it worked out well for the guys. The Discovery is an adventurous record for Born of Osiris, and they deserve commendation for that.
All Shall Perish – This Is Where It Ends – My dumbass deathcore CD for the year. This Is Where It Ends is just meatheaded, huge sounding, and fucking dumb without sounding like it’s playing to a crowd. The band try a lot of different things and wind up comboing their earlier releases into this beast. The songs “Spineless” and “Divine Illusion” stand out incredibly strong here.
Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising – With Oden On Our Side: Return Of The Jedi.
Devin Towsend – Deconstruction – I enjoy this disc highly, but there are certain things about it that made me feel like Devin was either trying to hard to get his point across or just getting a tad too preachy. I’m also that one guy he bitches about relentlessly who wants him to do more Strapping material, so go figure — my favorite songs on this disc are “Juular”, “Sumeria”, “Pandemic”, and “Poltergeist”, i.e., the ones that sound the most like Strapping Young Lad.
Machine Head – Unto The Locust – This was an album that made an amazing first impression on me. I loved, loved, loved this disc upon first hearing it, yet after about a month I never found myself listening to it anymore. I don’t know if the whole thing was the musical equivalent of a sugar rush or if I just get really fucking excited over new Machine Head. Unto The Locust is still a great album, but its lack of staying power found me giving it the bump at the last possible second.
But that’s not all folks! There’s more!
I don’t know how it happened, but over its two-year lifespan TNOTB became something of a haven for solo projects and instrumental groups. Part of it may be because these guys are total publicity whores, but I have to say it was nice to have dozens of guitar works available for listening, and it was incredibly easy to come up with a list of 10 that I think really mattered in 2011.
Scale The Summit – The Collective
Scale The Summit are pretty well known by this point and for good reason: they make excellent instrumental music. I got the opportunity to see these guys live on the Slaughter Survivors tour, and they held up just as good as they do on The Collective. This disc saw the band getting a little bit heavier than usual, and by a little bit I mean a little bit. Scale The Summit deal in the ethereal, and that doesn’t change much here, but when the group do decide to kick all things into high gear, The Collective really shines.
Keith Merrow – Awaken The Stone King
Keith Merrow is something of a legend around the internet. The guy is easily approachable through multiple means and he’s become a very prominent guitarist over the past two years. His first release came out for free and was decidedly sci-fi themed, but with Awaken The Stone King he took a very risky direction and actually charged money for the disc. Of course, this demands a whole new style of criticism, because the question then becomes, “Well, is it worth the money?”, and the answer to that is an almost unequivocal “yes”.
There is serious passion in the guitar playing on this album, as well as some amazing solo work. Thematically, the release is very different from the sci-fi aspects of old and instead it travels into the fantastical. There’s more emphasis on emotion in the playing, whereas Keith was precise to a T on the previous disc. This was one of the better guitar releases of the year and completely worth the pittance he was asking for it.
Returning We Hear The Larks – Proud England
Jak Noble is one of the more prominent basement guitar virtuosos out there today and his mastery of the ambient really helps seperate him from the pack. He demonstrated this to full effect on Ypres, so when Proud England came around the fact that he had decided to keep it as an EP and add vocals was a shock. The music still turned out to be very good, and Jak is a hell of a vocalist. He even let us use the opening song from Proud England as the second track on the TNOTB sampler that we put out a while back. This was another one of those releases where the artist decided to charge for the first time, and it turned out to be completely worth it.
Long Distance Calling – Long Distance Calling
These guys are my personal favorites among the unsung instrumental groups. After four releases the band finally decided to go with a self-titled album, which must have been largely inspired by the clusterfuck of album art you witness before you. What lay within, however, was more fantastic instrumental prog music. These guys are constantly being compared to Scale The Summit, but I think they have very different approaches despite their similar genre. Occasionally these guys will have vocalists contribute to their songs (Jonas Renske of Katatonia, Peter Dolving of The Haunted, and John Bush are highlights), and I think that Long Distance Calling don’t really care too much for technicality, whereas occasionally Scale The Summit will do some finger workouts. Also, LDC’s sound is very bass-heavy and isn’t really based on guitar leads. This one was one of my relaxation CDs.
Blotted Science – The Animation of Entomology
The movement of the study of bugs?
However, this one is one of the instrumental wizardry releases that hit this year. If you are a musician and aren’t aspiring at least to be playing some of this, then you are not excelling at your craft. It’s like martial arts masters who are going out to fight other better known martial arts masters. You may be good at your style, but you need to learn the others and know what else is out there. Blotted Science made an absolutely amazing release here, scored to different movie scenes featuring bugs (which has made for some amazing music video work). It’s a smaller EP, but man, some of the walls of notes that come flying your way are fucking incredible and the slap bass playing that starts to rear its ugly head about halfway through is really good as well. The whole CD just makes me feel like less of a person, and perhaps I should go outside and consider selling my drum kit.
Christian Muenzner – Timewarp
Now this disc was an absolutely pleasant surprise this year. The famously tech-death axeman of Spawn Of Possession and Obscura fame came out of nowhere with this solo release and made…power metal? This was a disc that had a lot more in common with power metal guitar playing than was given credit for. It was like he was this completely other person who wanted to make a million different songs before heading back into the dark realms of death metal, and Timewarp was his way to do so. This album contained some hefty shredding from beginning to end, as well as some of the strangest song formulations to come out of this guy yet. Timewarp seemed to go somewhat unnoticed, and if you haven’t given it a chance yet you need to do so now.
Tyrant Of Death – Dark Space/Macrocosmic Lunacy/Alice’s Heroin Wonderland
If there is one thing I enjoy, it’s loud, booming, industrial metal, and the Tyrant Of Death project deals with this in spades. Granted, there were about six or seven different releases under the Tyrant Of Death name this year, and every single one of them was pretty good. However, some of them favored the electronica side of things, which is perfectly fine by me, but when compared to the heavier, darker, and more extreme works of Dark Space, Macrocosmic Lunacy, and Alice’s Heroin Wonderland, you can see why I might take a shine to the latter.
Dark Space hits especially hard for me and even contains one of my favorite Tyrant Of Death songs in “Sanctuary”. All of the Tyrant of Death material so far has been free, so you would be doing yourself a massive favor to seek them all out. These three especially.
Tre Watson – Gravestones
Tre has always been a long time friend of TNOTB, and it was great to see him mature as a musician over the span of his three releases so far. Gravestones is his latest and I think it might actually be his best. It shows him bravely experimenting with a variety of different sounds and blurring them all seamlessly. We even featured one of the album’s songs in demo form back during the TNOTB sampler days, yet it is still worth it to hear it again with all new vocal work and mastering on Gravestones. The 8-bit section makes the first song and even the 16-minute epic of “Dancing On Gravestones” seem to go by incredibly fast. If you hadn’t warmed up to his earlier works, you need to give this one a listen. It’s worth it.
Dan Dankmeyer – Origin
Origin, for some reason, seems to have been criminally overlooked this year. I think that it is one of Dan’s better releases as it eschews some of his more familiar sounding guitar melodies for some decidedly more epic and progressive song structures. Every song on Origin is a lengthy experience, and they rarely repeat themselves. They also sound as good as anything Dan has ever done, and that alone makes it worth a listen.
Cloudkicker – Let Yourself Be Huge/Loop
It is impossible for me to do a best of 2011 without covering Cloudkicker’s two (!) latest releases in the form of Let Yourself Be Huge and Loop. Some of the stuff on Let Yourself Be Huge may seem familiar to some of you guys, as “You And Yours” was a Christmas gift last year and we managed to snag a post on “Its Inside Me, I’m Inside It” back on TNOTB. However, that does not change the fact that Cloudkicker has still released an acoustic masterpiece in Let Yourself Be Huge. Ben has an amazing ability to speak with a guitar and say a million things with the pluck of one string and it shines through here. Believe it or not, this was actually the soundtrack to my time out in the Christmas tree lot at my store this year, and it is infinitely better than any form of garbage Christmas music.
Loop is a colleciton of undeveloped songs and audio experiments, yet they still sound way better than what most artists are proud to release. These two are easily my top instrumentals this year, even though I’m not ranking them amongst the others.
still here? Good.
I decided to do a small section for some of the smaller EPs that I came across and enjoyed this year. They range anywhere from two to five songs, but all contain quality music from up-and-coming bands. Some will be more familiar than others, and if they aren’t, then my taste is superior to yours and you should do something to rectify that.
Dagon – Vindication
Vindication was a five-song EP released by oceanic metal band Dagon earlier this year. It continued what the band started on Terraphobic and that is making fucking incredible melo-death/speed metal. The subject matter is suitably ridiculous and the music follows suit. I wish 2011 would’ve seen a full release from these guys after the incredible amount of quiet time from their camp, but Vindication was a good enough salve to hold me over for a while. It’s still pretty difficult to find, but amazon has it as a digital download on the cheap.
Bispora – The Cycle
It is always a joy of mine to come across an excellent Sacramento band, because it reminds me that even though we’re two hours away from San Francisco and everybody just assumes we’re some sort of suburb of that city, we’re still our own place. Granted, it smells like cow shit for about a month and only functions in two temperatures (too fucking hot and too fucking cold), but Sacramento still has a laid-back insanity that I do enjoy. Bispora came out of nowhere for me. Grover posted their EP on his Facebook page, and that is how I found them. Only after reading the band members’ names did I realize that I knew a couple of them from my time in bands and that they were local.
The Cycle is essentially one twenty-minute song that bounces between a couple of different genres as deftly as Between The Buried And Me do. The main motif of The Cycle is excellent. It is seriously one of the best melodies of the year. You’ll know it when you hear it because it earworms its way into your head and gets stuck there for days.
Aether Realm – Odin Will Provide
Here is another one that I came across during my time at TNOTB. Aether Realm are viking metal upstarts based in North Carolina of all places. Odin Will Provide was a quality two-song EP, and while it didn’t do anything revolutionary, the guys proved that they had the chops to stand with the best out there. This band has a lot of potential, and here’s hoping that they continue down the path they’ve started.
Awake In Sleep – Awake In Sleep
Post/Sludge metal was one of those genres that lent itself really well to the TNOTB format for some reason. We always had one or two groups asking for us to listen to them. I gave Awake In Sleep a chance and came away pleasantly surprised. Their four-song, self-titled EP is available on Bandcamp and it’s worth it, if only to get lost in the atmospherics of it all.
still more . . .
LIST OF SHIT I ENJOYED THAT IS DECIDEDLY NOT METAL
Here is where things get interesting because despite my position as a metal writer, I do have some decidedly not-metal tastes. I have a very heavy electronic twitch, as well as a love for progressive and ambient stuff. Also, if you don’t figure it out by the end of this list, I have a humongous mancrush on Steven Wilson and everything he does.
Fair To Midland – Arrows And Anchors
I was never really a huge fan of Fair To Midland prior to this disc. I thought that the music they wrote was catchy but they never quite caught on with me. Until Arrows and Anchors anyway. This disc contains some of the best rock music that you will likely never hear on the radio. The band continue with their strange/experimental ways, yet somehow the songwriting on this album is the strongest that it has ever been. Even the bonus track, which is usually a garbage B-side, is an awesome song on this release. It converted me into a fan of the band and I have now seen them twice this year.
Steven Wilson – Grace For Drowning
One of the best things about being a fan of Porcupine Tree is that it really lends itself to becoming a huge fan of anything Steven Wilson does in general. This is a great thing because the man is always busy, so you’re never too far away from hearing him work some musical magic. Grace For Drowning is the followup to his last solo release Insurgentes and it is a darker disc, but also one that sounds more confident. It includes some amazingly eerie songs, and tracks like “Black Dog” and “Index” almost make the whole CD. That doesn’t even include the epic that is “Raider II”, which is one of the best songs to pass out to this year.
Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA
See what I mean?
Blackfield is another Steven Wilson project, although this one sees him working with fellow musician Aviv Geffin to make something decidedly more soft-rock. However, a darkness still permeates this album despite its relatively positive exterior. Some excellent progressive rock lies within these walls, and the whole theme manages to fit perfectly with the cover art of one man looking amongst the clouds.
The Mass Of Celldweller Material
Celldweller is easily one of my favorite electronica artists of all time. Klayton is an amazing musician and producer, and 2011 saw a large bulk of his work being remixed, redone, or finally being released. Wish Upon A Blackstar even got a release date, which is an accomplishment in its own right. Granted, that will be next year, but because it has been so long, there has been even more new music added to the whole release. In the meantime we’ve gotten to enjoy a large chunk of the remixes that made up the Celldweller live show this year as well as an excellent song in “I Can’t Wait” (and an excellent metal cover by Jay Ray, look it up).
The Saints Row: The Third Menu Music
Seriously. Bump. This. Fucking. Shit.
LYRICS OF THE FUCKING CENTURY
The Browning – All Of Burn This World
The Browning are one of the many electronica + metalcore projects out there these days, but surprisingly enough these guys manage to make it work by incorporating those elements with their regular music as opposed to keeping them as separate things and shoehorning them together. One of the more amazing accomplishments for Burn This World, however, is the fact that it is literally the first metal album written by a high school guidance counselor. Seriously, check out this lyric video for the song “Ashamed”.
‘Be proud of who you are/Be yourself and you’ll reach the stars’
Daaaw, how sweet. Thanks guys.
BEST “HOLIDAY” DISC
Austrian Death Machine – Jingle All The Way
Last time Austrian Death Machine did a holiday release it was decidedly not that good. This time, however, the followup is fucking great and even manages to be funny. By mocking the movie Jingle All The Way, the group allow themselves to really fuck around in these songs and do some ridiculous shit.
2010’s 2012 ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Gojira – Sea Shepherd
This one’s for you Des! Keep the dream alive!
DREAM THEATER’S DREAM THEATER AWARD FOR MOST DREAM THEATER-EY ALBUM RELEASED BY DREAM THEATER
Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
Never would’ve seen this one coming, huh?
BEST MESHUGGAH SONG NOT RELEASED BY MESHUGGAH IN 2011
Decapitated – “404”
Not only was Carnival Is Forever a great disc, this song just fucking crushes things.
And that’s it guys. Thanks for reading whatever the hell this list became and thanks for all of your support during TNOTB’s lifespan. I hope to make more appearances in the future on whatever website I wind up at and I look forward to whatever this ‘next step’ becomes. Hope you guys enjoyed this ridiculous archive of 2011 in a nutshell and I will see all of you soon. ~DGR