This is why we can’t have nice things. 2010 spoiled us: new Agalloch, Triptykon, Alcest, the return of everyone’s favorite murderer, new Kylesa shirts, the list goes on. Someone must have pissed Lemmy off because the most talked about albums of 2011 were also the shittiest albums of 2011. Also, Rites of Darkness. Really?
More reasons why “the list” is the most stressful post of the year. Alcoholism rates among music journalists have risen by 300% in the last two weeks. This internal crucifixion makes significant others and all forms of responsibility mere figments of the imagination. My life is literally in shambles.
It’s not perfect, but I gave it my best shot. The albums absent from my list might actually be more striking than the list itself. This wasn’t done purposely, although I feel that 90% of the top 2011’s I’ve seen so far have four or five bands in common (L********, T****, M*******) with little to no variation. Yawn. At least Grim Kim’s MetalSucks list was a notable exception. For me, 2011 wasn’t too strong on the major releases, which received an overall grade of “meh.”
Bandcamp, you are a lonely candle flickering on the table of failure.
2011’s terrifyingly vast crop of demos and EPs was both frightening and exhilarating. Determining factors included essentials such as testing the physical limits of feedback, the rampant amount of US artists using made-up words to lurk under a Scandinavian guise, and whether or not Cvlt Nation got to them first. Unsigned and unpaid bands, you rule. You hustled and killed it this year. Keep on that grind so 2012 can be remembered for more than just giant album fails. Make those Power Moves.
Worth mentioning: I’m also loving the return of the cassette, since I’m usually the only 22 year old with an obnoxious yellow portable cassette player on the train. Limited vinyl pressings are gorgeous, valuable and understandably priced more than CDs. The artwork can be appreciated, I can dance around to my record player when no one’s around, and it comes in pretty colors. Unfortunately I don’t have the hundreds of dollars I would need to buy all the releases I wanted on vinyl. The first edition cassettes handed down to me by my brother are literally my only valuables. The small amount of cash needed to throw down for a tape player would be returned a thousandfold in savings. Also, in 1985 it was scientifically proven that mixtapes get you laid. Bring back the tape, hold the Peter Gabriel.
P.S. If it was 1996, or if reissues counted, this list would be Black Thrash Attack #1-22.
22 Helrunar – Sól – Pagan black metal that has never sucked. Rare.
21 Yellow Eyes – Silence Threads the Evening’s Cloth – Riffs: title track @ 2:00.
20 Oak Pantheon – The Void – Explained in detail here.
19 Alghazanth – Vinum Intus – Usually not my thing, but I got into these guys recently and there’s something about Vinum Intus that threatened me to put it on the list if I want to live.
18 Celephaïs- Becoming The Deceased – There are more than two bands with this name, and more than two 2011 releases, but the German demo is actually the best one. Artfully described as “musically it’s some kind of PostRock-Influenced Black Metal or something.”
17 Beithíoch – Dúchas – A fine instrumental album from one of Ireland’s best black metal groups. You can download their discography here.
16 Fen/De Arma – Toward the Shores of the End – Forget Epoch, this is so much better and De Arma’s contribution is impressive.
15 Benighted In Sodom – Reverse Baptism – The king of suicide noir bestows an hour of paralyzing depression upon his moping subjects.
14 Cold Body Radiation – Deer Twilight – Ambient and essential, but too cute to be in the top 5.
13 Whore – Whore Tape – Where have you been all my life?
12 Ghede – ix.xi Demo – Get over the noise, it’s fucking great and Ghede clearly don’t have time for that thing called “production.”
11 Heretoir – Heretoir – Why the lukewarm reviews for this post-metal masterpiece? My favorite album cover of the year hands down; while listening you will feel just as alone as that little guy on the cliff. Gorgeous, sad, tolerable clean vocals. A true winner.
10 Njiqahdda – The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death – Re-Animator IV: Herbert Takes Acid and Makes Killer Black Metal.
9 Cruel Force – Under The Sign Of the Moon – Witness the evolution of German black thrash and the Nattens Madrigal album cover.
8 Ghaust/Vestiges Split – A flawless, post-metal split with the crusty balls of d-beat. You can spare twenty minutes of your life just this once.
7 Grimoire – À La Lumière des Cendres – Proof that Québec is not to be fucked with. This is everything black metal should be.
6 Black Monolith – Demo EP - Like AA already said: “Furious d-beat crust piled upon a festering black metal carcass. There is nothing i don’t love about this demo EP. It’s aggressive, it’s dark and it’s pure. No overproduction, just raw, blackened d-beat. Check this out. It’s amazing.” Festering black metal carcass is the new everything.
#5 Midnight – Satanic Royalty
Lust, Filth, and Sleaze from Cleveland. Midnight’s “truly barbaric, vomit-stained sounds of Motörhead, Venom, Discharge, Hellhammer, early D.R.I., Carnivore” fucking rule. These guys formed in 2003 but Satanic Royality is their first proper full-length. This could be the soundtrack to so many illegal things it’s not even funny. Scrape together bail money before listening.
#4 Alda – : tahoma :
Although associated with the irritating “Cascadian Black Metal” scene, Alda is far from a cookie cutter WITTR. A band that successfully communicates their personal philosophy without coming off pretentious or false: something that usually doesn’t happen, and a major reason why : tahoma : is in my top five. Idealology aside, these expansive, sweeping soundscapes of neo-folk and atmospheric black metal hypnotize mind and soul. Alda’s passion and respect for the earth is perfectly materialized in nature’s own tribute album.
#3 Sabbat – Sabbatrinity
“The other Sabbat” is one of Japan’s best-kept secrets, and a much sexier export than octopus porn. Black thrashing since 1984, Sabbat’s discography is legitimately terrifying. I’ve yet to get through it all, but this band exhibits consistently excellent musicianship, almost making #1 and managing to sneak “witch” into every song title in the meantime. Thanks Aaron!
#2 Ära Krâ- Ferne Tage
The ghost of Fern Tage has been haunting me every since I first reviewed Ära Krâ’s incredible debut. I just want to crawl in and snuggle up to that wolf.
“Ära Krâ exhale ambient black metal, and manage to keep the endless cresting of desperate, impassioned vocals surrounded by this dark aura throughout the album. But there’s more going on here, from the surprising use of accordion in “Neuschnee” to “Licht,” a melodic exploration that could have come right off Agalloch’s more progressive Marrow of the Spirit.”
Also wins Prettiest Album of 2011.
#1 Avulse – I Am The Liquor
I’m not kidding. This might be one of the grimiest and lovable albums ever. I Am The Liquor is more fucked up and much more menacing than debut full-length Granted But Grace from This World. Avulse is and sounds like one man crawling through a filthy hellhole of black metal, crust, d-beat and punk (Maine). Wait…what? Is that a Jawbreaker cover? Yeah, that just happened. Avulse is the shit.
Runner-ups in neutral alphabetical order : Altar of Plagues – Mammal, Dämmerfarben – Im Abendrot, Deafheaven – Roads to Judah, Embers – Shadows, Infestus – E x | I s t, Kroda – Schwarzpfad, Lantlôs – Agape, Lifelover – Sjukdom, Loss – Despond, Negative Plane – Stained Glass Revelations, Noctem – Oblivion, Ordo Obsidium – Orbis Tertius, Over the Ocean – Paper House, Rotten Sound – Cursed, Vattnet Viskar – Vattnet Viskar, Vesen – Goat Carcass Rising, Woods of Desolation – Torn Beyond Reason