I’m not big on lists. They are a good way to focus writing, but there are some tracks that I think were better than entire albums I heard. There are bands that played amazing live shows that did not put out a record this year. I hate to overlook the best moments of music just to follow a structure. Plus, when I think all of the characters in High Fidelity, I get mad and throw things.
Here are my top five albums of 2011:
5. Anthrax – Worship Music
I’m finding this to be a pretty divisive record. They brought back Joey. There are now definite limits to his vocal range that make this a less than stellar homecoming performance. From Sound of White Noise on, Anthrax was moving into a lot of new directions. I’m going to look past their flirtations with nu-metal (hell, even the mighty Slayer downtuned and wrote a few jump around tracks in the late 90s), but Bush’s range and unique style gave them a fuller palate to play with. The thrash resurgence of late may have prompted this personnel change, but for most of this record I’m forced to imagine the tracks with John Bush. Maybe I was just too big a fan of “what if” issues of comic books as a kid. It’s nice to see the parents get back together, but things are just different since stepdad flew the coop.
Having said all that, a mediocre Anthrax record is still a pretty great record. For those of us who cut our teeth on Overkill and Testament, this is one heavy record. Precise, clear distorted riffs and clockwork drumming and a stomping bass line.
4. Black Tusk – Set The Dial
Although they made my top five, I have to say this album from Savannah sludgeteers Black Tusk was a disappointing follow-up to “Taste the Sin.” It’s still doom metal meets hardcore meets NWOBHM with three vocalists, each with his own brand of urgency in his voice, but TST had some amazing stand-alone tracks that this album just lacked.
All that being said, this album has been in heavy rotation for me for the past few months. The band seems to be moving in a more groove-oriented direction. I hear more Down in this record than the last. I anticipate great things coming from this band in the future. It would have been nice to hear another “Red Eyes, Black Skies” or “Embrace the Madness” on this record, but they just aren’t there. However, I’m excited to watch this band evolve in the coming years.
3. Lock Up – Necropolis Transparent
I remember as a kid catching a video from the Travelling Wilburys. At first I noticed George Harrison. I thought to myself, this is going to suck. Then I heard Bob Dylan’s voice and I started to feel sick. Then I saw Tom Petty and I was utterly confused and angry at the same time. Even though I didn’t know what a “baby boomer” was, I knew that this music was for really boring old people. It was my first experience with a supergroup. I think they were trying to cash in on the momentum of Live Aid without giving any of the money to starving African kids. It took me a while to realize that the concept of a supergroup could actually work. There was Phantasm, Fantômas, and Brujeria. You get some masters of brutality together and it can be amazing.
That’s how I feel about this band, Lock Up. You have one of my all-time favorite Swedish death metal vocalists and fellow metal high school teacher Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, Disfear, The Crown), Shane Embury (Napalm Death, Blood from the Soul, Brujeria), Anton Reisenegger (Pentagram, Criminal), and Nicholas Barker (Brujeria, Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir) making up this all-star lineup.
Lock up plays extremely fast, cut-to-the-chase deathgrind where each member gets to do his thing and they do it quite well. You have classic Embury style; clockwork grind riffs sandwiched between swirling atmospheric moments for when you can step out of the pit for a minute to catch your breath. Barker’s blastbeats and punishing double bass remind you that this isn’t Napalm Death. Tomas Lindberg’s vocals are intense with just enough punk sensibility to let you know that he’s thumbing his nose at the entire world.
2. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
I’ve played FU for friends and a common reaction is, “So what?” And then I take them to see the band live and they say, “Oh, I get it!” I don’t have to get deep into that, even NPR has described the FU experience. My one anecdote is from when I saw them at the Logan Square Auditorium. One of their guitar players had to go to the bathroom and singer Damian Abraham asked the crowd who knew how to play “Police.” A kid raised his hand and he ended up joining the band in a raucous rendition of their classic hardcore admonishment of the boys-in-blue.
This concept album tells a love story revolving around “David” who’s confused and excited about these new emotions he’s experiencing. Honestly, I didn’t dive deep into the story of the album so I can’t break the whole thing down for you. If that’s your thing, figure it out yourself. I just really like the contrast between Abraham’s intense screaming and the sweet melodies that drive this album through uncharted hardcore territory.
Click here for my review of FU’s “Year of the Ox” 12′.
This is not the album version, but the kids kill it.
1. Trap Them – Darker Handcraft
I caught these guys at Reggie’s Rockhouse opening up for Converge earlier this year. I was excited to see Converge, but I had seen them a thousand times. For me, Trap Them stole the show. I ran to the merch booth and picked up this album without hesitation. The singer, Ryan McKenney sold it to me and he could not have been a cooler guy. After a set of face-ripping intensity, he took a minute to chat with me even though I could tell he was sick. Honestly, that’s important. So on that note, I have to say please do not torrent this album. Go see them and buy the record from them.
If you look closely, I’m the guy in the red shirt up front.
The album opens with “Damage Prose” a D-beat thrasher with some mathier-Converge-esque parts that keep you interested and a break down that tore the house down at the Rockhouse. “Saintpeelers” is full-out crazy grind assault. These are a few of my favorite things.