Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top 7 For 2011

Finally, I've written a list for you. I've only recently made a serious effort to keep track of new releases, so it's hardly exhaustive. There are definitely some very promising albums I've not yet heard in full, such as the new ones by Aosoth and Ride For Revenge.

As it is, here are 7 full-lengths with my brief comments. These certainly aren't ranked according to quality or anything like that--I'd have a hard time choosing, and for the most part comparing them would be totally "apples and oranges." Instead of posting album covers, I've posted Youtube links, because I want you to listen to them if you haven't already. There are 7 because that's about how many I could think of, and it's a magick number.


Hands down the most important album of the year. This is one of the best black/death recordings ever released, an unholy rebirth of the style that remains completely true to its essence. Antediluvian have nailed that overwhelming, utterly inhuman feeling you get from the very best extreme metal. If you enjoy the concept of Portal but wish they were actually brutal, this is for you. The most exciting thing happening in the underground right now is the Renaissance of war metal and bestial black/death, and Through The Cervix... may be its foulest fruit yet. Trial By Ordeal fucking loves this album--I've already reviewed it and B's praised it in his own year-end roundup.


The year's truest, noblest, and most beautiful album of pure Scandinavian black metal. It's probably tied with Cervix as my personal favorite of the year. Hoest has done a lot of new things within a very traditional framework, incorporating sounds from country and southern metal and writing riffs that simply don't sound like anything anyone's played before. Along with Craft's excellent and innovative Void, this should serve as a real fuck you to the posers of the USBM scene, who have shit-talked Scandinavia as "stagnant." But far more important than originality and scene politics is the ecstatic power Taake radiates throughout Noregs Vaapen. This was made with so much love. Check out my full review for The Bone Reader.


A glorious return by one of my all-time favorite bands. Blending post-punk and prog-folk into burly, catchy metal, Amebix unleash pagan hymns for the darkest days yet. Sonic Mass certainly sounds very different from their old 80s recordings, but this difference shows us what they were all about the whole time. Play it from beginning to end. I've already written a ton about this, so if you wanna read more check my original review here.


Head and shoulders above the trendies. As I'm sure you've noticed, it's been a big year for old-school death metal. Not really a good year, though. Even the best of the Stockholm clones, such as Miasmal, couldn't entice me to repeated listens. And it's hard to tell what's so special about Vanhelgd, aside from the fact that they sound like a thinly disguised crustgrind band. Then there were the real bottom-of-the-barrel hype magnets, like Vastum, with their strangely impotent pseudo-death, and Necros Christos, with their plodding, forgettable doom-death.

But there have definitely been high spots. Some old-school bands continue striving to make The Most Brutal Thing Ever instead of just imitating early 90s bands who tried to do that. Acephalix bring some fucking jams, and Sanguis Imperem's In Glory We March Towards Our Doom brims with martial fury and ancient atmosphere. But in death metal it's important to go with your gut, and I really fucking enjoy listening to Towards The Megalith. People always compare it to Incantation, but I'm not even really a fan of that band. Rather, I love the way Disma draw on Grave and Hellhammer/Frost. Simply the heaviest, grooviest, colossal-est thing I've heard this year. Plus if your idea of appealing real estate is a giant crypt flanked by screaming demon skulls, Towards The Megalith is just an awesome place to hang out.


Hell-raising, mold-breaking neofolk from my very own New York City. Where Douglas Pearce cultivated an aesthetic of distance and David Tibet swathed himself in mystique, Sean Ragon strides fiercely forward, light on his feet, sawing at his guitar and howling with battle-joy. I am continually amazed by his vocal patterns, his skill at giving real rhythmic character to every phrase and syllable. But it's not just about him. Cult of Youth's violinist, bassist, and drummer are crucial to the album, contributing a melodic depth and rhythmic power that's uncommon in neofolk (where the emphasis is almost always on the lyrics). Indeed, their full-band take on the genre really brings out its post-punk/goth undertones, evoking strange, forgotten English groups like Theatre of Hate. What's best about this music, though, is its untrammeled, uncompromising sincerity. Cult of Youth is the sound of truth being spoken.


Bloody fucking hatred unleashed. Strictly speaking this isn't as heavy as Disma, but it still might be the year's most crushing sonic assault. And it's certainly my favorite punk full-length. Of course, I'm using the word "punk" loosely here. New Lows play armor-plated metalcore influenced equally by Bolt Thrower and Integrity. These guys understand that before style, before memorability, heavy music is about channeling raw physical force. They've designed Harvest of The Carcass to send bodies spinning into a destructive frenzy. These riffs do work. And because New Lows have worked towards a concrete effect rather than a certain "sound," the music is strikingly original. This has never been done before. It's closest in attitude to beatdown hardcore, but more interesting, more agile, and even heavier. I think New Lows are summed up by their logo, which proclaims them heirs to Negative Approach. That's not a statement to make lightly, especially about your own band, but these guys have earned the right. For more in-depth writing about the music and a sick live video, here's my old "Get Into" feature.


This came out very late in 2010, and topped my (imaginary) list for that year, so I'm sticking it here because it damn well deserves to be heard. Let The Devil In didn't get much attention from critics, but I was hardly surprised because this shit is just too true for people who cream themselves over Agalloch and Deathspell Omega. And that's as it should be--Sargeist are the ultimate Finnish kvlt band. But they no longer sound like it. Where their earlier albums were notable for sounding a whole lot like Transylvanian Hunger but actually being pretty good, on this one they've truly come into their own.

With its elegant, sinister counterpoint melodies, Let The Devil In is a worthy heir to Gorgoroth's Under The Sign Of Hell. It has the same sense of decadent Baroque grandeur, of evil ascendant and proud. But there are two big differences. First, Sargeist are still minimalists, and this album is all about the hypnotic flow of tremolo riffage and blasting. Second, they've definitely hit on a mood all their own. Every epic harmony, every tortuously drawn-out scream is imbued with yearning. True to its name, Let The Devil In is a kind of Satanic devotional, a Black Mass, and there's something honest, naked, and even tender about it.

Oh, and an honorable mention goes to Gates of Slumber for being bearded badasses and recording one of the most depressing albums of all time. I'm just not a doom guy. Something I would've included if I'd done a full top 10.

1 comment:

  1. Pavel's list reposted here on The Bone Reader: