NO ONE CARES, MATT SPECIAL: BEST MUSIC OF 2011
Here is how this is going to work: I’m not even going to bother with disclaimers. These are the top 20 music albums of 2011 as far as I am concerned. They are primarily metal, but there are other kinds of music as well. I organized them in two tiers – the first tier are the best albums of the year, the second tier the second best. So lets give it a go:
These are the top 10 albums of the year. While they are set in no order, I would like to separate Revocations Chaos of Forms as the album of the year for me, with Bon Iver’s album, Amaranthe and Trivium fighting underneath.
Revocation - Chaos of Forms
With this album, Revocation have set the bar way up high – this is the future of metal. Enough retro-thrash to sate you headbanging hunger, a smidgeon of prog to get the technical fluids going and a whole lot of death (even black) to punch you in the face with brutality. The sheer musicality of this album is breathtaking, and it brings back the grooves we all thought we have lost with the death of Dimebag. Put those horns way up. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver has gotten big now, with Kanye west stealing his riffs and Pitchfork lauding his quality – but it was only a little while ago that he was the quirky, lonely dude that locked himself in a cabin and wrote music. The sequel is more textured, varied and cohesive. It was my emotional soundtrack of the summer, and examining the lyrics and overall vibe, I think its geared up that way. The sweeping emotion that it runs you through culminates in Beth/Rest, one of the finest songs ever written by Bon Iver (ever?) – an unapologetic, soulful, shamelessly pop yet given a depth that stuns the listener. This album is one to carry the year.
Trivium – In Waves
Trivium must have realised there is no way to top Shogun without simply creating a Shogun pt2, so they have opted for a different approach: toning down the songwriting and going for catchy, energetic and simple. In Waves is a mixture of groove-based, more melodic songs and the brutal/technical side exhibited in Ascendancy and Shogun. While the simplification was a logical move by Trivium, refusing to copy the technicallity of Shogun again, it was also a turn-off for some. What remains true is that Trivium are still master songwriters, and In Waves is a hell of an album. More importantly, it survived multiple replays on my MP3 player, giving it staying power – something that cannot be said for a lot of the albums on this list. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Amaranthe – Amaranthe
Pop metal. Again, a title given to a pretty wide array of artists – from the sweetened rock of HIM to the catchy but brutal metal of Raunchy. Its gotten so far that some metal artists are branded pop metal just because they have melodic vocals. Amaranthes blazing debut is actual pop metal. Its Abba meets in flames. Its Celin Dion meets Children of Bodom. And boy is it great. The band employs three vocalists, one male one to do the growling vocals, one male singer to do the power/heavy metal tinged vocals and one female, very much pop vocal. When coupled with stellar production and uber-tight performance, this makes quite a cocktail. No mater how much of a jaded metalhead you are, its hard not to bob your head, mosh, or even sing along to some of these pop metal anthems. Its so catchy, its hard to put down. A keeper, and here is to a sophomore album soon.
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony
The album that opened the floodgates for me as far as brutal music goes. Normally repulsed by such brutality, I came across Fleshgod Apocalypse in a presser that described them as „Dimmu Borgir on coke“. The moniker was scathingly accurate – think of a symphonic orchestra struggling with Wagnerian abandon through a hail of black metal. Superb. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Iced Earth – Dystopia
Iced Earth’s first album with new singer Stu Block had a lot to prove, and boy did it do it. Stu showcased his amazing vocal ability to emulate both Barlow and Ripper (the previous singers) whilst putting his own impressive voice forward on certain tracks. This, however, would not be enough if the album did not feature brilliant songwriting. More to the point than its predecessors, Dystopia merges the speed and aggression of old Iced Earth with bombastic, Maiden-esque breakdowns and melodic songwriting. The lyrical themes only further the perfection, as it seems the respite from a conceptual album has been refreshing. The album of the year if you are into traditional or power metal. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Clare Maguire – Light after dark.
Every man has his soppy side, and mine was fed ever so efficiently with Clare Maguires breakthrough album. After finding out about her via the stunning remix of her song „Aint Nobody“ I found out she toured supporting Hurts (which I adore), giving me reason enough to check out her work. What I found was a earful of serious pop laced with pathos and finesse. Think of a darker, more melancholic Florence and the Machine that can actually sing. Though the album does feature some filler track, the standout singles offer plenty of pop to dance to and an abundance of melody to push you through hard, emotional times that you know you all go through even if you don't have periods. I used this album as emo healing, so I heartily recommend it to anyone in need.
While Heaven Wept – Fear of Infinity
I got into this band fairly late considering they’ve been at it for a while, but they seem to never disappoint. Their new album does not change the sound significantly but instead refines it to perfection. While Heaven Wept are masters of swooping, swooning emotional music and they continue their form. The intro track is possibly one of the most epic opening tracks of late.
Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
After all the drama and turmoil of founding member and drummer Mike Portnoy’s departure (and subsequent hiring of Berkley master Mike Mangini) it was an interesting experiment to see what it would do to Dream Theater’s sound. Whether or not it would have been any different with Mike, and the bands private issues aside, Dream Theater have made the best album since Train of Thought, and that is saying something. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Machine Head – Unto the Locust
Faced with a simmilar task as Trivium, Machine Head had to figure out how to top a masterpiece (Their previous album, The Blackening) Instead of shying away from the challenge, Machine Head hit it full force. Unto the Locust is a metalhead treat, showcasing a band in full stride. The songwriting is catchy and impregnable, and the band was meticulous in keeping only the freshest tracks on the album itself (thus the short runtime). Though perhaps not as memorable as its predecessor, Unto the Locust remains a brilliant example of how to make a followup to a masterpiece.
These are the other albums I loved but not as much as the first tier. While sometimes my choices here might seem strange (DT over Protest the Hero, whaaaa?!) I also measure these tiers by how much play time these albums have had on my MP3 – I simply enjoyed listening to some albums more often than others.
Mastodon – The Hunter
While I am not a big Mastodon fan (to the horror of most of my metal friends) I must admit I enjoyed this album. The reason must be the same for why true Mastodon fans didn't like it that much – its Mastodon going a more streamlined, stoner rock route than before. I maintain that Curl of the Burl should have set the tone for the whole album as its simplistic, single-material feel gives me a kick I never got out of Mastodon before. It is a perfect album for a Mastodon newbie, yes, but I will be blasphemous enough to claim this iteration of Mastodon is better than the others, and would not mind a further pop-ification of this band.
Protest The Hero – Scurrulous
I love PTH’s frantic brand of technical metal, and they only seem to be getting better with age. Though absorbing the album might require careful listening of each song multiple times (something I’ve yet to do for each song) it is worth the effort.
Children of Bodom – Relentless Recless Forever
Admitting Childern of Bodom is no longer the old Children of Bodom is a bygone conclusion, but if one is able to enjoy their music for what it is – Americanized Swedish melodeath with remnants of its power metallish sounds. Bodom once again deliver, offering a more textured sound than their previous outing with a nice layer of 80’s glam riffs over their usual brutal majesty.
Times of Grace – Hymn of a broken man
A more serious Killswitch Engage with more emphasis on melody and their old singer back? That pretty much sums up this Adam D (KSE guitarist) and Jesee Leach (original KSE singer) little side project – a soulful, groovy album that is bound to make you smile and bang your head, even if it is not particularly memorable longterm.
Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
Occasionally an artist will burst through the scene with something that may not be revoultionary in sound but offer such soul and quality that it demands being replayed over and over again. Jamie Woon, a talented artist and producer, gives such an offering with his new album. Its soulful r’n’b in the finest meaning of the word, and boy has it got groove and sould. Enjoy it with a cool drink or some melancholy.
Nightwish – Imaginaerium
This album is here solely because there is nothing like it – Nightwishes brand of operatic, movie-soundtrack pop-metal has no real competition. This said, it is possibly the worst of the last 3 Nightwish albums, mostly due to its attempts at being a full movie score without fully being a movie score. A more in depth review will be on soon.
Insomnium - One for sorrow
Melodic death metal is a moniker used for far too many different artists music that is only simmilar in their most basic form. Insomnium play a brand of music that best fits this genre – a oddly melancholic, minor based form of metal with its fair share of visceral aggression. This album is not too different from its predecessors, but that does not make it any less good. There is an old friend of mine,no longer with us, who would enjoy it even more thoroughly than I, which adds even more dark undertones for me when listening to it.
Leprous – Bilateral
Interesting proggy metal from the backing band od Isahn. The song „Restless“ tops everything else on the album and is an instant classic.
DTP – Deconstruction
Devin brings the heat on his „angry“ album, the neurotic twin to Ghost (his „chill“ album). It is a concise, profesional and above all, great sounding piece of music, as always peppered with Devins zany sense of humor and almost guru like dedication. If you have not heard his music before, this might not be the suitable opener, but if you are a fan of his wall-of-sound production and layered tunes, this album is the place to be. The songs do get occasionally tedious and ovewhelming, but that is a staple of Devins sound – you either like it or not. I do.
Subrosa – No help for the mighty
Atmospheric Doom with haunting string sections and a slightly distracting but unique vocal style. Definitely something to set the gloomy tone in your home and put you in a Gothic mindset.