Welcome to 2012, Metal Blast readers!
We hope that you had a fun and safe end to 2011, and look forward towards a whole new year of metal in 2012. I’m very much aware that we are a bit late on this, but all three of us have very hectic schedules to keep, so sue us. Just be glad you’re getting to read our glorious and always correct opinions on what albums we believe to be the crown jewels of 2011 in the first place!
Matt Barlow’s departure from Iced Earth was, undoubtedly, a sad event for the fans. With the fresh memory of Ripper Owens’ disastrous tenure as singer after Barlow left the first time, we were all afraid that the same thing would happen again. The fears were accentuated by the fact that Jon Schaffer had chosen Stu Block, an unknown singer, to replace Barlow. Imagine my surprise when I listened to this masterpiece. Although Block can sing like Barlow he also shows his own personal style while singing Schaffer’s compositions in what, in my opinion, was perhaps the best album of the year.
Although far from their progressive roots (which can now be found in Heri Joensen’s side project “Heljareyga”) Týr’s “The Lay of Thrym” was a great success this year. Even though some fans were not fully satisfied with the more “simple” approach used in this album (too commercial, perhaps?) the songs were still powerful and, most of all, catchy.
The strongest point of the album is its lyrics. Joensen didn’t limit himself (as many “pagan” or “folk” bands do) to write about beer, vodka, ships and pillaging, but actually wrote very profound songs about issues such as politics, racism, tyranny and, of course, mythology.
I’ve been a fan of Turmion Kätilöt since the first time I heard the powerful Pirun Nyrkki (both the album in general as well as the particularly awesome song of the same name) so I really had my hopes up for this record.
True to their style, the band once again manages to sound like a combination of KMFDM, early 90’s Nine Inch Nails and an S&M movie. The sound is, as usual, strange so some people, new to Industrial metal, may find it a complicated; however, it’s the kind of album that grows on you. Believe me, if you don’t find yourself singing “Grand Ball” over and over after listening to this album, there has to be something wrong with you.
This album, by far the band’s strongest and most successful one to date, finally establishes Pagan’s Mind as a strong player in the heavy metal scene, and not simply as a mere example of Progressive Metal.
Heavenly Ecstasy is an album considerably more accessible that their previous works. Just as Týr did with the Lay of Thrym, Pagan’s Mind opted to record songs that highlighted not only the instrumental part of the music, but that also (and maybe especially) showed the great vocal qualities of singer Niels K. Rue.
If you like Progressive Metal or if you simply enjoy a good dose of Heavy Metal, you must get this album.
Dr. Mantis Toboggan
After the horrific tragedy that was Midheaven, I think many people wrote off The Human Abstract, and if you’ve ever listened to that album you wouldn’t blame them. Gone was the energy and technicality from Nocturne, replaced with a bland, uninteresting lump of an album. If Nocturne was damn-fine New York pizza, Midheaven was some generic brand that you got in the frozen foods aisle – tasteless and without merit. Digital Veil was a complete 180 degree turn, and fully restored most people’s faith in the band. The energy and creativity from Nocturne returned (and so did their guitarist), and while the album was a bit on the short side, what is on it is superb. It’s a shame that the album feels a bit rushed and lacking; if it didn’t it would have certainly been a little higher on this list.
A triumphant reunion for Adam Dutkiewicz and Jesse Leach, The Hymn Of A Broken Man recalls the best moments of Killswitch Engage before Jesse left. With Adam’s signature production style highlighting the guitars above all else, the album just oozes with catchy choruses and riffs with almost every song, Conceivably, this is the path that Killswitch would have taken if Jesse had not left – after all, Adam and Jesse made up a majority of the song writing for the band before the lineup got changed up – and it certainly does not disappoint. It’s just an incredibly tight album that was executed as well as it could be; and turned out to be one of the best of the year.
While Born Of Osiris’s previous album A Higher Place showed flashes of what the band was capable of; it was never consistent all the way through and suffered from various pitfalls that a young bad would usually employ – overused clichés, riffs that sounded too alike and a keyboardist that seemingly disappeared and reappeared from song to song at will. The Discovery changes all of that, providing a much more consistent experience throughout the album as well as taking a massive leap forward in terms of song writing and lyrical themes. The Discovery is an incredibly fun album to listen too – everything about it was seemingly crafted to get stuck in your head for days. It’s a remarkable achievement for a band that might be lumped in with others in the same genre as tiring and formulaic; but trust me this album is anything but.
The Age Of Hell is the culmination of all the bands previous albums, and is arguably their best one to date. It helps that the individual members of the band are all amazingly talented and know how to play their instruments inside and out; vocalist Mark Hunter’s laser-focus always ensures that every song is thoroughly combed over to make sure it’s as clean and dynamic as possible and it certainly shows. There is almost no filler on the album and lead guitarist Rob Arnold has a seemingly endless bag of riffs that are catchy as hell and range from straight thrash to almost arena-rock. The album is a lot more focused than the last and for what turned out to be the swan song for many members of Chimaira (in fact, almost all of them), it couldn’t be better.
This was an absolute no-brainer; Ritual takes the top seed and runs way with it. Coming off 2009’s Defloration I was pretty skeptical that Black Dahlia Murder could pull of an album that topped it, but Ritual blows away the bands previous work with a complete package. From the visuals of the album art to the lyrical themes the album never stops pummeling you; and you’ll welcome every minute of it. Shannon Lucas is the most creative he’s every been on drums creating electrifying fills and an always changing rhythm that you’ll instantly take notice too, and vocalist Trevor Strnad remains an absolute beast behind the microphone. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album; even if you’re not a fan of the genre it’s still worth it. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best of the best in 2011.
“Surtur Rising” is a colossal storm right over a cavernous mountain that reeks of death… and victory. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known this until my friend Dustin convinced me to listen to it. Having already been well established with Amon Amarth, I figured that I would just get another Amon Amarth album. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While “Surter Rising” has everything one would find in an Amon Amarth album, it also has lots of growth to it. Of course there are the ridiculously catchy melodic hooks with Johan’s thunderous growl on top of them, but it’s just the entire package put together that really makes “Surter Rising” what it is. You’re sucked into a vortex of glorious Vikings and Norse God’s alike battling for supremacy, and all the wonderful carnage is sent straight into your ear drums. I thought “Versus The World” was the definitive Amon Amarth album, but it has just been surpassed with “Surter Rising“. Thanks, Dusty.
Spastic. Creative. Memorable. Fast. Pissed. These are five adjectives to describe the sound of Noisear. The grindcore found on “Subvert The Dominant Paradigm” is absolutely solid. The band throws fast, spastic, creative, fast, memorable and pissed passages at you, one right after the other. All of this is really helped with the crushing drumming-style of Bryan Fajardo (Kill The Client, Gridlink, Pretty Little Flower) who really takes the riffs that are given to him and creates a whole other dimension to “Subvert The Dominant Paradigm“. There really is nothing else to say about this album. Let the music do the talking, and Noisear yell at the top of their lungs.
This Russian quintet knows what brutal death metal is. When you take the brutal slam style of death metal from Texas and match it with Russia’s unparalleled sickness for everything heavy metal, you get Abnormity. Disgustingly guttural and chunky brutal death metal is all you get on “Irreversible Disintegration,” and they do it perfectly. When you compare Abnormity to other brutal slam death metal acts in Russia like Katalepsy, Abominable Putridity, and Indeterminable you can easily see who reigns supreme. Their riffs are fresh and don’t rely solely on the elements of slam as most other bands, and there’s even a bit of radiation-soaked melody in the music, too. The guttural vocals, while a bit one-dimensional, add on that extra layer of brutality that slam bands rely on. “Irreversible Disintegration” is a showcase in how to get brutal slam death metal right. Pay attention, new generation. This is how you do it.
Back in August of 2011 I wasn’t doing anything special. Just listening to a lot of albums that were released previously to that month, when suddenly I was knocked on my fat ass. Splattered Entrails released “Nauseate” out of no where and gave me a brand of brutal death metal that was minimalistic, yet it was chock-full of great ideas and executed near flawlessly. Mike O’Hara (Malodorous, Cordectomy), a man of many musical talents, is the one brutal soul that put this album together. Everything from the catchy and the technical (but not overly technical) riffing to the deep and drawn out growls give “Nauseate” an incredibly powerful punch. It’s just nothing but ten tracks of head-splitting brutal death metal. Mike is a part of a new breed of instrumentalists that know how to get things done, and I foresee him making many waves in the future, first starting with “Nauseate“.
One of the biggest names in technical brutal death metal, Origin have once returned with “Entity” to give us more of the mind-bending dreamscape that most of their albums are. Exploring esoteric and misanthropic themes with such ferocity seems nearly impossible, but every time Origin is put to the task they not only excel at their given duties, but take them to new heights that nobody could expect them to do. Even the first track, “Expulsion Of Fury,” is a dead giveaway of what the listener has stumbled upon to. What impresses me even more is the fact that only Paul Ryan, Mike Flores, and John Longstreth were involved in the recording of “Entity“. I was blown away at how good the three of them sounded, and was even more surprised to hear guttural vocals being used in the music, on top of the usual growls and screams. Everything about “Entity” and Origin these days just screams Kings Of Tech-Death, and you know what? They’ve earned that title. “Entity” is just, well, a whole other entity that I was not prepared for in the greatest of ways.