December 21, 2011


Ahh, it's that time of year again. One of my favorite times of the year in fact. Christmas lights, rampant consumerism, the approaching NFL playoffs, the sun beginning to set before 5pm which causes depression and sickness, and a chill in the air that feels like it wants to choke you to death.

Seriously folks, the thing I actually love the most about this season is all of the fabulous "Best of the Year" lists that pop up on blogs and publications everywhere. So many people outwardly hate them, complain about them, blog about how much they all suck 'cause such-and-such dissed your favorite band, but I love them. There's so much music released each year, it's impossible to hear it all so catching up via other critics' lists certainly brings the yule to the holiday season for me. So, without further malarkey on lists, here is MY LIST of some of the albums I totally dug in 2011.

Nothing Passes

Carnal Law
(20 Buck Spin)

Very seldom do I listen to death metal and think it sounds sexy. Vastum's Carnal Law did just that for me. The back-beat of the slow, grinding, pulsating opener "Primal Seduction" is reminiscent of two love birds enjoying a bit of kratom and their bodies on a Saturday evening. Fucking to death metal? In this case, yes and with rose petals and candles and all that romantic shit.

Crucial cut: "Primal Seduction"

The Inside Room

40 Watt Sun
The Inside Room
(Metal Blade Records)

2011 was a tough year for me and it saw a lot of changes. Without getting too personal, The Inside Room was welcome solace in crashing chords and cathedrals of reverb. I could have written the lyrics to "Restless" and "Open My Eyes", there's such tragedy, conflict and beauty in lines like "I can move the stars in space/but I can say nothing for the weight of the action that lies like scars upon my face/but I will say for you anything you need to hear" (this is coming from someone who isn't into lyrics!) 40 Watt Sun blew me away when I first heard The Inside Room and they still do each time I listen.

Crucial cut: "Restless"

Celestial Lineage

Wolves In The Throne Room
Celestial Lineage
(Southern Lord)

We've talked a lot about black metal on this site, and we love how it riles you up. Wolves in the Throne Room's Celestial Lineage surprised me. Perhaps because Nachtmystium's most recent LP was such a disappointing follow up to Assassins, I didn't expect WITTR to put out a record better than Black Cascade, but they most certainly did. Everything about CL is better but especially the production. The ambiance added by all the keyboards and synth pads; the guitars are shimmering and full; the drums are bombastic and powerful; the female vocals are gorgeous and ethereal. The melodies are strong and memorable especially on the opening track "Thuja Magus Imperium". Celestial Lineage does sound otherworldly, but also distinctly American as though playing the chord progressions on an acoustic guitar would reveal folk songs one hundred years old.

Crucial cut: "Astral Blood"


Black Cobra
(Southern Lord)

I have to agree with Crustcake's own Van Damned that Invernal is one of the worst album covers of the year. What the fuck is going on with the ice covered, evil and treacherous paths leading to some snow capped mountain with a sky behind it that looks more from an episode of Wily E. Coyote than a frozen tundra? I mean, #srsly? Perhaps the paths are leading to Riff Mountain 'cause that's where Black Cobra not only lives, but mercilessly enslave the population. I'm way into off-time, weird meter riffs and Invernal is chock full of good ones in 5, 7 and other numeros not divisible by 4 while maintaining a steady groove so you can still bang your stoner head. I like 7 AND I like banging my head. Win fucking win.

Crucial cut: "The Crimson Blade"


Altar of Plagues
(Profound Lore)

I enjoyed both the albums released by Liturgy and Deafheaven this year, but neither of those two did what Altar of Plagues did for me. Altar of Plagues perfectly balances patience and repetition with varying musical structures and dynamics. Their songs have melodic and harmonic depth, they change shape and grow over their 8, 11, 13 and 18 minute playing times, they breathe. Riffs last long enough to create space but never so long that I lose interest. Mammal is a very mature, and well-crafted work of diligence and execution.

Crucial cut: "Neptune Is Dead"

The Sum Of All Fossils

The Sum Of All Fossils
(The Path Less Traveled Records)

Flourishing slay. The Sum Of All Fossils is a brutal record full of orange crush. Their use of dissonance works as pop hooks like the guitar hammer-ons half way through "The Prospects of Rejection" which immediately comes to mind anytime Fossils is mentioned to me. The Sum Of All Fossils is also like an excavation of heavy music: I hear all sorts of bands from Intronaut, to Bloodlet, to Godflesh, to Napalm Death and everything in between. And if you didn't catch the interview we did with the band's guitarist and vocalist Garett Bussanick about the record earlier this year, do it now.

Crucial cut: "In Vivid Monochrome"

Darker Handcraft

Trap Them
Darker Handcraft
(Prosthetic Records)

I've been a huuuuuge fan of Trap Them since the Seance Prime EP and they were one of the first crusty, punky, Swedish death'n'roll bands that cropped up a few years ago. This band just keeps getting better. The addition of Chris Maggio (formally of Coliseum) on drums is a match made in hell. The drums have been the only element lacking on any of Trap Them's previous releases and anytime I've seen them live. Maggio's frenetic playing perfectly complements Brian Izzi and Steve Lacour's fretwork and Ryan McKenney's aggressive, throat-shredding. Everything on Darker Hardcraft is fucking pissed off and it feels so good.

Crucial cut: "The Facts"

David Comes To Life

Fucked Up
David Comes To Life
(Matador Records)

Much like my Comeback Kid or Deftones pick from last year (it's even in the same #3 slot as Deftones), Fucked Up's David Comes To Life is a bit out of left field for this blog. I fell in love with this release slowly. At first I thought it sucked. It sounded worse than The Chemistry of Common Life by far, the songs were too similar, and there wasn't anything by which to hang my ear. After a few more listens, my ears were hooked. David is a slow-grower. Pink Eyes writes some great lyrics especially "Turn The Season" which I shouted with all my might many times this year. David is obviously more a pop record than anything resembling the records we cover, but when your favorite hardcore band starts writing songs as good as Fucked Up then they'll be on this list.

Crucial cut: "Turn The Season"

Surrender To All Life Beyond Form

Dark Castle
Surrender To All Life Beyond Form
(Profound Lore)

I love the spiritual vibe I get from Dark Castle. I also love the actual vibe I get from them on Surrender To Life Beyond All Form. Stevie Floyd employs multiple cool effects on her guitar throughout the record. The oscillating, chorus effect that dominates "Stare Into Absence", "Seeing Through Time", "I Hear Wind" and most of Surrender. The perception of multiple guitars when there is only one as a reminder that we aren't one. We are connected to this world, the people in it and perhaps a world beyond.

Crucial cut: "Stare Into Absence"

No Ghost

No Ghost
(Rorschach Records)

These dudes are from another planet. That's seriously how their drummer described them when I saw them play live in St. Louis this past spring (he recently joined for that tour.) He said "these dudes are aliens." I don't think they're extraterrestrial, but they're certainly Riffologists. Capsule write frenetic grind/screamo influenced hardcore with telecaster indie rock guitar tones. I literally do not understand how they come up with their riffs. They're all over the fretboard, played at insane speed for the type of riffs they are (they're not shredders) and they only repeat riffs two or three times before moving on. I've listened to No Ghost at least 30 times, and I'm still baffled and impressed by the musicianship. I bow to the technical skill of Riffmaestros.

Crucial cut: "Future World Citizen"

Barely missed the cut:
11. Palehorse - Soft As Butter, Hard As Ice
Slint + Doom = Fun

12. KEN mode - Venerable
"Never Was" is the winner for heaviest song of 2011.

13. Rwake - Rest
Totally would've made the top 10 if the riff on "Was Only A Dream" didn't suck ass.

14. Mitochondrion - Parasignosis
Damp, dark, and dank death metal. Probably shouldn't leave that in the closet too long.

15. Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All

Trash Talk - Awake
Peste Noire - L'Ordure à l'état Pur
Immolation - Providence
Ash Pool - Together They Serve to Define the Process

Favorite live band of 2011 (tie):
KEN mode
The Conformists

Also enjoyed:
Loss Despond, All Pigs Must Die God Is War, Amebix Sonic Mass, Tombs Path of Totality, Bongripper Hate Ashbury, Cannabis Corpse Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise, Cianide Gods of Death, Clinging To The Trees Of The Forest Fire Visceral, Cloud Rat Fever Dreams, Deafheaven Roads to Judah, Disma Towards the Megalith, East of the Wall The Apologist, Fister Bronsonic, Fuck the Facts Die Miserable, Krallice Diotima, La Dispute Wildlife, Liturgy Aesthethica, Maruta Forward Into Regression, Motherboar Beast Becomes the Servant, Mountain Man Grief, Negative Plane Stained Glass Revelations, Negură Bunget Poarta De Dincolo, Nightbringer Hierophany of the Open Grave, Noisear Subvert The Dominant Paradigm, Parasytic Poison Minds, Portrait Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae, RABBITS Lower Forms, Saviours Deaths Procession, Sonne Adam Transformation, Speedwolf Ride With Death, Touché Amoré Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me, True Widow As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth, Rotten Sound Cursed, Chelsea Wolfe Apokalypsis

Albums I spun the most in 2011:
1. Slint - Spiderland
2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
3. Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You
4. Capsule - No Ghost
5. Dark Castle - Surrender To Life of All Form

1 comment:

Doodiepansts said...

This was pretty f***ing awesome. Worst Metal album covers ever! My only question is… deathly hardcore and bad-ass can you be if it take you 2 hours to put on makeup everyday?