Fuckin’ a. Year-end lists are always difficult to make, and if they’re not, you just haven’t been listening. While wading through a desk full of killer albums, there are certainly the ones that stand out amongst others and are worth mentioning: Exhumed’s long awaited return, All Guts No Glory, Seattle blackened death metallers Book of Black Earth’s tribute to Swedish punk The Cold Testament, Disma’s skull-pounding debut full length Towards the Megalith, to name a few, but like all streamlined year-end lists, there’s really only room for five.
Now if I were to truly go by amount of listens alone, my top album of 2011 would have to be a record that didn’t even come out this year, but was reissued by Earache. Woods 4: The Green Album by Northern Ontario doom/post black metal quartet Woods of Ypres easily topped my most played list. I have to take a break from this one, though, as it’s difficult for me to hear the lyrics, “Life is just pain and piss/It’s nothing that I will miss,” being sung in the deep Peter Steele-esque baritone voice of Andrew Gold, considering the 31-year-old vocalist was tragically killed in a car accident just one week ago.
But I digress. Now going by the somewhat draconian year-end list rules set in stone by music journalists worldwide, I must push forward and choose wisely. Here goes:
Number 5: Benighted, "Asylum Cave"
5.) Benighted: Asylum Cave: From the abrupt yet familiar “What’s Up Doc” of Bugs Bunny that starts off this record to the lightning-fast blast beats of Kevin Foley and heinously unsettling pig squeal vocals of Julien Truchan, this French five-piece surely live up to the name of the genre they so proudly rep: brutal death metal. While at times it approaches death core territory, their chugga chug breakdowns are tasteful and never cringe worthy, unlike the Impending Dooms and Job for a Cowboys of today.
Number 4: Vader "Welcome To The Morbid Reich"
4.) Vader: Welcome to the Morbid Reich: After a few albums that really didn’t stand out much, Polish death metal crew Vader returned in 2011 with a meaty dose of old-school death, filled with memorable thrash-influenced riffs and fist-pounding anthems. Nothing too technical here, just pure, righteous, death metal awesomeness.
Number 3: Wolves In The Throne Room "Celestial Lineage"
3.) Wolves In The Throne Room: Celestial Lineage: So this is the end of Wolves in the Throne Room's three-part concept album, which began with Two Hunters and continued with Black Cascade?? If so, it's gone out in great fashion, as this record combines all my favorite of their elements—the moody, dark ambience and their melodic-but-fierce brand of Weakling-like black metal, while keeping things precise and tight enough not to bore me. I admit, I have pretty bad musical ADD. The seven minute-long opus “Subterranean Initiation” is quite possibly my favorite single song of the year.
This story has been updated since its original publication.
Continue for the top two picks...
Number 2: Crowbar "Sever The Wicked Hand"
2.) Crowbar: Sever the Wicked Hand: Kirk Windstein did it again. Somehow, this dude has single-handedly written some of the heaviest riffs of the past two decades, and this record is no exception. After six years off, these New Orleans natives rose again with 12 more crushing sludge songs that manage to bum me out and give me a raging mosh boner at the same time.
Number 1: 40 Watt Sun "The Inside Room"
1.) 40 Watt Sun: The Inside Room: This is one that really snuck up on me. After a close friend mentioned he had seen the London-based band play a headlining gig at El Corazon, I decided to casually check out what I had missed. Goddamn, do I regret missing that show. How do I even start to describe this band? Depressing, bleak, plodding, shoegazey, melodic—beautiful doom metal that’s completely shaped by the vocal style of crooning vocalist Patrick Walker. I’m not even going to pretend like I even knew about his former doom-band, Warning, or that I eagerly anticipated this new project like many who had followed that band. All I know is that this album blew me away, plain and simple.