So without further adieu, my top picks for 2011:
25. Revocation - Chaos Of Forms (technical death/thrash metal)
Everytime I see this cover I think of how much time the artist spent making the logo look like shitty Microsoft WordArt. Three seconds? Ten seconds? The world may never know. Good thing the album doesn't sound as awful as the logo looks.
24. Wormrot - Dirge (grindcore)
23. Nightbringer - Hierophany Of The Open Grave (black metal)
I've always found Nightbringer hit or miss, and I definitely enjoy me some orthodox black metal. Hierophany Of The Open Grave is an album full of left-turns and off melodies. The harmonies are great, but what the fuck man why is it so dissonant? I'm writing this list backwards from #1 to #25 so now I'm running out of things to say. Damnit. That should inspire you to read on because it can't get any worse than this!
22. Noisear - Subvert The Dominant Paradigm (grindcore)
This is some of the most unique grindcore I've ever heard. I just started listening to Subvert The Dominant Paradigm a few days ago and it already has some growing potential going for it. Like Discordance Axis' The Inalienable Dreamless, here grindcore is pushed to its musical limits and regurgitated anew.
Essence Of Nine caught me completely by surprise. On here The Flight Of Sleipnir combines infectious stoner grooves with a bit of that '70s progressive sound, all within the realm of their folk aesthetic. 2010's Lore was pretty sweet as well but this album surpasses it in every way.
19. Putridity - Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria (brutal death metal)
Dear god what the fuck did I just listen to? Are my ears still on my head? No? Damnit. In one of the most intense albums since Defeated Sanity's Psalms Of The Moribund Putridity have single-handedly managed to dismember my concept of brutality and piece it back together piece by bloody piece. A melodic desert, Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria shows no remorse to anyone not trained in the art of brutality.
18. Maruta - Forward Into Regression (grindcore)
Ah Maruta...how I will miss thee. Much to my dismay Maruta broke up a few months back. Forward Into Regression was their last album, and it had a more developed sound than it's predecessor. Here there's actually some pretty intense melodies to go along with the general schlock of grind.
17. Cormorant - Dwellings (progressive black/folk metal)
Melodious but not annoying, Cormorant's Dwellings is how all progressive black metal should be handled. I'm sick of bands noodling away Dream Theater-style, forgetting that there's even a song to go along with the scale they're abusing the fuck out of. Cormorant avoids this by remaining fluid and dynamic (and by not having obnoxious vocals).
16. Altar Of Plagues - Mammal ("Cascadian" black metal)
I'm not big on the whole "cascadian" black metal thing. Post-rock and black metal don't really mix too well despite what the morons at Pitchfork might tell you. However if there's one album where it's done correctly, it's Mammal. Here the dark atmosphere of black metal isn't lost to some bearded tree-hugger wailing about how he wants to bone wolves. Instead the atmosphere here is deep and for lack of a better word "oceanic." Very immersive.
15. Benighted - Asylum Cave (deathgrind)
14. Blaspherian - Infernal Warriors Of Death (death metal)
OSDM of the angel-killing variety. Heavy and on the less fuzzy side of Incantation. That's a good thing. Otherwise they'd end up sounding like Encoffination. Some absolutely blasphemous riffs on here.
13. Gigan - Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes (technical death metal / "grindcore")
Effects-driven psychogrinders Gigan were much better on The Order Of The False Eye, one of my favorite albums ever. In fact I actually found this album disappointing on release for that reason. It still manages to amp up the trippy effects with a more alien atmosphere, but at the cost of the more bizarre and memorable riffing. After listening to it for half a year, I've come to the conclusion that it's still a solid if disappointing release by a very unique band. That alone makes it worth looking into.
12. Archspire - All Shall Align (technical death metal)
Because I can always deal with more technical death metal. Here tech-wank tryhards Archspire debut kicking major ass and actually keep their brutality in the process. It is just an EP, but it sure railed the fuck out of Origin's latest if that's any consolation.
11. Azarath - Blasphemers' Malediction (blackened death metal)
Holy hell. Blasphemers' Malediction is pure, unbridled Angelcorpsian fury from start to finish. After listening to this album I feel like Azarath is actually going somewhere. Inferno should just quit Behemoth and stick with this awesome group instead.
This is my thrash metal album of the year. If I really gave a shit about thrash metal this one would have more competition. Sadly I don't, and Outer Isolation is really damn good.
Yet another technical death metal album, this one tougher to describe and not as easy to digest either. Atrophy is a mindfuck of face-melting riffery from start to finish, and although the production isn't the strongest thing about it, some of the ideas on here are goddamn awesome. Just take "Distilled In Fire" or "The Dead Hand" for example. Oh how I love that intro riff...
I almost forgot about this one when I was making the list since it came out back in January, but it's definitely one of the best black metal releases in a year that sucked for anything that wasn't death metal or grindcore. Stained Glass Revelations is unique in that it combines elements of orthodox black metal with the catchy, memorable hooks of late '80s heavy metal.
I'm hesitant to include Vengeful's self-titled since it basically came out less than a month ago. I love The Omnipresent Curse, and here Vengeful explores similar-sounding technical goodness. The less abrasive production might be a big turnoff for some people but it grew on me after a few listens. The second disc (titled "Leaping Through The Void") has a more unique sound and longer songs. Definitely one of the more interesting releases in 2011.
Okay this one's overrated. Everyone touts this as the latest and greatest thing to emerge in the death metal scene, and with members from Incantation and Funebrarum it'd better be fucking awesome. It pretty much is, but not as good as your forum-posting, wannabe "kvlt" ass says it is. Towards The Megalith is an extremely entertaining old school death metal romp, but not something you couldn't have expected or seen coming from the gods in Incantation and Funebrarum.
5. Antediluvian - Through The Cervix Of Hawaah (black/death metal)
Oddly the title track is spelled differently than the album title. At least according to my sources. Maybe I should get new sources. Whatever. Antediluvian really impressed with Through The Cervix Of Hawaah especially after releasing a bunch of shitty-mediocre albums in the past two years. This is another Canadian black/death monstrosity with a density that even light couldn't escape from. Absolute, crushing brilliance.
Very emotive stuff here. I listen to this album on a regular basis and it has yet to really wear on me. The interesting concept behind Lapsus is penned by neocrust/post-hardcore frontman Alex CF and it has what I'd describe as sort of a Paradise Lost meets metaphysics vibe. It gives the whole Light Bearer project another layer of depth and makes Lapsus that much cooler. I can't wait to see where else they take this literary-musical combination. Definitely the second best debut of 2011.
3. Mitochondrion - Parasignosis (black/death metal)
Everytime I listen to this album I feel like I'm a warlock, dancing and inscribing runes in goat's blood or something. Shit's crazy, dark, empowering, and surprisingly rather optimistic if you read the cult-themed lyrics.
2. Ulcerate - The Destroyers Of All (technical death metal)
As fucking lame as it sounds, Ulcerate will always have a place in my heart thanks to Everything Is Fire. It is the album for me, like Obscura was for many others. Colossal and with the same end-of-all atmosphere that its predecessor had, Ulcerate's newest is still pretty killer. I'll have that apex on the title track stuck in my head forever. Also "Hollow Idols" is awesome. Haters gonna hate.
1. Flourishing - The Sum Of All Fossils (technical death metal)
This album absolutely floored me with it's ingenuity. Crunchy and organic, earthy and deep, the tones explored on this album are absolutely phenomenal. Like a bastard child of Gorguts and New York City's burgeoning hardcore scene, this album ends up sounding more like Anata's glorious and highly emotive brand of technical death metal than anything. This crossbred, almost positive sound makes The Sum Of All Fossils by far the most unique, and easily best, metal album and debut of 2011.
Stuff that didn't make the cut or I need to listen to more:
Death Grips - Exmilitary (hip hop)
Njiqahdda - The Path Of Liberation From Birth And Death (black metal)
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (folk rock)
Beyond Creation - The Aura (technical/progressive death metal)
Stuff that blew ass:
Decapitated - Gold Cobra (nu metal)
Morbid Angel - Illud whatever (industrial rock)
Septic Flesh - The Great Mass (fruity symphonies)
Fleshgod Apocalypse - Agony (fruity symphonies)
Unexpect - Fables Of The Sleepless Empire (fruity symphonies)