Third and final part! If you missed parts one and two, check them out HERE. Right, this is it – the big one. Let’s make one thing clear, coming to the final decision on this list was quite difficult… right then no more messing about let’s get straight into it.
25 A Storm of Light – As The Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade
A Storm of Light made a few swerves on this record, the follow-up to 2009’s Forgive Us Our Trespasses. This is faster and shorter, but no less heavy. They have however shed some of their doomier tendencies and indulged in some hook-led riffing, all with top results, surprisingly.
Standout track: ‘Wasteland’
24 Jesu – Ascension
Is there anything Justin K. Broadrick can’t do right? Probably not. When not basking in the triumphant return of Godflesh, the man somehow found time to churn out a new Jesu record. Ascension is another lesson is despondent, droning, shoegaze-inflected metal with Broadrick’s trademark ghostly croon.
Standout track: ‘December’
23 Wormrot – Dirge
The last two years have been good to Wormrot. Abuse kicked down a lot of doors for them and their second full-length needed to be every bit as vehement and violent, and Dirge is just that. Modern grindcore has some very exciting faces these days and Wormrot are most definitely one of them.
Standout track: ‘The Final Insult’
22 Braveyoung – We Are Lonely Animals
Bloom, Braveyoung’s first EP, came out in 2009 and the band sort of dropped off the radar for a while, until early this year when they released their first album. We Are Lonely Animals is simply breath-taking and invigorating post rock that’s completely dream-like across its running time. Something to get lost in.
Standout track: ‘Light Narrows’
21 Grown Below – Long Now
Belgium’s Grown Below popped up out of nowhere this autumn with this heady and ambitious record, Long Now. Clocking in at 67 minutes, there’s a lot going here. Long Nowis a crushing sludge record with many death doom influences with heaving guttural as well as clean vocals and a penchant for the grandiose soundscapes of Cult of Luna as well as the slow dissonant riffing reminiscent of Thou.
Stream the full album HERE
20 Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance
No surprise here. Esoteric once again blow us all away with their peerless funeral doom. Two discs, at over 90 minutes of wretched but beautifully cathartic doom. There’s a full feature review in the next of issue of Molten Magazine.
Standout track: ‘Abandonment’
Last year’s .neon album from Lantlôs featured on this end of year list in 2010 and its follow-up doesn’t disappoint. However it has marked a great progression for the band. It’s a much slower album as edified by the opening devastating clang of ‘Intrauterin’. ‘Bliss’ then is a wondrously powerful song with closer ‘Eribo – I Collect The Stars’ capping off the record perfectly.
Standout track: ‘Bliss’
New York erratic death metal band Flourishing were another one of 2011’s pleasant surprises. The Sum of All Fossils is an album that is nothing short of a barrage. Cascading technical riffs collide with an overwhelming thick bass that conjure up an imposing sound and not to mention the mixing up of vocal delivery, like the pained shrieks of ‘By Which We’re Cemented’ breaking away from cruel growls.
Standout track: ‘By Which We’re Cemented’
Speaking of stunning death metal albums, it doesn’t get much better than New Zealand’s Ulcerate with their latest record, The Destroyers of All. Crushing but intricately arranged, the sound that this three-piece make is simply unholy. This is their finest hour yet and having signed with Relapse Records, a new album will be swiftly upon us in 2012. Only greatness awaits this band.
Standout track: ‘Dead Oceans’
First Irish release of the list, which was number three in the Irish top 10 from Monday. There’s no need to go into too much detail again, this is pummelling, unforgiving, raging crust. Tuck in.
A latecomer this year. Ben Sharp aka Cloudkicker released two albums late last month, this and Loop. Let Yourself Be Huge is great deviation from last year’s stunning Beacons. It’s mostly acoustic and mellowed out with one track including sparse vocals, but it’s altogether beautiful stuff.
Standout track: ‘Let Yourself Be Huge’
Wolves in the Throne Room sort of have that love/hate relationship with the listener. If you are one of the lovers of WITTR then Celestial Lineage is exactly the album you have yearned for, to follow the tumult of Black Cascade with the more cerebral barrage of Celestial Lineage.
Standout track: ‘Prayer of Transformation’
2011 has been dotted with some impressive black metal records coming from all directions but nothing quite surpassed Woods of Desolation. D., Australian black metal royalty at this stage, has made his finest record yet and indulging in a cleaner production job has given Torn Beyond Reason the ability to really shine and breath, sounding absolutely massive and grandiose.
Standout track: ‘Torn Beyond Reason’
After a tumultuous few years, with their Roadrunner deal falling through, 3 were in many ways on the ropes but lo and behold they come screaming back with the album of their careers. – The Ghost You Gave To Me. Unabashedly melodic, hook-driven and heavily influenced by the old prog gods of yesteryear, this is a cracking record.
Standout track: ‘React’
Whetting Occam’s Razor is expansive melodic hardcore with no hesitance in utilising grand soundscapes and acoustic guitars here and there, but for the most part though it’s belligerent and unruly with plenty of memorable riffs.
Standout track: ‘Theory’
Scale The Summit and Animals as Leaders both permeated our consciousness in 2009, both enjoying success, AAL more so. Both released follow-up albums this year and who would have thought that it would actually be Scale The Summit that would come up trumps. The Collective is just magnificent.
Standout track: ‘Black Hills’
You know the deal. Portnoy leaves, tears are shed, people whinge and bitch and Dream Theater make one of their best albums of the last 10 or 15 years. Yeah, the latter seems the most important.
Standout track: ‘Bridges in the Sky’
On paper this sounds boring, doesn’t it? Current and former Killswitch pals Adam D and Jesse Leach make a new record together that is still within the realm of metalcore. Surprised were these ears when it turned out that The Hymn of a Broken Man is actually heaving with some great tunes from start to finish. Granted, it preaches to the converted but overall, a victory for the duo.
Standout track: ‘Hope Remains’
The second Belgian band to appear in this list, Oathbreaker. Released on Deathwish, Mælstrøm is fucking ferocious stuff from start to well, near finish. The first eight of these nine tracks are blistering barrages, only for the title track to close things out and it’s a stripped down acoustic track with the only singing of the album. Strangely it works but it’s songs like ‘Origin’ and ‘Glimpse of the Sun’ that make this album so good.
Standout track: ‘Origin’
Again, you read about this on Monday. Mammal is a jaw-dropping album, simple as that. With this and White Tomb behind them, where Altar of Plagues go next is anyone’s guess but chances are it will be sublime. Frankly, they probably couldn’t fail, even if they tried.
The Irish album of year unsurprisingly cracks the top five. A complete and fluid listen, the whole damn thing is streaming on their bandcamp so I won’t go into any more detail about it; I did that already on Monday. Listen HERE.
Fucking relentless. That pretty much sums up Die Miserable. It’s been a while since the band could be still called grindcore but flourishes still remain and plenty of injections of shameless melody are to be heard on this record too, along with hints of death metal, hardcore and, whisper it… metalcore. It all works though.
Standout track: ‘Census Blank’
2009’s Crack The Skye was when Mastodon went all out on their prog tendencies. Needless to say, it was an instant classic. The Hunter is both a progression and something of a regression. It’s been stripped back to shorter, catchier tunes but they haven’t attempted to mimic their Remission days. Neither have they attempted to make Crack Pt.2, which would have failed horribly. Rather they crafted an album that’s a little simpler in ideal but managed to progress as a songwriters and as a band. Hats off. Plus, we have two of the most ridiculously catchy tunes of the year in ‘Curl of the Burl’ and ‘Blasteroid’.
Standout track: ‘Blasteroid’
40 Watt Sun are number two, just about. The fight for the top spot was very much a photo finish. However, don’t let it take away from this landmark release. Former Warning mainman, and all around doom metal victor, Patrick Walker’s new lifeblood 40 Watt Sun finally released this debut after some fanfare, and it hasn’t disappointed. This is a beautiful blend of doom; it differs from Warning but at the same time maintains an enthralling aural kinship with the now defunct band. The Inside Room is powerful, affecting and, while heavy, so fragile.
Standout track: ‘Carry Me Home’
Grandiose, imposing, ethereal, haunting and captivating are some of the clichéd words that you could roll out to describe 2011’s album of the year, but they are all overwhelmingly true and apt. Light Bearer’s debut Lapsus, born from the ashes of Fall of Efrafa, is a staggering feat to say the least. At times it’s slow and trudging and at others, beautifully compelling and illuminating but it’s an altogether cathartic experience. The genre of Post Metal is a hazy phrase at best, but if it continues to result in utterly miraculous albums like this then it’s no bad thing. Light Bearer – the start of something beautiful.