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Matt Coe Best-of 2011

By: Matt Coe

Assuredly, Coe still looks the same as he does two years ago...

I feel very fortunate to be in a position to expose my ears to a lot of metal this year. A conservative estimate would be 500 albums passed through my laptop in one form or another for reviewing purposes or listening pleasure in these 12 months. You can debate whether most of them will still get airplay in 2012 or beyond, but for the metal follower, we canít say that there isnít a variety of styles and sub-genres right within a few keystrokes of your fingertips.

So now we come to the top 10 albums of 2011- always up for debate because what writer really shares the same tastes 100% as every reader? My criteria becomes a combination of quality plus quantity, because to me, an album worthy of excellence needs to be musically strong and also worthy of innumerable spins. Progressive metal had an unusually high number of strong releases between the veterans of the scene as well as newcomers- and it appears that traditional metal and thrash metal are still forging strong in their second (and sometimes third) generations of movement. Enough with the set up - letís get on to the best of the best in my metal world.

1. Fair to Midland - Arrows & Anchors (E1)
An album that channels progression and hypnotic melodies and yet can still deliver unique, individual songs, this Texas band on their fourth album, Arrows & Anchors proves you can be left of center and continually move people. A rare record that can appeal to alternative, progressive and modern music followers, Fair to Midland push the boundaries of their sound far and wide with this one.

2. Ghost Brigade - Until Fear No Longer Defines Us (Season of Mist)
This Finnish melancholy doom-death-slightly gothic metal act have been three for three with my headspace in their studio discography. Opening with the acoustic dark ballad ďIn The Woods," you learn quickly that these gentlemen aim for an all out spasmodic body, mind, and soul experience with each and every return engagement.

3. While Heaven Wept - Fear of Infinity (Nuclear Blast)
Sometimes brevity brings the best moments out of music. For this American group While Heaven Wept, Fear of Infinity delves deeply into the finer aspects of epic metal, with equal parts doom, progression and traditional elements. Multiple exposures are necessary to uncover all the brilliance.

4. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance (Metal Blade)
John Archís earlier Twist Of Fate EP in 2003 set up this fine soaring progressive metal vocalistís return to the scene after his retirement in the late 80ís. Teaming back up with Fates Warning guitarist Jim Matheos, Sympathetic Resonance reignites the magic of Mr. Arch, assembling a stellar crew of musicians to pull off some of the best progressive metal in quite some time.

5. Anthrax - Worship Music (Megaforce)
Eight years is an eternity in the music business to wait between releases, but if any band would survive the initial impact and reclaim their throne in the metal scene, Anthrax is it. Joey Belladonna hasnít sounded this aggressive at any point like this, the riffing is top notch, and the band always manage to keep things heavy while keeping up with the changing climate.

6. Omnium Gatherum - New World Shadows (Lifeforce)
Assuredly a favorite of many on the Blistering staff, these Finnish men take melodic death metal to heights rarely seen on New World Shadows. It doesnít matter to me if the song is epic or short, Omnium Gatherum manage to inject the right dose of melody to hook ratio while maintaining the fierce death vocals and guitar tone weíve all come to expect.

7. Textures - Dualism (Nuclear Blast)
Djent music is a term normally thrown around with this band, but I believe with Dualism this Dutch five-piece surpass the stock and standard chug/off-tempo guitar to drum motions and with ďReaching HomeĒ could spread their wings into more mainstream minds and hearts. Not as busy as previous albums but still plenty of riffs, parts and melodies to enjoy from this modern progressive metal act.

8. Redemption - This Mortal Coil (Inside Out)
Guitarist Nick Van Dyk returns with another powerful progressive metal effort here. Channeling his life and death cancer illness into vivid thoughts and dreams, This Mortal Coil possesses the bandís heaviest guitar tone to date and the comfort in Ray Alderís professional vocal acumen.

9. Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate (Nightmare)
A lead singer change can usually signal a struggle to regain musical chemistry, but for Danish progressive metal band Anubis Gate, everything is seamlessly moving in the right direction. Massive drum chops, ethereal vocal harmonies and the song remains king, even with all the tempo changes and subtle guitar shifting that takes place.

10. Jag Panzer - The Scourge of the Light (SPV)
Another prolonged break from the scene pays huge dividends for this US power metal institution. Losing your lead guitarist [Chris Broderick] to Megadeth may have been tough, but Christian Lasegue proved more than up to the task with his speed and clear grasp of technique on this album. Underrated for their knowledge and versatility within the scene.

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