To me, 2011 was a much tougher year to narrow down a top ten list of the best albums, songs, etc. than in recent memory. Ridding this list of the yearís pile of clunkers was easy, but there were also so many quality albums released and a handful of elite-level releases. Unlike last year where Atheistís Jupiter and Crimfallís As the Path Unfolds in Ď09 blew away the competition, 2011 was a much tighter battle.
Like in previous best-of lists, sometimes an album will place higher (or lower) even though a rating Iíve originally given the album might say otherwise, but naturally as time goes by and moods/attitudes change, an album or two has dropped or ascended the ladder. Either way, this was the toughest best-of list for metal albums yet because the competition was so stiff. Hopefully next year will be even tougher!
1. Crimfall - The Writ of Sword (Spinefarm) Almost impossible to live up to their debut full-length from 2009, the Finnish band appear to have no ceiling. Sporting a moderately dirtier, more organic sound than was heard on As the Path Unfolds, The Writ of Sword retained that awesome, epic, grandiosity that Crimfall is known for in these few years of existence. While it wasnít a landslide victory by any means, The Writ of Sword was the most complete and all-around most enjoyable listen of the year. Thereís no explaining how anxiously I wait for album #3 from these guys (and girl).
2. Ghost - Opus Eponymous (Metal Blade/Rise Above) It was debatable as to whether Ghostís popular debut would land on this list considering it was released in October 2010. But also considering that release date was only for Europe and that the USA didnít officially get it until January of this year, and considering I live in Las Vegas, it makes the list. Technically, I wasnít able to buy this album until this year. Nothing more needs to be said about Opus Eponymous other than itís a perfect album for anybody who loves vintage Mercyful Fate (sans the falsetto, of course). As haunting as it is memorable, Iím actually shocked it didnít place higher.
3. Arkan - Salam (Season of Mist) Until I got my hands on this album, I had never heard of this French outfit. And because of Salam, I immediately scooped up their exceptional debut Hilal. One of the most mesmerizing albums to come along in years, everything about this release is full of energy, creativity and, most importantly, soul. There is meaning behind each passage on Salam and there isnít a hint of weakness. Considering how much better their sophomore effort is compared to their first, itís scary to see how unbelievable this band can become if they continue to expand their musical horizons. Like Crimfall, I simply cannot wait to hear whatís coming next.
4. Absu - Abzu (Candlelight) Still the greatest American black/occult metal around, Absu stormed back with Part II of their Absu trilogy. Abzu marked a welcome return to fold with dizzying riffs, explosive power, and inhuman speed. As close as Absu has ever come to matching their perfect Tara from a decade ago, Abzu is hopefully a harbinger of things to come with this lineup, provided it remains intact for the Absu finale.
5. Kvelertak - Kvelertak (Indie/Prosthetic) This album only received an 8.5/10 score from me when I reviewed. Itís grown to about a 9 by now. The debut album from this unknown Norse band is one of the most surprising and entertaining metal/rock/punk albums Iíve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Regardless of the fact that not one word is sung/shouted in English, the strength lies within the music and energy of every single song on this one. Also, like Ghostís debut, this one almost didnít make the list because it was released in Europe in 2010 and in America this year.
6. Macabre - Grim Scary Tales (Decomposed/Willowtip) Nobody, and I mean nobody writes humorous death metal like Macabre. And when their songs donít elicit a chuckle, they engulf the listener with sheer brutality, heaviness, and technicality. Grim Scary Tales just might be the Chicago-area bandís finest hour, though fans of Sinister Slaughter and Dahmer might argue. This one is a monster from start to finish and unlike previous albums from Macabre, there isnít a single throwaway song in the bunch.
7. Deceased - Surreal Overdose (PATAC) No, itís not Deceasedís best album ever but that doesnít matter: Everything Deceased releases is immense and classic. Sporting a cleaner production than most of their library, King Fowley & co. deliver their trademark death thrash like nobody else. Probably the most reliable band in the history of music, Surreal Overdose is exactly what any fan of the band would expect: Catchy songs, unreal heaviness and a voice that will haunt you until the day you croak. Awesome as always, Deceased is.
8. Origin - Entity (Nuclear Blast) I never thought Iíd live to see the day when an Origin album made my top ten list because, as was stated in my review, Iíve never been a fan of the band. Entity has changed all that dramatically because itís not only Originís baddest album ever, itís one of the ten best albums of the entire year. Itís as technical as it is brutal, and usually only Nile and Cryptopsy pull that off. Origin has moved right into their neighborhood.
9. Anthrax - Worship Music (Megaforce) An album I never saw coming, even after I saw Anthrax perform ďFight ĎEm Until You CanítĒ several months ago, Worship Music is hands-down the best Anthrax record since Persistence of Time. Nothing against John Bush, but the band just was never the same without Joey Belladonna. Heís back and hopefully itís for the long haul because if Worship Music is any indication as to where these New York legends are headed, it might make me forget the last four Anthrax albums ever were released.
10. Supreme Pain - Divine Incarnation (Massacre) Like Malevolent Creation and a handful others, Supreme Pain delivered a nasty, crushing blow of thrashy death metal that I couldnít stop listening to. At first it was decent, but after the second and third go Ďrounds, I was hooked. Itís full of hooks and itís heavy as hell. It almost didnít make the cut, but it wound up knocking Ava Inferiís Onyx and Cianideís Gods of Death off the list at the last second.
Hopefully any album I didnít listen to from this year belongs on this listÖ