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Sara Heitman Best-of 2011

By: Sara Heitman

The worldy Sara, backpack and all...

As with life, this year in music has been filled with pleasant surprises, unexpected disappointments, and new discoveries. Each album expresses an artist's creative evolution; contributing to our ever-changing perceptions. These ten albums have helped to define this year for me, and will continuously remind me of memories associated with 2011. Please find my top choices of the year, arranged in reverse alphabetical order, below:

1. Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Anti-)
Charming, jazzy, adventurous. Hopeless, chilling, desolate. Tom Waits creates gently woven strands of emotions and musically ties them together in an exquisite bow. From present-day political jabs to optimistically moving forward, everyone can relate with the themes incorporated into Bad as Me.

2. Skinny Puppy - hanDover (Synthetic Symphony)
One of this year's pleasant surprises, Skinny Puppy returns with their established futuristic and industrial style. The intricate compositions of robotic sounds may be overwhelming, yet simultaneously calming. Thought-provoking lyrics mixed with a contagious energy will make time seem irrelevant.

3. Nekrogoblikon - Stench (Self-released)
A new addition to my personal collection, Nekrogoblikon is a group of fun-loving characters who create energetic and experimental metal...mostly about goblins. Their unique interests and amusing sense of humor, combined with awe-inspiring musical talents, will definitely provide hours of entertainment and enjoyment.

4. Neige et Noirceur - Hymnes de la Montagne Noire (Sepulchral Productions)
Atmospheric and dark, stemming from pure black metal roots, Neige et Noirceur has produced yet another album of stimulating relaxation. Sinking, falling into a trance of otherworldly empty space and pain; suddenly whipped into reality. Calming surrender creeps in as death quickly takes its course.

5. My Ruin A Southern Revelation (Self-released)
My Ruin has come out of a decade-long shitstorm squeaky clean. Being royally screwed by their former label, Tairrie and Mick Murphy only grow stronger. As a result, Southern Revelation is being released as digitally gratis. Tairrie's tongue may be sharp, but she only speaks truth, and Mick's guitar skills are untouchable. Let's see those middle fingers!

6. Jahmbi The Demetalizer (Self-released)
Jahmbi's personality is unlike any other. Their playful and energetic attitudes are what shape the music. Infusing their songs with a variety of genres contributes to the character, and did you know they throw out cookies during live shows? Jahmbi invites you to join them in their world of victorious and epic fantasy.

7. Chthonic - Takasago Army (Spinefarm)
Explore a whole new culture of metal with Chthonic's intriguing mixture of traditional Taiwanese music and blackened symphonic death metal. The political views expressed lyrically throughout Takasago Army have caused Chthonic's music to be banned from distribution in some parts of China. Chthonic continues pushing boundaries and challenging ideas, and that's what metal should be about.

8. Cruachan - Blood on the Black Robe (Candlelight)
Recognized as one of the founders of folk metal, Cruachan defines their sound using traditional Celtic music and mythological themes. The songs fiercely express being prepared to fight for what is theirs and what is right. Exciting instrumental segments and passionate vocals are what keep me drawn to Blood on the Black Robe.

9. Anal Cunt - The Old Testament (Relapse)
Before Seth Putnam crapped out, and gave up by dying (like a pussy), he started putting this album together. The Old Testament is a spiritual resurrection for grindcore elites and AC fans alike. From live recordings to old albums, The Old Testament is comprised of material that precedes the period when AC wrote music that actually resembled songs. In other words, it is priceless.

10. Ana Kefr - The Burial Tree (II) (Muse Sick)
Books could probably be filled to comprehensively explain the meaning behind lyrics in The Burial Tree. Unintended for the masses; the content will certainly fly clear over heads. Ana Kefr utilizes a variety of unconventional methods to create the intricately designed compositions of the album, and they have successfully begun to raise eyebrows with this, their second release.

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