Each December I make a big assed list and go through a big assed process to determine the top 20 albums of the past year. Friends are lost, my kids forget what I look like and spreadsheets are created with formulas that I don’t understand.
The sad thing is it’s kind of pointless. I always know what single album made me all warm and fuzzy inside before I start down that path of complexity. So let’s not drag this out any longer and get down to business.
01. The Atlas Moth – An Ache for the Distance
If there is one album you need to hear from 2011, it’s An Ache for the Distance by the Atlas Moth.
The band covers a stunning range of styles on An Ache for the Distance – sludge, post rock, black metal, jazz, doom and psychedelic rock to name a few. But in no way does the album feel like a patched together mishmash of all those influences. Much like Faith No More did on 1992’s Angel Dust, the Atlas Moth has managed to channel the diverse personalities of each member into a single cohesive recording that made choosing it as album of the year a no brainer.
02. Tombs – Path of Totality
I have to admit that despite what I said above about it being clear what my top pick was, Tombs’ Path of Totality could very easily have been sitting in that position; dark, atmospheric and utterly devastating. I can’t stop listening to this.
03. Goes Cube – In Tides and Drifts
As with 2009’s Another Day Has Passed, Goes Cube drop track after track of infectious post punk driven noise rock that demands repeated listens. Album highlights ”The Homes Of” and the three part “The Story Is The Story Begins”, “The Story Is The Story Goes” and “The Story Is The Story Ends” make a strong argument for nudging this In Tides and Drifts even higher on this list.
04. KEN mode – Venerable
I like noise rock. I really like noise rock with riffs that will rip your face off. Does that float your boat as well? Then point your face at Venerable by KEN mode. As your life coach, I am confident you will be pleased with the results.
05. Witch Mountain – South of Salem
I listened to this for the first time less than a week ago and it is number five on this list. Yeah – it’s that good. No small part of that is the addition of vocalist Uta Plotkin to the line-up. Witch Mountain was a lethal dose of doom before, but now with Uta’s powerful voice wailing over Rob Wrong’s riffs, the results are simply stunning. Get on this shit now.
06. Today is the Day – Pain is a Warning
With Pain is a Warning, Today is the Day is a fine tuned killing machine. Well, except when they slow things down for a couple of numbers (hey, even killing machines like a slow dance every now and then). Easily the most focused, direct and dare I say accessible album of the band’s catalogue. If you aren’t down with TITD main man Steve Austin already, this is the perfect place to get on board.
07. Junius – Reports from the Threshold of Death
Junius heavy up their post rock styles on Reports from the Threshold of Death, but the end result is far from brutal. So if you’re not grim, KVLT or don’t even like most of the noise I go on about here, this is the one you should check out. Your moms will even like this.
08. Altar of Plagues – Mammal
I was late getting in the game with Altar of Plagues previous long player White Tomb. But if I hadn`t slept on that, it easily could have toppled Axe to Fall by Converge as album of the year in 2009. Mammal may be rolling in at number eight, but it’s still the best black metal album you’re going to hear this year.
09. Blood Ceremony – Living With the Ancients
I have a problem with Blood Ceremony. They play retro styled doom, praise Satan, own a flute and got Sanford Parker to record Living With the Ancients. Don’t see any problems there? Actually, me neither. What I have a problem with is they haven’t gotten their Canadian asses out here to Halifax so I can lose my mind while they work their black magic live. My calendar is wide open in 2012. Just saying…
10. Batillus – Furnace
Batillus may be number 10 on this list. But they are actually number 20 when it comes to the order in which I finished writing all of these. So let’s just keep it simple: doom + sludge + industrial + atmospheric = Batillus. If your brain can handle that math, then you will like Furnace.
11. Subrosa – No Help for the Mighty Ones
Over at Show No Mercy’s year end list, Brandon Stosuy drops points of reference like “doom-pop” and “stoner-folk sludge” when writing about Subrosa’s No Help for the Mighty Ones. Sounds good to me Brandon. So I`m gonna jack your styles and go with that too. No sense reinventing the wheel, right?
12. Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street
Lots have been said about 17th Street’s retro metal styles and Joe Hutton’s set of pipes. But what sold me on this album was that it pretty much sounds like Ludicra minus the black metal. Seeing as Ludicra went tits up this year and Hammers of Misfortune are led by former Ludicra member John Cobbett, I guess all is not lost after all.
13. Mastodon – The Hunter
Did you hear the version of the Hunter with Bruce Dickenson singing on it? What? That never happened? Well if it did, then it would have been bad news for numbers 12 to 1 on this list. But apparently it didn’t. So for now I guess Mastodon can sit nice and comfortable at number 13.
14. Trap Them – Darker Handcraft
Remember the time Converge got on top of Entombed’s shoulders and challenged Black Flag and Disfear to a chicken fight? No? Well neither does Trap Them. What’s that got to do with a chicken fight? Nothing. I just thought it sounded like a cool idea and the resulting carnage would sound like Darker Handcraft.
15. Liturgy – Aesthetica
Liturgy tends to only have one mode, which consists of repetitive, relentless riffing and blasting. Sometimes that hurts my head. But most of the time, I find it quite refreshing. I have no idea which of those two categories this falls under for you. But whatever – just listen to it Aesthetica anyway.
16. Machine Head – Unto the Locust
I was stoked when Machine Head nailed it two times in a row with Through the Ashes of Empires and the Blackening. But I was doubtful they would be able to do it again when they dropped Unto the Locust. Boy was I wrong. You know how we all go on about the classic Metallica trilogy now? Give these three albums a few years and we’ll be blowing the same smoke up Rob Flynn’s ass.
17. Vastum – Carnal Law
I read Swedish Death Metal and Choosing Death, but I’m far from a certified expert when it comes to the genre. But even a newbie like me can see that Vastum know a thing or two about crafting crusty, thick and infectious death metal. If you like crusty, thick and infectious death metal, then you already have this album. If you don’t like crusty, thick and infectious death metal, then email me and I’ll try my best to help with directions to the blog you were actually looking for.
18. In Solitude – The World.The Flesh.The Devil
Much like Blood Ceremony, In Solitude is here to spread the word of our dark overlord. However these Swedes have chosen to skip the Jethro Tull styles of my Canadian comrades and worship at the altar of Mercyful Fate instead. I’m fine with that. Are they evil? Why yes, they are.
19. Shooting Guns – Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976
Black Sabbath got knocked up by Hawkwind? The baby lives in Canada and goes by the name Shooting Guns? They make tripped out, catchy, synth infused instrumental music? I’m on it.
20. Toxic Holocaust – Conjure and Command
Conjure and Command may not have gotten Toxic Holocaust quite as much praise as 2008’s An Overdose of Death, but it’s the preferred choice around these parts. Please remove my name from the “Casual Fan” file.