Matt’s(Atleastimhousebroken) Top 15 Albums of 2011

Hey all!!!  Hope everyone had an awesome holiday season and kick off to the New Year.  Now that we are at the start of 2012 I think it’s fair that we release our personal Top 15 Albums of 2011.  Making this years list was quite a difficult charge.  I’ve been seeing around on the internets that many were disappointed in 2011…  Myself, this was one of the best years in metal, ever, making the narrowing down of the best around a bit tricky.  There were great follow-ups, amazing breakthrough albums, and some wonderful debut albums.  I also discovered many new bands to listen to this year with a good handful cracking my Top 15.  If anyone is complaining that “new music sucks”, well they aren’t listening.  There is an innumerable amount of great stuff to check out, you just have to have an open mind and give anything that catches your ear a listen (or eye if the album has great artwork).  If you do a little searching for your tunes every year will be the best year in music for you(and with the internet finding awesome tunes is so much easier and cheaper than before, until you start finding music you love and going on some shopping sprees 🙂 ).  Positive thinking and law of attraction and all that stuff.

When making my list the criteria I used was how often I listened to each album, initial impact and how long that first impression lasted, and how well the album grew on me.  I hope you all enjoy my picks and hopefully find some cool new music to listen to.  And if you look at my list and think of a band that would be right up my alley, let me know!!  And let us know what some of your favorite albums were for 2011.  Enjoy!!  Peace Love and Metal!!!

15. Pain of Salvation Road Salt Pt. 2

A great follow-up to one of Pain of Salvation‘s best albums, Road Salt Pt. 1.  Continuing with the classic/prog rock style that was founded on the former, Road Salt Pt. 2 puts forth a darker feel as it continues the theme of decisions and consequences.  Daniel Gildenlöw’s vocals once again steal the show as he show why he is one of the top singers(and songwriters) in music today.  Favorite song: “To the Shoreline” (best use of Ennio Morricone since Sergio Leone)

 14. Ghost- Opus Eponymous

Opus Eponymous by Ghost was a surprise out of nowhere for me and one of the biggest breaths of fresh air this year.  These Satanic Swedes proved that one doesn’t need to be uncomprehendingly brutal to show their infatuation with the Dark Lord(it’s all a great gimmick btw 😉 ).  All the songs on this quite short but perfectly paced album are laden with catchy vocals and grooves that will have you dancin’ with the devil.  Who knew being evil could be so fun!  Favorite song: “Ritual” (the Dark Lord’s Prayer made me lol)

13. Dream Theater- A Dramatic Turn of Events

A major change(and highly publicized) in Dream Theater‘s line-up ushered in a new era for prog-metal’s most well-known band.  Using a songwriting style where there is more input from the various members, A Dramatic Turn of Events is a more open, lively, and diverse outing after a long string of by-the-numbers(by DT standards) albums.  Some years ago my passion for DT was waning, now it is fully renewed and look forward to what they can do with this new structure in the future(can’t wait to see them live next month!). Favorite song: “Outcry” (Rudress is a f’n beast on this song)

12. Leprous- Bilateral

This album came out of nowhere for me.  I caught a review of it on the Angry Metal Guy blog and it seemed like it would be right up my alley so I jumped on Amazon and picked it up.  With prog-metal songs exploring music from just about every angle in the genre it tops it all off with super catchy chorus’ and vocal lines.  And the amount of variety on this album is staggering, not one song sounds like any other on the record and each retains the overall personality of the record.  Fans of prog-metal/rock seriously need to check this album out.  Favorite song: “Waste of Air”(that crescendo in the middle of the song is just nuts)

11. Korpiklaani- Ukon Wacka

It’s another year and another Korpiklaani album.  I don’t know what these Finns are drinking (probably the ceremonial “Thunder Brew” to which the album title alludes to), but what ever it is, I want some.  With an annual release schedule one would think that these folk metallers would be running dry on songs and ideas, but Ukon Wacka puts all that doubt to rest.  Front to back this album is a non-stop party overflowing with fun.  Anytime you may feel down in the dumps, pop this album on and Korpiklaani will be popping a metal smile on your face in no time.  Favorite song: “Tuoppi Olutta”(“Bring Us Pints of Beer” is the translated title, and what could make any man(or woman) more happy than some pints of beer and some wonderful music)

10. Rhapsody of Fire- From Chaos to Eternity

OK, if you haven’t noticed, I have a soft spot in my heart for high fantasy.  Dragons, dwarves, elves, epic journeys, etc.  I also love me some way over-exaggerated power metal and orchestral elements too.  Oh, and you can’t forget cheese, lots and lots of cheese.  Italy’s Rhapsody of Fire have taken all these little niche things that I love to visit often and combined them into a huge series of over-the-top albums with a sprawling story-line connecting each one. From Chaos to Eternity is the final album from the Italians(before they parted ways and made the Rhapsody naming more confusing than the L.A. Guns), and oh, man, do they go out with one hell of a bang.  Every song is overflowing with Rhapsody brand of fantasy/metal cheese and they even bring it a step further expanding on many elements they successfully experimented with on their previous album.  Black metal + High Flying Power Metal= Epic Win in my book.  Favorite song: “I Belong to the Stars” (So arena rock, so huge, so crushing, sooooo cheesy. I love it!!!)

9. Opeth- Heritage

Taking their prog-rock roots even further, Opeth took their sound to a place where one could almost mistake it for something recorded almost 40 years ago.  Completely free of anything one would call “brutal”, Heritage completely explores lots of other avenues that the band lives on.  While at first I was a bit underwhelmed, Heritage grew on me big time, and after I saw them live in support of this album, you could say my appreciation for the record is even deeper.  This is by far Opeth‘s most unique album and should be checked out by fans of all music.  Favorite song: “Famine” (That jazz flute gives me chills)

8. Machine Head- Unto the Locust

Want to talk about pressure, the boys in Machine Head were tasked with creating a worthy follow-up to their now modern metal classic, The Blackening.  No easy task.  And whoa boy, did they create a worthy follow-up.  From start to finish Unto the Locust is an unrelenting barrage of glorious, glorious metal performed only like MH can do it(which is awesome).  Rob Flynn and Phil Demmel are hands down one of the best guitar duos on the modern metal plane and the rest of band ain’t nothing close to slackers either.  Are you a metal head?  Don’t have this album yet? What are you waiting for!!  Favorite song: “Be Still and Know” (also my favorite song title of the year, decade maybe.  Love the message in the song too)

7. Hammers of Misfortune- 17th Street

Is there anything San Fran’s Hammers of Misfortune can’t do.  After hearing 17th Street, maybe not.  All the songs range from Rush-inspired prog rock to sludge metal to Queen sized ballads.  And there’s so much more in between all that.  There’s excellent lyric writing, awesome musicianship, and lots of passion and honesty.  The great variety of music will keep you listening and the excellent songwriting(album writing) will keep you coming back for more time and time again.  Favorite song: “The Day the City Died” (Off-Broadway metal?)

6. Symphony X- Iconoclast

I take a certain pride that I was born and raised in New Jersey on the Jersey Shore before I packed up and started adventuring the world.  Contrary to what the television show says, the Jersey Shore is a pretty laid back place with lots of great things going on.  One of those great things is the awesome music scene.  One of the modern bands of the area to really hit it huge on an international level is Symphony X and their 2011 release, the double album Iconoclast, marks some the Jersey boys best work ever.  Tons of prog/power metal, high energy, super groovy, and heartfelt songs about Man vs. Machine will keep you rocking non-stop and won’t wear out any time soon.  Favorite song: “Children of a Faceless God” (Awesome musicianship and a bone-shattering chorus make this riff-fest one hell of a tune)

5. *shels- Plains of the Purple Buffalo

Plains of the Purple Buffalo has to be the most entrancing album of the year.  Each song on this album slowly paints breathtaking pictures that will overwhelm all of your senses if you allow yourself to get swept up spectacular land/soundscapes *shels creates.  If you need an album to sit back and just let go to this year, make this your go to record.  As time passes I find myself going back to this album more and more, and for the multitude of times I’ve listened to it, it keeps growing and growing(quite like their songs).  Fans of post-rock/metal, this is a no-brainer, those who have interest in the genre this is well worth hunting down and checking out.  Favorite song: “Journey to the Plains” (I get completely lost every time I listen to this song, love it.  Hands down my favorite song of the year)

4. Cormorant- Dwellings

Another album that came way out of left field and just blew me the f’ away.  If I had to sum this album up in one word it would be “honesty”.  From the analog recording to the stirring lyrics Dwellings shows the band being completely honest about themselves and their thoughts.  The passion that goes into every note on this record is felt layers and layers deep and with each spin even more for me.  The bands D.I.Y. approach make this an even more honest album as every single aspect from the music down to the best cover art I’ve seen this year is of the bands choosing completely unadulterated by any outside source(media, record label, etc.).  Head over to Cormorant‘s Bandcamp page and pick this album up(great price, and you can name your price on their superb previous records, even free if you like).  Favorite song: “Funambulist” (Guitar solo of the year? Very well could be.)

3.Steven Wilson- Grace for Drowning

Picking my Top 3 was quite difficult this year, I was about ready to say F’ it and call a 3-way tie, but that’s no fun, is it?  The first trouble-maker is Steven Wilson and his second solo album Grace for Drowning.  Going from touching and heartfelt to eerie and scary this album just hits every emotion that one can experience while listening to music deep.  He also takes you through journeys with unexpected twists and turns that will leave you with surprise and awe at every turn.  The top-notch prog-rock borders on metal territory at times, and is welcome to cross over and visit anytime.  The lyric writing is also superb as well, while being a bit cryptic at times, Mr. Wilson uses his words to build an image or emotion and when placed upon the backdrop of his music they create a tightly woven listening experience.  IMHO this is Mr. Wilson’s best work hands down(even including Porcupine Tree) and fans of all music should give this a listen, it’s just, wow.  Favorite song: “Postcard” (one of the mellow tracks, but so crushing on an emotional level.  The somber lyrics in contrast with the uplifting music make for such a powerful combination.)

2. Devin Townsend Project- Deconstruction

“What the fuck in God’s good name did I just listen to?” was the first thought to pass my mind upon the closing notes of mad metal scientist Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction.  It’s an album that starts off kind of tame and then each song just gets loonier and loonier as the record “deconstructs” itself.  There’s this whole thing about the search for the meaning of life as the main character journeys through a demented and unique version of Hell and encounters delicious, mouth-watering cheeseburgers that contain the meaning of it all(which sucks for him because he’s a vega-ma-tarian).  With all the tongue-in-cheek humor on the record, there is also great insight.  The theme of the album from how I interpret it, simply put, for all the confusion in life and trying to find its/your meaning, the meaning of life can all be deconstructed down to its source, which is just simply Being.  Can’t think of a better message than that.  Oh, and there are tons upon tons of awesome and catchy music in the record too!!  Favorite song: “The Might Masturbator” (I seriously don’t know what to say about this song other than it’s f’n bat shit crazy, and awesome!!)

1. Moonsorrow-Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa

 

The best way I can describe this album is to think of the popular novel, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road(don’t try to substitute the film…).  The coldness, the bleakness, the darkness, danger at every turn, the Earth at an end, all those things Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa(As Shadows We Walk Through the Land of the Dead) captures brilliantly.  But, honestly any good metal album could do that, what really sets this apart and why I reference The Road is because amid all the pain, drear, and sorrow there is an underlying hope for the future, and there is a certain beauty to the images of a frozen post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Heavy and dirty snow atop a scorched tree, expansive landscapes, and a pure hope that the world will return to its once great majesty.  The lyrics are sung completely in Finnish(which are wonderfully translated in the liner notes), so for many listeners such as myself, it’s really the music that is telling the story and conjuring image after image, no easy task.  Crushing and stunning front to back this album gives me chills and just blows me away time and time again.  Album of the Year, hands down.  Favorite song: “Huuto” (If one were to look up the definition of “epic” up in the dictionary, this song should be the definition)

For any American readers, finding this record may be a bit tricky, but it is possible to find an import of it and Amazon($4.99) and Itunes($9.99) have it available for MP3 download.

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About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on January 4, 2012, in Best of 2011, Metal Lists, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Awesome picks man! I somehow missed out on all the folk metal that came out last year and seeing Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani on your list makes me sad I did. I guess I’ve still got to catch up on 2011, before I can begin to ingest 2012!

    I didn’t find the new Dream Theater that different from their past work, but I did enjoy it far more than the previous album (“Black Clouds and Silver Linings”, though the song “Count of Tuscany” has become a fav DT track of mine). I’ll have to listen to it again! Ah, thanks for giving me more stuff to distract me!

    Here’s to a great blogging year in 2012!
    -Dan

    • There wasn’t a lot of huge folk metal releases this year, but, damn, that Moonsorrow probably would have overshadow them all, lol. Next year there is a new Eluvietie coming out(!!) and they have a couple tracks on youtube now, and their pretty damn good(one is a bit more poppy than usual, but still kick ass).
      Ya, I got a bit of backtracking to do myself, lol. Thanks for the heads up on that Surachai album, it’s out there, but I’m really digging it lots.
      A great blogging year in 2012 to you too!!!

  2. Great list man! Makes mine seem so narrow, but I do love the thrash and always seem to graviate toward that. I still have some music to catch up on…Cormorant, Moonsorrow, and Devin Townsend. I haven’t heard any of those albums in full. I don’t see much coming out in early 2012 (other than Nightwish), so it might be a good time to seek those on iTunes.

    Like DC, I love The Count of Tuscany. Not many people talk about that song, it was the gem of Black Clouds. Like Matt, I am much renewed with Dream Theater. I just read that James LaBrie has begun writing another solo album. I don’t know how these guys can work that hard…

    Awesome list…some truly great albums and also it’s nice to see some similarities on our lists.

    • Yours isn’t as narrow as you think, there’s tons of great stuff on there. One could say I’m impartial to prog metal like you are thrash. I’m sure you will dig the Moonsorrow, Cormorant, and Devin Townsend. I got the other 2 albums in the Devin Townsend Project collection for Christmas(my wife is awesome!!) and they’re really good. Each of the 4 puts the Townsend spin one different genres and as a whole it’s a really cool endevour. But out of the 4, Deconstruction takes the cake.
      I’m looking forward to that new Nightwish, but may have pick it up a month or so late, too much new stuff to absorb and I got a bit of 2011 backtracking to do too, lol.
      Oh, and Count of Tucany rules!!
      Peace Love and Metal!!!

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