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ANSO DF’S TOP FIFTEEN BONER JAMZ OF 2011 METAL

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Maybe you’ve had this experience: A recent acquaintance hears that you listen to tons of metal and reacts with surprise. Usually a work friend, this person kinda blinks in disbelief that a cuddly, sweet cupcake like you loves what appears to be violent, negative music. But you explain that though its popular face dons a mask of self-pity and boner panic, tons of metal’s listeners are sunny dudes.

It’s truer than ever in 2011, as metal’s most heeded voices charge toward enlightened contentment: Mastodon urges us to “pursue happiness with diligence.” Devin Townsend and Junius send a toilet snake down our emotional drain to root out harmful gunk. Anal Cunt, Steel Panther, and Whitesnake help us to party with abandon, to bang and be banged. And, yes, even the doom-and-destruction jamz from Warbringer and Hate Eternal feed our perspective, encourage healthy skepticism, and massage kinks from our rage muscles. The destroyers of our society are not followers of metal. Maybe its saviors are :)


15. Warbringer, Worlds Torn Asunder (Century Media)
September 27  •  The track that will hook you: “Treacherous Tongue” (listen)

Beach season was pretty over when Worlds Torn Asunder came out, so I got to know this Warbringer album indoors. That’s sad, but Worlds arrived just in time to fill in for NBA basketball and America’s Best Crime Reporting, both of which usually save my Autumn from boredom but haven’t happened yet. Huh so the NBA really owes Warbringer for the help :) I doubt a check’s in the mail :( Last year Forbidden, Omega Wave

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14. One Man Army And The Undead Quartet — The Dark Epic (Massacre)
February 25  •  The track that will hook you: “Skeletons Of Rose Hall” (listen)

In a MetalSucks interview, The Crown guitarist Marko Tervonen acknowledged something known to fans of One Man Army And The Undead Quartet’s awesome fourth album, The Dark Epic: Since The Crown’s last album with screamer Johan Lindstrand (2003’s Possessed 13), the One Man Army frontman is now a killer songwriter. At worst, his return tweaks The Crown’s creative balance of punishing power (Tervonen) and punk pace (bassist Magnus Osfelt). At best, it means fuckin’ double album, dude!! Last year Ratt, Infestation

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13. Hammers of Misfortune — 17th Street (Metal Blade)
October 25 • The track that will hook you: “The Grain” (listen)

A magic album’s ability is to make you want to work hard to comprehend it. It puts you to the task of finding its edges (Mastodon’s The Hunter, Opeth’s Heritage), of just getting it right side up (Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction), or of unfolding its narrative as you would the map of a major city. The latter is 17th Street, 2011’s most dexterous album. HoM doesn’t stump you but kinda pulls you to the ledge of heavy metal, like a radical Savatage or a bearded Queensryche. Sexy right? Last year Crashdiet, Generation Wild

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12. Junius — Reports From The Threshold Of Death (Prosthetic) October 25  • The track that will hook you: “All Shall Float” (listen)

I wonder how many dudes bought tickets to the Enslaved/Ghost tour who, upon Ghost’s withdrawal, fought the urge to refund, stay home, and miss Enslaved. I also wonder how many sighs were exchanged among them when to the stage came Junius, a Boston band whose tone couldn’t be more starkly different from Ghost’s. I also also wonder at what rate arms were uncrossed, postures opened, and dudes got carried away by dreamy Junius, like Deftones and Dredg, Fear Factory and Katatonia. I also also also wonder if anybody else has been shocked to discover that a friend of theirs can explain without pause that Junius was an anonymous 18th Century political writer in London who took that pseudonym from Lucius Junius Brutus, the guy who helped overthrow the last king of Rome. Ya think you know somebody geez. Last year Arsis, Starve For The Devil

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11. Dir En Grey — Dum Spiro Spero (The End)
August 3 • The track that will hook you: “The Blossoming Beelzebub” (listen)

Some bands never court indifference; you either dig them or talk loud shit about them. So fans of Dir En Grey, a dead-serious and dramatic J-core quintet with a whimpering, oft-shirtless singer, must stay prepared to take some jeering. (Sample joke: “What’s half-Japanese and has two vaginas? The singers of Dir En Grey and Bring Me The Horizon.”) There’s also the fact that DEG’s music is so pervasively weird and violent that eventually a fan might object to a sound or sensibility. (Also, I’ve talked to fans who don’t love to sing rapey lyrics.) But it’s that filter that makes Dir En Grey fandom exciting: The overly sensitive or serious are shaken out, like seeds from doobage, resulting in receptive (if not indulgent) fan base supportive of crazy-ass shit like Dum Spiro Spero. The shit is weird! Last year Monster Magnet, Mastermind

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10. Anthrax — Worship Music (Megaforce)
September 13 • The track that will hook you: “The Giant” (listen)

The lyrics of Worship Music’s “The Devil You Know” warn to “let the right one in,” which rings bitterly ironic sung by Anthrax’s former scapegoat and third choice for a singer. But the ignoring of bad timing and hostility is a job of Anthrax fans in 2011, when 25 years ago we only had to endure their contrarian devotion to hip hop. Once charming, now kinda rude, Anthrax nevertheless delivers a lovable, tight album whose awesome Joey Belladonna vocals and killer Charlie Benante songs can’t be soured by guitarist Scott Ian’s media blustering (no internet for illegal file sharers = no one to read Scott Ian) or guitarist Rob Cavaggio’s state of living death (being poisoned? zombie?) or by a fan’s fatigue re: songs about worthless shitheads who make life hard for Anthrax. There’s so much baggage. Lucky it belongs to a cool traveler. Last year Enforcer, Diamonds

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9. Dream Theater — A Dramatic Turn of Events (Roadrunner)
September 13 • The track that will hook you: “Bridges In The Sky” (listen)

It’s probably classy of the men of Dream Theater to state that their 2011 album’s title is not a reference to the departure of founding drummer Mike Portnoy (or the subsequent campaign to determine his replacement, Mike Mangina). Really, the liberated Dream Theater guys don’t need to take veiled shots at their ex-captor; their statement is the awesome album itself, their third-best and most convincing since Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (disc one). For 77 minutes, it silently shouts, “Suck it, Portnoy!” Last year Overkill, Ironbound

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8. Opeth — Heritage (Roadrunner)
September 13 • The track that will hook you: “The Lines In My Hand” (listen)

To define the change in Opeth on their rad tenth album Heritage and its awesome timing, I use an analogy: Opeth used to be like cool guys at all the same parties as me but always in a dark corner and partying a bit too seriously. But then one day late in our acquaintance, they materialize on my side of the room all in the mood to groove out, listen to King Crimson, and take some mushrooms. That’s more like it. Now lose the beard, pass the pizza, and let’s party, Bropeth. Last year Triptykon, Eparistera Daimones

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7. Anal Cunt — Fuckin’ A (Patac)
January 11 • The track that will hook you: “Yay! It’s Pink!” (listen)

One reviewer pointed out that the premise of Anal Cunt’s Fuckin’ A — extreme metal agitators play hair metal — doesn’t last the album’s 30 minutes, and that a better buy is the band’s other 2011 release, Wearing Out Our Welcome, a pure A.C. outing with no unexpected tongues in weird cheeks. But my advantage is that I want to hear A.C. — and nearly every other band on earth — play hair metal. Fuckin’ A is way too sewer to qualify as more than a spiritual tribute to the style, but the fact that glam metal is evergreen is proven here by A.C.‘s Seth Putnam of all people: Once any good musician gets in the Hollywood headspace that rules are for pussies and pussy rules, great albums like Fuckin’ A are born. Last year Nachtmystium, Addicts: Black Meddle Part II

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6. Whitesnake – Forevermore (Frontiers)
March 29 • The track that will hook you: “I Need You (Shine A Light) (listen)

No matter how questionable his human relations skills, David Coverdale’s personnel instincts are awesome. Take his Whitesnake line-ups with John Sykes and Aynsley Dunbar, or with Steve Vai and Tommy Aldridge. Or take the Whitesnake of Forevermore: Guitarist Doug Aldrich, once invisible in Dio’s band, earns second billing in this one. Reb Beach, the robotic lead guitarist from Winger, puts his virtuosity to great use in this bluesy-loverman setting. Add to that duo Billy Idol’s studdd drummer, a weathered but awesome 60-year old horndog singer, and Bob Rock-era arena-sized sound, polished and pulverizing. I love! Last year Waitain, Lawless Darkness

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5. Mastodon — The Hunter (Warner Bros)
September 27 • The track that will hook you: “Thickening” (listen)

Mastodon with Mike Elizondo was one of two exciting pairings of band and producer in 2011. Odd upon its announcement, the decision starts to make perfect sense once The Hunter clicks with a listener: The album is a contraction after its authors’ heavily-wrought and wrangled epics, like its closest spiritual cousin, Voivod’s Angel Rat. Likewise, Mastodon does not require a guide as much as a driver, not someone to plot a course but someone to operate and maintain their vehicle. That must be why The Hunter’s vocals and sonics are so slick and rich; that was the producer’s focus (where it once might’ve been bringing to bear unwieldy suites and bracing thematics). Meanwhile, the songwriters of Mastodon traverse wider territory in shorter jaunts and ease the tension (and demands on attention) that had listeners of 2009’s Crack The Skye staring into walls. That means The Hunter isn’t Mastodon’s greatest achievement, but it might be their best album. Last year Soilwork, The Panic Broadcast

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4. Hate Eternal — Phoenix Amongst The Ashes (Metal Blade)
May 10 • The track that will hook you: “The Art Of Redemption” (listen)

It’s crazy but Hate Eternal’s only slips over two recent albums — May’s Phoenix Amongst The Ashes and 2008’s Fury & Flames — are their titles. This is picky but if asked I’d propose to frontman Erik Rutan that & is meant for family furniture store signage and amongst twists the tongue. From a safe distance, I’d squeak “I prefer among?” Then I’d be sure to remind him that everything else is flawless, that Phoenix is the diametric opposite of his old band Morbid Angel’s 2011 catastrophe Illud Divinum Insanus, and that death metal is only as good as Hate Eternal makes it. I guess I’d be wearing a helmet the whole time. Last year Deftones, Diamond Eyes

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3. Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction (HevyDevy)
June 20 • The track that will hook you: “Sumeria” (listen)

In an awesome interview with MetalSucks, Devin Townsend hinted that a sequel to his zany puppet opera Ziltoid The Omniscient might invite headaches from humor-impaired fans. At the time, my vibe on the matter was basically screw them if they can’t enjoy a joke. But I am flip-flopping. Lately I see how the pitch of Townsend’s humor could ring self-conscious or self-preserving. Deconstruction is way out there, so who’d blame him? And it doesn’t tarnish the album, though it does help the extreme odyssey feel like a task — until it begins to take the shape of a masterpiece. I wonder if his mugging, goofing, and farting has the same purpose as my mom’s practice of hardly letting me unwrap/identify a holiday present before she foists the receipt on me — should I require a refund. Like I ever do. Last year The Crown, Doomsday King

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2. Steel Panther — Balls Out (Universal/Republic)
November 1 • The track that will hook you: “Tomorrow Night” (listen)

There’s an iconic scene in the movie 8 Mile that depicts young Marshall “Eminem” Mathers having a beta epiphany. He’s the underdog in a heated rap battle when to him comes the idea to disarm his jerky opponent, not just return fire. So Em preemptively lists his own faults — his lame friends, his broke ass, his whiteness — and deflates the cocky dudes who were set to roast him on that no-brainer stuff. He’s basically like “Take my life, please!” The other MC’s turn comes but, left only with a sling but no arrows, he concedes victory. I totally plan to poach that scene for my biography of Hollywood cock rock revivalists Steel Panther. I’ll show four funny, awesome metal dudes as they arrive at a loophole in the laws that state no glam metal record will ever again break in America: If hair rock can’t succeed on offense (via awesomeness), then a band needs cunning defense (via satire). As salesmen, Michael Starr and crew get a foot in your door with jokes, then sell you the deluxe platinum package with skills; they have a pitch for the fun-impaired (“It’s hilarious!”), one for glam lovers (“It rocks!”), and one for boner bros (“It’s horny!”). It’ll be a classic scene, I can feel it. And that’s just act one; my Steel Panther saga will reach 2011, the year when an better-than-ever Steel Panther — and their infectious, liberating Balls Out — started to just sell itself. I hope there’ll be lots of drugz and boobz in that part. Last year Atheist, Jupiter

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1. The Devil’s Blood — The Thousandfold Epicentre (Metal Blade)
November 11 (EU) January 17, 2012 (US) • The track that will hook you: “Fire Burning” (listen)

A measure of meta-excitement comes with The Devil’s Blood and their second masterpiece The Thousandfold Epicentre. First, a listener is, like, ravished by their lovely harmonies, gauzy arrangements, and taut dynamics. But for all their theater and spooky symbols, The Devil’s Blood is a metal band that isn’t heavy or produced to death. And bam that’s the extra thrill about The Devil’s Blood: Their awesomeness is enjoyable like crack, yes, but it’s also a tool of change. Just their sophomore album, The Thousandfold Epicentre is so heedlessly awesome that a fan might sense that The Devil’s Blood, with Ghost as their Jane’s Addiction, is like a Nirvana, a singular, recklessly confident, and plainly credible band that reorients a movement once vital now often aimless and excessive, one in which many performances are pinpoint-calibrated by computers and many prevailing voices are those of the macho and the victimized. That’s fine and all, but history shows that we fans hit the reset button once in a while, like we did via Van Halen and Black Sabbath then Metallica and Tool, whenever shit gets silly. It’s a hardly conscious choice; those bands commanded us and changed our perspectives. Everybody, meet The Devil’s Blood. Last year Iron Maiden, The Final Frontier

-ADF

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