When I was first making this list, I had a hard time thinking of that many new albums I’d actually listened to in 2011. But once I actually got home and went through my iTunes/most recent pile of vinyl scores/the mid-year list I wrote, I realized that it’s actually been a damn good year. A few early favorites were supplanted by more recent discoveries and sneaky year-end releases (sorry, Aksumite; hello, Wrathprayer!). Two of my enduring picks came courtesy of the always-excellent Gilead Media, who could use a hand right now and richly deserve your support.

Most of the albums I really loved fall beneath the “black metal” umbrella (11/15), but there are a couple monuments of death and a few doomed souls thrown in there as well. Hell, I would have just written down Beherit’s Live at the Devil’s Studio 1990 fifteen times if I thought I could get away with it.

So, here’s my list! I decided to leave the descriptions a bit vague this year to pique curiosity and inspire further exploration. Spoiler alert: Opeth’s not on it, and I still think that Burzum re-recording was a terrible idea. No, I’m still not sold on the Sonne Adam record (Armed with Hammers was better, and  the production on Transformation was far too clean), and if you’re going to leave pouty comments saying that “I’ve never heard of any of these bands, jeez!”, I recommend you direct your browser to Metal Archives and start typing.

15. Reveal, Nocturne of Eyes and Teeth (High Roller) — Eerie, horror-obsessed, lo-fi, classic ‘80s-styled black/thrash.

14. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewussthelt (Nostalgia Blackrain) — Enigmatic, atmospheric, slow-burning, beautiful doom.

13. Blasphemophagher, The III Command of the Absolute Chaos (Nuclear War Now! Productions) — Primitive, bestial, unrelenting black/death metal.

12. Absu, Abzu (Candlelight) — Complex, aggressive, thrashy, immensely satisfying mythological occult black metal. 

11. Inquisition, Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Hell’s Headbangers) — Inimitable, memorable, savage, melodically-inclined old-school black metal. 

10. Barghest, Barghest (Gilead Media/Big Mountain) — Cold, hateful, Second Wave-inspired black metal. 

9. Wrathprayer, The Sun of Moloch: The Sublimation of Sulphur’s Essence Which Spawns Death and Life (Nuclear War Now! Productions) — Ritualized, chaotic, warmongering, bestial black/death.

8. Void Meditation Cult, Sulfurous Prayers demo (Hell’s Headbangers) — Menacing, sepulchral, esoteric, crawling black/death/doom metal.

7. Altar of Plagues, Mammal (Profound Lore/Candlelight) — Gorgeous, expansive,  windswept, post-everything black metal.

6. Necros Christos, Doom ov the Occvlt (Sepulchral Voice/Van/AJNA Offensive) — Crushing, atmospheric, mid-paced, uber-occult 90’s-style death metal.

5. Wreck of the Hesperus, Light Rotting Out (Aesthetic Death) — Filthy, desperate, bludgeoning, funereal death/doom.

4. Negative Plane,Stained Glass Revelations (AJNA Offensive/Invictus Productions) — Warped, ingenious, experimental, otherwordly black metal.

3. 40 Watt Sun, The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire/Metal Blade) — Aching, fragile, emotionally heavy, Warning-esque doom.

2. Ash Borer, Ash Borer (Psychic Violence) — Entrancing, atmospheric, mercilessly aggressive Cascadian black metal.


1. Bosse de Nage, II (The Flenser) — Twisted, addictive, depraved, obscure black metal.

(Dis)honorable mentions (LPs):

False, False (Gilead Media) — Vicious, dynamic, innovative, schizophrenic black metal.
The Wounded Kings, In the Chapel of the Black Hand (I Hate)
Amebix, Sonic Mass (Easy Action)
The Atlas Moth, An Ache for the Distance (Profound Lore)
Wolvhammer, The Obsidian Plains (Profound Lore)
Antediluvian, Through the Cervix of Hawwah (Profound Lore)
Falls of Rauros, The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood (Bindrune)

(Dis)honorable mentions (EPs/splits/demos):

Cruciamentum/Vasaeleth split 7”, Eroding Chaos Unto Ascendant Flesh (self-released)
Batillus/Mutilation Rites split 7” (Shinebox)
Pilgrim, Forsaken Man demo (self-released)
Bell Witch, Bell Witch demo (self-released)
One Tail One Head, Tandava EP (Terratur Possessions)
Niantiel, Cavern of the Skeletal Spirits demo (self-released)


Kim Kelly (or Grim Kim, if we’re being formal) scribbles for a number of sweet metal publications (Terrorizer, Brooklyn Vegan, Invisible Oranges, Hails & Horns, and tons more), promotes wicked records with Catharsis PR, and road dogs for your favorite bands. Keep up with her exploits & numerous band recommendations on Twitter, or peep her blog Ravishing Grimness.

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