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LEYLA FORD’S TOP FIFTEEN METAL ALBUMS OF 2011

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The first thing I think of when trying to sum up the year, musically speaking, is that I really just wanted people to shut up. I’m sure I’m not the only one, because I can think of at least three albums that had an alternate, instrumental version released. (Sorry, Darkest Hour.) I also apparently really liked music that generally falls into the “guitar wankery” category. That’s new. Tastes change, bands change, and another year comes to a close. Here are my top fifteen choices for 2011.

protest the hero - scurrilous15. Protest The Hero, Scurrilous (Vagrant)

I really enjoyed this album simply because the music was so good. It’s fast, it’s technical, and it’s just so damn catchy. Unfortunately, the vocals kind of grated on my nerves (see: introductory paragraph), which is why I can’t place them higher.

Skeletonwitch Forever Abomination14. Skeletonwitch, Forever Abomination(Prosthetic)

They’re the first black/thrash band on the list and definitely not the last. There are so many cool little harmonies and grooves thrown in there that I even got a non-metal fan to listen and enjoy a couple songs before they told me to turn it off. Needless to say, they are no longer considered a friend. Nah, I’m kidding.

Revocation - Chaos of Forms13. Revocation, Chaos of Forms (Relapse)

Most of Revocation’s songs remind me of other songs (e.g., “Beloved Horrifier” sounds like Judas Priest’s “Electric Eye,” only sped up) but since they are good songs, I see no problem with that. Riff-happy, death-y, thrash-y, they kind of set the standard for my favorite mix of genres. Plus, they’re one of the few bands I’m happy to claim as my (adopted) city’s own.

12. Obscura, Omnivium (Relapse)

I liked Obscura before I saw them live, but now I love them. Not only is the music good, they’re just such a personable band. Their influences (Death, Morbid Angel) are so obvious, but they still manage to sound a little different. And they’re so polite! “Please”s and “thank you”s after every song; they’re the death metal band you bring home to meet your parents.

scale the summit - the collective11. Scale the Summit, The Collective (Prosthetic)

Like I said, I like pretty, impressive, technical guitar stuff now. I don’t know what happened.

Absu - Abzu (final)10. Absu, Abzu (Candlelight)

God, that scream in “Earth Ripper” gets me every time. I love it. It’s black metal as played by a thrash band, and that’s why I like it. But there are so many other influences that you can’t really define them as such and leave it at that. Plus, hooray for Sumerian mythology. It’s so much more interesting and unpronounceable than any other mythologies.

9. SubRosa, No Help for the Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)

I really enjoyed it when Siouxsie decided to ditch the Banshees and channel all her angst into doom and sludge rather than waste it on post-punk and gothic new wave. Which is what this album sounds like.

8. Havok, Time is Up (Candlelight)

More of that kick-ass thrash that fills me with joy and makes me want to go out punching even though I’m not a violent person at all.

7. Fleshgod Apocalypse,  Agony (Nuclear Blast)

Don’t they just look like classy gentlemen when they wear those suits? Classy gentlemen with an abundance of hair? Well, that’s just the best kind. Classy, hairy gentlemen who play technical death and integrate sweeping, epic, orchestral touches? Well they can have a place right here at number seven. May I also suggest they have a slogan? “Fleshgod Apocalypse; they put the ‘classi’ in classical death.” I’m so glad I don’t have to write press releases.

6. Pain – You Only Live Twice (Nuclear Blast)

I put Pain on my mid-year list kind of grudgingly because, well, there are a lot of terrible songs on this album. But the thing is, they’re all the bonus tracks. Awful remixes of good songs. Even the Vengaboys would reject these DJs; they’re just so bad. But the album itself is pretty classic Pain (ignoring the Hellacopters rip-off, “Dirty Woman,” as well), and there’s even some Hypocrisy-inspired melodies thrown in with the industrial.

5. Vektor, Outer Isolation (Heavy Artillery)

Hey, Vektor. Nice of you to swoop in at the end of the year and make me have to give some other band the boot. Thrash with a slight prog edge to it. But not the kind that makes me want to round up anyone who likes Dream Theater and bury them alive. No, this is just a touch of it mixed in with black metal and just pure goodness.

4. Michael Monroe, Sensory Overdrive (Spinefarm)

I would feel really guilty if I didn’t put this on here. Mr. Monroe and I’ve had a delightful year together, and his brand of dysfunctional punk with a pop edge entertained me from the summer onwards. I’m looking forward to hopefully a new release next year, as well as candidates to translate his book from Finnish for me. Anyone?

3. Wolf,  Legions of Bastards (Century Media)

I have a special spot (in my heart and on this list) for Wolf, and the more I listen to this album, the more I like it. It’s had all year to marinate in my brain, and though I still prefer some of their older stuff, they’re faithful enough to their sound that I’m okay with putting them this high up on the list. It is NWOBHM by way of Sweden, and it’s perfect for those strictly leather ‘n’ denim days.

2. Speedwolf, Ride With Death (Hell’s Headbangers)

Another last minute entry. Kyle Antivenin of Hellbound.ca described Speedwolf as “Zeke if Lemmy fronted the band,” and holy hell, those are some convincing words. I had to check it out, and I’m glad I did. Fast, thrash, edge of punk, it’s everything I enjoy and then some. It also wins for my favorite album art of the year, even though it’s simple and nothing extraordinary or new. Guess I just really like wolves.

Insomnium One For Sorrow

1. Insomnium, One For Sorrow (Century Media)

I listen to Insomnium when I’m happy and I listen to them when I’m sad. I’ve listened to them on nights out, nights in, long days, short trips. I’ve listened to them on the way to funerals and I’ll probably be listening to them on my wedding day. I know a lot of people complain that every song sounds the same, but feh. Their melancholic, melodic death is unlike any other band else I’ve heard, and I just love this album.

Honorable Mentions:

Devin Townsend, Deconstruction (Inside/Out) — Because we’re all Devy fanboys at heart. Even if we’re girls.

Mastodon, The Hunter (Reprise/Warner Bros.) — I don’t like Mastodon. Yep, pretty unpopular opinion there. But I like this album quite a bit. Mostly because it sounds nothing like them.

Anthrax, Worship Music (Nuclear Blast/Megaforce) — I’m way late to the Anthrax party, and though I really like this album, I think they’ll show up on plenty of other lists, so I don’t feel obligated to put them on mine.

Blut Aus Nord, 777 Sect(s)/ 777 The Sanctification (Season of Mist) — I really enjoyed the first two albums of this trilogy, and I generally like what Blut Aus Nord has to offer. They’re my favorite non- “childish, satanic clowns,” but I felt other albums deserved to be on my illustrious list more.

-LF

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