Jukebox:Metal's The Best of 2011 Year End Lists

After much careful consideration each of the Jukebox:Metal staff have drawn up their top 20 albums and five best live performances of the year.


Andy Lye (Editor)

1.

Leprous
Bilateral

InsideOut
review

Leprous did some incredibly impressive things on Tall Poppy Syndrome, their second album, but blew almost all of them away with Bilateral which, much like last year's best album The Guessing Game by Cathedral, amazes with its creativity and inventiveness. In a year when Pain of Salvation set the standard for forward-thinking progressive music, Leprous managed to better them. Just.

2.

Ray Wilson & Stiltskin
Unfulfillment

Jaggy Polski
review

Although it does play a little more like a Ray Wilson solo album than a Stiltskin album, barely anyone can compare to his's lyricism. Unfulfillment is probably the first time he's fully combined his powerful words with truly memorable, catchy songs. All of his albums are strong, but this is easily the strongest.

3.

Pain of Salvation
Road Salt Two

InsideOut
review

What Pain of Salvation did with Road Salt One and Road Salt Two has to rank as their crowning achievement of their career so far. Not since Queen has anyone put so much variety into an album and made it work. Twice. And as a pair of albums they're a magnificent listening experience. Two isn't quite as good as One, but it's astonishing nonetheless.

4. Anthrax - Worship Music (Nuclear Blast) - review
5. Ancient VVisdom - A Godlike Inferno (Shinebox Recordings)
6. Karl Demata Band - Crossing The Mountain (Green Lizard Records) - review
7. Iced Earth - Dystopia (Century Media) - review
8. The Wheel - The Wheel (Music Buy Mail) - review
9. Graveyard - Hisingen Blues (Nuclear Blast) - review
10. Pentagram - Last Rites (Metal Blade) - review
11. Kruk - It Will Not Come Back (Metal Mind Productions) - review
12. Bloodiest - Descent (Relapse Records) - review
13. Artillery - My Blood (Metal Mind Productions) - review
14. Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions (Century Media) - review
15. Burden - A Hole In The Shell (Ván Records)
16. Riotgod - Invisible Empire (Metalville) - review
17. The Quill - Full Circle (Metalville)
18. Thalamus - Subterfuge (Transubstans Records)
19. Krux - III: He Who Sleeps Amongst The Stars (GMR Music) - review
20. Orchid - Capricorn (The Church Within Records) - review

Honourable mentions: Havok (review), Venom (review), Onslaught (review), Destruction (review), Firebird (review), Jon Amor Blues Group (review), Evangelist, Memory Driven (review)

Top 5 Live Performances of The Year
Rob Zombie Brixton Academy, London - February 16, 2011 setlist
Accept The Garage, London - March 17, 2011 review
My Dying Bride Islington Academy, London - May 18, 2011 setlist
Goatsnake The Forum, London - June 16, 2011 review
Rage Sweden Rock Festival - June 11, 2011 review


Brad Sanders (Reviewer)

1.

Fucked Up
David Comes To Life

Matador Records

The most subversive act in a genre bent on revolt is to revolt on that genre itself, and that's exactly what Toronto natives Fucked Up did on their 78-minute hardcore punk rock opera David Comes To Life. This maddening masterpiece fits in nowhere perfectly, and that makes it the best album of a year ruled by musical chaos.

2.

Wolves In The Throne Room
Celestial Lineage

Southern Lord

Black metal's best working band may have finally crafted their masterpiece. Celestial Lineage marks a huge expansion of Wolves in the Throne Room's sonic palette, and its ambition pays off, with each of the seven songs a totally distinct entry on an album that works beautifully when taken as a whole.

3.

Hammers of Misfortune
17th Street

Metal Blade

Guitarist John Cobbett has had a rough year or two, with the public demise of his black metal troupe Ludicra coming shortly after a bout of appendicitis that saw fans scrambling to help pay his medical bills. His frustration is channeled on the gorgeous 17th Street, an ode to Lizzy and Priest that somehow still stands as metal's definitive observation on life in America in 2011.

4. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Island Records)
5. Altar of Plagues - Mammal (Candlelight Records) - review
6. Burzum - Fallen (Universal Music) - review
7. SubRosa - No Help For The Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)
8. Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4Ad)
9. Rwake - Rest (Candlelight Records) - review
10. Leviathan - True Traitor, True Whore (Profound Lore)
11. Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow (Noble & Brite Ltd.)
12. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy (4Ad)
13. Protest The Hero - Scurrilous (Spinefarm Records)
14. David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time (Sunday Best)
15. The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
16. Death Grips - Exmilitary (Third Worlds)
17. Anaal Nathrakh - Pasion (Candlelight Records) - review
18. Liturgy - Aesthetica (Thrill Jockey)
19. Landmine Marathon - Gallows (Prosthetic Records)
20. Mastodon - The Hunter (Roadrunner Records)

Honourable mentions: Fleet Foxes, Mournful Congregation, Deafheaven, Darkest Hour (review), Touché Amoré

Top 5 Live Performances of The Year
Fucked Up Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY - November 14, 2011
My Dying Bride Islington Academy, London - May 18, 2011
Katatonia Peabody's, Cleveland, OH - September 25, 2011
Arcade Fire UIC Pavilion, Chicago, IL - April 24, 2011
Judas Priest US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH - November 8, 2011


Chris Poling (Reviewer)

1.

SubRosa
No Help For The Mighty Ones

Profound Lore

Earlier this year, not long after this album was released, one of my metal colleagues made a remark about it, saying that if a better doom album was released this year, he would eat his hat. Indeed. Not only did this early prediction of "best doom album of 2011" prove to be true, but as it turns out, no other band released a better metal album this year, period. As in previous years for this reviewer, the primary quality for ranking albums on a list like this is overall appeal, as measured by the relative amount of time an album spends in my listening queue. Since its release, this album has never left that queue. It continues to amaze and mesmerize me every time I listen to it. Perhaps it's the way the strings mix so seamlessly with the heavy guitar work. Perhaps it's the creepy yet beautiful vocals, which range from a mere whisper to a foreboding death growl. Perhaps it's the overall atmosphere of the stories which are told. At the end of the day, putting one's finger on the exact reason "why" is much less meaningful than the mere fact that an album such as this can continue to truly captivate and enrapture the listener time after time after time. This album does that for me in a way that no other album did this year - hence, the mighty SubRosa have conquered all challengers with this beautiful, bludgeoning masterpiece.

2.

Bloodiest
Descent

Relapse Records

Few would argue that the debut album from the seven-piece Illinois-based all-star ensemble Bloodiest is truly a unique piece of work. For starters, this band can bend and twist genres as easily as most folks can walk and talk. Various styles such as doom, sludge and even a dash of post-metal are dissolved in a thick broth of psychedelia, and the end result is, of course (you knew I was going to say it) - delicious. Add to this already rich mixture the fact that these extremely talented musicians have known each other for over a decade - although they do come from various different bands - and the end result is a unique but undeniable chemistry that melds together a myriad of different musical styles and influences in a way that feels perfectly organic and seemless. From the the doomy death-march opening track Fallen to the aptly-named closing track Obituary - which literally slows to a snail's pace and "dies" at its very end - each track is expertly and thoughtfully crafted into a beautiful nugget of raw emotion which, when added together as a whole, seem to be slightly unsatisfying if only for the fact that there aren't twice or three times as many of these little gems to enjoy. In other words, the album's one possible fault is that it may be a bit short compared to some listeners' expectations or desires (about thirty-eight minutes in total), but yet another way to say this is to state that the one thing a listener may be left wanting for at the end of Descent is...more - which is arguably one of the best "problems" an album can have.

3.

*shels
Plains of The Purple Buffalo

Shelsmusic

With a title like Plains of the Purple Buffalo, one might be tempted to think that this album would be filled with psychedlia and musical "visions" of mythical creatures the likes of which might only be found in Wonderland. Where the title is perhaps most apt, though, is in the imagery of the "Plains" which are described therein. One typically thinks of a plain as a vast expanse of land, stretching out in every direction as far as the eye can see, and indeed, this album fits that motif perfectly. Within its whopping seventy-six minutes, this album traverses a huge figurative landscape, taking the listener on a sonic journey which explores a range of emotional territories ranging from sadness and longing, to love and loss, to hope and redemption - and best of all - to euphoric victory and outright joy. It sounds like a lot to take in - and trust me, it is - but it's one of the most rewarding musical journeys I have ever experienced. The sheer volume and range of the sounds made by the many and varied instruments on this album (which range from guitars, drums and vocals to keyboards, horns and strings) is nearly overwhelming - but in the best possible way. Not only that, but the orchestration of the instruments is expertly done. It all just seems to fit together so naturally. Nothing is forced - everything has a definite meaning and purpose. To put it as simply and clearly as possible, this album is so absolutely beautiful in many places that it has nearly moved me to tears - literally - on more that one occasion. Enough said.

4. The Seven Mile Journey - Notes For The Synthesis (Fluttery Records)
5. Russian Circles - Empros (Sargent House)
6. Red Fang - Murder The Mountains (Relapse Records)
7. Origin - Entity (Nuclear Blast)
8. Indian - Guiltless (Relapse Records) - review
9. Cormorant - Cormorant
10. Grayceon - All We Destroy (Profound Lore)
11. Moonlit Sailor - Colors In Stereo (Deep Elm Records)
12. Altar of Plagues - Mammal (Candlelight Records) - review
13. Disma - Towards The Megalith (Profound Lore)
14. Landmine Marathon - Gallows (Deep Six Records)
15. Anaal Nathrakh - Passion (Candlelight Records) - review
16. Giant Squid - Cenotes (Translation Loss)
17. Helms Alee - Weatherhead (Hydra Head Records)
18. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life (Matador Records)
19. Obscura - Omnivium (Relapse Records) - review
20. Burzum - Fallen (Byelobog Productions) - review

Honourable mentions: Tombs, Black Cobra, Mogwai, Batillus, Vektor

Top 5 Live Performances of The Year
Metalliance Tour Peabody's Down Under, Cleveland, OH - March 26, 2011
Russian Circles Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH - November 18, 2011
Primus Stubb's BBQ, Austin, TX - May 24, 2011
Yakuza Subterranean, Chicago, IL - November 23, 2011
Power of The Riff Festival Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA - August 16, 2011


Jackson May (Reviewer)

1.

Touché Amoré
Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me

Deathwish Inc.

Aside from any emotional connections, the music here is great. It's short and catchy enough that the songs will get stuck in your head for days (and trust me, they will), but long enough that the album will emotionally drain you by the end. If you really take a listen to this album, from start to finish, you should feel a huge range of emotions. I feel like Touche Amore wrote this album for themselves, but ended up writing it for everyone else as well. A masterpiece.

2.

Anaal Nathrakh
Passion

Candlelight Records

It's really a return to chaotic, abrasive, apocalyptic sounding songs. Even more-so than normal. It also features the best Anaal Nathrakh guest track ever. Honestly, it's insane how good Bethlehem's vocalist does on Tod Huetet Uebel that it's almost scary. But at the end of the day, Passion should satisfy every Anaal Nathrakh fan. Fans of each album, fans of the soaring vocals, fans of the harsh vocals, fans of the insane drumming, fans of the explosive intensity that comes from nowhere, etc.

3.

Mastodon
The Hunter

Roadrunner Records

What makes this album great is that it is pure Mastodon. But it doesn't really sound like Mastodon. If that makes any sense. But it has everything makes Mastodon so great. Catchy, radio-friendly tunes, some of the heaviest stuff they've ever done, those really odd songs that just seem to work that no one could pull off other than Mastodon and everything in between. It perfectly molds together their past albums into one huge crowning achievement. I'm not sure if everyone will consider this Mastodon's greatest album, but The Hunter is exactly what Mastodon needed.

4. Vektor - Outer Isolation (Heavy Artillery)
5. Radiohead - The King of Limbs (XL Recordings)
6. Aesoth - III (Agonia Records) - review
7. Taake - Noregs Vaapen (Century Media)
8. Black Cobra - Invernal (Southern Lord)
9. Mournful Congregation - The Book of Kings (Osmose Productions)
10. Forgotten Tomb - Under Saturn Retrograde (Agonia Records) - review
11. Warbringer - Worlds Torn Asunder (Century Media) - review
12. Weedeater - Jason... The Dragon (Southern Lord)
13. Exhumed - All Guts, No Glory (Relapse Records)
14. New Found Glory - Radiosurgery (Epitaph Records)
15. Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination (Prosthetic Records)
16. Havok - Time Is Up (Candlelight Records) - review
17. Absu - Abzu (Candlelight Records)
18. Burzum - Fallen (Byelobog Productions) - review
19. Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
20. Troglodyte - Welcome To Boggy Creek (noMore Tomorrow)

Honourable mentions: Beastie Boys, Origin, Autopsy (review), Boris, Wrath And Ruin, Inquisition, Deicide (review)

Top 5 Live Performances of The Year
Saint Vitus Aftershock, Merriam, KS - March 28, 2011
Ghoul Aftershock, Merriam, KS - October 15, 2011
Weedeater Jackpot Saloon, Lawrence, KS - March 3, 2011
Diamond Head Knucklehead's, Kansas City, MO - August 23, 2011
Skeletonwitch Jackpot Saloon, Lawrence, KS - October 8, 2011


James Donovan (Reviewer)

1.

Haken
Visions

Sensory Records
review

It is a close call between this and both of the albums at #2 and #3, but Haken's sophomore effort just about clenches it. Aquarius was an excellent debut, but Visions is the band really hitting their stride. Highly energetic and enthusiastic, technical yet accessible, with long, winding and enthralling musical masterpieces - Visions demonstrates how capable Haken truly are.

2.

Devin Townsend Project
Deconstruction

Hevy Devy Records/InsideOut

If Ki and Addicted represent denial and admittance, and Ghost represents acceptance, then Deconstruction is the core of the personal journey throughout Devin Townsend's four-part Project series. By far the most schizophrenic of the series, Deconstruction is at times broody, angry, but mostly just plain bonkers. Both lyrically and musically, Deconstruction is a work of sheer chaotic genius.

3.

Nightwish
Imaginaerum

Nuclear Blast
review

... or how people learned to stop complaining, and love Anette. One of the year's most talked about and debated albums, both loved and loathed in equal measure. With the right pair of eyes though, Imaginaerum reveals itself to be a smart, creative and involving ode to the motion picture soundtrack. As good as mainstream symphonic rock is ever likely to get.

4. Black Sun Aeon - Blacklight Deliverance (Cyclone Empire) - review
5. Turisas - Stand Up and Fight (Century Media) - review
6. The Devil's Blood - The Thousandfold Epicentre (Ván Records) - review
7. Altar of Plagues - Mammal (Candlelight Records) - review
8. Amorphis - The Beginning of Times (Nuclear Blast) - review
9. Autumn - Cold Comfort (Metal Blade) - review
10. Earth Crisis - Neutralize The Threat (Century Media) - review
11. Primordial - Redemption At The Puritan's Hand (Metal Blade) - review
12. Cipher System - Communicate The Storm (Nuclear Blast) - review
13. Xerath - II (Candlelight Records) - review
14. Revocation - Chaos of Forms (Relapse Records) - review
15. Chthonic - Takasago Army (Spinefarm Records) - review
16. MaYaN - Quarterpast (Nuclear Blast) - review
17. Hell - Human Remains (Nuclear Blast) - review
18. Textures - Dualism (Nuclear Blast) - review
19. Obscura - Omnivium (Relapse Records) - review
20. Dalriada - ƨgéret (AFM) - review

Honourable mentions: Shining, Lock Up (review), Threat Signal (review), Demonaz (review), Epysode (review), Vintersorg (review), Anthrax (review) , Thulcandra (review), Visions of Atlantis (review)

Top 5 Live Performances of The Year
The Damned Roundhouse, London - November 12, 2011
Godflesh The Forum, London - June 16, 2011
Altar of Plagues Damnation Festival, Leeds - November 5, 2011
Haken The Peel, Kingston - March 25, 2011
The Devil's Blood The Underworld, London - November 25, 2011

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