’s Top Albums of the Year!

Top Albums 2011

Slaughterbox - The Ubiquity of Subjugation

10. Slaughterbox – The Ubiquity of Subjugation

When I first listened to Slaughterbox, I was amazed to discover two things; that drummer is also the vocalist and the vocals do have a good deal of pig squeals in them which I generally can’t stand. After listening to the entire release (and not just the promo they had out for a while) I can honestly say that regardless of my initial reservations, this is Grade A deathgrind that manages to surprise and astound even when you think you’ve figured it all out. Aside from the drummer (who is absolutely unbelievable, to the point of having to look up a live video to be sure of no drum machine) guitarists Matt Thompson and Nick Liuzzi also included passages that could very well be from unreleased Sleep Terror material. All of this culminates into a band that while initially very jarring has become a breath of fresh air in a cluttered pocket of deathgrind. As an added bonus, several of the band’s members are also huge Larry David fans and created a grindcore band to celebrate that fact. Extremely talented musicians worth a second, third or fifteenth look.

Hate Eternal - The Pheonix Amongst the Ashes

9. Hate Eternal – The Pheonix Amongst the Ashes

Fronted by Erik Rutan of Morbid Angel fame, Hate Eternal consistently puts out face-crushingly heavy but densely intricate albums that never let their fans down (comparisons will not be made to Illud Divinum Insanus in this write up…wait…too late…). The riffs are monstrous and relentless, quickly changing yet never hitting the area of over technicality, the drums know when to kick up and when to play a more subdued 1000 beats per minute, and the vocals sound like demons straight from hell. This is a band that never forgets the death metal part of technical death metal, and Phoenix Amongst the Ashes is an album that brings that headbanging along with the dizzying technicality.

Slaughtery - Path(t)ologic

8. Slaughtery – Path(t)ologic

More “typical” technical death what we used to but with brutal vocals and high emphasis on melody. Great one!

Obscura - Omnivium

7. Obscura – Omnivium

Rock-solid and heavy without redundant wankery. Still a higher form of technicality and rock-solid masterpiece!

Illogicist - The Unconsciousness of Living

6. Illogicist – The Unconsciousness of Living

The first time I listened to this album I didn’t know quite what to think, which was somewhat of a problem since I had already decided to review it. After two more listens I found myself simply unable to escape it; I was humming the songs at work, and how often do you get to say that about death metal? The technical melodies are like hooks that sink into the brain and will not let go. The album is delightfully old school, influenced by Death more than Origin or Brain Drill, yet never sounds like a Schuldiner copy. Absolutely essential, The Unconsciousness of Living is one to play for that old guy at the cd shop who won’t stop saying that modern metal is all soulless wankery. It’s technical, it’s progressive, it’s heavy, it’s innovative, it’s fresh, and somehow it’s still ridiculously catchy.

Monumental Torment - Element of Chaos

5. Monumental Torment – Element of Chaos

As a fanatic tech-death fan, I’m always looking for bands that manage to go even faster, be even harsher and melt faces even quicker. Monumental Torment is among a burgeoning contingency of tech-death populated by masters like Brain Drill and Viraemia, and much like those two bands I’m absolutely enraptured. There’s no end to the onslaught and I love every bone breaking, mind erasing, house destroying moment of this sonic tornado. The most I had known of Russian Death Metal for the longest time was Katalepsy, who have severely disappointed recently. If Monumental Torment can manage to influence that regional scene however, I think I’ll be on a discovery binge for quite some time. Outstanding work.

Anomalous - Ohmnivalent

4. Anomalous – Ohmnivalent

A great album packed with both technical and progressive death metal combined with dark mood and jazzy improvisations.

Origin - Entity

3. Origin – Entity

It should be no surprise to technical death metal fans that Origin is on the top of year end lists.  A vocalist change has not  inhibited the band at all, although he seems to hit a bit less of a range than before. Fans of the band know what to expect; over the top technicality, interspersed some serious headbanging, yet never veering into the repetitive weedly-deedlies that Brain Drill is accused of. In contrast to what has continued, the album also features five songs that hit only two minutes and fifteen seconds or less. These grindcore length bursts of technicality showcase a focused band on top of its game, while the longer ones (like “Saligia”) flaunt the occasionally slower riffs that won the band so much praise on 2008’s Antithesis. Origin are leaders, not followers, and Entity is what those followers should be trying to emulate.

Ouroboros - The Glorification of a Myth

2. Ouroboros – The Glorification of a Myth

The Australian Death Metal scene is one of the most interesting on the planet; it can range from tech-death wizardry like Psycroptic to progressive wonders like Alchemist. Ouroboros is one of the latest bands from down under and they manage to do something with their Death Metal that newer school outfits like Allegaeon should take note of; they have a fundamental understanding of groove. It makes repeated listens a must, especially this is only a debut. Many have described their sound as a mixture of tech-death and thrash and while a fair assessment, I definitely hear much more tech-death than other combinations of the two genres like Legion Of The Damned. This plays to the band’s advantage significantly, as it has all of the perks of thrash as an icing to a very well constructed technical death metal whole. The weakest link on the album are the vocals, but even that’s not a real issue since everything meshes together so well; it makes whatever minor imperfections this debut has irrelevant. Very impressive.

Aaaaaaaaaaaand our number one pick is…

Archspire - All Shall Align

1. Archspire – All Shall Align

Simply put, this is one of the greatest debuts I’ve heard period. A myriad of avenues in tech-death are explored in this release, from breathtaking solos to mind numbing dissonance to a combination of speed, technicality and brutality that have already created a force to be reckoned with. It’s not for the faint of heart and even an experienced listener can be taken aback by certain portions. In the end though, every direction explored in this release is a smashing success, something that even veteran bands should be envious of. I have and will continue to play this album nonstop and whatever comes next from these wonderful Canadians will surely be on one of my other Top 10 lists.

// team

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