With so many good albums this year I just couldn’t bear to limit my year end list to only 10. Well, and I have a bit of spare time on my hands at the moment, so I thought I would share with all the metal readers some of the other albums I was spinning this year that didn’t quite make my top 10. It was tough decision making process, even ranking these, which shows how strong of a year this was for metal releases. But first, the top EP’s of the year…
Short albums that resulted in long play times:
Sarpanitum – Fidelium EP
A complex blend of blackened, technical, and atmospheric death metal, Sarpanitum’s Fidelium EP is a heavy blast of dense auditory destruction recorded, mixed, and mastered by Leon Macey of Mithras. Their last full length, 2007’s Despoilment of Origin, was an album that I unfortunately did not hear until this year, but I was left awestruck nonetheless. Sarpanitum at times invokes the catacombs of Nile, the imperial regalia of Behemoth, and the maelstrom of early Incantation. I have listened to Fidelium numerous times, leaving me eagerly awaiting the next full length.
Key Cut: “Before the Walls”
Mithras – Time Never Lasts EP
Mithras consistently puts out great material with every release and remain on top of the death metal world. The peerless, cosmos traveling titans never fail to impress and awe, and Time Never Lasts is no exception. Time Never Lasts features two new tracks and three live songs, and, despite not being a full length, leaves a listener in awe of the grandeur of the universe. An excellent album showcasing an innovators on the top of trade, this EP is highly recommended to fans of technical death metal, experimental death metal, or even Morbid Angel styled older death metal alike. Essential.
Key Cut: “Inside the Godmind”
Numbers 21 to 11 in 2011
21. Alarum – Natural Causes
Alarum bring the progressive side of death metal to this list. In fact, they tend to use a bit less of the death part and more of the progressive part, but that doesn’t mean the album lacks fortitude. The influence of jazz is evident; think some of later Atheist with a lot of clean vocals and sparing growls. Although this one may get skipped by the close minded death metal junkies, Natural Causes will be spinning often on my playlists.
Key Cut: “For New Creation”
20. Ouroboros – Glorification of a Myth
Although the cover looks like a band more in the vein of Suicide Silence, Ouroboros bring their technical metal via the road of death/thrash. The guitars (bass included) fueling this 18 wheel behemoth are definitely of the thrash variety, yet the vocals over the C/V radio sound more death. Make no mistakes though; the lead guitar is definitely in the driver’s seat. If you have ever wondered what a more death metal version of Revocation might sound like, Glorification of a Myth is a close cousin.
Key Cut: “Black Hole Generator”
19. Vale of Pnath – The Prodigal Empire
With a name derived from H.P. Lovecraft and a brutally technical EP under the belt, Vale of Pnath decided to include bit more melody on this release. It’s a quality album, and keeps me coming back for another listen, but with a name drawn from the works of the master of madness, I thought Prodigal Empire could use a bit more darkness, and a bit less melody via American metalcore.
Key Cut: “Brain Butchers”
18. Pitbulls in the Nursery – Lunatic
Pitbulls in the Nursery serve up a thick, chunky stew of riff heavy techdeath. Lunatic hits the spot when a metalhead hungers for some low vocals, headbangable guitars, brief weedly-deedly moments, and jazz influenced interludes. These Frenchmen balance their ingredients sublimely, with just enough repetition and simplicity in the guitars to get a solid headbang going. The sitar section during “In My Veins” simply cannot be missed. Yes, you read that correctly, sitar.
Key Cut: “Lunatic Factory” and “In My Veins” (for the more patient)
17. Pestilence – Doctrine
In all honesty, probably the only reason this didn’t make it into my top 10 list was because I got it so late in the year. For some reason I am criminally behind on my Pestilence listening. An excellent release, and it shames me to say, only my second by these innovators of progressive death metal (Spheres being the other). Doctrine is a bit more grounded than some of their other material, but it fits together extremely well thematically. Crunchy and heavy, while thrashy and technical, Pestilence will appeal to fans of, well, Pestilence of course, but other like-minded progressive metallers (who don’t forget to stay heavy), like later Atheist or Death.
Key Cut: “Amgod”
16. Slaughtery – Path(t)ologic
A bit more of conventional technical death metal in comparison to all the talk of experimental death metal on this list, Path(t)ologic hits repeatedly with a cudgel of the brutally derived styling. For fans of Inveracity or Severed Savior, Slaughtery brings the low vocals, the thick guitars, a bit of weedly interludes, and a bit of the telltale snare of brutal death.
Key Cut: “9 Minutes”
15. Nervecell – Psychogenocide
It’s not every day that I listen to a metal band from the United Arab Emirates. I have to say, unfortunately, that this is in fact the only metal band from said country that I know of, but based on Psychogenocide, I am going to need to do some research on their metal scene. Nervecell brings big, swirling storms alongside their jackhammer riffs, making for an engaging yet not overwhelmingly complex listen. Extremely well balanced between technicality and straight forward death metal, this is quality material enjoyable for Brain Drill and Morbid Angel fans alike.
Key Cut: “Upon An Epidemic Scheme”
14. Slaughterbox – The Ubiquity of Subjugation
Speaking of extreme technicality, we come to Slaughterbox. As stated on the band’s website, fans of Origin and Viraemia will enjoy this weedly-deedly assault. And to the naysayers of said style of technical death metal, it must be stated that their drummer is also their vocalist. Somehow in the midst of playing at approximately 9,000 beats per minute he finds the breath to deliver both low and high register vocals with startling proficiency (seriously, look it up!) The Ubiquity of Subjugation has excellent cover art to boast as well; definitely worth your time.
Key Cut: “Fit for Human Consumption”
13. Ana Kefr – The Burial Tree
Ana Kefr’s The Burial Tree is a complex puzzle filled with all kinds of brightly colored pieces that don’t seem like they should fit, but, once it’s completed, the strangely alluring completed product keeps demanding another look. Growls, a bit of clean singing, guitars fitting to progressive metal, headbanging interludes, keyboards, a saxophone, and even children laughing make for an intriguing, captivating, yet not overwhelming listen. If you even find yourself getting burned out by the extremely avant-garde metallers as I do (like Unexpect, some of Solefald, etc.) this is a bit more grounded and stable and may appeal to you nonetheless. Although it’s not the heaviest or the most technical release of the year, The Burial Tree kept me coming back, and kept surprising me.
Key Cut: “Emago”
12. Pyrrhon – An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master
I am always a sucker for things labeled as “experimental death metal,” and Pyrrhon lives up to the tag. It lurches like Ulcerate, it techs out like mathcore, it gets atonal and creepy like Baring Teeth, and it even throws in some occasional gang vocals ala hardcore. Overall a great album, but the aforementioned -core moments kept it from ranking in my top 10, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the album. An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master fits well alongside similar releases from this year like Flourishing’s The Sum of All Fossils.
Key Cut: “New Parasite”
11. Benighted – Asylum Cave
In contrast to Doctrine by Pestilence, I had a solid eight months to listen to Asylum Cave, and it kept a continual rotation on my playlists. Although it’s far from the most technical album on this list, it hits in all the right ways. Part Aborted, part Origin, and part Nasum (the bonus track cover of “Wrath” is absolutely essential), Benighted’s latest showcases their variety of influences as it explodes like a grenade filled with razor blades and incendiaries alike. Never too technical, never too simplistic, and always changing, I am continually impressed by this band every time, year after year, with every release.
Key Cut: “Let the Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth” and “Wrath”
So there it is, 21 to 11, my top albums of the year. I hope you will also have time to check out my top 10. I invite you to comment; which albums in the 21 to 11 list deserve to be bumped up to the top 10? What should they replace in the top 10? And what did I leave out completely?