Ladies and gentleman, the TOP 5 METAL ALBUMS OF 2011 according to the contributing writers of Hellbound.ca…
5. AUTOPSY – Macabre Eternal
News of a big metal band reuniting is old hat. Recent years have brought comebacks from Pentagram, Brutal Truth and now the original Black Sabbath. The real question: does a band have something new and interesting to offer now that they are back together? Or are they just dusting off old classics? Autopsy certainly isn’t resting on their laurels. The band returned with the masterful Tomb Within EP in 2010 and took things ever further in 2011 with Macabre Eternal. The songs are longer; the production cleaner and the budgets higher. But there’s no doubt that their newest album stands with the classics. There are eleven-minute songs like “Sadistic Gratification,” punctuated by too-authentic screams; old-school death drills like “Hand of Darkness” and ready to censor bloodbaths like “Dirty Gore Whore.” Don’t call this a comeback; call it revenge on those that questioned whether the death metal godfathers still had the goods.
Justin M Norton
4. MASTODON – The Hunter
Mastodon is one of those bands that despite not intentionally doing anything controversial, seem to always spark some interesting discussions. Are they still ‘metal’? Have they sold out? In some ways the Georgia band is incredibly (and most likely unknowingly) business savvy, as they have created six albums that vary in sound and texture, expanding their fan base with the expansion of their sound. The early ones (Call of the Mastodon, Remission and Leviathan) were like new, unearthed diamonds – covered with dirt and sludge but based on how they were held, shards of light bounced shone with beauty. With Blood Mountain the diamonds were still speckled with dirt, but sensitivity and harmony shone through. The Hunter shines brightly and is a great extension of the risks they took with Crack the Skye but slightly pared down. With no need for epic eleven-minute songs and introspective soul-searching, their latest merges their quirky time changes and Brett Hinds’ delicate bluegrass finger picking with strong lyrics, thoughtful and gently applied melodies and harmonies, and a surprisingly strong vocal performance from drummer Brann Dailor, who as a ‘triple threat’ – musician, singer and songwriter – is a force to be reckoned with. With the catchy and dare I say, ‘accessible’ “Curl of the Burl,” The Hunter is a ‘fun’ album that continues Mastodon’s penchant for experimenting with rich and prog-heavy melodies, such as “The Sparrow.” However, Neurosis’ Scott Kelly vocals on the spazzy “Spectrelight” serves as reassurance to lovers of Remission and Leviathan that despite how melodic and radio-friendly their music might be turning, their freak flag always be waving high.
3. 40 WATT SUN – The Inside Room
(Cyclone Empire / Metal Blade)
When I first heard this back in the summer, I knew immediately that it was going to appear on my year end list. The fact that The Inside Room was the debut effort by 40 Watt Sun makes this record’s sonic richness and emotional authenticity all the more impressive. The three-piece line-up, featuring Patrick Walker, William Spong and Christian Lietch, create a dense, throbbing wall of sound. The drone of the guitar and bass is a physical, visceral experience, the buzz of aching veins. Walker’s vocals, which possess a pliant, warbling quality, act as the perfect vehicle for the intensely emotional lyrics. Heavy, deep with feeling and rich with emotional integrity, The Inside Room was the best piece of doom metal released this year.
2. HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE – 17th Street
Grandiose, intricate, filled with heartbreak and uplift at the same time – 17th Street stands as the perfect musical time-capsule for the early Tens. Lyrically, the album summons the trepidation and frustration of life during recession, but offers up a glimmer of hope, too. Musically, it’s rich with the gigantic riffs the Hammers have made their stock-in-trade, and the sing-along hooks on songs like the title track, “The Grain” and “The Day the City Died” are the most compelling of HoM’s oeuvre thus far. The strongest work yet from a band that never fails to amaze.
1. OPETH – Heritage
With Opeth’s latest production, they have had the metal world split: those who saw and accepted this next step of evolution into a world of progressive rock, a world that mastermind Mikael Åkerfeldt is personally immersed in; and those who rejected the album, instead wanting the same sound that they’ve become accustomed to over their 16 year career. But with such a risk, there is often a great reward, and Opeth fans that were in the former of the previously mentioned two camps, are the ones reaping the rewards. In Heritage, Åkerfeldt and company have put together something special here. From the opening track, the beautifully crafted title track which sets the mood for the rest of the album, to the epilogue that is ‘Marrow of the Earth’, Heritage is filled with moment after moment of legitimately intriguing music. Despite the sonic shift, Opeth continues to do what they do best – keep listeners wondering what comes next.