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Best and Worst of 2011 – DonnieCake Style

2011 to me marked an extremely solid year in metal of all tastes. We saw a ton of major releases, a bunch of well received indie releases and the continued growth of the now tumbling down metalcore/deathcore scene. With 2012 shaping up to be a possible blockbuster year after 2011, lets reflect on all things epic, good, surprising and shitty.

Best of the Best

The best of the best consist (alphabetically so there is no specific hate mail) of just that, what I thought were the shining stars of the year in metal. From black metal to hardcore punk, this list covers a lot of genres with what I feel have some great bands today and going forward. Below are my nine favorite.

Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
Amon Amarth: Surtur Rising
One of the best bands in metal today are back again with another crushing release. This albums runs in line of something between Twilight of the Thunder God and Versus the World; still my personal favorite from them is With Oden on Our Side they can’t be faulted with excellent album after excellent album.

Believer - Transhuman
Believer: Transhuman

Believer reformed in 2009 with Gabriel and have since transformed further with Transhuman. This is for fans of technical death metal at its finest.

The Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual
The Black Dahlia Murder: Ritual

Ritual is TBDM’s 5th release and their growth continues to impress me. This band has come from a death metal/deathcore sound to a genre defining melodic death metal band. Ritual exceeds everything that Deflorate started (another solid release as well though).

Decapitated - Carnival is Forever
Decapitated: Carnival Is Forever
I am not sure what I can say. To expect anything was asking for too much from these tech death metal artists. To get Carnival Is Forever is a blessing. This was the defining album of 2011 for me. This is a must own for fans of metal. So much heart and soul went into this release its something no one should pass up.

Moonsorrow - Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa
Moonsorrow: Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (As shadows we walk in the land of the dead)

Moonsorrow continues to change and follow in the folk metal path with each release.  Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa is their best release to date and a must for fans of pagan/folk metal.

Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
Primordial: Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
Maybe its because I went to Ireland this year for my honeymoon, maybe not, but Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand is one of the best albums to date from these celtic metal heads. Mixing up doom/black and celtic metal, Primordial has released my favorite album of theirs since Sprint the Earth Aflame.

Septic Flesh - The Great Mass
Septicflesh: The Great Mass

Although Decapitated’s album won my best of, this album has received the most spins out of any album I think I have every listened to. Not 1 bad song, not 1 bad chord. This is a remarkable album from a great band. The Great Mass’ only flaw is it ends.

Trap Them - Darker Handcraft
Trap Them: Darker Handcraft
Darker Handcraft is the third release from Trap Them. A combination of grind, hardcore punk and crust I would say this is Trap Them’s best effort to date.

Weekend Nachos - Worthless
Weekend Nachos: Worthless
Weekend Nachos Worthless is best described as angry. Hardcore/sludge/punk is the name of the tune, and Worthless delivers on all fronts. This album isn’t an album of musical genius; it is an album that knows what it is and hits it out of the park. For fans of Man is the Bastard.

Solid Releases

These seven albums were albums I thought could have made a top list in any other year of metal, it was just too overcrowded but they deserve mention.

Alestorm - Back Through Time
Alestorm: Back Through Time

Alestorm are back with one of their best pirate/folk/power metal albums to date. Alestorm are fun, and this album continues there growth into a great metal act.

Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction
Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction

There is nothing that needs to be said about Devin Townsend Project. Either you love them or hate them; Deconstruction is another solid release from one of the greats.

Edguy - Age of the Joker
Edguy: Age of the Joker

Edguy is at it again with some fun antics and solid hard rock/metal guitar licks surely to please all their fans. The album continues the growth of Edguy down, to what I see as more of a hard rock approach, however it is still a great album, as Tobias is still one of the best vocalists out there.

Machine Head - Unto the Locust
Machine Head: Unto the Locust

Unto the Locust continued what The Blackened started, which was set Machine Head back on a proper path. This is probably there best album since The More Things Change… and is definitely one of the better releases of the year. Machine Head is back full steam.

Obscura - Omnivium
Obscura: Omnivium

Omnivium is the third studio album from this German death metal outfit. Not only does it show the bands growth but it also became one of my favorite death metal albums of the year.

Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination
Skeletonwitch: Forever Abomination

This album was a bit of a letdown for me, but was still an overall solid release. I felt Skeletonwitch has so much in them yet this album came off as a “safe” release to me. Still, this is their fourth album and they are one of the best thrash bands in existence so I can’t complain that much.

Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestial Lineage

America’s best black metal act, or at least to me one of them. Wolves in the Throne Room are back with Celestial Lineage and this is true to its core ambient black metal. Another 4th release for a band and it shows as they grow. Southern Lord Records and WitTR also did great production on this release.

Best Surprises

These five albums took me by surprise, by that I mean, I either thought they didn’t have anything left in the tank or they went from utter trash to solid releases.

Anthrax - Worship Music
Anthrax: Worship Music

Anthrax, beyond that not much is needed to be said. It’s been 8 years and guess what, Anthrax still has it. This 10th studio release reminds me more of the Among The Living days then the more modern sound but regardless, its a great album and a great surprise.

Children of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever
Children of Bodom: Relentless Reckless Forever

Despite having the worst of a tongue twister album now, Relentless Reckless Forever really caught me off guard since I wrote COB off about 11 years ago (Follow the Reaper). But after 11 years they remembered they had an actual good keyboardist and brought him back into the recording. This turned out to be a solid release from a band that completely surprised me.

The Devil Wears Prada - Dead Throne
The Devil Wears Prada: Dead Throne

To be honest I really am not a fan of these guys but this album stayed with me longer than the typical single spin. It’s not perfect, but in the metalcore world TDWP have managed to produce a unique sounding release, and a solid one at that.

Sepultura - Kairos
Sepultura: Kairos

Heavy metal at its finest, Sepultura have come back from a lull around the time of Nation with Kairos. 15 tracks of pure groove/death metal.

Trivium - In Waves
Trivium: In Waves

Another band that proved my distaste wrong this year. Trivium has released a solid metalcore outing in In Waves, especially considering how bad their last few have been (Shogun & The Crusade).

Utter Disappointments

You can’t have a best of list without the utter crap of the year. And this one, to me has a true cut winner and that is Lou Reed & Metallica. That aside, below is my alphabetical list of simply put, bad music. This list will probably cause some heartache, so I will simply explain a little of this with the following line.

To me, a bad album can come from bands that suck OR come from bands you expect something great from. Case one, Emmure. Case 2, Opeth. Read on for the details.

Asking Alexandria - Reckless & Relentless
Asking Alexandria: Reckless and Relentless

I completely understand I am in the small pool of people in the metal world who actually enjoyed their first album, Stand Up And Scream, but after Reckless and Relentless I have joined up with the rest of the metal world in realization this band is just terrible. There is nothing creative or remotely encouraging from this album. The band played it safe, and more importantly in my eyes, took the bad aspects of Stand Up and Scream and amplified those by 100.

Chimaira - The Age of Hell
Chimaira: The Age of Hell

I might get some slack from a few of the reviewers on this site for this one, but The Age of Hell is an album from a band that just needs to give it up. This album reassures they haven’t released a solid album since The Impossibility of Reason in 2003, but this one is just forced. Chimaira brings nothing original, nothing good, and nothing sounding like Chimaira at all. No wonder half the band quit after this release.

Emmure - Speaker Of The Dead
Emmure: Speaker of the Dead

Emmure is just bad, but they at least held a fun gym spot in my heart. Nothing better than listening to someone want to rip someone’s face off at the gym. But Speaker of the Dead doesn’t even do that, so now basically the band just sucks.

In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading
In Flames: Sounds of a Playground Fading

Well, at least they hit the nail on the head and didn’t try hiding the fact they have completely forgotten how to make music. What better of a warning than with an album title of Sounds of the Playground Fading. Not even metal anymore, let’s just remember that In Flames helped pioneer melodic death and now play bad alternative hard rock.

Jamey Jasta - Jasta
Jamey Jasta: Jasta

The guy has done a lot of good things to the metal/hardcore world, no one can fault that. Hatebreed have become a gym friendly hardcore band (nothing will top Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire), but this album is just a huge disappointment. The funny thing is though, the guest appearances are worse than his own material. This just seems like an album released to make money.

Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu
Lou Reed & Metallica: Lulu

We all knew Metallica sucked now, but Lulu really takes that to a whole new level. This is by far the worst album of the year and I hope a disgrace to the band themselves. I don’t even need to go down the Lou Reed road.

Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus
Morbid Angel: Illud Divinum Insanus

What the hell even is this? Fans have been waiting for 5 years from Morbid Angel and this is what was given; an industrial metal release from a death metal band? Jim Brandon of MetalReview said it best, “”Illud Divinum Insanus is an insulting, confusing, egotistic attempt of a band to force its listeners into liking an aesthetic the polar opposite of what they’ve known, and it debases the views of longtime fans that refuse to accept this garbage without being labeled ‘unfaithful’ by the band and their shameless PR team. This record has no redeeming value, no goal in mind.”

Opeth - Heritage
Opeth: Heritage

Opeth have changed a lot over the years, but Heritage is the least memorable experiment I can remember from these guys. Completely gone are the days of metal, this band has become 100% prog rock. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to me it isn’t what Opeth is and it also isn’t very technical from an Opeth side of things. The album is a good prog rock album but not a good Opeth album; to me they have abandoned their fans with this one.

Winds of Plague - Against the World
Winds of Plague: Against the World

Winds of Plague aren’t good, but they keep getting worse and worse. The band is terrible at making music that sounds remotely like music and Against the World is no exception. I guess if you are a fan of Winds of Plague you might disagree, but hopefully their aren’t too many of you around here.

Within Temptation - The Unforgiving
Within Temptation: The Unforgiving

Well I liked them. The Unforgiving is a terrible follow-up to 2007’s The Heart of Everything, it has no soul and no passion like the previous effort did. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting the world, but this was a letdown in my books.

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