From a writers perspective, 2011 was a very interesting transition year for me. Somewhere in the process of graduating from college (4 years late, but hey…), spending some time to myself in Northern Germany and finding a stable job in an increasingly shaky economy, I lost my passion to write about anything. Well, that’s not entirely true, but it’s what I thought at the time. The true stumbling block was finding music I actually wanted to write about. For the first time in my life, I really thought I was going to give up with my passion for finding new, innovative music. My problem wasn’t that I wasn’t searching, but rather that I wasn’t simply taking the time to enjoy what I was discovering. So I quit writing, temporarily concluding that I had obtained all I possibly could have from the corners of metal journalism. For all the times I have been mistaken, this decision easily ranks among my top five displays of mental retardation that have ever come out into the open. So for the few of you who love me and rest of you who either hate me or aren’t reading this, this is only the fucking beginning, because I’m here to stay. Not only that, but I’m going to bring everything I can to the table, including my typical incessant ramblings. But forget about that for a brief moment, because first and foremost I came here to not only tell you about my year in music, but to let you hear it:
One of our frequent forum dwellers summed up 2011 perfectly for me by saying it wasn’t a good year for great music, but rather a great year for good music (thanks, Al Davis). What more is there to say? Thank you everybody for putting up with my nonsensical gibberish, and thank you Metal Review staff and family for believing in me. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see all of you fuckers next year. I have the feelings it’s going to be a big one. And now for the awards:
1. BLUT AUS NORD – 777: THE DESANCTIFICATION
I’ll be the first to admit, when I heard part one of what was going to be a trilogy from one of my favorite bands, I was a bit disappointed. I wanted to like Sect(s), but it was just less of an album than so many of its predecessors. Well, not entirely, but that was before I could understand the true context of what Blut Aus Nord was actually about to pull off. Then, the unexpected happened: Debemur Morti released this preview of what was to be the second part of the 777 trilogy, The Desanctification. Right at that moment, it was all over. I knew this was going to be my favorite album of the year. Fanboyism? Not when the rest of your Blut Aus Nord albums, with the exception of Ultima Thulée and The Work Which Transforms God (the invention and reinvention of the band, consequently), have done nothing but collect dust since their initial few spins. The Desanctification is a perfect blend of every musical sound I’ve been on a path to find as of late, and it’s also the centerpiece of a true trilogy that will without a doubt be considered among finest musical achievements of the decade. The descent into nothingness has never been so beautiful.
2. 40 WATT SUN – THE INSIDE ROOM
I’ve spent more time with this album than any other all year, and although any of my top eight or nine albums could have grabbed the number two spot depending on what type of mood I was in when I made up my list, I had to side with longevity. The Inside Room is pretty straightforward. It’s not really a grower since it’s so immediately likeable, but what makes it so special is that it stays likeable. Patrick Walker has one of the most delicate voices in heavy metal, and observing the contrast between Warning and 40 Watt Sun is like witnessing a broken man being mended and cleansed. The album’s fuzziness, shimmering melodies and soaring vocals will resonate deeply, and are enough to soften just about any listener’s heart.
3. SORGELDOM – …FROM OUTER INTELLIGENCES
Of the two bands that made my top 20 for the second year in a row, Sorgeldom is definitely the finer of the two (Burzum being the other). While last year’s Inner Receivings was more than enough proof that black metal can contain a bit of romantic shoegazing and still be as raw as absolute fuck, …From Outer Intelligences is even more refined, more intriguing and more unique. As Jodöden continues to develop a sound that I am completely incapable of describing, I can only hope a larger record label will seriously consider taking this project under its wing. Love ’em or hate ’em, Sorgeldom has one of the most distinct sounds in metal, and it’s only going to get more refined with each passing year.
4. LIFELOVER – SJUKDOM
Everything about Lifelover is a continuously saddening tragedy. Even before the passing of songwriter and lead guitarist “B,” everything about Sjukdom frantically unraveled my heartstrings quicker than what should ever be allowed. In a world where some musicians take a drastically overboard, make-the-listener-bask-in-the-supposed-beauty-of-their-sorrow approach, and others go the completely opposite route by inducing emotionless nightmares of schizophrenia and utter chaos, Lifelover manages to perfectly balance out the two extremes. The result of which, is as fervent as it is devastating.
5. MOURNFUL CONGREGATION – THE BOOK OF KINGS
In retrospect, The Book Of Kings is my second favorite album of the year. Unfortunately, I received it very late and was wary that may have had weak legs, much like Mournful Congregation‘s other works. After a week or two of heavy listening, I can honestly say that this is album is absolutely gorgeous…. and it continues to grow on me with each listen. Although a funeral doom release (and the best one of the year, I might add), Mournful Congregation strays very comfortably away from the genre’s confines at times, which adds a fantastic palate of emotions to the more expected ones. Also within the solitude of The Book of Kings is a quiet reverence that adds just enough warmth and hope to the listener’s ears to keep them listening time and time again.
6. GRAVEYARD – HISINGEN BLUES
I’ll admit, I originally purchased this album because of its cover. The consequence: confirmation that it’s perfectly fine to buy something because of a kickass cover, because Hisingen Blues certainly kicks all kinds of ass. It kicks ass with alligator fightin’ swamp boots on and it kicks ass barefoot and bass fishin’. Did I mention Graveyard is from Sweden? That means it kicks just as much ass as Entombed, Dismember, and Bloodbath. Yes in the fucking snow. Yes in the winter. Yes even though the sun isn’t out. Because summer is always going to come around, isn’t it? Yup. So you might as well just listen to this album all the fuckin’ time. That’s why it’s a perfect Christmas present for your mom, dad, nephew and neighbor’s dog, who are still busy giving a shit about the fact that Jimi Hendrix isn’t going to be able to record any more albums. Hisingen Blues is the one album I recommend to absolutely everyone, and if you don’t like it, I don’t know you.
7. SUBROSA – NO HELP FOR THE MIGHTY ONES
No band has ever made a city so much more interesting and bizarre than it already is to begin with. I’m talking about Salt Lake City, Utah — the absolute last place on the face of this Earth I would have expected Subrosa to be from when I first heard No Help For The Mighty Ones. If you haven’t learned by now that it’s safe to buy just about any release from Profound Lore Records (I said just about… Wold), then I suppose it’s better late to the party than not at all. Its record label describes Subrosa as being “female dominated” and hell if that ain’t the understatement of the century. With three captivatingly beautiful voices sewing the sludgier, psychedelic elements of the album gracefully together, it’s no wonder that some have deemed No Help For The Mighty Ones a flawless record.
8. ROTTEN SOUND – CURSED
Alone. Superior. Self. Choose. Hollow. Ritual. Green. Machinery. Power. Plan. Declare. Addict. Exploit. Terrified. Scared. Doomed. Descriptions of our society? Most definitely. But they’re also the song titles of Rotten Sound‘s nearly thirty minute scorcher, Cursed. If the songs aren’t ominous enough, the cover of the album also reads: I: Egotism II: Vanity III: Coercion IV: Vengeance V: Exploitation VI: Fear. Don’t let the brevity of Cursed fool you — this album pummels and punishes to the point of exhaustion. It’s also the year’s best grindcore album, and might even be the lyrical album of the year. If Rotten Sound‘s goal is to teach mankind a lesson, it’s certainly on the right track.
9. RAVENCULT – MORBID BLOOD
*Queue up ridiculously deep NASCAR announcer voice* Do you like Bathory? Do you get particularly excited when, to your surprise, a friend puts in Bathory‘s self-titled record on full volume? Do you think that “Hades,” “Reaper,” “Sacrifice,” and “War” are some of the best black metal songs ever written? Are you man enough to handle those songs if they were pumped up on steroids? To the extent that you yell at Joel Grind to play “Sacrifice” in between each song every time Toxic Holocaust comes to town? *Drop shitty commercial voice* Well… maybe I’m only describing myself. But that’s exactly how I feel about Ravencult’s Morbid Blood, an album that couldn’t have been shown to me at a more crucial time this year, because sometimes us writers get burnt out on listening because we talk so damn much. With all the worrying about reviews, finding new cool music that doesn’t all sound the same, and year end lists, it took a fellow staff member to basically say here… sit back, chill the fuck out, you’re not leaving us, here’s something to rip through your soul while you’re taking a break from worrying about stupid shit. Thank you, Jeremy Morse.
10. CORMORANT – DWELLINGS
I had never heard of Cormorant before this album came into our queue and must also admit that it was the fantastic cover art that led to me wanting to give this one a try before scribbling up my year end blurbagery. Dwellings is quite epic, not necessarily in length, but in its story telling and meaning. I wish I would have had more time to give this baby the necessary amount of spins needed in order to elaborate further, but the review it was given should more than suffice. Although Deceased‘s Surreal Overdose is outrageously fun in all the over-the-top ways, I figured I’d finish my top ten off pissing into the wind, because that’s just something I love doing. I also must give credit where credit is due, and considering that Cormorant‘s sophomore effort is as progressive and expansive as it is, I had to show some love to all the independent bands out there by including this in my top ten, but please don’t forget the rest of the best!!!
THE REST OF THE BEST:
11. Deceased – Surreal Overdose
12. Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance
13. Burzum – Fallen
14. Negative Plane – Stained Glass Revelations
15. Fen – Epoch
16. Azarath – Blasphemers’ Maledictions
17. Arckanum – Helvitismyrkr
18. Anaal Nathrakh – Passion
19. Blut Aus Nord – 777: Sect(s)
20. Pyrrhon – An Excellent Servant, But A Terrible Master
James Blake – Enough Thunder
Let’s face it… this year was not the greatest for EP’s in metal. Therefore, the remainder of the awards will not be limited to any specific music category, and if James Blake doesn’t deserve some type of award this year then I don’t know who does. Blake came on the year quite early with his self-titled debut, and his popularity has been steadily rising ever since. Unfortunately, Enough Thunder was not as well liked by a large portion of the man’s journalistic fan club, and I have to wonder whether or not they’re listening to the same release that I am. Whether it’s the suspense of “Once We All Agree,” the heart-felt cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” or the closing moments of “Not Long Now” (which was itself a triumph for minimalism in electronic music), James Blake will definitely strike a chord with anyone who gives him the chance.
The Most Metal Fucking Country In The World Award:
How about this. I come up with a list of Earth-shattering 2011 albums from this fine country, and you all do yourselves a favor and carry out your own research. Both of the albums from Blut Aus Nord‘s aforementioned 777 Trilogy, Aosoth‘s III, Benighted’s Asylum Cave, Glorior Belli’s awesome tribute to my hometown The Great Southern Darkness, Svart Crown’s Witnessing The Fall (that many of us didn’t get around to hearing until this year), N.K.V.D.’s Vlast, Rex Mundi’s IHVH, Smohalla’s Resilience, and a slew of other band’s I’ve most definitely forgotten. Think France is weak because it’s also producing bands such as Alcest or Les Discrets that take a, shall we say, daintier approach to metal?Think again. This country is generating some serious output right now, and I don’t think it’s going to slow down anytime soon.
Best Non-Metal Album:
Mac Lethal – North Korean BBQ
Mac Lethal’s North Korean BBQ, did quite a few things for me this year. First and foremost, it helped fill the impossibly to ignore void of not having enough good hip-hop and electronic music to listen to. Okay, that’s an understatement. Hip-hop fucking sucks right now and it’s depressing. Regardless of which direction I look, mindless retards are either drooling over the latest bullshit brand of materialistic, shallow, hipster-hop-pop-Pitchfork recommended bullshit, or newcomers are frothing at the mouth because CunninLynguists are rehashing a style was original like ten fucking years ago on Anticon Records. Yes, the electronic scene still has a lot to offer, but the problem is that it’s rare to hear anything with something called beat variation. Enough complaining. NKBBQ is real. It does what hip-hop was born to do — tell stories from the heart and teach life lessons to youthful ears. Mac Lethal does so in very clear and easy-to-understand fashion, and let’s not forget the most important ingredient of hip-hop: Style.
Submotion Orchestra – Finest Hour
To put it simply, Submotion Orchestra is a fine solution for everything that sucks with electronic music and no, they’re not the first. Sure, the Bjork‘s, Portishead‘s, Chemical Brothers‘and Aphex Twin‘s of the world have already reached the pinnacle of a scene that has been rapidly expanding for a long time, but they’re not fresh faces. The fact of the matter is that this seven piece powerhouse plays a sound a lot of newcomers to the genre are looking for, and they do it as a live orchestra. The main reason why so many of us tend to rag on electronic music is because the “live shows” are far from being live. Would you pay thirty dollars to see the members Iron Maiden stand on stage and play mp3’s of its most beloved songs? No? Well that’s because you’re a lot more intelligent than the average first world teenager, you work for your money, you aren’t on drugs, and you have experienced enough live music to know what real talent is. Many young people today, unfortunately, are outside those parameters. Yes, Submotion Orchestra play a very jazzy, progressive, soulful version of dubstep. But if we’re going to shun an entire genre of music just because it’s aesthetically different than what we grew up with, then we’re just as ignorant as the ones who came before us and said that our music was too loud and wasn’t really music at all. Finest Hour is one of the most important musical achievements of the year, and I suggest you open your mind a bit and give it a spin. Who knows, you may love it.
Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maasa is not only the album that’s going to break my computer’s spell check, but it’s also a good album. Yes, you read that correctly. My disappointment with it came with the discovery that it isn’t a downright glorious album, like so many other Moonsorrow albumshave been. Earlier this year, I felt like an outcast for saying that VKKM was disappointing. Then, assuming I was simply not tuning in properly, I decided not to say anything about it until the staff voted for its top 25 albums. Needless to say, only two staff members placed this among their lists. Does that mean it’s not a great album? Certainly not. But does it mean Metal Review expects something far more memorable from Moonsorrow even if they don’t want to admit it? Most definitely.
Most Anticipated Album of 2012:
Napalm Death – Utilitarian
Enough about USBM. Enough about Japanese chick bands that become one hit wonders and lose their best member. Enough about innovation. Enough about what genre of music will dominate our year end lists next year. Enough about year end lists. I don’t care anymore. I just want to be punched in the face. I want my ears to be destroyed, and I want to be dancing along as the obliteration takes place. That’s why I’ve typed my most anticipated album in ALL BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS. Fuck newcomers. Fuck people who write manifestos about the music they play. Fuck what I say. Just give me a band that knows how to do things right and get the fuck out of my way.
“The Heavens” Award:
It’s a sad state of affairs when journalists can’t even find proper photographs or dates to go along with a small obituary piece for an artist who passes away, but maybe that’s what “B” would have wanted. What’s even worse, is knowing that someone as special and gifted as “B” is now gone. In twenty five short years, Jonas Bergqvist managed to release nine full lengths in three different projects, and worked on a number of others. A gifted songwriter and skilled guitarist, vocalist, pianist and lyricist, Jonas will be missed by the entire metal community, and especially by fans of his works. Best known for his later efforts in Lifelover, “B” wrote some of the most depressing melodies in all of metal, and his songs were far from contrived. My only hope, is that the tragedy that was Bergqvist’s passing will encourage those closest to him to share with the world who he really was. Until then, the inescapable sadness of Sjukdom will be echoing in our hearts and minds for a long time.