It’s time once again for my big year-end list, and 2011 has actually been one of the better years for new albums recently (2010 was horrendous). A lot of good surprises this year, tons of comeback and reunion albums (good and bad, including Anthrax, Morbid Angel, The Cars, Anal Cunt, To/Die/For, Einherjer, and a few bands that just simply haven’t had an album in far too many years, such as Deceased… and Macabre). And this year there were even tons of great tour packages I felt pretty lucky to see (like Anal Cunt’s last tour before Seth Putnam died last June).
The list will be divided into a top ten, 5 runners-up, best EPs, the bottom five worst albums, and the year’s biggest disappointment (I’ll spoil it for you right now – the new Primus.)
Here we go,
TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2011
Total surprise out of left field with this one. I already had my #1 chosen for quite awhile (the new Anthrax), but this melted my face off when I heard it. Krisiun’s albums have usually had just about 2 or 3 great songs on them, but EVERY song on this is good. 2008’s Southern Storm was a bit boring and tired with no memorable songs on it. I never could get into it. But on The Great Execution, there’s killer shit on here to rival some of their best tracks, like Murderer (probably the best death metal song of all time), Conquerors of Armageddon, and Refusal. The bone-snapping brutality on this album is insane. When you want to hear killer fucking death metal, this is what it’s all about. Krisiun’s best album, hands down. Who would’ve known?
Here’s one of my favorite tracks off the new album –
#2. Anthrax – Worship Music
One of the best “comeback” or “reunion” albums of all time. So good that I don’t even want to complain anymore about how much the band has PISSED ME OFF in the last several years (I mean, c’mon, getting rid of John Bush for a reunion tour with Joey and Dan, those guys leaving the band again, getting John Bush back, then an AWFUL new singer named Dan Nelson, writing half of “Worship Music”, then getting rid of him, getting Joey Belladonna back and finally finishing the album a couple years later. Not to mention the 8-year-gap between this and their last album, 2003’s We’ve Come For You All.) But finally hearing how good all the tracks are (perfect, flawless, CLASSIC Anthrax) makes up for it all. This is one of the few bands who did a “comeback” album this year that actually tried to make it their BEST ALBUM, which it arguably is. And just the novelty of hearing Joey Belladonna sing on an Anthrax album again (they fired him in 1991 after Persistence of Time). Well, it makes me smile everytime I hear it. It’s almost like I can’t even believe it’s fucking happening. The John Bush years were the greatest. I love those four albums. But this, after 8 years, is a gift. WOW!
My favorite track on the new album, In the End –
#3. Amorphis – The Beginning of Times
Another great album in a cycle of four, that has stuck with the stable line-up including AWESOME “new” singer Tomi Joutsen. Tomi brought growls back into the band along with his pristine clean vocals and the band went back to their album themes from the ancient Finnish pole books such as the Kalevala. And the new albums have come out almost every year since! The Beginning of Times is their landmark TENTH album and has that classic Amorphis storybook feel to it with folklore about mermaids and magic. I was a LITTLE disappointed at first that the album didn’t have any stand-out tracks like Skyforger or Silver Bride from the last album (but to be fair, I think those two songs are the best songs ever. They’re #1 and #2 on my Top 25 Most Played list on my iPod and I usually listen to them every day.) But what Skyforger lacked was a plethora of good songs on it (some of it seemed like unmemorable filler), and on The Beginning of Times every song is evenly good this time. It just takes a few listens and you’ll find some of Amorphis’ best moments in their whole career.
Here’s my favorite track off the album, Three Words –
#4. Korpiklaani – Ukon Wacka
Another catchy and fun-as-fuck record from Finnish folk-metal drinking band Korpiklaani, who like Amorphis, has usually come out with a new album every year for the better part of the last decade. They decided to write all the lyrics in Finnish this time around (save for the song Tequilla – a tribute to their Mexican fans who really showed them how to party down there on tour.) The album title “Ukon Wacka” stands for an ancient pagan feast that was in honor of Ukko the Thundergod, apparently a Finnish god of beer. And like every good Korpiklaani album (they’re all great) you really, really just want a grab a beer or ten when you sit down for a listen. I just saw them live recently and it was definitely one of the most fun and memorable shows I’ve been to all year. Sadly, their violin player had to leave the band due to health problems, and a violin player was absent. I had heard they hired an 18-year-old violin prodigy as a replacement but I suppose he couldn’t make the tour on time. Some of my favorite tracks on this one include Korvesta Liha, Tuoppi Ollita, Tequila, and cover-song Paat Pois Tai Hirteen (which translates into “Cut Off Their Heads or Hang Them.) There’s also a great Motorhead cover of Iron Fist as a bonus track.
Here’s a slideshow video for Paat Pois Tai Hirteen I made months ago with my own concert photos from 2010 –
#5. Alestorm – Back Through Time
Just like Korpiklaani, Alestorm is another band that’s going to make you think alcoholism is the best thing ever. When Alestorm burst onto the scene in 2008 with their debut album, Captain Morgan’s Revenge, I made a ritual of sitting down with the album almost nightly with shot after shot of rum until I was dead drunk, and also, happier than I’ve ever been. I never thought Pirate Metal from Scotland could be so totally fucking awesome! Back Through Time explores the theme of their ship behind shot back through the time of the Vikings, and Alestorm kicking their asses because pirates are cooler than them. That’s pretty hilarious. In the tradition of tracks like Wenches and Mead and Keelhauled, there’s even more fucking awesome piratey-sounding anthems on here than ever before. It’ll make you want to get drunk as fuck and sing-a-long, and that’s what is pretty magical about Alestorm.
Here’s a music video for my favorite track off the album, Shipwrecked –
#6. Power Quest – Blood Alliance
The long-awaited new album from TOTALLY AWESOME power metallers Power Quest. I was very skeptical about this since the whole original line-up left save for the keyboardist a few years ago, and even THAT new line-up went through so many line-up changes it was hard to keep up. I almost wrote them off, thinking they’d never be the same. And I didn’t care much for the new album here when I first got it, because the new vocalist is NOT AS GOOD as the old singer, who was one of the most amazing power metal vocalists EVER. But, when I finally put it in again, I realized this is perfect fucking Power Quest, awesome power metal in it’s purest form with killer fucking riffs and soaring melodies and top-notch singing! It’s sounds SO GOOD and heavy and catchy-as-fuck that I listened to this three times in a row and still couldn’t get enough. These are some of the best metal songs EVER RECORDED! Fuck yeah, Power Quest!
Here’s one of my favorite tracks off the album, Only In My Dreams –
#7. To/Die/For – Samsara
Still pretty new to this one (it’s not even out in the states until next month), but just 2 listens is all it took to know that one of my all-time favorite bands are fucking BACK! To/Die/For has always been a semi-gothic metal band that seems more like a throwback to the classic ‘80s era style of heavy metal music and songwriting. All their albums are full of emotion, catchy riffs, killer synths, and all the lyrics are depressing and heartbreaking songs about love. Sounds gay, sure, but give them a chance. They just sound too good, and this isn’t one of those faggy emo goth bands out there today. They’re way more metal than that. But anyways, I was excited about this because I’ve been hearing about it for YEARS. The mainman is somewhat of an enigma, leaving the band in 2004, who then replaced him with a new singer and went on tour, and then he went and fought them for the band name and won; almost like he did all of this because he just wanted to get rid of them all. With all new members, they released the phenomenal record IV and the so-so Wounds Wide Open before breaking up around 2007. He got back together with one of the band members a couple years later and starting writing new songs, and decided to restart the band, and then I think they pretty much decided to call it quits again and go work on other shit. I had heard about this in the news for YEARS. It fucked with me! So, when this finally came out this month I was in shock it even existed. And damn, well worth the wait. This is classic To/Die/For and one of the best fucking albums ever made.
Here’s what I think is the standout track from the album, and probably the first single, Cry For Love –
#8. Deceased… – Surreal Overdose
Deceased… is getting old. Vocalist/drummer King Fowley had two heart attacks and only sings standing in the band now, guitarists Mike Smith and Mark Adams have basically retired after a long and unprofitable career in the band, and King is just left with bassist Les and three new members. Weird! Is it their 30th anniversary yet? But no matter, Deceased… is one of the most underrated and yet one of the MOST IMPORTANT bands in the death metal scene, and with new albums few and far between (this is the first new one since 2005’s As the Weird Travel On), a new offering from Deceased… is a major treat for me and the rest of the old school fans. It’s right up there with the classics like Fearless Undead Machines and Supernatural Addiction. One of the best Deceased… records ever. Just, uh, please release a new album more than every five years. Thanks. (*Note – Deceased has the “…” after their name. If you don’t spell it Deceased… you’re spelling it wrong, FYI.)
Here’s my favorite song off the album, Cloned (Day of the Robot), with a cool photo slideshow from the movie The Clonus Horror –
#9. Anal Cunt – Fuckin’ A / Anal Cunt – Wearing Out Our Welcome
Fucking FINALLY dude! First new Anal Cunt record since 1998 and it’s released as a DOUBLE FUCKING WHAMMY! The long-awaited and talked about Wearing Out Our Welcome and the ‘80s glam rock parody Fuckin’ A! Those songs were supposed to be part of one album but Phil Anselmo convinced them to release it separately. And THAT was the most exciting thing ever. Seth died his hair blonde, put on a bandana like Brett Michaels, did a great Motley Crue parody album cover, and shot an actual photo of himself naked shooting heroin and getting a blowjob from a hooker. Now THAT’S all out and something I would only expect from Anal Cunt. They truly gave us the best. And it’s sad, but they did go out with a bang. When I saw them live in April (for the first time in over ten years), I had no idea it’d be the last album and last tour. Seth died of a heart attack a month later. It was crazy! I was just talking to him! He seemed completely fine, and that’s great because he had been struggling with recovery from a coma he went into several years ago. Totally fucking sad. But at least I got to see him one last time. 2010 was a total landmark year for the band and I was totally flipping out the whole time as a fan so it was a bad shock. Anyways, the album is hilarious. Nothing but songs about shooting heroin, fucking groupie sluts, drinking whiskey, and partying on the road. It’s awesome. And it’s in the Anal Cunt style with the screaming vocals, but music-wise the songs are much longer and more thought-out. Wearing Out Our Welcome, on the other hand, is more straight-forward Anal Cunt with their crazy offensive song titles and short blast-through songs. The whole thing is over in about 20 minutes (I listen to it three times in a row when I put it on because of that.) Anal Cunt is a legend in the scene and will surely be missed.
Here’s me and Seth Putnam back in May at The Branx in Portland –
My favorite song off of Fuckin’ A, Kicking Your Ass and Fucking Your Bitch –
#10 Macabre – Grim Scary Tales
Recurring theme in my top ten, Macabre is another band that hasn’t come out with a new album in years and years. (Let’s take note – Anal Cunt: 13 years, Anthrax: 8 years, Deceased…: 6 years, To/Die/For: 5 years. And there’s even more in the rest of my list – Morbid Angel: 8 years, Einherjer: 7 years, The Cars: 24 years, Witchery: 7 years, and Primus: 12 years. Fuckin’ A, dude, WOW.) But Macabre has been the hardest on me because they truly have been my #3 favorite band of all time for just about the last 20 years. I saw a trend, I knew this one going to happen. Gloom and Sinister Slaughter came out pretty close together in the early ‘90s and it was 7 years until their long-promised metal opera about Jeffrey Dahmer came out in 2000. It was “quickly” followed by Murder Metal in 2003. Then nothing. I really did just have a feeling there wouldn’t be a new album for another 7 years, and I was fucking right. So, it’s finally here, and gone are all the songs about different serial killers (I think they’ve covered everyone there is, at least twice). In their place are tunes based on famous killers throughout history, fictional and non-fictional. Everyone from Countess Bathory and Gilles de Rais to Dracula and the Big Bad Wolf. The music is a mixture of the band’s classic murder metal style and their acoustic minstrel-y nursery rhymes. Macabre has always been very tongue-in-cheek and comedic throughout their entire career, so their music is as horrific as it is fun. But as far as the whole album goes, overall it’s just a little bit of a disappointment to me. But, it’s also the tenth best album of the year. Because it’s fucking Macabre and Macabre is better than just about every band out there.
Here’s one of the most killer cuts off the album, The Sweet Tender Meat Vendor –
#11. Einherjer – Norrøn
A reunion album after the band broke up in 2004 and formed a crappy band called Battered that sounded like The Haunted. Einherjer was the first-ever Viking Metal band in the scene and they’re back to it.
Here’s a promo video I made for the band featuring the best song off this, Varden Brenne –
Here’s the other runner-ups of the year:
#12. Vader – Welcome to the Morbid Reich
Faster, more brutal than Necropolis.
#13. Blackfield – Welcome To My DNA
The long-awaited 3rd album from the collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson and Aviv Geffen. “Waving” is one of my favorite songs this year.
#14. The Cars – Move Like This
The Cars’ first new album in 24 years, which came out as a shock to me as I didn’t even know they got back together.
#15. Children of Bodom – Relentless Reckless Forever
The first Children of Bodom album I’ve liked since 2000’s Follow the Reaper (one of my top ten favorite albums of all time). Very similar, VERY nice.
Best EPs of the Year:
#1. Cradle of Filth – Evermore Darkly
A great EP from the band (usually a tradition after every new album). It features the best song from the last album (which was easy to miss because that album was so goddamned long and hard to get into) and a couple of good new tracks and remixes.
#2. Immolation – Providence
A good little treat from the band whose release Majesty and Decay was definitely a highlight of last year. More brutal fucking death metal tracks from a band I’ve always loved that has never changed.
#3. Marduk – Iron Dawn
Fast new songs full of blast beats with a good drummer and good production, much unlike the last 2 albums, Wormwood and Rom 5:12. Hope they keep going in this direction.
Bottom Five (The WORST Albums of 2011):
#1. Deicide – To Hell With God
Don’t get me started. This is pure garbage from a band that should break up, and seriously haven’t had a worthwhile album since 1995’s Once Upon the Cross. Obviously one of the most important bands of death metal history, Deicide has done nothing but reiterated mangled messes of death metal songs for the last several years with bloated crappy vocals and even more tired ridiculous Satanic lyrics and have just spewed it out there onto the masses to get it over with and the new fans have been eating up this crap and fucking loving it. Fast, brutal, formulas with no thought put into it whatsoever, and by the fourth track, I always feel like turning it off and listening to a classic band that actually still means something.
#2. Brutal Truth – End Time
When did grindcore become raw noisy terrible-sounding garbage? I remember in the early ’90s when it meant something different. Brutal Truth’s 1997 album Sounds of the Animal Kingdom was so crappy sounding it was a sign of the end times for this band, who broke up and got back together recently to record two more albums of shit in the same style as that, but this time with no good songs. Brutal Truth’s first two records from the early ’90s are some of my favorite death metal albums of all time. It’s sad.
#3. In Flames – Sounds of a Playground Fading
The last ten years of new In Flames albums have been like Star Trek movies – the even ones are great and the odd-numbered ones are bad. But 2008’s A Sense of Purpose was by far their worst album and this follow-up makes that one seem like a masterpiece. Try again, guys, you’re still one of my top five favorite bands of all time no matter what.
#4. Witchery – Witchkrieg
Witchery started out as a metal supergroup that went back to the fun days of ’80s thrash and wrote songs that were simple, catchy, metal-as-fuck and cheesy and evil as hell. That’s all gone. The songs are all technical now and boring. And ex-Marduk singer Legion is in the band now, and that should’ve been amazing. Also, maybe a Witchery album without Toxine just isn’t Witchery.
#5. Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
This album makes ME insanus. A shock, but not half bad. Not half bad because there were maybe 5 songs that sounded like Morbid Angel and not weirdo goth industrial tech garbage. David Vincent rejoining the band and doing a new Morbid Angel record was supposed to be the best thing that ever happened to me in my life, not a fucking spit in the face. And the fact that the fans waited for it for 8 years is a crime. But watch, I’ll be loving this one in a couple years.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year:
Primus – Green Naugahyde
Primus has gone way out there to another planet since they reformed and started playing shows again. I’ve been to several. Everything that was super-fun, great, catchy and wild about Primus has turned into a tired act of old men who’d rather jam nonsensical crap on their instruments for 20 minutes instead of getting to that great memorable chorus you remember that you were about to sing the words to. Looking around the audience at a Primus concert these days, you’ll see many confused faces from longtime fans who are really trying to get into but are a little more worried about their legs getting tired. So, it took them 12 years to do a new album, which I never thought would actually happen, and they promised it would sound exactly like Frizzle Fry. Sounds like a big pan of frizzled boring crap to me. Christ, write some actual songs again. You used to be good at it.
- Stormwarrior – Heathen Warrior
- Scar Symmetry – The Unseen Empire
- Origin – Entity
- The Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction / The Devin Townsend Project – Ghost
- ICS Vortex – Storm Seeker
- Amon Amarth – Surtur Rising
- Arch Enemy – Khaos Legions
- Vintersorg – Jord Puls
- Belphegor – Blood Magick Necromance
- Autopsy – Macabre Eternal
That’s it! Looking forward to this next year with the new Gorguts album, and hopefully the new Cannibal Corpse is actually interesting this time. And it would be a great surprise if Faith No More or Carcass (who have both been touring) came out with a reunion album. Not holding my breath, but that totally would be fucking awesome.
-Vince Kramer, 12/31/11, 3:13PM