Many excellent records came out in 2011. We don’t pretend to be arbiters of taste, we just think it’s fun to share which albums rocked our worlds, soothed our souls, lifted our spirits or otherwise burrowed into our systems this year. Of course, in addition to occupying our turntables, many of these great new releases quickly prompted the question: “Can we get them to the Roadburn festival next year?” In some cases the answer was YES, which gives us something to look forward to in 2012.
Let’s see those house lists! (Please add your top 10 Roadburn-worthy albums HERE instead of in the comments section below).
Drew’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
This year (unlike many), my top ten list had a clear cut, decisive winner. Orthodox‘s amazing doom masterpiece Baal is a record I listened to many many times, and each time I found something new to enjoy. Simultaneously avant-garde and classic, full of great riffs and excellent production, it is a record every doom fan needs to hear.
I also mightily enjoyed In Solitude‘s The World. The Flesh. The Devil. Constantly fun and catchy, classic metal at its finest. Though Trap Them‘s Darker Handcraft didn’t quite make the top ten, they get special mention as best live band I saw in 2011. Their sets at Roadburn and The Power Of The Riff were completely over-the-top energy feasts fueled by sick riffs, great stage presence and super tight playing.
I want to also give a special mention to Castle, as their In Witch Order album is my choice for newcomer of the year. Their brand of female-fronted early 80’s metal was a favorite choice for road trips and weekend nights.
Because it was such an incredible year in the ambient and post-classical genres, i included my short list for that category as well. It’s the perfect counterpoint to metal!
1.Orthodox – Baal (Alone Records)
2.In Solitude – The World. The Flesh. The Devil. (Metal Blade)
3.Young Widows – In And Out Of Youth And Lightness (Temporary Residence Limited)
4.Pharaoh Overlord – Out Of Darkness (Ektro Records)
5.Chryst – PhantasmaChronica (Omniversal)
6.Widowspeak – Widowspeak (Captured Tracks)
7.Ash Borer – Ash Borer (Psychic Violence)
8.Graveyard – Hisingen Blues (Nuclear Blast)
9.Witch Mountain – South Of Salem (Mountastic Records)
10.Ulcerate – The Destroyers Of All (Relapse Records)
1. Deaf Center – Owl Splinters
2. Kyle Bobby Dunn – Ways Of Meaning
3. Benoit Honore Pioulard – Plays Thelma
4. Quiet Evenings – Transcending Spheres
5. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
Jurgen’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
1.Rwake – Rest (Relapse Records)
After the thoroughly convincing gig this Arkansas band played at Roadburn 2011, I had high expectations for the follow up to Voices of Omens. This album contains all the qualities of a classic southern rock record while adding seldom seen versatility and grandeur to the music. A band at their peak.
2.Prurient – Bermuda Drain (HydraHead)
Everything by Dominic Fernow aka Prurient has been interesting to say the least, yet never managed to fully hit the mark. He always had it in him, though, and Bermuda Drain triumphantly proves it. A powerhouse of a record made of textured noise, synth beats and distorted vocals.
3.Altar of Plagues – Mammal (Back On Black)
I didn’t listen to this one as much as White Tomb or the Tides EP, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Warm textured black metal with occasional experimental outbursts. Well done.
4.Yob – Atma (Profound Lore / 20 Buck Spin)
Another classic from the Oregon trio. I think I like The Great Cessation just a tad better, but as far as soul crushing doom goes, no better record was made in 2011.
5.40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire)
Normally melodic doom is not really my cup of tea. Sure, I can enjoy some of the classics now and then, but 40 Watt Sun blew my mind with this record. Can’t wait to see them perform at Roadburn.
6.Saturnalia Temple – Aion of Drakon (Nuclear Winter / AJNA Offensive)
If you mix Kyuss with Sunn O))) you get these occult Swedes. Could turn out to be one of the surprises of Roadburn 2012.
7.True Widow – As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth (Kemado Records)
To me, bands like True Widow and Iceage sound like a hardcore version of The Cure. Since The Cure no longer delivers (having opted to join the retro circus instead), I’m more than happy to put True Widow on the turntable to get my energetic new wave kick.
8.The Devil’s Blood – The Thousandfold Epicenter (VÁN Records)
The Devil’s Blood showed great promise as soon as they arrived on the scene. But showing and fulfilling are two very different things. With this album, the band proves they are ready to take on the world.
9.Necros Christos – Doom of The Occult (VÁN Records)
Death. Doom. Occult. Cult.
10.Amebix – Sonic Mass (Easy Action)
Let’s face it: Sonic Mass is no Arise. The fury, the crust of the early days, it’s just not there anymore. But do we mind? Of course not, Amebix already made those albums. Sonic Mass taps into the Killing Joke side of their crustwave.
Beyond Planet Roadburn:
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Zola Jesus – Connatus
V/A – Delta Swamp Rock
Leslie’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
1.Voivod – Warriors of Ice (Indica Records)
The next best thing to having their Roadburn 2011 performances as an official release!
2.Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Blood Lust (Killer Candy Records / Rise Above Records)
Who let the black cat out of the bag? One minute there’s no Uncle Acid and the next everyone’s raving, “You have got to hear this band!” Which of course was quickly replaced with: “Walter and Jurgen have got to book this band for Roadburn 2012!”
3.Graveyard – Hisingen Blues (Nuclear Blast)
It doesn’t get much more Roadburned than this: attitude without ego, riffage-o-rama, flares and hair a-flying, psychedelic style and groovy substance. An instant mood-enhancer, hence my alternate title: Hissy Fit Blues!
4.Yob – Atma (Profound Lore / 20 Buck Spin)
Remember way back in the old days when you could spy on faraway friends on myspace? That’s how I discovered Yob. A friend of a friend of a friend posted: “Yob saved my life.” I was intrigued. Lisa, I haven’t met you (yet), but I thank you.
5.Totimoshi – Avenger (At A Loss Records)
Lurking on KMBT’s affiliated forum, I gained oodles of respect and affection for Totimoshi before ever hearing them properly: Meg’s travelogues give an unvarnished and entertaining account of life in an underground band on tour, complete with ratfink promoters, engine trouble and food poisoning, not to mention sightseeing, fever dreams, great times with good people and the magical moments on stage that make it all worthwhile.
6.She Keeps Bees – Dig On (Names Records)
Don’t give me that “huh, it’s like The White Stripes, only the girl’s on guitar!” stuff. Or claim that Jessica Larrabee is a Cat Power wannabee; what, because they happen to be brunettes with powerful husky voices? It ain’t easy being a musician with two X chromosomes. Which makes me all the more proud of the fact that Roadburn is a festival where you can find the talented likes of Rose Kemp (Roadburn 2009), Jex Thoth (Roadburn 2010; with Sabbath Assembly in 2011), Jesse Sykes (& the Sweet Hereafter, Roadburn 2011) and Chelsea Wolfe (scheduled for Roadburn 2012).
7.Radio Moscow – The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz (Alive Records)
Seeing how energetic and gleeful it is, we’ll let the unlicensed use of my name slide!
8.Grayceon – All We Destroy (Profound Lore)
Ever since mad Melora Creager cast her spell on me with the first Rasputina album, you can put a cello on virtually any record and I’ll listen to it. No, not Apocalyptica. So when I read about Grayceon, I was pretty excited. Then when I heard them, I was sold.
9.The Men – Leave Home (Scared Bones Records)
After all these years, the Vera club in Groningen still knows how to pick them! Thanks to the Trash That Beat column for the tip.
10.Efrim Manuel Manuck – Plays High Gospel (Constellation Records)
It’s like the Seinfeld episode discussion about “good naked” versus “bad naked” – there’s good dad rock and bad dad rock. This is good dad rock.
Stefan’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
1.Syven – Aikaintaite (Vendlus Records)
This debut album by Finnish musicians Aslak Tolonen (NEST) and Andy Koski-Semmens manages to sound completely otherworldly and spellbinding, while being simple, unpretentious, genuine, heartfelt. A validation that a record doesn’t have to be complicated and heavily produced in order to reach my soul’s deepest corners. Less is always more, if done the right way. A sound almost too pure and yet so strangely familiar, comforting.
2.Negative Plane – Stained Glass Revelations (Invictus Productions)
By far one of the most incredibly powerful, truly dark and malefic recordings to come out of the United States. A young band that really carries the stench of death, Negative Plane’s music is haunting, psychedelic and mesmerizing… Total old school worship, uncompromising, unique, real
3.Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
The final album in a trilogy. Created by a band known for creating one of the most incredibly powerful, organic, emotionally draining and cathartic atmospheres on stage, Celestial Lineage offers a fantastic platform for soul-searching, meditation and escape. Congratulations Aaron and Nathan Weaver.
4.Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand (Metal Blade)
This album stands out on every level, like everything Primordial has done since Imrama. Why it has taken so many years for this band to finally gain recognition as an unparalleled band on a larger scale is one of life’s mysteries.
5.Yob – Atma (Profound Lore / 20 Buck Spin)
A band as heavy as the Sun. An album so massive that the Earth should be shaking every time someone is listening to it. Everything Mike Scheidt has done so far is crushing. Atma is no exception. A monolith!
6.Oranssi Pazuzu – Kosmonument (Spinefarm Records)
The audio equivalent of what nightmares are made of. Easily one the most uncompromising, avant-garde, hallucinating, psychedelic, terrifying, bizarre, obscure, and twisted blends of black metal out there. It sounds and feels like the cosmos is trying to scramble your brains, and leaves you in a daze. Brilliant!
7.Blut Aus Nord – 777: Sect(s) / The Desanctification (Debemur Morti)
Vindsval is easily one of the most brilliant and forward thinking musicians in black metal, although his latest incarnation is completely genre-defying. What he does is more than sound; it’s a state of mind. Really psyched to hear the ending of this trilogy.
8.Ulcerate – The Destroyers Of All (Relapse Records)
Coming from New Zealand, one of the sickest and devastatingly brutal, organic death metal bands I have ever heard. Their sophomore effort is even more overwhelming and punishing as the debut. Completely suffocating, claustrophobic.
9.Sólstafir – Svartir Sandar (Season of Mist)
After the highly acclaimed Kold, this record is nothing but pure, blissful emotional eruptions filtered through genuine humbleness and distinctive subtlety. Like fire searing through ice.
10.Tombs – Path of Totality (Relapse Records)
This one’s easy and obvious. This album is as heavy and convincing as it could be. These guys are as real as a heart attack. First time I saw them I was afraid to get too close to the stage. Violent, righteous, liberating.
Toby’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
1.Implodes – Black Earth (Kranky)
There’s a simple way to justify why this is my album of the year and that is the fact the EVERY single person I have played it for has instantly loved it. Sounding like a blend of My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Tim Hecker and at times Godspeed it’s an album the sounds familiar enough to instantly appeal but with enough originality to reward repeated listens. Swirling, reverb laden guitar driven tracks blend into drumless ambience with effortless ease all the while riding the ‘quiet-loud / quiet-loud’ dynamic blueprint perfectly. What impresses the most is the almost meticulous composition of the album, everything is balanced perfectly with a self assurance that marks this album as a firm favourite for a long time to come.
2.40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire)
Pat Walker returns after the demise of Warning with 40 Watt Sun and delivers an album that can only be described as heartbreakingly beautiful. Having toned down some of the ‘heaviness’ of his previous band, he’s lost none of the impact and raw emotion that made them so incredible. 40 Watt Sun’s ‘The Inside Room’ is not a happy record, it’s painfully introspective and honest, but that’s where it shines, it manages to tread the fine line between melancholy and misery without ever becoming self indulgent or clichéd and creates something truly magnificent as a result.
3.The Present Moment– Loyal To A Fault (Mannequin)
Unlikely to be on any other Roadburn Top 10, but it would be a deception for me to not include this album in my list! This is an album that appeals to my minimal 80’s industrial, electro, gothic, and dare I say it post punk leanings like no other album in the last few years. This is not some campy homage to the 80’s, some ‘retro’ hark back, this is an album made by musicians who ‘get it’ and it shows. The synths are thick and have real substance to them, the drums are clinical and tight and balanced perfectly so as not to overpower. The vocals are great, spinning poetic tales of love and loss with a sometimes air of optimism, they are the icing on the cake.
4.Giles Corey – Giles Corey (Enemies List Home Recordings)
Confusingly named solo album by Dan Barrett (mastermind behind ‘Have A Nice Life’) delivers an intensely personal experience the touches on a myriad of styles. He states “these songs range from alt-country, to gospel-influenced shoegaze, to synth-heavy folk; they go from upbeat to depressed, from barely-there to epic and sprawling. But every song here shares a root in a struggle to decide if life was worth the trouble.”
As I’m sure you’ll agree it’s not a particularly pleasant premise for an album but the beauty of the music and the rollercoaster of emotions it travels leave you knowing you just heard something special. The album opener, “The Haunting Presence”, is an uncomfortable a listen today as it was when I first heard it, but it’s the moments of optimism and beauty throughout the record that really elevate it above and beyond and into my favourite albums ever list!
5.Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore (Profound Lore)
What this record is not; polished, meticulous, faultless or even the best Leviathan record. What this record is though is a near perfect example of creative catharsis. This is the sound of one man dealing with a near impossible to comprehend personal hell in the only way he knows how. It’s raw, ugly and a particularly unpleasant, difficult, listen and as a result is probably one of the most sincere black metal records I have heard in ages. It’s frantically rushed, it’s a knee jerk reaction, and it’s the sound of one man trying to exorcise himself by pissing venom and vitriol through his music. In short it is the embodiment of what black metal means to me – you can keep your wizards and Satan – I want the hate.
6.Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
To me this album is the true follow up to the majestic Two Hunters, and doesn’t disappoint, it really takes the dynamics of their early work and pushes it even further. The songs ebb and flow with ambient passages weaving in-between the whirlwind of riffs, Jessika Kenney’s vocals soar through the album and provide excellent contrast to main vocals. The real strength of this is album is its ability to evoke such a clearly defined atmosphere – it entrances you and lets you lose yourself in its world, at times it feels dreamlike, the production allowing the ‘feeling’ take control over crystal clarity. Like Two Hunters it feels cohesive and realised, it’s an album that requires you to invest and listen to as whole.
7.Hateful Abandon – Move (Todestrieb Records)
Misanthropically dark pop music filtered through the dirty lenses of Godflesh and a slew of post punk bands, Hateful Abandon’s second album sees them at full potential. Gone are the nods to black metal that were present on their debut and its place comes a much more focussed beast that loses none of its oppression and bleak world view. This is the soundtrack to a million heroin ridden tower blocks, empty housing estates, broken Britain. It’s ugly, dark and oppressive but at the same time, to those like me, utterly compelling and comforting to know that there is finally a band making the soundtrack to my journey through this…
8.Rot In Hell – As Pearls Before Swine (Deathwish)
I am not a big fan of hardcore, or at least the majority of it, I have no time for straightedge, youth crew, staying positive etc… it’s all just a bit shit to my ears, but Rot In Hell aren’t anywhere close to that. Venomous, heathen, metallic hardcore that goes straight for your face and nails it flat to the floor. These guys aren’t interested in your scene, your band of brothers, your righteous code – they hate you, your modern world and your filthy ways. This is a band I can get behind, albeit somewhat late to the party! Apparently recorded a while prior to its release, but only released this year, it’s a furious statement that hopefully sets a precedent for future releases.
9.Morbus Chron – Sleepers In The Rift (Pulverised Records)
You remember when death metal was fun right? When it was enthusiastic gore obsessed kids grinding away in garages writing soundtracks to a million video nasties? Well Morbus Chron seems to and they are doing it right. Hailing from Sweden they eschew the Entombed / Dismember route and bring to mind early Autopsy or Death. The vocals are suitably twisted and tortured with some hilariously catchy lines, the production is raw and free of the clinical precision that plagues what passes as modern death metal these days, and the overall feel is one of a band going back the roots of a seemingly stale genre and forging a new, bloody, path!
10.Midnight – Satanic Royalty (Hells Headbangers)
It’s Midnight. You know what you’re getting; beer, blood, bullets and boobs. They are the living embodiment of metal, challenged only by later era Darkthrone, but somehow able to hold their own. It’s the musical equivalent of a bar fight in a sleazy, sweaty biker pub; its lines of cheap drugs off dirty toilet seats; it’s a sonic hand job from a hooker with a lazy eye. It’s everything you want from a metal record and – let’s be fair – life. This is the soundtrack to drinking beer, burning stuff and banging your head like you just got a blood transfusion from Lemmy. If this doesn’t fire you up, you’re probably dead.
Walter’s Top 10 Albums of 2011
1.The Devil’s Blood – The Thousandfold Epicenter (VÁN Records)
Listening to the fantastic occult horror rock sounds of Holland’s very own The Devil’s Blood makes you realize that the psychedelic era (i.e. the late 1960s) was as much about Roky Erikson, Anthony LaVey and The Manson Family as it was about free love, mind-altering substances and flipped out hippies. Plus, by adding some early 70s prog-rock elements to their beautifully crafted, darkly theatrical, manifestos, The Devil’s Blood are by far the most honest and intensely Satanic of the burgeoning Occult Rock scene!
2.40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room (Cyclone Empire)
40 Watt Sun’s The Inside Room was primed to top my list when The Devil’s Blood mid November release swooped in and picked it off. Both albums are in a class of their own. The Inside Room is a stunner, offering ex-Warning Patrick Walker’s distinctive melancholic voice a more prominent role. His soaring and somber pipes bless the album’s burning tracks. 40 Watt Sun’s emotionally charged slowcore hybrid of Jesu meets a harder edged Red House Painters puts them in the vanguard of contemporary doom!
3.Hexvessel – Dawnbearer (Svart Records)
A psychedelic, haunting, folk rock album helmed by Mat “Kvohst” McNerney known previously as a vocalist for avant blackmetal bands Dødheimsgard and Code. Recalling the vibes of like Woven Hand, Comus and Current 93 but also forging their own unique and uncanny own special atmosphere where nature, magic and the wonder of the universe are called forth in a passionate, urgent and gorgeously strange musical spell, Hexvessel will be among the highlights of Roadburn 2012.
4.Ulver – Wars of the Roses (Kscope)
Wars of the Roses adds multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (Guapo, Æthenor, Miasma & the Carousel of Headless Horses etc.) to the lineup and Ulver are now a seamless amalgamation of the enormous spectrum of sounds that they have prospected during the last decade. They are without question one of the most varied, unique and talented bands active today as showcased on this amazing, prog-influenced album.
5.Yob – Atma (Profound Lore / 20 Buck Spin)
After reclaiming their rightful place on the cosmic doom throne with the release of The Great Cessation, Atma keeps gaining momentum and generating new fans for Yob by the quality and originality of its psych-tinged doom metal alone!
6.In Solitude – The World. The Flesh. The Devil (Metal Blade)
Listening to In Solitude’s catchy, old school heavy metal, these young Swedes will undoubtedly prompt comparisons not only to Mercyful Fate given the high-pitched singing, complex songwriting and diabolical lyrics, but also to the first two Maiden albums on account of the strong guitar melodies. With the release of The World. The Flesh. The Devil., In Solitude are regarded as one of the hottest heavy metal bands to emerge from Sweden during the past decade. I end up having a whiplash-worthy headbanging session every time I crank this one!
7.Sólstafir – Svartir Sandar (Season of Mist)
Having emerged with a sound as dark as the volcanic ash spewed by their homeland’s volcanoes, Sólstafir has evolved to excel at blending atmospheric, angst-fueled post rock with their blackened heritage, underpinned by psychedelic phrasing and an eerily, hypnotic groove for a truly mind-expanding experience. Iceland’s endless white landscapes, glowering peaks, empty valleys and shrieking winds can be heard and felt through the band’s moving, sonic elements, too. Sólstafir have come a long way much in the same way that Enslaved has progressed, albeit somewhat differently, as showcased on Svartir Sandar, the emotional equivalent of the stormy North Atlantic. A must-see at Roadburn 2012.
8.Zombi – Escape Velocity (Relapse Records)
Zombi’s synths-bass-drums leanings recall the very best of synthesizer icons Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder and Klaus Schultze, but also the unwavering torchbearers of all things Goblin and George A. Romero. Escape Velocity is just another impressive work by two guys from Pittsburgh (Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra) via Italy, Frankfurt and Berlin. My guilty pleasure of 2011, as the album could easily be a late 70s krautrock classic as well as the soundtrack for a 80s horror flick.
9. Loss – Despond (Profound Lore)
Despond is steeped in an overwhelming sense of total hopelessness, pummeling you with its guttural and tortured vocals and absolutely crushing guitar sound. At the same time, funeral doom grimness has never sounded this melodic and romantic. Hope to see them at Roadburn one day.
10.Mars Red Sky– Self-Titled (Emergence)
Mars Red Sky’s self-titled debut ranks amongst the very best releases in the current bumper crop of European heavy, jam-based psychedelia. However, Mars Red Sky eschew jamming into oblivion in favor of quality songs underpinned by a massive groove and topped off by the sweet, high-pitched croon of guitarist Julian Pras or bassist Jimmy Kinast’s bluesy David Eugene Edwards-style vocals. Naysayers will argue that the band isn’t cutting edge enough, but it’s Mars Red Sky’s ability to craft infectious hooks and subdued melodies, minus any ego tripping by the individual musicians, that sets them apart from their peers and turn their fuzz-fronted, memorable riff-explorations into a riff-worshippers dream.
Debut album of the year: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Blood Lust (Killer Candy Records / Rise Above Records)
Virtually unknown at the beginning of 2011, Blood Lust, chock-full of late 60s garage-psych inspired occult rock, catapulted Uncle Acid to potential Roadburn headliners overnight. Incredible!
Newcomer of the year: Purson
Named after a demon and fronted by the bewitching Rosalie Cunningham, Purson is the latest psychedelic proto-doom band with a mesmerizing female vocalist to cast a spell over everyone who hears them.
With elements of ’70s progressive and heavy rock, Purson is in league with Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth, conjuring visions of Hammer horror and pagan rituals. What sets them apart are the incredibly catchy pop-like
arrangements inspired by bassist Ed Turner and Cunningham‘s borderline obsessive love of the Beatles. It only took a couple of songs on Soundcloud / Facebook to capture the attention of illustrious Rise Above Records (a 7″ and a full-length are in the works) and Darkthrone’s Fenriz, one of metal’s favorite arbiters of taste, made them band of the week!
I was an instant convert, too, spinning those four tracks over and over again, only to wake up screaming, “Must. Have. Purson. NOW!”
Beyond Planet Roadburn:
Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest, which I like and admire as much as I do all of her previous records.
Rumer – Season of my Soul, for highly personal reasons (this was by far my most played album of the year and a true companion in every sense).
Thanks to Leslie Hadlock for all her help!
Tags: 40 Watt Sun, altar of plagues, Ash Borer, Blut Aus Nord, Chryst, Efrim Manuel Manuck, Giles Corey, Graveyard, Grayceon, Hateful Abandon, Hexvessel, Implodes, In Solitude, Leviathan, Midnight, Morbus Chron, Necros Christos, Negative Plane, Oranssi Pazuzu, Orthodox, Pharaoh Overlord, Primordial, Prurient, Radio Moscow, Roadburn, Roadburn Festival, Rot In Hell, Rwake, She Keeps Bees, Solstafir, Syven, the devil's blood, The Men, The Present Moment, Tombs, Totimoshi, True Widow, Ulcerate, ulver, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, voivod, Widowspeak, Witch Mountain, wolves in the throne room, yob, Young Widows, Zombi
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