Seems like a pretty safe time to put out a 'Top Eleven of 2011', right? I mean, unless Inquisition puts out a new album within the next 30 hours or so, all entries have been accounted for and all the votes have been tallied--we're in the clear. Now, I know most of you are probably hoping for some sort of '20 Shittiest'-esque fiasco this year, but I regret to inform you that no such shit-talking will happen this time around: I was too busy listening to Joe Rogan and Giorgio Tsoukalos argue about ancient aliens to even listen to 20 "new" albums in their entirety this year, much less write about them.
It's true. I basically gave up music blogging in 2011, but that doesn't mean I can't shit out a quick dozen recommendations for you, does it? I still listen to metal on occasion. I don't by any means keep up with new music like I used to, but people are still constantly sending me stuff to listen to (despite my protests), so why not?
These "year end" lists are basically bullshit, and full of weird politics anyways. I mean, I thought the new Vektor album was great, but I never got a chance to fully digest the whole thing. Does that go on the list? Nah. The new Cruciamentum EP kills, but I'm bored of it already. Does that go on the list? Nah. I guess what you're looking at here is a small, somewhat inaccurate gathering of releases that actually held my attention this year, and no matter how many times I tell you guys I'm unqualified to write it, you'll still comment to tell me what I left out. Whatever. I know my taste in music sucks. That already puts me ahead of the pack. Fuck it.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the list.
Let's do this.
11. GIGAN - QUASI-HALLUCINOGENIC SONIC LANDSCAPES
There is much to be said for the type of Hessian bro that would rock a Voltron shirt in his band photo, as there is also much to be said for the type of Hessian bro that would (somewhat befuddlingly) entitle a song "Suspended In Cubes of Torment". This is GIGAN in a nutshell--insane, quasi-psychedelic riffs, extended noise loops, and biomechanical-octopus musicianship aside. Much hate has been thrown at the "tech" sub-genre in recent years, but I remain a firm supporter--as long as actual ideas are present. Despite the machine-gun drumming and tapping solos, these fuckers know how to write a goddamn SONG. Every jam on Quasi-Hallucinogenic has some sort of catchy section, several repeating (sometimes to the point of hypnotic) riffs, and a vocal hook (or at least what qualifies for one in death metal), and as a result, I've been stuck on it since its release earlier this year.
I've said before that I enjoy tech-death because it is the perfect union of the visceral and the cerebral. Gigan drive that point home--with the fury and precision of a marauding Mechagodzilla on DMT.
10. PESTE NOIRE - L'ORDURE A L'ETAT PUR
Is the guy from France's Peste Noire a Nazi? Fuck if I know, or care. Either way, L'Ordure à l'état Pur is an epic mindfuck of a black metal album, mixing weird, psuedo-techno beats, farm animal noises, and bleak, misanthropic nihilism into a startling broth that managed to push boundaries even in the over-saturated BM market of 2011. There is plenty that I don't like about this album (see the aforementioned "techno" beats, 20-minute song times, NSBM leanings, etc etc) but the all-encompassing WEIRDNESS contained herein has made it a mainstay in the trusty ol' iPod, and the fact that Peste Noire can still keep me guessing after repeat listenings has to count for something.
If Abbath and Horgh commandeered Gogol Bordello and toured the catacombs of Paris, it might sound something like L'Ordure à l'état Pur. But until that happens, we'll just have to settle for this oddball gem, NS bullshit be damned.
9. ENTRAILS ERADICATED - VIRALOCITY EP
JGD introduced me to Australia's Entrails Eradicated just recently, but I don't feel the least bit hesitant adding them here after such a short honeymoon. Sure, the extensive noise intros are overkill for this EP's brief runtime, but Viralocity is the band's first release, and this much talent deserves a little room to fuck up. Like Gigan, EE temper sweep-picked insanity with tasteful, catchy vocals and recognizable song structures, making them an instant favorite here at ICHQ.
Be forewarned: this year's Top 11 is chock-full of "techy" shit, but that's what seems to be sounding good to me these days. Perhaps technical death metal has finally tired of chasing its own tail, and is now settling into a pattern of "good songwriting" and "realistic production". But maybe it's just wishful thinking. Either way, Entrails Eradicated are doing something right, so here's to hoping that they don't perpetuate that "one EP and done" cycle so many other promising shredders have fallen prey to (see: Viraemia, Slaughterbox, etc).
Oh, and nice windmills too, guys.
8. ARCHSPIRE - ALL SHALL ALIGN
Another obscure, tasteful tech gem, this time from the hoary wastes of Vancouver, Canada. These fellas seem to conform more to the shaved-heads-and-basketball-shorts school of uber-athletic bro-wanking, which, if you know ol' Cobras, is a major bonus. Shattering expectations by shunning any sort of melodic vocal pattern and/or Autotuned mosh breakdown, Archspire hit hard and fast, thoroughly annihilating your facial region with an onslaught of seven-string wizardry and hyperspeed blasting, all the while maintaining a crunchy, sing-along-with-Cookie-Monster feel that would make the Swedish DM Gods proud.
It should be duly noted that All Shall Align (like Viralocity) is Archspire's first release and mission statement--hinting that perhaps this is a band we should all be paying attention to in the future... Then again, maybe not--I saw one of their guitarists rocking a Dream Theater shirt in a live video.
7. VAST AIRE - OX 2010: A STREET ODYSSEY
I've included Vast Aire's long-awaited opus Ox 2010: A Street Odyssey as a sorbet, to cleanse the palate. After all, if you don't mix it up and take a break from metal every now and then, you'll end up as one of those sad, defensive, sheltered pussies that hangs out in MetalSucks comments sections all day, writing things like "+1" and "^this".
All kidding aside, though, Vast Aire's solo follow up to his old duo Cannibal Ox's 2001 oddball classic The Cold Vein is 100% worth the wait, bursting at the seams with both streetwise, guns-and-dope poetry and abstract, artsy philosophy. It sucks that Vorghul Mega wasn't around for this one, but FUCK, Ox 2010 is a great album, and has been getting just as much stereo time here at ICHQ as anything the "metal" realm produced in 2011.
Last.FM: Vast Aire/Cannibal Ox
Brought to you by IllCon Animation Studios, Inc.
6. CONDEMNED - REALMS OF THE UNGODLY
2011 was the year that I took the wise words BEHEAD THOSE THAT INSULT SLAM as my own personal motto, recognizing as it were the odd correlation between "slam-insulting" and "fun-hating". I mean, seriously: I know "slam metal" is by far the most testosterone-driven form of DM, appealing to the most socially-and-intellectually-inept camo-shorters amongst us, but if you can't see the reason for its base appeal (i.e. sweet fucking grooves that make you mosh your balls off) then you are all but dead to me.
Sure, Realms of The Ungodly is standard-issue slam with the quality and riffsmanship levels bumped up a couple notches. But the sole fact that Condemned is comprised of 40 to 60% of the same dudes from the almighty CEPHALOTRIPSY? That connection alone bumps them up to #6.
PS: The new Cephalotripsy promo stuff that came out this year deserves its own spot on this list, but I figure I'll just save the #1 spot for their upcoming full-length on my Top 12 of '12 list next year. Fair enough.
Also, some new Cephalo jams in case you slept on 'em:
5. VISCERAL DISGORGE - INGESTING PUTRIDITY
Like I said on #6: SLAM-INSULTERS CAN FUCKING SUCK IT.
Baltimore's own Visceral Disgorge have occupied their own little corner of my iPod's memory for the latter half of 2011, remaining both relevant and welcome with each "shuffle" cycle. Their low-brow sex-and-gore samples? Gold. Their mixed-too-low, monotone vocals? Yes please. "Force Fed Shredded Genitalia"? 10-4. "Colostomy Bag Asphyxiation"? Roger that. This is a band that will remind any Hessian warrior worth his spikes to never take him(or her)self too seriously, with enough tech-y, brain-melting pitt riffment to still qualify as "smart". Did I mention that this, too, is their first release?
4. CRAFT - VOID
Often derided as hipster BM (thanks to a record deal with Southern Lord), Sweden's Craft have nonetheless delivered quality album after quality album since their inception in 1999 (Pro Tip: get 2000's Total Soul Rape and 2002's Terror Propaganda RIGHT HERE), with Void being their best so far. Few bands can rival Craft for pure, unadulterated misanthropy and hatred, but it's their innovative musicianship that really tickles my nuts.
This album represents Craft's Pokemon-esque evolution into a bigger, better, and more menacing creature--the Blastoise to Fuck The Universe's Wartortle. It's a shame that they'll inevitably have to go and kill themselves in the near future, depriving us of more classics like this one.
Best Song 2011?:
3. ABSU - ABZU
Whenever I wish to judge a new Absu offering, I simply hold it up to their track off the 1997 Gummo OST, "The Gold Torques of Ulaid". Where does this new recording land on The Ulaid Scale? Is it 'not nearly as good'? 'Almost as good'? 'Better' (just kidding, no one will ever write a song better than that one)? The way I see it, said jam is the apex of the Absu pantheon, showcasing both their talent for complex, busy riffing, and obscure, transcendental mythologizing.
How gleeful was I, then, to find upon the arrival of their 2011 opus Abzu, that the WHOLE GODDAMN THING scored 'as good as' on The Ulaid Scale? I mean, FUCK, the opening track "Earth Ripper" alone packs an album's-worth of blackened, thrashy, cosmic goodness--but by the time the 15-minute closing track rolls around, one's mind is left as nothing but an amorphous pool of humiliated sludge.
Weird enough that these dudes would title their 2011 album Abzu after calling their 2009 release Absu--but hey, it's no secret that this band is on a different plane (they're from fucking Texas, man!), and should be treated as other-wordly beings. Far be it from me to pass judgment.
Obviously, Sir Proscriptor is on some next-level intergalactic karate-chop lamé-headband shit.
2. ORIGIN - ENTITY
At the risk of sounding douchey or name-droppy, allow me to share a brief story about an encounter I had earlier this year with Paul Ryan, guitarist and main songwriter for longtime IllCon favorites Origin:
Sometime around February, I was making the rounds in SF, handing out flyers for the first (and last?) annual IC Black/Death Fest. I stopped by the ol' Guitar Center on Van Ness (where Paul works as a salesbro) to drop off some handbills, at which point homeboy pulled me aside and asked if I'd like to hear a track off the new (as of then unreleased) Origin album. Well yeah, of course, duh.
Anyhow, long story short, Paul took me back into the dark recesses of their PA department, where he proceeded to completely melt my face and brain by playing Entity's opening track "Expulsion of Fury" through a fucking WALL of speakers. I pretty much knew right then and there that the new album was going to be one of the best (if not THE best) albums of the year, and upon its official arrival in July, my suspicions were confirmed. Origin just blows the doors off of EVERYONE with this one. Case closed.
Unanimous winner: Best animated .gif 2011
So now it's time, folks... A whole year of metal, all boiled down to ONE amazing release. My NUMBER ONE pick of 2011, an album that changed lives, made us laugh, made us think, made us cry.
Without further ado, the Illogical Contraption Number One Album of the Year: