Top ten CD Reviews of 2011

Best Ofs are not usually a good choice of artistic material and are really medium specific to enhance their impact, generally being more suited to a comedy quiz panel show.  Cyberspace is replete with lists offering countdowns and best-ofs and it is not something to which this site will dedicate much of its valuable time.  It can also be unfair to add more labels for bands to struggle to survive against.

However, being of the human variety, there have been some releases this year that have garnered various reactions throughout the office and this list is designed to give a flavour of the tastes and joy felt at reviewing some fantastic Metal albums this year.

Instead of rewriting what we feel months after the initial reaction to the album, we have instead chosen to display an excerpt from the text, which says so much more about our reaction than mere reflection ever could.  All of the albums were listened to again just to see whether our initial reaction would stand the test of time and this was proven to be so. Links are provided in the title to the full review should a glimpse not be enough.

Once again, the best really has been saved for last.

10.  Stormzone – Zero To Rage (2011) CD Review

Churning out fist-pumping, old-school metal and seemingly proud of this fact, Stormzone have created a NWOBHM homage (again) that is nothing short of a masterpiece that Iron Maiden, Saxon and Judas Priest would be proud to create.  From the opening track, “Where We Belong” the brilliance of their debut album,Death Dealer, is continued with a little less in-your-face catchiness but a more mature approach to songs that grab you in a subtle manner and take a firm grip of the senses like a brittle old Aikido sensei deftly turning the energy of his attacker to his own advantage.  Continuing with “Zero To Rage” the band is able to show their ability to create mature traditional heavy metal anthems that made Death Dealer such a pleasure to listen to. “

9.  Revocation – Chaos Of Forms (2011) CD Review

The bounty of ideas is thrilling. Songs jump frantically from section to section. At the same time it never feels rushed. Nor does it feel like a choice of speed and rapid change over completeness. These are songs that couldn’t be imagined different from what they are, which is mature, absolute. Single songs comprise more riffs – and quality riffs at that – than entire albums written by lesser bands. It’s reminiscent of early Pain of Salvation, where a masterful creativity makes the conjuring of beauty look stupidly simple as twenty riffs jam-pack individual songs.”

8.  Neuroma – Extremophile (2011) CD Review

The opening track, “Cash In The Attic” laced throughout with jocular barbs that are more shocking than our lobotomised media-drugged morals (could this be the hidden message?) spin a yarn of disgust layered with enough intellect and scorn to outwit the right-wing Conservative machine.  Chaotic would be the opinion of many but they would be wrong because there is an underlying point too sharp to be understood on one mere listen.”

7.  Basement Torture Killings – The Second Cumming (2011)

Thematically, there is much more in common with the likes of Macabre whose comedy-themed Serial-Killer-Metal is presented here with a much greater force and far less tongue-in-cheek despite the comic-sounding titles, “Severed Head Fellatio” and “Gore Bukkake.”  Vocally, one can only be impressed with the power of Bertrand’s demonic realisation of material that morality is incapable of making sense of, marrying this with the traditional death metal growl that serves as an infernally harmonious relationship underscored by the quite beautifully composed solos. “

6.  Dim Mak – The Emergence Of Reptilian Altars (2011) CD Reviews

Structurally, the whole album defies the logic of composition endemic to mainstream metal, choosing instead to follow a path chaotic on the first listen yet distinguishably following a pattern dictated by the vocal harmony which is powerfully delivered by a throat seemingly controlled by a reactor of anger encased in human flesh.  One can imagine, Joey Capizzi’s eyes rolling back into his head as he utters chant after chant, the invocation yearning for the seas to boil and rifts to open to reveal things of unimaginable horror.”

5.  Sigh – Scorn Defeat (2011)

This is not what you would call ‘typical’ 90’s Black Metal, by any stretch of the imagination, even though this is very much a product of that era. This certainly possesses malice, atmosphere and at times a rabid ferocity that you would expect, however Sigh’s methods of achieving such sensations were more than just some decent song writing combined with shitty production. Rabid vocals, some thrashy guitar work (with more than a hint of Mercyful Fate if you listen out for it) and a keyboard style that I can only describe as crossing Burzum with Cradle of Filth (pre 1998; when they were still good) all come together, drift apart and alternate throughout in order to create a unique sound which obviously singled them out from whatever anyone else was doing at the time.”

4.  Neonfly – Outshine The Sun (2011)

Every song has well-crafted lyrics free of the usual cliche and the whole is bedded with a  mistress of orchestration of such alluring beauty that you will be unable to control your desires for anything other than wanting more.  We have seen them live on a few occasions now and they have delivered with almost perfection each time with some of the tracks off this album almost classics despite this being their first full-length release, “Broken Wings” and “Ship With No Sails” will be instantly recognisable to devotees.”

3.  Wolf – Legions Of Bastards (2011)

A Legion Of Bastards this album may be but each bastard is uniquely catchy.  ”Legions of bastards… can you feel their eyes?”  is one particularly memorable line sung over a slightly sludgey riff whose song, “Nocturnal Rites” is a glamtastic work of brilliance that brutally bitch-slaps every song created by Motley Crue, forcefully stating, “This is what you could have created if any of you could play instruments!”  Plenty of galloping guitar riffs a la Judas Priest laced throughout the album with a strikingly groovy pace, especially on songs like, “Tales From The Crypt” and the opening track “Vicious Companions.”

2.  Vile – Metamorphosis (2011) CD Review

“Rise” is definitely the pick of eleven fantastic tracks but there is a wealth of brutal death metal gems here that make it very difficult to skip from track to track.  Do not be fooled by the melodic and memorable structure to this new album as there is brutality in abundance.   And no, it is certainly not in the vain of Dark Tranquillity melodic.  At times the album seems somewhat reminiscent of Kataklysm post-Epic, especially when the vocals break into screams.  ”I Am Alive” is a perfect example of this similarity.  The grandiose mid-tempo opening exultant and resplendent in its homage.”

1.  Alestorm – Back Through Time (2011) CD Review

Why is this band not playing in front of 50,000 screaming Metallers every week?  They sing about being a pirate and getting drunk; swashbuckling tales of voyages across the seas in search of shiny metal pieces and the mistreatment of women in decadent ports across the globe. How much more Metal can you get than that?  Throw in epic and heavy guitar riffs and you have yourself a recipe for Metal worship that would put the embarrassing veneration of the Big Four to shame.”

And so ends the definitive guide to the ten best albums of 2011.  Comment, cry to the heavens, laugh, sneer.  Do what you will, the only thing we ask is that thought be provoked.