Best of 2011

Best of 2011

As always, the top albums are for releases from 2011 that are full albums (no EP’s or demos). They also have to be new studio albums for 2011, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live material. Below the combined TOP 20 are links to each staff members personal “best of” lists which besides the top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book of 2011, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2012, personal metal discovery of 2011, and various other metal-related categories. Enjoy!

The Top 20  Heavy Metal Albums of 2011

Click the album cover to read our review.


1. Anthrax – WORSHIP MUSIC


Anthrax - Worship Music

Reaction from Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante on the band’s #1 placement in our best of 2011 list was: AWESOME!!! Thank you so much for this honor. We put so much into this Record and I’m so Happy with  the response. We enjoy making music, We look forward to making more of this kind.

Thank you again,

Charlie“Perhaps it was the unknown factor or maybe metal fans actually rooting for the underdog for a change but whatever the reasons, Anthrax’s long road to get WORSHIP MUSIC out finally paid off with almost universal praise, including earning the coveted top spot here among the scribes at  Excitement came from everywhere as WORSHIP MUSIC saw the return of vocalist Joey Belladonna after twenty years and this being the first new release from the veteran thrashers since 2003.  What makes WORSHIP MUSIC stand out from the rest of the band’s catalogue is that this is a collection of well-written, well-played songs, something that has been lacking (even by the band’s own admission) from the last few Anthrax albums.  Hopefully the band has put its personal issues behind them, established a solid lineup and can ride the positive buzz that WORSHIP MUSIC has allowed them so late in Anthrax’s career.

2. Iced Earth – DYSTOPIA


Iced Earth
Let’s face it, Jon Schaffer is not spring chicken, but man the guy just continues to put out kick ass metal. Stu Block is as good (or better) than any of Jon previous vocals. If you are a fan of Iced Earth, then yeah, you need to have this. However, any fan of metal should probably have this. His best work in years!


This album has everything, melody, speed, power and top-notch performances. Reale hasn’t shredded like this in years. Moore has not, I repeat, not lost any of his vocal range and power. Some of the notes he hits are unreal. Jarzombek, a monster drummer in any band, puts on a drum-clinic with fills and flair that go above and beyond the standard power Metal double-kick attack. This album just absolutely kills with raging power. It’s certainly a complete clone of THUNDERSTEEL, down to the production, delivery, song-writing, even some of the drum fills, Moore’s vocal phrasing, the lyrics, everything is a step back in time AND their most accomplished album in two decades. Let that sink in for a second. Two decades! I would rank IMMORTAL SOULS as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Metal. No lie.

4. Steel Panther – BALLS OUT

BALLS OUT ranks surprisingly high on the year-end list.  Perhaps Steel Panther has dodged the “novelty act” bullet but this new batch of songs didn’t seem to pack the immediate punch of those off 2009’s FEEL THE STEEL. Still, no one can deny these guys have talent beyond the gimmick and the over-the-top lyrics.  If Steel Panther continues delivering solid songs and avoids dwindling into a complete mockery, metal fans will continue to laugh with the band, not at them.

5. Rhapsody Of Fire – FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY

After all these years, 10 releases (8 studio albums, 2 EP’s) The Chronicles Of Algalord are sadly coming to an end, making this by far the longest most elaborate project in the history of Heavy Metal, and perhaps even recorded music. If you sat down and listened to it all back-to-back you would hear 95 songs that would span just short of nine hours. Musically, FROM CHAOS TO ETERNITY meets and exceeds all expectations. Tons of guitar solos, choirs, engaging narration, medieval style instruments, songs breathlessly sung in Italian, pounding double-kick drums, keyboards all over the map, plush arrangements, sound-effects and an overall heavier guitar oriented tone. Fabio is at the top of his game which is no small feat considering he is often the focal point of such a giant undertaking but he has to share with stage, not only with Lee but half a dozen other guest vocalists and compete with the choirs!

6.  Saxon – CALL TO ARMS

Amazingly, NWOBHM veterans, Saxon, still manage to deliver the goods over thirty years into its career. The band continues rolling along with its nineteenth studio album, CALL TO ARMS, riding a renewed wave of success that began with 2004’s LIONHEART. What makes Saxon’s style of metal so great is that it is timeless—fans know it and the band knows it—as their homage to the early days here, “Back In ’79,” makes sure everyone else knows it, too. Let us all hope that Saxon still has a few more albums of quality material like CALL TO ARMS left in them before they decide to call it quits.

7. Amon Amarth – SURTUR RISING

Much like Slayer, Amon Amarth has developed a pretty solid career by giving its fans album after album of the same old same old.  SURTUR RISING continues that trend, by nailing all the familiar trademarks of the band’s Viking / mythological  – based melodic death metal.  Like that comfy security blanket / broadsword, fans know what to expect and the band delivers in spades.  As long as people follow, watch Amon Amarth’s career trajectory continue to soar onwards to Valhalla.

8.  Pagan’s Mind – HEAVENLY ECSTASY

We noted back on this site in May that this was a very different direction for Pagan’s Mind. We were curious if the fans would embrace the album.  The people have spoken and Pagan’s Mind comes in at #8.  Their most sophisticated and darkest album to date.



Here was our prediction for the new Jag Panzer album back in January. “This album will stand next to any album that the band has done. I know it is a bit of an overused literary device but I’m going suggest right here, right now in early January, that SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT will make many people’s Year-end lists. A very, very welcome return.”    I love it when we are right! The band has since announced they are calling it quits and in a class move have left on a high note.

10. Stratovarius – ELYSIUM

ELYSIUM might not be as accessible as some of their other material, perhaps not as catchy, the songs relying less on simple hooks, but more on epic, dynamic compositions. It might not have the immediacy of an album like INFINITE but there is lots of depth, progression and evolution. It’s a brave, ambitious and compelling record while retaining their distinct sound in part, no doubt to the vocals. Timo’s voice is in top form; he really stretches out and delivers some great performances using his whole range.


Number 11 to 20

11. Mastodon – THE HUNTER

Hipsters, metalheads, and everyone in between seem to be digging Mastodon these days. After a pair of bizarre concept albums, the band reeled things in a bit on THE HUNTER by consciously writing a straight-forward record, albeit one with melodic and progressive tendencies mixed in with Mastodon’s trademark thunderous riffs and nifty drumming. THE HUNTER proves Mastodon will never do the same record twice and enjoys keeping things fresh and exciting not just for their fans, but for themselves, too.



Man, it is great to have Arch back. He is unquestionably the main event on this album…. The rest of the band is amazing of course, their pedigree long established and with less to prove, it is easy to hear who worked their ass off the most on this album. Welcome back John. We missed you. This is recommended for all progressive metal fans and will likely be in many discussions for album of the year.

13. Megadeth – Thirt3en

Megadeth threw its fans a bit of a curveball with TH1RT3EN, a more melodic and less thrashy record than the band has delivered on its prior two albums.  Rippers like “Sudden Death” and “Never Dead” kept the ‘Deth faithful happy but the mid-paced “Public Enemy No. 1” and “Black Swan” balanced things out with catchy choruses.  Still, TH1RT3EN is a great record that shows Dave Mustaine still has a few tricks up his sleeve, maintaining Megadeth’s ranking as a metal powerhouse.


14. Machine Head – UNTO THE LOCUST

Not unlike Anthrax, Machine Head had a lot to prove this year. Following the brilliant 2007 release of THE BLACKENING, a record which got equal amounts of critical and scene praise, the Bay Area thrashers had set the bar at an impossible height but UNTO THE LOCUST gives that record a run for its money. Robb Flynn’s ferocious bark, coupled with the sizzling guitar team of Rob and Phil Demmel, really deliver on this record. The songs are still long, averaging seven minutes apiece, but there isn’t a dud in the bunch, even with the use of a children’s choir causing a few eyebrows to be raised.


 15. Scheepers – SCHEEPERS

Right from the opening blast of “Locked in the Dungeon”, two things become clear: 1) Scheepers remains one of the greatest singers in metal, and 2) the album won’t be straying too far from the style the man is known for. In fact, a good three quarters of the album could fit easily onto a Primal Fear album…. However, the self-titled SCHEEPERS album is his first kick at the solo artist can, but he’s not alone – he’s brought a veritable army of friends to help him out – PF band mates Mat Sinner and Magnus Karlsson, metal man about town Snowy Shaw, Ripper Owens, Victor Smolski, Mike Chlasciak, and more.


16. Nightwish – IMAGINAERUM

The band that did it first and best is back. After a long and well-deserved break Tuomas and his companions have returned with an ambitious statement of intent a giant concept album tied in with a full-length feature movie no less!  Annette is sounding better than ever before and the album is larger than life, and fully bombastic to the max. It’s no surprise that IMAGINAERUM finds a place in our Top 20, just as Nightwish hit our #1 pick way back in 2007 with DARK PASSION PLAY.

17. Twisted Tower Dire – MAKE IT DARK

It’s a one in a million gamble replacing a veteran vocalist as seasoned and talented as Tony Taylor was and few band’s have found success in doing so, but rest assured that the band’s new material is top notch, over the top and well above that of their peers in the American underground traditional heavy metal genre.

18. Sebastian Bach: KICKING & SCREAMING

Considering Sebastian Bach has been a solo artist for almost fifteen years, he has only released two proper studio albums under his own name! But, hey, quality over quantity, right? KICKING & SCREAMING is a hard-driving record with Baz’s still-mighty vocals placed front and centre and it is vastly superior to his last record, 2007’s ANGEL DOWN. KICKING & SCREAMING feels like the record Bach has wanted to make since he left Skid Row and, more importantly, fans seem to feel the same way, too.


19. Whitesnake – FOREVERMORE

Perhaps the most impressive entry in the Top 20 is Whitesnake’s FOREVERMORE. Once a blues-rock band that morphed into a hair metal phenomenon before imploding under industry pressures, Whitesnake basically disappeared for almost twenty years. Then, from out of nowhere, came the brilliant GOOD TO BE BAD in 2008, proving that David Coverdale’s vocal issues had been resolved and he could still assemble a dynamite band. FOREVERMORE builds on that success with another batch of groove-based tracks loaded with melodies and backed by the blistering guitar team of Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich layered with Coverdale’s rich, smoky vocals.


20. Suidakra – BOOK OF DOWTH

Suidakra (along with Cruachan and Primoridial) helped define very early on the whole pagan / folk / celtic image and sound but don’t get enough credit. With their placement in our top 20, hopefully a few of you will check them out. BOOK OF DOWTH is another victory for Suidakra, one of the most consistently entertaining bands in Metal.


Individual Staff Lists For 2011

Includes: top 20, best new band, best DVD, discovery of the year, greatest hopes for 2012, and disappointments of 2011.