Best of 2011 – Lord of the Wasteland
TOP 20 ALBUMS
1. The Devin Townsend Project ~ DECONSTRUCTION/GHOST (Inside Out)
Devin Townsend has had one hell of a prolific year with extensive touring, a pair of EPs and a double album that wraps up the four-record cycle that began with KI and ADDICTED. Released simultaneously as the chaos/order mindset of DTP’s fearless leader, DECONSTRUCTION is a frantic trip, threshing out Townsend’s most bizarre concept yet, while GHOST is its tranquil, sedated opposite. This is what happens when artistic freedom is placed in the hands of one of metal’s most unique and talented individuals.
2. Machine Head ~ UNTO THE LOCUST (Roadrunner)
It took four years for Machine Head to follow-up the brilliant THE BLACKENING and it was time well spent. UNTO THE LOCUST has not unseated THE BLACKENING as the band’s best album but this is an amazing piece of work that showcases Machine Head’s ability to expand upon its sound without forgetting its core strengths.
3. Anthrax ~ WORSHIP MUSIC (Megaforce)
4. Mastodon ~ THE HUNTER (Reprise)
5. DevilDriver ~ BEAST (Roadrunner)
6. Hate Eternal ~ PHOENIX AMONGST THE ASHES (Metal Blade)
7. Jag Panzer ~ THE SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT (SPV)
8. Iced Earth ~ DYSTOPIA (Century Media)
9. Saxon ~ CALL TO ARMS (SPV)
10. Symphony X ~ ICONOCLAST (Nuclear Blast)
11. Crowbar ~ SEVER THE WICKED HAND (E1)
12. Decapitated ~ CARNIVAL IS FOREVER (Nuclear Blast)
13. Evergrey ~ GLORIOUS COLLISION (SPV)
14. Revocation ~ CHAOS OF FORMS (Relapse)
15. Scheepers ~ SCHEEPERS (Frontiers)
16. Origin ~ ENTITY (Nuclear Blast)
17. Pagan’s Mind ~ HEAVENLY ECSTASY (SPV)
18. Deicide ~ TO HELL WITH GOD (Century Media)
19. Vallenfyre ~ A FRAGILE KING (Century Media)
20. Textures ~ DUALISM (Nuclear Blast)
BEST METAL EP
Immolation ~ PROVIDENCE (Scion)
This little gem was released as a free download in October on the unknown label, Scion. Immolation is still riding the accolades from 2010’s MAJESTY AND DECAY, so to follow that record up with another five tracks this strong, a mere eighteen months later, is damn impressive.
BEST NEW METAL BAND
A “supergroup” led by Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh with help from Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride) and Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates; Paradise Lost), Vallenfyre released its debut album, A FRAGILE KING, on Century Media Records on Halloween. Blending dark, depressing Doom with early Swedish Death metal, Vallenfyre has combined its frontman’s painful loss with its members’ musical history to create a truly stunning and powerful record.
BEST METAL DVD/BLU-RAY
Iced Earth ~ FESTIVALS OF THE WICKED (Century Media)
Sending off vocalist Matt Barlow with a more than suitable swan song, FESTIVALS OF THE WICKED captures Iced Earth at its best—live—with full performances at three European festivals from 2007-2008 spread over two DVDs, as well as a live CD. Barlow takes the mike at two shows, while Tim “Ripper” Owens’ performance at Wacken Open Air 2007 is also featured. Essential viewing for any Iced Earth fan, as it closes two chapters of the band’s history…and makes up for the shoddy DVD release of ALIVE IN ATHENS, as well.
BEST METAL BOOK
Jeremy Wagner ~ THE ARMAGEDDON CHORD (kNight Romance)
The debut novel from former Broken Hope guitarist, Jeremy Wagner, THE ARMAGEDDON CHORD is a gripping piece of fiction that deserves all the attention it has received this year.
BEST METAL COMPILATION
Iron Maiden ~ FROM FEAR TO ETERNITY: THE BEST OF 1990-2010 (EMI)
Finally, all the best songs from twenty years of largely forgettable albums rolled into two CDs. This collection makes it even less likely to ever have to pull out duds like VIRTUAL XI and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH ever again.
BEST LIVE METAL ALBUM
Avantasia ~ THE FLYING OPERA: AROUND THE WORLD IN TWENTY DAYS (Nuclear Blast)
It’s nice to hear the best parts of Tobias Sammet’s long-running project all rolled into one big show. We will never see the band tour Canada, so this is about as close to a live performance as we can hope for.
BEST METAL RE-ISSUE
Death ~ HUMAN/INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS/THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE (Relapse)
Lavishly reissued in a trio of extensive, multi-disc sets, three of Death’s finest albums finally received the treatment they deserve thanks to Chuck Schuldiner’s family and Relapse Records. Remixing the original recording is expected but with live tracks, loads of demos and other studio goodies included, HUMAN, INDIVIDUAL THOUGHT PATTERNS and THE SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE have never sounded better. Let’s hope the band’s other four albums get similar treatment in 2012.
BEST METAL REMAKE ALBUM
Scorpions ~ COMEBLACK (Sony)
When Scorpions announced its plans to retire following 2010’s STING IN THE TAIL, the German veterans could never have expected the outpouring of loss expressed by its fans. Rethinking that decision, COMEBLACK gives fans seven re-recordings of its biggest hits, as well as six interesting covers.
BEST METAL DISCOVERY
This Danish group has been around since 2005, drawing comparisons to Danzig and Elvis Presley and nods from Metallica along the way. I had heard the name before—even getting tipped off to check them out when I interviewed fellow Danes, Mercenary, in 2005—but they slipped under my radar…until this year. I look forward to finally seeing their legendary live show this February when they share the stage of the re-vamped Gigantour with Megadeth, Motorhead and Lacuna Coil.
GREATEST METAL HOPES FOR 2012
Not much on the musical horizon for 2012 but here’s hoping two of my all-time favorite bands—KISS and Van Halen—can each pull off another winning record.
GREATEST METAL DISAPPOINTMENTS
1. K.K. Downing Leaving Judas Priest
Many have said the new guy is no slouch but that timeless duo of Downing/Tipton helped shape heavy metal as we know it.
2. The Break-Up of Jag Panzer
Just a bummer to see this horribly underrated American metal band pack it in after almost 20 years.
3. Alice Cooper ~ WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE
May Satan strike me down Himself but as great as Alice Cooper was up until around 1990, he has been a bandwagon jumper ever since, cranking out one legacy-tarnishing record after another. WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE, a not-so-subtle sequel to his greatest album ever, finds Alice exploring club music with Ke$ha and employing a cast of characters from his past glories all with dismal results.
4. Chimaira ~ THE AGE OF HELL
Something has been a little “off” in the Chimaira camp the past few years. Label woes and major lineup changes have not helped but THE AGE OF HELL sees the band take a major nosedive musically. It might be time to re-think carrying on under the Chimaira name after this.
5. The Haunted ~ UNSEEN
When Peter Dolving returned to The Haunted in 2004, there was a noticeable shift in the band’s sound. Now on their fourth album with Dolving back in the fold, UNSEEN left me re-examining The Haunted’s back catalogue in order to remember what it was that made these Swedes some damn great in the first place.
6. In Flames ~ SOUNDS OF A PLAYGROUND FADING
A lot of people wrote this band off several albums ago but I have stood my ground, able to find a few positives along the way. In Flames’ new album, SOUNDS OF A PLAYGROUND FADING, came out back in June and I am still searching for even one positive.
7. Metallica & Lou Reed ~ LULU
I may have been the only person outside of Metallica’s camp to think LULU might be good but I was quickly proven wrong upon my first listen. Lou Reed’s tuneless rambling is what ultimately did LULU in but his voice was always an acquired taste anyway. But Metallica will have a really hard time gaining back any respect from metal fans after this serious mis-step.
8. Morbid Angel ~ ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS
Much like Cryptopsy discovered back in 2008, Morbid Angel found out that universally negative buzz can kill a record before it even gets released. Such was the fate of ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS, a record not nearly as bad as the Internet would have you believe or as good as its creators would have you believe. David Vincent’s chest-thumping was mocked and the quasi-industrial leanings were dated but there are a few highlights. Just not enough after waiting for eight years to hear a new Morbid Angel record.