Tape Wyrm’s Top 11 Metal Albums of 2011 Tape Wyrm’s Top 11 Metal Albums of 2011

It has been a wonderful year for metal. Actually any year is good when you sit down and dedicate a large portion of your time to new releases. I am always excited for the end of the year as it brings merriment, celebration and a chance to mercilessly nitpick each others top 10 lists. Before we pop this cheap bottle of champagne and commence the irresponsible drenching of guests and expensive office equipment, I would like to thank Big Ben, our editor, for giving Tape Wyrm a chance. I remember taking him out to lunch and through a series of meticulous pie charts and line graphs always escalating, we came to an exciting agreement. Tape Wyrm would live at Pinpoint if I stopped using the office copier for personal use. And thus Pinpoint’s metal corner was born.

Much like any top 10 list, a critic must weigh a variety of factors. Across multiple styles and cultural implications, an objective list must be generated to reflect an aesthetic judgment. Combined with the fear of not being able to hear every album made in 2011 and the nightmare of not taking an album to seriously or more serious than needed, a critic’s top 10 list is an odyssey through subjective and objective reasoning. With as much time and effort that is put into these lists, I am glad that most readers spend 2 seconds power scrolling to the bottom with hilarious commentary. “bullshit,” “bullshit,” “really?”

Tape Wyrm’s list was generated with a variety of factors considered including personal favorites as well as culturally important albums. It is my hope this list is of value to some and perhaps help to introduce them to their next favorite album. Well, with that said, we all know why you are here. Let us skip this needless foreplay and break out the ballgags and vinyl role-playing costumes. Here are Tape Wyrm’s Top 11 Metal Albums of 2011.

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#11

Cannabis Corpse – Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise

Whenever starting a top 10 (+1) list, the reader must be aware of the bottom portion which is occupied with oddball picks. Enter Cannabis Corpse. Yes, that’s right, Cannibas Corpse is a weed themed death metal band obsessed with transforming death metal into a narcotic centered horror film. That’s right, I amended my top 10 to 11 just to include this album. The lyrical themes for Cannabis Corpse reside at the intersection of hazy pot fantasies and frenzied violence straight from pulp horror. That’s right, Cannabis Corpse is dumb as fuck. This beat out both Blut Aus Nord albums. What in God’s name am I doing? When I first encountered Cannabis Corpse I was somewhat disappointed since it appeared to be just a fuck around project for Municipal Waste’s Philip “Landphil” Hall. The whole novelty of the act was somewhat offputting until it began to work in its favor. The stupidity of this album never seemed to slow it down. In fact, the inanity of a pot nightmare empowers this Richmond band to greatness. Cannibas Corpse employs humor and silliness without sacrificing performance. The technical prowess from all members transforms a novelty act into one of the weirdest and most fun albums of 2011.

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#10

Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony

Fleshgod Apocalypse is ridiculous. Let us get this fact out of the way. Based in deep technical death metal, Fleshgod Apocalypse was doing fine with their bell-less and whistle-less approach to a style enjoyed by 10 people. The Agony changed this. The band’s second release combined lush orchestration and unexpected falsetto backup vocals from bassist Paolo Rossi. This bombastic shift angered 8 of the 10 tech death fans but ultimately propelled Fleshgod Apocalypse from average to hilariously awesome in a matter of seconds. While the 10 songs on The Agony undeniably run together, their cohesion as a 10 part tech death opera works towards its advantage. It is as if a piano interlude sandwiched between coarse death metal vocals and inhuman drumming is a bad thing. The unexpected popularity of Fleshgod Apocalypse has angered some and confused most others. The success of The Agony is derived mostly from surprise and a willingness to go above and beyond what is needed for a metal album. Sure some people roll their eyes but others, including myself, grin like a goddamn idiot.

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#9

Leviathan – True Traitor True Whore

For a top 11 list, there is always a need to explain thinking and reason. Levithan’s 5th proper album rests at the number 9 slot for two reasons. Most importantly, True Traitor True Whore is technically and structurally sound and forges new paths for United States Black metal. It is an interesting and arresting black metal record which is not content with resting on the laurels achieved by previous bands. With that said, the second reason for this album’s success is the the back-story. True Traitor True Whore was partly inspired by creator Jeff Whitehead’s arrest for sexual assault in January of 2011. While the charges and trial are still pending, Whitehead has denied all charges as well as released a statement in the form of True Traitor, True Whore. Black metal has always had a history of distance as band members real life actions are either embraced or ignored by their listeners. Whatever transpired between Whitehead and his ex-girlfreind is a matter for the police and a selected jury of peers to decide. Whitehead’s arrest has not gained the musician infamy as much as his Norwegian grandfathers and their tendicity towards church burnings. In fact, Whitehad’s arrest has given Leviathan an unwelcome association with sexual deviance. What this incident has done however, was give an inspiration for a record dripping with hatred and disdain. Black metal has always been based in a rich tradition of emotional transference to record. True Traitor, True Whore captures a dense array of thoughts and feelings which beautifully construct a dark landscape of personal rancor. True Traitor, True Whore is a reactionary document which acts as the closest notepad for raw emotions scribbled with ferocity. It is perhaps Leviathan’s most personal record and thus the most interesting. I have divorced myself from the events and evaluate True Traitor, True Whore based on an objective reflection. I feel any form of metal should never be strengthened by acts of violence or wanton deviance. It’s just music guys. Calm the fuck down.

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#8

Autopsy – Macabre Eternal

Comeback metal album of the year / decade / century. In 1995, death / doom masterminds Autopsy released Shitfun which would be the last will and testament to an almost 10 year career of greatness. Shitfun, while attempting to break into the irreverent hardcore punk / death / doom market was terrible. The album did nothing to bring closure to the innovations and milestones forged by the band. It is true that Shitfun merrily continued the path forged by 1994’s Acts of the Unspeakable but it still paled in comparison to the band’s earlier work. 16 years later, however, this would change. 2011’s Macabe Eternal is not only one of the greatest comeback albums, it vastly triumphs other releases this year. Borrowing heavily from the 1991 album Mental Funeral with a light blend of other albums, Autopsy sharpens their focus to include longer songs and a deeper sound. Rather than come back light and soft, Macabre Eternal reintroduces the sound of violent classic death metal in contemporary society. I have always been wary regarding comeback albums after so many years of absence but this one proves me wrong. Macabre Eternal‘s triumph can only be credited to the founding members continual work in the style as well as the nostalgic return to greatness. Bravo gentleman. Macabre Eternal is as disgusting as it is grand.

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#7

Esoteric – Paragon Of Dissonance

Esoteric is often classified as funeral doom. Funeral doom is a style of doom which slows the tempo to a funeral dirge and vocals to a resonating growl. November of this year saw the release of The Book of Kings by Australian band Mournful Congregation as well as Paragon of Dissonance by British band Esoteric. Both bands are often cited as funeral doom as well as retaining a long legacy of great albums stretching back to the 1990’s. Both bands are also painfully ignored by a larger audience. November was a difficult month for me as I was forced to weight two equally fantastic slow doom records. While Esoteric is given the label “funeral doom,” the majority of their work travels much deeper than the funeral dirge of Skepticism and Thergothon. Combining ambient passages and a willingness to solo over death growls, Esoteric inches ahead in the great funeral doom race with a dense palette of texture and atmosphere. Paragon of Dissonance is two discs worth of extreme death/doom which expands and contracts over its 80 minutes. Much like a more despondent Godspeed You! Black Emperor with growling vocals, Esoteric is a shining example of interesting and progressive metal being made in contemporary times. We are at number 7 of our countdown and now we have finally arrived at the point of no return. Esoteric should be listened to by everyone interested in the metal style. It is a great litmus test to further styles of metal introduced. Forget your inhibitions and sway with me to the beat of a 100 year drum.

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#6

Rhapsody Of Fire – From Here to Eternity

Alright, fuck you. I’ll start off this introduction with a flagrant insult to anyone who thinks that power metal cannot be taken seriously in a larger merit comparison. Approaching Rhapsody Of Fire’s 9th album comes with a bit of back-story. First of all, the Italian band Rhapsody started a long and complex string of albums in 1997 based around a self created fantasy series known as the Emerald Sword Saga. The four albums part of the saga ended in 2002 with the excellent Power Of the Dragon Flame. The immediate sequel to the Emerald Sword Saga was the Dark Secret Saga starting with 2004’s Symphony of Enchanted Lands II – The Dark Secret. In 2006, the band was sued for trademark infringement resulting in the name change “Rhapsody of Fire.” Ignoring internal tension and legal configurations, Rhapsody of Fire continued The Dark Secret Saga until its logical end. 2011’s From Chaos To Eternity gives the proverbial finger to everyone with a conclusion to their damn fantasy saga despite all the things they have to worry about. The result? One of the best Rhapsody albums to be released in the past decade. This judgment comes not only from a long time Rhapsody fan but a knowledgeable participant in the fantasy genre. Real world pressure can fracture and ultimatly dismantle a great fantasy series. Despite hilariously terrible complications that face Rhapsody (of Fire), the band prevails despite logic and reason. From Chaos to Eternity marks the ending of The Dark Secret Saga as well as the legacy of fantasy based concept albums. If this is true then From Chaos To Eternity deserves to be recognized in the greater halls of fantasy based heavy metal. If you disagree with me then my collection of Robert Jordan and Steven Erickson books will act as my evidence. Ohh you haven’t read them … fuck you.

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#5

Mitochondrion – Parasignosis

Holy God. There is something horrible happening in Canada which may be the end of humanity. If I could go back to the beginning of the year and take a snapshot of my face when hearing Parasignosis for the first time, I would place it in this section. Since I did not, the reader will just have to imagine a cross between a petrified child and a victim of the “Ring” video tape. Mitochondrion is a death/black band who gears their music towards images of a viral holocaust and ultimate intellectual redemption through Armageddon. That is right. These guys know how to party. Mitochondrion’s thematic angles only enhance the music which sounds like a pipe bomb filled with glass and insects. Extremeley angular and progressive, Mitochondrion burrows deep within the listener’s consciousness instilling fear and hopeless abandon for more than 50 minutes. Pagasignosis is perhaps one of the most challenging and ultimately rewarding metal albums of 2011. Utilizing a stark contrast between a structered low end and choatic high end, Parasignosis neatly sweeps a path before showering it with debris. Chaos is amazing but that same chaos anchored to solid ground is even more entertaining. While this album is conceptually and objectively wonderful, listening to it for an extended period of time leaves me in a closet with a horribly distorted face.

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#4

Between The buried And Me – The Parrallax: Hyper Sleep Dialogues

Undoubtly, someone is yelling at their screen or finding the nearest blunt object to throw at the keyboard. I do not know why some people do not like Between the Buried and Me. To make matters worse, this EP is really good. The proposed vile hatred stems from this band belonging to the progressive metalcore style, which is a combination of the two most villified genres of metal. Metalcore has not had a glorious past. Since its melodic split with metallic hardcore, the commercial success of its bands and the accessibility to new fans has made metalcore the unwanted guest at the table. Well, besides trance metal — who invited him anyway? Still, metalcore has had its share of success and can ultimatly be used to a greater end. The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is a 30 minute EP released on Metalblade Records which stands as the first part to a series of concept based releases. The fun fact here is that this release is goddamn amazing. Combining inaccessible growls and progressive noodling with melodic hooks, Between the Buried and Me create one of the most varied and surprising releases of 2011. Sure some of it sounds like late 90’s Tool while other parts could be Primus b-sides but it’s never uninteresting. Fluidly passing through multiple genres, Between the Buried and Me showcases their talent with a promising first act in a multiple sectioned play. Could you tell trance metal to pass the creamed corn and stop staring at my sister?

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#3

Wolves in The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

I feel I am spending most of my time rationalizing my picks to an imaginary audience who may or may not have picthforks in hand. Alright, to those of you still left after my Between the Buried and Me selection, let me start out by saying I love United States black metal and specifically the work of Wolves In the Throne Room. To the three people remaining, “Hello.” In 2007, Olympia based Wolves in The Throne Room signed to Southern Lord records for a three album deal. At the time, the band had no plans for a greater connected concept and released Two Hunters. Two Hunters was one of the best albums of 2007, not to mention probably one of the best black metal records of the decade. Due to the attention from Two Hunters, Wolves in The Throne Room expanded the album’s concept into a three part reformation of folklore and cultural spirituality. If Two Hunters was the search for a new paradigm and 2009’s Black Cascade was the violent transformation, Celestial Lineage is the aftermath and inevitable shift in consciousness. The band marks this conclusion with a cosmic album of veracity and transcendental reflection. Influenced both musicially and conceptually by German krautrock, the near 50 minutes of Celestial Lineage is undeniable in its merit and effort to redefine a branch of heavy metal. Celstial Lineage makes a fine conclusion to a three part series for Southern Lord and continues to adds credibility to one of the biggest names in contemporary US black metal.

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#2

Tombs – Path Of Totality

Introducing, the dark horse rider of 2011. When I first heard Path Of Totality by Brooklyn based Tombs, I though it was stellar in its attempt to fuse deep black metal with post metal structure. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to do so well in the end of the year standings. Almost every top 10 metal list has this album occupying the highest ranks. The reason? It is fucking amazing. Taking black metal and stretching it across and ocean floor, Tombs makes a sound argument for despondency 1000 fathoms below sea level. Path of Totality‘s success comes with almost zero hype and intial establishment. While the band has had low to moderate success with their previous albums, Path Of Totality has undeniably struck the proverbial chord with critics. I would relegate this success with blatent hype if Path Of Totality wasn’t so deserving in its praise. Tombs redefines the sound of black metal into an album of pure terror and unforseen force. Incorporating left field influences including first wave black metal and gothic post punk, Tombs creates a world fit for the reign of Chthulu. Tombs is the metal band the world deserves as well as needs at this exact moment. Forward thinking but unequivocally brash in their delivery, Path Of Totality should be on everyone’s holiday shopping list. Your grandmother needs to hear this album.

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#1

Obscura – Omivium

And now we have reached #1. I feel that there needs to be some sort of fanfare on royal trumpets but I will settle for the collapse of heavenly bodies instead. There are many reasons why Obscura made #1 on my list. The largest reason is that Omnivium is a metal album that does not posture nor offer any novel sounds. It is a technical death metal album which is solid and flawless in its approach. It is not the first album which has incorporated this sound nor one that has radically shifted its lyrical themes. It is just Obscura and this is why it is deserving. Named after Gorgut’s 1998 album, Obscura continues in the tradition of rich and refined technical death metal. Combine this with images of an astral apocolypse and you have the best album of 2011. Omnivium builds upon its predecesser Cosmogenisis outlining the inevitable destruction of the cosmos. The destruction of everything is elloquently spoken through a complex network of progressive death passages and infinite woven interludes. I dislike using the term “metal” as an indicator of exclusive quality though. Obscura’s “metalness” is the same as others on this list as well as less than average metal albums of the year. With that said, listening to Obscura is different than Tombs or Wolves in the Throne Room. There are few points of entry other than either years of listening to metal or an unexpected love for the technical. Death metal also works so much harder to gain recognition over its black, doom, and thrash brethren. There are certainly times when a #1 metal album will also be a crossover hit. There will be other years, like this one, when there will be zero chance of a radio hit. Prepare yourself for the timely demise.

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2011 Postscript

Well, hello. I thank you for making it this far down. If you are reading this then I can assume there is either something horribly wrong with your computer’s scrolling function or you are interested in my thoughts regarding metal. Now that I have your attention, I would like to take this opportunity to shamelessly promote other projects which I am involved in. First of all I do a weekly music podcast called Champions Of the Universe as well as a weekly Film, TV and occasional sex podcast called Out Of Commission 3D. In my spare time, I play Dungeons and Dragons, write for metal websites as well as paint and design album covers for bands. I try to keep up with twitter but do better with Facebook. If you ever want to talk to me you can email me: kaptaincarbon [at] pinpointmusic [dot] com. Now that this article is out, I can fully devote my time to playing Skyrim, I’ll see everyone in a month or two. Fuck 2011, let us move on to 2012.



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