Vit, who may or may not have also had something to do with Aphrenous...
When he's not doing that (a.k.a. most of the time), he's an astrophysicist simultaneously studying and researching.
Panopticon- Social Disservices/Kentucky
Austin has been getting better and better with each new release, and with two albums this year, he has made his biggest jump in quality yet. I absolutely love every Panopticon record, but I'm having trouble picking which of these is the best. Social Disservices is a modern black metal classic. It's a culmination of everything interesting in today's black metal scene mixed with Austin's distinct style. Coupled with a legitimately depressing theme, SD is one of the more emotionally draining records in recent memory. Kentucky, at times, is the opposite. I had the biggest smile on my face within the first second I started spinning it. While I wouldn't say this is a HAPPY album, its honesty is downright charming. Despite overarching economic and political themes, Kentucky ultimately reminds me of sitting around a fire and contemplating your surroundings with a nice homebrew.
Heinali and Matt Finney - Ain't No Night
I've noticed an odd trend lately where quite a bit of the new music I listen to is made by friends, with both this record and the aforementioned Panopticon records being among my favorites of the year so far. I've gotten to know Matt through the wonders of the internet over the past few months, and I can already say that his personality, cynicism, and sense of humor are reflected wonderfully in his dramatic readings on Ain't No Night and every other H&MF release. The combination of Matt's Cobain-esque poetry and Heinali's dense walls of noise create a totally unique atmosphere, yet still akin to old favorites like The Angelic Process and Have a Nice Life. The addition of traditional blues elements on the title track would already make this one of the standout records of 2011, but strong song structures and a length that doesn't overstay its welcome solidify it in my top ten. Matt's "blowjob in the parking lot" line doesn't hurt either.
Yob - Atma
Yob is one of my favorite bands ever and are single-handedly responsible for getting me into playing doom music. While this record doesn't touch The Unreal Never Lived (according to me, the best doom album ever made), it brings a lot of new elements to the Yob table. Atma's raw production and punkish energy are a pretty radical departure from 2009's The Great Cessation, but Mike Scheidt didn't completely forget everything about that album. We're still treated to some truly odd rhythms (and not for the sake of it) and long drones of negative space, but the approach is totally different here. And as expected, Scott Kelly's vocal, lyrical, and percussive contributions are nothing less than stellar.
Comus - First Utterance
This record from a formerly obscure 70s prog folk group has remained in my album rotation since about 2005. If you haven't heard this yet and are a fan of totally weird vocals, freak out moments, morbid lyrics, and surprisingly beautiful acoustic passages, you can't go wrong with this. This band went basically unnoticed in their original run, but they've gotten a huge popularity surge as of late thanks to Mikael Akerfeldt's lyrical references on "My Arms, Your Hearse" and "The Baying of the Hounds", resulting in their reformation. Here's hoping they're able to recapture the evil on an upcoming EP.
The Austrasian Goat - Stains of Resignation
I actually just acquired this about a week ago, but it hasn't left my music player since. Julien Louvet describes the band as "funeral black metal" -- a term I honestly thought I made up -- and that describes the music quite well. There are definite elements of both funeral doom and black metal, but I wouldn't say the two styles are ever distinctly separated. Additionally, acoustic guitars and even clean vocals distinguish this record from its more monotonous contemporaries.
Arghoslent - Hornets of the Pogrom
I'll preface this by saying I'm the kind of person who can and will separate lyrical themes from music. So, racism aside, Arghoslent know how to play fucking riffs. One of my favorite examples of this on "Hornets..." is within the first song, "In Coffles They Were Lead". At around the 1:15 mark, you'll hear what is probably the catchiest riff in all of death metal. The first time I heard this I almost crashed my car it was so sweet.
Taake - Noregs Vaapen
Similarly to "Hornets of the Pogrom", there are simply good RIFFS on this record. While I've only heard it a few times since it was released this week, it's growing on me quickly. Noregs Vaapen has everything from Black 'n' Roll, Motley Crue style riffs to a black metal banjo, and nothing ever feels out of place or breaks the album's overall atmosphere. Get this if you like metal.
Arizmenda - Within the Vacuum of Infinity
I was late to the whole "Black Twilight Circle" bandwagon, but this stuff is undeniably good. It feels a little silly hearing a bunch of dudes from Southern California (fronted by a guy with the last name 'Ramírez') play music about winter and snow, but the music somehow feels genuine. Even more seemingly contradictory, Arizmenda pretty much relies on the mainstays of black metal's second wave, but there's definitely an original take in both instrumentation and production. While "Within the Vacuum..." is colder sounding than your average metal record, it sounds very warm for a black metal record. Maybe it's a regional thing.
Austaras- Under the Abysmal Light
My friends in Austaras play a kind of metal reminiscent of mid-late Enslaved, but they're by no means clones. Noteworthy ambient sections give these three tracks a special atmosphere that compliments the various influences they incorporate.
Nyodene D - Every Knee Shall Bow
I actually was just handed this about 40 minutes ago by Aaron. Vilk is one of my favorite noise artists out there because of his "structured" approach to the genre. I haven't even listened yet but I know this will keep me busy for awhile, as his compositions are always filled with layers to be discerned.