The Best of 2011: Another Year-End List for You to Critique and Ridicule

The death of 2011 has come and gone, so we at HSS (well, just me - this is my list and doesn't speak for anyone else here) have decided to clog up your browser with another year-end list of the best albums of 2011. It was a hell of year for music - so great that I spent way too much time trying to make this list as accurate as possible. Out of personal preference, I make just one list for my favorite albums, rather than one for each of the various genres I enjoy. I don't expect anyone to take it seriously, but since people, including myself, seem to enjoy reading these, here it is: The best of 2011.

#1. Giles Corey - Giles Corey (Enemies List Home Recordings)
There's no way around it, folks. This album floored me in a way that no other record in my lifetime has, and it continues to do so every time I hear it. It was highly anticipated, and every agonizing second spent waiting for it was justified when I finally heard it for the first time. When I first reviewed this, I said that it was perfect, and I stand by that. It is an absolutely perfect record in every way. The most genuine, intensely personal musical recording I've ever heard, it is not only the best album of 2011 -when all is said and done, it may be the greatest album ever.

#2. Falls of Rauros, The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood (Bindrune Recordings)
If there is one record that even comes close to matching the power of the Giles Corey album, it is this one. The passion, the sorrow, and the immediacy of the music on this album is virtually unrivaled. I've played both of these top two albums hundreds of times each, and neither of them have gotten old, boring, or repetitive. This record feels like home to me, and it has since I first heard it. Timeless and magical.

#3. Of The Wand and The Moon, The Lone Descent (HeiĆ°runar Myrkrunar)
An album that took me completely by surprise, somehow. It had been six years since Sonnenheim, so I couldn't be sure what to expect, but what was delivered was one of the most chilling and beautiful neofolk albums I've ever heard. As the title suggests, it sounds like loneliness - but not just anyone's loneliness. It sounds like your loneliness, as well as my loneliness. You'll have to listen to it to understand what I mean. Suffice to say, it's an intensely personal and introspective record.

#4. Prurient, Annihilationist (Hospital Productions)
I suppose Time's Arrow and Bermuda Drain were the "bigger" Prurient releases of 2011, since they both came out on Hydra Head, but this limited cassette that came out on Fernow's own Hospital Productions label made by far the biggest impression on me. Very, very, heavy, but not as caustic as some other work in Fernow's catalogue, the tension created on this album is quite real.

#5. Crooked Necks, Alright is Exactly What It Isn't (Handmade Birds)
There's really not much I can say about this album. This is why music exists, and this should be why we all listen to it. A highly emotional, indeed schizophrenic, recording that still manages to present itself as a unified whole. This will occupy a very special spot on my turntable for years to come.

#6. Syven, Aikaintaite (Vendlus)
Released just earlier this month, this is a breathtaking, magical and timeless recording that will only get better with time. One of the most stunning pieces of music you'll ever hear. Open your heart, let this in, and it will occupy a spot there for eternity.

#7. Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Marble Son (Fargo Records)
It baffles me, after reading so many year-end lists, that I didn't see this mentioned even once. I've concluded that people just didn't hear it, which is a sad piece of news in and of itself. Mrs. Sykes and her band have always occupied a special place in my ears and in my heart, and this album, which I admit I didn't even know had been released until it had been out for over a month, has been stunning me over and over again with every listen. Her voice is beautiful, her ability to write a great song is virtually unparalleled, and her band is simply awesome. Make sure you hear this record, it's seriously that good.

#8. Alda, : tahoma : (Eternal Warfare)
Another album that no one has mentioned, and I'm not sure if that makes me want to laugh, cry, or rage against everyone supposedly supporting the underground. How virtually no one could take notice of this album, which is a spellbinding mix of emotive black metal and gorgeous, sorrowful folk music, is beyond my understanding. If you want to hear brutal honesty, devastating sadness, and unbridled anger at man's destruction of Mother Earth, this album delivers. Brings me to tears every time I hear it.

 #9. Subrosa, No Help For the Mighty Ones (Profound Lore)
This album has shown up on quite a few year-end lists, and with good reason. I've been hypnotized by this album since I first heard it. Stunningly heavy and arresting in its beauty. Was not much of a fan of their first record, but this one is as good as it gets.

#10. Anatomy of Habit, Anatomy of Habit (BloodLust)
While not that heavy in the obvious sense, once you get to know this album, it's as heavy as anything else you will have heard. Crushing, atmospheric, and delicately brutal in its use of space, Mark Solotroff and company really delivered a truly great album.

#11. Cremation Lily,  Sexless Merit (Strange Rules)
Honestly, this could have been any of the tapes that Zen Zsigo (of Maths, Life in the Dark) put out on his Strange Rules label under the moniker Cremation Lily. Amazing power-electronics - the quality here is incomparable. Can't wait to hear more from this project.

#12. Ash Borer,  Ash Borer LP (Psychic Violence [cs]/Pesanta [LP])
This, Ash Borer's first full-length album, confirmed what many of us had known after hearing the demos and tour recordings - that Ash Borer is simply one of the most exciting black metal bands to emerge from the underground in quite some time. Hopeless, bleak black metal that cannot be beat.

 #13. Pyramids & Horseback, A Throne Without a King (Hydra Head) 
An outstanding album from beginning to end, but it's worth its weight in gold simply for two songs on the 7" that accompanies the 12" (especially "Thee Cult of Henry Flynt" - woah...). The rest is more subtle - more ambient/noise influenced, but no less engaging, unpredictable, and enlivening.

#14. Panopticon, Social Disservices (Flenser)
Austin Lunn continues to shape the face of today's black metal by infusing his unique black metal sound with elements of crust and post-rock. This is the most brutal and perhaps the most intriguing Panopticon record yet, raging against a social welfare system that fails daily. Intensity is the key here.

#15. Locrian, The Clearing (Fan Death)
Locrian is one of those bands that somehow continues to improve. No matter how amazing each album is, they somehow manage to top themselves over and over again. I figured that The Crystal World was as high as they would get, but I was quite wrong.

#16. Various Artists, White Eye of Winter Watching (Hospital Productions)
The general rule of thumb is that compilations don't count for these lists, but that's a silly rule, especially for an album like this. Two cassettes and over three hours of exquisite material that covers a lot of what Hospital has been doing all these years. Industrial, power electronics, noise... all covered with (mostly) exclusive material from 52 different artists. Absolutely essential.

#17. Nyodene D, Every Knee Shall Bow (Assembly of Hatred)
The first time I played this CD, I knew this was the album that I had been waiting for this dude to make. Better than any of his previous efforts, this one really achieves that hauntingly violent death-industrial vibe.

 #18. Mount Moriah, Mount Moriah (Holidays for Quince)
Quite possibly the most American record I've ever heard. So amazingly soulful, heartfelt and heart-breakingly gorgeous. Heather McEntire's voice will stop you in your tracks and possibly knock you dead. She could be screaming racial slurs and I think that voice would still bring me to the verge of tears. This is another album that I think a lot of people missed, but that's criminal. So good.

#19. Circle of Ouroborus, Eleven Fingers (Handmade Birds)
Total game-changer. This album transformed a lot about how I personally listen to music, especially how I approach listening to Circle of Ouroborus. Armon Keitaalla is also of note, because it's an incredibly awesome album, but it didn't necessarily change me the way this one did.

#20. Abuse Patterns, Reproducing the Pathology (Anabolic Dimensions)
Harsh power electronics that explores some very interesting and perhaps disturbing territory. I liked this a lot when I first heard it, but I can't seem to stop going back to it, and it has become one of my very favorite releases of the year.  The whole package, which includes a screened envelope to hold the C30 and a small zine that explores the same topics the music does, is a winner. Not for the faint of heart or for the easily offended.

#21. Xenophobic Ejaculation, Vala (Filth and Violence)
If you can get past the hideous ideology represented here, this is an amazing piece of noise. 2 cassettes, nearly an hour and a half of one of the best pure noise releases of the year. Everything released by Pasi Markkula's Filth and Violence label is great, but this was the best thing I heard from it all year.

#22. Antediluvian, Through The Cervix Of Hawaah (Profound Lore)
Can't get enough of this. I've played this CD about a thousand times and it does not get old. These guys will be dominating for years. Fucking rules.

#23. Brighter Death Now, Very Little Fun (Cold Meat Industry/Tesco)
So much music on this 4xLP or 3xCD. All of it brilliant. And it's not even new music, all of it recorded between 1998 and 2005, and said to chronicle a slow, gradual breakdown of sorts. Death-industrial at its finest. Roger Karmanik still knows how to keep it fresh and real.

#24. Omit, Repose (Secret Quarters) and Loss, Despond (Profound Lore)
Perhaps the hardest part of compiling this list was trying to decide which of these albums I liked better. Both have been killing me repeatedly. I wanted to give the gothic doom of Repose the nod because it came out of nowhere, but the funeral dirges of Despond were even better than I had anticipated them being... in the end, it was just too hard, so they sit here tied. You can't lose with either one of them, as they both represent the ultimate musical embodiment of utter sorrow, despair and hopelessness. Kill yourself; there's no point to carrying on like this.

#25. Ordo Obsidium, Orbis Tertius (Eisenwald Tonschmiede)
It may have been 2010 when I first heard this record, but no matter; this is one of the finest, most memorable black metal albums to come out in 2011. Another one of those records that seriously deserved a lot more press than it got, and I sadly have not seen it on any year-end lists. But it seriously deserves to be on all of them, because it's that damn good.

Honorable Mention:
Mamiffer, Mare Decendrii (Conspiracy/Sige)
False, Untitled (Gilead Media)
Necros Christos, Doom of the Occult (The Ajna Offensive)
Amebix, Sonic Mass (self-released)
Airs, Gloomlights (Music Ruins Lives)
Lake of Blood, As Time and Tide Erodes Stone (Human Jigsaw)
Gnaw Their Tongues, Per Flagellum Sanguemque, Tenebras Veneramus (Crucial Blast)
Nekrasov, The Ever-Present (Crucial Blast)
Bizarre Uproar, Viha & Kiima (Freak Animal/Filth and Violence)
Asva, Presences of Absences (Important)
Sutekh Hexen, Luciform (Wands)
Njiqahdda, Disciples of Flame (Agni Yoga) (EEE Recordings)
Echtra, Paragate (Temple of Torturous)
Altar of Plagues, Mammal (Profound Lore/Candlelight)
Bosse-de-Nage, ii (Flenser)
Seidr, For Winter Fire (Flenser)

* * *

So there you have it. Do what you will with it. Goodbye 2011.


Sanakan said...

Great list man. Giles Corey was my #1 of 2011 as well. I had no idea Alda had a new album, and there's a few others on here I haven't heard but am now interested in. Good work and thanks!

Head Ov Metal said...

What a list!

Now I know what I still need to check out asap!


Anonymous said...

I'm going to make a point to avoid listening to anything on this shoegays-hipster-list. Pure faggotry.

Grk! said...

Antediluvian, XE & BDN are shoegazers. Well observed, Anna Nimmoti.

Daniel said...

Thanks... that Giles Corey(who I have never even heard of) and Of the Wand and the Moon are killer!!!!! I'm sure I'll slowly be nit picking from the rest of your list. Muchos Gracias.

Krumbled Kookie said...

Hey "Anonymous": Maybe you could make the site better by contributing once in a while???

Anonymous said...

Intriguing list...especially liking Mount Moriah...thanks for the suggestions! DGG