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Sargon the Terrible

Best Albums


1. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance

Surprise of the year, and the best album overall, there is just too much talent, skill, and artistry in this album for any other to match it in 2011.


2. Crom - Of Love and Death

The return of Crom brings us a very different album than Vengeance, but one no less powerful and memorable.


3. Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage

The best work from this divisive band since their majestic debut, this album proves WitTR are not a one-trick pony or a flash in the pan.


4. Alpha Tiger - Man or Machine

Out of nowhere this band hits hard with an album that is like a distillation of everything great about 80's metal. Not to be missed.


5. Symphony X - Iconoclast

The best prog band in the world returns with an album bigger and more ambitious than anything they have done before. The cut down single-disc version of this is good, but the full version is magnificent.


6. Battle Beast - Steel

Another surprise from a new band. Steel is a hard-rocking, catchy slab of pure metal entertainment. Sometimes we need to be reminded how much fun it is to be loud and heavy.


7. Serenity - Death & Legacy

After a fine sophomore effort, Serenity steps up with a more complex and ambitious third album that places them firmly in the Power Metal firmament.


8. Evilfeast - Wintermoon Enchantment

Poland's reclusive one-man Black Metal alchemist returns with a frozen, epic soundscape of evil.


9. Sinister Realm - The Crystal Eye

With better production and better songs, this album fulfills the promise of their debut in spades.


10. Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand

Even if this is not their finest hour, Primordial remain one of metal's most defiantly artistic bands, and their vision remains uncompromised.


11. Blood Ceremony - Living with the Ancients

A catchy, doomy, groovy album of retro riffs and catchy songs. Of all the nostalgic Doom albums released this year, I enjoyed this one the most.


12. Battlerage - True Metal Victory

Chile's Battlerage finally hit hard with the album I knew they had in them - hard, heavy, dark and compelling. Epic True Metal with a mean edge.


13. Havok - Time Is Up

Best Thrash album of 2011, hands down. Havoc upped their game and made a snarling, chugging beast of a disc.

Disappointments


1. Manilla Road - Playground of the Damned

With weak songs and a poor recording job, this is not a bad album per se, but it is far less than what I look for from this iconic band. Manilla Road can do so much better than this it is not even funny.


2. Twisted Tower Dire - Make it Dark

Again, not a terrible disc, but we waited four long years for this album, and it is sad to see a band that once had no equals produce an album that is merely good.


3. While Heaven Wept - Fear of Infinity

A huge letdown after the amazing Vast Oceans Lachrymose, FOI is short, thin, and weakly produced. A disappointment indeed considering what I know this band is capable of.


Larry Griffin

This was another great year for metal, as we got some awesome indie debuts and some big label releases that slayed, too.

Best Albums


1. Symphony X - Iconoclast

Simply the best written and most undeniable album of the year. Heavy, winding and consistently captivating – a masterwork of metal songwriting, and a true example of progressive metal.


2. Edguy - Age of the Joker

I couldn't stop listening to this for months. Edguy's latest is a culmination of everything that makes them good.


3. Hell - Human Remains

Theatrical, over the top Satanic bliss from this old-world band of metal visionaries, and one of the most fun albums I heard all year.


4. Dragonland - Under the Grey Banner

The best straight-up power metal release of 2011.Probably their most well written and serious work, Under the Grey Banner mixes up its traditional power metal tracks with a scope and vision far beyond any other power metal band this year.


5. Vulvagun - Cold Moon Over Babylon

This band has a silly name, but they put out a long, hypnotic, powerful stomp in the mode of Undead-era Tad Morose, and it is easily the best debut of the year.


6. While Heaven Wept - Fear of Infinity

I wasn't as much a fan of Vast Oceans Lachrymose as some were, finding it unbalanced a tad, but Fear of Infinity shows While Heaven Wept at their more mellow and toned-down, and also with a much more unified sense of purpose. Beautiful, singular and affecting.


7. Battle Beast - Steel

Cheesy, campy and also ass-kicking awesome. Battle Beast has put out the best retro-metal album of the year with their attention to smoldering steel riffing and old-school Accept-style choruses.


8. Riot - Immortal Soul

Riot has been around forever, and no one expected them to put out an album this full of catchy, unforgettable songs. You will be humming these tunes for weeks.


9. Satan's Host - By the Hands of the Devil

Ball-busting, evil and malicious traditional metal that comes to life and rips your head clean off with its power, clarity and carnal bloodlust.


10. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance

Veterans of the old Fates Warning return 25 years after the fact with an album full of incredibly vital, forward-thinking prog that manages to fall back on their old sound and progress at the same time. Shows most of the new school of prog metal bands exactly how to do it right.


11. Bloodbound - Unholy Cross

Without Urban Breed, I didn't think these guys had it in them. Clearly I was wrong about that, as Unholy Cross is some of the best straight-up power metal of the year.


12. Wolf - Legions of Bastards

The venerable Wolf truck on and release a grade-A album of old school metal killing.


13. Hibria - Blind Ride

I didn't think Hibria could do much besides recycle their hallowed debut, but Blind Ride proves me wrong with a consistently exciting, lively songwriting template and some great performances.


14. Eden's Curse - Trinity

I had never heard these guys before, but Eden's Curse put out some fine, rocking melodic metal this year with Trinity.


15. Stratovarius - Elysium

Easily their best in years. Stratovarius take the momentum they got back with Polaris and expound on it mightily with this one.

Disappointments


1. Septic Flesh - The Great Mass

I missed this band's last album, but I loved Sumerian Daemons, and this dull and lifeless hack work isn't anywhere near on the same level.


2. Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate

This isn't too bad, but compared to The Detached, it just doesn't hold up at all. This album borrows too much from the band's old work and for the first time, they didn't make any real leaps forward.


3. Symfonia - In Paradisum

Any hope of Timo Tolkki releasing another good album is pretty much destroyed with this.


4. In Solitude - The World.The Flesh.The Devil

Another one that isn't quite bad, but just doesn't really hold up, being far too long and with too little memorability and staying power to really warrant a 1-hour runtime.


5. Nightwish - Imaginaerum

Mostly just silly, without anything that made older Nightwish good.


MetalMike

2011 was a damn good year for Heavy Metal. As with last year’s list, my Top 10 is limited to albums I reviewed for The Metal Crypt. If you notice your favorite album of the year is missing it is probably because I didn’t review it. Nothing personal, but there are only so many hours in a day. If I did review it and it isn’t here, it’s because I didn’t like it. There were dozens of albums that were just short of making the cut, but 10 is my limit, so here it goes:

Best Albums


1. Symphony X - Iconoclast

There were a couple of other contenders for the number one spot (see #2 and #3) but Symphony X hit every nail on the head with Iconoclast. There are no weak spots anywhere on the album. The power and intensity of the songs are awe inspiring. It is catchy as hell, too.


2. Serenity - Death & Legacy

Another huge album from a band I’d not paid much attention to in the past. Serenity has created a fresh and engaging Symphonic/Power Metal masterpiece in a genre that has become increasingly stale and overcrowded. The band took on some daunting historical topics for their lyrical inspiration and captured the essence of those events masterfully.


3. While Heaven Wept - Fear of Infinity

Fear of Infinity is an album that has somewhat divided While Heaven Wept’s fan base with its abbreviated songs and simpler sounding compositions. Mastermind Tom Phillips tied up some lyrical loose ends which were less complex than on previous albums, so he simply wrote shorter songs. The incredible sound of the band is still there, it is just over way before you want it to be.


4. Tyr - The Lay of Thrym

After seeing Tyr play live a couple of years ago, I was excited to hear this album. The Lay of Thrym showcases the band’s talent for big riffs and bigger choruses. Chanting along to anthemic songs like these is the reason I got into Heavy Metal in the first place.


5. Tokyo Blade - Thousand Men Strong

So often, bands from the 80s get back together and just can’t seem to recapture whatever it was that made their original material special. Not so with original NWOBHM band Tokyo Blade. Strong, straight-up Heavy Metal with great riffs and the excellent vocals of new singer Nicolaj Rudnow are balanced perfectly by legendary producer Chris Tsangarides.


6. Anthrax - Worship Music

Another original 80s band, albeit one that never went away, Anthrax still staged a huge “comeback” with Worship Music. This classic version of the band (plus guitarist Rob Caggiano) have picked up where they left off after Persistence of Time and flat-out Thrash like the intervening 21 years never happened.


7. Arkona - Slovo

Fantastic, female-fronted Pagan/Folk Metal from Russia. One moment you are playing air guitar, the next you are swinging a broadsword against invaders from the steppes.


8. Ov Hollowness - Drawn to Descend

Drawn to Descend features cold, evil and unsettling atmospheres that are created with melody and songwriting, not just the blunt force trauma of more typical Black Metal compositions.


9. Ildra - Edelland

Edelland is another excellent Pagan/Folk Metal effort, this time from the U.K.s Ildra. These guys go so far as to sing is old English, adding another layer of authenticity to their music which features lutes, bells and bodhrans as supplements to ass-kicking Metal riffs.


10. Visions Of Atlantis - Maria Magdalena

I really don’t care that the title track to this EP is a remake of a German pop song. Visions of Atlantis are doing all they can to make Symphonic Metal fans forget that Tarja is not going to be singing for Nightwish ever again. Sweet melodies, operatic vocals and symphonic songs have a new standard bearer.

Disappointments

None of these albums was bad, by any stretch. They just didn’t live up to what I was expecting. They are in no particular order.


1. Ancient Bards - Soulless Child

Anyone who read my review of their debut, The Alliance of the Kings, knows I was mighty impressed. I was hoping for another Power Metal masterpiece, and it pains me to write this, but what I got instead was a mostly one-dimensional double kick drone.


2. Power Quest - Blood Alliance

Power Quest got a lot of press and hype when Blood Alliance came out, but much of it was undeserved. Rehashed riffs and melodies and the truly awful “Crunching the Numbers” were only partially offset by excellent performances by the individual musicians.


3. Split Heaven - Street Law

The biggest flaw of Street Law is that it sounds a LOT like the band’s debut, Psycho Samurai. I was really hoping for some progression from a band I like quite a bit.


Christopher Foley

Best Albums


1. Anubis Gate - Anubis Gate

Whilst some found this somewhat disappointing, I found Anubis Gate's self-titled opus to be a flawless display of modern progressive metal mastery. Absolutely majestic!


1. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events

I'm sure we all know the "dramatic events" surrounding this album. I was both astonished, and surprised at the complete and utter brilliance displayed upon Dream Theater's twelfth full-length. Sure to stand as one of the very finest prog albums of the decade.


2. The Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction

I've spent the majority of the latter half of this year listening to Mr Townsend's work. Deconstruction & Ghost are responsible for this. The former displaying Devin's most chaotic work since the SYL days, and the latter a beautiful display of serenity.


3. Pagan's Mind - Heavenly Ecstasy

Bloody hell, I did not expect this. After the debatable God's Equation Pagan's Mind were treading thin ice. Simplifying their sound ever so slightly in favour of more catchy, memorable tracks Heavenly Ecstasy is a stunning release; one that quickly became a favourite of both mine and my girlfriend. Oh, and "Walk Away in Silence" has to be the best song Queensrÿche never wrote.


4. Symphony X - Iconoclast

This one certainly wowed both staff and community alike here at The Metal Crypt, and it isn't hard to see why. Refining the style the band had been pushing along since The Odyssey, Iconoclast is an arse-kicking progressive metal album, armed to the teeth with precise mechanical riffage, futuristic factory style atmosphere and choruses you'll be shouting along to in no time. Iconoclast is also just about the best release from 2011 as far as lead guitars go, mind-blowing stuff.


5. Hell - Human Remains

The finest "straight-up" heavy metal album of 2011. Strands of NWOBHM, doom, and power can be heard throughout the cascading assault of heavy metal brilliance. The band also houses one of the finest singers to hit the metal circuit in years. Sautéed in some theatrical madness Human Remains is a wild, gratifying experience that should be heard by metal fans the world over.


6. Arch/Matheos - Sympathetic Resonance

Four out of five from the Awaken the Guardian line-up of Fates Warning returning generated a good bit of interest in the release, not to mention John fucking Arch was helming this with his vocal brilliance. A masterful release, with an all star line up. Mandatory!


7. Power Quest - Blood Alliance

The best of the power metal crop this year, Power Quest absolutely soared above the crowd with their incredible fifth full-length release. Featuring just about everything that made me fall in love with the modern European power metal scene, Blood Alliance is Power Quest's most complete release to date, and a required purchase for power metal fans.


8. Havok - Time Is Up

Havok completely ruined my mind with their second release Time is Up. Without a doubt one of the finest releases from any of the new thrash guard. I spent a lot of time over the summer thrashing this out in my back garden, sinking many a beer in the process. Jolly good!


9. In Solitude - The World.The Flesh.The Devil

Bowing down to the altar of acts such as Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden, In Solitude delivered an incredible sophomore effort bustling with a dusty, archaic atmosphere, wielding creepy, archaic riffs and gloriously vintage heavy metal lyrics.


10. Megadeth - Th1rt3en

Okay, so this wasn't that well received, but I say fuck the naysayers! Despite the lame album title, Megadeth's thirteenth full-length stands as an amalgamation of Countdown, Youthanasia, & The System Has Failed with splutter's of the bands more thrash-orientated work. A catchy, highly enjoyable romp; just don't expect Endgame round two.


11. Vektor - Outer Isolation

Vektor unleashed their sophomore effort this year, a mind melting assault of progressive thrash metal, with awesome sci-fi themes. Proving there is still room for progression in the genre, an absolute juggernaut album.


12. Suidakra - Book of Dowth

Can't think of much to say, other than it's awesome and you should probably buy it.


13. Leprous - Bilateral

Mandatory listening for fans of the more oddball/ experimental side of the progressive metal spectrum, Leprous crafted a very interesting album that I've thoroughly enjoyed rotating since it dropped.

Disappointments


1. Nightwish - Imaginaerum

I tried, but I just can't stomach this album. There are some good riffs here and there, but for the most part this wades through a sea of Tuomas' ego, pre-teen poetry pageant lyrics, faux pseudo jazz ballads, and some generally uninspired ideas.


2. Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus

Haha!

3. Serenity - Death & Legacy

From its Kamelot rip-off artwork to the painfully dull content, Serenity delivered one of 2011's biggest disappointments. Nowhere near the promise Serenity displayed on Fallen Sanctuary.


4. Stormwarrior - Heathen Warrior

What the hell happened here? Where's the power, the energy, the fun? A massive let down!


Luxi Lahtinen

Best Albums


1. Autopsy - Macabre Eternal

Californian uncompromising gore meisters Autopsy's reunion did not leave anyone cold. Macabre Eternal was such a convincing yet gore-soaked and guts-reeking comeback album that pretty much helped me forget a badly failed attempt to bring back one other US Death Metal legends with the original frontman of the band. At least the legends Autopsy did the things right on Macabre Eternal, without letting their fans down one damn bit.


2. Deceased - Surreal Overdose

The US Metal veterans have officially failed to record a bad album: King Fowley and his fellow troops in Deceased seem to get better the older they get. Awesome record!)


3. Heathendom - The Symbolist

Without any speculations, the second record of Greek's darkened Power / Progressive Metallers Heathendom reeks of all those elements a listener needs from an almost perfect Metal record: Great atmosphere, great vocals, thoroughly quality songs - and there are even more superlatives I could use for this record but I'll stop right here. If you don't believe my shameless praising of The Symbolist, then feel free check it out yourself. You owe me a beer now...)


4. In Malice's Wake - The Thrashening

One of Australia's finest new Thrash Metal hopes, In Malice's Wake's second album The Thrashening, sounds like Testament would be on steroids. Fast, furious, in-your-face, full of spicy ear candies! Odd thing is the band still hasn't signed to any label. World's gone crazy indeed.


5. Jumalation - The Church of Isaac

Sometimes an album title just couldn't be more fitting than it is, such as in Finnish thrashers Jumalation's case. Jumalation recorded their debut album some 5-6 years ago but it wasn't released until now. Raw, frenzied and unyielding old school Thrash Metal is what this record is all about. The guys have heard all their Dark Angels, Slayers, Destructors, Sacrifices, etc. - there's not even a slightest doubt about that.


6. Krux - III - He Who Sleeps Amongst the Stars

Leif Edling's Krux deserves more recognition... no - wait, MUCH MORE recognition for the band than they have achieved so far. Chapter "III" is top-notch Doom Metal with Leif's signature song writing style - and we all already know who's the mastermind behind another Swedish Doomsters, Candlemass' albums, don't we?


7. Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa

Moonsorrow just keep amazing me with every new release that comes out from their pagan camp. Varjoina... is undoubtedly their most grim, darkest and most oppressive record to date. The question is, how will they ever be able to top "Varjoina..."?


8. Onslaught - Sounds of Violence

UK's finest and most legendary thrashers still have it. As the album title says, it's all about the sounds of violence...


9. OZ - Burning Leather

Finland's torch bearers of the NWOBHM sound, OZ's comeback was for me personally one of the most anticipated comebacks over the recent years. The band's comeback album, titled Burning Leather, made me fall in love this semi-legendary band all over again.


10. Satan's Host - By the Hands of the Devil

Harry "Tyrant" Conklin is back - and Satan's Host probably recorded the best record of their career, quite possibly beating even their classic "Metal from Hell" album from 1986?


11. Riot - Immortal Soul

"you have to be old to do things right...". Riot's back stronger than ever! Hails!


12. Krisiun - The Great Execution

After a couple of not-so-good records, this Brazilian trio found new forms in their art of killing on The Great Execution. The riffs, the drumming, etc. - holy shit!!


13. Iced Earth - Dystopia

Barlow decided to leave IE - this time for good - and Block from Into Eternity was called in. Iced Earth wrote one of their best albums in many years.


14. Sinister Realm - The Crystal Eye

Epic and catchy proto-Doom and Heavy Metal at its finest form. 'nuff said.


15. Deicide - To Hell with God

Satan's favorite supporters Deicide are far from getting old - just like To Hell with God proved so loud and clear! Satan's happy.

Disappointments


1. Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus

Just one word: Why?





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