Monday, December 26, 2011

Ste's Top 10 of 2011 for B.A.N

10.Opeth -  Heritage

A difficult one to pin down at first, this is one that rewards repeat listens.A move away from the death metal brutality of old into more expansive sonic waters, Heritage  has more in common with the classic prog sound of Emerson Lake and Palmer or King Crimson than say, Emperor, and while the jury might still be out on whether or not this is a good direction for Opeth to take, there's no denying  it's an eminently well crafted album , eclectic but yet still cohesive.

9. Uncle Touchy -  Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Violence

A late enough submission in the year, Uncle Touchy nevertheless impressed with the sheer narcotic violence and grimy fury of  EYEWTKAV, a finger in the eye of modern day punk rock, and a pleasantly unpleasant listen.Taking elements of  bands such as The Jesus Lizard, The Melvins, Tad, and even a little Dillinger Escape Plan, Uncle Touchy are that band your parents forbid you to listen to, the sound of damaged men playing too loud and causing mayhem in the process.In other words, rock and roll at it's finest.

8. Uneven Structure  - Februus

French progressive metallers Uneven Structure gave us all cause to celebrate the rise in influence of the French metal scene with this doozy of a record, combining the mathematically precise riffing of Meshuggah with the atmosphere of bands like Tesseract, and in the process gave the Djent/tech community a new band of heroes to obsess over.Top stuff.

7.Zippo -Maktub
Beguiling, endlessly inventive and yet satisfyingly inventive, this record by Italian prog rockers Zippo captured the imagination in much the same way, for me personally, as Baroness'  Red Album  or even Tool's seminal Lateralus , music as much for the grey matter as the moshpit. Slated to appear at the 2012 Desertfest in London alongside Truckfighters and several others, it seems 2012 may bring some much deserved recognition the way of  these  Pescara noiseniks, fitting when considered in the light of such an accomplished piece of work as Maktub. 

6.Aliases - Safer Than Reality
When UK noisecore legends Sikth split in 2008, many ,including yours truly, pined hard for the demented fury of the Watford sextet , and the online community went into overdrive , creating petitions and the like  to try and entice the band back into action.While it looks as if  a reformation may be some way away, Sikth fans could at least take heart that the band's spirit was being continued on with guitarist Graham 'Pin' Pinney  and the brilliant Aliases. 8 songs packed with feverish invention, technical wizardry , and above all quality songwriting, Safer Than Reality  is a joy from start to finish, a thrilling , no bullshit , bat shit mental record that rewards repeated listens.

 5. Radio For The Daydreamers - Praying For The Be(a)st

Pittsburgh , PA outfit Radio For The Daydreamers  put out one of 2011's most intriguing and unique records in Praying For The Be(a)st,  a warped collection of  menacing sound scapes and experimental, genre bending     pieces that deftly combine elements of electronica, jazz, post rock and others into a fascinating whole.A real 3am ,headphones on sort of album, it might not be the loudest or most accessible record on this list, but it's still well worth your time, fitting more ideas and ambition into single songs than some bands manage their whole careers.

4. I Decline -  Time To Shine

Crashing into Nihilist's inbox , and subsequently our earholes with an album of gloriously OTT, old fashioned heavy metal fury, I Decline combine the melodic values and fist pumping working class ethic of old school hard rock like Thin Lizzy with tar thick stoner rock riffing and irrestistible , arena sized choruses.A favourite with the stoner blogging community on it's release, expect to see more of these guys next year, not least of all on BAN.

3.Luminous Black -Swedish Meadows Of Flaming Monkeys/Cosmic Gnomes/An Ode To Poggie Dillon  

Okay, so I'm cheating a little here, as this isn't really an album as such, but hey,it's my list, and besides, these Co.Kildare, Ireland stoners have produced three Eps worth of quality fuzzed out excellence, everything from riffing monoliths like 'Lateral  Thinking', chilled out , atmospheric groovealongs like 'Meadows Of Kaos' to just straight up weirdness (um,  'Swedish Handjob')is represented here, and they're also a quality live act:support slots in the new year include a set with Shoctopus and Pektop.

2.Sleestak -The Fall Of Altrusia

An absolute monster of a record, The Fall Of Altrusia represented probably the best example of atmospheric post metal last year, with the band's thrilling , emotive noise cutting through a swathe of pretenders and posers to forge their own brutal, unique identity. One of the few records that can legitimately be described as a 'journey', the band's churning maelstrom of noise takes influences from the aforementioned Oakland behemoths, but also contains nods to industrial legends Godflesh and even post punk.Crushing,  bleakly beautiful , and surprisingly addictive,The Fall Of Altrusia  was one of the defining moments of underground metal ,at least for this lowly blog writer.And so on to . . .

1.Mastodon -The Hunter

OK, I know, I know, I've picked the same record as Ed. But before you accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon , let me elucidate.I have been a die hard Mastodon fan for going on eight years, ever since the monstrous Leviathan Blood Mountain, and the monumental power of Crack The Skye make them both modern classics in their own way, powerful , forward thinking metal with a unique identity that elevated the band above the miasma of metal acts, all repeating history and playing it safe by bowing to tradition in the blandest, black clad fashion possible.

And so to The Hunter , the band's most divisive, and most controversial release yet. The most accessible Mastodon record yet, it split fans,and prompted accusations of 'selling out', the band were 'girlfriend metal', 'hipsters', and so on, all from a metal community that still allows crimes like Manowar to go unpunished. And yet,it's also the band's best reviewed album , reaping praise even from those not from a heavy music background.And it's not hard to see why.A lean , mean, monster , and more of a hard rock record this time out, The Hunter  took Mastodon's progressive instincts, and welded them to 13 of the most beguiling, balls out rock songs this year.Sure, there were moments of heaviness , in the monolithic 'Black Tongue', or the riffing juggernaut of 'Spectrelight' ,but there was also moments on this album where even the most open minded of Mastodon fans might have ventured to scratch their heads and wonder about where the band were taking this.The weirdness of 'Creature Lives'.The QOTSA-alike groover 'Curl Of The Burl' and the joyous , almost pop punk of 'Blasteroids'.But after a few listens, it all made sense, and one thing about The Hunter, perhaps even more so than any other Mastodon record, is the emphasis on songwriting, the band not wasting a note .There is no fat here, no bullshit, only great tunes.The only thing now is where do the band go from here?Rest assured that BAN , and indeed this humble writer, will be only too happy to find out.In one word.Awesome.


  1. great list, glad to see sleestak on someone else's favorites. also, thanks for introducing me to radio for the day dreamers... i never expected this in my back yard. well done!
    zac, heavy planet

  2. No worries man, RFTD are awesome, hope they start to get a bit more famous.Yeah the Sleestak record was one of the best things I heard all year like, emotive, heavy and great songwriting and production.