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
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.
6.Aliases - Safer Than Reality
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
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.