The votes are in, the arguments have been settled, and the fights concluded without too much bloodshed – The Thrash Hits Top 20 Albums of 2011 list is here. We polled all of our writers, photographers, and contributors as to what their favourite records of the year have been, and through a series of complex mathematical formulae, we’ve calculated the 20 albums that have come out on top.
Throughout the rest of the week we’ll be revealing the Top 10 lists that led us to the conclusions you can see below, but right now you just want to see who made the grade, right? Let’s get on with it then…
“Basement might not have the recognition of some of their more high-profile peers when it comes to angsty, emotive punk rock as yet, but I Wish I Could Stay Here has more soul, more emotion, and just more great songs than many of their better-known contemporaries put together. Thankfully, all that looks certain to change when they hit the road next year as part of the Rock Sound/Impericon Exposure tour in April.”
Lock Johnson on I Wish I Could Stay Here
“Utilising the now almost mythical staccato djent chords, along with the polyrhthmic drums, unorthodox and inventive guitar lines and a sense of ambient melody that we must find bands other than Meshuggah with which to compare them to, TesseracT have formed a brilliantly cohesive and natural sound.
Yes, calling this genre The New Wave Of Internet-Based Djent was a joke, but as with all the best jokes, there is a lot of truth in it. While Periphery may have been the online instigators of TNWOIBD, the human element combined with perfect timing means that TesseracT are in the perfect position. Fingers crossed, they will keep counting far, far past One.”
“Black Mass is not only one of the crossover albums of the year – it’s one of the best thrash albums of 2011. Not content with the direction the insular hardcore scene was going, This Is Hell decided to take matters into their own hands and change it themselves. With influences from the West and East coast, the Long Islanders have followed in the footsteps of Biohazard and Black Flag before them in stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying to create something truly memorable. What’s more is that they’ve succeeded.”
George Fernandez on Black Mass
“Astrohenge’s second album sounds noticeably more comfortable in exploring and expanding upon the palate they were toying with on their debut. The nods to classical styles of composing are still there, with ‘Space Honkey’ brewing some truly baroque moods amongst the heaviness, but the album demonstrates firm developments in the band’s rare talent at crafting songs of surprising depth without using vocals as a disguise for any creative shortcomings. With II, Astrohenge sound more confident – almost damned-near cocky, if truth be told – than they did at any point on their debut, and they are all the stronger for it.”
“Spawned from the remains of folded Norwegian bands such as Amulet and JR Ewing, Oslo’s Wolves Like Us first caught our ears in 2010. Their debut album, Late Love is 40 minutes of grand, pounding, desert rock-influenced hardcore. It’s good. It’s very, very good.
There’s a great spacey vibe and genuine feeling to the tunes that acts as the perfect foil to the comfortable musical aggression on Late Love. What’s most important about the album is that all ten of the songs have their place. It might seem cliché for me to say there is no filler and that you will have no respite from the album but it’s true. The low-slung tone of ‘Sin After Sin’ provides a change of pace but you’ll find no ballads here. Oh no. Wolves Like Us close the album with a near-eight minute “epic” of sorts with ‘To Whore With Foreign Gods’. It’s menacing and ominous in tone but finishes the album perfectly.”
“To commit to a concept so fully seems foolhardy when the music doesn’t expand as much, but Fucked Up triumph precisely because of that commitment. Where the knowing excess of more traditional concept albums or rock operas seek to provide as much musical colour as narrative, David Comes To Life proves that simple fervour is sometimes enough. One brilliant rock song follows another, defiantly leaden in construction but stalwart in performance. Rarely does such simple rock sound so satisfying.”
“Their debut EP from 2007 was optimistically titled, This Is Our Machine And Nothing Can Stop It but their star has risen steadily and truly since then. Following tours with bands like fellow UK proggers, Oceansize and 65daysofstatic all the way to Californian hardcore mob, Trash Talk and Maryland stoner rockers, Clutch, they’re well versed in both ends of the musical spectrum. This really comes across on Gangs as the Belfast quartet seem intent on putting the “mental” into “instrumental”. Off-kilter guitar lines and some thunderous drumming makes this album as interestingly intense as it is danceable. There’s a structure to ASIWYFA’s music that is absolutely necessary in the work of an instrumental rock band. It’s easy for a man shouting furious words to invoke emotion from a crowd of people but without that voice, every emotion must be conveyed through strings and skins and they have done that so very well here.”
Raziq Rauf on Gangs for Classic Rock presents Prog
“Most Opeth fans familiar with their non-metal influences will understand and truly appreciate how groundbreaking this record is. After all, it is still distinctly Opeth and another fine specimen alongside their existing body of sublime work, making it a strong contender for Album Of The Year shortlists.There may be some fans that will struggle to cope without the brutality Opeth usually offer, but whichever way you feel: you have to hand it to a band that continue to evolve and push boundaries like no other.”
12= …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao of the Dead
“But what makes Tao… feel so fluid is the fact the likes of ‘Cover the Days Like a Tidal Wave’, the sunny ‘The Wasteland’ and ‘Ebb Away’, as happily woozy a song as …Trail of Dead have ever written, are so restrained. There’s more of a rhythm and cadence to the record as a whole than we’re used to, and it succeeds in making Tao of the Dead arguably more of a complete journey than even Source Tags….”
“I’ll confess that for a long while I feared that because I’d been living with so many of these songs for so long, when it came to finally giving this album an official going-over for Thrash Hits, the nervous rush of energy I’d felt upon first hearing them would’ve dissipated through over-familiarity with them. But quite the opposite has happened – while giving this album one more spin as checked this review for typos, I felt that giddy rush and desire to shout about Turbowolf at the top of my lungs to any and all people within earshot even more so than before. I’m now questioning how I could’ve ever feared that it wouldn’t be worth the wait – it would’ve been worth twice this wait.”
“Svartir Sandar is a deeply emotional wander through an ash-blasted wilderness that shifts in mood between the gentle embrace of watery sunshine and threatening storm clouds, one minute gentle, uplifting and wonderous, the next drenched in dark thoughts and distant menace. The feelings Sólstafir are trying to stir up in you are vivid and immediate, tugging on your heartstrings from the off and belying the abstractness of the music.
Sólstafir have been an under appreciated gem of a band for a while, but withSvartir Sandar they have completely outdone themselves. This is mind-blowing in its brilliance.”
“Where else is there for Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters to go? They’ve sold out nights at Wembley Stadium. They’ve headlined festivals, and we’re talking “mainstream” festivals like V, as well as Reading & Leeds. I’ve got no doubt that both Sonisphere and Download would snap them up for a headline spot too if they could. And while Wasting Light might not be as great as The Colour and The Shape, it didn’t get nominated for five Grammy Awards – including Best Album – for nothing.”
Lock Johnson on Wasting Light (April 2011)
“From the icy burn of shoe-gazing riffage that opens the door to desolation, through the more clean-toned wanderings and noise that follow it, past the mournful singing and clattering of odd percussion and all the other myriad of bizarre surprises Altar Of Plagues throw at you right to the pitiless finale, every single moment slips seamlessly into the mosaic they have constructed. The wailing and gnashing of teeth and all the other globules of darkness that assault the ear compile to engineer a record of the utmost honesty, emotion and power.”
7. The Devin Townsend Project – Ghost
“It can wake me up in the morning, help me sleep at night. Yes it’s a mellow record, but it goes to dark places and doesn’t back down. I could pretend, but truth is, from that first siren call of Kat Epple’s flute, my heart was gone. As anyone who caught the live show at the Islington Chapel will confirm, it really is the most beautiful, awe-inspiring record he’s ever produced.”
Ruth Booth on Ghost (June 2011)
“The issues that resulted in the curiously effective tinny sound of Carpe Diem have clearly been addressed. The low end is insanely heavy. “Thunderous” doesn’t come close to describing it. Of course, they have Slipknot’s Chris Fehn playing bass for them and he knows how to record something that sounds pretty gnarled. If anything, he has actually succeeded in making Will Haven a heavier band than ever before (see: ‘Harvesting Our Burdens’) and as if we’reever going to complain about a band becoming heavier.
The unrelenting power of ‘Object Of My Affection’ makes you never want to be wanted by this band for fear of battery and ‘A Beautiful Death’ is a grandiose song that builds and builds til it explodes in a huge repeated cathartic wail of,“There’s no end in sight.” No, Grady. There might not be, but we’re ok with that as long as you are.”
“With lyrical themes that venture toward the apocalyptic and other-worldly, it’s an album that commands respects and time to be afforded to it, but the rewards are plentiful. If two discs seem slightly overwhelming at first, then the other perspective is that there is so much quality to digest here that your value for money is not even in question.
In a year when some of the great prog bands are expected to release new material, Amplifier have set standards high from the beginning. The Octopus is an album for others’ material to be compared to – not only in 2011, but for many more years to come.”
“There are a few surprises on this album: a few riffs venture close to power metal territory and the last track ‘Who We Are’ opens with a children’s choir singing, making it totally unrecognisable if it were not for McClain’s military snare rolls. Yet it still feels like the same meaty Machine Head prevailing with that signature blend of thrash and melodic death, and no other bands in the straight-up heavy metal market come anywhere close. There were healthy signs earlier in June when the track ‘Locust’ was released and the final product should meet expectations and then some.”
“It’s an explosion. It’s a big crunching mess. It’s a hasty cacophony. For your ears, it could a goddamned catastrophe. These might be some of the things that fly through your mind while you attempt to make sense of the blistering onslaught of hardcore/metal crossover that greets you during ‘Damage Prose’ – the opening track to Trap Them’s third album Darker Handcraft.
They are all reasonable thoughts because, thankfully, this record does not get any easier to listen to.”
2. Bastions, Hospital Corners
“You can throw around #ukswell hastags all you want, but Hospital Corners is a record that deserves to be appreciated outside of such confining terms. Where Hospital Corners really succeeds is in exposing just how pathetically empty and shallow so many of the records released under the marquee of hardcore in 2011 have been. It is an album of heavy sentiments and equally heavy sounds, driven even more introspective thanks to its forging within a scene that increasingly prioritises (and damn near fetishises) concepts that are entirely alien to its own. With hardcore obsessed with “reputation”, and how much kudos and exclusivity one can faux-graft onto a merch run by producing it in ever more ridiculous short-runs, an album like Hospital Corners highlights just how far Bastions stand apart from their “peers”.”
“There’s no doubt about it – The Hunter is one of the albums of 2011, and further cements Mastodon’s position as not only a band capable of pushing ever progressive notions of songwriting and musicianship onto their audience, but simultaneously connect with larger and larger more popularist audiences at that. Mastodon are the polar opposite to – nay, they are the antidote to – all the lowest-common denominator metal bands that people hold up as proof that if you want to make it big, then you also have to make it stupid. The Hunter represents all that is best about metal, not just as far as 2011 is concerned, but for the entire genre full-stop.”
So there you have it – Thrash Hits’ Top 20 Albums of 2011. As we mentioned right at the start, we’ll be publishing the Top 10 lists submitted by all our contributors later this week so you can see who exactly is responsible for this list, but we want to hear your thought now. Who didn’t make the Top 20 that should’ve? Which albums do you think we have foolishly overlooked? Have we been too generous to some albums? Let us know in this poll or leave a comment below!