When we wrote the intro to our Deputy Editor’s Top 10 Records last year, we joked that he’s a surly so-and-so who doesn’t like anything and enjoys nothing. This isn’t true. This year, for example, he took a worrying amount of pleasure from the torrent of abuse levelled at him by fans of Five Finger Death Punch. He also liked far, far more records than our strict album-of-the-year voting rules would allow, but after much deliberation he narrowed them down to this – his Top 10 Records of 2011.
Every year that Entombed don’t release a new album, I need something to scratch the itch it gives me. Darker Handcraft is 2011’s substitute – Brian Izzi’s guitars sound sharp enough to draw blood.
Some bands write songs – Astrohenge compose them. Liberated from the traditional roles certain instruments “ought” to fulfil in a band, Astrohenge coax more thought and feeling from their bulldozer riffing, inventure drumwork, and batshit-crazy keyboards than almost sounds possible. That they do it without the polluting influence of vocals merely heightens II’s impact.
Although this isn’t meant as a slight against Jeff Jaworski, the return of Grady Avenell to the Will Haven fold not only pushed all my nostalgia buttons, but it seemed to have brought a renewed sense of purpose back to the Sacremento screamo outfit. Expressive, poignant, and heavy as all fuck – Voir Direwas what we needed from Will Haven and then some.
When it comes to existential bleakness, the class of 2011 has little that measures up to Tombs’ latest darkly impressive effort. Their moments of pace evoke memories of Emperor-esque black metal, but it’s tempered by the Brooklyn-based band’s willingness to inject gloomier passages of a more brooding intensity into their songwriting.
While I’ll admit that my feelings towards The Hunter have somewhat cooled following the glowing review I gave it back in September, I still feel that those bemoaning Mastodon for “going commercial” with The Hunter are missing the point. Sure, it might not have the gravel-throated crush of Leviathan, the full-on wig-out progginess of Crack The Skye, but The Huntersimply marks another step in Mastodon’s refusal to be held down by expectations based on their back catalogue.
Having talked up Turbowolf since before Thrash Hits even existed, it was a huge relief that when the Bristol quartets debut finally dropped it was able to capture the essence of their cut-throat have-fun-or-die-trying approach to rock’n’roll. It’ll never be an adequate substitute for the ‘wolf’s live prowess, but then again, what is?
That Carnival Is Forever exists at all is something to give praise for; that it happens to be so good merely makes the band’s return to recording even sweeter. Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the band’s line-up changes, they have injected Decapitated with the vim and vigour to craft a truly exceptional album, slipping almost cheeky levels of grit and groove into Vogg’s jagged technicality.
There’s always been a wonderfully stand-off’ish take-us-as-we-are-or-get-fucked attitude behind Today Is The Day, and Pain Is A Warning maintains this tradition with both fiercer conviction and crisper clarity than Steve Austin and friends have mustered in longer than I care to remember. The only breaks Pain Is A Warning takes from waging total war on your senses are the moments to whisper threats in your ear.
Perversely featuring both probably the most melodic and harshest songs The Armed have ever recorded, Young & Beautiful sweats out more feeling and passion in 13 and a half minutes of music than most bands can muster throughout in their entire careers. That this is an essential record for you to own is indisputable; that it’s totally free to download should guarantee this.
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Hospital Corners. Built upon foundations of blood, sweat, dislocated shoulder joints, and tours, tours, tours, this record shows up so many, many bands hiding under the banner of UK hardcore for the shallow and insubstantial charlatans that they are. With Hospital Corners, Bastions have achieved that rare balance of introspection and melancholia, without once lapsing into self-pity or self-recrimination, and so without sacrificing the urgent crush of heaviness at their core. Hospital Corners cuts hard, it cuts fast, and it cuts deep. It leaves scars.