As a metal head, 2011 saw strong releases from old and new bands alike. Here are a few of my favorites with non-metal mixed in.
Mastodon – The Hunter
This is my album of the year. And believe me I’m shocked that it is, as well. The Hunter is one of those efforts that sneaks up on you. It’s a wall of noise that wraps around your brain. Even when you’re not paying attention, your mind is secretly squirreling the sounds away. It’s not exactly metal. It’s not exactly rock or grunge. It’s just … Mastodon.
Machine Head – Unto the Locust
Released at the same time as The Hunter, Machine Head’s latest is a solid follow up to The Blackening. I fully expected it to be my favorite album from 2011, but I can’t quite do it. The difference is hard to explain. I can only say that, though I spent more time listening to Locust, the songs haven’t stuck around like The Hunter’s have. Locust is a complete album and a great excuse to go see Machine Head again. It’s also a reminder to the classic metal masters like Metallica and Megadeth that new guys are doing it better.
Clutch – Blast Tyrant (Deluxe)
It’s a re-issue, yes. But it’s a re-issue of one of the best rock albums of all time. Best of all it comes with an acoustic remake of Clutch’s A Basket of Eggs. The redo is easily one of the band’s top five songs of all time. I spent much of 2004 with Tyrant and enjoyed spinning it again with the new tracks.
Metallica – Beyond Magnetic
I covered Metallica’s four-song EP in-depth earlier. It was a much needed reminder of what the band’s capable of after the fiasco that was Lulu.
Cavalera Conspiracy – Blunt Force Trauma
I loved Sepultura as much as anyone in 1991. They were much needed relief in the year that thrash died. But the transition into slower, down-tuned groove-oriented metal began soon after with Chaos A.D. Cavalera Conspiracy albums are a return to the speed bursts we fell in love with so much. Blunt Force Trauma isn’t perfect, but it’s hard not to love it.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
It’s hard to pull a song out and call it a great Radiohead song, but everything works together so well that it’s hard to separate them in the first place.
Anthrax – Worship Music
Joey’s back. His voice fits right in like he never left. Unfortunately, the first half of the album is a bit stronger than the second. The will to play aggressive is there, but the songs seem to slip into mediocrity whenever a chorus pops up. It’s clear that the Dan Nelson era wasn’t great for the band’s song writing output. It’s hard not to smile at the thought of another full-on Joey album coming down the pipe in a year or two.
Megadeth – Th1rt3en
It’s hard not to be disappointed with Th1rt3en. I know people seemed to like it, but to me it feels like a step backward. There are some great riffs sprinkled in there, absolutely. However, there are two Megadeth’s. There’s the band that plays monster metal like Endgame’s This Day We Fight. And there’s the band that tries to write catchy melodic hooks like you find in Th1rt3en’s Public Enemy No. 1.
The latter just doesn’t work for me. Never has. That’s why I can’t listen to Youthanasia, Risk or Cryptic Writings. There’s a lot more of those albums in Th1rt3en than have been in the past few Megadeth albums.
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I don’t know that it’s possible to follow up Echoes in any way that could be considered satisfactory. They gave it a good shot. I’ll give them that. Wasting Light isn’t the band’s weakest album, but I don’t know that it makes the top five either.
Other notable albums worth checking out
The Strokes – Angles
Adele – 21
Primus – Green Naugahyde
World Under Blood – Tactical
Symphony X – Iconoclast
Worst of the year : Metallica – Lulu
I know the band will go to their graves defending this album, but no one’s buying it (literally). The album is ear murder, but there is artistic value in it as a spoken word effort. I looked at it in-depth earlier.