With the first quarter of 2011 come and gone, here is a list of the ten best Metal albums thus far:
1. Crowbar - “Sever The Wicked Hand” (* * * * *): Kirk Windstein taking a break from his other projects (Down, Kingdom of Sorrow) has returned with his original band Crowbar to release what could arguably be called their best album. I would typically point out key tracks on the album, but “Sever The Wicked Hand” is an album you just have to throw on and appreciate from beginning to end. From the opening riffs of “Isolation (Desperation)” Crowbar thoroughly proves that faster isn’t always heavier, like classic Black Sabbath and more recently Type O Negative, slowing it down can make for a much heavier experience. Taking around five years to make and sobering up in the process, the wait was well worth it. Crowbar was at Peabody’s in Cleveland on March 26 as part of the Metalliance Tour with Helmet.
2. Human Abstract - “Digital Veil” (* * * * *): Having more than their fair share of member issues, it is that much more impressive that Human Abstract have also managed to release arguably their best album to date in early 2011 with “Digital Veil”. One of the best guitar sounds in modern metal music, Human Abstract’s weakest link in the past always seemed to be on the vocal end which was almost noisecore sounding on top of the melodic instrumentals. They seemed to have found the missing link with new vocalist Travis Richter (formerly of From First To Last) who has brought a nice blend of screaming and singing into the band. It was announced that guitarist Andrew Tapley was no longer in the band earlier this year, but the change doesn’t seemed to have slowed the band as they played The Attic in Dayton on March 25.
3. TesseracT - “One” (* * * * *): Every once in a while you have the fortune to hear a band for the first time that just makes you stop everything you are doing and listen intently to what you have just discovered, hearing TesseracT’s first full length album “One” was one of those experiences for me. Imagine taking the musicianship of Tool, the avant garde of Mars Volta, and the rage of Bring Me The Horizon and that might loosely give you a glimpse of what TesseracT is. This is not an album that you just pick a song and go (half the album is the six part epic “Concealing Fate“), you listen to it from start to finish. TesseracT will be making a stop at the Grog Shop in Cleveland on April 29.
4. Burzum - “Fallen” (* * * * ½): “Fallen” is the second album released by infamous metal artist Varg Vikernes (Count Grishnackh) since his release from prison in 2009. Not commenting on the lyrical content of the record (as it is in Norwegian), from a musical side the album is most impressive. Once again being 100% developed and performed by Vikernes, the haunting but heavy atmosphere of the record are a prime example of what Black Metal should be. Getting away from the monotonous and clichéd sound of most current Black Metal acts, Vikernes has made a melodic album that is pushing and expanding the boundaries of the genre while still keeping with some of the elements that him and his peers first developed.
5. Ghost - “Opus Eponymous” (* * * * ½): Unclear if the band is truly a devil worshipping ministry or if it is just a gimmick they invented, either way from their stage show to their content it is one the best gimmicks this reviewer has ever scene. Their debut album “Opus Eponymous” is not your typical metal album as it has a melodic and almost poppy sound to it, but it just works. One of the most catchy albums in my recent memory, it is just a bonus that all the songs are filled with Black Metal imagery. The Maryland Deathfest is the only US live date the Swedish band currently has scheduled.
6. Times Of Grace - “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” (* * * *): Times Of Grace is the brain child of former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach and current Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz and the duo released their debut album “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” this past January. Howard Jones has done an amazing job with the vocal gig he was handed in Killswitch Engage, but I have always felt that Jesse Leach was painfully overlooked as the original vocalist for the group (having sang my favorite Killswitch song “Just Barely Breathing” on the bands 2002 album “Alive Or Just Breathing”). Times Of Grace has nearly hit it out of the park with their debut having picked up where they left off with “Alive Or Just Breathing” and added in just enough current style to make it good and relevant. The only complaint I have is that they didn’t add in quite enough current styling to keep it from sounding a lot like Killswitch.
7. Electric Wizard - “Black Masses” (* * * *): This is going to sound weird, but this is a metal album that you can kick back and listen too. Electric Wizard formed in 1993 and with the only original member remaining Jus Oborn they have released their seventh studio album “Black Masses”. With a feel like a Heavy Metal Steely Dan the sub genre Stoner Metal seems to have become an appropriate tag for the progressive metalers.
8. Amon Amarth - “Surtur Rising” (* * * *): Straight up Heavy Metal! Pigeonholing themselves with the Viking Metal subgenre they have continuously stepped it up with better written and performed albums each heavier than the last. To top it off, front man Johan Hegg’s vocals sound stronger and heavier than they ever have. Amon Amarth will be playing Peabody’s in Cleveland on May 3.
9. Devildriver - “Beast” (* * * ½): Honestly I have never been a fan of Devildriver, but I know a heavy ass album when I hear one. When I was younger I was into Coal Chamber and this is the best album I have heard from Dez Fafara since Coal Chamber’s self-titled debut.
10. D.R.U.G.S. - “Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows” (* *): This album made this list, because to put it on and listen too it for the first time it sounds like a great artistic accomplishment of an album. However, listen to it a couple more times and you start to notice that all the amazing riffs you are hearing sound a little too familiar. It is a feat that they were able piece together such an impressive album, but for the pure amount of far to familiar sounding music they managed a lower rating. D.R.U.G.S. will be one of the many bands featured on this years (EXTREMELY WEAK) Warped Tour roster.