Angry Metal Lisa by UnknownAnd here it finally comes. I want to take a little time to gaze at my navel before heading off to the races here. 2011 has been a hard year for me and for Without the help of Steel Druhm, this website probably would have gone under due to serious burnout. It stands that there are other options for both of us as reviewers, but we both love this site and the little community it has become and don’t have any desire to see it go anywhere. And, frankly, due to blood, sweat and more blood, we just don’t feel like we can really stop working on this website. So when I say to you all, that we don’t want to stop doing this largely because you guys keep coming by and reading this I seriously mean it. It’s a great feeling–even when sometimes the music industry gets goddamned lame.

2011, really, was a gigantic disappointment. The records I was really looking forward to this year definitely let me down. The new Opeth was nothing to write home about, the new Amon Amarth was the same ol’ same ol’, the new Symphony X left me underwhelmed, while the records that the scene kids got boners over were stuff that isn’t really my thing. There were some really good albums this year, but they came from very unexpected places. In other words, I could never have predicted that this list would have looked like this at the beginning of the year.

So here’s to the disappointing year that was and hopefully to a much more interesting (musically) 2012. May we all see out the end of the year!

Cormorant - Dwellings(ish): Comorant // Dwellings (Self-Released) –  This record hasn’t been out long enough for me to declare it as one of my top 10 records, but I have to say that it has all the makings of a record that I will be listening to for a long, long time. It’s a good blend of melodic deathy vibes and modern strains of black metal. I love the production, the feel and the depth of this music. Only time will tell, but I’m giving this record my (ish) because it at least deserves a nod for being in strong contention.

Yggdrasil - Irrbloss#10: Yggdrasil // Irrbloss (Grandmaster Music) –  I have to tip my hat to a member of the Vintersorg forum for tipping me off to this album, actually. She said it was one of her most anticipated records of the year and, well, I’d never really listened to the band at all. So I checked it out when it came out and was very surprised. In a year when good ol’ fashioned Swedish folk melodies have swayed my opinion a lot, Irrbloss nailed it. The musicianship and writing on this album are both outstanding and I am pleased to say that it earned its place here. The logo is also super sexy.

Leprous - Bilateral#9: Leprous // Bilateral (InsideOut) – So this album was definitely one of the coolest discoveries for me of the year. Wandering that fine line between extreme metal and Faith No More, Norwegian Leprous (who also double as Ihsahn‘s backing band), produced one of the most unique progressive records of the year. Eschewing of traditional progressive metal tendencies, Leprous constructs instead an alternate view of the direction of prog with this outstanding release. This is a stupendous release that has grown with time.

Absj#8: Absu // Abzu (Candlelight) –  I’m not sure how Absu continue to produce such excellent material regularly, but Abzu is definitely a serious winner in my book. While the scene consensus seems to have decided that this is the lesser son of greater fathers, I just don’t see where they’re coming from at all. Call it Reign in Blood disease, but this record’s balls to the walls attitude and short length made for one of the most enjoyable listens of the year for me. Looking forward to Apsu (so if 2011 is any kind of precedent, I’ll hate it).

Falconer - Armod#7: Falconer // Armod (Metal Blade) –  I don’t take back my review of this record, but by the end of the year its fallen a bit down the rankings. Still, despite me not being nearly as rabid about it being the best album ever written, it is still a really awesome and enjoyable one. This is a record full of fantastic folky festivities, excellent writing and arrangements of traditional Swedish songs and vocal performances that make Angry Metal Girlfriend cringe just so. A great album and one definitely worth your consideration as the year comes to a close.

The Black Dahlia Murder - Ritual#6: The Black Dahlia Murder // Ritual (Metal Blade) –  OK, this is the year’s “come back” album if ever there was one. I liked these guys’ first two records a lot, but I felt there was a bit of a dip in quality. With the addition of former Arsis guitar player Ryan Knight, everything about this band got taken up a notch. The guitar work on this record is ridiculous, and easily some of the best guitar performances that I heard this year. The writing and the riffing got kicked up a notch, too, with amazing tracks like “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” and “Blood in the Ink”. Apparently all that D&D™ has led to greatness.

Vintersorg - Jordpuls#5: Vintersorg // Jordpuls (Napalm Records) – Well, this is another album that could class for “come back of the year, ” as well. As a non-fan of Solens rötter I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was clear to me from the opening notes of this album that this was a return to form. It might not outclass the classics of Till fjälls and Ödemarkens son but it is every bit as enjoyable as those records were, and it is one of my favorite albums of the year. Fans of progressive and melodic metal should check this out.

The Human Abstract - Digital Veil#4: The Human Abstract // Digital Veil (Steamhammer) – This record was a huge surprise for me. I wasn’t expecting it to be that good. Hell, I didn’t even get a promo of it, I actually ended up hearing it streaming on AOL music. I actually purchased it immediately and went against my own policy of not reviewing records that I didn’t receive a promo of. I love this album, while I hate the scene it comes from and the production is way too manufactured, I cannot argue with the neo-classical approach and the great vocal performances. This is a fantastic album, and one of the best of 2011.

Shining - VII: Född förlorare#3: Shining // Född förlorare (Spinefarm) – At first I wasn’t really convinced. But Född förlorare has shown a growing potential that I didn’t expect. The tracks keep drawing me back and the flow of the album is really perfect. It’s the kind of record you want to listen to all the way from start to finish, and the only bad moment on it is the little Swedish girl singing “You Are My Sunshine” at the beginning. After that, it settles into Kvarforth’s schtick: annoying the crap out of Angry Metal Girlfriend. The guest appearances are great and the Landberk cover is excellent. Also, this is definitely the best Opeth record of the year.

#2: Omnium Gatherum // New World Shadows (Lifeforce Records) – The new Omnium Gatherum record did for me what Insomnium was always supposed to do: it livened up a pretty stale melodic death scene by putting out a killer record that I couldn’t stop listening to. And man did I get blindsided. From the opening moments of this album I was stuck, and while “Ego” is probably my favorite song on the record (and one of my favorites of the year), every song is genius. This is melodic death metal done right. And such a damn powerful record. Well played.

#1: Moonsorrow // Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maasa (Spinefarm) –  Well, I called it the year’s first perfect record. And really, I think it was the year’s only perfect record. Sure, I gave out either high scores (some I regret), but this album doesn’t lose any of its luster a year later and that’s saying something. Moonsorrow really is at the top of their game and Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maasa is an epic journey through darkness and cold that makes it seem like the band boiled down the essence of a Finnish winter and got it into a multi-tracking machine. This is easily the year’s best album. Incredible.

Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa

Honorable Mentions:
Anaal Nathrakh // Passion – This record made it really close to being number 10. This was basically bottled insanity, with just enough melody to keep me entranced.
Black Sun Aeon // Blacklight Deliverence – Tuomas Saukkonen hits home again after a pretty banal Routa. Good stuff, and worth a listen if you haven’t heard it.
Kebnekajse // Idioten – Not a perfect album, but a really enjoyable prog rock record from these Swedish veterans. Fans of Swedish folk would be well advised to check it out.
Vomitory // Opus Mortis VIII  – Didn’t make the final list, but this is a good fucking album. It was definitely in the running all the way along.
Ulcerate // Destroyers of All – This is a really unique and solid death metal album. It’s techy, misanthropic and leaves the listener feeling very uneasy. Not for the weak, but definitely one of the year’s best.

Biggest disappointment:
Primordial // Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand – Maybe someday I’ll understand what everyone sees in this record, but as of today I still get lost right in the middle and can’t keep listening. I was so looking forward to this album after the band’s previous output, but just can’t. A really serious bummer. I wanted to like it, but just couldn’t.

  • Blut aus Nord’s 777 Sects isn’t even an honorable mention?  I hate you, and I hate your reviews!

    • Yeah, I don’t like Blut Aus Nord. Like at all. I think that style of black metal is really boring. 

    • thehuntress144

      Just because ‘777’ is hailed by every other ‘best of the year’ list doesn’t mean this one has to include it as well. I’m actually really glad it doesn’t…..

    • Every Angry Metal Guy needs an Angry Commenter. 

  • I’ve listened to Moonsorrow’s a few times recently and still I don’t see this as being good. Of course, it has great moments but when I find myself at the end I’m having to wade through the track for the better part. At least we can both agree on Falconer.

    • Indeed! If you like Falconer, I suggest you check out Vintersorg. In any case, I love Moonsorrow. They’re a band that I shouldn’t like, due to my tendency to *hate* super slow drawn out doom, but the way they build songs offsets it. Love that album.

      • Dmitry Shirokoryadov

        VKKM is far from the best Moonsorrow can really make. Just musically speaking. It’s too much simlified as for the song structure (save for Huuto) and dirtied as for production aspect (also recording harshes in the cabin was a bad idea, they sound like shit). Of course it’s tremendously atmospheric (though there’s nothing about winter, as we know, it’s much more tragic and devastating) but when one remembers Kivenkantaja, Verisäkeet and V: Hävitetty, three incredible gems in a row, it becomes more or less obvious that the guys can do more interesting things.

  • My top 10, in order,  are Wolves in the Throne Room, Primordial, Absu, Moonsorrow, Taake, Hell, Anthrax, Krallice, Burzum and Blut Aus Nord.  Honorable mentions to Negative Plane, Vreid, Megadeth, Glorior Belli, In Solitude, Vektor, Demonaz, Destruction, Midnight, Shining & Anaal Nathrakh…another fantastic year for metal!!

    • Those are some good choices, but I can’t stand Wolves in the Throne Room. Man that band is way overrated.

  • Biggest disappointment has to be Morbid Angel? Irrespective of us not sharing an opinion on the new Primordial ( which I *adore* ) it surely doesn’t come close to the arsefuckery of  Illud Divinum Insanus?

    • No, because I was WAY less invested in the new Morbid Angel. The last Morbid Angel that I truly loved was Domination. Their stuff after that was good, but I wasn’t super invested in it.

  • I m disappointed and surprised to see that “immortal soul” is not here. Thanks to you I discovered Riot as well as  the album I m about to buy. In november you called it “best record of the year so far”.  Has  it already loose it luster to you ??? 

    • That was my review, not Angry Metal Guy’s and Riot is prominent on my best song and top ten list.

    • A good record, but not one of the top.

  • Excellent, unbiased reviewing. You should be proud of how balanced this list is. Everyone is represented here: black metal, folk, prog, new-school melodeath… Only death metal got left out, but even that’s made up for in the honorable mentions section. Your alleged power metal bias doesn’t seem to show itself here.
    All that is especially impressive because of the scarcity of this year’s serious releases.
    You should really stick Blut Aus Nord in the honorable mentions before your HQ gets set on fire though.

  • 5 of your 11 albums made my top 25… I’d say that’s a pretty good ratio, compared to other lists I’ve seen. And it warms my blackened heart to see Falconer get some lovin’.

    • Drop me a link to your list, dude.

      • Will do, once it’s posted. It’s going up over at No Clean Singing in the next day or two.

  • great choice, the new Moonsorrow (sorry, the finnish title is too much!) is one of the few 2011 record that really conveys emotions into music. My god, how it flows! it has a sense of unity, something I find increasely lacking in the modern ITunes era, where many outputs feel like compilation of different, scattered songs.

    even if VKKM is not my overall pick this year (Steven Wilson’s “Grace For Drowning”), not even my pick in the metal scene (Arch/Matheos really blew me away), I really appreciate your choice.

    see ya in 2012, I’m eager to read your review of the new Alcest!

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Hell Yeah! Moonsorrow has nailed it again indeed. As with 2005’s “Verisaakeet”, this album semms to be by far the greatest release of the year, I just can’t get tired of listening to it. While I disagree in many of your other choices (specially Vintersorg’s one, which to me seems as boring as “Solens…”) I love reading your top tens (Steel Druhm’s too) because you speak with passion over the records.
    In my own top ten I’d pick Tyr, Insomnium, Septic Flesh, Helrunar, Royal Hunt (great comeback!) and even Within Temptation (Yeah, each chorus of that album stuck to my brain as bbble gum).
    Happy new year guys! Congrats on the webste and keep it alive!

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed falconer’s armod and absu’s abzu as well.

    2 bands i am sorte of missing is Vallenfyre and vader, they really really released some extremely cool albums!

    But of course, that’s my opinion, i respect your list AMG! :D

    • Vallenfyre did not impress me, but Vader’s new record was really good. Could’ve been mentioned as well.

  • Yeah, MoonSorrow’s one is among my favourites too, maybe in the top three.

    My biggest disappointment was Opeth’s Heritage, i waited for it spasmodically and the whole surprise collapsed when i listened to it.

    Great list man… and great job, i followed you guys the whole year (and the past too)!

    • I really had the feeling that the new OPeth wasn’t going to be very good, and I was totally on the money. It was disappointing but my hopes weren’t high enough for me to be really, genuinely bummed like I was with Primordial.

  • Anonymous

    Great job this year, boys.  All the best to you and your loved ones.  Reading your columns is something I look forward to very much.  Because you are so conservative with perfect scores, I tend to buy anything that gets a five as a rule, and also of course anything else that peaks my interest.  I have discovered a lot of great music visiting here.

    So SD owes me $20.  Voyager “The Meaning of I” is not a five.  Three and a half, tops.  If they had lobbed off everything before the title track, started the album there, and then written some better tunes then it could have easily been better.

    Take care!

    • That there is crazy talk!! Voyager was totally a 5, no refunds!

    • I’m genuinely flattered by that. I know that it’s only a couple records a year, but it’s still cool and I appreciate that you read frequently and that you trust us that much.

      I’m totally with you on Voyager. That $20 will come out of Steel Druhm’s Christmas bonus.

      • You both need a taste adjustment. Don’t fuck with a New Yorker’s bonus. You don’t want OCCUPY AMG coming down on ya.

  • Really respect this list, a good mix of real metal and no sign of the abominations being pushed by mainstream non-metal media as the “best metal of 2011” (ie Liturgy, Blut Aus Nord, Krallice, Russian Circles, etc). You even matched two of my selections on my blog’s best of 2011 list, the new Falconer and Absu (numbers 4 and 9 respectively, on mine).

    About the new Vintersorg, I’m going to go back and revisit the album because upon my initial listening period for it I didn’t feel like it hit me with the same spell that Solens Rotter did. But damn I need to check out that new Moonsorrow and Yggdrasil. Thanks for the recommendations! Great write up!

    • Yeah, the American hipster press and I do not see eye to eye. I just don’t really like American underground black metal at all. Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, et al, really lose me.

      • Oh man…. I’m right with you there.

        I hold Agalloch and Absu as out of the scene exceptions, excellent bands and I’m glad they’re not trying to associate themselves with that mess. I think more fans of actual metal need to speak out against that whole scene and the media hype its launching. Particularly the offense nature in which some of these articles (Ny Times, New Yorker) are painting the black metal coming out of Norway as sophomoric, teenaged, comical music. What an insult to decades of work and amazing art, not to mention insulting the pride of an entire country. Somehow us Americans have it all figured out I guess, our black metal can be taken seriously by critical hipster press. Argh, give me any Immortal album anyday. Transcendental black metal? Kill me.

        Of course the easy way to dismiss anyone who speaks up against that scene is to call them some bedroom chained “kvlt” black metal kid posting on a message board. A cop out but the readers of those publications will laugh along anyway and feel better about themselves choosing the RIGHT kind of black metal. I think part of being a metal fan is being able to see the entire genre and subgenres like black metal with a dose of reality and a sense of humor, but a big part of being a metal fan is also being able to suspend your cynicism and allow something to be greater than yourself. Music, presentation, atmosphere – they all matter. Hah, I went on a rant – ending it here!

      • George Bowles

        liked the first Krallice album, but they’ve not done anything as good since then. WITTR suck…

  • Lasse Nasse

    Thought you completely forgot about VKKM, I guess I was wrong :)

  • Torbjörn Tapani

    Some others that would have made a top list of 2011 for me. Vektor, 
    Liturgy, Terra Tenebrosa, Xerath, Gorod, Textures, Nami… Also there is no ish about Cormorant, it’s a keeper.

    • Was there a new Gorod record!?!

      • Torbjörn Tapani

        Woops. No you’re right. They were in my 2011-playlist with the others :)

        Album coming this year. 

        • Looks like there was a self-released EP. Do you know what label picked ’em up?

          • Torbjörn Tapani

            Nope, sorry. 

          • Can’t figure it out.

  • Tim Larsen

    It would be a sad day if ‘The Angry Metal Guy’ blog went away.  It’s the first thing I look at when I turn on my computer in the morning.  This is before I even brush my teeth!  Thanks for both of your top ten lists.  I scoured them both making sure I hadn’t missed anything important to listen to.  You’ve turned me on to some great music.  You talk about a lot of music I don’t care for like Cormorant for instance.  I’ve tried to like it but it just doesn’t grab me.  I guess progressive metal just isn’t my thing.  I read all your reviews because I enjoy the way you guys write.  You’re as entertaining as some of the music you’ve  turned me on to.  I’m thinking Battle Beast,  Omnium Gatherum, Moonsorrow,  The Black Dahlia Murder, Tyr… I liked Draconian a lot. 

    Thanks guys… I’m looking forward to reading you in 2012.

    • Thanks for the very kind words, Tim!

    • Cormorant ain’t for everybody. But they’re pretty good.

      I’m so glad you love the site. Steel Druhm and I work hard on it and it’s nice to know it’s appreciated.

    • I’d like to second that… “I read all your reviews because I enjoy the way you guys write.”

      Too many websites out there seem to C&P a band bioand album description from the press release, throw in some links or maybe an embedded video, and call it a day. I really appreciate the time you guys invest in everything you write; it definitely becomes much more engaging to me as a reader.

      Thank you, and happy new year to both of you!

      • That’s good to know. The more I look at other metal sites on the Interwebs, the more I think that Angry Metal Guy is among the fucking best. I am often astounded at how poor material is on other sites.

  • Anonymous

    Great list. No glaring omissions, but maybe just a small one. I keep going back to the new Shroud of Despondency. It’s really great. Most touching record of the year.

    The new Moonsorrow is my favorite 2011 album as well. I haven’t seen it on almost any other Best Of lists, which is a huge disappointment for a record this good. It’s definitely a grower though. Taken a few weeks of listening for it to really sink in, but now I just can’t shake those memorable melodies. VKKM will be remembered as one of their best

    • I love Shroud, but the clean vocals kill me. There’s a new record from them on the way and I predict it will be fucking killer.

  • I’d switch Armod and Jordpuls, switch Human Abstract out for Blut Aus Nord and Moonsorrow out for Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction/Ghost. I never understood Moonsorrow’s appeal, at all. And Hammers of Misfortune would get at least an honorable mention, if not beating out Comorant. Primordial’s was a huge letdown, agree with you there.

    • So in other words.. you’d have a completely different list! :P 

      Yeah, Omnivium didn’t stick with me at all, unfortunately.

      • Haha, guess I would. That’s what I like about this site: I get to read engaging reviews of different flavors that I don’t typically enjoy, broadening my musical horizons. Plus you’ve led me to quite a few gems (Solefald, Shining, Grayceon, Blut Aus Nord, bunch more)

  • Anonymous

    best. site. ever. <3

  • Anonymous

    best. site. ever. <3

  • Zadion

    Being associated with the metalcore genre (a style I used to love, but don’t care much for anymore), and the fact that their singer on that album is from my least favorite band OF ALL TIME, I really had no plans to check out The Human Abstract. But because you put it on this list, I figured I had to… and wow, I’m glad I did. Still warming up to some of it, but most of it is amazing. I’m actually a little upset that they broke up now.

    • Yeah, man. That’s actually a bummer, because really THA’s last record was really awesome. I guess “go out on top” in this case.

  • Fucking awesome list! I do like the new Primordial a lot though, but Moonsorrow takes the proverbial biscuit. Cormorant with a late shout as did Vyrion, they are both amazing! you guys gotta keep it going, I live and breath AMG!!! As Tim says “It’s the first thing we do in the morning”, read your blog! Have a spanking metal 2012!!!

  • I’m going with the 10 albums I listened to the most this year:

    Voyager, Omnium Gatherum, Leprous, Lance King (I know, only the first five songs were good, but I listened to those five over and over), Hammers of Misfortune, Anubis Gate, Sinister Realm, Havoc…was that this year?…Symphony X and Vektor.

    The most laughable release of the year was the new In Flames, which is unlistenable. The new Opeth was disappointing…I’ve tried to enjoy it, but I never make it past the third song when I listen to it. 

  • Anonymous

    Awesome! I never actually listened to Yggdrasil before seeing it on this list. Thanks for mentioning them, I love it!

    • I’m really happy to hear it! They’re a very good band and that record has some serious appeal.

  • Anonymous

    AMG & SD – Thanks for a great year of refreshing, un-biased, ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ reviews – even with the mid-season slump. Thanks to you guys I have picked up some awesome music, including Leprous, Anubis Gate and Voyager – that would otherwise have been completely missed.
    I hope that you find this year even better – both musically and personally – and keep the reviews and comments coming

    • Thanks for the kind words, Martus. We appreciate your loyal readership and contributions. Have a great year yourself!

  • I like Metal Review pretty well, but they have so many writers and I just feel like a lot of those places are meat markets. But I have total respect for the guy who seems to run it (from what I gather). He’s a smart dude, an excellent writer and has pretty good taste. 

  • George Bowles

    here’s my list:

    11. Dub Trio – IV (not really metal, but hey not top 10 either;)
    10. Absu – Abzu (album is great, but tons of great metal this year)
    9. American Heritage – Sedentary (just straight up asskickin metal)
    8. Decapitated – Carnival is Forever (very shreddy)
    7. Brutal Truth – End Time (not a perfect album, but the songs that are great remind me why I love this band)
    6.  Blaspherian – Infernal Warriors of Death (solid album, straight up death metal done well)
    5. Blut Aus Nord – 777 (sorry, I like this album a lot, despite the horrible bass drum sound, the super lazy song titles, the crappy sequel, etc. some of those riffs and beats are great, just wish the beats were produced better)
    4. Mitochondrion – Parasignosis (it’s hard to tell what is going on with this album/band/sound, but I keep going back to it like a fly on shit)
    3. Rotten Sound – Cursed (ripping your face off start to finish)
    2. Gigan – Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes (straight up weird and trippy but super technical and insanely fast. can’t wait to hear what they do next)
    1. Oranssi Pazuzu – Kosmonument (something about this album, very unique… doesn’t hurt that I like every track)


    Immolation (it was just an EP otherwise…)
    Ulcerate (damn good album… but not an easy listen)
    Obscura (dizzying array… only a few memorable songs)
    Antedeluvian (primordial as hell)
    Thou (the song “Voices In the Wilderness” oh yeah)
    Defiled (I woulda liked this more if the mix wasn’t wtf)
    Disma (included for the guitar tone alone… solid chops too)

  • Anonymous

    Yob not being on this list means I can ignore this list…

  • Okay, I totally slept on this Moonsorrow record, this is incredible stuff. Thanks for the direction pointer this way. I’m not in the habit of reworking best of lists, but this probably would at least have made my top ten if I had heard it in time.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe I like my metal a little more conventional, but I’m surprised to see no mention of Scar Symmetry’s latest – a really great bit of melodic metal from start to finish and a nice surprise after their previous album.

    Another one I really enjoyed from 2011 was Revocation’s Chaos of Forms, an excellent tech/thrash album that any old school metal head should love.

    Still, keep up the good work.

    • Zadion

       Glad to see someone else mention that album. It was my album of the year, but it seems nobody else was interested enough in it (or maybe in SS, period) to include it.

  • Tanel Jahu

    I would certainly added Uneven Structure 2011 album to the list.

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