2011 had some really great records, some great songs and some just generally fantastic moments, despite burnout, European crisis and it being our last year on earth. It also had the musical equivalents of burnout, European crisis and the end of the world. In this new annual feature, we will highlight the most horrendous shit we had to listen to this year as a price for being reviewers. Some of these things may be disappointments, whereas others might just be rehashing the painful. There are some records that you might expect to be here (like Lulu) that some of us just were smart enough to avoid, so they can’t be unheard because they were never heard in the first place. But there’s still a pretty good showing of shit going on over here. But just so you know, we’ll be working hard to make you all feel better for the rest of the week after reading this list.

#5: Sirenia – The Enigma of Life –  Oh man. This was actually my first taste of Morten Veland’s post-Tristania band. As a fan of female fronted metal and of the sort of gothic metal subculture, I was hoping that it would be something special. But it was so not. Instead, I was entranced by the utter banality of the whole project. This is among the most boring things I’ve ever experienced, and I cannot imagine anyone listening to this of their own free will. If I could get the several hours I spent listening to this back, I’d probably dedicate it to listening to At Sixes and Sevens, in a desperate attempt to save Hr. Veland a little bit of face.

Shadows' Grey - Bonjour Tristesse cover#4: Shadows’ Grey – Bonjour Tristesse –  Actually, the fact that this is the second goth metal band on this list actually probably says something about where this little subgenre is these days. It’s pretty bad. This record was a particularly nutty treat, however. While the vocalist is really talented, her taste in musicians is very poor. And the music on this record was trite, mediocre and destroyed by some of the most horrendous ESL lyrics I’ve ever heard. There were glimmers of hope here, and I feel a bit guilty beating up on people who are already so down (Mr. “Maze” is so sad and deep), but these were wasted hours of my life. And I’d like them back.

Rabbits - Lower Forms#3: Rabbits – Lower Forms –  Man, I could not quit listening to this album soon enough. But being a good sport (and trying to be fair to bands I’d never heard before), I decided to give it its due. Honestly, I don’t know that I could sum up how I feel about this band any better than what I wrote at the time (and what they quoted on their website): “It’s like everything I could possibly hate about a record rolled into one and then served on a piece of shit.” Indeed. This damage cannot be undone. But I’m happy to give these guys the satisfaction of me talking about their album again! <3

#2: Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus –  Yeah. I mean, there was some OK stuff on here, but in reality I just want this guys to have not put this album out. Why’d you have to go and do this? It was just totally unnecessary. The band should have seen the backlash coming, but my guess is that they’re too surrounded by yesmen and suckups (certainly the response of other musicians was telling enough) to even have realized how bad it was. It was like that interview where someone asked George Lucas if he realized how much everyone hated Episode I and he was utterly shocked. This record should just disappear. Let’s put it away and agree to never think about it again. Please?

#1: Amaranthe – Amaranthe –  I don’t actually have much more to say. This record sucked my will to live. My only wish is that it would go back to the shadows from whence it came!

Steel Druhm

As AMG so wonderfully explained, into every reviewer’s life, some crap must fall and since AMG is the boss, more tends to fall MY way (Steel Druhm is all about team). So, without further preamble, here are the worst examples of the dinosaur poo that invaded my promo bin and staged an unauthorized, unappreciated shit show. Avoid these like a Teletubby in a dark alley.

#5: In FlamesSounds of a Playground Fading – Although I worship their first three albums still, I’ve long since given up on In Flames. Even with zero expectations, I was surprised how bad this one turned out. From the core-ish writing, abysmal vocals and moronic title, it fails every way it can. It’s almost impossible to remember this is the same band that once released The Jester Race. Sounds like a career fading.

#4: The HauntedUnseenWhile I never bought into the hype even when they were all thrashy, now they’re a big directionless, blob. Unseen cartwheels through generic nu-metal, emo, alternative rock and Clutch-worship and nothing really works. I give some props to Peter Dolving’s vocals for their flexibility but that’s all the praise Steel Druhm has for this clunker.

#3: AmarantheAmaranthe – This album embodies everything that’s wrong with commercialized metal. It’s soulless, slick, overproduced and aimed at teenagers who want to rebel, but safely (I call it “bubble gum rebellion”). Safe is not how metal is supposed to feel and this craptastic piece of shiny plastic is safer than Stryper. Avoid like your metal cred depends on it, because it does.

#2: Morbid AngelIllud Divinum Insanus An album that twisted me from shameless fanboy to enemy in one easy listen. This is one of the most stunning reverses of musical direction by a metal band (or any band for that matter) and I’ve yet to fathom what good they hoped would come from it. Don’t believe the whole “they are so brave” bullshit, this is one of the biggest sellouts the genre has ever seen and may even usurp Celtic Frost‘s Cold Lake as the sellout king. Disgraceful.

#1: Denial FiendHorror Holocaust – The most unlistenable album this year also features the worst vocal performance on a metal album, ever. Once a great old school death unit with a party vibe, with the addition of Blain Cook on the mic, it all went completely to shit. I doubt anyone can listen to his child-like screaming and cartoon voices all the way through and not want to take their own life (or his). WAAAAH!!!