So this year I went with a more methodical approach to deciding which albums were my true favorites. I rated each album, song by song, on first listen. The rating system is as follows. 3 stars was neutral with each star above or below being a point more or less, respectively. and then the total points was divided by points possible and the resulting percentages were compared against other albums and thus my list. in the event of a tie the album with more 5 star songs will be declared better. *also, the ratings aren’t based on percentages like grades are so a 6/10 isn’t a D… it’s actually a solid rating.
So first up, the EP’s.
There were lot’s of EP’s this year amongst the album releases and here are the top 5 with 3 honorable mentions.
5. Elitist - Earth (+9/14)
This band’s second EP and they are really coming in to their own. Super tight syncopated rhythms with droning dissonant leads interspersed with bursts of shreddy sweeps and legato solos. Be on the look out for this band’s full length due in 2012.
4. Picture It In Ruins - Solipsism (+7/10)
A solid progressive metal EP. Very reminiscent of BTBAM but with their own signature style. Awesome riffs and tons of shreddy solo work, all done in tasteful pieces of music that reflect a certain musical knowledge that is often lost in the modern metal realm.
3. Heart Of The Void - Hypnagogia (+6/8)
Intricate, intelligent, and powerful. A truly impressive EP from good friends of mine. This is no banal listen, it’s demanding yet beautiful, chaotic yet perfectly structured. Brilliant compositions.
2. Circles - The Compass (+9/12)
Dream Theatre progressive vocal stylings meets the downtuned, polymetric guitar work of Meshuggah with intermittent modern electronic music strewn throughout these epic yet accessible songs. A fresh listen in the midst of other bands attempting to mix electronica with metal.
and the winner is…
1. Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (+5/6)
This is the pinnacle of musical perfection. Clocking in at over thirty minutes, these three songs almost constitute a full length and would have put plenty of bands out of contention for the number one spot. This EP is amazingly pieced together, with each musical idea beautifully composed and connecting to the next. Part two of this will be a full length to be released sometime in 2012. (probably album number one for 2012)
Some honorable mentions:
Intervals - The Space Between (+6/10)
I Am Abomination - Passion of the Heist (+7/12)
Blotted Science - The Animation of Entomology (+7/14)
Here are my top 15 full length albums of 2012 with 5 honorable mentions
15. Thomas Giles - Pulse (+15/22)
This album really has something for everyone, from bluegrass, to epic metal, to NIN-esque electronica. A really solid sophomore album from BTBAM’s singer Tommy Rogers. Stand out songs include: “Sleepshake” and “Hamilton Anxiety Scale” although all of the songs are well worth the listen. For fans of BTBAM, Dustin Kensrue and Radiohead.
Tied for 14th place are:
Bayside - Killing Time (+12/20)
A very timeless sounding rock album, filled with the perfect amount of grit without sacrificing the melody. Thoughtful lyrics and well structured compositions abound, this album has been a mainstay in my 2011 listening. My favorite songs are: “It’s Not A Bad Little War” and “On Love, On Life.” This album flows well from beginning to end and will surely be enjoyed by fans of Alkaline Trio, Paramore, and The Get Up Kids.
Decoder - Decoder (+12/20)
Ambient, aggressive, melodic and overflowing with passion. In a genre where bands are more concerned with their look than their music, it is truly refreshing to hear such an masterfully crafted album. Poetic lyrics are sung angelically and screamed urgently amidst the big, chordy guitar work. And their live show is something to be seen, a truly engaging performance. Impressive songs throughout, but the best are :”Transcendence” and “The Horrid.” For fans of Hopesfall, Circa Survive, and Oceana.
13. Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After (+10/16)
An intense listen to say the least, I recently found out about this band and am glad I did. Strained vocals carry the passion along as the music progressives over driving chords. The lyrics are a really outstanding part of this album. my favorite song is “Shared Bodies” because of how seamlessly the dynamics change and perfectly suit the emotion behind the song. For fans of Touche Amore, La Dispute, and The Chariot.
12. Scapegoat - I Am Alien (+14/22)
This band is incredibly unique, and really provides for an interesting take on a modern rock album. With tinges of post-hardcore mentality interlaced in the driving rock sound, this album is a fun listen. Stand out tracks include: “Blackbird Medicine” and “The Devil In My Doorway” with plenty of other brilliant moments on the album. For fans of The Used, Chiodos, and Scary Kids Scaring Kids.
11. Mayday Parade - Mayday Parade (+18/28)
I’ve always been a fan of this band, but they’ve always been a sort of guilty pleasure band. However, this album is awesome and everyone should take a listen to it if you enjoy a mature pop-punk sound. They’ve really evolved in their sound and you can hear the intelligence behind the music. The middle set of songs on this album are my favorite and captivate the listener. For fans of Bayside, Paramore, and You Me At Six.
10. La Dispute - Wildlife (+18/28)
If their was ever an album to show someone that passion can be conveyed in a digital format, this is it. A truly inspiring listen, but is also very demanding. These songs all have stories, ranging from gang shooties, schizophrenia, and cancer. It’s a tough listen as the music perfectly portrays the emotion of the words, but if you just sit and listen you are bound to be moved. There is a song on this album for everyone. My favorites are “Harder Harmonies”, “Safer In The Forest”, and the incredible song “King Park”. after almost 100 listens since it was released, this song still gives me chills. For fans of Touche Amore, Pianos Become The Teeth, and Listener.
9. Uneven Structure - Februus (+13/20)
Seamless, enthralling progressive metal. This was one of my most anticipated albums of last year and it lives up to every expectation I had. Driving polyrhythms and top of beautiful atmospheric guitar work make this album a step above it’s peers. A solid listen all the way through as you are carried across musical landscapes and pushed along by intense screams and beautiful singing. An incredibly mature debut album, my favorite songs are “Awe” and “Quittance” as they flow perfectly together. For fans of Textures, Tesseract and Meshuggah.
8. Century - Red Giant (+13/20)
Angry, agressive metal. A perfect listen to get anyone pumped up. However this doesn’t skimp on the musicality and has some very unique and interesting musical moments. This was a nice contrast to the other more concept driven albums that were released this past year. My favorite songs are “Lobotomy” and “Dry Bride” because of their diversity. For fans of Don The Reader, Ion Dissonance, and Of Legends.
7. Vildhjarta - Masstaden (+17/26)
3 Guitarists, and 2 vocalists make this a truly unique record to begin with. This album is incredibly diverse in it’s dynamics and composure. Guitar melodies sore behind chaotic riffs and intense vocals. And to top it all off, it’s a concept album told in a classic fable fashion. An incredibly inspiring listen as their really isn’t anyone to confuse this style with, and in a somewhat tired genre that is a breath of fresh air. For fans of Meshuggah, Ion Dissonance, and The Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza.
6. Defeater - Empty Days & Sleepless Nights (+19/28)
Lyrically brilliant and incredibly melodic hardcore. Driving anthems without any scene aesthetic nonsense. This album is straight to the point and never waivers in it’s conviction. A great listen all the way through, with stand out songs like “Quiet The Longing” and “At Peace.” For fans of It Prevails, Means, and Pianos Become The Teeth.
5. Structures - Divided By (14/20)
I would describe this album as a bit of a conundrum, it’s progressive deathcore. And I mean that in the best way, it really shines in a boring genre. Inventive riffing mixed with technical shreddy parts with intense drumming and vocals that range from bellowing screams to gritty melodies. A nice turn from the worst in deathcore, this album sticks out among the best. For fans of Volumes, The Eyes of a Traitor, and Despised Icon.
Tied for 4th place are:
Fallujah - The Harvest Wombs (+14/20)
I played a show with these guys last January and have been hooked ever since. This album is astonishingly good, with it’s incredible compositions. Black Metal tinged technical guitar riffs accompanied by incredible finger-style bass and one of the best death metal drummers I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. And to top it all of the soloing on this album is that of virtuoso level and yet is so tastefully done. Perfect screams across the sonic spectrum complete this masterpiece and make for a perfect listen. For fans of The Faceless, All Shall Perish, and Diskreet.
Moving Mountains - Waves (+14/20)
This is truly beautiful post-rock. I am more impressed with this album every time I listen through it. The lyrics, compositions and passion behind it all make this album the epic masterpiece it is. The singing goes from intense, emotive screams to beautiful inviting melodies with ease. There is never a moment on this album that doesn’t belong or contribute to taking you along the intended journey. From the opening track to the closer, your attention never wavers from the emotion conveyed so effortlessly into sound. For fans of Thrice, Circa Survive, and Constants.
3. Akela - Orientation (+17/24)
These guys really deserve more praise and attention, this is a really awesome album. Very reminiscent of early hardcore and metal bands that inspired all the bands crowding the tired scene today. I find new things I like about this album with each listen and never grow tired of the intensity. My favorite songs are “A Song Yet To Be Written” and “Uncharted Territories.” For fans of Zao, From A Second Story Window and Don The Reader.
Tied for 2nd place are:
White Arms of Athena - Astrodrama (+16/20)
Thematic progressive metal at it’s finest! Astrodrama is a fantastic listen with perfect continuity. It’s nice to hear a metal album that sounds like it was orchestrated as opposed to just assembling a bunch of riffs. Every musical idea is reflective of impressive musical intelligence and well-thought out compositions. Unique screams carry the intensity and shiny singing vocals effortlessly dance upon the melodic sections of the songs. Some really strange and interesting moments occur throughout this album and take you on a journey through it’s space themed concept.
Last Chance To Reason - Level 2 (+16/20)
An incredible album, from the intense beginning to the melodic and dynamic decay of the outro track. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, not just 2011 and will be a constant in my recent listeners for years to come. Technically demanding music interlaced with beautiful melody and some of the most intense screamed vocals I have ever come across. Every instrument shines on this album and is all done so tastefully. A brilliant concept album for fans of The Contortionist, Cynic, and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
and finally my number one album of 2011 is…
1. Erra - Impulse (+17/20)
Debut album’s aren’t often this impressive, let alone album of the year. However, as soon as the first song ends you know the album is going to be amazing. It truly is and blew away every expectation I had. Soaring vocals melodies accompanied by intense, saturated screams sit atop beautiful melodic metal riffing and syncopated rhythms. Every note contributes to the perfection of this album, and it’s thoughtfully composed songs. Absolutely brilliant and an amazing listen all the way through. No song is ever lacking and it’s just short of impossible to have a favorite. For fans of The Color Morale, Elitist, and Misery Signals.
Some honorable mentions:
Stray From The Path - Rising Sun (+13/22)
Scale The Summit - The Collective (+13/22)
Ever Forthright - Ever Forthright (+14/24)
The Human Abstract - Digital Veil (+9/16)
A Lot Like Birds - Conversation Piece (+12/22)
Thanks for reading, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of my list!