Favourite Stuff From 2011

Best albums

Altar of Plagues “Mammal”

Black metal continues to morph and grow beyond the strictures imposed by the old guard back in Norway. Ireland’s Altar of Plagues released an album teeming with atmospherics, new accents on established sounds and stuff you’ve never heard on a regular black metal record. The record needs to be heard in its entirety but ‘When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean’ is in particular, stunning.

Mastodon “The Hunter”

Atlanta’s favourite heavy rockers released their fifth studio record two years after the lengthy, prog infused cosmic rumination on life and death that was “Crack the Skye”. This time they trimmed some of the fat (songs running to three minutes in length instead of fifteen) and reminded us of their lighter side on cuts like ‘Stargasm’ and ‘Creature Lives’; kept the heavy shit coming and weren’t afraid to show deeply felt emotions on ‘The Hunter’ and ‘The Sparrow’. It is fair to say that anything they turn their hand to is worth hearing.

Insomnium “One For Sorrow”

Melodic death metal, melodeath or whatever this is being called – it won’t be everyone’s particular cup of tea but Insomnium’s latest is worth overcoming any misgivings you may have. Referencing the rhyme associated with magpies in this country and then coating the record sleeve in crows may seem incongruous but the music itself is at turns dramatic and low-key; melancholic and blisteringly heavy. Highly recommended.

 

Best of the Rest

Opeth “Heritage”

Whereupon, Akerfelt ditched the death metal vocals and added some more flutes. Still ace.

Kurt Vile “Smoke Ring For My Halo”

Acoustic slacker character puts together ten great detailed songs with creaking smoky production.

Wooden Shjips “West”

“West” is the best fuzz-rock this side of a Nuggets compilation. Motorik rhythms and backwards guitars make for their finest record after countless amazing live shows. ‘Home’ is the standout.

Earth “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I”

Dylan Carson continues to mould the re-invigorated Earth moving from the realms of doom laden metal to ominous folk-drone.

PJ Harvey “Let England Shake”

A lot has been written and said about this record and this is by no means the last list it will end up in but PJ Harvey deserves every single accolade for a truly ambitious and quietly important album.

In Solitude “The World, The Flesh; The Devil”

If vintage is the laa dee dah term for second hand clothes then In Solitude should be the by-word for traditional heavy fucking metal. Certainly no mere NWOBHM clones these boys are seriously ambitious.

Machine Head “Unto The Locust”

The most successful resurrection of a damaged name since Joe Perry and Steven Tyler kicked the junk and took Aerosmith supernova in the eighties and they’ve made it look easy. I just hope that doesn’t mean that Robb Flynn will be an American Idol judge in 2030.

Naisian “Mammalian”

Heavy British psychedelic sludge with a penchant for apt song-titles.

 

Reissues

Sunn O))) “Double-O Void”

Re-release of doom-drone titans second record and a mighty racket it is too.

Various “Swamp Delta Rock: Sounds from the South Volume 1”

Soul, jazz, blues, rock, black, white. This compilation has it all in its surprisingly succinct double LP format. From the hairy chopped rock of Skynyrd and the Allmans, to sweet Bobbie Gentry and the soaring Boz Scaggs this is a compilation for any music fan.

The Who “Quadrophenia”

Pete Townshend’s last hurrah with the ‘orrible Who as it was all downhill from here. Sure they filled stadiums and earned the dough they were denied in the sixties but this is the apex of the Who as a going artistic concern. “Quadrophenia” has complex characters, social commentary, thrilling music and not a deaf, dumb and blind kid in sight.

 

Live Shows

Barn Owl, Lagan Legacy Barge, Belfast, 29th April

Avant-garde guitar mangling at massively reduced volume due to the venue restrictions. Strange but brilliant place and BYOB!

My Morning Jacket, Somerset House, London 18th July.

My first MMJ gig since they toured “Z” nearly five years ago and they took on the bigger stage with customary goofy aplomb courtesy of Jim James’ capering and amazing songs.

Black Breath, Borderline, London, 14th July.

Blackened hardcore from the States in a sweatbox venue and an uncompromising lesson in blitzkrieg rock and roll.

Roger Waters, The Wall, O2, London, 17th May.

The polar opposite to Black Breath: grandiose, even a bit silly but nevertheless the way rock shows in arenas should be.

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