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Top 50 Metal Albums of 2011, 30 to 21


For an explanation of how we determined our Top 50 albums of 2011 (and for a look at albums 75 to 51), see our first post in the series, Top Albums of 2011, 75 to 51.

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30. The Atlas Moth – An Ache for the Distance (Profound Lore, USA)
In their rookie season, Windy City sludge slingers The Atlas Moth wowed the crowd with starry-eyed highs and lows murkier than Lake Michigan. An Ache for the Distance saw the quintet reach the next level, obliterating the sophomore slump as they broke bones like Urlacher on “Horse Thieves”, swung like Sosa on the infectious title track and scraped the stratosphere like Air Jordan on “Holes In the Desert”’s cosmic excursions. It’s easy to visualize guitarist/co-vocalist David Kush doing his best dunk face as he belts hook after stellar hook, massaging those aches into sweet relaxation. —Greg Majewski

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The Atlas Moth – “Gemini”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of The Atlas Moth’s An Ache for the Distance.

29. Kvelertak – Kvelertak (Indie Recordings, Norway)
A critical darling two years in a row (released in the States in 2011, hence its inclusion on this list), Kvelertak’s self-titled debut has the intellectual depth of a biscuit… but that’s half the fun. How can any 11 songs meet the hype of a debut record mixed by Kurt Ballou, illustrated by John Dyer Baizley, and backed by nearly the entire blogosphere? With hooks. More hooks than there are fish left in the oceans. These Norse party rockers drag listeners through the catchiest aspects of black metal, hardcore, thrash, and classic rock for 50 moonshine-soaked minutes. It’s the closest thing metal has to Girl Talk, except Kvelertak write their own music (until they decide to play “Foxy Lady” for no reason). Kvelertak is both a reason to celebrate, and the soundtrack to any celebration. —Joseph Schafer

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsGC4yaIsj8

Kvelertak – “Sultans of Satan”

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28. Autopsy – Macabre Eternal (Peaceville, USA)
Macabre Eternal makes good on the promise of a worthwhile comeback, hinted at on Autopsy’s The Tomb Within EP. The band sound crisper, and take more time with songs than in the past. Macabre Eternal doesn’t steamroll you; it spreads out the pain. You can’t expect Chris Reifert and co.’s long tenure in Abscess not to change their delivery. But the things that make Autopsy a death metal cornerstone remain. Macabre Eternal merges the best of vintage Autopsy with hard-learned musical lessons. Reifert and guitarist Eric Cutler are like crazed scientist Herbert West in Re-Animator – they’ve sewn together body parts and created a monster. —Justin M. Norton

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ssepxy4YoJg

Autopsy – “Sadistic Gratification”

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27. Blut Aus Nord – 777: Sect(s) (Candlelight Records, France)
Blut Aus Nord are many things to many people. I like them best when they torture their instruments to the point of screaming, as they did on The Work Which Transforms God. 777: Sect(s) is a return to that form. BAN’s industrial vibe is thick here. Guitars clatter endlessly through steel corridors, and the compositions are painfully knotted. Sect(s) oppresses the listener with the best of ’em. But at times, this album blooms into nigh-improvisational openness; witness the bent vamping of “Epitome IV”. 777: The Desanctification, a companion album which didn’t make this feature, takes this tactic to its logical conclusion. It seems we prefer the torture and screaming. —Doug Moore

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OTyoieiAYY

Blut Aus Nord – “Epitome 6″

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Blut Aus Nord’s 777: Sect(s).

26. Crowbar – Sever the Wicked Hand (E1 Entertainment, USA)
New Orleans breeds two things: metal and perseverance. Sludge vets Crowbar embody both on Sever the Wicked Hand, their first LP in six years. It’s been the soundtrack to shitty days and new beginnings, a go-to album for light at the end of some very dark tunnels. Kirk Windstein bellowed from his blackened heart with painful truths, something everyone can relate to. Why reinvent the wheel when you can drive it through endless fields of drop-tuned, monolithic muddy riffs? Crowbar have kept the bar set high whilst plumbing the lows. —Chris Rowella

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Crowbar – “Cemetery Angels”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Crowbar’s Sever the Wicked Hand.

25. Seidr – For Winter Fire (Flenser Records, USA)
With their debut full-length, Kentucky’s Seidr craft a perfect melding of Old World and New World doom tropes. The funereal, yet somehow ethereal weight of Euro-style funeral doom comes crashing down amongst burly American sludge riffs, as the band’s Norse heritage and lyrical content blend with their Southern environs to craft a singular vision. There are elements of Neurosis-style post metal, “ambient” black metal, and sparse neofolk, but throughout it all the power of doom carries through. That slow, crawling beat, those hefty open chords: Seidr expands the sonic template of doom while carrying with them the legacy of doom bands past. Their sound can be as expansive as the night sky and as heavy as a standing stone – or, for that matter, as claustrophobic as a summer night. To hear this record is to hear the march of glaciers: inexorable, terrible, slow, yet strangely beautiful and purifying, a true blast of winter’s flame. —Rhys Williams

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Seidr – “A Gaze At The Stars”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Seidr’s For Winter Fire.

24. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – Blood Lust (Killer Candy Records, UK)
Lo-fi invocations of proto-metal horror rock haven’t sounded this good in a long time. With a sonic aesthetic that recalls early ’70s grindhouse flicks, Cambridge’s Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats brought the spooky devil jams hard. Tracks like “I’ll Cut You Down”, “Death’s Door” and “13 Candles” hammer home the effect, layering heavy buzz-saw psych riffs over paint-peeling vocal yowls. And, just for that added tinge of subversive ‘authenticity’, the album’s mixed just barely to redline, bringing forth the slightest of clips that evoke the feeling of listening to some long-lost, randomly-found occult-rock show on your AM dial. —Kyle Harcott

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Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – “Death’s Door”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’s Blood Lust.

23. Ash Borer – Ash Borer (Psychic Violence, USA)
While Southern California has its Black Twilight rituals, and the Pacific Northwest has settled gently into Cascadian bliss, the northern half of California has developed a bitingly potent, wonderfully innovative black metal circle of its own. In league with like-minded peers Fell Voices, Necrite, and Bosse-de-Nage, Arcata four-piece Ash Borer have smashed genre conventions and created one of the most epic releases of the year. Cathartic, hypnotic, and achingly honest, the three songs contained within this self-titled recording take the blueprints of black metal’s second wave, gently break and tear away the most desolate, atmospheric moments, wrap them up tightly in a shroud of Burzum-esque despair, and leave them to the elements. The result marries primitive thrashing with refined clarity, twisted chords with furious tremolo, gossamer melodies with guttural cries, giving rise to – above all – an atmosphere of overwhelming urgency. —Kim Kelly

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlQET8Ymm6k

Ash Borer – “My Curse Was Raised In the Darkness Against A Doomsday Silence”

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22. Liturgy – Aesthethica (Thrill Jockey, USA)
Isn’t it odd that people tear Liturgy a new asshole over frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s “transcendent black-metal” manifesto, while NSBM bands are constantly defended on the basis of their musicianship? It’s revealing when ideas that are intended to spark discussion are met with such hostility, possibly exposing an unspoken insecurity. Liturgy play undeniably progressive black metal, and, subsequently, have some academic beliefs about their role in the genre; how is that any more pretentious than wearing corpse paint and cutting yourself? So they’re from Brooklyn, they look a little hipster, and they cross over into Pitchfork territory; what’s any of that got to do with their music? If anything, that reaction reflects a degree of anti-intellectualism within the metal community and ignores the explosive power of Aesthethica. —Aaron Maltz

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Liturgy – “Veins of God”

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21. Woods of Desolation – Torn Beyond Reason (Northern Silence Productions, Australia)
When it came out in February, Torn Beyond Reason cut through me like a gust of winter wind. Its sweeping, melancholic and majestic riffing, laid over furious drumming and tortured screams, was just what I needed to hear as I dodged ice-crusted puddles on the streets of New York. Melancholic black metal albums are a dime-a-dozen these days, but the enraged passion and beauty of Torn Beyond Reason sets it apart from the pack. The Australian firepower behind Woods of Desolation, D., weaves into Torn Beyond Reason’s mid-length songs an inescapable sense of despair and sadness. While the playing isn’t exactly mathematically tight, the slippery, not sloppy, quality to the album has an impressionistic feel that undulates from one memorable measure to the next. —Wyatt Marshall

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfqRYozo9fs

Woods of Desolation – “The Inevitable End”

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