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Top 50 Albums of 2011: 50 to 41

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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.

50. Batillus – Furnace (Seventh Rule Recordings, USA)
Brooklyn, New York is a well-known hotbed of progressive, forward-thinking (and occasionally, godawful) strains of extreme metal; from Krallice to Tombs to Ruin Lust, local shows in this slice of NYC are a step above the usual. One of Brooklyn’s most impressive purveyors of aural destruction, Batillus, released their debut full-length this year, and immediately made a massive impact with their experimental take on crushing, merciless doom. Armed with a variety of industrial and electronic influences and fortified with a canon of riffs heavy enough to sink the tallest ship, Batillus are simply crushing, most especially in a live setting (as seen on a slew of nation-spanning tours this past year). When vocalist and sample manipulator Fade Kainer commands you to “fall on your knees” with his blood-curdling roar, you find yourself compelled to obey.—Kim Kelly

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Batillus – “Mautaam”

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Read Batillus’s 3-part 2010 East Coast tour diary for Invisible Oranges.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

49. Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa (Spinefarm Records, Finland)
Moonsorrow’s 2011 offering was a change in the band’s “viking metal” reputation. While the more popular Tyr and Turisas have simply created a new image, Moonsorrow have gone further–to also reshape their sound. The contrasts between light, airy synth and dark, grounded extreme metal are still there, but now they set up a bleak No-Man’s Land to match the band’s new direction. Death and the end of the world are not alien subjects to metal or any other form of “underground” music, though for a group that has previously kept its focus on the past, looking to the future presents a better means to show off the depth of their musical knowledge and artistry. Dropping their folk-esque melodies gives Moonsorrow more leeway to draw from both the more stark side of their black metal influences, as well as from a range of other sounds such as dreamy trance-pop, without sacrificing one form of experimentation for the other. —K. Ann Sulaiman

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJY6fPGuLMc

Moonsorrow – “Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa”

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48. Peste Noire – L’Ordure A l’etat Pur (Transcendental Creations, France)
France is producing some of the most forward-thinking, most fucked-up black metal in the world, but even in a country that includes Deathspell Omega, Aosoth and Blut Aus Nord, no one is weirder than La Sale Famine de Valfunde (or Famine, for short), the man behind Peste Noire. The band’s fourth full-length album L’Ordure à l’État Pur, is joyously, ravenously unhinged. At one point during the first track, “Casse, Pêches, Fractures et Traditions”, Famine starts crowing like a rooster; at another, he just starts belching. Just as the song is threatening to spin out of control, the vicious guitars drop out, and Famine is left singing over a tuba, a sad trombone, an accordion and a woodblock — music that might drift through the streets of Paris in some cartoonish cinematic vision of the city. L’Ordure à l’État Pur is a stew of ideas and influences: black metal, hard rock, punk, oi, ethereal folk, classical, industrial, electronica, polka . . . All these different elements are forced into the music, and all of it sounds completely organic; Famine uses them as fertilizer for a wild garden, bursting with flowers and vines and insects and weeds. —Mike Nelson

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Peste Noire – “L’Ordure A l’etat Pur”

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47. Hate Eternal – Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (Metal Blade, USA)
Now that Trey Azagthoth has officially abdicated his throne, death metal has a vacant spot in its pantheon. Erik Rutan, his former bandmate, looks poised to fill it. Rutan’s own band, Hate Eternal, has historically functioned as a sped-up reexamination of Floridian death metal. Their music is vicious, dissonant, and fucking fast—to a fault, sometimes. Not so on Phoenix Amongst the Ashes. Hate Eternal now temper their mindblowing speed with slowdowns that, fittingly, recall Rutan-era Morbid Angel. These grooves conjure words often used to describe plate tectonics: heaving, churning, seismic. They balance the speed perfectly, and Phoenix might be the best Hate Eternal album to date.—Doug Moore

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGu2VEiGzqw

Hate Eternal – “Thorns of Acacia”

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46. Graveyard – Hisingen Blues (Nuclear Blast, Sweden)
In a year where the terms retro and proto seemed to rear their heads quite a bit, one band brought a dirty boogie with their cup of retro like nobody’s business—Sweden’s Graveyard, on their stellar sophomore effort, Hisingen Blues. Laying down a workmanlike, ass-shakin’ groove across the disc front-to-back, Graveyard recalled the best parts of the ’70s hard-rock oeuvre it set out to glorify. Tracks like “Ain’t Fit to Live Here”, “Uncomfortably Numb”, and the title track all exemplify the very best of blue-eyed, devil-take-my-soul blues that’s been heard in a long, long time. —Kyle Harcott

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Graveyard – “Hisingen Blues”

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45. Nader Sadek – In The Flesh (Season of Mist, USA)
Few albums look so odd on paper: a concept album about humanity’s reliance on petroleum conceived by a visual artist (Egypt-born New York resident Nader Sadek) and executed by a black/death metal supergroup hand-picked to sound as mechanical as possible. Even fewer albums sound so magnificent in execution. Fallen angels comprise the group: musicians from legendary bands trapped in the shadows of their predecessors or successors. Once unburdened, this power quintet chugs and roars like eight chrome-plated gas-guzzling cylinders going full bore. Rune Eriksen in particular excels: he never showed this knack for creeping melody in Mayhem, and never had Flo fucking Mounier backing Aura Noir. This is modern death metal: philosophically adept, brutal as all hell. —Joseph Schafer

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Nader Sadek – “Suffer”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Nader Sadek’s In The Flesh, and our interview with Nader Sadek.

44. Skeletonwitch – Forever Abomination (Prosthetic Records, USA)
Although often lumped in with the re-thrash crowd that’s been so popular the last couple of years, Skeletonwitch is an example of a band that expertly straddles that fuzzy line between black metal and thrash. The band has put out a string of solid releases, with minor improvements along the way. While Forever Abomination didn’t contain any big surprises, it was lean, pithy, and expertly crafted. Just the right balance between showmanship and relentlessly galloping riffs prevents this abomination from bogging down at any point. Thirty-two minutes of deceptively catchy, vicious metal that had me hitting “play” again almost as soon as the last notes faded. —Tim Hunter

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhAvQcweR-g

Skeletonwitch – “Reduced To The Failure Of Prayer”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Skeletonwitch’s Breathing the Fire.

43. Oskoreien – Oskoreien (Seventh Seal Records, USA)
Los Angeles’ Jay Valena had underground enthusiasts raising their eyebrows before they actually listened to his 2011 debut—and understandably so. A one-man black metal project from SoCal isn’t going to fly under the radar, no matter what the music sounds like. Luckily for us, Valena’s insane talent resulted in this beautifully executed release. The album was a delicate balance of organic atmospherics, neofolk melodies, and rawness—a rawness that could only result from one individual’s musical outpourings. From the wandering acoustic echoes of “River of Eternity”, to the full-on sensory assault of “Transcendance”, there was a lot to take in. As its album cover suggested, Oskoreien was a journey; it was the exploration of solitude through musical textures. —Julia Neuman

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGGoZCymFgI&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL9B590176AF9F61E2

Oskoreien – “IIllusions Perish”

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42. Barghest – Barghest (Big Mountain/Gilead Media, USA)
Every time I want to throw in the towel on black metal, an exciting band comes along and redeems their increasingly clichéd and pedantic genre. Several years ago, it was Craft. In 2011, a dark beast called Barghest, all nihilism and riffs, came rolling out Louisiana. This is working man’s black metal; whereas Wolves In The Throne Room caught everyone’s attention this year by prancing around in the woods, Barghest chopped the trees down and hewed great songs out of them. There should always be an element of unease, something a little bit “off”, with truly great music that falls to this side of the spectrum. One hopes for the start of something new and disturbing right here. —Chris Rowella

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FXHhlSeZB0

Barghest – “The Rite of Isolation”

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Read the Invisible Oranges review of Barghest’s self titled release.

41. Cormorant – Dwellings (USA)
Human beings want more than pretty melodies and killer riffs. We want stories to sink our mental teeth into. Cormorant’s Dwellings delivers all of the above. Each of the seven songs on Dwellings tells a story first and foremost; killer chops and composition serve the narratives. Like the best myths, these stories are filled with horror and compassion in equal measure. And like the best stories told by metal musicians—Metallica, Death, Black Sabbath—reality serves as a secret weapon. Those that aren’t fact easily could be. Further, like those great storytellers, Cormorant have crafted a second album superior to its impressive predecessor. People in a decade will talk about Dwellings the way we talk about Ride the Lightning and Leprosy today. —Joseph Schafer

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2Pmh4m0pQw

Cormorant – “The First Man”

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