15) Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
This album is epic. No, not in the 15-year-old ďOMG this is so EPIC, lolĒ way, but in the true meaning of the word. Moonsorrow are a blackened folk metal band from Finland. Unlike many foreign bands metal bands, they donít bother making their album titles or writing the lyrics in English, which I think is pretty cool, even if it makes it hard to pronounce the track titles. The music does feel like folk music, as it is paced on the slower side of the spectrum. With that being, said, the music never feels empty. It is always full, with guitars that play big chords, drums that are always pounding often using double bass, and keyboard supplying chords when it isnít being used for melody. Itís is very dark and cold music, which also really helps with the epic aspect of the music. Even though it feels rather barren, the pieces always kind of end on a high note, which makes you feel like you just completed and epic quest. There are only 4 real tracks on this album, but all surpass the ten minute mark, so even without the 3 filler/transition tracks, you still get a little under an hour of epic music.
14) Deafheaven Ė Roads to Judah
Most always when a band tries to create an atmospheric sound, they tend to keep things on the slower side of things, and let the ambiance of slow music do the job for them. Not Deafheaven. Throughout the majority of Roads to Judah, these sharp-dressed gentlemen are blasting their way through intense black metal passages. But while these guys are tremolo picking away, theyíre still creating a huge, atmospheric sound that beautifully blossoms through your speakers and takes you to a place of bliss and harmony, but also reeks of pain and sorrow. How is this accomplished? Itís the song-writing. Like most black metal bands, Deafheaven rely a lot on minor chords, to get a really sinister, evil sound. But what really helps bring the atmospheric element to the music is that these guys utilize the grim tools used for black metal, and use them in creating pieces that are very post-rock in nature. They often sit on one idea or chord progression for a long time and allow it to build up, and create an awesome crescendo, then let the song explode and come to a nice end. Of course, thatís an oversimplification of whatís going on, because there are also plenty of other things these guys do like change keys, layer guitar harmonies and such, but by essentially making post-rock songs out of black metal, they get the melancholic and sad aspect of black metal, but also the feel good vibes of post-rock. This is truly an awesome album.
13) Obscura Ė Omnivium
Going into 2011, I knew that Obscura were coming out with a new album, and expected it to be Top 10 material. Not too far off, but there was a time this album was very low on the list. And it was for a pretty stupid reason, but weíll get back to that later. So, progressive/tech-death metallers Obscura created my favorite technical metal piece with Cosmogenesis, so they had some pretty big shoes to fill with Omnivium. And they came pretty close to filling those shoes. This album has everything that I loved about its predecessor: Tons of great musicianship, awesome guitar melodies that overlap in a very baroque way when theyíre not harmonizing, fantastic fretless bass lines, great solos, remarkable drum work and balls out heavy riffs. I feel on this album they get a little slower at times and get really heavy, but itís not too noticeable. The vocals are more often low and guttural, which is my preference in death metal, and they also use clean vocals more often, like on Prismal Dawn. Now, back to my main gripe that I have with this record and really bothered me at first. The snare. Listen to it; it sounds horrid. Ii is a constant click-click sound that can really bother you if you pay too much attention to it. But, even with that, the matter at hand here are the songs. And the songs are awesome. They may not reach the material on Cosmogenesis, but they come close.
12) Fen Ė Epoch
Fen enter the new epoch that is the 2010ís decade with their sophomore album, Epoch. Like most groups in the post-black metal game, Fen combines the serenity or post-rock and combines it with the raw aggression of black metal. But like many of the favorite blackgaze bands, they do more than just that. Fen also adds elements of progressive metal and folk. On many of these songs, we hear odd time signatures being toyed around with, as well as guitar solos and very innovative bass parts, which is cool because bass never really gets a chance to shine in this genre. We hear acoustic guitars being faintly strummed in the background. Occasionally, we also here some strings like violin and cello. One thing I really love about this record is that we donít only get the feeling of melancholy from their music. Sometimes, the music just feels very nostalgic, much like Alcest. The album varies a lot, and throughout the whole thing, I get vibes that remind me of Agalloch, Enslaved, Alcest, and Lantlos. This album takes influence in all that is good about black metal and post-black metal and spreads it across 8 beautifully sculpted songs, and that makes for the best post-black metal album of 2011. Fen have started this new Epoch with an incredible album, and Iím sure they have plenty more to come.
Carrier of Echoes
11) Loss Ė Despond
Funeral Doom is another genre of heavy music that is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. While I was listening to Ahab first, Loss are the band that really sparked my interest in the genre. You could say Iíve always liked melancholic music, but the stuff on Despond is a completely different animal. Loss takes the essence of pain and puts it in a sonic environment with this record. The music they create seeps sadness, depression, and even suicidal tendencies, and they use these negative feelings to create really epic, strong, and beautiful doom metal that is majestic, while still keeping the overall vibe very depressing and lonely. The music is also very creepy. The guitars and bass feed off really slow, minor chords and the drums follow the same slow, eerie vibe that the rest of the band is producing. The band also throws in organs, and even some of the interludes haunting pieces. Also, I canít remember who said it, but somebody on here said that the vocals sounded like a tomb being opened, and thatís extremely true. Itís hard to believe that these sounds are being emitted from a human being. The lyrics on this album only drive the overall depressing, suicidal vibe over the top. What I think is so great about this album, is the fact that the guys in Loss take the most dreaded feeling humans are capable of, pain, and turn it into something really extravagant, majestic, and beautiful. One might think that listening to music such as this would make you depressed, but it doesnít really. I think the music almost kind of works like a flu vaccine does. It gives your body a dose of the flu, in this case depression, then your body builds immunity and then can fight the real thing off. So fear not people, this slab of epic funeral doom wonít make you depressed, but itíll keep you from it. Fans of the slow, the melancholic, and the heavy, pick up Lossí Despond if have not already.
Cut Up, Depressed and Alon