Saturday, 17 December 2011

2011: A Retrospective and Top 50 Albums

 I have a habit of thinking of every year as being the best I've experienced, but with 2011 I repeat this statemnt with every sense of honesty and truthfulness as possible. This year has been a year of new experiences, travel, overcome and self-disovery of real talents and passions. It's been a year where education became an important factor of life and friendship became more important than ever before. It's been a year where new friendships have been made and previous friendships have grown stronger than ever, as I've manged to smash through the walls of shyness and low confidence that held such a considerable grip on me before. My wonderful friends and family have made this year truly epic for me and I appreciate more than one could ever imagine. 2011 has also been the year in which I can truly establish myself as a fan of Rock music. With a sweet collection that spans over 5000 songs, I gained more knowledge in the world of rock and metal music than ever before. This has also been the year in which I've worked out what my future calling is and it is to become a journalist for such publications as Kerrang!, Rock Sound, or perhaps a metal correspondent for NME. Discussing this idea with several friends and family, we came to a conclusion that the best way to show what I'm worth and to explore aone's writing talent is to start a blog, where I could write about new releases that spawns from the world of rock music and give my view on them. After a slow start, in which an increase of popularity started due to gaining a widespread audience via Twitter, Ramblings of a Rock Fan has become an overwhelmigly successful online world of rock music knowledge that people use for inspiration. I've gained more views in six months than I thought wold ever be achievable in a lifetime and my heart goes out to everyone who has viewed this as a place to find their reviews.
 So, the world of rock music has given us a lot of stuff in the headlines this year. Some cool, some sad, some just annoying, so here's some slick little thoughts of some of 2011's rock music news (or "excuses for news" for a lot of the period.)
 It took a while for anything truly interesting to grab my attention. Basically, at the start of 2011 Kerrang! had most of it's readers immersed in all the "unfolding drama" that had occurred within Tennessee pop punk giants Paramore following the unexpected departure of guitarist and drummer Josh and Zac Farro. Don't get me wrong, I'm partial to a bit of Paramore but I could not give two shits about the issue whilst many others were losing their heads over it. But surely there was some kind of advantage to it. Now Hayley Williams had even more of a chance to pose for new photos with the band as a three-piece, or you know more photos of just her. The kind of stuff to boost her ego even more, y'know.
 The first piece of news of 2011 that really struck me happened on my birthday. It had been a great day. Got lots of cool presents, everyone gave me their kind words and what do I discover when I get home? Atreyu have gone on hiatus. Thanks for ruining my birthday like that. It was a shame though. Atreyu had a truly unique talent and sounded like no band I'd ever heard before.
 I think from pretty early on in the year it became obvious to the British public once again that the Gallagher brothers just can't shut the fuck up when we need them to. Seriously, I couldn't go on the NME website without seeing a new report on one of them with some "controversial new remark" being the headline. Also, I now find it difficult these days to remember who's saying who. They're both equal douche-bags, it gets hard to tell them apart. As far as I could see they kept contradicting themselves. One day Liam Gallagher would be calling Noel a tit and state how happy he was to be away from Oasis. Other days he's saying he'd totally be up for a reunion. Sorry, this kind of stuff annoyed me. Especially since these clowns were getting all the attention and musically came out with Beady Eye's Different Gear, Still Speeding and the debut album from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds both of which sucked. So, those two managed to annoy once more.
 While more acts were happy to cash in on having their music raped by a bunch of whiny annoying teenagers, it was nice to see groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters start a backlash to having their songs used on unfortunate hit TV series Glee. There was even a very... very slight sense of reunion between Slash and Axl Rose over the issue as both threatened legal action if any Guns N' Roses songs were used on the show. No meeting of the two though. The remarks about the show from these people were pretty cool, as Slash stated "I drew the line at Glee. Glee is worse than Grease and Grease was bad enough." and Dave Grohl told the Hollywood reporter "You shouldn't have to do fucking Glee. And then the guy who created Glee is so offended that we're not, like, begging to be on his fucking show. I watched ten minutes. It's not my thing." It was so refreshing to see people as big as Slash and Dave Grohl slam the show. It was getting hard to find anyone who was taking a negative reception to it even in real life. It's great to see that at least songs aren't going to killed by auto-tune and sweetness.
Things got a little baffling with heavy metal legends Judas Priest this year who had their final world tour this year but claimed that this didn't mean the band were splitting up as many thought that they were, but shortly before the tour happened guitarist K.K Downing left the group. Of all the times to leave the group, he chooses before a farewell world tour. Okay then...
 It was sad to see Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore pass away in February at the age of 58. The man had mind-blowing guitar skills and a considerable influence on many of today's great guitarists. Thin Lizzy are a band of such versatility. They've made straightforward rock and roll songs that everyone can get up and lose their heads to and more in depth stuff for true rock and roll enthusiasts. It seems doubtful that we'll ever see a band with the ability to do that again.
 Something that cannot be ignored that started in February was this years considerable rise to recognition from a band who pretty much absorbed every piece of hatred the internet had to offer as soon as many people started to see who they were and what they sounded like. I've never seen the word "fag" appear so many times on one comment board. Yes 2011 saw the rise of and rise of intense hatred towards the Black Veil Brides..... And I think they're awesome. Sorry internet.
 February was also a time when mainstream British TV made my skin-crawl when E4's teen... well if it was a drama before, it certainly isn't now, Skins tried to do a effective portrayal of someone who is a fan of metal music and failed astonishingly. The pretty much threw every stereotype of a metal-fan possible, made the character, Rich an uncaring, shallow and ignorant prat with long hair, jackets filled with patches and a clear lack of confidence. Most annoyingly, while they could have promoted metal music to those watching and show people that metal is not just "random guitars and non-understandable screaming", as everyone tells me that's all I listen to, they instead made it that his favourite band was Napalm Death. The one band in which random guitars and screaming is all they do. Still, life went on.
 March gave many people a glimpse into what happens in the life of washed up once-great rockstars when things dry up for them and they need to do what they can to make ends meet. This was seen when former Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di'Anno was arrested after being found guilty after falsely claiming over £45,000 in benefits. having told authorities that he'd suffered sever nerve damage to his back and was consequently unable to work, Di'Anno was found to be cheating authorities after video footage of him performing onstage in some crappy Maiden tribute band was posted online. A dickish move really. there are people in this country much more in need of that money. Like the other members of that tribute band.
 Another band who saw a considerable rise in popularity for their sense of mystery, eccentric and obsessive stage wear and havy obseesion with all things satanic wase evil Swedish doom metallers Ghost. Led by the satanic cardinal donning Papa Emeritus, the rest of the band is made up of his ominous slaves known as his "Nameless Ghouls" who appear in dark hooded robes without any show of their face. They could be anyone. It might be a group of genuinely unknown Swedish players. It might be all the members of Coldplay trying out a new style of music. there's just no knowing.
 In April with the leadup to their once again mediocore fourth album Suck It and See, the Arctic Monkeys were annoying and recieving too much attention again. What can I say? I've never been so keen on the band, they pretty much define "over-rated." It frustrating how light and un-edgy their music actually is when it has the potential to be so much more. It always sounds like it's going to turn into something fantastic then just fails. Also a perfect definition of the music of The Vaccines. It's better when they do more mellow stuff, then they play to their strengths. I was much more into the solo work that frontman Alex Turner crafted for the soundtrack Richard Ayowade's directorial debut Submarine one of the best films of the year. Alas, The Arctic Monkeys are still going strong and 2011 proved they're not going to fade away any time soon. Thankfully, much more focus was put on the Foo Fighters with their awesome Wasting Light which showed the group making rock and roll in it's purest form recorded enirely in Dave Grohl's garage. As a result, the band embarked on a massive garage tour across the USA, which was just awesome. I recommend watching the documenatary on Youtube.
 The release of the mediocre Reckless and Relentless from rising metal/synthcore quintet Asking Alexandria turned them into superstars across the pond and gave them a whole new image from being a group of charming emo boys to a bunch of vile sex-obsessed drunkards who liked nothing more than a sleazy party filled with booze and whores. And as the group's respectability went down the drain, their talent and awesomeness went with them.
 Throughout 2011 and a lot of last year as well, something that couldn't be ignored in the world of music in general was the considerable rise to mainstream popularity of dubstep, the darker and sleeker side of dance music. With this musical revolution one of the more recent well-recognized figures set to wobble-bass us into oblivion... or something was Sonny Moore, formerly the frontman of screamo icons From First to Last, who has become more popular than ever imagined playing dubstep under the persona of Skrillex. Moore's dubstep career really came into prominence in the world of rock music after he was heard collaborating with everyone's favourite alt-metal quartet Korn on Get Up! The band sounded fresher than ever on the song and previous statements from frontman Jonathan Davis that the group were going to try something totally different really began to fall into place.
 The month also saw various places across Europe being rocked to the sort of reunion tour from stoner rock forefathers Kyuss, who brought their awesome Kyuss Lives! shows across the continent and outside of this were supposedly working on a new studio album, at the same time as former guitarist Josh Homme has been busy crafting new Queens of the Stone Age material. At this point I hadn't listened to much Kyuss, however a few months later after listening to Blues For the Red Sun a few times, I came to realise the news of Kyuss Lives! was probably the best news on the planet.
 Things got interesting for the way that rock music would be reported in June as a totally unique blog was set up that would change the manner of reports, filling them with interesting opinions, unique humour and knowledgeable writings from someone who is a true rock fan. I am of course talking about It's The End Of The Week As We Know It, a weekly blog post written on by the awesome Zach Pino. The dude knows his stuff and with his sense of patience wide range of knowledge and apparent ability to play guitar extremely well, Pino pretty much blows me to the ground as a writer and rock fan. If you've not checked it out before I suggest you check it now.
 At the beginning of the month, Download Festival returned once again with another outstanding line-up. The most important performance of the festival without any doubt was the headlining set from the briefly reformed System of a Down, who proved themselves to be as dymamic and crazy as ever performing such massive tracks of Chop Suey! and B.Y.O.B with massive intensity and passion. And then as everyone thought there was to be an announcement of a new album or something... nothing happened. Darn.
 June also saw Californian kings of mainstream pop punk Blink-182 managed to piss off all their UK fans with the announcement that they were going to be canceling their massive UK tour which would have featured headlining at T in the Park, claiming it was so they could work on their sixth album Neighborhoods and then did as many hypocritical things as possible, such as announcing they were going to tour the USA with My Chemical Romance, Mark Hoppus buying a new home in London and Tom DeLonge and Travis Barker recording new albums with Angels & Airwaves and Travis' horrible hip-hop solo album. I wasn't even planning on seeing them and all this pissed me off. Pricks. Also, when I was looking for a picture of the group to use when doing a report, it took ages for me to find a photo of Tom not wearing a Macbeth shirt. Corporate sellout... moneygrabber... person. Nah he's probably a cool guy.
 Anyway, the month also saw the release of Gold Cobra, which was supposed to be the magnificent comeback album from Limp Bizkit. No one gave a shit and the album bombed. Unsurprising really. The album was painful to listen to.
 At the end of the month, previous news of a new Metallica album turned into news that they were going to record a collaborative album with Vintage artful rocker Lou Reed. I was excited.
 July saw the Sonisphere festival take place, meaning the first UK appearance of The Big 4 and comedian Bill Bailey creating the world's first comedy mosh pit. But more importantly, Sonisphere meant the graceful, emotional and mind-blowing return of Slipknot. Watching the live stream of their first UK show without fallen bassist Paul Gray was an emotionally demanding task but seeing the group donned in their red jumpsuits and beginning masked that represented their beginnings from the late 90s and early 00s and performing with the kind of freaky and wild unleased manner that they performed with in front of hundreds and thousands of people was simply awe-inspiring and really reminded me that Slipknot are pretty much one of the greatest bands... EVER.
 Seems like the delight and ambition involved in the reunion of Kyuss may have gone sour in July after bassist Nick Oliveri got into a spot of bother with the LA Police department. And by a spot of bother, I mean a five hour standoff with the LAPD and SWAT forces. Keeping his girlfriend in his LA apartment against her will for the entire standoff, Oliveri was charged with domestic violence and possesion of methamphetamine, a loaded high-powered rifle and of course, a very large portion of C-C-C-C-C-CO-CAAAAINNNE.
 In the world of more hardcore punk, there seemed to be a short case of sadness and resolution early in the month, starting off in now legendary punk rockers Gallows after frontman Frank Carter announced his departure from the band. This shocked and upset many who thought Carter to be the life and soul of Gallows but left others looking at what the band's future would be. Meanwhile in Canada hardcore outfit Alexisonfire announced they were splitting after the band found a number of other projects as frontman Dallas Green chose to focus solely on his acoustic solo project City & Colour and just as things were looking very grim, a quick and ought-to-have-been expected solution emerged when Alexisonfire's vocalist Wade MacNeil became the new Gallows frontman. Well, that was easy.
 To conclude July, it was revealed that repetitive nu metal vagabonds Disturbed were to take a hiatus. Though I do find Disturbed to be awesome, I really don't think their hiatus is something to mourn over and I can see some good in them taking a break rather than to totally piss the world off any further with their hardly-revolutionary and hardly evolving style. More controversial about the hiatus was the comment made by frontman David Draiman that one of the reasons for the hiatus "have to do with the state of the music industry in general and the demise of hard rock and metal right now." For the amount of people who consider Disturbed's major commercial success and a musical style to suit it to be a cause for such a reason, a comment about "the demise of hard rock and metal" made by one of the people who they feel caused it to happen was viewed as quite despicable and hypocritical. And that's pretty understandable. Well I guess it'll be a while before we hear any bouncy metallic riffs accompanied by a yelling of "NYAH-HAH!!" or something again.
 At the start of the August, following ruining my birthday with their hiatus, Atreyu's Brandon Saller gave me and many others a late gift in the form of his new group Hell or Highwater. Their uplifting punk songs were a great remedy to the sense of bleakness and doom that many would have been feeling at the time as London was being torn asunder by violent and mindless rioting. While these riots were devastating to all of London and all watching and realising this was the start of the decline of society, something that really hit the underground rock scene was the destruction of the Sony/PIAS Warehouse in Enfield. Lots of music by various independent labels were destroyed in the fire that three youths set up and seriously affected lots of lesser known bands on the label. It sucked, to say the least.
 The month also saw more details about the Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration being announced, revealing it would be a theatrical concept based around the plays of Frank Wedekind titled Lulu. I was amazed.
 As photos of the Red Hot Chili Peppers started to emerge during the lead up to their comeback tenth album I'm With You I kept getting freaked out with the inclusion of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Just seeing the photos of this guy in his early thirties posing regularly alongside three men who are in their fifties posing eccentrically, often without shirts which at their age is not a pretty sight, Especially with Flea, it just seemed weird. I've never seen someone look so out of place in my life. Still at least he played amazingly on that album, which was by all standards a good album. Not their best but still pretty cool.
 At the beginning of September it was great and thankfully freaky to see a brief return from Marilyn Manson, who teamed up with actor Shia LaBeouf to present a short film titled Born Villian which featured a new track from the hopefully soon-to-be-released album of the same name. The song was awesome and the film was quite probably one of the darkest things I've ever seen. From a graphic viewing of Manson shooting a quivering old man directly into the face to the viewing of someones gouged out eyeball being sewn into... actually just watch it yourself. It's the kind of freakshow Manson lovingly gives us taking to a new level of grotesque. Perhaps a platinum age of grotesque, or something.
 The world of alternative rock was hit hard with the major announcement that heroes of the genre R.E.M. were splitting up. It was a shame really. their final album Collapse Into Now proved that the band were really at the top of their game and were finally picking up the strength and dynamism that fueled some of their greatest works.
 By this time of year, I no longer knew how to feel about Mike Portnoy (And I like to think that if you know what this "Dramatic Turn of Events" is all about, you had a little chuckle there.) Last July, I had a lot of respect for the guy after he chose to take to the drums to help out Avenged Sevenfold on their emotional fifth release Nightmare. Being a favourite drummer of Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan, who tragically passed away the year before, his temporary recruitment with seemed like a good choice and a wonderful tribute to The Rev and I did check out the legendary prog-metallers Dream Theater, Portnoy's own band of which he was a founding member, so in everyone's mind what would happen for the rest of 2010 and half of 2011 would be he'd do a bit more touring with A7X then go back to Dream Theater for some more proggy epic-ness. That didn't happen. Instead Portnoy decided that he was having such a good time with A7X that they'd surely want him to be their permanent sticksman just as much as he wanted to be a full-time member and thus announced his departure from Dream Theater. But A7X didn't want him as a full-time drummer, stating they wanted The Rev's passing as a chance to allow the dreams of an upcoming drummer to take flight and by the time he considered looking to rejoin Dream Theater, they had found a new drummer in the form of Mike Mangini. So, after Portnoy make several public comments about how he regrets leaving DT, how he wants to them to take him back and actually threatening to sue the group, unsurprisingly public image of him went down a whole lot. So by the time Dream Theater released their eleventh album and first without him, I didn't know whether I should feel sympathy for the guy or quote my friend Peter and yell "Man up... bitch!" to his face.
 Fans of progressive metal were likely to have been dissapointed with Heritage, the tenth release from the genres kings Opeth due to the removal of any elements of death metal that the band has been loved so much for. That's not to put the album down in any way. The complex and mellower progressive rock sound of the album was indeed beautiful, fresh sounding and showed a sense of revolution within the band, but when considering that the elements of the album would generally make up break sections between the intense metallic poundings on the groups past releases, it's a little sad to see the disappearance of the group's genuine talent, knowing that it's unlikely to make a return any time soon. Still, it's one of the best prog-rock albums I've ever heard so I can't really complain.
September was the month that also celebrated 20 years of Nirvana's classic Nevermind. Mass celebration of the album and it's influence on modern rock music followed. As influential and awesome as the album was, I thougth the celebration should be a cause for questioning. Kurt Cobain hated that album and the mass celebration unmanageable fan worship that went towards his name was one of the main factors that led to his tragic suicide in 1994. Still, I do love that album. I think I'm more stoked for 2013's celebration of 20 years of In Utero. Those celebrations aren't going to be as massive though are they?
 Another drummer fall out that occured this year was quite a chaotic and concerning event which occured between My Chemical Romance and their touring drummer Mike Pedicone. Pedicone, who played drums on the New Jersey quartet's fourth album Danger Days was caught stealing from the band following a show in Auburn, Washington confessing to a police and being sacked by the group. A bold and dramatic statement from guitarist Frank Iero said "the relationship between My Chemical Romance and Micheal Pedicone is over. We are heartbroken and sick to our stomachs over the entire situation." Pedicone's responsethat it was done as an attempt to frame a member who he was supposedly having problems to "make them look irresponsible" isn't exactly the best excuse I've ever heard but then maybe I'm being one sided. Maybe he was being abused by someone he had to be close to all the time. I know the feeling it does drive you insane. But then MCR are a band I've looked up to for years and I don't think I could say anything bad about them.
 Neighborhoods, Blink-182's comeback album was supposed to be the major release for the 27th but Mastodon's The Hunter was released. And from the very opening riff of Black Tongue, Tom, Mark and Travis were just blown away by miles. The respectability for Mastodon went through the roof after The Hunter, with the band performing on Later... With Jools Holland of all things and gaining love from people who weren't even that big on metal. Fair enough. Mastodon are goddamn amazing. That and Machine Head's Unto the Locust which continued to prove that Machine Head are probably the most respected and most sophisticated and simultaneously kick-ass band that metal has to offer. Also, with his new long black beard, Robb Flynn looks awesome. Sexiest male of the year.
 Finally, a track from Metallica/Lou Reed's Lulu was released online for the world to hear, titled The View. I was disappointed.
 As October began, fans of Surrey pop rock quintet You Me At Six were most likely blown over with amazement with their third album Sinners Never Sleep, which saw the band drop the pop punk styling of old in favour of a more streamlined rock approach and it worked insanely we.. for them. It really made me think, with the releases of the likes of YMAS's third album and Four Year Strong's fourth album, which both dropped the pop punk styles which many had come to love them for and with the likes of New Found Glory and All Time Low hanging on to the style and sounding stale and unexciting, perhaps this year has started to see the beginning of the downfall of pop punk form into place. The only possible revival for the genre could be with band that gave it a harder edge, like Living With Lions or The Wonder Years.
 Fans of Gothic-hard rockers Evanescence were blown away with the release of the group's long-awaited comeback album and after a five year wait this album gave fans exactly what they want-they want. It was a much more mature improved upon and epic sound. Also Amy Lee is the sexiest female of 2011.
 There was much rejoice from fans of indie rock when The Stone Roses announced their reunion and that they'd be headlining next year's T in the Park. Actually, I've never really cared about the group to be honest and don't see anything that really makes them special enough to headline such a massive festival. They're style of garage rock with synthesized backdrops and pounding beats is a style that I think Kasabian improved upon throughout their work giving it a more rock and roll attitude and rougher edge which is something they showed very well on their fourth album Velociraptor!. 
 Throughout the month, as the British general public's love for Coldplay started to re-kindle with the follow-up and subsequent release of their fifth album Mylo Xyloto, the everpresent hatred and public dissmissal of the band started rising up as well and it seemed that frontman Chris Martin was taking the side of those who criticize, constantly putting down the efforts of his band, calling them a "shit Radiohead", stating that their "lyrics are a bit shit" and saying that the album's worst song Princess of China is the best bit of the album because "it's the only bit where I'm not on it." It seemed like a shame to see these constant put-downs towards the very genuine and talented works of him and his band. I must be the only music reviewer who doesn't hate Coldplay to look cool.
 Another album that was celebrated was Slipknot's Iowa, an album I could write pages on my love for. The album celebrated it's tenth anniversary and I will say that I'm glad to see it being celebrated in this way. it is a sign of the group at their most real and in terms of how heavy and emotional the songs are, it's totally the album that separates the men from the boys. To wrap up October I finally put it on myself to listen to Metallica/Lou Reed's Lulu in full. I was mentally scarred.
 So after the efforts between the 'Tallica boys and the once great Velvet Underground frontman served as a way to show that what could sound dream-like could turn into a nightmare, I and many other fans of classic metal acts were saved by the Th1rt3en, the... thirteenth album from Megadeth. Along with Anthrax's Worship Music and news that Slayer were writing their next album, which may have been done earlier had it not been for Jeff Hanneman contracted necrotising fasciitis, fans of classic thrash could stay assured that there was still plenty going on in the realms of the Big 4 while the kings were away making Avant-Garde tomfoolery.
 November proved itself to be a difficult month for Nickelback of all groups. Basically, several things went on that really emphasized the belief that the Canadian quartet are the world's most hated band. First off, music-based-dating-site voted the group to be the biggest musical turn-off in a relationship. After that Chad Kroeger and co. found themselves recieving disapproval from over 50,000 Detroit Lions fans who signed a petition asking for the group to not play during the half time show of the team's annual Thanksgiving game. Finally the group found themselves a target for AUX's brand new device known as The NickelBlock which prevents anyone who uses it from reading anything that relates to the band! With the sheer amount of technical hatred the group were receiving I actually started to feel a little sorry for their hard times... and then I listened to their seventh album Here and Now and was very pleased with everyone's attempts to block them out.
 More hiatus' appeared in November, this time with the awesome alt rockers Thrice and Thursday, both of whose sense of alt rock creativity and hardcore awesomeness was seen on their latest albums Major/Minus and No Devolución. Now that is a genuine loss to the world. 
 However, as two great bands went away, one band that blows those two and so much more of their peers and offspring came shooting back. Sabbath reformed. FOR REAL THIS TIME!!! With a headlining slot at Download and a new album in the works, It's likely that Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill are going to take 2012 by storm.
 A particularly major event of December came in the form of the release of Korn's tenth album The Path of Totality which increased the popularity of the rock and dubstep fusion to a greater level, while at times it felt more like a Jonathan Davis and dub friends solo album, it still remained a fun, fresh and dynamic listen from a band that were seeing a serious decline in relevance and popularity. And thus Korn's dubstep album meant that 2011 was officially the death of Nu metal. And before you suggest Limp Bizkit's comeback as proving this statement wrong, may I remind you that they belong in the novelty nostalgia section along with the much cooler Steel Panther.
 The year concluded with reports popping up left, right and centre about the chances of a reuinion of the original Guns N' Roses lineup after it was announced that they were being inducted into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Will it happen? Unlikely. We've seen Steven Adler shooting down such rumours and denials from rock n' roll jackass extrodinaire Axl Rose earlier in they year has lead to an overall sense of pessimism towards such a reunion. But, you know Talking Heads got back together after their nomination and the hatred the rest of the band felt towards David Byrne was pretty intense, so, you never know.
 The final pieces of news that fascinated me in 2011 both related to the wonderful Nine Inch Nails, both good news and bad news. The good news is that Trent Reznor announced that after all his recent work of making film soundtracks with How to Destroy Angels partner Atticus Ross that he's likely to spend much of 2012 writing new NIN material stating "Nine Inch Nails is not dead by any means, but all the touring and record writing has been thrown off for a little bit. I highly expect that to be the focus of 2012 in terms of writing and we may see a full-length release even." Having decided that Nine Inch Nails is probably the most creative and dynamic and engaging musicians around today, this was a intensely exciting discovery, having thought that Reznor had put NIN to it's final sleep a while ago. If there is a new album, there will have to be at least one track that is absolutely magnificent and loved by all fans and remain a song that no other artist can touch, which brings me to the bad news regarding NIN. Basically, horrendous manufactured pop-music-show-which-never-was-about-the-music-but rather-creating-new-targets-for-tabloid-newspapers-and-trashy-gossip-magazines The X Factor managed to piss of me and rock fans nationwide, probably worldwide as well when former winner Leona Lewis appeared on the show and covered Hurt, butchering it in the process. Everything about this is just wrong. This is a song that Reznor wrote about the tragedies of heroin addiction which was then crafted by the legendary Johnny Cash to be a heartbreaking song about a man looking back on a life filled with regret, released shortly before his sad passing. Both versions were of relevance to the performers and carried with them a greater emotional impact. To hear someone as bland, uncharacteristic and contrasting to Reznor and Cash as Leona Lewis is basically pissing on the legacy of the song. I mean, I've seen Lego men with more personality than her.
 So 2011 may have ended in a rantworthy fashion but it keeps me looking forward to some of the new material promised and rumoured for 2012 such as new music from Lamb of God, Enter Shikari, Black Sabbath, Blur, the Darkness, Cannibal Corpse, Nine Inch Nails and if we're lucky, possibly even Slipknot, to name very few. But some of them are just rumours.
 So these are some of my favourite and most intersting rock music news stories of 2011. I probably missed a few events but those were some of the most gripping of tales. But of couse the issue of the music itself is not something that can be denied and 2011 has been a very satisfying year for rock and metal without any question of a doubt. I'm thankful to have been introduced to a lot of new bands and new music throughout the course of the year. I've heard some mind-blowing stuff as a result that I would recommend to you all. So, I present to you now, the albums I would recommend most to you. Here are my top 50 albums of 2011:

50. Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math (Favourite Gentlemen)
Yeah, they're known as the Manchester Orchestra and they're an indie rock band from Atlanta... those quirky buggers. After my initial confusion regarding the lack of a Northern accent in their music, I became totally transfixed by the beautiful sound they were making. Their charming indie rock with various folk touches manages to be very atmospheric, allowing listeners to lay in a state of total relaxation and bliss or haunt them and keep them on the edge of their seat. When the power chords kick in, the music has the power to make headbanging happen. But in spite of this a real sense of talent and soul can stay easily identifiable throughout their lovely uplifting quirks.

49. Slaves to Gravity - Underwaterouterspace (Steamhammer)
It was quite a shame to see London's Slaves to Gravity split up in October. Clearly, the suffered being a relatively unknown rock band who couldn't last the pace of the ever changing music industry. However second album Underwaterouterspace suggested no kind of weakness within the group at all, in fact quite the opposite. Their fuzzier and brighter take on modern grunge created a very uplifting impact onto listeners but could also be brooding and sleazy if it needed to, and was pretty much their definitive album. Well, I can only hope they have the best of luck with their next musical pursuits and make music as awesome as they did here.

48. AnthraxWorship Music (Nuclear Blast)
Their first album since 2003's We've Come For You All, which sees lead vocals provided once again by Joey Belladonna, album number ten Worship Music showed NYC thrash legends Anthrax really bring all their groove orientated madness, all their influence from hard rock and heavy metal heroes from the past, and combine it ever so perfectly to bring us an aggressive, action packed metallic collection of battle songs, which saw the band play their wild thrash as though their lives depended on it!

47. ChimairaThe Age of Hell (E1 Music)
The sterile session of thrashy breakdown-infested ear pummeling made The Age of Hell the sixth album from Cleveland sextet Chimaira exactly what I was wanting it to be. The departure of long time drummer Andols Herrick and keyboardist Chris Spicuzza left many doubting Chimaira's ability to produce anything great agin, but they came rocketing back here with an album, that takes the rapidness and madness of 2007s Resurrection and the despair and intensity of 2009s The Infection and put it all together to form an angrier more brutal and more dramatic and vengeful sound than ever before. It felt like hell, which felt brilliant. 

46. Madina Lake - World War III (Long Branch Records)
A return that many feared would never happen, following the brutal attack on bassist Matthew Leone last June, Madina Lake come back sounding stronger than ever on third release World War III. The album is fueled by the bands feelings of fury and hatred that must have been felt following the attack presented through the bitterness of frontman and brother Nathan's vocals and the ominous and pounding attack of riffs and synthesized backdrops, which really clouds over any of the more uplifting moments making for a more intense passionate listen. Angry but catchy as hell, Madina Lake are sounding their best here.

45. The Blackout - Hope (Cooking Vinyl)
On Hope, the third effort from Merthyr Tydfil sextet, The Blackout, a sense of progression and gained maturity within the band is very identifiable. "Gripping" is a good word to describe this album. There's a lot of moments on this album that really grabs readers into the world of pure drama and emotion this album creates. Be it the powerful and developed vocals of Sean Smith and Gavin Butler as they spread their message of positivity and... hope, of course, or the hardcore beatdown provided from Bob, Matthew, Rhys and not Snoz, due to some bizarre injury that took place at a zoo? It's been a while since I read their Kerrang! cover feature. Drumming is provided by the talented Phillip Jenkins of Kids in Glass Houses and Tom Winch of Hexes. Anyways, Hope is an intense and captivating listen and really shows The Blackout shaping into the band they've been striving to be.

44. Megadeth - Th1rt3en (Roadrunner)
This album was much more significant for me than you could imagine. It restored my faith in what was a shattering of a love for classic metal bands, more specifically classic thrash bands that had been brought along in the form in the mentally abusing, horrendous collaborative album between Metallica and Lou Reed that was Lulu. So on Th1rt3en, the thirteenth album from other thrash legends, Megadeth, getting to hear some kick-ass thrash metal played with a real sense of darkness and evil about it. Dave Mustaine's rapid guitar picking also maintains a sense of intensity that has come to define the bands modern work. Yeah, this album came around at a time when things for looking grim for classic metal acts, so I'm pretty grateful for it.

43. Black Veil Brides - Set the World on Fire (Lava)
... and any kind of respect that genuine metal fans may have had for me goes speeding down the drain without any chance of redemption. I've searched far and wide for any kind words written about this group throughout the world wide web and it doesn't really seem possible, so I guess I'll have to break the ice. On second album Set the World on Fire, the Black Veil Brides really manage to up their game from last year's We Stitch These Wounds by producing a sharper, more defined edge to their glam soaked metalcore assault. Their songs manage to be uplifting and inspirational in their course while remaining extreme enough for Jake Pitts and Jinxx to produce enough breakdowns to make entire moshpits to lose their heads. Combining this metalcore passion with the fun that glam rock should entail, makes this album achieve all its goals.

42. Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday (Warner Bros)
With their original line-up back together and sounding stronger and more awesome than ever, emo rockers Taking Back Sunday's self titled fifth album managed to retain the spirit of 2002's Tell All Your Friends while still coming back sounding fresh and developing and maturing on their sound adding a greater blues influence into their music and having a much more soulful sound to their collection of emo infused punk anthems. The obviously classic rock approved voice of Adam Lazzara conveys a wide range of emotion managing to be uplifting and just as melancholic throughout. But with a real fusion of classic rock and roll with a more modern approach which effectively conveys the groups message, this album is clearly a self-titled release as it's music is very much definitive of the group.

41. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Bella Union)
On their second album of charming and  atmospheric folk rock Helplessness Blues, Seattle's Fleet Foxes manage to hit listeners hard with their mellowness with their collection of packed to the brim with emotion acoustic led songs featuring haunting vocal harmonies, dramatic string filled backdrops and the odd influence from jazz and orchestral music. Without any question of a doubt, the real power of the album is carried in the soulful vocals of frontman Robin Pecknold, who really is the life and soul of the... sitting around in a darkened room exchanging poetry and melancholic memories of life that I could imagine these fellows would consider a party. The result is an album bursting with a charming sense of passion and soul that manages to be bold and hard-hitting without even trying.

40. Within Temptation - The Unforgiving (Roadrunner)
Serving as part of a concept story alongside a comic book and series of short films, which I probably should have found the effort to research upon, Dutch gothic metal icons, Within Temptation bring their style of brooding, chilling and atmospheric gothic metal featuring a mass symphonic backdrop on fifth album, The Unforgiving. The album is immensely gripping and captivating due to this atmosphere created through the gothic soundscape delivered through keyboardist, Martijn Spierenburg and of course through sheer power delivered through axe work from Robert Westerholt and Ruud Jolie, and the immense and beautiful vocals of Sharon den Adel. The album is a masterpiece of creativity, beauty and all around darkness.

39. In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading (Century Media)
The band that started off the Gothenburg metal scene are still going tremendously strong ten albums into their creative and fascinating music career. On Sounds of a Playground Fading, In Flames deliver the dark metallic anthems with an astonishing force of power induced and industrial muscle. Frontman Anders Fridén is blessed with a voice that can present an atmosphere of fury, joy and relentless menace as Björn Gelotte vigorously plays the kind of shooting riffs and breakdowns that metalcore and groove metal would be nothing without today. While managing to be ominous and ambient in various areas to give a good measure to the massive metallic pounding, this album reaches all areas of a great rock album covering the entire emotional spectrum both lyrically and musically.

38. Jane's AddictionThe Great Escape Artist (Capitol)
The sleekness, sophistication and sense of beauty created in The Great Escape Artist the long-awaited fourth album from LA's alt rock heroes Jane's Addiction, was very charming and life affirming. With this it also managed to be equally dramatic and chilling making an unheard use of synthesized backdrops and vocal effects. All combine together along side the massive hooks that Dave Navarro produces with his rocketing guitar riffs and life-affirming equally massive vocals of Perry Farrell to create a lasting emotional impact on it's listener. And as mature as it is, it just shows that rock and roll icons like Jane's Addiction can be so down to earth and simultaneously so damn cool!

37. You Me At Six - Sinners Never Sleep (Virgin)
Sinners Never Sleep the third album from Surrey's You Me At Six saw the group completely fill out their proposal to drop the perky pop punk they had gotten to be known and adored by pop fans all around for in exchange for a more streamlined and harder hitting traditional rock sound, packed with attitude that drained with raw emotion. And they did just that on this album. Their new sound is far more suiting for them and sees the group make a more realistic fitting sound than ever heard, especially in the vocals of Josh Franceschi who manages to stir up a convincing sense of emotion for this album rather than some fun punk rock vocals. The band also make things more extreme with guest vocals from Bring Me the Horizon's Oli Sykes and Parkway Drive's Winston McCall. This was a surprisingly epic album and the best this YMAS have made to date.

36. Loaded - The Taking (Armoury)
The Taking clearly shows that Slash isn't the only former Guns N' Roses member who has been making new music which carries the spirit of GN'R's golden age in a more positive manner. The third album from Duff McKagan's hard rock crew is a extreme force of powerful riffing and massive hard rock hooks which makes up the epitome of scuzzy hard rock that manages to be uplifting and life-affirming, or bitter and fairly evil. As McKagan pounds listeners with a musical atmosphere that makes you want to party or get stoned or both, he makes it fairly obvious that this album is an exciting display of pure rock n' roll. As exciting as the prospect of an original Gn'R reunion, it would be a shame to see bands and albums like this go to waste.

35. Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys! (Polydor)
An overwhelming amount of credibility and respect has been put towards Greater Manchester's Elbow for a long time now but it was really in 2008 when they broke into the mainstream with The Seldom Seen Kid. The idea of making an album that builds on the success of a previous album may sound off-putting to many but fifth album Build a Rocket Boys! which makes use of the textured layering of guitars, piano,synth and organ backdrops and various uses of choral harmonies, this album manages to fall deeper into a realm of beauty and tranquility than it's predecessor. Songs create a real emotional impact as Guy Garvey tells listeners of the challenges of growing old, the importance of family and friends and inspiring the youth to live life to the full and follow their dreams. Managing to be uplifting, at times and fairly grim and dark at other times, this album is pretty clear that a formula can lead to good results if you have the intelligence and creative abilities to keep it fresh.

34. Skindred - Union Black (BMG)
Call me uneducated if you will, but my experiences with reggae, dubstep and drum and bass as musical styles haven't been all that high. I found them to sound a little weak on their own. But if we throw in some heavy metal riffing and produce a set of aggressive songs like the types to be found on Union Black, the fourth release from Newport "ragga metallers" Skindred, then things really start to pick up. This album really gave a chance for all these genres to bear their teeth furiously, as the group release unto listeners an angst-ridden, adrenaline fueled portrait of the grim United Kingdom we live in. Within this musical fury, the band still uphold the genuine sense of bittersweet concern, sadness and anger that they want to try and convey, but also manage to create moments of joy, excitement and unity in every dub-filled breakdown. Union Black is an album that has something for everyone.

33. Rival Sons - Pressure & Time (Earache)
I wouldn't think it needed proven that blues inspired rock and roll still sounds as timeless today as it ever has before, but in case you weren't so sure about that, allow LA's Rival Sons to set the record straight for you with their swaggering debut Pressure & Time. The emotion-packed soulful voice of Jay Buchanan really take flight on this album but the pounding, bluesy hard rock rhythm section with it's clear reminiscence of Led Zeppelin and many other bands of the era but still sounding highly original and as fresh-sounding as though this band were the first to put this style into action. Played with a fiery passion and an attitude that defines classic rock and roll dreaminess and lack of regard for the thoughts of others, you can listen to this and go to sleep knowing that rock and roll is on it's fucking feet and fighting strong. Or stay up all night with the volume up loud. Your choice.

32. R.E.M.Collapse into Now (Warner Bros)
It was just a few weeks after alt rock heroes R.E.M. shocked the world of music with their decision to split up that I got a chance to listen to their fifteenth album Collapse Into Now and it is definitely one of the finest alternative rock releases of the year. The collection of songs are played with such grace with a clear ideal for an emotional response it wishes to trigger. If a song wants to be upbeat, it will be a life-affirming, fun sounding rock and roll song, and if it wants to be more melancholic, mellow, acoustic led with a less than positive attitude will emerge. It's all done with a real sense of depth and  beauty though, and it really showed that even though their time as a band had come to an end, it certainly wasn't for the reason that they were past it. I guess this album is an excellent example of the phrase "quit while you're ahead."

31. Hell or Highwater - Begin Again (Hell or Highwater)
I really got to love Hell or Highwater the heavy punk group formed by Atreyu drummer and vocalist Brandon Saller, after hearing their charming lead track Gimme Love. The rest of the album Begin Again shows Saller making a collection of genuine, charming punk rock songs with an uplifting nature to it. The feel good nature of it was great to hear as riots in London were escalating during the time of release and it was good to hear some people who still carried a sense of goodwill. Also, the band seemed to appreciate my good words about them the first time round, as they then promoted my first review of them across Twitter leading to a fairly large increase in views. Thanks guys. Keep up the good work.

30. Suicide Silence - The Black Crown (Century Media)
Well, since 2011 is officially the death of nu metal, it seems only fitting that elements of the genre live on in an album that mixes elements of it with good old death metal. And that's just what Riverside's Suicide Silence have done on third album The Black Crown Though many lyrical topics on the album strive for positivity, the atmosphere created in a dark one full of despair and it's from there that guitarists Chris Garza and Mark Heylmun can unleash their most intense and crazed performance, which is heard in every single aspect in this album. It's extreme grimness is both engaging and brutal. Also, if hearing Jonathan Davis' vocals set to a dubstep backdrop wasn't your cup of tea, why not check out his appearance on this album with a wonderful deathcore backdrop? This album Think of this album as being like taking the various limbs of metal and putting it in a blender for a tasty cup of metallic gore.

29. Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions (Century Media)
In case you are incredibly shallow and narrow-minded and stuff, you'll probably be aware that music in itself is a powerful form of carrying a strong sense of emotion, as equal a way to and often so, more than the actual singing in the music. Khaos Legions, the eight album extreme metallic Swedes Arch Enemy. The genuine sense of tragic and sorrowful emotion that seeps through every track on the album through melodic death metal passages really ought to be credited to Michael and Christopher Amott, as their insane six string meddling and pounding melodic riffing really creates the full atmosphere of the doomy atmospheres. Needless to say, the violent screams of Angela Gosscow are crucial here in fully allowing readers to revel in the album's bleakly built up fighting spirit and sense of fury and without any doubt, putting it altogether sees an insane metal epic happening in front of us.

28. Thursday - No Devolución (Epitaph)
I had been having a bad day on the 23rd of November. Dundee's Safe Drive, Stay Alive presentation left me depressed, I had failed an important NAB at school and just to top things off, when I got home I discovered New Jersey alt rockers Thursday had gone on hiatus. This was really had to see, since it was obvious that the group still had a musical passion and creativity amongst them and sixth album No Devolución proves this effortlessly. Definitely the most sophisticated album I heard this year, the group create a graceful alt rock sound which is simply blissful in it's mellowness and captivating soundscaping. The fact that the grace and beauty of it all is elevated by their hardcore elements with bold drumbeats and mass distorted riffage makes this more than a great rock album. It makes No Devolución a fantastic work of art. 

27. Funeral for a Friend: Welcome Home Armageddon (Distiller Music)
Following an unexpected lineup change last year, including the departure of long-time guitarist Darran Smith, bassist Gavin Burrough switching to guitar duties and recrruitment of new bassist Richard Boucher, Welcome Home Armageddon, album number five from Bridgend's Funeral for a Friend, saw them playing more ferociously and hardcore than ever seen, playing at a rate I'd even go as far as to describe as brutal. Not bad, considering my first thoughts of them were just some whiny emo band. In fact, riffs come rapid and pounding, which also help to carry the certain emotions of despair that help shape this album, which even veer into metalcore breakdown territory. It's raw, it's passionate, it's Funeral for a Friend as they should be.

26. Japanese Voyeurs - Yolk (Polydor)
Dwelling confidently and heavily in the space that separates classic grunge from stoner rock, Japanese Voyeurs managed to amaze effortlessly on their debut Yolk combining grunge's sense of adrenaline and guitar crunching with stoner rock's sense of doom and bouncy rhythms. All this done with an atmosphere of menace and fear from the captivatingly delicate vocals of Romily Alice, whose soft and ethereal siren-esque callings really highlights the feeling of fear, anger, frustration and intensity that the album looks to cover. The combination of this with the stoner rock stylings really gives the album a perfect sense of personality of perhaps a mentally tortured and delusional friend that you just want to give all your care and attention to i.e. listen to the album over and over again.

25. The Horrors - Skying (XL)
The third album from Southend-on-Sea experimentalists The Horrors, Skying saw the group rise to considerable amounts popularity during the summer, appearing on the NME front cover of all things. Then the summer ended and the popularity faded away again. There's some sense of that because the music on Skying is delightfully summery, filled with upbeat rhythms, shining synth backdrops and a clear reminiscence to the experimental alt rock stylings of the 80's with a dynamic enough edge to make it totally their own and can also verge a little on the more sinister side of things and riffs manage to be fairly pounding. However the brightness and experimental edge of this album allowed it to shine bright and is actually strong enough to charm listeners throughout the year.

24. Evile - Five Serpent's Teeth (Earache)
Old school thrash like the 1980s? Played at an updated heavier sound? Bursting with energy and passion? "Like the result of the combination between ... And Justice for All and Reign in Blood? What more could I want? I was astonished on hearing Five Serpent's Teeth the third release from Huddersfield thrashers Evile. I never thought that the kind of thrash heard from the likes of early Metallica and Megadeth was still thriving in newer bands, but I got proved very wrong. Amongst the aggressive and wild thrash, there's even a deathly influence that even the most stubborn of the genre's fans would have to admire and real emotion on there as the band honour fallen bassist Mike Alexander. This album really has some to notch thrash.

23. Rise Against - Endgame (DCG)
The ingredients for an album by Chicago punks Rise Against include some heavy, passion fueled, emotional hardcore punk rock combined with a transfixing collection of similarly emotional and concerned lyrics based upon the many atrocities of the sick world we live in. And on sixth album, Endgame, this combination was taken to a greater level of depth and intensity. The music is bursting with emotion and energy and lyrics are emotional often bitter and always thought provoking. The best example being in Make It Stop a track inspired by suicides from homosexual teenagers featuring a chilling section in which the names of various teenagers are read out. Emotional, thought provoking and heavy as hell, Endgame is the best example of what Rise Against stand for.

22. Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones (Xtra Mile)
Over the past few months the former frontman of hardcore outfit Million Dead has become something of an underdog songwriter hero and while his acoustic solo artist success has been somewhat overshadowed by the immediate rise of the less impressive Ed Sheeran, Turner has remained successful enough to be able to headline Wembley Arena next year no less. Weird as this seems, he proves that he will come to London stocked with the type of music that will have thousands engaged and singing along, as proven on the uplifting fourth album England Keep My Bones, a collection of emotional and beautiful folk-inspired songs with plenty of sing-along anthems and the maintaining of Turner's hardcore spirits kicking in every now and then. The delicate and often gripping lyrics of life in England and the good memories of growing up put with Turner's soulful well-experienced vocals mixed with this folk-punk beauty makes this album carry with it the spirit of rock and roll.

21. Skeletonwitch - Forever Abomination (Prosthetic Records)
2011 has been the year that has seen Ohio thrash metallers Skeletonwitch rise from their underground dwelling with their fiery brand of thrash metal with more deathly elements mixed in for good balance. Fourth album, Forever Abomination stunned me with the sheer amount of evil that it created alone, and even then it managed to carry so much more with it. Riffage alone created feelings of intensity, loss, anger, hopelessness and a sheer desire for retribution. So in that sense much of the album also sounds like the effective soundtrack for a war. So it's cool to hear that such good metal is only being surfaced now and goes on to suggest a bright future for the genre.

20. Exit Ten - Give Me Infinity (Deep Burn)
Reading's Exit Ten have had a difficult couple of years, with label failures, inability to sell their own music and consequently becoming dirt poor. This year things picked up for the group and they have found themselves a band with a lot of buzz and excitement surrounding their name with various suggestions that they're going to be the next big thing in British rock. Fair enough I say. Their second album Give Me Infinity is fantastic and completely diverse. Each track possesses their own unique charm and beauty, their effect of making dark metallic soundscapes that will leave listeners transfixed by the intensity, hard-hitting power and graceful dynamic flow that the group blast onto us with every new song. Plus, with a list of influences spanning from Killswitch Engage to Radiohead, there's never really any knowing of what will come next.

19. Twin Atlantic - Free (Red Bull Records)
Cynically viewed as a Biffy Clyro clone for the reason that... they're Scottish, Glaswegian alt-rockers Twin Atlantic made an entirely different beast of themselves (yeah, I'm cool enough to refer to album tracks like that) on their second album Free, a display of very pure and heavy rock and roll where every power chord captures a snapshot of raw passion and emotion. Their remarkable playing can let listeners lose their heads and headbang gleefully, while also being able to really take a good listen at what Sam McTrusty and co. have to say and ultimately be left with a big smile on their faces.Uplifting, gripping and celebratory; Free has boosted Twin Atlantic to the levels of recognition that they're fully deserving of.

18. Arcane Roots - Left Fire (Arcane Roots)
With no real idea of what to expect on Left Fire, the debut from Kingston's hard rock men, Arcane Roots, I found myself listening to an ambitious and dynamic album, filled with jagged punk riffs, wild and raw vocals, both screaming and being melodic and the kind of rock n' roll choruses that really complimented and showed a clear influence from their predessesors of the the 1970's. The music, often featuring elements of emo and hardcore creates an incredibly tense, dramatic and often melancholic atmosphere which can pack a real punch or sometimes remain very chilled out and relaxed. It's very possible indeed that Left Fire is showing us the birth of some new legends of rock, which is always a good thing.

17. Protest the Hero - Scurrilous (Vagrant)
 Scurrilous, album number three from Ontario's Protest the Hero certainly provided me with the dreamiest headbanging session of the year. Sounding like Iron Maiden meets The Dillinger Escape Plan, this album in filled with wild and raw metallic power played with mind blowingly complex structures. But it's played with such grace and effortless skill and so remains extremely unique and creative. This album is like nothing I've heard before. This is likely to become the soundtrack to all my coolest dreams.

16. Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows - D.R.U.G.S. (Decaydance)
With a line up featuring members of From First to Last, Story of the Year, Matchbook Romance, Underminded and fronted by ex-Chiodos frontman Craig Owens, Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows was bound to be a pretty damn brutal project. And sure enough, a musical sense of brutality was displayed on debut, D.R.U.G.S. with their relentlessly heavy hardcore beatdowns, also displaying a hint of emo to their sound as well (a sound many choose to describe as or "Post-Hardcore". I hate the term "Post" for reasons I wrote an entire article about.) Alongside this a further sense of dynamic and creativity was shown by having this hardcore attack accompanied by elements of electronic and classical music. This was a really slick n' brutal album, which was incredibly well executed. Hopefully we'll be hearing more from this collective.

15. EvanescenceEvanescence (Wind-up)
It doesn't seem likely that a third-album released after a five year gap in which your band lost most of its relevance would be likely to be a major success for most bands. But then, most bands aren't like goth rockers Evanescence, who on their third self-titled album produce a much more mature, real, and heavy sound than they've ever achieved. The album drains real emotion and beauty in its hard hitting guitar pummeling accompanied by various orchestral and electronic elements and the phenomenal vocals of Amy Lee, a feature powerful enough to make the the whole centerpiece of the group. Definitely the years best comeback album.

14. Devildriver - Beast (Roadrunner)
The first album to be released in 2011 that I bought, Beast gave me the initial sense of optimism towards the music to be released throughout the year. It's a 54 minute groove metal attack with a sense of violent character, each song displaying a sense of bitterness, relentless fury and vengeance delivered in the form of crazed axe-shredding from Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer. And Dez Fafara's screaming? Kick-ass, as always. Need you ask? The album really manages to sum up the hard times the band were going through at the times these songs were written, through it's furious and uncontrollable groove assault that feels like a brutal pounding from a thousand fists delivered to the side of your heads. Which is everything Devildriver stands for.

13. British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade)
British Sea Power is pretty much the epitome of alternative rock bands of this generation that mixed scuzzy hard rock riffs with dreamy synthesizers effectively to evoke a real sense of emotion be it joyful or saddening. They are the epitome of all bands of this style who have become so popular and well-loved today yet there is a sense that they are being seriously undermined and underrated. 'Tis a shame really because their fifth album Valhalla Dancehall is absolutely outstanding. Alternative rock hasn't sounded this graceful since the Pixies as a sense of unique charm emerges from the extreme passion the band play with throughout this powerful force of extreme positivity. If I do start to follow the hipster path and make my music taste consist only of underrated alt rock groups, albums like this will be the best incentive for me to do so.

12. Steak Number Eight - All is Chaos (PIAS)
Wow... how to even begin to describe this album. It's like it touches you in all the wrong places, but it still feels awesome to listen to. Belgian sludgemakers Steak Number Eight may have the average age of eighteen but they play with the kind of doom filled atmosphere that would suggest they've lived through every act of evil by mankind ever created unfolding right before their eyes. With every sludgy riff that is played out, every mournful scream from Joris Casier and undeniable heaviness that emerges from the rhythm section, the sluggish doom the band play will satisfy metal fans and stoner rock fans far and wide as you can revel in the bleakness. You can headbang and relax to the more ambient sections. It is an album full of dark dreams and solitude. It's chaotic but it's beautiful. Yeah.

11. The Defiled - Grave Times (In At the Deep End)
What's that? Fresh sounding metalcore? Hard to believe, but London metalheads, using all the techniques of metalcore, the intense breakdowns, the transitions between scream and melodic vocals, the overwhelming sense of passion, and used it to create an album that sounds truly unique. Grave Times is so brutal, reaching a "skull-smashing" level, that rather than metalcore, The Defiled are more on par with such artists of the deathcore sub-genre such as Whitechapel and The Black Dahlia Murder, where they maintain their uniqueness with their more frequent use of melodic vocals, revealing a rawer more emotional side to their sound. Of course the sound the band is absolutely insane as well as they speeds through their ten tracks. This album is so brutal, so over-the-top and so genuine, it shows that real metal is still with us despite what any cynics will have you believe.

10. Decapitated - Carnival is Forever (Nuclear Blast)
Although released this July, Carnival is Forever, the fifth effort from Decapitated was hardly the most "summery"of albums but in lacking that it instead gives us death metal perfection. It's taken a while for the group to get back on their feet since 2006's Organic Hallucinosis and the tragic death of drummer Witold "Vitek" Kiełtyka in 2007 but now that they have, they've returned with a greater sense of grace and a higher ambition creating an emotional impact that totally blows their previous work away. With an enraged pounding of mind-bogglingly complex and technical riffing, juddering basslines and emotion-draining growling from Rafał "Rasta" Piotrowsk given a more earthly natural sound which occasionally sees the heaviness getting a little stripped down and more mellow. But with the sense of bleakness, doom and genuine loss this album provides, it truly shows the true face of death metal being revealed and coming to life in a form more beautiful than ever imagined.

9. Black Spiders - Sons of the North (Dark Riders)
From the moment my eardrums received a beating in the opening seconds of Stay Down, I knew I was in for something brilliant. On their debut, Sons of the North, Black Spiders create a fun, slick, crunchy hard rock party sound that AC/DC would be proud of, and when they're not doing that, they're creating a wild, heavy, unforgiving head smashing stoner rock sound that the Truckfighters would be proud of. If we still believe in Rock and Roll legends in fifty years from now, these guys are quite likely to find themselves being one of them. This is just another one of those albums that defines "awesome". It's big, bold and it's Rock and fucking Roll.

8. The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing (Hopeless Records)
Pop punk is quite obviously still alive and kicking and has a reasonable amount of intelligence and emotional value. Don't believe me, listen to Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing, the third album from Pennsylvania's The Wonder Years. With a rapid and passionate punk energy with which the songs are played, the albums key feature are the beautiful lyrics based on the Allen Ginsberg poem America as well as various events from the bands hometown, be it such tragic lyrics about the senseless murder of an old homeless man who was a Vietnam veteran, or the joyful memories of hanging out and having fun with friends, while things can get bleak the overall feel the album leaves readers with is one that is uplifting and overwhelmingly life affirming. Intelligent, artful and occasionally hardcore, this album keeps pop punk alive by going against the genre's more mainstream elements.

7. The James Cleaver Quintet - That Was Then, This is Now (Hassle)
This album was probably the album that I had the lowest expectations for, after discovering that The James Cleaver Quintet were the band that annoyingly popped up on out TV screen's in August to perform their cover of Feeder's Buck Rogers while skateboarding down a hill and drinking Lucozade. However, what I saw there is the complete opposite of what was on their debut, That Was Then, This is Now. Here we are presented with a sonic, off-the-wall collection of edge-of-your seat hardcore punk songs, which tick all the boxes of hardcore - fiery, spiked riffs, furious screaming from frontman Jackie Udon, even weird jazzy interludes. All this mixed with some genuinely catchy hooks just made this album that opened doors for people wanting to get more into hardcore music without sounding tame to actual hardcore fans.

6. Trivium - In Waves (Roadrunner)
Definitely album of the summer. In Waves the fifth album from Floridian metalcore titans Trivium is a cut above the rest of the bands work. This carries a sense of uniqueness. It's it's own beast despite carrying a traditional metalcore sound. This is because In Waves is an album played with a mass sense of pride, achievement and grace which is clearly identifiable amongst all the sheer brutality and intensity the chugging thrash riffs and face melting breakdowns provide. Passion oozes from every single detail of the album.This is a fantastic piece of metal and the fact that Trivium are a band who often talk about their predecessors highly and the way they are influenced by them and create an album which reveals this influence but still manages to sound absolutely freah and unique is absolutely inspiring.

5. The Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction (Century Media)
Holy fucking shit. This is the most ludicrous, off the wall, demented, over-the-top, weirdest, over-exaggerated, comical, overblown, antic-ridden presentation of metal I've ever heard. And I love every second of it. The third album of the Devin Townsend Project series Deconstruction used orchestras, choirs, space rock synthesizers and a relentless full on groove metal attack to make this album batshit crazy and totally awesome. Featuring guest appearances from some high profile faces in metal, from vocals from Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt to guitar solos from Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal, this album presented us with metal in a manner, so chaotic, so deranged out of control, so damn funny that there was no way in hell that I couldn't fall in love with it instantly.

4. Turbowolf - Turbowolf (Hassle)
Bristol's Turbowolf had a lot of pressure riding as they started to gain a significant amount of recognition this year, as many people anticipating the release of their debut album must have been asking "How is this band possibly going to make music that is as awesome as their name?" But somehow they did it. The group have such a simple straightforward rock and roll approach with the occasional emo and stoner influence but produce enough sweeping hooks and occasional breakdowns to make it still sound fresh. There's a wide range of band influences to be found here from System of a Down to Red Hot Chili Peppers, however the taking on of these styles without losing any sense of focus. Basically, Turbowolf are a bright spark of uniqueness and wildness and really need to be seen as influential so that we can have good rock music amongst us forever.

3. Sylosis - Edge of the Earth (Nuclear Blast)
This album just left me speechless, as I was entrapped in absolute astonishment and amazement of the masterpiece that it is. Everything found on Edge of the Earth, the second album from Reading's Sylosis a genuinely excellent work of metal and potentially future classic. First off, this band has clearly been blessed with the spirit of 1980s Metallica as heard in their intense and delirious rapid-fire thrash metal assault which remains ear pounding-ly brutal and often verges on death metal, plus there's immensely widdly solos! Alongside this, Sylosis manage to create a very dark and brooding atmosphere in many softer and more mellow instrumental moments which captures a real sense of emotion and beauty within which then effectively build up to a brutal portion of thrash which also manages to continue this ethereal soundscape amongst it's wild riffing. All of this makes Edge of the Earth an incredibly gripping, extreme,  passionate and truly epic listening. This album defines heavy metal.

2. Machine Head - Unto the Locust (Roadrunner)
This year saw me beginning to get truly into Machine Head, a band that I've pretty much come to realize are in fact, heavy metal perfection. And thank god I did, because Unto the Locust, their seventh album proves this statement more than any other album of theirs ever could. It's lyrically intelligent, Robb Flynn's vocals are just fueled by total rage and the display of emotion driven metal, which really smashes the genre boundaries, packing in elements of thrash, doom metal and at times even gets a little symphonic with various orchestral instruments and choirs added to the mix. The result is a listening experience that is truly beautiful and any listeners who don't wrap their fists together and shed a tear at any point seriously has something wrong with them. Of course, it's also mind-numbingly brutal and the heaviness the band creates is devastating. Listening to this album will allow all listeners to revel in a state of anger and misery as the music takes an incredible grip of them and will come out feeling enlightened, refreshed and safe in the knowledge that metal truly is a form of art.

1. Mastodon - The Hunter (Roadrunner)
It's always a wonderful feeling when an album you have such high hopes for live up to exactly how you hoped it would be. And Atlanta's Mastodon did just that on fifth release The Hunter. Recorded as a tribute to the late brother of guitarist Brent Hinds, The Hunter reveals itself as a more straightforward and emotional listen than the previously more complex and conceptual releases from the group. The resulting sound is a dramatic, enthralling universe of brooding doom laden mercilessly heavy and of course delightfully trippy metal which reveals a wide range of emotions that the band has to offer rather than having them serve as storytellers to an albums concept. The stoner elements and influence are really fascinating and listeners can really lose themselves in the atmosphere created, while the thrashier moments really pack a punch and give the urge to headbang. The Hunter showed Mastodon making a simpler more powerful sound and is their best work to date. This album also really made 2011 for me as it is truly representative of the main music types I got to love this year come together, as it creates the perfect blend between stoner rock and thrash metal. This album really represents who I was this year. This is me. I AM THE HUNTER!!!

So, congratulations to Mastodon for making it to number one on the ROARF with their phenomenal The Hunter. Actually that's a bit vain to suggest that simply managing to be number one in the list made by one rock music snob is something to be proud of, but thanks for making album of 2011 anyway. Some of you may be aware that I tried to get an interview with some band members for the event. It didn't work out. I sent an e-mail and received a reply that said "Thank you for showing concern. We are looking over your request and will get back to you whenever possible." And they never did. Still, no love lost for the group. They are genuinely outstanding musicians and maintain a sense of awesomeness in all they do. Even my wonderful friends at school that don't know the first thing about metal agree that they look really cool. That or they think that Brent Hinds looks like Gimli from Lord of the Rings. It's one of them. Anyways all I can say keep up the awesomeness, Mastodon. You're getting accepted and respected by more and more people who are passionate about their music with this new album and I can't think of a band more deserving.
 So that was 2011 and it's best albums. I imagine many people reading will totally disagree with everything I've just written, but you won't be able to tear me apart in the comments section because no one has a Blogger account. But if you are looking to rant your little heads off to me, share your opinions or let me in on some albums I've missed out, you can always follow me on Twitter or Google + or of course you can add me as a friend on Facebook. I've got it all going on.
 So, once more, I thank all my amazing friends and family who have supported me and given me the inspiration and approval of my writing skills and encouraged me to push forward as a free-time music reviewer and thanks for all the keen music fans who have chosen this site over others to find out about their new music. I think I can now officially tell people that I'm big on the internet. Now it's time to have a little break my friends, but I will see you all next year for more stupid, overly-opinionated and perhaps sensible ramblings about what's new in the amazing world of rock music. May you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.