Best albums of 2011: 40-31

Before we get started, let me point out that the schedule for the Top 40 I released last week is off. Instead of starting the list last week, we’re starting this week. We’ll go 40-31 today, 30-21 tomorrow, 20-16 Wednesday, 15-11 Thursday, 10-6 on Friday. Then we’ll christen the new year with the top 5, one running each day. There’s a logistics reason for this shift, as I really want to make the Top 5 presentation different, so some loose ends need tied up. We’ll get there. For now, let’s get to the Top 40.

40. TRAP THEM, “Darker Handcraft” (Prosthetic): Moving to Prosthetic for the first time, Trap Them continued their demolition with “Darker Handcraft,” a record full of more-realized, more mature songs. But that doesn’t mean they’ve quelled the violence at all. They’ve become a better, tighter band, and frontman Ryan McKenney remains equal parts Apocalyptic visionary and carnival barker for the decay of society. This record should be a positive signal for what’s ahead, which basically should be unabashed bloodshed soundtracked by a bunch of dudes who are better than we all realized. Oh, and you’ll still get your face punched at their shows.

To buy “Darker Handcraft,” go here:

39. LITURGY “Aesthethica” (Thrill Jockey): I have been beyond amused at all the hand wringing over Liturgy. Oh, they don’t look like metal dudes. Oh, they might have hipster tendencies. Oh, they don’t sing about the right stuff. To me, metal always has been about doing whatever you want. Liturgy do whatever they want. Metal’s not supposed to have rules. It’s supposed to be rebellious. Can you honestly say Liturgy don’t embody those qualities? Their incredible “Aesthethica” is both astonishingly well composed and as jagged as can be. They’re a great band, unique, and, sorry kids, more metal than you are. This is thinking man’s black metal, and I’m all about it.

To buy “Aesthethica,” go here:

38. CHASMA, “Declarations of the Grand Artificer” (Moribund/The Mylene Sheath): It’s all of three songs, and it lasts a little over a half hour, but Chasma’s debut offering of atmospheric, mind-warping black metal marked the arrival of a band that you need to pay attention to right now before you sound like a bandwagon jumper in the future. The songs are flushed with melody and chaos, and while it can get that dreaded (elsewhere, not here) Cascadian black metal tag if you need to affix such a description, there’s a lot more going on besides those sonic qualities. I’m really excited about this band’s future, as this is one of records I’m going to pursue on vinyl as well because I imagine it’ll only sound that much more majestic emanating from my turntable.

To buy “Declarations of the Grand Artificer,” go here:

Or here:

37. NEGATIVE PLANE, “Stained Glass Revelations” (Ajna Offensive): Negative Plane’s first new album in five years showed a band that was able to pummel you with power but also capture your imagination and lead you on a dark, nightmarish journey you likely won’t even remember signing up to take. Their swirling, furious black metal works that way, and “Stained Glass” was one of those records that, the first time I heard it, I stopped everything else I was doing in order to be fully enveloped by this madness. It’s a record and a band I always have a hard time explaining to people, so experiencing this for yourself is the best way to really grasp what’s going on. But prepare to be broken.

To buy “Stained Glass Revelations,” go here:

36. YOB, “Atma” (Profound Lore): Considering their album “The Great Cessation” was my No. 1 album of 2009, their latest landing here might make some think it disappointed me. While I didn’t have quite the same experience with this that I had with “Cessation,” it’s still listed in my 40 favorite records. There was just a lot of great stuff this year, so a band as mighty and spiritually moving as YOB ranks a little lower, but “Atma” certainly is very worthy and is one of the better doom metal recordings released this year. Singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt actually croons a lot more on “Atma” than their previous records, making himself a worthy successor to Ozzy Osbourne’s now sullied throne, and considering they’ve just been named as direct support for Tool on their tour, this record could be what puts them over the top.

To buy “Atma,” go here:

35. NECRITE, “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi” (Flenser Records): After years of releasing demos and destroying the Bay Area, black metal terrors Necrite finally delivered their dizzying first full-length “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.” The record will leave your head spinning, and if you whined like a baby that the new Leviathan wasn’t true enough to form, Necrite might make up for what you were missing. Their songs are long and ambitious, they leave you wondering where the band will turn next, and they always surprise you because the next twist never can be properly anticipated. They even pay homage to their drone doom heroes on the disc’s final track “Worship the Sunn ((O)).” Excellent black metal terror.

To buy “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” go here:

34. 40 WATT SUN, “The Inside Room” (Metal Blade): If you had a miserable year dealing with personal relationships and feel like no one else possibly could understand your frustration and pain, then you might need to sit down with 40 Watt Sun’s debut. The project of longtime Warning leader Patrick Walker is soulful, depressing, longing and just dripping with pure pain. It’s one of those records that, as much as I love it, pains me to think its creator had to experience this much anguish in order to see through his vision. It’s melancholic and melodic, and Walker’s vocals help make this a modern doom classic. Definitely go grab this one, but prepare to search your inner turmoil thoroughly.

To buy “The Inside Room,” go here:

33. EARTH, “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1” (Southern Lord): Long-running drone/doom pioneers Earth have changed their sound quite a bit over the last few recordings. The changes have been fantastic. The band digs deeper into Midwestern roots and makes music that can please a Neil Young fan as much as a Sunn 0))) patron. The first of their two-part “Angels of Darkness” dropped and continued along the same path that they walked on “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull.” It’s nicely textured, full of humanity, and amazing to experience during a mild natural disaster. I was listening to this record at Rehoboth Beach this summer when an earthquake struck. Can’t wait to see what kind of chaos the second helping brings.

To buy “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1,” go here:

32. ALDEBARAN, “Buried Beneath Aeons” (Parasitic): Portland, Ore., sludge/doom crew gave us but one song in 2011, that being the title cut of their excellent EP “Buried Beneath Aeons.” They’ve stayed busy live, of course, taking on a Western U.S. jaunt with Mournful Congregation, a band with which they share a lot of common sonic qualities, and even though it seems their studio output was meager, think again. This nearly half-hour track is a stunning adventure, making like it’s three or four songs rolled into one hulking creature, and it’s one of those offerings that always seems to end way too early, just as I was getting into the thing. Leave them wanting more, right? Well, they got me, and here’s hoping for way more from this awesome, under-the-radar band in 2012.

To buy “Buried Beneath Aeons,” go here:

31. DISMA, “Towards the Megalith” (Profound Lore): The term old-school death metal is bandied about a hell of a lot these days, but so few bands actually get it right. Disma hit the puss-filled, blood-encrusted nail on the head as well as anyone, and they have the personnel to keep this thing hissing well into the future. Former Incantation (as well as millions of other bands) frontman Craig Pillard is your infernally growling host, and he’s backed by doom and death veterans from bands such as Funebrarum, Assück, Seraphim Lament and Abysmal Gates, among others, so you know you’re getting the good stuff. This is doomy, scar-infested, slithering death metal goodness the way it’s supposed to sound.

To buy “Towards the Megalith,” go here: