Best of 2011: 30-21

30. BOSSE-DE-NAGE “ii” (Flenser Records): Easily one of the most bizarre metal bands in the world, Bosse-de-Nage returned with another batshit-nuts collection of artistically inclined black metal that probably made the bulk of their audience feel lost in the fog. But the kicker with “ii” is that it’s way more approachable than their full-length, self-titled debut from last year, even if the lyrical content will have the gears in your brain grinding to a smoking pile of ash. This is a perplexing, confusing, off-putting band in the best possible way, and no matter how hard you try to figure out what they’re going to attempt next, Bosse-de-Nage do their best to rake the eyes your expectations.

To buy “ii,” go here: http://store.theflenser.com/product/bosse-de-nage-ii-cd-presale

29. BENEATH OBLIVION, “From Man to Dust” (The Mylene Sheath): This Cincy doom crew returned with a hellaciously heavy record in “From Man to Dust.” The sludge is sewage-tank thick, and the doom drops on you like a 70-ton curtain of steel. The songs are pretty long, and the record itself approaches double-album territory, but every moment is totally worth your time. I’ve only had a short amount of time with this album as it was just released a couple of months ago. Yet while my honeymoon period with the music has passed, I still find myself wanting to spend tons of time with it.

To buy “From Man to Dust,” go here: http://www.mylenesheath.com/catalog.html?Iit=435&Ict=37

28. FUCK THE FACTS, “Die Miserable” (Relapse): It probably sounds weird to say that a new piece of music from Fuck the Facts was long anticipated, but we haven’t gotten a full-length effort from the Canadian grindcore troopers since 2008’s “Disgorge Mexico.” Yeah, they’ve put out a ton of mini-releases in those three years, but I was hungry for a full album. “Die Miserable” hit the spot and continues to do so with each listen. Even their companion EP “Misery,” constructed of songs from the “Miserable” sessions that didn’t make the final cut, is deadly. This album didn’t get a terribly huge PR push from Relapse, which is borderline criminal because it’s devastatingly fantastic.

To buy “Die Miserable,” go here: http://www.relapse.com/die-miserable.html

27. HULL, “Beyond the Lightless Sky” (The End): Taking the structure they formed on their first record “Sole Lord” and blowing the doors off the son of a bitch, Hull returned with an absolute force of a record with “Beyond the Lightless Sky.” In a world that seeks a proper successor to the post-metal throne vacated by ISIS, Hull sure seemed to indicate they are poised and ready to assume a leadership position. This record also happens to be the best thing that The End put out this year, and they should be sure to keep this behemoth around for years to come.

To buy “Beyond the Lightless Sky,” go here: http://www.theomegaorder.com/HULL-Beyond-The-Lightless-Sky

26. AMON AMARTH, “Surtur Rising” (Metal Blade): As big an unabashed mark for Amon Amarth as I am and always professed to be, there was something about their latest record “Surtur Rising” that didn’t really resonate with me at first. Then I saw the band perform the record in its entirety, and the majesty of the thing really set into my heart. It’s even more epic than their past few albums, and while it’s not a total departure from their melodic Viking death metal template, it did provide some nice, tasty compositional turns that freshened up the whole Amon Amarth machine. Now I’m, totally on board with this heathen and have downed many a glass of mead with it playing out loud.

To buy “Surtur Rising,” go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/11748/

25. KRALLICE, “Diotima” (Profound Lore): NYC experimental black metal band Krallice never cease to amaze both with their amazing dexterity as players and their ability to make something so intricate drip with blood. The band’s third full-length album “Diotima” continues along the path of their first two albums, but with the incremental maturity and growth one would expect from a band as its members continue along their artistic path. The playing absolutely sizzles, and bassist Nicholas McMaster’s introspective, poetry-based lyrics, delivered via monstrous growl, help push these guys even further into thinking-person’s metal terrain. Krallice seem incapable of disappointment.

To buy “Diotima,” go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com//index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=detail&id=737&Itemid=99999999

To get the vinyl, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

24. OLD SILVER KEY, “Tales of Wanderings” (Season of Mist): Combining the members of Ukrainian black metal unit Drudkh with Alcest frontman Neige actually does sound like a match made in some far-away fairyland, and the results of their first record “Tales of Wanderings” are as spacious and dream-like as one would imagine. You’ll feel like you were transported into a foggy, lush land of waterfalls, weird creatures and romantic wonder on the back of this band’s gorgeous post-rock/shoegaze machine. It’s probably the least heavy, least metal album on this list, and the music can be described as pretty. It doesn’t inspire much fist pumping, but it does make for a nice escape after a frustrating day or year. It’s been in constant rotation in my house for months.

To buy “Tales of Wanderings,” go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/items/old-silver-key/tales-of-wanderings/cd/28126

23. BOTANIST, “I. The Suicide Tree/II. A Rose From the Dead” (tUMULt): If ever there was an Occupy: Earth movement, where the world’s plant life rose and struck back against the humanity that disregards it so, metal fans likely will think the Botanist will be behind it. He’s the sole player behind dulcimer-and-drums project Botanist, and his double-album debut provided a scary look into a weird Apocalyptic future when our throats are bound by choking vines. It’s a bizarre record that sounds like no other metal album you’ve heard. Ever. It takes a while to get adjusted to the off-kilter music and Botanist’s creaky storytelling, but once you’re in, you’ll find yourself enraptured by a world you don’t understand. Yet.

To buy  “I. The Suicide Tree/II. A Rose From the Dead,” go here (be sure to search Botanist): http://aquariusrecords.org/bin/search.cgi

22. ASH BORER, self-titled (Psychic Violence): A friend of mine who’s familiar with ash borer the insect said the music on their first full-length album reminds her of the incessant, enveloping buzzing of Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner.” Metal aligned with insect noises. I can get with that. The band doesn’t sound a really sound like Godflesh (though you certainly can point at some level of influence), but their doomy, lurching black metal does make you feel like you’re being invaded by a swarm of meat-seeking bugs. Is that confusing enough for you? Anyway, Ash Borer provided a glimpse of their promising future, and their next album will be out via Profound Lore. For now, track down this hard-to-find gem in order to discover one of tomorrow’s great black metal bands. If you’re really lucky, score this and their demo as a double cassette pack.

To buy the album, go here: http://psychicviolence.bigcartel.com/product/ash-borer-self-titled-lp

Or here: http://pesanta.bigcartel.com/product/ash-borer-full-length-12

21. FALLOCH, “Where Distant Spirits Remain” (Candlelight): If it wasn’t for the inclusion of Old Silver Key, the debut from Scottish duo Falloch would be the prettiest record on this entire list. The band combines folk, shoegaze, post-rock and black metal to achieve a wonderful emotional depth and songs that stick to you with no intention of letting go. This collection would sound perfect during a walk through a wooded area after a great snowfall. It would capture the scene perfectly. If you’re unfamiliar with Falloch, imagine a combo of Agalloch and Alcest and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. I’ll follow this band’s future quite eagerly.

To buy “Where Distant Spirits Remain,” go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1045