2011 has been quite a year for heavy metal. In the last twelve months I’ve seen the birth of legends, the return of legends, and generally some of the best stuff I’ve heard in years. Historic stuff. Unfortunately, the last twelve months have also borne witness to everything from the straight-up fall of some legendary acts to the misstep of others. This list is for them. The disappointments, the albums we waited for, the albums we would have stood in line for, but ultimately were cause for universal meh-ing, dismissing, and, in some rare cases, uproar.
Disclaimer: Please don’t take this list as the ten worst heavy metal albums of 2011 because it is not, there are so many of those that one single top ten list could never do justice to the bulk of abysmal records available. The following are ten disappointing albums.
Also: This is my opinion, prepare to disagree.
10. Omnium Gatherum- New World Shadows
Released on February 4th, New World Shadows had all the makings of a great album; it was the band’s fifth, and it was produced by the legendary Dan Swanö, who, along with Insomnium’s Niilo Sevänen, contributed guest vocals.
So why did it leave me wanting so much more?
I think it was a combination of things. Firstly, I expected a much darker album and I felt like too many of the melodies were pop-y or underdeveloped. Secondly, after 3-4 listens through nothing really jumped out and grabbed me so I moved on to something that did.
Instead I recommend: snagging Omnium Gatherum’s 2008 release Redshift.
09. Novembers Doom- Aphotic
Who’s with me on this one? Musically and vocally Novembers Doom was on fucking point with this record but the songwriting held them back. Too much of the time they seemed to be trying to be something they are not and the rest of the time they were simply being unremarkable. Where some of their other offerings are stand-out hits (See: The Novella Reservoir) Aphotic is a pop foul.
Instead I recommend: the aforementioned The Novella Reservoir.
08. Hammerfall- Infected
The one in which the hammer fell.
After 2009’s lackluster No Sacrifice, No Victory I figured HammerFall was just about done. But… they came back this year with a new album and with it a new look and attempt at a new sound. Sadly, they fell flat on their faces and wrote a record so mediocre you’d almost never believe these are the same dudes that wrote Glory to the Brave. Well, three of them, anyway. That’s really this albums only downfall. When the band experiments with film samples and atmosphere I’m all on board, it’s great, but the tracks as a whole are directionless and not a single one really stands out. In fact, I couldn’t name you one right now without looking.
Disappointing, this album was. Terrible, it was not. There are going to die-hard fans that will love Infected and HammerFall may even pick up a few straggling new fans, but after you give it a few spins, if it doesn’t’ do it for you…
I recommend: going back to their roots with Glory to the Brave or, if you’re looking for something newer try Wisdom’s newest, Judas.
07. Septicflesh- The Great Mass
I went from SepticFlesh #1 Fan to adding them to a disappointing albums list in the record-breaking span of a single month. See, when the first single, The Vampire of Nazareth, from The Great Mass dropped and I finally had the change to listen to it I was floored. I’d never listened to Septicflesh before or really had any interest but that one track was life changing.
It was eye opening. I’d needed metal like this for sometime but couldn’t find anything to sate my desire. Dark, symphonic, almost ritualistic, it was pretty damned near perfect. So naturally I was looking forward to the full length, The Great Mass, but when it finally came it was more like The Great Disappointment. Not a single other track on the album had the power and majesty The Vampire of Nazareth mesmerized me with. It’s not a bad album, to be sure, but I suppose it was just no what I was really looking for. I’ll keep it in my rotation of semi-annual listens and in the meantime continue my search.
Instead I recommend: the Vampire of Nazareth single.
06. Falkenbach- Tiuridia
Paraphrasing what I wrote in a review months ago, formula sealed this album’s fate as a disappointment. It’s not bad, no sir. It’s just not much more than background music for me compared to their other releases. Since I don’t want to be too repetitive, I’ll just refer you to my initial review of Tiurida and you can read all about it.
Instead I recommend: Falkenbach’s Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
05. Primordial- Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
This is a strange one. Primordial’s Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand could just as easily appear on my top ten of 2011 list as it did here. It’s a good album, a great album, even, but fucking To The Nameless Dead was just so good that any album that had to follow was destined disappoint a little.
Instead I recommend: Nothing. Get this album, get To The Nameless Dead, get them all.
04. My Dying Bride- Evinta
Oh My dear, sweet Dying Bride. When I am in the mood for thee, I love thee. Being the awkward ex-orchestra nerd that I am, the prospect of Evinta, My Dying Bride’s attempt at symphonic music helmed by fuckin’ Johnny Maudling of Bal-Sagoth, was something like a waking wet dream. The final product, unfortunately, was not. Far too minimal (this coming from a devoted lover of minimal music), Evinta was…boring; so bloody boring, with none of the theater and drama I’ve come to expect and love from the band. When I’m in the mood.
Instead I recommend: some true classical or opera. Try Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3 for something dark and minimal or just about anything from Chopin for superior piano.
03. Insomnium- One for Sorrow
Insomnium is one of my favorite bands. I own every one of their albums (One for Sorrow being no exception) and I listen to them at the very least monthly. With fourteen years and just five records under their belts, Insomnium has all but perfected the melodic death/doom sound. They’re the type of band that even detractors of the genre have to eat crow and admit are awesome. They don’t split opinions much or try to push boundaries but opt, instead, to just write consistently great albums. So naturally this is what I expected from One for Sorrow. And, for all intents and purposes, that’s what they delivered.
Save for one little problem that, for me at least, made this album a disappointment: the vocals. More specifically, the clean vocals. They’re somehow different, right? I can’t figure it out. Is it a different guy or is he trying something new or what? I don’t’ know but I first noticed it on Through the Shadows, which is an excellent song, but immediately when the clean vocals kick in I cringe. The actual production quality of said vocals is even off to my ear. That’s pretty much my only gripe. You may think that’s hardly worth adding Insomnium to the list but I stick to my guns. One for Sorrow just does not stand up to its predecessors and I doubt I’ll listen to it much.
Instead I recommend: Insomnium- Across the Dark, duh.
02. While Heaven Wept- Fear of Infinity
Yet another band who released an album that fell victim to their own awesomeness, While Heaven Wept had a massive year with the release of a live album, T:T:T, a retrospective, The Arcane Unearthed, and their follow up to 2009’s Vast Oceans Lachrymose, Fear of Infinity.
It’s that pesky following-up business that’s the problem.
How can you follow up perfection? Vast Oceans… was perfection. So the band did the only thing they really could do and changed their style for the follow up. The result was less than extraordinary and resulted in me listening to this only three or four times through and shelving it. Once again what we have here is not a bad album, no, but life, my friends, is short and I’d rather spend it listening to Vast Oceans Lachrymose.
Instead I recommend: Vast Oceans Lachrymose or, since you’ve probably already heard that, Funeral’s new one To Morn is a Virtue.
01. Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus
Fuck. This. Album.
Instead I recommend: Anything. Seriously, just about anything is better than this shit. Even listening to one of the million female-fronted symphonic bands that released an album this year would be a better use of your time.
…And there you have it, folks.
What do you think?
What albums let you down this year?
To really be disappointed by an album I believe one must first anticipate said album, hence Sounds of a Playground Fading not being included in the main body of this list. Still, I wanted a platform on which to express my general disappointment with In Flames. Also, I reckon this album drove off even the most loyal of In Flames fans and perhaps even those they picked up with A Sense of Purpose.