So, here it is…My top six Chicago metal albums of 2011. I’ve been trying to decide what to include for the last few weeks, and how many numbers needed to be on the list. I settled on six because five seemed too typical, and I really didn’t want to leave one of these six albums off. Also, there are several other albums I didn’t get a chance to check out, so there’s obviously going to be people with other opinions.
6. Bones – Bones
Former Usurper madmen Jon Necromancer, Carcass Chris and Joe Apocalyptic Warlord return with a band that is what I imagine Motörhead playing death metal would sound like. Bones’ debut album is straightforward, meat-and-potatoes metal. ‘Nuff said.
5. Indian – Guiltless
The best thing about Guiltless is that it never lets up. From the moment the album launches into opening track “No Grace,” it commences a sonic beatdown that takes several listens to fully digest. In just six tracks, Indian are more brutal than any shitty deathcore band that has thrown that adjective around carelessly in the past several years — and, hey, no cookie cutter breakdowns to suffer through!
4. Bloodiest – Descent
This one is probably the wild card of the bunch, as I spent a good week debating whether or not it was metal. But what the fuck is metal, anyways? Perhaps that’s a question for another time. Anyways, Bruce Lamont’s Bloodiest has been in frequent rotation since I picked it up. Regardless of how different it may be from the rest of the albums on this list, this album is still heavy in its own right. And it makes great background music for a number of activities I’ll refrain from mentioning at the moment.
3. Cianide – Gods of Death
As the reigning kings of the Chicago death metal scene — well, there’s also Macabre, but they prefer to be called “murder metal” — Cianide could give a fuck less about living up to anything. Over two decades in, they’re still sonically worshiping Celtic Frost, and fuck you if you don’t like it. At least you’ll always know what you’re getting into with these dudes. People outside of Chicago are starting to pay more attention, too. Finally.
2. Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore
Much has been made of the charges leveled against Leviathan mastermind Wrest, AKA Jef Whitehead, earlier this year. I’m not going to get into what he may or may not have done, because this isn’t the place for it. The fact of the matter is that the dude has been demonized before he’s even been tried. Writer Chris Weingarten, for example, Tweeted at the time, “ATTN Metal fans, today is the day you throw your Leviathan and Twilight records in the trash.” Fuck that, though. I don’t ever see anyone calling for us to throw Mayhem, Burzum, Emperor, Gorgoroth, et al. albums in the trash, and members of those bands have actually been convicted of various crimes. Ultimately, the most beautiful thing about True Traitor, True Whore is that it perfectly reflects the mindset of a man who has been convicted in the court of public opinion before ever being tried in a court of law. Sure, two of the album’s tracks are new versions of older songs, but they fit perfectly here. Whether Whitehead is found guilty or not, and I hope he isn’t, this album is a sonic evolution for the one-man black metal band’s catalog and I’m anticipating whatever he comes up with next.
1. The Atlas Moth – An Ache For the Distance
On their sophomore album, The Atlas Moth stepped up their game tremendously. I’ve been listening to this album at least once a day since I first heard it back in August, and it somehow managed to push Mastodon to the number 2 spot in my mental list of the top albums of the year overall. The sludge here is sludgier, the psychedelia trippier. The highs higher and the lows lower. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now. Had the recording industry not gone belly up, these guys would be well on their way to being big. At least that hasn’t stopped them from channeling non-metal influences like the Deftones, Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle and crafting the eargasm of the year.
Other 2011 Chicago Albums Worth Checking Out:
Avichi – The Devil’s Fractal (Project of Andrew Marcuszewski of Nachtmystium and Lord Mantis)
Chris Connelly – Artificial Madness (New solo work by former member of Ministry and RevCo from when they were amazing)
Macabre – Grim Scary Tales (Chicago metal pioneers with a penchant for dark humor and serial killer-themed songs)
Wolvhammer – The Obsidian Plains (Blackened sludge metal, formerly from Minnesota)