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Opinion: Taking a look at some of the best metal albums

December 15, 2011
By JOE ZELEK - For The Weekender , The Herald-Star

This week the Metal Corner takes a look back at the best metal albums of 2011 through the eyes of a diverse group of Ohio Valley metal fans.

My top 10 include:

Neverwake, "Vitality" - I didn't pick this album because these guys are local. I picked it because it's good. modern commercial metal from a talented young band and major-label quality production from Mike Ofca at Innovation Studios right here in Steubenville.

Iced Earth, "Dystopia" - This is pure American metal from the Sunshine State.

Skeletonwitch, "Forever Abomination" - These Athens, Ohio-based party dudes effortlessly combine thrash and black metal influences.

Dream Theater, "A Dramatic Turn of Events" - Prog metal legends lose founding member/drummer Mike Portnoy and somehow end up better for it. How? Two words - Mike Mangini.

Symphony X, "Iconoclast"- Progressive metal at its finest. Technical, precise and powerful featuring a top-shelf vocal performance from Russell Allen.

Chimaira, "The Age of Hell" - Hello Cleveland! Ohio-based death metal for the masses.

Times of Grace, "Hymns of a Broken Man"- Well-crafted Christian metalcore from Killswitch Engage mastermind Adam Dutkiewicz and original Killswitch vocalist Jesse Leach.

Mastodon, "The Hunter" -The fellas dial the prog back just a notch to craft an organic metal album that not just grooves but... gasp... swings!

Machine Head, "Unto The Locust"- Rob Flynn and company live up to the hype and do what few thought they could - top their prior masterpiece "The Blackening."

Anthrax, "Worship Music"- A career-defining soon to be classic loaded with great songs. Vital, relevant heavy metal at its finest. Enough said.

And from Mingo Junction resident Johnny DiCarlo, vocalist and guitarist of Neverwake, we have list of goodies:

Emmure, "Speaker Of The Dead" - This is an awesome new sound. It's slightly technical but full-forced metal.

Machine Head, "Unto The Locust" - This album just makes you grind your teeth and punch things.

Dream Theater, "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" - Dream Theater is always a favorite and never seems to upset me. Great album.

Born Of Osirus, "The Discovery" - There really are no words to describe this album. It's just completely insane.

Suicide Silence, "Black Crown" - If you are just mad, you better pick up this album, lock yourself in a room and just mosh yourself to sleep.

The Devil Wears Prada, "Dead Throne" - This album has a great sound. There's so much going on that it takes three to four listens to actually understand what is going on.

August Burns Red, "Leveler" - This album is also a great mixture of styles. It can go from crazy, to grooving and back to crazy.

We Came As Romans, "Understanding What We've Grown To Be" - One of my most recent favorite bands. This album has an awesome fusion of complexity and beautiful melodies that stick in your head all day.

Times Of Grace, "Hymn Of A Broken Man" - This is one of the best put-together albums I've ever heard. Every song gels together perfectly.

Trivium, "In Waves" -This is definitely the album of the year for me. I literally crave this CD everyday, no lie. Every song is flawless.

Andy Toth of Cadiz gives us his metal Christmas list:

Matheos/Arch, "Sympathetic Resonance" - A great return to the old Fates Warning sound, brilliant arrangements and vocals. Welcome back John Arch!

Meliah Rage, "Dead to the World" - Great new CD by this band, formed in Boston in 1987, eighth CD, old school thrash in the vein of Overkill and Testament.

Riot, "Immortal Soul" - Fourteenth CD by these New Yorkers, a return to their classic speedy, power-metal sound.

Shadowside, "Inner Monster Out" - Powerful female vocals, great third CD from "the Brazilian Metal Hurricane"

Symphony X, "Iconoclast" - Very heavy, dark power-metal from New Jersey, great vocals from Russell Allen.

Lost Chapter, "Lost Chapter" - Great CD by the local boys. Support local music and buy this CD.

Machine Head, "Unto the Locust" -Killer CD by the Bay Area metal machine, intricate and powerful.

Mystic Prophecy, "Ravenlord" - Amazing new CD by this German metal band features a cover of Ozzy's "Miracle Man."

Eldritch, "Gaia's Legacy" - Ninth CD by the Italian metal gods formed in 1993, amazing instrumentation and vocals.

STEMM, "Crossroads" - Third CD by this band from Buffalo. Good, hook-laden, catchy metal. Find this CD and buy!

Larry Cusick, drummer from Yorkville and WTRF-TV picked his top 10, and they include:

Dream Theater, "A Dramatic Turn of Events" - The band's first release after the departing of original drummer, Mike Portnoy. They found the perfect replacement in Mike Mangini and carried on without missing a beat.

Amon Amarth, "Surtur Rising" - Viking metal at its finest.

A Pale Horse Named Death, "And Hell Will Follow Me" - A band featuring some former members of Type O Negative. This is for those of us still mourning the untimely death of Type O frontman Peter Steele. It's not Type O, but it's not bad either.

Electric Wizard, "Black Masses" - This British stoner metal band's 2011 release is filled with spooky, trudging, speaker-rattling doom.

Foo Fighters, "Wasting Light" - The Foo Fighters went back to basics and recorded on analog tape in Dave Grohl's garage with the help of producer Butch Vig. It resulted in this rocking album that gets stuck in your head.

Mr. Big, "What If... " - Just like the band Extreme, Mr. Big is a group of top-notch musicians who were mistakenly defined as fluff due to having a hit ballad. On "What If..." they re-united to make what may arguably be the best album of their career.

Mastodon, "The Hunter" - More accessible than their 2009 critically acclaimed concept album, Crack the Skye, The Hunter retains the unique Mastodon sound that makes them stand out among modern American metal bands while introducing it to the mainstream audience.

The Devin Townsend Project, "Deconstruction" - Part of a four-album series by the DTP covering four distinct styles, Deconstruction is the most epic of the series taking the listener on a fun, albeit chaotic journey with its bombastic production and orchestration. There's a lot going on here, folks.

Anthrax, "Worship Music" - Anthrax returns with a vengeance and vocalist Joey Belladonna with a masterpiece that I would rank right up there with their releases from the 1980s, if not higher.

Ghost, "Opus Eponymous" - This debut release from the Swedish "Group of Nameless Ghouls" is a collection of well-crafted, extremely catchy, melodic songs. Their clean vocals and basic production values have more in common with 1970s classic rock than their dark imagery suggests.

(Musician Joe Zelek writes the Metal Corner for Weekender.)

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