Since branching off into web exclusive mode, Highwire Daze has been able to cover more music that ever before, and has done a record number of interviews and reviews this year. Compiling a mere Top Ten List has been especially daunting. I can honestly say that each recording on the Full Length list are albums I will surely listen to for years to come. The metal is out in full force this year, featuring the demented grandeur of the almighty Chryst and the journey into avant garde madness courtesy of Ebonylake. If relaxing music is needed after a trip through the bowels of insanity, enter into the Forest Of The Soul for a picturesque acoustic journey or check out Vieo Abiungo for a wondrous neo-classical explosion of the mind. And who can forget the legendary Glen Campbell, whose final album received rave reviews all across the planet? And if metalcore fans have not checked out Miracle At St. Anna yet, I highly recommend you do so.
The Best Of The Year EP list is an interesting entity, populated mostly with bands I feel will explode into the stratosphere in 2012. Many on the EP list are so pop rock oriented, you would think that another entirely different journalist compiled it. So here it is, the albums and EP’s that made 2011 so entirely memorable…
The Top Ten Full Length CD’s of 2011
PhantasmaChronica by Chryst (Omniversal Records)
From the ashes of the obscure KorovoKill one finds the grand resurrection of an entity whose newly bestowed moniker is Chryst. The masterwork of the enigmatic Dr. Chrystof Niederwieser, Chryst is avantgarde metal at its most imaginative. Flying goldfish, ominous time pieces, and men with cloudy beards are only a fraction of what this vast and mysterious wonderland of sound consists of. A challenging, unpredictable work of artistry that is sure to intrigue and confound the metal masses at large.
In Swathes Of Brooding Light by Ebonylake (Ladlo Productions)
The passages of time and the complexity of madness and despair has unleashed an extreme avant-garde metal magnum opus conceived by the mysterious Ebonylake. The murky waters and distant shores reveal a complex dementia that is sure to excite and bewilder music fans all across this dreary planet. In Swathes Of Brooding Light ponders the true depths of unadulterated insanity and is a listening experience not to be missed.
Restless In Flight by Forest Of The Soul (Bindrune Recordings)
There is magic and intrigue to be found within the timeless acoustic passages from Forest Of The Soul. Restless In Flight is sure to enchant fans of such bands as Agalloch and Anathema. Progressive and cinematic, this West Virginia based duo present rich tapestries that transport the listener through enigmatic woodlands and the most captivating of dreams. A true stunner from Bindrune Recordings.
Dead Son Rising by Gary Numan (Machine Music Ltd)
Dead Son Rising is the 16th album by the iconic Gary Numan, and is perhaps his most experimental and remote recording to date. The Fall is a true stunner with its heavy duty dance beats and grim lyrics while For The Rest Of My Life and Not The Love We Dream Of features some wondrously impassioned vocals. The perfect companion for the darkest and manic of nights. Another triumphant collaborative work of Numan and Ade Fenton.
Ghost On The Canvas by Glen Campbell (Surfdog Records)
The final work of a legendary career, Ghost On The Canvas by Glen Campbell is a deeply moving experience. Songs such as Amazing Grace, In My Arms, and Any Trouble hold up amazingly well to the Glen Campbell classics while the Paul Westerberg penned title cut will haunt your memory for decades to come. No other album this year comes remotely close to the emotional impact Ghost On The Canvas conveys.
In Abstraction by A Hope For Home (Facedown Records)
In Abstraction presents A Hope For Home in their finest hour – a thoroughly ambitious and triumphant work of sonic art that will remain in the listener’s head long after the disc spins to its riveting conclusion. The lengthy songs contained within are nothing short of masterworks. Also contained is a DVD containing introspective interviews and artistic videos of all the song. In Abstraction is absolute brilliance!
Meredead by Leaves’ Eyes (Napalm Records)
Meredead is the fourth magnum opus from Leaves’ Eyes, a symphonic metal band fronted by the lovely Liv Kristine. Just the opening track Spirit’s Masquerade is more than enough to secure grand accolades, but Sigrlinn, Velvet Heart and their stunning cover of the Mike Oldfield classic To France reinforces its sweeping epic magnificence. A wondrous odyssey of dark enchantment for the metal ages.
Shadow Country by Miracle At St. Anna (Tragic Hero Records)
Combining a ferocious brand of metalcore with the swampy sounds of the mystical South, Shadow Country by Miracle At St. Anna exudes a powerful intensity that is riveting. The vocals are passionate and ferocious, the musical soundtrack stunning and severe, with a mysterious keyboard underscore weaving its dark magic throughout the recording. Songs such as On The Reg, Moses In Agony, and Brokeback Fountain are devastating. An exhilarating grand slam debut.
The World Is Still Yawning by Vieo Abiungo (Lost Tribe Sound)
The World Is Still Yawning by Vieo Abiungo is as beautiful as it is intriguing. Classical music infused by a startling sense of ambience that achieves a sense of both sentimental daydreams and otherworldly visions. Conceived by multi-instrumentalist William Ryan Fritch, The World Is Still Yawning is ironocally titled to be sure. The various compositions will surely both enchant and mystify all adventurous musical aficionados.
Irrbloss by Yggdrasil (Grand Master Music)
A mystical journey through the Swedish folk metal underground, Irrbloss by Yggdrasil is a stunning masterwork. Fans of Moonsorrow and Thyrfing will thoroughly appreciate experiencing the magic that is Irrbloss. The sweeping choruses, traditional folk instruments, and modern metal passages are dazzling to behold. Let your imagination wander through the portals of time with this standout collection of tunes.
The Top Ten EP’s of 2011
The Raleigh Sessions by Amely (Amely Independent Records)
Amely says goodbye to their fans with The Raleigh Sessions – seven dazzling pop songs which would have made up a portion of their demo album for Fearless Records. In demo form here, the tunes nevertheless exude a sweet infectious that will tug at the heart. Also presented is a testament as to why their vocalist Petie Pizarro remains one of the most underrated vocalists of our time. So farewell Amely and hello Sovereign Soldiers.
Igniter by An Early Ending (CI/Decadent Suite Records)
Harrisburg, PA’s An Early Ending survived a devastating accident that nearly broke apart the band. Now after a brief hiatus, the band returned with a explosive new EP entitled Igniter. Mixing infectious rock melodies with hardcore and screamo inflections, the 8 songs found within are instantly memorable. With all of the exhilarating choruses and impassioned singing, Igniter is nothing short of a personal triumph.
Fail Yourself by Deserters (Rite Of Passage / Mediaskare Records)
“Rock in roll is your enemy and I am your enemy!” the narrator exclaims before the Deserters EP explodes into some of the most ferocious hardcore Los Angeles currently has on tap. Fail Yourself is a definitive success, six songs of sonic, skull crunching intensity. Rite Of Passage / Mediaskare has signed a lot of good bands this year, and Deserters is a another great discovery for the label. Hit the pit!
A Reason To Swim by Joe Brooks (Fantastik Music)
Major labels? Who needs them? Not singer / songwriter Joe Brooks, who reached out to his fans and gifted them all with an eloquent collection of heartfelt pop tunes entitled A Reason To Swim. Holes Inside and I Find The Light In You are vivid and moving, and should appeal to all who cherish a first-class, genuine pop song. Now left to his own devices, Brooks continues to prove he’s a massive talent on the rise to greater glories ahead.
Pseudo Romance by Kyle Castellani (Independent Release)
Formerly in Nural, vocalist Kyle Castellani has always been a powerful, highly emotive lead vocalist who always transcended the material at hand. Now on his first solo album Pseudo Romance, his expressive singing absolutely soars. Like Old Times is as haunting as it romantic while Butterflies is inviting and eloquent. Timeless and fascinating, Pseudo Romance is an impressive debut effort for a vastly underrated talent.
Of All The Beauty by My Genuine Find (Independent Release)
Those who like dance pop with a lot of heart are destined to become a big time fan of My Genuine Find. Mastermind Bobby Mares has self-released a dazzling collection of songs that will place a smile on the face of even the most jaded of music listener. The sweetest pop confections include Be Together, Heartbeat, and the hit single worthy Always You. Expect 2012 to be a huge year for My Genuine Find!
Big by PARENTZ (Chill Mega Chill Records)
Groovy and intelligent, the San Francisco based chill wave outfit PARENTZ is the brainchild of the resourceful Jeremy Sullivan. Inspired by all things Tom Hanks, Big is a wondrously infectious aural treat. Whether it’s the techno/dance title cut, the seductive Just Sayin, or the clever trip hop inflections of Back It Up, Big by PARENTZ is a astonishing breathe of fresh air in a world of musical stagnation. And always remember to “Trust the media, Trust Wikipedia…”
Feel Good Now by The Ready Set (Decaydance/Warner Brothers Records)
Jordan Witzigreuter and his band The Ready Set spent an entire summer on this year’s Warped Tour, winning over fans big time and had a hit song with Love Like Woe from his debut Decaydance EP. Their latest effort Feel Good Now is an admirable follow-up, with stand out tracks being the pop rock perfection of Operator, the driving arena rock anthem Young Forever, and the rambunctiously infectious Killer. The Ready Set is surely headed for pop rock superstardom.
Conditions by Sleep For Sleepers (Independent Release)
Although many thought the band was in a permanent slumber, Sleep For Sleepers returned with their most powerful collection of songs to date. Conditions presents their most melodic, accessible tunes to date. Especially noteworthy is the triumphant inflections of Dark, a song with a ton of hit single potential. A reawakening for a band ready to break on through to the big leagues. A stunning comeback to be sure!
All Our Yesterdays by Verah Falls (BlkHeart Group)
Raging out of the Pacific Northwest, Verah Falls present an exhilarating brand of melodic hardcore that is sure to gain them a good deal of notice. One of the newer signings on the fledging BlkHeart Records label, Verah Falls notable songs from their grand slam EP include Season Tickets To The Opera, Portland Stay Golden, and A Family Affair. It will be exciting to see was 2012 has in store for these guys!
And thus concludes Editor Ken’s thoroughly schizophrenic year in music! See you all on the radiowaves and beyond in 2012!
(Compilation by Kenneth Morton)