Sons of Thunder Music Awards 2011
Best Album- Dissimulation by Hope for the Dying
Like that first time you make that connection with someone; a touch, a glance, a witty remark. Just like when you realize that you are truly attracted to someone, this is kind of like what happened when I spun this album for the first time. The album dropped at a time when I was thirsting for something fresh and new. The metal scene can tend to get a little generic at times and after hearing HFTD’s first album, I knew their next would only get better. My hope was fulfilled. The album offers the perfect blend of striking lyrics with incredible technical talent. From the beginning to the end of the album, it feels as if you’re in the midst of something truly epic. I cannot get enough of this album, and will consider it one of the greats in my collection for years to come.
Best Lyrics and Runner Up – Kingdom Days in an Evil Age by Sleeping Giant
Sleeping Giant, like many of the bands on Facedown Records (Hope for the Dying included), have a passion to bring the Gospel to the world through the hardcore and metal scene. Sleeping Giant created a fantastic album which combines both a worshipful heart with the pounding of the spiritual war drum. Lyrics always play a huge part for me to like an album. After seeing the music video for “Dead Men Walking” by Sleeping Giant, I knew I had to check these guys out. This album totally pumps me up and reminds me of the battle in front of me that I often times forget. For any real Christian, the lyrics in this album drive home something that dwells deep within us. This is definitely worth the spin.
Instrumental Excellence – Weightless by Animals as Leaders
This album came to my attention through a friend of mine, however I didn’t buy the album until I read some other reviews through indievisionmusic.com that got me thinking I should pick it up. This is a instrumental progressive metal band based out of Washington DC. This album is an experience. It is not an album you can pick up and listen to one song and feel satisfied. It has to be enjoyed in it’s entirety. I enjoyed this album immensely and really look forward to hearing more from them in the future. I also really hope to see these guys perform live.
Most Disappointing – When the World Bleeds by Theocracy
Theocracy. I gave this band another chance. I musically enjoyed their first album, however they one song called “Absolution Day” which mocked the Sacraments. I thought with their new album that I would give them a second chance. Sadly, on their new album they have a song called “Nailed” which praises the 95 Theses of the heretic Martin Luther. In it they slam the Catholic Church and praise Protestantism. Sad stories. They lost two listeners-both Mike and myself. Though musically the album is an easy listen, the heretical lyrics leave much to be desired. The outside of the cup is clean, but the inside is filled with snakes. That is my take on this album. God have mercy on Theocracy.
Children of Fire by Oh Sleeper
“James Erwin explains in an interview that the new album takes place after “Son of the Morning” and follows the life of a Priest and his atheist daughter. The album is a spin on the rapture and explores how people would react in end times. At the beginning of the record, the Priest takes the role of judge now that he thinks God is dead and follows the daughter’s path of finding God throughout the record.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh,_Sleeper). All in all, I enjoyed this album, but I did not enjoy it enough to include it as a top contender. However, it is definitely in my top ten.
Give Me Rest by Hands
Another great album that demands a listen to in it’s entirety. It takes you on a lyrical journey. Musically it is very different from hands first album, but it is a direction I feel they can pursue in the future.
Celestial Completion by Becoming the Archetype
I feel BTA’s newest album has received some serious flack for their departure from the typical black metal sound they originally brought forward. Albeit, I will stand up for the fact that BTA’s newest album is not the same. That being the case, it did have some great points including the trumpeteer from Five Iron Frenzy joining them in Cardiac Rebellion. Sadly, with the departure of lead vocalist and Bassist Jason Wisdom, and most of the original cast of BTA, the band is truly no longer the BTA I listened to in my early 20’s.
I have produced my Top Ten Albums of 2011 for your perusal.
1. Dissimulation – Hope for the Dying
2. Kingdom Days in an Evil Age – Sleeping Giant
3. IV: The Requiem for the Art of Death – Immortal Souls
4. Children of Fire – Oh, Sleeper
5. Thegodmachine – Phinehas
6. Weighless – Animals as Leaders
7. Celestial Completion – Becoming the Archetype
8. Give Me Rest – Hands
9. Breathe in Life – Betraying the Martyrs
10. Gungor – Ghosts Upon Earth
Best Album: Phinehas – thegodmachine
Phinehas was a surprise entry for me. I didn’t pick it up when it first came out, only after Chris bugged me to check them out. When I finally got it, this album blew me away. Musically, it’s a stellar example of my favourite kind of new metalcore. It’s a blend of highly technical, very melodic metalcore with a good amount of clean vocals – light on breakdowns but heavy on melody and lead guitar. I first heard this kind of metal on the last Haste the Day album, Attack of the Wolf King, but Phinehas does it better. The jaw-dropping guitar solos helped make this probably the third-best album for me instrumentally this year, but it was the lyrics that really sold it as the best album overall.
Runner Up: Hope for the Dying – Dissimulation
As Chris described above, this album really makes a great first impression. I similarly fell in love with it at the first listen, and it was sitting at the top of my list for most of the year. This really is a band with a wealth of talent, and every song is a pleasure. The only weak point of this band may be the screamed vocals, which aren’t the best. The only reason they stand out is because they’re generic, where the rest of the band’s performance is phenomenal.
Best Lyrics: Phinehas – thegodmachine
I said above how much Phinehas lyrics impressed me. They are solid, hard-hitting, thoroughly Christ-centered lyrics, and they are METAL. Just check out the opening line from the above video (I Am the Lion):
Son of Mine, can you hear the sound – the repetition like clockwork
I’m always peeling back your skin to rip the legions from your heart
Think about that and see if it doesn’t change your perspective on sin. The lyrics also delve into the love of God in our brokenness (thegodmachine: The Rider), and even redemptive suffering (A Pattern in Pain). Overall, the message of this album is loud and clear:
Clear the path
I Am the lion
You brood of snakes
I Am the lion
Best Instrumental Performance: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
I’ll be honest here: I’m a Dream Theater fanboy. I have been for many years. In the past few years though, this band has been in a serious slump. Their last too albums, Systematic Chaos and Black Clouds and Silver Linings, were in my opinion (and many DT fans opinions) easily their worst. From increasingly cheesy lyrics, to laughable attempts at growled vocals, nothing was working out. Then there was the drama with Mike Portnoy – founding drummer who’s been with them 25 years – leaving the band. I thought it was the end, and a sad end it would have been, but DT is back, and with Mike Mangini playing drums they’re more technically proficient than ever. There’s nothing revolutionary about this album, but that’s why I like it. It’s good old Dream Theater. Enough said.
Most Disappointing Album: In the Midst of Lions – Shadows
I can sum up my displeasure with this album as follows: it sounds just like all the other For Today albums. The problem is, In the Midst of Lions is immeasurably more talented and more creative than For Today. Why they chose to diverge from the tightly executed, technical melodic deathcore style that made me love them, and replace it with the most generic metalcore you can get, I’ll never know. I can’t even listen to this album. Every breakdown makes me die a little inside, at the thought of such talent going to waste.
Oh Sleeper – Children of Fire