By Andrew Bansal
Although I’m pretty much done with my look back at 2011, there is one final list I needed to make, to talk about the best songs of the year. As you would expect, most of these songs are from albums that feature in my top 20 albums list, but I realized that for me certain songs create more of an impact when listened to as part of an album, whereas some songs are instant classics, can be listened on their own, and compel you to hit that ‘Repeat’ button. This list is about the latter type. Just to clarify, I have not considered covers and re-releases. Without further ado, here’s my picks for best songs of 2011, in order from #20 to #1.
#20. Obscura – Celestial Sphere: I love every song on Obscura’s “Omnivium”, but this one’s my favorite because I feel it hits the perfect tempo, and at five-and-a-half minutes, it’s length is also perfect. The rhythm ensures that it’s sufficiently up-tempo, but at the same time it allows the listener to grasp what’s going on musically. This tune from the German tech-death masters has pure class written all over it.
#19. Amon Amarth – Slaves Of Fear: The extremely ear-pleasing main riff coupled with Johan Hegg’s deadly vocals makes this an instant success. Even though it’s a slow tune, it holds my attention more than some of the faster songs on the album, that’s how powerful it’s music is.
#18. Motorhead – I Know What You Need: The rock ‘n roll legends came up with “The World Is Yours” this year, a solid album with some typical Motorhead tunes as well as a couple of surprises. But this song is simply unadulterated rock n’ roll, and through Lemmy’s ever-awesome vocals and deafening bass sound, Campbell’s killer solos and Mikkey Dee’s relentless drumming, this tune sees the band in top form. A great tune from the perennial rockers.
#17. Red Fang – Painted Parade: I can never not rock out to this song. It’s short, fast, to-the-point, and loaded with awesomeness. It captures attention straightaway and doesn’t let go until and unless you’ve listened to it at least ten times in a row. An insanely good tune.
#16. Skeletonwitch – This Horrifying Force (The Desire To Kill): There is no such things as a bad Skeletonwtich song, and their latest album “Forever Abomination” further proves this fact. This tune is its opening track, and in many ways sums up what the album is all about. It signifies the sheer menace this album possesses, and the band’s development as musicians when compared to the previous album is quite clear on this tune itself. A fantastic tune from one of the finest extreme metal bands going around at present.
#15. Opeth – Slither: On an album that takes quite some getting used to, this one’s rather easy on the ears, has an immediate impact, and doesn’t really need to ‘grow’ on the listener. For me it’s a great tune simply because of two reasons. Firstly, it reminds me of Dio-era Sabbath, and secondly, I am a huge fan of Mikael Akerfeldt’s clean singing. If you’re not an Opeth fan and stayed away from this album, I would still recommend you to listen to this song, because I’m sure you’ll dig it.
#14. Symphony X – Bastards Of The Machine: The Godly duo of Michael Romeo and Russell Allen offer something truly memorable on this tune, and the music is scintillating, to say the least. I somehow feel that this band is criminally under-appreciated. Musicians of this calibre should be adored by a lot more people. The music on Symphony X’s “Iconoclast” album, and on this song in particular, fits the tastes of prog-nerds and pure heavy metal fans alike.
#13. Iced Earth – Boiling Point: Stu Block has stepped into the vocalist position in Iced Earth, and from just about every song on the new album on “Dystopia”, it’s clear that his voice contains the best qualities of both Matt Barlow and Tim Ripper Owens’ vocal styles. But it’s really outstanding in this song, wherein his incredible vocal range complements Jon Schaffer’s songwriting excellently well. Short, fast and furious, this one is filled to the brim with first-pumping heavy metal.
#12. White Wizzard – Flying Tigers: Right from their debut EP, I’ve been closely following the progress of this band, and even before its release, I knew that their latest album “Flying Tigers” would be something I’ll end up enjoying. But I think they surprised everyone with the musical direction they went with on this album. Nonetheless, some of the tunes still have the signature old school sound they are known for. This is one of them, and should please anyone who calls himself a fan of traditional heavy metal.
#11. Dream Theater – On The Backs Of Angels: Dream Theater’s “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” has been the most pleasantly surprising album for me this year, and it all starts with this tune. It goes through a beautifully intense build-up, boasts of a solidly heavy rhythm section with Petrucci and Rudess at their peak in the foreground and LaBrie’s vocals fitting perfectly on top of it all. One of the richest tunes of the year.
#10. Graveyard – Ain’t Fit To Live Here: Without this band, 2011 would have been far less awesome. The first band that I think of when I listen to Graveyard’s “Hisingen Blues” is Led Zeppelin, and just like the legendary English quartet, Graveyard are an album-oriented rock band. This is the first song of the album, a song that begins a wonderful journey every time I listen to it, and it doesn’t end until I’m done listening to the entire album. The first song on an album like this is the most crucial, and “Ain’t Fit To Live Here” succeeds in making this a stunning album.
#9. Anthrax – The Devil You Know: On an album like “Worship Music” which presents the modern side of Anthrax’ musicianship in a lot of ways, this tune turns back the clock and makes fans reminisce of the “Among The Living” days. It has that late 80’s Anthrax feel to it, which makes it an immediate winner in my opinion.
#8. Machine Head – Locust: I actually feel that all other six tracks on Machine Head’s “Unto The Locust” are better than this one, but the fact that it still ends up at #8 on this list just proves how much I love this album. Frontman Robb Flynn displays his entire range here, both on guitar and vocals, but the harmonies with Phil Demmel simply win me over and I repeatedly listen to this song for those harmonies more than anything else. An amazingly well-rounded song, this one has something in it for everyone.
#7. Megadeth – Public Enemy No. 1: This one truly stands out as the best tune on Megadeth’s new album “Th1rt3en”. Mustaine, Broderick, Ellefson and Drover undoubtedly are the best Megadeth line-up to go forward with, and this is the first time they’ve recorded an album together. It has resulted in an excellent album. Some of the tunes take a little time to grow on the listener, but on “Public Enemy No. 1″ these guys are at the top of their game, a tune that appeases just about every single Megadeth fan.
#6. Anthrax – I’m Alive: A heavy, yet delightfully melodic tune, this one delivers on all counts. Belladonna’s vocals are absolutely great, and the music does justice to the quality of his voice. This song simply trapped my attention right from its first note itself, on my very first listen. A very high-impact song indeed.
#5. Danava – The Last Goodbye: This is another band that made my 2011 a lot greater than it would have been without them. I mean, except for Graveyard and Danava, I was already familiar with all the other bands on this list and largely expected great things from their new albums. But with this Danava album, I’m a newly converted fan of theirs, and a huge, huge one at that. This is blues-based heavy metal at its ultimate best, and listening to the music is a trip in itself, a trip to the late 60’s. “The Last Goodbye” is a song I think about even when I’m not listening to it. Danava = Pure win.
#4. Machine Head – This Is The End: A ridiculously amazing song, this one has the signature Machine Head sound I can instantly recognize and enjoy, and for that reason I can’t stop listening to this song. This one has everything you would expect from a Machine Head song, and then some. When you talk about the most perfectly written tunes of the year, this is as good as it gets, and comes pretty close to being my favorite song of 2011. A glorious tune indeed.
#3. Saviours – Gods End: While all songs on this list are great, there are some that I can go on talking about, while there are others I would simply listen to, and let other listeners make up their own mind as to what they think of it. This tune from Saviours’ “Death’s Procession” album falls in the latter category. Heavy metal heaven, enough said.
#2. Machine Head – Be Still And Know: I absolutely love each and every song on Machine Head’s “Unto The Locust”, but this one takes the cake as my favorite on the album because of its main riff which reminds me of Iron Maiden. The influence of the Gods is quite apparent here, which makes it a tune that can be appreciated not only by Machine Head fans, but heavy metal fans in general. The manner in which the song is built around the riff is its best quality. A memorable tune without a doubt, and right up there with the best of 2011.
#1. Anthrax – Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t: And finally, this Anthrax tune finds itself as my number 1 song of 2011. While I think Machine Head’s new album is more compact and has a better impact on me than Anthrax’ “Worship Music”, this particular song is better than anything on the Machine Head album, and in fact, better than anything else that came out this year. If you love heavy music, I see no reason why you shouldn’t love this song. A tune perfect to listen to at home, in the car, in the gym, and indeed, in every possible setting you can think of, this one truly signals the triumphantly successful return of Anthrax, and we all hope that they are here to stay.