In truth, I didn't listen to that much heavy music in 2011. I guess I'm "getting older," or whatever. There were a few rather excellent records released this past year which found themselves in heavy rotation for me, but I found myself listening to a variety of other and older things during the year.
Records released in 2011 that I enjoyed, in alphabetical order:
Indian - Guiltless
Violence, misanthropy, hatred. Oppressive guitars, banshee vocals, disorienting drums. This is the best heavy record of 2011, but it can be a bit exhausting to listen straight through in one sitting. It's just that fucking relentless.
Junius - Reports from the Threshold of Death
Another expertly sculpted masterpiece from a band I've been a fan of since their first EP was released in 2004. Dark, haunting, and epic, Junius craft songs that recall the birth of stars and the formation of planets.
Low - C'mon
This is hands down my top record of 2011. Nearly every song is brilliant, and the few that aren't are still quite excellent. Dark, mellow, infectious.
A Storm of Light - As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade...
My only complaint with this record is the sound of the drums. Too rubbery, synthetic. But the drumming itself, as well as the other performances and the songwriting, are top-notch. Heavy and dark, without really being 'metal.' Think Pink Floyd through a Neurosis filter.
Yob - Atma
Some have complained that this is just "more of the same." But with Yob, that's precisely what I want.
2011, though, was the year of Levon Helm for me. I listened to his 2007 album 'Dirt Farmer' more than any other record, except perhaps the Low record mentioned above. As a drummer myself, I identify strongly with him as I get older and seek new ways to express myself musically. His voice is raspy, like corn husk, and his drumming is simultaneously understated and expressive.
There are several records which I missed, but feel obligated to check out at some point:
Atriarch - Forever the End
Blut Aus Nord - 777Sect(s) / Desanctification
Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light
Hull - Beyond the Lightless Sky
Leviathan - True Traitor, True Whore
US Christmas - The Valley Path
Wold - Freemasonry
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
When the list of records you didn't get around to hearing eclipses the list of records you did hear, you know you're getting old. Or maybe jaded. Or maybe just lazy... Looks like I have some homework to do!