It’s now July 2011 and we have hit the halfway point in the year. So far there have been tons of outstanding metal releases and there will be some upcoming releases to hit in the second half of the year(September is going to be one hell of a month). I’d like to present you with my top 10 favorite albums to be released so far in 2011. Let’s see how many maintain their hold till the end of the year. A few I haven’t gotten around to reviewing but be sure that will eventually pop up soon. And as always, what were your favorite albums for the first half of 2011. Peace Love and Metal!!!!

Honerable Mentions

Týr-The Lay Of Thrym, Thomas Giles- Pulse, Devildriver- Beast, Yggdrasil- Irrbloss, Between the Buried and Me- The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, Vintersorg- Jordpuls

10- Alestorm- Back Though Time

Alestorm really doesn’t bring much new to the table for their third outing other then tightening up their musical skills and honing their unique brand of rum fueled pirate power metal. But why this album gets a spot on the list is the amount of fun I had while listening to it. While I do love a deep and thought provoking album, a fun and lighthearted album is always a huge welcome and I love it when music makes me giggle and smile, especially when it’s well done. And it spawned one of my favorite videos so far this year.(review coming soon)

9- Suidakra – Book of Dowth

It’s pretty well known that I’m a complete sucker for concept albums, especially ones that tell a story. Suidakra tell a tale Inspired by the darker side of Celtic lore, the concept of “Book Of Dowth” chronicles the mythology of a mysterious race of demonic beings known as the “Fomor”. Starting with the discovery of an ancient book at the excavation of Dowth ( a Neolithic passage tomb in the Boyne Valley, Ireland ), it unveils the yet untold story of the rise and fall of the Fomorian horde throughout history and far, far beyond…”( The album is a wonderful listen and has lots of variety with somber Celtic songs, brutal melodic death metal, and a healthy mix of the two. One of my favorite things on this album is the many guest vocal spots of Tina Stabel whose stunning voice really adds a deeper layer to this already excellent album, whether whether in duet with Arkadius Antonik or doing entire songs on her own.(review coming soon)

8- Stratovarius- Elysium

One of the most influential power metal bands out there had lost a bit of steam for a while as they went through lots of drama with their band leader and amazing lead guitarist Timo Tolkki who eventually left the band in 2008. After the departure the remaining members picked up a new guitarist, Matias Kupiainen, and kept on trucking. Elysium is their second album without Tolkki and really shows the band hitting stride with the new line-up, and boy that stride is a running at full speed stride. This is a huge breath of fresh air in the Stratovarius catalog and really shows the band expanding outward and embracing new ideas and pulling them off masterfully. If you had lost interest in Stratovarius now would be the time to get back into them, they are back and in full force.(Review here)

7- Amorphis- The Beginning of Times

While I was slightly disappointed in this album due to the fact my expectations and anticipation were sky high after being blown to tiny little bits by the amazing Skyforger, this is still an excellent album and a well thought out piece of art. Not content with repeating Skyforger, Amorphis did what they do best, they morphed their sound a bit and introduced new elements to their music, this time around leading to a slightly darker album, but with more beautiful passages(if that makes any sense). What you get is an album that stands out from their previous releases and continues to use their perfect mix of melody, brutality, and beauty and also continuing the use of the Finnish epic The Kalevala as inspiration for their lyrics. The more I keep listening to this album the more it grows on me, maybe I’ll love it even more when it comes time to make one of these lists for the end of the year.(Review here)

6- Turisas- Stand Up and Fight

While keeping their overall battle metal theme intact, Turisas take it a huge step further and create an orchestral metal masterpiece unlike anything you will hear from any other band in existence. While Turisas have use orchestrations in the past they were never used to the extent that they are used on Stand Up and Fight with just about every song boasting a huge(and I mean really f’n huge) live orchestral score. If the goal of this album was to define the word “epic”, Turisas definitely succeeded. The title of this album fits perfectly with the feeling you get while listening, because while you’re rocking out to the tunes you are bound to want to Stand Up and Fight. Props to the production team on this one, this album had to be one hell of a bitch to produce, and they did a outstanding job putting an album of this magnitude together.(Review here)

5- Korpiklaani- Ukon Wacka

A party in a can this band is. While creating some of the most fun drinking songs you will ever hear Korpiklaani also crafts songs that also call on the beauty of nature and the wilderness. Releasing an album almost yearly, these Finnish masters of alcohol fueled fun are going full steam ahead and picking up speed. Ukon Wacka is just a flat out blast to listen to and is the most fun album I’ve heard all year and probably will stay that way until the next Korpiklaani release. Give yourself a treat and grab a cooler of beers, go into the forest, and commence drinking yourself silly(but don’t over do it, we’re responsible adults, right 😉 ) while playing this album at full blast and dancing around like a jack-ass.(Review here)

4- Amon Amarth- Surtur Rising

It’s Amon Amarth, what else would you expect except excellence. Surtur Rising brings the masters of Viking metal to the apogee of the melodic death metal genre. Johan Hegg’s vocals are in top form while he maintains the brutality of his growls while still being very understandable(something I love in growling style vocalists) and the riffs on this album, just wow, so many absolutely awesome riffs, can’t forget about the epic solos and the killer drumming and bass work either. If you haven’t already gotten yourself a copy of this masterpiece, go grab your battle-axe and pillage your way to the store to do so.(Review by Plantera here)

3- Rhapsody of Fire- From Chaos to Eternity

I think it’s quite obvious that I am a fantasy nerd, ya know, dragons, wizards, epic battles, elves, unicorns, dwarves, gnomes, all that stuff, I’m a complete sucker for it. I’m also a sucker for a good narrative in a concept album, I like orchestral elements in my music, and I love me some metal too. Rhapsody of Fire have heard my prayers and crafted a band that caters to just about everything that I love in my entertainment. For years I’ve been captivated by the ongoing narrative Rhapsody have weaved and now they are bringing their story to a close. And do they go out with one hell of a huge bang. Front to back this album is nothing but pure awesomeness. Rhapsody have went and expanded on everything that makes them so great creating a style I like to call “Sword Wielding Elf Orchestral Slightly Blackened Cheese Neo-Classical Power Fantasy Nerd Metal”™. If you’re in the mood to try something a little different I can not recommend this album enough, it even has Christopher Lee on it.(Review here)

2- Symphony X- Iconoclast

My jaw is still on the floor on just how mind blowing this album is. It has everything a metalhead could love in a metal album. Killer riffs, great powerful soaring vocals, searing solos, pounding drums, bass beyond the limits of groove, and a catchiness stickier than superglue mixed with tree sap. Iconoclast is Sympony X at their finest and their finest and Symphony X at their finest is a wonder to behold. Placing this at number one was rather difficult not to do, but I have my reasons. Enough talk, go get this album(the 12 song 2 disk edition), it just flat out f’n rocks.(Review here)

1- Moonsorrow- Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa

On Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa(As Shadows We Wander the Land of the Dead) there are no flying over the top solos, no pitch perfect singing, no catchy chorus’, and no fast paced riffing. What it does have is a level of intensity and heart beyond any form of measure or words. The atmosphere of the album is smothering, the wall of sound is impassable, and the heaviness is unlike any type of heavy you may have ever heard. It’s an emotional journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland and through music we hear simultaneously the agony of a world we have destroyed and also the beauty of the resilience of Mother Earth. This album will break your soul as well as nurture it and put it back together.

All the songs are sung in the bands native tongue, Finnish, but that doesn’t detract for a second the emotional impact this album will have upon you. The layers of music go deep as the band methodically builds up their songs and unleashes an epic thunder that you will feel in the marrow of your bones. This album is a masterful piece of art and not for those who want instant gratification. It requires time, attention, and thought to really appreciate its beauty and once you take the time to appreciate this album for what it is you will be fully rewarded. Buy this album in anyway possible, it’s a must own for anyone who really loves to sink their teeth into their music(Americans, since for some reason it has not been released in the States yet with no word on when, you can import it from here, and they also do offer a MP3 download of for the budget conscious, but if you have the 20 bucks to spare the CD is worth it for the photography and the translation of the lyrics).(Review here)