DJ Carnie is the host of The Furnace, which used to air on Monday nights from 1-3 AM and now airs on Friday nights from 10-12PM! Check out his list of the top 5 best metal labels of 2011.
5. Prosthetic Records
These guys get the nod for a combination of wise signings and long-running bands finally starting to pay off. They’ve solidly established themselves as a great label for very solid, if occasionally unremarkable, death metal bands along the likes of Landmine Marathon, Neuraxis, and Skeletonwitch, who all released strong records this year. Their best moves came at the start of the year, when they signed the criminally underrated Trap Them from Deathwish and the unbelievably brutal Dragged Into Sunlight from Mordgrimm. I would put money on the extra exposure bringing both bands into the stratosphere in the coming years.
4. Debemur Morti
Plain and simple, these guys put out 3 albums that are among the top 5 black metal albums I’ve heard this year. E x | s t by Infestus is a beautiful piece of work that merges old-school and new-school black metal sensibilities better than anything else I’ve heard in a long time, and Blut Aus Nord’s 777 series is quickly proving to be one of the most impressive bodies of work in recent metal history. While there is little else that’s too remarkable here, these picks alone deserve respect.
3. Season of Mist
By far the most successful of the “major” metal labels this year, Season of Mist put out a staggering selection of quality albums. Arckanum, Benighted, Cynic, Elitist, Esoteric, Kylesa, Nader Sadek, and The Project Hate MCMXCIX all came out swinging, and displayed Season of Mist’s grasp of a wide variety of metal styles, from doom to black to death. With a few more big names waiting in the wings for possible 2012 releases (Dillinger Escape Plan and Atheist come to mind), it’ll only get better for SoM.
2. Profound Lore
Chris Bruni is a genius. I can’t say it any more simply than that. Even stretching back to last year, when they released Slough Feg, Agalloch, and Stargazer’s most recent works, Profound Lore has barely released a single album that has been anything less than revolutionary and incredible. They’ve cornered the market on doom, with groundbreaking releases by Loss, Subrosa, and YOB, while also releasing some of the best death metal all year with Antediluvian and Disma. Profound Lore’s mark has become synonymous with progressive, evolutionary quality.
1. Independent Artists on Bandcamp
This was the year, at least to me, that Bandcamp finally became what it was supposed to be—a truly revolutionary tool to allow bands and labels to connect with their fans with unprecedented ease. For the artists, it gives them direct access to their fanbase, and allows a group of guys with just a few guitars and an 8-track to theoretically get their music out to thousands of people, and even get paid for it. For the labels, it allows for a completely automated distribution effort with fairer cash distribution between the various parties, greater security, and greater management of how fans listen to their music. For the fans, it makes it easier than ever before to listen to a band’s music and to support that band by buying albums and merch. While labels will never go the way of the dodo, as Bandcamp grows, labels will be pushed to do more than just distribute music, and I think that is good for the entire industry. Go to bandcamp.com, type in a tag (I prefer “sludge” or “doom”), and browse through what’s available…you’ll be amazed at the breadth and quality of music you’ll find.
Honorable mention goes to the guys at Seventh Rule Records. While their musical selections have been a bit hit-or-miss at times, their PR has been incredible, and they are excellent at making their fans feel truly valued and welcomed. More labels should work like they do.