I can’t believe 2012 has come and gone already and this is all I have to show for it. And I’m not about to give you some cliché, end-of-the-year list summary so here it is in all its raw glory. Enjoy!
1. Inverloch – Dusk/ Subside
It’s been a fairly disappointing year for doom and death metal, nothing really noteworthy or groundbreaking to really speak of beyond “Sweet throwback, old school sound”. To say the least, Dusk/ Subside kicked me square in the balls upon its release and it should to you too. We’re talking about half of the members of dISEMBOWELMENT’s sticking to their murky death/ doom roots and it’s done to perfection with this debut E.P. Can’t wait for a full length!
2. Wizard Rifle – Speak Loud Say Nothing
Dillinger Escape Plan signed to Sumerian Records this year and made bigger news then this debut from math/ sludge/ stoner metals new kings. Why do I bring up Dillinger Escape Plan? Because they sound like what Dillinger Escape Plan should sound like without all the filler eccentricities and absolutely abysmal songwriting skill. Wizard Rifle know how to mathematically hammer it down and write catchy tunes with all the zany fixin’ that even Mike Patton would be proud of (if he wasn’t endorsing that silly DEP band). The most overlooked album of 2012.
3. Bosse-de-Nage – III
Words can’t describe how much I loathe most post-black metal and it’s for one obvious reason, none of these bands know how to successfully merge the sound together where I can’t tell the difference between the genres. Of all the conundrums that have befell me this year, Profound Lore once again escaped the clutches of painting themselves into a corner with a strict doom/ black/ death metal roster (they did this last year by releasing KEN Mode’s metalcore/ noise rock genre definer) and proved why they’re the greatest metal label on the face of this earth by signing this band. And my word does this band do so much with their raw instrumentation without the use of modern perks in production and tweeking. Bosse-de-Nage not only blur the lines both genres but do it with such conviction that there might be hope for the genre yet.
4. Nadja & Vampillia – The Primitive World
Nadja’s latest album this year failed in so many ways and it was truly the first time I didn’t enjoy something in their huge catalogue to date. Vampillia must have done something right to kick Nadja into shape because Nadja sounds like the thunderous, mountain hollowing shoegaze doom of past albums and Vampillia is there to add the enchanting melancholy moments that litter every nook and cranny of this beastly album. Plus ‘Icelight’ is the best thing to have Nadja’s name on it; a slow moving romp through doom and shoegaze succinctly utilized within its twenty-three minute plus run-time.
5. Torche – Harmonicraft
Torche is like my comfort metal; you know exactly what you’re getting when you’ve had a taste before. I for one dove right into their cake and made a mess of myself after I heard the wonderfully catchy Meanderthal. No band on this earth can write hooks as big as these guys and the term “thunderpop” is like the icing on the cake. Call me fat for indulging in too much of their irresistible tiny slices of doom encrusted pop, but I don’t care if I wheel around Disney world the rest of my life in a motorized wheel chair. Torche are an addictive recipe for comforting metal that is neither angry or macho – just fatty Mcfat-fat bliss.
6. Neurosis – Honor Found in Decay
It goes without saying that if this album doesn’t land on your ‘best of metal’ list, you need to re-evaluate your mentality. Neurosis haven’t really changed too much besides dropping a bit the of heaviness from Given to the Rising and embarking on a folkier quest into the post-metal unknown. Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly really open up on some rawer moments too, giving their epic song lengths an almost exposed, vulnerable approach as if they’re baring their souls to a fireside ritual ceremony. It’s moving to say the least and it’s great to finally have another Neurosis album to absorb for the next five years.
7. Rahu – The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
My number one straight-up black metal honour goes to Finland’s Rahu for carrying so many of the genres best qualities on its shoulders without the requisite need to hump the leg of the master. All five songs are masterfully created here using a variety of genre staples and technique including Bergtatt neo-folk melodies and the droning awesomeness of Arizmenda’s signature tremolo riffs.
8. Ash Borer – Cold of Ages
Cascadian black metal isn’t exactly my favourite movement in black metal and it all points to most of these bands incessant need to draw out atmospheric tremolo riffs that would have most people pushing stop midway through songs. One thing I’ve always loved about Ash Borer is their love of dynamics and while they do drive their atmospheric flurries into their structures, they’ve always managed to rein the song into other territory. Cold of Ages explores this wonderfully and I find myself loving the doomier passages on here more and more with each listen. And that production, finally they’ve cleaned it up to show the metal world they have the black metal chops (this is also me calling you a retard if you complained once about this aspect).
9. Tempest – Solace E.P.
Metalcore is an effigy of everything wrong with metal but metallic hardcore still shines through in the underground. Take for example Canada’s Tempest two track 7” E.P. crushes everything and anything released within the genre this year. They also manage to do this in less than ten minutes without ever letting up on the chaotic gas pedal that drives through each ear drum. This is the album Converge should have released this year.
10. Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage
I will always have a soft spot for these guys considering they write catchy metal with mammoth sized grooves and captivating melodies that most mainstream metal bands should take note of. Regardless of how out of place this looks on this list, I for one need a break from kvlt and tr00 bands.
11. Enslaved – RIITIIR
Enslaved hit their masterful stride with Axioma Ethica Odini, a furious and tightly wound progressive black metal masterpiece that pretty much took their ongoing ideas throughout the past six albums to the ultimate peak. I guess I was left wondering where the band was going next and I was bang on with my predictions. RIITIIR is a way more dynamic album that embraces their proggier senses while leaving black metal high and dry for the most part. Some fans will be disappointed by this move seeing as the cohesion of past albums is also left behind but it still feels like Enslaved throughout their glorious wonder years. A new chapter for Enslaved has been started.
12. Flourishing – Intersubjectivity
I’ve been looking forward to this since its announcement and it doesn’t disappoint. Flourishing is, in my mind, the most unique thing happening to death metal today. With this E.P., the band is stepping outside their tumbling structured approach and injecting a whole hell of a lot more racket into their already dense sound. Some fans might be turned off by this but you can never be too overbearing when you play like these guys do.
13. Dysrhythmia – Test of Submission
I have to be honest, tech metal has no appeal to me whatsoever. Mechanical instrumentation hurts my ears (unless it’s industrial) and for the most part, wank is just stupid. It’s like trying to impress that cute girl at school by doing something that everyone else is doing; it ain’t working so you feel you must one up the other guy and begin a machoistic battle to no end. Test of Submission is the album Dysrhythmia has been wanting to write their entire career. It sounds natural, it sounds like it was written by people, but mostly, it sounds like a bunch of interesting songs that are indeed songs and not “watch me bench-press this nerd”.
14. Evoken – Atra Mors
One of my favourite depressive death doom bands is back after a fairly long wait time between albums and they haven`t lost a step in the process. My only complaint about this album is the production and clipping methods used in the final product but if you can sink your teeth through this, Evoken`s sound has only become more crushing and claustrophobic over time.
15. Atriarch – Ritual of Passing
I would hope as a metal listener, you’ve tuned into Celtic Frost’s Morbid Visions and To Mega Therion a few times. If you have, you will absolutely love Ritual of Passing, Atriarch’s much anticipated sophomore album after last year’s soul crushing Forever the End. If you know anything about Celtic Frost’s murky take on black metal and thrash, ignore the thrash part and add in a sledgehammer to the head industrial/ doom mash-up and you can kind of get the picture of what Ritual of Passing comes plowing into your ears as.
16. Philm – Harmonic
Despite mediocre reviews for this gem, I’m going to put this out there and take heat for it: THIS IS DAVE LOMBARDO’S MOST INTERESTING PIECE OF MUSIC TO DATE. Sure, you can lie to yourself and go jerk-off to his influential hyper speed drumming in Slayer or you can be honest and give into his new alt-noise rock project that is signed to Mike Patton’s label Ipecac Records. I wouldn’t exactly call this “prog” by any stretch but it certainly pushes conventional boundaries with it’s weird guitar effects, weird time signatures, weird sense of dynamics...it’s just plain weird and I love it.
17. Horrendous – The Chills
I can’t tell you enough how much I love old school Swedish death metal and The Chills click on everything I love about the genre. But that guitar tone, holy shit it hurts when this band starts shredding away as if they were living in the early 90s again. Entombed, Dismember, Grave and older At the Gates fans, give this a spin.
18. Dawnbringer – Into the Lair of the Sun God
To me, there’s only a handful of bands that can do no wrong playing NWOBHM. Iron Maiden is just gay and while they’re still the hot-breathed influence of the genre, I never understood the appeal of those horrible falsettos and repetitive, galloping melodic guitar lines. It’s time for them to step the fuck down. To these ears, Into the Lair of the Sun God abolishes all of those irritating traits and lets the entire song be its own thing without the proverbial stand-alone vocals and guitars. Dawnbringer, along with the mighty Slough Feg, own this genre through and through and all you douche bags pinching your Iron Maiden thongs out of your ass crack need to hear this shit.
19. Shining – Redefining Darkness
Shining have been rather disappointing with their last few releases and it’s either their experimental ventures have failed or that they’ve simply opted for a more straight-forward, alternative lean on their brand of black metal. Redefining Darkness makes up for lost time and delivers (not quite on all songs but close enough to warrant my top 20). If you don’t believe me, listen to the depressively satisfying ‘The Ghastly Silence’ and you will see what I mean. Probably my favourite song by the band and Kvarforth’s best vocal performance of his career.
20. Agalloch – Faustian Echoes
Slow-burner Marrow of the Spirit took its sweet time creeping into my skull with its full-on take of raw black metal and electronic flourishes. Nevertheless, I went from hate to love instantly with it while some fans are having a harder time digesting their new direction. Faustian Echoes feels like a cut removed from Marrow and it makes a better E.P. rather than cramming it onto a full length where the potential for this would be lost. This was a great idea for the band as they most likely needed to channel a bit of excess aggression left over from the Marrow sessions into a nearly twenty-two minute song and leave the gate wide open for their next full length.
1. Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity
2. Horseback – Halfblood
3. Wodensthrone – Curse
4. Vaura – Selenelion
5. Addaura – Burning for the Ancient
6. Abyssal – Denouement
7. Gaza – No Absolutes in Human Suffering
8. JK Flesh – Posthuman
9. Katatonia – Dead End Kings
10. Lord Mantis – Pervertor
11. Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
12. Swans – The Seer
13. Krallice – Years Past Matter
14. Ignivomous – Contragenesis
15. Author & Punisher – Ursus Americanus
16. Lurk – Lurk
17. Samothrace – Reverance to Stone
18. Wintersun – Time 1
19. Menace Ruine – Alight in Ashes
20. Torture Chain – Time is But a Doorway to the Incinerator
21. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
22. Cornigr – Relics of Inner War
21. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
22. Cornigr – Relics of Inner War