Matt’s Top 15 Albums of 2012
Posted by RiffRaff
I know every year I say that this was one of the best years in metal, but its true, and 2012 was no different. I guess that says a lot about the state of modern heavy metal. The genre has grown into something that was unfathomable at its inception. In no other genre will you find such a diverse set of different acts all boasting such pure passion for what they do. I was also exposed much more music than usual this year since Metal State kinda took off with a spike in readers (thank you!!!) and we started receiving promos from labels and bands looking for exposure (don’t worry, we won’t tell you about the crappy stuff or skew our opinions because a label hooked us up with some free music or a t-shirt). So, when I think about 2012 in metal I can’t help but to return to reflecting on how diverse the genre has become. You will see in my toplist that no single sub-genre really dominates (well I guess you can tell I am a fan a prog metal and was big into the female fronted doom metal bands this year) and there are some amazing albums all across the board in metal this year. There were also a ton I left out which I will post about in the coming days in a quick honorable mentions post. So enough dilly dallying, let’s get it on! Enjoy!! Peace Love and Metal!!!
#15: Epicloud by Devin Townsend Project
And yet again Devin nails another record out of the park and again proves how good of a songwriter and musician he is. Epicloud is Devin’s take on pop music with multiple tracks sounding like something that could be huge hits if radio stations actually played good pop music (yes, good pop music is something that exists). While still being very poppy, Epicloud remains a very metal album with big and crushing guitars, beats, and rhythms but does away with the ‘angry’ part and it creates an album that is one of the happiest and catchiest records of the year. Favorite track: “Hold On”
#14: The Afterman: Ascension by Coheed and Cambria
After a pair of decent, but not quite up to the standards I hold CoCa, they NY boys have come back with a vengeance with one of their best albums to date. With sounds ranging from the heavy to the beautiful to the insanely catchy, The Afterman is a wonderful journey from beginning to end. Each track is boasts both stellar songwriting and excellent musicianship with Claudio’s voice really shining along with Travis Stever’s unique style of guitar blending. Favorite Track: “Vic the Butcher”
#13: To North by King of Asgard
From the moment that harrowing battle horn sounds on the intro track on this record there is no stopping the brutal beasts of King of Asgard. From front to back To North slays and crushes everything in its path with no remorse. Packed to the brim with glorious Viking themed melodic death metal with a tinge of black metal thrown in for good measure this album executes on all fronts perfectly and each track is filled with depth and substance. While they may pull many comparisons to Amon Amarth at first glance (not that that’s a bad thing), King of Asgard really stands out and offers yet another great experience in Viking Metal. Favorite Track: “The Nine Worlds Burn”
#12: L’Enfant Sauvage by Gojira
This band has more than impressed me repeatedly since I made a blind buy on From Sirus.. based on its cool album cover years ago. Being touted as the future of metal by many critics, I think that statement is a bit too far, but to deny Gojira of being a genius band would be a sin. Continuing with their percussive approach to brutality this environmentally minded band has yet again expanded what is possible in technical metal. But for all its technical prowess, what stands out is the heart and emotion that L’Enfant Sauvage bleeds. At first listen you can feel the passion these Frenchmen put into their music and the words they write and the album is all that much better for it. If you’re looking for a very listenable band making hard pushes at the envelope of metal, do yourself a favor and pick this album up. Favorite Track: “Liquid Fire”
#11: Teratogenesis by Revocation
I debated adding this EP to my toplist because, it is in fact, an EP and not a full length release. But since it is longer and contains more substance than many full length records I had to add it. If it were a full length with a few more songs on it, you can be sure it would have placed much higher given how much I listened to it since release. Combining thrash, death, speed, power, jazz, and technical metal, Revocation prove they are still they are still one of the very best metal bands out there today. And to listen to David Davidson play is always a pleasure and I feel he will eventually become a household name in metal alongside other great guitarists like Dimebag Darrell. Oh, and this EP is available FOR FREE from Scion and you can download your copy here. Favorite Track: “Teratogenesis”
#10: Apocryphon by The Sword
It’s no mystery round these parts that The Sword are one of my favorite bands. Starting out as a very doom heavy band they gravitated more towards a more bluesy, space rock sound as their line of albums progressed and Aporcryphon is the natural evolution the band has been following. With this record they border on the fine line of heavy metal and rock and roll, but all in all it’s just a damn quality album filled with damn catchy grooves and fun licks. Nothing really technical or over-the-top about this album, but it’s a damn good time I find myself going on over and over again. Favorite Track: Arcane Montane
#9: Blacklands by Castle
2012 saw an explosion in doom metal with a particular focus on the ones that featured female vocals. For me it was a breath of fresh air to hear both new doom metal bands coming to the forefront again as well as to hear a feminine voice not having anything to do with operatic symphonic metal (which I am starting to tire of). They just fit with this style of music perfectly and one band that hammers that statement home is Castle. On Blacklands, Elizabeth Blackwell uses her sultry and mystical voice to really add character to the doom metal anthems on the record. Not to do all the vocal duties on her own, guitarist Matt Davies also provides lead vocals from time to time really giving a male/female dynamic rarely heard (think of the opposite of what every other band that has that dynamic duo is doing, then you have Castle). The record is more than just about vocals too, the music contained within is doom metal bliss going beyond the Black Sabbath worship the genre is known for. Various tempos and moods grace the record and make it a fun and engaging listen from front to back. Favorite Track: “Corpse Candles”
#8: In Somniphobia by Sigh
Lunacy personified as metal is the best way I can put this bat shit crazy record. Not content to do a single thing with normalcy, the Japanese duo of Sigh have released a masterpiece in avante-garde metal with bouts of NWOBHM, classical, smooth jazz, black metal, death metal, electronic music, funk, salsa, and many more genres of music conglomerating in insanity, often within the same song at the same moments. On paper it sounds like it would be a total mess, but Sigh pull it off beautifully. If there is one thing I will guarantee you about this album, it’s you will never get bored or disengaged while listening. You will always be on ear to hear what they try to pull off next. I can also pinpoint the moment I fell in love with this album; when they dove into a bourbon soaked jazz bar in hell sound complete with a jiving sax solo. And don’t let my praises of it being insane sway you from not checking this album out, it is really a cohesive album that is very listenable. Favorite Track: “Lucid Nightmare IV: Amnesia” (Listen to the full album here)
#7: Clockwork Angels by Rush
Ahhh, Rush. By far one of my all-time favorite bands. And while their post-hiatus records where great, they just didn’t grab me the same way their classic material does. Well now they have an album I would proudly hold up alongside of Fly By Night, Moving Pictures, and 2112. Clockwork Angels is a triumph on all parts Rush featuring some of their best songwriting to date as well as being the most ‘metal’ album they have released yet. Do I even need to go into the excellent musicianship on here, I mean, it’s Rush. Hard grooves, sick drumming, and crazy guitars are all abound and will keep you hooked for Clockwork Angels entirety. If you are any semblance of a Rush fan and haven’t check this album out yet, WTF, go, NOW!!!! Favorite Track: “Seven Cities of Gold”
#6: Dark Roots of the Earth by Testament
Thrash metal perfection. Buy this album, don’t hesitate or procrastinate. It’s that f’n good. That is all.
Favorite Track: “Rise Up”
#5: Self Titled by Jess and the Ancient Ones
Primarily a rock and roll album with heavy influences from the psychedelic stuff from the 60s and 70s there is just enough heaviness to this album to stick it in the metal category. But genre debating aside, the debut record from Jess and the Ancient Ones is nothing short of a triumph. The voice on that woman is just, wow. When Jess sings you pay attention as she captivates you with here commanding, yet beautiful voice. Being yet another band that throws away any preconceptions of what a female voice should do in rock and metal, this record is a success on every possible level. When Jess takes a breather from singing, often for many minutes at a time, the Ancient Ones boast plenty of musical prowess and chops to keep you engaged as you wait for that voice to wow you yet again. But then again, it really isn’t all about the voice vs. the music, it’s the way the whole dynamic works and how strong the songwriting is. With any part missing, this album wouldn’t be as wonderful as it is. Seriously, if you fancy yourself a fan of classic rock, do no miss this one. It is something that will be getting a lot of spins throughout my lifetime and I highly look forward to what these Finns do next. By far the best debut of the year. Favorite Track: “Sulfur Giants”
#4: Pandora’s Pinata by Diablo Swing Orchestra
Dark cabaret, big band jazz, opera, and metal, that’s a mix I thought I’d never hear before, and as soon as I did I discovered I can’t live without it. How DSO blends all these styles together into a such a great and complete cohesive package boggles my mind. There isn’t a single dull moment for the entirety of the album, even when they go full on opera (which is something I tend to scoff at). The musicianship is beyond phenomenal with all the sounds you hear all performed on live instruments with no electronic interference at all (except for an intentional bit at the end). Dynamic and engaging, if you fancy yourself a lover of ‘all’ music, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Favorite Track: “Guerrilla Laments”
#3: Yellow and Green by Baroness
Being one of my most anticipated albums of the year and having ridiculously high expectations for this GA band, I was blown away when they practically reinvented themselves, still sticking to the roots of their original sound, and produced not one, but two albums filled with music that exceeded the insanely high bar they set for themselves. Drifting away from a harder edge, Baroness toned things back in the ‘metal’ dept. and just focused on writing 2 albums worth of stellar songs. With disk 1 (Yellow) having a more hard rock sound to it and disk 2 (Green) focusing on more of a roots folk sound, this band amazes with what they are capable of. Between the powerful and emotional music and the poetic and intelligent lyrics, there is so much Yellow and Green has to offer. Again, if you just love music, whether it be metal, rock, or whatever, this is an album that needs to be heard by all lovers of great music. Favorite Tracks: “Eula” (Yellow) [my pick for my favorite song of 2012]; “Mtns. (The Crown and Anchor)” (Green)
#2: Kentucky by Panopticon
Speaking of mixes in metal I thought I’d never hear, how about some blackgrass. That is, black metal mixed with American bluegrass music. While it might sound gimmicky at first and was my main draw for initially hunting down this record, what I got was one of the most emotional and beautiful records I heard all year. Telling of the hardships of the life of coal miners in Kentucky juxtaposed with music that personifies natures beauty, this album will have you thinking about what we do for energy. But if you want to pass on its political/environmental agenda, Kentucky is a masterpiece in the realm of black metal on how it often combines the banjos, woodwinds, and mandolins of bluegrass music into the visceral metal. It shows how much creativity is left in a once staling genre (purists, GTFO!). Even when it’s full on black metal, the moods and environments are radically different from the frozen stuff from up north favoring painting pictures of the green and wooded Appalachian areas of the USA. And to think this was all written, performed, and recorded by one guy (with a little help from his friends). Favorite Track: “Bodies Under the Falls”
[Note: This album is a bit hard to track down at the time of writing this. In the very near future a CD and digital version (Bandcamp) will be available (about a month), and be sure, the second we can get our hands on legit copies I will be one of the first to let you know.]
#1: The Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between The Buried and Me
You know an album is good when you listen to it and the perfectness of it makes you go back and realize that a previous masterpiece that you had once deemed flawless by a band had room for much improvement. The Parallax II: Future Sequence is one of those albums. Not revoking Colors masterpiece status or my love for it, when put up against Parallax II is pales in comparison. The songs flow better, the musicianship is tighter, the recording is sharper, and it’s hard to find nary a flaw on this album. By far the strongest release from this progressive extreme metal band to date with a bar now set incredibly high. But when it comes down to it all that technical stuff doesn’t really matter if one thing doesn’t shine through; how engaged I can get while listening.
In this Parallax II is an even bigger success. What strikes me the hardest and keeps me listening at attention is how they balance being both serious as well as letting loose and goofing off a bit. This lets my ADD riddled mind flip between being contemplative, examining the auditory philosophizing and just going into a less serious, fun mode. And how well these 2 moods work in tandem is amazing. Take the short but sweet “Bloom” on one end you marvel at how they were able to work the classic guitar song “Wipe Out” into an extreme metal format and the technicality of everything surrounding it, and on the other end, you’re rocking out to “Wipe Out”. Genius IMO.
Since its release I feel slightly guilty for many other great records in my collection that aren’t getting enough spins due to this can of Pringles (‘Once you pop, you can’t stop’). I pop it in for 1 song and before I know it I’ve listened to the whole thing 2 times over. I’ve seriously considered deleting it from my Ipod just to force myself to listen to other music. Anywhoo, I think that Parallax II is the best album of 2012 and if you haven’t yet, give it a listen. Favorite Track: “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest”
Thanks for reading and another awesome year in metal blogging!! Hopefully we turned you onto some new music to groove on and brighten you day. Stay tuned for a kick ass 2013 here at Metal State!! I look forward to sharing some killer music with you all! A big ol’ bundle of Peace Love and Metal to you all!!!!!!
About RiffRaffJust takin' it easy for all you sinners.
Posted on January 4, 2013, in Best of 2012 and tagged Baroness, Best of 2012, BTBAM, Castle, Coheed and Cambria, Devin Townsend, DSO, Gojira, Jess and the Ancient Ones, King of Asgard, metal, Music, Panopticon, Revocation, Rush, Sigh, Testament, The Sword. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.