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2012 Best Heavy Metal Albums

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11. Evoken - 'Atra Mors' (Profound Lore)

Evoken - Atra Mors
Profound Lore Records

Evoken are often cited for their broad approach to funeral doom; namely, the willingness to add subtle hints of melody and to incorporate elements from other genres. Atra Mors shows Evoken continuing that thread; that is, incorporating other genre elements into their dirge laden assault of funeral doom with well written songs that result in a cohesive structure.

The thick production, the thundering, heavy riffs, and the deep, rough vocals are all there; however, subtle melody is seamlessly blended into the music with quiet keyboard effects and moments of lightly strummed guitar. The pace is generally slow, but has enough variation with subtle time changes to keep the listener absorbed in the material.

Read the complete Evoken - Atra Mors Review

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10. Witch Mountain - 'Cauldron Of The Wild' (Profound Lore)

Witch Mountain - Cauldron Of The Wild
Profound Lore Records

Uta Plotkin's incredible performance sits at the heart of Cauldron Of The Wild's palpable solemnity. Her voice—by turns plaintive, raw and hypnotic—imbues Witch Mountain's Southern-tinged doom with the kind of hard-times honesty attributable to iconic singers such as Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin. Plotkin’s power and fluency cannot be understated; her superlative vocal talent saturates the album with soulful authenticity.

Cauldron Of The Wild is flawless. Amp-fusing riffs, kaleidoscopic solos and corpulent tones abound, sludgy dissonance haunts the alcoves, and there's a thickness and weight that evokes '70s heavy rock at its finest. If you're searching for metal with a tangible sense of gravitas, here it is in abundance.

Read the complete Witch Mountain - Cauldron Of The Wild Review

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9. Dragged Into Sunlight - 'Widowmaker' (Prosthetic)

Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker
Prosthetic Records

Dragged Into Sunlight’s second album Widowmaker is arguably the grimiest 40 minutes recorded this year, and that’s just the starting point in the compliments department. The band takes a risk, and in turn, elevate themselves to contenders for album of the year.

Don’t buy only one track of Widowmaker or stick to a 90 second sample to make a final verdict. Take the time, put each track side-by-side, and let Dragged Into Sunlight overwhelm you with horrific sounds. Widowmaker is a stunning album that may get pushed aside due to its late-in-the-year release date and the large amount of releases over the past few weeks, but don’t ignore this mesmerizing sophomore effort.

Read the complete Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker Review

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8. Converge - 'All We Love We Leave Behind' (Epitaph)

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Epitaph Records

For all the wild and ugly parts, All We Love is in many ways a much more cerebral, restricted album, at least thematically. Converge have always dealt in the currency of raw emotion, the heart placed bleeding on a platter for the listener. On this record, rather than the presentation of an active dissection, it is more a reading of scars.

The lyrics and ideas are more solid and filled out, but also more considered and deliberate. The songs come across less as written in the heat of the moment and more carefully composed. Converge have traded immediacy for reflection. All We Love We Leave Behind is the inevitable result of a band, still performing and composing at the very top of their game, maturing and abandoning the wild anguish of youth for a more carefully deployed kind of rage.

Read the complete Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind Review

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7. Neurosis - 'Honor Found In Decay' (Neurot)

Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay
Neurot Recordings

Honor Found In Decay, the tenth album from Neurosis, is perhaps the most impressive step in their evolution. Every track is an exercise in the absorbing of notes, from the heavily groove influenced opening “We All Rage In Gold” to its sullen closer “Raise The Dawn.” Nothing on this record will disappoint the long time listener.

What this record does, much like their catalog, is move beyond the tradition of structure and more to the realms of fluidity. Neurosis is a band that takes time to absorb. Never has this band been so foremost and honest in their delivery and execution.

Read the complete Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay Review

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6. High On Fire - 'De Vermis Mysteriis' (eOne)

High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
eOne Music

So many moments in De Vermis Mysteriis transcend all that High on Fire has done in its six album catalog, as well as those of the lesser canniboid tribes in people-of-the-pipe metal, that it induces altitude sickness. A good album pleases immediately then fades into fondness. A great album pleases repeatedly and never fades away.

Des Kensel’s drums summon unspeakable gods on every track, Jeff Matz’ bass thumps on the ceiling of Perdition like the horny neighbors in the apartment upstairs and Matt Pike has become a guitar. He doesn’t just play his mutant fret-beast any longer. He has become that mutant beast as surely as Jake becomes a Na’vi at the end of Avatar. Pike’s guitar on De Vermis Mysteriis is as shattering as anything recorded since Tony Iommi first descended to Earth.

Read the complete High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis Review

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5. Baroness - 'Yellow & Green' (Relapse)

Baroness - Yellow & Green
Relapse Records

John Baizley and crew have been busy and may very well have found that perfect balance between Baroness’ signature style of riff based rock/metal music and accessibility. Here is why Yellow & Green is great and why it will appeal to the masses as well as fans of old.

Each disc of the album has its own theme and helps to set the tone as the feelings provided by both can be quite different. The real standout has to be the absolute ear candy of “Take My Bones Away.” With melodic sections that give off the feeling of emotions in Baizley’s voice may not be one of the things you notice right away, but on repeated listens he has become quite a great one.

Read the complete Baroness - Yellow & Green Review

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4. Pig Destroyer - 'Book Burner' (Relapse)

Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
Relapse Records

Book Burner is loaded from top to bottom with riffs piled on top of riffs and blastbeats galore. Also present is extremely tight musicianship as Scott Hull demonstrates his claim to the grindcore guitarist throne with an unbelievable performance.

Adding further complexity to the chaos is an excellent sense of timing with seamless tempo changes and variation. Obviously, the stellar songwriting creates the swirling complexity, and goes a long way towards making Book Burner a textbook, near perfect example of caustic grindcore. Hull and company also make the wise decision to keep the album short with a total of 19 songs clocking in at just over a half hour, all very nicely broken up by the tempo changes and variation.

Read the complete Pig Destroyer - Book Burner Review

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3. Meshuggah - 'Koloss' (Nuclear Blast)

Meshuggah - Koloss
Nuclear Blast Records

There is a bleakness to Koloss that penetrates the musical complexity and grabs the gut as well as the head. The churning, laborious ache of “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” is an excellent example – here, the dense, shifting tempos and syncopated riffs are harnessed to convey a sense of shuddering, faltering struggle. The trembling, almost tentative sound of the last instrumental track, “The Last Vigil,” ends the album with a pervasive feeling of regret and melancholy, casting a pleasurably miserable pall over Koloss.

Koloss is a monster, a shambling giant of a record that is somehow as pitiable as it is gargantuan. There is a misery tempering the majesty of this record, and that sets it apart. Meshuggah have retained everything about their sound that defines them and makes them great while simultaneously digging deeper to present a more visceral, emotionally authentic listening experience.

Read the complete Meshuggah - Koloss Review

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2. Cattle Decapitation - 'Monolith Of Inhumanity' (Metal Blade)

Cattle Decapitation - Monolith Of Inhumanity
Metal Blade Records

Monolith Of Inhumanity is an elaborate project of dynamic shifts and experiments in areas that were previously untouchable. Songs veer off into unsettling ambiance, where the usually-vicious nature is toned down for a slower, methodical assault. Songs like “A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat” have choruses that could be deemed “catchy,” which seemed like a curse of death for the band a few years ago.

All these songs are still the furthest thing away from being accessible. The band still crushes the dreams of little children with steel-toe boots. There’s nothing welcoming about the bile slathered on in big portions, and even the occasional finger-snapping melody does not dilute the straight hatred these guys have for the human race. If song titles can speak volumes, “Dead Set On Suicide” and “Gristle Licker” should do the job.

Read the complete Cattle Decapitation - Monolith Of Inhumanity Review

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1. Pallbearer - 'Sorrow and Extinction' (Profound Lore)

Pallbearer - Sorrow And Extinction
Profound Lore Records

It would be easy to summarize Sorrow And Extinction by saying it's a consummate release, symbolizing everything that is grand (and magnificently grim) about doom metal. But while Pallbearer's reverence for the core attributes of doom is profound and sincere, it would do the band a huge disservice to not mention the mesmerizing and overwhelming emotionality of the album.

It's magnificently crafted, but more than that, it is an album that reaches in and touches your soul, enshrouding you in unparalleled solemnity. Hopelessness, sorrow and pain have never, ever, sounded so alluring. Rising from the morose quagmire of subterranean doom, Pallbearer stand proud as true exponents of resonant and poignant artistry. And hey, keep this in mind. This is only the band's debut.

Read the complete Pallbearer - Sorrow And Extinction Review

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