Honorable MentionThese 20 albums were outstanding, and just missed the cut for our best of 2012. They are listed in alphabetical order:
Accept - Stalingrad (Nuclear Blast)
Asphyx - Deathhammer (Century Media)
Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve (Peaceville)
Black Breath - Sentenced To Life (Southern Lord)
Blut Aus Nord - 777: Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti)
Christian Mistress - Possession (Relapse)
Daylight Dies - A Frail Becoming (Candlelight)
Ides Of Gemini - Constantinople (Neurot)
Ihsahn - Eremita (Candlelight)
Katatonia - Dead End Kings (Peaceville)
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine (Century Media)
Napalm Death - Utilitarian (Century Media)
Nightwish - Imaginaerum (Roadrunner)
Lamb Of God - Resolution (Epic)
Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol (Century Media)
Sabaton - Carolus Rex (Nuclear Blast)
Testament - Dark Roots Of Earth (Nuclear Blast)
Torche - Harmonicraft (Volcom)
Ufomammut - Oro: Opus Primum (Neurot)
Vision Of Disorder - Cursed Remain Cursed (Candlelight)
Now, without further delay, our Top 20 Heavy Metal Albums of 2012!
The Canadian band’s late frontman David Gold reduced the use of harsh vocals on Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light in an effort to focus on the best in each new song. Choosing to layer his natural baritone with higher and lower pitched doubling causes the vocals to channel the spectral sound of Peter Steele. Gold eventually establishes his unique persona by eschewing Steele’s droll irony and sketches a withering hopelessness that Type O Negative never seriously plumbed.
“Death Is Not An Exit” is a prescient masterpiece. Steeped deeply in the album’s gorgeous production and paper-cut arrangements, this song is a compound of emotional complexity. Heartbreaking confusion forces the narrative to veer between acknowledging life’s preciousness and then its essential tragedy. As with the entire album, the narrator’s disassociated viewpoint belongs to someone observing human existence as a momentary interruption in the oblivion before birth and after death.
In spirit and delivery Koi No Yokan reminds me of White Pony, albeit with a mature twist to it. The band can still rage when it’s warranted, but it’s much more restrained and it never compromises the overall structure of the album. In fact, it’s the frightful ease of which the band uses the dynamics and contrasts in their music that makes Koi No Yokan such a magical listening experience.
Simply every little element and detail feels like it belongs there serving a bigger purpose. Koi No Yokan is graced with a dynamic and rich sound, which emphasizes the album’s layered approach and experimental character. It’s not an easy album to get into, but when it opens up to the listener, you’re in the musical ride of your life. Without a doubt one of the musical highlights of this year.
Gojira has advanced and improved over the years, establishing a trademark sound while continuing to push musical boundaries. That sound is fully intact on L’Enfant Sauvage, but the band refines and simplifies what they have done up to this point. It makes for a more streamlined and focused effort. Shifts and changes within songs is something Gojira does extremely well, and is what helps make their music so compelling.
L’Enfant Sauvage is a very cohesive album. Gojira is unpredictable and multi-faceted with continuous twists and turns, so that is quite an accomplishment. Melody, brutality, atmosphere, top-notch musicianship and most importantly quality songs abound on L’Enfant Sauvage. Bien fait!
Bereft are the highly-anticipated project of Sacha Dunable of Intronaut and Graviton, Derek Donley of National Sunday Law and Graviton, Charles Elliott of Abysmal Dawn and ex-The Faceless vocalist Derek Rydquist. Bereft has some Novembers Doom, Cathedral, and just of tiny bit of Pilgrim in them.
Sloppy murk and long-ton guitar heaviness pour like mud from an overflowing basement when "Corpse Flower" stretchers in the soul-bash of the album's 39 minutes. Uncaring string-lifts, amp noise and a crypt-load of feedback dirty up the proceedings, yet add to the edge of the oppressive weight of Leichenhaus' atmospherics.
Alcest's previous releases have created odd, fae-like landscapes, throbbing with magical potential and painted the colour of twilight. Les Voyage De L'Âmes immediately takes a stronger, more direct approach. While this group have always excelled at creating music that explores the inner landscape, with this record they are pressing outward with a more impetuous, active mood than ever before.
This sense of energy is enhanced by subtle changes in the musical techniques employed on the album. Whereas on earlier records the guitars thrummed with the dainty, darting energy of a dragonfly, they now pulse, much more powerful and muscular, like the strokes of an owl's wings splitting the air and propelling it forward. The guitars are employed to create sense of urgency and importance, a forward momentum.
Endless Procession Of Souls has it all: absolutely crushing, devastating production, excellent musicianship with simple, effective riffs piled on top of one another, a mid-paced to galloping tempo and excellent songwriting. In short, Endless Procession Of Souls is about as near a perfect a Swedish death metal album as one could hope for.
Separating this album from not just the hordes of imitators that have appeared of late, but also from recent albums from Grave is a wholehearted embrace of the band’s previous flirtations with doom. Always one to flirt with the occasional slow dirge, Ola Lindgren very subtly incorporates slow, lumbering riffs into song passages that more than evoke bands such as Triptykon with a great sense of weight and density. The effect, though subtly employed, is huge, and all the more enhanced by the best production on a Grave album that I’ve yet heard.
Beastwars' debut (released overseas in 2011, but 2012 in North America) perfectly manifests the darkened heart of the Antipodes. Though the band possess the temperament of an NZ act, they're also indebted to the primordial sludge of '90s noise-rock and classic Amp-Rep, grunge and NOLA groups—as well as giving a nod to the mighty Sabbath. You can draw comparisons to High on Fire, Kyuss, early Soundgarden, and even Celtic Frost, but Beastwars have filtered their influences over distance, fermenting their own distinctive sound.
Intertwined with that filthy sonic stew is apocalyptic philosophizing, Lovecraftian terror, and an abundance of dirty hooks. The band set their lyrical vitriol against a wall of gargantuan, distorting riffs. Nathan Hickey's percussion (deliberate, hammering and robust) forms the vertebrae of Beastwars, and there's really only one way to truly absorb Beastwars—you must obey the riff, and play it ear-shatteringly loud.
RIITIIR is a very dynamic and dense album. The lengthy songs are constructed with layers of guitars and atmospheric keyboards that meander at times, but upon repeated listens burrow their way into the subconscious. It’s a daunting album, but ultimately a rewarding one.
The ebbs and flows between progression and aggression keep things interesting, although the scale tilts toward the progressive side of the coin. There are still plenty of good old fashioned riffs, like on “Veilburner” along with more experimental sections.
Autotheism, The Faceless’ third release, is by far their most progressive to date, with elements of prog legends Opeth, Devin Townsend and Cynic all hugely apparent, especially on the absolutely phenomenal album opening “Autotheist Movement” suite. The near 18 minute, three track piece is a stunning voyage across numerous moods and sounds – from a whirlwind assault of blasts, swept-picked guitars and Ficco’s bellows, to textural synths, tasteful leads and Michael Keene’s strong singing.
While it’s easy to lavish praise on Keene, the Svengali of the band, new members Geoffrey Ficco, Wes Hauch and the supremely talented bassist Evan Brewer are all outstanding musicians in their own right. “The Eidolon Reality,” a track that had been released in demo form last year as a teaser, is probably the most well written, straight-forward song in The Faceless’ back catalogue, with a massive chorus with jazzy chords and a great vocal melody punctuating the full on Lyle Cooper drum assault and Ficco’s roars.