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August 2012 Best Heavy Metal Albums

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The summer doldrums arrived in August. The cream of the crop for the month was excellent, but there wasn't as much depth in quality as there has been so far in 2012. Our pick for the top spot is the polarizing band The Faceless, barely edging out death metal veterans Grave.

1. The Faceless - Autotheism (Sumerian)

The Faceless - Autotheism
Sumerian Records

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.

Read the complete The Faceless - Autotheism Review

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2. Grave - Endless Procession Of Souls (Century Media)

Grave - Endless Procession Of Souls
Century Media Records

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.

Read the complete Grave - Endless Procession Of Souls Review

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3. Katatonia - Dead End Kings (Peaceville)

Katatonia - Dead End Kings
Peaceville Records

The strength of Katatonia is that their music conveys many textures and emotions. Much of it is reflective and somber, but they mix in flashes of aggression and angst as well. “The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here” is one of the standout tracks on Dead End Kings. It features guest vocalist Silje Wergeland from The Gathering, who fits in perfectly with the vibe of the song.

Katatonia’s sound has mellowed over the years, and that melodic side really takes front and center on Dead End Kings. There are still heavy sections, and “Buildings” is probably the most “metal” song on the album. This album is similar to their last release Night Is The New Day in terms of both style and intensity.

Read the complete Katatonia - Dead End Kings Review

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4. Sophicide - Perdition Of The Sublime (Willowtip)

Sophicide - Perdition Of The Sublime
Willowtip Records

Perdition Of The Sublime is Adam Laszlo’s baby; he wrote, recorded, and produced the album. Though a few of the songs don’t do much besides blast away, more often than not, Laszlo pulls out a stunning display of melodic brutality. Jolting cuts like “The Art Of Atrocity” and “Dawn Of A New Age” have their place for those who just want riffs in their face, though they aren’t the primary reasons to give this album a shot. That lies with the deep, layered mini-epics packed with proficient acoustic guitars and ambient keyboards.

The instrumental work is exceptional, which can’t be stated enough, but the vocals are the usual fare of barking and grunts. A few samples to reaffirm the anti-religious viewpoint liven up the vocals, but they definitely aren’t what one would call noteworthy. The lyrics complement the music, and vice versa, which is the best way to get one’s point across.

Read the complete Sophicide - Perdition Of The Sublime Review

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5. Dust Bolt - Violent Demolition (Napalm)

Dust Bolt - Violent Demolition
Napalm Records

Germany’s Dust Bolt are not a weapon from a Mega Man game; they are a thrash metal band in the vein of Teutonic terrorists Kreator. Violent Demolition is a breath of fresh air, as the band’s particular style is not exactly like a lot of others in this re-thrash movement.

Dust Bolt seems to have created one of the most cohesive and original thrash metal albums of the year, while some other bands either tread water or continue to swim in a sea of sameness. It should also be noted that Derrick Green (Sepultura) contributes vocals on “Deviance,” further adding credence to a young band chock full of talent. So if you fancy yourself an excellent thrash metal album circa 2012, Violent Demolition should be your first stop.

Read the complete Dust Bolt - Violent Demolition Review

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