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February 2012 Best Heavy Metal Albums

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It's been an outstanding first two months of 2012 when it comes to new metal releases. Already there are at least a couple contenders to appear on the year-end "best of" list. Here are our choices for the best metal CDs released in February.

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

2. Christian Mistress - 'Possession' (Relapse)

Christian Mistress - Possession
Relapse Records

The sound Christian Mistress produce is unbelievably sensual. The urgent drumming of Reuben Storey evokes a lover's beating heart, the way that passion can make you awake of your pulse fluttering in your wrists and temples. The dueling guitars of Oscar Sparbel and Ryan McClain swoop and clash like a lover's quarrel before resolving into a perfectly harmonious, passionate entanglement.

For all the sonic indulgence they bestow on the listener, Possession is not a indolent, languid album. Quite the opposite, in fact. The pace often gallops forward breathlessly, with a genuine excitement and urgency. It is an exceptional piece of heavy metal, unpretentious and unqualified, infused with transformative energy and taking on a sensuous life of its own. Do not miss this.

Read the complete Christian Mistress - Possession Review

3. Asphyx - 'Deathhammer' (Century Media)

Asphyx - Deathhammer
Century Media Records

Although they are properly lauded for a string of classic albums since their 1991 debut The Rack, Asphyx, for whatever reason, are usually not quite mentioned in the same breath as giants at the forefront of death metal such as Obituary and Bolt Thrower, bands that have a similar approach to crushing death metal with an emphasis on riffs and sheer heaviness.

That oversight had better quickly change with Deathhammer, as it has it all. A huge presence with gigantic guitar and bass riffs, bursts of old school gallops with relatively simple drum patterns, and a big, solid production with an unbelievable density anchor the sound. Martin van Drunen showcases his patented, gruff vocal skills, skills that are on par with the best of the best in death metal. Asphyx also happily embrace a slower approach with a few songs that seem to tread well into doom metal territory; slow, lumbering riffs and a few tracks that very nearly hit the eight minute mark.

Read the complete Asphyx - Deathhammer Review

4. Napalm Death - 'Utilitarian' (Century Media)

Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Century Media Records

The really interesting thing about Utiltarian is its diversity and subtlety. Yes, subtlety. “Fall On Their Swords,” for example, contrasts its mid-paced, heavy as hell grind with Gregorian chant; “The Wolf I Feed” proudly revels in the band’s anarcho-punk heritage before catching the listener completely off guard with a fantastic foray into Fear Factory/Ministry-style industrial metal, while the discordant saxophone embellishments on “Everyday Pox” contributes to a jarring and disorientating experience.

Bands like Napalm Death will never have mass market appeal. They’re not built for it and don’t want it. But as the latest installment of a career that has consistently challenged, this is the sound of a band doing just what it wants to do, without so much as a sideways glance to the conventions and expectations of the business in which it operates. This is the sound of defiance.

Read the complete Napalm Death - Utilitarian Review

5. Psycroptic - 'The Inherited Repression' (Nuclear Blast)

Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression
Nuclear Blast Records

It’s damn obvious that the Haley brothers Joe (guitar/production) and drummer Dave, Psycroptic’s main songwriters, have decided to really focus on song structures and laying down some seriously fantastic guitar riffage on The Inherited Repression, and while it might be easier to grasp straight-away, the band are just as technical as they have ever been.

The endless assault of riffs can get tiring after a while, and it will take you a few spins for the mountain of tech-death goodness to sink in, but once it does the hooks stay firmly embedded into your brain. Whether you’re a life-long fan of extreme metal, or completely uninitiated to the genre, you need to hear this record.

Read the complete Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression Review

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