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July 2012 Best Heavy Metal Albums

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Another month, another batch of great metal releases. 2012 is shaping up to be an outstanding year for the genre, and July saw several albums released that will be seen on many "Best of 2012" lists. Picking the top five was difficult enough, but narrowing down which was number one was even harder. Here are our choices for the best metal albums released in July, 2012.

1. 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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2. 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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3. Nachtmystium - 'Silencing Machine' (Century Media)

Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Century Media Records

Silencing Machine is a perfect balancing act amongst the different approaches Nachtmystium has taken on recent albums. Frontman Blake Judd draws upon his black metal roots with a few songs consisting of all out blasts, dissonance, and hoary rasps; but, psychedelics are given prominence with a slower pace, a few tripped out guitar solos, moments of ambience, and a few sly inclusions of keyboards and other subtle effects.

Weirdness and the bold confidence to experiment and not really give a damn what people think manifests in a few strange digressions from rock music into some sort of R & B derivative. Judd makes it all work with seamless songwriting and excellent performances from top notch musicians, including second guitarist Aamonael of Avichi. In lesser hands, Silencing Machine could quickly devolve into an incoherent mess, but Judd pulls it all together into a cohesive whole, and really does deliver a kick ass record.

Read the complete Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine Review

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4. The Contortionist - 'Intrinsic' (Good Fight)

The Contortionist - Intrinsic
Good Fight Music

The Contortionist have turned up the ‘progressive’ aspect in progressive metal on their sophomore release. While there are obviously still large amounts of punishing aggressive passages, the experimentation on offer is the most impressive aspect to the LP - from the jazzy middle section of opening track/first single “Holomovement” to the complex drumming and aggressive/gentle schizophrenia of “Cortical.”

One of the key elements of the release is Jonathan Carpenter’s vocals. His cleans take the centre stage many a time, while his keyboard and synthesizer work adds layers of color and texture to release, but fortunately never seems forced or contrived. With the production dream team of Jason Suecof and Eyal Levi behind the boards, Intrinsic is sonic perfection. Glassy clean guitars and space-out keyboards float across one another, while the heavier sections pack a crushing guitar tone and a faultless drum mix.

Read the complete The Contortionist - Intrinsic Review

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5. Periphery - 'Periphery II: This Time It's Personal' (Sumerian)

Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal
Sumerian Records

Periphery, the guitar army out of Bethesda, Maryland led by Misha Mansour, is the target of both praise and derision by metal fans, many of whom are more into attitude than music. Their second album, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, will not win over the stubborn haters, but those on the fence will be toppling in droves into Periphery’s backyard.

Periphery has evolved on this album far past that four-letter word that has been used to categorize their music, djent. Mansour, whose only peer at this point is Tosin Abasi of Animals As Leaders, is in his own mini-micro-niche: djenius. With Periphery II, Periphery have raised the bar into the stratosphere.

Read the complete Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal Review

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