Today is the big day. I have taken countless hours, and have listened to literally all metal albums from this year (Okay, more like forty of them. Give me a break). Either way, it’s the end of the year, and now I have to pick through the swarms of great LPs to choose ten that truly stand above all the rest. Now, before you read em’, I get this every year. Such quotes as:
“WAAAAH! THESE ARE TOO MAINSTREAM! I HATE YOU AND I HATE THESE ALBUMS!”
Cool story. I’m not Revolver Magazine. I pick them because they deserve it, not because they coasted through to it. If your “underground” band called “We cut ourselves into pieces” wants to win, tell them to get a real vocal range, learn to sing, stop using auto-tune, and maybe learn what a classical guitar is.
“OMFG THAT’S NOT METAL! THAT’S POST-MODERN INDUSTRIAL ACID PUNK LOUNGE-CORE”
It fits in with what metal is deemed as. If you think it should be contested, take it up with the band. If it smells, tastes, feels, and sounds like Metal, there’s a damn good chance it’s probably Metal.
“Why didn’t this band make it? I felt they really deserved it.”
There’s a chance I’ve skipped over a couple decent sleeper LPs from this year. Send em’ my way. As long as its something from the band that stands out from their last album, or if it’s their debut, let me know and I’ll go check it out. You never know! Maybe they really do deserve it, and I’d appreciate the chance to correct it.
With that being said, let’s get to it! We’re doing a countdown, so here are my top ten metal albums from this year! It has been a damn good year for metal, and I’ve enjoyed practically everything that has come my way this year. However, it’s time for some bands to boast, and do it loud. Starting out at number ten, here is our first group on the list.
10) “Second World“, by The Foreshadowing. This LP greatly improved upon their 2010 album, “Oionos”, in almost every department. They deserved this spot.
9) “Lights Out“, by Graveyard. While most people wouldn’t recognize their status as metal, this blues-inspired ensemble has everything you could want out of a metal band, including the soul that most groups lack. It was incredibly difficult to follow their 2011 album, “Hisingen Blues”, but somehow they blew it apart with this one.
8) “Born Villain“, by Marilyn Manson. I hear enough bitching about Manson’s work after the year ’96. I don’t need to hear anymore completely unsupported whining about why he is different now. He changed for the better, and now he got his hostility back. BV is a wonderful return to the days of Manson bringing rock, punk, and metal together.
7) “Clockwork Angels“, by Rush. There is a good reason people are claiming it’s one of the best releases from this group in 30 years. They’re right. This band has gradually fine-tuned their sound, causing it to all come together for this phenomenal album of classic proportions. Everything you love about Geddy, Alex, and Neil comes together on this stunning LP that proves that old dogs can learn new tricks.
6) “Dark Roots of the Earth“, by Testament. Following four years after their previous album, “The Formation of Damnation”, Testament shows why looking backwards makes for damn good music. This is thrash at its finest, and will fit right in line with their growing list of albums that belong on top ten lists. This LP should be named “The Dark Roots of Testament”, because this was the sound we were all eagerly awaiting the return of.
5) “Dead End Kings“, by Katatonia. Picking up on the great vibes from their previous album, “Night is the New Day”, Katatonia returns with a mellow new masterpiece. The calming, smooth vocals show why people have loved their transition over time, and only further prove that they can take bold directions with their music, and never lose the quality of their melodies. From soft keyboards, to the echoing hum of the bass guitars, Katatonia has taken Doom to a new level once more, with this beautiful, melancholy metal legend.
4) “II“, by Black Pyramid. As if their 2009 self-titled album wasn’t hard enough to conquer in sound quality, their 2011 compilation album, “Stormbringer”, was easily one of the best of the decade. However tough it was though, Black Pyramid came out on top. Managing to not only be inventive with new guitar riffs, but match the clever lyricism and dance worthy drum rhythms of their previous two endeavors, II is a true gem for metal that should receive significantly more exposure than it does currently. This album smells of metal so much, it’s putrid. The stench of sex and dried blood-stains don’t nearly sum up how medieval this album is, and that’s saying something for Black Pyramid.
3) “Yellow and Green“, by Baroness. You had to know this was coming. Too many people have thrown a tantrum because they feel this band isn’t the same anymore. Well, you’re right. They’re not, and it’s fuckin’ amazing. Baroness managed to put out a dual-disc of fresh material and make everything on it sound like gold. Whether it’s the heavy, riff-tastic, addictive sound of “Take My Bones Away”, or the groove-packing melody of “Foolsong”, these albums deliver what Baroness promised. Their same style of originality, with a fresh batch of clean. This entire album is worth it just for the song “Eula”, I’d say. If you haven’t heard this album yet, you should hop to it. You’re missing out on Baroness and their great new sound.
2) “Into the Lair of the Sun God“, by Dawnbringer. I don’t know what the hell Chris Black and Matt Johnsen do when they go in studio, but I can only hope for the safety of anyone who comes in contact with the maelstrom that starts when this band touches instruments. Like listening to the Ode to Joy, Dawnbringer successfully merges some of the most harmonious tones of neo-classical perfection, with all of the vicious glory of fast-paced power metal. This amazing concept album should be more than just the name suggests. It’s not just a concept. This story deserves to be told through film or animation, with a killer soundtrack that only they can provide. Seldom is it that I can be moved by an album so powerful that I receive chills at a certain chord. The song “VI” features an interlude of pure guitar volume, that brings warmth to my body and a tingle to my spine. The lyrics may chant “For soon a hero will return”, but that time is now. Dawnbringer is one of the last hopes for this classic metal sound, and they couldn’t represent this genre any more proudly than the way they do it. They are true metal warriors, who thirst for only the most destructive sound imaginable.
And finally, our 2012 album of the year is…
1) “Apocryphon“, by The Sword!
That’s right kids. If there was any album this year that made me throw money at my screen, it was this one. One does not simply step over “Age of Winters”, “Gods of the Earth”, or “Warp Riders”. These are albums that carry a weight on them that would sink most ships other bands sail on. It takes only their creator to undo their damage, and they’ve done just that. The Sword threw out conventional thinking for this one, and went into studio with nothing but instruments and Pandora’s box. Out came a pillar of metal, as new solos decimated old ones, a new drummer gave a heartbeat to the end of the world, and vocals sprang forth to join with the sirens. Their 13 second synth intro is more metal than most bands can handle. Everything you always wanted from The Sword 6 years ago jumped out of this album, and bitch-smacked you across the face. They covered it so well, even the bass guitarist tells whiners to stop crying on “The Hidden Masters”. This LP is a game of musical chairs, that every time the rest of the sound stops, something steps forth to shock you. Only this band has the power to make their weapons seem as if they have their own consciousness. If you’ve ever seen The Sword play, then you know well the fact that they merely stand on stage to hide the fact their instruments are possessed. We should be grateful that these guys keep a firm grip on their guitar picks, drum sticks, and the microphone, lest the world be torn asunder by the power of metal. If this is what it sounds like when they are in control, then I fear the day this band lets go and the instruments decides to rise up against their masters. It may be the end of us all, but I’ll be damned if it won’t be the best sounding apocalypse ever.
To J.D. Cronise, Kyle Shutt, Bryan Richie, and Jimmy Vela: You guys deserve nothing less than top spot. From the amount of pure talent, and painstaking work it must take to put together an album such as this one, you all must be very proud of your progression over the years. You’re not the mainstream of metal. You’re the lifestream of it. We know you won’t let us down anytime soon.
It was an awesome year in metal kids, and I can’t wait until next year. Hope to see you there, and keep checking the messenger of metal site for all your favorite Heavy Metal news!
(Honorable mentions go out to Lacuna Coil, Dio (last compilation album), Witchcraft, Meshuggah, 3 Inches of Blood, Soundgarden, Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Kamelot, Anathema, Cradle of Filth, Ministry, and Jeff Loomis)