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I’m not going to go on about how great 2012 was for music, because everyone of my co-writers has already done that and then some. There’s no denying it was great, so let’s just move on. I’m writing this list pretty last minute, as I’ve had my choices locked in for some time, and I thought, “Hey, I’m not confused about anything, so I can push it back as far as possible”, and that was a terrible idea, as I’m now scrambling to get this thing finished, and having a hard time really talking about why I like these albums. However, I was the one who reviewed a lot of these, so if you find what I have to say on each individual one lacking, just go read  my review or the reviews of the other albums written by my fellow contributors.

Honestly though, I did not love 2012 as much as everyone else. Maybe it was the events in my personal life that caused me to have such a poor outlook on a lot of the earlier releases of the year, but it’s hard to deny the fact that I just did not connect with nearly as many metal releases this year as I did last year. It’s a shame, but not something I’ve overly thought about, because I’ve found other music to enjoy throughout the year. That being said, I did happen to find a good handful of great albums that I anticipate listening to for many years. Like I said, I’ve had my choices for my list picked out for some time, and that’s because I knew which albums I loved, and which albums I wanted to continually listen to for many years to come. I wasn’t wowed by a lot of the big name bands; I found Meshuggah and Gojira lacking a bit, which were two of my my anticipated albums of this year, but that’s okay. Sometimes you just can’t connect with certain albums. And even  though metal wasn’t all that great for me this year, I still love the genre, and it’s still my favorite type of music to listen to. Anyways, that’s why I listen to metal, and that’s really all I have to say on the matter, so here’s my top ten albums of the year.

Lapko - LOVE10. Lapko – LOVE

First up on my list is LOVE by the band Lapko, an album that was nowhere near my radar when the year started out. Lapko are a finnish alt.rock band, who while not being entirely metal, do carry the metal aesthetic in a very clear and defined way. They borrow heavily from Rush, and present their music in a much more fun loving attitude than those old-school rockers, yet all the while bringing a really crushing and beautiful sound to the audience. This album is very comparable to last year’s fun alt/prog rock release, Arrows & Anchors by Fair to Midland. There are a lot sound elements that are similar and that’s perfectly okay, because I’m someone who definitely needs a good fun, rocking album, and Lapko provided that for me. While the album gets a little repetive towards the end, the final song just explodes and exudes so much passion, it’s hard for me to find any real negatives to this record. It’s an album that shocked me, and I’m very grateful that it did.

Standout Tracks: ‘The River Venom’, ‘Dragons’

Nine and Eight

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09. Katatonia – Dead End Kings
08. Ihsahn – Eremita

Katatonia and Ihsahn released two very powerful, and very different releases, and not just between the two of them, but compared to their own respective discographies. What makes these albums so great is the sense of emotional depth that can be found on each song. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a Katatonia album and had so many, for lack of a better word, feels. Jonas Renske’s vocal performance is just so entrancing, and emotive, it’s hard to ever stop listening to this album. And a similar statement could be made for Eremita, even though I wasn’t as emotionally attached to this album as I was to his previous outing, After. Though that doesn’t mean Eremita is a bad record, in fact it is a phenomenal record that everyone should hear, and I would go so far as to say that’s even a better album than After on a technical level, it just didn’t grab me as much as I had wanted it to. However, Ihsahn’s croons, and ghastly rasps (not to mention his fucking guitar playing and the haunting sax sections courtesy of Jørgen Munkeby) just draw you into the murky an disjointed world present on Eremita. It’s ugly, yet so enthralling.

Both of these albums are very dark, and I don’t think there’s a single glimmering moment on either disk, and ever since Dead End Kings came out I’ve found myself listening to them in tandem, and that’s why I grouped them together like this. My mind works in such a way that I sort of need groupings of things to effectively catalog and express myself, and it just so happened that these two bands ended up together, despite having very few sonic similarities, but I’m digressing. Let’s move on.

Standout Tracks: ‘The Racing Heart’, ‘The Paranoid’

Seven Through Four

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07. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension
06. Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud
05. Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
04. Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Lost in the New Real

Here’s my big prog roundup. Four progressive metal/rock albums that just wowed me this year, and four records that I can hardly put down. First up is Coheed and Cambria’s latest disc, an album that I wasn’t even paying attention to, and frankly didn’t even listen to until a month or two after it was released. What has always caused me to distance myself from Coheed in the past has been the focus on more hard rock stylings of music, that combined with Claudio Sanchez’s vocals has always pushed me away, as I never thought they really fit together, but with Ascension the band brings in more sugary, and proggressive sounds that, in my opinion, definitely lends itself to the music better than previous aural elements found on Coheed’s back-catalog.

Next up are the new records from Devin Townsend Project, and Between the Buried and Me. Honestly I’m super surprised that I ended up liking the new BTBAM record more than this Townsend record. I went into the year not thinking much of BTBAM after their last LP, and that  EP that I wasn’t too fond of, and when I found out that it was going to be another record in the vein of Colors, I just groaned and wrote them off for awhile. But of course I did end up listening to the record, and it was really surprising. I found that while the music was very akin to Colors in terms of style, the substance of the record was much more thought out, and paced in a way that actually made sense, and didn’t feel weighty or overbearing like Colors and The Great Misdirect. In fact I think this record is leagues ahead of Colors in terms of songwriting and depth, plus it’s just really fucking fascinating. I love the story elements, and after listening to this record over two hundred times, and reading the lyrics far too much, I know the record… by heart. :/

Now Epicloud, while being a record I really love, just didn’t have that extra added oomph that most Townsend records have. This is a record that has two discs of great music, and if you like pop-metal than give this thing a go. For ten dollars you can get the two disc digipak, which is over two hours of music, twenty three songs. I don’t think any other record this year has more bang for you buck, but like I just said, the record doesn’t have that extra wow factor that every other Townsend record has. So while this is a really great album, and I will listen to it off and on now untill the day I die, it’s not the best record of the year, and barely misses the number five spot.

And lastly on my little prog section, coming in at number four on my list, is the ever so lovable, Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Lost in the New Real. Woo, what a record. It’s undeniable that this record is much more simple than pretty much every other record that has appeared on this list so far. It doesn’t have insane guitar leads, or out of this world drumming, or the layered shouts of various vocalists vying for the listeneres attention as on previous Lucassen records; it’s just one dude, creating really memorable, often times simple songs that are drenched in his personality, and his love of music. It is a very simple album, with barely forty minutes of music on the standard disc, but I’ve always valued personality and songwriting over technical prowess. It’s the reason why Bob Dylan is so popular, and considered by many to be the greatest American songwriter. Arjen Lucassen is my Bob Dylan, the Bob Dylan of metal. A dude who can craft wonderfully written songs, whether it be super technical, or really simple, the man can do everything, and still have the ability to enrich all of his music with his personality. And I love his personality, so it make since that would so heavily value his music.

Standout Tracks: ‘Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute’, ‘More!’, ‘Silent Flight Parliament’, ‘Lost in the New Real’

03. Old Man Gloom – NO

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I already wrote a review on this album, and I it praised pretty highly. My opinion hasn’t changed since then, and in fact I’ve come to love this record even more than I originally had to begin with. The album is crushingly bleak, and its shifting tones and ideas just create this sense of claustrophobia in me, and when a record can give me that much unease, that’s how I know it’s bloody good. I’ve never not enjoyed listening to this album, and every time I put in my CD or cassette (yes, I bought it on cassette and CD) I can’t help by just getting lost in the world of music that this band have managed to create. I don’t know if there will ever be another record, and if there is I don’t know who will be releasing, but Old Man Gloom’s NO seems like a very fitting swangsong for the now dying Hydra Head Records, a label that provided the metal community with absolutely amazing records (such as NO) for nearly two decades. I love this band, this record, and the label it was released on. This is powerful, powerful music.

Standout Tracks: ‘To Carry the Flame’, ‘Rats’

02. Baroness – Yellow & GreenBaroness-Yellow-Green

The first time I listened to Yellow & Green, I loved it. And after a few more listens, I hated it. And then  I let it ruminate within me for a few weeks, and then I started to like it again, and then a few more weeks passed and I wasn’t listening to anything else but Yellow & Green. So saying that my relationship with this record has been tumultuous would be an understatement, but luckily my current opinion has been locked in place for a few months now, and I still love it, and I still listen to it nearly daily.

I won’t lie, I was disappointed by the dropped emphasis on metal elements, as I wanted another rollicking sludge fest like ‘Rays on Pinion’, or a ‘Horse Called Golgotha’, but once I got over that and started focusing on what the album is, and not what it isn’t, I found a really fantastic record that has kept me enthralled for a long time. I think, despite the lessened “heavy” factor, Yellow & Green could possibly be the best record in the Baroness catalog. It’s far more song oriented, and there are a lot more techniques and styles being utilizes on this disc to great effect. It seems very experimental, but not like disjointed or all over the place. It’s a contained and insular album, but also manages to carry a wide array of sound, which is awesome.

Standout Tracks: ‘Cocainium’, ‘The Line Between’

01. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

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I really don’t have much else to say about this that I haven’t already said in my two reviews of this record. It was the first album that I felt comfortable giving a five out of five to during my time here at Heavy Blog. It’s an album that redefined the band’s sound, and showed how diverse and strong of a song writer David Gold really was. While it lacked a lot of the hallmarks of the band’s earlier albums, it was an album that caught my attention almost instantly. It’s an album that perfectly captures every existential idea that Gold and company expressed throughout their discography, and ramped those ideas up ten-fold. While it’s sad to think that there will never be another Woods of Ypres album because of Gold’s untimely passing, it’s a perfect farewell to the man behind the band’s core sound, as it’s easily the best album they have released to date, and an album every single member of the band should be proud to have been a part of.

So while David Gold shouts “we shouldn’t worship the dead” on the track ‘Adora Vivos’, when a man like him creates an album like this, it’s really hard not to worship him. Of course I don’t really worship him, that’s called hyperbole for  effect, people. Seriously, though I love this album, and it’s more than deserving of my number one spot. If you haven’t listened to it yet, please go do so. Let the world know how awesome this man’s music was, and while you’re at, go buy some tissues, because this album is drenched in sadness.

Standout Tracks: ‘Lightning & Snow’, ‘Adora Vivos’

- EC