Let’s celebrate with champagne
Because it’s that time of the year again
When everyone gives each other gifts
And makes end of the year lists
2012 was a great year
Many albums I did revere
But only a few I must choose
Now before more rhymes I abuse
Let’s get to the favorite albums
So take this list into your cerebellums
(Yes, I know that the cerebellum doesn’t do that, shut up!)
15. Psycroptic – The Inherited Repression
Australian tech death wizards Psycroptic are one of my favorite bands. They have a very unique style and no other band even comes close to sounding like them. They’ve delivered yet again with The Inherited Repression, this album is just infectious. No one does groovy tech death better than Psycroptic nowadays. I’ve been looking forward to this album, and while it’s no Scepter of the Ancients, it’s still distinctly Psycroptic. The band have finally settled together as songwriters in unison with singer Jason Peppiatt, and they’ve delivered this album that no one else can.
Favorite song: ‘Euphorinasia’
14. Nile – At The Gate of Sethu
I don’t know what it is about Nile, but they’re just insanely good. The vocals are nuts, the guitars and drums are nuts, the songs are over the top and yet melodic and unique. At the Gate of Sethu wasn’t their best release, but it was still extremely solid and better than most other releases this year. Nile’s unique Egyptian-themed death metal that is technical and memorable at the same time always inspires me. Their riff writing is insanely creative and the songs always have a drive, riding from a clear start to a clear end and being compelling along the ride, no matter what craziness is thrown your way. The vocals were especially great on this album, I love both Karl and Dallas’s voices. Also the songwriting was a bit more experimental than their past few releases, which I always like. Also, who doesn’t love their ridiculously long song names?
Favorite song: ‘The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased’
13. Oddland – The Treachery of Senses
When I first heard Oddland randomly while browsing Century Media’s Youtube channel, I couldn’t believe how good they were. The Treachery of Senses quickly became one of my most anticipated albums. It’s exactly what I want out of progressive metal, emotional songs that have just that right amount of punch to them. Oddland are this year’s Leprous for me, and I believe they have insane amounts of potential, considering this is just their debut album. It’s also distinctly Nordic, and this album, along with another similar progressive-yet-groovy album that’s further down my list, made me slowly switch my tastes towards more progressive metal this year, as opposed to progressive deathcore and technical death metal. I still enjoy those genres, but Oddland really opened up my eyes to how one can blend the old progressive sound of bands like Pain of Salvation and more modern flavors. Just for causing that stylistic shift alone, this album deserves the spot, but it also happens to be a great album too, you know.
Favorite song: ‘Past the Gates’
12. The Agonist – Prisoners
Don’t get me wrong, I love The Agonist, but Prisoners came out of nowhere and I wasn’t expecting it to be this good. An extremely solid mix of metalcore and melodeath, with great vocals, great riffing, great drumming, great everything. This is what metalcore should be, and The Agonist should be huge for this album. Alissa’s voice is angelic and demonic, but unlike most female fronted bands, The Agonist don’t just let her be the gimmick and write boring songs and cash in on her looks. The songwriting is really solid, Prisoners has some of the best metalcore riffs I’ve heard in a while. The drumming is great too, and good drumming always makes a great album even better.
Favorite song: ‘The Escape’
11. Gods of Eden – Gods of Eden
This EP came out of nowhere and it was pretty much the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is because it’s so short and it loses a bit of its steam near the end, but this is still incredible. These guys need to come out with a full length ASAP. The singing is great, the songs are progressive with elements taken from all kind of music, be it choir, flamenco, neoclassical. There’s great shredding, thrashy riffs, death metal, whatever I can ask of from a band like this, it’s in here. The first time I listened to Gods of Eden I couldn’t believe how good they were. The fact that this band can take so many things and cram it in a song without being forced or cheesy is a testament to their skill. But beyond that, the songs are just that good. After a while, I don’t even notice that there’s so much going on in a song, I just sit back and enjoy the ride. Not many bands can pull off this level of fusion with such ease and masterful songwriting.
Favorite song: ‘Gods of Eden’
10. Vintersorg – Orkan
9. Borknagar – Urd
Did someone say weird blackened progressive metal featuring Vintersorg? Well, Borknagar is that plus ICS Vortex (one of my favorite vocalists and then some. This album isn’t as offbeat as Orkan, but what it lacks in weirdness, Urd makes up for with great, evocative songs and excellent vocals. It was very hard choosing between these two albums, believe me. How the vocals come together with the keyboards to make a beautifully indulgent atmosphere is incredible.
8. Wintersun – Time I
Wintersun‘s self titled debut is among my all-time favorite albums. Obviously Time I took a long time to get released, but when it was finally in my ears, I was ecstatic. The symphonic parts are just amazing, and the songs are beautiful, memorable, epic and powerful. Time I was definitely worth the wait. There is nothing more epic. Wintersun always has a special place for me, their music is infinitely captivating and I always enjoy a good epic, symphonic tune. No other band gives me the desire to close my eyes and imagine I’m in a different landscape. Wintersun paint a snow-covered landscape that is in turmoil, the forces of darkness encroaching upon the land. A glorious battle is taking place around me, and I an bathed in the light of the stars. Never has power metal been so captivating for me since Blind Guardian‘s A Night at the Opera. And this album is perhaps even better than that, because the drumming and is insane, Jari’s a great singer, and the riffs are supremely memorable. Not many albums can paint an imaginary landscape for me to get lost in. Even as I write this I want to grab my sword and fight to the death in the snow. A glorious death in battle is the only honorable way to go!
Favorite song: ‘Sons of Winter and Stars’
7. Spawn of Possession – Incurso
I called Spawn of Possession‘s Incurso “The best tech death album ever”, and I still stand by that. Every time I listen to it, the depth of the theory and the quality of the playing on this album melts my mind with how “next level” it is. I don’t think anyone can come close to the mastery on this album, it’s just perfect. I kinda fell out of love with tech death this year, which is the only reason this album isn’t my #1, but it’s still an album that every tech death fan should own and listen to frequently. The neoclassical composition fused with creepy, Lovecraftian tech death and insane lyrics make give album a very alien quality. Listening to Incurso is taking slow steps down a stairwell that is descending towards madness. Unlike most other tech death bands, Spawn of Possession don’t fill their songs with needless over the top wanking that takes away all sense of direction from their songs. The riffing is very deliberate here, each note placed thoughtfully. They also don’t bother to integrate irrelevant elements that would dilute the dense atmosphere of horror. Incurso is basically a very specific type of music stripped to its core, refined until perfection and pushed all the way to its extreme end. This is why it’s the best tech death album ever.
Favorite song: ‘The Evangelist’
6. Enslaved – RIITIIR
Considering Borknagar and Vintersorg were in my list, are you even surprised to see this here? I’ve always been a fan of Enslaved, but RIITIIR was just a sucker punch, I was not expecting it to be that good. This album is just brilliant, it’s serene and emotional and suddenly it’s grim and angry. This is my new measuring stick for progressive metal, each song on here is an incredible journey. The riffs can be pretty simple at times, but how everything comes together in a song is what makes it incredibly majestic. I love this album to no end and it’s incredibly hard for me to pick albums that I enjoy more than this. This is another rare album that can bathe me with emotions and take me to another landscape. I have a hard time expressing how I feel about this album because it’s one of those “you need to feel it” things.
Favorite song: ‘Roots of the Mountain‘
5. The Odious – Joint Ventures
I’ve been looking forward to The Odious‘s full length debut, considering they were in 5th place in last year’s list. I had abandoned all hope, but turns out they were able to finish Joint Ventures just in the nick of time before I got my list in. And man, this album is everything I expected and more. Everything on this album is just amazing, the funk parts, the death metal parts, the vocals, the progressions of the songs… it’s just amazing. It’s a last minute addition, but it’s totally worth it. If I had more time to let it sink in, this album might have even grabbed a higher spot. This album does so many things right it’s hard to believe.
4. Sigh – In Somniphobia
It’s no secret that I love Sigh to no end. Each of their albums is a hallmark for me, they’re extremely weird and cheesy and enjoyable at the same time. This album take the weird to a new level while still being Sigh. In Somniphobia is nothing short of mind-blowing, but somehow still very approachable. Sigh are the unsurpassed masters of avant-garde, they can write songs and integrate whatever they want in them, yet still have it make sense. The sheer amount of expansion this album caused to my musical palette is reason enough for it to be on my list, but it also happens to be chock full of great music, no matter how you classify it. I already mentioned this album is cheesy, but there’s so much cheese here that it bears mentioning again. And that isn’t really a bad thing in this case either, because Sigh can take all that cheese and make it a great topping for their music. There’s never a dull moment on In Somniphobia, it’s always quirky and invigorating. I can’t praise this album enough, really. It’s everything I love about 80’s music, ethnic music and all kinds of other random stuff thrown into a blender with metal. This album is all-time-greats quality.
Favorite song: ‘Purgatorium’
3. Stam1na – Nocebo
Stam1na are the best band you’ve never heard, unless you’re from Finland where they’re consistently on the top of the charts. These Finnish progressive/thrash metal wizards definitely deserve more recognition, and I assume the only hurdle in the way of them getting more famous is that their songs are in Finnish. Still, their songwriting is very characteristic and solid, just the right mix of progressive and heavy, while being insanely memorable and unique. Nocebo is yet another great album in their catalog full of stellar albums. They’ve pushed the boundaries even further this time, and the album is a hit on every count, I love every single song on Nocebo. The opening track “Pirunpaska” is the first song I listen to every morning, it’s just that uplifting and great. Yet another album that is hard for me to describe, because the songs are all a “feeling” for me, and putting it into words takes something away from them. The best way to experience this album is to listen to it.
Favorite song: ‘Pirunpaska’
2. The Safety Fire – Grind the Ocean
If, for some reason, you were paying attention to my writing, you probably know that I really, really love The Safety Fire. Grind the Ocean is the perfect album for me. Heavy when it needs to be, weird when you don’t expect it, serene when it wants to pull at your heartstrings, and full of great riffs. I’ve listened to this album so much, yet I never get tired of it. It’s hard to describe how this album makes me feel, weird, happy, energized, introspective, all kinds of feelings. The songs are just heavy enough to keep you going, but they’re also heavily laden with a texture that is distinctly The Safety Fire that’s ephemeral yet powerful. Sean Weeney’s unique voice carries the songs, Derya and Jo’s playing is very off-beat yet enjoyable in a weird way. This album is one of a kind, and I’ve spent countless hours lost in these odd riffs and vocals. Every song is an exercise in soothing you then riling you with a powerful climax. Grind the Ocean is very consistent and well-written, and every song is an exercise in perfection of progressive metal.
Favorite song: ‘Floods of Colour’
1. Fear, And Loathing In Las Vegas – All That We Have Now
This is it. This is the final moment. Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas‘s All That We Have Now is my favorite album of 2012. This is a very divisive album, mainly due to the autotuned vocals and electronic elements, and you either love it or hate it, but I love it. The autotuned vocals are the point, they are an instrument, and I don’t think the band would have worked without them. Similarly with the electronic stuff. Also, the keyboard player is really good and the electronica parts are good enough to be songs on their own. The screamer has a very unique voice too. I basically like every single piece of the machine that is FALILV, every instrument, every small lick, every drum fill, every vocal line – it’s all sublime. These guys are extremely uplifting and all of their songs are just great. I like a lot of Japanese music in general, and this is the perfect j-rock album. In addition to that, it also has great metalcore elements. The riffing is extremely characteristic, rife with hyperactivity and unlike any other band in either genre. It makes me feel great, I know all the songs by heart and sing them to myself all the time. I listen to this album non-stop and it never gets old. I don’t have as much time to listen to music as I used to, but these guys always give me the boost I need on a bad day. No album this year made me feel as good as FALILV did, and no album is more enjoyable to me. To me, music is all about how it makes you feel, and there is never a dull moment with FALILV, never a moment where the songs aren’t just full of awesomeness and insanely catchy melodies. All That We Have Now is my favorite album of 2012, without doubt.
Favorite song: All of it. Here’s the opener, ‘Acceleration.’
Riff of the Year
The Safety Fire – Huge Hammers
The verse riff that comes in with the vocals right at the beginning of the song is just amazing. The time signature changes, how it spans the entire guitar, how the two guitars harmonize, it’s just perfect.
Cover Song of the Year
Enslaved – Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
I love “Immigrant Song“, and I love Enslaved, and this cover somehow retains aspects of both while still being amazing. I don’t know how Enslaved pulled it off but this is just great.
Runner-up For Video for Video of the Year
Enslaved – Thoughts Like Hammers
Given how plain and uneventful this video is (it’s just shots of nature being nature), you probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I think the video is actually very fitting for the song and I love watching it. The flowing water, the leaves, it all helps me get into the mood for enjoying the song. It’s not the flashiest thing ever, but I really like it.
Video of the Year
Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas – Scream as Hard as You Can
It’s a relatively plain video, and I’m probably biased by the fact that this song is my favorite song of the year, but the video conveys everything that I love about the band, the energy, the colorfulness and the intensity.