2011 was a really good year. We got some of the best releases of the past 5 years, including Protest The Hero, The Devin Townsend Project, Anthrax, Machine Head, and Between The Buried And Me. But, we also had a lot of the worst. You probably don’t want to remember, but Design The Skyline released their debut, we got (yet another) binary-infused Emmure record, a borefest from Jason Richardson’s new band Chelsea Grin, and we even got that awful train wreck comprised of one delusional old man and the biggest thrash metal band in the world. You know the one. 2012 rolled around, and we thought it couldn’t be done, but so far, it’s kicking 2011’s ass. With great records from Cattle Decapitation, Meshuggah, Spawn Of Possession, Whitechapel, and with anticipated releases from Wintersun, Between The Buried And Me, Cloudkicker, and more, this year just looks like it will get better.

The real question that comes up is this: why now? Why this year? Why has 2012 been the year when a band that seemed to be dwindling suddenly realizes what they were missing and puts out the best record of their career? Well, for starters, many young bands are coming around and realizing that their schtick is not as effective anymore. Their fanbase is in the need of something new. A perfect example is the band Attack Attack! Their first album got rejected from the metal community as “crabcore” and everyone scoffed at them. Then they released an equally bad album, just without the crabcore BS. However their third album showed a radical change in style. The metallic familiarity of djent had entered the mix, and suddenly this was not just chugging, but djenting their breakdowns, and even putting some off-time stuff in their songs. Now, this doesn’t mean I think this is a great record, because it isn’t. But it shows how a band is evolving and abandoning their roots to explore new territory, which seems to be the universal theme of 2012.

Some bands have been lucky enough to discover the “key” to making an amazing record that will be remembered for years to come, and may even be looked at as their best. Cattle Decapitation was a band that I wasn’t really a fan of before. I had heard their last couple albums and was less than impressed. Sure, they were good, but they never really stuck in my head; there weren’t memorable moments. When they released Monolith Of Inhumanity this year, and I heard it, my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe it was the same group of guys. They adopted melody into heir music. They got faster, more intense. They are at the top of their game. And it’s because of the tiny change that was made to their sound, which let’s them keep their deathgrind roots without remaining the band that just makes the same album ten times. Even Whitechapel made their best record this year by losing some breakdowns in favor of flavorful lead work, some atmospheric tinges, and mixing death metal and deathcore perfectly.

Now, that’s not to say there haven’t been missteps as well. Make Me Famous, Eskimo Callboy, Chelsea Grin, Emmure. They all released terrible records this year, whether it be because they contain stupid and juvenile lyrics, boring music, or both. Some bands jjst are not getting the message: WE DON’T LIKE BORING. WE DON’T LIKE JUVENILE. We want our music to have substance, and we want to be able to connect on the same level emotionally as the band does on their record. Whether that leaves you pissed off or really happy is dependent on the band. But I digress.

I think that 2012 has a lot to offer. If any music fan wants to discover some fantastic music, look to this year. Before you go back to their “classic” record, try one that they released this year, because chances are it IS their classic. This year will go down in history as one of the greatest years music has ever seen, and I’m not kidding. So, 2012, we salute you. Here’s hoping that the rest of 2012 is so awesome that the end of the world gets postponed an extra 365 days.

-SS

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