I know you don’t really read these openings to lists. You’re probably shifting on to the top of my list, preparing to either praise me or bury me for my list. Either way, hope you enjoy, and feel free to point out any errors I may have made; I’d be more than happy to talk about why it’s not on my list.
(VERY) HONORABLE MENTIONS
The Agonist – Prisoners
Unfortunately, I only had room for fifteen special albums, but this doesn’t mean that you should let this gem of a record pass you by. The Agonist are the perfect blend of metalcore and melodic death metal, and this is spearheaded by Alissa White-Gluz’s brutal harsh vocals and angelic cleans.
Recommended Track: “You’re Coming With Me”
The Omega Experiment – The Omega Experiment
The Omega Experiment was undoubtedly one of the best progressive records of the year. Shredding guitars, melodies you’ll want to sing to over and over again, and some of the best clean vocals this year make it a standout.
Recommended Track: “Gift”
A Million Dead Birds Laughing – Xen
Have you ever considered what SikTh would’ve been with a more death metal core and a few drugs? Listen to this record and you’ll have your answer. Also, download it for whatever price you desire here.
Recommended Track: “Goliath”
SALLY FORTH THE LIST!
15. Trioscapes – Separate Realities
Stylistically more of a metal record with jazz instrumentation, this record, featuring Dan Briggs of Between the Buried and Me, is a complex, attention-demanding record. Time is all over the place, discord is used often, and come on, guys, there are saxophone solos.
Recommended Track: “Blast Off!”
14. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Everyone’s favorite hardcore heroes returned with the intense slap to the face that is All We Love We Leave Behind, a deep, personal, chaotic record that shows Converge at their rawest. The intensity never lets up, and it makes for a truly powerful record that should be considered Converge’s finest LP since Jane Doe. Also, Kurt Ballou’s guitar tone is epic, and any arguments to the contrary are false.
Recommended Track: “Sadness Comes Home”
13. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension
Progressive-rock leaders Coheed and Cambria have come back to peak form after the somewhat lackluster Year of the Black Rainbow. Ascension sees the band at their most progressive, crafting songs that are gorgeous and songs that are visceral and could murder you if given the chance. This is Coheed’s best record, and shows best a band that have worked long and hard to outgrow their god-awful moniker as a radio-pop band.
Recommended Track: “Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful”
12. Woods of Ypres – Woods V: Grey Skies and Electric Light
Crafting songs that are beautiful, yet haunting and ethereal, Woods V is the definition of a seasonal record, ideally listened to in darkness with the emptiness of snow surrounding you. Blurring the line between genres, Woods V is the best record in Woods of Ypres‘ catalog, and a fitting record to end the legacy of the band. R.I.P David Gold. You will be missed.
Recommended Track: “Lightning and Snow”
11. Alamaailman Vasarat – Valta
Oh hello there, non-metal. Where have you been? Alamaailman Vasarat (first person to pronounce it for me gets my eternal (platonic) love) are a Finnish folk instrumental six-piece, playing what they call “fictional world music”. And yes, it is weird. But yes, it is awesome. Most melodies and grooves should feel familiar to metal listeners. Also, the musicianship is astounding. And it’ll make you dance when you aren’t careful.
Recommended Track: “Haudankantaja”
10. Spawn of Possession – Incurso
What the fuck was that? Oh yeah, that’s so much music theory hitting you in the face in the form of European technical death metal band Spawn of Possession. Seriously, you could write a dissertation on this thing! The songwriting is some of the best technical death metal has to offer, and the production is as well. Also, Christian Müenzner.
Recommended Track: “The Evangelist”
9. Panopticon – Kentucky
Truly a black metal album unlike any other this year, Kentucky showed that black metal and bluegrass, two genres that could not be farther apart, could be coalesced into a unique, powerful beast. A filthy yet clean production, spectacular guitar and drum playing, and superior songwriting and album crafting (half of the album is black metal with bluegrass elements, and the other half is traditional bluegrass songs) make for a very unique experience that can’t be given by any other album this year.
Recommended Track: “Bodies Under the Falls”
8. Mendel – Subliminal Colors
It’s good to know that during a year that The Human Abstract doesn’t release an LP (that Moonlight Sonata thing doesn’t count), Mendel will show up at the perfect time to be the hero we need, but not what we deserve. Much like The Human Abstract, Mendel’s work could be easily transcribed for orchestral instrumentation. However, unlike The Human Abstract, there is actually a strong core around riffs, and awesome riffs at that. Also, this album, unlike many instrumental albums, never loses focus, and retains strong songwriting. Finally, the closer is twenty-five minutes long. And it rules.
Recommended Track: “Shores”
7. Exotic Animal Petting Zoo – Tree of Tongues
Hot damn, is this album a jam! What we have here, ladies and gentleman, is a post-hardcore masterpiece that is unrelenting, calm and peaceful when necessary, and is put in a package that makes it all work. It’s fun, it’s loud, it’s untamed, and it’s fucking wonderful.
Recommended Track: “Thorough. Modern.”
6. Celldweller – Wish Upon a Blackstar
Experimental electronic artist Celldweller, who goes under the name Klayton, released a good portion of this album as two-track installments over the past three years, but the official album came out this year, so fuck yeah, technicalities! Anyway, this album is a masterstroke in the metal-electronic music hybrid genre, with powerful vocals, brilliant songwriting, and flawless production make for a truly fun, impacting listen that will reward you with multiple listens.
Recommended Track: “So Long Sentiment”
5. The Odious – Joint Ventures
The Odious released this record on December 18th, which is exactly one day removed from me writing this list. Perhaps too late, as if I had a little bit more time with this record to unravel all of its mysteries, it could’ve very well been higher, even to number one. However, I can tell you with one day of listening that this record outshines their EP That Night a Forest Grew, as it basically takes the EP, improves it on all facets possible, and, just to prove they are the best people ever, the bastards released it for free. Thanks, guys!
Recommended Track: “Combaticus”
4. Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Pinata
The best experimental album this year, Diablo Swing Orchestra takes a whole bunch of songs that don’t have many similarities to each other at all (even at a genre level!), organize them into an album, and still somehow finds a way to make the album work. How? I don’t know, but it’s a complete blast to listen to. For more info, read my review of the album here.
Recommended Track: “Voodoo Mon Amour”
3. Neil Davidge – Halo 4 Official Soundtrack
Ah, here we are. The top three. The medal positions. Now, before you kill me for having a soundtrack on my list, let me explain. This album is as powerful as any album on this list, if not more. Many songs contain orchestration that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to the metal listener. The album was released on the honorable The End Records. And it is the only album of the year to have made me feel such an emotional connection that I actually shed a tear. It is that powerful. Some tracks are aggressive and relentless, some tracks are delicate and emotional. But all of the tracks share a similar quality: astounding.
2. Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
By this time, you will have already decided if you like or hate Parallax II, and nothing I say will convince you. But shit, lets do it anyway. This is BTBAM’s most cohesive record to date, with songs that actually have recognizable structure and, *gasp*, choruses. The weird elements have since been infused with the core sound, thus keeping it more streamlined and accessible, whilst remaining progressive. And the story is so unbelievably epic that it enhances the enjoyment of the record exponentially.
By this time, you will have already decided if you like or hate Parallax II, and nothing I say will convince you. Your loss.
1. Carach Angren – Where the Corpses Sink Forever
There are symphonic black metal bands, and then there are Dutch masterminds Carach Angren. With some of the best symphonic elements ever used in a metal album, Seregor giving a vocal performance for the ages, and an ingenious fictional story based on WWII involving a soldier and seven “spirits of war”, this album is everything one could ever want in a metal album. This is, at the very least, an album all metal fans should listen to, and for black metal fans, this is a revelation in the power of black metal and that, with the right amount of creativity and drive, any band can use a familiar formula and create something that sounds one-of-a-kind.
Recommended Tracks: Listen to this whole goddamn album.
I didn’t include EP’s in my list this year. However, I decided to include a short list comprising of solely EP’s. Here you go:
5. Revocation – Tetratogenesis
4. David Maxim Micic – Bilo 2.o
3. Zelliack – Noir Tone
2. Mandroid Echostar – EP
1. The Deadstation. – Episode 01: Like Peering Into the Deepest Ocean Abyss.
Song of the Year: David Maxim Micic – “Mbinguni Amina”
Vocal Performance of the Year: Seregor – Carach Angren – Where the Corpses Sink Forever
Guitar Performance of the Year and Instrumental Album of the Year: Mendel bij de Leij – Mendel – Subliminal Colors
Drum Performance of the Year: Matt Halpern – Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal
Video of the Year: Revocation – “The Grip Tightens“
Album Art of the Year: Monuments – Gnosis
It’s astounding how so much good music can be released in a span of one year. Creating this list was extremely painful, and I know I missed so many album. However, next year promises to be as good, if not more. I simply can’t wait, even though I’m still digesting some of this year’s treats! If you’re one of those people that feels like they missed some stuff from this year, allow me to point you to the most relevant list in history.
I look forward to all the great releases in 2013. Until then, stay classy, Heavy Blog readers. Stay classy.