My “Top 10 Albums of 2012” is comprised of exactly what the title reads; albums. I’m way more apt to enjoy a work that flows from song to song (not necessarily saying the album plays out as one song) as if it were written with the record in mind rather than a collection of songs. To properly flesh out all my separate thought processes that went into making this list would almost certainly convince you that I am out of my fucking mind. In defense of my indecisiveness, there was just too much good music released this year that ranking how much more enjoyable one is over another becomes hair-splitting and impossible. However, I have forged ahead and done so for your enjoyment. Just know that you’ve made me do the equivalent of picking a favorite child and I’ll wake up every morning to these scars.
10. Carach Angren – Where the Corpses Sink Forever
To expect anything less than top-notch horror metal from Carach Angren would be downright foolish. Where the Corpses Sink Forever goes beyond just being a sickeningly heavy record and ventures into the realm of death metal audio book, which is exactly as awesome as you think it is and then some. There are a lot of little things that make this record great outside of the overall enjoyability of it. For example, take the moment where the main character in ‘Funerary Dirge for a Violinist‘ allows you into his grief-addled mind during his suicide method considerations. Or what about the introductory build-up of ‘Lingering in an Imprint Haunting’? The first tale of war-related horrors marches toward you in a menacing, militaristic fashion told by the staccato strings pounding to gain access to your thoughts. Gentle pianos float like ghosts above the march, and then… KILL! Vocalist Seregor gives the command and you’re off on your haunted journey for the next forty minutes. Enjoy!
9. Ihsahn – Eremita
Think of Eremita as everything you wanted After to be in a much more concentrated and purposeful manner. Ihsahn manages to get a little more crazy on this record with sludgy, orchestral two-parters like ‘Grief‘ and ‘The Grave,’ and even gets a little sentimental and proggy with ‘Departure.’ At the end of the day, it’s still an Ihsahn record, which means that very straight-forward metal feel that always seems to be bordering on some avante-garde kind of thrash. One major thing that sets Eremita worlds apart from his back catalogue under the Ihsahn moniker is that the saxophone doesn’t seem to be this big shocker addition anymore. Instead, it seems to sit right in with the band as if the record had been written with it in mind. Sure, After had the sax, but at points it just felt like it’s purpose was to double guitar parts; Eremita ushers forth a new breed of metal band where there’s no gimmick or plot to fool you into listening. Whatever instruments he chooses to write with, they fit.
8. Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas
If music could ever be translated into some form of violence, Vanitas would make Cannibal Corpse album covers look like Adam Sandler movies. Everything about this record is just ridiculously heavy; the overall production engulfs you in the swirling masses of black static, the riffs are intelligently heavy without ever resorting to simply chugging just to get you somewhere else musically, and vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L. literally sounds like he’s being murdered for the entire duration. For the context of this record, vocalicide is a good thing. It’s a tough record to put into words when it comes right down to it just because of it’s unique brand of heavy. Fans of the band can expect the usual Anaal Nathrakh on this record, but a much more industrial feel to it.
7. Meshuggah – Koloss
Finally! A Meshuggah record that doesn’t sound like it was recorded with a ham sandwich that got plugged into a tree! Seriously, that’s the first thing I noticed about Koloss that made me love the living hell right out of it. To finally hear Meshuggah sounding good as good in the studio as they did on Alive sent me right over the edge into a pile of happiness and eight-string puppies. In all seriousness, Koloss slowed it right the hell down and went for the jugular with this release. It’s got a really “live in the studio” kind of feel to it, but not in an amateurish way where it gets muddy and sloppy. For a band that’s been around for over twenty years now, Meshuggah have managed to invent a sound, popularize that sound, and then take a step back from it and nail down something else with new ideas and sonic signatures all over again. Talk about being creative, huh?
6. The Omega Experiment – The Omega Experiment
The Omega Experiment‘s self-titled is easily one of the best progressive metal albums to come out in the past few years. It manages to strike that legendary blend of catchy hooks in every single song that are never afraid to flaunt themselves in the form of a chorus, flawless composition that literally leaves zero to be desired, and gargantuan amounts of layers that provide the necessary atmosphere for all the insane musicianship going on. Then there’s the concept of the album; the life of an addict and the road to recovery. If that doesn’t grab right on to your heartstrings and threaten to make you feel some pretty serious things through the course of this album, then you might want to see a doctor.
5. Headspace – I Am Anonymous
I honestly had no clue this band was even a thing until I saw a show flyer for something Haken was doing a month or so back, and their album art made me want to listen. On the same token at The Omega Experiment’s album, Headspace‘s I Am Anonymous is Feelsfest 2012, with it’s story of a soldier coming home from war and all the different things he experiences. Oh, and the end of the closing song ‘The Big Day‘ has consistently given me major chills every single time I’ve heard it.
4. 7 Horns 7 Eyes – Throes of Absolution
You know how Opeth decided that being metal wasn’t really for them anymore and got all crappy on us? Well, 7 Horns 7 Eyes sorta picks up where they left, but dropped out all the boring parts and replaced them with head-crushingly heavy tones and sludge in all the right places. Throes of Absolution doesn’t shy away from odd time signatures and syncopation that far exceeds all the djeneric rhythms that have inundating the scene for the past year or so now, but offers a really fresh perspective on what it is to write heavy music again. Then there’s vocalist Shiv, who’s among the lowest of the low when it comes to frontmen who manage to destroy subwoofers with their growls. Add all that together, and you’ve got one of the best debuts this year with an extremely promising future.
3. Beardfish – The Void
There is no way in hell that Beardfish could ever craft a record that I wouldn’t like. It’s impossible. Going from goofy progressive geniuses to classic rock modern masterpieces in the course of the last five years has been working great for them, and now they’ve got the retro-metal monolith The Void. As with everything the band does, every single second of the record is a memorable moment that can get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. I can ramble on and on about this record, but I already did once this year and nobody wants to hear that again. Just go pick up a copy of The Void somewhere and enjoy it as much as I do and I’ll be happy.
2. Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal
I’m noticing a trend with the amount of progressive metal albums I have on my list here, and I’m totally cool with it. Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal was one of those records that everyone loved to jump on the bandwagon and hate the crap out of because… bandwagon. Or something; I can’t really justify why people hate this record. It’s a highly original effort that utilizes some of the usual polymetric chugs within moderation among all the mind-bendingly awesome melodies, solos, drumming, and more friggin’ solos. Then there’s Spencer, whose voice is among my favorites. The man does everything and he’s extremely hard to match, doubly so live.
1. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light
It’s easy to criticize putting this record at number one on my list of 2012, so I’ll quell that right now; I didn’t put this as my favorite record of the year out of sympathy in any way, shape, or form.
I genuinely love this record. When David passed away in late 2011, Earache released the demo version of this album. From that day, forward, I have listened to the record almost every single day (both the demo and the real version). It’s the perfect doom metal record to me; the production doesn’t reek of wanna be gloominess, the vocals are from another universe all together, and there’s never any moments on the record where I get lost or wonder what the hell is going on. it’s an honest record with honest lyrics that deserves a few spins from you.