It has been a busy year with seemingly more and more music being delivered, so much in fact it has been impossible to keep up with everything. The biggest problem is whittling it all down to just ten releases that have made the musical year for us all. One thing it has proven is that even amongst a group of people all with the same cause and similar tastes things have been pretty damn diverse. Some bands however have stood out getting wider respect whilst others have just been chosen the once having made their mark individually. I think it is fair to say that although there are no overall winners and everything is down to opinion the standout albums of our year overall include hefty hitting names such as Orange Goblin, Enslaved, Grand Magus, Shining, Paradise Lost, Anathema, St Vitus. Testament, Angel Witch and High On Fire. It’s all shaping up nicely for 2013 and the year is going to swing into action with new albums from Voivod, Rotting Christ, Hate, Enforcer, Suffocation, The Prophecy, Fen and Helloween. Of course we will be bringing you coverage of it all so keep checking back. As for these I am sure you have your own preferences and there are no right and wrong answers. Feel free to comment and if you discover a couple of new bands here or even remember something that you overlooked, our job is done. Enjoy the list and onwards and upwards into 2013 we go.
This year I decided to make everyone keep the list more compact and just hone things down to just a top ten albums, of course I didn’t realise just how hard that was going to be until I found myself without room for the likes of Anaal Nathrakh, Orange Goblin, Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth and My Dying Bride. I feel somewhat guilty this year at leaving some of the best of British off my list but managed to snuck a couple of our finest in there. Tough competition all round this year I’m afraid.
Virtually knocking seven shades of shit out me this occult trip was a powerful display of spine chilling Germanic blackness. Best savoured with a full blooded glass of red and as the soundtrack to Von Trier’s Antichrist for complete perfection.
2: Enslaved – Riitiir (Nuclear Blast)
There’s just no stopping the Norse Viking’s who seem to pull something fantastic out the bag every album. Retaining the might of times gone by and swirling it all up in psychedelic hues, these songs are again timeless in every sense.
3: Borgne – Royaume Des Ombres (Sepulchral Productions)
Drenched in atmosphere, terror and pure unfettered horror. This dark, misanthropic creepy crawl is akin to Nosferatu stalking fog enshrouded crypts and tombs. A Swiss surprise for many a long dark night.
4: Shining – Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm)
No surprise finding old Nik here really and as before he has crafted a bleak and beautiful mass of suicidal songs. Lurching from violence to adoration to all things black it is the song-writing and vocals that constantly call you back here time after time.
5: Dordeduh – Dar De Duh (Lupus Lounge)
From the ashes of Negura Bunget this transcendental journey is incredibly involving and literally takes you to another dimension. Mystical and arcane it is a trip of the very senses and one that has to be taken and experienced rather than merely listening to it.
6: Germ – Wish (Eisenwald)
Tim Yatras kept us waiting for this project but delivered two instalments this year. Wish breaks genre barriers taking the essence, of rock pop and electronics and marrying it with wretched black metal shrieks, more importantly making it work fantastically.
7: Killing Joke – MMXII (Spinefarm)
Not hitting top spot this time around but still packing a hell of a punch MMXII sees the Joke in massive conspiracy mode crafting their unique sound around Jaz’s ever present prophet of doom diatribes. This may(an) not have summoned the end of the world but gave it its best shot.
8: Anathema – Weather Systems (Kscope)
Like the weather delivering a drenching but in the form of Anathema’s ever emotional songs. There is so much passion in the delivery of these numbers that you simply cannot but find yourself immersed and affected by them.
Probably one of the most out there and barking albums heard all year. So complex it at first baffles and leaves you wondering how they manage to do it and then it hits that defying all musical convention is just what these Japanese crazies are best at. Also gets album cover of the year by a country mile!
10: Blutmond – The Revolution Is Dead (Code555)
2nd choice from Switzerland and fighting very tough competition but this album shouted loud and had to be included mainly due to excellent melodies and more complex and baffling ideas within it, making it a rather revolutionary album itself.
Another year gone, and I’ve taken a rest from reviewing for Metalteam/Ave Noctum as work has meant I just haven’t felt like sitting in front of a computer on my time off. What it does mean, however, is that this review is based on what I’ve bought and enjoyed, and is surely, therefore, my truest recommendation.
It was a long time coming after Healing Through Fire, and I feared this would be one of my all time favourite live band’s eulogy, but with this triumph of rock, metal, and simple quality, Orange Goblin have set themselves up for new heights. A massive 2013 tour beckons, so get to the show, buy the merch, and just revel in the utter class of a band who works hard to bring joy to all.
2: Saint Vitus – Lillie: F – 65 (Seasons of the Mist)
It’s been a massive 18 years since the last new work, and Saint Vitus have proven themselves timeless. Mark Adams’ bass melded perfectly with new player Vasquez’s subtle but heavy drums; Chandler’s guitars are a dragged out pitch perfect; and Wino proves why he is one of metal’s all time best front men. Live it was even better. Here’s to many more. I’ll be front and centre for their largest UK gig at Hammerfest 2013, and don’t anyone smaller then 7 foot and 30 stone dare try to move me from the barrier!
3: Angel Witch – As Above, So Below (Rise Above)
Can I point out that this band has Bill Steer in their midst, but he only plays live! How good is the guitar work of Kevin Heybourne to make that a fact? Pretty damn good folks. A first new album in 14 years, a mere nothing compared to Saint Vitus, but a classic of unadulterated metal.
4: Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast)
The only thrash album to make my top 10, but it is worth it. With new sticks man Gene “the atomic clock” Hoglan powering on the beats, Testament show why thrash is so enduring. Simultaneously making you want to smash the state, drop out, and just plain destroy a pit, this metal at its most primal, yet intelligent.
Building from their excellent debut Movin On, Trippy Wicked prove that a massive budget and a massive label is not needed to deliver quality. Excellent recorded, excellent live, this is a band that deserves to be heard; enjoy, and spread the word.
6: Iron Knights – New Sound of War (Metalbox Recordings)
Rising from the ashes of Stuka Squadron like Christopher Lee’s Dracula rising from another Peter Cushing staking, Iron Knights is even stronger than their last incarnation. Traditional metal, rock, and war are forged in the fire of a new band. Riffs galore blast out, with new subtleties. For me, the highlight is ‘Tell Me Strange Things’, with almost prog leanings. Buy and enjoy.
7: Ravens Creed – The Power (Doomentia Records)
They may have lost Ben Ward, but Al Osta steps into the fold and brings a new level of aggression. Forget guitar noodling and similar pish, just brace yourself for a battering of riffs and brutality. A destroyer of pits and instant essential for any true metal warrior.
8: High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (E1 music)
I’ll be honest, but for 1 and 2 on this list, this would have been at the top. In fact, if Orange Goblin or St. Vitus had not blasted out new albums this year this would have been number one. As it is, with the strictures of the editor, 3 – 9 were pretty much a die toss of excellence. Ensuring the legacy of Sleep, Matt Pike and cohorts deliver a stoner classic.
9: Groan – The Divine Right of Kings (Soulseller Records)
They call themselves “67% pure doom” but they are 100% pure class. A mix of stoner, psych, doom and talent, every track deserves repeated plays.
10: Witchsorrow – God Curse Us (Rise Above Records)
As blastingly heavy on album as they are live, this 3 piece of doom should be essential listening for any metal fan who wants to feel their rib cage blasted by epic riffs.
So many more were vying for inclusion: Stubb, Uncle Acid, Arkham Witch and Bloody Hammers for new talent; AC/DC and Led Zep for the superlative live releases; and so many more. Hobbled to 10 choices, those on the list most deserve your listening pleasure, praise, and investment, in my humble opinion.
It’s been a funny old year, really, with one thing and another. Thanks to some national events this year, and some career moves, I seem to have been busier than any other year in recent memory, which means that I haven’t reviewed half as many albums as I might have done. That being said, there have been some cracking albums. Here’s the pick of them, though – as usual – I may say that if you ask me tomorrow, there may be ten different ones!
1: Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight)
The Goblin go from strength to strength, with their Motorhead meets Sabbath round the back of the pub and gives them a kicking with Status Quo denim-clad take on stoner-doom metal. As ever, while the charismatic Ben Ward commands attention live, it’s the brilliant Joe Hoare – possibly the most under rated riff master of his generation – that steals the shoe with his creativity. A tour de-force.
True heavy metal knows no shame, no mercy and no surrender. The Hunt is the apex predator of true metal albums of 2012. Fearless, peerless and flawless. It would take a special album to dethrone it from the number one slot…
3: Ereb Altor – Gastrike (Napalm Records)
A departure for the formerly Bathory worshipping Swedes. A true evolution in their sound, and one of the most intriguing releases of the year. Not all change must be bad, even in the notoriously conservative halls of heavy metal.
4: Sectu – Gerra (ViciSolum)
Modern death metal doesn’t have to utterly garbage. Sectu produced their sophomore album with gusto – ferocious, inventive and self-assured. Utterly irresistible.
5: Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol (Century Media)
Paradise Lost continue their return to form with another little cracker. They seem to have recaptured some of the magic that made them miserable. While not quite as aggressive as “Faith Divides Us”, it’s still head and shoulders above most modern metal output
6: Unleashed – Odalheim (Nuclear Blast)
The Motorhead of death metal rumble on with another set of hymns to all things Viking. Chances are if you liked their old stuff, you’ll this too. On the other hand, if you don’t, you won’t be loving this!
While previously best known as a “side-band” for the amazing Lamp of Thoth, this full lengther showed that Arkham Witch stood on their own feet. Traditional metal with plenty of quirks and an affection for Keighley that registers on the bizarre, this was one of the true stand outs of the year.
8: Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)
Fresh from being one of the stand-out bands from this year’s Bloodstock festival, Winterfylleth released another paean to all things English. A sprawling, majestic, ferocious beast. As calm as an autumn day in the fens, as fierce as a gale blowing across the peaks.
Tragically the final album to feature sadly departed David Gold. A multi-faceted, deep journey into despair and all things doom-laden. Not as immediate as the preceding album, perhaps, but all the better for having hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.
10: Die Hard – Conjure The Legions (Agonia Records)
Take one dash of old-school Venom, a dollop of Celtic Frost and then maybe just a soupcon of filthy Motorhead spirit and place in the oven for thirty years. When it emerges, it may just sound like this nasty, dirty, authentic slice of snot-nosed denim-clad fury. Pure necrotic punk-metal atavism.
Hard-hitting, melodic and ultra catchy, “V: The Doctrine Decoded” from Sweden’s Loch Vostok is a commercially-orientated metal album on which every one of its killer tracks has kaleidoscopic colour and transports me into a world away from every day cares. Without hesitation I nominate it as my album of 2012.
2: Asgaard – Stairs to Nowhere (Icaros Records).
Conceptually, this Polish band has shifted from majestic pieces reflecting the cosmos on their previous albums to the real world. This world is a Kafkaesque one which has been turned inside out. This avant-garde work redefines classical musical forms, and the unconventional result plants itself in the brain like a nightmare.
3: Kontinuum – Earth Blood Magic (Candlelight Records).
No opportunity is missed to seek out new forms of dark soundscape on this album from Iceland. There are so many elements here ranging from punk to spiritual influences. Every moment of this album is part of its atmospheric intrigue.
4: Devilish Impressions – Simulacra (Icaros Records).
Comparisons have been made over the years with Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and Limbionic Art amongst others, but Poland’s Devilish Impressions fly their own flag. On “Simulacra” their lofty and inspiring brand of black metal promotes universal chaos and rebellion with distinction.
Time for a nice cup of tea, as The Gathering hypnotise us and take us away on top of the waves and above the clouds. Even with its dark and occasional gothic moments, this latest psychedelic journey is about beauty and relaxation. Ahhh …
6: Anubis Gate – Anubis Gate (Nightmare Records).
This Danish Prog Metal band are full of interesting musical ideas. Here on their fifth album Anubis Gate manage here to pull off a fine collection of songs which have complexity and cross metal time boundaries while generating melody and commercial magnetism to ease the listener in.
7: A Liquid Landscape – Nightingale Express (Glassville Records).
On the face of it, this piece of Prog Rock from the Dutch band A Liquid Landscape is an offshoot of Porcupine Tree. The intrigue comes from the twists and subtleties which take us beyond the template and make this album so delightful.
8: Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Piñata (Candlelight Records).
Arguably less anarchic and more serious than previous works by Diablo Swing Orchestra, “Pandora’s Piñata” is still hugely entertaining and features the usual breath-taking myriad of styles, including swing metal, classical and Latin rhythms.
9: Netra – Sørbyen (Hypnotic Dirge Records).
This moody work from France contains an almost overwhelming number of styles including black and mainstream metal, jazz and trip hop. With its sinister tones, bleakness, devastating melancholia and music of the night, this is all about atmosphere.
10: Tiamat – The Scarred People (Napalm Records).
This album goes back to the times of “A Deeper Kind of Slumber” and up to “Judas Christ”. “The Scarred People” features the usual gothic quirkiness, delicacy and imagination.
‘The masterful genius that is Luca Turilli has once again written an album of wondrous and complex symphonic compositions that surpass the boundaries of human musical endeavour.’
2: Asia – XXX (Frontier Records)
‘A tremendous 30th anniversary for Asia with a release that shows why this band truly is immense as “XXX” is a sublimely brilliant album of classic rock with infectious choruses and fantastic flawless song writing.’
3: Testament – The Dark Roots Of Earth (Nuclear Blast)
‘No one could have predicted how monstrous this album was going to be before it came out, but my how glad are we that Testament showed the pretenders how it is really done in thrash metal.’
‘Seriously under rated band of 20 years plus Incantation has released a veritable beast of an album that will pulverise you with a thunderous death metal demolition.’
5: Marduk – Serpent Sermon (Century Media)
‘Nothing ever seems to stop Marduk’s unending ability to carve out new and innovative slicing black metal that is as ferocious as it is catchy.’
6: Odium – Burning The Bridges To Nowhere (Year Of The Sun)
‘A brilliant blend of battering death metal with modernistic charms scattered amongst the debris of savagely inventive riffs.’
7: Desaster – The Arts Of Destruction (Metal Blade)
‘Blackened thrash bedlam is nigh on perfect from Desaster with each tune boring a hole into your cranium with skull crushing precision.’
‘Not for the faint of heart Sinister’s violent blasted death metal creates a tornado of riffing and drum annihilation that will tear you to pieces.’
9: Red Lamb – Red Lamb (Hansel & Gretel)
‘An album chock full of riffing surprises, it is highly addictive and supremely produced and written by Dan Spitz and Dave Mustaine.’
10: Zombified – Carnage, Slaughter And Death (Cyclone Empire)
‘Welcome to the slaughter, I hope you’re having fun is an apt old thrash phrase from the 80s as Zombified has as much finesse as having your head smashed in with a sledge hammer. The slaughter really is fun.’
2: Shining – Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm)
3: Secrets Of The Moon – Seven Bells (Lupus Lounge)
4: Blut Aus Nord – 777 Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti)
5: Dordeduh – Dar De Duh (Lupus Lounge)
6: Enslaved – Riitiir (Nuclear Blast)
7: Plutonium – Devilmentertainment Non-Stop (S/R)
8: Bird Eats Baby – Feast Of Hammers (S/R)
9: Germ – Wish (Eisenwald)
10: Sear Bliss – Eternal Recurrence (Candlelight)
Hevvy Devy has excelled himself over the past few years, chalking up success after success with the Devin Townsend Project culminating in one of the all-time great live shows with his Retinal Circus. Epicloud is the perfect example of Devin at his creative peak, and the end result is the sound of musical euphoria.
2: Atoma – Skylight (Napalm Records)
Concept albums do not usually do it for me, but this effort by Atoma utterly blew me away. Best listened to as an album in its entirety, it takes you on a journey through the cosmos. Mixing styles left and right, this cannot adequately be categorised and is not so much an album as it is an experience. Absolutely stunning.
3: Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight)
Orange Goblin have never released a bad album, but with their latest they really have outdone themselves. Goblin look like they are finally about to get the recognition they deserve as they set out to conquer the world. This album may be the perfect weapon to allow them to do so.
Having found their form again over the past 2 albums, Paradise Lost manage knock it out of the park this time with their best album since Draconian Times. The spark is back in their songs and Greg Mackintosh sounds like he has fallen in love with his guitar again. PL are back to doing what they do best.
5: Saint Vitus – Lillie: F-65 (Season Of Mist)
Despite a 17 year wait, Saint Vitus sound like they haven’t been away at all. Just a few bars of the opening track and it all comes flooding back, and with Wino back in the fold, it’s as close to the classic Vitus line up as you can get now. Every bit as awesome as I had hoped.
6: Shining – Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm)
This one has made fans with squeal with delight or cry blasphemy. Singing in English? Clean vocals? Look past the very obvious gripes and you can see that Niklas Kvarforth is one of the very best, and most unhinged artists in metal at the moment, and this may be his best work yet.
The avant-garde black metal musings of Porta Nigra have been one of my finds of the year, throwing convention out of the window and finding celebration and solace in degeneration. One of the few truly original albums I’ve heard all year, this is truly beguiling stuff.
8: Kreator – Phantom Antichrist (Nuclear Blast)
Whilst the album does not live up to the barnstorming title track, Kreator set their bar so high that it was always going to be excellent no matter what they turned out. A small amount of aggression is traded for melody, but Kreator remain a brutally efficient thrashing force.
9: Tiamat – The Scarred People (Napalm Records)
A welcome return to their best form, The Scarred People echoes the style of Tiamat’s most successful period, and the result is a catchy and bouncy album of gothic rock from The Sisters of Mercy for the modern age.
10: Serpentine Path – Serpentine Path (Relapse Records)
Featuring members of Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind, Ramesses and Electric Wizard, this one was never going to register highly on the light and fluffy scale. An absolutely crushing example of death doom, and hopefully the first of many from this super-group.
This was a very tough top ten, I had over 50 albums lined up, but near misses worth checking out include some early 2012 releases and some albums that I have just recently heard so I have discounted them from my list initially: –
Blaze – Blaze (High Roller Records) – traditional metal a-la early Scorpions
Incantation – Vanquish in Vengeance (listenable Records) – brutal doom death masterminds
Testament – Dark Roots of the Earth (Nuclear Blast) – thrash masters raising the standard
El Caco – Hatred, Love & Diagrams (Indie Recordings) – eclectic stoner/doom/experimental = amazing!
Crystal Viper – Crimen Excepta (AFM Records) – a forceful bar raising metal attack
For years Overkill have never changed their style of thrash, ‘The Electric Age’ sees them spark more fury with an increase in overall speed and momentum, I mean come one, if you know me, surely there would be no other number one! A terrific album.
2: Skeletal Remains – Beyond the Flesh (FDA Rekotz)
Total death metal brutality in the vein of Death, Gorguts and Pestilence, a terrific debut album with stunning artwork and musical delivery, an essential death metal release.
3: Royal Thunder – CVI (Relapse Records)
There is genuine level of classic hard rock about this release, it flows with effortless ease and pays homage to the great Led Zeppelin among others, a genuine classic.
Occult rock has become much of a fad in 2012, Uncle Acid are very elusive, more elusive than Ghost and provide music that challenges the very nature of hard rock and even some prog rock, we can look forward to some new material in the early part of next year.
5: Paragon – Force of Destruction (Napalm Records)
This is true classic German heavy metal, this is a step up from their previous efforts and this challenges classics by countrymen such as Gamma Ray and Running Wild, this is one release that you need leather spikes and studs and a glorious raised fist in the air.
6: Trappazat – From Dusk Till Dawn (High Roller Records)
Short and sweet are my comments, if you like NWOBHM then you need to check this out!
7: Fetus Stench – Stillbirth (Abyss Records)
This was one of my death metal cannot miss releases, I waited a while for this and boy was it worth it. This is interesting old school death metal, greater than some of the original Florida sounds, the intensity is second to none, a whirlwind release really worthy of your time.
Dirty, crusty death metal that is intense, delightful and terrifying, check it out!
9: Huntress – Spelleater (Napalm Records)
Awesome classic heavy metal with titanic female vocals giving the great Doro Pesch a run for her money. Musically Huntress infuse traditional, melodic death metal and everything in between on this essential debut album.
10: High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (Century Media)
This is one hell of an intense listen, High on Fire have struck gold with this one. Loosely based on a concept, this is a rough ride well worthy of neck ache.
“Skull crushing extremity with melodic paints all over. A really romantic, yet dark side of Black Metal”
2: Blut aus Nord – 777 Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti Productions)
“In the auto-gnostic moments of our day or life, this shall be the soundtrack of thoughts and moments. A very poetic work”
3: Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas (Candlelight Records)
“Society cannot handle the outrageous riots all over Europe. Neither did the mainstream scene against this album! Total Annihilation’
4: Incantation – Vanquish in Vengeance (Listenable Records)
“It’s like the good old wine. Strong a little bitter and Mature. Best comeback ever’
“Yes, another successful example of orthodoxy in Black metal. Combine this with a mental institution. Boom!’
6. Jess and the Ancient Ones – S/T (Svart)
“Artistic, melodic, classic. In other words, a masterpiece of today’s rock scene’
7: Shining – Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm Records)
“Pain and desolation. A great album for winter!”
“Well, even if it’s not their best album, it’s magical and contains the originality of the occultism like their older albums’
9: Mgla – With Hearts Towards None (Northern Heritage Records)
“Bone Crushing old school black metal. Poland’s greatest work in 2012′
10: Sinister – The Carnage Ending (Massacre Records)
“Mediocre but extreme. Not so fascinating but classic. It’s kinda weird actually!”
A long awaited album, which luckily, after a few listens turns out to be a bit of a gem! OK, so the “Roth” isn’t looking or sounding as awesome as he used to, but give the bloke a chance, and he can still wiggle his ass like he did in the 80’s!
2: Katatonia – Dead End Kings (Peaceville)
The haunting voice of Jonas Renkse yet again, leaves a chill down your spine with their ninth album release.
3: Anathema – Weather Systems (KScope)
You can’t go wrong with a slice of Anathema, ambience, melodies and vocals to break your heart to.
Another EPIC addition to an already glowing set of battle metal albums!
5: Hellyeah – Band of Brothers (Eleven Seven)
A band that I was introduced to it 2012. Southern, sludgy and in your face rock n roll!
6: Destruction – Spiritual Genocide (Nuclear Blast)
sounding a lot like their older, classic stuff, yet adding a little spice to the mix, still going strong 20 years later.
A cracking album, first time I’ve actually listened to this band and delivered completely. The Ozzy vocals are surprisingly welcome too.
8: Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast)
What can I say? Another blinder from the thrash titans!
9: Soundgarden – King Animal (Mercury)
Sixteen years later and they release this beauty! Well worth the wait!
10: KISS – Monster (Universal)
One of my favourite bands, yet only at number 10 due to it not being as catchy as previous albums. Still a good listen if you’re a KISS fan.
In an industry increasingly dominated by individual scenes with bands lazily referring back to blueprints to create, Gojira inspire hope. The number of inventively mathematical twists and turns that their music takes actually gives me goosebumps. I thought they’d created the ultimate devotional beast with my 2008 Album Of The Year, The Way Of All Flesh, but with such awe-inspiring peaks and emotionally-charged troughs as those that feature here, I’m beginning to believe they, unlike the majority, literally have no limitations.
2: The Ghost Inside – Get What You Give (Epitaph)
Simply put, this is without doubt the most powerful and unexpected album I have heard in a long, long time (yep, a real “Dark Horse”). In a genre that is floundering, for TGI to come along and break new ground, take metalcore places that it has never ventured before, is quite frankly mind-blowing. Hit up the track “Engine 45” and just dare to argue.
3: Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos (Basick)
As word spread of Skyharbor’s brainchild Keshav Dar and his progressive songwriting genius, as more and more legends signed up to his project, whispers became shouts and by the time this album had dropped, a new star had already been born. The input of ex-TesseracT vocalist Dan Tompkins was undoubtedly the key that turned tracks like “Catharsis” and the multiple award-winning “Maeva” from cotton into sheer silk. An outstanding and truly international album.
Album by album, LOG are building the most impressive of portfolios. Here, vocalist Randy has never sounded angrier, never sounded more intensely determined and never sounded more effective. With portentous tracks like “The Number Six” and “King Me” these Virginian heavies have also proved, beyond doubt, that they are no one-trick pony. Throw fists, people.
5: Fear Factory – The Industrialist (Candlelight)
The key to this album is and, always will be, the colossal chorus of “Recharger”. That epic build to Burton C. Bell’s soaring melodics. Those crazy programmed drums. The infinite echo behind it all that just reverberates on and on and on. The first time you catch a snatch of it, the rest of the album slots perfectly into place and the conceptual majesty of it all becomes apparent, defining the legendary power that Fear Factory wield, who they are and why they are such a tour de force.
6: Enslaved – RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
Continuing their sonic morphing between black and prog metal, from somewhere out of the ether, Enslaved have conjured up a stonker that marries past glories to more contemporary creations. Featuring a surprising subtlety of cadence, a mixture of rhythmic anomalies and a strong focus on concocting a vastness of sound, this one will confound like no other.
7: Graveyard – Lights Out (Nuclear Blast)
The kings of retro offer up yet another album of outstanding beauty. Breaking out the most stunning of croons, the kind that tip-toes between soft dough and rough crust, vocalist Joakim Nilsson adds the perfect accompaniment to complement those gently-undulating, subtly sludgy soups the band create behind him.
8: The Sword – Apocryphon (Razor & Tie)
Intertwining fresh lyrical potency around their Sabbathian worship with galloping Maiden-esque rhythmic touches, The Sword offer up shifting tempos, synthesized wanderlust and a great deal of menace to produce their finest work to date.
9: High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis (Century Media)
Often the most bamboozling of concepts seem to produce the greatest of albums. HOF have allowed their imaginations to run wild with this one and blown yet another hole in the doorway to our minds. If “Bloody Knuckles”, an exhaustive lesson in the art of vitriolic power, doesn’t leave you in pieces, then the warm, roiling broth of “Madness Of An Architect” will undoubtedly break your resistance.
10: Twelve Foot Ninja – Silent Machine (Volkanik)
Another left-field doozy, Silent Machine really is a little of piece of sonic magic. These Aussie lunatics clearly have the attention span of a goldfish and the subtlety of an elephant, yet only men of genius could combine the cool cojones of Faith No More with the enigmatic, feisty grooves of System Of A Down and still manage to emerge with something wholly original. Come on people, let’s conga!
Franta Štorm is lord. The quiet Master’s Hammer reunion keeps on gaining in momentum. All hail the Czech masters.
2: Angel Witch – As Above, So Below (Rise Above)
The so-called second album by NWOBHMers Angel Witch brings song dating back to the late ‘70s to life. A truly satisfying return to form, praying to all the right gods.
3: Indesinence – Vessels of Light and Decay (Profound Law)
Long-anticipated second coming on Indesinence is yet another crushing affair. Doom of the highest order, with added dimensions beyond.
4: Neutron Hammer – Iron Storm Evocation (Primitive Reaction)
Finland’s Neutron Hammer’s debut album arrives just before their tenth anniversary and sums up the band perfectly. Filthy as fuck.
The ever-dexterous Mgla keep on lashing it out, always balancing on the fine line ‘tween melody, evil and Inquisition.
6: Manowar- The Lord Of Steel (Magic Circle Music)
There’s a Manowar-sized tumour in my brain and it won’t die. No extent to logic and metal know how can keep me from loving this lacklustre auto-piloted release.
7: Witchtrap – Vengeance Is My Name (Hells Headbangers)
Teenage naivety and metal have a tendency to truly click. There’s exactly what you get with Colombia’s premium thrash m-e-t-al bastards.
Manilla Roadster Mark ‘The Shark’ Shelton ventures outside his comfort zone with this intriguing keyboard driven project. Very intriguing, indeed.
9: Swans – The Seer (Young God)
The ‘heaviest band in the world’ deliver another soul-crushing offering. Just wish Gira’d stop ruining his own songs by singing over ‘em.
10: Weapon – Embers and Revelations (Relapse)
Truly a powerhouse, Weapon are reaping their just rewards with tours across the globe. I still prefer the previous album, though.
Realmbuilder- Fortifications of the Pale Architect
The record I truly listened to most in 2012. Minimalistic yet epic-as-hell stuff!
Gospel Of The Horns – Ceremonial Conjuration EP
Aussie blackthrashing goodness knows no bounds.
Well for me, 2012 was a fantastic year for music and I can’t list anything without noting in stone THE musical event of the year: Finnish funeral doom overlords Skepticism playing the UK at St. Giles church, a Hawksmoor designed church, in London. It was the perfect waltz for the doomed as outside the world died in flames. Just brilliant and the best gig I have been to in my too many to count years. Add in the inaugural Desertfest blowing me away and The Devils Blood stealing my soul in Dublin, live has been awesome and I owe my friends so much for getting me to these.
So, my top ten. Impossible, but here’s the attempt.
It is magnificent and still 10/10. Harsh, almost pure black metal with hints of Sargeist and Burzum and Windir in amongst the thick, angry Quebecois folk tinged mix on things. The folk elements are used judiciously and in a way that never changes the impression that this is black metal.
2: Ahab – The Giant (Napalm)
A long way from the divinity of oceans for some, but for me these German funeral doom guys provided me with the deep, melodic soundtrack to 2012 and it has been everywhere with me. Moving, and the rich sound of a band at the height off their powers.
3: Wodensthrone – Curse (Candlelight)
For sheer emotional, complex and majestic black metal Wodensthrone are now hard to beat and with ‘Curse’ they crafted a true piece of art that crept into my soul and made me look again at the land around me. Rich roots, harsh nature, epic journeys. Bitterly beautiful.
Full of allusion to classical occultism, mad spiritualists, the burgeoning of the industrial age and the twirl of Genteel propriety dancing with the depraved and repressed lusts of the Gothic. Just sumptuous.
5: Neurosis – Honour Found In Decay (Neurot Recordings)
Neurosis are not going quietly into a grey dawn. They still do what they do and at times that feels they are the last to hold the world above the abyss and to call the sun down for the good of all and to remind us that all things have consequences in a connected world, and that birth, death and decay are needed for rebirth.
6: Doro – Raise Your Fist In The Air (Nuclear Blast)
This album just flies by. Every one a firecracker of a song with our own diminutive Valkyrie whipping up an utter storm and never having sounded so good. Best album of Ms Pesch’s career, bar none. Heavy metal is about pure heart and guts, not hipster poses. Just buy the gutsiest, most heartfelt slice of metal all year.
7: King Dude – Burning Daylight (Dais)
Twisted, black, Devil soaked insanity from someone whose mind had truly skipped the tracks and headed deep into the Depression era mythology mumbling, shuffling and dancing like the unkempt, unwashed prophet he is. Intense, wrong and magnificent.
Agruss have these great ruined pillars of concrete and death metal that whilst they don’t contain the chaos, they somehow give it shape by offering a structure for the chaotic winds to howl around. At times it’s like watching a storm rip through a ruined factory, tossing rust and radioactive dust into the hollow space. Staggering.
9: Arkham Witch – Legions Of The Deep (Metal On Metal)
Take the energetic doom of The Lamp Of Thoth, the heavier groove of true heavy metal and seed it with four parts sinister, occult and Lovecraftian madness and one part humour so dry that it would leech all the water from R’lyeh and riffs that stay in your head for eons. By the gods of the outer spheres and the tiny tip-tapping of Brown Jenkins little claws, they write fucking songs!
10: Saint Vitus – Lillie F-65 (Season Of Mist)
Three drum beats is all it needs. Three. Then that dredger like guitar sound ploughs into you while that voice rips apart your psyche. Three drum beats and it’s 1995 again. Bloody Awesome.
Re-Release: Tengger Cavalry – Sunescu Cavalry (Metal Hell)
Honestly if you have a taste for serious and aggressive folk/pagan metal, great whirling storms of blood and colour or simply something different in your day you need this album yesterday. No fillers, no bad songs. All top notch.
Just missed out: Witchcraft – Legend, Melecolia Estatica – Hell, Orange Goblin – Eulogy For The Damned.
EPs Of The Year
Of Spire And Throne – Vagary (self released)
It’s as though you have been hiding in the dark as something monolithic slowly slouches past you with the unmistakeable glistening of black intellect in its passing. But Vagary never makes you want to look away.
Winds Of Genocide/Abigail – Satanik Apokalyptik Kamikazee Komandos (Witchammer Productions)
All in all, just a fantastic split of dirt, filth and energy. And songs. Don’t forget that. Dirty, nasty, primitive, yeah, but you wouldn’t want it any other way, right? Right!?
Sturmtiger – Atomic Hammer (Ghost Cemetery)
Thick, oily, iron clad death metal that bludgeons and crushes every muscle and bone in its path and has not a single dull moment in its thirteen and a half minute assault.
When I received ‘Death and the Beyond’ it was, quite frankly, just another review. But then I played the album. Blending black and heavy metal, horror and punk, Denial Of God ensured that after one listen there would be no chance of me ever escaping their deathly cold grip again. Atmospheric and articulate, this album demonstrates metal at its best.
2: Entrapment – The Obscurity Within…(Soulseller Records)
Entrapment shreds eardrums with a sound and approach which has its roots firmly in the late 80s/early 90s death metal scene. Recalling the mania of Autopsy and the barbarism of early Dismember, this is death metal at its purest and most raw. What more reason could you need for investing in an album???
3: Asphyx – Deathhammer (Century Media Records)
Asphyx, only better than last time. Verdict: BOW DOWN TO THE MAGMA MAMMOTH!!! Of course…
In similar style to Marduk, the Tyrants of the Netherworld opted for their 2012 release to wreak more of the evil blackness than any of their albums have in a while. With a great batch of tracks, I consider this to be their finest since ‘Divine Blasphemies’. A great return.
5: Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol (Century Media Records)
It seems as if playing those ‘Draconian Times’ anniversary shows in 2011 really confronted Paradise Lost with the obvious: that what they did back then as a heavy guitar-driven band was rather nifty. What’s more, the material on ‘Tragic Idol’ is consistently very, very good.
6: Master – The New Elite (Pulverised Records)
Politicians. Is it conceivable to trust any person whose goal in life is to determine what’s right or wrong for ‘the people’? Paul Speckmann doesn’t think so either. ‘The New Elite’ is the highlight so far of Master’s Czech-based output and certainly one of the band’s essential releases.
7: Grand Supreme Blood Court – Bow Down Before the Blood Court (Century Media)
Consisting of half the current Asphyx line-up as well as former members, comparisons were always going to be inevitable. Yet for all their death-doom similarities, GSBC’s sound is as archaic as hell. Ripping production plus musical know-how equals pure old-school terror.
Combining character with brutal death metal is not the easiest thing in the world to pull off. France’s Offending do just that though. With a hefty mix of early 90s brutal death, some latter tech-death and informed black metal undertones, ‘Age of Perversion’ is a multi-faceted (though fundamentally psychotic) beast.
9: Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme (Relapse Records)
Yet another example of an established band unleashing one of its finest records in 2012. As fast, uncompromising and consistent as Dying Fetus has ever been, ‘Reign Supreme’ kept me pissed off for all the right reasons. An absolute belter.
10: Antropomorphia – Evangelivm Nekromantia (Metal Blade Records)
Beating my religion, Marduk, to a spot in 2012’s top ten list is this Dutch three-piece. Weaving their incantations with style and lucidity, Antropomorphia’s sophomore album is an example of dark and distinctly individual death metal. The perfect soundtrack to Christmas…
1: Marduk – Serpent Sermon (Century Media)
Like it or not, I’m totally addicted and I haven’t heard anything this year to suggest that I shouldn’t put Serpent Sermon in my Top 10. Not as good as the magnificent Wormwood but, well, it’s Marduk and the fourth in a series of unstoppable releases with Mortuus.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of metal fans around who are going to hate this. Great then that bands like Therion are around to challenge opinions and shatter boundaries. Those who dismiss this do so at their own loss.
3: Eïs – Wetterkreuz (Prophecy Productions)
One of my Favourite black metal albums of the year on so many levels. A jaw-dropping, relentless voyage into the storm and one man’s imagination.
4: Aluk Todolo – Occult Rock (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
Ok, let’s get the wanky stuff out of the way: a dark thought provoking, philosophical experience from a band mixing rock, black metal, ambient noise and jazz. But really just a great, dense, soundscape of an album.
Hæresiarchs of Dis provides a wonderfully fucked up slice of dark and creepy black metal. Then just when you thought it was safe to go back out into the forest Ophidian Forest appears and pummels the shit out of you.
6: Ortega – A Flame Never Rises On Its Own (Badger Records)
A slice of progressive doom brought to my attention by the re-release of the excellent 1634. Strictly an EP but just a reminder for anyone into this type of music to pay more attention to this band.
7: Dies Ater – Hunger For Life (Obscure Abhorrence Productions)
Melodic German black metal to take you into the darkness and beyond. Mostly mid-paced and with a weird psychedelic edge it makes me think how many decent bands out there go largely unrecognised.
8: The Flight Of Sleipnir – Ascension (Eyes Like Snow)
Showing those young ‘occult’ metal pretenders how it’s done. Buy it for the cover alone! This is actually a compilation but a solid reminder (for me anyway) that atmosphere in metal comes from all corners of the mead hall. See it as a teaser for the next full release out in February.
I struggled to find too many decent Viking metal releases this year but in the end the slot goes to the more accessible Fortid just because I really didn’t expect this to be as enjoyable and addictive as it turned out. And one hidden track that is simply 18 minutes of rain – inspired!
10: Unisonic – ST (earMUSIC)
I was originally going to go for the obvious Enslaved tribute here but I had to throw in a dose of cheese. Alright, I admit, the songs could have been better, but Kai Hansen back together with Michael Kiske? What’s not to like? I’ve been waiting years for this moment…
1: Grand Magus – The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
A phenomenal effort this from one of the best Metal bands on the planet. From the ‘Mob Rules’ inspired cover, to the cunning deployment of the ‘Heaven and Hell’ riff in ‘Starlight Slaughter, to the dozens of supremely catchy choruses, this fantastic album from Grand Magus firmly proves that they are up there with the very greatest.
2: Arkham Witch – Legions of the Deep (Metal on Metal)
This superbly inventive slab of Lovecraftian genius from the creators of the much missed Lamp of Thoth was nearly my album of the year. Somewhere between NWOBHM and Doom? Possibly. Most definitely a brilliantly misguided and twisted crazy train to Innsmouth. With choruses like ‘N’Gai Fhtagn E’Hucunech R’lyeh’ how can you lose?
I wasn’t really familiar with Running Wild before hearing this, and research since reveals that some of their earlier efforts were patchy in terms of quality. However this foot tapping, head banging late career slab of joy-filled party metal from mainman and pirate wannabe Rock n’Rolf Kasparek proved a revelation. Easily the most enjoyable find of 2012.
4:69 Eyes – X (Nuclear Blast)
Not the most original, nor in the circumstances the most sensible name for a Metal album, this sleazy selection of perfectly-crafted Finnish goth metal tracks is the guilty pleasure of 2012 – the guilt in this instance being because the whole thing is blatantly marketed towards teenage girls. An excellent album nevertheless. Watch and learn vampire wannabes!
5:Marilyn Manson – Born Villain (Hell etc)
Alright it couldn’t really be argued that this is in any way Manson’s greatest work – not up there with ‘Holy Wood’ certainly – but ‘Born Villain’ hit the spot with that low grade horror and sleaze the great man cranks out as a matter of course, and he still pushes those gothic buttons to pleasurably dark effect. Metal needs a Marilyn Manson.