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#1 – Orange Goblin: A Eulogy For the Damned
When I think some of the best releases of 2012, A Eulogy for the Damned immediately comes to mind. This is easily one of the group’s best recordings, and one that I was compelled to go out and buy day one. Nearly everything about this album is just right, and every song on here is insanely infectious from start to finish, making it the perfect album for any occassion or mood. This album doesn’t get old either. In fact, this was lodged in my car stereo for well over a month straight, and I still throw it in from time to time. It’s a fine mixture of early Stoner and Doom Rock and Metal styles with a superb audio quality that captures the heaviness, as well as the rhythm. If I had to suggest just one release from this year to listen, I’d happily choose this one.
#2 – Meshuggah: Koloss
As a die-hard fan of Meshuggah, this was one of their albums I simply could not wait for. This was heavy and intense with every track. Initially the audio streams I heard of the random song or two didn’t make me feel confident about it, but when you hear the release from start to finish each track makes sense when it came to the flow of the material, and I loved every second of it. Fan boy loyalty aside, the technical riffs, the rage, the energy, the heaviness, all of it just makes for a non-stop assault that throws this into the list of albums from 2012 I suggest you own and let cripple you with songs like “I Am Colossus” and “Swarm.”
#3 – Candlemass: Psalms for the Dead
I didn’t get to review this one, but if you read my Road Rage article about it, you know my experiences with it. Candlemass is a band that never ceases to amaze me, and Psalms for the Dead lived up to that statement. Sure not everything about this album worked out, but I still played the hell out of this album for a solid month straight and never got tired of it. The darker it was outside, the more ominous the setting, the better. I still have a promo copy of this one in my car that I throw in here and there, and I’m not hesitant to tell anyone to run out and pick up this album, as it’s easily one of the best that 2012 has to offer.
#4 – Alcest: Les Voyages De L’Âme
Listening to Alcest is almost always a treat. With each album, you can hear the band continuing to fine tune their sound, and with Les Voyages De L’Âme, it’s clear that they have grown more since the last time we heard from them. The interesting blend of Black Metal and Shoegaze continues to create an emotional, atmospheric, and at times even intimiate experience, as well as makes this one of the more important acts in the underground Black Metal movements. There haven’t been a lot of releases this year that are moving in a way that you can just kick back, close your eyes, and let the music sweep you away with it, but this is easily one of those recordings which allows just that.
#5 – Ahab: The Giant
I have never heard an Ahab album prior to The Giant, but this one made me hit the internet to check out what I had been missing. Easily their best work, this piece was just dark and beautiful. The music really took on a life of its own, breeding images of underwater beauty and what monstrosities could be waiting at the bottom of the deepest trenches. It made me picture Moby Dick with Ahab himself among the wreckage of his boat, and even of calm seas and beachfront properties before the storms set in to whisk me out to sea. It was an incredible experience, each track offering great music and emotion, making it impossible for me to not suggest making this as one of the must own albums of 2012.
#6 – Moonspell: Alpha Noir
I haven’t had the chance to add Alpha Noir to my collection, but this is still a superb release. This effort really retains the aggressive side of the band while still catering to a somewhat beautiful Gothic Metal atmosphere and sound. The production really brings out the heaviness, and the professional performances show off enough energy where it needs to be. On top of that, this release is also available in a limited edition format with a bonus album, Omega White, which caters to the softer side of the band. This is easily one of my top picks for 2012, and one I’d just as easily suggest someone looking for quality material pick up.
#7 – Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody: Ascending to Infinity
This album is just astounding. After going through an entire week of Rhapsody material, it’s evident this is the best one with that name attached to it. Nothing on this release felt restrained, and the mixture of Classical Symphonies, Opera, and Power Metal were all represented well. It’s sad there was no grand story line behind it, but the lack of a narrator and cheesy voice actors made it all the stronger. Each track was better than they had any real right to be, and every song set the proper emotional tone for me, whether it sinister, uplifting, or some variant in between. This is definitely near the top of my list for best of 2012, as well as on my list of bands to keep a close eye on.
#8 – Accept: Stalingrad
This album blew me away the second I hit the play button. There’s just so many energetic tracks that greatly encompasses the various emotions of the lyrics and the overall concept of the recording that I had a hard time putting this one down. I can also admit that many of the songs here wound up giving me lead foot in the car. I haven’t been compelled to add this to the collection yet, but it’s still up in my top priorities list, especially considering how hard many of these songs shook me. The chorus to “Hung Drawn and Quartered” still randomly erupts in my skull, causing me to headbang wherever I stand, and so many other memorable tracks make me yearn to throw this bad boy in from time to time. Stalingrad is easily one of the band’s best in a good while, as well as one of 2012’s best offerings.
#9 – The Devil’s Blood: The Thousandfold Epicentre
I knew who The Devil’s Blood was going into this album, and I was very excited to get to hear it. I can safely say that this recording did not let me down with my expectations. This Occult Rock group has put together a superbly enchanting album that benefits well off the higher end production, as well as weaves a truly haunting atmosphere to nearly every track. I call this one a guilty pleasure as most bands of this style that I’m acquainted with really don’t strike me too much and just make me want to hunt down early Rock and Stoner Rock recordings in general. The soothing female vocals against laid back enchanting songs instantly puts me in a relaxed state of mind, and given the right setting or mood, it can end up being all you need. Obviously I really suggest this one for 2012, especially if you’re looking for something a bit different or bewitching…
#10 – Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters: Bikers Welcome! Ladies Drink Free
Bikers Welcome! Ladies Drink Free really holds a special place in my heart. The throwback to early Country music laced with Ministry Industrial material made this an instant winner in my book. It’s unique brand of dirty themes and general frustration and pissed off attitudes blended with a bit of a Spaghetti western atmosphere all worked out well together, leading to many memorable quotes, passages, and songs that will make you come back for repeat spins from time to time, if not right away.
#11 – Gory Blister: Earth-Sick
When I first sat down with Earth-Sick, I seriously started kicking myself that I never heard this band before. The subtle Science Fiction mixture with Technical Death Metal was all handled quite well, and I nearly gave myself whiplash a couple times listening to this release. There are so many intense and atmospheric songs on here that it really becomes hard to suggest just one to best sum up the recording. In many ways, this was like an audio version of early Science Fiction tales that looked at the morality of humanity and how technology and corruption would deter or benefit mankind, and with the perfect musical backdrop to that style of environment it became a staple of my Death Metal intake, and easily would for anyone else willing to give it a chance.
#12 – Wino & Conny Ochs: Heavy Kingdom
I’m a sucker for nearly any release Wino is involved with, so it’s no surprise this one is a personal favorite from 2012. I was a bit leary about the Acoustic Blues approach, but knowing Conny Ochs was hand picked by Wino to record this album withafter having toured together, it helped ease me in safely. Sure enough there’s a great deal of atmosphere here, one that is largely set up musically, but delivered vocally and lyrically without missing a beat. The first song does kick things off with a bit of a rocky start, but the rest is just a moving experience with one great song after another. To be honest, I hope these two team up again for another album some time soon, as Heavy Kingdom was too impressive to be a one shot team-up.
#13 – Nekromantheon: Rise, Vulcan Spectre
This was an album I really kicked myself repeatedly over for not getting to it sooner. This Thrash Metal offering truly captured the spirit of the style in my opinion, and from the moment I hit play it hooked me with a great deal of rebellion and aggression. I don’t know why it shocked me since their previous effort was really good as well. While it’s not a unique experience, it definitely feels more genuine, and for the little over thirty minutes that it spans, there’s enough quality and variety to keep you attentive the entire time and not make you want to skip a single song, or begin to grow tired of what it offers.
#14 – Decaying: Encirclement
The previous Decaying album was good, but Encirclement just obliterated my expectations. The whole WW2 theme really added some extra bite to the release that I got into, which was largely thanks to the band not trying to run away with it and overpower many of the songs with the typical sound effects for extended periods of time. On top of that, there was just a great deal of variety, offering up some kick ass slower tracks with brutalising longer offerings that felt just as ruthless and unforgiving, all the while not coming off as drawn out or filler material. All in all, this sixty-seven minute album definitely has enough bang for your buck.
#15 – Freedom Call: Land of the Crimson Dawn
Listening to Land of the Crimson Dawn was the most fun I’ve had this year. Much of Freedom Call‘s recent material just hasn’t been that great, but this one really stood out the most. It was clear the band wanted to throw back to the old days of Heavy Metal and Power Metal when it still had that Hard Rock influence to it. What we got was an insanely catchy, upbeat feel good Power Metal release chock full of single potential. This is one I regret not adding to the collection at this point, but that’s largely due to lack of cash and the typical higher cost of shipping since no store near me carries this, or at least at a reasonable price. But, my promo copy did find a decent amount of play time, and is one that I keep handy if I just want to listen to something and not get too wrapped up in it, or just want to unwind and let the cares of the day slip away.
#16 – Hung: Hung
This was an album I in no way expected to go crazy over. Hung was just an intense, hard hitting album that I simply couldn’t walk away from. Well, except maybe the last few tracks, but even those still were strong offerings I could get into, just not as much. Hung brings a strong amount of beauty and intensity with them, as well as the skill to execute each superbly, or make it a cohesive mixture without having any of it feel forced like many Progressive Metal acts can do. It’s a rather unique recording that fans of well crafted Metal really need to take the time to sit down and experience.
#17 – Lita Ford: Living Like a Runaway
This was an album that, when the review went live, I caught a lot of hell over among my friends. Sure, I’d love to see Lita go back to the rebellious days, and I agree this is yet another rather commercial recording. But, the kicker is that it’s still really good. The music is just solid on almost all the songs, though I still shy away from “Song to Slit Your Wrists By” every time it comes up on the player. But, with that said, I still love this album and would easily suggest it as a 2012 album you need to hear. Unlike her other mainstream sounding recordings, this one carries more emotion in it, and you can tell that she is trying to pour her soul into some of the songs. That kind of meaning will always stand out in the Rock scene, as long as you don’t get too whiny about it.
#18 – Chopstick Suicide: Lost Fathers and Sons
Lost Fathers and Sons was a real surprise for me. I’m not always one that enjoys the Mathcore sound, but this one just had quality material that hammered away with rebellion and aggression, as well as included a bit of Jazz Fusion into the mix for good measure. Various Hardcore and Metalcore influences kept a good deal of variety alive throughout the release that held my attention every time I listened to it. Again, the energy was one thing that really grabbed me, and while the vocals were a bit tone-deaf, I found my head banging along to “Everyone Sleeps But Me” and “Shores Are Not for Vacancies.” This effort shows a great deal of potential from the group, and it’s sad that many who would appreciate this kind of recording will probably never hear it due to being on a smaller label that probably won’t push advertising it outside their home country.
#19 – Cult Cinema: Iscariot
This is one of those recordings that has a good deal of controversy attached to it, not just in general, but in a personal manner for me. Iscariot really stuck out for me thanks to the combination of Black Metal with Swedish Hardcore. It was an interesting formula that lead to some really atmospheric and grim material full of rebellion, and even depression. Of course, most of my friends have that elitist state of mind, so giving this release a chance was out of the question. But for a less than twenty minute offering, I found myself really wrapped up in it. The mixing of the styles was well executed for nearly all of the release, and it seemed to show great respect to both styles. This enthusiastic recording is one I’ll definitely suggest from 2012, but unfortunately it’s one I’ll have to pass along with discretion.
#20 – Caliban: I Am Nemesis
I’ve been a huge Caliban fan for years, and slowly started to lose touch with the group as they became more generic, more Emo, and more irrelevant to my musical tastes. However, when the promo for I Am Nemesis hit my media player, I immediately changed my views on the group. With quite possibly the most amazing production job on a Metal album I’ve heard in ages, allowing a sleek and often beautiful and emotional sound to the heavy and headbang worthy Metalcore material, it was obvious that Caliban was back and focusing on their roots. Yes, on this list, I Am Nemesis is easily the worst reviewed in a critical manner, but on a personal level I still go back to this release from time and time and look back on many of the songs fondly, opting this over many other releases from this year.