Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 in review - top 66 albums of the year (part 1)

I took a sabbatical, alright? I had shit to do all year, and we all survived the absence, so there. Let's plunge straight into the next list, which is all that you're here for. Not the usual 100 this time - I trimmed it down to 66 because it's a cute number and it's just a 6 away from Satan. Ironically, 2012 has arguably been the richest year since I started publishing my lists, a year in which I could easily have come up with a top 200, so if a record made it to this top 66, it means it's really special. Collect them all, as they say. Onwards!

66. THE 69 EYES X
I was so happy with the return of The 69 Eyes that I even considered extending the list to a top 69, just to have them placed at #69. Who cares about list positions though. The Finnish vampires hadn't put out a really good record since the (unintentional) 1999-2002 trilogy of 'Wasting The Dawn', 'Blessed Be' and 'Paris Kills', and it's great to see them return to form with all the silly, corny splendor they're capable of, syrupy ballads ('Borderline') and all. Screw all you trvekvltists, get some eyeliner in your lives for once. This is melodic ear-candy of the highest order.

65. GOJIRA L'Enfant Sauvage
Another good return to form - 'The Way Of All Flesh' had its fans, but it was miles below the influential kick of 'From Mars To Sirius'. 'L'Enfant Sauvage' is Gojira sort of reinvented, fusing melodic richness with an urgent intensity that had been sorely lacking in the past few years.

64. BIRDS IN ROW You, Me & The Violence
In a good year for proper screamo (not the modern trendy crap that's passed for it in the last few years), Loma Prieta almost made the list with their 'I.V.' record and Birds In Row sneak in with a remarkably violent effort, as its title implies. Emotional and passionate, yes, but face-rippingly so, the French trio's first effort owes as much of a debt to the traditional screamo of yore as it does to Converge.

I've never been the biggest of Secrets Of The Moon fans, mainly because I could see tons of potential that always seemed to be held back by a sort of presumption by the band itself that they're much better than what they actually show through their music. 'Seven Bells' finally disposes of all the pretense of past efforts and focuses on delivering concrete, to-the-point stomping mid-paced black metal songs, and the result is (finally) staggering. Hard-hitters like the title track and 'Blood Into Wine' are clearly the best material the German band has ever produced.

62. BLUT AUS NORD 777 - Cosmosophy
The first two parts of the 777 trilogy made it to my list last year at #29, and I mentioned at the time that "Harold Camping will probably come out of retirement to announce another end of the world when the final part of the trilogy comes out in 2012." There was plenty of apocalyptic hullaballo this year with old Harold going all nutty on us once again, but '777 - Cosmosophy' didn't feel at all final. In fact, it's inspiring and far-reaching enough to feel as a new beginning, leaving any specific genre notion behind and fusing melody, harmony, rhythm, light and darkness together for a truly epic broadening of horizons that only Vindsval would have been capable of.

61. PRONG Carved Into Stone
No one seems to care for Prong anymore, some were even surprised the band was still around when I declared my excitement after I got my hands on 'Carved Into Stone', and while most of that is probably the band's own fault (the two albums they've done since 1996's 'Rude Awakening' are far from unforgettable, ever since Tommy Victor started collaborating with other bands like Danzig and Ministry), it doesn't mean they don't deserve a chance, and this album should be the best way to get back into the band for any old fan. 'Keep On Living In Pain' or 'Revenge ... Best Served Cold', just to mention the best cuts, would have a place in any Prong record, and that's saying quite a lot.

60. ALKERDEEL Morinde
Well, that cover more or less says it all. Slightly more elaborate than 'De Speenzalvinge', 'Morinde' is nevertheless still a nasty, filthy beast, ripping apart the crustiest elements from the smelly corpses of sludge doom and black metal and leaving them outside to rot further. Lovely music for children's parties.

59. BELL WITCH Longing / INDESINENCE Vessels Of Light And Decay
It doesn't matter if it's into an old abandoned house or into, erm, the realm of unending decay, or whatever it is that's going on in the Indesinence cover, the point is that the reaper will lead the way and you will damn well follow. Two soul-emptying, crushing doom albums from the typically faultless Profound Lore this year that, particularly if you listen to them back to back, won't fail to ruin your day week month life.

58. GRAND MAGUS The Hunt
I just mistyped the album title as 'The Hung', and still considered leaving it like that. Such is the amount of true heavy metal testosterone that oozes from songs like 'Sword Of The Ocean', 'Valhalla Rising' or the giant epic 'Son Of The Last Breath' that you'll probably be hung like a racehorse after repeated listens. Even if you're a girl, so beware.

57. HOODED MENACE Effigies Of Evil
On my list of best 2011 split releases, I mentioned that "anything Hooded Menace releases will always have a place in my lists. Even if it's just Lasse Pyykkö strumming the same note with that tone, I'll be in doom heaven," and it holds true. Though 'Effigies Of Evil' falls slightly short of the necro-glory of 2010's 'Never Cross The Dead' (which obviously made that year's list), it's still fetid death/doom like no one else is able to do.

56. LAZARUS BLACKSTAR Hymn For The Cursed
I?ve barely seen this album mentioned anywhere, what's wrong with you people? Their first album with new vocalist Mikhell spews forth a torrent of misery, filth and desperation, just like Lazarus Blackstar have always done, rightful heirs of the grand British sludgehorror throne. Yeah, sludgehorror, I just made that up. Like Iron Monkey before them, Lazarus Blackstar are way above (below?) categorizations, they just violently heap doom, crust, sludge, doom and week-old piss onto the fire and get it done.

55. PRIMITIVE WEAPONS The Shadow Gallery
Though it came out quite early in the year, 'The Shadow Gallery' has remained on my regular playlist. The dissonant, meaty mix of AmRep noise rock, doom and chaotic hardcore they belt out is infectious, energetic and powerful, and I can't wait for the next installment of it.

Every single album by this mysterious Dutch ensemble has made it to my lists, because they capture an eerie, enveloping atmosphere that is subtle, unique and quietly captivating. More soaring and more atmospheric than the more black metal-focused (well, sort of) two previous albums, 'Only The Ocean Knows' is mournful, tragically beautiful and still remarkably intense.

53. ASPHYX Deathhammer
All the hints you need to the essential nature of 'Deathhammer' are in the album itself. "This is true death metal, you bastards," iconic frontman Martin Van Drunen spontaneously and defiantly shouts before the title track, while the eighth song is aptly titled 'We Doom You To Death'. There you go, that's all you need. Now bang your fucking head to some of the best death metal of the fucking decade.

52. HEXVESSEL No Holier Temple
More pastoral than occult, more nature-worshipping than spirit-invoking, Mat McNerney wandered into the Finnish woods for Hexvessel's second album, found a few like-minded hippie friends (most of them members of Dark Buddha Rising) and never came out. 'No Holier Temple' isn't as immediate as its predecessor 'Dawnbearer' (very highly placed on last year's list) was, but the delicate fusing of man and nature that emanates from its songs is so lushly beautiful and enveloping that it'll become equally addictive.

51. GRAVEYARD Lights Out
It wouldn't have hurt to wait a little longer after the bluesy magic of 'Hisingen Blues' justly propelled Graveyard into rock-stardom, as 'Lights Out' falls just a little short of their previous record timeless magic, but hey, there's no arguing with the70s-fixated rockout power of songs like 'Goliath' or 'Slow Motion Countdown'. If we really must live in a Led Zeppelin-less world, then Graveyard will more than do as a worthy substitute.

50. BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH Defender, Redeemist
Behold! The Monolith should be reaping the rewards that so many lazy Southern-styled sludge-rock bands are enjoying these days while releasing albums on autopilot and filling out damn arenas and shit. Thing is B!TM worry about actually crafting songs, and proof is in a crushing 13-minute anthem like 'Cast On The Black / Lamentor / Guided By The Southern Cross', an unsung future classic that all the Mastodon-and-clones of this world combined wouldn't know what to do with even if it landed its enormous girth on their laps.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back. You were missed. Looking forward to the rest of the list.