(In this guest post, NCS reader Richard Donahue shares his lists of favorite 2012 albums, honorable mentions, and the best metal tracks of the year.)
1. Goatwhore – Blood For The Master (TIE)
Their best record to date; if you consider yourself a fan of metal and don’t listen to Goatwhore or own this record, I pity thee.
1. Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (TIE)
Featuring some of the best guitar work of the year by Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson, Testament prove yet again to be one of the most consistent bands of their genre; Pure Heavy American Thrash Metal at its finest.
2. Ihsahn – Eremita
3. Royal Thunder – CVI
I can remember many late afternoons after work sitting on the back of a rig observing the swamps and marshes of Louisiana listening to this fantastic record. The soulful, gritty vocals of MLny Parsonz, the heavy, bluesy riffs, the long ebbing and flowing jams and haunting atmosphere of the album amalgamate into a record that’s heavy in that old school Black Sabbath sense but also on an emotional, almost spiritual level as well. If this record had been released in the 70’s, it would’ve been huge.
4. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist
Ever since getting back on the path of greatness with 2001’s Violent Revolution, Kreator has been kicking ass and putting out high quality records. This album continues said trend. The smolderingly shredtastic leads of Mille Petrozza and Sami Yli-Sirniö are reason alone for buying the record. It’s the most melodic Kreator record to date, the perfect hybrid of Melodic Death Metal elements introduced on Violent and Thrash Metal that’s made them legends.
5. Enslaved – RIITIIR
From yet another band on a incredible run the past ten years or so, RIITIIR is their most progressive and experimental record to date. It’s Enslaved keeping on the Left Hand Path and maintaining their “Pink Floyd of Black Metal” moniker. Simply excellent.
6. Baroness – Yellow & Green
A double album in 2012? Who does THAT anymore? Baroness do and pull it off extremely well, with the exception of 2-3 clunkers. Be warned, “Yellow & Green” is a 180 for the band and takes some getting used to, but once you “get it”, you can’t get this album out of your head.
7. Torche – Harmonicraft
Meanderthal left some big shoes to fill and Songs for Singles didn’t quite cut the cheese. Luckily, Harmonicraft does. Not quite as heavy as Meanderthal and a grower of an album (at least to me), but more direct and concise as a whole. Happiest sounding and feeling record of the year; pure sunshine in music form.
8. God Forbid – Equilibrium
After hearing Dallas Coyle left God Forbid, I immediately wrote them off, as he wrote a good chunk of the music and his voice was one of the elements that I loved most about GF. Needless to say, I was thrown for a loop when Equilibrium turned out to be one of their best records ever. Best “what the hell” album buy of the year.
9. Municipal Waste – The Fatal Feast
Intense Crossover Thrash Metal with Punk Rock Sneer AND a sense of humor? Must be Municipal Waste, who are in fine form on The Fatal Feast‘, bringing the thrash the only way they know how: short and fast! WARNING: Listening to Municipal Waste may result in excessive headbanging, moshing, and copious amounts of beer being consumed.
10. Katatonia – Dead End Kings
The Swedish Kings of Gloom return on their 9th record with their most experimental music to date and a new line-up. Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom prove that the Norrman Brothers’ leaving the group had no effect on their progressive, experimentational nature. It takes several listens to really take in all the subtle effects, nuances, and minimalism Katatonia offer, but it is infinitely rewarding once discovered. I can’t think of many bands who become more successful far later in their careers and are willing to experiment and risk their standing in the pursuit of great, deep music, but Katatonia are in the elite caste.
11. High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis
High On Fire have never put out a bad record and this is no exception. Great production by Kurt Ballou and noticeable Sleep influence on tracks like “Madness of an Architect” and “Kings of Days” really make this a special record for these guys. Pike’s playing and vocals sound great as usual. Let’s hope their quality-albums run never ends!
12. Jeff Loomis – Plains of Oblivion
Loomis’s sophomore album proves, without a doubt, that Nevermore is nothing without him and that not all (mostly) instrumental albums have to be “look what I can do” playing and guitar masturbation. Ihsahn does vocals on the track “Surrender”, and Christine Rhoades (who did female vocals on Nevermore’s Dreaming Neon Black) appears on “Tragedy and Harmony” and “Chosen Time” for added bonus. For any fan of Loomis, this is a must-have.
Aura Noir – Out to Die: An utterly fantastic release that didn’t get nearly enough attention to this year. Tom G. Warrior-esque vocals, Blackened Thrash Metal with distinct NWOBM Flavor, and natural sounding production; the kind of raw, dirty, in your face metal that is in short supply these days!
Autopsy – All Tomorrow’s Funerals: Great collection by Death Metal gods Autopsy of all their EP’s, bonus tracks, etc; must-have for any fan of the band. Another record that didn’t get enough attention.
16 – Deep Cut for Dark Clouds: Sludge Metal done only the way 16 know how to do it; the Eyehategod of California.
Shadows Fall – Fire from the Sky: Nice return to form for these guys; predictable but awesome.
Ghoul – Transmission Zero: The best record by a newer Thrash Metal band that I have ever heard.
TOP METAL TRACKS OF 2012
Enslaved – “Death in the Eyes of Dawn”
The Faceless – “Autotheism (I-III)”
Goatwhore – “In Deathless Tradition”
Kreator – “Your Heaven, My Hell”
Royal Thunder – “Shake and Shift”
Torche – “Walk It Off”
Testament – “Cold Embrace”
Baroness – “Eula”
Katatonia – “Leech”
God Forbid – “Conquer”
MOST ANTICIPATED RECORDS OF 2013
5. Alice in Chains
6. Killswitch Engage
7. Hail of Bullets
9. Scale the Summit