Dec 072012

While awaiting the rollout of our own series of posts devoted to the year’s best metal, I continue to keep an eye out for year-end lists published by what I’ve been calling “big platform” web sites. By “big platform” sites, I mean those that have web traffic which greatly exceeds even the biggest metal-only sites. By definition, these are sites that cover musical genres beyond metal, and usually entertainment interests beyond music.

PopMatters is a popular culture web site with broad coverage of music, film, television, books, comics, software and video games — you name it. Its articles get picked up regularly by the mainstream media, and it claims a readership of more than 1 million unique visitors per month. In other words, it fits the profile of “big platform” web sites whose lists of 2012′s best metal we’ve been re-publishing here at NCS.

Today, PopMatters published its list of “The Best Metal of 2012″, ranking the chosen albums from #20 to #1. The list was compiled by Craig Hayes, Adrien Begrand, Dean Brown, Brice Ezell, and Dane Prokofiev (who is an occasional contributor to NCS). To see the list with accompanying descriptions and explanations of the choices along with sample tracks from most of the listed albums, use this link.

It’s a very interesting list, which we’re re-publishing after the jump. You will see some names that have appeared on other lists we’ve published so far. In fact, those names are appearing so frequently I suspect they would be on some “consensus list” if anyone were to compile such a thing (with Panopticon’s Kentucky turning into a real dark-horse favorite). But you’ll also see some new entries that may be surprising (at least they surprised me — pleasantly): Author & Punisher (coming in at No. 4!),  Atriarch, Krallice, Dragged Into Sunlight, and Ahab. But the biggest surprise is the pick for the No. 1 spot.

I can’t comment on that selection because I haven’t heard the album, but I bet you won’t find many lists that include this album at all, much less naming it album of the year. Check out the entire list and please leave your thoughts in a comment:

20. Sigh: In Somniphobia
19. Diablo Swing Orchestra: Pandora’s Piñata
18. Ahab: The Giant
17. Gojira: L’Enfant Sauvage
16. Blut Aus Nord: 777 – Cosmosophy
15. Rush: Clockwork Angels
14. Alcest: Les Voyages de l’Âme
13. Atriarch: Ritual of Passing
12. Meshuggah: Koloss
11. Ihsahn: Eremita
10. Krallice: Years Past Matter
09. Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
08. Dragged Into Sunlight: Widowmaker
07. Enslaved: RIITIIR
06. Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind
05. Baroness: Yellow and Green
04. Author & Punisher: Ursus Americanus
03. Panopticon: Kentucky
02. Pig Destroyer: Book Burner
01. Dawnbringer: Into the Lair of the Sun God


  1. “PopMatters is a popular culture web site with broad coverage of music”

    I always find it interesting to read these sorts of lists, drawn from more general music outlets.

    Looking at this one does make me wonder though if there’s a certain bias (conscious or unconscious) towards albums they could argue were ‘arty’ enough for non-metallers to appreciate (on an intellectual level at least).

    There’s a certain pervasive ‘coolness’ factor that just comes off as a bit defensive.

    • Yeah, I get that feeling, too. A lot of it is what I would call “hipster metal” – which means there will be little prog or power. But this list has some good shit; including Dawnbringer, Sigh and DSO.

      • I wouldn’t say it’s ‘hipster’ – certainly not that those compiling the list are hipsters either.

        More that part of them may have thought about how the list is going to look relative to the overall (and wider) demographic of the site. So yes, some of the bands may be a bit more ‘arty’ and hipster-friendly, and they may not have given as much consideration to certain bands from a heavier, less user-friendly spectrum.

        There are some very good albums on it though, I’m not denying that. Even the ones that aren’t to my taste.

  2. Not to fly in Andy’s face, but I love this list. It’s eclectic, covers many genres and ideas, and doesn’t seems kewed toward ‘obvious’ favorites. Also I think their #1 choice is…excellent. That album is a fucking monster.

    • I agree that the eclecticism of the list makes it interesting, regardless of whether the mix was calculated to appeal to a more mainstream audience (eg, Rush and Alcest) or just naturally reflected the different tastes of the staff members who compiled it. I’ve really enjoyed the albums on there that I’ve heard, and their selection of Dawnbringer is going to push me to give it a spin.

  3. By far the most interesting and unpredictable list this year. Not too obscure/pretentious and not too obvious/major label heavy either. I dig it, very eclectic.

  4. A list of years best metal and no Catal Decapitation or Psycroptic or Aborted or Goatwhore? Suck a big black cock, popmaters

    • Oh look..our first insight into what kind of music ol’ morbidhead actually listens to

      • He has also made favorable mention of Pathology, the new Revocation EP, The Crown, and Belphegor in the past. I remember such things because they happen so rarely. Or at least not as often as telling us to lick his asshole.

        • Well..I guess we can safely say he has about as much musical taste as the average Metalsucks commenter, which dosnt mean much to me at all

  5. One thing I consistently notice about these “big platform” sites’ lists is that they generally pretend that death metal is not a thing. Still, there’s a lot I like about this list- mostly Sigh, Atriarch and Dawnbringer.

    • Depends on the criteria upon which you determine the “best” music for the year. While there were a lot of solid death metal albums this year, I wouldn’t say many of them pushed any boundaries or went places we haven’t heard before. Artistically speaking, death metal has been increasingly behind black metal for the last few years, and that’s probably a big reason you won’t see death metal top more lists. Lots of bands doing what they do best and making people’s heads bang with great effciency, but nothing out of the oridinary. /2cents

    • In their defense, most death metal-especially old school death metal getting released from the likes of FDA Rekotz and Deepsend Records-coming out these days are not pushing the boundaries of the genre in interesting ways. They may sound pleasant to our ears, yes, but most of it just ain’t gonna cut it for “Best of” lists, because “Best of” lists ought to honor bands that have at least pleasantly surprised most seasoned extreme metal listeners by pushing the boundaries of their chosen genres or coming up with unique crossovers done thoughtfully and musically coherently.

      If any death metal bands are honored in such lists, they would usually be technical death metal bands with a little twist (e.g. Spawn of Possession’s slight symphonic influence in their music) or death/doom bands with a penchant for evoking the most negative human emotions through abrasive melodies and/or evocative album artwork and lyrical themes.

      • While it’s a fair point, because these lists to tend to favor albums that explore new ideas, I’m sure I could find exceptions in either their metal lists or their other best of lists. And I don’t recall seeing any Mitochondrion in these types of lists last year (though maybe Ulcerate?), nor do I expect to see any Cattle Decapitation this year. And I would consider those albums to be wading into new territory (especially Mitochondrion or other bands taking that “atmospheric” approach to DM)

      • This is a topic that I’m thinking merits a separate post and further discussion: By what criteria should an album be selected for a Best of the Year list? Should we or should we not limit such lists to “bands that have at least pleasantly surprised most seasoned extreme metal listeners by pushing the boundaries of their chosen genres or coming up with unique crossovers done thoughtfully and musically coherently”? Reading that again, it sounds pretty elitist. And by that criterion, how did KOLOSS make the PopMatters list?

        • An excellent topic indeed!

          I like a balanced approach. I’ll include bands pushing the limits of their genre(s) as well as bands who just plain put out a solid album for the type of music they play.

        • That would be quite a limit to the list, now, wouldn’t it? Indeed, it would disqualify the number 1 album on this list. Into the Lair of the Sun God is a fantastic album, and, while unexpected, is certainly a contender for best metal album of the year. It’s also nothing new, highly original or groundbreaking; if anything, it’s a very traditional metal album with a huge debt to Iron Maiden. What makes it so great, to my ears, is that it’s fantastically memorable. The hooks, solos and lyrics are excellent in every song – and that’s how I judge the greatness of an album, period. When we talk about best, creativity is a great thing…but what is the point of creativity if it lacks substance, much less is something worth remembering? JS Bach was rejected by many listeners in his day because he wrote “old-fashioned” music; only a small coterie of organists and composers knew anything about him until Mendelssohn revived his choral music to a mass audience in the 1830s. The “creative,” “fresh” composers he was rejected for, well, how many of you have ever even heard of Stamitz or Sammartini today?

          If one wants to write a list of the most creative albums of the year, I’m all for it, but don’t mistake it for a “best-of” list, even if some albums cross over. My best of list for this year will include some really unique, creative bands – such as Ne Obliviscaris, Gorod and Sigh. It will also include the OSDM of Ataraxy, Putrevore and Necrovation, the power metal of Seven Kingdoms and the traditional metal of Dawnbringer and Pharaoh. Every one of these bands created a truly memorable musical experience this year, and that, to me, makes them “the best.”

          • Man…I was going to try and debate Sean’s comment in my own clumsy way, but you’ve said it far more clearly than Id ever be able to do.

            Pushing musical boundaries is all well and good, but it isnt the sole defining characteristic of an impressive album

            • Well, if you read my full comment that’s not the point I was making. I said I prefer a balanced approach of taking some truly innovative (and obviously memorable) bands, as well as bands who just know what they’re damn well doing.

              Memorable and lasting being the key points here. I would never just list a bunch of bands that were super experimental and new if they still lacked any purpose beyond that. Anybody who knows what I listen to knows that I actually have a strong distaste for bands who are being “edgy” and “avant garde” simply for the sake of doing so. But I do weigh bands that are doing new things, and doing them well, a lot heavier than bands doing the same ole, same ole, even if it’s really good.

              • have my apologies…I mistakenly attributed this quote “Best of” lists ought to honor bands that have at least pleasantly surprised most seasoned extreme metal listeners by pushing the boundaries of their chosen genres or coming up with unique crossovers done thoughtfully and musically coherently.” to you

              • Sean, I was commenting on Islander’s post above you. Frankly, I just felt like elaborating on what you had said. As someone actively involved in classical music, I’ve often been caught up in debates over what makes for “great” music, and have some passionate feelings on the matter, that’s all.

        • Ambition + creativity + execution.

          Which means an album sufficiently well executed can make up for a lack of ambition. The categories are a bit weighted, but I’m on my phone and can’t be arsed to elaborate.

          • You’ll get your chance tomorrow. 🙂

          • This is how I feel as well. I always give a band credit if they’re trying something new, even if I don’t particularly care for what they come up with, but originality is just one aspect that goes into making good music. There are plenty of albums on my best of list that defy convention and plenty that don’t.

        • Koloss was not on my personal list. The list is a collaborative effort amongst 4 writers, so it’s a democratic list.

          As for the topic at hand that you think merits a separate post, well, look forward to reading it on my site when it’s ready! I have always been concerned with this issue and recently wrote something about it.

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