Dec 102012

As you undoubtedly know by now, part of our year-end Listmania series consists of re-publishing lists of the year’s best metal that appear on what I’ve been calling “big platform” web sites. We didn’t include a year-end list from Stereogum in previous years, but I think it’s worth doing now.

Stereogum was one of the web’s first blogs to offer mp3 downloads, and it has evolved into a high-traffic portal with a focus on independent and alternative music news, downloads, videos, and gossip. Today Stereogum published its list of The Top 40 Metal Albums of 2012. I paid attention to the list, as I have for other “big platform” sites, because I’m curious to see what metal albums are being recommended by sites whose audiences probably consume a lot more non-metal than metal. But I also paid attention to the list because some writers with taste were involved in compiling it:

The extended introduction to the list was written by Stereogum’s news editor Michael Nelson, and the list itself list was compiled by Nelson plus Stereogum contributors Aaron Lariviere, Wyatt Marshall, and Doug Moore, all of whom also write for Invisible Oranges.

Interestingly, unlike other “big platform” lists we’ve published so far this year, the Stereogum list consciously excluded some albums that other cross-genre sites have included, in part because of doubts about whether the albums are really metal — and I’m talking about the 2012 releases by Baroness, Swans, Torche, and Converge. As you might predict from these exclusions, the albums on the list are also more consistently extreme than what we’ve seen from other big sites.

I think this is a really good list, probably my favorite of the “big platform” lists we’ve published so far, given my own tastes. It certainly includes a lot more black metal and a lot more straight-up death metal and death/doom, and it also includes EPs and splits (which is why we get to see places for the excellent 2012 offerings from Deathspell Omega and Vattnet Viskar).

I also found it interesting that Dawnbringer’s new album again finishes very high (I guess I really do have to listen to it!) and that Pallbearer made the No. 1 slot, and it was fun to see Samothrace and Winterfylleth in the top 5.

Here’s the list.  As always, your comments are encouraged. I’d also encourage you to go to the Stereogum site, where you’ll find Michael Nelson’s interesting introduction plus links for songs from all 40 of the albums.

40.  Witch In Her Tomb: S/T

39.  Horseback: Half Blood

38.  Kowloon Walled City: Container Ships

37.  Cannibal Corpse: Torture

36.  Kreator: Phantom Antichrist

35.  Horrendous: The Chills

34.  Wylve: S/T

33.  Agalloch: Faustian Echoes

32.  Lord Mantis: Pervertor

31.  Rhinocervs: RH 12

30.  Neurosis: Honor Found In Decay

29.  Hooded Menace: Effigies of Evil

28.  A Pregnant Light: Live To Tell (split)

27.  Vattnet Viskar: S/T EP

26.  Secrets of the Moon: Seven Bells

25.  Incantation: Vanquish In Vengeance

24.  Circle of Ouroboros: The Lost Entrance of the Just

23.  Deathspell Omega: Drought EP

22.  Pig Destroyer: Book Burner

21.  Mutilation Rites: Empyrean

20.  Bosse-de-Nage: III

19.  Unsane: Wreck

18.  Black Breath: Sentenced To Life

17.  Pinkish Black: Pinkish Black

16.  Grave: Endless Procession of Souls

15.  Krallice: Years Past Matter

14.  Meshuggah: Koloss

13.  Indesinence: Vessels of Light and Decay

12.  Atriarch: Ritual of Passing

11.  Dodecahedron: S/T

10.  Evoken: Atra Mors

09.  Blut Aus Nord: 777-Cosmosophy

08.  Martyrdod: Paranoia

07.  Asphyx: Deathhammer

06.  Ash Borer: Cold of Ages

05.  Samothrace: Reverence To Stone

04.  Winterfylleth: The Threnody of Triumph

03.  High On Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis

02.  Dawnbringer: Into the Lair of the Sun God

01.  Pallbearer: Sorrow and Extinction



  1. Definitely one of the better lists Ive read..still dosnt blow my skirt off, but theres some good stuff on here.

    Interesting that Converge wasnt “metal” enough, but Black Breath seems to be okay

    • I don’t think of Converge and Black Breath as at all comparable in their styles — though maybe you just meant that if one is going to exclude hardcore then one should exclude blackened crust? For what it’s worth, I think they’re both definitely metal.

      • No, I dont think they sound the same, I was just wondering why Converge is considered too punk, but Black Breath isnt…yeah Black Breath has a lot of death metal in their sound, but its still rooted pretty strongly in hardcore punk

        Out of curiosity..which one do you consider blackened crust?

        • Black Breath. I think their new album has more crust/punk flavor than hardcore, along with the death metal stylings, and maybe it’s just me, but I did get some “blackening” in the sound. But maybe not enough to justify attaching the word as an adjective.

          • Thats cool, I was just curious..I usually think of bands like Iskra, Young and In the Way, or Summon the crows when I think of Blackened Crust

            I can definitely hear the crust punk in Black Breath…the black metal not so much, but I’ll have to spin it again

  2. Part of the reason you don’t see bands like “Converge” on this list is also due to the fact that they’re on the actual Stereogum Top Albums of 2012 (across all genres). Something of note before any onslaught of rage begins about that.

    Stereogum has always had good metal lists though. Granted it’s been lacking lately since Brandon started writing for Pitchfork again, but hiring on the IO guys to compile a list was as good idea as any.

  3. I haven’t listened to much Horseback, but the riff in that one song on the Relapse YouTube is infectious as Phro is crazy. With a riff like that I don’t know why they haven’t been given more praise.

  4. Can someone explain to me what the big deal is with Horrendous? Distinctly not impressed…great year for OSDM, but that album is doing nothing for me.

    • I find what I’ve heard enjoyable, I think the riffs are pretty cool; they aren’t reinventing the wheel or anything, but then again, what newer OSDM band has?

    • Your not the first person Ive heard say that….Most people who really like it have told me its more of a “grower” of an album. It dosnt seem to immediately impress, but they tend to go back to it repeatedly.

      I feel like there was a bit of anticipation for that album after their strong demo release..I dont think they quite lived up to it, but its still a solid album overall

      • I wrote about Horrendous for IO, and it was my vote that probably got Horrendous on the Stereogum list as well. To my ear what sets them apart are two distinct things: distinct and varied songwriting and seriously badass lead guitar. It’s a great straight-through listen and it’s an actual album rather than a collection of sound-alike riff orgies. The lead guitar is what truly elevates it, though. I’ve compared the playing to James Murphy in the past, which isn’t entirely accurate, but there’s that level of feel and tastefulness at play, if not the actual playing style of the grand master. I’d encourage anyone to check out this album.

        • Thanks for the explanation – I have not heard the album all the way through, just listened to most of it piecemeal on-line. I’ll have to find time to give it a straight-ahead listen and see if my opinion changes.

  5. I am going to apologize in advance for being closed-minded, but this list is almost exclusively hipster metal (East-coast doom, black, and sludge) and by extension pretty boring.

    • ..about 25% of that list is either death or death/doom…thats not even counting Kreator or the raw black metal like the Rhinocervs release which is anything but hipster metal

    • I was going to say the same thing, ie, in what universe are Cannibal Corpse, Horrendous, Lord Mantis, Hooded Menace, Incantation, Grave, Evoken, and Asphyx hipster metal?

      • I would add that there’s a solid West Coast representation in this list, too, with Agalloch, Ash Borer, Samothrace, Bosse-de-Nage, Black Breath, and Atriarch.

        • I’m almost certain he looked at the number 1 spot, barely skimmed the rest and saw names he didn’t like and formulated an opinion to vomit out his virtual facehole on the internet.

          Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh and I mean no ill will, but that term is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    • I apologize in advance for being an asshole, but the term “hipster metal” is the goddamn laziest, non-descript, and downright retarded term to ever come into existence when describing music you don’t like.

      Apologies didn’t really help there, did it? Oh well. Don’t apologize for your opinions, articulate them. Calling something “hipster” (I guess that’s a negative thing? idk, I wear flannel and glasses) relects more negatively on the critic than the music.

      • Nothing wrong with the term..there’s plenty of metal Id consider hipster..the problem is its almost universally applied now to mean, music that popular…which isnt true

        …I dont like Machine Head or L.o.G., but even though theyre popular, they certainly arnet hipster bands

        • Well, that’s what I’m saying. The term is so prolific, broad, and loosely used it no longer holds any meaning. I always knew it to be a term haters would use whenever a metal band (particularly one of BM roots) used additional elements like shoegaze, clean singing, post-rock, or other “softer” inspirations to incorporate in their music. Something I’m not all too sure why expanding a genre’s sound is bad, but that’s another argument.

          Now it’s just broadly applied to any metal band that doesn’t fit into somebody’s cozy, traditional box of what metal “should” be. Something that can be brought up in equal measure when talking about Hacktivist, a band I don’t find enjoyment in but chalk it up to “I don’t understand it” rather than throwing loose terms with negative connotations with little intellectual discourse or purpose behind it.

          • Agreed, but its just another step in the ever expanding lexicon of buzz word for “metal I dont like” Nu-metal, metalcore, deathcore…they all ended up moving far beyond their initial meanings

            Personally, I dont think its expansion of the genre that people have a problem with. I know pleny of war metal fans who think the new Panopticon is amazing. Even the most kvlt black metal fan wont crap on Ash Borer, even though they got lumped into the whole Cascadian black metal thing.
            Its usually a problem with what seems to be a very obvious case of pretentiousness by the musician (whether intentional or not) which seems to appeal to a large number of people who want to seem deep and interesting.

            • I don’t think the term “hipster” as applied to metal means anything and everything that’s popular. I always understood it to mean something like what you just described — metal that struck whoever was applying the term as pretentious, coupled with a lack of sufficiently heavy balls and perhaps an excess of “ambience”. Not that I’ve made a study of the term’s etymology, mind you.

              • I’m actually curious to know what people think when they say something is “pretentious”. It’s become basically synonymous with “hipster” (and equally prolific) and I sometimes wonder if we’re even using the word properly anymore (myself included).

                Sometimes I see people say a band is pretentious but I find no evidence of pretense in their lyrics or actions as a band. Not always, but it does happen.

                • Self importance…Whether its a band like Liturgy, HHH, and his manifesto about changing black metal. Or a band like Wolves in the Throne Room and their rejection of all the trappings of black metal. These bands, and others that get lumped in with them, sometimes (whether they mean to or not) give off a sense that theyre too good to play simple black metal..that theyre somehow above it.

                  Tech and prog bands can also give off this vibe..theres sometimes a sense of “look how complex and difficult this passage was to create and play..arent you impressed”

                  Now before anyopne jumps down my throat..Im not saying this is either intentional or an accurate interpretation…Im just saying that this perception is there, and it tends to breed a bit of resentment from longtime fans.

                  • As you know, I love playing devil’s advocate. While I agree that HHH is very self-important, I’m not sure how rejecting the trappings of traditional black metal is a bad thing, or even a self-important one (in regards to WITTR). One of the main reasons I was drawn to them years ago was how non-traditional and different their approach was. Was it the tone in which they presented themselves? Because I did get that sense of “im better than you” in an older interview where he’s describing living off a farm and the land, blah blah blah, if you don’t know the star cycles you aren’t a black metal fan (A strange comment to make when rejecting black metal, in hindsight).

                    It’s usually when the sense of elitism comes into play that I become irked. Maybe that’s a more accurate word to use than pretentious? Idk.

                    • That, among some other things, is exactly what I mean…When I say they rejected the trappings of traditional black metal..I dont mean the music…Bands have been mixing ambient and atmospheric passages into black metal for a long time now, and I don’t think anyone really had problems with it.

                      Its the whole “We don’t sing about satan…we don’t wear corpsepaint…we’re doing black metal on our own terms” that went along with it. To me, that can very easily read as..”Our music is special and unique…we’re above all that silly stuff”

                    • I hate it when discussions drive me to the dictionary, because that’s extra effort. And I love it, because I lern moar stuf. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

                      “pretentious”: attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed

                      “self-important”: having an exaggerated sense of one’s own value or importance

                      “hipster”: a person who follows the latest trends and fashions

                  • @Islander Is the modern definition of hipster a person who rejects trends in order to be more unique or something? Because that’s what I’ve got.

                    • @Utmu: Ah, but don’t you see? Rejecting trends IS the trend now. It’s always about being the contrarian in the room to appear more important/intelligent/unique, etc. It’s a vicious cycle.

                      @Brute: I guess it comes down to tone. I still don’t see anything inherently wrong with not singing about satanic/pagan things and refusing to wear corpsepaint. It wouldn’t have been fitting for their music (and honestly the closer a band gets to essentially LARPing, the less seriously I take them unless they’re being silly on purpose).

                      @Islander: Facilitating healthy discussion helps everyone! I like to provoke reactions out of people in a way that makes them critically challenge, reinforce, or rethink their opinions (as well as my own).

                    • @Sean..I think you misunderstand. I dont think theres a problem with bands that dont do that..I listen to plenty of pagan, viking, and nature themed metal..its some of the first stuff I got into.

                      But bands like Wyrd, Agalloch, etc were doing things like this long before Wolves showed up and have never felt the need to pat themselves on the back for it..Its the need to point out how special you are for not doing those things that I would deem pretentious

                    • Well, I could cite a few examples showing that Agalloch do indeed pat themselves on the back and create a vibe that they’re “above” metal, but that’s beside the point. I got what you’re saying, that’s why I said it came down to the tone in which they said it. You’re right though, they weren’t the first.

                      Maybe they felt it was neccessary to make that distinguishment since their sound is still relatively traditional/raw/black metal? Or maybe black metal breeds a type of scene that they didn’t want to be associated with? We may never know, I don’t claim to be a mind reader. I try and give people the benefit of the doubt first before assuming they’re self-centered. Truth is often found in things that aren’t so easily explained in a headline or buzz word.

                      Anyway, I think this conversation has significantly digressed from my primary gripe: I don’t like buzz words being used as a means to lazily and easily criticize a band (or genre) while offering nothing to the discussion. Articulate what you don’t like about the music or don’t say anything at all.

      • It seems like there’s getting to be a negative term for every style of metal. If you play a traditional genre of metal, you might get called “re-thrash” or “vest metal” (thanks MS). If you do something creative with an older genre, or have some crossover success, you might get called “hipster”. I’ve seen bands get called “girlfriend metal” and the only uniting characteristic for them I could think of is that they weren’t raw black or death metal bands.I don’t think those labels add anything constructive. Really, they suck.

        • Thats not a new thing in metal…its going to happen anytime theres a wide variety of sounds in a given genre. part of the reason we got second wave black metal was because of the response to so-called “life metal” (i.e. death metal that supposed;y lost its balls)

          Power and Symphonic metal has been called “flower metal” for I dont know how long, and while I agree it dosnt add anything, theres always going to be people who think their style is better than another style…just like most metlaheads think their music is superior to other genres.

  6. Wow! Great to see Hooded Menace and Lord Mantis on somebody’s list!

    • Abso-fuckin-lutely. Two of the year’s most crushing, yet memorable, albums.

    • Agreed. Lord Mantis is absolutely filthy in the best possible way. I’m also really glad to see Winterfylleth on there, as well as Indesinence. Both were fantastic, but I get the feeling that Indesinence is getting overlooked since it was released so late in the year. Or because people have bad taste.

  7. This list is pretty fucking predictable. Some surprises here and there, but by and large it’s a who’s who of Next Big Things from this past year. Not to say it’s all bad, but I think I’d much prefer seeing all the lists from individual contributors than this one

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