Dec 172012

(This is the first in NCS writer Andy Synn’s week-long series of posts looking back at albums released in 2012.) 

Ok, you should know how this works by now, but for those of you who are new and/or of a forgetful nature, here goes:

Over the course of this week I’ll be producing a series of columns rounding up the year. The first deals with the objectively ‘Great’ albums, the next will feature those of a ‘Good’ (or ‘Very Good’) nature that don’t quite manage to reach the high peaks of greatness, and finally you’ll be getting a flame-retardant piece featuring the most ‘Disappointing’ records released this year. Here’s a quick warning though – there are some BIG albums on there. Apologies in advance for any offence caused.

The last two columns will finalise my ‘Critical Top 10’ and ‘Personal Top 10’ albums of the year – the first will be the 10 albums I think are objectively ‘the best’ of the year, the ones I would put in a time capsule and preserve as a perfect representation of the year in metal. The second is, as you might have gathered, going to be a far more personal list, the ten albums I’ve listened to the most and keep going back to, time and time again, because they simply ‘click’ with where and who I am at the moment.

So here we go, here are the ‘Greatest’ albums of the year!


Let’s start this off simply with three albums of phenomenal, bone-crushing mega-riffage —  Koloss by Meshuggah, High on Fire’s De Vermis Mysteriis, and Goatwhore’s Blood For The Master, all phenomenal albums, built on a foundation of crushing, sledge-hammer riffs and a complete disregard for the opinions or tastes of others. Uncompromising stuff.

Black metal kept its head held high, with Marduk’s Serpent Sermon perhaps blazing brightest, while Israthoum produced a vile statement of evil intent with Black Poison and Shared Wounds and Enthroned finally stepped up to the big leagues with the ebon perfection of Obsidium. Most brutal, and yes, most epic, of all though was Vanitas, Anaal Nathrakh’s latest stunning litany of hatred and power.

More unorthodox black metal stylings came from the sublime Becoming by Abigail Williams, and the oppressive Seven Bells by Secrets of the Moon, both albums possessing a darker, doomy vibe and a similar disregard for conventional song-structuring. Similarly progressive stylings can be found on The Writing of Gods In The Sand by Wildernessking, Oak Pantheon’s From A Whisper and Eternal Turn of The Wheel by the legendary Drudkh, all three expressing an intricate balance of feral beauty and bestial force.

The proggier side of black metal was represented this year in all its multi-faceted glory, from the sheer grandiosity of Borknagar’s Urd, to the aggressive, electronically embellished assault of Khonsu’s Anomalia and Blut Aus Nord’s doom-laden ‘Cosmophy’. The icing on the cake was Deathspell Omega’s ugly, virulent Drought, Shining’s suicidally honest Redefining Darkness, and the glacial majesty of Enslaved’s Riitiir.

Some of death metal’s current front-runners put in a real heavyweight showing as well, with Cattle Decapitation’s Monolith of Inhumaity and Aborted’s Global Flatline unleashing the filth and the fury on a biblical scale, while both Dying Fetus and Job For A Cowboy delivered up two albums, Reign Supreme and Demonocracy, of lunatic riffage and face-melting shred.

Talking of shred, Lepers Caress saw Arsis back doing what they do best, lashing us all with torrent of killer melodic death riffage, while Sedition by Hour of Penance managed to show that the best bands can maintain a captivating sense of dynamic and structure even while blasting along at an unrelenting, chaotic pace. Finally, Ancient Ascendant’s Into The Dark provided ominous signs of even greater things to come, while Cryptopsy’s self-titled new record out-teched and out-brutalised almost all of its competitors in a fantastic return to form.

The more proggy/textured side of metal was well-represented too. Autotheism was a bold step outside the box by The Faceless, which won them many new fans, and lost them quite a few at the same time, while Krakow’sDiin was a forceful, brooding soundtrack of emotional upheaval. In Mourning’s The Weight of Oceans managed to achieve a near perfect balance of flowing melody and tumultuous tidal power, equalled only by Deftones divine Koi No Yokan. By contrast Alcest’s beautifully crafted Les Voyages de L’Ame weaves a powerful spell of its own, despite being the lightest album here.

Comeback of the year goes to The Cursed Remain Cursed, the hard-hitting, melodically tormented album by Vision of Disorder, but equal kudos go to Cobolt 60’s uncompromising The Grim Defiance, the Norwegian thrashers returning with all guns blazing. On top of all this Dark Roots of The Earth saw Testament continue the momentum of their own epic comeback, with a more melodic, yet no less devastating, barrage of killer thrash tunes.


Here’s the full list in alphabetical order.

Abigail Williams – Becoming

Aborted – Global Flatline

Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Ame

Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas

Ancient Ascendant – Into The Dark (EP)

Arsis – Lepers Caress (EP)

Blut Aus Nord – Cosmosophy

Borknagar – Urd

Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity

Cobolt 60 – The Grim Defiance

Cryptopsy – Cryptopsy

Deathspell Omega – Drought (EP)

Deftones – Koi No Yokan

Drudkh – Eternal Turn of the Wheel

Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme

Enslaved – Riitiir

Enthroned – Obsidium

The Faceless – Autotheism

Goatwhore – Blood For The Master

High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

Hour of Penance – Sedition

In Mourning – The Weight of Oceans

Israthoum – Black Poison and Shared Wounds

Job For A Cowboy – Demonocracy

Khonsu – Anomalia

Krakow – Diin

Marduk – Serpent Sermon

Meshuggah – Koloss

Oak Pantheon – From A Whisper

Secrets Of The Moon – Seven Bells

Shining – Redefining Darkness

Testament – Dark Roots of the Earth

Vision of Disorder – The Cursed Remain Cursed

Wildernessking – The Writing of Gods In The Sand

  39 Responses to “2012 – A YEAR IN REVIEW(S): THE GREAT ALBUMS”

  1. GOATWHORE!!! (and five more of my personal favorites for the year.)

  2. No Be’lakor or Ne Obliviscaris saddens me

  3. We have zero overlap in our Top 10

    • I haven’t published my Top 10 yet.

      • What he means is that NONE of your albums is on his Top 10 list, which we will see later today.

        • I see. This does not surprise me in the slightest.

          • I was confused as to what was going to be posted when and what for. LOL

            So I just scanned the list of albums you had there and assumed those would make up any “list” you did 🙂

            • Ah, well these ones will be thinned down to a “Critical Top 10” for Thursday – where I will try and take out personal feeling and/or bias as much as possible, and attempt an objectively representative list of the year’s releases (that I have heard anyway).

              Then Friday you’ll get my “Personal Top 10”, which is actually drawn from both the ‘Great’ and the ‘Good’ lists, more as a representation of what I’ve particularly loved this year. So that one’s much less objective.

  4. Hellish Outcast-your god will bleed
    yes no maybe?

  5. Lots of diversity here, but most assuredly METAL! Good list Andy!

    • Thank you!

      It is, and will remain, metal to the core. I really don’t get when people (bloggers, band members, etc) put patently non-metallic albums on their “Best of Metal” lists. It’s fine that you like them, but it’s not really the point of things now is it?

      I for one do listen to stuff outside of metal, but I feel no need to ‘prove’ my diverse tastes by shoehorning in a token non-metal choice into any of my lists.

      • That’s why I so eloquently made the decision not to call my year-end list a “metal” list, haha. My taste has meandered this year and my personal favorites aren’t as heavy as in years past.

      • I go out of my way to make it clear that my year-end list is not specifically metal, but encompasses all music that I listened to during the year. To do otherwise would be to give short shrift to the multitudes of non-metal music that I listen to during the year. There is no shoe-horning, no need to prove my diverse taste… it is simply that if I were to focus solely on metal, it would be disingenuous. I liked the new Aesop Rock album as much as I liked the new Between The Buried And Me album, and thus it deserves a place high on my list.

  6. Cool list, Andy! I enjoy your black metal selections.

  7. Nice to see Wildernessking show up. Great work those boys do. And it looks like I really need to give Blut Aus Nord a listen.

  8. Excuse me……. Where the F is SPAWN OF POSSESSION on this list?!?!?!?!

  9. >no Wintersun


  10. Faceless has clean singing.

    • So do…

      Alcest, Anaal Nathrakh, Blut Aus Nord, Borknagar, Deftones, Enslaved, In Mourning, Khonsu, Shining, Testament, and Vision of Disorder.

  11. Serpent Sermon was one of my favorites of the year, but I had completely missed Obsidium. Great recommendation!

    • Get it. Get it now.

      I think it’s actually better… maybe.

      Still, it’s awesome. Enthonred stepping up into the upper echelons of black metal finally.

      • Already bought! I’ve only listened to it a couple of times so far, but I’m impressed at how assured and textured it is. I’d heard their name but had always thought they were death metal, so I never sought them out.

        I also think I need to check out Seven Bells. I skipped over that one too for some reason. I even remember what the cover looks like, but for whatever reason I never got around to listening to any of it.

        • Holy shit is Seven Bells excellent! I’m currently listening to it on the Prophecy YouTube channel and grinning in idiotic bliss. Can’t believe I skipped over this.

          I was worried from your description that the “doom” aspect would mean sluggish songs, but there’s more than enough blasting and galloping and frothing to satisfy me.

          Great atmosphere, interesting melodies and arrangements (including audible bass guitar!), and absolutely badass vocals. And I love the bells at the beginning of each track.

          Another easy purchase!

  12. Love the list. The album I keep coming back to is Enslaved’s RIITIIR. Has been been the best release of the second half of the year for me. Just browsing the lists of the not-so-great for the year, gotta say I completely agree about Katatonia’s Dead End Kings. Don’t get me wrong, I love this band (even have their old logo tattooed on my forearm, but this effort gave me a massive yawn. It’s not a terrible record, just a ho-hum one. I hope they can take the great sound they have and move somewhere further with it.

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