(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’s ‘Diin 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