Dec 192012

Although this week we started posting the year-end lists of NCS staff and guest writers, we’ve still got a few more lists from other sites to feature. As in previous years, one of them is Pitchfork’s list of the Top 40 Metal Albums of the year, which was unveiled this morning.

Pitchfork is one of the “big platform” sites that cover genres of music well beyond metal — which is sort of true by definition because no metal-only site could ever amass an audience of more than 3.5 million unique visitors each month; that’s what Pitchfork claims for its monthly audience. As in the case of other big platform sites, I’m curious about their year-end metal list because it at least has the potential to expose the bands to so many people.

I usually expect that metal lists from sites such as this one will be watered down to some degree, simply because the audience consists of so many non-metalheads. But in Pitchfork’s case, the list is compiled by Brandon Stosuy, who knows his shit and whose “Show No Mercy” column is a reliable guide to metal that’s worth checking out.

Given that the Pitchfork list is 40 names long, there’s a lot I could discuss by way of preview. But I’ll limit myself to these observations and then get out of the way. First, it’s again gratifying to see so many old-school death and death/doom albums on the list. Bands such as Incantation, Grave, and Asphyx make yet another appearance on a big year-end list, with Deathhammer nailing down the No. 5 spot.

Second, I’m also happy to see the funereal doom of Bell Witch and Evoken get their due (though they’re both showing up on lots of year-end lists). Doom-y music in general does quite well on this list, with appearances by Paradise Lost, Royal Thunder, Samothrace, Bereft, and the band who claim the Album of the Year spot all playing doom-influenced metal of one kind or another.

Third, black metal gets a big nod on this list. With the possible exceptions of Satan’s Wrath and Mutilation Rites, you won’t see the kind of raw, filthy, take-no-prisoners assaults that showed up on the list from SurgicalBrute that we posted earlier today, but you will see the likes of excellent (and diverse) bands such as Bosse-de-Nage, Nachtmystium, Krallice, Panopticon, Winterfylleth, Ash Borer, and Blut Aus Nord (but no MardukDeathspell Omega or Agalloch).

Fourth, there are some under-the-radar picks on here (e.g., Pinkish Black and Aluk Todolo) coupled with some names that are appearing on almost every list we’ve featured from other sites (e.g., Pig Destroyer, High On Fire, Neurosis, Baroness, and Converge), but conspicuously missing are the popular 2012 releases from NCS favorites such as Gojira, Meshuggah, Cattle Decapitation, Anaal Nathrakh, Goatwhore, and Cryptopsy.

In fact, apart from those old-school releases mentioned earlier, the many flavors of death metal (especially melodic death, tech-death, and blackened death) get short shrift, and the proggier end of the metal spectrum is almost entirely missing in action. But hey, you can’t have everything, and I do think this is a very solid list.

Although I’m listing the Show No Mercy Top 40 below, I strongly encourage you to visit the Pitchfork feature itself (HERE), because, for the top 25 picks, Brandon Stosuy provides not only interesting explanations for his choices but also sample songs from each of those albums.

40. Inverloch: Dusk I Subside [Relapse]

39. Primitive Weapons: The Shadow Gallery[Prosthetic]

38. Bosse-de-Nage: III [Profound Lore]

37. Incantation: Vanquish in Vengeance [Listenable]

36. Nachtmystium: Silencing Machine [Century Media]

35. Anhedonist: Netherwards [Dark Descent]

34. Krallice: Years Past Matter [self-released]

33. Saint Vitus: Lillie F-65 [Season of Mist]

32. Panopticon: Kentucky [Handmade Birds]

31. Aluk Todolo: Occult Rock [Ajna Offensive]

30. Paradise Lost: Tragic Idol [Century Media]

29. Winterfylleth: The Threnody of Triumph[Candlelight]

28. Farsot: Insects [Lupus Lounge/Prophecy]

27. Martyrdöd: Paranoia [Southern Lord]

26. Liberteer: Better to Die on Your Feet Than Live on Your Knees [Relapse]

25. Horseback: Half Blood [Relapse]

24. Vattnet ViskarVattnet Viskar [Broken Limbs/Century Media]

23. Bell Witch: Longing… [Profound Lore]

22. Royal Thunder: CVI [Relapse]

21. Samothrace: Reverence to Stone [20 Buck Spin]

20. Early Graves: Red Horse [No Sleep]

19. haarp: HUSKS [Housecore]

18. Black Breath: Sentenced to Life [Southern Lord]

17. Satan’s Wrath: Galloping Blasphemy[Metal Blade]

16. Grave: Endless Procession of Souls[Century Media]

15. Evoken: Altra Mors [Profound Lore]

14. Pig Destroyer: Book Burner [Relapse]

13. Atriarch: Ritual of Passing [Profound Lore]

12. Gaza: No Absolutes in Human Suffering[Black Market Activities]

11. Mutilation Rites: Empyrean [Prosthetic]

10. Bereft: Leichenhaus [The End]

09. High on Fire: De Vermis Mysteriis [eONE]

08. Ash Borer: Cold of Ages [Profound Lore]

07. Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay [Neurot]

06. Pinkish Black: Pinkish Black [Handmade Birds]

o5. Asphyx: Deathhammer [Century Media]

04. Blut Aus Nord: 777 – Cosmosophy[Debemur Morti]

03. Baroness: Yellow & Green [Relapse]

02. Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind[Epitaph]

01. PallbearerSorrow & Extinction [Profound Lore]


  1. I still need to hear the Ash Borer, Early Graves, and Samothrace albums!

    • The Ash Borer album is excellent, in my opinion. I really like how the vocals essentially become another instrument and blend with the music instead of distracting from it, as can sometimes happen. It really allows you to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the songs, and even seems to convey the emotions of the tracks more concisely than if there were more coherent lyrics.

  2. Fuck yeah, Bell Witch!

  3. After reading his list for the past 3 years, it’s obvious that Stusuy’s personal tastes are very skewed towards black metal and crusty hardcore. This was a banner year for death metal of all forms, and the lack of some really strong albums (no Gorod???) is hard to take seriously. Still, he knows what he knows very well – great list.

    • Considering how much Sludge, Hardcore and Black there is on this list, I would guess he’s too much of a techdeath guy.

      There were a lot of good death metal albums this year, but after the explosion of Old School Death from last year a lot of them kind of felt like “Me too” albums. Not that it kept me from liking them, but I think its kind of reaching the saturation point

  4. Incantation needs to be way higher, and this list lacks Cannibal Corpse, Dragged into Sunlight, Aeon, and Marduk. Stupid subjective musical tastes…..phooey.

  5. It’s a well-known fact now that he’s a sucker for just about anything on Profound Lore and Relapse, particularly on the doom/black end of the spectrum, so this list was no surprise. A solid list, but I don’t feel like I’m discovering anything new from him like I used to. All in all, very predictable choices, but not neccesarily bad either.

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