UNDERGROUND METAL FOR THE TRVE CURMUDGEON (SURGICALBRUTE’S PERSONAL BEST OF 2012)
(In this guest post, long-time NCS supporter and student of dark and dirty metal SurgicalBrute provides hits personal list of 2012’s best albums.)
We’re coming into the final days of 2012 and that means only one thing… It’s time for everyone who listens to heavy metal to voice their opinions on which albums they liked best this year. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I rarely find a list that I actually agree with. That doesn’t matter though, everyone knows the real fun comes in seeing where (or if) other people rank your favorites, and possibly finding some new bands that you may have previously skipped.
Putting my list together this year was actually pretty damn hard. I don’t know if I was more aware of the releases that came out or if this was just a particularly heavy year for new albums, but the sheer amount of new music I found this year was overwhelming. Normally I try to get my “Best Of” list down to about 15 albums, but this year I’ve decided to go with an even 20. Anything less, and I’d have to cut some really top-notch albums (hell, I’ve already had to cut some top-notch albums).
As usual, my tastes tend to run more toward the darker and dirtier sides of extreme metal so if that’s not your thing all I can say is…
…what the hell’s wrong with you?
To everyone else, in nor particular order, here’s my Top 20 albums of the year….Enjoy the music \m/
1) Ectovoid – Fractured In The Timeless Abyss
After self-releasing a solid three-song demo last year, Alabaman blackened death metalers Ectovoid are back with their first full-length. Mixing dense riffs with a dark and heavy atmosphere, the band wear their Incantation influence on their sleeve. Through repeated listens, the black metal elements start to become more noticeable, and while they aren’t uniform throughout the album, it’s subtle details like this that make the album stand out.
2) Chapel – Satan’s Rock ‘N’ Roll
This was one of those albums I’ve been anticipating for a while…ever since a friend turned me on to their 2008 demo. Fortunately, it turned out every bit as good as I’d hoped. Chapel are a blackened speed-metal band who hit all the important elements ….meaning they write kick-ass, blasphemous grooves about Satan and alcohol. No, they’re not doing anything we haven’t heard before, but when the music starts playing its hard to stop yourself from headbanging to this album.
3) Pseudogod – Deathwomb Catechesis
Pseudogod have been kicking around the metal underground for a few years now, and that time has been put to good use. Deathwomb Catechesis is a pulverizing whirlwind of killer riffs layered on top of a thick and heavy production. There’s very little subtlety in this album, and my best recomendation would be to hold on and hope you come out of the other side in one piece.
4) Wrathprayer – The Sun of Moloch: The Sublimation of Sulphur’s Essence Which Spawned Death and Life
For anyone who loves war metal, this may have arguably been the most anticipated album of the year. It seemed to take forever for this album to finally drop, but it definitely lived up to the hype. Fans of melodic or symphonic styles would probably do well to avoid this band, because this is 40 minutes of raw, unrefined blackened death at its best.
5) Witchrist – The Grand Tormentor
The first thing you’ll notice about Witchrist’s sophmore effort is that it’s definitely a slower, more straightforward album than Beheaded Ourobouros. This, by no means, makes the album any less devastating. The music has a heavy, almost ponderous feel to it..speed is not its primary attribute. That doesn’t mean it can’t go though, and when it does it roars hard.
6) Binah – Hallucinating In Resurrecture
I’m sure there’s a good chunk of you out there who have probably had your fill of old school death metal, but skipping Binah’s debut album would be a mistake. While their sound is very much traditional death metal, they manage to put a spin on it that’s purely unique. With incredibly heavy riffing and and haunting melodies, they’ve created an album any fan of death metal should check out.
7) Eroded – Engravings Of A Gruesome Epitaph
Eroded are an Italian death metal band who worship firmly at the altar of Entombed…and that’s all that really needs to be said. They’re not doing anything that’s going to change people’s minds, but it’s the skill and ferocity with which they attack this style that sets this album ahead of the pack.
8) Faustcoven – Hellfire and Funeral Bells
It’s been four years since we last saw this blackend doom act from Norway, and Hellfire and Funeral Bells is the perfect example of what can happen when a band take their time to craft an album. Creating an atmosphere usually found only in the best horror stories, there’s a strong element of classic doom being layered under the more extreme styles of metal on this album. Faustcoven don’t do bad albums, but this may well be the best one to date.
9) The Graviators – Evil Deeds
I was completely unfamilier with this band, so this was absolutely a blind luck discovery for me. The Graviators are another band in the long line of fuzzed-out stoner doom, and while they may seem very familer, they’re quite adept at sounding fresh. With some cool rythmic variations, the music may not be new, but it brings some excitement to an oversaturated genre
10) Mgla – With Hearts Toward None
Even though this was released very early in 2012, it may still be the best black metal album to come out this year. With Hearts Toward None is raw black metal at its core, but it’s loaded with melodies and undeniable groove. Mgla has really come into their own with this album and fans of black metal would do well to get ahold of it
11) Incantation – Vanquish in Vengeance
Always known for their crushingly heavy and evil sound, the band moved away from the muddier production of previous albums into a slightly cleaner sound. This may make the album a bit more accessible, but doesn’t lessen the menace of those hammering doom-infused riffs. Considering the large number of death metal bands that have been taking inspirtation from them, it only made sense for Incantation to finally return and claim their unholy crown.
12) Charon – Sulphur Seraph
There’s no doubt in my mind that this was the first great album of 2012. This album has a heavy death metal base, but there’s a large amount of thrashy blackened darkness added to the mix. A devastating album from start to finish, this one is the complete package
13) Deus Otiosus – Godless
Danish death metal band Deus Otiosus avoids the pitfalls of the other retro bands by drawing on the some of the earliest incarnations of death metal. Adding extremely thrashy riffs to their death metal brutality, they’ve created a ferocious blast of 80’s death/thrash that explores the very roots of the genre.
14) Unleashed – Odalheim
Like any number of death metal bands who have stood the test of time, Unleashed have always been extrememly consistant. Despite this consistancy, they’ve never quite matched their amazing debut…until now. The band’s twenty plus years of experience have culminated in a album filled with frenzied riffs, cold melodies and blistering drum beats. I’ve always liked Unleashed, but with this album, they’ve shown why they’re still legends in the death metal world.
15) Rust – Damned Hellish Voids
Coming from the land of all things awesome. Rust is a two piece blackened thrash band from Sweden. This is raw black metal, but the riffs are rooted firmly in the great thrash bands of yester-year. Theres a sloppy, punk-like drive to the music that should appeal to fans of simplistic, but effective metal.
16) Arkham Witch – Legions Of The Deep
With Lamp of Thoth currently on hold, the remaining members decided to take their old school doom sound and combine it with some traditional 80’s metal. The result was 2011’s On Croms Mountain, a very cool album based on the writings of R.E Howard. This year they’re back, and using H.P. Lovecraft as their inspiration, they’ve improved in every way. Producing an incredibly entertaining and varied album, Arkham Witch do a great job of catching the sounds of early heavy metal….It may well have the coolest artwork of any of my picks as well.
17) Wodensthrone – Curse
While Curse is a direct continuation of 2009s Loss, Wodensthrone’s sound shows definite sense maturation. The music is every bit as beautiful as its ever been, but theres a feeling of aggression that wasnt there before…a feeling that only adds to the atmosphere theyre so great at creating. Wodensthrone have definitely put their mark on this style of black metal.
18) Rahu – The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
While Finland’s black metal scene has never been as well known as its Nordic neighbor, they have consistantly produced some of the best music in the genre. Yet another project from Atvar (best known for his Circle of Ouroborus work), this is primal black metal with some suprisngly melodic leads, and even though the production is fuzzy, every instrument is discernible. Rahu is just another example of how impressive Finnish black metal really is.
19) Panopticon – Kentucky
I’ll admit, I didn’t initially believe the buzz on this one. Country music and black metal seemed way too weird to ever work. Ive got to say..I was way wrong. Somehow they’ve managed to find a way to smoothly fuse these differet styles into one seamless blend of atmospheric black and country…with a bit of drone thrown in for good measure. This was one time where the hype was justified.
20) Revenge – Scum.Collapse.Eradication
One of the hardest hitting war metal bands around, people either love Revenge or hate them. Scum continues their tradition of sheer aural assault with grinding guitars and hammering blast beats, not allowing a single moment to catch your breath. Revenge isn’t for everyone, but there are few bands who can match their energy and ferocity.
Funeral Whore – Step Into Damnation
Derketa – In Death We Meet
Ashencult – Black Flame Gnosis
Weapon – Embers and Revelations
Minas Morgul – Ära
Blodhemn – Holmengraa
Ash Borer – Cold of Ages
Obscurity – Obscurity
Bands whose full-lengths I wish I’d heard in time:
Chapel of Disease
Sweet. Now that is a brutally underground list.
Couldn’t get on with either the Chapel or Wodensthrone records myself, mind you.
Also I never got around to hearing that Weapon album. Good?
New Weapon is very good…not as strong as their previous stuff, but definitely worth owning
That Weapon album is an album I have to pick up; I think I’ve only heard two songs, but I enjoyed them, so I would check them out if you haven’t yet.
Brutally underground indeed. I think I recognized about two of those bands.
I’m curious as to how many of these albums have that ultra-dirty/muddy production underground metal is famous for. That’s usually the stumbling block for me.
A good chunk of them are going to have a fuzzy production, especially any of the war metal bands. There are a few here that you may not mind though…check out Chapel, The new Incantation, the new Unleashed, Binah, maybe the Arkham Witch or The Graviators if you dont mind some clean singing
Thanks for the recommendations/information! I’ll try to check them out soon!
Wow! Great list!!! Thanks for sharing it. There are a few on your list that would have certainly made my top 10 for the year as well. The others are proving to be greats that may have slipped under my radar. Thanks for bringing them to my attention. In the similar vein of underground goodness that you’ve shared with us here, you may want to look into Horrendous’ 2012 release, “The Chills”. Great traditional death metal!
Hey, thanks man..
..Yeah, Horrendous dropped a good, solid album…no complaints with that release
I was proud of myself — I had listened to 10 of these albums, but 50% is definitely a lower sample rate than most of the lists we’ve posted so far. That’s one of the reasons I like SB’s lists — always a bunch of new discoveries. Also, the music is guaranteed to leave scars.
Fifty percent?..I knew my list was too mainstream this year 😉
You’re looking at it the wrong way. It just means that over time you and others have led me down the path to much more extreme stuff than I was listening to when I started this site. 🙂
I’m listening to P.O.D.
Piss on Deities?
Poop o’ Dookie
Penis or Dolphin?
Piece of Dung?
Plethora of Dildos?
Phro’s Old Dingleberries?
Phro Ovulates, Duh!
Phro’s Opulent Defenestration?
It’s obviously Puppies On Drugs.
“Penis or Dolphin?” and “Puppies on Drugs” One would surely listen to.
Thanks for asking Phro, that’s exactly what I was wondering as well. I just can’t stand under-produced and poorly produced metal, intentional or not. Hence why I can’t get into trve Black Metal, the gritty foundational kind.
Of the 20 albums, I’ve only heard of and listened to two–Incantation and Unleashed. Loved the former, but must say I just didn’t get all the hype about the new Unleashed. Mind you, I’ve followed their career every since their inception (I was in high school, and had someone buy me “Shadows in the Deep” on tape from France at the time). Nothing since their first three releases has quite done it for me though… “Odalheim”, to me, is not a return to that glory. What am I missing here?
Thats fine..each to their own and all..You probably wont find much here you like though. Personally, I cant stand cleanly produced metal. It generally ends up sounding overproduced too artificial to my ears.
Ive never been sure how to answer that question..Youve heard the album and it didnt impress. I dont think theres anything I could say thats going to give you some new insight into the album.
(..and maybe Im misunderstanding your phrasing, but just in case “Where No Life Dwells” was Unleashed’s first and still their best album..I always felt “Across the Open Sea” was the beginning of their very solid, but unimpressive albums)
Agreed on Unleashed’s path, though my personal favorite remains “Shadows…” Not much to argue about there though, both classic records.
SurgicalBrute, if Grim Kim and Tr00 Nate ever decide that I’m kvlt enough to talk to, would you consider entering into a love square?
Sorry man..Im spoken for 🙂
I’m totally on board with you on Wodensthrone and Mgla, which makes me think I’ll enjoy checking out some of the others.
I have a delicate question about the Binah album, though: I have it, and I really want to like it, but…there’s this high-pitch kind of whine that seems to permeate through almost the entire album, and it seems to be something to do with the kind of distortion they use. Has anyone else noticed this? I tried different rips of it on my iPod, the CD itself in my car and home stereos, etc., and it seems to be part of the album. The music itself is awesome, but I can’t get past that noise. It drives me right up the wall. Please tell me it’s not just me having a stroke.
It’s definitely there, I couldn’t recall noticing it before but I just listened to a few tracks again and I can hear what you’re talking about. It’s not generally present enough to detract from the music for me, but I can see how it could be distracting/annoying.
Massive YES for Rahu, really understated transcendental black metal (and NOT in the way Liturgy abuse the word).
How DARE you use that word here???
For a moment, I thought you were arguing with yourself. I was looking forward to being thusly entertained.
I did too. I already had the popcorn popped and was just about to add the melted butter. You know the kind of melted butter I mean.
The melted butter that’s been melted?
Hot man butter.
Hot squid butter.
I’ve heard 13 of these. Booyah! The Faustcoven album didn’t make my list but I want to give it some more listens; the last time I heard some of the songs it started to click.
..Ah, but the real challenge will be how many of my “Best Demos of 2012” youve heard 🙂
(assuming I finish the article of course)
Hah, almost definitely a much lower percentage. But that’s all the more reason to check it out if you get it finished.
Is that NCS’s first booyah?
Hmm… One has listened to 2 of these – Incantation and Panopticon (3 if you count Ash Borer). One thinks One had listened to 2(+1) of the albums of your list last year too. So, this one is not any more mainstream than last year’s as far as One’s tastes are concerned.
Oh well; more albums to listen to through next year.
No, really, I wanna know: is this or isn’t it the first ever booyah at NCS?
I checked my database of comments (that’s right, I know what everyone has ever said), and discovered that this is in fact the 3rd booyah at NCS. In fact, I’m sorry to say that I used the word the first time. “Booyah’s” appeared in the comments to the following posts:
Looks like I’ve become a member of quite an elite club.
Both of them are eye-catchers. I vote we now rate album artwork on two levels. Booyah, and not booyah.
In my defense, I would add that I was sparring with Phro at the time, and I think I meant to say “Mooyah”.
Oh. Oh my.
Official Sophus Seal of Approval TM
Great list. Wodensthrone, Mgla, and Unleashed were a bit of a letdown for me, but I loved many of these, and have several new ones to find out about.
I haven’t heard Wrathprayer yet – but the CD should be out in Feb, so I’m looking forward to putting it on my list for next year.
Just ordered Eroded, and Graviators will be mine soon – both are really excellent (even based just on the little of each I’ve heard so far). thanks for making me aware of them!
Ectovoid, Wodensthrone, and Panopticon are the only ones I’ve heard from this list. I was thoroughly impressed with Ectovoid and Panopticon. Interesting list and a nice starting point to check out more underground stuff . . . if I had the time for it.
Chapel! Holy fucking shit that ripps! Had forgotten all about em! Now if only Trench hell could crawl out of their cave and produce something ..