(Tommy Wills is a talented vocalist for a talented multi-national band with the hard-to-pronounce name of RXYZYXR, whose latest album LMNTS we reviewed here. He also has diverse tastes in music that run in directions we don’t often follow at this site, including a lot of metal that doesn’t conform to the normal “no clean singing” rule around here. I thought it would be interesting to find out his picks for the year’s best albums, and he accepted my invitation to share them in this guest post, along with sample songs from each album.)
2012 was a banner year for metal, probably the best for the genre since I started listening to music with a critical ear. This year saw many of the established names in extreme music putting out their most refined and focused statements EVER. It’s all so exciting!
I realize the site is called No Clean Singing and focuses almost exclusively on metal–but this is mostly metal and completely awesome so spread your wings a bit! Without further ado: a definitively wholly subjective list! Hope you HAVE A BLAST! 😉
20) Veil of Maya—Eclipse
This is unquestionably the most varied and catchy album these guys have ever put out, and it absolutely shines in the live setting as well. Stunning guitar acrobatics abound, great head-banging riffs, and all in a concise 28-minute package! “The Glass Slide” has been my ringtone for half of the year. Catchy, catchy, ca-ca-ca-catchy!
19) The Chariot—One Wing
The Chariot have been fairly prolific in their relatively short career but up until 2010’s Long Live they were never writing great songs. One Wing is an improvement on that fine piece of work and deserves the attention of anybody who doesn’t mind Christian themes in their metalcore. It’s brief and delightful!
18) Gojira—L’Enfant Sauvage
No other band hits me like Gojira does from a lyrical perspective. Their zest for life and love of the Earth are palpable in everything they write. It doesn’t hurt that they have some of the most pummeling riffs, a unique and vociferous vocalist in Joe Duplantier, and those patented pick scrapes! Swoon!
17) Car Bomb— w^w^^w^w
This is the most chaotic thing I’ve heard in ages and I wish more people were hip to it. I fell in love with the idea of Car Bomb after watching their sobering documentary “Why You Do This” and then I fell in love with them proper after hearing the opening of w^w^^w^w, “The Sentinel”. This album is relentless, explosive, and essential.
I prefer newer Meshuggah to older Meshuggah. Obzen is still my favorite through and through, but Koloss is a close runner-up and a real flexing of old-man muscles showing the kids how it’s done. You’ve heard it. It rules!
15) Napalm Death—Utilitarian
Continuing on with the theme of masters of the genre raising the bar they themselves set, Utilitarian sees Napalm Death as old dogs with new tricks. You like saxophones and clean singing in your grindcore? Me too apparently! This thing is just savage and expertly executed.
14) Pig Destroyer—Book Burner
This lot has earned all the hyperbole they get in the underground and for some odd reason NPR. Book Burner rarely lets up throughout it’s half-hour aural assault which is fine by me as a long time fan of their signature sound. Five years is a long time to wait, but Piggy D makes it all worthwhile.
Not a metal album, not even close, yet I would be remiss if I didn’t include this on my list and had to drop Dying Fetus just to throw it on here. This is their 6th album and best since Cities. Every song is catchy and well-crafted, with an infectious energy and sweet vocals soaring above all of the varied instrumentation and pulsing synth lines. Don’t deny yourself a great time! The song below, “Desires”, is my favorite of all and features some brutal gang shouts and winding guitar! Dig in!
12) Cannibal Corpse—Torture
CC is not a joke. They are the de facto flag-bearers of uncompromising death metal and Torture is the best in a string of five absolutely phenomenal albums. This album has some interesting surprises on it such as the eerie and understated guitar intro to “Followed Home Then Killed”. However, I’d say the standout track is “Scourge of Iron” which now joins “Evisceration Plague” and “Murder Worship” as Cannibal Corpse’s finest riffs of the decade.
11) Anaal Nathrakh—Vanitas
Passion was totally fine! Vanitas, however, is Anaal Nathrakh at their most vitriolic and experimental. They take their established sound in all new directions with some dancier beats and even some djenty production hither and thither. Truly sinister, and one of the few remaining metal bands that can actually instill fear in my heart. So bleak!
10) Devin Townsend Project—Epicloud
Devin Townsend seems to be one of the most polarizing figures in modern metal. People either love him or really love him, with no room in between. Epicloud rules for so many reasons, most of which is that it recaptures the fun of Addicted while having a sound all its own that is profoundly intricate and jubilant. So many great songs to choose from on just the first disc, I would recommend getting the iTunes bonus tracks (which are amazing!) and the 2nd CD Epiclouder. Anneke Van Giersbergen deserves special mention, because her performance is really special!
9) Cattle Decapitation—Monolith of Inhumanity
The Harvest Floor and pretty much all of the Cattle Decapitation albums before MOI have been competent but forgettable. This time around they stepped up their game so strongly that it totally took me by surprise. Travis Ryan became legendary pretty much overnight because of his 5-star performance on this one, making sounds I didn’t even know humans were capable of. Bonus points for having a coherent message in the music that pairs well with the anger and misanthropy. Don’t watch this video!
8) Between The Buried And Me—The Parallax II: Future Sequence
I loved Parallax I. I think everybody did. It’s great to see what BTBAM can do in a (relatively) short amount of time in the EP format, but they are truly known for their bombast and unwillingness to edit down their sprawling 10-15 minute a piece opuses. Parallax II is to me BTBAM’s crowning achievement. They’ve been getting better steadily over the last decade, growing as better songwriters with everything they’ve put out. Always getting weirder, always getting more memorable. Like another album on this list, there’s been so much said about it already that anything I try to add to the discussion has been spoken a thousand times before and more eloquently. So I’ll just say it’s firmly one of the best albums of the year and deserves full attention and recognition as such! “Bloom” is wonderfully weird, but just enjoy “Astral Bodies” below 🙂
7) Every Time I Die—Ex-Lives
ETID are one of those bands that one can always count on to bring great southern-fried riffs and bring ferocity straight out of the gate. Keith Buckley writes lyrics that are better than just about anything you’ll hear at any poetry reading in the world, constantly turning phrases and penning witty one-liners. It doesn’t hurt that his voice (both cleans and harsh vocals) is inimitable and one of the best in the industry. It’s flat-out fun all the way through, and that starts with the truly flooring “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space”–possibly the best metal song of the entire year.
6) The Faceless—Autotheism
I never cared about The Faceless until this album came out. I remember leaving during their set at Summer Slaughter to eat cupcakes with my buddies in Veil and my girlfriend. In retrospect, I made a great choice–but Autotheism (in spite of its liberal borrowing from other talented artists) is a perfect technical death metal album that hasn’t worn off of me a bit. I particularly enjoy the 3-part “Autotheism” suite, but I love “Accelerated Evolution”, which has a chorus that evokes one of my all-time favorite bands in Cynic. Check it out and see if you agree!
5) Circa Survive—Violent Waves
Not metal, although very progressive and occasionally aggressive. Circa Survive make a huge change in their sound from the glorious unusual pop music of 2010’s best album Blue Sky Noise for something darker, sadder, and more of a challenge to get into. Of course, as a huge fan of CS (especially the vocal acrobatics of Anthony Green), I was more than willing to put in the time. Violent Waves is Circa Survive at their most vulnerable, experimental, and–most importantly–honest. It’s truly a beautiful album, and adds to their flawless catalog. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
4) Converge—All We Love We Leave Behind
How does this band keep getting better and better as time goes on? Converge rarely let up on the intensity this time around but when they do we end up with jaw-droppers like “Coral Blue”. There’s nothing I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by Decibel, No Clean Singing, and about a million other places, so suffice it to say I think it’s a tremendous piece of art and All We Love We Leave Behind will be important for years to come.
3) Death Grips—The Money Store
2012 was a great year for hip-hop, and the stand-out artist that seems to unify absolutely everybody under the sun is Death Grips. While NO LOVE DEEP WEB was a great middle-finger to the industry and a fascinating release in itself, I feel that The Money Store is one of the most enjoyable front-to-back experimental hip-hop albums I’ve heard in ages. MC Ride is a multi-dimensional frontman and delivers some of the most memorable and vociferous lines I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Please treat yourself to Death Grips ASAP and stay noided!
2) The Used—Vulnerable
I have the softest spot in my heart for The Used–the band that basically introduced 15-year-old me to music that was different than anything I heard on the radio but just as catchy and singable. I love them, and I think this is the best thing they’ve done since (and maybe including?) their self-titled from way back in 2002. Vulnerable is just big chorus after big chorus for 44 minutes, and there is not a song on here that I don’t sing along to loudly and goofily riding my bicycle all around the city getting odd looks from people. I love it I love it! I love it!
1) Periphery—Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal
Without question, P2 was the album I listened to more than anything else this year–and by such a wide margin it seems ludicrous that anything else would be on here. After showing such promise on their 2010 self-titled debut, Periphery demonstrate on their follow-up just what they’re capable of when functioning as a true band and not just the Misha Mansoor show. Each member of Periphery displays immense talent, and as a vocalist myself, I must say that the stand-out performance here is Spencer Sotelo.
There isn’t a dull moment on Periphery II, and it’s nigh impossible to pick just one song for those who are yet to see what the fuss is about. From “Muramasa” to “Masamune” it’s perfection to my ears. Cheers to Periphery for writing the best album of 2012, and I hope you all enjoyed scrolling through my humble opinion!