Dec 222012

Although we’re far along in our own series of Listmania posts by NCS staff and guests (and have more to come this weekend and throughout next week), we’ve continued to keep an eye out for lists appearing at “big platform” sites around the net. Today brought one more we’ve been expecting: a list of the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2012 by NPR.

Once again the NPR list was compiled by Lars Gotrich, who has a good ear for metal and a nice way with words, too. Last year, NPR’s list was 25 names long, so this year’s list reflects even greater selectivity. However, although NPR apparently insisted on 10 and 10 only, Lars included 15 more on his personal blog. So, it’s still really 25. Actually, Lars also named the five best splits on his blog, and that list is worth seeing, too.

The Top 10 aren’t ranked numerically, but alphabetically, and links to full-album streams were provided where available.  I think you have to say this is a highly personal list, rather than an attempt to cover a genre waterfront. And although NPR’s audience is predominantly not-metal, the Top 10 list isn’t an attempt to pander to cosmopolitan (or hipster) tastes.

The list includes veteran names such as Asphyx (pictured above) and Testament, Pig Destroyer earns yet another high finish, and there’s a healthy dose of doom-influenced metal to be found as well. In addition, I was interested to see the appearance of a band I’ve heard about only recently through recommendations by multiple sources — Pittsburgh’s Derketa. In fact, I was writing about them for a post that will appear later today when I saw the NPR list.

And finally, the list includes two albums I’ve not heard — the 2012 releases by a Aksumite and Pharoah. And facilitating new discoveries is what lists are really all about, at least for me. Here are the NPR Top 10:


  • AksumitePrideless Lions [Colloquial Sound Recordings]
  • AsphyxDeathhammer [Century Media]
  • Bosse-de-NageBosse-de-Nage III [Profound Lore]
  • DerketaIn Death We Meet [self-released]
  • Horseback, Half Blood [Relapse]
  • PallbearerSorrow And Extinction [Profound Lore]
  • PanopticonKentucky [Handmade Birds]
  • PharaohBury The Light [Cruz del Sur]
  • Pig DestroyerBook Burner [Relapse]
  • TestamentDark Roots Of Earth [Nuclear Blast]

And definitely go check out the Top 10 list as it appears at NPR, where you can read Lars Gotrich’s discussion of these picks and listen to sample songs. I’d also recommend checking out his list of the other 15 at his blog.

So, what do you guys think of these picks?


  1. Like you said, this seems like a personal top 10/25 list than anything objective. It’s really all over the place with some obvious skews towards more “old school” sounding bands. Very disappointed this is being touted as NPR’s Top 10 and not a “Writer’s Pick” kind of thing.

  2. Asphyx and Derketa were both solid albums (that narrowly missed my own list). Aksumite is one that I hadn’t heard of, and as I’m listening to it now I’m going back and forth on whether I like it.

    For their extended list I’m most surprised to see Satanic Bloodspraying there – it’s a fun album (albeit with a few flaws), but I just didn’t expect to see it at NPR (I should recalibrate my expectations, they constantly surprise me).

    Speaking of, any split with Antediluvian is going to be good, but I’ll throw in my 2 cents and plug for the Nightbringer / Acherontas and Diocletian / Weregoat splits.

    (I’ve been saying this for a few years now, but I really need to think seriously about buying a turntable!)

    • I finally broke down and bought one a couple months ago because of all the kvlt underground albums and splits and 7″ singles that are not to be had via download. As if I really needed to be spending even more money on metal, now I have access to vinyl. Sigh.

      • That’s partly why I’m procrastinating. The other issue I have is that I really don’t want to have to store (and move) vinyl. I think what’s really keeping me from taking the plunge though is the thought that all of the singles and whatnot will eventually be released on CD compilations.

        What did you buy? Is it easy to rip to digital format? (I listen to music a lot in my car)

  3. While I can’t comment on the Derketa, since I haven’t listened to it, my sense is that people (mainstream sites & that comedian on That Metal Show who put it on his list (along with SFU)) are just being lazy, “hey, all female death metal, that will look cool to show”.

    Same goes or Asphyx, it’s not a bad album, but nothing special, and there’s 50 death metal albums far superior

    • I agree about the Asphyx album. Im a huge fan of that band, and its a good album, but its not really re-inventing the wheel as far as what they do. Im surprised its turned up a often as it has.

      Derketa though, they put out a very strong album, and considering most people never expected to see a full length from them its actually very cool that this finally came out. They were a band that seemed destined to be lumped in with groups like Timeghoul and Depravity…tons of potential but died too early.

      Honestly, I was pretty surprised that one of those dweebs from “That Metal Show” had even heard of this band, but that albums gets plenty of love in the underground as well

      • Totally agree. I had never heard of them before the album came out, but I’m glad it did. A lot of time and work obviously went into it and it really delivers.

    • Maybe, and I sometimes wonder if the guys on That Metal Show have listened to anything post 1987, but Derketa is definitely well respected for their music (and deservedly so).

    • I first heard about the Derketa album from Grim Kim’s best-of list over on Metal Sucks (only list worth reading over there…). If she recommended that album, then it should be pretty self-evident that there’s something more going on than just “Ooh, all-female death metal band.” I’ve listened to most of it now, and I’m really impressed. I’ve listened to droves of OSDM and death-doom albums this year, and it stands out from the pack. I’d put it up with Putrevore and Ataraxy for the year’s best OSDM albums.

    • You shouldn’t rely on a preconception about Derketa. I’ve started listening to the album today, and it’s really good. I don’t know if it will appeal to your tastes, but it’s definitely not being name-dropped just because it’s a female band.

  4. Hey guys,

    Thanks for your comments on the list. This was a particularly odd year of listening for me — more than ever, I decided to consider anything and everything worthwhile, which often meant metal outside of particular tastes, which run doomy, blacky, deathy, uhhh, grindy? That meant more tech-death and power than usual and while they still didn’t do much for me, a few bands cut through (like Pharaoh, Malignancy, and a host of others that didn’t make the “25” — I even liked that new Meshuggah record, something that would have never happened 4-5 years ago.)

    To the first commenter, Sean, I have a hard time understanding how ANY year-end list could be considered objective. Even among a weighted system of voters, objectivity is impossible — these lists reflect an aesthetic of a person, a media organization, a magazine, etc. The list, in essence, is really just a reflection of that person’s/org’s/mag’s coverage. And that’s what I like about this series on NCS. (And, hey, I was a part of NPR’s Favorite 50 Albums committee — do you know how much it pains me to have ONE slot for a metal record?) This is why it’s hard for me to get upset by any year-end metal list (well, I have no idea what’s going on with Village Voice’s, but there’s a lot of WTF going on there these days). Even though my blurbage reflected it, that’s why I made a point to say it was a personal list in the introduction. Certainly doesn’t make Dethklok fans any happier, though (srsly? people are mad I didn’t include a joke cartoon metal band that sounds like every other American death metal band?).

    But good metal is good metal is good metal. That’s why I put Asphyx on there — THE strongest songwriting in death I’ve heard in years. Truly. I can hum every single hook without having to listen to it. I am definitely a song-based listener, which is why I struggle with most tech-death, but that’s another tangent…

    And I’m gonna call BS on you, kevinp. Derketa put out a better death-doom record than Hooded Menace (well, that one was a little weak, I have to say), than Binah, Inverloch, Anhedonist… the heaviest riffs supported by intense detail to structure… nothing was out of place. To suggest anyone who includes them on a write-up merely because they’re women is gross unless you know that person to be gross. I don’t write for Revolver, dude.

    Anyway, keep it up NCS. Appreciate your hard work.

    • Many thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment. I enjoyed the fact that your list was plainly not a conscious effort to cover the genre waterfront, which is the sense I get from most of the lists from the other “big platform” sites we’ve been re-publishing, and that you’ve highlighted some truly under-the-radar bands. There are three or four bands I’ve seen on virtually every other list we’ve re-published that are missing from yours; you may take some heat for that, but selfishly, I’d rather discover something new and overlooked — the diamonds in the rough.

      People can obviously debate whether Asphyx produced one of the top two death metal (or death/doom) albums of 2012, but I love the band so hard that I’m very happy for them to be getting the kind of year-end notice they’re receiving (and it is a very good album, whether I’d put it on my Top 10 or not). Testament has been unfairly neglected on other lists more often than it has been included, and so I was glad to see them getting a spot on a list as widely read as yours, too.

      And I’m a big fan of every other album on your list that I know — with Aksumite and Pharaoh now waiting to be checked out and with Derketa being a great new discovery.

  5. FYI: that Pharaoh album is fantastic. They’re another Chris Black band (just guitar here), and the sound isn’t all that far removed from Dawnbringer…yet it feels very different. Tim Aymar is a grittier singer, and the overall effect is less early-’80s and more thrash. The songs are just as catchy and memorable, however, and, while I wouldn’t put it in the Top 10 of 2012, it could easily be in my Top 25.

  6. Ah yes, but Pharaoh too needs a mention here. ‘Bury the light’ is really quite good!

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