Dec 292012

(We welcome back Louisville-based music writer Austin Webber with his personal round-up of the year’s best metal, organized by genre and accompanied by lots of music. This is a really diverse list with lots of names that haven’t appeared in our previous lists. The album art for almost all of these picks is also amazing.)

2012 was a great year for a wide range of metal subgenres and one that also solidified its future through the progression of many genre-muddying acts to quite interesting results! I’ve decided not to elaborate on the merits of this year’s obvious biggies and a large number of other bands because they are already on everyone else’s lists, and thus you’ve  been made aware of them too many times. A few here you may know, but hopefully you find something new. That’s my goal and the reason for this list.

For albums I already reviewed through my gig with LEO Weekly (a local Louisville, KY print publication with additional online component) I will paste in my reviews of them instead of writing a short synopsis.




I stumbled upon this band in a unsigned and unholy post on MetalSucks, even though they got it wrong because the band are signed. The four-piece cites Morbid Angel as an influence, and it’s apparent how large of an impact they have on this massive, heaving Morbid Angel-schooled death metal. Their new-school technical edge and unearthly atmosphere of dread help seal the deal and give them a strong identity. It’s like an album full of badass ObscuraOcean Gateways type crushers, but with occasional Domination-esque blasting fury.



Dawn of DementiaResiduum

My roommate showed me this the other day and I instantly recognized the art as being by Ken Sarafin (vocalist of Vale Of Pnath) due to its distinct coloring and style. Mindblowing technical melodic death metal with a strong brutal core to their sound. Even better when you realize it’s from a band who just formed 2 years ago in Lafeyette, Indiana. Residuum is very intricate and memorable in just 5 short songs available on their Bandcamp.




Frenchmen of Saturn in a nutshell. But creepier, more death metal with less core influence, and with truly twisted riffs that will get stuck in your head.




A worthy follow up that offers a palette similar to their debut: Sexy lead-dressed melodic death metal fights for space with thrash and a massive groove complex. The result: Wank or Wonder. You decide.



Arkaik Metamorphignition.  

I followed them because of how impressive Reflections Within Dissonance was for a debut from some unknown young musicians. It’s my thinking that when their lead guitar player Craig Peters also joined Deeds Of Flesh in 2011 and has been helping write their new music, it must have inspired him because Metamorphignition sounds like a completely new band — now coming across as a Suffocation-styled brutal death metal but composed a bit like Planetary Dualityera The Faceless. His lead guitar playing has grown immensely and is a large part of what propels this album to such great heights.



Inanimate ExistenceLiberation Through Hearing

Matt Sotelo from Decrepit Birth guests on one of this band’s songs, so you can probably guess what kind of music they play: Technical brutal death metal, though not entirely what you might expect. For starters, half the album is instrumental, which instantly seperates them from the numerous nameless, sound-the-same brutal acts. This is reflective music, and even the songs with vocals show a keen flair for catchy riffs and divergent structure, so your ears are never bored. The addition of acoustic work and flamenco guitar playing on several tracks is also very un-brutal death metal, but they make it work beautifully.



DesecravityImplicit Obediance 

I bought it based on the  fucked up album art, the fact that they are on Willowtip, and the strong recomendation of Erik Rutan. This Japanese band does not disappoint for a second, delivering a hellish barrage of old school riffing layed into a Hate Eternal shell, with touches of Origin weedle-weedle thrown in occassionally.





LoinclothIron Balls of Steel 

Loincloth is pure metallic destruction. Whereas most sludge is content to milk riffs constantly, Iron Balls of Steel stays true to its name and offers up 16 densely constructed instrumental tracks. Running crop circles around most bands with a hazy stoner sound, they are surprisingly technical and ever-shifting. “Underwear Bomber” explodes with a slew of groovy riffs wrapped in distorted thumping bass, showing out of the gate that this album truly has iron balls of steel. “Trepanning” branches off into a more doom-and-death metal-tinged approach to sludge. No song stays on a riff for more than a few bars; each showcases the off-kilter drumming of Steve Shelton and his intricate interplay with guitarist Tannon Penland, accompanied by the loud, distorted bass of Cary Rowells. The march-like tempo of the gargantuan “Theme,” a fitting title, assaults the listener with angular riffs over serpentine twisting drums, accented by warbling bass, making for an intense headbanger. While vocals might have helped, the absence doesn’t detract from this new breed of progressive, stoner groove metal.

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine



PilgrimMisery Wizard

Pilgrim wants to be your modern day Black Sabbath replacement. They’ve got the riffs, the oddly wailed vocals, killer leads and a penchant for down-tuned dirges. Misery Wizard is their debut album and a strong showcase of doom metal in all its crushing heaviness, but with a healthy dose of stoner rock to ward off monotony. The gargantuan twisted leads on “Astaroth” unfold into a collapse of sludge riffs and haunted chanting, an opener that sets the template for the alchemy Pilgrim conjures. All of the epic songs are over ten minutes, excluding the speedy breaks found in “Quest” and “Adventurer. “Quest” searches for itself in a lingering mass of drone and, just when you think the journey is slowly repeating, a galloping rhythm emerges and melts into a sublime bluesy solo. You can almost feel the vibe of exploration on “Adventurer” as it flashes by in a rush of immense grooves while tossing in another ripping solo underneath the frenzied drums. Existing as a band for two years, this is a mighty impressive start. But remember to spark one first — this is a slow burner.

*This review was previously published for on April, 4th, 2012




XibalbaHasta La Muerte

Xibalba is a Mayan word that roughly translates to “place of fear,” a realm of death equivalent with hell. With a band name that badass, it evokes a near mythological darkness, epic in its life-ending scope. They come heavily influenced by the tortoise-like pace of doom metal, but replace Black Sabbath riffs with death metal and hardcore. Hasta la Muerte is a stitched-together bastard of the heaviest forms of music, a genre-mingling orgy that conceives a vulgar atmosphere of desolation. The abyss-like churning permeates throughout, save for the re-recorded “Cold,” a live staple that moves with more urgency. A nod to Neurosis pops up on the instrumental “The Flood,” utilizing their tribal drumming tendencies to render a flowing reprieve into near beauty. The lava-thick grooves contained herein are a menace to society, crushing ears and exploding minds.

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine




There’s something about New Orleans that lends itself to the creation of sludge metal. Whether it’s the swampy terrain or the alcohol soaked avenue of Bourbon Street, it’s a potent force. How else do you explain a scene that has produced Crowbar, Down, EyeHateGod, Exhorder, and Soilent Green? Haarp are a recent joiner to this top notch pedigree, and on Husks they find a perfect balance between rage and melancholia. One can feel the identity of their city as it comes to life in the downtrodden rage and sadness that inflects each of the three tracks with an esoteric crushing sensibility. Vitriolic waves and yearning creep out from their marching monolithic-sized riffs, aided by berserk growls and screams that plead for an end to devastation at the hands of nature. It gives the album a true emotional weight unfound amongst their compatriots. This is meditation music for the sonically deranged.

*This review was previously published on Nov. 13, 2012 for



ChowderPassion Rift

Impressive Instru-sludge that heavily embraces psychedelica, jam, prog-rock and a smattering of doom.




It was also a strong year for the rising d-beat meets death/black metal trend, although the ones I enjoyed the most had a bit more hardcore flavor, but with enough metal leanings to include on this list!

Black BreathSentenced To Life

When Black Breath released Heavy Breathing in 2010, it won them many fans and critics’ adulation. Now only two years later, with a heightened profile that landed them at SXSW, they drop Sentenced To Life. At its press announcement, Black Breath said it would be less Entombed death n’ roll and more aggressive, and that’s largely true, except for “Home of The Grave” which grooves to their older sound. The rest of the album is steamrolled over by a stronger thrash influence then before. Coming across like an angrier crust punk version of Municipal Waste wrapped in Exodus-like electrifying rhythm and lead interplay most notably on “Forced Into Possession,” “Feast Of The Damned” and the title track. Combine their new elements with their established style of Swedish buzz saw riffs meets d-beat hardcore, and the end product is something that sounds fresh even though the influence is clear. Sentenced To Life is another skull-frying dose of Black Breath that yet again blurs enough genre lines to avoid retro status through careful songwriting.

*This review was previously published on April 27th, 2012 on



EnablerAll Hail the Void

When Indiana extremists Harlots opted for indefinite hiatus in 2009, the underground scene quickly lost an innovative act. Now their key anchor, Jeff Lorhber, has reappeared with Enabler, a band similarly schooled in caustic genre cutups and contortions. All Hail The Void follows in the path of many recent d-beat hardcore revival bands: furious and to the point. This is punk music played by metal musicians oozing with a technical flair unparalleled by their bandwagon peers. It’s refreshing after hearing new groups doing the same thing, but with much less skill. This flipped expectation delivers an album of attention-deficit-paced songs, traversing a disjointed ebb and flow of speed and groove. What Enabler loses in originality, they make up for in talent. All Hail The Void is the blistering soundtrack to our modern ills and heat wave-irritated summer

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine




XerxesOur Home Is A Deathbed

With a multidimensional approach to hardcore — from thrashing caustic punk to more emotional, swelling melodic moments — Xerxes craft a focused vision that gives Our Home a dense and unique vibe. None of the songs is over 3 minutes, but they cover plenty of ground. The bulk of their style can be summed up in the vicious bursts found on “Sleep,” “February” and “Our City Is a Floodplain,” though these are balanced with slow-building tracks that give the album room to breathe. “Funeral Home,” “Summer Storms/Winter Leaves” and “Tide” show a different and experimental side of Xerxes. It’s hard not to get lost in the feral “Tide,” which throws in quirky melodies to balance the snarls. Thanks to the album’s succinct 22-minute length, you’re hard-pressed not to hit repeat after the last track fades out.

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine




I enjoyed a lot of black metal this year, but these two albums in particular I feel got very little coverage and were certaintly among this year’s best


Malnatt – Principia Discordia

This just came out December 3rd and I received it from my editor in November, completely unaware of who they were. Sadly my review has yet to be published so I can’t just link it, but know this: The Italian black metal here is oddly folk, strangely rock and roll, and equal parts old school grooving death metal. For people who like black metal with accordions, funk bass, and a strong theatrical folk-infused edge, this is joy. I urge everyone to buy it. It was released by BakerTeam Records and it’s also available from Malnatt and digitally from Amazon.



Imperial TriumphantAbominamentvm

Many metal groups come across as watered-down versions of their idols, content to play within the boundaries others have set, while the innovative bands are far and few. Imperial Triumphant is that, a futurist-themed deconstruction of black metal — blasphemous, yet steeped in unorthodox ideas. Abominamentvm is the product of formally trained musicians composing music far more technical and intricate than most. Bass guitar is virtually inaudible in this variety of music, but here it’s loud and used to build the already grim atmosphere. It also works as a strong counterpoint to the guitar playing, which covers terrain from syncopated drone grooves to terrifying tremolo picking. The crystal-clear production perfectly captures the complexity, though it puts them at odds with their lo-fi peers. Hearing this is analogous to the first time you heard Slayer: filthy, yet magnificent.

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine.





Exciting releases by several artist this year show an emergence of jazz metal crossover and forward-thinking acts conquering new territory or re-imagining past ideas in a intriguing metal veneer.


Felix Martin – Live in Boston

This Berklee school of music transplant via Venezuela first came to my attention in 2010 with the release of his album Bizarre Rejection. I instantly enjoyed his unique phrasing and diverse playing, which at times reminds me of Ron Jarzombek, but more jazz fusion-y. He uses a custom built 14-string Warr Guitar and  makes full use of every weird thing you can do with it, from two-hand tapping, but with each hand on a seperate fretboard, and some slap and popping a la Colin Marston as well! Most of the album actually consists of original compositions, though a few cuts appear from Bizarre Rejection. This is the part where I mention that Marco Minneman, the world class drummer who’s worked with Necrophagist and Ephel Duath, will be on his new album coming out next year. Check this video out and shit yer pants.



T.R.A.M. Lingua Franca

When I first heard about this Animals As Leaders side project I freaked out from the line-up alone! It features both Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, along with Adrian Terrazas (ex-Mars Volta) on Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet, and Percussion, with Eric Moore (Suicidal Tendencies) drumming. While Lingua Franca is more jazz rock then metal, there are some backing metal rhythms and djenty grooves, at least enough to call it metal. Regardless of that point, it’s very rewarding music that is relaxed yet complex, with many layers to uncover.




The Fine ConstantMyriad

A large part of what makes djent exciting is not just the endless grooves and subsequently different ideas on song progression, but the immensity and hugeness of its sound. If any new group embodies the mammoth nature of this style, that band would be The Fine Constant. This is shred-heavy, lots of tapping and sweeps, instru-djent madness on a grandiose epic scale. I first heard of them through Youtube stumbling as I viewed a very tight Rings Of Saturn cover by their lead guitar player Sarah Longfield. After seeing her skill I immediately went to her site and bought this bad boy! The Rings of Saturn influence comes full circle on  “Ire”, which features some Rings of Saturn-esque playing within a badass death metal/djent framework!



The OdiousJoint Ventures  

Between The Djentlemen and Me finally returned to offer us Joint Ventures, having just come out on Dec. 18th. Well worth my all-day wait hitting refresh on their Bandcamp, where you can get it for free if you’re a bum but it’s worth your fucking money! If metal should have more funk, long songs named after SuperJail characters, and random genre switch-ups, then you need some of The Odious in your life. Salvation can be found here:



Cold Night For Alligators – Singular Patterns

Super Melodic charged djent filtered through a jazzy Animals As Leaders vibe. Stunning, emotional, memorable. For a more in-depth look I’ll link to my CNFA piece here on NCS:




The Tony Danza Tapdance ExtravaganzaDanza IIII: The Alpha – The Omega 

Hard to believe that one of the hardest-hitting and heaviest albums of the year showed up on not a single year-end list I’ve seen. Maybe it’s just me, but this is pure nihilistic perfection. If you want to read my full review, it’s here on NO CLEAN SINGING at:





She Said DestroyBleeding Fiction EP

She Said Destroy started out playing post-metal with touches of pre-djent (before it was called djent but with the Meshuggah ideas) and death metal a few years ago. Bleeding Fiction is the logical continuation of stripping out their other musical styles and focusing solely on sprawling, lush post-metal with bestial vocals.  I couldn’t find it on YouTube but it can be found on Spotify here:



Philm – Harmonic 

Philm achieve something rare: They are a supergroup that doesn’t seem like a composite of its members’ prior bands. Their spotlight is due to the involvement of Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, though, ironically, the only reminder of Slayer comes on lone thrash attack, “Sex Amp.” Guitarist and vocalist Gerry Nestler, previously in Civil Defiance, sounds like a different musician here, playing post-hardcore and noisy rock. They fare better when locked into an experimental tailspin: “Way Down” summons post-rock textures before slowly unfolding into atmospheric doom. “Exuberance” reaches jam territory when warm, jazz noodling is layered in a haunting overlay of down-tempo ambience. Harmonic is an ambitious effort to break new sonic ground. Its uneven nature is simply the roundabout result of a debut brimming with ideas.

*This review was previously published in LEO Weekly magazine



Christian MistressPossession

Throwback is the rage in metal these days, though it’s flooded the scene with uninspired worship. Christian Mistress rise above mere re-hash, by mixing up a NWOBHM sound (that’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal) that takes Iron Maiden’s dueling guitars and straps them to a Led Zeppelin grooving flow while the coarse powerful singing of Christine Davis reverberates overtop. Her performance fits the mood like a glove, aiding both the defiant, blazing tracks and doomier ballads. The inquisitive ballad opening to “There is Nowhere” has Christine pouring her heart out in an introspective quest for meaning; her answer roars in a passionate proclamation that “there is no tomorrow, there is only today,” igniting a flurry of triumphant guitar melodies that swarm into a rousing collapse. “Pentagram & Crucifix” takes their reckless energy into overdrive on a head banging stomp that nearly spirals out of control from the frenzied dual leads. Retro bands of all stripes are attempting to re-capture that old lo-fi creative glory of done to death styles. While Christian Mistress is drawing from a familiar template, the introspective lyrics and fiery delivery imbue Possession with a memorable identity that’s hard to shake.

*This review was previously published on April, 17th for




Comity The Journey Is Now Over

I remember how big As Everything Is A Tragedy was for me in 2006, and then I lost touch with their music and forgot all about them. Until this year, when I heard a new album would be coming out. The Journey Is Now Over is a lengthy overload of  post-metal and epically crafted destruction. Think Converge meets Isis.


Behold The ArctopusHorrorscension 

Having been  a huge fan in the past, I was eagerly awaiting any new material from them. The band’s absence due to Krallice taking over Colin Marston’s life is evident here as the riffing, tempos , and production have a definitive Krallice-like edge to them. Which to me detracts from the batshit yet precise insanity that I loved about them in the first place. It’s not bad by any means and still light years ahead of other purely instrumental groups.



  7 Responses to “THE BEST OF 2012: LISTS FROM AUSTIN WEBER”

  1. I’m always impressed when I can find something that I haven’t heard on someone’s list that interests me, and here I found three (Dawn Of Dementia, Malnatt, and The Fine Constant). I tip my hat to you, sir.

  2. Props for Felix Martin.

  3. Thanks man, I tried hard to leave out what I had seen elsewhere, minus a few, and focus on other quality releases. And garksa, yes he is amazing and very forward thinking, in fact yesterday he posted an article on his website about new ideas and explainations of his playing technique!

  4. After all the hype the Christian Mistress album got before it came out, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it talked about more. I wasn’t even looking forward to it and it became one of my favorites of the year. One of my most-listened to albums too.

  5. So much new music here, but I really have to say “thank you” for mentioning Sectu. I found out about them through The New Review, and I’ve never heard anyone else so much as mention their name elsewhere. As a huge Decapitated fan, I find Sectu’s take on the Polish sound really fresh and inspiring, but still as brutal as anything I’ve heard this year.

  6. Wow Amazing List Austin!!! I just recently bought Arkaik and Inanimate Existence and wow amazing bands!!!!

    • That inanimate existence is been in constant rotation since I bought it. Very forward thinking for a brutal death metal band. Like a fan of theirs posted to youtube, it’s good to hear bands trying to go somewhere new instead of focusing solely on emulating cannibal corpse.

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