metal-xmas

2012 Holiday Gift Guide: The Year’s Best Metal

When you care enough to send the very best… I mean, when you care enough…no wait. When you don’t care what the hell people think, send ‘em some metal this Christmas! That’s better.

If you’ve been reading my metal reviews you certainly have noticed that I’ve been keeping a running list of the best of 2012 so that I can keep myself honest when it comes to this post. There are 19 albums in that list to choose from and I’ve made the decision since I’m focusing on strictly metal here that the debut punk record from Human Toilet is out as is the Baroness record which is fantastic but gets less and less horn worthy each time I listen. That leaves 17 metal records to choose from for this end of the year ten best.  So without further ado, these are the records you should be stuffing stockings with.

10. Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius (Hells Headbangers)

I keep saying that Hells Headbangers is my favorite label and not just because they put out amazing vinyl packages. 2012 was a stellar year for the label releasing a ton of great records including four in the month of July alone that put them over the top as the top label of the year for me.

One of those July records – The Sins of Aquarius by Mongrels Cross has strong melodies to go with the blackened take on Death Metal. Over the span of seven tracks and more than 40 minutes, Mongrels Cross simply punish you with blistering riffs, rife with both brutality and melody. The crusty blackened vocals are a perfect mix to combine the genres in perfect fashion. It’s a headbanging tour de force of fierceness, downtempo grooves and epic tunes.

9.  Deserted Fear, My Empire (F.D.A. Rekotz)

I had pretty much given up on pure death metal records for 2012 as the genre just keeps producing bands that sound exactly the same.  Deserted Fear don’t break the mold but My Empire does stand out in the sea of mediocrity.  They play a mix of Scandinavian metal and old school Floridian death to make a record that should be appealing to all death metal fans alike. There’s a ton of rhythm on the album too, which is probably what makes me love the record so much.

8. OSI, Fire Make Thunder (Metal Blade)

Progressive metal really isn’t my thing but lately anything Jim Matheos touches is gold.  The group is a collaborative effort between the Arch/Matheos and Fates Warning guitarist and former Fates Warning and Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore. They are joined on this record by Porcupine Tree and King Crimson drummer, Gavin Harrison. There’s great chemistry on this record between the group and Moore’s keyboard work is fantastic.  The songs go from metal riffage to a Pink Floyd vibe at the drop of a hat and the tempo changes make for a wonderful roller coaster ride through the disc.

7. Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum (Neurot)

I guess I could lump Opus Alter in here as well to make the full record but Opus Primum is the better of the two parts and stands on its own nicely.  I keep comparing this group to Sleep and that may not be totally fair in the end. But what I’m getting at here is that that stoner doom sound that has been so copied over the year sounds totally fresh when Ufomammut creates it, just like Sleep did back in the day.  I really think these guys have the chance to really be one of the leading bands in their genre. They already have made a decent name for themselves and Opus Primum along with Opus Alter might just elevate them to the next level.

6. Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan (Hells Headbangers)

Another Hells Headbangers release here from back in July.  Satanic Bloodspraying is one of those mysterious groups that try to keep everything they do cloaked in secrecy.  But what shouldn’t be a secret is At the Mercy of Satan.  It’s a 25-minute blistering blend of speed, thrash and crust punk over a black metal base that is both catchy and extremely evil at the same time. And any album that has a track on it called “Satanic Skullfuck” is worth a listen or two in my book.

5.  Tiamat, The Scarred People (Napalm)

The Scarred People is a virtually perfect record but the only reason it’s not higher than five on my list is that I’m not 100% sure I’d consider it metal. Tiamat get the benefit of the doubt though since they genre hop all the time.  This is a goth record with amazing hooks, melodies out the wazoo and a wholly dark feel to the entire disc. It wouldn’t be out of place in 1989, 1994 or today. It’s one of those releases that when we look back decades from now, we’ll wonder how the hell this went under the radar.

4. Winterfylleth, The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)

Winterfylleth blends sharp, angular black metal riffs with a slight bit of folk to create a record that is clearly pushing the boundaries of the black metal genre without breaking the mold. The riffs are speedy and pitch black with the piercing screams of C. Naughton simply chilling. The folk elements are what brings a sense of light back into the disc amidst the darkness of death. After getting worn down by the sorrow of tunes like “The Swart Raven” and “A Memorial” there’s a nice acoustic passage like “Home Is Behind” to rise the spirits back up, ever so slightly. The contrast of dark and light really work well in this context to keep your senses on their toes and make sure the record doesn’t get repetitive.

3. Kadavar, Kadavar (Tee Pee)

From the velvety fur lined jackets to the mutton chops, the three dudes in Kadavar are a true throwback to the era when metal began. With their debut,  they have very effectively done what every doom metal band since the Ozzy days of Sabbath has tried to do and that’s wear the influence on their sleeve without sounding like a tribute band. Over the course of six long tracks, they are somehow able to blend all the great doom and stoner moments over the years into one very modern yet vintage sound. There’s no doubt they worship at the altar of Sabbath but even more so at the alter of Geezer Butler. The basslines across the whole record remind you why you thought the Geez was the shit to begin with.

This is an album that I simply can’t put down. Fans of rock and metal should love this as it’s chocked full of vintage riffs but modernized to make them relevant to today. Of all the new bands going back to old school music, Kadavar might be the best of them.

2. Woods of Ypres, Woods 5:  Grey Skies & Electric Light (Earache)

I still have no idea how to pronounce the word “Ypres” but that doesn’t mean I can’t still love this album. The record wasn’t suppose to come out until the middle of 2012 but Earache posted it in January after singer David Gold died in a car accident. And that’s not only a tragedy unto itself but also because this is a masterpiece of a record. Woods of Ypres has always been a bit of a polarizing group with a lot of people simply hating them but maybe it’s Gold’s extremely bleak view of the world told through these tracks or the fact that he asks people to celebrate life while you’re alive and not when you’re dead that really hits hard, right after he passed away.  This record in particular will remind you of Type O Negative thanks to Gold sounding a lot like Peter Steele but I also warn you that it’s depressing as hell.  Depressing but totally rewarding in the end.

1. Forgotten Tomb, …And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil (Agonia)

I haven’t seen a bad review of this album yet but people are still undervaluing it.  From the beginning of their career they’ve been making really dark, depressing, suicidal black metal. But recently they’ve been adding some catchy riffs into their tunes to actually allow you to lift your head up and put the razorblade down.

Dismal black metal combined with fierce riffs end up equaling the most appealing record of 2012 and make Forgotten Tomb the band to look out for in the future.