Abysmal Shawn’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012
I absolutely despise year-end lists. The reason why is very simple: I’ve gotten too used to thinking like an actuary. Selections are guaranteed to be rife with biases, and orderings are often based on nothing more than fleeting opinions. Well, I refuse to produce yet another list that will become completely inaccurate by this time next year. Looking back, I see nothing but proof of my inability to predict which albums possess any kind of staying power.
This year, I’m not going to let my current fads run rampant on my list. When I sat down to compile this list, I decided I needed some kind of unambiguous metric that would completely remove my troublesome freewill from the game. I quickly realized that using play count kills the hopes of albums released in Q3 and Q4, and that trying to normalize linearly based on release date does exactly the opposite. The best approach I’ve been able to come up with is to extrapolate play counts based on an exponential distribution, which has proven to be surprisingly accurate.
In reality though, all I was looking for was a believable way to use math as a scapegoat for the horrendous nature of this list. So, don’t blame my tastes. Blame math. Cheers guys.
What was up with all of the two-part albums this year? I can’t really remember seeing a trend extend across so many genres of music like this before. This odd phenomenon only managed to produce two albums I really cared about though (no hard feelings, Lupe), and they occupy slots fourteen and fifteen on this list. Since Between The Buried and Me shows no signs of recording The Silent Circus II, I really don’t mind if they keep getting lighter and proggier with each new release.
Listen: “Astral Body”
It’s about time we got a new Wintersun album. I found the time to spin Time I more than I think it deserves; it definitely does not possess the same, uh, timeless appeal of its predecessor, which has only gotten more enjoyable over, y’know, time. Given how long it took to record, it fell short of my expectations, but I’m willing to give it more listens in the hope that Time II might be able to complete the picture. I guess we’ll find out eventually.
Listen: “Sons of Winter and Stars”
When I saw this album pop up in my list, I was a bit conflicted; a lot of the plays it logged were mandatory for reviewing purposes. It’s still a pretty badass slice of metal though, so what the hell, it can have the unlucky #13 slot it earned.
The more interested Brendom Small gets in making credible metal records that don’t have to rely solely on cheesy humour to be entertaining, the more I take notice of what he’s doing. Even if he hadn’t slipped into the scene through the backdoor of another medium, he’s got the chops and the riffs to run with the best. And with the behemoth that is Gene Hoglan playing the part of Pickles, the best is exactly with whom he’s running.
Listen: “The Hammer”
Job For A Cowboy has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, and it’s all because of vocalist Jonny Davy. The guy seems to be completely unaware that a vocalist is supposed to have limits on his range. It also doesn’t hurt that with every new release, the band becomes more adept at pretending to be Vader.
Listen: “Children of Deceit”
Green and yellow are my two favourite colours (just look at all that beautiful Canadian spelling). In the case of Baroness, I liked blue significantly more, but tracks like “Take My Bones Away” recall my 2009 album of the year just enough to get me hooked on this unnecessarily long monstrosity.
Listen: “Take My Bones Away”
No self-respecting metal writer would include a new All That Remains album in their year-end list, but I’m secure enough to admit that I secretly hope every over-the-hill metalcore band phones in a metal-tinged radio rock record like this once their prime has passed. Plus, they were a lot of fun live, despite Phil Labonte stumbling through the songs like he only had five minutes before the show to learn them.
Listen: “Stand Up”
I had the pleasure of catching these guys live a couple of weeks ago too, and that provided more than enough fuel to propel their latest offering into my top ten. Not to mention that with the recent reissue of Corrosion 0f Conformity’s landmark Eye for an Eye, crossover thrash is in the center of my radar right now. Party on.
Listen: “Unholy Abductor”
You only need one piece of information to accurately predict whether or not a new Converge album will appear on a year-end list from me: whether or not Converge released an album that year. I didn’t like this record as much as Axe to Fall, but an inability to top themselves will never stop Converge from embarrassing almost every other act who puts a new disc on the market.
Listen: “Glacial Pace”
With number six, we kick off a double dose of Sumerian Records. Since we didn’t get a new Cynic record, and since Necrophagist continues to deliver nothing but the best in nonexistent technical death metal, The Faceless weaseled their way into the vacated niche. I won’t even bitch about the clean vocals, since I think they’re actually performed quite well.
Listen: “The Eidolon Reality”
Periphery II was possibly my most anticipated album of the year. I know way more people that are crazy about Periphery than people that give a shit about any other metal band, and that kind of hype is damn infectious. Hell, I get right stoked when I run into someone who is genuinely excited about literally any new album, let alone an acceptably heavy one. There’s plenty of substance here to justify the hype, with energetic tracks like “Scarlet” giving me a rare use for iTunes’ replay function. I doubt I’ll ever be as into Periphery as many of my friends are, but I can definitely get behind the direction they’ve begun pursuing with Periphery II.
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how this album placed this high on my list, but the numbers don’t lie. I’ll go ahead and attribute this achievement to the uncanny timing of the album’s release; it dropped in January, a month notorious for having few notable releases, during the same week I caught one of the band’s stellar live shows. The individual tracks on Resolution don’t carry the same weight as the songs on the preceding albums, but the record plays better as a complete experience than those other offerings. Most of the songs have a short and punchy feel to them, which makes it really easy to burn through the whole record more times than its quality warrants.
Besides my top pick, Utilitarian is the only album on this list that I feel had a legitimate shot at the top ranking. The only metal bands I have bigger hard-ons for are Opeth and Iron Maiden; seeing as how those bands didn’t release anything new this year, the race was Napalm Death’s to lose. In the end, it was the band’s remarkable consistency that cost them the championship. As is the norm for me, Napalm Death led the league in complete album spins with something like a hundred; if those plays had been concentrated on Utilitarian alone, it would have come out on top in a landslide victory.
Listen: “Errors in the Signals”
It isn’t very often that I encounter an album that already sounds classic a couple months after its release. Listening to Epicloud on the day of its release felt similar to the first time I sat down and really listened to Led Zeppelin IV; somehow, I feel like I grew up on these songs. Tracks like “Lucky Animals” are so annoyingly catchy they could have been written by Queen. Devy’s one of the only reason I have to be proud of my country, and yet again he delivers the heavy like nary a hoser before him.
Listen: “Lucky Animals”
1. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse)
Send me over the cliff with the other lemmings. I desperately wanted to pick something else as my top record of 2012, but there’s just no way I can justify depriving this monster of its clearly-deserved pedestal. Not since Jane Doe has there been a record that balances brutality and memorable song-writing this flawlessly, and the unparalleled cross-genre acclaim coming the band’s way speaks volumes. If 2012 truly is the last year our species gets, then at least we can go out knowing that the number one album of the final year was the perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse.
Listen: “The Bug”
Have an abysmal holiday everybody!