Anso DF’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012
In the wee hours of election night, I was struck by a wise observation. This happy woman was explaining that the definition and traits of a typical American have exploded. Though distracted by her bod, I still caught her gist that, y’know, the whole world is closer at hand, and so we are shedding the constraints of past traditionalism. “U and I, Anso, are the true Americans,” she stated lustily, “We free-thinking, open-hearted, fearless winners — not those narrow, vanilla, Chicken Little types.” Later, it dawned on me that the very same must be said about the nation of Heavy Metal. Relaxed are the guidelines of the ’80s and ’90s, crossed are the borders between ours and neighboring genres, heedless is our exploration and innovation. And in that spirit, we shall annex for Metal Nation those bands once ghettoized by genre qualifiers and prefixes, all “cores” and “post-“s. For us, I claim them all! I claim The Birthday Massacre and Torche. I claim Blood Command and Deftones. Fuck it I claim the Dandy Warhols for us lol why not! America! Metal!! U JAM!!!
One of the best three songs on Katatonia’s awesome 2009 album Night Is The New Day was “Idle Blood,” a moody, unheavy jam that wouldn’t be out of place on Peter Gabriel’s shuffle or at a museum gift shop. On Dead End Kings, such mellow moments come earlier, more frequently, and with gentler propulsion. It’s like the best record in your aunt’s collection covered by a Swedish Dredg lol.
“Nothing was affirmative, the term ‘generosity of spirit’ applied to nothing, was a cliche, was some kind of bad joke. Sex is mathematics. Individuality no longer an issue. What does intelligence signify? Define reason. Desire — meaningless.
Intellect is not a cure. Justice is dead. Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one really felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence.” — American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
An awesome writer recently posited that heavy metal singers no longer define the identity of a band. Nothing gives more credence to that theory than the awesome fourth Whitechapel record. In every way a rhythm instrument, Phil Bozeman’s vocals serve no more function than a hi-hat: a groove meter and signal of a jam’s big charges. (What about message, u ask? No idea cuz I get the gist of, like, only one song’s lyrics. That’s after 60 listens.) It’s a modest goal for a singer, but in Whitechapel’s case, this low aim protects against overreach in an age of bands trying to do way too much. Instead, Whitechapel settles on a shape and size then spends 38 minutes increasing, decreasing, and distorting them. It vibes confidence, refinement of their attack, and just fucking rips 1000%! U love!
Listen: “I, Dementia”
11. Lacuna Coil – Dark Adrenaline (Century Media)
Lacuna Coil is awesome but hideously flawed, and that’s frustrating. Here’s why: They scored one of Earth’s great singers, Cristina Scabbia, but then contrived an amazing way to counteract her powers. How? By pairing her with another singer. Sketchy idea. Cuz next to Cristina Scabbia’s, all but a few voices will sound like a frog’s butthole; a band would need a black belt like fuckin’ Jeff Buckley or Roy Orbison for that set-up to work! And those guys are dead!
Listen: “Give Me Something More”
Sometimes a druggie must assign himself time-killing tasks until it’s possible (and safe) to sleep. One such task might be to sit unblinkingly at a computer and painstakingly snip the 30 minutes of bloated, busy noodling from The Mars Volta’s awesome 2005 album Frances The Mute. The result is a concise, triply impactful, Led Zeppelin III-level super-album for the ages, like if the massively ambitious TMV eschewed all the gibbering clack and fruitless detours for tight focus and not-one-iota-less-riveting songcraft. In other words, Noctourniquet lol.
U have to admire Municipal Waste: The definition of a Waste song is narrow — snappy Thrashzone-era D.R.I., basically — and yet The Fatal Feast packs huger fun than 2012’s most wildly expansive avant albums. It’s cuz Tony Foresta and crew are no less ambitious than the most artistic pioneers — but instead of breaking untilled ground, Waste dudes dig deep enough in a single spot to build a subterranean metropolis. Their energy goes into art and themes (horror, barfing), huge plateau jumps
for performance (esp bassist LandPhil Hall fuck he ripz on this album!), and Foresta’s expertly rendered narratives of getting hassled, wasted, and/or zombified.
And just as The Fatal Feast shows Municipal Waste perfecting the art of being Municipal Waste, Dark Roots Of Earth displays the post-reunion Testament train gathering steam. Like Waste, the thrash titans dig deep, but in their case it’s a shaft to link up with the tunnel they halted work on upon 1992’s The Ritual and the departure of guitarist Alex Skolnick. That means the brutality of 2k post-death-metal Testament and the musicality, melody, and jazzy bounce of Practice What You Preach. Awesome.
One day at the beach, I was way baked and blaring on my headphones “Solitary Traveler,” the centerpiece of Torche’s masterful Harmonicraft. The jam was winding down when I felt a shadow cross my face; I peeked and noticed a beach buddy Tara standing over me and accompanied by this beknockered volleyball girl I super-want to ram. I held up a finger like “I’ll be right with u” and they shifted from foot to foot impatiently for a minute. Then as “Traveler”‘s final notes faded, I snapped out of it and cheerily proposed a taco run. Privately Tara shot me a look like, “Are u crazy making us wait while u listen to music?” I shrugged and whispered, “Nothing personal! Awesome album!”
Listen: “Letting Go
There’s a part of me that longs for the collapse of civilization. Think of it: armageddon, environmental holocaust, humankind returned to the animal kingdom — what a relief from all the hard work required to be a good person. Life then would probably resemble that movie Children Of Men, in which our species divides into repenters, resisters, ruling class, and gangs of crazed maniacs who stage screaming ambushes on those who venture away from city centers. And I’d be one of the latter, feces smeared on my face, rags hanging off my skeletal body, and Serpent Sermon blaring on my boombox! BLEH.
Listen: “Gospel Of The Worm”
lol I’d love to be A&R for The Birthday Massacre for a major label. At a staff meeting, attention would turn to me and I’d explain my huge expectations for their swift, pummeling new album, Hide And Seek: “It’s a soundtrack to a version of Gone Baby Gone that’s told from the abducted’s point of view. Huge beats, dark tones, and sad hooks.” The marketing dept would sigh and be like, “Sweeeet.”
U could make an awesome jamtape comprised of Devin Townsend’s hookiest, poppiest pre-2009 jamz: “Life,” “Material,” “Bad Devil,” “The Universal,” “Stagnant,” “Fluke,” “Sunshine And Happiness,” even “Room 429” and “The Greys.” And of course, there is 2009’s Addicted, Townsend’s magnum opus of post-Pantera mega-pop. So history has been pointing to Epicloud since the ’90s and its arrival matches Townsend’s entry into stable, hopeful middle age. That means Epicloud is more than epic pop, it’s a missive to bummed nerds and damaged ragers, its lyrics Lennon-esque in their reversal of two decades of downer wallowing and self-hate in loud music culture. The time has come to forget all the bullshit and ROCK. Let’s rock!
One of my favorite people super-loves Pig Destroyer and his enthusiasm totally infected me. So I put their new record Book Burner on a CD behind Blood Command’s brilliant Funeral Beach. That way, I’d hear PxDx after each of my million bajillion listens to Blood Command. Well that was the concept anyway. Turns out I mostly followed Funeral Beach with highlights from Funeral Beach, then all of Funeral Beach again, and so on. But I plan to someday behold the majesty that is Book Burner!! I bet it’s rad! Love u Axl Rosenberg xoxoxo!
Listen: “High Five For Life”
My most mind-blowing live music experience of 2012 was Watain’s 40 minute set in the middle of the Decibel Magazine Tour stop in L.A. There were moments of overload (like “Total Funeral”) that drove me from the foot of the stage to a less suffocating distance. There were moments of portent (like “Waters Of Ain”) where I lost physical sensation and seemed to inhabit a different dimension than Erik Danielsson and crew on stage. It was incredible, a cosmic convergence of timing and stimulation, the result of sights, sounds, and stenches of a quintet fresh from the grave and calling for world overthrow by the evil undead. Now imagine the same dizzying sensations and awesome rapture in my living room caused by Deftones’ Koi No Yokan record on a Tuesday afternoon. Wow.
Listen: “Graphic Nature”
1. Look Right Penny — Sugar Lane (Bieler Bros)·
At 22 and 20, respectively, Look Right Penny singer Mariel Diaz-Carrion and guitarist Cotee Embry are the brawn and brains of Sugar Lane, the most impressive debut album in forever. You can tell that the pair has been planning to do well, practicing shit, taking notes. But they play pop-prog metal, like Paramore produced by Protest The Hero; their genre has hardly headlined clubs. That means they’re putting huge energy into a small future. Right? Maybe. Still I’d totally gamble on LRP. They would get huge cuz though Sugar Lane is busy and technical, it’s also poppy and slick — no meandering epics or random tempos, ie the stuff that bores non-dorks. It might be that LRP will reach the same age/breed of kid that Paramore rocked in 2008 and Evanescence in 2003. But heavier, no way as annoying, and way better. Way, way, way better. Way way waaayyyyyyyyyy betterrrrrr.