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Kellhammer’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012

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Maybe it’s because 2012 has been riddled with seemingly endless apocalyptic musings, but this year has been FILLED with some of the most amazing black, thrash, death, and doom metal. Yeah, we’re all waiting for the world to end, or at least waiting for those waiting for the world to end to make complete and utter fools of themselves in what they assume will be their last moments of desperation. Whatever your game, if you’re a metal fan, you’ve been in luck and have likely been happier than a pig in shit with what’s come out this year. If not… well, what the hell is wrong with you? Wait for the End of Days with the rest of the crazies and let everyone else feast on this years deliciously blasphemous album harvest.

15. Rabbits – Bites Rites (Good to Die)

I guess it wasn’t too much to ask to really enjoy an album by a band of lagamorphs. With their punk as fuck attitude, sludge metal leanings, and some fantastic use of dirty-ass old school rock, these guys are nailing the art of melding genres. Just relax, grab a bottle of Jack, and prepare to get sleazy with some Rabbits.

Listen: “Suck it or Blow” 

14. Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine (Century Media Records)

After giving Silencing Machine a few listens and a bit of thought, I gave it a modest 3.5. Since then, however, it’s actually really grown on me, and I’ve found myself electing to listen to it on a number of occasions. Some parts, yeah, are a bit hokey (a song titled “Decimation, Anihilation” should not, in my opinion, sound like it was partly composed by an oompah band). Looking past that, it really is a pretty damn solid album filled with epic riffs, demonic vocals, and perfectly polished black metal. I’d say that’s a fair combination to get jazzed about.

Listen: “Dawn Over the Ruins of Jerusalem” 

13. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker (Prosthetic)

This right here is a bit of a puzzling album, and maybe that’s part of why I like it so much. It’s at times shoegaze and at others an interesting semblance of black metal. In only three “parts,” Dragged into Sunlight runs the gamut going from soothing to abrasive. Widowmaker has the listener swooning and then attacks them, keeping’em on their toes all the way through.

Listen:  “Part II”

12. Samothrace – Reverence to Stone (20 Buck Spin)

I’ve been in love, deep and passionate love, with Samothrace for a great many years now, and have no qualms about sharing this fact with all of you yet again. If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of, it’s exquisitely composed and extremely depressing doom; both things Samothrace are not only capable of, but should maybe probably (definitely) teach a class on. My only disappointment with the album, and hence why it’s not in the top three, is that they’ve slightly reworked a song that I’m already very familiar with and tacked on one other, albeit long, track to accompany it. Both songs are fantastically composed, but I’m left wanting more. Fingers crossed that next time around I’ll be completely swept off my feet. Until then, I’ll stay stoked on Reverence.

Listen: “When We Emerged

11. Ash Borer – Cold of Ages (Profound Lore)

When I think of current USBM, one of the first bands that’ll pop into my head is Ash Borer. Hailing from the pseudo-kvlt heavy land of sunny California, the band indeed has a lot to bring to the table. Their brand of sometimes raw, sometimes more cautious black metal has been lauded time and again as some of the greatest the scene has, well… seen in ages. It’s no-nonsense black metal, and it fucking kills.

Listen: “Phantoms” 

10. The Secret – Angus Dei (Southern Lord)

Hardcore, black metal, crust, Swedish death; Agnus Dei may be a bit schizophrenic, but that’s part of what makes it so amazing. The Secret have masterfully incorporated a great many styles into this album, garnering them insurmountable praise across the board. Recorded in my hometown of Salem, MA, the Italian ensamble have done well in capturing the blasphemous undertones and rampant paganism so prevalent in the “City of the Witch,” taking further action by drenching the album in a healthy dose of heresy and malice. Clearly, there are Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they call themselves The Secret.

Listen: “Love Your Enemy” 

9. The Catalyst – Voyager (Forcefield)

I don’t know what it is, but something about Voyager reminds me of high school… and I LOVE it. Most of the album, ignoring the concept of time and space, could make a happy home on the Suburbia soundtrack. The Catalyst have a hell of a lot of grunge in ‘em, and a heavy handed dollop of hardcore mixed in as well. Whatever their formula, it’s balls out awesome, and they should keep it up.

Listen: “Big Bend” 

8. Mutilation Rites – Empyrean (Prosthetic)

Right out of the gate, Mutilation Rites assault the listener with their unabashed aggression… but that’s not all the album has to offer. There are actually some mildly Cascadian parts present on Empyrean, which is refreshing as it seems modern day USBM is staunchly raw and assertive or ambient. As this release smartly concocts both of those elements and then some, I can’t imagine it’ll shy away from a great many year end lists.

Listen: “A Season of Grey Rain” 

7. Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Altar (Neurot)

Here we have a band that’s so damn talented, that — vocals? They’re barely there and not only do I not miss them at all, I’m kinda glad of their absence. Opus Altar, the second installment of Ufomammut’s epic two parter Oro, is so heavy, so intense, so dynamic, and so well put together that more prominent vocals would do it a great disservice. Now, here’s where I make a cute and obvious joke about the album speaking for itself…

Listen: “Ouroborous”

6. Evoken – Atra Mors (Profound Lore)

With their first release in five years, Evoken have proven that not only are they able to keep their heads above the blood-stained water, they’re drowning all other contenders. The vast expansiveness and weighty “world on your shoulders”-feel make Atra Mors one of the most celebrated funeral doom releases this year.

Listen: “An Extrinsic Divide” 

 

5. Winterfylleth – The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)

Battered and beaten, Winterfylleth have come out with some of the most – nope, THE most beautiful and enigmatic ambient black metal heard this year. It’s not a knock-off and it’s not worshipping at the feet of any band. Certainly there are some similarities to other ambient acts (WIITR, Agalloch) but The Threnody of Triumph is a creature, rare and gorgeous, all its own.

Listen: “A Thousand Winters”

Bastard Sapling4. Bastard Sapling – Dragged from Our Restless Trance (Forcefield)

Undeniably raw and punitive, Bastard Sapling have made quite a name for themselves with this release. Unsurprisingly, Dragged from Our Restless Trance has been on the lips of many since it’s completion mid-year, and rightly so.  What is surprising, is that this is the band’s debut full length. It’s slightly hard to grasp that a band could get their sound cultivated and seemingly perfected first time ‘round. For now, I’m just wondering what in the hell they could do to improve, and am looking forward to surely triumphant results in the future.

Listen: “Prophecy Born of Dismal Terrain” 

3. Bell Witch – Longing (Profound Lore)

I knew it! I fucking knew it. Just hearing about the prospect of Bell Witch recording this year had me chomping at the bit to hear some new material from the Seattle doom duo, and lo and behold — it fucking rules. The exhaustive, “drag your bloodied feet to the altar” feel of the album bites, claws, and keeps a steady pull on one’s heartstrings, invoking some outstandingly haunting visions. This right here is what doom metal is about.

Listen: “I Wait” 

2. Lord Mantis – Pervertor (Candlelight)

Attn: Sleaze balls! As the album’s title would insinuate, Pervertor is a gloriously profane conglomeration of sounds. Lord Mantis makes one feel both outlandishly stoked and at the same time as though you’ve just woken up naked in a pigsty after a curious and unfortunate orgy. It’s depraved, it’s raw, it’s heavy, and I’m obsessed.

Listen: “At the Mouth” 

1. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)

Funnily enough, I wasn’t initially sure I’d like this release. I’ve never really enjoyed clean singing in metal; it just always seemed misplaced to me. Thanks to Pallbearer, though, my opinion has changed. This album had a well-deserved home in my car stereo for a good three quarters of the year. Yes, it’s at times (read: most of the time) depressing as all get out, but that’s part of why I love Sorrow and Extinction so goddamn much. A good doom album can give you chills upon first listen. A great one can make have you tear up nearly every listen after that… or maybe that’s just me. In any event, Pallbearer’s Sorrow and Extinction is, in this gal’s mind, an all out timeless album, and an utter masterpiece in the realm of doom.

Listen: “The Legend” 

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