Axl Rosenberg’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012
Once upon a time a there was a Little Old Lady with a pet Parrot. One day, she made an appointment with a Plumber to fix her clogged sink. Although the Plumber was scheduled to be at her apartment at at ten o’clock, by one he still had not arrived. Concluding that he wasn’t coming, The Little Old Lady went out to the grocery store.
While she was out, however, The Plumber finally arrived. He knocked on her door — and The Parrot responded: “Who is it?”
Unaware that he was speaking to a Parrot and not The Little Old Lady, The Plumber replied, “It’s the plumber.”
A little irritated now, The Plumber once again replied, “It’s the plumber!” The Parrot, of course, still did not answer the door.
And so The Plumber knocked yet again, and yet again, The Parrot responded: “Who is it?”
Now the Plumber was really beginning to lose his temper: “It’s the plumber!!!” And, again, The Parrot did not answer the door.
And so The Plumber knocked AGAIN, and, AGAIN, The Parrot responded: “Who is it?”
“IT’S THE PLUMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” The Plumber screamed. And so enraged did he become, that he promptly had a heart attack and dropped dead right there outside the door.
A little while later, The Little Old Lady returned from the grocery store, and was, of course, rather surprised to find a dead man lying outside her door. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, “Who is this?”
And The Parrot responded: “It’s the plumber.”
15. Revocation — Teratogenesis (Scion A/V)
Just for myself, personally, I always consider EPs “off-limits” for year-end lists. But Revocation’s Teratogenesis is just as long as, or longer than, plenty of grind albums, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since its release in September. The secret to Revocation’s success is fairly simple — they’re just getting better and better as songwriters. I sincerely believe that the material on Teratogenesis is even better than that from Chaos of Forms or Existence is Futile; if it were a full-length, I have little doubt it would be far higher on this list.
Listen: “Spurn the Outstretched Hand”
14. Jeff Loomis — Plains of Oblivion (Century Media)
Very possibly definitive proof that Nevermore needs Jeff Loomis more than Jeff Loomis needs Nevermore; every song on this album manages to be infectious and consistently engaging, even without the vocal stylings of Mr. Warrel Dane, and the songs that do have vocals (by the likes of Ihsahn and Christine Rhoades) are also frickin’ great. As an added bonus, you get to go cross eyed trying to figure out the answer to the question, “What kind of a freak is Jeff Loomis, anyway???”
Listen: “Sibylline Origin”
13. Converge — All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
This album should probably be called All We Love We Pounce Upon and Kick and Bite and Scratch Them and Spit On Them and Did We Mention That Our Spit is Made from Lemon Juice? and After We Make Them Roll Around in a Pit of Broken Glass and Razor Blades and Infected Needles We Spit on Them Some More and Skin Them and Use That Skin for a Pizza Topping Which We Make Them Eat and Then What We Love Screams “OH GOD, WHY, WHY?!?! I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME!!!” and Then We Kick What We Love in the Teeth. But I understand that that title may have presented something of a marketing issue.
Listen: “Predatory Glow”
12. The Faceless — Autotheism (Sumerian)
If I could write an album this good, I’d probably worship myself, too. Michael Keane continues to write some of the br00tliest brain-bashes out there, but Autotheism‘s pleasant surprise is that its more melodious moments carry even more impact. If this is Keane slowly-readying his audience for an even more extreme experiment in non-extremeness — the Blood Moutain to his Crack the Skye, the Miss Machine to his Ire Works — I’m all for it.
Listen: “Ten Billion Years”
11. Primitive Weapons — The Shadow Gallery (Prosthetic)
This is the party album of the year, and I mean that as massive compliment. It’s more venomous than Kvelertak’s self-titled album, but it conjures similar images of the world’s gnarliest house party and your most painful post-blackout hangover. The songs seem designed to simultaneously get stuck in your head even as you accidentally burn your eyebrows off while trying to answer the question, “Can I turn anything into a bong?” Basically, The Shadow Gallery came to your house in the middle of the night, fucked your mom, stripped you naked, covered you in honey, and knocked a bee’s nest off a tree right next to you… and yet you totally love it for doing so.
Listen: “Quitters Anthem”
10. Cattle Decapitation — Monolith of Inhumanity (Metal Blade)
Easily Cattle Decapitation’s strongest effort yet — I was already a fan of this band, and I still wasn’t expecting to get knocked quite so flat on my ass by this Monolith. They’ve really stepped up their game in the songwriting department and the playing department, and while the entire band provides top-notch performances, special attention must be paid to Travis Ryan, who gives the year’s most expressionistic and eclectic death metal vocal performance of the year. In a day and age where so many screamers seem to be completely interchangeable, Ryan’s talents cannot be ignored.
9. Baroness — Yellow & Green (Relapse)
Baroness have become one of hard rock’s last great hopes, the kind of band that melds the energy and emotion and sense of just being totally genuine that is sorely missing from the world today. Okay, okay, so I do find this double-album a little bloated, but even enjoyed piecemeal — which is blasphemous, I know — Yellow & Green was still better than all but eight other albums I heard this year. And there are absolutely no songs on it that make me teary. I don’t know where you heard that filthy rumor but I am a manly man’s man and I absolutely do not get choked up by artsy fartsy art shit. Sniffle, sniffle.
Listen: “March to the Sea”
8. Job for a Cowboy — Demonocracy (Metal Blade)
That Job for a Cowboy have transformed from a deathcore band into a more traditional death metal band isn’t news at this point, but what is news is this: they’re also a prog band now, too. Sure, the tracks on Demonocracy aren’t like a bajillion minutes long each, and there are no glockenspiels or whatever to alert you, “HEY, WE’RE DOING SOMETHING WEIRD OVER HERE!” — but I don’t know how else you’d classify these songs, all of which take a lot of bizarre, and yet highly satisfying, twists and turns, and all of which definitely take a few listens “to get used to,” so to speak. Jon “Charn” Rice plays like he has no ass (I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I heard Sebastian Bach say it about Rob Affuso once and it sounds complimentary), and if we were judging this year’s releases based on guitar solos alone, Tony Sannicandro’s performance would launch Demonocracy straight to the top.
Listen: “Tarnished Gluttony”… for the record, my favorite song on the album is “The Deity Misconception,” but that’s not available anywhere online right now. “Gluttony” is a good song, too.
7. Enslaved — RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
Can anyone remember the last time there was a black metal album this crazy, trippy, layered, catchy, and so gorgeous it hurts to listen? Oh, right. It was when Enslaved put out Axioma Ethica Odini two years ago. Jesus Harold Christ, Enslaved. Feel free to make a misstep anytime you like. Look, over in the corner — it’s Lou Reed! Go talk to him! He’s really friendly. I bet with his help, you could cook up some real garbage to make all the other bands feel less jealous.
6. Meshuggah — Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
Meshuggah are to the Hulk as djent is to Loki. Djent talks a big game, but in the end, Meshuggah can just pick it up by the ankle and slam it back and forth on the floor like a dish rag. Koloss has groove more elastic than a rubberband and so cavernous that the record needle actually disappears into the wax. And those are its most pleasant qualities. Because mostly what it sounds like is a fucking giant walking into a room full of people he doesn’t like, and then just pummeling those dudes, breaking every bone in their bodies, getting them to a point where they’re begging for death… and then just pummeling them some more. Rarely has an album’s title been so apt.
5. Enabler — All Hail the Void (Southern Lord)
Has evil ever been this tasty? All Hail the Void has a seemingly greedy amount of killer riffs that are as horrifying as they are catchy; it’s like a great-horrible battery acid trip, in which your body has induced euphoria by releasing an endless supply of serotonin, but also rendered you incurably vitriolic, incapable of leading a normal life beyond a room with padded walls. It’s thick, it’s raw, it’s groovy, it’s predatory, it’s got the best goddamn elephants marching riffs of the year. It’s like an incredibly sexy tongue bath… from Satan.
Listen: “All Hail the Void”
4. Sylosis — Monolith (Nuclear Blast)
There’s not an insubstantial number of bands flying the flag for traditionalist metal these days — but there are very few doing so without either conveying some sense of irony, or otherwise feeling both completely unoriginal and totally dated. Sylosis are definitely doing it right. There’s nothing overtly trendy about them — they seem to have come from an alternate universe in which metal went straight from Metallica to Pantera to them, without ever taking a detour at nu-metal, metalcore, or deathcore — but they’re distinctly modern. And they write GREAT fucking riffs and GREAT fucking songs. It’s as though they have their finger on metal’s pulse and metal’s g spot.
Listen: “What Dwells Within”
3. The Devin Townsend Project — Epicloud (InsideOut)
The mainstream media should be falling all over themselves to praise this album with as much fervor as the metal community. In the days of The Beatles and Queen, albums with this kind of scope — this wide an array of influences being seamlessly blended together in one supremely-well-written song — were not uncommon, but these days, when American Idiot and The Black Parade are praised as though they were the pinnacles of epic pop rock, Epicloud seems like it was stolen from the gods and handed down to the people by our own personal bald-headed, goofy-grinned, Canadian dork of a Prometheus. And the best part is, even if my description made the whole affair sound self-important, it’s actually about as self-unimportant as can be; the album is, as stated, about forgetting all the bullshit and just rocking. It is, above all else, FUN. To listen without a smile on one’s face is betraying a lack of a soul.
2. Gojira — L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
Here’s Joe Duplantier describing L’Enfant Sauvage to me while still recording it:
“Personally, I had a vision of this album, with what I would like to see happening. I was imagining something very organic and very deep, with more natural sounds. Music-wise, it’s something like a dream and a storm… it’s magical. I had this vision with colors, sounds and shapes in my mind. I almost dreamed about it.”
That would probably sound crazy pretentious in most instances, but if you’ve heard the finished product that is L’Enfant Sauvage, you know that it actually makes perfect sense. Gojira may be metal’s greatest shamans since Tool; like that band, the goal of their music seems to be nothing short of lulling you into a profoundly spiritual trance state just this side of nirvana, where everything suddenly somehow makes sense. Unlike so many other bands of Gojira’s generation, they do not call attention to the fact that their music is both brutal and beautiful; in fact, it kind of goes out of its way to lessen the gap between those two concepts. That would be an ambitious and admirable goal even if the band hadn’t pulled it off. But they did pull it off — they knocked it out of the park, in fact — again. Gojira continue to march triumphantly along their path to being one of the most important bands of their era. Hallelujah.
Listen: “Planned Obsolescence”
1. Pig Destroyer — Book Burner (Relapse)
Some days, the sun offers neither light nor warmth, colors are drab, water tastes dry and food flavorless, love is an alien concept, sex is boring, drugs and alcohol offer no relief, tobacco no stimulation, money no joy, crime no thrill.
On those days, Book Burner still feels as vivid and vibrant as an exposed nerve.