Grim Kim’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012
I wanted to put that new Anal Blasphemy record on here merely for trolling purposes (though Perversions of Satan is actually rather good) but decided to be a grownup and stick to the albums that I genuinely loved. As usual, Nuclear War Now! and Profound Lore had a killer year, but plenty of other labels stepped up to the plate as well and released some genuinely fantastic music. Hopefully, you’ll find a few new favorites to support below.
It was really difficult to let myself submit this without including Ash Borer, Bestial Holocaust, Wrathprayer, or Bell Witch, but Axl and Vince are (benevolent) tyrants when it comes to these things, and fifteen’s the magic number after all.
Have at it.
This shadowy trio’s debut is an unnerving cluster of warped black, death, doom, psychotic wails, dead choirs, creepy samples, and generally fucked-up sounds that is genuinely frightening at times. It’s difficult to make black/death metal sound “scary” anymore, now that everyone and their Great Aunt Susan’s got a Demoncy tribute band and three demos out, but these Portland-based weirdos pull it off.
Listen: “Death Illumination”
These Swiss witches won my heart at Roadburn in 2010, and have finally released a new LP’s worth of witchy, death-obsessed doom. ‘Rituals’ is a thunderous collection of pounding drums, sluggish riffs, crushing bass, and unsettling, half whispered, half roared vocals that give way to clean, throaty singing when the mood strikes. Too good.
Listen: “Je Suis Nee”
This young quartet Sri Lankan mix chaos and refinement on their first release, tempering blasts of nasty black/death with ambient intros a la Necros Christos (and, to add to the exotic feel, what sounds like a Bollywood film clip slipped in between two filthy, bestial compositions). Seriously savage stuff; I can’t wait to hear their full-length!
Gorgeous, melodic, atmospheric French black metal created for the express purpose of worshipping Lovecraft and all his damned beasties? Imagine Alcest with some grit and you’ve got the idea. I’ve got a wicked soft spot for soft, pretty, shiny tunes like this, and TGOO do it so very, very well.
There was no way that this release wasn’t going to be good, but no one quite realized just how goddamn great it would turn out to be. It’s hard to fuck up atmospheric death/doom you’re your last band was called Disembowelment, after all. Finely aged death/doom is the order of the day, augmented by the eerie, menacing atmosphere that Inverloch’s predecessor used to such wicked effect. More, please.
Listen: “The Menin Road”
After seeing these beasts menace Berlin earlier this month, I was even more certain that their recently-released ‘Trespass’ deserved a slot in my favorite records of the year. Knelt Rote started life as a power electronics band, and their glitch roots peek through a bit in their current sound: harrowing, noisy, violent as fuck black metal fused with grindcore.
You’d think that a double album’s worth of baroque, depressive black/doom metal sounds like a hard pill to swallow (and a self-indulgent exercise in pretension on top of it), but then you listen to Elysian Blaze’s latest, and suddenly, it makes so much sense…
Seattle’s Anhedonist present top-tier death/doom that, to quote myself, “alternates hammerblows of sepulchral, endlessly satisfying old-school death metal riffs with shades of mournful grace, like the clean, plaintive chords that open the aching “Estrangement”…Netherwards will draw you in entirely, drag you down into the yawning abyss, and make you wonder why anyone would ever want to listen to anything else.”
This Polish outfit’s second LP is nothing short of stunning; a study in melody, intensity, and at its heart, orthodoxy. Droning, hypnotic, but utterly captivating, and totally relentless. This is black metal done right, ladies and gents.
Listen: “With Hearts Toward None I”
Pittsburgh’s largely unsung goddesses of death returned after a long hiatus to release their first proper full-length – a full 24 years after their inception – and luckily for us, it’s fucking MASSIVE. This is raw, primitive with a bit of polish, and above all, ungodly heavy death/doom from a cadre of ladies who were cracking skulls and tuning low while most of us were still in diapers.
Listen: “Goddess of Death”
This one snuck up on me. Hell has long captivated with their atmospheric, droning black/doom passages, but they’ve totally outdone themselves here. ‘III’ is as unpredictable and absorbing as the cold, lonesome Northwestern woods they call home. I can’t wait to get my hands on the vinyl version, which will come beautifully packaged by the ever-vigilant Pesanta Urfolk.
To quote myself, “Scum.Collapse.Eradication builds upon the band’s formula, maintaining the animalistic ferocity and hellacious black/death assault while utilizing a more open production than in the past… As always, Revenge settle for nothing less than victory, intolerance, and mastery of their craft. This album is a challenge, and a triumph.”
Listen: “Retaliation (Fallout Prayer)”
We all sort of knew that this would be one of 2012’s best records, right? This is one instance wherein the hype is truly deserved, and wholly earned. Pallbearer play doom as it should be – slowly, stately, sorrowfully – and ‘Sorrow and Extinction’ is a heartbreaking work of almost staggering genius.
Strange, dissonant, haunting black metal from Iceland that, through blazing tempos, creative (!) songwriting, and painful howls, pays demonic tribute to the Black Death. This is only Svartidauði’s first full-length, and you can already tell that they’re on to something great. You really need to listen for yourself.
Listen: “Sterile Seeds”
1. Faustcoven – Hellfire and Funeral Bells (Nuclear War Now!)
It’s been impossible for me to go more than a couple days without listening to this record, which makes a strong argument for its inclusion as my favorite record of the year. Faustcoven vomit forth eerie, doomy black/death from Norway; it’s bizarrely catchy in a Satanic rock’n’roll sort of way, and wholly deserving of your attention. Trust me on this one.
Listen: “Hellfire & Funeral Bells”