Leyla Ford’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2012
Does anyone else get anxiety attacks about albums that might come out after you declare your favorites to the world? What if the most amazing, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, emotion-churning masterpiece of music, the messiah of modern-day metal, if you will, comes out December thirtieth? The lists are already published. Would all these choices be deemed null and void? Would they be a lie? Would you do anything for love but you won’t do that?
Meh, it’s the messiah’s fault. Present yourself earlier, you dang fool. Here are my favorite albums (that came out in a timely manner) of 2012.
15. Neurosis — Honor Found in Decay (Neurot)
Well, that kid we posted a few days ago seemed to sum up everything I have to say about Neurosis, and eloquently so. Before you jump down my throat at how low they are on my list, I’m sure they’ll be showing up on a bunch of others’ lists, so they can deal with it — and so can you.
14. Crazy Lixx — Riot Avenue (Frontiers)
This year was absolutely terrible for sleaze. I know, I know, the jokes make themselves with that sort of statement, but let’s move on. This is probably my favorite Crazy Lixx record to date because not only do they nail that new wave of hair metal-ness, they scuff it up and show some grit. I’ve always preferred Bulletboy brawn to Poison prettiness, and it seems these Swedes are finally agreeing with me.
Listen: “Be Gone”
13. Anaal Nathrakh — Vanitas (Candlelight)
You know how some people say they like to listen to everything? Anaal Nathrakh are the band you tell them to listen to and then watch as they revise that asinine declaration. If the name doesn’t turn them off (“But…does it say anal?”), then the pure, punishing vitriol the band spews will get them to smile tightly and stop being your friend. However, every once in a while, you’ll get the occasional bystander who will stick with it and be completely bowled over by the intricacy of the melodies layered underneath the psychotic murder-death-chaos.
Listen: “Forging Towards the Sunset”
12. Stolen Babies — Naught (No Comment Records)
I once heard someone describe Stolen Babies’ lead singer, Dominique Lenore Persi, as “a female Mike Patton.” Now, I adore Mr. Patton, but, frankly, Ms. Persi leaves him in her (glittery) dust. Stolen Babies are what Tim Burton movies would sound like if they took place at a metal burlesque revue. (And if Tim Burton didn’t suck.) But dismissing them as a “Hot Topic band” is the biggest disservice you’ll do yourself this year(end). I love them. They’re beyond weird, and every song on this record is vastly different from the others, while still clearly belonging to the same maniacal circus. Plus that dopey sheep on their album cover makes me go, “Awww!”
11. Sigh — In Somniphobia (Candlelight Records)
Speaking of weirdos, my babies Sigh released an album this year, pretty much guaranteeing a spot on my list way back in March. I’d say I have a pretty wide range of taste when it comes to music. I like world music and blues. I like classical music and the occasional opera. I like some jazz. But I LOVE metal. (That should go without saying. But some people are dim). Thanks to Sigh, I can now listen to all these genres in one album! Hell — in one song, even!
Listen: “Lucid Nightmares III) L’Excommunication A Minuit”
10. Blut Aus Nord — 777 Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti)
I think this was the series I’ve looked forward to most in the last couple of years. Gorgeous and impenetrably dark, the last chapter of the 777 trilogy not only provides a more experimental approach for the not-quite black metal outfit, but it’s a haunting conclusion that brings the three albums to their meticulously crafted, dizzyingly atmospheric end.
Listen: “Epitome XIV”
9. Okkultokrati – Snakereigns (Fysisk Format)
Okkultokrati’s mix of black metal and punk make Henry Rollins putting on corpse paint seem like a brilliant idea. Two genres that have much more in common than they think come together seamlessly on this record. I pitch the next volume of Henry & Glen be entitled Henry & Fenriz 4 Ever.
Listen: “No Ouroboros”
8. Kreator — Phantom Antichrist (Nuclear Blast)
This year was a pretty good year for older metal gentlemen, but the ones I really want to commend are the fellas in Kreator. Pure. Fucking. Thrash. No bullshit. But exactly what you’d expect from one of the leaders of the genre.
Listen: “Civilization Collapse”
7. Gojira — L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
I’m not as big of a Gojira fanboy as everyone else on the planet. (I’m not a boy at all, actually.) But I did love this album. It’s a crushing wall of music that hits you over and over. Just… waves of melodic intensity. Doesn’t that sound like a terrible harlequin romance novel’s description of an orgasm? No offense, Gojira. Like I said, I don’t really think of you that way. But we’ll always have that night in Worcester, in the hottest venue on the planet, where we all just marinated in our own juices for two hours.
Listen: “Planned Obsolescence”
6. Torche — Harmonicraft (Volcom)
This is an entire album of gloriously catchy pop punk sludge. Song after song of it. Torche makes me go all glassy-eyed and goofy-grinned. They’re the closest I get to a completely relaxed, yet still bouncing high without ingesting any substances. I don’t think I’ve listened to any other album as much as I did this one this year. Seriously, they make me giddy. Pure pop anthems with a slightly dirty edge.
Listen: “Kiss Me Dudely”
5. Aura Noir — Out To Die (Indie)
The bad thing about writing up this list in one night: I am so sick of the words “black,” “thrash,” and “punk.” But as we edge, into the top five, we get two out of three. Aura Noir’s thirty minute beast is blackened thrash (bwargh) at its most blistering. It’s ugly, rough, raw, and exactly what I wanted and expected from this band.
Listen: “Fed to the Flames”
4. Burning Love — Rotten Thing To Say (Southern Lord )
There is a lot of metal bordering on punk (or actually just punk) on my list this year. Because it rules. Burning Love rules, too. I don’t really feel the need to elaborate. If you need more information, buy me a drink and we’ll discuss it further.
Listen: “Pig City II”
3. Black Breath — Sentenced to Life (Southern Lord)
Classic Swedish death metal via Seattle? What? That makes no sense. With some hardcore in there? And whiplash riffs? That sounds too good to be true. Fast, heavy, brutal, stop. You’re just saying buzz words now. And it’s actually good? No, no. Impossible. Seriously, though. Why have we not written more about Black Breath this year?
Listen: “Sentenced to Life”
2. Enslaved — RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
Expectations are that if Enslaved release an album within the year, it will end up on said year’s best-of lists. With that kind of pressure, I imagine that would be easy for Enslaved to screw it all up, but here we are. No other band can get away with the sounds and melodies Enslaved creates. Each album of theirs seems to integrate new inspirations that help mold and evolve their sound, and this album is pretty much a masterpiece of proggy-black-metal-ethereal-grandeur. Let’s put it this way: no other band can make me sound as pretentious in my ravings as Enslaved. Plus, ADJECTIVES!
Listen: “Thoughts Like Hammers”
1. Royal Thunder — CVI (Relapse)
I cannot say enough good words about Royal Thunder. This glorious psychedelic occult-rock trip was by far my favorite release of the year. Bands get compared to the fathers of metal, Black Sabbath, a lot. In Royal Thunder’s case, the comparison is actually apt. Black Sabbath as sung by a soulful-but-badass nymph.
Listen: “Whispering World”