WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2013 – Few years in recent memory have produced as much quality heavy metal as 2012. The last 12 months hit that rare equilibrium between powerful debuts, glorious comebacks and brilliant work by elite bands. As such, more than ten albums could populate this list and it’d still lack a bad one in the bunch.
Even among champions, however, some are kings. With this in mind, here are the ten records I can confidently crown as the year’s best.
1.) Pig Destroyer’s “Book Burner” – “Book Burner” is a work that gestated for five years and it shows. It’s the extreme music equivalent of Michael Jordan playing basketball or Michelangelo painting chapels. For those into music that’s brutal but catchy, spastic yet satisfying and always deranged, this is must-own. From start to finish, every moment is what grind metal sounds like at its best.
2.) Nachtmystium’s “Silencing Machine” – “Silencing Machine” sees Nachtmystium take their hallucinogenic extremity toward new heights. Chilling and psychedelic, it’s a bad acid trip delivered with black metal’s primitive fury. Part Darkthrone, Part Pink Floyd, the end result is a wicked album that never leaves “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
3.) Ihsahn’s “Eremita” – “Eremita” may rank among heavy metal’s best solo efforts. With the grace of a master conductor, Ihsahn has crafted a challenging journey through sweeping moods and epic themes. Though it’s complex, it never loses sight of Ihsahn’s genuine emotions, and therein is its brilliance.
4.) Converge’s “All We Love We Leave Behind” – Converge cornered the market on blood, sweet and tears ages ago and “All We Love We Leave Behind” is no exception. Despite this, the Massachusetts quartet has rarely displayed as much emotional rawness as they do here. Vulnerable yet vicious, it’s a record that lays it all on the line for listeners with its intensity.
5.) Woods of Ypres’ “Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light” – “Woods 5” cements Woods of Ypres’ legacy as one of heavy metal’s most poignant bands. Released a year after the death of frontman David Gold, it’s a fitting swan-song to a remarkable career. Combining bleak world-weariness with a hint of hope, it’s a triumph that redeems one of music’s freshest tragedies.
6.) Lamb of God’s “Resolution” – Lamb of God fans know they’re getting an aural beatdown every time Richmond’s finest drop a new album on them. It’s a testament to the band’s talent, then, that “Resolution” rips with all the energy of their earlier fare. Big and bad, it doesn’t leave room for subtlety. It’s a record that wants heads banging and bones rattling – hard.
7.) Gojira’s “L’Enfant Sauvage” – Few bands hit the head and the heart as powerfully as Gojira. “L’Enfant Sauvage” toes that line between visceral and cerebral, satisfying punch-drunk moshers and philosophy professors alike. At day’s end, it’s a record that’s as crushing for the former as it is clever for the latter.
8.) Neurosis’ “Honor Found in Decay” – “Honor Found in Decay” finds Neurosis exploring the tension between serenity and discord that’s always defined their best work. This time, however, they’ve turned their music into one spectacular spirit journey. Along the way, listeners find brief transcendence, only to come crashing back down into stark reality. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition, and one that makes “Honor Found in Decay” one of 2012’s most thunderous compositions.
9.) Cattle Decapitation’s “Monolith of Inhumanity” – Much like a fine wine, Cattle Decapitation gets better with age. Their latest finds the San Diego metal squad crusading for environmental justice at new altitudes. Unlike earlier assaults, however, “Monolith of Inhumanity” makes the most of the band’s unhinged style. It’s thus Cattle Decapitation’s crowning achievement so far.
10.) Hooded Menace’s “Effigies of Evil” – Hooded Menace have outdone themselves with “Effigies of Evil.” Taking their doom and gloom plod, they’ve reanimated it with fiendishly catchy melodies. The resulting Frankenstein makes for a monster album, and the band’s style has never sounded more alive.
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