Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012

2012 has been a whirlwind. I can't believe it's almost over. It went by faster than any year of my life, which is both impressive and scary. If shit starts going any faster I'm gonna be an ol' geezer writing a Best of 2050 list before I know it! A lot of shitty things happened this year, but fuck all that, a lot of really great things happened too. To reminisce a little, I released a new album (and an EP), made some great new friends - both on the 'net and in real life (whoa!), launched a new website that's more fitting for what I've evolved into as an artist, and together with Josh Haun and an elite force of writers and artists started the zine of the fuckin' FUTURE! Whew!

What would a good year be without a good soundtrack though? Probably not a good year at all. So enough with this intro shit, here are my favorite albums of 2012, in no particular order. Yeah, I'm not ranking them, but I AM giving special awards to each. Read 'em and weep, and feel free to question my taste in music in the comments below.

---/ 25 Favorite Albums /---
In No Particular Order

---/ Blacklodge : Machination /---
Award: Best Blackened Industrial Album

Blacklodge from France are one of the most underrated and overlooked bands in metal.  Like the mighty Thorns, I feel like they strike the perfect balance between black metal and industrial. Machination pounds like a jackhammer at times with its frequent blasts of electrified double bass. Other times it plods along like a fucking Mechwarrior. If you're a fan of metal bands that effectively blend machines into their sound but you haven't heard Blacklodge, you need to rectify this situation immediately and check out Machination.

Buy It At BandCamp


---/ Pneumatic Detach : Irreversible /---
Award: Best Drum Programming

Let's get something straight here with Pneumatic Detach: The name of the game is aggressive, heavily distorted electronic drums in unorthodox, often sporadic arrangements. If that's not your cup of tea you might as well keep on scrollin'... For those of you that are still with me, this particular blend of tea is FUCKING DELICIOUS. Imagine a more interesting and diverse Terrorfakt with an added layer of textural synths and guitars. It also helps out tremendously that this album is rather short. If it were any longer it would probably start to lose its edge and appeal. Pneumatic Detach are the kings of industrialized electronic percussion, and this album will wreak total fucking havok upon your stereo.


---/ Author & Punisher : Ursus Americanus /---
Award: Most Innovative Artist

It's not too often you hear of true innovation in music any more. Most new music is just a combination/abomination of styles that have already been established. Author & Punisher on the other hand, is in a league of its own. The brains behind the operation, Tristan Shone, not only writes and records all the music - but he makes his own fucking instruments. And we're not talking about custom guitars that just look different, we're talking about instruments and machines that are truly unique and have never been made before. The closest thing in sound and feel I can think of to compare it to is Trent Reznor's soundtrack for the first Quake. But this is still a LOT different than that. This is one of the most incredible things I've ever heard in my life.

---/ Impiety : Ravage & Conquer /---
Award: Best Torchbearer

So yeah, I'm a big fan of innovation and shit, but a lot of times all I want out of metal is straight-forward sonic destruction. There aren't too many bands playing Impiety's brand of decimating black/death/thrash any more it seems, so I'm glad that Impiety are carrying the fucking torch. And it's one big ass blackened torch of militant blasphemy and hate. If you're like me and you miss Angelcorpse more than anything in the world, give Ravage & Conquer a shot. Impiety brings the goods. Also, that cover art is sick!

Buy It At BandCamp / Stream It On Spotify


---/ Weapon : Embers & Revelations /---
Award: Most Unique Guitar Riffing And Solos For A Death Metal Album

I like death metal the most when it has a blackened edge to it. Weapon hits that sweet spot perfectly with Embers & Revelations. Not only is this album HEAVY like all death metal should be, it's also oozing with evil. What I enjoy the most about this album is the fucking stellar guitar work. Embers & Revelations is jam-packed with some of the most unique and interesting riffs and guitar playing I heard all year. On top of that, it has excellent solos that pierce through the heft like hot, finely sharpened blades through the flesh of a virgin. That bitch doesn't stand a chance. WEAPON is here to spread the gospel of Satan through the power of true metal. Bow down.


---/ Dark Frequencer : Astral Communication /---
Awards: Most Insanely Prolific Artist, Best Dark Ambient Album

Get this: Poland's Dark Frequencer released not one, not two, not three, but four albums in 2012 - on four different labels. How absolutely insane is that? It would be easily comprehendible if they were all mediocre... But they're all really good, and each one has its own unique vibe and personality. Out of the four, I feel Astral Communication is the strongest. It has the creepiest vibe and most interesting variation in sounds and arrangements. All this combines to make it the most re-playable. This is dark ambient electronic music for horror movie fans. Pump this shit alone in the middle of the night with lots of bass and freak out!

And Check Out His Other Three Releases This Year HereHere, & Here


---/ Overkill : The Electric Age /---
Award: Best Thrash Band...Ever

How many of the other thrash bands that have been around for 25-30 years can you honestly say have improved with time? Slayer? Pretty much everyone on the planet, including myself, agrees their old stuff is the best. Testament? Pretty much everyone on the planet, including myself, agrees their old stuff is the best. Megadeth? Pretty much everyone on the planet, including myself, agrees their old stuff is the best. Anthrax? Pretty much everyone on the planet, including myself, agrees their old stuff is the best. Metallica? Everyone on the planet with decent taste in music, including myself, agrees their old stuff is the best....

OVERKILL??? Jesus CHRIST... Ask just about any thrash fan, especially me, and they'll tell you this band has aged like fine fucking wine. Not only are their newer albums the best shit they've ever done, but they absolutely RULE live and have more energy than all these other old codgers combined. While I view their previous release Ironbound as their "masterpiece," The Electric Age is still top-notch, white-knuckle thrash. Overkill's back, and they came to shred!!!


---/ Killer Mike : R.A.P. Music /---
Awards: Best Slam Against A Dead President, Best Rap Album

Just when I thought there wasn't any hope for hip-hop, along comes Killer Mike (and the man behind the scenes El-P) with fucking R.A.P. Music. This album is so good it's almost unbelievable. And get this: It's good from start to finish. No dumbass skits or filler that plague most rap albums here. The lyrics are engaging, aggressive and sometimes haunting. The beats are impossible not to groove to. The production is amazing. Holy fucking shit this album is fucking legit and tight as fuck.

Buy It On iTunes / Stream It On Spotify


---/ Incantation : Vanquish In Vengeance /---
Award: Most Evil Guitar Tone

Incantation has been my favorite death metal band since I first heard Diabolical Conquest in high school. This is due to the fact that they have that sinister, blackened tint that I have such a soft spot for. I hold them to a ridiculously high standard. An almost impossible standard that sometimes even they can't meet. So when I heard they were releasing their first full length in 6 years I was a bit...nervous. Well, I had nothing to worry about in the least. Vanquish In Vengeance is pure fucking evil start to finish. What really grabbed me right away is the blistering, crystal-clear yet gnarly as fuck guitar tone. No really, this guitar tone is better than sex. This is probably why I'm single... Aanywayyy, the tone itself wouldn't be worth anything if it wasn't backed by solid riffs and songwriting. Thankfully, Vanquish in Vengeance is full of monstrous riffs that run the gamut from blistering speed to world-crushing doom. Do yourself a favor and act like the crazy fucks on the album cover and try to get your hands on this shit as soon as possible.

---/ Napalm Death : Utilitarian /---
Award: Most Consistent Band (While Still Trying A Few New Things)

It's a new Napalm Death album... IT'S A NEW NAPALM DEATH ALBUM.

Buy The CDStream It On Spotify


---/ Kristoffer Nyströms Orkester : Overlook Hotel /---
Award: Creepiest Concept Album

Alright, I'm willing to bet that less than 5% of the people reading this are going to like this album. Which I gotta say kinda gets me just as excited as the album itself, hahaha. That being said, this is NOT music. This is something you put on and just absorb while you're working, or when you just want some interesting background noise, or if you are just crazy like me and want to get lost in something creepy and bizarre. It's a concept album where every track represents a different room at the infamous Overlook Hotel, and each room holds its own unique story... So if that interests you, check this shit out PRONTO.

Buy The CD / Stream It On Spotify


---/ Stagnant Waters : Stagnant Waters /---
Award: Most Schizophrenic Album

This album hit me out of nowhere. I had no knowledge of it prior to seeing Erik Thomas' review over at Teeth of the Divine. As soon as I saw in his opening paragraph that it had two members of the legendary and inspiring Dødheimsgard I practically had an aneurism as I frantically rushed to Spotify to see if it was available. I was in luck, and my ears were assaulted with a fury of blackened industrial schizo-noise the likes of which I hadn't heard since, well, Dødheimsgard. Stagnant Waters is not the kind of metal album you pump your fists in the air and headbang to. It's more of a cinematic experience, if you will. It pretty much requires you to sit down and listen to it attentively, otherwise you're just in for a serious headache. If you can take the time to listen to this properly, you will be greatly rewarded. Are you up for the challenge?

Buy The CD / Stream It On Spotify


---/ Deiphago : Satan Alpha Omega /---
Award: Most Devastating Assault On Humanity

Talk about a band waging all out fucking war on humanity, holy shit. Like Impiety, Deiphago have only one thing on their agenda, and that's to decimate and set fire to everything in their path. Listening to Satan Alpha Omega makes me fantasize about living in a Mad Max-esque post-apocalypse, hauling ass down Route 666 in an armor plated El Camino SS. Destination: WBC, Topeka, KS. Bite the curb, mother fuckers.


---/ Cattle Decapitation : Monolith of Inhumanity /---
Awards: Most Impressive Evolution Of A Band, Best Music Video

I don't understand the hatred for Cattle Decapitation. I guess it's due to the fact that they somehow got popular among the deathcore kiddos so they sort of lost their "street cred" - which I think is absolute bullshit. I've been a fan of Cattle Decapitation since their very inception, and they've surpassed my expectations with every single album. When The Harvest Floor came out I thought for certain that it was their "masterpiece" and that they'd never top it. Well holy-nasty-grindcore-shit was I ever wrong. Monolith of Inhumanity eats The Harvest Floor for breakfast. No contest, it DEVOURS it. This album is the ultimate demonstration of how a band can continuously push themselves and evolve into one of extreme metal's most elite and progressive acts.

---/ Death Grips : The Money Store /---
Award: Biggest 'WTF Is This?!? This Is Fucking Rad!' Moment

Death Grips blew up like a meth lab in 2012. Not only did they release The Money Store, but they also caused quite the ruckus when they defied their label and released No Love Deep Web early. Out of the two, I like The Money Store the best, simply because it's the crazier and less genre-specific of the two. This album is the product of pretty much every style of music ever invented thrown into a blender and set to "Liquify." Metal heads, hip hop fans, hipsters, industrial fans, noise fans, art rock fans, etc. etc. etc. all embraced Death Grips with open arms this year. That is a monumental achievement.

Buy It On Vinyl / Buy It On iTunes / Stream It On Spotify


---/ Mindless Faith : Just Defy  /---
Award: Best Pure Industrial Album

My Backlit design buddy Phil turned me on to Mindless Faith late last year with Medication for the Misinformed. That album blew me away and quickly made its way into my regular industrial listening cycle. Then along came Just Defy this year, and while at first it didn't really grab me, I eventually found myself spinning it a LOT...

In summary, the lyrics may seem a bit cliché for industrial music at first, since they deal a lot with drug use, class-warfare and oppression from the man. But let's put things in perspective: I certainly wouldn't knock a black metal band for singing about Satan. But even though Mindless Faith's overall topics may not be anything new, they write with an honest and engaging conviction that eliminates all attempts to shrug them off as trite. Take for example the opening track The Thirst, whose opening two verses are "She’s lashed to the mast / And me to the helm / I’m screaming prayers and curses / She looks underwhelmed / Her mouth is dry with thirst / She’ll drink until she bursts… with heroin ...  We used to build castles / Into the sky / Towers of beauty / With basements to hide / But now when I look into her face / I see that great city laid to waste… by heroin."

Just Defy is a bit of an acquired taste, I found, as it's less hard hitting and in your face than their previous albums. But after repeat listens I found I kept liking it more and more. And it's by far the best pure industrial album I heard all year.


---/ Wreck And Reference : Youth /---
Awards: Best Use of Electronics in Metal, Best Lyrics

My man Josh Haun turned me on to Wreck and Reference earlier this year, and boy am I glad he did. Along with Author And Punisher, Wreck And Reference are one of the most highly innovative and experimental bands going. Metal without guitars? Who woulda thunk it? This two-piece has crafted a haunting album of doom and despair, with thick distorted samples and primal, pounding drums. While Youth is deep and dense musically, its their lyrics and vocal performance that really push them into greatness. If you appreciate music as art and lyrics as poetry, Youth deserves your attention.

Buy It At BandCamp / Buy It On VinylStream It On Spotify


---/ Deathspell Omega : Drought /---
Award: Most Unique Guitar Playing For A Black Metal Band, Best Cover Art

I know this is technically an EP and not a full length album...but even when Deathspell Omega puts out something "short" it's still colossal. The first thing that grabbed me about Drought was the trippy, thought-provoking cover art. I gotta say, that's the best fucking cover art I saw all year. The music itself is a continuation of what we've heard from DsO on Paracletus and Fas.

It starts out somber with Salowe Vision, and breaks out into a hellish onslaught of avant-garde madness with Fiery Serpents. From there it keeps up the aggression with Scorpions and Drought before dipping down again into Sand. Abrasive Swirling Muck starts out as is a nervous, frantic blast of bizarre riffing and then switches to weird, spacey progressive rock that bleeds into the swirling, post-metal closer The Crackled Book of Life. I gave a track-by-track breakdown of Drought for a reason. It's a magnificent collection of songs that show how diverse Deathspell Omega has grown to be, and how effective they are at taking their listeners on a journey that feels like it took a week when it was really only a day-trip...

---/ P.H.O.B.O.S. : Atonal Hypermnesia /---
Award: Best Ambient Industrial Album

When I saw that France's P.H.O.B.O.S. was releasing a new album, I knew it was going to be a good year.  I'm a huge P.H.O.B.O.S. fan. I have a P.H.O.B.O.S. sticker on each of my guitar cases. This may sound silly but it's pretty much the highest praise I could give. If you've never had the opportunity to experience the earthquake of sound that Frédéric Sacri brings to the table in his one man operation, I'll try to explain: Imagine if Godflesh were abducted by aliens and forced to write music in the solitude of deep space. Atonal Hypermnesia is a lot more ambient than his first two releases, which gives it a much different, less harsh vibe.  But it's a vibe I find wholly engrossing, crushing and captivating.

Buy It On Vinyl


---/ Shining : Redefining Darkness /---
Award: Most Emotional Metal Album

I'm a big fan of Shining, despite how ridiculous Niklas Kvarforth's antics can be. Don't get me wrong, I find the man incredibly fascinating - but some times he's a little...much, haha. But this is metal, and if there wasn't a figure like Niklas around then shit just wouldn't be right in my eyes. Though what fascinates me more than Shining's shock value is their immense talent. Shining's music is dark and emotional - but here's the kicker: it feels honest. And there really isn't any other band that sounds like them. Niklas is one of my favorite vocalists in black metal, as he is actually identifiable. Lots of people seem upset by the amount of "clean" sections on Redefining Darkness, but I feel like they struck an appropriate balance. Redefining Darkness is basically what I feel like Opeth would have evolved into if they had decided to keep their balls.


---/ Absvrdist : Illusory /---
Award: Most Violent Album

Absvrdist released one of the hardest punches in the gut all year with Illusory. It was also a pretty ruthless sucker punch, as this album seemed to just come out of nowhere. Right from the get go, it's apparent that these guys mean serious business. This is violent, heavy, riff-centric grind that makes me want to kick my desk over and destroy everything in my apartment. I can't even begin to imagine the amount of pain they must inflict in the live setting. I know for certain that if I ever get to see these chaps, I'm going to stay as far away from the fucking mosh pit as possible. 

---/ Early Graves : Red Horse /---
Award: Best Production

God damn did Early Graves release one hell of a bombastic album with Red Horse. Despite their still recent tragedy, these persevering gents came back full force. What I love about Red Horse is that it almost sounds like it was recorded live, which helps solidify its honesty. Seriously, this is the filthiest, most raw album I heard all year, and it's absolutely beautiful.

---/ Converge : All We Love We Leave Behind /---
Award: Most Manic Songwriting And Guitar Playing

When I first hit play on All We Love We Leave Behind, I was a bit put off by the opening track Aimless Arrow. It just didn't have the manic craziness that I expect from Converge, mostly due to the "tame" vocals from Mr. Bannon. But then along came Trespasses and it fucking ignited me into thrashing uncontrollably and therefore scaring the holy fuck out of my poor cat. Thankfully, besides a couple other downer tracks, AWLWLB shreds and explodes like a fucking shrapnel grenade. I absolutely LOVE Kurt Ballou's guitar work on this album, some of the things he pulls off are just NUTS. To make things even better, my Backlit design buddy Spencer and I had the pleasure of seeing Converge live this year in support of this album, and it was hands down the best fucking show I have ever seen in my life. I can't even begin to explain or even understand what we saw and heard that night. It was unreal. All We Love We Leave Behind is a powerhouse of an album, and if you ask me it more than deserves Decibel's selection for best album of the year.


---/ Pig Destroyer : Book Burner /---
Award: Best Riffs

I'm not sure what I could say about the new Pig Destroyer that hasn't already been said. It's pretty much been unanimously agreed upon by every metal magazine and blog in the world that it's one of the best albums of the year. Many, many people have sang Book Burner's praises, and I'll gladly join in and sing along. Pig Destroyer's latest burns the world to ashes...then burns the ashes.

---/ Anaal Nathrakh : Vanitas /---
Awards: Most Terrifying Album / Best Compositions

Anaal Nathrakh are seemingly unstoppable. Their persistence and prolific output is probably the most impressive in the whole world of metal. Their last album Passion was one of my favorite albums of 2011. For them to come back around and write an even better album for 2012 is fucking mind-boggling. Vanitas sees Anaal Nathrakh focusing less on all out abrasion and more on horrifying, and - I hate this word but I can't think of any other word to use instead - "epic" compositions. Lots of bands in metal make me want to bang my head. Lots of bands obliterate me and lots of bands crush me with their heft. Anaal Nathrakh is one of the only extreme metal bands that writes music that is truly frightening.


---/...And this concludes our broadcast day.../---

If you made it through this monster, you deserve a ★ gold star ★. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I hope even more that you'll look into any of these albums that you may not have heard. And I hope eeeeven more that if you like any of these albums, that you'll buy them to support the artists. Happy Holidays everyone, cheers!

P.S. Before I sign off, there's a few additional goodies below. Peace!


---/ Other Albums I Enjoyed /---



---/ Killer Shows I Saw  /---

Decibel Tour with Behemoth & Watain
Cattle Decapitation
Danzig W/Misfits Set
CONVERGE (Best show I've ever seen!)
High on Fire


---/ Movies I Enjoyed /---


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