This week we are going to take a look at all of our reviewers Top 10 album picks of the year. Please pipe up down in the comments with any that we may have missed or if you don’t agree with any of our picks. This one comes to us from our own metal head Kevin.
It’s been another year of music both heavy and heartfelt, aggressive and atmospheric, pummeling and peaceful here at MusicEmissions (which, if I had my way, would be subtitled “MetalEmissions”, ha). I cannot say this year has been better than any other, and maybe that’s because of some extended absences by yours truly. This year has been a hectic one for me, with a couple of big moves and assorted other trials and tribulations. Thankfully, when time and mood permitted, I could find a refuge in some undeniably outstanding new music.
The overall genre of metal has, for quite some time now, been in the midst of a major resurgence. From my limited perspective, 2012 showed some signs of this slowing down just slightly. The overall quality of the metal that has past my desk has been solid, but very few records jumped out at me as truly memorable or progressing the genre forward. Of course, the few exceptions were far more memorable for it. This reflects in the majority of these lists, as established acts such as Meshuggah, Anaal Nathrakh and Cattle Decapitation impressed me heavily with their constantly evolving and improving blends of extreme metal.
A handful of far less extreme, but no less impressive, records break into my top 10 list this year. Among them, an historically significant album for long-running rockers Deftones, a memorable effort from one of my favorite bands of any genre, Fair To Midland, and a relative up-and-coming act who have made an immediate and lasting impact, The Oxford Coma. This has been a very solid year for metal of all varieties.
So, without further fanfare, I give you my 2012 Albums Of The Year list. It’s listacular!
Top 10 Albums of 2012
Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas
This list wasn’t difficult to compile; each of the 10 albums jumped out at me immediately in the early stages of contemplating it. However, finding out that stood above the other 9 was another story. In the end, after listening to them all extensively in succession, Vanitas found itself winning the top spot. No other album offered me as much carnal, savage pleasure as this collection of soundtracks to an easily envisioned apocalypse. Having always been a borderline fan in the past, these guys caught me totally off my guard with Vanitas, and deserve this spot for the extremely catchy and unnervingly brutal masterpiece of a record.
Rush – Clockwork Angels
As anyone who knows me will tell you, Rush are by and large by absolute favorite group of musicians. They have been for quite some time and, luckily, I have been able to enjoy the anticipation and eventual fruits of their new material, just like those before me were able to do in the 70’s and 80’s. It amazes me that a band could even last so long, let alone continue to produce new (and impressive) music after so many years together. But, Rush continue this trend into 2012 with Clockwork Angels, an album with a loose theme and even more loose, unrestrained and inspirational songs. This is Rush at their most creative and most imaginative, a sound that combines the youthful energy of the 70’s, the tricks learned in the 80’s and the modern aspects they’ve taken on over the past 20 years. If we never see another Rush album, I feel confident that this one will stand as a perfect summing up of their illustrious career.
Oleg Prodeus – The 13
No doubt the biggest surprise of 2012 for yours truly, European artist extraordinaire Oleg Prodeus, a man of many talents, happened across my desk with his aptly titled collection of 13 superbly written pop-centric tracks, The 13. To be sure, pop in general is not my cup of tea, but I am the utmost supporter of the flavor when it’s done right. And, let me tell you, Oleg does it absolutely right. His voice is a multi-layered silk that wraps each movement in a unique cover. More than anything, his ability to write a song from the ground up is without peer. This record deserves about 1,000,000 times more acclaim than it’s received so far.
Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity
Prior to this record, I had yet to hear Cattle Decapitation hit their pinnacle. I knew this, as each successive album offered just a bit more than the last, teasing me towards an ultimate climax. Whether or not Monolith of Inhumanity is that crescendo is not important; what is is that it is the band at their absolute best to date. A clever mix of overbearing grind and melodic interludes, injections and interruptions, the band’s core sound has evolved in such a way to require the usage of the overused term “epic”. The combination of extremely heavy and extremely catchy is no doubt the ultimate musical pleasure for me, and Cattle Decapitation hit that sweet spot more than enough on this one.
Deftones – Koi No Yokan
There was a time when I counted Deftones amongst my favorite bands. No doubt, each album has offered me something to get into, even though I haven’t been fully satisfied with an entire disc since White Pony. Well, to my great surprise, Koi No Yokan did what only White Pony before it could and captivated me from front to back. Not a dud to be found on this one, folks. Whatever it is that revived the utmost quality songwriting in the band is not for me to say, but I find it safe to say that Koi No Yokan is as good as anything that’s come before it.
Alcest – Les Voyages De L’âme
On the advice of several of our staff, I took a chance on a project whose hype I was afraid would outshine the results. Suffice to say, in a rare moment of meeting (and exceeding) expectations, French musician Neige and his Alcest project transported me to a whole other realm of my favorite genre of music on Les Voyages De L’âme. Subtly fusing droning black metal with a quiet, contemplative atmosphere, rich folk textures and a unique perspective, offers the listener a truly intriguing musical experience. I was not surprised to find this record topping fellow staffmember CharlesMartel’s list this year, and no doubt it resides on many others across the internet and beyond.
The Oxford Coma – Adonis
After whetting my appetite late last year with a 3-track teaser (which both made my 2011 year-end list and is phased into this record as well), frontman Billy Tegethoff kept me appraised of the progress his band The Oxford Coma were making on their debut LP Adonis, which fueled my anticipation until just recently. Then it went ahead and exceeded those feelings anyway. A trio of unparalleled skill in crafting a heady brew of alternative hard rock, The Oxford Coma are very much at the forefront (in my mind, anyway) of up-and-coming musicians, a band on a quick path towards whatever goals they lay out for themselves. This record will leave a mark, believe me.
Meshuggah – Koloss
Long having been one of my go-to groups for extremely brutal and extremely satisfying metal, the juggernaut known as Meshuggah blessed and blasted my ears with another carefully concocted dose of violent bliss with Koloss earlier this year. It pains me to hear so many simply cast off the band as not being able to deviate from their well-known “djent” sound picture; there’s no need to. Within each successive record is a host of subtle variations and shifts in tempo, tonality and temperament that make each disc stand out all on it’s own. And Koloss is no different, offering more within it’s 10 crushing tracks than many acts can conjure up over an entire career.
WinterFylleth – The Threnody Of Triumph
Much like Alcest did, England’s Winterfylleth offered me a picture-perfect blend of atmosphere and aggression with their sublime The Threnody of Triumph, one of the best black metal albums I’ve come across in a long while. With a droning style that resembles my favorite black metal act Wolves In The Throne Room coupled with a sound ear for layers of atmosphere, the occasional dose of folk and acoustic harmony, this record offers a veritable musical journey within it’s hour-plus length.
Marilyn Manson – Born Villain
While there has been a large number of albums that could easily round out my list this year, Born Villain gets my final vote more on the nostalgic power Marilyn Manson wields than anything truly groundbreaking musically. It was refreshing to hear him refreshed, with Twiggy Ramirez taking a stronger hold on the music’s direction and incorporating different stylistic and atmospheric traits from past MM albums. A nice trip down memory lane, that generated some new favorites in the process.
It’s been an outstanding year for music once again, and here’s hoping that 2013 offers many more audible pleasures, both anticipated and surprising. From SolitaryMan and on behalf of all my peers here at Music Emissions, we wish you a happy new year and a rocking 2013!