It took some doing, but I’ve finally completed the sacrifices necessary to appease the Dark Lord. With the fiery strength He gave me, I was able to narrow down a list of the many heavy metal, hardcore, thrash, death metal, black metal, sludge metal, stoner metal, progressive metal, post-hardcore, post-thrash, pre-thrash, hard rock, and medium rock records I reviewed this year to a meager-but-mighty 10.
These favorites hopefully offer a wide swath of musical options for more vigorous listening at year’s end. The point is not to echo the critical consensus (although in some cases good music just is good music) but to provide somewhat of an alternate view. Some of these selections will be obvious, while others will not. All are my favorites …
10: GOATWHORE – BLOOD FOR THE MASTER: The fifth studio album from the New Orleans-based metal outfit pays homage to classic black metal and thrash metal acts all over Blood for the Master, but they also haul ass on their own and carve out new traditions. Tracks like “Death to the Architects of Heaven” are great for holiday gatherings, while the neo-punk rock of “An End to Nothing” proves their mettle in other areas.
9: ASTRA – THE BLACK CHORD: San Diego’s Astra plays chords of all kinds on this wonderful recording. Along with the usual guitar apparatus, there are mellotrons, Minimoogs, grand pianos, flutes, Rogue Moogs, and other goodies fleshing out the proggy attack. With a title track that stretches out over 15 minutes and other tracks playing with varying dynamics, The Black Chord is not to be missed.
8: WEST OF HELL – SPIRAL EMPIRE: These Vancouverites provide one of the most fun records of 2012 with Spiral Empire. Coated in denim vest riffing, West of Hell’s homage to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest pours like cheap beer all over this album. With a frontman who calls himself “The Heathen” and beautiful twin guitars, the only problem with this record is that it doesn’t seem to know when to quit. That’s a damn nice problem to have.
7: SATAN’S WRATH – GALLOPING BLASPHEMY: “The only band in the world in communication with thy master through ceremonial black magic and necromantic rituals,” Greece’s Satan’s Wrath digs in for demonic deliciousness on Galloping Blasphemy. The album is more than vintage riffing and Slayer homages; it solidifies these devil dogs as a fun and dark act for those looking for a little sacrificial music when they put the knife to the bird.
6: SYLENCER – A LETHAL DOSE OF TRUTH: A mammoth album with guest spots from the likes of Metal Mike Chlasciak and Steve DiGiorgio, Sylencer may wind up being thrash royalty someday. A Lethal Dose of Truth exemplifies Markus Johansson’s thrash vision with energy to spare, ripping through 16 tracks “like a boyish Metallica.” A gargantuan album, this paints these dudes into all the right corners.
5: UNCONSCIOUS DISTURBANCE – MIND’S CORNER: These Brazilian-based metal fiends caught my attention toward the end of 2012. The two founders met and started jamming when they were eight years old and worked into Unconscious Disturbance many years later in Brooklyn. Mind’s Corner, their first major studio release, is a sublime stew of Latin roots and heavy metal. And drummer Daniel Freiberg is bloody amazing.
4: OSI – FIRE MAKE THUNDER: Jim Matheos and Kevin Moore combine over a long distance for Fire Make Thunder, a prog record with thunderous importance. Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison fleshes out the details, completing the OSI outfit and setting off a riff-heavy journey that rewards supplementary listens with more unlocked passageways of awesomeness.
3: DEFTONES – KOI NO YOKAN: The Deftones are back to business with Koi No Yokan, their seventh full-length studio album. With Chino Moreno’s ethereal vocals and jagged, insistent guitars, this is one of their finest pieces of work. It feels like the conceptual cousin of my favorite Deftones record, White Pony, and churns through moments of beauty and grit with ease.
2: BARONNESS – YELLOW AND GREEN: Ambitious as hell, Baroness’ double-album never runs out of steam. The two discs operate in contrast, with Yellow delivering harder stuff and Green erring on the smoother side of life. The two sides even have their own theme songs, adding to the classic album feel and delivering a sprawling piece of art that continues to set the band as one of the cleverest around.
1: CONVERGE – ALL WE LOVE WE LEAVE BEHIND: In 38 minutes, Converge manages to do more than what many are unable to do in entire careers. Bowling through hardcore, punk and rock tropes while clutching to a gritty and grimy work ethic, the band’s work on All We Love We Leave Behind is incredible. The band’s refashioning of hardcore music is potent, resolute and intense.