Friday, December 14, 2012

Top Heavy Metal Albums 2012

1) Judas Priest- Screaming For Vengeance (reissue) with DVD

This top Rock/Metal release for me laid waste to everything "new" this year. It was nice to have the great sounding reissue, but the live dvd is what this is really all about. Never have I seen Priest so charged up and hungry in a live context. No contest with the other albums, THIS IS JUDAS PRIEST!

2) Accept- Stalingrad

I really liked the return of Accept on Blood of Nations, but for me that album was weighted by way too much filler. Stalingrad is a better album as a whole, good from top to bottom, and from that perspective their best since Metal Heart.

3) Testament- Dark Roots of the Earth

I wasn't wild about the first album back with Alex Skolnick, but this one completely trivializes any doubts. This isn't just a scathing Thrash album, it is a songwriting monster, their best in that aspect since Practice What You Preach. The lead guitar playing on this is the best this year for "classic" metal stars (don't get depressed boys and girls but yes, Testament qualifies as classic).

4) Nile- At the Gate of Sethu

Another killer lead guitar record, but besides that and a bunch of really ripping, oddly accessible yet technical death metal songs (in that iconic, Middle Eastern idiom), the title track breaks new ground in what seems to be the first Death Metal Operetta.

5) Candlemass- Psalms For the Dead

Last album with Doom Metal vocal legend Robert Lowe, and he and the band go out with a solid effort all the way around. A little too digitized sounding in places, but the songs and eerie atmospheres put this over the top. Haunting ghost yarns, told in Lowe's inimitable Sorceror-Storyteller way.

6) Kreator- Phantom Antichrist

Less of the ewww-y Melodic Death Metal influence, more of the ARRGH! type 'o Thrash. The melodicism that is here seems far more naturally integrated than on past albums, and there are half a dozen tracks that are a must have.

7) Desecravity- Implicit Obedience

Easily the hottest new tech death band around, edging out their peers by dint of their innate savagery. Most Tech Death can just whiz by with minimal headbanging. This will knock your teeth down your throat, and you'll be glad it did.

8) Dragonsclaw- The Prophecy

Best new classic Metal band, supersonic vocalist Giles Lavery's Steve Grimmet-esque soaring really helps propel this. Fans of the aforementioned Grimmet's Grim Reaper, 90s Riot, and Powerslave-era Maiden have reason to rejoice...finally.

9) Bevar Sea s/t

Best Doom Metal debut I've heard since Solitude Aeternus, the despicable (in the "good" way) vocals combine with the rawther nawsty guitar tone quite compellingly. Have a shower nearby whilst listening, it's hell getting it out of your hair.

10) Aborted- Global Flatline

When I first saw this as an album cover I was fondly nostalgic for Deceased. And the second track definitely enunciates the high, apocalyptic peoplefest concept. But the other songs, as old school killer death-grind musically as you can imagine, get lyrically cartoony in a worshipful, yet uniquely killer Carcass-ian monument. Do any of us who appreciate the putrefecators' disciples, or even young upstarts like Devorument really care much about originality anyhoo? 

11) Dying Fetus- Reign Supreme

I haven't heard a bad album yet from the violent death grinders, but this is probably their most engaging musically ever, and no they didn't sacrifice one ounce of the intensity. It's actually getting harder to call Dying Fetus grind anymore, there are too many accomplished parts from the individual musicians, plus real songs. Closer to old school Tampa (they always did have those shades of Obituary), while succesfully carrying over their state-of-the-art brand of siege.

12) Slash- Apocalyptic Love

Slash's solo album boasts some fine vocals by Myles Kennedy, but it's his stellar (and woodshed-benefitting) playing that's really on display. That is, a few really good songs, but the album is more like "dude, have you HEARD Slash's playing lately?".

13) Cattle Decapitation- Monolith to Inhumanity

Includes all the requisite monster blasting and ugly face making, but this band actually takes songwriting chances at several points on this album, consequently showcasing a very interesting sense of dynamics...there's actually an aim toward an expressive flavor to their sound, and it really makes the work stand out. Easily their best music, and keep in mind that I've always liked them. Even if you just buy this album for the maniacally brilliant first three songs, it's worth it trust me.

14) Atkins/May- Valley of Shadows

Really good classic Metal with a contemporary production, with one of the genre's defining founders and an excellent guitar performance courtesy of Paul May.

16) Cannibal Corpse- Torture
This band will always be irresistible to me. More gory fodder, but done with so much passion, overall probably their best since the masterpiece that was Kill. This album gives me a bit of the Punky fun thrill I had when I first heard Eaten Back to Life.

17) Albatross- The Kissing Flies This release is part of a split with a band that I wasn't too impressed with, otherwise I would have put this classic Mercyful Fate/Candlemass loving dynamo up higher. If you're into the aforementioned at all, you're probably going to like this. It helps too that these folks from India have enough imagination and ingenuity to keep "Kissing Flies" from being a tribute album, there are some great, epic Classic Metal songs on this release. Highly recommended.

18) Putrid Pile- Blood Fetish Who says only Black Metal bands can be one man? Shaun LaCanne once again proves both his allegiance to the old school of Death, while carving out a corrosive niche of his own. The highish screams bring to mind Deicide and CC, and there's even an almost Punk-ish vibe to a couple of pieces, but LaCanne also integrate sSlams, grindy blasts, and other elements to make this world his own. This is one of those albums that is just plain fun to listen to.