How does one attempt to define a year that has experienced a continually expanding range of sensations through the means of musical endeavors? Is it even possible to describe the feelings that 2012 has displayed, whether they be sadness, contentment, pain, or exuberance? The answer is no. It is practically impossible to express the emotions that one has been subjected to because no one but one’s ownself can truly know what it felt like when one soared to new heights and reached the crescendo of a particular song, or traveled through the murky depths of a record to reach the climax and leave utterly exhausted yet entirely fulfilled. However, with all that said, it is still a worthy undertaking to recommend, and by doing so acclaim, works of art that have been known to emit a certain uniqueness about themselves, and will relinquish the audience with a sense of admiration. The following 25 albums are, in this humble writer’s opinion, some of the greatest artworks in the musical scene that our generation has been lucky enough to witness and experience first hand.
Dethklok has always been about satirizing the metal genre, and while Dethalbum III still accomplishes the feat, it’s also a great example of the kind of talent Brendon Small possesses. From the song writing to the instrumentation, Dethalbum III shows just why Dethklok is the most brutal force in the universe.
#24: Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme
While more post-rock/shoegazey than black metal, Les Voyages De L’Âme is nonetheless a powerful album, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights that made Écailles De Lune a force to be reckoned with, it is still a great example of frontman Neige’s sheer talent and the near endless possibilities when combining two seemingly different genres into one massive soundscape.
#23: Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
If you come into The Parallax II: Future Sequence knowing what to expect, you will leave sorely confused and perhaps a bit bewildered. Don’t overhype the album (like one Loud Rock Director might have done), and instead let the music naturally flow into you. You’ll enjoy the record much more that way.
#22: Daylight Dies – A Frail Becoming
Sometimes it takes a band longer than others to fully mature and ripen into a full fledged dynamic force of nature, but in Daylight Dies’ case, it is well worth the wait. A Frail Becoming is Daylight Dies best record yet, and showcases their confident but not overly eager sound and style.
#21: Monuments – Gnosis
Gnosis isn’t the most well put together album, nor is it the most heartfelt, but what it lacks in emotion it more than makes up for in sheer technicality and entertainment. It’s not something you listen to when you want to go on an aural escapade through your mind, but rather a guilty pleasure that’s easy to get into but complex enough to keep you coming back for more.
Best Loud Rock EPs
#5: Circle of Contempt – Entwine the Threads
#4: Agalloch – Faustian Echoes
#3: Revocation – Teratogenesis
#2: Apostate – Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø (Against All Odds)
#1: Chimp Spanner – All Roads Lead Here
#20: Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise: Illusion and Chaos
After leaving Tesseract, Daniel Tompkins has been creating his own musical path, with experiments such as In Colour and Absent Hearts, but by far his most successful work has been in Skyharbor and their debut Blinding White Noise: Illusion and Chaos. However, while Dan’s vocals are some of the best in the genre, it’s Keshav Dhar’s songwriting, and the awesome guest appearances, that truly make this album a must listen.
Arguably the most progressive record to come out of The Sword, Apocryphon sees the Hard Rock outfit stay true to their unique brand and style, yet move in the logical next step after the sci-fi goodness that was their 2010 release, Warp Riders.
#18: Sylosis – Monolith
Thrash has had some trouble staying relevant in the metal realm in recent years, but Sylosis has made their contribution and imprint on the genre with Monolith, a “monolithic” record that should have no trouble reaching out to fans who have already left the genre.
#17: Wintersun – Time I
When a musician takes 8 years to forge a highly anticipated album, it will almost always disappoint fans, no matter the quality of the record, and Time I is no exception. However, don’t allow the voracious and unappeasable fans scare you away from the record. Though not quite on par with Wintersun’s debut, it is still just as epic and grandiose.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of a Deftones release and to instantly think that every single record is a masterpiece. While the reality is much more dull, this record certainly is not, being full of romantic charge and fleeting commotion. Koi No Yokan is no masterpiece, but it is still an exception work of art that is just as Deftones as any of their other releases.
#15: Cloudkicker – Fade
Ben Sharp, mastermind behind Cloudkicker, is something of a Do-It-Yourself musician. All his music, free on his bandcamp, is entirely made by himself and self released. Don’t let that fool you though; Fade is one of the most moving albums on this list. It’s greatness is subtle, but once found you will be able to explore the plethora of impressive musical talent at work here.
#14: Exotic Animal Petting Zoo – Tree of Tongues
Characteristically weird and bizarre, Tree of Tongues is, in a way, akin to watching something frightening but remarkably interesting in such a way that you simply can’t look away. There’s nothing about this album that should scare you off though; it’s crazy in all the right ways, yet accessible enough to keep you coming back for seconds and thirds.
#13: Meshuggah – Koloss
With everyone trying to copy the sound that has made Meshuggah a household name, Koloss shows the little kids how it’s done. The album is Meshuggah as Meshuggah does. Heavy, distorted riffs, and insanely brutal breakdowns, there is almost nothing not to immediately love about this album.
#12: Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Without the rind mindset, Converge can be incredibly hard to incorporate into your musical tastes. Their goal is simple: pummel you into the ground until you can stand upright no more. All We Love We Leave Behind may not change your opinion on the band, but there’s a definite subtlety about it that implies something a bit more harmonious but just as destructive, a refreshing take on the trademark sound Converge has utilized throughout the years.
#11: The Contortionist – Intrinsic
Some may call it pretentious, others may call it boring, but to many more, Intrinsic is an incredibly engaging and worthwhile listen that garners praise where it received criticism. If one gives it a chance, instead of writing it off as a bombastic piece of work, it can reveal an entirely fascinating auditory experience, straight from the heart of one of the premier progressive metal acts today.
Best Non-Loud Rock Albums
#5: Trioscapes – Separate Realities
#3: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
#2: Swans – The Seer
#10: High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis
High On Fire has always been a good band, but they never dropped an album that could make them a truly great band. That is, until they released De Vermis Mysteriis. Channeling the sludginess Electric Wizard and the menace of Converge, De Vermis Mysteriis is a fantastic combination of different methods and styles while still being wholly High On Fire.
#9: Neurosis – Honor Found in Decay
An amalgamation of everything Neurosis has accomplished, Honor Found in Decay shows why Neurosis is considered one of the finest post metal acts in history. Although there are some very slight missteps present in the record, they don’t hinder in the slightest what the album represents: a celebration of all that has come to past, and a shimmer of hope for what the future holds.
#8: Hypno5e – Acid Mist Tomorrow
Progressive and completely avant-garde, Acid Mist Tomorrow makes use of numerous tricks, some old some new, to create an atmospheric yet ferocious sophomoric effort. Although there are very unnecessary moments, such as the numerous employments of voice overs, but these are overshadowed by the air of breathtaking brutality that exudes from each and every song.
#7: Diablo Swing Orchestra – Pandora’s Pinata
It’s hard to be avant-garde while still being aaccessible, even more important, coherent. Yet, Diablo Swing Orchestra somehow manage to release one of the weirdest yet most intelligible albums 2012 saw. Full of skillful violin work and operatic singing, Pandora’s Pinata is arguably the zaniest-yet-strongest progressive metal work to come out this year.
#6: Amenra – Mass V
The second most soul crushing album on this list (see: #1), Mass V isn’t just an escapade into doom gloom, it’s created for the sole purpose of crushing your spirits with any means Amenra sees fit, and don’t doubt them for a second, no matter how optimistic your outlook on life is. If you’re not at the very least melancholy after listening to the album, you need to plug your speakers in and actually listen.
#5: Soul Cycle – Soul Cycle II
It can be hard comparing an instrumental record to albums with vocals of any kind. They’re an easy way to add depth to a song. However, Soul Cycle doesn’t take the easy way out, and with Soul Cycle II, vocals would have only taken away from the excrutiatingly precise instrumentation present on the album. This is arguably the finest instrumental album since Animals as Leader’s self titled debut.
What can one say about L’Enfant Sauvage that has yet to be said? It’s not just Gojira’s finest work yet; it’s one of the single greatest albums to come out of 2012, and will most likely be considered a classic 5 years from now. When some reflect on what made 2012 the best year for metal in recent history, this is what many will point to with eager faces and banging heads.
Equal parts alluring and downright breathtaking, RIITIIR doesn’t skimp any of the radiant beauty that has made them the reigning champion of black metal for two straight releases. Also, it’s most definitely worth mentioning that this record has the most powerful ending of 2012, and it is entirely indicative of the rest of the monumental album that is RIITIIR.
#2: Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I
Seeing the crown up for grabs in the progressive metal dominion, Ne Obliviscaris didn’t waste any time in forging one of the most original and creative pieces of art of not just the year, but the entire decade. Portal of I takes the listener on a climactic journey in which one will experience some of the highest highs and lowest lows ever conceived. This isn’t just an album, it is the birth of a new band, one that is sure to release instant classics and garner unbelievable praise. Consider yourself lucky to experience a consummate band in their very beginnings.
#1: Downfall of Gaia – Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes
It’s hard to describe something that has made you feel so many emotions simultaneously without ever being overbearing. Never before has an album had this kind of affect, destroying your very inner soul during the record’s second song, but slowly building you back into something so much greater and more understanding of the world around you. It’s grotesque, beautiful, disconcerting, and exhilarating all at the same time. But, don’t let the Downfall of Gaia’s obscurity scare you from listening to this masterpiece. Let Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes’ musical content scare you away. Believe me, though, when I say this: you will, most willingly, come back for more perfect mind-bending cruelty and thoroughly enjoy every second of it.