Frank Discusses 20 Releases of 2012
If you read my intro to last year's list, you already know how strongly I feel about music, an expressive art form, being forced into a competitive sport-like structure. I do however, love to share my passion of metal with the world every day, and as some of you know, spend more time seeking out and working with bands than almost anyone else in this business. So why not use this opportunity to spread some metal love?
After listening to well over 500 releases and attending more than 200 shows this year, narrowing down a list was by no means an easy task for me. It is however because of these figures I put so much thought into what I'd like to share with you guys today. Keep that in mind when you wonder why your favorite band isn't on here, because chances are I love that record too.
Without further ado, I couldn't be happier to present several releases I'd like to honor in no particular order. Because I truly believe they are worthy of much more than just my words, they're worthy of your undivided attention.
Beyond Terror Beyond Grace – Nadir
Although I made it clear I'm not a fan of listing bands in any sort of order, I feel it's worth mentioning I've listened to this one record more than any other through the entire year. In fact, I've listened to it every single day since it came out! I'm truly blown away by how fierce and cold this record is, but also completely organic with no use of triggers and crazy re-sampling you hear from every other band in this genre. It's balls out Blackend Death Metal from Australia, how can you go wrong?
Highlight Track: Requiem For The Gray
Cloudkicker – Fade
Cloudkicker sole member Ben Sharp is one of my favorite song writers of the last few years. Despite an ever changing genre and mood within his style of writing, I really can't help but find a way to lock into what he is doing with complete ease. Ben and I briefly spoke this year about following up his first and only video appearance, but our busy schedules just didn't seem to align. Perhaps it's something to look forward to in 2013, when there will undoubtedly be another stellar release from this jack of all trades.
Highlight Track: Seattle
Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity
Cattle Decapitation has always been a band after my own heart, being a fellow passionate lifer to both metal and our vegetarian lifestyle. So while I'm always looking forward to their next release, nothing could have prepared me for what would be the best release I've ever heard from a band I already loved.
Highlight Track: Lifestalker
Sophicide – Perdition of The Sublime
Leave it to a young German lad barely old enough to sip a beer to create one of the most impressive Tech Death records I've ever heard. Sophicide's sole member (the next Necrophagist?) Adam Laszlo showcases an exceptional display of shred on this debut record. He's definitely a name you'll want to remember and keep an eye out for in the future.
Highlight Track: Perdition Of The Sublime
Enabler – All Hail The Void
I've expressed how much I love this band earlier in the year, and I've only grown fonder with time. They're creative, catchy, and have a knack for embellishing hard core grooves with metal riffs in a way that'll keep this record on repeat. I've used this record so many times this year to simply get my day going to kick some ass, I suppose I should thank them for that!
Highlight Track: Speechless
De Lirium's Order – Veniversum
This Finnish Tech-Death group has been on my radar for quite a while now, but since releasing Veniversum in March they have not only become ones of my favorites this year, but quite possibly of the genre itself. While modern technical death bands are only growing in numbers, I find that most of them, even the more popular ones, lack the finesse you'll find in this band. These guys should really team up with Gorod for a world tour and put the bands twice their size to shame.
Highlight Track: Schizophrenic
Gorod – A Perfect Absolution
It's no secret Gorod has been one of my favorite bands for many years, and like a fine wine these guys only seem to get better with time. This of course in part may have something to do with the ever changing line-up, but they are on fire these days. I can't stress enough this band deserves hell of a lot more attention than they receive here in the states.
Highlight Track: Elements and Spirit
Exotic Animal Petting Zoo – Tree of Tongues
Being familiar with EAPZ's earlier work this LP turned out to be the biggest surprise of the year for me. Their blend of erratic, melodic, and completely organic song writing is some of the freshest stuff you'll hear this year. They also have one of the most creative music videos of the year which had certainly grabbed my attention.
Highlight Track: Thorough. Modern
Trioscapes – Separate Realities
It took approximately 40 mins and 34 seconds to decide this was going to be one of my favorites of the year. In case you haven't figured it out, that's the running time of Separate Realities. Even with only a limited supply of members, this Sax,Drum, & Bass instrumental power trio produced more quality sound than half the metal releases I've heard this year. With BTBAM's Dan Briggs on Bass, Walter Fancourt on Sax, and one of my new favorite drummers, Matt Lynch, I plan to keep an eye on this group till they call it quits.
Highlight Track: Blast Off
Bosse De Nage – III
I really love this new Bay Area non-Thrash scene going on the last couple years. Some are calling it Atmospheric-Black Metal, Post-Black Metal, or even Hipster-Black Metal, but I can really care less what you call it as long as they keep getting better at it! I personally think this record is much more than just black metal, especially with all the hints of Mathcore, punk, and even indie rock thrown in. If you're into something new, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out, they beat out a crap load of other bands for a spot on my list after all.
Highlight Track: The Aborist
Wintersun – Time I
I'll admit when I first heard Wintersun's new record, I wasn't really sure what to make of it. I waited 8 years for a follow up to one of the greatest folk metal debuts ever recorded, and all I got was a 5 song LP where only 3 of the tracks were actual songs? I of course changed my mind after playing the shit out of those 3 tracks, and more importantly giving it my undivided attention while sitting in the dark trying to pick apart all the little nuances of 200 recorded tracks one can't pick up from a simple listen. This masterpiece is not only completely beautiful, but far more dense than any music I've heard in years.
Highlight Track: Sons of Winter and Stars
Barren Earth – The Devil's Resolve
While I tend to think "Supergroups" aren't all that super at all, Barren Earth in my opinion is one of the only of these groups worth talking about. Including members of Swallow The Sun, Moonsorrow, Amorphis and Kreator, this Finnish Folk Melo-Death band writes some of the catchiest solid European metal tunes out there, proving they are much more than just a sum of their parts.
Highlight Track: Vintage Warlords
Bastard Sapling – Dragged From Our Restless Trance
It's hard to believe this flawless debut of grimtastic Black Metal hails from the cheerful town of Richmond, VA. Even though my friends often joke about me only liking demos and first releases, this remains to be one of only 3 debuts on this list. The reason is pretty simple, perfection on a first try.
Highlight Track: The Apex Of Suffering
Gojira – L'Enfant Sauvage
It's extremely rare I find a popular band that gets better with age, but Gojira really seems to have a knack for finding the things they do best and exploring them thoroughly without making the unfortunate common mistake of writing for an audience. L'Enfant Sauvage is moodier than previous efforts but somehow more aggressive at the same time, leaving me to believe we have plenty more to see from these ambassadors of French metal.
Highlight Track: L'Enfant Sauvage
Incoming Cerebral Overdrive – Le Stelle – A Voyage Adrift
Hailing from Italy, this "progressive sludge post hardcore" band does a fantastic job at keeping you guessing where they're going with the next verse. If you're into the groovier side of progressive metal like East of The Wall, Mastodon, and Intronaut, with a pinch of Mr. Bungle, then you really owe it to yourself to listen to this record through.
Highlight Track: Betelgeuse
NonExist – From My Cold Dead Hands
After laying dormant for 10 years we had the privilege to premiere a new track from this Swedish Death/Thrash band featuring Johan Liiva (Ex-Arch Enemy). With the intensity of Napalm Death and the precision of a Swedish Megadeth, Nonexist concocts something strange and new with their anticipated come back. Definitely worth a listen.
Highlight Track: Fire At Will
Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
Spending the first half of the year working on Louder Education with lead guitarist Alex Skolnick, I was honored to hear this record in its mixing stages, but even then I knew it was on its way to becoming another tremendous record from one of my favorite Thrash bands of all time. Dark Roots Of Earth is a perfect blend of both the old school and new school Testament characteristics we've come to love, what better combination can you ask for?
Highlight Track: Native Blood
Enslaved – RIITIIR
Enslaved have always been a band who embrace changes through the years, and RIITIIR is a prime example of that. Starting out as a pure Norwegian Black Metal act who never uttered a word of English they have since transformed into a primarily English speaking band with out boundaries or an easy sub-genre to really pin them down. The release is so majestic I often compare it to a metal version of Pink Floyd.
Highlight Track: Roots Of The Mountain
Aborted – Global Flatline
If relentless beatings is your kind of thing, look no further than the latest Aborted record. It's a chock full of hate and vile that keeps you coming back for more. Now equipped with some former Abigail Williams members and a plethora of guest appearances including members of The Black Dahlia Murder, Rotten Sound, and Misery Index, Global Flatline is easily my favorite Aborted record to date.
Highlight Track: Fecal Forgery
Ghostlimb – Confluence
Clocking in at just 23 mins, Ghostlimb manages to pack a party into each one of their 12 tracks you'll find on Confluence. Lead by Graf Orlack Vocalist/Guitarist Jason Schmidt (aka Justin Smith when playing with Ghostlimb), you know you're getting quality hardcore punch without the filler. Don't let the association fool you though, this is a serious record, with crafty musicians at their best.
Highlight Track: Sunlight
More Great Records You Should Listen To
Periphery – Periphery II
The Secret – Agnus Dei
Rumpelstiltskin Grinder – Ghostmaker
A Life Once Lost – Ecstatic Trance
The Chariot – One Wing
Hivesmasher – Gutter Choir
Vilipend – Namorata
Birds in Row – You, Me & the Violence
Code Orange Kids – Love is Love // Return to Dust
Revocation – Teratogenesis
Everytime I Die – Ex Lives
Avatar – Black Waltz
Sylosis – Monolith
Job For A Cowboy – Demonocracy
Municipal Waste – The Fatal Feast
Dysrhythmia – Test of Submission
Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud
Overkill – The Electric Age
D.I.S. – Becoming Wrath
MGLA – With Hearts Toward None
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Naglfar – Teras
Pro-Pain – Straight To The Dome
Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
Jeff Loomis – Plains Of Oblivion
Wolfbrigrade – Damned
Black Messiah – The Final Journey
Meshuggah – Koloss