In our first (well, actually second) of many lists, we will focus on the greatest songs from the year 2012. I started this last year because I thought it was important to point out that just ’cause a whole record isn’t amazing doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of brilliance even on the most banal of records. This year, I’m happy to say many of the best songs are from very good records, but that’s not true across the board. Instead, I’ve compiled songs that have forced me back to them again and again, like some sort of Angry Metal Obsessive Compulsive. Over and over I have listened to these songs and I’ve narrowed it down to the 10(ish) that I think really stand out from the year 2012. I’m assuming no one will agree with me. But hey, who has the eponymous website? Yeah, that’s motherfucking right, bitches. This year, you can either watch the videos inline here; or I’ve also created a YouTube Playlist!
#(ish): Katatonia - “Leech” – I know this record wasn’t exactly the best, but I got stuck on “Leech” something fierce. Borrowing from Jan Johansson’s masterful Jazz på svenska the guys from Katatonia managed to write a song that burrowed under my skin and just stuck with me. I’ve pretty much stopped listening to this album completely, but “Leech” is among my most played tracks of the year.
#10: Vintersorg - “Ur stjärnstoft är vi komna” – Vintersorg‘s second record in as many years was definitely a great album filled with fantastic songs, but the one that stuck for me was this mighty piece of progressive writing. It really reminds me of Till fjälls in its soaring nature, but still with that modern progressive feel that Vintersorg has developed and the melodies just never let go for me. A brilliant track from a brilliant mind.
#9: Ofermod - “Calling of Setnacht: Twofold Triunity” – Black metal done right, with a touch of melody for the uninitiated, “Setnacht” is probably my favorite track from Ofermod‘s brilliant Thaumiel. It starts out simple enough, but really all 6 and a half minutes rub me the right way. They offset chunk with blast and the blast with groove, there’s a great clean part and there’s a vocal performance that speaks to the strength of sounding completely fucking ill when you’re writing your vocals (mentally ill, not physically).
#8: Alcest - “Faiseurs de mondes” – I don’t really like Alcest a lot. I tend to think their music is boring and lacking in substance. I don’t smoke pot and therefore I don’t appreciate the “zoning out” thing that they seem to induce in others. But every once in a while they piece together a song that just makes me ecstatic. “Faiseurs de mondes” is one of the best songs of the year, without a doubt. The song starts out lazily, building up an intensity that finally reaches a peak at about 4 minutes and it is just an ear orgasm from thereon out. I am blown the fuck away. Every second of this song.
#7: Borknagar - “The Beauty of Dead Cities” – When I first got a hold of Urd I was skeptical. “The Beauty of Dead Cities” was one of the songs that convinced me. The beautiful intertwining of vocals, with the brilliant drum performance from the now sadly-retired David Kincade was genius and Simen as good as he’s sounded since “Chaos Path” from La Masquerade Infernale. Borknagar is probably my comeback band of the year, to be honest, and “The Beauty of Dead Cities” is one of several songs on this album that could have made the list. Brilliance.
#6: King of Asgard - “The Nine Worlds Burn” – This may have been the biggest surprise of the year. After what I thought was a pretty banal debut, these guys really roared back with a fantastic sophomore release. What got me hooked on this record, you might ask? It was the opening track “The Nine Worlds Burn” which starts out amazing, but really grabs you by the short hairs and doesn’t let go when the female vocals come in. Groovy as fuck. Competition for Riff o’ the Year. Bra jobbat, grabbar.
#5: Anathema - “The Gathering of Clouds” – Anathema is a lovely band. They’re not super metal anymore (as all the haters reminded me when I made them Record o’ the Month) but I don’t give a fuck. They’re metal in construction if not execution and “The Gathering of Clouds” is the perfect example of a perfect build. This song is just a massive, epic build and I can’t get enough of it.
#4: [Luca Turilli's] Rhapsody [of Fire] - “Tormento e Passione” – As Mr. Alex Franquelli likes to point out, Italians have problems with English. But what they don’t have issues with? Opera. Luca Turilli teamed up his new vocalist with a female opera singer and wrote one of the most entertaining songs of the year – and frankly the only metal duet I can think of that I love. This song is epic as fuck, with amazing vocal performances and expert writing. I cannot recommend this song high enough; easily one of the highlights of my year. Love. Every. Second.
#3: The 11th Hour - “Rain on Me” – I have to say that this record got teased pretty hard for me. I actually have a copy of this song in .wav format with Ed Warby’s whisper growls on my desktop. I have loved it from the second I heard it. The main riff is amazing with Warby’s vocalists being among the best clean vocals in the history of doom metal (you fucking heard me). The production is thick, ballsy and moves every muscle in my body towards misery as it pounds through me. What tops this song off, though? It’s the 8th note chug for the last minute and 9 seconds. After all the build, this is perfect release. Hit me again, Warby! I’m coming down!
#2. Sophicide - “Freedom of Mind” – It takes a lot to outdo the visceral beauty that is The 11th Hour, but this Swedish melodeath inspired technical death track from German solo tech death project Sophicide does just that. Hitting all the right notes, with riffs that make the brain bleed (of awesome not tech) and solos that make the fingers bleed – I came back to this record over and over. This track really just nailed all the things that made this record awesome and I still am not over it. In fact, if you haven’t checked this record out, you should do it now. If this song doesn’t hook you.. well, fuck. You should get your metal creds checked out.
#1. Diablo Swing Orchestra - “Justice for Saint Mary” – In some ways this wasn’t hard and in other ways it was really hard. This track is 8 minutes and not super “metal” per se. But on the other hand, it moves this Angry Metal Guy to the Angry Metal Equivalent of Tears™. It’s got a slow build, with beautiful orchestrations and a fantastic vocal performance. And even though I’ve been informed that the industrial stuff at the end is now called “Dubstep” and that I’m supposed to hate it because Jonathan Davis likes it (a fair argument), I just can’t. I’m a sucker for the epic, the melodramatic and a minor key. “Justice for Saint Mary” has that in spades. The most brilliant song from a brilliant record and the best song I heard this year. Eat it up; because you won’t hear a song equally as good for a long time.
Riff of the year: Dim Mak - “Between Immensity and Eternity” – Seriously, the most beefy fucking riff all year was the opening one to this song that repeats from 0-25. The finger exercises that followed kept the whole track off my list, but every time that riff shows up I want to sacrifice a mentally ill inmate to Cthulhu.
Soen - “Last Light”; Arjen Lucassen - “Our Imperfect Race”; Vintersorg - “Polarnatten”; Swallow the Sun - “Hate, Lead the Way”; Jeff Loomis - “Surrender”; Sigh - “Equale”; and Sabaton - “En livstid i krig”; Shining - “Du, Mitt Konstverk”; Aeternam - “Cosmogony”;