Time to start the final wrap up for the year in metal. Before we get to the “albums of the year,” we must first address the issue of “songs of the year.” This is the second year we’ve done this and I think it provides a fairly valuable service. There’s plenty of good material out there that won’t be highlighted unless the entire album is good enough to rate as one of our ten best for 2012. Some albums have that one KILLER cut that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the material and you may just miss some molten metal gold if you don’t get a tipoff. We’re here to provide that tip, and just the tip! With that out-of-the-way, here are the goods!
(ish): Landforge – “Enchantress” – Servitude to Earth was a very underground, very well done instrumental doom/post rock album that far too few heard. If you missed it, you missed one song in particular of exceptionally high quality. This one is frightfully moody, tense, and doomy, but super melodic, with beautiful leads. Part Agalloch, part Black Sun Aeon, all quality.
#10: Ereb Alt0r - “Dispellation” – While these guys play a fairly standard variety of black metal with Viking/epic flair, they make such shrewd use of clean, chanting vocals that they can make a good song turn into a great one. That’s exactly what happens with “Dispellation.” The blackened slog is good, but when those epic, heroic chants kick in, things explode with awesomeness (and chest hair). Have your sword and lighter at the ready, you’ll need them.
#9: Pharaoh – “Year of the Blizzard” – Playing a type of technical, traditional metal, Pharaoh have always released quality music, but this is their masterwork, no doubt about it. Featuring a plethora of moods and vibes, it incorporates everything from Maiden-esque drama, Fates Warning style vocal acrobatics and riffing straight off The Who‘s Quadrophenia. There’s a lot going on here, but the song feels quite linear and accessible and the gruesome, but sweet subject matter is so metal, it may give you iron poisoning.
#8: Blood Mortized - “Doomsday Architect” – Nothing fancy here, folks! This is 110% straight-up Neanderthal Swedish retro death with nary a bell or whistle to be found. Simplicity and brutality team up to make this a humdinger of a death metal ditty and if it doesn’t take you back to the glory days of Left Hand Path, you are truly hopeless. When Mattias Parkkila croaks” I swallow your FUCKING heart,” you’ll know you found a keeper!
#7: Sabaton – “Carolus Rex” – While I’m well aware the English lyrics to Sabaton‘s historic opus are inferior to the Swedish ones, it doesn’t matter a bit for the whopping title track and paean to absolute power and the divine right to rule. With lyrics so bombastic and self-aggrandizing, you almost have to sing them to yourself staring in a mirror holding a scepter (or toilet plunger in a pinch). Pompous, grandiose and sooo serious, you can’t help but love that chorus.
#6: Woods of Ypres – “Alternate Ending” – On an album weighted down with the most wretchedly depressing songs I’ve ever heard, this one truly broke my metal heart with its pathologically relentless grimness. Sad and somber, and made all the more so by the passing of vocalist Dave Gold, every line contemplating his own mortality hits so so hard and cuts deep. A darkly beautiful song with more sincere, raw emotion than I can recall hearing in any other song or genre. Damn, it’s fucking good, even if it doesn’t feel good.
#5: Kreator – “Death to the World” – The Germanic lords of thrash returned with their best album in years and this track scorches and pillages just like the Terrible Certainty days. Gloriously pissed off, rabid and fast, this is exactly how thrash, re-thrash and un-thrash should sound and just listen to Millie! He sounds totally reborn in blasphemy. Don’t miss this blast of 80s thrash hatred.
#4: Icarus Witch – “Tragedy” – On an album where a lot of the material felt like it just missed being special, “Tragedy” nailed it. Taking their old school American power metal style and mixing it with a hard rock sensibility and slight doses of Journey, they tap into a whole new level of accessibility without losing their core sound. This track is the best of the new breed and it’s catchier than herpes and will stay with you about as long. The riffs and vocal patterns are pristine and the chorus is big money. It kills me the album around it couldn’t rise to the lofty levels of this hunk of win.
#3: Grand Magus - “Son of the Last Breath” – Longtime doomy traditional rockers Grand Magus kept the consistency and quality coming in 2012 and included this oddball number that departed from their normal sound. Featuring a hybrid of Viking and folk metal, this winner travels through a series of moods and atmospheres, from forlorn folk balladry to war chanting and manly Manowar-esque threats like “blessed by mighty Thor, blood will stain your shores,” it’s quite the ride and one best done by long ship. I wish there was a whole album like this!
#2: Anathema – “Untouchable Part 1″ – This could easily have been #1, but it will have to settle for the runner-up slot. Though Anathema has strayed far from their doom/death roots, the infusion of airy, hyper-melodic, Pink Floyd-y riffing and poignant vocals keeps me coming back no matter how “lite” the sound gets. To my mind, this is the best song they’ve crafted yet and shows just how catchy and emotional their writing can be when everything comes together. What a stunningly lush song!
#1: Threshold – “Staring at the Sun” – On their first album since the passing of long time vocalist Andrew “Mac” McDermott, Threshold brought back original singer Damien Wilson and uncorked some true brilliance which culminates in the genius of this song. Impossibly catchy and ultimately earwormy, it demonstrates their Yes-meets-metal style in all it’s shiny, polished glory. The chorus will be with you until doomsday and I defy you to play this just once. Brilliant writing, amazing playing. R.I.P. Mac, we’ll miss ya.
Kamelot - “Sacrimony”
Woods of Ypres – “Traveling Alone”
Bel’akor – “Abeyance”
Desaster – “Art of Destruction”
Seven Kingdoms – “After the Fall”
Hellwell - “Eaters of the Dead”
Bedemon – “Savior”
Castle – “Corpse Candles”
Blood Mortized – “The Heretic Possession”
Nightmare – “Crimson Empire”