Madam X’s Top 10(ish) of 2012

I can’t say 2012 has been a particularly easy year to nail down and get to behave! For myself it’s been a year of massive changes that despite being daunting at the onset, have left me way less homicidal… I think that’s a good thing [as do we allSteel Druhm]. I want to take this opportunity to thank both Angry Metal Guy and Steel Druhm for all their patience and guidance in bringing me up to speed on the way of the Angry Metal Guy. It’s been great working with you both and I look forward to 2013 being bigger, better and angrier! Thanks also to the AMG readers for all your comments, encouragement, for setting us right when we lose the plot and mostly for taking the time to read our reviews, you rock.

Time to cut the crap and get on with my top 10(ish) for 2012:

(ish): Horseback // Half Blood – I’ve added this eclectic, psychedelic, noise, drone album as my ish mostly because, despite many, many, many attempts, I’m unable to listen to this album during the day. It’s beautiful, melodic, rhythmic and brimming with ambiance and the weirdly, almost whispered, blackened growls appeal to me on so many levels but for some reason I just can’t stay awake for the entirety of the album. I’m looking forward to seeing where Horseback journey’s too on future trippy releases, for now I’ll press on with Half Blood – between much needed naps probably.

#10: Satan’s Wrath // Galloping Blasphemy – I still chuckle to myself every time I spin this album, for a kvlt black metal band that refuses a web presence Satan’s Wrath made an interesting choice in signing themselves to such a successful label (Metal Blade Records) – I’ll say no more. So yes, I’m a hopeless necromantic and yes, I’m unashamedly drawn to Satan’s Wrath and their melodic, aggressive, thrashy, blackened style of 80’s, Maiden and Venom worship and my favorite track on the album remains the roaring, soaring, galloping, thrill-ride “Death to Life”.

#9: Krampus // Survival of the Fittest – In lieu of a new Amorphis album and the fact that Wintersun’s Time I fell horribly flat for me, Krampus have done an outstanding job of picking up their slack. Survival of the Fittest combines the usual tools of the metal trade with a heap of interesting traditional folk instruments. The weirdly festive “Shadows of our Time” is still a firm favorite of mine and yes still has me trying to resist the urge to dance around the room irate cat in arms like a crazy person (‘X-Men claws’ and being docked Metal Points™ are still firmly in my mind at all times).

#8: Beneath // Enslaved by Fear – Although not entirely outside of the box, this crushing, brutal blend of tech death caught my attention after a feature in No Clean Singing. Some months down the line and I have to say I’m still well taken with the no holds barred death brutality that Beneath combine with well placed, melodic, epic guitar solos, and well written lyrics. “Monolith” still leaves me well gutted and is worth checking out if you’re looking for something with a thick, trudging and distorted feel.

#7: Candlemass // Psalms for the Dead – A fantastic sludgy, doomy concoction brimming with guitar riffs and solos of gigantic proportions and Rob Lowe’s equally large, dark and almost over-the-top vocals. Lyrically it’s not exactly rocket science and definitely borders on being some of the laziest song writing I’ve come across, but it’s catchy as hell and sometimes all you want is an easy, no-brainer listen that you can crank up to full volume while you’re trying to smother the road rage that’s surging up in your chest. “Dancing in the Temple (of the Mad Queen Bee)” is a song I feel particularly drawn to and that along with “The Killing of the Sun” and the morbid “Black as Time” always leave me with a smile.

#6: Hellwell // Beyond the Boundaries of SinBeyond the Boundaries of Sin is a weirdly, eclectic collection of macabre tracks laden with references to horror, literature and serial killers – just a few of my favorite things! As if the subject matter wasn’t meaty enough, Mark Shelton has a surprisingly pleasant yet nasal vocal quality and combined with the sloppy, production sound they’ve used I can’t help thinking this would be the perfect accompaniment to some kind of nasty horror film like Zombie’s ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ – check out a few of my favorite tracks “Eaters of the Dead” and “End of Days”.

#5: Ragnarok // Malediction While being known for delivering classic style black metal, Ragnarok have tried and indeed succeeded, on this their seventh release, in shaking things up. They’ve introduced a new set of raw, shrill and deliciously evil pipes (a la HansFyrste) and they’ve opted for a cleaner, more modern approach in the production that makes this a tasty place to start if you’re new to the Ragnarok fold. Should you find yourself in need of necro-fix standout moments include HansFyrste’s vocal insanity in “Necromantic Summoning Ritual”, the Behemoth-esk drum pattern in “(Dolce et Decorum Est) Pro Patria Mori” and the weirdly A7X reminiscent guitar riff on “Dystocratic”.

#4: Jorn // Bring Heavy Rock to the Land – Never saw this weird little obsession taking shape! One listen to Jorn’s collaborations with Avantasia and damn it if I wasn’t hooked and then along comes a Jorn solo album. Bring Heavy Rock to the Land is the perfect blend of metal and 70s era hard rock and add to that Jorn’s raspy, bluesy, melodic, soulful vocals and, well, all I can do is sigh. The albums packed to the hilt with wild guitar solos (check out “A Thousand Cuts”, “Chains Around You”, “Time to be King” and “I came to Rock”) and it’s ridiculously hard to pick a favourite track, but were I to pick just one, “The World I See” would be it.

#3: A Forest of Stars // A Shadowplay for Yesterdays – I’d never come across psychedelic black metal before hearing A Forest of Stars and now that I’ve heard what I can only describe as steam-punk flavored black metal I’m hooked! My favorite track on the album “Gatherer of the Pure” showcases to perfection the deranged, carnival ringmaster vocal styling of Mister Curse and as an album it’s best described as a kaleidoscope packed to the brim with layers and textures making it a journey I couldn’t and really don’t want to forget.

#2: Ofermod // Thaumiel – Occult blackened metallers Ofermod systematically worked their way into Madam X’s cold, dark heart. This album is packed to the brim with catchy riffs of pure evil, blastbeats aplenty and the gut-wrenching, ghoulish, blackened vocal stylings of master villain Hakola. My favorite track on this album remained “Undead Moon” with its guest vocals by Niklas Kvarforth of Shining (Swedish). Thaumiel has a great feel, kicking off with the plague-like infectiousness of “Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence” and in true serpentine fashion the album writhes and contorts its way through mid-paced offerings like “Setnacht” and “Prayers Unto Warpen Etenities” culminating in the true Second Wave Black Metal blastbeat glory of “Chosekh En Sof”, “Chained To Redemption” and “Via Noctis – Veil of Gargophias”.

#1: Marduk // Serpent Sermon – One extremely nasty, maggot infested, “Souls for Belial” YouTube video is in part to ‘blame’ for my top pick of the year. Marduk brought all their nastiness out to play in this installment of their hefty discography. The album is an unholy sermon covering Satanism, anti-Christianity, Hell, fire, death and more death – just a few of the things that make Madam X smile. Serpent Sermon combines all this tasty subject matter with infectious drum patterns (“Temple of Decay” and “Damnation’s Gold”), traditional black metal trem picking, atmospheric and melodic yet still bone-chilling, evil riffing and the distinctly raw, spitting, depraved, damn-near demonic vocal styling’s cast out by Mortuus.

Honorable Mentions:
Melencolia Estatica // Hel – When an album drives you to watch an 85 year old film, sit up and take notice. It was brutal not being able to find a spot for this in my top 10(ish)
Allegaeon // Formshifter – Greg and Ryan never fail to deliver with their jaw-dropping fretwork – a damn fine piece of technical melo death.
Kreator // Phantom Antichrist – Didn’t make the cut unfortunately, but this thrashy, high-energy, 100% mosh-pit-friendly album is a must have!
So Much for Nothing // Livsgnist – What more can I say about this soul-sucking, depressive black metal album that I haven’t already said – check it out if you haven’t already.
Wino & Conny Ochs // Heavy Kingdom – You can hardly go wrong combining Wino’s bruising vocals with good old fashioned, gritty, steel string, acoustic guitar work.

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