Steel Druhm’s Top Ten(ish) of 2012

So another year comes to an end in Angry Metal World and its doing so without the Old Testament, frogs-in-the-sky, zombies-at-the-door apocalypse. Not that such biblical end times would have stopped this website anyway, since we feed on your endless love, devotion and caring! In the spirit of the season, pour a stiff drink, don a festive hat and gorilla suit and let’s reminisce for a spell.

2012 saw AMG Industries welcome several new writers, and with a more diverse staff, we benefitted from fresh opinions and bizarre new personalities. We’ve seen our readership rise to new heights and our slow, but steady quest for global domination continues ever onward. This wouldn’t be possible without all you lovely and loyal readers. Your support is why we keep the site running through the challenging times when life gets in way. Thank you all for the kind words, feedback and overall support. You complete us!

A special thanks goes out to AMG himself for creating and maintaining this site. We couldn’t do this without his support, guidance and fatherly (read as: slightly abusive) advice. He’s still the man behind the curtain angrily pulling strings, even when he can’t write as frequently as he and the rest of us might like.

As for the music itself, in Steel Druhm’s ever humble opinion, 2012 wasn’t a banner year for metal. There were fewer top shelf releases and a fair amount of let downs. But enough wordifying! Allow me to introduce my picks for the cream of the upper crust. From our dysfunctional family to yours, Happy Apocalypse and Season’s Beatings!

(ish) Kamelot // Silverthorn I certainly didn’t expect this to be THAT good! With Roy Khan taking his talents to South Beach or wherever, and a few less than stellar releases in recent history, the boys of the Round Table really needed this one to shine, and shine it does! Tommy Karevik steps comfortably into Khan’s shoes (and the rest of his clothes too) and the band comes up with some of their best songs since The Black Halo. I’m eager to see where they go from here and if Tommy will keep up the Khan job.

#10: Bedemon // Symphony of Shadows – One of two albums on the list to be released following the death of a key member, Bedemon is a blast from the moldy past of doom metal. Overflowing with Sabbath, Pentagram and Trouble influences, Symphony of Sickness rumbles and creaks along with groovy soul and dark 70s charm. Tracks like “Savior” and “Lord of Desolation” harken back to the simpler days of metal and the writing is top-notch. A true surprise from beyond which helped succor the disappointment caused by the poor Saint Vitus outing. RIP Randy Palmer.

#9: Blood Mortized // The Key to a Black Heart The best of the retro Swedish death platters that assailed us in 2012, Blood Mortized triumphed by keeping things simple, crusty and HEAVY. This is low-tech, low-fi, low-class death with buzzsaw riffs, vocals from the Seventh Level ov Hell and Rick Fucking Rozz as a bonus! Better yet, the songs are catchy, memorable and addictive. Two of my favorite death songs of the year reside on this beast (“The Heretic Possession” and “Doomsday Architect”), Mattias Parkkila is one of the best death throats in the biz and it’s all ghastly fun from start to finish. Call it Disentombed or Entomember, but this is how Swedish death should always sound!

#8: Castle // Blacklands – 2012 was the Year of the Vest and verily did vest metal make huge inroads into my Top Ten. Castle’s debut was really good, but Blacklands took their retro doom rock groove to a whole new level. With newfound black and epic influences creeping and seeping in, things became much more diverse and interesting, but the core of their sound remained intact. Think of it as a way more adventurous Danzig album with female vocals replacing He Who Cannot Be Shirted and you have a good idea what to expect. Check out the freaky riff on “Corpse Candles,” its mighty corpse-y.

#7. Lanfear // This Harmonic Consonance – This was a pretty solid year for prog-power and Lanfear really knocked it out of the park with this one. While their brand of technical, but highly catchy power is easy to like, what really impressed me was the staying power of these songs. This is an album you can play straight through and then start it all over again. I did a lot of that this year and I’m still not tired of it. The music is classy, the choruses are memorable and the material is diverse and always engaging. This may be their finest output and that’s saying something for these Germans. I’m highly rating this underrated metal!

#6: Be’lakor // Of Breath and Bone – With their track record of excellent melo-death, I expected big things from this and they delivered in spades. Walking a line between Insomium, Omnium Gatherum, epic Viking metal and lumbering doom, Be’lakor has found their niche and they keep perfecting it. The riffs and solos here are world-class and evoke a myriad of moods and sensations and everything ebbs and flows organically and effortlessly. This album feels big and important and that’s a rare thing in death metal. Another victory for an increasingly impressive band.

#5: Threshold // March of Progress – With the untimely passing of Andrew “Mac” McDermott, the fate of Threshold was a bit in doubt. To silence such doubts, they recruited original singer Damien Wilson and roared back with their best albums in years. Their Yes-meets-metal style of hooky prog sounds as bright and buoyant as ever and Wilson really steps up his game. My song of the year was found here and every other cut reeks of style and polished, technical chops. I remain a big fan of Mac’s vocals and dearly wish he was still with us, but this comeback helped make that tragedy seem a little less tragic. If this is the new Threshold, I can certainly live with that.

#4: Woods of Ypres // Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light – Dave Gold’s ghost album is the most emotionally harrowing and depressive spin of the year and maybe ever. Song after song of Mr. Gold speaking from the grave about his unfortunate demise makes for a strange, unsettling listen, but wow, it hits home in a way few albums ever will. Add to that, the step up in song writing and their most successful fusion of doom, goth and black metal to date and you have a special (and grim) moment in metal history. RIP Dave Gold.

#3: Dawnbringer // Into the Lair of the Sun God – And here lies the rest of the vest. Deviating from the diverse and oddball style of their last opus, Chris Black and crew went for a classic 80’s concept album about a warrior bent on killing the sun (we can all relate to that, right?). In the process, they channeled all the denim and leather of such legendary barbarians as Cirith Ungol, Saxon, Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Guitar-driven and loaded with wonderfully archaic riffs and harmonies, this mutha gallops into your memory banks and slays with old school charm. And for those who complain about the vocals, silence, you bastards!

#2: Sabaton // Carolus Rex – Probably the biggest surprise of the year, since I had all but given up on these guys after their Coat of Arms outing. Perhaps tackling the history of their homeland inspired them to greater things, because this is head and shoulders above anything they’ve ever done. The writing is crisp and accessible, the playing is stellar and the entire mood and vibe crushes. While the English version suffers from less lyrical brilliance than the Swedish edition, this is still a ginormous win of a historical concept album with a perfect blend of bombast and balls. Great power metal for the Era of Great Power. How appropriate.

#1: Hellwell // Beyond the Boundaries of Sin – Mark Shelton and the classic Manilla Road sound is back in a slightly different package and oddly, it may be the best Manilla album in their long and storied career. Mark’s nasally vocals, tons of organ (both Hammond and the church variety), catchy-as-hell writing and more vintage 80s metal style points than any album in recent memory, this is a throwback’s throwback! Every song kills and this platter is littered with memorable moments. I doubt anyone expected this much win from an unheralded, mostly unpublicized side project, but wow, this is the real goddamn deal. If only they hadn’t carried over the traditional Manilla Road shite production style.

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

Ofermod // Thaumiel – Super riffy black metal with enough evil mood to re-sink the Bismarck
Asphyx // Deathhammer – Martin Van Drunen is back to show us bastards how true death metal is done. Kneel, you dogs!
Seven Kingdoms // The Fire is Mine – this year’s Battle Beast and its Game of Thrones themed to boot!
Grand Magus // The Hunt – Some found this a letdown, but not me! The Magus keeps that old school, epic metal coming once again
Necrovation // Necrovation – A strange, chaotic blend of Swedish death, black metal and the kitchen sink
Hail Spirit Noir // Pneuma 60s and 70s rock mixed with black metal never sounded so good, ever
Desaster // The Arts of Destruction Knuckle dragging, brainless black thrash never sounded so Motorhead-y
Pharaoh // Bury the Light – Super slick traditional American power metal with more Maiden riffs that most Maiden albums
Weapon // Embers and Revelations – Thrashing and bashing blackened thrash with some interesting bells and whistles
Kreator // Phantom Antichrist – The masters of Germanic thrash are back with a Viagra-fueled outburst of speed and anger

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