Abigail Williams - Becoming
Notoriously shitty deathcore band becomes notoriously shitty Emperor worship band becomes surprisingly passable drawn out minimalist black metal band. Easy to listen to with nice sound and solid riffing.
Aborted - Global Flatline
I had only heard the last two borderline deathcore failures but this goes close to kicking ass, lots of energy, awesome soloing, as far as modern production goes a brilliant sound, lots of variation in music and vocals, but sadly it brings fuck all to the riffing department, with the guitars simply churning out masses of energetic but nondescript dadadadadadada stuff. Cattle Decapitation kind of handed this thing it's ass in this sort of high speed, high production, yellow cover violent death metal thing though,
Ahab - The Giant
This is pretty much exactly what I had feared it would be, but I still quite like it. It's mostly soft, it's at least 80% cleans, even on a lot of the heavy stuff, said heavy stuff is brief when it does appear, but I like it. The melodies are suitable aquatic, and it's a fair bit less psychedelic and meandering than last time, mercifully giving these songs some sense of movement. Not a classic, but it's worthwhile.
Ea - Ea
I've never really cared for these guys outside of their excellent debut, but this effort is pretty damn solid. Doesn't live up to their one classic, but one of the stronger entries into the flailing funeral doom genre this year. There is a surprise in the middle with is pretty unexpected for this band, and is a welcome touch.
Encoffination - Elegant Funerals for the Unknown Dead
I can't tell you how much I hated O'Hell
, and I think the earlier stuff was merely ok, but holy shit does this EP deliver, the production is clearer and higher pitched, and as such swaps out unrelenting murkiness and gloominess for a helping of being evil as fuck and not sounding like ass. The first half is pretty straight forward, slow and heavy, but it's actually interesting
this time around and has some semblance of actual riffs, and as I mentioned to production makes it all sound super evil. Side two goes nuts though, only one real "song", which has a fast part with a goofy punk beat, before closing with the classic bells stuff. Then two interludey type tracks that just go bell crazy, with some clear choir vocals, it's weird but great, and creates a whole new atmosphere which I've been calling similar to ritualistic cult which happens to convene their evil meetings in a Moby Dick era whaling town. The best thing they've done by far, it rules.
Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
I am not a Neurosis fan, yes, they have some immense sludge and post metal riffage, the vocal combinations are badass and the band puts in a huge amount of heart and soul and effort bring their albums to fruition, but fuck, they are boring
. Not so much here, this isn't too heavy, but it's quite melodic and it doesn't bog itself by trying to be brooding or ambient all that often, mostly it's big slow riffs bouncing off one another with that rolling tom work and excellent vocals all over the place, and as such it actually stays interesting for once. Not to say it's an atmosphere-less venture or anything, it's just less so, and focuses more on hitting with an ever shifting wall of (not particularly heavy) sound and grace. It still has some dull stuff that would appeal to an old fan like Bleeding the Pigs, or the first 4:45 in Casting of the Ages for instance, which is why it isn't contending for an absolute top 10 spot, but it's a must hear for 2012 at any rate.
Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Âme
Boring as watching grass grow. None of the overt hookiness of the previous album, and lacks the simple childish beauty of the first, this just twangs away on a loose chord over and over while pedophiles hum sweetly over it. Very freaking boring and devoid of substance.
The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
TMV are extremely hit and miss for me, with the debut and previous album being the only albums I've really liked, but both of those albums are among my favourite non-metal albums, so I was eager to see what they did here. There are some ok songs on here like Dyslexicon, but some really, really
horrible ones too. The most striking thing is that this album is probably the first one of their that just feels like a collection of songs, rather than a cohesive album.
Blut Aus Nord - 777 - Cosmosophy
Pretty much went in a totally different way than I expected after the creepy trip hoppy outro on 777-2
, instead of going into some kind horrific industrial trance thing, they've gone for extremely drawn out ambientish stuff with massive lead work, delivered in a slower more atmospheric fashion than the lead sex that was MVII
, which does work well, but there is sooooo much padding here. The outro song is pretty much the same formula as "The Procession of the Dead Clowns" but shittier, and of the rest of the album there are 2 great songs (XIV, XVII), one great half song (second half of XVI), and one good half song (Second half of XV). It's still worth 75% or so, but since the first two got in my top 10 last year it is certainly underwhelming.
Evoken - Atra Mors
Despite its high placement on my list, this is actually a bit of a disappointment overall. I like that they mixed up their sound a little bit, they're exceptionally
good at their whole "inescapable suffocating darkness" thing, but it would be pretty fair to think they're never going to top Antithesis of Light
in that regard, simply because even riff for riff it's an equal, it's going to lose some shine for being similar. They could have gone back to the more laid back style of the early days and tried to push that even further, which would have been a challenge for the same reason, so I'm pretty pleased they went for something reasonably fresh. Yes, the slow moving, echoing grumbling funeral doom is here, there are those bass plucking notes that echo cleanly among the misery and generate plentiful feels, and the vocals are thunderous as usual, but there is some new stuff going on here. This is probably the least laid back they've been, there is is plenty of death/doom here, and very rarely do you get the droning riffs with nothing but atmospheric keys to drive the depressing hooks, instead they've gone the Mournful Congregation route and gone for a lot of lead guitar harmonies with the keys usually glooming alongside. And they're good at it, nobody could look at this stuff and say they've done a third rate effort like the shitty Aldebaran, it's very good without a shadow a doubt, and in cases like the mindblowing "Into Aphotic Devastation" is downright incredible, it just doesn't feel all that Evoken
. This lack of identity is something which has irked me about funeral doom since about 2009, more bands have formed, less bands have that "yes, this is band X without question" instant recognition, Evoken has always been one with that trait, and the choices on Atro Mors
have brought them closer to to other bands. With that said, it's an really good album, passages of brilliance are frequent amongst the usual drear, and it does have Evoken touches no other band could do, it's just not 100% Evoken through and through.
Forgotten Tomb - And Don't Deliver Us From Evil
Forgotten Tomb is dead. I hate to say it because I love those first three albums so very much, but Morbid has totally lost it. This was billed as something a lot more evil, intense and old styled than Under Saturn Retrograde
was. And indeed it mostly is. A fair few groove metal riffs populate the slow and heavy realm where doom once lived and thrived, but other than that most of the album is melodies and black metal. No straight up pop songs like "Joyless" here (Oddly enough, that song is the most enjoyable thing they've done in the last couple of outings), instead you get Morbid doing his very best to be dark and depressing, and being woefully mediocre at it. This makes me long for Negative Megalomania
, it's so dull, and so devoid of the quality that permeated through the bands prior sound. It is merely a shell. Forgotten Tomb is dead.
Bloodbound - In the Name of Metal
Speaking of bands that are dead, meet Bloodbound. I have no idea what was up with the band when they made Tabula Rasa
, but it was a damned masterpiece. Then the inimitable Urban Breed left the group, so they replaced him with some random euro flowerfairy, and turned into... this. The last album was somewhat sucky, but this, THIS is on a whole new plane of sucking existence. This is pure, unfiltered euro flower metal garbage and it is vile. It's offensively vile. They've pretty much turned into Dream Evil, but unlike that band these guys used to be something that that could be taken seriously. Obviously tacky power chords and generic vocal hooks is easier than writing good music. Fuck this is bad.
Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas
A real disappointment here after the quality of the first two pre-release songs. Coming into it initially I was a little worried due the bands shift in chug riffing style to a more deathcore variety which sucks the energy out of songs, but "Blood-Dimmed Tide", "Forging Towards To Sunset", and "Fire and Fucking Pigs" are so good it's hard to not get excited about it, solid music makes up the rest of the album, with lots of industrial and melodic experiments which has the album leaving an extremely
strong first impression, but on repeated listens many of the experiments don't really hold up to the Thrakh's former glory, with "To Spite the Face" and "Todos Samos Humanos" being the only ones I would consider particularly necessary out of the remaining track list. But overall it actually has less highlights then Passion
did, it's still probably a slightly better album due to Passion
having some outright suckitude, and this merely drops to "good", but underwhelming compared to their former glory.
De Magia Veterum - The Deification
Man, I'm a disappointed dick this year, not only are two of my disappointments right on the best of list, this one would still be a top 30 of the year album. This time DMV is just... restrained a bit. There's a bit more atmosphere and mid paced sections to go along with the swirling hellish chaos, but dammit, swirling hellish chaos is what made The Divine Antithesis
such a mind-blowing album, this is just a bit timid in comparison, still a pretty rad album overall.
Ok, here is a nice and easy top 10 of my favourite cover arts all year. In the interest of keeping the page lengths down, I'll just link to the images, rather than post them.
1. Funebrarum/Undergang - The Dead of Winter
I am a sucker for massive landscapes and stuff like that, and this is utterly gorgeous. Obviously done by the same guy who brought Disma's last couple of EPs and full length to light, it more or less has the full length's scope with the grayscale stylings of the EPs, it's just epic.
2. Asphyx - Deathammer
Look at it, Just LOOK at it. God damn, it's gorgeous.
3. Embrional - Absolutely Anti Human Behaviors
I'm not usually one for gore, and I admit the fair maidens shown have oddly perky breasts for dismembered corpses, but the pencil artwork and detail on the demon and skulls impresses me for some reason. A lot.
4. Pseudogod - Deathwomb Catechesis
Massive dragon, flames turning into snakes, creepy old man looking possessed or tortured, this is exactly
as brutish and lunkheaded as the album deserved, and like the album, it is badass through and trough.
5. Wrathprayer - The Sun of Moloch
Creepy, horrific, badass as hell, carefully and artfully created and unique, everything the album is not.
6. Supher Aeon - Swallowed by the Oceans Tide
More stuff by Ola Larsson, this time going for a depiction of R'legh, which is a perfect fit for his style of twisty little details and touches. I actually like the EP's art a little bit more, which I am aware is merely a background of this, but the actual C'thulu here is the only thing I don't like.
7. Elysian Blaze - Blood Geometry
As I was saying about epic before, I love it, here is a slightly more colourful, slightly less detailed ode to the immense.
8. Serpentine Path - S/T
Reminds me a lot of one my favourite Zdizlaw Beksinski paintings, with some green vegetation, that is a big positive, just a little bit under detailed.
9. Anatomia - Decaying in Obscurity
Surpisingly elegant for a dirty OSDM band, it's very well drawn, looks cool and ominous, and... well... there are boobs.
10. Diocletian/Weregoat - Disciples of War
Speaking of boobs, Here is death with like 8 boobs and six arms. Honestly, this is so cool it should be up in second or something, but I liked the boob segue too much
As an extra aside, I'd like to draw attention to how excellent this year has been for EPs. I don't usually put EP's (Or splits for that matter) into my end of year lists simply due to the usual lack of length to them, but a fair few released this year would have have been put on there if they were 10 minutes longer. Inverloch
and Deathspell Omega
's EP's are both fantastic, Inverloch obviously sound like diSEMBOWELMENT and the music offered up is absolutely stunning. There are like 4 minutes of absolute silence in that 21 minute run time though. DsO pretty much shit all over everything I praised Dodecahedron for, it's songy, it doesn't meander, it's got some fresh melody, and most importantly it's musically brilliant. Agalloch
is fantastic also, the black metal is still really mediocre, and a scorn on their existence, lots of crappy Cascadian style nothing riffs, but once they get back into their melodic leads and post rocky bits this is the best they've done since The Mantle
, just sucks they want to be real black metal though. I didn't give enough credit to Monolithe
first time around, it's not as totally ambient and unassuming as I first thought, and is actually pretty riffy at times. It is still their weakest release, but certainly good enough to stand with their other releases. It is also long enough to be on my list, but it's just not quite good enough and it emphasises my point on how good this year has been for EPs. Blut Aus Nord's
EP blows Cosmosphy
out of the water also, despite not being as good as the band can be.
But the best one? The best one is god damned Encoffination
, I've got a lengthier summary in the surprises section, but seriously, it's awesome. It is honestly good enough for a spot and pretty lengthy, but I decided to use it down here as an example of 2012's ownership of the EP.
Even better would be Adversarial's
half of the Adversarial/Antediluvian split, Admittedly it's less than 15 minutes, but god damn, they just keep getting better and better with each release. The riffs on there are as good as Ignivomous was, the production is exquisite, and the songs move in entertaining and exciting ways. If they released it just as an EP, and maybe with a couple of extra songs it'd be one of my favourite things released all year, but sadly it is a split with Antediluvian. Antediluvian aren't a bad
band, but they're an atmosphere over riffing band first and foremost which just hasn't been floating my boat for the last couple of years. Adversarial though, damn, they're going to put out something absolutely classic sometime soon.