The greatest doctor among metalheads and the greatest metalhead among doctors, Slobodan Trifunović, writes about the albums you will probably not listen to.
Even though I have turned 30 in 2012 I must say that I still haven’t fell victim to old farts’ syndrome – you know those guys that claim that music was far better when they were young, that there are no good albums today and similar bullshit… As if. The last year was killer overall for music, there were tons of great releases in various genres all over the globe but since I am still not allergic to distortion/ “haven’t grown up“, metal was what I was following to mostly. This is one description of the past year’s notable albums separated in 30 positions, note that there are several bands occupying one spot here and there and it was done since I felt that they share similar spirit/execution.
30. Let’s start this shit off in chains and leather! True heavy metal is still mostly dependant on huge players from the past so title of the best album in this field goes to ACCEPT – Stalingrad, the release which showed that success of comeback album Blood Of The Nations was no fluke. Young by heavy metal standards (meaning that no one in band still doesn’t have prosthetic hip) but by now dependant troop GRAND MAGUS revived themselves in my eyes after slighly lackluster predecessor with The Hunt, one album that has finely married trad doomy metal with epic Bathory leanings in glorious fashion. And one newcomer for the end: another discovery of dependable Van Records ATTIC brought healthy dose of Mercyful Fate worship with The Invocation, I still can’t get over the absence of Fate so I swallow these bands like pills without any big dose of criticism but The Invocation is surely one cool eerie HM album with proper feeling and obligatory King ripoff vocals.
29. MESHUGGAH haven’t done really anything we haven’t heard from them on Koloss but this album has come in very important moment – in period when Meshuggah was not active whole djent scene took their style and turned it to absolute snoozefest. Now the daddy is back to show all the kiddies how it should be done – dark, twisted, heavy as Hell and unpredictable to the core. Yes, Koloss took the crap on collective djent scene and now you see them for the useless shit they are. I guess that I could also mention here GOJIRA – L’enfant Sauvage but truth be told this album is maybe the biggest dissapointment for me in 2012. With previous two releases they have become maybe the biggest underground phenomenon and when I expected that this one, their debut on huge Roadrunner, will be their Master Of Puppets/Reign In Blood/eternal classic they have come out with one release which, while being competent in what it does, is basically going through the motions created by tidal waves of two predecessor. I guess the time will be the best judge of Infant Sausage, maybe I can get it when I clear my mind of those expectations.
28. The award to the most fucked up album of the year goes to SIGH – In Somniphobia. Damn, just look at that cover art! Throwing heroic lead guitars, Venom, flamenco, hallucinogenic mushrooms, disco and Hell itself into one blender and coming out with one result which could be most properly described as Imaginary Sonicscape having lucid nightmare.
27. Now it is time to slow down a little. The melodic death doom is still best played by old guard, as proven by MY DYING BRIDE – A Map of All Our Failures, one album that does not carry any obvious hit songs but its main strenght lies in absorbing trademark MDB atmosphere and SATURNUS – Saturn in Ascension who traditionally took forever to come out with something new but the result is worthy as always, in its most inspired moments even reviving Paradise Belongs To You. But truth be told, one newer band outplayed these giants in their own game and for that part of the story go all the way to the place number 4. It should be said that CANDLEMASS said farewell with their allegedly last studio offering Psalms For The Dead but even though it is one nice offering I think that it is their weakest album since reformation so it is maybe good that they are going to legend without single bad full length.
26. SECRETS OF THE MOON are still going strong with Seven Bells but I cannot escape the thought that their previous two albums were just a bit better. Nevertheless, this one is another killer atmospheric piece of black metal art and it should be noted that Celtic Frost influence is very obvious here as SotM went almost Monotheist heavy and slow on Seven Bells.
25. We are staying in Germany but go much faster into the halls of Teutonic steel where KREATOR reigns supreme and prove that they are still the best thrash band in the world with their new release Phantom Antichrist, the album that expands on Hordes Of Chaos formula and adds considerable amount of melodic death guitars into the mix, coming out very pissed off and victorious. I also need to mention DESASTER here who have returned some of old black metal medieval stuff into their always deadly thrash attack on The Arts Of Destruction. Oh yeah, new PARADOX – Tales Of The Weird has just appeared but judging from the initial couple of listenings it is clear we are facing here another melodic tech thrash monster, bar shittiest synthetic production this side of Waking The Fury.
24. Brutal death metal behemoths were raging as well this year with one of the biggest surprises in 2012 coming from CANNIBAL CORPSE who reinvented their long predictable career with Torture, album that still carries all of their trademarks but sounding very catchy which was sorely lacking from couple of previous albums. NILE found At The Gate Of Sethu some inspiration to go back in their ancient brutal days – truth be told, this is one of their weaker albums but in the same time it sweeps off 99% of the competition nevertheless so we can safely go further on.
23. Pagan/folk/Nuclear Blast/plastic sword bearers’ scene was marked by some really aspiring releases. First off, ELUVEITIE have created one huge conceptual epic with Helvetios, the album which could be described as Nightfall In Middle-Earth in folk kind of way – not classic as that one but great anyway (it could benefit from some song trimming, by the way). Ensiferum have released on of the biggest fails of 2012 and their situation was worsened by return of their ex-member Jari’s WINTERSUN with Chinese Democracy of epic folk scene entitled Time I – maybe too overlayered but it suits me fine while travelling during these winter days.
22. Occult retro rock is still in full swing with the best album in this field coming out at the very end of this year and thus barely sweezing in here: YEAR OF THE GOAT have finally unleashed their debut album Angels’ Necropolis and fulfilling all the promises they gave to us on their EP Lucem Ferre. I still have to spend some time with this album but it’s already clear that they are one of the most worthy troops in this field even in this point of their career. Big daddies of the style WITCHCRAFT have finally returned with their fourth album Legend and for this occasion they have married their sound with fuller & more modern production which maybe came out a bit weird. I prefer their early releases but maybe I am bit biased because I spent so much goddamn time with them. For the end, I would like to mention GRAVEYARD – Lights Out but in negative conotation – I find it really hard to get into this album, it is just not entering my mind after several listening sessions but all of my friends are raging about it so I am bit confused here. Hisingen Blues was much better affair.
21. At the wake of NACHTMYSTIUM’s new album Silencing Machine hipsters were crying afoul „oh, they are not diverse anymore“, „they did not surprise us“ „they went back to metal“… Great. Now that the faggots have successfully fucked off from this troop, we can freely enjoy this fist of blackened hate which sounds like Krieg circa The Black House are covering Ministry’s Land Of Rape And Honey – fuckin’ A in my book at least.
20. WEAPON were always very promising horde that delivered the goods on all of their releases but their third album Embers And Revelations is the goal that they were aiming for their entire career. 37 minutes and 8 songs filled to the brim with top quality melodic black death metal – seriously dudes, even Dissection would not be ashamed of this album! Underlined with slight The Chasm lead guitars and Rotting Christ “whispered growls“ and drum work, this deathsquad is catapulted at the very top of extreme metal right now! And since we have descended to Hell itself for this place it would be good to mention two monster debut full lengths we found here: Russian PSEUDOGOD who have done natural crossing between Inquisition and Archgoat with their Deathwomb Catechesis and SVARTIDAUDI – Flesh Cathedral, Icelandic answer to Deathspell Omega. A lot of fuss in these horrible plains was made by MGLA’s With Hearts Towards None, but I simply could not get into the album. Maybe I should let it lay off for a while…
19. TESTAMENT have reinvented themselves with Dark Roots Of The Earth and made us all forget that weak comeback record Formation Of Damnation while we are busy headbanging to this monster thrasher of the album, mainly two biggest hits Native Blood and True American Hate. Metallica take note, this is how it should be done! Following them on the top of American thrash is OVERKILL with The Electric Age which is not modern classic as Ironbound but the green and black gang still knows how to kick massive amounts of ass so all that is left to say is “come and get it“!
18. Nineties’ metal sound still depends on big names who made it huge back then. The most important band of British death doom trinity PARADISE LOST have delivered one more killer album with Tragic Idol… but aren’t we all used to that state of things? Even more retro than its predecessor, Tragic Idol harkens back to golden nineties and comes back from that quest carried on Greg’s tradmeark leads truly victorious. Portugese legends MOONSPELL were very ambitious with the concept of double album Alpha Noir / Omega White. Alpha sees them in their usual meloblack gothic metal of the last few years but Omega is the shining star here – atmospheric gothic metal which shows largely forgotten and desired mellow side of this band. It is for sure the direction which suits their age and should be explored more in years to come so let’s hope for the best. It should be said that their soul mates TIAMAT and LACUNA COIL are slowly returning on the right track with their new albums – The Scarred People and Dark Adrenaline are not masterpieces but for sure they are steps in the right direction. Too bad that ANATHEMA left us cold with their new one Weather Systems, singles were very promising but it turned out that those songs was only ones that were good on the entire album.
17. Even though I hate Niklas Kvarforth with passion I have to admit that this was victorious year for Sweden’s SHINING. First off they woefully pissed black metal fans with cover EP Lots Of Girls Are Gonna Get Hurt where they pulled off Katatonia and Kent (among others) effortlessly and when everyone expected huge selling out rock album from them they have kicked the collective nuts of the scene with Redefining Darkness, black metal torture with truly twisted atmosphere. Kudos.
16. Let’s chill the aggression out with the new album of sexiest heavy band alive which has provided us another soundtrack for Saturday night in big city with that cool smart chick of your dreams. DEFTONES – Koi No Yokan is much different trip than Diamond Eyes, whereas predecessor was more straighforward and catchy Koi is more textured, subtle and works its way into your psyche more subconsicously. While we are talking about good commercial heavy rock I think that we should mention here one of the biggest surprises for 2012 – STONE SOUR’s House of Gold & Bones Part 1! Yes, all of their previous album had two good songs at best but this one is brimming with newfound creativity – House of Gold & Bones Part 1 is considerably faster and heavier, clearly made to satisfy band’s needs instead of will for commercial success. I eagerly await Part 2 which is coming in April 2013.
15. DORDEDUH’s debut Dar De Duh is the album that we have all been waiting for ever since Om – it’s that simple. Forget Negru’s incarnation, true spirit of old Negura Bunget lies within Dar De Duh, the album of highest spiritual black metal art!
14. MARDUK have truly returned to form with Serpent Sermon, the album that rejuvenates their career once again after weak Wormwood. All memories of that subpar release are shattered in the chaotic wind elevated by this monster black metal recording which proves time and time again why this band is one of the most revered names in the whole genre.
13. Unfortunately power metal is still weak so while we still await the trends to come circling that way to lands of dragons once again we can enjoy in couple of worthy releases in 2012 – primarily KAMELOT who haven’t lost a step with the loss of Roy Khan but rather found new strenght in Tommy Karevik as evident on Silverthorn, ellegant power prog metal album full of hits in true band’s tradition. I must admit that I expected LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY to be absolute catastrophe but Ascending To Infinity represents another winner in book of this hyperactive Italian virtuoso. And yes…FREEDOM CALL, guiltiest of all my pleasures have released one more good album Land Of The Crimson Dawn. Good for my fucked up taste anyway.
12. CRADLE OF FILTH also went back to their punky thrashy roots with The Manticore and Other Horrors which again puts the twist in their career – love them or loathe ’em you just have to admit that this band is never satisfied with status quo. It’s been a while since symphonic black metal has been pushed by new faces but it has finally happened in the last few years: CARACH ANGREN have established themselves with Where The Corpses Sink Forever as magnificent act in this field. Cradle and Dimmu should already watch their backs!
11. IHSAHN was, as always, at the very top of metal food chain in 2012 with his fourth solo offering Eremita which sees him further expanding formula from previous album After and leading it into unexplored realms while in the same time even reaching for some black metal idioms. While we’re at prog black metal gigants, BORKNAGAR have returned in all their blackened glory with Urd, the album which returned the faith in this band after few average ones – I would easily say that Urd is their best offering since Empiricism which is saying a lot.
10. Perhaps this is weird coincidence but I am typing this just a couple of days close to one year anniversary of untimely death of David Gold, mastermind of WOODS OF YPRES, who died under still undisclosed circumstances just prior to release of Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light. That sad event made listening of this album even more morose when some of David’s lyrics sounded heavily prophetic. Metal will never recover from this loss but we have got this release where the band finally fully blossomed into the beast of its own to remind us what was and make us wonder what could have been.
09. I can easily say that I would love Anathema to sound nowadays like LES DISCRETS do on their second full length Ariettes oubliées… ! Metalgaze sensation led by multitalented Fursy Teyssier showed with this one that success of their debut was no fluke so we have received another introvert romantic masterpiece. Fursy has already announced their next album which will not contain guitars at all so we are certainly eagerly awaiting to see where this band will go next.
08. KATATONIA is not mere group but instead one living organism in my eyes as everything that happens in life of band members so naturally transcends to music at given moment which is so damn beautiful in my eyes. Some bands are more than just sound, they become something like old friend whom you will always gladly listen no matter what he is talking about. Dead End Kings is no exception and yes, they have maybe created their ultimate masterpieces in the past but I am always picking Katatonia much rather than anything else.
07. If anyone had any doubt, ASPHYX has firmly proven with Deathhammer that they are kings of old school death metal right now! This is death metal that is totally rudimentary, deeply rooted in old values and never gonna change but we like it that way, as simple as that.
06. Same story as with Marduk goes for ANAAL NATHRAKH: after lackluster predecessor the band is back with new album entitled Vanitas which has blown everybody’s brains off. Anaal has reached the limits of their expression (this sounds a bit kinky) so what was left to do? Simply to write one of the best albums of their career. Extremity incarnated.
05. BARONESS has provided us the ultimate soundtrack for the summer with double album Yellow and Green, they can be hardly called metal at this point of their career but that is utterly unimportant – what counts is that this album is one of the best rock offerings in last decade and definite proof that mainstream is one fucked up place when Baroness did not become gigantic with this release.
04. So here is the band I was talking about in entry 27: SWALLOW THE SUN have created with Emerald Forest And The Blackbird the best album of their career and breathtaking masterpiece. While always being killer in melodic death doom realm, with this one the band outstretched their boundaries in various directions which has given one result totally in line of glorious nineties’ scene when only law that was obeyed was the will of music creator.
03. With Asphyx being the diehard end of death metal spectrum, CATTLE DECAPITATION have created with Monolith Of Inhumanity the exact opposite: forward thinking brutality that does not obey any law, truly singular in its violent vision. With this release CD have certainly done the best album of their career and fulfilled all the promises they were giving us all these years. Oh yeah, add to that Travis Ryan who sings like ten other extreme vocalist combined and you will realize why this album became classic at the very day of its release.
02. This is getting ridiculous. For how long can one band keep highest possible quality regardless of any trend and float in its own dimension which others cannot even dream of reaching? If you want to find out, try ENSLAVED’s RIITIIR which simply dominates over everything else in this year and argue otherwise. This could easily be the album of the year if the last song Forsaken was a bit better arranged but nevermind, this is still quality that all other bands could only dream of, all but one which holds the title of the best album of 2012 which is…
LANA DEL REY – Born To Die (Paradise Edition)
Just kidding. But I had to sqeeze her in somehow, this album rules anyway. The actual album of the year is:
01. ALCEST – Les Voyages De L’Âme. After all fire and brimstone spilled all over this list, I just hade to be wimp at the end but I cannot go against myself. Les Voyages De L’Âme is one album from which people make their lifestyles and change views, transcendental ethereal masterpiece that goes beyond anything material and connect with one’s very soul. All the glory is already bestowed upon this magnificent classic in 2012 so I can only predict that Alcest will grow to heights of, say, Opeth is they release another album on such level. At least take a look at video Autre Temps, you will become better person afterwards.