Top Ten Metal Albums of 2012

It's that time again. I know it's been a while since I've posted but it's safe to say that this has been the most hectic holiday season that I can remember. I went shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve for people that I love and ended up hating the whole of humanity because....just never go to the mall on Christmas Eve.

Also, I'm awful at gift shopping/wrapping/giving.

Anyways, I'm able to put that in the rear-view mirror and focus on this list. In a couple of days I'll be posting a reflection of the past year's events (just like I'm sure everyone this side of the Equator will be doing) but for now I just want to focus on the frivolous - specifically, I want to talk about METAL. For those of you that missed my list of top ten NON-metal albums of 2012, you can find it here.

2012 was a pretty awesome year for metal. Some of my favorite bands put out stellar albums and several newcomers entered the scene in glorious fashion. I don't want to give it all way, so let's get right down to business. Just like last time, I'll post the album art and a video for each entry because I know you're lazy.

Let the dissension commence!

10. To Speak Of Wolves - Find Your Worth, Come Home (Solid State)

I've liked Solid State records for a long, long time. Some of my all time favorite bands (As Cities Burn, Zao, Becoming The Archetype) have spent some or all of their time on the label. Solid State's To Speak Of Wolves' album blew me away. In fact, I'm listening to it at the moment and was reminded of how much I like it so I bumped the original #10 album off of this list (sorry, Gojira) and added this album. There are tons of feedback laden breakdowns and blistering riffs to go around. Plus Micah Kenard of Oh, Sleeper and Levi The Poet both make guest appearances. You've got to have some kind of talent to get names like that to help you out. Here's the video for their new single for the album:

9. Syqem - Reflections Of Elephants (Recordjet)

I have no idea how to pronounce this band's name and I also have no idea why there is an elephant on the cover, but that doesn't matter because this album caught blindsided me with its awesomeness. I mentioned in the introduction that there were a few bands who came out of nowhere and blew me away. That rarely happens. Syqem is interesting because of their fresh sound - they blend elements of djent and dubstep (yes, dubstep). Djent is a very hated-on genre these days seeing as it's played out and I normally can't stand dubstep. Despite having less-than-amazing lyrics (which is my only real complaint), the hybrid sound was enough to keep me interested for the whole year. Give them a listen and see how you feel:

8. The Safety Fire - Grind The Ocean (Insideout)

Look at that album cover. SO METAL, as is the album title. In all seriousness, The Safety Fire's new album suffered through what a lot of music does these days, at least for me. Upon its release, I literally couldn't stop listening to it, then I forgot about it and rediscovered it later and really came to appreciate the musicianship behind it. The Safety Fire is one of those progressive djent bands (barely djent) that relies heavily on strong vocal delivery and mathematically creative riffs. The vocals may not be everyone's cup of tea seeing as how they are all mids and no highs or lows, but the aggression behind them combined with quality of the clean vocals deserves a mention. I just like to tell people I listen to a progressive djent band from the UK. Check out the video for their song with yet another super metal-sounding name, "Huge Hammers":

7. The HAARP Machine - Disclosure (100% Womon)

Don't let the awful album art and weird band name scare you away. The High Frequency Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is some kind of militarily researched program, but that's another story. Despite the clunky name, The HAARP Machine made this list for the very same reason Syqem did: their inventiveness. They blend djent, thrash, and progressive metal and add a dose of middle eastern-inspired music with exotic pianos and sitars. It sounds weird, but it's the coolest thing I've ever heard. I gave every song on this album 5/5 stars on my itunes upon my initial listen and haven't changed the ratings since. Plus, their guitarist looks awesome. If you don't believe me, he's right here. Turbans are so metal. Here's the video for the ridiculous "Pleiadian Keys":

6. Intervals - In Time  (unsigned)

Intervals has a lot going for them. This is an unusual entry because of the following reasons: a) they are unsigned; b) this album is only an EP and thus contains only five tracks; and c) they're a completely instrumental band. Seeing as how it's such a short album lacking vocals, it was still one of my most listened to albums even though it was released so late in the year. This band only has two EPs to their name and both of them should be available for free digital download. Being rated as gotdjent.com's best EP of the year carries some weight. I just can't get over the guitars. Some of the most awesome riffs I've heard this year. Their entire EP(only 22 minutes long) is available for streaming as well:

5. The Chariot - One Wing (Entertainment One Music)

I could go on about this album for days. It definitely gets my vote for best album art of the year. When the art was revealed, I knew it was going to be a masterpiece, and I didn't even listen to The Chariot at the time. Much like Coheed & Cambria, I had lost interest in this band somewhere along the way. The difference is that I liked all but a couple of C&C's albums whereas I stopped listening to The Chariot after only one album - their debut. So yeah. Most of my friends love this band and I couldn't not listen to it (just look at the art again, wouldn't you want to?). I was pretty much awestruck by what I heard. One Wing gets my vote for the most intense and chaotic album of the year and surely would have been rated higher had I been listening to this band all along. I can't really say anything bad about this album so I'll just stop gushing about it and post a video:

4. Exotic Animal Petting Zoo - Tree Of Tongues (Mediaskare)

Every time I mention this band, I get weird looks from my friends. EAPZ is a band that also came out of nowhere like Syqem but they already had one album under their belt. I like to describe their sound as being a blend of Deftones, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Every Time I Die. Go ahead, try and imagine that combination. The clean vocals sound like Chino Moreno, the guitars remind of the mathematical chaos of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and the screamed vocals hint at Every Time I Die. I hope that explains it better. Despite all of this, EAPZ manages to create their own sound. This album's release was delayed so long (Mediaskare does that quite a bit, to the chagrin of their fans) that I broke down and downloaded it. Seriously, it was two months after the original release date. I'm not a terrible person. EAPZ was the first band I saw in Seattle and I'll never forget it. Their video for "Thorough.Modern" is probably my favorite out of all of these band's videos: 

3. The Contortionist - Intrinsic (Entertainment One)

The Contortionists' sophomore album was probably my most anticipated album of the year. Their previous Exoplanet was considered by many to be a masterpiece and a sign that this band was going to do massive things for the harder side of the music world. I enjoyed the heck out of Exoplanet for its blend of deathcore, djent, sci-fi inspired themes and progressive elements. Intrinsic was not more of the same. In fact, it was very different and The Contortionist probably lost some fans. For me, the best part was its brave jump forward and departure from a highly emulated sound into much more experimental waters. I don't like it when bands stay the same and put out the same album with a different title every two years (minus a few exceptions, one of which you'll see next). Because of this, I loved the clean vocals, more prevalent keyboards, and experimental elements of Intrinsic. I have to admit the album caught me off guard stylistically speaking, but that's not always a bad thing. Watch the video for their single "Causality" below: 

2. As I Lay Dying - Awakened (Metal Blade)

Call me a fan of the past, old-school, or a metalhead - I don't care. I will never stop loving this band from my hometown. In my opinion, As I Lay Dying has easily been the most consistent metal band of the last decade. They rode the wave of metalcore to the very top and just got better and better, never abandoning their sound but instead honing and sharpening their trademark sonic attack. Because of this, pretty much every album they put out is better than the previous one. It all comes down to personal preference. Awakened may not have the nostalgic feeling of some of AILD's older albums do, but I do have to say that this is their best release yet, which is hard to do because I wonder if they are ever going to stop getting better. Probably not. Also, I just saw them a month ago. They were INSANE. Seriously, we don't deserve them. Try and imagine fighting their vocalist. You won't. Here's their video for "A Greater Foundation":

1. Between The Buried & Me - Parallax II: Future Sequence (Metal Blade)

This is going to be a test. I don't know what to say about this album even though if I started I wouldn't be able to stop. There's just too much. BTBAM are the undisputed kings of the progressive side of the metal world. Most of my friends up here in Seattle don't like them, leading me to believe that all my friends don't have souls. This band goes over a lot of people's heads. I mean, look at that title. Some of the songs are well over 10 minutes long. Some people just don't have the time for that. But if you do, give this a listen. It is a magnum opus, a rock opera, an absolutely untouchable display of musical genius and prowess. Every time I see BTBAM I want to give up making music. Have you seen them? Then don't talk about them. You're not good enough. This album is far and away my favorite metal album of the year. It's still an exercise getting through it because there is just so much to it. It requires all of your attention. But if you don't time for that, here's the video for "Astral Body":

Honorable Mentions:

The Algorithm - Polymorphic Code
Becoming The Archetype - I Am
Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage

That will do it for my favorite albums of 2012 for both the metal and non-metal worlds. We all have our own opinions and I'd love to hear yours. I hope 2013 has just as much BLISTERING METAL INSANITY as this year did. There are some big names planning to drop new albums and I'm eager to see what newer bands (Syqem, Intervals) have in store for them. I'll be keeping track!

PS - I'm haven't posted any real updates on my life the past few posts because like I said, I don't even know where to begin. But trust me, you'll get a massive amount of introspection in my next post in the following days.

Cheers, everyone.



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