Each month in Loud, Jason Heller and John Semley catch and dissect recent releases in the metal, punk, and hardcore veins. 2012 has been a particularly stellar year for all things heavy; these are the releases that got their brains moving, mourning, and melting the most this year.
Jason Heller’s Top 10 of 2012
1. Pallbearer, Sorrow And Extinction
Doom may come and doom may go, but there’s a dead, charred place in my heart for a passionate, inventive, yet reverent take on the genre. Sorrow And Extinction, the debut from Arkansas’ Pallbearer, does all that and more. From chasms of despair to heights of unsettling melody, there’s a vaguely progressive angle to Sorrow that never comes close to abandoning or overshadowing its grim, sludge-caked roots.
2. Code Orange Kids, Love Is Love//Return To Dust
Hardcore has been tipped as the next big, hip trend for a couple of years now. But after the breakthrough success of Fucked Up, the scene has remained gloriously underground while renewing itself at an almost cancerous rate. Love Is Love//Return To Dust, the stunning debut by Pittsburgh’s Code Orange Kids, ties up all the Converge-esque loose ends of the ’00s and launches hardcore into a vital, desperate, raging future.
3. Abigail Williams, Becoming
Symphonic without being full of shit, Becoming, Abigail Williams’ latest, drenches itself in black metal’s primeval blur while intricately, delicately transmogrifying menace and dread into an ethereal odyssey. Compared to much of the last decade, 2012 wasn’t a particularly strong year for black metal—but with discs like this, there’s eternal hope for the future.
4. Pig Destroyer, Book Burner
Hyper-literate, hyper-intricate, and just plain hyper, Pig Destroyer has long been the benchmark for smart, progressive grind. That said, there’s not an ounce of sick-fuck-itude sacrificed on the band’s latest masterpiece, Book Burner. Rarely do brains taste so meaty.
5. Graveyard, Lights Out
The deeper Sweden’s Graveyard ventures into the realms of post-psychedelic, hard-rock songcraft, the better it gets. Lights Out is proof; full of reverb, howling machismo, sensitive sorcery, and eldritch hooks, the group’s third album is poised to pounce on a music world sick to its stomach of tepid garage-rock.
6. Gojira, L’Enfant Sauvage
Never technical for technicality’s sake, Gojira has served up another epic of virtuosic brutality in the form of L’Enfant Sauvage. Amid all the tightly wound angst and impeccably wrought nihilism, there’s an anthemic majesty that oozes out of every corroded track.
7. Wiccans, Field II
A mutt among fanatical purists, Wiccans is a band that could give a fuck about hardcore orthodoxy. Mixing vintage, idiosyncratic Texas punk like Big Boys and The Dicks with speed, savagery, and the occasional dip into psychedelic dementia, Field II is what happens when old souls are injected with hormones and adrenochrome.
8. Napalm Death, Utilitarian
Tons of veteran bands released great albums this year, but Napalm Death had vengeance on its breath with the delivery of Utilitarian. Showing up every extremist upstart of the past couple decades, the British stalwart yet again fine-tuned its surgical assault, mixing it with healthy doses of thick crust and clotted ambience.
9. White Lung, Sorry
Co-ed Vancouver outfit White Lung issued a red alert to the world with Sorry, a disc that’s absolutely unapologetic about its own preternatural awesomeness. Between wiry guitar work, rhythmic angularity, and inverted pop melodies, it’s amazing just how manically focused and jaggedly human it is.
10. Gaza, No Absolutes In Human Suffering
I slept on Gaza’s No Absolutes In Human Suffering when it came out in September. Thankfully, my life has been spared. And it’s a good thing, since I plan on spending many moons untangling the twisted wreckage of the disc’s contorted yet innovative grindcore onslaught.
John Semley’s Top 10 of 2012
1. Panopticon, Kentucky
Of all the records I’ve really liked this year, Kentucky is the one I keep coming back to the most, going so far as to bring it up in conversations with relative strangers who don’t care about bluegrass/black-metal hybrid albums. It’s one of the most inventive records in recent memory.
2. Pallbearer, Sorrow And Extinction
To my mind, like pizza and sexual intercourse, there’s no bad doom metal. And while I’ll gladly take pepperoni-and-cheese and missionary, respectively, whenever I can get it, it’s also nice to spice things up. So, to push this mixed metaphor as far as it’ll go, Pallbearer’s insanely good debut album is like the smoked-salmon pizza or kinky sex of doom metal. Never mind. Just listen to it.
3. Melvins, Melvins 1983 EP
As when I wrote about this one originally, I feel like I keep having to apologize for this pick because it’s an EP and because there have been so many decent-to-good Melvins releases this year. But I’ve listened to “Stick ’Em Up Bitch” more than any other song this year, and that’s got to count for something.
4. Menace Ruine, Alight In Ashes
I actually missed Alight In Ashes in time for October Loud (thanks to Heller for tipping me off), but I’m atoning here. Droning, fuzzy, warm, and analog-sounding, the new record from Montreal duo Menace Ruine absolutely kills. It’s the kind of mesmerizing (and scary) music that’s all too rare in metal.
5. Om, Advaitic Songs
I’m not 100-percent sold on this new version of Om as a three-piece, but Advaitic Songs grew on me after a whole bunch of listens. While the pounding, immersive simplicity of the Cisneros/Haikus era is gone, Om seems to be making up ground by pushing its epic drones into different, mostly satisfying new directions.
6. Pilgrim, Misery Wizard
If a band names its album Misery Wizard and titles the first track after daemonic general Astaroth, I’m going to like it. These guys are young, talented Candlemass disciples, and I can’t wait to hear what they do next. Also the vocalist’s name is “The Wizard.” What’s not to like?
7. Orange Goblin, A Eulogy For The Damned
Listening to a lot (or just enough) of this music, one learns to respect a band’s ability for cooking up new riffs. Orange Goblin shredmaster Joe Hoare is great at this, and his band’s seventh record would crack my top 10 on the strengths of “The Fog” alone.
8. Indian Handcrafts, Civil Disobedience For Losers
There’s something to be said for loud, fun party records—the kinds of albums that fill the background in concert with the clkk-swooosh of tall cans cracking open. And as party records go, Civil Disobedience For Losers is a great one, crammed with wall-to-wall bangers.
9. Angel Witch, As Above, So Below
Granted, it’s hard for NWOBHM pioneers Angel Witch to top their 1980 debut, Angel Witch (or even its eponymous title track), but the reunited heavies make good on their comeback with this one. It may fall shy of “Angel Witch,” but “Witching Hour” is pretty fantastic, as far as witch-related songs go.
10. Grand Magus, The Hunt
Proclaiming the band’s full-on shift from epic doom to power metal, The Hunt marks a new chapter for the Swedish three-piece. Like the best power-metal records, The Hunt soars with Wagnerian pomp, undercutting its triumphant bombast with doses of good humor.