I’m going to keep this blurb short so you all can enjoy the splendors of my list, however I will say that 2012 was an excellent year for metal. It was going to take some major doing to top 2011 in terms of the sheer volume of releases it had, but I think 2012 made its impact with the quality of its releases. Also, I would like to sincerely thank everyone who takes the time to read not only my posts on this site, but who reads this site in general. We have a very cool and passionate staff here at The Monolith, so here’s to hoping we only keep growing and to our new and surely grander future endeavors. I love you all. Now check out the ten releases that I think you would be mightily foolish to pass up.
Ever wondered what would happen if you threw Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, and Styx into the same pot? If so, this self-titled and self-produced full length debut from The Omega Experiment is exactly the result you would expect, and hope, to get. Chock-full of pleasant musical twists and lyrical turns, this album meshes the technical chops of Dream Theater with vocal styles reminiscent of Devin Townsend and Styx. The Omega Experiment tie it all together within a concept album about the front-man’s life from his struggles with drug addiction to his new found beginnings. The true beauty of this album is that it flows like a progressive masterpiece musically, but also displays a tremendous vibrancy with its clean choruses. This, in particular, makes it almost impossible to not sing along with. These are the songs you wish would oust Journey from their place in society as most obnoxiously played band at any bar ever. Thankfully enough, though, these guys were just recently signed by Listenable Records. I’m sure we can expect to hear more great things from this band somewhere down the road.
Everybody say it with me: “Deftones have done it again.” Much like their 2010 release Diamond Eyes, this album came out of nowhere and immediately cemented a spot on my everyday listening schedule. Every Deftones album has at the very least been enjoyable, but it’s safe to say that the addition of Koi No Yokan to their discography has shown that they have caught another wind. With this new album they’ve taken the heavy riffage of their previous release and given it a more ethereal and atmospheric spin. I won’t go as far to say that this is their best album, but there’s something about Koi No Yokan that defines the Deftones sound and lays it on the table for all to experience. This is one you won’t want to pass up. Much like the translated meaning of the album title would suggest: after first listen, you’ll know you’re going to inevitably fall in love with it.
While I’ll admit it isn’t the easiest pill to swallow, the music hardcore act Converge produce is nothing short of intoxicating. The case is no different with their latest release, All We Love We Leave Behind. Perhaps it’s the relentlessness of the guitar rhythms and drum beats or the poetic nature of the lyrics, but “pure energy” seems to be the best term to use when describing Converge’s sound. With this new album, they bring all those familiar elements into play. However, they also bring some relatively progressive elements into the mix to show that they will not let their sound stagnate. These elements mainly come in the form of melodic guitar passages, giving the album a great sense of pacing. While said passages help to give you a temporary breather, they also lead into fantastic build ups that help accent the in-your-face craziness that defines Converge. As is the case with the last entry in my list, All We Love We Leave Behind will make you give yourself an epic facepalm for ever thinking Converge would slow down.
7. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
You know the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” French progressive death metal titans Gojira staggeringly reinforce this notion, returning to true form with their latest offering, L’Enfant Sauvage. Being their debut on Roadrunner, this album thrives on having a much cleaner production quality. Don’t worry, though; the undeniably aggressive grooves that Gojira fans have come to know and love are all still intact. Perhaps the most noticeable difference between L’Enfant Sauvage and their past releases is that the riffs and grooves seem to be more calculated as opposed to being a constant barrage. While this could be viewed as either advantage or disadvantage, Gojira unsurprisingly turn this into a positive. Their environmentally driven lyrics are also in full effect on this album and merge with the transitioning tensions of each track rather well. While this album may not live up to the legend of 2005’s From Mars To Sirius, it will act as an impressive stepping stone into whatever new territory these Frenchmen decide to take us.
My daily playlists don’t usually consist of much doom metal, but albums like Arkansas-based Pallbearer’s full length debut make me want to rectify that. What makes this album special is that it’s not your typical doom metal album; with melancholy and down-tuned droning guitar juxtaposed with clean vocals and soaring guitar solos are ultimately what help set this album ahead of the pack. While maintaining the emotionally draining nature of doom, this album also creates a stoner metal-esque groove making it all the more appealing. Creating allure within the realm of doom metal is no easy feat, however for a debut, Sorrow and Extinction invokes a sense of somberness that is utterly mind-blowing. The interweaving of acoustic guitars also contributes immensely to the all-encompassing solemnity of Pallbearer’s sound. Signing to Profound Lore was a blessing that will prove to be invaluable to Pallbearer. More offerings of this scale can’t come soon enough.
By taking the most vicious aspects of black metal and giving them a progressively technical flourish, mysterious French band Deathspell Omega have been putting out material over the past few years that has, bar none, produced some of the most interesting sounds in modern black metal. Coming off the back of their last full length 2010 release Paracletus, the final album of a conceptual trilogy that explored the three way relationship between God, the Devil, and man, they continue this trend with their newest EP, Drought. Although “brutal” is an extremely overused descriptor in metal, I challenge you to think of a more accurate term when describing this band. The vocals are grueling and throaty, the guitars are crusty and relentless, and the drums are extremely abrasive. Any metal listener brave enough to take a dive in the deep end by taking on Deathspell Omega would be advised to start with this EP as it is one of their more concise and accessible (only due to its brevity) releases. Be warned, though; like a real drought bringing famine to any region of the world unfortunate enough to be plagued by it, this Drought will also leave you thirsty for more.
I’ve always been of the sector of BTBAM fan that has, and most likely always will, held Colors to be their magnum opus. This isn’t to say, however, that their post-2007 material has run out of ideas or that they’re losing momentum; actually, quite the opposite. Borrowing influences from the likes of Dream Theater, King Crimson, and Pink Floyd, their newest release - The Parallax II: Future Sequence - takes us deeper into prog-land than they have ever taken us before. From the sounds of calliopes to flutes and even xylophones, if you can name it, chances are this album has successfully incorporated it in some form or fashion. What you would expect from BTBAM is all here and accounted for: the exchange of harsh and clean vocal passages, the abrupt time changes, and of course the noodley technical prowess. What makes this album viable for upper echelon discography material, however, is that it feels complete. While this seemingly random soundscape could be deemed directionless and indulgent by some, every instrument and technique has its own purpose within the larger spectrum that is this album. It is indeed a challenging listen, but if you’re willing to give this album enough spins, it’ll be among the more rewarding this year. As an aside, I’ll also mention that “Silent Flight Parliament” is one of the more brilliant tracks they’ve ever put together.
In terms of consistently putting out great material, few bands have been as reliable as Norway’s Enslaved. Their latest album RIITIR is certainly no exception. What is so remarkable about this album is that while it is a very dense record, Enslaved also manages to create an amazingly smooth listening experience. Without even trying, I’ve picked up something new each time I’ve listened to RIITIR. It simply flows in all of its progressive Scandinavian black metal glory: both the grueling and clean vocals shine through in their respective roles; either placing the listener in a brutal environment where black metal reigns supreme, or in an anthemic rally where singing at the top of your lungs and pumping your fists in the air are the only options. The instrumentation is also brilliant and is a key component in setting the eerie, yet enticing, soundscape. These elements combined give each track on RIITIR a certain sense of power and weight that is uncanny. You have to love a band continuing to do what they do best, and sometimes even besting themselves. My hat goes off to you, Enslaved.
There are albums that are epic simply due to a display of magnificent musicianship (ex. Dream Theater, Between The Buried and Me, etc.) and then there are albums that are epic due to the level of introspection the music incites in the listener. Instead of thinking “wow, that music was brilliantly composed”, you’ll be thinking “wow, life is beautiful!” In this way, the music acts as more of a catalyst for thought than as the sole focus in the listener’s psyche. It’s as if the listener’s very soul is taken to an elevated plane of existence where all is good and just. Translating to ‘journey of the spirit’, Alcest’s album title, Les Voyages De L’Ame, certainly delivers on its promises. This album and their previous record, 2010’s Ecailles De Lune, somehow know how to tap into the deepest depths of my being. The mixture of clean shoe-gazey guitars, heavy black metal-inspired guitar riffs and drum beats, and the hauntingly captivating nature of Neige’s clean vocals proves to deliver an experience unlike any other you’ve experienced. Do yourself a favor: lay down, drown out everything else that’s going on in your life, and let this masterpiece take you away. Journey of the spirit indeed.
1. Sylosis – Monolith
The #1 spot on my extremely subjective list was, for me, the most uncontested of all. In a year encompassing such a strong showing from so many bands, my #1 metal album of the year was going to be exactly that…my #1 METAL album of the year. No other album from 2012 comes to mind as being more metal than the newest release from British thrash-metal band Sylosis. Monolith takes a no-nonsense approach to metal songwriting and delivers a fantastically devastating blow to your ear drums. Everything you could possibly want as a metal fan is here: the fast, heavy riffs, the blistering guitar solos, the aggressive vocals, and let’s not forget the catchy-as-hell beats. Wrap this all up in an ancient Greek mythology-based concept album and we have ourselves a winner here, folks. Listening to this album will make you want to drop your sub-genre declaring fancy pants and pull up the big boy slacks. This is without question, a head-bangingly great time.