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2012: Favourite To Least (Continued)

Thumbs up: +2
Because I reached the word limit on the previous list, and don't want to lose my quite excellent in-depth descriptions. Those without descriptions are from my other list.

Created by: musclassia | 29.10.2012

1. Sylosis - Monolith
2012 [9.6]
2. Be'lakor - Of Breath And Bone
2012 [9.3]
3. In The Silence - A Fair Dream Gone Mad
2012 [9.1]
4. Abigail Williams - Becoming
2012 [9.1]
5. Rodrigo Y Gabriela - Area 52
2012 [9.0] - Very late discovery, but man these guys are incredible. I've liked their first two for a while, but it's taken me a long time to get round to checking this one, and it is truly fantastic. The new samba flavours completely re-invent the songs and often arguably for the better, making incredibly layered, very hooky pieces that are immensely enjoyable. Definitely one of the best of 2012 and looking forward to 2014's album.
6. Enslaved - RIITIIR
2012 [8.8]
7. Seven Kingdoms - The Fire Is Mine
2012 [8.7] - Isn't it incredible what an effect a truly outstanding singer can have? The music on display here is very good power metal, with a lovely non-flower, slightly dark feel, whilst maintaining a clear nous for melody and riffs that live up to the 'power' moniker, but by itself is in the '8' band. Then the magnificent vocals of Sabrina Valentine, my new favourite PM vocalist (well, maybe bar Roy Khan) come on and all of a sudden it goes to the next level. No complaints really, it doesn't revolutionise power metal, but it does it so much better than most of the current crowd, and even a lot of the innovators. 100% recommended to fans of melodic metal, female-fronted bands, or heck, just metal fans.
8. Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence
2012 [8.7]
9. Jeff Loomis - Plains Of Oblivion
2012 [8.7]
10. Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve
2012 [8.7]
11. Wodensthrone - Curse
2012 [8.6] - A really, really well-made folk-influenced atmos-black release, which uses all its elements (including ambient keyboards, occasional strings, acoustic segments, all layered on a bed of ferocious black metal) to top effect. It could maybe tone down the rawest segments; personal opinion, I find breakneck blastbeat BM segments tedious in excess. But they're used to just about a healthy degree, and the raw guitar riffs are at least more interesting than some parts. All this acts as a good foundation for the other layers to take it to the next level. The brilliance that this band can achieve is best illustrated in the latter half of 'First Light', as well as parts of 'Wyrgthu'. Top notch stuff.
12. In Mourning - The Weight Of Oceans
2012 [8.6]
13. Kälter - Ubuntu
2012 [8.6] - Melodeath, but not as you've probably heard it previously - this is not from the Heartwork, Gothenburg, Finnish, or Soilwork camps of melodeath, but something rather different. It has definite prog leanings and folk forays, as well as symphonic elements, and covers an impressive amount of ground, producing something fresh and delightful. I'm not sure if this sufficiently describes their sound, but if the description intrigues you, check it out - you will not be disappointed.
14. Ortega - The Serpent Stirs
2012 [8.6] - The second EP from these Dutch metallers this year (check below for thoughts on A Flame...). 18 minutes of stellar post/sludge-doom, with all the right things going on in all of the calm and brooding, raw and visceral, and grand and engrossing moments. A free download from their Bandcamp, the biggest no-brainer of the year.
15. Allegaeon - Formshifter
2012 [8.5]
16. Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster - Exegesis
2012 [8.5]
17. Pictured - Strand Of Time
2012 [8.5] - A top-notch melodeath release. Bite-ier than some more sugar-coated bands, more varied than Allegaeon, more melodic than Gory Blister, more interesting than Bloodshot Dawn, and just generally offers the mixture of melodic guitar leads and forceful but not-excessive extremity and power that one would expect with a genre title like melodic death. The melodies are interesting, sometimes giving a nod to Arabian melodies (hence the album cover I guess), and riffing is heavy but not extreme, the vocals are more rasps and barks than growls, and are all the better for it. All in all, a superb effort.
18. Gorod - A Perfect Absolution
2012 [8.5] - Always a fan of good interesting tech-death, and this was one of the genre highlights from this year. I've always felt bands in this genre are at their best when they reign in the brutality and utilise the genre's freedom to come up with interesting stuff and exciting solos and riffs, and that's what this band does very well. Particular highlights are The Axe Of God, Varangian Paradise, and the outstanding Carved In The Wind, which ventures all over the place with uniform success.
19. Accept - Stalingrad
2012 [8.5]
20. Bilocate - Summoning The Bygones
2012 [8.4] - A delightful mish-mash of styles, based around a core of melancholy extreme-leaning doom. However, around that, there is a whole heap of softer, acoustic sections, progressive segments, some really interesting solo parts, and then tendencies towards more extreme styles. These can all be touched on in the space of a single song, and all of them are done with a high level of competence. Whilst one could argue against the cohesiveness of all these sections (it does jump around rather a lot, and some of the segues into the different segments are less seamless than others), the actual individual moments are so enjoyable that it's not a huge problem. Really solid collection of music.
21. Sigh - In Somniphobia
2012 [8.4]
22. Daylight Dies - A Frail Becoming
2012 [8.4]
23. Finsterforst - Rastlos
2012 [8.3] - Yay, Moonsorrow worship! A bit of a stretch admittedly, but the two bands are very similar musically, with that epic folk/black sound. Kudos to this band, they pulled of that sound remarkably well, considering how easy it would be to get wrong and produce snooze-fest of aimless extended tracks, but these guys know what they're doing, and produce some wonderfully captivating music during the course of this album, especially unbelievable album closer Flammenrausch, which ends quite superbly. Not quite as outstanding as Moonsorrow admittedly, but still very good indeed.
24. The Faceless - Autotheism
2012 [8.3] - A really neat prog/tech-death release, with a healthy mix of brutal extremity and more melodic wandering, with plenty of clean vocals (very reminiscent of Devin Townsend, never a bad thing), calm segments, and quality guitar leads and solos. I've heard this band previously dallied with deathcore, but like Fallujah last year, these past phases don't appear to be particularly present any more; -core leanings are mostly absent. The music is very solid and commendable, somewhat similar to Obscura's Omnivium but clearly their own individual work. Very good.
25. Sleepmakeswaves - Sleepmakeswaves
2012 [8.3] - A rather satisfying combination EP of songs from their previous two mini-releases (one EP and one split), pulling the best efforts from each into a fully realised package with another couple of good tracks. One Day... and Keep Your Splendid Silent Sun are two fantastic songs that lift the whole release up and offer up a highly enjoyable half-hour of music from one of the best post-rock bands active.
26. Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubliées...
2012 [8.3]
27. Saturnus - Saturn In Ascension
2012 [8.3] - One of my favourite doom acts release their latest effort, the long-awaited follow-up to the mesmerizing Veronika Decides To Die. Is it as good? Well no, but it's still a fine effort. It includes the melancholy guitar leads, low grunts, heavy riffs, ambient keys etc that you would expect, and it works as fine as you would expect. Where it falls short are in the tracks where they whip out the tedious spoken word parts - and the all-acoustic tracks (3 & 6) are pleasant, but not to the same level as the more forceful music; track 3 especially is a big of a dragger. Nonetheless, very good album.
28. Big Big Train - English Electric (Part One)
2012 [8.3] - A really neat prog rock release, obviously influenced by, but not stuck in, the past. Aside from the core band, flutes, strings, banjos, and more all get a chance to make a worthwhile contribution, and it all comes together to make some really pleasant listening music. Very chilled out, and very well made.
29. Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds Of Ages
2012 [8.3]
30. Bend The Sky - Origins
2012 [8.3]
31. Dissona - Dissona
2012 [8.3]
32. Psilocybe Larvae - The Labyrinth Of Penumbra
2012 [8.3] - Some really neat 'dark' metal, with a vaguely melodeath base, but with progressive leanings, as well as a healthy component of muted atmosphere. It all comes out sounding not necessarily memorable, but rather moving, very pleasant and fairly distinct.
33. Xandria - Neverworld's End
2012 [8.3]
34. Dordeduh - Dar De Duh
2012 [8.3]
35. Destinity - Resolve In Crimson
2012 [8.3] - 'Symphonic Avantgarde Death Metal'?? This is ultimate Gothenburg worship, MetalStorm! Aiming a Fist in Emnity could've easily been a bonus track on a recent Dark Tranquillity album, and other tracks definitely take cues from both Gothenburg, and at times, other melodeath bands (Can't Stand the Sight definitely brought some of the finnish melodeath bands to mind), but they do it blisteringly well, so it's easy to forgive the lack of originality.
36. Ne Obliviscaris - Portal Of I
2012 [8.3]
37. Beyond The Bridge - The Old Man And The Spirit
2012 [8.2]
38. Saturnian - Dimensions
2012 [8.2] - An 'extreme' symphonic album of the very OTT, cheesy variety, but performed in such a way as to be as entertaining as this genre can be, similar to Vesperian Sorrow, although with less bite than that album. The album does take cues from black metal (namely Cradle of Filth and mid-era Dimmu Borgir), with the shrieks, crunchy guitar arrangements and such, but does lean far more towards theatricality. Thankfully, in addition to an endless wave of symphonics, it does have some really neat band instrumental work going on, including some really sweet guitar leads and such, that keep it really engaging and enjoyable, despite the real lack of originality.
39. Borknagar - Urd
2012 [8.2]
40. Blut Aus Nord - 777 - Cosmosophy
2012 [8.2]
41. Before The Dawn - Rise Of The Phoenix
2012 [8.2]
42. Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata
2012 [8.2]
43. The Haarp Machine - Disclosure
2012 [8.2] - I tried listening to this whilst doing work, and had to restart it 3 times because I'd completely lost track of it; this is music which requires your full attention. It is modern technical metal, with some tech-'death' leanings, although it never gets fully extreme, but also a fair amount of clean vocals, which if not great, do their job well enough. The band obviously has chops, and are better songwriters than either the djent crowd or the prog/tech/death/core crowd fronted by the likes of Born of Osiris. It's not perfect; even if it achieves a greater emotional feel than a lot of these modern technical bands achieve, they're still somewhat slaves to the style, but they do try hard to build songs with their musicianship. A rather strong album which promises a decent amount from the band.
44. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist
2012 [8.2]
45. Whales And Aurora - The Shipwreck
2012 [8.1] - It''s a post-metal album, more in the vein of Cult Of Luna than Isis, and that's enough for you to get a good idea of the album's content. It's not a rigid, by-the-numbers example - it has elements of doom, post-rock and other bits, but only in small doses, spicing up the post-metal at hand, which is done well, better than Process Of Guilt's effort, for example. Nothing spectacular or original, but a solid effort at a genre I'm getting increasingly fond of.
46. Ortega - A Flame Never Rises On Its Own
2012 [8.1] - I found this name mentioned on the thread for the Whales And Aurora album just above it in this list and was intrigued. Mentions of a mix of sludge/post-metal and elements of doom were not far wrong; whilst the third and especially second tracks are firmly in the Cult of Luna spectrum, the first is arguably a more convincing effort at post-doom than anything of Process of Guilt's Faemin. This is a mightily impressive EP, which utilises its reduced-but-not-brief duration to full effect.
47. Monolithe - Interlude Second
2012 [8.1]
48. Eternal Deformity - The Beauty Of Chaos
2012 [8.1] - Some more really solid symphonic melo-black, not dissimilar to but less extreme than Vesperian Sorrow. It leans more towards the melodic than the rawness of the black metal, and the symphonics are highly prominent, and complement the music well. A really solid and accessible genre release.
49. Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage
2012 [8.1]
50. Spawn Of Possession - Incurso
2012 [8.1] - TECHDEATH!!!! Yep, frantic riffs, constant changes in time changes, insane soloing, everything one would expect from the genre. It makes a very accomplished effort at it and the musicians are all very talented; the one problem it has, which is a major one, is just how invariant this genre is. When you've got bands like Necrophagist and Obscura existing, everything else just seems to end up sounding like tribute bands to these two. There are bands which mix it up, for example Gorod, but SoP do a 'warts-and-all' genre release, which whilst being performed very well, just lacks any form of identity. TDM fans will love it, those than dislike the genre will hate with just as much passion as they do Necrophagist.
51. Blue Aside - The Moles Of A Dying Race
2012 [8.1] - A genuinely great stoner release, with some very mild psychedelic, proggy and sludge elements incorporated into the mix, giving it a wonderfully fresh feel. Given my relative lack of experience of the genre, The Sword acts as my reference point, and this does share the same musical base as that band, but with a lot more variety and a lot more going on on top. Unafraid to enter 10+ minute song territory to allow their sound to fully develop, they produced a really enjoyable record, and goes down as another great debut from this year.
52. Testament - Dark Roots Of Earth
2012 [8.1]
53. Reverence - The Asthenic Ascension
2012 [8.1] - Interesting black metal taking cues from Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega without being truly derivative. They are nowhere near as dissonant as those bands can be, and sound more 'orthodox' perhaps than they do; additionally they make use of clean vocals and melodic clean guitar lines intertwining with the core music, so they are certainly more accessible than some of the other esoteric BM bands France has to offer. Engaging and varied, a very solid release.
54. De Profundis - The Emptiness Within
2012 [8.0] - A quasi-extreme progressive album with a somewhat morose atmosphere. It's got some really good instrumentation going on, with some really neat guitar parts, and the songwriting manages to keep things coherent with the progressive nature and willingness to mix it up. It doesn't have anything truly special about it to take it above very good, but a very competent release.
55. Vintersorg - Orkan
2012 [8.0] - Pretty standard Vintersong fare, for better or worse. I can't say I'm inclined to get a permanent copy of this after listening online, but I certainly enjoyed listening whilst it was on. It's the same mix of proggy, folk-y black metal that has been heard on previous records, but they know what they're doing and they do it well, so props to them.
56. Der Weg Einer Freiheit - Unstille
2012 [8.0] - It's black metal, nothing here will be particularly shocking if you know what that means. Long tracks, sharp guitar tones, shrieking vocals, and so on. This isn't a beast in the originality department. Nevertheless, the songs are varied, the production is blissfully decent and the music is generally pretty darn good, so props to these dudes for that.
57. Ahab - The Giant
2012 [8.0]
58. Sanctium - Sanctium
2012 [8.0] - A melodeath debut release from this year, caught somewhere between the catchy Gothenburg sound, and the more 'atmospheric/melancholy' Finnish sound. The material is not wildly original, but it is well-performed, hooky and powerful, most notably the 'epic' closing track Enslaved, which is a fitting pinnacle to a promising debut.
59. Headspace - I Am Anonymous
2012 [8.0]
60. Aborted - Global Flatline
2012 [8.0]
61. To-Mera - Exile
2012 [8.0] - Female-fronted, keyboard-heavy, progressive metal. The music is well-performed, varied and interesting, and whilst the vocalist has received a bit of flack on this website, I think she does a perfectly good job. The music does sometimes suffer the 'prog curse' of having all the different musical elements going on in a likeable way but not really fusing into a coherent, engaging sound; however, when they get it right, it does sound rather good. The keyboards especially are a highlight of the album, with some really interesting parts that complement the music well, and also get ample chance to shine. Strong but imperfect release.
62. The Project Hate MCMXCIX - The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda
2013 [7.9] - This band's release in 2011 was my first introduction to the band, as well as one of my favourite albums of that year. The mix of good non-operatic but dramatic female vocals with death roars, crunchy riffs with prominent keys, and well-written extended songs, really did it for me. This year's album offers more of the same; however, whilst it retains all those qualities, it perhaps lacks some of the supreme quality of that album, as it just didn't leave the same impression on me. A worthwhile and well-made effort, but not quite up there with the previous release.
63. Alcest - Les voyages de l'âme
2012 [7.9]
64. King Of Asgard - ...To North
2012 [7.9] - Solid but unspectacular viking/black metal, rife with hooky BM riffs, viking roar-y growls, and interesting changes in pace with e.g. acoustics, fem vocals, etc. to keep a fresh sound. However, the lack of variety in the core music does begin to wear thin over the course of the album; even if the riffs are great, tremolo picking does begin to grow old if done to excess with insufficient variation. Nevertheless, a good, consistent effort.
65. Sunpocrisy - Samaroid Dioramas
2012 [7.9] - Another one to join the collection of good/great post-metal from this year. It has the same post- core as you would expect but covers an enjoyable amount of ground to sound fresh - the clean sections can sound anything from Isis-esque to Alcest-esque or in between, and the heavier parts keep to the CoL feel whilst not being constrained by it. At times it really goes beyond the usual; 'Samaroid' is pretty much a djent/modern technical metal track, which eventually evolves into something, to be frank, better. But with all these things going on, it keeps a remarkably consistent level of quality throughout - not exceptional, but still very good.
66. Devin Townsend - Epicloud
2012 [7.9]
67. Overkill - The Electric Age
2012 [7.9]
68. Spectral Lore - Sentinel
2012 [7.9] - Genrefied on here as 'atmospheric black metal' and 'dark ambient', I don't think either really describes the music. It is definitely riff-driven and has a lot more to do with standard BM than your WITTR-style atmos-bands. There is more than enough extremity in the album to put it aside from the Alcests of this world, and it has a far wider scope than some bands. Whilst it spends a large amount of time in extreme, rapid-riff-fests, it's perfectly happy to slow down and get creepy, or grandiose, or sorrowful. Difficult to really describe, just listen for yourself and see.
69. The Foreshadowing - Second World
2012 [7.9] - A really pleasant and interesting gothic metal, down to it's rich instrumentation, interesting guitar use and some lovely guitar leads (see Reverie is a Tyrant), and especially the very rich and suiting lead vocalist. It doesn't quite reach true greatness, but in particular around the middle of the album, it brings out some really solid tracks, and is all in all a thoroughly enjoyable melancholy album, and one of the better from this year.
70. Process Of Guilt - Fæmin
2012 [7.9]
71. Akphaezya - Anthology IV: The Tragedy Of Nerak
2012 [7.9] - I'd heard people complaining about this being too chaotic; on the contrary, it feels more constrained than the likes of uneXpect and Stolen Babies, and benefits from it. The softer tracks are very enjoyable, in particular due to the lovely vocalist, whilst the more metal tracks and segments are reasonable without being great. This band is somewhere inbetween Diablo Swing Orchestra and UneXpect, and are of similar quality to the two bands; really quite enjoyable fem-avantgarde.
72. Dark Empire - From Refuge To Ruin
2012 [7.9] - A pretty solid effort at making the US power/speed metal thing interesting; usually bands trying it come off a bit shapeless and thin-sounding, with neither bite nor hooks (case in point: Pharoah). This album did start off sounding like it might do that, but it picked up quickly and got some meat on the riffs and some melodic sensibilities into the choruses; and the solos are both fitting and exciting. The album isn't perfect; sometimes the riffs aren't all that exciting, and the vocal lines could definitely be improved in a number of places, but all in all a decent effort, and a far more interesting attempt at 'speed' metal than some other bands try.
73. Wintersun - Time I
2012 [7.8]
74. Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
2012 [7.9]
75. Keep Your Opinions To Yourself - Undiscovered Country Of Old Death And Strange Years In The Frightful Past
2012 [7.9] - Some quite decent post-/doom metal. By the genre, I refer more to Erosion-era Process of Guilt than Faemin; multiple tracks mix post-style riffs and song structures, with classic doom clean guitar style leads and plodding tempos. However, it spends arguably more time in post- territory, it does it rather well; track 07 in particular is a really nice track. It doesn't quite rank up to some of the genre greats, and the production does have a slightly thin sound to it that could potentially have been improved upon, but it's a rather good record all in all.
76. Gory Blister - Earth-Sick
2012 [7.9]
77. Desultor - Masters Of Hate
2012 [7.9]
78. Litrosis - I Am Death
2012 [7.9]
79. Beardfish - The Void
2012 [7.8] - Pleasant modern-tinged prog rock, which has some really nice moments in it, especially in the track Ludvig & Sverker, and the delightful album epic Note. Everything is order, and the music, whilst taking cues from old-school prog, is sufficiently different as to have its own distinct identity. However, it's not quite good enough to truly excel.
80. Atoma - Skylight
2012 [7.8]
81. Favna Abisal - Rerum Imaginaria
2012 [7.8]
82. Evoken - Atra Mors
2012 [7.8]
83. Ørkenkjøtt - Ønskediktet
2012 [7.8] - A nice and quirky avantgarde/prog release which covers a fair amount of territory, from acoustic segments to extreme territory, arguably with no clear narrative. It has plenty of interesting snapshots in the music, but as a whole package is ever so slightly lacking. Worthwhile listen for anyone who likes music that mixes it up though.
84. Oddland - The Treachery Of Senses
2012 [7.8] - An album which finds itself located somewhere in between Pain of Salvation's emotional feel (Especially the Gildenlow-esque vocals) and the musicality of technical death metal - stick some growls on this and it could easily pass as a band from that genre. This works both for and against the album - at times it brings an interesting feel to it, whilst at others it comes off as a bit empty and distracting. When they venture into more traditional prog territory, or when they focus more on the PoS-style feel, the music fares somewhat better. It's a nice album, but there is room for improvement still in refining their music.
85. Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression
2012 [7.8]
86. The Great Old Ones - Al Azif
2012 [7.8] - An interesting mix of black, doom and post-metal, which sometimes uses the mix to its advantage, sometimes it detracts somewhat. The band probably excels best when it uses atmos-black as the core with the other elements laced in, examples of this found in The Truth. At certain times however, it can come across as somewhat ponderous, and the times that it overuses black metal's extreme tendencies, it loses some of its unique character. None the less, an interesting and promising release.
87. Pythia - The Serpent's Curse
2012 [7.8] - Some reasonably solid female-fronted power metal with symphonic elements. The vocalist has got pipes, although is more Tarja in approach than, for example, the Seven Kingdoms vocalist; however, some of the vocal lines don't quite do her justice. The music itself is well-written and engaging without excelling. Decent.
88. Epica - Requiem For The Indifferent
2012 [7.8]
89. Thee Orakle - Smooth Comforts False
2012 [7.8] - Something vaguely classifiable as a more aggressive version of Epica, with moments leaning closer to death than that band reaches, but not with a sound wholly similar to MaYaN, a band of similar description. The album is nothing exceptional, yet has a solid content of consistently good songs, with sufficient musical variety to keep entertained, and good vocals in terms of both the female cleans and male growls.
90. Bloodshot Dawn - Bloodshot Dawn
2012 [7.8]
91. Mencea - Pyrophoric
2012 [7.8] - A neat collection of groove-based techy/proggy death metal, with a group of songs with fearsome growls, hooky riffs and solid song structures. It does have a somewhat limited feel, but the album is of sufficient length to give a powerful collection of songs without becoming stale.
92. Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal
2012 [7.8]
93. The Firstborn - Lions Among Men
2012 [7.8]
94. Schattenbrandung - I - Apophänie
2012 [7.8] - A solid black metal release with variation in vocals (growls, shrieks, occasional cleans), levels of extremity (pleasant soft acoustic passages mixed with full-on assaults) and melody/dissonance, all of which is done with cohesion and apt songwriting. Nothing wildly original or particularly sensational, but all-round a good job, and brought to a very good close with the highlight final track, with it's lovely extended 'acoustic with building layers' outro.
95. Indesinence - Vessels Of Light And Decay
2012 [7.8] - A really solid, heavy death/doom release, with good use of mood-setting keys&ambience interludes both within and between songs, and other additional elements to just keep the release fresh from a constant barrage of doomy fury. D/D fans, this should be right up your street.
96. A Forest Of Stars - A Shadowplay For Yesterdays
2012 [7.8]
97. Vision Divine - Destination Set To Nowhere
2012 [7.8] - Power metal with the Rhapsody of Fire vocalist; I was a little wary because that band had really drained my enthusiasm for such music with their faceless histrionic style. However, this is far more enjoyable; it lacks the OTT style, and is just fairly normal euro-power metal, with the occasional semi-ballad fit in. It's all performed well and is enjoyable listening, but is admittedly just another album in a sea of similar music.
98. Threshold - March Of Progress
2012 [7.8] - Solid melodic progressive rock/metal - it does meander like prog can, but it is mostly song-orientated, and served well by it. The vocalist has a very nice voice, and the songwriting and musicianship is perfectly serviceable, serving up a collection of good, but ultimately forgettable songs. I spent a fair amount of it trying to remember who they remind me of most; I'm going to wager Pagan's Mind, but I feel they're not the band I'm really thinking of. All in all, it's fine but will ultimately be forgotten by the passing of time.
99. Swallow The Sun - Emerald Forest And The Blackbird
2012 [7.8]
100. Kong - Merchants Of Air
2012 [7.7] - Instrumental prog metal, more riff-driven than some of the other stuff that name might bring to mind (Spastic Ink, John Petrucci). Has some neat grooves, heavy riffs, tasteful use of electronic elements, and is an all-round solid package, if not quite reaching greatness.
101. Therion - Les Fleurs Du Mal
2012 [7.7]
102. Enochian Theory - Life... And All It Entails
2012 [7.7] - Pleasant, chilled out, progressive rock with occasional metal leanings. Comparisons have been made to Riverside, although this music doesn't have quite the same melancholy feel that something like Out Of Myself has; whilst not being cheery, it has a somewhat upbeat feel to it. At times it does branch into heavier territory, with occasional growls, but they work best with their milder music. It's interesting, but doesn't really excel compared to other bands operating in the same general musical circles.
103. Derelict Earth - Below The Empty Skies
2012 [7.7] - Actually a really solid effort, and a step up from this MSer's previous effort. The production still isn't perfect, the song structuring still hasn't reached its peak, and the clean vocals aren't the strongest point of the album, but there is also some really good music found on this album, albeit perhaps a bit segmented. Some good riffs, some good soloing, some good clean guitar parts, and all in all, a good solid listen.
104. Dark Tranquillity - Zero Distance
105. Step In Fluid - One Step Beyond
2012 [7.7]
106. Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay
2012 [7.7] - Despite getting increasingly into the whole post-metal scene, Neurosis, one of the big daddies of the genre, have (Souls Of Zero aside) never really gripped me. So it was with trepidation that I checked out their latest - and I must say, whilst I'm still not quite in love with it, this is the Neurosis album I've enjoyed the most post-Souls Of Zero. Sometimes a bit dragging and not always mesmerizing, but some really sick parts in there that trounce most of the content on the last two albums. Surprisingly neat.
107. Ihsahn - Eremita
2012 [7.7]
108. Ensiferum - Unsung Heroes
2012 [7.7]
109. Sedulus - Sedulus [EP]
2012 [7.7]
110. Rush - Clockwork Angels
2012 [7.7]
111. Agalloch - Faustian Echoes
2012 [7.7]
112. Om - Advaitic Songs
2012 [7.7] - An interesting mix of stoner-doom and middle-Eastern folk instruments and music. Not heavy at all, certainly more like chill-out music, but a pleasant, relaxing and intriguing listen, albeit one that gets a tad repetitive before its time is over. Standout track Gethsemane is definitely worth checking out, and if you like that track, chances are the whole album will appeal.
113. Crescent Moon - The Wall Of Light
2012 [7.7]
114. High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
115. Klone - The Dreamer's Hideaway
2012 [7.6] - An alt metal band somewhat similar in sound to Tool, although with their own distinctive sound; they're far more independent soundwise than say, Soen. The music is competent but isn't quite interesting enough to really appeal; it just sounds like a mesh of instruments rather than anything grippingly arranged, although it does definitely have its moments. The obvious appeal of the band is the excellent lead singer, who is in the same ballpark as Maynard Keenan (sorry for another Tool reference), but with a richer sound. If they can make music that truly allows the vocals to excel, they could produce something really rather excellent; and to be honest, given how long Tool are taking to release anything new, there's a gap primed for a fresh band to fill with quality music, if Klone can manage it.
116. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
2012 [7.6] - A moderately impressive return by these guys; offers everything you would expect from their music, blemishes and all. Their brand of post-rock isn't necessarily my favourite, with it being a tad esoteric and lacking in hooks at times, but it's still a relatively enjoyable, pleasantly-chilled effort.
117. Wilds Forlorn - We, The Damned
2012 [7.6]
118. Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
2012 [7.6] - My first intro to this band I've heard a fair amount of, mainly regarding their variety. There is definitely a measure of variety on display here; whilst the vicious blast-beat-and-single-note-tremelo BM of Reduced To Ashes has been heard under a thousand different names previously, the introduction of surprising melodic leads in And I Control You (the highlight of the album) and I Wait In Hell, as well as the 'Between Two Worlds'/Agalloch-esque closing track add some needed freshness to the album. Not a great, but the highlight tracks, namely those previously mentioned and Borrowed Hope... are well worth a listen.
119. Taranis - Kingdom
2012 [7.6]
120. Xanthochroid - Blessed He With Boils
2012 [7.5] - A similar kettle of fish to Taranis, although with more extreme vocals. This brand of melodic 'epic' black metal is interesting, but a little lacking in something to push it towards greatness and a bit ungripping. Additionally, the softer bits are extremely forgettable. Nevertheless, a decent debut from these guys.
121. Eïs - Wetterkreuz
2012 [7.5]
122. The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet
2012 [7.5]
123. Vertigo Steps - Surface/Light
2012 [7.5] - A mellow melodic metal album, with a mild dark, depressive touch. Comes with a fairly rich atmosphere and is from the same grand circle of music as Katatonia, although sound rather different aside from the Renske-ish vocals and dense atmosphere. The album definitely reaches its peak with the closing few songs, which hit the mood more successfully and also include more engaging instrumental work and some really pleasant vocals, especially the closer Porcupine Dilemma. Overall, it's a decent, albeit ultimately a tad forgettable album (although it crushes Katatonia's latest).
124. Wilderun - Olden Tales & Deathly Trails
2012 [7.5]
125. Igorrr - Hallelujah
2012 [7.4] - A bizarre mix of grind, electronic, experimental and the kind of music you might hear in a Parisian train station, which, whilst not necessarily being particularly enjoyable, is incredibly ambitious and far more accessible than one might expect of such bizarre music. I can't say it's something I'll listen to again in a hurry, but for those of a more avant-garde nature, there is a lot on offer here, a great deal of which is likely to appeal to more experimental tastes. Oddball but remarkably engaging.
126. Stolen Babies - Naught
2012 [7.4]
127. Kamelot - Silverthorn
2012 [7.4] - With Black Halo one of my top 5 all-time favourite albums, and Karma another album I highly enjoy, I was gutted by the news of Roy Khan leaving, despite the thoroughly run-of-the-mill Poetry for the Poisoned. Good news I can report: the new singer's a good replacement. He has a fair amount of similarity to Khan - don't know if this was a deliberate choice or just coincidence. Less good news: the songs just don't make the grade that TBH and such set. They sound limited, and all lack the spark that pretty much every track on Black Halo had. There are times e.g. the chorus of Silverthorn, that it feels so empty and stripped-down that it's difficult to believe it's the same band. It's still decent, but it's something of a disappointment - only a few bright sparks (e.g. the solo in Prodigal son) to light up an otherwise 'okay' affair.
128. Circus Maximus - Nine
2012 [7.4]
129. Coheed & Cambria - The Afterman: Ascension
2012 [7.4]
130. The Sword - Apocryphon
2012 [7.4]
131. Anathema - Weather Systems
2012 [7.4]
132. Antimatter - Fear Of A Unique Identity
2012 [7.4] - A similar style to mid-era Anathama (say Alternative 4, Judgement), and of comparable quality to this year's Anathema album. It is arguably more consistent, however it lacks the high peaks of Weather Systems (there's nothing on here to rival, for example, The Beginning And The End). The album is chilled, slightly morose, easy-going album, which doesn't quite match the quality of similar-sounding albums that have been released previously.
133. Becoming The Archetype - I Am
2012 [7.3]
134. Waning - The Human Condition
2012 [7.3] - Some reasonable mid-paced semi-atmos black metal, but nothing exceptional and fairly forgettable. Still, a good listen whilst it's on, and Continuum is pretty kick-ass.
135. Luca Turilli's Rhapsody - Ascending To Infinity
2012 [7.3]
136. OSI - Fire Make Thunder
2012 [7.3]
137. Soundgarden - King Animal
2012 [7.3] - This is a band which, despite having a certain level of interest in, have never been a real fan of, so this return album intrigued rather than excited me. To be honest it is a rather more streamlined effort than the likes of Superunknown and Badmotorfinger, but it's still closer to older Soundgarden than Kerrang rock. Whilst songs like the semi-ballad Halfway There offer nothing of real interest, certain tracks such as Taree, Bones of Birds and A Thousand Days Before, offer a suggestion that there is life in the revived dog and that the reunion could spit out some real good tracks. Nothing special, but definitely better than some might've feared after a 15-year absence.
138. Shadowdance - Future Negative Fantasy
2012 [7.3]
139. Burning Circle - Ruins Of Mankind
2012 [7.3]
140. Soen - Cognitive
2012 [7.3]
141. Unwritten Pages - Fringe Kitchen
2012 [7.3] - 'Modern' progressive metal with a pleasant but somewhat shapeless sound. The vocals are okay but kinda weak and lack many interesting vocal lines; the instrumentation does its job without excelling, and the songs in general are decent to listen to whilst they're on, and contain interesting segments, but are ultimately forgettable once the record is over.
142. Faal - The Clouds Are Burning
2012 [7.3] - I'm not the biggest doomer by any means, but can appreciate decent stuff when it comes along. This is suitably plodding and crushing, with aptly placed clean guitar tones and 'atmospheric' breaks to change the tone from being a total bludgeon-fest, so I'd imagine this would do quite nicely for most extreme doom fans out there, even if it's not my favourite thing in the world.
143. Horseback - Half Blood
2012 [7.2] - Classed as ambient drone/noise, but not particularly drone-y or noise-y, has a decent pace and solid amount of overt melody. A pleasant listen, but not as enthralling as expected, and not quite on a par with The Invisible Mountain. Nice background music though.
144. Trepalium - H.N.P.
2012 [7.2]
145. Karybdis - From The Depths
2012 [7.2]
146. The Agonist - Prisoners
2012 [7.2]
147. Wheelfall - Interzone
2012 [7.2] - I won't lie, stoner metal isn't a passion of mine. There have been some efforts in the genre I've enjoyed however; for example, this year's excellent Blue Aside album comes to mind. This, on the other hand, is decent but nothing more. It has what you'd expect, fuzzy, rocking riffs, slightly foggy vocals, and all the like; it also has a willingness to go on for a while - the five proper tracks (ignoring the intro) vary from 5 minutes to 22 (the whopping title track). There are some cool riffs and grooves in the album, and everything is performed to the standard one would expect, but it doesn't have anything special to lift it above 'alright'.
148. Abske Fides - Abske Fides
2012 [7.2]
149. Sand Aura - Elegy Of The Orient
2012 [7.1] - A valiant but ultimately limited attempt at progressive oriental folk metal - a genre tag which brings Orphaned Land to mind, which is not a comparison that helps these guys. There are good ideas in here, but questionable song structures, and a cripplingly limiting production really holds back the good parts. It's an interesting limit, and they definitely have the capacity to achieve something really neat, but this is not much more than an intriguing debut.
150. Shining - Redefining Darkness
2012 [7.1] - It has similar elements to those found on V (the last Shining album I heard), in terms of the 'depressive' atmosphere, the BM guitar tone, the song structuring, the acoustics, and when you combine all the features used on V coming from the same band, it's safe to expect something half-decent, which is given here. The album is comfortably filled with a number of good moments and decent songs. However, at the end of the day, it just doesn't compare to their previous album and just lacks that something to make it more than an entertaining compilation of good dep BM segments.
151. Arbor - The Plutonian Shore
2012 [7.1] - A promising folk/black/doom release, let down by poor production, sometimes iffy vocals, and unnecessary blast-y BM bits that detract from some really well-constructed softer, more folk-y and melancholy parts. There are some real high points in here, and if they can work on some of the weak points of this album, the next album could be right up with the best of its competitors.
152. Grand Master - The Dream Alive
2012 [7.1]
153. I Saw The Deep - Astronavigation
2012 [7.1] - A mix of alt metal/rock, elements of stoner, psychedelia and prog, it's a competent effort that fails to excel on any front but never reaches any particular depths either. A vaguely interesting listen, with decent vocals, some interesting songwriting and a good amount of rewarding riffs and guitar leads mixed in there; however, not what one might consider essential.
154. Vanisher - Unbound
2012 [7.1] - Uber-melodic metalcore with a merciful absence of screams, and a sound very similar to last year's disappointment by Black Tide, in particular with the vocals but also instrumentally. The album is short, sweet and catchy, although despite its obvious melodicism, does lack some truly memorable hooks, and is rather unvaried. Decent effort, but nothing truly original or exceptional.
155. Hail Spirit Noir - Pneuma
2012 [7.1]
156. Diskord - Dystopics
2012 [7.1]
157. Thought Machine - Thought Machine
2012 [7.1] - Melodic metal with keyboards and electronics interlaced into it; I don't know if that's what it takes to make something industrial metal, but there you go. Nothing special but no real flaws - solid, reasonably catchy songs with decent riffs and a strong vocalist. Props to it, but it's not really my major musical interest and it doesn't offer up anything wildly exciting.
158. Moonspell - Alpha Noir / Omega White
2012 [7.1]
159. Asphyx - Deathhammer
2012 [7.1]
160. Down - Down IV Part I - The Purple EP
2012 [7.1]
161. Pharaoh - Bury The Light
2012 [7.0]
162. Pantera - Piss
2012 [7.0]
163. Lamb Of God - Resolution
2012 [6.9]
164. Nightwish - Imaginaerum (The Score)
2012 [6.8] - It's not that surprising that Imaginaerum's music transferred fairly well to a film score, given how much it sounded like it already. The tracks here are only loosely based on the original album's track, bar some recognizable motifs, but it sounds suitably Nightwish-y, and actually the material present, whilst not really comparable to film scores done by dedicated composers in terms of quality, is still fairly good and an improvement on some of the tracks that made the original album. Not really worth more than a brief glance, but surprisingly okay.
165. Rodha - Raw
2012 [6.7]
166. Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost In The New Real
2012 [6.7]
167. We Lost The Sea - The Quietest Place On Earth
2012 [6.5] - I'm quite a big fan of the whole post-metal movement, so when I saw such a glowing review of this on the MS front page, I felt compelled to check it out; however I was left rather disappointed. The music follows all the 'soft-heavy-atmosphere etc.' cues of most bands of the style, but just lacks anything interesting - the screams are mediocre, the quiet parts don't really go anywhere and the heavy parts are functional but nothing special. It's an okay listen, but to be honest, not all that.
168. The Gathering - Disclosure
2012 [6.5]
169. Bell Witch - Longing
2012 [6.3] - On the whole, funeral doom is not a particular favourite genre of mine - it's very tedious and painfully unvaried. It's not all bad - I do like Ahab's early material a reasonable amount, and Evoken's release this year was decent, but this doesn't have the quality of those two. For a start, the songs are way too long - the opener is an unjustifiable 20 minutes. The problem with this music is that so little happens - I'm sure that's the appeal but it just doesn't do it for me. The slow parts are just dirge-y riffs and growls that in no way differentiate from anything else I've heard in the genre, which given how little amount that is, really says a lot. There are also quieter parts, with slow cleaner tones and 'ethereal-y' clean vocals, which are okay but really not particularly special, and again I've seen this before in other similar music. On the whole, will probably thrill those who cannot get enough of the whole FD thing, but for those looking for some variation from the scene in the music, tough luck.
170. Incoming Cerebral Overdrive - Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift
2012 [6.3]
171. Pseudogod - Deathwomb Catechesis
2012 [6.3]
172. Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion
2012 [6.3]
173. Unipolar Manic-Depressive Psychosis - Psychodelicus Decibeli
2012 [6.2]
174. Firewind - Few Against Many
2012 [6.0]
175. Slash - Apocalyptic Love
2012 [6.0]
176. Steve Harris - British Lion
2012 [6.0]
177. All That Remains - A War You Cannot Win
2012 [5.5] - Yes. they're not the best or most original metalcore band, but I have a small soft spot for ATR's work up to Overcome - the debut was solid, and whilst they got dramatically whinier and emo on later albums, at least they were able to write the kind of gripping vocal lines and choruses to appeal to the emo-kid inside me. Since then, they've lost even that spark - this is just a bunch of songs, which whilst they have nothing obviously wrong with them, have no real character, don't have the truly hooky choruses of the past, and are pretty much just generic metalcore; plus. some of the vocals sound auto-tuned. All in all, firmly treading water, and just not good enough.
178. Midnight - Complete And Total Hell
2012 [5.5]
179. Verwüstung - I First Saw You On That Snowy Night And Couldn't Shake An Overwhelming Feeling Of Sadness
2012 [5.4]
180. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
2012 [5.4]
181. Flying Colors - Flying Colors
2012 [5.2]
182. De Magia Veterum - The Deification
2012 [4.5]

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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