Top 15?!  Say it ain’t so!

Yes, I totally folded and had to add five more in because my “Honor Roll” list was just ridiculous looking.  According to my records (and yes, there are records), I listened to somewhere in the realm of 110 new albums this year (I’d like to thank Spotify and this dedicated fan for creating a ton of resources for me to use in my 2012 listening experience).  There were a lot of winners this year.

And . . . go!

15.  Enslaved – RIITIIR

*Conversation with myself in my head before writing this*

“Will there ever be a year where Enslaved releases a full length and it won’t make my list?  I feel a little bad giving it a spot, because while I love this album, it’s nothing new or inventive on their part. . .  just Enslaved being all awesome and Enslaved-y and all.  But DAMN – I can’t not sing along . . . Fuck it.  It’s on the list.”

14.  Occultation – Three & Seven

This album just sums up the year for me.  Ritualistic doom and the occult.

13.  Bell Witch – Longing

It’s no secret that Profound Lore had some major hits this year (it’s 2009 all over again!), and this is number #2 of 5 of those releases total in this post.  I’m just such a sucker for the gloomy-forest sounds of the West.   Featuring Samothrace bassist Dylan Desmond (holla KS), this two-piece band’s release Longing provides an excellent soundtrack to wallow in despair and explore the unknown.

More after the jump

12.  Ash Borer – Cold of Ages

Cold indeed (in the best way).

11.  Anhedonist – Netherwards

Soul-crushing death/doom from Seattle will break your sternum.  You have been warned.

10.  Horseback – Half Blood

It takes a lot of talent to mesh raw black metal and soulful Americana with such ease.   You will be in love with this North Carolina band from the start.

9.  Sabaton – Carolus Rex

Wasn’t expecting this one to be on the list, but it’s the most triumphant-sounding and fun album I’ve listened to in a long time.  A nice break from all the doom.

8.  Atriarch -Ritual of Passing

Although I sincerely love “Forever the End,”  Atriarch’s follow up managed to harness my attention for months.  A perfectly blended mesh of death, doom, and deathrock (triple D!), you’ll feel like you’re listening to something very important for the future.  

Atriarch also has the distinction of being my favorite live performance of the year.   In essence, you will witness a ritual, down to a burning smudge and chanting.  A total experience.

7.  Dodecahedron – S/T

Totes agree with Dredd’s points on this one – this album is a
powerhouse of progressive black metal.   Evil geometry manifested into music.  Full body nerdgasm.

6.  Panopticon – Kentucky

I’m not the first to point it out by any means, but honestly I hope this is the start of a new movement of music.  A burgeoning of American folk metal – and what better sources of stories would there be than class warfare and brutal Appalachian industry?  We may not have Odins and Kreimhilds, but we still have a history to share.

6.  Lord Wind – Ales Stenar

Music to game to.  Just try not to groove along with Rob Darken’s “lighter” side (get it?  Cus’ he’s all like NSBM and stuff . . .  n/m).  Created a solid month of ADSATT for me – All Dungeon Synth, All The Time.

5.  King Dude – Burning Daylight

Much like Panoption, Seattle-based musician TJ Cowgill-led project King Dude helps to usher in a new brand of distinctly American folk music.  Cowgill (of  bands Book of Black Earth, Teen Chthulu, and creator of fashion line Actual Pain) sings with with such old-school confidence and pain, with lyrics so good that you’ll wonder if they are actually classics already.  Listening to this album reminded me of Nick Cave’s 1989 novel “And the Ass Saw the Angel” – a creative effort that calls to mind a dirty American landscape of squaller, death, and religious fervor.  A must for any neofolk fan.

4.  Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Unstille

I get so wrapped up in investigating the past of black metal (always bands and
release to discover, amiright?) that I forget about “the now”.  Especially the now of the European black
metal scene.  Yea, you’ve got the
Norwegian and French scenes, but what about Germany?  If Der Weg  Einer Freiheit (The Way of a Freedom)  is any representation of the kind of  BM that  the contemporary German scene is producing right now, than I have some serious catching up to do.  It feels celestial – reminds me of the empty blackness of frozen space.  Some serious chops from a young band.

3.  Author and Punisher – Ursus Americanus

is the future of metal?  The past few
years have seen the rise and fall of folk metal, the new “Cascadian” genres,
neothrash, and the revitalization of occult-doom – but what’s next?  Myself and other metalheads ponder the
question, quick with guesses for the following years.  While one-man band Author and Punisher represents perhaps
a more fantastical view of the future of metal rather than what may actually happen, it
definitely represented the domination of electronica in 2012 across all genres
of music.  And it’s some of the darkest
shit I’ve ever had the extreme pleasure of hearing.

the old comparison, but Ursus Americanus really does sound like a transformer
getting swallowed by a tar pit. 
Completely mechanical, yet musician Tristan Shore’s bellows are sorrowful and emotive.  The
story Shore of is just as interesting as the music.  A mechanical engineer, Shore designs and renders his own equipment, which often rely on his rhythmic interaction to produce sound.  His live performances give the affect that he and his creations are one entity.  Too cool.

2.  Aksumite – Prideless Lions

This one came out of left field in December.  Thinking I was done ingesting 2012 releases for the year, I read a gleaming review of this album from Colloquial Sound Recordings.  Askumite (named for an ancient Northern African empire) is a two-piece punk black metal group which sings about (surprise) African lore and history.  But they’re from Michigan.

Regardless of location, singer Cult’s hoarse screams and old-school riffing create a highly original and stellar listening experience.  You will not have heard anything like it.  The cassette hasn’t left my deck since I put it in 2 weeks ago.

1.  Hail Spirit Noir – Pneuma

can’t remember the last time I paid so much attention to a new band from Greece.
My most listened-to the album of the year.  With healthy doses of psychedelica, pipe organ (really, you can never have enough of that), and sexual innuendo, Hail Spirit Noir managed to fit nicely in with the trending 70’s throwback sound of the past couple years but manage to completely separate themselves from it by sounding, well, fun.  
many bands preaching Satanism are serious about it?  Half the fun with Hail Spirit Noir is trying
to figure out if they are joking or not.  If they are just a novelty, then they’re a damned good-sounding one, and if they’re not, it’s just plain horrifyingly interesting.
Best EPS
Deathspell Omega
– Drought
dying from exposure must feel like.  Brutal.
Beastmilk – Use
your Deluge
post-punk revitalization from Finland with bonus of nuclear-apocalype
motif.  Why this is not huge right now is
beyond me, comrades.
Black Goat of
the Woods – S/T
melt your face off.

Honor Roll
Bound By Entrails – The Stars Bode You Farewell
Ups and downs, lefts and rights, anger and sadness.  This album is fun and inventive.
Wodensthrone – Curse
 Hail Woden.

The Devin
Townsend Project – Epicloud
loved half the songs so sincerely, but despised the other half.  
Katatonia – Dead End Kings

a pretty album
Viter – Springtime
goes pop.
Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
knows it’s awesome. . . with good reason.
Evoken – Atra Mors
tribute to the genre.  Funeral at its
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
didn’t really think I would see any progression from these guys – I was very
wrong.  An excellent album.
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind

don’t even really like much hardcore, but this album is superb.  One of my favorite covers of the year too.
The Great Old Ones – Al Azif
and primo metal.  Can’t go wrong.
Wood of Ypres – Woods V: Grey Skies and Electric Light
nice send off from a talented band.

Until the next time!
-Cate The Great