As another great year for heavy music comes to a close, APESHIT takes a look back at our favorite pieces of music of 2012. This year had some great comebacks in CRYPTOPSY and STRIFE. There were also some nice surprises in the new sheer quality of the new SIX FEET UNDER and brutality of the new SOULFLY.
We want to thank all our readers, friends in the industry, and all the amazing artists, big and small, that we get a chance to work with for a great 10th year of existence. As the music industry as a whole continues to take an economic hit, let us all remember: If you like a band or one of their releases, support it!
Here’s hoping for a great 2013!
dr.park’s top 10:
CRYPTOPSY – Cryptopsy (self-released)
Who knew what would happen to CRYPTOPSY after The Unspoken King? But man, what an amazing comeback! Cryptopsy is all about the manic, brutal off-the-wall style of death metal that only these French Canadians can play. Definitely, an instant classic. [Our full review]
THE WRETCHED END – Inroads (Candlelight Records)
The highs that Inroads hits have not been heard since perhaps the last days of EMPEROR. THE WRETCHED END take their sound into blacker depths on their sophomore record with excellent results. Sophisticated extreme metal that should be in your record collection. [Our full review]
KILLING JOKE – MMXII (Spinefarm Records)
It only makes sense that such a groundbreaking and legendary band has written MMXII. KILLING JOKE present a strong dichotomy between mankind’s race to the bottom and this undeniable feeling of hope for the future. KILLING JOKE always keeps things ultra heavy, sonically and emotionally. The band leave you just profoundly floored when it’s all said and done. A very special record not to be missed.
WITCHCRAFT – Legend (Nuclear Blast Records)
Perfect records do exist (i.e. WITCHCRAFT’s Legend). Killer riffs, production, guitar solos, bass playing, vocals, and songwriting. Proto-doom meets 70’s heavy rock in a refreshing, new way. Sooner rather than later, the rest of the world will sing the praises of these guys. [Our full review]
DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – Epicloud (Inside Out Music)
Yeah, I know…everyone and their mothers has finally fallen head over heals for Devin Townsend. Does it matter if I was one of the first? Haha. Anyways, I’m all about Disc Two of this release. Nothing is cooler at this point than hearing different sides to Devin and the ocean of possibilities. [Our full review]
ANAAL NATHRAKH – Vanitas (Candlelight Records)
Like a set of attacking blades, ANAAL NATHRAKH do what they do best – unleash total hell. They put the “extreme” into “extreme metal.” Their songwriting talents continue to evolve with Vanitas sounding as fresh as each previous release. Highly recommended. [Our full review]
MARDUK – Serpent Sermon (Century Media Records)
Longevity for a band is one thing and relevance is another. Sweden’s MARDUK have both, as demonstrated with their latest, Serpent Sermon. Killer songs as well as excellent bass playing are just some of the reasons why. Trends be damned. [Our full review]
STRIFE – Witness a Rebirth (6131 Records)
Where’s the enjoyment in music when it takes 20 listens for a record to make any sense? STRIFE’s comeback album sounds good right from the first riff. Tough attitude and very catchy thrash-inspired hardcore are the hallmarks of a record that should give the genre a jumpstart.
SIGH – In Somniphobia (Candlelight Records)
SIGH made a return to their genre mashing/mind bending style of black metal with In Somniphobia to great results. Bombastic, always eclectic, and just damn good. [Our full review]
BEREFT – Leichenhaus (The End Records)
New doom bands don’t come out too often so it’s important that they are good when they do. Members of INTRONAUT, ABYSMAL DAWN, and NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW take their love of doom and share it with the rest of us. BEREFT make their debut with a special blend of various doom styles into a dark and cold record. [Our full review]
CONVERGE – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph Records)
ANATHEMA – Weather Systems (The End Records)
SINISTER – The Carnage Ending (Massacre Records)
ANTIMATTER – Fear of a Unique Identity (Prophecy Productions)
NIDINGR – Greatest of Deceivers (Indie Recordings) [Our full review]
big johnson’s top 10:
10. GRAVE – Endless Procession of Souls (Century Media Records)
GRAVE has never bothered with the melodic Swedish sound – instead, they continue their tradition of groovy, Swedish mid paced death metal. Basic drum beats, catchy riffs, and heavy low end fill this simplistic, but satisfying disc. Old school death metal fans will certainly appreciate this more than technical metal newbies.
9. ASPHYX – Deathhammer (Century Media Records)
Much like the aforementioned band GRAVE, ASPHYX takes the old school approach. You won’t find any blast beats on this album, yet Deathhammer pounds your skull like…well, a hammer, of course. Any album with vocalist Martin Van Drunen is usually top notch, and this is no exception. No frills, no technical guitar wankery, this is straight up death metal…the way it should be! [Our full review]
8. SOULFLY – Enslaved (Roadrunner Records)
When guitarist Marc Rizzo joined SOULFLY, the band turned from a nu-metal SEPULTURA/KORN hybrid to a band with actual substance. With the addition of drummer David Kinkade, he has completely transformed the band into a well oiled machine with plenty of death metal influences. Max Cavalera has always been brilliant with catchy riffs, but Kinkade has upped the ante with his double bass and blasts, which make Enslaved quite an impressive album. Too bad he has since quit the band and music altogether. Nevertheless, if you were skeptical about this band before, do yourself a favor and check this one out.
7. SIGH – In Somniphobia (Candlelight Records)
Ah…SIGH – the band that no one really “gets” in the metal world. While they have long abandoned their traditional black metal sound, In Somniphobia is quite a guitar driven metal album. There are psychedelic and strange jazz interludes scattered throughout, but this album needs to be listened to many times to grasp the fully desired effect. Every listen will yield strange new sounds and notes that weren’t heard before in previous spins. SIGH maintains its catchy form, while their avant-garde style intrigues metal fans who dare wander outside the typical death/black metal trends. [Our full review]
6. SIX FEET UNDER – Undead (Metal Blade Records)
What the hell? A SIX FEET UNDER in the top albums of the year? Hell yes! SFU has finally added a real drummer to the fold, and Kevin Talley is the reason why this band has made a 360 degree turnaround. With Chris Barnes growling as well as he did in his prime with CANNIBAL CORPSE, his former band wishes they had a great drummer like Talley. The trademark SFU groove is still present, but make no mistake, Undead is 100% death metal, with brutality and energy unseen since Barnes’ days on Tomb of the Mutilated.
5. SINISTER – The Carnage Ending (Massacre Records)
Although these Dutch legends have had several lineup issues, SINISTER’s drummer-turned-vocalist Aad, has recruited their best lineup to date. After the ominous intro, the band wastes no time in showing why the band has survived through trials and tribulations. The new lineup is impressive, paying homage to the old school SINISTER style, while implementing a more diverse guitar style. Drummer Toep Duin does an amazing job, and the rest of the fresh blood on this album really energizes this band once again.
4. DEHUMANIZED – Controlled Elite (Comatose Records)
It’s been quite a while since we’ve heard from DEHUMANIZED, as their debut album Prophecies Foretold, was from 1998. Since then, fans have been clamoring for new music, and the time has finally come with Controlled Elite. Matching fellow New York pioneers SUFFOCATION in brutality, being more brutal than counterparts INTERNAL BLEEDING, and writing catchier riffs than DYING FETUS, the band has really come into their own. From the opening track, “Body Colonizers,” to the mosh pit inducing “Man vs. Man,” DEHUMANIZED treats us to a nice brutal slab of New York’s finest death metal. Old school fans from their demo days will also enjoy the re-recorded version of “Condemned.” Support the underground!
3. MARDUK – Serpent Sermon (Century Media Records)
MARDUK has had their share of ups and downs, but Serpent Sermon is certainly one of the best efforts in their lengthy career. Mortuus dwells deep within his sinister soul to puke out another disgusting and vile performance, and should be regarded as one of the top black metal vocalists today. Morgan plays on his strength, which is writing fast and unrelenting riffs. “Messianic Pestilence,” “M.A.M.M.O.N.,” and the title track are just a few of the excellent songs from Serpent Sermon. MARDUK has never compromised in their style and continue to stay true to form in 2012. [Our full review]
2. THE WRETCHED END – Inroads (Candlelight Records)
THE WRETCHED END is quite simply the best band you have never heard of. Samoth (ex-EMPEROR) writes some of the best thrash/death metal riffs, as witnessed previously in his last band, ZYKLON, but Inroads contains tons of powerful and riff-tastic songs. “Tyrant of the Mountain” has an amazing breakdown after a godly thrashy beginning, and “Death by Nature” could very well send you into a cold, wintery, head banging adventure. The riffs are extremely memorable, and Nils, aka Dominator (DARK FUNERAL) once again proves that he is one of the elite drummers in the underground scene. The production is crystal clear and heavy, without sounding too digital, so if you have never heard of THE WRETCHED END, you are missing out big time! [Our full review]
1. CRYPTOPSY – Cryptopsy (self-released)
After the release of the much maligned last album, one must be quite skeptical of this new disc. Sure, guitarist Jon Levasseur returned to the band, but Once Was Not was quite a disappointing effort. Also, who can forget some of the atrocious clean vocals on The Unspoken King? Fear not, however, as CRYPTOPSY is fuckin’ back…and back with a vengeance! The opening track, “Two Pound Torch” will wipe that frown off your face, and old school fans will be immediately smiling. Cryptopsy sounds like a direct continuation of Whisper Supremacy. Brutality, dizzying riffs, unorthodox time structure changes, and the one constant, Flo’s insane drumming, make this album their best effort since None So Vile. Vocalist Matt McGachy doesn’t fuck around anymore, as the album contains NO clean vocals, and delivers quite impressively this time around. Longtime bass extraordinaire Eric Langlois has departed, but Olivier Pinard steps up to the task, delivering audible and amazing bass work. The band inserts a few jazz interludes just to throw you off before destroying your eardrums again. Cryptopsy is unrelenting, with only face punching brutality contained on the disc. “Amputated Enigma” and “Ominous” are executed to perfection, and the closer, “Cleansing the Hosts,” makes the listener beg for more. The entire album is fantastic and has easily become one of my favorite albums in these last few years. CRYPTOPSY – sorry I doubted you guys, and you’re definitely forgiven for The Unspoken King… [Our full review]
roycifer’s top 10
HOTT MT – I Made This (Majesty 12 Musik)
BEREFT – Leichenhaus (The End Records) [Our full review]
PRINCE RAMA – Top Ten Hits of the End of the World (Paw Tracks)
ULVER – Childhood’s End (Kscope)
METZ – Metz (Sub Pop)
FATHER JOHN MISTY – Fear Fun (Sub Pop)
CHELSEA WOLFE – Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs (Sargent House)
TRASH TALK – 119 (Odd Future)
BLACK BREATH – Sentenced to Life (Southern Lord)
GRIMES – Visions (4AD)
Honorable mention: BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – Defender, Redeemist (Arctic Forest), SAM FLAX – Age Waves (Burger Records)
Oscar Martinez’s top 10:
1. WITCHCRAFT – Legend (Nuclear Blast Records) [Our full review]
2. KILLING JOKE – MMXII (Spinefarm Records)
3. MESHUGGAH – Koloss (Nuclear Blast Records)
4. DEFTONES – Koi No Yokan (Reprise Records)
5. ABORTED – Global Flatline (Century Media Records)
6. CRUCIFIED BARBARA – Midnight Chase (Nuclear Blast Records)
7. NAPALM DEATH – Utilitarian (Century Media Records)
8. STRIFE – Witness a Rebirth (6131 Records)
9. DOWN – IV: The Purple EP (Down Records)
10. VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope)
rawknrollchef13’s top 10 (top album and 9 in no particular order):
1. KATATONIA – Dead End Kings (Peaceville Records)
I’ve been a fan of KATATONIA‘s ever evolving sound and image since the beginning of their career as one of the first melodic/atomospheric black metal bands. Discouraged Ones changed all that and changed KATATONIA into a band I just merely liked into one I worship. So it’s with no surprise that Dead End Kings would be at the top of my list. Once again they have managed to update and evolve their sound into an album that is pure darkness and melancholy. Which is something I happen to love.
CANNIBAL CORPSE – Torture (Metal Blade Records)
You can’t be a death metal fan and not have a new CANNIBAL record on your top ten list. The fathers of modern death never disappoint and Torture proves that.
SIX FEET UNDER – Undead (Metal Blade Records)
Like them or not, Undead is a huge step up from previous releases. With the addition of Kevin Tally on drums for the recording, the album sounds modern, technical and crushing. Chris Barnes vocals are hateful and brutal. Like they should be. Give this record a chance.
ANATHEMA – Weather Systems (The End Records)
Much like KATATONIA, ANATHEMA has been an ever evolving band and Weather Systems marks in my opinion, their masterpiece. No words can describe the musical mastery and emotion behind these songs. This record is still in my weekly rotation. Brilliant.
DAEMONICUS – Deadwork (Abyss Records)
I’m a sucker for old school Swedish Sounding death metal and in a sea of bands producing that sound this year, DAEMONICUS reigns supreme.
ABORTED – Global Flatline (Century Media Records)
From the first track to the last, Global Flatline melts your face and has you coming back for more. Once the elite of CARCASS worship, ABORTED has become brutality all their own.
MARDUK – Serpent Sermon (Century Media Records)
I’m not a huge black metal fan but I do love the originals. Serpent Sermon continues the MARDUK legacy with a bit more mature and melodic offering but just as nasty and angry as ever. [Our full review]
KREATOR – Phantom Antichrist (Nuclear Blast Records)
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about these thrash kings? Phantom Antichrist is pure thrash heaven.
PATHOLOGY – The Time of Great Purification (Victory Records)
If your death metal taste is that of slam but not choreographed and synchronized break downs, these sickos will have you pulling weeds and doing the lawnmower all night. or whatever else it is you kids do these days at shows. All I know is that PATHOLOGY is fucking br00tal!
ASPHYX – Deathhammer (Century Media Records)
I’m glad to finally see ASPHYX getting some recognition as they seemed to virtually get none in the earlier days. Deathammer IS true death metal you bastards! Just like Martin says in the title track. And I eat that shit up! [Our full review]