COUNTDOWNS: Top 12 Albums of 2012

2012 was, without a doubt, nothing short of a great year for metal and hardcore, with a lot of great albums seeing the light of day. However, out of all these records, there are twelve that have stuck out as the top releases of the year.


Genre: Post-Hardcore/Metalcore
Label: Artery/Razor & Tie

"Symbiosis," the sophomore full-length release of Texan metalcore band A Bullet For Pretty Boy, is not only a strong foot forward for a rising act, but a strong album as a whole. To start off, there is a lot of energy and power behind the melodies and breakdowns this record brings, and on top of that, the tracks are plotted out quite well. So many build-ups and peaks are tied together nicely for a gripping soundtrack. On the melodic side of things, "Red Medic" and "De(V)Tails" are the most potent and engaging, while on the heavier side, "The Grateful Prey" is a very fast-paced ride to remember. All in all, "Symbiosis" is a very good metalcore release.

11. WITCH MOUNTAIN - Cauldron of the Wild

Genre: Doom Metal
Label: Profound Lore

If you're on the lookout for volcanic doom metal, then "Cauldron of the Wild" is definitely a good find. Oregon quartet Witch Mountain truly brings out the hellfire in this release, with slow but undeniably powerful metal that doesn't care much for pleasantry. Songs like "Beekeeper" follow this mold, with incredibly bold singing backed up by explosive guitars and drums to deliver the chaos. On the other hand, there are some more mellow and bluesy but nonetheless dark tracks such as "Never Know" that not only sound great on their own, but add more to the heaviness of the latter category. This is an album a doom fan should place in their collection.

10. GAZA - No Absolutes in Human Suffering

Genre: Sludge Metal/Hardcore
Label: Black Market Activities/Metal Blade

Within the sludge realm, "No Absolutes in Human Suffering" is certainly one of the most violent. In this eleven-track release, Salt Lake City quartet Gaza brings out some of the filthiest and most unrelenting hardcore the music world has witnessed. In fact, the musicianship alone is enough to summon the violence, with ear-piercing vocal roars, bludgeoning guitars, and devastating drum work. On top of that, the songs are written great, too. The album follows a blend of sludge metal, hardcore, and hints of doom, the best example of this being "Not with All the Hope in the World," where the first half is composed of straight-up destructive sludge hardcore, and then enters the second segment of a slower but just as marring doom track. Balances like these really make this album work, and piling that on top of the power and violence that the music already brings, and you have one of the most brutal releases yet.

9. MEMPHIS MAY FIRE - Challenger

Genre: Post-Hardcore
Label: Rise

Memphis May Fire's third full-length "Challenger" is nothing short of vigorous. That is, in fact, this album's greatest strength, for nothing in the album, even at its softest moments, sounds lackluster in that regard. On top of that, everything else is performed incredibly well, too. The powerful instruments and vocals, both aggressive and clean, make way for a successfully showcased musicianship. The tracks have lots of memorability and variety, in both speed and mood. The best this album has to offer are "Prove Me Right" and "Vices" on the more abrasive side, while "Miles Away" and "Vessels" are stellar tracks on the mellower side. Both realms are greatly played out. "Challenger" puts the energy in post-hardcore. 

8. MESHUGGAH - Koloss

Genre: Technical Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast

Swedish technical metal titans Meshuggah proves to be showing no signs of slowing down in their tracks, thanks to their most recent full-length "Koloss." The record's greatest strengths are how the songs build up and the dynamic of the tracklist as a whole. Songs pile up and explode at the right times, an example being "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave Them Motion," a steadily-paced but devastating track that builds up into a grand climax. Whether slow (Do Not Look Down) or fast (The Demon's Name is Surveillance), this album takes advantage of their smart formula to utterly crush its audience.

7. HORSEBACK - Half Blood

Genre: Drone/Experimental
Label: Relapse

North Carolina project Horseback has always been putting out some of the most profound and captivating drone and experimental music in the world, and "Half Blood" is no exception from this. This album stretches from a bizarre blend of prog-jazz, stoner, and black metal to highly ambient drone soundscapes, already setting up a diverse effort that doesn't lose focus because of how both sides are so atmospheric. The half-faded black-esque vocals that carry throughout the album add more to the enjoyable strangeness of it all, and the fact that the songs take on multiple moods of bliss and darkness makes the record even more diverse. "Half Blood" takes the listener on a cosmic journey they likely will not want to return from. 

6. DYING FETUS - Reign Supreme

Genre: Brutal/Technical Death Metal
Label: Relapse

For an album that coalesces technicality with sheer, metallic brutality, Dying Fetus's "Reign Supreme" is definitely an album to go to. The musicianship is enough to carry the brutality this album has to offer, from the gutturals to the guitar chugs and solos to the devastating percussion. The music itself is also highly enjoyable, holding some great dynamic between the heavier and more melodic sides of the brutal death metal coin, as well as being quite technical to keep listeners engaged. Highlights include the grooved "Subjected to a Beating" and the rapid-fire "The Blood of Power," but nonetheless, all of the tracks hold their own unbelievably well, and they all prove that Dying Fetus is at the top of their game.

5. ANATHEMA - Weather Systems

Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: KScope

Positive and uplifting; "Weather Systems" is where you can find these aspects. United Kingdom's Anathema delivers some of the most powerful, heartfelt, and compelling music any rock album could possibly bring. The singing duo plays its part beautifully, being totally soulful and powerful on its own. Accompanied with that are soaring instruments and orchestral effects to make the mix all the more effective. The fact that the songs are planned out so well in how organized and built-up they are, while creating grand, epic atmospheres and tunes for the listeners to get lost in. "Weather Systems" is the sole definition of ethereal.

4. THE HAARP MACHINE - Disclosure

Genre: Technical/Progressive Death Metal/Metalcore
Label: Sumerian

United Kingdom's The HAARP Machine offers some stellar tech metal with their debut full-length "Disclosure." Melody is mixed in with technicality in one of the greatest modern progressive and technical metal to ever hit the air. Songs are very well orchestrated and executed, partly due to the awe-inspiring musicianship, complete with complex guitar and drum play, energetic vocals, and cultural instrumentation. The other part that makes this album so grand is the writing itself, with lots of dynamic and very engaging structures. The album as a whole has a perfect balance between solidity and complexity, and it's more than worth a check. "Disclosure" proves that The HAARP Machine has gone off an incredibly strong start.

3. EVOKEN - Atra Mors

Genre: Funeral Doom Metal
Label: Profound Lore

Positive and uplifting; "Atra Mors" is not where you can find these aspects. New Jersey doom group Evoken's follow-up to the stellar "Antithesis of Light" does its predecessor great justice. This album is pure, dark, and dismal funeral doom, bearing a very thick atmosphere and some of the most spine-chilling creepiness one can find in a metal record. From the mordant growls to the destructively somber guitars to the slowly pounding drums, the instrumentation is just one of the things to praise this album for. The songs themselves simply reek of darkness, and the sluggish gloominess they bring about is incredible for how strongly put together and haunting it all is. "Atra Mors," the Latin term for 'Black Death,' is a more than fitting title for this morose masterpiece.

2. GOJIRA - L'Enfant Sauvage

Genre: Progressive/Technical Death Metal
Label: Roadrunner

French quartet Gojira has always been known to be one of the grand icons of the metal genre. Their fifth full-length release, "L'Enfant Sauvage," is a wondrous record that very well justifies this position. Heavy, artistic, and gripping, this album's tracklist possesses great structure, dynamic, and intrigue. Every song has something different to offer, whether they be abrasive and vigorous (Explosia, Liquid Fire) or melodic and aural (The Wild Healer). This mix has great variety, and it definitely makes the record a really engaging listen. "L'Enfant Sauvage" is a brilliant release worth a spot in any metal fan's album collection.

1. CATTLE DECAPITATION - Monolith of Inhumanity

Genre: Progressive Death Metal/Grindcore
Label: Metal Blade

Although death metal legends Cattle Decapitation have put out some stellar and brutal music in the past, their sixth full-length record, "Monolith of Inhumanity," is by far their grandest release. Starting off, the musicianship is just incredible, with highly versatile guitar and drum work, and of course, vocalist Travis Ryan's unique vocal style. It ranges from gruesome lows and high-pitches to wicked half-aggressive singing in tracks such as "Kingdom of Tyrants." On top of that great instrumentation, the music is just incredible. The tracks can be slow or fast, melodic or straight-up brutal, and even has a bit of an atmospheric side (Kingdom of Tyrants). They are very memorable tracks that listeners would love to put on repeat, and nothing ever falls flat. "Monolith of Inhumanity" is a spectacular album that has the brawn and the brains, rendering it the number one album of 2012.