Articles : The best of 2012 according to Samuel Maher
Dear the metal world of 2012: I hate you.
Too many good albums have performed some dangerous liposuction on my bank account, too many brilliant local shows have caused me to spend every other weekend at The Bald Faced Stag (also known as The Only Music Venue Left in Sydney), and too many mind-blowing international tours have had me waking up nursing some severe bangovers. Oh and Animals as Leaders and Between the Buried and Me made me want to quit playing guitar. Really, thanks for that.
I hate you.
However, despite all the abuse that the metal world has heaped on us this year, there have been some redeeming features. Ok, many redeeming features. Actually, rather a lot- it has been really difficult to cut down all the albums from this year into a list of only 10. In fact I’ve actually failed at that completely and will do what every other reviewer does and give a couple of cop-out “Honourable Mentions”. Except everyone knows that “Honourable Mentions” are for hipsters (?) so I’m renaming the awards to something more interesting. Let’s do this:
Album That Would Have Been in the Top 10 if There Had Not Been 10 Better Albums Released in the Same Year:
Aeternam – Moongod
Middle Eastern symphonic death metal from French Canada. Read that sentence again. Now again. How good is globalisation! Anyway, Aeternam are frickin’ awesome and I’ve never heard a band that sounds anything like them. If you are looking for a band that is different without being gimmicky but still dark and evil (because real metal isn’t happy) check these guys out.
Album That I Least Expected to Like Because I Didn’t Really Like the Band’s First EP and I’m Not Really A Fan of That Style In General But Did Actually Love Because the Band Decided to Grow Up:
Make Them Suffer – Neverbloom
I actually reviewed this band’s Lord of Woe EP a few years ago and I’m pleased to say that Make Them Suffer have improved dramatically. The Perth deathcore outfit went from having a rather bland debut to a kick-ass full length that chose to actually emphasise their unique characteristics rather than just put more breakdowns in. I’m so proud *wipes away tear*.
Alright, enough cop-outs. Let’s have a good-ol’-fashioned top 10er.
Quick disclaimer: most authors on this site have split their releases into Australian/International but I’m not doing so for the simple reason that the albums that come out of this country are just as good, and in many cases significantly better, than everything that comes from overseas. I see no reason to separate the two.
10) The Haarp Machine – Disclosure
According to various people in tin-foil hats, the HAARP machine in Alaska is responsible for basically every natural disaster ever, controlling the weather and controlling people’s minds with radio waves.
In a strange twist of fate, The Haarp Machine from London has produced an album that does actually control people’s minds. For example, I have been observed jumping around my room like a moron, staring at my guitar in utter confusion and otherwise just gawking into space all while this album is playing. If you enjoy the sort of technical approach of The Faceless or The Human Abstract but applied to a more progressive context check this one out.
Recommended track: Esoteric Agenda
9) Meshuggah – Koloss
I’ve heard rumour that “MESHUUUUGGGGAAAAAHH” is set to replace “SLAAAAYYYYEEERRRR” as the utterance of choice for that drunk guy at your local music venue. I hope so- it can only mean that the drunk guy’s musical taste is improving. Anyway, Koloss feels like a very natural progression from the Swedish metal maestro’s last couple of albums (and is certainly just as good) though still sufficiently different as to establish its own character. I’m not quite sure how to elucidate what Koloss sounds like compared to the band’s back catalogue- it feels slower, but has some of their fastest songs yet; it has more grooves than a joinery, but so does all Meshuggah; it feels creepy and evil but…oh, screw this. MESHUUUGGGGAAAAAH!
Recommended track: The Demon’s Name is Surveillance
8) Hypno5e – Acid Mist Tomorrow
Ever imagined what French art cinema would sound like in musical form? Or in metal form? Oh yes, Hypno5e have all the hallmarks of progressive metal: combination of 7-string electric guitars with stripped-back acoustic guitars, clean and extreme vocals and syncopated, off-time rhythms- but this band goes further. Constantly through the album we get the music falling back and having creepy audio samples recite from various literary works or have furious metal chugging replaced with eerie ambience, violins and keys. Acid Mist Tomorrow feels more like an ambitious, dynamic artistic expression than an ‘album’…whatever that means (#pretentiousreviewer).
Recommended track: Acid Mist Tomorrow
Slice the Face – The Man With No Cake Slice the Man – The Face with No Cake Face the Face – The Face With No Face Slice the Cake – The Man With No Face
This band is awesome for three reasons:
1) Each member of the band lives in a different country: England, Sweden and Australia.
2) Their music is awesome. Progressive deathcore with all manner of unexpected things thrown in right when you think you’ve got the hang of it. Born of Osiris-style djenty rhythm patterns plus blast beats and a vicious vocal assault are all fine and dandy but you really don’t expect the creepy track that sounds like a metal message from E.T., nor the classical guitar nor the piano nor this sentence to end like this. In particular, the 21-minute title track is one of my favourite
songs of the year – definitely worth a listen. The band also managed to release another album right at the end of the year (just as I start writing this actually) and have two more releases lined up for next year. Talk about efficient.
Recommended track: The Man With No Face
6) Breaking Orbit – The Time Traveller
Waaah that’s not a metal album! More like notmetalobsession.net!
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Sydney’s Breaking Orbit. If you would like to hear me talk about them a lot you can check out my review of the album, if you would like to hear me talk about them a little bit keep reading and if you don’t want to hear me talk at all here is a link to Chewbacca singing Silent Night.
If you enjoy the bass-heavy rockin’ of Tool’s Lateralus and the scope of Karnivool’s Sound Awake you will dig what Breaking Orbit are doing. Hell, even if you don’t, The Time Traveller has such an amazing vocal performance that I doubt you will want to pass it up anyway. This is heavy prog rock done right.
Recommended track: Cassandra Syndrome (which isn’t on youtube…so have Silence Seekers instead)
5) Epica – Requiem for the Indifferent
Ok, I managed to get through my review of this album earlier this year without once using the word ‘epic’ to describe the band…let’s see if I can repeat that feat (aside from just then, smartarse). It really is frustrating though- Epica’s sound is so monumentally grandiose, so vastly immense, so significantly tremendous and so bombastically majestic that the lack of that word is (clearly) rather limiting. It’s not just the immensity of the sound that makes this album so thrilling; it is also its diversity and passion. I feel that Epica do not quite get enough credit for the progressive elements to their sound because frankly they are probably more prog than your grandmother’s clog. Well…yes. *Ahem* Also, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention that Simone Simons is (objectively) the best female singer in rock/metal), and this album perfectly showcases why.
Recommended track: Serenade of Self-Destruction
*Fun fact*: The first pressings of this CD, including the batch sent to Australia, accidentally included an incorrect master of album closer “Serenade of Self-Destruction”- before it had the vocals included! Go grab a copy of the CD, it may be considered a collector’s item some day (though if you do make sure you download the real version).
4) Gojira – L’enfaunt Sauvage
From Mars to Sirius was brilliant. The Way of All Flesh was a masterpiece. Needless to say expectations were high for the cheese-eating surrender monkeys but thankfully they pulled through with another brilliant album. Part of what I love about The Elephant Savage is how it combines the best elements of their last few albums: I always thought that The Way of All Flesh, while brilliant, was just a little too polished whereas its predecessor was a little too rough. With The Infant Sausage Gojira have found the right mix for their pounding rhythmic metal assault; it is ferocious in its raw tenacity but still smooth in its production and execution. The brothers Duplantier once again put everything they have into their craft: Joe pours his soul into his vocals and Mario makes every drummer ever want to quit the kit. It turns out being passionate as well as technically off the charts is a good combination. LoneFont Sewage also showcases the best of Gojira’s softer side with “Born in Winter” and “The Fall” being just as powerful as the heavier numbers.
Recommended track: The Gift of Guilt
3) Paradigm – Mind is Key
One of the hallmarks of a truly great album is that it can stand the test of time. Sydney’s Paradigm released Mind is Key way back in January and I actually received it several months before that for review purposes (this gig has its perks) and yet after more than a year I still can’t stop playing it. Why? Firstly, it is technical as fuck- no seriously, James Ivanyi and David Horgan need to stop being absolute jerks and owning every other guitarist and drummer in the country. Not cool, guys. More importantly, Mind is Key is, like, so stylish (must be said with camp accent): the technical ferocity is intertwined with plenty of ambient cleans, bare acoustic guitars and jazzy solos. This and more is wrapped up in songs that reach as long as 17 minutes. If the idea of Psycroptic taking Between the Buried and Me back to the tour bus and having a hot, steamy metal orgy sounds like your idea of awesome check this band out…and go see someone about that. That’s just weird, man.
Recommended track: Atmosphere (for some stupid reason Paradigm seem to be unaware that youtube is a good way to spread your music around so I can’t give you a link…but here, have Written in Blood instead).
2) Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Can this band actually get any more batshit awesome? Every time they have released an album since 2005’s Alaska I have had my whole notion of how music can be played turned on its head. Colors showed me how metal can incorporate every genre ever and still sound amazing, The Great Misdirect showed me how to do this while sounding dark and powerful and now we have Future Sequence. This is kind of like an ultra-concept album with both lyrics and musical motifs being extended from their Parallax I: Hypersleep Dialogues EP (which in turn borrowed characters from The Great Misdirect) to put together one hell of an ambitious package. The album is, in general, less heavy than some of their previous material (though not much…they are not pulling an Opeth on us) but significantly more “proggy”: the song structures feel more ambitious, the composition more weird and wacky and the scope more diverse and
Recommended track: the whole album from start to finish. Every time.
If this were any other year this would easily have been Album of the Year but unfortunately some band from Melbourne finally got their act together after 9 years of
screwing around hassles…
1) Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I
Not. Even. Close.
This is the first and only album I have reviewed to date to which I have given a perfect score and I did so for a reason. Portal of I is more than ‘just’ a brilliant piece of music- it is totally enthralling, capable of holding you in stunned rapture for its entire duration and causing you to just play it again and again and again. Whether it is blasting extreme black/death metal, carefully constructing soft classical pieces or swinging and dancing to flamenco grooves the album is grippingly powerful and totally heart-stopping. Oh, and they have a violin. Which is awesome. I could rave about this album for hours (in fact I did in my full review) but I’ll spare you the torment and just urge you to click all the hyperlinks in this section. At once.
Symphony for the pilgrim, intrinsic wake
Opulent discordant soul; my arabesque
Setting sail from a paradox lost to a paradise found