Here is Keefy’s final Top Ten from his overall Top 40 Metal Albums of 2012 list! Enjoy!
#10. CRYPTOPSY- Cryptopsy (Self Released)
To paraphrase comedian Chris Rock, I’m tired of apologizing for CRYPTOPSY. I was in the minority among people when I loved The Unspoken King. I’m sure as people are reading this; they are scratching their heads again. No matter, CRYPTOPSY has silenced all their critics with an album that matches the best work of their career. A brutal slab of technical death metal on every level the album is great for all the reasons that made the band stellar in the first place. Obviously, people talk about the inhuman level of Drummer FLO MOUNIER. However, the real strength of the band is returning guitarist and writer JON LEVASSEUR and mainstay guitarist/uber producer CHRISITAN DONALDSON. The songs they wrote are superb. I was nervous about Oliver Pinard being able to replace ERIC LANGLOIS on bass, but even he was great too! Lastly, MATT MCGATCHY‘s performance provides the shut the fuck up moment of the year to all the haters. Well done sirs!
#9. PRONG- Carved Into Stone (Long Branch Records/SPV)
I thought my birthday came early this year when PRONG’s new album came out. PRONG has always been one of my favorite bands and all of their recorded output has been always been strong. Carved Into Stone is actually the bands best album since 1996′s Rude Awakening. Not only is the album full of sick tunes, but over the top, guitar playing in general is terrific. TOMMY VICTOR (DANZIG, MINISTRY) has been known for two things in his career: great songs and being a riff master general. The album displays an unexpected depth for any record in 2012. Packed with just the right touch of technical mastery and catchy songwriting to please and the hardcore soul, which hearkens back to Tommy’s NYC metal roots. The performances from TONY CAMPOS (SOULFLY/ MINISTRY/STATIC-X/ASESINO/POSSESSED/OTEP) and ALEXI RODRIGUEZ (ex-3 INCHES OF BLOOD) are matched perfectly too, making this one of the baddest power trio’s around.
#8. GOJIRA – L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
GOJIRA albums, when they come out, are an event. The metal world waits with baited breath and the results are always stellar. Armed with a new deal from Roadrunner, the band put out L’Enfant Sauvage over the summer to roars of approval. Perhaps, even I was too cynical to believe that GOJIRA would continue to get increasingly popular as they stayed true to who they were? L’Enfant Sauvage is a great blend of the Progressive Rock/Metal, Tech Death, old-school Death Metal and Thrash influences they are known for. Then there is their subject matter: they are one of the most thoughtful and socially conscious bands around, lyrically. The album hits the right mood on every level, every time and has the musical confidence of a band much more senior in years. Songs like “Explosia”, “The Axe” and “Liquid Fire” are going to be talked about in metal head circles for years to come.
#7. CANNIBAL CORPSE- Torture (Metal Blade)
Like a beautifully marbled steak or a legendary work of art, CANNIBAL CORPSE truly does get better with age. It seems likely that much like SLAYER, the death metal godfathers will keep right on trucking on to oblivion, making skull splitting, gore filled albums for as long as they can. Torture is perfect in every way and all of the things you love about the band are in the mix. Perhaps due to being the most collaborative written album in the bands history, the sound from song to song is quite eclectic. Not like Dubstep, power-ballad eclectic, mind you, but the band has figured out how to blend different song styles seamlessly. Inventive new chord structures and riffs, hard to fathom bass lines and stupendous drumming are all topped off by GEORGE “CORPSEGRINDER” FISHER‘s impeccable voice from hell. Plus, don’t forget the grooves. Oh those crushing grooves! Nobody writes a grooving-ass, brutal riff better than ALEX WEBSTER. The band continues to be the yard stick by which all death metal music and consequently, all death metal bands are measured.
#6. C.O.C. – C.O.C. (Candlelight)
That C.O.C. was able to make a comeback as a trio at this point in their career is not a surprise. The fact that they reunited to make an amazing album is not even a question. What I am surprised by, is that it seems like the rest of the world has caught up to the sound of the band and the love from fans and the press is over flowing. When last we saw C.O.C. as a trio it was the 80s and they were mostly an underground phenomenon. Lots of bands like to say they were influenced by the Sludgy, Crossover Doom masters, but in this age of the Internet; flattery goes a long way to help a new bands rep.To hear WOODY WEATHERMAN tell it, the reunion circuit was totally un-interesting to the band, unless they were gonna make new music. C.O.C., the album has more quality and vitality than many of the upstarts of the genre they helped put on the map. MIKE DEAN‘s bass is full of fuzz and style; Woody‘s soloing is on fire and REED MULLEN, back for the first time in over decade, drums and sings like a man possessed. Let us not forget the poignant political lyrics, much welcomed in these troublesome times of a divided America. You might say the metal world needed C.O.C. to come back, as much as they needed to make a comeback themselves.
#5. MESHUGGAH- Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
What can you say about MESHUGGAH that hasn’t been said already? It’s not hard to run out of superlatives when talking about the most influential metal band of the last fifteen years. Whether Koloss was going to be great or not was likely not debatable. What was up for grabs, was what direction these geniuses would take the iconic music we have all come to expect. The results were stunning. Can you change things up, and still be the same band? By definition no, but that is MESHUGGAH for you. Koloss is a collection of songs much like the rest of the bands’ storied catalog: brutal, and complex. Most of the songs feature a pulsing groove that has come to the fore in the bands work of late. Every beat and riff is a maelstrom of twisting delight, overlapping time signatures and finger-defying licks galore. Most of all, the album sets another technical high water-mark for guitarist FREDRICK THORDENDAL and drummer TOMAS HAAKE.
#4. TESTAMENT- Dark Roots Of Earth (Nuclear Blast)
The return of TESTAMENT to their former level of greatness is nothing short of a triumph for all of metal. 2008′s Formation of Damnation was an excellent comeback album, after almost a decade of no new music. In the interim years since getting back together, they have toured tirelessly around the world, reignited their chemistry and fulfilled the promise of their early career. Dark Roots of Earth takes the concept of the old-school Thrash style, added a modern sensibility and took it all one step further. Only EXODUS and ANTHRAX have been able to pull of the feat of making new music for modern ears, staying true to their past and begin able to add a level of panache. ERIC PETERSON finally got his dream come true by getting GENE HOGLAN to write and record drums for a TESTAMENT album. The unrelenting bottom end of the songs gives the band a new power they have never had. Every song is a gem. “Native Blood” is one of the catchiest, yet grooviest songs I’ve heard in ages. The chorus is also the best of 2012. CHUCK BILLY‘s ageless voice carries the day and ALEX SKOLNICK displays the chops that verify his legions of fans. Even GREG CHRISTIAN is heard from, with some excellent bass lines. Dark Roots of Earth is all killer and positively no filler.
#3. BARONESS- Yellow And Green (Relapse)
One of the most anticipated albums of 2012 did not disappoint when BARONESS dropped the latest in their color-themed recent discography. The band made no pretense that this album would be not be metal and frankly, that was OK by me. If you have been following the band, they have been less concerned with the trappings of fitting in, in their career up to this point. They instead stayed true to their artistic authenticity. What BARONESS delivered is a double-album of incredible songs, displaying great chops and the best dynamics overall of any album on this list. Some of the songs are quite heavy, but more often than not, that heaviness never came the expense of melodies or tones. “Take My Bones Away” was my out and out favorite song of the entire year. “March To The Sea” was another stone cold rocker, the likes that haven’t been heard since the heyday of QUEEN or THIN LIZZY. Some of the best moments are the most unexpected ones; like the freak-out synth work in “Cocanium”. All of the keyboard work is stellar as is the bass playing, which band leader John Baizley played all of too. “Back Where I Belong”, “Eula” and “Board Up The House” will also rank at the top of the bands’ song book for years to come. The “Green” side of the double set is equally tuneful and more mellow, but no less mint song-craft wise. Finally, tying it all together is the brilliant cover artwork, the years’ best; also by Baizley once again.
#2. DYING FETUS- Reign Supreme (Relapse)
DYING FETUS is such a great band in its current incarnation that one almost forgets there were entire years in their history marked by upheavals and departures. The present day lineup has been intact since 2007 and the comfort level they have together creating the most brutal Death Metal possibly known to man is sky high. Through it all, JOHN GALLAGHER has been the one constant: constantly growing as a guitarist and writer and constantly writing pissed the fuck off, baffling and sick lyrics. Reign Supreme might be remembered years from now as one of the top three releases of the bands’ career with its non-stop violence inspired songs. GALLAGHER and his p-i-c SEAN BEASLEY crush it out of the park on the guttural vocals. Beasley, who was always an underrated bassist for the genre, plays some of the best passages ever recorded for the instrument in the context of technical death metal. TREY WILLIAMS also one-ups his performance from Descend Into Depravity, being a might less technical, but still precise as fuck and bludgeoning as all hell. His blasts are far and away my favorite of any drummer on album this entire year. The album is a masterpiece of death metal brilliance, and that is really saying something considering how deep the sub-genre is these days.
#1. IHSAHN- Eremita (Candlelight)
In what was a high quality year at the top of the heap of metal music, IHSAHN‘s fourth solo outing is my choice for the album of the year. It’s not the sexy choice compared with typical years past, but it is the best choice, by far. Eremita is a sprawling, ambitious album full of musical twists and turns, yet perfectly coalescing into a sensible piece of art. In an interview I conducted with him for Metal Army he talked about the creative process as a continual evolution, a death followed by a rebirth. That would just begin to cover the emotional and lyrical depth in the music. In many ways, this is the album that IHSAHN, famously known as the legendary front man of EMPEROR, has been building up to for his entire career. His mastery as a composer, guitarist, vocalist and lyricist is without equal at this point in his career. Musically the songs cover the gamut of emotions and styles and reveal a complexity that mirrors the artist himself. Songs like “Arrival”, “The Paranoid”, “Something Out There”, “The Eagle And The Snake” and “Departure” are among the best of the year. Topping off the package are the guest performances by the likes of DEVIN TOWNSEND, JEFF LOOMIS, EINAR SOLBERG (LEPROUS), JEFF MUNKENBY on sax and IHSAHN’s wife HEIDI S. TVEITEN‘s enchanting vocal turns, which sends the quality of the album into the stratosphere.
KEEFY PREVIOUS TOP METAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
2011: TOMBS- Path of Totality
2010: EXODUS: Exhibit B
2009: MASTODON: Crack The Skye
2008: OPETH: Watershed
2007: MACHINE HEAD: The Blackening
2006: MASTODON: Blood Mountain
2005: MESHUGGAH: Catch Thirty-Three
2004: MACHINE HEAD: Through The Ashes Of Empires