Erich’s Top 20 Metal Albums of 2012 & Other Lists
1. Kreator – PHANTOM ANTICHRIST
When 2011 ended I never would have predicted that Kreator would be my number one album at the end of 2012. I have always enjoyed the band, but have never been a diehard fan. PHANTOM ANTICHRIST is the masterwork of a band that still sounds hungry and angry. The melodic pieces interspersed with the heavy riffs have finally been perfectly blended, and whether it is advancing age or a conscious decision to reign in the croaking vocals, Mille has never sounded better. The highest compliment I can give this album though is that it found its way into the three main phases that I consume high grade music: in the car, working out, and drinking.
2. Knight Fury – TIME TO ROCK
Released without a label at the end of 2011, TIME TO ROCK was picked up by Pure Steel in 2012 and thus qualifies as a 2012 release. Guitarist Chris Sanders enlisted Dave Ellefson, Ken Mary, and William King to bring to fruition his vision of a classic example of early Power Metal with plenty of modern inflections and interpretations. The result is an incredibly unexpected and under-appreciated album that positions Sanders for great things in the future.
3. Testament – DARK ROOTS OF EARTH
Attention to detail and a sense of purpose all permeate DARK ROOTS OF THE EARTH, as the eye-catching cover art immediately attests. This is 9 songs of metal perfection, Chuck Billy managing to just about steal the show. This is an instant classic and certainly one of the band’s top 3 or 4 albums, period.
4. Trixter – NEW AUDIO MACHINE
Once again, another album that I never would have guessed would end up in my top 5, being less of a Trixter fan than Kreator. But here it is and as improbable as it seems, NEW AUDIO MACHINE is a focused and balanced album of melodic hair metal brimming with enthusiasm and a solid production job. Perfect for sticking in the car and just driving.
5. Paradise Lost – TRAGIC IDOL
While not the return to DRACONIAN TIMES that the band and label asserted, TRAGIC IDOL is still a finely crafted album, bearing all the signature marks of the band. TRAGIC IDOL is the third stylistically consistent album in a row for the band, and while I can do without the new affinity for down tuned guitars, the band still has that weeping and doomy quality that made them a fan favorite.
6. Van Halen – A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH
Considering the hype and anticipation for this album, A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRUTH has to be considered one of the great comeback albums of all time. It is Van Halen picking up as if Roth had never. Much like Kreator, Van Halen found hunger and creative inspiration drawn from the wells of the past and expertly mixed with the present to create an astonishing album.
7. The Mystery – APOCALYPSE 666
The album title is nothing original, but the music on APOCALYPSE 666 is just fine thanks, in the style of traditional and straight-up metal. Catchy melodies, chugging riffs, and powerful vocals from a female singer that sounds like a man and you have the makings for some mighty fine classic metal.
8. Million Dollar Reload – A SINNER’S SAINT
Looking for straight forward rocking metal, look no further. A SINNERS SAINT is a fantastic album, and a reminder that good metal need not be complex to be compelling.
9. Prong – CARVED INTO STONE
Prong has admittedly had an inconsistent run, with great albums followed by mediocre ones but CARVED INTO STONE kicks ass. “Revenge..Served Cold” belongs in the same league as “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck” and “Whose Fist Is This Anyway?”. Yes, it is that good.
10. Crazy Lixx –RIOT AVENUE
RIOT AVENUE continues Crazy Lixx’s run of no bad albums. How these guys are not huge is beyond me, but RIOT AVENUE is a monster hair/sleaze metal album that boasts booming production to propel catchy songs as evidenced by the bands patented anthemic choruses and backing vocals.
11. Overkill – THE ELECTRIC AGE
12. 3 Inches of Blood- LONG LIVE HEAVY METAL
13. Orden Ogan – TO THE END
14. Fullforce – NEXT LEVEL
15. Bakken – DEATH OF A HERO
16. Accept – STALINGRAD
17. Secret Sphere – PORTRAIT OF A DYING HEART
18. Dark Nightmare – BENEATH THE VEILS OF WINTER
19. Mystic Prophecy – RAVENLORD
20. Primal Fear – UNBREAKABLE
Best Not Quite Heavy Enough Albums
When I compiled my original top 50 for the year to whittle down, these albums ranked highly, but after much hand wringing, I determined they did not have the requisite amount of “crunch” to make the list. Here are still, some very fine borderline metal albums:
The Cult – CHOICE OF WEAPON
Tyketto – DIG IN DEEP
House of Shakira – HOS
77 – HIGH DECIBELS
Hardline- DANGER ZONE
Best New Band
Bakken – DEATH OF A HERO
Bakken is Irish traditional metal band, evoking the finest qualities of Iron Maiden, Metallica and other classic metal bands.
Simon Pickett (vocals, guitar)
Mark-Anthony McGinnis (guitar)
Niall McGrotty (drums, backing vocals)
Brian O’Kane (bass guitar)
Best Live Album (Tie)
Iron Maiden – EN VIVO
Pretty Maids – IT COMES ALIVE
Heartache – APOPHIS
Iron Maiden – EN VIVO
ROCK OF AGES
Ghost – OPUS EPONYMOUS
Not sure how I missed these guys and really it is unfathomable. However, the amount of listens I have given it in the last 6 months is making up for lost time.
Disappointments of 2012
No New Fates Warning Album:
Despite loud proclamations of a new album in 2012, it did not happen and while the re-mastered stop gap of INSIDE OUT was appreciated, 8 years is the longest stretch between studio albums for the band in their career.
Geoff Tate – KINGS AND THIEVES:
Queensryche had sucked for quite some time, so splitting with the band held the potential of a blessing in disguise. Truth be told, I had almost zero expectations for KINGS AND THIEVES but even that low threshold was trodden upon, as it is now clear that Tate has nothing left to say. Why I even care eludes me, since it is obvious Tate does not.
Loudness – EVE TO DAWN:
The years have not been kind to Nahira’s voice and the songs are mediocre.
Lacuna Coil – DARK ADRENALINE:
I realize I am in the minority here and might ruffle some feathers, but I do not think this band has released a good album since COMALIES. Andrea Ferro continues to be a liability, but the band’s love affair with Linkin Park and Evanescence is still evident on “Losing My Religion”. Yeah, I understand embracing success over poverty, and I realize that Cristina does not want to go back to waitressing. But man, I miss the band that gave me IN A REVERIE and COMALIES.
Manowar – LORD OF STEEL:
Eric’s voice is shot and somehow Joey has made his bass clackier and louder than on any previous albums.
Greatest Hopes For 2013
Reformation of Savatage: Sure it is not going to happen but I can wish can’t I?
New Judas Priest and Black Sabbath Albums: Hopefully both of these will live up to the hype especially Priest, with KK gone.
Continued Decline and Eradication of Metal Core: Sam Dunn’s documentary on Metal Evolution re-emphasized for me how essential that the death of this non-metal genre really is.