Best of 2012: Aaron
1. Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity
I know, this one surprised me too. If you’d asked me about Cattle Decapitation a year ago, I would’ve told you that they were an above average gore metal band with an interesting animal rights shtick. If you’d asked me about Cattle Decapitation after the release of MONOLITH OF INHUMANITY, I would’ve told you that they were quite possibly one of the most important death metal bands in the scene today. This album is the perfect culmination of gut wrenching death metal brutality, technical precision, and twisted social commentary; it’s hard to believe that this is the same band that released HUMAN JERKY just a few years ago. To paraphrase Anchorman’s Champ Kind, MONOLITH OF INHUMANITY will smash your face into a windshield, and then take your mother for a nice seafood dinner and NEVER call her again. It’s that brutal.
2. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction
The title of the album says it all. Easily the best doom metal album of the year, and a very close runner up for my overall top spot. Pallbearer make you want to curl up into a ball and slip into nothingness, but you don’t, only because you don’t want to miss the next song.
3. Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol
The pioneers of gothic metal return with an album that’s on par with their best, and proves yet again why they are the best at what they do.
4. Napalm Death – Utilitarian
These guys can do no wrong, UTILITARIAN is another jewel in the crown for the kings of grindcore.
5. Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme
REIGN SUPREME finally achieves the ideal blend of groove, grind, and tech that Dying Fetus has been building up to.
6. Prong – Carved Into Stone
A love letter from Tommy Victor to the fans, CARVED INTO STONE is Prong doing what Prong does best. Almost 20 years since the release of CLEANSING, who could’ve guessed that ol’ Tommy Boy would’ve still had an album this good in him?
7. Nile – At the Gate of Sethu
This record didn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserved, but was so good I bought it twice (f@#! You, iTunes).
8. Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
Proving that the FORMATION reunion wasn’t just a fluke, DARK ROOTS OF THE EARTH is a darker and heavier Testament album that trumps its predecessor on every level.
9. Saint Vitus – Lillie: F-65
Oh Lillie, your majesty is marred only by your brevity.
10. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner
Don’t listen to the internet trolls, BOOK BURNER may not be as frenzied as PROWLER IN THE YARD, but it’s every bit as good as the hype surrounding it would lead you to believe.
11. Corrosion of Conformity – Corrosion of Conformity
12. Christian Mistress – Possession
13 Ihsahn – Eremita
14. Daylight Dies – A Frail Becoming
15. My Dying Bride – A Map of All Our Failures
16. Incantation – Vanquish in Vengeance
17 Six Feet Under – Undead
18. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist
19. High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis
20. Goatwhore – Blood for the Master
Down – DOWN IV PART I: THE PURPLE EP
“Bless the bravest attempts to tear us down…Good luck and f@#! your retort…”
In all honesty, if we didn’t have to break out EPs from full lengths for our year end lists, THE PURPLE EP would’ve easily been my overall #1. Crack open a bottle of Abita Purple Haze, light up a big fat J, press play, and accept that your band will never sound as good as what’s coming out of your speakers.
Best Live Album
Sacred Reich – Live at Wacken
Classic thrash from one of the greats. Buy this, you’ll thank me later.
Last Days Here
This documentary about Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling had a very limited theater run in 2011 but finally saw its release on DVD this summer. While the subject matter treads the familiar ground of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, it focuses on the ugly realities that come with the lifestyle. Liebling’s addictions are put on full display, including the gruesome physical ramifications of decades of substance abuse, mental breaks, and the disappointments that come with being so close to success only to see it slip away.
Death to All Tour (Beacham Theater, Orlando, FL)
How fitting that the final stop for this travelling tribute to the music and memory of Chuck Schuldiner wrapped up not only in his hometown, but in the same venue where the “Lack of Comprehension” video was filmed? Despite missing the first half of Atheist’s opening set due to a ridiculously early 6pm start, seeing members of Cynic, Exhumed, Abysmal Dawn, and a who’s who of the extended Death family share the stage together to celebrate Chuck’s music made this the best live show of the year.
Honorable Mention – Guns N’ Roses (House of Blues, Orlando, FL)
Okay, so GN’R may not technically be a metal band, but everybody reading this right now has probably owned a copy of APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION at some point in their life. A 3 ½ hour set in a 1,000 seater venue that was most definitely oversold and a stellar performance from Axl’s current lineup earns this gig a place in my all-time top 5. So what if Axl Rose looks like Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies, his voice still sounds like its svelte 1987 self. And Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is one of the most impressive guitar players I’ve ever seen live.
Best Discovery of 2012
Relics of Martyrs
Were it not for one of the most polite emails I’ve ever received with a review submission, chances are I never would’ve been introduced to Relics of Martyrs and their debut album SCENES OF BLOOD AND BETRAYAL. This young Jordanian outfit cranks a serious blend of death infused thrash that is nothing short of homage to the greatness of metal. Geography and political climates stack the deck against metal bands from this region of the world, which only makes the level of talent and skill exhibited by these guys that much more impressive.
Disappointments of 2012
The Black Sabbath/Bill Ward reunion soap opera – I love, LOVE, Black Sabbath, down to the core of my being, but drama like this is enough to sour the best of relationships. Couldn’t we have discussed this like gentlemen outside of the public eye, especially as this album will likely be the band’s epitaph? As much as I want a new Black Sabbath album, I don’t want it to happen this way. And oh yeah, Tony Iommi has cancer – Seriously God? It wasn’t enough for you to take Ronnie from us, but you’ve got to yank our chains with Tony as well? WTF man? Despite his apparent recovery, a scare like this only emphasizes how fragile life is, and that second (or third) chances should be embraced for the gift that they are.
Randy Blythe may spend a decade in a Czech prison because some dumbass kid made the mistake of trying to get on stage and died as a result. That’s not a crime, it’s natural selection. I’m not even remotely a Lamb of God fan, but Randy is one of us, and if this can happen to the frontman of one of the biggest bands in metal, it can happen to anyone.
The state of the music industry is so craptastic that Frank Mullen may not be able to tour with Suffocation to support the new album? This is the unfortunate economics of being a 40-year-old man fronting a death metal band. Keep metal alive – buy a t-shirt, pay for a legit streaming service, or just buy the goddamn album already. Enough is enough.
Hopes for 2013
NEW CARCASS ALBUM!!!!!! Seriously, how did this manage to stay under the radar for so long? AND Bill Steer is returning to the mic? I’m as giddy as a school girl on prom night. I’m well aware of the potential for disappointment, but if anybody can pull this off, it’s Carcass.
King Diamond may be ready to hit the road again. Holy crap, how about that stage at Helfest? While I’m skeptical that King would be able to support that level of production on a North American run, the fact that he’s put so much emphasis in the press on recent deals with booking agencies and the ink still being fresh on a new contract with Metal Blade gives me some hope that we’ll at least get a taste. Now about those DVDs you’ve been promising…
For Metal Blade Records and Spotify to work out a licensing agreement. C’mon Slagel, Century Media finally got on board, you’re the last holdout. I can’t begin to express how much it irks me that I can’t add albums like HELL AWAITS, PSALM 9, SYMBOL OF SALVATION, and a slew of past and present artists from your roster to my high quality streaming audio playlists.