Best of 2012 – EvilG
#1. Primal Fear – Unbreakable
Some may forget this one for best of 2012 as it came out back in January 2012. For me, no other album has been played as many times this past year. The effortless vocals and range of Ralf Scheepers, and the strong song writing prowess of Mat Sinner and cohorts, meant that we were delivered with another magical metal album from one of the BEST metal bands in the business. It’s really too bad that the band didn’t make it to North America for the UNBREAKABLE tour, hopefully this will corrected in 2013.
2. Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth
Jaw-dropping is but one way to describe this release. Four years ago, we were collectively blown away by The Formation of Damnation as it topped the Metal-Rules.com Best of 2008 list. If Dark Roots doesn’t chart really high for 2012, I’ll be shocked because it is even better! Its heavy parts are heavier, and the melodic parts are even more melodic. It’s just such a well-rounded/written/preformed/recorded masterpiece!
3. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity
Let’s just overlook all the weirdness with the split of the band into the “LT” and the “of fire” versions. All I care about is that they can both continue to create groundbreaking symphonic metal. With Ascending to Infinity, Luca proves that he still has the magic. New vocalist Alessandro Conti also pushed the operatic elements further with vocals that are some of the best I’ve heard.
4. Kamelot – Silverthorn
Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that new vocalist Tommy Karevik is pretty much a dead ringer for Roy Kahn. From his enunciation of words, range, and even stage crouching moves, he made sure the transition was seamless and for a casual fan, unnoticable. The music of Silverthorn is also top notch. The album drags a little further in with some of the slow ballad styled songs. However, this concept album is amongst the best the band has done.
5. Dragonforce – The Power Within
I was rather surprised with how good this album turned out to be. I’ve always LIKED Dragonforce, but they’ve never cracked into my best album list until now. I think the “over the top-ness” of their music was the main reason why I never completely jumped on board. With new vocalist Marc Hudson and with more songs that are much more calm like the powerful “Cry Thunder” the band covers more bases while still maintaining the frenzy with songs like “Give Me the Night”.
6. Accept – Stalingrad
Another excellent album from masters of classic heavy metal. Coming just two years after the brilliant BLOOD OF THE NATIONS, this proves that their comeback is no stroke of luck.
7. Kreator – Phantom Antichrist
Mille is awesome…his ripping solos continue to provide me with inspiration. His vocals are still insane, and for me, are about the best in “brutal” vocals period. I’ve loved Kreator since the first time I saw the video for “Toxic Trace” on the the Much Music Power Hour way back in the 80’s and the band still maintains the same level of intensity and awesomeness to this day.
8. Vision Divine – Destination Set to Nowhere
Wow…this is Vision Divine’s 7th album, yet it’s the first one I’ve really played the shit out of. Part of me wonders if that’s because of the spaceship on the cover…but that only caught my eye, not my ears. Vocalist Fabio Lione (Rhapsody of Fire) as always sounds fantastic and the prog/power metal songs and riffing were something that I instantly loved.
9. Sabaton – Carolus Rex
This is Sabaton’s last album to be recorded with the line-up we all became familiar with. So it will be interesting to see how the band’s next album sounds. The Art of War (2008) is still my fav Sabaton album, and Carolus Rex sounds quite similar to Coat of Arms (2010)…perhaps too similar in a way. I love it, but hope for something just slightly different next time.
10. Van Halen – A Different Kind Of Truth
I was NOT a believer. I never thought DLR and the Van Halen’s would put aside their egos or tempers or whatever it is that has kept them aprt for an eternity to get this quality album out! I really thought Eddy was DONE….and I’m very happy to be proven wrong! I was never into Van Hagar, didn’t like the Extreme fronted VH…for me, the only required VH is their very early stuff. While I wish the album was full of songs like “China Town”, the album is still remarkable for what it represents.
11. Heidevolk – Batavi
Sadly there are not many folk/viking metal bands with melodic clean vocals. Heidevolk (Dutch for “heath-folk”) has two rich dual vocalists who provide a uniqueness sound that is all their own. The mix of folk and metal riffage is also done expertly.
12. Prong – Carved Into Stone
While many of the bands that claim an influence from Prong suck, Prong themselves were innovators and were one of the cooler bands of the early 90’s. Not since then have they released such a vital and ass kicking album.
13. Seven Kingdoms – The Fire is Mine
Saw these dudes, and gal, open for Blind Guardian in 2010 and was made a fan then. Their new album is stronger again than their previous with some vicious playing and great songs.
14. Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name
While this album is a bit puzzling at times with a hillbilly song, a cock rock song, some power metal, some rock, some ballads…but most of the album is really surprisingly good.
15. Striker – Armed to the Teeth
After checking out a bunch of Canadian metal recently, one band really shone through with a pure metal heart, and that band is Striker. Very traditional sounding, and not what you’d expect from a Canadian band…also my top “discovery” for 2012! Excellent band, hope they get heard more!
16. Overkill – The Electric Age
Good ole reliable Overkill. Never a letdown, always a precise thrash attack!
17. Bloodbound – In The Name of Metal
A mix of traditional metal and power metal in line with bands like Dream Evil and HammerFall. Easily one of this band’s best albums!
18. Thy Majestie – ShiHuangDi
Here’s a band I’ve been a fan of since day 1. They’ve had some ups and downs but again deliver a solid release with ShiHuangDi. “Qin Shi Huang was the king of the Chinese State of Qin from 246 BC to 221 BC, during the Warring States Period. He became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BC. He ruled until his death in 210 BC at the age of 49.” (Wikipedia). The thing that makes this album stand out is new vocalist Alessio Taormina (he’s the best frontman they’ve had to date, so if you didn’t like them before give them another try!).
19. Orden Ogan – To the End
Great band, even though I often misspell their odd band name!
20. Joe Stump – Revenge Of The Shredlord
Man it was hard to narrow down my list to 20 and very hard to knock a few away as I liked them equally. However, since this level of inspired yet melodic shred isn’t often heard, I had to go with the mighty Joe Stump!
Best Live Album
Gamma Ray – Skeletons & Majesties Live
For some reason the video (blu-ray/DVD) for this isn’t out in North America yet otherwise it may have also made my selection for best live video. The song selection here isn’t just the typical material as the band digs deep and pulls out some gems that stand up against their most known material. As Gamma Ray is my favorite band, I don’t make the distinction between the two as I listen to the albums in full as they were meant to be heard! Such as great band, and a nice farewell to longtime drummer Daniel Zimmermann, he’ll be missed for sure.
Best DVD / Blu-ray
Stratovarius – Under Flaming Winter Skies – Live In Tampere (Blu-Ray)
Another of my fav bads is saying farewell to their drummer with a live release. The songs in here are more-so the most known ones. The only problem I had with the DVD is the 5.1 audio mix has the vocals way too low! In stereo mix, the vocals sound loud enough though and it’s a great concert from the highly influential melodic Finnish power metal band.
Best Remake Album/Compilation
Blind Guardian – Memories of a Time to Come
While this is mostly remixes (which sound awesome), there are also a few glorious re-recordings on this double CD package.
Best (metal-relayed) Movie
Rock of Ages. This is definitely not 100% “metal”. It is mostly hard rock / classic rock, but it does capture some of the 80’s Sunset Strip sound and glam metal bands. Strangely absent is the biggest of them all from this scene and era – Motley Crue. Also puzzling is the absence of Ratt, Dokken, and Van Halen…with the perplexing inclusion of C-level glam and some questionable classic rock.. It’s really too bad no one asked me what bands/songs to include eh? haha!. Oh and BTW…the live musical for Rock of Ages that I saw in Toronto was better than the movie.
Best Local Metal Band
Again this year, I have to give the nod to Wizards of Kaos. In 2012, they signed with Canadian label Diminished Fifth Records, opened up locally for Black Label Society, and have played live countless times at the only 2 local bars that support original heavy music (Distortion and The Levee).
Nightwish/Kamelot (at the Sound Academy in Toronto, Sept. 20th)
Just days before Annette’s departure from the band I had the pleasure to see them live in Toronto. It was magical. Kamelot’s opening set was also mind-blowing. It was cool to attend with a fellow Metal Rules writer (Waspman) as well!!
While I’ve read a bunch of metal books in 2012, none of them actually came out in 2012. So rather than leave this section empty, I’ll list the metal book that I most enjoyed in 2012: Once Upon a Nightwish: The Official Biography 1996-2006 by Mape Ollila and Olga Pohjola (released in 2008).
Best New Band
Huntress was a band that got a lot of exposure in 2012 with the release of their debut full-length, SPELL EATER. It was the song and video for “Eight of Swords” that caught my ear. I really wish the band would lay off the hipster instagram photos though, it’s not 1960 and these photos make you (and the other bands who think they are great) looks like silly hipsters.
STRIKER, from Edmonton, Canada, are:
Dan Cleary – Lead Vocals
Ian Sandercock – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Chris Segger – Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Dave Arnold – Bass Guitar
Adam Brown – Drums
Check out the band here.
Firewind – Few Against Many: Too “rock n’ roll”, too many groove riffs, not heavy enough, etc. I’ve spun this album many times, even enjoyed it on some level, but it has nothing on any of the other recent Firewind albums. Everyone’s performance and playing is solid, it’s just the songs are overall kinda bland. You’d think Gus would of put out a heavier, speedier, more power-thrash laden album after playing Ozzy’s greatest hits for a couple of years. I’m still a big Firewind fan, and I have hope as Gus is one of the better younger shredders. This is a disappointment that was simply born out of very high hopes.
Fear Factory – The Industrialist: Not as good as the previous, just not as many hooks, and therefore kinda forgettable.
Unisonic: The single from this album was fantastic – upbeat, a mix of hard rock and power metal with some soaring vocals and riffing. This song is what I expected from the album as I knew we would not get a bunch of classic Helloween songs – no matter how much I wanted it to be so. Sadly, the rest of the album lost me. The performances are professional, but the songs just didn’t grab me as most are more in the hard rock realm.
Metal Evolution (Banger Films): While I loved a lot of this mini-series and would highly recommend that metalheads check it out, overall it left me feeling a bit empty. My main beefs are the inclusion of grunge and mallcore (incorrectly called “nu-metal” by the mainstream, but it was neither new nor was it ever metal!). Neither played a role in the evolution of metal, and were put in there perhaps to pander to the masses, VH1, or whatever….I dunno, it just has no bearing on metal so it should of been omitted! Sadly they left out black metal and death metal (an oversight even the creators acknowledge and want to roll into a single episode using pledge music). Also, Sam Dunn’s lack of “understanding” of Power Metal is baffling considering his love of Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM bands and the clear progression from this style that power metal represents. That fact that he felt it necessary to even mention he didn’t “get” power metal kind of made me a little unhappy little…hahah.
Metallic Hopes for 2013
- Primal Fear to play in Montreal and Toronto for the UNBREAKABLE tour….they haven’t been over this way in a while now, time to come back!
- Helloween & Gamma Ray Hellish Rock returns to Canada.
- Would also love to see Kamelot and Stratovarius in 2013….
- Albums I’m looking forward to: Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Stratovarius, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Queensryche with new frontman, Riot continus onwards and pays homage to their fallen brother Mark Reale, Jag Panzer reunites to record new material, etc….
- Floor Jansen (perhaps my fav female vocalist!) is a permanent member of Nightwish and the band recorded AND releases a new album in 2013…..wouldn’t that be awesome!
- Savatage anniversary/reunion album featuring both Jon Oliva & Zachary Stevens…one can dream…I’ve had this one listed for what, almost 10 years?
- As I’ve mentioned before… The demise of all the core bullshit in metal. It’s become almost as bad as “mallcore” and the trend needs to go away…there doesn’t need to be a “trend” just listen to metal already!
Top Metal News of 2012
- Black Sabbath: Live shows without Bill Ward / Tony Iommi’s Lymphoma
- Annette Olzon leaves Nightwish; Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever, ReVamp) fills in (hopefully she’ll permanently join).
- RIOT Guitarist Mark Reale Passes.
- New singer for Luca Turilli’s Rhapsosy reveaved and band releases amazing album.
- LORDI Drummer Tonmi Lillman (Otus) Passes Away.
- Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe Arrested in Prague for Manslaughter and the un-going BS.
- Ongoing Queensryche drama surrounding now former vocalist Geoff Tate.
- Guitarist of Ministry and Rigor Mortis Michael “Mike” Scaccia dies.