Best of 2012 – Top 30

Spread the metal:

Best of 2012

As always, the top albums are for releases from 2011 that are full albums (no EP’s or demos). They also have to be new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live material. Below the combined TOP 30 are links to each staff members personal “best of” lists which besides the top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book of 2012, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2013, personal metal discovery of 2012, and various other related categories. Enjoy!

The Top 30  Heavy Metal Albums of 2012



PHANTOM ANTICHRIST contains 10 tracks of metal perfection on an album that lays down the gauntlet for all the young pup thrash bands that thought they had grabbed the torch. Heck, Kreator have even slapped the faces of the old guard of thrash with a glove, whose also fine recent releases sound further from the finish line than they did upon first listens. In sum, there is something here for everyone, fast, heavy and aggressive thrash coupled with mid-paced and melodic sections that would make Gothenburg proud had Kreator not already been doing this kind of thing well before them.

This is what mainman vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza had to saw about being voted the #1 album of the year by followed by comments from guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö:

“Fantastic! Thank you people for your support. You totally rule! All the hard work we have put into this album has payed off more then we`ve ever imagined! We hopefully see you at one of the festivals or a concert hall soon! METAL!!!”
– Mille Petrozza

“Recently I heard from Metal Rules that PHANTOM ANTICHRIST has been chosen to be their album of the year. Fabulous, marvelous and sublime! Some people might think that old road-dogs like us with so many albums under our belt wouldn´t think much of nominations of the sort but I must say that we do! The recording and the production of “Phantom Antichrist” was a very time consuming project and we put a lot of effort into it. Therefore it is heartwarming to know that it has pleased the ears of the writers of A big thank you and cheers  to all who bought the album as well.”
– Sami Yli-Sirniö

Review / Official Site




Testament's new album, DARK ROOTS OF EARTH - released on July 27, 2012 (Europe) and July 31, 2012 (North America) via Nuclear Blast Records.

Coming in at a very close second is Testament. Their previous album, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION won our Best Album of 2008, and they nearly did again.

DARK ROOTS OF THE EARTH retains elements of heaviness, while comfortably settling in to a mid-paced tempo through much of the album. The album cover art is captivating, visually alluding to the sonic tapestries within. Skolnick and Peterson construct mammoth riffs carefully interspersed with chunks of rhythm and guitar tone that is frankly, magnificent. Hoglan is one of the finest metal drummers alive and fulfills his end of the bargain here, but if there is a challenger to the guitars it is the daunting front man Chuck Billy himself. Billy shows his versatility on this album in a far greater degree than on TFOD, employing all of the considerable tools in his arsenal.

Review / Official Site


Accept - Stalingrad
Accept – Stalingrad

At #3 is the band who we voted as the #1 for our Best Album of 2010 with BLOOD OF THE NATIONS. Pretty much everyone across the board loved that album. So naturally the band with relentless momentum decided to keep the Accept juggernaut rolling. No line-up changes. Same label. Same producer. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The follow-up STALINGRAD delivers everything an Accept could want. Huge guitars, lots of solos, the gruff and battle-tested vocals of Tornillo, thunderous rhythms, crunchy riffs all wrapped up in that timeless tradition of Accepts’ anthemic Metal. Keep ’em coming!

Review / Official Site

4. Van Halen:
A Different Kind Of Truth

Van Halen - A Different Kind of Truth
Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth

In 2012, Van Halen released one of the most anticipated album of all-time. Fans wanted this album to happen since 1985 when singer David Lee Roth parted ways with the Van Halen camp. After 28 years it has finally become a reality and a Roth fronted Van Halen album has become a reality. The Van Halen brothers are playing the best they have in years. Eddie needs Dave to bring out the best in him and this album proves that statement. He hasn’t played this good since 1984. It’s just too bad we had to wait this long for it to happen and hopefully we don’t have to wait that long for the next one.

Review / Official Site

5. Paradise Lost:
Tragic Idol

 Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
Paradise Lost – Tragic Idol

While this is perhaps not a  return to DRACONIAN TIMES (1995), there are plenty of songs that come close. Paradise Lost has had a nice run over the last four albums, and TRAGIC IDOL stands proudly as another excellent and solid effort. Fans of the band and doom/goth metal fans in general should have no reservations about grabbing this one. Paradise Lost’s 13th album TRAGIC IDOL continues more closely in the style of FAITH DIVIDES US with pulverizing and heavy doom, interlaced with elements of gothic metal that the band practically invented. However, this is as close as they have come to the classic sound yet, with plenty of memorable elements of ICON and DRACONIAN TIMES mixed in.

Review / Official Site


Overkill - "The Electric Age"
Overkill – “The Electric Age”

THE ELECTRIC AGE marks Overkill’s 16th studio album, depending on how you count. Take a minute and let that sink in. Also consider that out of all the first wave of original thrash bands, no other band can claim such a prolific output, including the Big Four. Now, most impressively, Overkill has managed to release quality albums every two years for 27 years. Undeniably, some albums have been better than others, but you would be hard pressed to find a universally panned album by critics or fans, simply because there are none.  There are a couple of absolutes in metal, and Overkill is one of them, reaching a hallowed reputation amongst fans that there is no reason to even consider anything but buying each new album, and being rewarded with a solid effort in return.

Review / Official Site


Sabaton - "Carolus Rex"
Sabaton – “Carolus Rex”

Sabaton continues to be a leader in a crowded field of Traditional/Power Metal, and CAROLUS REX is an admirable addition to an already impressive catalogue. Sabaton have truly perfected their signature sound as written by Joakim Broden. CAROLUS REX in terms of song-writing and arrangements is not significantly different from the previous five. They are stomping anthems, marching beats, double-kick pounders, militaristic ballads, all the benchmarks of a Sabaton album. The cuts ‘Poltava’ and ‘1648’ are likely to become fan favorites and staples of the live set.

Review / Official Site

8. Cannibal Corpse:

Cannibal Corpse – Torture
Cannibal Corpse – Torture

There’s an old showbiz recipe for success: “give the people what they want.” And Cannibal Corpse has arguably perfected this recipe better than any other band in the metal underground. You don’t get to become the most successful death metal band in the world by incorporating dub step beats or by collaborating with Lou Reed. No sir, Corpse fans want fast, brutal, gory, and uh, brutal. TORTURE may not be the best we’ve heard from Cannibal Corpse, but even a mediocre Corpse record is better than much of the competition.

Review / Official Site

9. Cattle Decapitation:
Monolith of Inhumanity

Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity
Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity

This album could’ve just as easily have been titled BRUTAL F@#KING PERFECTION, because that’s about the best way to sum up Cattle Decapitation’s latest full length, MONOLITH OF INHUMANITY. The band has become a technically proficient and devastating death metal machine, ultimately culminating with this album. A guttural masterpiece with a social conscience, MONOLITH OF INHUMANITY is the soundtrack of human extinction.

ReviewOfficial Site

10. PRONG:

Prong - Carved Into Stone
Prong – Carved Into Stone

CARVED INTO STONE is the kind of album that feels like it’s been brewing inside of Tommy Victor for some time. Without a doubt it’s the best Prong disc in years, and I’d go as far to say that it’s their best since CLEANSING. Yes, I understand what kind of statement that is, but CARVED INTO STONE is really that good. While SCORPIO RISING and POWER OF THE DAMAGER both had their moments, they were missing that special combination of anger, power riffs and the catchy hooks that seem to emanate from the classic Prong tunes that we all know and love. Which is EXACTLY why this disc such a flawless metal manifesto: eleven tracks full of big fat angry riffs that are dressed to the nines in memorable aural visages that punch you square in the nads as you’re singing along.

Review / Official Site

11. Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody:
Ascending To Infinity

Luca Turilli's Rhapsody: Ascending To Infinity
Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody: Ascending To Infinity

This is the first album from Luca since the split of the band into two camps (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, and the other version remains called Rhapsody of Fire).  Despite a new vocalist with Luca, ASCENDING TO INFINITY sounds just like..well…Rhapsody / Rhapsody Of Fire and that is a really good thing. The cinematic sound is fully in place with no surprises. Everything is bombastic, epic, glorious, triumphant, inspiring… any similar adjective you would like to use would fit. This is one of the best symphonic metal releases of 2012, if not THE symphonic metal release of the year.

Review / Official Site


Kamelot - Silverthorn (limited edition)
Kamelot – Silverthorn (limited edition)

Kamelot fans were shocked when extraordinary vocalist Roy Khan suddenly left the band following the release of 2010’s POETRY FOR THE POISONED.  Enter new vocalist Tommy Karevik. From the second he opens his mouth to sing on “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)”, it’s clear that Karevik fits Kamelot like a glove.  The band is clearly invigorated and refreshed. There is a drive and energy that was not present in either POETRY or GHOST OPERA making this one of the best Kamelot albums ever, and easily one of the better melodic power metal releases of 2012.

Review / Official Site

13. Enslaved:

Enslaved - RIITIIR
Enslaved – RIITIIR

This is one of those few albums that come around once in a blue moon and really knock you sideways and think “wow!” and could very well be one of the defining moments for Enslaved, and for a band that has come such a long way through their career with the varying styles along the way then that really is saying something and a true achievement for metal!

Review / Official Site

14. Napalm Death:

Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Napalm Death – Utilitarian

It’s hard to imagine how today’s grind-core scene would look without the enduring presence of Napalm Death. One suspects that it would cast a far slimmer shadow – as without a doubt over the course of 14 studio albums Napalm Death have carved their name into the general consciousness, far beyond just that of its fan base. Whilst it was already plenty sharp when first brought to the table, over the last 30 years Napalm Death have continued to grind their axe on all and sundry, and at the peril of those who cross their path. If Utilitarian manages to stick in the throat of those in power and to shake you out of your waking dream of a life, even for a moment, Napalm Death will probably be happy. What’ll prompt a smile through your gritted teeth is the fact that after all this time the fires of Napalm Death are still more than capable of singeing your eyebrows.

Review / Official Site


Dragonforce - The Power Within
Dragonforce – The Power Within

The fire burns brighter than ever for Dragonforce complete with new powerhouse vocal god, Mark Hudson. THE POWER WITHIN sees the band return firing on all cylinders. This album is a shade slower, a shade darker and a shade better than the previous. Dragonforce perhaps felt that they had taken the video-game inspired speed about as far as they could, almost to it’s logical conclusion as a blur of incomprehensible noise… but not quite. Accordingly, THE POWER WITHIN eases of the throttle just ever so slightly and it is a stronger album for it. THE POWER WITHIN is yet another radiant jewel in their majestic crown.

Review / Official Site


Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage

L’Enfant Sauvage (French: “The Wild Child”) is the fifth album by the French metal band Gojira. The album sees the band jump to the Roadrunner label and get even more exposure in the Metal community. Their unique blend of Prog and Death has captured the imagination of the broader Metal community as L’ENFANT SAUVAGE is being well-received by mainstream, hipsters and underground Metal fans alike.


Official Site


17. KISS:

KISS - Monster
KISS – Monster

Anyone who says Kiss were never Metal doesn´t know what they´re talking about!
Quorthon (Bathory) in a June 1994 interview with Malcolm Dome.

MONSTER is a very solid, if not excellent, Hard Rock/Heavy Metal record. Is it earth-shattering? No. It’s heavier than SONIC BOOM. It’s not as heavy as REVENGE. It’s not as experimental as THE ELDER but more complex than virtually all of the 70’s albums. It’s not as glammy as ASYLUM or CRAZY NIGHTS. It’s not as fast as ANIMALIZE, but has way more punch than DYNASTY and UNMASKED. It’s not as gloomy as CARNIVAL OF SOULS. With a dozen of rockers, MONSTER reminds me of a cross between PYSCHO CIRCUS and HOT IN THE SHADE but a shade heavier, and no ballads.

Review / Official Site


Manowar - The Lord Of Steel
Manowar – The Lord Of Steel

New releases from Manowar are usually an event, a time when the band’s core fans eagerly await the latest chapter in the never ending saga of Death To False Metal, a tome now lengthier than a Steven Erikson novel. However, the buzz upon the release of LORD OF STEEL was muted, probably due to the fact that it was only released on iTunes and the band’s own online store. Few reviewers had advanced copies, and well there was not much of a push in the press. While this isn’t one of the band’s best outputs, LORD OF STEEL is not a bad album. All of the requisite elements are there, fast tempos chunky rhythms, odes to metal, and march or die lyrics topped off with a cold beer. Sounds recycled, sure, but expected and appreciated by the faithful.

Review / Official Site


Marduk - Serpent Sermon
Marduk – Serpent Sermon

Black Metal originators remain relevant with SERPENS SERMON. Mixtures of old school Marduk with a modern kick are offered with some hurricane speeds over layers of ear splintering drumming. The album has plenty of decayed and desolation drenched atmospheres that are  beautifully produced with sublime musicianship and flourishes of grim lyrical organics to match.

Review / Official Site

20. SLASH:

Slash - Apocalyptic Love
Slash – Apocalyptic Love

This is Slash’s second solo studio record and the most uniform and consistent one. This time it is just Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge handling all the vocal chores. A fantastic heavy guitar driven album. If you are a fan of the first Guns album or the first Snakepit disc then you will enjoy this as well. Another winner for Slash.

Review / Official Site


Devin Townsend – Epicloud
Devin Townsend – Epicloud

As his previous works with the likes of Strapping Young Lad, and solo collection of four ultimately-different albums, underlines – you never know quite what you’re going to get from Devin Townsend. For the curious, the receptive, and the die-hards, Epicloud may just remind you that music doesn’t move in nice straight lines, that you can sometimes blur the epic and the fun, and that somehow it all turns into gold in the mind of Devin Townsend.

Review / Official Site


PRIMAL FEAR - unbreakable
PRIMAL FEAR – unbreakable

Primal Fear is pretty much the ultimate “get what you expected” band, and UNBREAKABLE delivers exactly what their fans want and expect. It may not change your mind about the band, but if you’ve bought into what these guys have been doing for 14 years, you will not be disappointed.

Review / Official Site


Xandria – Neverworld’s End
Xandria – Neverworld’s End

Xandria originated as far back as 1997 with their first demo and are now on their fifth full-length album, have the talent to stand alone and stand apart and by now are immune to such unsophisticated criticisms of being a Nightwish copy-cat or clone. NEVERWORLD’S END is another epic, bombastic triumph for one the leading bands in this genre.

Review / Official Site


Bejelit – Emerge
Bejelit – Emerge

This is interesting. An Italian Power Metal band that does NOT sound like Rhapsody! Weird. They sound like Sonata Arctica on crack! Cool! Bejelit really deserve more attention so for anyone who yearns for the early days of Sonata Arctica, check them out.

Review / Official Site


Candlemass - Psalms For The Dead
Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead

PSALMS FOR THE DEAD is supposed to be the swan song for Swedish doom lords Candlemass, the epitaph for a band with a history spanning 3 decades. Many don’t believe for a second that this will be the last Candlemass album. Leif Edling closed up shop once before, and the result was that nobody cared much about what he did if the album cover didn’t have the Candlemass name stamped across it. Whether out of desire or necessity, there will be another Candlemass studio disc at some point. Also, the fact that Robert Lowe was ousted from the band on the eve of PSALM’s release indicates that things haven’t been all hugs and chocolate for some time now. Perennial fill-in Mats Leven is handling vocals on current live obligations, but has made it clear that he’s not officially joining the band. It’s hard to imagine Candlemass agreeably exiting on these terms, their final hurrah being marred by not having an official frontman, not to mention how the scenario complicates promotion of the album. There’s some kind of mischief afoot…..

Review / Official Site



Some bands just aren’t active enough. You know the ones – bands whose music is so damn good that it’s almost criminal that they don’t release more music. They may not be huge commercial successes, but for their fans, each release is an EVENT. For many prog-metal fans, Norway’s Circus Maximus is one such band. In their twelve years of existence, they’ve only put out two previous albums, both of which are universally praised state of the art progressive metal. 2007’s sophomore album ISOLATE was a work of musical genius, so the five year gap until now has been particularly painful. Fortunately the band’s third album, NINE, is finally upon us. As expected, the band has made the album worth the wait.

Review / Official Site


Destruction – Spiritual Genocide
Destruction – Spiritual Genocide

Spiritual Genocide is the thirteenth studio album by these legendary German thrashers. The album also celebrates the bands 30th anniversary! The album might not have a lot of variation, but what it hammers home is that this band is as crushing and brutal as ever.

Official Site



Lacuna Coil - Dark Adrenaline
Lacuna Coil – Dark Adrenaline

There is a real flow to it and the next logical progression from a musical stance. They have incorporated the heavier aspects of their music and added the melodies and songwriting of the last album to create one amazing album. There are 12 songs on DARK ADRENALINE and all of them are killer. There is no filler on here at all. Even the cover of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is fantastic.

Review / Official Site


Orden Ogan – To the End
Orden Ogan – To the End

It’s been suggested that Orden Ogan are the true successors to Blind Guardians throne and while Sinbreed may disagree, the new new album TO THE END makes a very convincing argument. The album goes from strength to strength with interesting compositions laced with speed and power. All the songs have a lots of shades, some tempo changes, some acoustic moments and lots of big sing along choruses with epic gang vocals, a hallmark of the bands sound. Orden Ogan never forget to deliver the Metal intensity.

Review / Official Site


Vision Divine - Destination Set to Nowhere
Vision Divine – Destination Set to Nowhere

Seventh album out now for long-running Italian power metallers Vision Divine – it’s hard to believe that the band began life as a solo project for once & future Labyrinth guitarist Olaf Thorsen (that name still makes me snicker). In fact, you could argue that Vision Divine is a more “known” name in metal circles these days than Labyrinth. Of course, having Rhapsody of Fire signer Fabio Leone in the band doesn’t hurt, but even then, the band’s albums with Michele Luppi singing are equally lauded. The band’s progressive power metal sound is completely intact, Leone’s vocals are as strong as ever, and the riffs offered up are some of their best. This a great album and a solid addition to Vision Divine’s impressive catalogue.

Review / Official Site

Staff Lists





JP UK Team

Aaron Yurkiewicz

Marko Syrjala

Celtic Bob

Arto Lehtinen



Robert Williams

Monika Deviat


Peter Atkinson