2012: Lucid dreaming the apocalypse.

ARCHIVES This post is an archived “Best of the Year” list from another website where I spent about seven years documenting my listening habits. After a break from the site in 2018 and a total exodus in 2019 these lists were collected, saved, and are now presented largely untouched. I have redacted any off-color inside joke humor for the sake of the internet. Please note that these thoughts, opinions, and general comments were not only written (up to ten) years ago but largely to a small audience of friends and record collectors. They are not complete, not retrospective, a little bit too self-conscious and not at all intended to be professional in voice. The re-posting of these lists are by the request of a small circle of online friends and should not be taken seriously as criticism. The original title of the list was “2012: Had a dream about the apocalypse, a wet dream”, uhhh… And yes, I agree ‘Quest for the Vajra of Shadows’ should be much higher.

This is pretty much the finalized BEST OF 2012 list, might be some stragglers here and there. What a wreck of a year. Several of my favorite groups didn’t make this list. Neurosis, Evoken and Pale Divine (to name a few) all put out average records that didn’t do much for me. I was bummed, so I ended up scouring the halls of lesser known ‘retro’ bands, black metal I wouldn’t usually touch, and traditional doom metal to satisfy my urges this year. Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

TITLE:Dream Dragon

“Less doom metal and more stoner/psych than Tomb of the Future Ancients. Pretty interesting band that is worth following, they’ve released 3 albums this year alone. Where last year’s Sorrowful Sun hinted at heavy psych, Dream Dragon fully jumps in the pool. With a better ear for editing their ideas, this could be one of the best stoner groups in the country.

TITLE:The Levitation Hex
LABEL(S):Quadrum Records

“This project is made up of ex-Alchemist band members and the music kind of fits more in the late 90’s era of that band with some more aggressive stuff and slightly less of the clean-sung fun of later Alchemist. Felt pretty good on repeat for a while but need more time with it, a late in the year discovery.”

LABEL(S):Moribund Records

“I had never found Azaghal to be a notable band until this album. The production lends itself a bit too much “noise” but the songs are in the tradition of the late-second wave of black metal, with a reasonably professional sheen. Not necessarily a great contender for album of the year but it does end up being very listenable.”

TITLE:A Vortex of Earthly Chimes
LABEL(S):Black Widow Records

“A really pretty synth/keyboard heavy album from a doom guy who decided to lean into classic British prog influences. I actually like this more than anything else he’s done.”

TITLE:Dusk | Subside
LABEL(S):Relapse Records

“Essentially the spiritual return of Australia’s dISEMBOWELMENT with a new name. That should be enough to get most folks to try this one out. The most impressive aspect of this EP is that it stays true to some of the atmosphere and style of their previous band, and leaves me wanting more.”

TITLE:The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
LABEL(S):Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions

“I know for a fact that most folks perusing this list will try this album and go… “Man, WTF?” yeah it is a lo-fi recording of a band that is more ‘on trend’ with the atmospheric side of black metal than you’d expect from me. In fact I enjoy it quite a bit, the music hits a certain cavernous atmosphere that feels despondent, a ‘pretty’ yet introspective experience.”

TITLE:Enthroned is the Night
LABEL(S):Forever Plagued

Demoncy is, for me, the effective combination of Incantation-esque atmosphere (and some riffing) with black metal which bands like Profanatica never fully leaned into. The hissing vocals and death metal influenced guitars work perfectly together to create an uncomfortable, sinister experience which I enjoy more with each listen.”

TITLE:Beyond the Flesh
LABEL(S):FDA Records

“Though the vocalist sounds too much like Martin Van Drunen, the music here is phenomenal thrash influenced death metal. Second best when compared to big guns like Resurgency or Coffin Texts, Skeletal Remains still pull off a 90’s style death metal album that sounds violent enough and has the riffs it needs to stick with me.”

LABEL(S):SC Records

“My 90’s metal upbringing starts to show a little too much when I point out albums like this. The groove is certainly there, simply put. I find this album clever, energetic, and a fun listen. The guitar work isn’t technical or amazing, just well written. This is the band’s swan song, which makes sense because before this album they were awful and this was a quick shot to finalize the project. If you don’t mind some groovy bits in your death metal, this one is a decent listen.”

TITLE:Slavestate Serenades
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records

“Brutal and impressive death/thrash that combines Kreator and Sepultura influences. Forceful stuff that really yanks out the reverb vocals and riffs in tandem. Nothing original or whatever but it still left an crater-sized impression on me.”

TITLE:Feeding Hell’s Furnace
LABEL(S):Nuclear Winter Records

“One of my favorites in the newer school of death metal since about 2004. Well, I guess that doesn’t make them the newer school of anything. This isn’t their best album but still very above average death metal. The style harkens back to “Return of the Black Death” a little bit, losing some of the Immolation style polish found on the previous 2-3 albums before this.”

LABEL(S):ViciSolum Productions

“Sweden’s Sectu returns with an even more polished sound and sense of melody. This has all the bombast of modern day Polish death metal but with influences ranging from 90’s metal to modern technical death metal. I would put this in the same league as Azarath‘s album from last year, though this is more accessible.”

TITLE:Embodiment of Death
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

“Though there are far more original albums put out this year, Gorephilia deserve due credit for their debut full-length album. Apart from having some of the nicer production sound of anything else on Dark Descent lately, this is not amazingly creative, just a pure expansion of Morbid Angel… and that is why I like it so much. Pure death metal done in good taste.”

TITLE:In Unholy Mourning
LABEL(S):Mutilation Productions

“The death cult returns with a strong release that shows some growth in the four years since Gods Spreading Cancer. Brazil’s finest old school death metal band doesn’t need to keep up with the global upsurge in retro-death, they are still doing their own thing and it rules. A heavy, menacing and intricate album that works well in their discography.”

TITLE:Mechanized Torments
LABEL(S):Thurbul Records

“Third self-released album from these brutal Chilean dudes. Haven’t been hammered over the head by a death metal album all year and this one came along just at the right time. Their style reminds me of a more brutal version of countrymates Sadism. The riffing is inventive, heavy, and incorporates thrash with brutal death and classic death metal in a real shorts-scorching kinda way. One of the few essential death metal listens to come from the first half of the year.”

TITLE:Head of the Demon
LABEL(S):Svartekunst Produksjoner

“Though I didn’t hear it until December, this is one of the finest morbid doom metal things released in ages. Some kind of old school doom with a blackened atmosphere, think of Faustcoven. Has ex-members of Kaamos.”

TITLE:Putrefying Illusions
LABEL(S):Obscure Domain/FDA Records

“While Obscure Infinity‘s sophomore album isn’t the most creative or thrilling death metal release of the year, it is easily one of the most palatable old school influenced records to come out of Germany in a long while. Some Swedish death metal influences shine through, but the sound doesn’t depend on a Sunlight studios guitar tone.”

TITLE:The Tomb of Infinite Ritual
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records

“One of the stronger death metal albums this year. Most every gripe I had with the first album (released 12 years ago, mind you) has been remedied. Took me a few listens to warm up but this was one of my most returned to spins of the year.”

TITLE:In Somniphobia
LABEL(S):Candlight Records

“I’ll admit I’d only heard “Scorn Defeat” and “Hail Horror Hail” before this came out and I was not so impressed with those records that I’d anticipated this. I love albums that manage to take me on a trip and “In Somniphobia” is such a smart mélange of off-the-wall ideas that it ends up working really well. The theme of the album appears to be a sort of “descent into madness” which is Lovecraftian… in a very Persona soundtrack kind of way.”

TITLE:Effigies of Evil
LABEL(S):Relapse Records

“I would best describe Hooded Menace‘s most recent album as doom/death with a tasteful amount of modern/epic doom metal riffing. Though the previous album had more of a death metal focus, this one reaches towards their debut for some more “stoner” doom moments. Smartly done, and the more I listen to this I can pick out very obvious references to the best of 90’s Paradise Lost, Amorphis, and Cathedral. My only gripe is that many of these riffs are almost too blatant in regards to their sourced inspiration. I’ve got those records, and better ones from Hooded Menace, too.”

TITLE:Beyond the Boundaries of Sin
LABEL(S):Shadow Kingdom Records

Mark Shelton does the vocals and guitars here but… don’t walk in thinking this is basically a Manilla Road album, but instead a sort of throwback prog metal album with a few ballads. It thrashes around in the tradition, or effigy (depending who you are), of the late 80’s speed metal influenced era of Manilla Road. The band name was pretty dumb at a glance but it turns out to be a band members name.” [For context, at the time folks suggested it was a collaboration with E.C. Hellwell, this turned out to be a sort of pen name for Shelton himself.]

TITLE:Being and Nothingness
LABEL(S):Pulverized Records

“A refined neo-thrash album that avoids all the amateur trappings that retro-thrash often struggles with. If Vektor is all you like from modern thrash glut, try these guys too. The ‘prog’-thrash + extreme metal influences and tight performances make for a great listen. A band to watch for in the future.”

LABEL(S):Agonia Records

“Not familiar with this band but they have a bit of history it appears. Swedish death metal that seems rooted in pure ways like Degial but, they are willing to explore some hard rock weirdness. Check out Goreaphobia‘s album from last year and you’ll get what I mean. Most often described as “death n roll” but that is completely fucking wrong from my point of view.”

TITLE:Nemesis – Decay of God’s Grandeur

Aeba‘s new album is brilliant in the sense that it takes the listener right back to 1995 and gives me exactly what I wanted to hear this year. A melodic black metal album that feels authentic, lends itself to memory, and is recorded properly. Bands like Der Sturmer, Necrophobic and Zemial have their moments where a huge, heavy metal riffing makes way into their black metal style and though this album is different from the rest of their discography, Aeba shine within their guitar work here. My absolute love for Dissection‘s The Somberlain starts to show when I fawn over albums like this. Black metal (or melodic metal for that matter) just doesn’t write songs like “Towards the Grandness Above” these days.”

LABEL(S):Century Media

“A really easy to listen to album, gotta hand it to whomever arranged the dual vocals between Vintersorg and ICS Vortex on this album because it is masterful stuff. The whole thing has a theatrical prog-metal/rock vibe that works really well, I mean it is so fucking over the top that it ends up convincing. Doesn’t sound too self-conscious like this type of music most often does, though some of the lyrics are just kinda bad.”

TITLE:Sorrow and Extinction
LABEL(S):Profound Lore/20 Buck Spin

“Sometimes music can be so obsessed with depression and sorrow that it manages to be beautiful or even comforting; I think Sorrow and Extinction pulls it off better than most. The album is something along the lines of Warning‘s “Watching from a Distance” but with bigger metal riffs.”

LABEL(S):Deathrune Records

A breathtaking experience in the tradition of the best Greek black metal, Kawir‘s latest album has blown me away. Mid-to-fast paced and epic melodic black metal, less folkish than the previous, and one of the years strongest albums for me. Tuneful but still black metal.

TITLE:The Sins of Aquarius
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records

Mongrel’s Cross comes from a fine Australian tradition of extreme metal. The most obvious comparisons make sense, Destroyer 666 and maybe Bestial Warlust. Digging a bit deeper still, there are some exceptional heavy metal riffs that remind me of ‘Unbound’-era Merciless and the first Aura Noir album. A fine combination of black, death and thrash metal.”

LABEL(S):Earache Records

“A somewhat underrated doom/heavy metal album from these influential occultists. Hour of 13 have focused their style into something darker and more elaborate with longer songs and a bleaker outlook. I compared this band to Pagan Altar and Demon in my review and I think this mostly holds up but think 90’s east coast post-Pentagram non-stoner doom metal otherwise.”

TITLE:False Enlightenment
LABEL(S):Hellthrasher Productions

“Probably the finest example of death metal to be released in quite a long time. These Greek metalheads play a distinctly old school version of death metal that lends ears towards the thrashing spectrum of USDM, as well as Finnish and Dutch styles. It is rare to find a band that nails the sound, pushes for brutality, finds the right aesthetic and still manages to be musically interesting.”

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