Wednesday, December 12, 2012

HEAVY FRIENDS: The Best in Heavy in 2012

(Heavy Friends is the segment where Robby tell you, yes, YOU about the latest and greatest in underground metal and hardcore. Now that list season is among us, let's look back at what Robby feels are the best albums in heavy music for 2012. Strictly in alphabetical order.)

Agalloch - Faustian Echoes
My personal choice for best EP of 2012, overall, Agalloch's latest release Faustian Echoes is an epic, 20 minute piece that is based around Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 19th century play Faust. This two-part epic goes through just as many shifts, twists and turns as the entirety of most of Agalloch's full albums; you get your traditional black metal sounds, your folk, throw in some shoegaze, with some narration, and much more. It's one of the most creative and challenging things to come out this year, and it's a shame that it went virtually unnoticed from anyone outside hardcore Agalloch fans.

Cloudkicker - Fade
Ohio guitarist Ben Sharp has been making music under the moniker of Cloudkicker for quite some time, and he's gained a huge following in the metal community for his consistent and innovative instrumental metal releases. Sometimes that genre can lead the way to overly technical "wanky" riff fests, but Sharp knows how to make adventurous, mind-boggling compositions that blends the world of progressive metal with stuff like shoegaze and post-rock. After venturing outside the metal genre last year with a double-album release, Sharp is back with the kind of sound we're used to from him, but he keeps it from sounding old or stale. A fantastic release, through and through.

Code Orange Kids - Love is Love // Return to Dust
Code Orange Kids have garnered a large amount of popularity in only the past few months, releasing their Deathwish-backed debut just last month and going on tour supporting Gaza. Thankfully this is a great record, and a unique one; instead of playing dime-a-dozen hardcore that every local band is playing, Code Orange Kids write songs that combine hardcore with doom and sludge metal, shoegaze, and hell, you can throw in some post-rock in there too. Variety is really where this band shines brightest, but as someone who's seen their live act, they don't take fury and ferocity out of the equation to make up for it. An original young band that you need to be looking out for in the future.

Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
I've mentioned before how influential and essential Converge is to modern hardcore, and how deathly, solidly consistent they are. Luckily they did not falter in the slightest with their latest effort, All We Love We Leave Behind; while Converge aren't pushing their sound into any real unknown territory for them like they did in 2009's Axe to Fall, I feel even a "Converge-as-usual" record is pretty goddamn great by any account, and trumps most other hardcore records released around it. Converge just continue to show everyone who's boss, and as far as I'm concerned, there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Deathspell Omega - Drought
The mostly anonymous French black metal experimentalists known as Deathspell Omega are known for their, difficulty, shall we say? They don't make the most accessible music in the world, even in the wildly inaccessible world of black metal. And that trend continues on their latest EP Drought, though I suppose this time it's in a more digestible format. Being only six tracks and 21 minutes, the band still packs an astronomical amount of twists, turns, left hooks, surprises, and disorientation into this release. The end result is perhaps difficult, but highly memorable, and perhaps rather theatrical.

Gaza - No Absolutes in Human Suffering
Like Converge this year, Gaza don't change up their formula too much on their latest release. If anything they might've made a move to make their sound more accessible to anyone that might be turned off by their noisy, chaotic, atonal, but masterful debut I Don't Care Where I Go When I Die. But the end product is still so undeniably hard-hitting and powerful I can't get enough of it. And perhaps partial credit for that combination of accessible and irresistible is due to the production of Kurt Ballou, who I swear to god makes every record he touches better than it would be otherwise. But as relatively "accessible" as the band might be compared to their more alienating work, the band still keeps every great quality about them intact, and is sure to write new, very memorable songs that don't play deja vu too much.

High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
After a disappointing 2010 effort from these guys, with lackluster production and unmemorable songwriting, High on Fire jumped back pretty damn effectively this year, and once again some credit might go to producer Kurt Ballou. So far in High on Fire's trajectory he's given the band one of the best sounds they've ever had; Matt Pike's guitar sounds thick and meaty, and the drums are pounding, resonant, and menacing. It's the best combination of all the greatness this band has.

Krallice - Years Past Matter
After being underwhelmed by this band's releases ever since its inception, I'm happy to finally be able to get behind one of their records. And this one's a doozy if there ever was one; an hour of sprawling, technical, progressive black metal that's as mind-boggling as it is all kinds of complicated. There frankly aren't many acts or albums in the black metal genre I care for anymore, and even far less in the progressive metal genre, but Krallice is a band that I say you all should be on the lookout for.

Loma Prieta - I.V.
Yes. Just yes. This is the one record on 2012 that all year I've been telling people to check out, one of the records I've listened to and loved the most throughout the year. Loma Prieta are without a doubt one of the most powerful acts in the recent new wave of screamo bands, and I.V. is all the proof you need. It's an ambitious record, an emotional record, and abrasive record, but a beautiful record all the same. I rarely find an album that's filled to the brim, almost overflowing, with this much passion and emotion, and I think if you give it a chance you can fall in love with it too.

Murder Construct - Results
And finally, the debut album from deathgrind "supergroup" (gah, I hate that term) Murder Construct, featuring members of Exhumed, Intronaut, Fetus Eaters, and perhaps the star of the show, Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation on vocals. He has such a unique and gritty vocal style, and it is complimented perfectly by how jagged, noisy, and filthy the sound of this music is. This is exactly the kind of feel I want in my death metal, and my grindcore; uncompromising filth and disgust. That's not to say the songs themselves don't pack a punch, but the way it's all put together, and with Ryan's vocals on top of everything, is really what makes Results a powerhouse album in my mind.

(Robby thought 2012 was a pretty damn good year for metal, and he wonders what you think of this list, or this year as a whole! Comment below or hit him up on Twitter @ClydeNut)

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