50. Hop Along – Get Disowned
As an occasional enthusiast of the Indie and Alternative rock scenes, I rarely come across an album within both genres that manages to enthrall me in such an such a way that leaves me utterly speechless throughout its run. What intrigued me so much about Hop Along’s Get Disowned, is their ability to blend a lot of different characteristics from various genres to create an innovative montage of melodies. Hard-edged rock jams, electronic beats, acoustic segments, each of these music styles serve to augment the irresistibly charming voice of Francis Quinlan, who uses her mellifluous Favourite vocals to add a catchy pop-like flair to the album. Get Disowned is a very fun listen with a lot of variety in its sound, but at times, the compositional structures of certain songs tend to sound rather amateurish. Though not necessarily in a way that sounds messy, but rather youthful. There is an impression of adolescence that the album seems to express, and maybe it’s the childlike aloofness of Francis Quinlan singing, the adventurous though sloppy combination of musical styles, or the fact that this a group striving in the early stages of their career, their lyrics are comprised almost entirely of topics that could hardly appeal to anyone above 30, and yet, there’s something about the way that Hop Along present themselves that you just can’t say “no” to. You want to hear how each song is going to end, you want to hear what Francis Quinlan is going to say next, and before you realize it, the album’s done. It really gets into your consciousness to the point of becoming completely infectious, and its best to just let it consume you. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘Tibetan Pop Stars’ here.
49. The Menzingers – On The Impossible Past
Through one listen of On The Impossible Past my opinion was nearly solidified by the original intentions I had in further exploring this band. After what seemed like looped playback for days, I started to appreciate more how pure this type of music feels and what it’s not (and what it doesn’t even need to try to be). I feel that the pace has slowed a notch from previous releases and while it’s still quick on its feet, it comes with a more strategic punch on how to win over the listener. The song writing has matured greatly from the previous releases and it shows on this album how substantial of a role it can play in combining with the already established dual vocals. The ambitious tracks here are the ones that will draw in new listeners and do its best offering old ones a reasonable compromise. On the horizon of a new age where bands try and fit an image or a trend, I felt refreshed in how much fun a new band can be to old ears that try and be just whoever they believe they should be. As I stood around surrounded by a newer generation of fans who rather have given Facebook the time of day instead of The Menzingers, I was reminded of why I’m passionate about music even if it takes years after to find my own ears. – Understanding In A Crash
Stream ‘Ava House’ here.
48. Lord Mantis – Pervertor
Releasing an album that sounds profoundly disturbing is quite an achievement in extreme metal and Lord Mantis definitely succeeds in this respect with Pervertor. Chicago-based outfit’s pairing of hypnotic sludge metal riffs and deadpan black metal aesthetics is in a class by itself. Pervertor is, most of all, an exhilarating exercise in mood and the atmosphere it evokes is gloomy, hostile and downright suffocating. The dystopian vibe of the disc is enhanced by distorted, raspy screams of Charlie Fell who delivers a truly devastating performance in every single track. To put it in a nutshell, listening to Pervertor feels like looking through the perspective of somebody entering the furnace only to be burned alive. The fact that many users have resonated with this ghastly vision is evidence of the record’s twisted allure. – greg84
Stream ‘Vile Divinity’ here.
47. Baroness – Yellow & Green
Yellow & Green is a division upon itself. Two different faces, one reflecting on the past and the other looking to the future. The dichotomized structure of Yellow & Green is a symbolic reference to Baroness’ musical direction, a meditation on both beginnings and transitions. Baroness has often been renowned for their vigorous and enthralling approach to Sludge Metal, but this album, on the other hand, exposes a side of Baroness that we’ve never quite witnessed before, a delicate side. Yellow & Green is a collage of musical influences that incorporates various sounds and styles. The Yellow section is very reminiscent of Baroness’ heavier roots, but the music tends to prefer a more mellifluous sound rather than an aggressive one. The Green section explores the subtle progressive rock tendencies of the group much more intimately, containing songs that induce an alleviating calm within their mellow psychedelic spaces. If you’re anticipating to find the same Baroness of the previous two albums, and nothing more, then listening to this will be an irritating disappointment. But if you’re willing to follow a band through their evolution, as they dwell into different realms of musical genres while expanding their sound into new creations, then this is maybe the album for you. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘Cocanium’ here.
46. Wintersun – Time I
Within the realm of power metal and otherwise ‘epic’ music, it’s nigh-on impossible to find anything quite as bombastic (and some would argue cheesy) as Wintersun – Jari Mäenpää’s main project after leaving Ensiferum to pursue Wintersun full time. His excellent self-titled debut in 2004 entwined together melodic death metal, folk metal and power metal in such an atmospheric, compelling and impressive way that quickly moved its audience who were hungry for the follow up album the moment the self-titled album surfaced – only then to delay his next album by 6 years, and only release half of it (as of this blurb). Regardless of this, Jari Mäenpää’s compositional skills and sheer bombast hasn’t suffered in those long years, Time I being his most expansive, dense and ambitious undertaking to date. Being quite aware just how corny and cinematic his music is he uses everything to its full advantage – the practically wizardly orchestra that has to be heard to be believed turned out not to be a fool’s errand like many thought it would be, undoubtedly making for some of the most truly epic and exciting music of its kind in 2012. The impressive and intricately layered guitar-work along with the exhilarating, thunderous drums make Time I an absolute blast to listen to. The one-dimensional mood of the music is more than made up for by the sheer scope and dense layering hidden within the strings and blazingly-fast riffs. Whether Time II will hold a candle to the successes here, or will even be released in the next 10 years is yet to be seen – but this year certainly has something to celebrate as Jari finally returns to show Ensiferum a thing or two about music to make you want to go on a nondescript journey sword-in-hand. – DarkNoctus
Stream ‘Sons Of Winter And Stars’ here.
45. Soundgarden – King Animal
The reason why King Animal sounds like such a good reunion album is that despite being disbanded for 16 years, each member of Soundgarden sounds like they never left to begin with. King Animal shows that there is a natural chemistry between every member of Soundgarden, they work so well with one another here that it’s as if they simply belong with each other. Fans might question what route Soundgarden would take with their last album of new material being released well before the 21st century. Would they relish in their past and wear the glory days of the grunge explosion whilst trying to reclaim their prime? Or would they try to adapt to the newer and popular trends in modern metal and incorporate those influences into their music? The answer is neither; Soundgarden just resume their career as is nothing happened and carry on making the type of music that they want to make, and nothing else. King Animal is one of the most calm records Soundgarden has ever made, with barely anything akin to the restlessly heavy all-out attack of Badmotorfinger, or the overcast of doom and gloom found on Superunknown. It’s an album with a strong emphasis on acoustic elements, with a more rustic tone better suited to complement the band’s inescapable age; which is anything but a hindrance as Soundgarden only sounds more mature. King Animal is Soundgarden picking off where they left off they way they want to: offering something familiar while introducing something new at the same time. A noble approach that makes this album more than worth a listen. – breakingthefragile
Stream ‘Been Away Too Long’ here.
44. Loma Prieta – I.V.
Loma Prieta’s I.V. is intense in every sense of the word. Immediately as ‘Fly By Night’ begins, we are bombarded with the explosive sounds of roaring guitars, hard hitting drums, and the passionate screams of the vocalist expressing all thoughts of utter emotional frustration. The music is clouded by a fog of dense Lo-fi production, but the harmonic distortion really helps augment their screamo sound, giving it a certain raw feel. I.V. is not an album for just anyone, it takes an acquired taste to really appreciate the music. If you’re searching for a brutal experience fueled by that hostile aggression that make genres like Heavy Metal and Punk so irresistible, then look no further. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘Fly By Night’ here.
43. Propagandhi – Failed States
Since their humble beginnings, Canadian punk rockers Propagandhi have developed a strong criticism against the shadowy mechanisms that build cages around the mind and body of individuals worldwide. And if that criticism initially took the form of a rather fun teenage satire in the debut album How to Clean Everything, with years and albums to come, Propagandhi took serious gain from personal and fellow man lessons, learned the hard way. This gain turned their lyrical prose more and more vitriolic, while the music itself was also pushed to the extreme in terms of skill and ferociousness, reaching a seminal peak in the band’s magnum opus Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes. TETA optimally absorbed the progressive thrash teachings of Voivod, whereas it added a small stone by itself on what their awesome four country men from the French Quebec had first endeavored.
Albums that followed TETA, saw the band amplifying its frantic musical drive, while gradually departing from prog thrash, in favor of a more global sound where genres like rock, punk, hardcore, thrash and their respective progressive leanings would become first among equals. Failed States stands as a near-perfect amalgamation of this effort, as the material enclosed therein cannot be unambiguously categorized as any of the genres Propagandhi used to prepare their mix. Lyrics are a huge kick in our ass for taking action against the usurpers of this world. Both musicianship and songwriting are equally mindblowing, as they are firmly built upon the know-how of nearly twenty years of involvement in the thrash/punk/hardcore circuit. Can they do better than this one? Yes they can. – Voivod
Stream ‘Rattan Cane’ here.
42. Future Of The Left – The Plot Against Common Sense
Matching, if not exceeding the achievements of forerunners McLusky, Future Of The Left’s remarkable success story was dragged up another notch with the release of this third full-length. A thoroughly deserving recipient of the Welsh Music Prize, The Plot Against Common Sense essentially adopted a more listener-friendly model, toning back a portion of the quartet’s instrumental attack in favour of an approach built predominantly around the lyrics and charisma of frontman Andy Falkous. This could have culminated in the album lacking bite compared to its predecessors, but in truth Falkous’ lyrical assault hit just as hard as any serrated riffs or chaotic noise passages could ever hope to. Loaded with sarcastic social commentary and snide personal jabs, his performance is of a type we’re used to hearing in standup routines as opposed to rock ‘n’ roll records, with Billy Corgan, London rioters and a certain racist Premier League striker receiving a lashing, the former in especially comical fashion. Similarly impressive from a musical perspective and remarkably gimmick-free, The Plot Against Common Sense is as perfect an equilibrium between punch and hilarity as you’re ever likely to find. – AliW1993
Stream ‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ here.
41. Enslaved – RIITIIR
The realm of metal contains so many purists, so many devotees to particular genres and subgenres that it’s risky as hell for groups to step too far outside what their fans are accustomed to. 2012 saw fans of The Faceless crying foul, for instance, at the group’s newfound affinity for progressive – this scenario is frighteningly common in the genre, too. Enslaved is doing something right, then: the Norwegian group’s fans have no problem deeming them a progressive black metal band. And RIITIIR is a continuation of this willingness to experiment, this drive to push boundaries. The album as a whole is an excursion into exactly how progressive a black metal group can get, and vice versa: even more importantly, though, the song structures on this release are astounding. The entire record has a distinctly dynamic air about it, perhaps most noticeable on highlight track ‘Thoughts Like Hammers’. The riffs are massive, the vocals are ferocious, and the harmonies are potent, and all of these ingredients come together in only the most logical of ways. RIITIIR has acquired more fans for Enslaved than the group ever likely anticipated, and rightfully so, seeing as the album is a culmination of the greatest attributes of metal itself. – OmahaStylee94
Stream ‘Thoughts Like Hammers’ here.
40. Twelve Foot Ninja – Silent Machine
The best music of this decade is increasingly being perceived as a melting pot of genres. The most significant artists blend various styles only to come up with their own distinct identity. If the concept of genre layering is the future of music, then Silent Machine comes as one of the most relevant albums of the year. The debut full-length of Twelve Foot Ninja showcases the genre-bending tendencies of their underrated EPs, seamlessly merging the prevailing technical metal aesthetics with such potentially unrelated genres as alternative rock, dub, funk and electronic music. Unlike plenty of their contemporaries, Twelve Foot Ninja ground their self-proclaimed heavy fusion in stellar songwriting. While mostly ditching traditional song structures, they are aware that dynamics and hooks are essential in keeping their listeners totally engrossed. That’s why, Silent Machine is an arresting record that impresses with boundless eclecticism as much as a strong sense of coherence. – greg84
Stream ‘Silent Machine’ here.
39. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
Phil Elverum returns in 2012 with not one, but two full-length LPs to follow up the dark and mammoth Wind’s Poem. Both albums go far in cementing Elverum’s status as one of the most exciting figures in folk music (and music in general), but of the duo, Clear Moon is perhaps the most concise and most, well, Elverum-ish. It builds upon and refines the sonic tenets of its predecessors, conveying a delicacy and a tender sincerity – vulnerability, even – while commanding a larger-than-life presence. Phil’s humble storytelling is met with pensive instrumental accompaniment: Sometimes careful synth, sometimes roaring guitar fuzz. Elverum’s lyrics manage to feel so tangible against his music, presenting itself as a quickly fading reverie at which to hopelessly grasp. The album succeeds so marvelously in traversing an impressive amount ground, sonically, while never faltering in focus. Hypnotic ballads and ambient wanderings co-habitate and comprise this journey of intimate grandeur set at the listener’s feet. Clear Moon is, at once, the human heart and the imagination to which it is so perilously tied; each song a world that longs to be understood, yet also hopelessly lost in.
“What is left of the dissipating dream world I made?” – AngelofDeath
Stream ‘Yawning Sky’ here.
38. Meshuggah – Koloss
I need not explain at length the particulars of Meshuggah’s leisurely musical evolution, or their endeavouring quest for a style that now is increasingly abbreviated by countless others. In response to these predominantly futile attempts though, Koloss instead chooses to triumph merely by way of how it sounds, and not for how it is constructed. It favours dirty textures, crumbling slightly at their edges over the precise forms found in previous work. On paper this appears to be a precarious move for a band known for a single distinction, but the more I engaged with Koloss, the more I realised that there was something pacifyingly unnerving about its steadfast dynamics that was impossible to overlook.
You see, there are moments during its course where Tomas Haake’s beater head is literally constraining your loudspeakers or, at the correct volume, ears to ride unhealthy doses of DC, and yet, remarkably, unlike so many albums which mortally suffer from this barefaced annihilation of dynamic range, Koloss thrives seemingly unaware of its implicative iron fist. It’s as if each throttling of rhythm were the limbs of some unfathomable beast made of boulders, casting blows towards destroying obstacles daring to be in its way, and we’re merely the observers, unsure whether to seek refuge from the chaos, or look on in awe. Thankfully a lot of us chose to stick around and appreciate the vision of this thing churn out their most massive full length in terms of obliteration factor. Somehow, with little exertion, Koloss integrates the mechanical purity of obZen, the droning tremor of Nothing and the thrash tendencies of both Chaosphere and Destroy Erase Improve into a work which doesn’t sound like it was made with just guitars, drums and Jen’s Kidman’s imposing scream. – Taylormemer
Stream ‘Swarm’ here.
37. Beach House – Bloom
Beach House has always been some weird enigma for me. I still cannot really listen to their self-titled debut or Devotion from beginning to end, they each require a careful edge to whittle away the fat. Their third record however was a euphoric collection of tunes that saw the band step out into the sunlight, basking in the glorious rays with their organic dreamy pop. Teen Dream was them expanding their sound, Bloom is that blissful growth expounded upon into dreary, albeit cathartic, beautiful yet forlorn pop with wide-screen ambitions. This is not a band becoming more subtle, huddling into a hole, but a glorious maturation through woozy chord progressions and flowing percussion. – AggravatedYeti
Stream ‘Lazuli’ here.
36. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
Cloud Nothings has been a project that has met substantial growth with each album released, and the biggest change yet has occurred Attack on Memory, as it’s the first album in which Cloud Nothings is no longer the solo project for founder Dylan Baldi. This is the first album to feature Baldi’s live band as performers and co-writers, and the team effort really shows through and gives Attack on Memory a punch that trumps the project’s previous two offering. If the nearly 9 minute epic journey into self-contempt ‘Wasted Days’ is any indication, this album is much darker, and features brooding that is drastically different from anything else by Cloud Nothings prior. It features a lot of big leaps for the now group Cloud Nothings, among these leaps being the more abrasive mood that may take fans some time to get used to, and even though the group might be better off settling into a comfortable area for a short while instead of rushing themselves forward, Attack On Memory ultimately shows an ever-evolving project that is constantly looking for new avenues to take its sound down. – breakingthefragile
Stream ‘Our Plans’ here.
35. Between The Buried And Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
The Parallax II: Future Sequence is as grandiose as we expected it to be, and then some. The album’s more than 72 minutes in length, is a continuation of the space concept first introduced on The Great Misdirect, and – the most important part – is one blast of an album. The North Carolinian quintet have never enjoyed themselves as much as in ‘Astral Body’, a concise voyage into modern progressive metal, and ‘Lay Your Ghosts to Rest’ is the tightest the group has sounded in years. One particularly entertaining aspect of Future Sequence, though, is how it revisits and revamps the groups’ previous styles. Old-school fans will hear echoes of Alaska in ‘Telos’, and the group even includes specific motifs from their earlier music. These older ideas are refined into a more modern context for the group, a style only 2012’s Between the Buried and Me could pull off. However, much of the album is new ground entirely. The group takes the coherent songwriting displayed in Hypersleep Dialogues, and adds a sense of purpose to it all. The Parallax II: Future Sequence may be one long listen – and sure, it probably didn’t have to be – but the album is interesting with each new turn, which defines a rousing success for Between the Buried and Me. – OmahaStylee94
Stream ‘Astral Body’ here.
34. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
On L’Enfant Sauvage, Gojira are finally realizing the potential they have had all along. In the past they’ve had some really great songs, album carrying ones even, but their records have all been too long for their own good. L’Enfant Sauvage is vintage Gojira through and through, but it’s shorter, more concise, and as a result, has the greatest effect out of all their albums. The extra fat has been trimmed and Gojira have finally come to the conclusion that there is no need to write an over hour-long record if they can bring forth their ideas in 50 minutes. None of the tracks on L’Enfant Sauvage meander meaninglessly; there is a direct purpose to every bit of every song and that is what makes this LP so great. Gojira’s heavy, rhythmic sound has always been one of interest to many metal fans, but the band has constantly gone overboard with their albums. Now, though, they have finally managed to release a real powerhouse record, as L’Enfant Sauvage exhibits everything that’s great about Gojira in a respectable time frame. – Metalstyles
Stream ‘The Gift Of Guilt’ here.
33. Cattle Decapitation – Monolith Of Inhumanity
Monolith of Inhumanity offers a relentless brutal beatdown that executes a barrage of speed-centered guitar work and intense blast beats. Fusing the technical musicianship of death metal with the piercing deliveries of grindcore, Cattle Decapitation strive to offer us the best of both genres within the album, culminating into an utterly grotesque yet enrapturing performance that dedicates itself to the narcissistic and savage nature of man. Monolith of Inhumanity is, for the most part, a typical Cattle Decapitation album that offers the same level of musical vehemence and lyrical atrocity, but we also see the band taking their music into new directions. Aside from Travis Ryan incorporating a diverse range of vocal styles on the album, the instrumentals as well tend to exhibit a rather melodic feel as opposed to the usual outbursts of sonic violence. This album is all about Cattle Decapitation aspiring to prove that there is more to them than meets the eye, and the way they go about proving that is by looking out to new musical concepts as well as uniting all of their past influences into something that is truly worth the attention of all metal fans. From the grind animosity of ‘The Carbon Stampede’, to the more melodic approach in both the music and vocals in ‘A Living, Breathing Piece of Defecating Meat’, Monolith of Inhumanity is Cattle Decapitation’s statement that they can be experimental without straying too far away from their roots. – Paperback Writer
Stream ‘A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat’ here.
32. Beardfish – The Void
2012 was an amazing year for Swedish music, which flourished with plenty of acclaimed releases. The album that’s probably the most representative for this hugely eclectic bunch of impressive endeavours is The Void. Based on the subject of loss and the struggle to heal emotional wounds, this LP finds Beardfish pushing the boundaries of their elaborate progressive rock to new limits. The heaviness that was hinted on their previous album shows significant expansion in such hard-hitting tracks as ‘Voluntary Slavery’ and ‘Turn To Gravel’ which are respectively ingrained in traditional heavy metal and bombastic sludge. However, the outfit also doesn’t steer clear of their trademark 1970s-inspired brand of progressive rock which, along with blues-soaked ballads, superbly accentuates the ominous atmosphere of the disc. All songs, impeccably written by Rikard Sjöblom, are appropriately complex for this music style, yet they never feel convoluted or impenetrable, providing the album with the kind of immediate accessibility that the quartet’s peers can only dream of. With their seventh release, Beardfish have crafted a legitimate tour de force of eclectic prog. – greg84
Stream ‘Turn To Gravel’ here.
31. The Gaslight Anthem – Handwritten
2012 always looked likely to be a pivotal year for The Gaslight Anthem. Already cult favourites on a steep upward trajectory, the New Jersey quartet’s fourth LP (and first for major label Mercury) had an air of make-or-break about it; a record that’d either continue the minor blip that was American Slang or bring about glorious commercial breakthrough – their Born In The USA moment, if you like. Charting at number two in the UK and number three in the US, Handwritten was unquestionably a case of the latter, succeeding as both a polished makeover and a continuation of their increasingly middle-of-the-road mastery. Brian Fallon, as ever, was the star of the show, but this record’s single strongest feature is its production, which came courtesy of FM-specialist Brendan O’Brien. Lending a distinct whiff of Vs.-era Pearl Jam, his distinctive sheen allowed the likes of ’45’ and ‘Keepsake’ to soar whilst sacrificing none of the raw feeling that’s rendered ‘Too Much Blood’ and ‘National Anthem’ instant Gaslight classics. They mightn’t be superstars just yet, but it’s difficult to remember a band in recent times who’ve pulled off such a graceful radio-rock transition. – AliW1993
Stream ‘Too Much Blood’ here.