With the year in music just about over, Metal Insider‘s staff and contributors are taking a look back and naming their top ten albums of 2012. Today’s first list comes courtesy of Metal Insider contributor Kodi McKinney. We’re also including a Spotify playlists with a song from each album, if available. We’ll also be sprinkling in other lists from artists over the next few days as well. What are your top ten? Weigh in in the comments section.
I never thought I’d see the day where my favorite Relapse release of the year featured a traditional “clean” vocalist prominently, but Mlny Parsonz sings like she’s tearing a hole in the sky. Royal Thunder is stoner enough to share a stage with Corrosion of Conformity or Monster Magnet, but doom enough to stand up next to Candlemass, and its combination of tree-splitting guitar riffs and that voice makes it clear that this is a full-band effort instead of just a vehicle for pending metal stardom. Tracks like “Parsonz Curse,” “Sleeping Witch” and the decimating single “Whispering World” cut to the bone. It’s almost like Ghost had a kid with Janis Joplin and Soundgarden delivered the child, with a powerful end result that’s as much a snapshot of a band on the rise as it is a document of serious potential.
As The Sword’s high-profile major-label debut, this record had a lot riding on it. But it’s been hugely successful, and that’s probably because Apocryphon has a way of getting under your skin. From the first listen, it was accessible and catchy as hell, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t quite as gut-punchingly epic as Warp Riders had been. And then I realized I was humming “Cloak of Feathers” to myself in public, noticing how hard “Dying Earth” throws down the gauntlet for the second half of the record to follow, and thinking that “Execrator” was the best Mastodon song Mastodon didn’t release this year. To top it all off, the clear-as-a-bell production from J. Robbins almost masks just how crushing these songs are; seeing most of this played live on their most recent tour drove that point home, as the low end detonated. Orange Goblin and Torche both set the bar amazingly high for elephant-heavy rock n’ roll records this year, but if there’s any justice in this world, The Sword’s latest will be the one that ditches the “hipster metal” tag and finds them recognized among stoner metal’s greatest artists.
Ihsahn’s latest blackened prog excursion shows why he’s a cult hero among metal fans of many stripes, from the people who came to black metal through his old band Emperor (i.e.: me) to guitar nerds who jumped on board for his solo debut, The Adversary. Eremita continues his high-concept work with the aid of Shining saxophonist Jorgen Munkeby, along with some surprisingly low-key guest spots from Devin Townsend (on “Introspection”) and Jeff Loomis (on “The Eagle and the Snake”). Extremity, technicality and the sinister blend seamlessly, as has been Ihsahn’s trademark; it’s not as apocalyptic or as world-destroying as 2010’s titanic After, but it’s still a worthy installment from a metal guru of the highest order.