View Full Version : illuminatus917's Year in Review: 2012

12-02-2012, 01:45 PM
Before we get started with lists and such, here are some quick notes on last year and this year, just to put things in perspective.

-InThyFlesh's Claustrophobia should have made the list. It grew on me considerably after the start of the year. It was a top 25 album, easily.
-Mournful Congregation's The Book of Kings should have been in my top 10.
-SORNE's House of Stone should have been higher.
-Maybeshewill's I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone, Adele's 21, and Inquisition's Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm were misses and should have made the list.
-Top 5 would be unchanged.

-Overall a slightly weaker year than 2011
-More in the way of black and doom metal
-Most disappointing releases: Sigur Rós and Alcest. Les voyages de l'âme in particular, lacking the passion and heart that made its predecessor one of the most emotional albums I've ever heard.

I really don't know how I'm going to go about doing the list this year, as I won't have time to start diving into long blurbs until after exams. I'm also in the process of putting together a vintage stereo system, and restoring some old equipment, which is taking up my time and energy as well. But the routine this time around hopefully will be similar to last year's. I'm not sure how many albums will be on this list yet.

A Pitchfork reviewer wrote last year "I've been making these sorts of lists long enough to know they're not an exact science, and they don't please everyone. In the end, they're snapshots that remind the individual stressing out over said list about what was important to them within a particular time span." I can't stress this enough. I know we're all very list obsessive here, and we put waaay more time into this than we probably should, but in the end it's just a list accentuating what we love.

I tried to be a bit more lyric conscious this year than in years past.

As you read, please don't hesitate to agree, approve, assess, share your thoughts, criticize, berate, etc. anything I post here. Just try not to be too terribly ugly about it. ;)

I will begin eventually.

12-07-2012, 11:49 PM
After a year where I've had nearly no capability to sit down and listen to albums like I used to, this thread will probably be my guide to getting back.

12-08-2012, 12:09 AM
Alcest released an album with no Passion or heart? We totally heard two different albums.

12-08-2012, 06:32 AM
Alcest released an album with no Passion or heart? We totally heard two different albums.

Did you just accidentally listen to Ecailles de Lune again? Because Voyages was some Alcest-by-numbers shit if I ever heard it. "That goes in there, and that goes in there, and that goes in there..."

12-08-2012, 08:02 AM
I'm expecting to see quite a few albums on this list that would have ened up on mine had I known about them before seeing them here. So in other words in expecting to find cool shit I was too lazy to find myself.

12-08-2012, 08:20 AM
Did you just accidentally listen to Ecailles de Lune again? Because Voyages was some Alcest-by-numbers shit if I ever heard it. "That goes in there, and that goes in there, and that goes in there..."

God, this. Every word of it. :(

12-08-2012, 08:39 AM
I've also come to that conclusion on the new Alcest record. But I still really like it...

12-08-2012, 10:02 AM
You guys are insane...

12-08-2012, 10:27 AM
It's not a terrible record, I really, really enjoy it, but it definitely seems a little more rushed and by-the-numbers than Ecailles De Lune and Souvenirs d'un autre monde. There are some great moments like the first track, Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles, and Beings of Light, but overall the album doesn't really feel like it encompasses one thing like the other two do. It seems like a summary of what Alcest has been and some new, more polished sounds. Definitely still Top 15 for this kid. :D

12-08-2012, 12:53 PM
I thought the new Alcest was boring. Then again I wasn't really a fan of them in the first place.

12-08-2012, 02:30 PM
Will be one of the best threads for 2012 reviews. Looking forward to reading every bit.

12-08-2012, 05:33 PM
If it wasn't accompanied with such great expectations it might have made my list, fair or unfair.

I half expected the Sigur Rós album to not be as good as their others given their hiatus and (intentional) change in approach. Jonsi as much as said they didn't intend to follow up Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, and that Valtari was something they "needed to get out of their systems."

But I really thought Alcest would follow Écailles with something very similar in structure and approach, especially since they started on it so quickly after Écailles was released. I think they did try to follow it up, and forced too much and just did a really bad job.

12-12-2012, 06:44 PM

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#1 Tardigrada - Widrstand

Pictures of tapes are from my very own personal collection :dance::tongue:. When first listening to "Uftakt," the two-minute intro, I swore I thought I was getting ready to listen to a post-rock demo, which would be... different. It sounded like something off an Aesthesys album. Then the two minutes passed, the sound faded out, and melodic black metal took over. But in a beautiful way. There is a ton of melody and atmosphere in this demo. Aside from the screeches and the rawness, there is a lot of beauty, and that mesmerizing guitar tone always manages to reappear throughout the tracks and heighten the sense of melancholy. Examples being at the 2:50 or so mark and 5:45 mark in "Hoffnunglos." I also love the 5:00 minute mark in "Widrstand." That same note slowly strummed a few times...
The quality is very nice. It sounds good. It's not one of those "grab that practice amp and that guitar and we'll record it on a tape player" types of releases (even though it comes on a tape). Dynamics are a must for any type of black metal to work, and this demo has them. Track this down or visit the band's bandcamp here (http://bandcamp.fallenempirerecords.com/album/widrstand) and give this demo a listen. I can't wait for a full-length from these guys.

#2 Bruja - Twisting and Convulsing

Bruja's first demo in 2011 was an hour and six minutes in length. This one is a mere thirty-five minutes. I haven't listened to the first one, but judging from this one, this band needs to be done with the demos. This isn't spectacular or anything, but this band has the potential to put out a really good album. Very unapologetic, very gritty and heavy, muddy, doomy.

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#3 Witch in Her Tomb - Witch in Her Tomb

Usually I don't like this type of blistering black metal, but for this demo I'll make an exception. The sound is raw and poisonous, the guitar is crunchy (the first part of "II"), the atmosphere is suffocating, grim, and black, but under it all lies melody, which is usually enough to make any kind of sound worth listening to. There's also a piano and a violin used on this demo (the end of "II"). I do despise when bands only use roman numerals for track titles. It's not as bad when it's a demo, but still, it seems uncreative and uninspired. Or like Krallice's new album... what the fuck is up with that?

The ghost inside my head will never cease to exist
You are forever apart of me, regardless of my will
I will never forget you, and you will die within my heart
Along with me

#4 Maléfices - Povr le Sangs

"This tape is a huge FUCK OFF to all the posers who forgot that black metal once was an audial weapon forged of pure evil and total darkness. Fuck off your mainstream crap, your useless webzines, and your pathetic so-called symphonic bullshit. The fakes and the weaks will be crushed!!!" -Maléfices, as written on the inner part of the j-card, provides a description as accurate as any.
Putting aside that one statement about "symphonic bullshit" - some of which I happen to like - being crap, and the overall portended intolerance of this band toward anything not pure evil, I happen to like the demo. It's definitely a remedy to the Alcest's and Enslaved's of the world. The sound is okay for a demo. I've heard much, much lower-fi stuff, but this still definitely maintains an underground feel that's required for releases like this.


1. Enth/Amarok

Halo of Flies Records has put out the best split of the year, featuring two bands I was completely unfamiliar with coming into 2012. Enth, a funeral doom band from Poland, and Amarok, a sludge/drone/doom band from California, have created quite a record with this, and I have to say at some point into my first listen of Enth's track, "Cavern of Advices," I thought I'd struck gold. Enth's track is rooted in My Dying Bride and Corrupted style doom, using long loping riffs, drawn out piano passages, and a violin for the outro - all of which go extremely well with this style of doom. It's extremely somber and melancholic, and it's 18 minutes of some of the best music of the year. I don't like Amarok's track quite as much, but it's definitely worth listening to. It's much more thick, droning, and heavy... kind of like Thou with multiple vocalists.

2. Sorrows/Graad

Interesting cover art of a man tied to a moon with a face, with the moon's nose boring painfully into the man's scrotum. Honestly, "Mephestora," the track on this split by Graad, is one of my favorite songs of the year. It can be heard here:
Absolutely brilliant instrumental black metal with lots of melody and sense of direction.

3. Alaric/Atriarch

This features some of Atriarch's best stuff yet. One of the songs on this split, "Offerings," was put on their full-length, but this version is better. It's longer and more drawn out. I dig the atmospheric doom metal + death rock.

4. Graad/Kepsah

Another awesome song. And I just discovered it a few days ago when I revisited Graad's bandcamp. "Summoning" actually has vocals, which start out as Middle Eastern - sounding chants, but eventually turn into black metal screams. Listen if you're a fan of noise BM that moves along at a slow grinding pace.

5. Barghest/False

Barghest is fused punk and death metal without any bass, and it's a side project of members of Thou. Which screams "this will be fucking awesome." Except it was underwhelming and pale in comparison to the False portion of this split, which is 17:38 of devilish atmosphere and meticulous ferocious black metal. I haven't heard Barghest's debut, and I doubt I'll bother. False, on the other hand... at some point I'll get around to listening to their untitled debut EP, with high expectations.


1. Ghost Society - Your Hands

"I don't feel it..."

12-16-2012, 11:58 AM

#25 té - ゆえに、密度の幻想は綻び、蹌踉めく世界は明日を『忘却』す。(Thus, the Illusion of Density Comes Apart at the Seems)

The title is a stab in the dark. I threw it in Google Translate and got this, but I've also seen "The Convulsive Beauty Within Sound is the Feral Tremble of an Idea Realized" and "The Convulsive Beauty Within Sound is a Savage Shiver That Overtakes the Flesh Transcending any Conception." té is a Japanese instrumental quartet that plays aggressive, energetic "math rock," somewhat in vein of 65daysofstatic, though less electronicy. It's infused with hardcore punk and progressive rock. Guitars and bass are right in your face. They use obscure time signatures and rapidly shift dynamics. This makes a lot of technical death metal sound amateurish, it's pretty damn impressive. It's pretty metalish for you metal lovers, too. Post-rock embodies such a wide scope of sound.
HIGHLIGHT: "音の中の『痙攣的』な美は、観念を超え肉体に訪れる野生の戦慄。(The seeker, the inhabitant of the chromatic scale world, wandering in the relative events of the "middle tier")" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GFpmJpVPVe4)
Also, "té" means "tea" in several romance languages. In Japanese though it means "hand."

#24 Sektarism - Le Son des Stigmates

The first song, "Prelude," is exactly that - a prelude for the rest of the album, which sets us up for the very distasteful, uncomfortable, disturbing, perverted two twenty-minute tracks that follow. We hear some lazy drumming, some vocals that start off as murmurs/chants/groans that evolve into screaming, and some very ugly primitive sounding guitars, all of which create an atmosphere early on that's just... unsettling. It's not funeral doom, but I guess it would be classified as some type of doom/drone. When I listen to this music I envision rituals, so maybe ritualistic doom. It sounds much more ritualistic than a lot of occultist albums. It also sounds very improvisational. At times it actually appears that the musicians aren't really playing together at all. There's nothing technical or accomplished about this album, it's very grisly sounding, there aren't any riffs or harmonies to fasten onto, and in fact it lacks all qualities that make music "good." But damn I like it. "Le Testament" is a little more structured than "Hosanna Sathana," bot both tracks are pretty wicked and sick sounding.
The bassist, Crüxvheryn, played in French black metal band, Fornication.

#23 Dødsengel - Imperator

At two and a half hours in length, this black metal odyssey is pretty intimidating, and I probably devoted more time to it than I should have. It walks the fine line between being interesting, contemplative, diabolical and maybe even genius, and being too drawn-out and monotonous. Even though the songs themselves aren't monotonous, they're very interesting, it's the length that makes it that way. Very rarely does an album this long need to be this long; there comes a point where the material becomes circular. There's really a lot to say about this album... it features a lot of different vocal styles (female included), it encompasses a lot of different ideas but not necessarily different genres, it's hardly uniform and it transcends beyond stereotypical black metal, it's easy to assume this band genuinely believes in preaching the word of Satan and tearing down anything holy, it's very authentic and "real" feeling, and it would definitely appeal to someone looking for a very progressive, creative or experimental edge to black metal. Regardless, it's ridiculously hard to digest and it packs a wallop.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Asphyxia," (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7U_LQQeLxc) "The Serpent's Head," "Momentum: On The Devil & Death," (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTKqVr5EyJY) "Upon THE BEAST She Rideth"

#22 Witchrist - The Grand Tormentor

The slow, chugging opening riff of "Into the Arms of Yama" lead me to believe this was death/doom, not blackened death. The first five minutes of that song are some of my favorites on the album, and it's not until the midway point that the pace picks up and resembles blackened death a little more, and vocals appear. That slow riffing comes back after the 7:00 mark. A lot of these tracks are definitely more up-tempo ("The Grand Tormentor," "Exile," "Beyond Darkness and Death," "Tandava," "Wasteland of Thataka"), but my initial belief that the album might be death/doom didn't entirely vanish. It wasn't really until "The Tomb" that the slow, monstrous pace from "Into the Arms of Yama" made a reappearance. The vocals on this album are pretty mediocre. The production is very nice. Check it out if you're a fan of the mucky sludgy death metal, or of bands like Asphyx.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Into the Arms of Yama," "Funeral Lotus"

#21 Ides of Gemini - Constantinople

It's nice to hear Sera Timms again - the brilliant vocalist from Black Math Horsemen. Admittedly, I don't like this album as much as Wyllt. It's less trance-inducing and psychedelic, and more rock-y, but still "doomgaze" perhaps. There are some awesome riffs, like in "Resurrectionists" and "Reaping Golden," that are slightly funereal but not necessarily completely joyless. There's a certain weight to this album though that's very, very heavy. If cast into the ocean this music would, as Jack Dawson said in Titanic about the Le Coeur de la Mer, "sink straight to the bottom." The songs have a thick, melodic feel with a dark, murky beauty that hints of occultist themes. I read over on Doommantia that Timms said in an interview, "I believe that all humans are connected to vast inner territories of darkness and light, and the dark unchartered spaces within that subconscious field are usually the ones that I am drawn to." I don't think it's possible for music to better represent that feeling than the music of Black Math Horseman and Ides of Gemini. Every song in this album's deep, dark black hat seems to conjure some type of dark energy.
HIGHLIGHTS: "The Vessel & the Stake," "Resurrectionists" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVKaTPpRTsE) "Reaping Golden"

12-16-2012, 12:08 PM
I haven't heard of a single thing you mentioned save that Ides of Gemini record, but I don't think I'm the only one so I'm excused. Number 25 (I'm not even gonna try to retype that) sounded pretty cool though. And I don't know if I could invest time in a 2.5 hour long album. :hecho:

12-16-2012, 03:00 PM
I thought the new Alcest was boring. Then again I wasn't really a fan of them in the first place.This.

I had mad love for that Ides album this year, too - as you already know. Chances are, it'll place even higher in my list (which means that my review of it may not come until after Labor Day 2013). :snivel:

EDIT: Here is a super-sexy review (http://www.jukeboxmetal.com/2012/ides-of-gemini-constantinople/) from some goofball who seems to have loved it as much as I did... :eyes:

12-19-2012, 11:06 AM
Yeah, I haven't heard of almost all of these, either. So many of them do sound great based on the descriptions though, gotta check some out.

12-19-2012, 12:27 PM
#20 Aptorian Demon - Libertus

This is Aptorian Demon's debut, and it is a fantastic release. This band already has a masterful understanding of pacing, song dynamics, song structure and versatility. The opening track begins with a - what sounds to be - priest speaking in a perhaps Scandinavian tongue. The band is Norwegian so perhaps it's that, but I'm a sucker for sound samples. Sound samples are attention grabbers, especially if utilized well, and the opening few minutes alternate between sound samples with a choir/bells background combination and chunky black metal riffs coming in and out. Around 1:50 a buzz-saw guitar rips in, and then some deep, gut wrenching vocals. Vocal styles are all over the place. This is not a run-of-the-mill one dimensional BM record... everything is spread out, diverse and intelligent. There are some very tasty riffs. If one part of a song grabs you, hold onto it, because you won't hear it for long. The last minute of "Ignitus" is a melodic acoustic passage.
Most of the songs are conventionally lengthed, but "Ignitus" and "Libertus" are longer at nine and thirteen minutes (of course making these two the best). The shorter songs are seemingly more atmospheric. Some of this album is very evil and foul, and some of it isn't. "Amir al-Mu`minin," for example, is very soft, clean and upbeat. A poor Youtube selection, but...
HIGHLIGHTS: "Libertus, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcwafSDDx4g)" "Amir al-Mu'minin (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T649gHja3_U)"

#19 Lunar Aurora - Hoagascht

I've read that Lunar Aurora broke up for good earlier this year, so it's likely Hoagascht will be the last record we ever hear from them. It's really a shame, but it's hard to complain when a band has been as consistently good over such a long period of time as Lunar Aurora. This band has put out a large number of atmospheric black metal classics over the past few decades before hanging it up temporarily in 2006 for reasons I'm not sure about (to be honest I'm not sure what musicians are were in the band when they recorded this album). Andacht was a phenomenal album. This one isn't as good as I hoped it'd be after six years of silence, and it's certainly not as varied or up to par audio quality-wise with Andacht, but it's still a fine record. The riffs are strong, the atmosphere is fairly cold and old-world feeling, synthesizers and guitars are blended very well, and overall it's a solid effort by an awesome band that's been around a long time. I do wish Lunar Aurora had tried to branch out a little and throw in some different vocal styles or something, but even though they're basically doing the same thing on every track, the album still has a really cool sound to it. "Nachteule" is one of the catchiest and riffiest tracks on the record; the last two minutes are bliss. Due to the reduced guitars, the atmosphere is pretty essential, which is partly created by the reduced guitars. And with synths, the result is something that doesn't sound dark and depressing, but rather, mystic and rustic.
All the song titles and lyrics are in a German dialect that's spoken in Northern Germany - where the band members are from I believe. And the album title translates into "homeland" or "home garden" or something of that sort, so it would seem the band has ended it's career by returning to the place it loves most.

#18 Furia - Marzannie, Królowej Polski

Furia's third full length is not quite as multi-layered or intricate as Deathspell Omega's brand of black metal, but the disjointed guitar melodies combined with the overall avant-garde atmosphere definitely appear to be influenced by Deathspell at times. But to be honest, I enjoy this more. This is some cold, hazy BM. This album actually has a few upbeat passages throughout though, something that's unusual for a lot of black metal - especially Polish black metal that's long had a reputation for being harsh and unforgiving. The opening riff in “Wodzenie,” for example, and the repetitive (and almost psychedelic) overtones threaded throughout “Sa to Kola,” are some examples. With all its rhythms and dissonant atmosphere, it's very obvious Furia’s core is still firmly rooted in "old school" classic black metal. The melodies lay the groundwork for most of the tracks, the dynamics shift quickly at times, and there are moments throughout the album that are downright heartfelt - even if only for a few seconds before a blistering blastbeat tears it away. There's something very genuine about this kind of music, and the same goes for Lunar Aurora and Mgła's as well. These musicians are pouring their souls into it, and I'm not sure they're trying to get anything in return besides the gratification of somehow managing to manifest their feelings into this ugly, fractured music.
HIGHLIGHTS: "_ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nslTIRRr-CE)," "Skądś do nikąd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvpU5jDgiW0)" (the quality is real bad on that last one)

#17 Atriarch - Ritual of Passing

Atriarch is a fairly young band signed to Profound Lore that just released its debut album, "Forever the End," last year. They did a split with Alaric earlier this year that has a different version of one of the tracks on this album on it (a better version), and now this album, and these three releases comprise Atriarch's discography to date. The opening riff in "Parasite" that's played behind the spoken vocals is pretty killer. The vocals throughout the record are pretty annoying (coming from someone who has little use for punk and hardcore), I would have preferred it if Lenny Smith had stuck to chanting, spoken vocals, and black metal screeches. But the sound of the music is very interesting. The guitar tone often reminds me of a doomy Celtic Frost. The punk influence is definitely there, but so is gothic influence, so the blackened, sludgy doom that is Atriarch is born from different roots than most other bands in its genre pool. They're not trying to clone popular or classic doom metal bands, they're trying to carve their own niche and make their own way with a sound that's unique to them. hb420 analogized them to a Darkthrone / Candlemass fusion... that seems pretty accurate.

#16. Sentimen Beltza - Zulo Beltz eta Sakon Honetan

Oindurth SaVinitta is Sentimen Beltza, this is his third full-length, and the only way from here is down. Zulo Beltz eta Sakon Honetan is one of those albums that had me hooked almost immediately because of the first track's melody. Twelve minutes of beautiful, depressing melody. "Mendi Urdinak" is one of my most-listened-to songs of 2012... a soaring, depressive, epic black metal anthem that's more emotional than almost anything else that's come out this year. The entire album is not up to this caliber, though. And that's the only reason Zulo Beltz eta Sakon Honetan is not higher on my list. "Neguko Goiz Bat" is also a catchy, epic track that reaches the album's pinnacle state of psychadlic-like hypnosis. The guitars are raw and dissonant even though the production is stellar, the pace varies but it's often on the slow side which just enhances the depression, the atmosphere is very alive but dead at the same time, most importantly though... this album is so, so emotional. The negative charge in this album is something special. Few artists can take inner conflict and create music out of it as well as SaVinitta can. Black metal enthusiasts looking for only blistering riffs and blastbeats need not look here. "El Tiempo Bajo Polvo" is one of the few tracks where the pace really speeds up permanently, to the delight of the average BM listener. Otherwise prepare for a long haul of varying tempos - usually mid to low - and music full of anger, hate, sadness, conflict, inner-torment, etc.
HIGHLIGHTS: "Mendi Urdinak (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAIXhybRtaQ)"

12-19-2012, 12:31 PM
blahblabhlahblahbalh"LITTLE USE FOR PUNK AND HARDCORE"blahblahblah

What a shame. :(

12-19-2012, 12:35 PM
Cherry-picking reading perhaps?

12-19-2012, 12:44 PM
Cherry-picking reading perhaps?

;) Obviously there's always loads of great stuff (and stuff I need to discover) on your list. I'm just bummed that the more direct heavy genres don't connect with you.

12-19-2012, 12:54 PM
;) Obviously there's always loads of great stuff (and stuff I need to discover) on your list. I'm just bummed that the more direct heavy genres don't connect with you.

Affliction, Endocrine... Vertigo is the only (very) hardcore influenced album I've ever fallen in love with. Recommend me something similar to that and I'll get on it.

12-21-2012, 08:48 PM
#15 Ea - Ea

I just now realized this band has four albums, this being their latest. For some reason I thought this was their debut. This album is one massive 47-minute track that covers a ton of ground throughout its great length, and is apparently separate, both musically and ideologically, from the trilogy that came before it. Ea is from Saint Petersburg, and the band members remain strictly anonymous and keep their identity unknown (kind of like Dragged Into Sunlight's band members, without the balaclavas). The band likes to write about ancient civilizations and dead languages, and being from Russia, there are literally tons of long-dead Indo-European languages to choose from. I have a personal fascination with language and glottochronology, so this sort of thing appeals to me. The relationship between language and the world, and what it means in terms of history, philosophy and even bio-physics, is veeerry interesting. Props to Ea for dedicating music out of reverence to things that have long been extinct from the earth.

Ea plays funeral doom metal, so obviously their attitudes towards these things are sorrowful and mournful, as if the band is very regretful that these cultures and languages vanished in the first place. And also regretful that nobody ever thinks about them or equates them with our own cultures. Their use of piano, which appears in several passages including the intro, turns the whole composition into something like late 19th century / early 20th century formal orchestral music with dollops of crushing doom to spice it up when it gets a bit melodramatic. Vocals are pretty sparse, but when they appear they do so in the form of low death metal growls and harsh black metal shrieks; and soothing female vocals even appear for a brief time if I remember right. At times the music is literally at a crawl, with only a few bare notes being played, but even during these parts there is great substance and strength in the music. Near the 38:50 mark, unexpectedly, we hear the sound of splashing water - what sounds like a child walking through a shallow stream. I'm not sure what that signifies. One of the best parts of the album comes at the 20:43 mark, when a guitar solo comes in, and serves as the album's climax.

#14 Leeches of Lore - Frenzy, Ecstasy

I seem to remember hb420 describing Leeches of Lore as an "awesome studio band." Meaning they must suck live. And that makes sense because I honestly have a difficult time picturing how this music would translate well into a live setting. Frenzy, Ecstasy is a unique recording. Tags on their bandcamp page include: rock, country, doom, experimental folk, noise, and Albuquerque. Parts of this album feel like they should be the soundtrack to a very comical post-1960s spaghetti western. I mean, how else can you possibly describe the first 1:20 of "L'evoluzione dei Microbi (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T9gox7QBAE)?" After that I feel it picks up a little in seriousness. Not that the opening sequence isn't fantastic. It's just comical. Imagine two gentlemen riding on donkeys through a hail of gunfire in the midwest.

The intro track, "Afghanistan Banana Stand," creates similar ridiculous imagery. Picture a few Afghan men frantically and vociferously wheeling carts of bananas down busy market streets in Kabul. This album is wild and silly. It's impressive musically, though. Everything is very intricate and well written. Parts are very catchy. There's some brass throughout the album, varying acoustic guitar styles, and some instruments I can't place. The core of the album is one of sludge-type metal, I guess. This is one album where I feel I can say "listen for yourself" and not feel like I'm copping out on the review. Do that - listen, and realize that making musical lunacy is serious business for these guys. If at some point in the future I find out Weird Al Yankovic produced the album, I won't be surprised.

HIGHLIGHTS: "L'evoluzione dei Microbi," "That Old Brain Rapin' Highway," "La Follia di Spazio"

#13 Mgła - With Hearts Toward None

With this release Mgła has supplanted itself as one of black metal's best current projects/bands. Like Furia, Mgła is from Poland, and certainly lives up to that Polish reputation of producing uncompromising, unforgiving black metal that emphasizes atmosphere and traditional BM. The tracks are organized around a few carefully chosen guitar riffs that repeat throughout the tracks, much like what Darkthrone did in the 1990s (and a lot of bands for that matter). This formula has dissolved somewhat over the years, but makes for a strong and enticing building block (you all know what I'm talking about - Iron Maiden perfected it). With Mgła it's just a little less conspicuous. But I love that approach to songwriting.

All seven tracks are dense and ruthless. There are no keyboards or folk instruments. The production is top notch. This album sucks the listener into an abyss. Groza, Mgła's debut, was more interesting and experimental than this record, but the sheer quality of With Hearts Toward None is enough to impress any black metal fan, especially those with a hankering for the traditional aspects of the genre. Everything is more condensed but the riffs are better and the songs have a strong sense of direction. There are times when drums take the front seat, and when they do it's damn impressive. With Hearts Toward None goes for the jugular - don't expect an easy listen.

HIGHLIGHTS: " With Hearts Toward None I (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbSpg0q1q_Q);" that riff is just so awesome...

#12 Fun. - Some Nights

Indie pop is normally a genre I don't identify with at all. So I feel a bit strange liking this album so much, but damn what an album. I haven't heard the band's debut, and I was first introduced to this band through the hit single, "We Are Young" (featuring the lovely Mrs. Janelle Monáe, who released the incredible The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) back in '10), which has been all over the radio since sometime last year. This is one of those albums that disguises what it means with its sound. On the surface this is an upbeat, positive, motivational feel-good album. There are a handful of really infectious tunes here that have the same effect a lot of radio songs do at first - they make you feel a little dumber after you listen to them.

Upon second listen, we find something a little different. The lyrics are deeply burdened with uncertainty, regret, melancholy, and nostalgia. Why am I the one always packing up my stuff?, and everyone I love is gonna leave me, and I don't need a new love or a new life, just a better place to die. A lot of these feelings are presented in response/reaction type fashion. The album paints a picture of how these emotions are being dealt with, and the result is very interesting. Perhaps not genuine (difficult to tell) or consistent, but interesting. It manages to be weighty in subject and carefree in presentation. The vocalist puts his heart and soul into the music. It's very dynamic and very personal, and most importantly, very emotional and easy to relate to. It's "comforting." The following line is the best possible summary.

I've given everyone I know a good reason to go
I was surprised you stuck around long enough to figure out
that it's all alright

HIGHLIGHTS: "Some Nights," "We Are Young," "Carry On (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rrT9kbF9dM)," "All Alright"

#11 Summer Fades Away - We Meet the Last Time, Then Departure

I would really like to sit down with this band and ask them what their inspirations are - what their favorite movies are, what literature they like, or anything to get some sense of where they draw ideas from, because this band's music is special. It just sounds like it's drawn from someplace deep. "I Still Love the Blue Sky (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdjDdrBhyZo)" is about as inspired as music can be.

Summer Fades Away released its first EP, Unkind Time, Beautiful Memory, last year via 1724 Records out of Beijing - which describes itself as "new sounds from China" - and ended up being one of the best post-rock releases of 2011. A lot of Chinese bands tagged with the ‘post-rock’ label beat the ‘quiet-loud-quiet’ formula to death, which quickly gets annoying when they all try to sound like Mogwai. I enjoy dynamics and all, but it's better when bands try to at least weave it in. Summer Fades Away doesn't break this pattern, but they do a much better job of 'putting things together'. Instrumental guitar ambiance evolves and guitars are slowly amplified to reach climaxes. Dynamics shift, but everything is woven together very nicely to create seamless compositions. Hear "Love Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0mOVB0XJR0)" for a case in point. The music is very melodic and the guitars are very atmospheric, not unlike the atmosphere in a lot of the post-black metal some of us like so much.

"Flower Mio" begins with what sounds like a xylophone. And "Yukiho" features a flute or a wind instrument of some sort. There's more folk music on this record than on the EP (credit on the bandcamp page goes to Gang Wu), which is a fantastic addition to this band's sound. Summer Fades Away is now folky post-rock. There's never an eruption of sound on this album that matches the power of "A Pavilion" on Unkind Time, Beautiful Memory, which is my one gripe with it. The band obviously tried to create something more beautiful and serene with this release, and in doing so left out the 'punch to the face' that was "A Pavilion," which sort of detracts from things. Nevertheless, I really like this record and this band, and I'll continue following them for sure.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Flower Mio," "Yukiha (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AZ-1HqfCD0)," "I Still Love the Blue Sky (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdjDdrBhyZo),"

12-21-2012, 11:44 PM
My, what an eclectic list you have this year, grandma.

But seriously, I've heard of very few of these. Thanks for posting. I'll have to check some of these out.

12-22-2012, 06:58 AM
I also liked that Fun album a lot.

Even though it's played to death I still think "Some Nights" is a phenomenal song.

12-22-2012, 04:38 PM
Looks like I have even more albums to add to my never ending list.

I watch Carson Daly's show and I think they had Fun on before "We Are Young" blew up and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Very good quality pop band. And then all of a sudden I'm hearing that song everywhere and another good song is partially ruined.

Mgla is quite good although I still need to give it many more listens.

12-22-2012, 04:51 PM
I've been trying to find that Ea album for a while, I really want to listen to it.

12-23-2012, 10:52 AM
I've been trying to find that Ea album for a while, I really want to listen to it.

You can hear the whole thing here: http://eadoom.bandcamp.com/album/ea

Looks like I have even more albums to add to my never ending list.

I watch Carson Daly's show and I think they had Fun on before "We Are Young" blew up and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Very good quality pop band. And then all of a sudden I'm hearing that song everywhere and another good song is partially ruined.

Mgla is quite good although I still need to give it many more listens.

:party: I really haven't heard many pop records as emotional and material-packed as the Fun. record. It's surprisingly so. "Some Nights" and "We Are Young" are all over the radio, but only those two that I've heard (and I only know this because the CD player in my car is only working when the temperature is in the 40s or higher, thus I've had to listen to the radio way too often here recently). There are only two tracks on the album I dislike, but that's not a big deal because a lot of the songs differ wildly in terms of style and influence. Hip-hop and electronic influences are pretty strong, for example, neither of which I really care for.

I also liked that Fun album a lot.

Even though it's played to death I still think "Some Nights" is a phenomenal song.

It is a great song, even though the radio version, which is the version most people know I guess, cuts it. Even though it wasn't really a long song to begin with.


What is the meaning of this.

12-23-2012, 05:34 PM
I like Ea a lot.

I hate Fun. a lot.

edit: also I am listening to your #11 and am incredibly impressed.

12-28-2012, 07:28 PM
edit: also I am listening to your #11 and am incredibly impressed.

That is awesome! I never pegged you as a post-rock fan... :eyes: but maybe I'm not paying close enough attention. It's great to see some of you guys taking stuff from these lists.

12-28-2012, 07:29 PM
#10 Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

This is classic Ash Borer in every way just with better production. Their being signed to one of the hottest metal labels out there right now has not caused them to take a turn for the worse or lack what made them great to begin with. And no, they're not becoming the next Wolves in the Throne Room.

The production is definitely better. Vocals are higher in the mix as well. Ash Borer excels at creating emotional landscapes that have immense atmosphere - perhaps influenced by doom and post-rock - and playing a few riffs per song that play off one another and bridge seamlessly from one to another. The atmosphere is chilling and dark, and a lot of the riffs are downright terrifying, especially with the choirgirl vocals. The non-metal ambient passages on "Removed Forms" with choirgirl vocals are extremely effective (the opening in particular, as well as the passage around the 7:45 mark) and cause the long songs to feel even more elaborate than they already are.

Jessica Way of Worm Ouroboros lends her beautiful voice to this album, and it increases the atmosphere of the second half of the record quite a bit. Ash Borer is not a band that really wants to accent vocals too much, but rather, use them for atmosphere and ambiance. Her vocal parts really do this well. If you enjoyed Faith Coloccia and Jessika Kenney on Celestial Lineage and Jamie Myers on Malevolent Grain, chances are you'll like the similar touch here as well. I don't even think she's singing any lyrics, she's just adding beauty to the songs.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Descended Lamentations (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8OPkQBIRrw)," "Convict All Flesh," "Removed Forms (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KeDf8y29E)"

#9 Leech - If We Get There One Day, Would You Please Open The Gates?

Leech is an almost ambient post-rock band from Switzerland that has a pretty sparse discography. Their last album was released in 2007, which I haven't heard, so I'm guessing they worked on this one for quite a while before putting it into form. This album, by a quick rough count, is about ninety minutes in length.

Leech uses piano and electronic touches like Mogwai and God Is An Astronaut, but also the classic post-rock formula perfected by Godspeed You! Black Emperor - loud-quiet dynamics and build-ups. The build-ups are less "epic" than some other bands have done and do, but they're effective nonetheless. This album is especially low-key for a post-rock album, it makes for easy, unfatigued listening. It's very soft, pleasant, soothing, and even therapeutic. In fact, for an album that lacks the advantage of containing a lot of harsh "in-your-face" moments, this one is downright emotional. There are a few heavier parts, like around 8:00 into "March Of The Megalomaniacs," and one passage in "Hand Full of Hearts, Heart Full of Stones," but this album never hit me upside the head or crushed me with heaviness or burdened me with weight. Quite the opposite, in fact. The ambiance and gentle catchiness lifts the weight off your shoulders... makes you feel a little freer and innocent (or perhaps less guilty). It's a very intimate album. Fans of post-rock should definitely devote a little time to this one. It's been under-acknowledged and under-appreciated in a year that's largely been overshadowed by the first post-rock release by a certain band in a decade.

By the time "Endymion" comes around, the album begins to take shape in the listener's mind as a journey of some sort - maybe the journey of life - in which "Endymion," with its brilliant build-up and eventual climax, represents man reaching his final resting place. If we happen to find ourselves waking up next to a certain wall with a gate, this album playing might actually convince God to allow us admittance to the other side, even if we don't deserve it.

#8 Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubliees...

This was the first album I flipped out over in 2012. It somewhat made up for what Les voyages de l'âme lacked, and for that I was thankful because the Alcest album hit me hard and sent me into a negative frame of mind looking ahead into 2012. This album is the Écailles de Lune of this year. Not quite as good, but still good - definitely the best shoegaze record since. I didn't expect it to fall out of my top 5.

This album is not a big departure from the debut, but it's very good nonetheless. It's only a little shorter, but it feels lighter and less dense. I really like Fursy's songwriting and style, so I don't really mind more songs in the same vein as those on the debut, and I think it's too early to criticize the band for lack of evolution, but regardless this album has received a very luke-warm reception. The material here is very well written and thought provoking. There is a gorgeous reprise in this album. Some albums utilize this so well it elevates the enjoyment and memorability of the album considerably, examples being The Beatles' Abbey Road, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, and Baroness have nearly perfected it (especially with Blue Record), and with the intro to the album, "Linceul d'Hiver,"and "Les Regrets," Les Discrets write a tune that's definitely worth remembering and definitely worth repeating, and the second time around it leads into an explosive climax. The atmosphere of this record ranges from bright and hopeful to bleak and disconcerting, but overall Les Discrets focus on making warm, enveloping music that concentrates on creating beauty more than anything else. The album ends very strongly - the last four songs are all gorgeous. And the last song is an acoustic version "L'Echappee," which was on one of their splits some time ago. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Le Mouvement Perpétuel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg2_rehxeiE)," "Ariettes oubliées I : Je devine à travers un murmure... (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qGKAlSLv8s)," "Les Regrets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96jCdzollsM)"

#7 OM - Adviatic Songs

Adviatic Songs more or less picks up where God is Good left off. This is truly inspirational music. OM is another one of the Giant Squid's or Bloodiest's or SORNE's of the world... the music is just so different it's hard to put into words. Those familiar with OM know their music is classified as "Middle Eastern psychedelic doom metal," or something like that. It's similar in structure to "Tibetan and Byzantine chant," as Wikipedia points out (I'm not familiar with those genres of music so I can't confirm, but it sounds correct enough). "Om" is the Hindi symbol known for the natural vibration of the universe. OM is a very religious inspired band. They've written music that touches on religious and spiritual themes from Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism, and in the past they've explored the similarities between these religions. And here we have a picture of John the Baptist himself on the cover of the album - an important figure in many different faiths, especially Christianity - so it seems OM is still using interwoven themes, and on this record they seem to be predominantly Christian and Islamic. The lyrics... I'm going to try to dissect some of them (and the song titles), but they're so oblique they're borderline incomprehensible, kind of like Saturnalia Temple's lyrics except with religious connotations instead of occultist. My guess is as good as yours though, so…

"Addis" is in Hindi, and not even in Sanskrit, but in the Pinyin equivalent of Sanskrit (I don't know what the name is for it in Hindi), so we'll skip over this track. I'll just say it opens with clean female chanting and we start to hear Indian tabla drums.

"State of Non-Return" seems to start at the beginning with Adam & Eve's expulsion from Eden which represents the start of man’s journey outside utopia and his induction into knowledge:
Light trickles through the adjunct worlds, the soul galleon prevails
Liberates in wisdom, to complete state of negation
The five roads subsumed by grace emancipates from dream

"Gethsemane" is the name of the garden in Jerusalem which is said in the gospels to be where Jesus and all his disciples (except Judas) spent their final hours before the Crucifixion. It was here where Jesus sweated drops of blood, and came to terms with his fate in conversation with God:
Nocodemus awaits in vigil weeping
The Arahat rising and the healing ghost descends
Lamentations cease enter rarefied light prevails
Nicodemus being the pharisee that showed favor to Jesus. I'm unsure of the total lyrical relevance to the song title, but Lamentations cease enter rarefied light prevails seems to represent the lifting of anguish off the shoulders of Jesus by God. Jesus did after all pray to God to spare him of the suffering.

"Sinai" is of course where Moses was given the ten commandments. The lyrics from "Echoes," on Paramaecium's last album, read: As I climb the long pathway of repentance, towards the peak of Sinai in the still dark hours of the morn, I yearn for the daylight which will tame my hesitations. This more or less summarizes what comes to my mind when I think of Sinai. The mountain represents the end of trepidation, and the enlightenment to come.
Walk Melchizidek shrine descender
At Lebanon - priest ascending
And back toward Lebanon priest ascending
Melchizidek being the king during the Abraham narrative in the Book of Genesis. He must have climbed Sinai.

I don't have a clue what the lyrics in "Haqq-al-yaqin" mean, but I do know when you throw the song title into Google Translate it comes out as "the reality of certainty," which is the third degree of the classical Yaqeen Sufi doctrine. It's a three level hierarchy of human identity, like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but identity: scholars, gnostics, and lovers. With the most latter being the most important. The Yaqeen (تيقب) phase of Suffism (صفي), and yes I actually typed those in on an Arabic keyboard using my mad Arabic skills, is an ascetic sect of Islam in which one can, as the head of the Shadhiliyah brotherhood basically said, "purify himself from inner filth by excluding his inner being from everyone but God and travel into the presence of the divine." In this phase - the last phase - the liberation cycle is finished. And the reality of certainty is where experience becomes the object of certainty. Knowledge is transferred into experience and vice versa, and it becomes revelatory to the one experiencing it.

As for the sound, I mentioned it's inspirational. That's kind of a disservice. It's hypnotic (in a different way than Black Math Horseman and Giant Squid and bands like that), embellishing, blissful, and transcendental. The use of cellos, flutes and tamburas have become integral parts of OM's sound. There are mantra-like incantations. The bass tone is unlike any other I've ever heard. There are moments on every great album that stand out... moments of not just greatness, but distinguished greatness. The cello/violin outro in "State of Non-Return" is that moment on this album, and one of 2012's finest moments. I can't recommend this album enough, just damn. Listen to it. This band truly brings spirituality to music, and if you let it his album will do absolutely incredible things for you.

HIGHLIGHT: "State of Non-Return (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxBeyT5884w)," "Gethsemane," "Sinai"

#6 Borgne - Royaume des Ombres

Aaaaaaaw yeah, this is Borgne's best album to date, no doubt about it. This is *[SPOILER]* my favorite black metal record of 2012. I was shocked by how very, very good this album was. Borgne specializes in industrial black metal. Unlike many bands that incorporate electronic effects into black metal, which usually effectively creates ambient black metal that lacks aggressiveness and "big" sound, Borgne writes huge compositions and gorgeous soundscapes that are unbelievably atmospheric and broad in scope. CS Lewis said that if we zoom into a painting, we will see dots of color and can discover things about those dots, their patterns and structure according to the limited view we hold. Borgne draws huge elaborate pictures, but it's better to not zoom in on it - just sit back and admire it.

At times in some of these songs I picture a boat caught in a tempest. There's a wall of sound that sounds like its rocking up and down, back and forth, on large violent waves. At times it's actually soothing and solemn, other times it's completely misanthropic and lacks any notion of hope or salvation. The last three or four minutes of "All These Screams Through Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnj8gg0UII)," is a good example, and it's also the best track on the album.

You want to leave but you can’t
You have no place to be
Even in your body you’re not well
Even in your head you’re not well

The night is looking at you, and following you
Others want to avoid you
You want to be a debt for someone
But you never will be

“Only The Dead Can Be Heard,” and the album closer “The Last Thing You Will See,” explode out of the speakers with a furious assault of quasi-traditional black metal. Fans of Leviathan, Xasthur, or even Burzum should dig these tracks. A lot of this album is reminiscent of Burzum, just with heavier guitars. Most of the album is midpaced and it's very lengthy. Overall, this album has the best atmosphere of any black metal album I've heard this year. And it's also the most emotional.

HIGHLIGHTS: "In the Realm of the Living Dead (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cNOzWLixAA)," "All These Screams Through Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnj8gg0UII)"

12-28-2012, 09:47 PM
Nice picks in this batch. Unfortunately the Om record didn't make my Top 25, but State of Non-Return is probably my favorite song of the year.

01-03-2013, 06:53 PM
#5 pg.lost - Key

idrinkwine and Natrlhi turned me onto this album during a period when post-rock seemed to be very down this year. A lot came together in the last few months of the year. I found myself really investing a lot in this album because it grabbed me so quickly.

It's easy to hear post-metal influence seeping into pg.lost's music. Russian Circles and The Evpatoria Report can be heard in this album! It’s a welcome change of pace for a band that previously relied heavily on Explosions in the Sky as influence, and didn't really push its boundaries. “Terrain” is a prime example of this - the band has revitalized its style of songwriting. While retaining the beautiful aspects of its sound, pg.lost adds the aforementioned heavy instrumentation with skill. Like much of Key, "Terrain" is very driven with a strong sense of focus (though slightly repetitive), with the percussion being very responsible for keeping a deliberate pace. This album ends stronger than it begins. By the time we get to “Weaver (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM7LUsyhxUw),” the album has already left an impression, but this is the track that drives it home. It's very different from the rest of the record, as it lacks the overall focus of each of the other tunes. It lacks repetition. But it makes up for anything it lacks with fantastic atmosphere and very impressive songwriting. Piano and guitar paint a sense of urgency as the song goes through multiple transitions until it finally reaches a breathtaking climax and eventual release. “Weaver” is pg.lost's flagship tune to date, revealing the band's true potential as songwriters and musicians.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Sheaves," "I Am A Destroyer," "Gathering (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpWWXKShp-M)," "Weaver" - the last four tracks are my favorite on the album, they flow together so well.

#4 Baroness - Yellow & Green

There seems to always be an album or two every year that divides fans. I think most would agree this is that album, or at least one of them, this year. Going back to the Cake Frosting Diarrhea Discussion thread, to quote Natrlhi, "now that the dust has settled from all the butthurt, false praise, hype, anti-hype, wailing & gnashing of teeth and so forth that took place when the album first dropped, I think I can say that it was a challenging album to love right out of the gates, but the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it." That more or less sums up my thoughts on the album perfectly. To be even more of a deviant, I think the Green side is better than the Yellow side.

Like any other product or piece of art, music is never as good when it's forced. The greatest creations come from the heart - it's the key ingredient. And as long as it's sincere, usually the result is at least good and/or respectable. Listening to this album, I really feel Baroness are doing just that. They aren't trying to force out a product their heart's not in... they're doing what they feel like doing. I will take that any day over "going through the motions and putting out another metal album just to please fans." This album is sincere, there's a ton of feeling and emotion in it, and c'mon... it's fucking Baroness. It's practically impossible for them to write bad music, even if it's not the style you're looking for. But before we denounce this album from being metal or anything like that, let's be clear... this album is very rooted in metal, it's primary influence is metal, and parts of the album are metal. Especially on the Yellow side. Very distorted bass is heard frequently, and parts are sludgy. But if the whole album had to be classified, I would go with heavy alternative rock. But has any band ever done it like this? No... no they haven't. At least not that I've heard. This is the most unique album of the year, like it or not. This album takes rock, metal, folk, alternative, progressive, maybe even pop, and throws them all in a cup. Stirs. Tips the cup... feeds the fire.

The Yellow theme is the least memorable of any of Baroness' themes. Of course, "Take My bones Away," "March to the Sea," "Cocainium" and "Back Where I Belong" are excellent tunes, and some of the best tracks on the album. It quickly becomes evident that Baroness went into experimental mode with this album. They do things with their guitars they've never done before (strange noises), there are keyboards, there are - what sounds like - electronic effects, the drums are different than they were on the previous two albums, the vocals are clean and there aren't any of those infamous John Baizley shouts we all know and love so much. But as interesting as things were on the first half of this record, things went into perfect flow and motion on the Green side. The theme is back up to Baroness standards, and from there to "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry," the emotion pours out through soothing ballads and gentle guitar tunes, and I find myself drifting in audio heaven. I was always a sucker for 80's ballads, and it doesn't bother me one bit that this whole side, with very few exceptions, is soft and mellow.

"MTNS. (The Crown & Anchor)" is one of the best songs on the album. "Psalms Alive" -> "Stretchmarker" is absolutely brilliant. "Stretchmarker" is the best <4:00 song of the year, and it's not even close. It's simple but absolutely gorgeous. There are so many musical ideas and textures on this album... yet it's still cohesive. There are some dud tracks, but overall Yellow & Green is - in my mind - well worth the patience, and more than the sum of its parts.

#3 Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!

Yes, the mighty return of Godspeed. I found out about this on October 1 around 10:00pm when I was on Sputnik browsing some reviews for F# A# Infinity, and someone posted a link to a tumbler page that had some pictures of - what appeared to be and allegedly was - a new album for sale at GY!BE's show in Boston. Sure enough, it was the real thing. Within the next 12 hours Constellation confirmed the release, the vinyl was ripped, it leaked, and I had it on itunes the next morning.

This album is definitely a return to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's traditional post-rock hallmark. It's better than Yanqui U.X.O., and on a tier just below F# A# Infinity and Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. And it's only just below those two because the two standout tracks on this album are quantitatively less than on F# A# and Lift Your Skinny fists. "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" belong right up there in Godspeed's mighty rafters. Add a third twenty minute song of that caliber to this album and it's as good as their first two, no doubt.

To criticize first, the two drone tracks, "Their Helicopters' Sing" and "Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable," are a little lacking. It wouldn't be as much of an issue if they composed less of the album, but between the two of them they make up about fifteen minutes. Godspeed has always utilized drone material in-between their elaborate compositions, what some argue is "filler" material, which I have tended to argue against... but this time around it does sort of feel like "filler" material, even if it comes in places where transition pieces are necessary. It wouldn't have been difficult to throw some sound samples in the mix, an eccentric recording or two - some Murray Ostril or Arco AM/PM Mini-Market. I know these have meaning in the context of their surrounding arrangements, but surely ten years on leave has given the band time to find ample "awesome stuff" they could have used; it's one of the reasons they're so eclectic. Historically, it hasn't been hard for this band to make mundane things interesting. "Strung Like Lights At Thee Printemps Erable" though, is pretty damn mundane without being interesting.

"With his arms upstretched, with his arms upstretched, with his arms upstretched, can you get him, do you see him? Hang on, hang on, hang on..." I about lost it when I listened to this for the first time. It was immediately recognizable as the band that has done more for me in the last five years than any other, and this was the first time since being introduced to them that I was listening to something new. The strings on this album are very strong and prominent, "Mladic" (especially) is very angry and throbbed with distortion, and it's probably accurate to say this is the heaviest material Godspeed has ever recorded. The third track is the best on the album... it's rhythmically and structurally complex, littered with beautiful harmonies that shift easily and naturally between sections. I mentioned in the Summer Fades Away blurb that few post-rock bands can shift between sections and arrangements effortlessly - well, Godspeed is the master of it. One thing leads to another, perfectly and seamlessly. Volume levels are used to alter the prominence of individual instruments and melodic lines.

I had been waiting patiently (and impatiently) for years to hear new Godspeed material. This year I finally got it. 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! was the best surprise of 2012. And it was also awesome that there were no press releases or announcements of the album until it was available for purchase. And in the one press statement Efrim gave he basically criticized press statements.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Mladic," "We Drift Like Worried Fire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP6-wlhviKw)"

#2 Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

This album didn't sink in with me for the longest time. There was so much praise revolving around it I continued to give it more chances, and I'd personally hyped it up a lot coming into 2012 after hearing Brett Campbell's stunning guest vocal work on Loss' 2011 debut, Despond. When an album doesn't grab me there comes a point when I just discard it. That point comes at different times with different bands and different albums (I'll give some albums more chances if it's by a band with a strong discography, for example, of if it's by a band I've historically been a fan of). Thankfully for me, I kept giving this one more chances, and because of that at one point it just clicked with me and I allowed myself to be engulfed by it. I discovered how amazing this band really is, and what a monolith of an album they had created.

Given to the Grave is an unbelievably powerful song. Four lines make up the lyrics to an eleven minute song:

Carry me to my grave,
When at long last my journey has ended,
On the path that leads from here to oblivion,
Where no more sorrow can weigh me down.

Campbell's vocals are enough to bring you to your knees. High and mighty, coming off like an amalgamation of Ozzy Osbourne and Geddy Lee, the grief soaks into every fabric of your being. As one review said, "he sounds like a wise and weary old soul that's traveled many a desolate mile, and can now finally sleep in the eternal arms of the reaper." There are moments where he genuinely sounds like he's on the verge of weeping.

There are so many reviews out there of this album, most of which praise it. Desolate, depressing, crushing, stunning, visionary, haunting, etc. are all some adjectives I've seen thrown around a lot to describe it. But what is really noteworthy is how reading all the reviews is really fun because everyone seems to have a different take on it. That's perhaps the best part about the record - there's so much to be taken away from it. Way more than you could possibly take after first listen. This album has many, many different things to offer - way more than most albums. Chances are, if you're looking for something, it's in this album somewhere.

As for my take, there's a very strange un-doomy sound in this album that coincides with the grief and sorrow and funereal depression it embodies - an almost uplifting sound. This album is the soundtrack of embracing death with open arms. It's definitely a soundtrack to dying, but a lot of melodies seem more uplifting than depressing. It's more like it's a soundtrack to accepting your fate, or of a kind of relief experienced after realizing the fate that awaits you. The album artwork heavily uses purple and gold - the color purple is associated with mourning, and according to the bible, Christ was shrouded in a purple cloak on his way to be crucified. Which probably explains why a lot of classic doom bands like Sabbath and Saint Vitus used purple in their logos/cover art/etc. After Jesus accepted his fate he embodied it, and I think that's the tone this album sets.

Also, I saw it questioned somewhere whether or not the ship on the cover is supposed be Noah's Ark. Which would further extend the biblical metaphor even though there's no biblical lyrical content on the album. It would make sense though considering the overall theme of the album, and with "extinction" being in the title. There you go, I know some of you conduct interviews... so if you ever happen to find yourself sitting in front of Mr. Campbell with a recorder in hand, ask him if the ship on the cover has any metaphorical meaning to "extinction."

Of all the themes and lyrics in this album, and of all the things you can take from it, there's a passage that's at the heart of all the others:

In the shadows I wander
A solitary man, fearing not the hidden
But searching
In this harsh world of deception, I will stand up once more
And find within myself the strength to stumble again

I tremble when I read it and I tremble when I hear it. My eighth grade English teacher used to say "a hero is one who stands up when he can't." Every time I listen to this album I envision Brett Campbell walking towards his grave and falling over time and time again on his way. But he always manages to stand back up, even when he can't, and keep on walking towards it.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Foreigner (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efsUakRY2IQ)," "Given to the Grave"

#1 Ahab - The Giant

This album is better than The Divinity of Oceans and The Call of the Wretched Sea. In fact I like it much, much more than those albums. Ahab has to be, especially with this release, the most accessible funeral doom band out there. For a genre that's usually a hard pill to swallow for even the most open-minded listeners, funeral doom doesn't produce music this well done very often. I feel that this album, because it's so well done, is more accessible than maybe any other funeral doom album to date. If this is your introduction to the genre, fortunately or unfortunately for you - whichever way you look at it - the bar has been set incredibly high.

The Call of the Wretched Sea was a Moby-Dick themed album with a lyrical fixation on dark, oppressive, oceanic themes. The Divinity of Oceans was a soundtrack to Owen Chase's infamous book, "Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex," published in 1821, that in fact inspired Herman Melville to write the classic story, "Moby Dick." And their 2012 album, The Giant, takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket," which happens to be about a whaling ship called the Grampus and the various adventures and misadventures that befall the poor captain (including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism) on his journey across the southern seas.

I used a similar analogy with Borgne's album, but Ahab’s music is as reminiscent of the ocean as its lyrics are. Sonically, The Giant at times paints a picture of calm waters and fair seas, and other times paints a dark, horrifying picture of tempests and the terrible might of the vast, powerful sea. The dynamics switch from soft to heavy, calm to violent, in the blink of an eye, recalling the unpredictable savagery of the ocean. The album opener, “Further South,” is a fine example of this. It begins softly with delicate guitar notes, subdued drumming, and clean vocals for the first 4:30 before the song explodes into heavy, doomy riffs. Such dynamics are showcased throughout the entire record, which makes it superior to its predecessors. This album is dynamic in every way. It's hard to stress how critical this is - dynamics are the difference maker between good albums and great albums. The Giant is really all over the place in terms of musical ideas and sounds. It's even accurate to say post-rock is an influence here. I never thought I'd say it... post-rock influenced funeral doom.

The vocals on this album are also incredibly dynamic and diverse, ranging from whispers to refined cleans to bellowing shouts to gutterals to screams. Sometimes he sounds like a ship captain verbally abusing his crew. The vocals change up on this album constantly (an aspect of it that I absolutely love), and they're very layered and compliment perfectly every tone this album projects throughout its great length. At times there is an echo present behind them. Even Herbrand Larsen makes a guest appearance on "Antarctica the Polymorphess" and "Fathoms Deep Below" to offer yet further vocal diversity.

Overall, the cleaner production, increased dynamics, influence, carefully crafted atmosphere, and the shear massiveness of this album sonically makes it album of the year. This is the most ambitious body of art that's come out of the metal department in a number of years. For those who aren't fans of Ahab's first two albums - give this one a chance. It's a different animal altogether.

HIGHLIGHTS: "Aeons Elapse (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RC5QdHxImTA)" (listen for the guitar solo at the 9:35 mark), "Deliverance" (the best part of the song starts around the 4:00 minute mark... the riff and then the solo), "Antarctica the Polymorphess" (the best song on the album, and possibly the best song of 2012), "The Giant (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhnSFlLwaYY)" (incredible vocals between 1:00 and 2:00)

01-03-2013, 07:01 PM
"With his arms upstretched, with his arms upstretched, with his arms upstretched, can you get him, do you see him? Hang on, hang on, hang on..."

That alone had me completely in love with the album before the music even really started. After ten years I knew they were finally back. The first four minutes are by far my favorite part of the album.

01-03-2013, 10:21 PM
Solid set of albums! Although I disagree with your first sentence in your The Giant review...

Awesome thread bro!