20. Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I
Almost 10 years in the making, Australian prog band Ne Oblivicaris finally release their debut album Portal of I, and it definitely sound like the product of a decade of work. While three of the tracks showed up on a demo they released that was released in 2007, the majority of the album is finally seeing the light of day on people’s computers and mp3 players just now. Ne Obliviscaris are a 76-piece, featuring, a harsh vocalist, two guitarists, bassist, drummer, and clean vocalist/violinist. These guys write really intricate, layered, long-winded progressive metal that has tons of sounds thrown in. The three bands that I think sum up their sound are Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Unexpect. Now, that’s sounds like a winning combination, so why isn’t this top 10 for me? Well, while these guys are definitely writing some of the most ambitious metal I’ve heard all year, with tons of technical precision, beautiful melodic passages, blistering riffs, and really just tons of more sounds, it does come as slightly try-hard and there seems to be formulas happening. Like how every song needs an acoustic guitar passage that last a minute or two too long. And the clean vocals seem too forced and whiny at times. Plus when most every song goes over ten minutes and there’s 7 on the album, it’s a long listen. This is definitely one of the best recent efforts in progressive metal. Tons better than every djent/progcore/technical deathcore/pseudo-prog record released this year by far. This is definitely a great start for what can be a truly amazing band, there just needs to be some polishing in some areas.
19. Anhedonist – Netherwards
Anhedonist create some of the heaviest, eeriest and tortured death/doom of the year with their debut record, Netherwards. The album comprimses of four tracks, most extending to about ten minutes, with exception of one 5 minutes long, and all tracks are straight, heavy-as -could-be death/doom that is scary, evil and hellish. These guys have riffs that sit for minutes at a time and slowly evolve as the song progresses. There’s sounds vary on the album, going from slow doom riffs with low growls to double bass driven passages with higher growls and such. Each passage they write is done tastefully and sounds great. There’s not much else I can really say. This is album is straight evil, heavy-as-hell death/doom that you should check out now!
18. Ash Borer – Cold of Ages
The new sons of northern (California) darkness, Ash Borer, return to 2012 with their sophomore album, Cold of Ages, representing actual northern California with their own, unique strain of black metal. Of course there are bound to be comparison to other American black metal bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, since they do incorporate atmosphere and slower, droning moments in pieces, the album shows a lot of influence from 2nd wave black metal, with a lot of the albums being fast, tremolo picked guitar leads and blasting drums. But whether they’re adhering to older or modern styles of black metal, they’re creating really dark, grim, chilling music. The album only has 4 songs but each span over 10 minutes, the longest stretching a little past 18. Each song sits on certain themes for larger chunks of time, but when things change they’re sudden and unexpected which makes them quite engaging. Each section is thickly layered and expertly crafted, some ever featuring guest vocals from Worm Ouroboro’s Jessica Way that add a really eerie feeling. Cold of Ages is a breath of fresh air in the American black metal scene, using both old school and modern styles and sounds to make some chilling new black metal.
Convict of All Flesh
17. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Like Most people, I was taken completely by surprise when I found out GY!BE were releasing a new record, ten years since the previes. In fact I first found out on 4chan, before there was an official announcement from the band, when somebody posted that they were selling a new record on vinyl at their live shows. A few days after seeing that post, the news was all over the Internet, on every music news website and the album was on most every file sharing site. The album is made up of two songs that have been part of their live repertoire and two knew drone tracks. I’m not really big into the whole drone thing, so I look past those and look at the two songs. Both songs are just seconds short of 20 minutes a piece, so you definitely get a lot of material. Both tracks are full of every thing you know and love about these guys. Awesome melodies that get fleshed out like no other and turn into huge bombastic crescendos and multi-part tracks. The first track, Mladic, is definitely more on the rock side of post-rock, with the really groovey middle-eastern theme present through out most of the track and really loud and energetic drum tracks. The second track, We Drift Like Worried Fire, goes threw more sounds and emotions, from the cheery first section, to the really dark and eerie section in the middle that evolves into an uplifting crescendo that then falls back into a movement that feels unsure, but slightly optimistic, driven by violin and drums. Of course my brief overviews of the two tracks are just that, brief overviews. A few sentences can’t begin to describe how good these songs are. Only reason this album is a little low on the list is because it’s just that, two songs. And listening to new Godspeed makes me think about how I’ve had 8 opportunities to see them and I MISSED. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU. Either way, great stuff coming from truly wonderful band.
We Drift Life Worried Fire
16. Worm Ouroboros – Come The Thaw
The Bay Area makes its first appearance on the list with Worm Ouroboros’ sophomore record, Come the Thaw. For those unfamiliar with this band, they’re a doom/neofolk/shoegaze/dark ambient trio consisting of two female vocalists that also take care of guitar and bass. Aesop Dekker of Ludicra and recently, Agalloch handles what little drums are being played on the record. The band’s signature sound is a very-slow building wave of sound that is very dark and distant while maintaining a sense of serenity and innocence that builds up than comes back down to crash against the shore. Vocalists Lorraine Rath and Jessica Way have voices that are very sweet but when combined the music they produce sound very pained. The music often starts with just one instrument then both vocalists come in providing vocal lines that are often a sort-of call and response in contrary motion. After a few minutes, the other instruments join in to set a ground for the song, and they build on it and let it churn for a while. Of course, that’s not every track; there is plenty of variation on the record. The album is full of different flavors, from the dark ambiance of Release Your Days, the heavy riffs on Further Out, and plenty more. The guitars are both very clean with reverb and delay or super heavy and fuzzy. Bass either has a clean or fuzzy tone and the way the guitar and bass interact with each other is much like the vocals, focusing on a common theme or melody, but playing something completely different, creating a heterophonic texture to the music, while the drums keep everything together. They truly have a unique sound and it is really something special. If you like music that is just as dark and melancholic as it is serene, check this out.