WOLFBRIGADE |Damned [Southern Lord/La Familia] | Missing out on the larger recognition that their Euro brothers Disfear and Victims have shared, Wolfbrigade once again shrug, releasing a salvo of charred riffs, fiery vocals, and ultra-catchy hooks. Nothing new for this genre, but definitely the best example of arena D-beat since Disfear's Live the Storm and From Ashes Rise's Nightmares before that.
IMPERIAL STATE ELECTRIC |Pop War [Psychout Records] | Pop War is the latest vehicle for Nicke Andersson (Hellacopters, Entombed) to show off just how awesome he is at writing killer rock n roll songs. Pop War is metal in the way that Kiss is metal, but goes even further down the rabbit hole with tambourine tracks and plenty of vocal Beatle-isms. Throw your underwear into the ocean and drive down I-5 with the top down.
BLACK BREATH |Sentenced to Life[Southern Lords] | This record has so many weight-lifting riffs on it you'll feel your testosterone levels going up just listening to it. When drummer Jamie Byrum falls into his half time pocket it's impossible not to start chewing glass and punching strangers. Yet, all the hate is surrounded by real songs. The excellent guitar work bobs and weaves while tempos jostle back and fourth.
Bonus pick: NAPALM DEATH |Utilitarian [Century Media] | The mainstream is so full of teenage Christians half-assing their way through death metal it's refreshing to have Napalm Death release a record that's so full of spit and bile that it's uncomfortable to listen to. Even when you're getting into a groove with the gross gurgling they fuck you with a sax solo and huge clean vocals. I don't even know if I love this record, but the straight up grinders are grimy as shit and I applaud the band for never playing it safe.
Honorable Mention: Neurosis, The Secret, Martyrdod, Goatwhore, Early Graves, Krallice, Kowloon Walled City, Enslaved, Meshuggah, Lecherous Gaze, Phobia, Grave, Burning Love
SPOTIFY: Hear Jonah Livingston's 2012 metal playlist