For me, this year was about the riff. There were plenty of interesting and accomplished extreme records that required head space and time to process, however, 2012 was kind of crazy and I've found myself leaning towards catchy, passionate (but still angry!) beer drinking records. Sorry to all the killer black metal, doom, and avant guard bands, you guys are great, but right now I'm trying to shotgun this 'Gansette and sing along with the chorus.
KREATOR |Phantom Antichrist [Nuclear Blast] | Almost 30 years into their career, these Germans have boiled the best parts of thrash metal into a year-topping metal record. The band falls into mid-tempo grooves without forgetting the importance of blinding speed, plays melody without forsaking aggression, and comes through with a shred fest at the top of its class.
TORCHE |Harmonicraft [Amnesian Records] | Torche have gone into full-scale candy-land warfare. Calling this a metal record might be a stretch, but for all the saccharine riffs and bubble gummy vocals there is wonderful musicianship and impossibly good songwriting. This record reminds us that it's okay to have fun.
CONVERGE |All We Love We Leave Behind [Epitaph] | It's almost hard to write about this band. It's like watching that Iron Maiden documentary where they get off stage and it's all bathrobes and pizza and you're like "Yo fuck this band! Touring is supposed to hurt." Converge STILL sound as blood thirsty as they did two decades ago, continuing their path of creativity and destruction while maintaining ethics in an industry where half the fucking bands are pretty much working for a car company. Every album by this band is great and this is the newest and greatest. I hope their tours still suck.
PALLBEARER |Sorrow and Extinction [Profound Lore] | Few of 2012's eight-minute-song-writing metal acts captured my attention, but only one had me falling completely in love. Pallbearer make doom with emotional weight. The genre's trademark depression is balanced perfectly with a sense of melancholy that shimmers through epic guitar work and soaring vocals.
GRAVE |Endless Procession of Souls [Century Media Records] | This record sounds like violence. Can you smell the flesh bubbling off its bones? Take a sniff, it's totally brutal.
CODE ORANGE KIDS |Love Is Love / Return to Dust [Deathwish] | Kurt Ballou makes guitars sound more aggressive than anyone else and his production on this record from four Pittsburgh teenagers leaves you feeling like you're trapped in a tiny room while this young crew pound ferociously at their instruments. Without the floaty Mogwai-ian interludes the album might be suffocating, as it stands it's a high water mark for modern hardcore.
WITCHCRAFT |Legend [Nuclear Blast] | This is a beautiful man vocal-ed candle lit retro stoner metal record with production so crystal clear you can almost hear the drummer breathing. My friend Harwood always talks about how ZZ Top have sneaky solos, well I wouldn't ever leave these riffs alone with my girlfriend... they sound like they're about to crawl up your leg with a wink and a tickle.