Friday, December 28, 2012

2013 Crystal Ball

Did you have a good Christmas? Yes/No? Sick of your extended family yet? Drink too much yet? Never mind, you’ve still got the fun and frolics of New Years to look forward to. For today, I’m continuing another tradition on this blog. It’s been two weeks or so since those lovely year end lists, which means that it’s time for the Crystal Ball. Yeah, I’m still calling it that. In case it wasn’t obvious, it’s a preview of some of the (potentially) great records coming out in the new year ahead.

One of the first releases of 2013 that’s garnering attention is the long awaited return of Cult of Luna, who will release their new record Vertikal in January and it’s already received some promising reviews. The first two months of 2013 will be jammed with some quality bands releasing records and the list is impressive, with Iron Lung releasing a new LP and a potentially impressive debut from Secrets of the Sky around the corner. Death metal horror will come in the shape of Portal’s Vexovoid in February along with a new EP from Finnish grinders Rotten Sound that same month.

Light Bearer
There will be a slew of records in those two months that I’m personally quite excited about like Cloud Rat’s Moksha, Fen’s Dustwalker and Skagos’s Anarchic. The latter released two lengthy new tracks recently and looks set to be the Cascadian black metallers’ finest, most enthralling moment yet. One of the most promising things will be Light Bearer’s new album Silver Tongue. As you may know, I adore the last album Lapsus and the band will begin recording in early January, with an online release possible later that month and the physicals coming later in the year.

2012 was a pretty good year again for Irish releases like Eternal Helcaraxe, Sodb, Fern Floor and Drainland to mention a few. But 2013 is already looking pretty enticing with Altar of Plagues (more on them in a paragraph or two) but also, black metal project Slidhr who released two new tracks earlier this year and will finally unleash Deluge through Debemur Morti and then there’s Refraction. If you remember correctly they released my favourite Irish album in 2011 and a new EP is on the cards. Add to that, one of the country’s finest doom offerings Mourning Beloveth will unveil Formless in February, which has promised to be a departure of sorts but still quintessentially Mourning Beloveth. Meanwhile, Cork’s Rest will release I Hold The Wolf. There are plenty more to mention but with possible new releases from Zhora, Coalinga, Twisted Mass, and who knows who else at the moment, around the corner, it should be a decent year on this island.
Altar of Plagues
2013 is slated for a number of other records big and small that still have no official release dates just yet like Carcass returning with a new album after 18 years, which is causing equal levels of anticipation and anxiety as to whether the death metal legends have a great album left in them. Meanwhile, Altar of Plagues are nearing completion on a new album that’s been promised to be something of a step into new territory, featuring supposedly ten tracks opposed to the usual four on the previous albums. The only update offered by the band so far was: "We are nearing the completion of our third album. If you expect us to repeat ourselves you will be disappointed."

As for labels, it looks like Southern Lord will be continuing their trek into crusty lands, having signed Agrimonia for the release of their next LP in 2013 and what other signings and new records from recent signings they have up their sleeves is anyone’s guess.

The Flenser were a label that truly impressed me throughout 2012 with the new album from Wreck and Reference, the Kólga demo and the split cassette between Merkaba and Wheels Within Wheels. Already slated for new albums from Botanist and Aussie BM outfit Loss of Self as well as Kólga hopefully releasing a full-length, it’s full steam ahead for the label.

The inhumanly prolific, and one of the very best sludge bands of recent years, Thou will inevitably release a record or a few in 2013, with luck it may be a new full-length. Speaking of prolificacy, Fuck the Facts are also working on a new full-length offering to follow-up 2011’s absolutely storming record Die Miserable. Then on the more mainstream metal end of the spectrum, Killswitch Engage will be releasing a new album with Jesse Leach back on vocals. 15 year old me is stoked beyond belief.

Some of the death metal albums I’m eagerly anticipating is the new LP from Baring Teeth, new song HERE, as well as Ulcerate who are now with Relapse Records and last record The Destroyers of All was just stunning. Ok, time to stop. The word count of this post will just keep pushing and pushing if I don’t cap this off now. The moral of the story – there is a lot coming. Keep your ears peeled. Happy New Year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Christmas (already?)

Hello all! Just a quick post here to say Merry Christmas to you. Yes, just you. I like you. Cheers for reading the blog over the last year. It’s much appreciated. Posts will be scant over the next few days but the usual 2013 preview will be coming up shortly, expect that someday between now and New Year’s Eve. Anyway, take it easy and have a good Christmas.

P.S. In case you missed the year end lists, just clickity click click HERE

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Rotting Christ track

Perhaps Greece’s finest metal export, Rotting Christ have released a new song, ‘In Yumen / Xibalba. The song is taken from their forthcoming album Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (True His Own Spirit, in English), which is scheduled for release on March 1st. The band’s most celebrated material is, unsurprisingly, their early output and the last few records can be divisive, much like 2010’s Aeolo and while this new song is reasonably solid and well executed it’s certainly not something to write home about unfortunately. Stream the track below.

Rotting Christ will also be at next February’s Redemption Festival in Dublin, playing an exclusively older material set, taking only from their demos and Thy Mighty Contract, Non Serviam, and Triarchy of the Lost Lovers albums.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cloudkicker says Merry Christmas

"Thank you all very much for another really cool year. I could say a lot but instead I made a song that you can download for free for Christmas. Don’t even try to pay me for it because it is a gift. I’ll have it on Bandcamp until early January sometime."

So sayeth Ben Sharp. Cloudkicker had another great with another great album in Fade and much like in 2010, the man has written, recorded and posted this new song ‘Signal/Noise’ all for us for free download as a Christmas gift. Isn’t that nice of him? Stream and download below.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Integrity track

Last week, Indie Recordings in Norway announced the signing of metallic hardcore legends Integrity, and with it the release of a new 7” Black Heksen Rise in February and they’re streaming the title track now. Integrity’s last album was Detonate Worlds Plague in 2011. There’s no word yet if the band has a new full-length coming up soon, though presumably if there is it’ll be brought to us by Indie Recordings, at least in Europe. Listen to the new song below.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Momentum - Herbivore

Momentum are back with a new record - Herbivore. The album was recorded, mixed and released in just a few days but alas it will be the band's swansong as they're calling it a day but with this album they're leaving a heap of destruction behind. Click HERE for the review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Amarok / Pyramido split LP

Two sludge doom bands in Amarok and Pyramido have teamed up for this rather complementary split LP, which was released by Orca Wolf Records earlier this year. Check out the review HERE.

CVLT Nation's Top 6 Irish releases of the year

And just when you thought the lists were over! Yes, I did a Top 6 Irish releases list for the good folks at CVLT Nation. With it only being six releases to work with there may be some glaring omissions. Oh well. Check it out HERE.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Portal release first track from Vexovoid

Portal are genuinely scary sometimes. The Australian death metal enigma is a band that has successfully created an air of ghastly mysticism around them in everything they do, from their presentation to their live shows and to critically, the deathly music itself. Listen to their album Swarth if you still need convincing. 

However, come February they will release a new record Vexovoid (through Profound Lore). Pitchfork are currently streaming a new song now entitled ‘Curtain’, a harrowing, unfathomably heavy and dark track that merely suggests Portal aren’t stepping out of the shadows anytime soon. Listen HERE or below.

Mourning Beloveth unveil new artwork

Mourning Beloveth have revealed the artwork for the forthcoming double album, Formless, along with the following update, confirming its release on February 15th. 

The new Mourning Beloveth album, Formless, will be released on DCD and vinyl on February 15th 2013. An album like no other MB album yet bearing the trademarks we have scraped into the ether over the last 4 releases. It is a journey from the cold sweating centre of the skull to the scratching edges of reality.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Momentum post new album online

Momentum have released their new album Herbivore online. The band swiftly recorded, mixed and posted the record tonight in impressive fashion after only recording on Sunday. The scathing hail of politically charged melodic hardcore, featuring members of Light Bearer, Fall of Efrafa and Black Mass, is the follow-up to last year’s incredible Whetting Occam’s Razor album. Herbivore features eight tracks and includes some guest vocals from Protestant vocalist/Halo of Flies head honcho Cory. This will be the band’s final release, check it out HERE. The full, proper review is coming soon.

New track from Cork's Rest

Cork's Rest will release a new LP entitled I Hold The Wolf through Out On A Limb Records in February and the instrumentalists are streaming a new track today called ‘Descent With Modification’, which is total rapid fire from the band that we’ve come to expect at this stage. Have a listen below and keep an eye out for the LP when it drops.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Iron Lung tunes

Big thanks to Operation Grindcore for the heads up on this. Yes, Iron Lung have a new LP called White Glove Test coming out in January and are streaming a brand new song – ‘Plasma Separatist’, which is the short caustic slab of grinding powerviolence that is exactly what you would expect from the duo by now. It’s been five years since Iron Lung has released an LP so needless to say White Glove Test is quite anticipated. Listen to ‘Plasma Separatist’ below, as well as a second new track from the forthcoming compilation, Iron Lung Mixtape II.

Baring Teeth play new song at Violitionist session

You remember Baring Teeth, right? They released their first album in 2011 called Atrophy and it was pretty amazing. If meshing Ulcerate and Flourishing with small tasteful levels of mathcore is at all your thing then Baring Teeth are the band for you. Unfortunately, the trio has been quiet for the last while until this week where they posted a live session with Violitionist, playing two tracks from the album and most importantly – a new song entitled ‘Mountain’, which alludes to promising new things from the band, especially in that opening riff, and Andrew Hawkin’s vocals are growing leaps and bounds.

The band also explains that they are working on a new album a called Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins. “We have two songs completed and several more in the offing, so hopefully we can finish writing by the summer and release it in the winter. Once that comes out, we plan on doing some extensive touring”, according to the interview accompanying the session. View the full interview and session HERE, or watch the video of the live performance of ‘Mountain’ below

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Rotten Sound song

Rotten Sound have posted a new tune from their forthcoming EP Species At War, which is being released through Season of Mist in Europe and remaining with Relapse for North America. The Finnish grinders are one of the most consistent grind bands of recent years and this EP marks their first release with the label and this song, ‘Salvation’, suggests that their consistency is only to continue. Have a listen to the track below. Rotten Sound also confirmed a European tour last week with Martyrdöd and Enabler, which is stopping by in Dublin on March 1st.

The Ocean to release new album in April

The Ocean have confirmed they will release a new album on April 29th, as yet untitled. The band posted an update on Facebook today explaining in more detail that the record will be a single release unlike the dual album affair of Heliocentric and Anthropocentric in 2010, but will be available in two formats – instrumental and with vocals. The band has plans to play both versions live and have also confirmed a number of European dates with Cult of Luna along with an appearance at Roadburn. The record will be mixed by none other than Jens Bogren. Read the full update HERE.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cult of Luna - Vertikal

All this talk of new releases for 2013 last week, and now we have the first review of arguably one of 2013's most anticipated records, Cult of Luna's long awaited new album Vertikal. Click HERE for the review of what is one of their career bests, along with a track to stream.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Light Bearer post Silver Tongue teaser

Light Bearer who are working on their new record Silver Tongue have posted a brief four minute snippet of music with the following blurb below giving us the lowdown on what’s happening. Click HERE to listen on their Facebook. Silver Tongue is without doubt one of my most anticipated records for 2013. If you’ve read any previous posts on this blog about Light Bearer then you’ll get why.

Hey guys,

A few weeks back some people were asking for a little snippet from the new album. Unfortunately we can't give away any more than we already have. Some people may remember the video we posted a few months back of one of the melodies but I thought it would be a nice idea to post a recorded version for people to listen to and get a feel for Silver Tongue. Much like Lucifer's monody, this alludes to the sound of the Mitochondrial Eve on our next record. Please bare in mind that this was recorded very primitively and when it appears on the record it will be a completely different beast! (Lots of Strings, Piano and even Trumpet, Trombone and French horns!) We're really excited and anxious to record the next chapter of the story.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Issue three of Ghost Cult online now

Issue three of Ghost Cult Magazine is online now. It features some great interviews but on the review front you can read words I flung together on Car Bomb’s new album and the reissue of Death’s Spiritual Healing. Get reading HERE as there are already cool things brewing for issue four.

More new music: Burnt Books

It’s around this time of year, between the haze of EOY lists that we start to look towards new music on the horizon for 2013. Already this week we’ve had new snippets of music from Cult of Luna and Kongh. South Carolina’s Burnt Books are another hot prospect for 2013 as they ready the release of their debut full-length through At A Loss Recordings. Their Facebook page lists their genre as avantgardecore, so clearly they’re a bit tongue in cheek when it comes to genre classifications but boiling them down to their essence, Burnt Books are a hardcore band that have tinkered with the template with some noise rock and judicial doses of melody. It’s nothing new by any means but still promising. Decibel are streaming the track ‘Selfish Friend’ now. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Kongh track

You can chalk Kongh down for another exciting album due for release in 2013. Sole Creation will be the Swedish sludge band’s third album, and their first in four years. Due for release in February, the band is now streaming a new cut in the form of the album’s title track, albeit an edited version. The clip is near seven minutes, which gives us a taster of what the band has been working on, songs are typically in the 10-15 minute range from this band so who knows what else is up their sleeves? Have a listen below.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

End of year report 2012 Part 3: Top 25 albums of the year

The third and final instalment – Top 25 Albums of the Year. Thanks for sticking with me through these lists and actually reading them (PART ONE and PART TWO in case you missed them). As always compiling this list was difficult (yes, woe is me) and some albums unfortunately didn’t make it. Honourable mentions go out to Converge, Baroness, Knelt Rote, Idylls and Kayo Dot. Sorry, guys. The top spot was hotly contested too; photo finish one might say. Anyway, cheers again and keep an eye out for the Irish releases post on CVLT Nation soon. Read on!

25: Lento – Anxiety Despair Languish
Italians Lento just about make this list with an album released in late October – Anxiety Despair Languish. The instrumental sludge band have a string of solid and impressive albums under their belt already, namely last year’s Icon record so it’s rather heartening to hear them effortlessly top it with Anxiety Despair Languish. Heavily layered with very busy compositions, each of these songs is methodical but still manages to be relentless and even aggressive when needs be.

24: Column of Heaven – Mission From God
Mission From God is arguably 2012’s best powerviolence/grind record and for good reason. Not only is it a ruthlessly aggressive record, it’s one soaked in despair and horror. A concept album of sorts based on Peter Sutcliffe, aka The Yorkshire Ripper, and his reign of terror over northern England during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the aggression of Column of Heaven’s music and the severity of the themes couldn’t be more complementary, and the fact that Andrew Nolan grew up in the area, experiencing the tension first hand makes it all the more affecting; and the sample of an interview Sutcliffe gave in prison, which is used to close the album, is one of the most unnerving things you’ll hear on an album this year.

23: Tempestuous Fall – The Stars Would Not Awake You
Tempestuous Fall is Australian Dis Pater’s foray into the world of funeral doom (a man more associated with black metal, primarily his Midnight Odyssey project and to a lesser extent, The Crevices Below). The Stars Would Not Awake You is definitely a good move in the doom direction as it’s head and shoulders above many other doom metal records released this year and can stand proudly next to Ahab and Evoken. A staggeringly long listen, Tempestuous Fall effortlessly glides through the 63 minute running time of this debut with heart wrenching melancholy in every towering riff, guttural vocal and discomforting clean croon.

22: Blut Aus Nord – 777 Cosmosophy
The mysterious French black metal entity, Blut Aus Nord conclude their tense and thrilling 777 trilogy with Cosmosophy, a totally hypnotic and even beautiful listen. Cosmosophy isn’t so much a black metal record, in fact it rather defies much of the genre boundaries we occupy our time debating. Still undeniably intense though, the record is heavily layered and emotionally charged, dripping with melancholy in the brooding clean vocals and meandering lead guitars that mostly characterise the album. With this trilogy triumphantly at a close, it begs the question just what is next for Blut Aus Nord?

21: Eternal Helcaraxe – Against All Odds
Hands down, the best black metal record to ever come out of Cavan. Eternal Helcaraxe are a supremely underrated band in this country and the quality of this album speaks to that. Meshing orthodox black metal and shades of paganism, unabashed melody and clean vocals and a few Primordialisms for good measure, Against All Odds is battle ravaged and ready to take on more. The running theme of war and battle throughout the album truly comes alive in the battle cries of tracks like ‘We Assist Death’ and ‘Invictus’ and not to mention the grandiose closer that is the title track.

20: Wildernessking – The Writing of Gods in the Sand
Let’s be honest for a moment, South Africa isn’t exactly one of the first places we look to when we’re in search of new, compelling black metal; shame on us really, because we could very well have missed The Writing of Gods in the Sand. It’s the first release from Cape Town’s Wildernessking, the band formerly known as Heathens. Deciding to start fresh, the band changed their name and found a new purpose under the guise of Wildernessking and thank them for it, as The Writing of Gods in the Sand is a superbly impressive effort for any band, never mind your first.

19: Samothrace – Reverence To Stone
With just two tracks, though expansive and lengthy ones mind you, Samothrace effortlessly crafted one of the year’s finest stoner doom records. Of course the influence of Sleep can be heard on this record, but Samothrace still make a conscious effort to make something a little more them and the sublime gentle melodies that wash over the dense walls of entrancing riffs on the 14 minute ‘When We Emerge’ lays as proof that what we have here is a band capable of the captivating. Meanwhile, ‘A Horse of Our Own’ descends into some wretched depths, displaying a gripping dichotomy at the same time.

18: Wreck and Reference – No Youth
No Youth came out of nowhere. This duo makes some of the most enthralling noise you’ll hear for some time, sans guitar but laden with myriad electronics, frenetic drumming and disturbing vocals. Dipped in misanthropy, there is disdain and scorn oozing from every pore of this record, whether it’s the haunting intro of ‘Spectrum’ or the uneasy volatility of tracks like ‘Inverted Soul’ and ‘Winter’. When No Youth isn’t exploding in caustic rage, it’s seething in hostility once again, anxiously and agonisingly getting closer to falling over the edge once more.

17: Assembly of Light – Assembly of Light
Assembly of Light’s self-titled album is one of the year’s pleasant surprises. The all-female choir, based in Rhode Island, first started to become known somewhat thanks to their collaboration with The Body on their All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood album. Assembly of Light is simply power, the collective of voices creates a staggering atmosphere and is complemented by the fragile addition of other instrumentation and vocals courtesy of members of The Body and Braveyoung, as well as a guest appearance by Daughters vocalist Alexis Marshall. However, this album is centred on the captivating voices of these women, whose vocal presence is just astounding.

16: Martyrdöd – Paranoia
Along with Wolfbrigade, Southern Lord continued their crust signing spree with fellow Swedish punks Martyrdöd and their latest LP Paranoia, and it’s an album effortlessly jammed full of adrenalized fury. The opening riff of ‘Nog Är Nog’ is completely unforgettable, and in fact this is an album loaded with hooky riffs that don’t come at the expense of ferocity, as evidence by ‘Köttberg’, and it all comes to a head with the closer, the utterly uncompromising ‘Varje Val Har Sitt Pris’.

15: Wodensthrone – Curse
2012 has been chock full of black metal records of the highest quality, from all angles, and unfortunately so many are omitted from this list, heartbreakingly so. Wodensthrone’s second album Curse was nearly guaranteed a spot though. Released back in April, it marked a massive leap in ability and ambition from Loss. At nearly 70 minutes, Curse is a sprawling epic in every sense of the word, conjuring images of vast forests and devastatingly cold winters but all the while still ridden with a sense of melody that ties everything together. An impressive record to say the very least.

14: The Great Old Ones – Al Azif
Exploring the works of HP Lovecraft is certainly nothing new and plenty of times throughout 2012 you’d find a press release shamelessly describing x band or x album as “Lovecraftian”. The Great Old Ones, from Paris, are one such band but thankfully the near-pastiche ends there, as their debut Al Azif is one of the year’s very best black metal records. Taking in a little bit of that "post-" element, TGOO have been easily compared to Altar of Plagues and Wolves in the Throne Room, perhaps unfairly so, but there’s certainly a similarity in intensity to be heard, particularly with the former. More importantly though, The Great Old Ones still sound fresh and invigorated and where they go next could be something very special.

13: Absolutist – Ave
This one sort of came out of nowhere too. The Aberdeen, by way of Northern Ireland, trio released their reasonably solid demo in 2011 but the jump from that to this LP, Ave, is quite the feat. Effortlessly blowing it out of the water, Ave is a savagely belligerent crust record that’s terse and concise in its ferocity.  Each of the seven tracks is a caustic tale of cathartic fury that keeps augmenting in intensity with each song, eventually coming to a boiling point with album highlight ‘Tectonics’ and the subsequent short closer of ‘Vile Communion’.

12: Alcest –Les Voyages De L'Âme
Alcest’s continued growth continues to astound and the conscious steps away from black metal with every release has actually worked wonders for the band who are now much more in tune with a shoegaze and post metal vibe. Les Voyages De L'Âme is Alcest’s most affectingly beautiful and equally dramatic album yet and one that’s completely enthralling. Work has already begun on a new record, one where Neige says any kinds of harsh vocals will be scrapped entirely and the band are working in Sigur Rós’ studio, perhaps suggesting a path even more ghostly and ethereal than before.

11: Oak Pantheon – From A Whisper
Following the impressive EP effort, The Void from last year, with their debut full-length, From A Whisper, is folk-tinged atmospheric metallers Oak Pantheon. Obvious comparisons to Agalloch aside, From A Whisper is another beautifully crafted record on this list. Flourishes of black metal are more than prevalent at times but it’s the lush post rock sensibilities and the gentle acoustic folk moments at play too that make this an album you can fearlessly lose yourself in.

10: Downfall of Gaia – Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes
Listen to Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, then listen to Epos. It almost sounds like a different band. Epos was below average, unfocused on a main aim and a little too ambitious given the band’s ability at the time. Two years, and an amazing split record with In The Hearts of Emperors, later and the German band is on Metal Blade and have released one of the best postwhatchamaycallit records of 2012, but still espousing much of their hardcore sensibilities. Raw and energetic but still poised with melody and cerebral atmosphere, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes’ ambition is, this time, met perfectly by the band’s honed ability.

09: Cloudkicker – Fade
Ben Sharp cannot be stopped. Under the guise of Cloudkicker, he’s been releasing at least one record a year. 2011’s subdued Let Yourself Be Huge and 2010’s animated and edgy Beacons were two of his finest, and newest effort Fade sees the instrumentalist strike a wondrous balance between the two. Still creeping more towards his heavier tendencies with riffs galore (‘Our Crazy Night’ is easily one of the year’s very best riffs) and equally, intense and sombre moments like the mid passages of ‘Seattle’, there really doesn’t appear to be any end in sight for Sharp’s abilities.

08: Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I
It was far too long coming. Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris released their hugely impressive demo The Aurora Veil in 2007 and a series of stop/starts hindered the album, whether it be line-up shifts and even guitarists being deported. Finally, in 2012, Portal of I has arrived and it’s everything the BM turned prog metallers needed to make to justify the waiting, meshing lush melodies of latter Opeth and Enslaved with several violin lines and the to and fro of clean and coarse vocals. It’s grandiose and sprawling in every aspect, all aided by the polished and roomy production. A definite triumph, top to bottom.

07: Scott Kelly and The Road Home – The Forgiven Ghost In Me
If you ever have a chance to see Neurosis’ Scott Kelly play a solo live show, you should take it. His previous solo records are emotionally heavy to say the very least, for just a coarse voice and an acoustic guitar, and that emotion blooms into something else entirely in a live setting. After a few years, Kelly has put out a new solo record under a new name – Scott Kelly and The Road Home, entitled The Forgiven Ghost In Me. Bringing in select few guest musicians, Kelly has churned out a heart achingly beautiful acoustic record, once again paying homage to the folk elders that informed his craft but also reflecting on his own expansive musical career.

06: Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
You can’t help but be impressed by how one band can manage to reinvent themselves with every release and that’s exactly what Between the Buried and Me have done over the last ten years, reaching another zenith with this, their most ambitious effort to date. Beginning last year with the EP release The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, the band commenced the introduction to this sprawling concept record that clocks in at a staggering 72 minutes, and it coalesces the myriad components that make BTBAM such an unrivalled force in progressive metal into one impressive feat. And while not exhibiting the same awe as, say, Colors, The Parallax II: Future Sequence is still utterly monumental.

05: Pig Destroyer – Book Burner
It’s hard to think that anyone was expecting anything else than this. Book Burner may not be of the same visceral quality of Terrifyer or Prowler in the Yard, but the long awaited new Pig Destroyer album is every bit as fierce  and vigorous that it needed to be; and granted, with it comes some changes. New drummer Adam Jarvis (Misery Index) has been subject to some scrutiny in filling the (rather large) shoes of one Brian Harvey, but his clinical performance speaks for itself. Meanwhile, Scott Hull’s riffs are untouchable and JR Hayes’ vocals sound more pissed off than ever and the lyrics are just as unnervingly stirring too.

04: Enabler – All Hail The Void

Talk about a band that sounds invigorated. If there’s only one way to describe All Hail The Void, it’s adrenaline burst. Enabler’s metallic hardcore, as clichéd as it sounds, gets in your face but it doesn’t sacrifice any hooks either, as the totally unforgettable ‘True Love’ will attest in spades or the searing lead riff on ‘Speechless’. There isn’t a bad track to found on this record, it’s start to finish unrelenting and while the album is still confrontational, the cathartic release in each song is an altogether affirmative one. Hands down, the best hardcore full-length of 2012.

03: Anathema – Weather Systems
Anathema couldn’t release a bad album if they tried. Following up 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here was never going to be easy and the debate still stands on whether or not Weather Systems tops it but it certainly matches it anyway. Once again ridden with an overwhelming emotional depth and poise, Anathema have completed their transfiguration from purveyors of gloom to a staggeringly life-affirming, and simply beautiful, collective. The wondrous two part opener ‘Untouchable’ lays as evidence with Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas proving why they’re the most captivating vocal duo of recent years and when the final moments of album closer ‘Internal Landscapes’ plays out and the hypnotic haze you were immersed in for 55 minutes ends, you’ll find yourself lunging for that play button again and again.

02: Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker
Also from Liverpool but totally on the other end of the world to Anathema is Dragged Into Sunlight. Furious, caustic and unhealthy are just some of the words that best describe this band and their general ethos, as portrayed by 2009’s album, Hatred for Mankind. Widowmaker marks an important stylistic shift for the band, fraternising with more doom elements. A single piece of 41 minutes, Widowmaker sees the band move through  a myriad moods and tones (all negative, mind you) and while still dripping with bile, the album is actually totally invigorating as the band has, whether intentionally or unintentionally, crafted a seismic and fiery record that is utterly astonishing and unavoidably absorbing.

01: Neurosis – Honor Found in Decay
Is anyone surprised by this? Probably not, but the top spot was actually a very close call. However, trying to put into words why Neurosis have the album of the year in the end is more or less pointing out the obvious. After five years since Given to the Rising, the band have mustered up a record that is one of their best, if not the best, album since Times of Grace. Honor Found in Decay is every bit as intense and emotionally wrought as anything they’ve done through the years, from the pacey meanderings of ‘We All Rage In Gold’ to the soul and head crushingly beautiful ‘My Heart for Deliverance’ straight through to ‘Raise The Dawn’s sublime and hypnotic close – Neurosis simply just doing what they do better than everyone else.

Thanks for reading.