Friday, 21 December 2012

Albums of the year 2012

Once again musicians around the world have released new music this year. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, and some of it was just plain average. Critics are already raving about about how great a year it was for music, and it sure was, but that's to be expected with the vast range of new music released every year. So sit back, relax and read through my top ten albums of the year. Then leave an angry comment about me missing out Frank Ocean/Alt-J/Meshuggah (whatever your musical preference).

10. Periphery- Periphery II: This Time It's Personal 

The follow-up to their self-titled 2010 debut album continues in a similar vein, with abundances of technical and experimental guitar licks that also bring in some more electonic elements. At times it almost borders on metalcore territory before bursting into, dare we say it, djent style riffing. On the slowed down 'Erised' and 'Epoch' the band calm down and really let loose their experimental and electronic urges to great effect.

9. Converge- All We Love We Leave Behind

Who said Punk Rock was dead? With the constant influx of beatdown heavy hardcore bands cropping up it's always refreshing to hear a band that doesn't rely on the same formula as everyone else. And Converge are that band. Maybe it's experience (this is their 8th album), or maybe they felt as long as the music's powerful, who needs to stick to a trend? Either way, there's a good reason Decibel Magazine named this their album of 2012.

8. Pulled Apart By Horses- Tough Love

Released way back in January and like fellow band beginning with a 'P', Periphery, PABH have also avoided the second album syndrome by releasing a successor to their self-titled debut in Tough Love that pretty much matches that outstanding album. Full of short, snappy blasts of their indie/punk blend, it's full of riffs that will hook you in time and again like a forgetful tuna fish. Of course it's in the live environment where these tunes really show their mettle. And their from Leeds (like me) which helps!

7. Architects- Daybreaker

These boys from Brighton don't hang about. Not only have they released two albums less than 18 months apart but both have been featured on my top albums of the year(s). Whether it's the politically charged 'These Colours Don't Run', which would win 'breakdown of the year' if such a thing existed, or the anthemic 'Alpha Omega', Daybreaker is packed full of storming, hardcore fuelled, slabs of goodness. It further enhances their reputation as the cornerstone for the new breed of British hardcore/metalcore acts.
6. 3 Inches Of Blood- Long Live Heavy Metal

From the title alone you know what you're going to get, straight up heavy metal (and no it's not a live album, that's 'live' with a short 'i'). No trends, no breakdowns, no half shaved heads, this is metal in its truest form. It may be like a pack of Cheetos with added Parmesan for some with all the singing about metal, women, beer and battles, but get past that and you'll discover 3IOB's true genius in crafting classic metal. Cam Pipes' monstorous vocals weaved with the skillful guitar playing on the likes of 'Metal Woman' and 'Leather Lord' are fine examples of a band sticking true to the heavy metal formula.
5. Torche- Harmonicraft

There's no doubting Harmonicraft has got to be album cover of the year, but is it a Kim Kardashian, pretty on the outside but empty inside or more Carol Vorderman, the best of both? Unsurprisingly it's a Carol, (why else would it be on this list?) Torche's psychedlic inspired hard rock is jammed full of little quirks, having clearly taken influence from other stoner/sludge acts with a hint of Black Sabbath thrown in. While Steve Brooks' vocals are superb, it's the fuzzy guitars that really complete the package and reflect that distinctive cover art as best they could.
4. Winterfylleth- The Threnody Of Triumph 

The British Black Metal scene continues to rear its head with a new wave of bands recently emerging in the genre's homeland and Winterfylleth's latest release was by far the best of this year's offerings. Creating vast sonic landscapes that truly capture the essence of the English countryside and heritage, as is their aim, the harsh vocals and soaring guitars form a bleak yet majestic outlook. They may not be Norwegian or wearers of corpse paint, but it is atmospheric and  reminiscent of a cold day on the moors. Perfect winter listening.. 
3. Devin Townsend Project- Epicloud

After last year's double release of Deconstruction/Ghost nobody knew what Hevy Devy would do next. Turns out he decided to mix the vomit-inducing concoction of pop, metal and a dash of 80s cheese to create Epicloud. Fortunately it's more than the sum of its parts, doesn't cause nausea and is absolutely brilliant. From the space age rocking of 'True North', the calm 'Divine' to the majestic highlight 'Grace', it once again confirms Devin's musical versatality and genius. Even the repetitive 'Lucky Animals' makes up for it with the brilliant Gangnam bothering video. Check out my review of Epicloud here.

2. Parkway Drive- Atlas

Parkway Drive continue doing what they do best on their fourth album Atlas, which is producing top of the range metalcore. It's brutal, rage filled music done to perfection, full of breakdowns, guitar squeals, double bass drumming and Winston McCall's mighty roar. From the first notes of tension building intro 'Sparks', it's clear this is going to be one adrenaline laced ride. Four albums in and they don't look like slowing down or releasing anything less than outstanding, cementing their place as one of heavy music's most consistent bands. Check out my review of Atlas here.
1. Anathema- Weather Systems

When I first heard Weather Systems I knew it was special. A few listens later and I knew that unless there was another Thriller released it would be album of the year. Having left their extreme metal roots behind for good it seems, Anathema have formed an album more Pink Floyd than Cradle of Filth. And it is wonderful. The lead male and female vocals intertwine beautifully as the guitars rise to crescendos before falling back down. It is an album full of emotion that comes across perfectly. Rather than read these words, the easiest way to get a sense of the album's amazingness is to go listen to it. Do it and you'll never look back.

Honourable Mentions
Black Breath- Sentenced To Life: Second triumph for these death 'n' rollers
7 Horns 7 Eyes- Throes Of Absolution: New breed of technical death metal
Cancer Bats- Dead Set On Living: More of the same from Canadian Hardcore's finest
Big Boi- Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors: The all rapping half of Outkast succeeds again on his second solo outing

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Recent Ramblings

Fear not for I do return. Once again I have failed to keep this blog updated regularly, partly because I forgot my password and partly because I have been too busy doing other bits of writing/reading/watching elsewhere.

All being well I will be starting up a new blog soon and updating it regularly (at least weekly). More details to come soon.

So, here is a list of links to some recent reviews I've written:

Devin Townsend Project live at Northumbria Students Union. Fantasic warm up for his Retinal Circus show down in London.

Parkway Drive - 'Atlas' album review. Parkway Drive continue from where they left off. Sounds exactly like Parkway Drive.

Architects live at Northumbria Students Union. Just listen to the song below and imagine that breakdown live. Need I say more? 

"You had it all, you fucking pigs"