It is that time of the year again, when one is supposed to complete the difficult task of placing the albums released this year in the order that one likes them the most. It's been one hell of a year, with lots and lots of my old favorite bands releasing an album. I mean, when was the last time the "Peaceville big three" (Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride & Anathema) released albums the same year? Never. That's when.
The same goes with the now old-school gothic metal bands such as Cradle of Filth, Moonspell, Therion and Tiamat. I guess I'll have to wait till next year for albums from The Crown, Arcturus and Satyricon, which I'm really looking forward to hear.
All in all, it's been a damn good album year - much better than last year I must say. I would even go so far as to say that the first four albums on my lists will be future classics. Perhaps I will include them as Metal Monuments sometime in 2025 - who knows?
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
Bell Witch - Longing
Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Cryptopsy - Cryptopsy
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandoras Piñata
Down - Down IV, Pt. 1 - The Purple EP
Dödaren - Maen
Evoken - Atra Mors
The Gathering - Disclosure
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol
Soulfly - Enslaved
Therion - Les Fleurs du Mal (yes, it actually grew a little bit on me)
20. Domgård - Myrkviðr
Style: Black metal
Thematically, this band could be placed in the same anti-cosmic tray as Dissection and Arckanum. This is of course nowhere near the quality of any of those bands and I kind of like their previous "I Nifelhels Skygd" (2010) a bit more. Still, this is solid and quite slow black metal with feeling. Not bad at all.
19. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
Style: Gothic metal/rock
In my original review, I gave "Dead End Kings" a 6 and said that it sounded exactly as I thought it would. After a few months, it still hasn't grown on me the way I'd like and it still pretty much feels like "just another album" from Katatonia. This might be the most good-looking album cover of the year though.
18. Marduk - Serpent Sermon
Style: Black metal
Sort of like the case with Katatonia above, the new album from Marduk feels like "just another album" from these seasoned veterans. The fans are now used to the incredible vocalist Mortuus and the band's sort of redefined sound, but it would be nice to be surprised by the band's sound for once.
17. Anathema - Weather Systems
Style: Atmospheric rock
I wish that Anathema would some day return to their doomy rock/hearfelt music they did between 1996 to 1999. I know that it most likely will never happen, but I miss that wonderful music so much. Today, they still make quality music in the field they're currently operating in, but I know they can do so much better. Still, this is an improvement from their previous album.
16. Bloody Hammers - Bloody Hammers
Style: Occult doom metal/rock
This is something that I usually don't find very attractive, but these guys sure have crafted a couple of interesting songs + they have a vocalist that doesn't annoy me instantly as most vocalists in this time of music tends to do. A solid debut album. The song "Witch of Endor" is a must-hear!
15. Cradle of Filth - The Manticore and Other Horrors
Style: Gothic/symphonic black metal
Far from their heydays in the 90's, but better than the last couple of albums. That's a statement that I think that most Cradle of Filth-fans can agree with me on. For further information, read my review.
14. Testament - Dark Roots of Earth
Style: Thrash metal
Thrash has never been my genre-of-tea so to speak. But I sometimes surprise myself in liking stuff that I normally don't. Such is the case with the latest album from these veterans. I simply cannot deny the overall quality of the songwriting on "Dark Roots of Earth". Read more in my review.
13. Moonspell - Alpha Noir/Omega White
Style: Gothic metal
I stated in my review that this was quite the disappointment and I still stand by that fact. But I had such high hopes for this double album so the letdown might have sounded a little too much in my review. It's still nowhere near a classic album and I still know they can do better than this. A couple of really strong songs gives them the 13th spot on my list.
12. Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead
Style: Doom/heavy metal
As the case was with Moonspell, this was also a somewhat disappointment compared to the masterful "Death Magic Doom" (2009). Still, it's Candlemass for F's sake! They're veterans in their field and Leif Edling is a gifted songwriter - there's no denying that. Read more in my review.
11. Carach Angren - Where the Corpses Sink Forever
Style: Symphonic black metal
This was a huge surprise for me. A dutch symphonic black metal band that sings mainly about about ghosts and haunted stuff? Imagine a mix between the good parts of old Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir (but with a better vocalist), some of the horror-moments of The Vision Bleak and a bit of eclecticism of Sigh and you have Carach Angren.
10. Mgła - With Hearts Toward None
Style: Black metal
Polish black metal done in a Norwegian old-school style. That's about the only thing you should know about this band. I only discovered this band this year but I must say that they've crafted more interesting albums in the past. Still, this is sort of song-writing quality is rare in modern black metal.
9. Hexvessel - No Holier Temple
This is labelled as neofolk, which might be a bit odd description as far as I'm concerned. What you should know about Hexvessel is that it features vocalist Kvohst from avantgarde-metallers Code and DHG and he gives a wonderful performance on this music of 70's-influenced progressive rock and acoustic calmness. Soothing and catchy!
8. Burzum - Umskiptar
Style: Black/folk metal
Although, I've never been a big fan of the Count's past, I really enjoyed the last albums "Belus" (2010) and to a larger extent, "Fallen" (2011). This new one kind of follows in the same footsteps, albeit managing to be even less black metal and more folk-ish. In other words, another step in the right direction.
7. Shining - Redefining Darkness
Style: Depressive black metal
As I stated in my review, this was a very positive surprise for me, as I haven't been very fond of the band's previous efforts. But they really hit the nail on this one. Dreading, surprising and soothing at the same time!
6. Huldre - Intet Menneskebarn
Style: Folk Metal
I heard this band's demo from 2010 and wasn't really that impressed. But a proper production on this album upped the ante on those that followed from the demo + the adding of another bunch of solid, real folk metal songs made me raise my eyebrows in disbelief and shake my head to the music. This is easily the most impressive folk metal debut album since Ásmegin's back in 2003.
5. Sigh - In Somniphobia
Style: Extreme avantgarde metal
A concept album about dreams, nightmares and insomnia done in an entirely bizarre Japanese avantgarde-way? You bet! This is music that cannot be described properly and has to be heard to believe it. More avantgarde and dare I say even better than the last album from Arcturus? Yes, "In Somniphobia" is that good!
4. Tiamat - The Scarred People
Style: Gothic metal
I didn't have much expectations from my old goth-favorites, but did Tiamat surprise me or what? I love it that feeling; When expectations are low and you are smashed in the face with lots of damn good songs. Read my review for further information.
3. Vintersorg - Orkan
Style: Folk metal
If there's a new album from my absolute favorite band in the world, Vintersorg; then it's almost certain that said album takes the number one spot on that year's list. The fact that didn't happen this year, has nothing to do with "Orkan" being a bad album in any way. On the contrary actually. But the competition was just so fierce in the top this year. Also, maybe I as was a bit over-ecstatic in my original review.
2. My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures
Style: Gothic/doom metal
Along with number 3, My Dying Bride is one of my absolute favorites and "A Map of All Our Failures" is another solid album in the band's vast discography of masterpieces. No other band does gothic doom metal the way that these lads do. Always solid. Always impressing. Read my review for further information.
1. Borknagar - Urd
Style: Progressive black metal
I guess that a sort of circle is completed now that the very first album I reviewed on this blog got the number one spot of 2012. I originally gave it 8 out of 10 but this album just kept growing and growing until it became a monument in it's own. The band really upped their song-writing abilities to maximum on "Urd" and having such an amazing trio of vocalists as Borknagar have with Vintersorg, Vortex and Lazare really showers the listener with layers of vocals and choirs. They all do amazing jobs but as I stated before - it is largely due to the fact that the band has found their way back into writing epic songs such "Epochalypse", "Roots", "The Beauty of Dead Cities", "Frostrite" and "Mount Regency" that makes "Urd" such a solid album.