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David E. Gehlke Best-of 2012

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...that would be majestic Cleveland in the background

Many moons ago when yours truly was writing for a now-defunct major metal publication, we were told to start thinking about our respective year-end lists in August or September, only because the magazine had to meet specific circulation deadlines. This, of course, presented a rather large conundrum given the deluge of releases that came out in October and November, so invariably, certain worthy albums were omitted simply because they weren't given due process. Even though Blistering is a web-based publication with virtually no deadlines whatsoever, the list you're about to read was started in July, primarily as means of trying to stay on top of the immense number of releases that came our way...and to retain one's sanity. Can't undermine that one.

Much like last year, 2012 was punctuated by a first quarter release, this time in the form of Arctic Plateau's
The Enemy Inside. It barely skirts into metal territory, preferring to rely on the unparalleled singer/songwriter abilities of mainman Gianluca Divirgilio, who penned some of the year's most moving songs in the form of "Abuse," "The Enemy Inside," and especially "Big Fake Brother," which as you'll see on the next page, took the #1 song spot. Such a soundtrack came in handy throughout 2012, as the dreaded word "adult" was thrust to the fore in light of turning 30. However, this unavoidable transition was made rather easy thanks to my dearest girlfriend, who like metal, remained dependable, entertaining and above all else, lovable. Now, if only my cherished Cleveland Browns would get their act together then I'd be 3/3 for the year, but as Meatloaf once said: "Two-out-of-three ain't bad..."



1. Arctic Plateau - The Enemy Inside (Prophecy Productions)
On the surface, there's nothing dazzling about The Enemy Inside. It's not flashy, nor does it contain any sort of searing messages or revelatory ideas that prompt one to sit up and take notice. Rather, what Arctic Plateau did, was write a dozen simple, basic "rock" songs (can't call these guys metal 'cause they're not), each of which rely on a central hook. The end result is a collection of utterly memorable compositions that has yet to lose their appeal, a shining beacon amidst extreme metal fury and retro time-mongering.



2. Alcest - Les Voyages de l'Ame (Prophecy Productions)
Directly in stride with 2007's Souviners d'un autre monde, Les Voyages de l'Ame takes Neige's dreamworld a step further, creating a lush, ethereal body of work that is as gentle as the summer breeze the Frenchman is so fond of. It's easy to imagine how broad Alcest's crossover appeal would be if they sung in English, but for now, they're one of the underground's absolute treasures.



3. Winterfylleth - The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)
Easily the best modern British black metal band, Winterfylleth made considerable progress on their third opus, The Threnody of Triumph. Its attack rings familiar, as mounds of blast beats, scathing vocals, and flexible chord arrangements come raining from the sky like a million arrows, but the real satisfaction from this album comes in the form of its melodic underbelly. Used sparingly, yet in the perfect spots, it makes The Threnody of Triumph a triumph of the black metal spirit.



4. Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (InsideOut Music)
Everyone into forever. Everything a part of me. Dancing all into whenever. Effervescent quality!



5. Grand Magus - The Hunt (Nuclear Blast)
JB and the boys finally got the North American deal they have long deserved with Nuclear Blast, and The Hunt doesn't disappoint. No band does meat and potatoes metal (should that be a new term?) better than Grand Magus, and it's readily apparent that with cuts like "Valhalla Rising" and "Storm King," global domination for the Swedes doesn't appear to be such a far-fetched idea after all.



6. Evemaster - III (Inverse)
Long delayed and mired in distribution issues, Evemaster's third album III is a resolute, call-to-arms for melodic Finnish death metal. Operating without the safety net of clean vocals (save for a few guest spots from the ubiquitous Dan Swano), III grinds out four stunning compositions in succession to start the album, sealed with soaring melodies that never run out of steam.



7. Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol (Century Media)
Paradise Lost's second tour of duty in metal-ville has bore various enjoyable fruits like 2005's self-titled album and '09's Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us, yet Tragic Idol is their best album since the invincible Draconian Times. Tragic Idol is vintage PL; mature, stoic, with doom-laden melodies reigning supreme.



8. Black Breath - Sentenced to Life (Southern Lord)
For all the hype of praise heaped upon the various retro death metal bands that came out of the woodwork in 2012, nobody did Swedish death/thrash better than Seattle's Black Breath. On their sophomore Sentenced to Life, tear-your-head-off death metal ran headfirst into banzai thrash, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The heaviest album of the year, bar none.



9. Majestic Downfall - The Blood Dance (Chaos)
The sleeper band here, Mexico's Majestic Downfall reside somewhere between the frozen fields of Dance of December Souls-era Katatonia and Amon Amarth, of all bands. It's a unique combination, certainly, and The Blood Dance has all the depressing dynamics and complex song arrangements to lure in the brood who fancy early 90's doom.



10. Katatonia - Dead End Kings (Peaceville)
A token entry this is not, for Dead End Kings rang rather hollow upon its first dozen listens. Fact is, Katatonia songs are like earworms, slowly working their way into the listener's conscious. Before you know it, the alluring, minimalistic tone of numbers like "Hypnone," "Leach" and "Lethean" are embedded in one's cranium, just like other masterworks in their discography. And while Dead End Kings isn't quite at the level of some of its predecessors, it's another reminder that no one does dark metal better that Renkse, Nystrom, and co.


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