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Justin Donnelly Best-of 2012

By: Justin Donnelly


Pharaoh 

Justin Donnelly Top 10 songs of 2012

Just for the record, this isn’t really a collection of my favourite songs of 2012. Instead, this is rather a collection of acts that didn’t make it into my top ten releases for the year (I’m someone who listens to an album, rather than individual songs). So for this category, I’ve decided to pick my favourite tracks from my favourite runner up albums. Anyway, here it goes...

*Click on each song title to listen*

1. Silversun Pickups – “Skin Graph” (from Neck of the Woods)
Silversun Pickups’ third full-length album was something new for the band, with the album taking a bit of work from the listener to fully appreciate. And while I was disappointed upon a first listen, the album has won me over with repeated runs. Album opener “Skin Graph” is a clear example of the band’s rather adventurous sound, but a rocking effort nonetheless. If you like this song, you’ll definitely enjoy the album as a whole. 

2. Tremonti – “So You’re Afraid” (from All I Was)
Creed/Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti stepped out on his own this year with All I Was, and what a great little album it was. “So You’re Afraid” is fairly indicative of what listeners can expect from the album, with Tremonti delivering some harder edged riffs, strong and likeable vocals and plenty of memorable melodies to sweeten up the whole package. Of course, we’re not talking about anything remarkably ground breaking, but it does rock.

3. Pharaoh – “The Year of the Blizzard” (from Bury the Light)
I’m not really a huge fan of power metal, but I do enjoy some bands that do it well. And one of my favourites is U.S. act Pharaoh. Bury the Light is another great effort from the band, and “The Year of the Blizzard” is a perfect example of the band’s ability to incorporate ‘70’s inspired progressive rock into their familiar modern power metal framework. This is definitely one of my favourite tracks on their latest release.

4. Lostprophets – “Bring ‘Em Down” (from Weapons)
So Weapons is a bit patchy in places, but a great song is still a great song right? “Bring ‘Em Down” is the huge opening track on the Welsh alternative/hard rocker’s newest release, and it’s a killer. Everything from the clever build up at the start, the huge shifts in tempo (The transition from hard rock verses to stadium inspired choruses), the mix of electronic elements and the clever use of guitar riffs is well put together, and overall represents Lostprophets at their best.

5. Feeder – “Hey Johnny” (from Generation Freakshow)
Much like Lostprophets’ latest effort, Feeder’s new effort is frustratingly patchy, and probably not top ten material. But like the Lostprophets, when they get it right, Feeder can really hit the mark. “Hey Johnny” is without a doubt classic Feeder with its catchy choruses, simple guitar solo and infectious vibe throughout. It’s taken Grant Nicholas a long time to pay tribute to original drummer Jon Lee, but this track has been well worth the wait.

6. Municipal Waste – “New Dead Masters” (from the Fatal Feast (Waste In Space))
After missing the mark with Massive Aggression, Municipal Waste made sure that their latest effort The Fatal Feast (Waste In Space) hit the mark in a major way. “New Dead Masters” is classic Municipal Waste with its fast thrashing riffs, humour lyrics and distinctive vocals from Tony Foresta. If there’s one thing this track makes clear, it’s that few do crossover thrash as good as Municipal Waste these days.

7. Anathema – “Untouchable Part 1/Untouchable Part 2” (from Weather Systems)
Anathema are undoubtedly peaking right now, with everything the band releasing sounding nothing short of amazing. Weather Systems isn’t quite up to the same level as their former effort (2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here), but it does come close. The two part opener “Untouchable” is one of the album’s truly beautiful efforts, and one of my definite favourites. Quite simply, this eleven minute epic has everything you could have possibly asked for from Anathema.

8. Chris Cornell – “Call Me A Dog” (from Songbook)
I’ve never been overly excited by live albums, but I do enjoy the odd unplugged effort. And while Songbook is a good album, it’s Cornell’s rendition of Temple Of The Dog’s “Call Me A Dog” that really stands out. Cornell’s voice may not be what it once was, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t hit every note here on the night. This version can proudly stand alongside the original as an absolute classic.

9. Steven Wilson – “Luminol” (from Get All You Deserve)

What we have here is a new track from Steven Wilson’s upcoming third solo effort which has made its debut on his latest live DVD Get All You Deserve. “Luminol” is quirky, jazz influenced at times, progressively edged throughout and dark and melodic in equal measure (especially towards the tail end). I’ll be curious to see how different the studio version is on The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), but if it’s half as cool as this take, it should be something else. 

10. OSI – “Wind Won’t Howl” (from Fire Make Thunder)
As this point, I don’t expect Kevin Moore to radically change direction or sound with his music. And nor should he. He has a unique sound, and it works well for him. Album number four for OSI wasn’t a huge departure from the band’s familiar minimalist/progressive rock sound, but it did reveal a few new ideas to fans. One of those few new influences and ideas to emerge on the album came in the form of “Wind Won’t Howl”, which featured some rarely used layered backing vocals from Moore alongside some highly effective piano and guitar work. This is one of the real gems to be found on Fire Make Thunder for sure.


Biggest surprise of 2012: T&N. The idea of a band re-recording some of their older hits is hardly a new one. And if history tells us anything, it’s rarely a good idea. So when I heard that three original members of Dokken had plans to re-record some of their best known tracks alongside some originals, I wasn’t overly enthused. After all, I’m one of the few who actually bought a copy of Dokken’s Anthems. But T&N (Tooth And Nail) have managed to breathe some new life into the old classics. Sure, there’s nothing here that surpasses the originals (although Jeff Pilson’s take on “Into The Fire” is an interesting twist on the original), but overall the album was an unexpectedly fun listen, and one that I’m sure I’ll return to from time to time.


Best newcomer of 2012: Call Me No One. In the early days, I was a big fan of Sevendust. But as the years roll on, I’m hearing less and less progress in the band’s sound – so much so that their albums tend to all sound the same these days. So with that mindset, I wasn’t holding out for anything remarkable on Call Me No One’s debut effort. Man, was I wrong. The project formed by vocalist/guitarist Clint Lowery and drummer Morgan Rose is really something quite different from their work in Sevendust, and in all honesty, a damn sight more enjoyable than anything that band has come up with in years. I can only hope it’s not a one off effort.


Biggest disappointment of 2012: Stone Temple Pilots. Fans have been waiting for a live DVD from this band for a long time, and now that we have one, all I can say is that Alive in the Windy City is a bit late coming, and a wasted opportunity at that. The concert is good, but far from depicting a band in their prime. And the so-called extras are quite thin on the ground. The interviews are painful to watch (aside from being released a year before this release), and seem tacked on. And bands and labels wonder why people aren’t forking out their hard-earned cash on music these days.


Most anticipated album of 2013: Ginger Wildheart. The albums I’m most looking forward to next year are the impending new releases from Ginger Wildheart – namely his heavy sounding double Mutation effort (The Frankenstein Effect and Error 500) and his ‘noisy pop’ side-project Hey! Hello! alongside vocalist Victoria Liedke. Hell, if Ginger’s next album was a spoken word effort based on readings of the phone book, I’d be a first day buyer!

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