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Matt Coe Best-of 2012

By: Matt Coe

New-found Blistering fav, Ne Obliviscaris

Matt Coe Top 10 Songs of 2012

You would think in this iTunes, portable digital device world it would be easier for this reviewer to pick out his 10 favorite songs of the year. I think this list is even more difficult than the albums of the year above, solely because I am one of the last of a dying breed. I enjoy full albums. I feel like it’s a snapshot frozen in time of where a band was at in terms of their development, their musical chemistry, and their outlook on life. To take one or two songs and single them out as opposed to the whole record is like watching a chef cook you’re a five course meal and say you only liked the appetizer or dessert.

Rack my brain though I did, and as you will see I decided to throw in some songs from artists who didn’t make my top 10 (but would have made a top 20 if your esteemed editor allowed me to do so). So grab your favorite beverage, enjoy the tunes and let’s hope for an incredible 2013, as the metal music we love will not fade away.

*Click on each song title to listen*

1. Testament – “True American Hate” (from Dark Roots of Earth)
Spitfire Chuck Billy vocals, speedy riffs, Gene Hoglan flexing his drum chops with some blast beats- and of course the prolonged solo with both Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson trading the shredding and melodic enhancement to the song. Went over incredible in a live setting too - the ultimate ‘testament’ to metal’s longevity.

2. Circus Maximus – “Last Goodbye” (from Nine) 
The best progressive metal in my mind takes you on a journey- lyrically, musically, and emotionally. At over nine minutes, this powerful arrangement contains it all...and could even bring a tear to a few eyes.

3. Lahmia – “Nightfall” (from Into the Abyss) 
Who knew that melodic/power oriented death metal existed in Italy? This four-piece incorporate a lot of their domestic power metal heroes with the older Swedish death brigade, and this excitement makes for continual entertainment time and again.

4. Love.Might.Kill – “XTC” (from 2 Big 2 Fail) 
There’s just something special these days about musicians who can incorporate the best aspect of hard rock and melodic metal – without all the excess fluff or image overload. The guitar hooks you in first then the smooth vocal melody rides over the top. This is a great weekend highway song, cruising with the top down and the wind flowing through your hair.

5. The 11th Hour - “Tears of the Bereaved” (from Lacrima Mortis)
Dutch doom metal from multi-instrumentalist talent Ed Warby. Vocals that resemble the mighty Robert Lowe and a massively swinging riff that should make you sway to and fro, along with some growls from the depths of dirt. Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus would be proud.

6. Devil’s Train - “Find New Love” (from Devil's Train) 
In the guilty pleasure category is this bluesy based hard rock/ melodic metal act. Featuring Jorg Michael on drums and R.D. Liapikis on vocals- the real highlight of this slinky mid-tempo effort is the lead break from Laki Ragazas around the second measure: from 2:56-3:15 it’s a shredder’s dream in a John Sykes-meets-Yngwie manner done tastefully.

7. Ne Obliviscaris – “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope” (from The Portal of I)
Just when you think this track is going to be purely folk-driven with its acoustic guitars, tribal drumming and swirling violin solo, the epic cut travels into the land of progressive, avant-garde death/black metal. The best songs hit you in different ways with prolonged exposure. This is only the beginning of hopefully a long career for these Australians.

8. Accept - “Hung Drawn and Quartered” (from Stalingrad)
It’s always refreshing to know that a band who are in their 50’s can still play with true, traditional metal pride like this opening cut from Germany’s Accept. Featuring the desirable sing-a-long chorus, dual harmonies throughout, and the high pitched screams from new vocalist Mark Tornillo. Who says metal is a youth-driven movement?

9. Pharaoh – “Year of the Blizzard” (from Bury the Light)
The longest cut on their fourth album Bury the Light, maybe this helped cast a vision into what we could expect for the new Rush album. It’s like their 70’s era coming to life in the world of traditional metal. Another song with an amazing Tim Aymar vocal delivery and some crafty soloing and riffing from Matt Johnsen and guest soloist Jim Dofka. One of the best American acts going in this genre.

10. Asphyx - “Deathhammer” (from Deathhammer)
Sometimes you just need a heads down burst of death metal fury to make your problems go away. These Dutch veterans know how to do so in quick style with the title track from their latest album. Martin’s van Drunen's blood curdling screams and the jackhammer riff roll wins me over every time.

Biggest surprise of 2012: Ashent. With a new vocalist in hand, this Italian progressive metal band pulls out all the stops to be impressive on Inheritance. Sometimes the guitars are harsh and abrasive, at other times clean and majestic. The rhythm section can be jazzy at one moment, straightforward and rock-oriented the next, while maneuvering time signatures and tempo changes. Symphony X, Evergrey, Cynic, and a bevy of other influences make this a third record worth savoring.

Best newcomer of 2012: The Night Flight Orchestra. With two members of Soilwork and the bassist from Arch Enemy in a band, you know the debut record will be cooking. Who knew that Speed Strid could croon so well, and that this act would bring the 70’s rock scene back into 2012? Their Internal Flight is a great album for background listening or just jamming to on the bus, especially as all the city names in the titles fly by…

Biggest disappointment of 2012: Adrenaline Mob. Two of the best progressive metal musicians at their craft: Russell Allen of Symphony X and Mike Portnoy (ex-Dream Theater) decide the world needs another modern hard rock offering with loads of low-tuned groove, guitar squeals and obvious audience slam parts on their Omerta debut. I understand the desire to stretch out, but this is least common denominator material that even Linkin Park, Sevendust and Disturbed wouldn’t move beyond the rehearsal room floors.

Most anticipated album of 2013: Saxon - Sacrifice. This UK traditional metal act has been on a proverbial roll since Unleash The Beast for my tastes- proving the old guard can keep up with modern technology and incorporate a little more aggression while not forsaking their known style. Given the rising interest in the movement in North America, could a more solid touring schedule be in the cards here as well?

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