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Dan Barkasi Best-of 2012

By: Dan Barkasi

Barkasi is a future cat-hoarder. It's evident by the look in his eyes...

Another year has passed, and we have another list. None of you expected that, right? Wait, you did? Well, I tried to be crafty.

This is always a fun – yet somewhat insanity-laden – process to undertake. It’s always the same problem, too. There are simply way too many great albums out there to make this an easy decision. But alas, it must be done. Therefore, I submit myself to great anguish in order to compile this documentation of the finest metal to grace the ears this calendar year. The hardship endured for you Blisteringites is simply mad.

Anyhow, per usual, a number of absolute gems missed the cut. Lahmia’s incredible debut album was oh so close, as was Katatonia’s fantastic Dead End Kings. When a Katatonia album misses the cut on a list created by this guy, there must be some damn fine discs on there. Aeon released what may be the best pure death metal album of 2012, while Testament, Kreator and The Forsaken brought the thrash better than any others. In the Silence and Nothnegal put together fantastic first full-lengths, while My Dying Bride, Fragments of Unbecoming, Anaal Nathrakh, The 11th Hour, Evoken, Gojira, Grand Magus, and many others had albums that are also worthy of the highest of praise. A great year to be a fan of great music, no doubt. So, who did make the final list? Scroll on and find out! And thanks for reading!

1. Ne Obliviscaris – Portal of I (Welkin Records/Code 666 Records)
More than just a mere album of the year, the genius of these Australians can’t possibly be overstated. Portal of I is an accomplishment of which hasn’t been heard in a very, very long time. This album literally has everything – majesty, speed, heaviness, melody, beauty, and every other positive description imaginable. Ne Obliviscaris is the most unique and powerful band that has come around since who knows when. If you’re a music fan, you need to hear this genre-eclipsing album. Perfection.

2. Arctic Plateau – The Enemy Inside (Prophecy)
This one-man band of Gianluca Divirgilio’s is a true work of art. Harkening the melancholic styling of what I can loosely describe of a Katatonia meets Anathema sort of sound, Arctic Plateau has an album for the ages with The Enemy Inside. Beautiful and heartfelt, if one wants something poignant and haunting, this is it. Songs like “Idiot Adult,” “Melancholy Isn’t Only For Soldiers” and “Wrong” are a few of the fine examples of songwriting mastery on display.

3. The Foreshadowing – Second World (Cyclone Empire)
Now this is melodic doom done, well, perfectly. The Foreshadowing are a potent group, and their third release Second World is a huge piece of downtrodden goodness. Singer Marco Benevento must have one of the most chilling voices in all of music, which fits with the mood of the band’s compositions. Tracks like “Havoc” and the title track are perfect examples of a band who appear to be unstoppable.

4. Be’lakor – Of Breath and Bone (Kolony)
Easily one of the most unique and progressive melodic death metal bands one is to ever hear, Be’lakor have been a hidden Aussie gem for quite some time now. The “hidden” part needs to end, as this band demands attention. Be’lakor ‘s extremely varied song structures and tempo shifts are every bit as technically impressive as they are inspiring. “Abeyance” could be one of the best opening tacks of all-time, with the whole album following suit in an unpredictable and majestically stellar fashion. A huge accomplishment!

5. Okera – A Beautiful Dystopia (Self-released)
What a debut that came straight out of nowhere! Our trio of Aussies is complete with this melodic doom/death hybrid that really has a taste of somber guitar riffs that mesh with the equally harsh and soothing. “The Black Rain” is a fine example of what Okera are all about – poignant writing skills, slick instrumentation, and gripping atmosphere. A must hear from a young band that is beyond sharp.

6. Alcest - Les Voyages de L'Ame (Prophecy)
Dreamlike blackened shoegazers Alcest are one of the most prominent melancholic bands on the market today, and Neige’s esteemed prowess continues with Les Voyages de L’Ame. “Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles” is a colorful example of what Alcest is capable of – biting riffs and a little edginess, soon followed by a combination of clean guitar work and soft vocals that can intoxicate the senses. Les Voyages De L'Âme is the tops for this record, featuring a most memorable introductory piece that is to die for. And so is this entire album.

7. Mors Principium Est - …and Death Said Live (AFM)
After much turmoil with the band, Mors Principium Est managed to refocus and release an absolute killer of an album. It’s as if these Finns never lost a beat from Liberation = Termination a long five years ago. An impressive feat, and with gigantic songs, crushing guitars and one of the tightest recordings this year, it’s as if they never left. Now, please, tour the world.

8. Before the Dawn – Rise of the Phoenix (Nuclear Blast/Frostbyte)
Losing such a big part of the band in clean vocalist/bassist Lars Eikind, one had to wonder what would become of Before the Dawn. Now without clean vocals at all, and a more intense melodic death style attack, mainman Tuomas Saukkonen proved all the doubters wrong with a masterfully written (no shock there) and poignant album in Rise of the Phoenix. Nothing can stop this band.

9. Daylight Dies – A Frail Becoming (Candlelight)
After a four-year gap between albums, the North Carolinian masters of all things doom finally returned with the follow up to Lost to the Living, one of the best works the genre has seen in quite some time. The result was a powerful piece in A Frail Becoming that solidified once again that Daylight Dies is nothing to be messed with. Songs like “Sunset” and “A Final Vestige” will become inarguable classics of the style.

10. Anathema – Weather Systems (Kscope)
The kings of all things downtrodden and lushly melodic, Anathema returned with yet another slab of genius in Weather Systems. Soothing and full of soul, Anathema can tug at ones emotions seemingly without effort. You try listening to “Untouchable Part 1 & 2” and not feel something profound. In a word, mesmerizing.

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