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Ken McGrath Best-of 2012

By: Ken McGrath

Those are some sweet wristbands, McGrath...

So 2012 is almost over and the year, for the most part anyway, flew by. Another consistently good one for recorded metal and rock, for me personally, it was out in the live setting that really set this year apart from others in recent memory. From big-name headliners at festival shows, to bands with only had a handful of songs for an EP playing to a few people in a tiny venue, to (stand-out gig of the year by miles) Rammstein demolishing Dublin’s O2, it was here that the passion and power of the music could really be felt.

So record sales might not be what they once were and we lost at least two great record labels this year (Hydra Head and Richter Collective) but as always it’s onstage that rock and metal really comes into its own, pulling and shoving reactions from the people who have gathered together to worship at the altar of the almighty riff. Keep buying the music (physical or digital, whatever your favourite poison is doesn’t matter) so these bands can continue gigging, then go out and see them when they pass through your town. But most importantly don’t forget to support your local scene too. Everyone has to start somewhere.

1. Ihsahn – Eremita (Candlelight)
The former Emperor main man rightly deserves the title of genius. As a songwriter he’s a master of the craft, one which the metal world is blessed to have working in the field. Prog and jazz elements fused together in an album that transcends the genre in the same way that Opeth do, but without removing the distortion of course.

2. Deftones – Koi No Yokan (Reprise)
Anticipation was high following the return to form that was Diamond Eyes and Sacramento’s finest didn’t disappoint, again bringing a wonderful mix of beautiful melodies, chunky riffs and Chino’s often poetic lyrics, all wrapped up in a package of great songs.

3. Every Time I Die – Ex Lives (Epitaph)
Every Time I Die once more proved themselves to be the fucking business. There’s nothing more that needs to be said.

4. Muse – The 2nd Law (Warner/Helium 3)
Their transformation into the modern day Queen continued as Muse unleashed an album so odd it made the weirdness of The Resistance seem tame in comparison. Utterly bonkers, in the hands of anyone else you just wouldn’t be able to accept it yet somehow Muse get away with being so bold. And they keep getting bigger too, go figure. Long may this oddness continue.

5. JK Flesh – Posthuman (3BY3)
Dark, pulsating, nightmare rhythms and tension from Godflesh/Jesu brainiac Justin K Broadrick. An unsettling creation that breathes menace with every note, like an industrial trip-hop binge gone bad.

6. Crypts – Crypts (Sargent House)
Dark, ambient electronica featuring ex-These Arms Are Snakes vocalist Steve Snere. Sleazy, nasty, spooky stuff. Witch House may be a stupid tag to be lumbered with but it actually sums these guys up. If you’ve already fallen for Crystal Castles or ††† (featuring the Deftones’ Chino Moreno) then tilt your ears this way.

7. Torche – Harmonicraft (Volcom)
You can’t help but smile when you’re listening to Torche, no matter how cloudy it is out. They’re the sound of sunshine. Big, honking guitar lines, punchy bass bombs dropping and choruses you could surf through the sky on. Superb stuff.

8. Neurosis – Honour Found In Decay (Neurot)
A bit of a slow burner here to be honest since it didn’t see Neurosis casting about in a new direction, instead sticking closely to the sound of their more recent records. Seeing the songs live gave it a whole new light as realisation dawned that Neurosis were refining what they’ve done over their last few releases and building on themes.

9. Mono – For My Parents (Temporary Residence)
Instrumental music from Japan that reaches inside your chest with warm fingers and plucks at your core, inducing a sense of euphoric sadness while projecting never created films onto the backs of your eyelids. Emotionally draining and yet thoroughly enjoyable.

10. Bats – The Sleep of Reason (Richter Collective)
The final release from Richter Collective is a fine swansong. Bats fuse their jagged melodies, hooks, and slicing drums firmly with a sharp lyrical tongue that cuts deep against religious nonsense. Intelligent, catchy and highly evolved. You don’t need to have faith, the evidence is right here.

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