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Greg Lenzo Best-of 2012

By: Greg Lenzo

Wow, it’s really almost 2013 isn’t it?! Sheesh, time flies…it’s a horrible cliché, but it couldn’t be more accurate in describing my feelings during this time of year. And what a year it’s been- we’ve seen a plethora of noteworthy albums drop in the past 365 days, to the point where I’m having an extremely difficult time choosing only 10…

And I’m genuinely glad that’s the case. It’s really inspiring to note that metal, in all its many shapes and sizes, can still maintain its relevance and move forward despite all the drastic changes taking place within the music industry and in the world as a whole. It’s an exciting time- we’re still in the younger part of the decade, and while some bands are still desperately clinging to the dying gasps of the 00’s, this year has shown us that there are a large number of groups willing to step out and take creative risks in order to define a new period in the genre’s history. Who knows where we’re going to end up in the next 7 years?! I certainly don’t. But I’m confident that the best is yet to come, and in the meantime, I’m going to bang my blonde head and enjoy the ride. And without further babbling, here are some of the albums that helped me ride through 2012, in no particular order.

Job For A Cowboy - Demonocracy (Metal Blade)
I can get really heated when conversation starts about JFAC…between the now-grown deathcore tweeners pining for the return of Doom’s breakdowns and the straight-up DM scene police refusing to give them a fair shake since the band’s departure from their ‘core days, not enough people are taking the time to travel in the middle and recognize the tremendous growth the band has made in the past 10 years. Put simply, Demonocracy sees the JFAC crew at their finest, and arguably among the finest of the death metal genre itself.

Meshuggah - Koloss (Nuclear Blast)
Meshuggah’s music holds a special place in my heart. It seems unlikely that a band with a sound based on rhythmic chaos, hypnotic repetition and crushing sonic weight could ever inspire feelings of a sentimental nature, but I can’t help myself; whether it’s the feverish, explosive speed of Destroy.Erase.Improve., the deadly quicksand grooves of Nothing, or any of the massive tracks from Koloss, Meshuggah’s never fails to bring a grin to my face.

Deftones - Koi No Yokan (Reprise)
If this list had been written based on a ranking system, Koi No Yokan would have taken the #1 spot. No question. The hipster within compels me to ask myself the following question: “Do I like this because it’s awesome, or because everyone else says it is?” It’s true that the latest release from the Deftones crew is getting slathered with praise, but it’s no fad- the hype is fully and completely deserved. The great thing here is that Diamond Eyes was an amazing album and an inspiring comeback…but Koi No Yokan still blows it completely out of the water.

Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)
I was once a firm denouncer of all things rap-related (I mean, look at what happened when rap tried to get chummy with metal? We got Limp Bizkit). But then I stumbled across a young man named Kendrick Lamar. After making waves in the hip-hop underground with his 2011 mixtape Section.80, he returned in October with a concept album telling the story of a kid’s day in Compton. If you ask me, that’s as “metal” as it gets.

Marduk - Serpent Sermon (Century Media)
Serpent Sermon was definitely one of my “wow” moments of the year. In hearing the first single released from the album, the scathing “Souls For Belial," I was all but slack-jawed. This stuff is pure, venomous malevolence in sonic form, and I definitely wasn’t expecting such memorable riffage from a black metal group. With some tasty melodies and guitar soloing thrown into the mix, along with Mortuus’ impeccably tortured vocals, what you get is one of the best albums of the year.

Psycroptic - The Inherited Repression (Nuclear Blast)
In this writer’s opinion, Psycroptic elevated themselves beyond dispute to the top tier of technical death metal with 2008’s Ob(servant), a record that continues to hold incredible replay value to this day. After four years of relative dormancy, anticipation for their follow-up was extremely high. And while The Inherited Repression doesn’t soar to the transcendent heights of its predecessor, it’s still an incredible record and a bold statement from a band that refuses to be imitated.

Gojira - L’Enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)
Well, this one was a long time coming wasn’t it?! Thankfully, Gojira’s long-awaited follow-up to 2008’s The Way of All Flesh sees the group firing on all cylinders, proving that their status as one of the leading forces in heavy music is well-deserved. It’s a fittingly spiritual album, one that puts a greater emphasis on incorporating melody and atmosphere into the band’s gargantuan sound. But by no means does that mean Joey D. and friends are shying away from heaviness - when they really let it rip, it’s still absolutely devastating.

Sylosis - Monolith (Nuclear Blast)
There’s no doubting it - these guys are just good. 2011’s Edge of the Earth was an astonishing accomplishment for the band, earning them a good share of critical acclaim and exposure in the live setting. The dudes wisely wasted little time before entering the studio again, and the results are excellent - Monolith is bristling with energy. It’s got a darker feel than that of its predecessor, and while there’s still plenty of shred and tight playing instrumentally, it seems like the band is extremely focused on developing their songwriting strengths.

Solace - Call & Response (self-released)
Man, was I excited for this one! A solo record from Misery Signals’ lead vocalist Karl Schubach, Call & Response is an intensely melodic, 8-stringed, djent-influenced metalcore extravaganza that, for me, is like comfort food. Yeah, yeah I know the “-core” stuff is taboo, and has been so for years now. But when it comes to Misery Signals, and by extension Solace, I quite frankly don’t care. It’s good stuff. All the more impressive is that all writing, vocals, and instrumentals for this thing were completed by one guy. Now if only the rest of Misery Signals would get off their collective ass and give us an album already…

The Forsaken - Beyond Redemption (Massacre Records)
After reviewing this record earlier in the year, I found myself coming back to it again and again, enjoying it more with each listen. It’s not a groundbreaking release, but it sure as hell is a good one, and I’m more than glad I was able to discover the group thanks to Blistering. The trend in death metal these days is to pay homage to the early 90’s…to the point where it’s honestly quite difficult to tell if you’re listening to Left Hand Path or some 2012 act ripping off of it.

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