Monday, December 31, 2012

0 Dustin Carroll's (A God or an Other) Top Albums and Shows of 2012


1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Alleluhjah, Don't Bend, Ascend
A masterpiece of ingenuity, originality, and passion, to go along with a flawless discography of work. I (like most people) was skeptical about the idea of a new Godspeed album, but they really picked up right where they left off - creating the most intensely beautiful and atmospheric music known to mankind.

2. Swans - The Seer
Pretty sure a new Godspeed record is the only thing that could have been placed above this opus. Swans have never been strangers to experimentation, but creating this 2 1/2 hour endurance trial that covers nearly every aspect of their 30 year career. Frontman and mastermind Michael Gira doesn't like to disappoint, or let people feel remotely comfortable about anything. Full of dirgey guitar and more auxiliary instruments than most orchestras, it's arguably the best cohesive album the group has ever done, and that's saying a lot.

3. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
I'm just going to be an asshole and say it - I like this album more than You Fail Me. Jake Bannon's vocals are by far and wide the best they've ever sounded on this album, and that makes his always exquisite lyrics even more powerful. Tracks like "Coral Blue" showcase the bands diversity, while the title track tugs at the listeners heartstrings in unparalleled ways.

4. Ash Borer - Cold of Ages
An aptly named chilling album from the Californian quintet as they continue to carve their own path in the USBM scene. Four intricate, 15-20 minute long pieces swell in and out of blistering heavyness and ambient passages, each song progressing into its own climax while building towards a central point. The production is cleaner than most black metal albums, so the listenability is high, even to those outside the usual extreme metal crowd.

5. Amenra - Mass V
Yet another incredible and groundbreaking album from this unbelievably underrated Belgian band. This record is out on Neurot in the States, so hopefully they'll find some success here in the U.S. because of it. A dark and brooding band, Amenra are reinventing the ideas within the post-metal genre. Where Neurosis and Isis laid the groundwork, Amenra are taking that groundwork several steps further, adding a sense of desperate emotion that can cause chills down the listeners spine. Known for scathing live shows and lyrics submersed in the darker side of mythology, this is a band you should really already know about.

6. Blut Aus Nord - 777 Comosophy
The brilliant conclusion to Blut Aus Nord's genre-fucking 777 trilogy is arguably the best of the three. Dark, ambient soundscapes teeter more on the edge of industrial and coldwave than the experimental black metal sound of albums past. While metal purists will likely not like the almost pop-sensibility of this album, more open-minded B.A.N. fans will find something to love from nearly every aspect of this always-experimental project .

7. Addaura - Burning for the Ancient
Amongst a grip of excellent local releases this year, this album has gotten the most plays from me - both in vinyl and digital forms. One of the best Cascadian black metal albums ever released, these four tracks cover every bit of ground a Northwest metal fan could possibly want. Right alongside groups like Wolves in the Throne Room, Alda, and Agalloch, keep an eye on these guys, the potential here is massive.

8. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
A band that never ceases to disappoint with each consecutive release, the Deftones seem to outdo themselves over and over again. While pushing their always-unique sound in different directions, this album manages to cover a ton of new ground, without ever sounding remotely forced. While the tragic injury of bassist Chi Cheng was a terrible thing to have happened, it really seems to have kicked the rest of the band into full gear and rip themselves to the top of their game once again.

9. Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
An amazing album, as most Neurosis albums are, but I can't help but feel like it was partially phoned in. One of my favorite bands for years, I've been conditioned to expect nothing less than the best, most innovative and soulful post-metal music possible from this legendary group. While none of the songs here are even close to resembling anything bad, it isn't really pushing any new ideas for the group, but rather feels like a matured collection of the sounds crafted through the groups past several records.

10. The Great Old Ones - Al Azif
One of the best debut metal albums I've heard in a long time. This awesome French group crafts Lovecraftian lore into beautiful black metal tracks that are infectiously catchy.

Honorable Mentions:

Krallice - Years Past Matter
Extreme metal masturbation. Technical as all hell, but still catchy and accessible. A very underrated band in a world full of tech-death disappointments.

Stolen Babies - Naught

The long-awaited follow-up to their 2006 debut, this avant-garde metal/gypsy folk group have always carved their own path. Covering numerous genres and sub-genres, the quintet (featuring Dillinger Escape Plan/Pusicifer contributing drummer Gil Sharone), push every conventional idea of music imaginable. This album feels like the missing link in line of 'weird' metal put out by groups like Mr. Bungle and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Bell Witch - Longing
Full disclosure here - I find most funeral doom bands incessantly boring. It just isn't my thing most of the time. That being said, this album has held my attention all the way through through every listen. Always adding something new just before a piece starts to get redundant, Bell Witch keeps the listener guessing throughout their bleak, depressive, soundtrack to the end of the world.

Breag Naofa - Untitled
An intense and mature album from former members of Trial and Sinking Ships, this Seattle group pushes any idea of hardcore music you could possibly fathom. Having just as much influence from groups like Fall of Efrafa and Isis than the staple hardcore icons, these guys create a moody, deliberate attack on the poison that religion pushes onto humanity.

Northless/Light Bearer split
Chosen specifically for the 20+ minute Light Bearer side, which happens to be the single best post-metal track released all year. The band, which features members of Momentum and Fall of Efrafa, push the envelopes of literary ideas in metal, combining themes from Paradise Lost, the Book of Genesis,and the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the idea of Lucifer as a more humanesque character makes for wonderfully lyric content, and the loose ideas presented by the musicians here showcase a band far more open-minded than many of their peers.

Agalloch - Faustian Echoes
One 21-minute long, two-piece conceptual epic EP based around the wonderful 'Faust' play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, with samples from the 1994 film and lyrics based around the backbone of the story, Agalloch keep themselves right alongside any peers with this single song.

Velnias - RuneEater
This excellent Colorado-based blackend doom outfit has managed to blow up all over the world, yet the U.S. still manages not to pick up on their majesty. Velnias have truly been pushing the genre to the very edges of its conceptual ideas, while still offering a breath of fresh air with each release they put out. Rune Eater is no exception - haunting, brutal, heavy as fuck, but still with a sense of beauty and appreciation for the world they pull the listener into. This album is funeral doom's answer to our own beloved Cascadian BM scene.

My Favorite Shows of 2012 (no particular order):

Sigur Ros @ Edgefield, then later on saw Braveyoung, The Body, and The Assembly of Light Choir @ Plan B. Best Portland trip ever.

Swans @ Neumos

Explosions in the Sky @ The Moore

Alcest, Alda, Addaura @ The Highline

Blood/Sailing @ Boom! Theater Space

By far the coolest approach to multi-media art I've ever seen. Absolutely brilliant all around.

Thou, The Body, Marrow, and Breag Naofa @ The Black Lodge

Wolves in the Throne Room and Master Musicians of Bukkake @ The Crocodile

Agalloch, Taurus, and Eight Bells @ The Crocodile

Akimbo's final show @ The Comet
Sweat, beer, PB&J, power outages, crowd surfing - everything one could want from an Akimbo show.

A God or an Other are going to be recording our debut album in early 2013. 


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