50. REVELATION (USA) “Inner Harbor”
Three years after the release of “For the Sake of No-One”, northamerican doomsters Revelation have finally offered a new album entitled “Inner Harbor”, once again available for free download through Bland Hand Records. As it could be expected, taking notice of their side project Against Nature, Revelation moved towards a more progressive direction, somehow preserving the doomed feeling. “Inner Harbor” is placed between Pentagram and Rush.
49. POLARIZATION “Chasing the Light”
Last year I ran into the band Polarization among the long list of newborn projects inside the djent movement. I fell in love with this band because of their song “Pulse”. This 2012, Polarization released their first full-length entitled “Chasing the Light”. This 11-track album features 53 minutes of amazing instrumental djent and progressive metal with that touch of electronica that brings a melodic and fresh approach. These elements as a whole bring a result similar to Animals As Leaders and Chimp Spanner but with a more progressive metal moments rather than an only dropped-bass djent framework.
48. BELL WITCH “Longing”
Alongside with Pallbearer, Bell Witch appears to be the revelation doom metal band of the year. Their debut “Longing” is torturous, heavy and just orgasmic to any ear related to doom metal. The band manages a sort of extreme doom metal with quite an original touch. While “Longing” may take in mind acts such as Trees, Worship and other oppressive doom metal bands, the album has also some more melodic moments forging a more melancholic feeling, using three different styles of vocals. This album should be in a better position, however, it falls to #48 due to the long repetitive passages that make me hit the forward button, this is the same reason why the new Ahab album is not in this countdown.
47. SHY, LOW “Shy, Low”
Debut album by northamerican post-rock band Shy, Low, one of the big surprises of the year and perhaps the earliest released album in this list since it saw the light of day in January. Shy, Low plays high quality post-rock in the vein of old This Will Destroy You, taking the listener through melancholic moments developed by persistent shoegazer effects and beautiful clean guitars. An excellent composition work makes of this self-titled album an unmissable one to anyone inside post-rock.
46. SUICIDAL ANGELS “Bloodbath”
Greek freaks of thrash metal Suicidal Angels assaulted 2012 with a new album using exactly the same formula of preceding “Dead Again” and keeping the changes of vocals and chorus taken in that two years ago release. Even though few to none surprises are found in this album, “Bloodbath” offers the fast drums, killer riffs and outstanding solos that anyone searches in a nice thrash metal band. Nonetheless, I consider the band should be set to offer a less homogeneous sound in their upcoming album otherwise I’ll just get tired of their sound.
45. LES DISCRETS “Ariettes Oubliees”
Second full-length of well-known French band Les Discrets. After their successful “Septembre Et Ses Dernieres Pensees”, Les Discrets unleash “Ariettes Oubliees”, revealing a pretty akin sound to their debut: a characteristic post-rock and shoegaze with charming and emotive melodies. Of course, the guitar work is interesting with a nice composition and alternation of effects, melodies and acoustic guitars. Fursy Teyssier alongside with Neige has become into one of the bearers of the cornerstone for the black-gaze movement, and “Ariettes Oubliees” , appears to have a more metallic influence than their 2010 debut, not only in the presence of black metal distorted guitars but now also on drums.
44. HUMILIATION (Malaysia) “From Strength To Strength”
Not much years ago, a handful of bands just got tired of the current death metal scene and started playing that merciless and straightforward style of late 80’s and early 90’s death metal. This year, a band hailing from Malaysia called Humiliation, produced a killer old school death metal album in the vein of Bolt Thrower and Benediction, there is no extreme brutality here, no boring hellish blast beats, nor Satan-composed inhuman solos. “From Strength To Strength” is an album of nice heavy riffs that can take in mind to Asphyx with overriding mid-tempo drums and a complete feeling of pure death metal. Just the way it should be!
43. ANTIMATTER “Fear of a Unique Identity”
Here’s Antimatter’s first studio album in 5 years. “Fear of a Unique Identity” is the title for Moss’ latest conception showing a new appearance of the project, this shouldn’t be a surprising fact since every release of Antimatter appears to be different. The direction that Moss has now taken is actually a natural evolution from “Leaving Eden”, giving a preponderant place to electric guitars but keeping the acoustic as the lead melodic element. The important change is that “Fear of a Unique Identity” is less melancholic than any of his previous works. This new one is focused in social problematic issues rather than in personal melancholia. This deed is also reflected in the music, Moss has now composed some mid-tempo moments getting closer to more typical rock songs. The entire album is however still enjoyable and I don’t think anyone that followed the band after Patterson’s departure would be disappointed of this new orientation of Antimatter.
42. SWANS “The Seer”
Heads up to one of the most important releases of 2012. It’s “The Seer”, the second studio album of Swans since Gira reformed the band in 2010. The album is rare, strange, seamless and twisted as Swans uses to do it. The experimentation goes through drone, acoustic, atonic elements and, of course, odd use of vocals. The twisted approach of “The Seer” is even more oppressive when Gira seems to fall into a loop in his compositions repeating the same few seconds achieving a completely insane state of mind. An interesting thing about “The Seer” is the participation of Jarboe in the song “The Seer Returns”, even though she appears taking the vocal duties for this song only, it’s good to see her in Swans once again.
41. UFOMAMMUT “ORO - Opus Primum”
As well as happened with 2010’s “Eve”, Ufomammut releases a new album with a palindromic title: “ORO”. “ORO” is indeed a two-album concept. The whole concept is an only song. Both items were released in 2012. In this list I am presenting the first part: “Opus Primum”. Ufomammut sounds heavy and psychedelic performing lots of changes and passages throughout the album. Some incomprehensible vocals appear but the album is mostly instrumental. One of the things that make this album so catching are the droning guitars that bear a lot of effects creating a magic and psychedelic atmosphere that has become into a characteristic sound of Ufomammut.
40. WHIRR “Pipe Dreams”
The shoegazer band formerly known as Whirl has changed its name to Whirr. The name shift represents a change in their sound in a more mature direction and a more loose song-writing work. “Pipe Dreams” follows Whirl’s “Distressor”, one of my favorite albums of 2010. “Pipe Dreams” still sounds, however, as the same band: lots of pedals, guitar effects, noisy atmosphere and that soft and fuzzy voice. Nonetheless, “Pipe Dreams” is clearly more influenced by punk, drums are fastened and you’ll even find some guitar solos that are out of the traditional shoegaze reach. Some other tracks in the album preserve the old melancholic sound of Whirl. This widening of moods makes of “Pipe Dreams” an unmissable album to anyone inside the shoegazer likes.
39. NORTHWINDS “Winter”
Fourth full-length album of Paris based band Northwinds. “Winter” is a 7-track album of amazing doom metal with a nice use of keys and organ that create quite a unique and interesting atmosphere. The band shows a lot of influence of Pentagram and Saint Vitus but also of 70's prog rock acts with the persistent use of organ that can also give a funeral sound in some passages taking in mind to new Pantheist. In this album few or none folk elements remain from the band’s old sound.
38. DEMON LUNG “Pareidolia” (EP)
Really heavy and effective doom metal with a characteristic riffage that brought the band to sign with the mighty label Candlelight Records. The groovy riffs of this debut EP are clearly heavier and louder than usual, but they can remind of Crowbar while the female vocals sound like a less angry version of Reino Ermitaño’s Tania sometimes approaching the characteristic vocals in Black Math Horseman bringing a touch of psychodelia. Highly recommended for everyone asking for aggressive doom riffs.
37. THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN “Buffalo”
If you came here for tits stay because “Buffalo” is in actually one of the best stoner albums you’ll find out there these days. The Midnight Ghost Train manages a raspy dusty sound with some of the most killer blues-groove guitars with a nice dosage of fuzz effects. “Buffalo” is consistent developing energy and nice rhythm in each song. The album is complete, has everything a couple of stoner ears would like to be drenched of, it is heavy, groovy, distorted and invites you to take a 70’s Camaro to cross those cotton fields.
36. HAMMOCK “Departure Songs”
After 4 full-length albums Hammock had become into one of the most important names in the current post-rock scene. In order to climb even higher, the fifth studio album should be epic. And Hammock did it not only epic but memorable releasing a double CD entitled “Departure Songs”. Hammock encourages the listener to dive into a million of soundscapes, gorgeous textures and fuzzy elements appearing and disappearing slowly while you travel through a journey of sadness and dismay. Striking is the participation of master of ambient music Keith Kenniff (Heilos) as well as other charming elements like a cello and other strings and the ethereal vocals of both Byrd and his wife Catherine. All this pieces fit to create quite a melancholic soundtrack of slow-motion scenes.
35. AIRIEL “Kid Games” (EP)
I am not exactly a fervent fan of Airiel, actually the only thing I knew about them before this short EP was their full-length album “The Battle of Sealand”, missing a considerable number of EP’s. “Kid Games” is, however, their first studio material unveiled after “The Battle of Sealand”, and it is clear that there have been changes during these 5 years. “Kid Games” is certainly closer to dream pop than “The Battle..”, it is slower and creates a deeper atmosphere, programed drums and female vocals are added as well, making a more serious and solid sound that makes of these 4 songs some of my favorite dream pop and shoegazer songs of the year. Hope the following full-length album offer us more of this.
34. THE SLOW DEATH “II”
After the quake that Murkrat unleashed in the doom metal scene during the last year, its frontwoman, Mandy Andresen, surprised us once again in April with her other band: The Slow Death. A band that appears to be an all-star project featuring members of important doom acts such as Stone Wings, Mournful Congregation, Pallbearer and, of course, Murkrat. The music in “II” is melancholic and even a bit romantic, but it keeps the heaviness and slowness of a well worked death/doom metal album using both deep growls and the characteristic female vocals of Mandy, without falling into the depths of gothic doom. The guitar work is outstanding as well as the song writing, developing an album that is far of being monotonous.
33. A DEATH CINEMATIC “The New World”
Striking and enigmatic are the better words to describe the sound unleashed by the man behind A Death Cinematic. Taking advantage of lots of guitar effects and manipulating the recordings, a complete atmosphere is created, a minimalistic, miserable and deserted atmosphere. You can hear the effects experimentation and the distorted noisy guitars drowning some desert melodies much in the vein of new Earth. Matt Finney, known by his works with Heinali, appears in this album with his mysterious narrative in the homonymous track.
32. THE COSMIC DEAD “The Exalted King”
This album blows you to the cosmos with an outstanding waving sound. The Cosmic Dead earned some attention in 2011 with their debut. This year they are back with “The Exalted King”. More than an hour of drones, psychodelia, effects, experimentation and electronics that evolves until they surround you in a cosmic cloud of effects worship. This new album seems to throw more gloom than its predecessor, showing a more solid sound and some steps in the right direction.
31. ALUNAH “White Hoarhound”
2012 was a prolific year for girls inside doom metal. The popular success of Royal Thunder encouraged people to take a listen to a bunch of underground female-fronted doom acts. Alunah will surely satisfy everyone in this quest. Their second album “White Hoarhound” is a taste of well worked doom metal with heavy distorted guitars, slowness, some fuzz effects and the nice voice of Sophie Day. The band shows a good song-writing work and a mystic gloom in the overall atmosphere and lyrics. One of the most important releases of the year, gaining a lot of positive reception inside the doom metal circles.
30. THE CHANT “A Healing Place”
I didn’t know much about The Chant. Some years ago I listened to their “Ghostlines”, and, as far as I remember, the band used to produce a sort of gothic rock/metal with the strong influence of the scene inside their country, Finland. Didn’t hear a thing about them until this year when they released “A Healing Place” and it turned out that The Chant had moved towards a more melancholic and atmospheric field. I am surprised, this CD is just so charming, it is interpreted from the heart. Now few to none metal elements remain, instead you’ll find a melancholic atmosphere performed by acoustic guitars, sad melodies, keys, a sax, an amazing vocal work and, still, some heavy guitars. The song-writing is just so beautiful and haunting. The Chant have moved in the right direction producing some of the best tunes of the year.
29. CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX “(Mankind) The Crafty Ape”
This time Justin Greaves has striven to leave in clear that Crippled Black Phoenix is not a side project of members of other well-known acts, but a stand-alone band. For the sake of epicness, Crippled Black Phoenix have released a double CD that unfolds a conceptual piece. The concept is about the self-corruption of mankind. Musically, the album is ambitious and strikingly complex. Lots of elements take part to create a nice blend of jazz, prog, post-rock, stoner, and some other tags that are meaningless when one just let oneself to be driven by the album. “(Mankind)…” is an important album inside the career of Crippled Black Phoenix and shouldn’t be missed by any of their fans and it is, as well, a nice opportunity to start following the band.
28. FROM ASTRAL PLANES “Chew the Ropes / Lazy Pond” (EP)
Worth checking out doom metal developed by ex-members of the disappeared band …And Here I Lie. Since I am a great fan of that legendary band, I was really eager of listening to new material from these doomsters. From Astral Planes manages a more complex sound though, it is not that slow and shows a nice guitar work as well as an interesting vocal performance featuring three different styles. The complete atmosphere is enigmatic rather than melancholic. This short promotional EP includes two songs: “Chew the Ropes” and “Lazy Pond”, by now only these two songs have been released, as far as I know. We in really hope to listen more about this project in the future. READ THE WHOLE REVIEW.
27. PILGRIM “Misery Wizard”
Another doom metal revelation that earned success in this year is Pilgrim. Believe in me, Pilgrim is heavy, slow and torturous as hell. The band appears to do it simple and straightforward, just music filled with misery. The slow and monotonous drums take the listener to a state of despair while repetitive heavy riffs destroy all hope left in your mind. Some riffs are so slow that they reach the drone opus. The band can be compared with Reverend Bizarre and Gallow God. An unmissable one to everyone inside this kind doom metal.
26. ANATHEMA “Weather Systems”
It was pretty complicated for Anathema to write a worthy follower to their 2010 masterpiece “We Are Here Because We Are Here”. Actually, I was kind of surprised that they had tried to do it after only two years. Anathema released “Weather Systems” when we were still delighting “WHBWH”. The band is more atmospheric than ever with extremely long parts of keys and acoustic guitars. Most of the songs share the same effective structure: sounds rising from the calm to a more violent atmosphere. Some songs are still memorable and epic, however this album can also be considered as their poppest to date. The rhythm in acoustic guitars, the electronica in “The Storm and Then the Calm” and the love-is-everything feeling in lyrics make of this one a sort of cheesy pop album. It is clear that the lack of inspiration has made a not that amazing album, however Anathema is a great band, and “Weather Systems” is still enjoyable, not a master piece perhaps, but a nice album of atmospheric rock.
25. TALVIHORROS “And It Was So”
I’m so glad of having found this project among the tons of experimental acts out there in 2012, because Talvihorros is far of falling into the typical drone fashion of minimalism. The project assembles lots of guitar effects and electronic experiments to complete a whole structure ornamented with beautiful elements like a cello, a viola, keys and even drums, making a charming and enigmatic sound. It is important to play this album in the highest volume possible in order to enjoy each of the elements and passages. Without doubt, a whole master piece of drone and experimental music.
24. INVERLOCH “Dusk | Subside”
Nowadays, diSEMBOWELMENT’s “Transcendence into the Peripheral” is a cult album inside doom metal, and, as many doom cult albums, there was no successor to it. After lots of years after the demise of diSEMBOWELMENT, two ex-members of the band joined some other guys to start an EP that saw the day of light in this 2012, the band is called Inverloch and the EP “Dusk | Subside”. The band has a similar formula with that slow doom metal and some death metal blasts. They have made a good job with the writing process creating that dark and doomed atmosphere with some parts of almost complete silence, heavy riffs, those clean guitars with strange melodies, deep brutal growls and the characteristic occasional blast beats. The only problem with this album is that it is only 28 minutes long, too short for such a colossal sound!
23. IN MOURNING “The Weight of Oceans”
In 2010, In Mourning reached the peak of this annual list with their unforgettable “Monolith”, an album that actually had not the best reception from other people because it was clearly their most accessible work to date. In this year In Mourning released a new album called “The Weight of Oceans”. This album has quite a solid sound with less clean vocals, however I certainly find this new one a bit more melancholic than its predecessor because of its melodies. The album features one of their saddest ballads “Celestial Tear”. I can’t really explain with words how much I enjoy the music from these guys, it is complex and heavy yet melancholic and melodic. Music made with the heart that no-one should miss.
22. LEMOLO “The Kaleidoscope”
These two gifted girls just started an earthquake in July with their debut album “The Kaleidoscope”: an amazing bunch of charming piano melodies, soft guitars, minimalistic drums, beautiful vocals and a lot of talent. The music is a soft caress to the ear, with a sweet touch of melancholia. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Lemolo is their song-writing gift, each song in this album is worth-listening, perfect to be played just before you’re going to bed. Several songs from “The Kaleidoscope” will for sure become into some of those characteristic songs of 2012, those that one will play in the future and will take lots of memories in mind.
21. KADAVAR “s/t” (EP)
Witchfinder General + Hawkwind = Kadavar, simple math. Kadavar is a Germany based trio that debuted this year with an untitled 6-track album of 70’s doom and psichodelia worship. Even the raw recording quality is similar to Witchfinder General’s “Death Penalty”. The sabbathic groovy riffs are present, nevertheless, in last track “Purple Sage” the band go further with some nice guitar effects driven by the maddest psichodelia. Kadavar also shared a split with Aqua Nebula Oscillator this year. We will surely have more news about this band in the soon future.
20. ALGEBRA “Polymorph”
Another surprising debut. Hailing from Switzerland, Algebra showed that sometimes the underground scene of thrash metal offers more interesting stuff that the clichés that the current commercial thrash metal scene has forged. Their debut “Polymorph” is haunting and exquisite. The band manages a basis of death/thrash in the vein of Sepultura’s legendary “Arise”, a not always fast sound, but with killer powerful riffs and nice solos. The alternation of rhythms makes the album far of being boring. Vocals are closer to Motörhead’s Lemmy than to the traditional thrash metal singer. Algebra is a really underrated band that should earn more attention, I hope more people take a listen to this one, you will not be disappointed.
19. REINO ERMITAÑO “Veneración del Fuego”
Fourth studio album of Peruvian doom metal freaks Reino Ermitaño, whose popularity appears to have increased with this outstanding new album. The band has made it pretty well this time, “Veneración del Fuego”, sounds heavy and magic as before, but the song writing seems to have been improved. And, of course the voice of Tania sounds powerful, in fact, she seems to be a bit angrier than before. The magic involved in the lyrics is helped by some occasional extra instruments like acoustic guitars, harp, violin and flute. You should not miss this one, “Veneración del Fuego” has become into my favorite album of Reino Ermitaño, and, of course, one of the must-have of 2012.
18. WORSHIP “Terranean Wake”
This is the first time Worship releases an album without any participation of disappeared Fucked-up Max. That means that the brutal growls of The Doommonger lead the funeral march. “Terranean Wake” is the cleanest Worship release. With a high recording quality and the brutal growls, Worship sounds closer to the common funeral doom metal band, even bands like Ahab can come in mind. However, this album is so killer, if you take a listen to its heaviness and slowness, you’ll find a lifeless sound with that monotonous and repetitive drums that make you feel that agony is just so endless. You’ll find as well those quiet moments of spoken words, which are now less than before though. “Terranean Wake” is one of the most important releases of the year inside the funeral doom metal and no-one enjoying this genre should miss it.
17. DAYLIGHT DIES “A Frail Becoming”
The long wait was over in October when Daylight Dies finally released their latest album entitled “A Frail Becoming”, after rumors and studio updates that had been around for a long time. It took 5 years for Daylight Dies to publish new studio material. And the waiting has its reason: the album is pretty complex, perhaps a bit more complex than ever. Daylight Dies is one of those bands that make few to none changes between each release, however, since the sound of Daylight Dies is so characteristic and awesome, they don’t really need to change it, it’s like a control system in its steady state. “A Frail Becoming” has all the elements we need from Daylight Dies: the melodies, amazing riffs, mid to down tempo drums, aggressive deep growls, acoustic passages with clean vocals and complex solos.
16. STONE MAGNUM “Stone Magnum”
This is doom metal, as it has to sound. Stone Magnum is a northamerican newborn band. Their debut gained little attention but it is certainly worth listening. The band varies from slow to mid-tempo 70’s oriented sound without fall in stoner riffage. The music is simple yet effective just like it used to be in that era. Vocals are interesting going from Ozzy influenced to some angrier and raspier, sometimes vocals sound completely insane which brings a nice doomed feeling to the album. Highly recommended for fans of The Gates of Slumber and other traditional doom metal bands.
15. DOPELORD “Magick Rites”
Hailing from Poland, here’s another newborn band: Dopelord. As the name of the band suggest, Dopelord is drenched with psychedelia, its music is extremely heavy, guitars that go from slow drones to fuzz effects worship. The slowness of drums and the hypnotic rhythm of riffs make feel like the cover of the album comes alive and you’re seeing a sort of diabolic ritual dance. Interesting are vocals which sound stratospheric much in the vein of St:Erik. Addictively haunting is this stoner doom album, be sure of playing it in high volume, your speakers will be possessed by a magic rite.
14. SIGUR RÓS “Valtari”
Long waited fifth full-length Sigur Rós album, finally saw the day of light in May. “Valtari” is their most ambient album to date, featuring a bunch of drones, effects, strings and some other orchestral elements, all these with few drums. Of course, a process of years of writing and recording the album has as consequence an extremely detailed and well-worked sound. I am surprised of the bad criticism that the album received from a group of people who judge it of being boring, of course they are people that are not used to ambient music. “Valtari” is beautiful and melancholic, a less accessible side of Sigur Rós.
13. EVOKEN “Altra Mors”
Evoken is one of those bands that have done it pretty well in each release and their fifth one “Alta Mors” is not an exception. “Alta Mors” is made of really solid doom metal, with the characteristic touch of Evoken. It is heavy, down to mid tempo, has brutal growls and spoken words, those mysterious clean guitars and well placed keys to bring that dark atmosphere that only Evoken can create. This time some melodic guitars have been added, however, they are not so representative, the sound keeps on being dark rather than melancholic. I am sure that any Evoken fan will worship this outstanding album.
12. EXITMUSIC “Passage”
Named after Radiohead’s “Exit Music”, this New Yorker duo has unleashed such an amazing debut album that they’ve earned a handful of followers and a great success for a band that just comes into view. Exitmusic had already surprised us last year with their first EP “From Silence”, since then a nice number of videos on youtube spread the sound of the duo. This sound consist of a beautiful and emotive atmosphere helped by guitar effects, electronica, minimalistic drums and the poignant voice of Aleksa Palladino, perhaps evoking Sigur Rós, but sounding even more melancholic. Musically a clear influence of both Sigur Rós and Radiohead can be perceived. The duo now appears as a 4-piece band in order to be able to play live. One of the biggest revelations in 2012, and some of the best tunes of the year.
11. CASSIE (Finland) “Sing About Me”
After the Finnish band Cassie produced a short EP in 2011 with which I just fell in love, I was really eager for their first full-length album. Cassie didn’t disappoint any of the followers they had earned, with a nice piece of well inspired music entitled “Sing About Me”. The album is a bit less atmospheric than their EP, but it keeps the formula of female-fronted post-rock with a good touch of shoegaze and alternative. An amazing song-writing work blesses the music of Cassie and, of course, a sweet voice leads the album. Cassie makes an awesome work with the handling of atmospheres using clean guitars and calm drums to go further with riffs, guitar effects and more effusive drums. “Sing About Me” is a worth listening debut, so much so that I see a promising future for the band. READ THE WHOLE REVIEW
10. SATURNA “The Kingdom of Spirit”
Some of my favorite riffs of the year can be found in this debut album. Not to be mistaken with Saturnus, Saturna are a Spanish band who build their music starting from the writing of a riff. That’s it, it is straightforward and incredibly effective. In this sence, Saturna is set to perform the most killer riffs just like it was made in classical rock. However Saturna displays some other influences like stoner and doom, making the band unable to be tagged with a genre’s name. “The Kingdom of Spirit” is fresh and catching, since the first riff one is caught by a magic feeling of rock’n’roll. Lyrics are intelligent and reveal a spiritual and doom approach. For this and many other reasons Saturna have reached the top 10 with their first album, one of these albums that you can’t say that you lived 2012 if you didn’t listen to it.
9. SUNPOCRISY “Samaroid Dioramas”
Not a bastard son of Sunn O))) and Hypocrisy, Sunpocrisy is an Italian band that has reached the exact midpoint between metal and post-rock. In consequence, their debut “Samaroid Dioramas” is clearly influenced by masters Isis. And, as it can be inferred, the guitar work is outstanding, before you find yourself drowned in a ton of guitar effects, you’ll find some down toned guitars almost reaching the djent sound. Always keeping some complexity in the riffs, the progressive feeling can be found throughout the album. Nonetheless, those melodic clean guitars and the shoegazer effects are the elements that make you get chills as the atmosphere approaches its climax. The song-writing is amazing, with epic songs, charming atmospheric passages and even some experimental drone moments. A non-annoying metalcore influence can be found as well. Every-one enjoying Isis, Intronaut and Hands among others will surely find “Samaroid Dioramas” haunting and addictive.
8. SAINT VITUS “Lillie: F-65”
17 DAMNED LONG YEARS! It took 17 years for Saint Vitus to release a new full-length album. But here it is, it’s “Lillie: F-65”, and here’s Wino taking over the vocals once again. Seems like nothing has changed since 1987’s legendary “Born Too Late”. Dave keeps on distorting his guitars, throwing blues-grooved riffs and performing those strange, sometimes noisy, solos. Wino sounds amazing, of course he has never been far from the scene working with some other projects. “Lillie: F-65” is depressive as it has to be for a legend of doom metal, the slow and oppressive predominant moments and the personal problematic lyrics make of this new album an ugly bleak one. The return of Saint Vitus is one of the most important events of the year and “Lillie: F-65” was, without doubt, a worth waiting for album.
7. PALLBEARER “Sorrow And Extinction”
I am slightly in shock. This new band assaulted this year the doom metal scene to spread sorrow and extinction everywhere. They are Pallbearer, for many, a band that has reached perfection in their melancholic sound, becoming into the biggest surprise of the year. Their debut album “Sorrow and Extinction” features 57 minutes of chillingly mournful atmosphere. The music is clearly influenced by Warning’s masterpiece “Watching from a Distance”, the heavy slow riffs and the mournful solos are present to remind you that amazing album. Nevertheless, vocals sound different, closer to a more traditional doom singer than to Patrick Walker and Pallbearer is less slow and a bit looser in the song-writing showing some experimental moments. Some keys and acoustic guitars are added as well to create a more funerary atmosphere. No hope will remain in your soul after listening to this album, one of the best releases, not only inside doom metal, but in the complete metal scene.
6. A WHISPER IN THE NOISE “To Forget”
It is a medical fact that during the night it is easier for some feelings to reach our minds. That’s the reason why some albums sound clearly different after 11 PM: The Gathering’s “Home”, This Empty Flow’s “Magenta Skycode” and some others by MONO are immediate examples of this effect. A Whisper in the Noise is a Minnesota based project that seems to take advantage of this fact and focuses in making the listener to be swallowed by a charming and really melancholic atmosphere. The band uses a unique instrumentation to reach its aim, incorporating a cello, violin, acoustic guitars, electronics and beautiful piano arrangements. Vocals are soft fitting perfectly with the music and interpreting sad lyrics. Notable is the song-writing work that makes the album so haunting and beautiful. The effect produced by listening to the album late at night is helped by the sound of crickets singing at the distance throughout the spaces between songs. Highly recommended to anyone inside melancholic and atmospheric music.
5. KATATONIA “Dead End Kings”
Even though you see Katatonia in position number 5, their latest album “Dead End Kings” was disappointing for me. Katatonia is my favorite band in this world, and therefore they should have released my favorite album of the year. However, it wasn’t so, and Katatonia produced, in my opinion, their worst album to date. Its predecessor “Night is the New Day” was a landmark for Katatonia, showing a new face of the band, lots of the characteristic guitar effects were gone forever being replaced by keys. But it was a killer album, incredibly inspired, dark and melancholic. In contrast, “Dead End Kings” is clearly uninspired, the album is focused in progressive, making the closest one to Opeth in their career. Lyrics used to be one of the most important elements of the band, now we can hear some senseless and meaningless parts, especially in the songs “Undo You” and “The Racing Heart”. The electronica has started to become annoying as well as the predominant keys.
Nonetheless, as well as happened with Anathema, Katatonia keeps on being a great band. “Dead End Kings” fails in filling my expectations, but if we don’t compare it with the band’s past it is a good album. Songs like “Buildings”, “Hypnone” and “Lethean” are still amazing ones. “Leech” approaches the characteristic melancholy of the band that is not completely lost in this album. “Dead End Kings” is an enjoyable album, I didn’t find a personal connection with it, but I think it still one of the best releases of the year. That’s it: Katatonia is so huge that their least awesome conception reaches position 5 in this annual list.
4. PARADISE LOST “Tragic Idol”
Paradise Lost didn’t fail. Three years ago the band’s evolution reached another highlight with “Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us”. We had the highest expectations for their new album since that 2010 release was amazing, and Paradise Lost didn’t disappoint us. “Tragic Idol” is a natural evolution of “Faith Divides Us…” towards an even more heavy and dark sound. This isn’t a back-to-the-roots album, “Tragic Idol” sounds powerful by itself. Greg’s 7-string guitar sounds outstanding, the riffs are heavier than in the past album and they are even slow in songs like opening “Solitary One”. The guitar work may take in mind “Icon”. Even though the undeniable throat problem of Nick Holmes, he sounds really powerful in this album giving the aggressive feeling required by guitars. Nowadays Paradise Lost has a very mature and solid sound, a band that has found themselves in a new amazing sound after all these years. An example to follow for all these antique bands that seems to simply have lost the inspiration.
3. SATURNUS “Saturn in Ascension”
After 6 long years, doom metal legends Saturnus have finally finished their fourth full-length album. Of course a lot has changed since unforgettable “Paradise Belongs to You” was released, including the band’s line-up. After all these line-up changes I no longer know who is writing the music of Saturnus. However, this new album entitled “Saturn in Ascension” sounds clearly close to their last monument “Veronika Decides to Die”. “Saturn in Ascension” is extremely melancholic, Saturnus abuses once again of the weeping guitars, those sad solos that are constant through the album with melodies that feed the sadness in your mind. Thomas’ vocals sound awesome after all these years, his growls are brutal contrasting with his characteristic spoken words that ornament the saddest moments through the album. The album includes a dense use of keys and even some heavy riffs, like the ones in “Mourning Sun”. Anyone interested in melancholic music will find the sad guitar solos in this album completely haunting and catching. An album worth waiting for, as it uses to happen with every Saturnus release.
2. MY DYING BRIDE “A Map of All Our Failures”
Total respect to the mighty bride. After the epic EP the band released last year, we were ready for something huge, amazing, historic! And as it happened with Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride didn’t fail us. I am not being dramatic, “A Map of All Our Failures” is one of the best albums in the band’s trajectory. An album amazing enough to be compared with classics such as “The Angel and the Dark River” and even legendary “Turn Loose the Swans”. This new album sets the band into the most melancholic doom metal once again, with the slowness, the violin, the weeping guitars and the romantic melancholia of Aaron as well as his still brutal growls that we love from old My Dying Bride, but with the clear presence of the approach of “For Lies I Sire”, the narrative and the historical touches and the new elements in Andrew’s guitar work. All this together makes a chillingly beautiful sound of purest melancholy. “A Map of All Our Failures” has a solid and mature sound. Very similar situation to the one in which we found Paradise Lost in this year. Both are great bands.
1. ALCEST “Les Voyages De L'Âme”
…And the prize for the best album of 2012 goes to Neige and his well-known project Alcest. It’s been a long journey for Alcest, the contrasting criticism since “Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde” was released seems to finally reached respect to the project and its particular sound. Alcest presents its third full-length album with a solid sound, the perseverance of Neige knowing that shoegaze and black metal are closer than what most of us thought has forged an amazing and extremely beautiful sound in this latest production named “Les Voyages De L'Âme”. In this album Neige seems to have improved his song-writing skills, revealing a perfect steadying between clean guitars, shoegaze effects and black metal riffs, and showing really charming melodies with a nice touch of melancholy helped by those lyrics in french. Each song in this album is amazing, it is so filled with feelings and different stages that one can play the album once and once again and one just can’t get tired of it. Nowadays the black-gaze movement appears to have become a genre since lots of new projects are coming in view and of course, all of these acts have respect for Neige since he seems to be the father of the genre. This latest Alcest album is a true masterpiece, and, in my opinion, the best album of 2012.