Some of the releases can be downloaded legally for free from Bandcamp. I will not check which ones specifically, but thedowngoing, USKO and Dark Cloak should be there. Some others, like FALSE LIGHT, Syntax and Water Torture, can be downloaded for free from Grindcore Karaoke. I just revealed 1/3 of my EP list... oh well.
Honorable mentions: A Place to Bury Strangers, Alcest, Alkerdeel, Arkhamin Kirjasto, Baroness, Bastard Deceiver, Bosse-de-Nage, Cattle Decapitation, Coffins, Deftones, Desecresy, Dysrhythmia, Flourishing, Flying Lotus, Four Tet, Goatwhore, Horrendous, Kendrick Lamar, Meshuggah, Necro Deathmort, Nihill, Nile, Noisear, Pharaoh Overlord, Plague Widow, Protestant, Tame Impala, Torch Runner, Tragedy, War from a Harlots Mouth, Wrathprayer
Top 5 splits
I don't usually pay that much attention to splits, but there were quite a few good ones this year. Hell/Thou is one that most likely would/should have made this list, but I still haven't listened to it for some reason.
5. Converge / Napalm Death
I won't lie, I'm a bit disappointed by this release. Not that it's awful by any means, it's just that one expects a whole lot more from bands that are so unfuckwithable in their respective genres - even if the songs are just leftovers from the full-lengths they put out this year. Napalm presents two new songs in this release. One is your typical beatdown and the other is something a bit more interesting, though way too long-winded at over three minutes. When will bands learn that a grindcore song that lasts for more than three minutes is often a bad idea? I prefer Converge's side over Napalm's, but a fifty-second song and one cover leave me wanting more.
4. Coke Bust / Vaccine
Short, vicious and sweet. Just how I like my hardcore punk.
3. Robocop / Detroit - Dead Language, Foreign Bodies
These two bands should be familiar if you pay any attention to grindcore blogs like Operation Grindcore or Grind and Punishment. They won't shut up about Robocop and Detroit, and for good reason - both bands are on fire in this split. It's too bad that Robocop decided to call it quits, again.
2. Antediluvian / Adversarial - Initiated in Impiety as Mysteries
Solid black/death metal from both bands. Antediluvian seem to be getting a lot of flak for some reason (at least in the Finnish forums that I follow). I don't really understand why. I think that the Canadian death metal scene that has exploded in recent years, thanks to these two bands and others like Mitochondrion and Weapon, produces some of the most interesting music the genre has to offer.
1. Asobi Seksu x Boris
Two of Japan's finest covering each other. Boris' take on Asobi Seksu's Neu Years is just as perverse as one might expect an experimental rock version of a dream pop song to be, while Asobi Seksu's cover of Farewell is just as pretty, if not prettier, than the original. The cover art is awesome, too.
Top 15 EPs and demos
15. Water Torture - Shellfire!
Easily the heaviest and most crushing powerviolence band out there. Sounds like Grief sped up 100x.
14. Giles Corey - Deconstructionist
Deconstructionist consists of three 20 to 40-minute-long songs that are basically just series of drones with masterfully done underlying layers for the listener to explore. This music is supposedly meant to put the listener into a trance-like state, but it didn't work for me. It's a worthwhile and interesting experience nevertheless.
13. Rhinocervs - RH-12
The three EPs that Rhinocervs put out this year are probably my least favourite Rhinocervs releases to date, but RH-12 is still pretty good. This still trumps most other raw black metal out there.
12. Dark Cloak - Culture Drone
"Witch house" music that isn't laughably awful? Weird. Probably has a lot to do with the fact that Dark Cloak's music is often closer to ambient than something that can be even remotely compared to bands like Salem.
11. FALSE LIGHT - False Light
Grindcore from the US. A solid debut release in every way, if you forgive them for the rather worthless 5-minute sludge song at the end.
10. Deathspell Omega - Drought
Deathspell Omega are moving further and further away from black metal with every release. This EP is almost closer to The Dillinger Escape Plan than something like Funeral Mist. I have mixed feelings about this math metal version of Deathspell Omega, but I can see this EP climbing higher in this list with time.
9. Beastmilk - Use Your Deluge
Dark post-punk about the evils of... milk? Well, at least they came up with original subject matter.
8. Laster - Wijsgeer & Narreman
There are so many bands these days that play this type of atmospheric black metal that I skip most of them without paying too much attention. Laster are one of those bands that, to me, clearly stand out from the rest of the group.
7. Wylve - Wylve
The first song doesn't blow my mind, but that transition to the second song always gets me. Fucking brilliant.
6. Syntax - Demo 2012
Discordance Axis worship at its best. Some people say that that is exactly the reason why this demo/band is nothing special, but I don't care. Any band that is this good and shamelessly inspired by Discordance Axis will most likely get shameless love from me.
5. Genocide Shrines - Devanation Monumentemples
When I think of Sri Lanka, the first things that come to mind are mountains and llamas and shit like that - definitely not gas masks or black/death metal. The metal is pretty good, but what I enjoy the most about this release are surprisingly the ambient tracks. They are not what one might expect from your typical black metal band. Furthermore, I never get tired of that classic, but overused, Oppenheimer sample.
4. Burial - Kindred
I don't usually like dancy stuff at all, but this is some amazing dark electronic music. Some people say that the three songs on this EP are boring and just the same couple of sounds repeated over and over and over again. To those people I say: yes, and that is exactly why it's so brilliant. Loner is easily my favourite track of 2012.
3. Agalloch - Faustian Echoes
Agalloch are all over the map after returning to the folky black metal of their first few releases following the post-rock experimentations of Marrow of the Spirit, my favourite album of 2010. As a blind fan boy, I'll take whatever they throw at me and run with it.
2. USKO - Kuusi
Heavy as fuck nihilistic sludge metal from Finland. A review that I read compared getting through this cassette to "pulling a sleigh filled with boulders on asphalt". I would have to agree with that description.
1. Circle of Ouroborus - Pehmeät Kasvot
What a year this has been for Circle of Ouroborus. I can't recall any other band that has released 2 amazing LPs, with the emphasis on the word 'amazing', and a bunch of great EPs in one year. I was struggling with the choice between Mullan tuoksu and Pehmeät Kasvot, but eventually had to go with the latter. It's the perfect middle ground between the harsh lo-fi black metal of Mullan Tuoksu and the ethereal flowing of, for example, the album Eleven Fingers.
Top 75 albums
75. Røsenkøpf - Røsenkøpf
Highlight track: Light the Way
This last spot originally came down to Alcest and Cattle Decapitation, but I thought that this relatively unknown band deserves a shout-out more than those two bands. Røsenkøpf play very dark and trippy, and kind of gothic, electronic rock music with black metal vocals. The music video for Light the Way is definitely worth checking out.
74. Cellgraft - Cellgraft
Highlight track: Weapon Abuse
The final grind assault by my favourite Tampa tech grinders. It's sad to see another great grind band go. Some of Cellgraft's earlier releases have the sharpest, most painful to listen to production I have ever heard (Exhibit A), which, to be clear, is a good thing, so I was a bit disappointed that this album is, relatively speaking, so pleasant on the ears.
73. Sharon Van Etten - Tramp
Highlight track: Magic Chords
This is probably the easiest album on this list and one of the few that are actually fun to listen to (fun music...ugh). It's nothing flashy, just solid singer-songwriter type of stuff.
72. Terveet Kädet - Musta hetki
Highlight track: Sahaus
Shitty and thoroughly enjoyable punk music.
71. Incantation - Vanquish in Vengeance
Highlight track: Ascend Into the Eternal
It's kind of sad that, for example, Disma and Gorephilia have released better Incantation albums in the recent years than Incantation. Vanquish in Vengeance is still a really good album and definitely deserving of a spot on my list, albeit near the bottom.
70. Rahu - The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
Highlight track: Kalas Bleed for the Sun-Eater
The downside to finding out about this band a week ago is that I had to drop Paper Cage by Rape Revenge, which you can download for free by following that link *hint* *hint*, from the 75th spot. Rahu is a great project by Rauta (of Circle of Ouroborus) and some dude that has apparently at some point played in Baptism. The type of black metal on this album is exactly the type that I enjoy the most - kind of traditional but also experimental. Some parts of the songs sound very much like Circle of Ouroborus, which isn't a bad thing at all.
69. Xibalba (US) - Hasta La Muerte
Highlight track: Mala Mujer
I'm not easily impressed by tough guy hardcore, but this album does the trick. Xibalba has more in common with death metal bands like Obituary and Asphyx and sludge metal bands like Noothgrush than your typical hardcore group, which makes the band a lot heavier and more primal, and thus more convincing. The band even throws some curveballs at the listener with more unexpected tracks, such as the ethereal Mala Mujer.
68. Mount Eerie - Clear Moon
Highlight track: Through The Trees pt. 2
My favourite Phil Elverum record since he changed his moniker from The Microphones to Mount Eerie in 2003, though I still prefer his early lo-fi material over anything he has released as Mount Eerie. One definite improvement that can be heard is in his vocals, which are getting better and better by every release.
67. Gorephilia - Embodiment of Death
Highlight track: 7 Gates, 7 Spheres
One of the first bands of Finland's retro death metal scene to release a full-length album. Totally worth the wait. The quality of Dark Descent Records' roster is ridiculous at the moment.
66. Lord Mantis - Pervertor
Highlight track: At the Mouth
I guess that the album cover speaks for itself... This is some of the most vile music released this year.
65. Behexen - Nightside Emanations
Highlight track: Kiss of Our Dark Mother
Another good black metal album by Behexen. It's nothing too special, but clearly better than anything they have done before.
64. Evoken - Atra Mors
Highlight track: An Extrinsic Divide
One of the few funeral doom bands that can keep me interested for the entire duration of an hour-long album. Quietus is such a monster of an album that I don't believe Evoken will ever top that release, but Atra Mors is a good album on its own merits.
63. Hell (US) - Hell III
Highlight track: Mourn
And so the trilogy comes to an end. I don't think that Hell III is nearly as devastating or impressive as Hell or Hell II, which are pure brilliance, but it makes perfect sense as a closer to the trilogy. These three albums definitely need to be listened to back to back without any breaks to fully experience them.
62. Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas
Highlight track: In Coelo Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas
Anaal Nathrakh's fast release schedule is slowly starting to eat my interest in the band, but Vanitas is still an enjoyable album. There are already a couple of tracks that are kind of boring and skippable, so hopefully they will hone their next release for a longer time.
61. Stagnant Waters - Stagnant Waters
Highlight track: ССАЕР ЦНАПЯЛ ПНОИ ТАТ
A combination of grindcore, black metal, electronic music, orchestral parts, kind-of-jazzy parts, violin, saxophone and and and... Somehow it all comes together as a (surprise surprise) chaotic, but still oddly coherent, album.
60. Sakatat - Bir Devrin Sonu
Highlight track: Onlara İhtiyacımız Yok
8 minutes of relentless grindcore from Turkey. If the band says that it's a full-length album, it's a full-length album.
59. Weapon - Embers and Revelations
Highlight track: Vanguard of the Morning Star
I already namedropped this band earlier in the split list. Embers and Revelations is just as good of an album as one might expect from Weapon. Their very melodic take on blackened death metal is still as fresh as when I first heard From the Devil's Tomb a couple of years ago.
58. Asa - Foetida / Use Your Illusion III
Highlight track: Esteitse
The only Finnish hip hop artist that is consistently not embarrassing. This album reminds me a lot of Amethyst Rock Star by Saul Williams. Mostly because of the rock-oriented sound. It's also worth noting that one of the musicians featured on this album is drummer Sami Kuoppamäki, who used to play in one of the greatest Finnish rock bands of all-time, Kingston Wall
57. Death Grips - The Money Store
Highlight track: Fever (Aye Aye)
56. Circle - Manner
Highlight track: Here Come The Warm Jets
Circle are so prolific in the experimental rock scene that they can do pretty much whatever they want to and people will praise it, as evidenced by last year's Infektio, but Manner is again Circle at its best. It's your typical more rock-oriented Circle record with some tongue-in-cheek heavy metal songs and a bunch of perplexing experimentations. For me, the high-point of the album is without a doubt a krautrock take on Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets.
55. HiveSmasher - Gutter Choir
Highlight track: Strangled Beings (and Vice Versa)
Another grindcore record (and there's still a lot more to come ^^). This could be a bit higher on the list, but I dropped it for the same reason that I dropped Noisear last year. I just don't get these 40-minute noise pieces that grind bands ruin their otherwise tight albums with.
54. Loma Prieta - I.V.
Highlight track: Biography
Very noisy and melodic poppy hardcore songs. I know very little about this type of music, but I guess it's accurate to call this post-hardcore.
53. Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet on Sky
Highlight track: Watch the Corners
Another great post-reunion record by Dinosaur Jr. Many people have said that this is the greatest album of their career, but I wouldn't go that far. I still prefer You're Living All Over Me and Green Mind over this, though I do admit that Watch the Corners is my favourite Dino song ever.
52. Natural Snow Buildings - Beyond the Veil
Highlight track: Spells
Sweet sweet, but at times rather disturbing, drone with some folk thrown in for good measure. As with every other Natural Snow Buildings release (of the ones that I've listened to... they are so exhaustingly long that I've never got around to listening to all of them), I wish that there were more folky bits in there, but on the other hand the scarcity is exactly what makes them so tasty.
51. Blut aus Nord - 777 - Cosmosophy
Highlight track: Epitome XVII
Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega seem to be having a competition on who can get the furthest away from black metal. Blut Aus Nord won. While Deathspell Omega's recent efforts are still kind of black metal, the same can't be said for this album. It's basically light industrial metal with clean vocals. As with the Hell album that I have listed at 63, this is a perfect closer to the trilogy, but out of context it's somewhat underwhelming.
50. Horseback - Half Blood
Highlight track: Ahriman
Country influenced drone with black metal vocals... now that is an interesting combination. I have been aware of this band for perhaps two years, but actually gave them a listen only a month or two ago, and I'm glad that I did. Though I enjoy Horseback's earlier releases more than this one, it's still a fun record. I never thought that drone-based music could be this groovy and catchy.
49. Satan's Satyrs - Wild Beyond Belief!
Highlight track: Electric Witchwhipper
This is a ridiculously fun record. Imagine Electric Wizard playing punky garage rock tunes and you will get Satan's Satyrs.
48. Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
Highlight track: The Bug
This album is a massive disappointment for me. It's a good record but...meh. It's always a crappy feeling when one of your favourite bands release something that you don't like. I got excited when they said that this was going to be a more straightforward grind album akin to Prowler In the Yard, one of my favourite albums of all-time, but what I got was basically a groove metal album (*slight exaggeration*). Many people have criticized the amount of guest vocalists, but I don't directly have a problem with that. My biggest problem with the album is that some of the songs don't sound like Pig Destroyer at all. The song The Diplomat, which features Misery Index vocalist Jason Netherton, sounds like it's taken of a Misery index album. The song The Underground Man, on the other hand, sound exactly like something one might expect to hear on an Agoraphobic Nosebleed record (minus the drum machine, of course). Even though Phantom Limb is musically a lot further away from typical Pig Destroyer, at least it sounds like freaking Pig Destroyer.
47. Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God
Highlight track: II
I'm not into traditional heavy metal at all, but Dawnbringer are one of the few exceptions. They are another San Fransisco band that have a very unique feel to their music, much like Ludicra, Hammers of Misfortune and many others to emerge from that scene. This is also my favourite album cover art of the year (a bigger picture can be seen here).
46. Nadja & Vampillia - The Primitive World
Highlight track: Icelight
Nadja provides the drone and Vampillia provides...well, stuff that one might not expect to hear on a Nadja record, most recognizably piano but also some post-rockish parts. The combination of massive drone doom guitar walls and solo piano should not work but somehow it does.
45. Torche - Harmonicraft
Highlight track: Looking On
Torche are one of the heaviest bands around, but also one of the most poppy and fun to listen to, thus the often used tongue-in-cheek genre tag stoner pop. That album cover featuring cute popsicle-licking and rainbow-vomiting monsters depicts perfectly how disgustingly sugary this album sounds like.
44. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
Highlight track: Reagan
My favourite hip hop album since The Roots put out How I Got Over in 2010. This is a must listen for anyone who likes early Ice Cube and similar early gangsta rap.
43. Whirr - Pipe Dreams
Highlight track: Toss
Poppy shoegaze in the vein of My Bloody Valentine, but with fewer songs that are pointlessly buried under oceans of feedback.
42. Svartidauði - Flesh Cathedral
Highlight track: The Perpetual Nothing
Icelandic black metal that is pure Deathspell Omega worship. I think that those two things tell enough to pique one's interest, or the opposite.
41. Column of Heaven - Mission From God
Highlight track: Pharmakos
Some really dark powerviolence combined with noisy electronics. The band features former members of The Endless Blockade, which is always a sign of quality. For some weird reason this album reminds me a lot of Psudoku's Space Grind.
40. Joose Keskitalo & Kolmas Maailmanpalo - Vyötä kupeesi ja tule!
Highlight track: Mene säkin sisään
Quite possibly the most depressing folk artist I've ever listened to. Though this album is nowhere near as nihilistic as the lo-fi folk of Tule minun luokseni, kulta, it's still far from campfire sing-alongs. The second track, Aleksander Aava, immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. It's a story of a psychotic man who wanders naked around the woods and feeds birds with parts of his body that he has carved out. How lovely.
39. Panopticon - Kentucky
Highlight track: Killing The Giants As They Sleep
I enjoyed Panopticon's more straightforward approach to black metal on last year's Social Disservices, but now he's experimenting again. Heavily. This album is basically an ode to Kentucky (no shit), which means exactly what one might guess - country music and banjo jams. Lots of banjo jams. Country and black metal sounds like an unlikely combination, but in my opinion it works beautifully on this album. Even though Kentucky has the atmosphere and black metal parts that one is accustomed to hearing in a Panopticon record, I would still classify this as a straight-out folk metal album. There are way too many banjo and flute passages to call this anything else.
38. JK Flesh - Posthuman
Highlight track: Earthmover
I wish that Broadrick returned more often to this dark industrial sound that he has perfected. After he puts out new Jesu and Godflesh albums, of course.
37. Hooded Menace - Effigies of Evil
Highlight track: In the Dead We Dwell
Another pretty much flawless album by Lasse Pyykkö and friends. I never get tired of this groovy and doomy death metal sound. Lasse Pyykkö is also one of my favourite current death metal singers. The nuances in his delivery are flawless.
36. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
Highlight track: Wasted Days
The lone indie rock album to make it onto this list. There's been a lot of talk about their change in sound, but to me there's no question that this shit is superior to their early stuff. I'm happy that they decided to start screaming and writing 8-minute songs as opposed to keep on playing light-hearted college kid indie rock tunes.
35. Absvrdist - Illusory
Highlight track: Shidiot
More grindcore! There's never enough grindcore in a year-end list. If i'm not mistaken this is their debut release. Pretty impressive. There's a lot of variation from your typical grind blasting to groovy mid-paced parts to black metalish parts to samples and so on. There's even an acoustic interlude. All of these different elements are combined skillfully, which is pretty rare for such a young band.
34. P.H.O.B.O.S. - Atonal Hypermnesia
Highlight track: Solar Defrag
Four 15-minute songs of swirling walls of sound, punishing drum machine beats and seemingly endless repetition. The sole purpose of this album is to crush you. Atonal Hypermnesia is as nihilistic as metal music can get. If you think that Meshuggah sounds like a soulless machine, give P.H.O.B.O.S. a listen. They eat Meshuggah alive in that department.
33. Om - Advaitic Songs
Highlight track: State of Non-Return
And on the other end of the spectrum we have OM. It's weird how something this heavy can sound so peaceful. These OM albums are spiritually almost closer to ambient than doom metal.
32. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Highlight track: We Drift Like Worried Fire
Note to GY!BE: next time you release an album after a 10-year break, tell someone about it. Thanks.
31. Nadja - Dagdrøm
Highlight track: Falling Out of Your Head
After a couple of years of only releasing collaboration albums, Nadja finally put out something on their own this year. I deninitely didn't expect it to be a groovy rock album, but this just goes to show how incredibly talented Nadja are. They can release anything from pure noise to rock and make it work. I almost dropped this down a couple of spots because of the last track, a 14-minute build up that ends without a climax, but after repeated listens I realized that it's a perfect way to end the album.
30. Witchrist - The Grand Tormentor
Highlight track: Meditation for Sacrifice
I have slowly been losing interest in the death metal genre over the years, but bands like Witchrist keep me coming back. While this is nowhere near as phenomenal an album as its predecessor Beheaded Ouroboros, it's still a monumental abum and essential listening for anyone who is into death metal.
29. Crystal Castles - (III)
Highlight track: Insulin
It's only fitting that Crystal Castles release their darkest and most disturbing album after the (not really but kind of) "more listener friendly" (II). I absolutely love the overall atmosphere of this release, but, like on their other albums, some of the dancy stuff is a bit too much for me. I prefer the mindfuck tracks, especially Insulin and Telepath.
28. Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Highlight track: Everyday Pox
It's pretty impressive that Napalm Death are still putting out brilliant albums 30 years into their career. Utilitarian, their 15th album, might be their most intense one yet.
27. Anhedonist - Netherwards
Highlight track: Saturnine
This is some of the best deathdoom that I have ever heard. I still prefer Winter's Into Darkness, but this is pretty damn impressive, especially for a debut release.
26. Master's Hammer - Vracejte konve na místo
Highlight track: Vracejte konve na místo
It's weird how a band of Master's Hammer's stature has stayed so unknown for over 20 years. I didn't even realize that they had released a new album before I overheard some people talking about it a couple of months ago. This is a surprisingly straightforward album for Master's Hammer - no black metal opera weirdness this time. Also, the title track has perhaps the catchiest sing-along chorus of 2012.
25. High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
Highlight track: Spiritual Rites
The idea to hire some random pop rock producer to produce their last album was a horrible mistake. This is again the type of pummeling that I expect to receive from a High on Fire record. The riffs are great, the drumming sounds like Through Silver In Blood era Neurosis and Matt Pike's voice is as grimy as always. I can't wait to see these guys live in a couple of months.
24. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems
Highlight track: Sleepless
The genre of minimal techno is a mystery to me, but what I do know is that Andy Stott's discography is pure gold.
23. Seremonia - Seremonia
Highlight track: Antikristus 666
Occultic garage rock. That probably sounds laughable but Seremonia is really a band to be taken seriously. I'm surprised that this record didn't get more attention from metal media since this type of retro sound is so popular these days.
22. Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker
Highlight track: Part III
Not at all what I expected from the band that made Hatred For Mankind, one of the most extreme metal albums ever released. After the initial shock I realized that this album is a perfect follow-up to it. There would have been no point for Dragged Into Sunlight to even try surpassing the intensity of Hatred for Mankind, though this album is by no means an easy listen either. That last vocal sample is some of the eeriest shit I've ever heard.
21. Neurosis - Honour Found In Decay
Highlight track: At The Well
I had massive expectations for this album. Unfortunately it didn't live up to them. The vocals and guitars are surprisingly weak and the song structures are far too predictable. This is also the first time that a Neurosis record has songs that I find skippable. There are still enough of those defining moments that are the reason why Neurosis is such a special band, such as the ending of My Heart For Deliverance, to make me keep returning to this album, but I can't help feeling disappointed.
20. Wild Nothing - Nocturne
Highlight track: Nocturne
I surprise even myself by ranking a pop album higher than the new Neurosis but Nocturne is really that good. It's a massive improvement over their debut album Gemini, which I thought was a pretty good album when it came out. This is again one of those cases where a band has made such drastic improvements that it makes their old material sound kind of crappy in comparison.
19. Ash Borer - Cold of Ages
Highlight track: Removed Forms
This is some of the most essential atmospheric black metal out there, and probably my favourite album of the genre since Wolves in the Throne Room's Two Hunters. There are very few bands that make as captivating 10-minute songs as these guys.
18. Mgła - With Hearts Toward None
Highlight track: With Hearts Toward None VII
Some of the most skillfully made traditional black metal of 2012. Catchy and surprisingly melodic but still crushing.
17. The Kill - Make 'Em Suffer
Highlight track: Blastasfuk
One of the heaviest and most genuinely pissed off grindcore bands around. "Other beats are okay but blast is the best / playing slow sucks we want a speed fest!"
16. Amenra - Mass V
Highlight track: Boden
This is the first Amenra record that I really get, and some of the best post-metal released in a long time (let's be honest, the genre is pretty much dead at the moment). The song structures are almost annoyingly predictable but the climaxes are so massive that they still get me everytime, and the vocals are amazing, too.
15. Krallice - Years Past Matter
Highlight track: IIIIIIIIIIII (= track #6)
This is some next level black metal right here. Krallice have pretty much redefined the genre with their four full-lengths. With Colin Marston and Mick Barr involved, it's a given that the album is technically mindblowing, as evidenced by that 30-second sample of the last track on the album, but what really stands out is the song writing. I wish Marston and Barr showcased their songwriting skills more often instead of writing 40 minute wank solos. Not that there's anything wrong with 40 minute solos, they just have a bad habit of getting a bit tedious after 30 seconds.
14. Gnaw Their Tongues - Eschatological Scatology
Highlight track: Master I Am Done
A combination of noise, black metal and classical music. Earlier this year I described this album as the sickest, most distressing and divine cacophony that I have ever heard and I still stand by that.
13. Death Grips - No Love Deep Web
Highlight track: Lock Your Doors
More hipster garbage.
12. Circle of Ouroborus - The Lost Entrance Of The Just
Highlight track: The Way of the Will
Circle of Ouroborus are such an odd band. Their music is pretty much a formless mass of ever-flowing guitars and vocals that sound like you were listening through a wall to someone singing karaoke. Somehow that adds up to some of the most magical music there is.
11. Lunar Aurora - Hoagascht
Highlight track: Beagliachda
I had never paid that much attention to this band before Hoagascht, but the constant glowing praise that this album got around its release forced me to give this band another chance, and I'm glad that I did. Lunar Aurora are one of the few bands that can pull off symphonic black metal, and on this particular album also folk metal, without being cheesy at all. Also, that old school Amorphis keyboard sound brings back good memories. It's unfortunate that this will most likely be the last Lunar Aurora record, but reforming to release this record was generous of the band.
10. Wreck and Reference - No Youth
Highlight track: Nausea
No youth is so heavily experimental and unlike anything I have heard before that I'm not even going to try classifying this music. I have a hard time wrapping my head around this band. Maybe I'll get it in a year or two. For the sake of comparison I would say that this is somehow comparable to Have a Nice Life or Giles Corey, though very distantly. The album can be streamed and downloaded for free here.
9. Dephosphorus - Night Sky Transform
Highlight track: Cold Omen
Dephosphorus are a band that I predict will be imitated to death in the coming years. Their brand of "astrogrind" is wholly unique and perplexing. I know that I contradict myself by first whining about 3-minute grind songs when discussing the Napalm Death / Converge split and then putting a grindcore album with mostly over 3-minute tracks in my top 10, but this album is an exception to the rule.
8. Unsane - Wreck
Highlight track: Roach
Unsane have been releasing solid noise rock albums for over two decades now, but Wreck is definitely a highpoint in their ridiculously homogeneous discography. This was the hardest album for me to decide on a highlight track with pretty much every single song deserving of a special mention.
7. Enslaved - RIITIIR
Highlight track: Forsaken
It's just incredible what Enslaved are doing 12 albums into their career. I thought that they had already perfected their radio happy prog black metal with Vertebrae and couple of their other recent releases, but this album takes their sound to completely new heights. There are 8 tracks on this thing, 5 clocking in at over 8 minutes, and not a single dull moment. Many modern mainstream metal bands should give Enslaved a listen and take notes on how to properly utilize cleanly sung choruses.
6. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Highlight track: Trespasses
Does it really come as a surprise that Converge releases another album that fucking rules? Being able to live up to the expectations that come by releasing three of the best hardcore albums of the last decade is astounding. My only problem with this album is that the first six songs are such a beatdown that the rest of the album feels a bit tame in comparison.
5. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Highlight track: Devoid Of Redemption
Doom album of the year for me. This is some of the heaviest, most emotionally loaded and impactful music released this year. Absolutely gorgeous melodies and riffs, and the vocals are exceptional. This album was summed up perfectly by a fellow Last.fm user: "brb crying manly doom tears while listening to sorrow and extinction on repeat for all of eternity".
4. Sigur Rós - Valtari
Highlight track: Ekki múkk
I have gotten very little out of Sigur Rós' last couple of albums, so I'm glad to see them reverting back to their early sound with this album. Musically Valtari is somewhere in between their first two albums, which I think are some of the finest post-rock ever made.
3. thedowngoing - ATHOUSANDYEARSOFDARKNESS
Highlight track: hope[sic]
This is the last of 12 grindcore records in this list. None of the others come even close to athousandyearsofdarkness in my opinion. This is some of the harshest, most chaotic grind out there, but the songs are still filled with instantly recognizable and incredible riffs and hooks. Thedowngoing are one of those bands that leave the listener wondering how the hell two people can make so much noise.
2. Circle of Ouroborus - Abrahadabra
Highlight track: These Days And Years To Kill
With two albums in the top 15 and the top spot in EPs, Circle of Ouroborus wins the imaginary cake this year. The reason why I ranked this album higher than The Lost Entrance Of The Just is simply because I enjoy this album's laid back sound that is closer to Eleven Fingers a bit more than the more intense The Lost Entrance of the Just.
1. Swans - The Seer
Highlight track: The Seer
This is it. This is the most perfect piece of music that has been released this year. The Seer isn't just my favourite album of this year - it's my favourite album of at least the last 5 years. I first heard this album, or at least most of, live at Flow festival this summer and I was crushed. Then when I got home and listened to the actual record, I was crushed again. Twice, actually, because I gave it back to back listens. I don't think that I have ever before encountered an over two-hour long double album that I want to listen to twice in a row, or even twice in a week. The Seer is the culmination of the career of the Swans, and combines the best parts of pretty much everything they have ever done. I think it's safe to say that this album will be remembered as the highpoint of their career, unless they somehow manage to top this in the future.