Metalunderground.com's Best Of 2012 Awards Announced
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Metalunderground.com wishes all our regulars and newcomers a happy new year as we look forward to a 2013 full of improvements and hopefully even more awesome metal than the preceding year. The 2011 “best of the year” piece ended up so late it actually became an April Fool’s joke (with “Lulu” of course winning the top album spot), but this time around we’re going to dive right into a retrospective of the last 365 days of metal and how they impacted the scene at large.
Recent years have been fairly uneven for metal, punctuated by stellar releases surrounded by flops and mediocre albums from the big names. We’ve seen the continuing sad decline of some of the oldest and biggest names in metal in the past few years, but 2012 shook that up and was a year where the underground earned a greater focus.
2012 was a highly productive year for several prominent sub-genres (power, prog, and djent all saw a horde of releases from acts both known and unknown), but a little more sparse for others (there were only a handful of symphonic black metal releases by established bands.) Considering the sheer number of albums, EPs, singles, demos, etc. that see the light of day per year, we’re inevitably going to end up overlooking some that were definitely good releases, so please accept our apologies in advance if a band you dig didn’t get a nod. We love all forms of metal, and there’s just no way to cover everything that happened in 2012 in a single article.
While 2012 was an off-year on the release schedule for some of the highest profile acts, there were still plenty of bands in the upper echelons that dropped new material. Metaldom saw albums hit from the likes of Between the Buried and Me, Therion, The Sword, Dethklok, Cradle of Filth, Kamelot, Enslaved, Katatonia, Korpiklaani, Borknagar, and Lacuna Coil. Obviously that alone covers a huge range of sound, and we also got to hear some highly anticipated new material from God Seed, Ministry, Wintersun, Baroness, Meshuggah, Woods of Ypres, and Ex Deo. Some of those ended up being worth the hype, while others didn’t meet the high level of expectation, and below you’ll see how our contributors voted on last year’s releases.
Before we jump into the different categories and winners, I’d like to mention how this was such a good year for bands that mash up genres. Fans of different styles colliding were in for a treat as cross-genre experimentation seems to be becoming more of the norm these days. The Wretched End blended together death and thrash, Diablo Swing Orchestra worked swing music into metal, Kontrust melds pop and metal, Stealing Axion worked through just about every sub-genre that exists, and Nachtblut blurred the lines between industrial and symphonic black metal. It seems like this trend is running strong and cross pollination is going to widen metal fan’s musical horizons and introduce mainstream music enthusiasts into the more extreme stuff.
Best Metal Album of 2012
As with pretty much every year, the best album is a hotly contested entry. There’s no question that metal is one of the most diverse forms of music, and we purposefully have a staff with interests that cover a huge spectrum of heavy styles. One person might love power metal and have no interest in grindcore, while another is all about the NWOBHM and doesn’t care for the abrasive black metal, and so on.
This year’s winner, snagging more nominations from multiple contributors than any other, comes from a classic giant of metal. This is an act that many feel deserves to be grouped in the “Big 4 of Thrash” more than most of the bands actually on that list:
Testament – “Dark Roots of Earth”
These U.S. thrash gods had a comeback in 2008 with “The Formation of Damnation” and have been running strong since, releasing “Dark Roots of Earth” earlier this year. While some have felt it doesn’t stand up to earlier material, this is an incredibly well rounded release that continues to gain more fans over time, with several of our contributors all commenting on how the album grew on them more with each successive listen.
Showcasing the diversity of our beloved metal was the runner up album: Anathema’s “Weather Systems” (reviewed here). An album that deserves the tag “beautiful” instead of “brutal,” this was a release that isn’t headbang friendly at all, but still has a strong appeal for metalheads who can enjoy the softer stuff.
Other albums that all received multiple nominations from the staff included Ex Deo’s “Caligvla,” “Psalms for the Dead” by Candlemass, Gojira’s “L’Enfant Sauvage,” and Goatwhore’s “Blood For The Master.” The year also saw releases worth mentioning in this category from the ever evolving Enslaved and the long-missed Wintersun.
Best Metal DVD of 2012
As usual this is a category where there isn’t much agreement between our writers, simply because devoting the time to watching a full DVD for a band you don’t already love isn’t usually in the cards. This year the most voted-for release was:
Devin Townsend - “By A Thread: Live In London”
The win wasn’t altogether unexpected, considering the box set sees Hevy Devy performing all four of his recent quadrilogy of albums: “Ki,” “Addicted,” “Ghost,” and “Deconstruction.” Trailing behind Devin Towsend in the number two spot was runner-up Stratovarius with the “Under Flaming Winter Skies” DVD.
Best Metal Newcomer of 2012
In addition to those highly anticipated releases either from reactivated old favorites or long-running standbys, 2012 saw the debut full-lengths from a variety of highly talented newcomers. These are definitely going to be bands to look out for that will become genre giants in their own right if their future releases maintain the high quality seen this year. For our winner in this category we actually ended up with a dead tie between two very different acts:
Maldives act Nothnegal and U.S. band Pallbearer
Nothenegal came out of nowhere with debut “Decadence,” released through Season of Mist, blending together a dark take on melodic death metal with some interesting industrial elements. Profound Lore recording artist and new doom champion Pallbearer also saw a debut release earlier this year in the form of ”Sorrow and Extinction.” We have high hopes that both of these acts will become mainstays of metal and keep the underground alive and well in the coming years.
There were a good deal of other bands seeing major debuts this year who didn’t managed to snag enough votes to win, but are still well worth seeking out. Do yourself a favor and check out the recent releases from Ne Obliviscaris and Beyond the Bridge. Other bands to get nominated included Huntress and the Mikael Akerfeldt/Steven Wilsom collaboration Storm Corrosion.
Best Live Act of 2012
Usually our votes in this category are diverse enough to never really reach a consensus, due to how spread out geographically our contributors are, but this year we were lucky enough to have several members meet up for large events. Metal destinations such as SXSW, Prog Power USA, and the Barge to Hell finally had multiple members all voting for the same acts. Our clear leader this time around was:
Swiss folk metallers Eluveitie
That’s not to say there wasn’t stiff competition, however! Rammstein, Jucifer, and Behemoth all put up admirable fights in this category, and other bands that were nominated but didn’t get enough votes from multiple contributors to take home a win were Wintersun, Accept, At The Gates, and Solstafir.
Most Anticipated Release of 2013
We have a bit of a tradition (or a curse if you prefer) – the most anticipated album of one year never actually ends up actually winning the “best album” category next year (or even making it onto many top 10 lists). But maybe this coming year the trend can be broken with:
New “supergroup” God of Atheists
This Asgeir Mickelson (Spiral Architect, Borknagar) created group has been gaining buzz for awhile now and is ramping up for a strong 2013 showing. The band’s impressive lineup of underground powerhouses includes Norwegian superstar Ihsahn (Emperor), ICS Vortex (Dimmu Borgir), Trym (Zyklon, Emperor), and Carl August Tidemann (Arcturus).
When you finish salivating over that, keep in mind there’s plenty more awesome metal coming down the pipe this year. God of Atheists may have won, but it was followed closely in the voting by Voivod and Soilwork, who both have new albums imminently approaching. Other impending releases that we’re excited for include albums from Ghost, Carcass, Powerwolf, Leprous, Saxon, and Kvelertak.
…And A Headbanging New Year!
Looking back through all those names its clear metal had a strong showing in 2012, and there’s even more to look forward to in the coming months. A growing number of underground releases are now reaching a significantly wider audience thanks to Bandcamp, as it’s offered the completely unknown acts a place to easily stream or offer new releases for cheap or free download. With basement one-man acts up to the legendary bands of the scene all gearing up for an apocalypse of metal in 2013 we’re excited to make this the best year yet for Metalunderground.com and hope you’ll be around to headbang with us.
If you didn’t catch as much new music during the last 12 months as you’d like, here’s our complete list of nominated “best newcomer” bands to get you started:
Beyond the Bridge
The River Neva
Kill Devil Hill
The Great Gamble
Star & Dagger
Obviously there are many others worth checking out, but these were our staff picks limited to five bands per person. Feel free to share your suggestions, thoughts, and comments below.
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