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Wednesday
Dec262012

The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #5: Killing Joke - MMXII

Delusions of Godhood dissolve as we realize we're powerless to avert our own desolation...

#5

 

Killing Joke - MMXII

Surreptitiously, Killing Joke is part of heavy metal ancestry. They might be invited along as “friends of” to the heavy metal family reunion. They’d be sat in the corner, watching Ozzy Osbourne’s drunken arm slung over Rob Halford’s leather-clad shoulder as he screams obscenities at no one in particular. A few of the bands in attendance – Metallica, Behemoth and Napalm Death to name but a few - would tip their glass toward them in silent tribute. Talking to Steve Hughes earlier this year made the urgency of Killing Joke's musical countdown to our incipient extinction clear. Our civilization’s fundament is at best an unknowable labyrinth, the great benign mother of us all is poisoned and choking and we now have the power to “Google someone’s toothbrush from space” – Steve joked at the time, albeit the humor doesn’t last long. Killing Joke’s inelastic attitude to perfection gives birth to dark children of metal invention. Dark shuffle In Cythera, garrisoned by synthesized dread digs down into their bittersweet proto-industrial days serves as précis for the record – vibrant, abrasive and not completely devoid of optimism. Mostly, though the crunch of bones in the teeth of merciless cogs ring out in their riffs. Jaz Coleman screams a grim portent toward mobs of void minds from their bleak soundscapes: the end isn't near, it's here.

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The Top 10 Metal of 2012

#6 - The Faceless - Autotheism
#7 - Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone
#8 - Baroness - Yellow & Green
#9 - Rush - Clockwork Angels
#10 - Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

The Honorable Mentions

Thursday
Dec202012

The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #6: The Faceless - Autotheism

The spirit of the ancients wisp and wind towards you filling you with mana from above. Soon, you're roaring with full voice: "I am the Alpha and Omega..."

#6

The Faceless - Autotheism

How in the actual fuck did The Faceless outmaneuver both Gojira's vein-popping fret noodling and sweep away Devin Townsend's dominion over all which lies beyond the fringes of heavy metal? In the same year both release records? Artful in execution and inventive in scope, The Faceless wed together sublime flanks of careening vocals, trammeling percussion played in impossible time strictures, mind-fucking riffs and trippy saxophone blasts somehow making it all work. Incredibly well. Impossibly well. In view of their uncanny ability to churn out inhumanely fast scales as if they’re emanating from the big top of a devil’s carnival, Canadian circus freaks Unexpect may as well pack up their box of psychotic tricks and go home. How do The Faceless create fierce yet doleful technical death metal so engaging upon first listen? I can almost hear the dejected trudge of Gorguts and Cynic back towards their drawing boards. How do they craft music so intricate yet make it seem effortless in practice? It's confounding. Polyrhythms segue into blinding lead breaks, haunting vocal marches and back again. Your brain scarcely has time to catch up, but you're glad you're along for the ride. Autotheism stands inarguably as the finest extreme progressive metal opus since Green Carnation’s Light of Day, Day of Darkness.  Utterly, utterly brilliant.

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The Top 10 Metal of 2012

#7 - Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone
#8 - Baroness - Yellow & Green
#9 - Rush - Clockwork Angels
#10 - Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

The Honorable Mentions

Wednesday
Dec192012

The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #7: Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone

Taking flight from the prairies of Georgia, we're taken chase by a beguiling yet unsettling red-hooded cherub accompanied by a snarling beast baying for blood...

#7

Be'lakor - Of Breath and Bone

Akin to all great metal records born from the darker pits of our psyche, Of Breath and Bone pours itself in like mist at our feet. Slowly then all at once like our nightly passage into slumber, we realize they've enveloped us totally in their sensuous soundscape. Whips of Celtic tinctured melodies, pile-driving double-kick and some of the most inspired acoustic lead work since before In Flames debased themselves by sporting trucker caps or opening craft beer bars can be heard amongst its elegant length. They have sculpted a stellar death metal selection, blending the frosted majesty of the Finnish while astutely channeling the Swedish penchant for barking gristle and serrated riffery. If a record glues you to your seat until it’s over, it's a bloody good album. Detractors of melodic death metal contend the contemporary devotees tapped melodeath's creative well dry. Others figure only the progenitors of the style can vouchsafe its survival. What utter tripe! The flourishes and brutality of Be'lakor augurs well for a commendable new wave of Australian heavy metal.

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The Top 10 Metal of 2012

#8 - Baroness - Yellow & Green
#9 - Rush - Clockwork Angels
#10 - Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

The Honorable Mentions

Monday
Dec172012

The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #8: Baroness - Yellow & Green

Plummeting back down to Earth, our eyes creak open to find overall-clad men towering over us, pitchforks in hand and necks reddening in the hot Georgia sun...

#8

Baroness - Yellow & Green

Stoner metal wasteoids have bemoaned Baroness’ ever dwindling ferrous content as red albums cooled to blue records and steadily exited the primary spectrum altogether. In an age where we have the technology to augment our “scary music innit” with ProTools sorcery, it’s inevitable to think less of a band if they dial it down a bit. If we remember their guitars were once connected to nature, and the sound of their natural creaks and supple twangs can be heard then it’s game over, pal. But all the pissing about Baroness’ post being forwarded out of the metal abyss have cascaded unflinchingly on urine-soaked ears. Their prodigious talents behind the studio glass still feels palpable and immediate. The fire in Baroness' red belly might have gone out but the ashes still have the power to seize and choke us. Sounding down home and out, Baroness' hearts surrender to the darkness. As they weave their twisted lines of bluegrass and soulful metal into us, so do we.

From the review, posted at TheVine.com.au

Mid-tempo 'Board up the House' brims with swampy undulating bass and breezy guitar jangle; Weezer may talk of bringing “death to false metal” but this track walks the walk. 'Board' would herald the unrelenting storm of a (much welcomed) great poser massacre, occurring somewhere in the dustbowls of Tennessee. Hell, I can almost envision Baizley and co. stepping forward into a tin-can microphone in some beat-up, beige-walled studio to harmonize the immense bluegrass-style refrain.

[...]

Though metalheads will scratch their head and wonder “where the fuck is the metal?” on this record, I submit to you – over 75 minutes with scarcely a naff moment to be heard, does it really matter where it went?


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The Top 10 Metal of 2012

#9 - Rush - Clockwork Angels
#10 - Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

The Honorable Mentions

Friday
Dec142012

The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #9: Rush - Clockwork Angels

A mysterious band of rotund imps carries us away on their anachronistic zeppelin-styled caravan, steaming ahead full toward the gilded land of the mysterious Watchmaker...

#9

Rush - Clockwork Angels

I suppose in the traditional sense, Rush aren’t a metal band. In our cloistered cult of metal, distrustful of “normals,” brave is the metalhead who can point to a band untouched by their tripartite prog brush. Every rock drummer has at least heard of Neil Peart and almost every metal drummer will clamor to see this pure percussive whirlwind live and on stage. Clockwork Angels transcends the liner notes and the concept that winds out over the disc. Their accompanying Time Machine Tour featured spellbinding graphics and an intricately crafted steampunk mise-en-scene – Geddy stood in front of a hapless brain encased within a glass dome, simmering away in fluids unknown for most of the concert. During the intermission, a clip of the trio dressed up in trollish uniforms was shown, the three gleefully conspiring to confuse a taxman (played by Jay Baruchel) in pursuit of our protagonist the Watchmaker, another of their abstract allusions to nature, spirituality and the band’s own depth of purpose.

As for the record, they lovingly furnish us with genre-leading anthems (Clockwork Angels), classic sing-along rockers (Caravan) and foot-stompin’ tracks fit for redlining your Red Barchetta (Seven Cities of Gold.) Twinkling guitars bloom in tandem with Geddy Lee’s still youthful voice, carrying us towards the stars within a beautiful closer, The Garden. Rush didn't get "it" back, they simply did "it" again. The untouchably talented unholy trinity of prog rock unites to rock us, move us and delightfully wow us again. “In a world where I feel so small/I can’t stop thinking big,” Lee implores. I’m glad that you three have and still do. The spirit of the Watchmaker lives on.

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The Top 10 Metal of 2012

#10 - Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve
The Honorable Mentions