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The Top 10 Metal of 2012 #10: Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

Shuffling the honorees away, we take a longboat to a time-ravaged North, where a compact with Lucifer has been made...


Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve

European metal supergroups are usually just overinflated ego incubators. Jeff Scott Soto was in Journey once – well he must be fucking royalty. Musos join up to churn out novelty hackery and we all cast our heads down in disappointment. Barren Earth, comprised of ex-Amorphis, Swallow the Sun and Moonsorrow members buck this sorry trend by commiting steadfastly to a sinister concept. Sami Yli-Sirnio feels pragmatic on axe, cognizant he’s backup to ultra-rioter Mille Petrozza (Phantom Antichrist just missed the list, by the by) still immersing us in sensual, leafy strains. They pour into us their alchemical brew of doom, death and prog metal, all slotting seamlessly into their imaginative soundscape.

From the review printed in The Big Issue:

The Devil’s Resolve is a rare record in that you can trust the “super” in “supergroup”.

The Top 10 Metal of 2012

The Honorable Mentions


The Top 10 Metal of 2012 - The Honorable Mentions

I'm not exactly a traditionalist but here I sit, writing the third instalment of the Top 10 of Metal, this time for the year 2012. What seems a mammoth gap between 2011 and 2012 astounds even me. I'm often forced to think hard about my position as a man in 2011 in relation to today. My aspiration to find employment as a music writer has thankfully come into fruition. I'm being sent greater numbers of promos from an array of genres than I've ever had before, each one jumping up to occupy my dwindling amounts of time to review them with the diligence and attention they deserve.

The year began with a slow burn. Bizzaro masters Sigh released a chillingly admirable follow-up to 2010's Scenes From Hell, In Somniphobia. Hipster darlings Alcest continued their black metal world conquest apace with Les Voyages de L'Ame. These discs among others were stellar - four or five star records - but neither made my list. This isn't an excoriation on their quality, they were simply edged out by some monumentally brilliant cuts. Release schedules picked up pace after July, betraying a store of label pocket aces, all in gleeful foreknowledge of what treasures they'd bestow unto us later in 2012. That's why I've expanded the list to a maximum of 20, in full view of the many praiseworthy efforts on offer. However, like every year I shall begin with the Honorable Mentions, three discs earning the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards respectively.

A hush sweeps over the audience as the Bronze Award is presented...

Kamelot - Silverthorn

In the year 2004 I, a Year 12 student with a B+ grade average in English inadvertently wound up on Finnish prog label Lion Music's distro list, goaded into filing praise-filled copy in the service of their artists. With the business model "Sign ten and hope one of them turns a profit" greying and in its death throes, progressive power metal act Seventh Wonder with silver-tongued Tommy Karevik front and center was their hope to balance their running deficits, seeing their budget routinely blown on raising an army of Dream Theater and Yngwie Malmsteen clones. To quote me, circa 2006 or so: "Mr. Karevik is a rare find - To compare him to his contemporaries, he is a mix of a less self-conscious Mac (Threshold), while his theatrical smooth yet powerful baritone reminds one of Mr. Roy Khan (Kamelot)." Fittingly, he swept his Uther away to become the revered Arthur of Kamelot.  Surrounded by gallant sonic knights, Karevik wills the fantastic and bombastic back into power metal. Upon flights of baleful libretto and swathes of romantic strings, Kamelot evoke a pure, heartfelt nostalgia for thousands of tales of boyhood adventure both magical and arcane. 

Trembling and sweating, a sigh of relief is audible throughout the stadium with the Silver Award handed to...

Paradise Lost - Tragic Idol

In exclaim!, the premier Canadian street press, guitarist Greg(or) Mackintosh delineated previous record Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us from the superb Tragic Idol: "Faith would be quite a bitter, dark cake with lots of layers and plenty of icing. Tragic Idol would be a simple, delicious, moist cake with no icing." True enough. There's no lolling about so it's gratifyingly devoid of orchestral or synthetic garland threatening their fatalistic poetry. Scintillating, unvarnished doom metal rivaling the gilded mid-90s era is the result. Unfettered cruelty from both riff and throat blasts blackness and anguish into the gelid hearts of desperate men. Comparatively, My Dying Bride thinks more is best. But hey - they aren't on this list, are they?

Whoops and cheers break out as we shake the hands of the Gold Award winners, holding their trophy aloft...


Daylight Dies - A Frail Becoming

Vocalist Nathan Ellis emailed me a few weeks ago. The missive contained a profuse apology – the new discs had been misplaced and it would be a few weeks more until they arrived. Roger and Jaymz of 3CR radio's The Heavy Session played an elegantly brutal cut from the album while I co-hosted last Sunday. From then on, the wait grew unbearable. On the Monday, it finally appeared. Thrusting the disc into my beefy rig following a harrowing corporate Christmas party, my breath was taken by their vulnerable, inspired doom-weighted odes. The album replete with bounding textures and ever-shifting dark expressions of inner torment envelops you in the searing heat of their dispassion. It’s prosaic to suggest that Daylight Dies’ fingertips have merely brushed greatness, closing the gap between on each album – yet true enough. Now they can stand proudly as their calloused, withered hands clutch their well-deserved prize.

We announce to the prizeless to stick around, as we prepare to proclaim the latter half of the Top 20 of 2012.

14. Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Pinata
15. Black Breath -
Sentenced to Life
16. Enslaved -
17. Between the Buried and Me -
Parallax II: Future Sequence
18. Wintersun -
Time I
19. Gojira -
L'Enfant Sauvage
20. Twelve Foot Ninja -
Silent Machine

With the formalities dispensed with, we can look forward to the Top 10...

View the Top 10 of 2010
View the Top 10 of 2011


Article: Top 10 inarguably terrible music genres (TheVine)

Originally titled "Top 10 boils on the arse of music (that eventually went away)"


We've all been there.You find yourself at a party finding your face gurned into a deformed pumpkin as it bears witness to a bunch of people dancing to music so heinous it ought to be banned by the Geneva Convention. "It's Dubstep," they'll peep, "It's everything that's great about music right now."* Brimming with more scepticism than a James Randi convention, you clamour for a bunker in which your own music collection is lowered into to, wait until the plague flushes through the intertubes. Once the toxicity fades proper music is allowed to flourish once again.

Luckily, when it comes to these musical aberrations, our consensus realities are in agreement for about as long as a lunchbreak at a Student Union committee meeting ("Lunch is oppressive, I propose that we serve organic vegan lunch from now on" implore the Communists for Disabled Whales faction) and it only takes a few months (or days in this day and age) to initiate a ritual cleansing of any unpalatable music style. So what are the top 10 boils on the arse of music that, when left untreated and ignored thankfully vanished of their own accord?


*This has probably never happened ever.

Read the entire list at TheVine.


The Top 10 Metal of 2011 - #1

Hauled over the shoulders of a dark priest, we're carried off in the moonlight to a cathedral of magick and ritual, overseen by the minions of Satan himself...


Ghost - Opus Eponymous

Ghost are like their namesake. They dress in Emerald robes fashioned by Satanic brotherhoods. The silences in between their notes are haunted by an all-consuming darkness all their own. The band are like a dark cabal seething timeless doom and chilling, merciless melody; their "self-titled" record a triumph of occult practicing, retro loving dark rock masters. It’s not like they’ve rummaged though boxes of dusty Nazareth or Free records from the 70s and purloined riffs in the vain hope no-one will notice (thanks for nothing, Opeth); Opus sounds like a fresh, new record; not some kind of hackneyed early 70s hand-me-down. Harder still is to imagine that their hymns like Satan Prayer are tongue-in-cheek homage to scheming cartoon devils, when they (and who really knows who they are – their identities are shrouded in complete secrecy) chant “Hear our Satan Prayer/ anti-Nicene creed” over simple martial beats of drum and shuddering bass, their tunes burrow themselves into our minds so effortlessly. 

Like brothers in arms they invoke the insidious Mercyful Fate spirit in Elizabeth, our gloried gossamer-throated vocalist's (who?!!) herniated cries to the long departed Ms. Bathory as devotional as it will ever sound. They don’t even care for convention, especially on the pulsating Ritual; the band joins in harmony to finish the chorus, yet they loathe even waiting to start the first line of verse – but it works so damn well it’s impossible to fault them; especially that confident, fluid bluesy soloing to close the track out.

Though completely out of place, the genuinely beautiful closer Genesis is packed full of freewheeling synthesizer and acoustic flourishes, like looking through a prog rock glass darkly. Black metal has engorged and exhausted itself on providing listeners with “maximum Satan” through faster blast beats, more pompous lyrical posturing and a pleading insistence that their work is art, dammit, art! If you hear their cover of the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, it’s worth the price of admission alone. Ghost have reworked it into a black mass hymn abounding with organ hits and phaser-driven guitars marching at a funereal pace, grandly building as a chorus of ghouls harmoniously sing those immortal words; “Sun, sun, sun, here we come,” submerging them in inky blackness. Proceedings end with an abrupt halt as their gargantuan organ reverberates to a thunderous close.

The irony aside, Ghost eschews all that pretentious bullshit that’s accumulated and ossified the black metal scene; Ghost have unleashed a truly remarkable debut metal record upon this cruel world. The black gauntlet has been thrown, the torch bared, the keepers of which are true heirs of the cult of metal. All hail, Ghost!

The Top Metal of 2011
#1 - Ghost - Opus Eponymous
#2 - Insomnium - One for Sorrow


The Top 10 Metal of 2011 - #2

Crawling bloodied and broken from the Inside Room, we crumple our indivisible selves on the floor of a frost-scented forest, marking time, waiting for death...

Insomnium - One For Sorrow

When Insomnium release a record, there’s a sudden rush of anticipation to get it in the mail (Yes, friends, I buy music.) the days pass achingly until you’re able to slip it into the CD tray (or vinyl platter, as I prefer.) One For Sorrow is like taking a hard look at yourself in the mirror as thunder crackles in your mind while watching your tears falling like rain. It’s like pent up rage tearing apart its fetters and bounding through your heart. With each urgent minute, there's a momentary release into freedom to remind yourself you’re trapped. Gloomy, despondent, heavy stuff from these criminally underrated Finns, outpacing and outplaying their seemingly dozing Swedish progenitors.

Though post-rock and shoegaze are the de rigeur styles of late, they lovingly furnish their palatial tracks with gilded slivers of grandeur, unwilling to sacrifice their wild streaks of old, a fierce exemplar in Every Hour Wounds. Harrowing gangs of mourners howl on Through the Shadows and the Song of the Blackbird lacerate like searing blades running thick with blood in an effort to revive a moribund elan vivre – this album has nary a skerrick of hope folded into its miasma of grey but their melodies sound defiant, graceful, and beautiful, save to mention their dark Romantic lyricism vaulting the record's raw, sorrowful element to a natural perigee on the string-filled self-titled closer. 

Workmanlike production lends tracks like Only One Who Waits imparts a calloused, bruising character, pleasing to hear amid the din of a thousand producers hollowing out the souls of their records to sound “more digital than anything else.” Though their last three albums were exquisite in their own right, the simplistic tag of “In Flames meets Children of Bodom on Opeth pills” ought to be consigned to metal history. A mature effort, it’s unashamedly and unforgettably a work of Insomnium’s stellar brand; an opus of elegant desperation.

The Top 10 of 2011

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