I'm not exactly a traditionalist but here I sit, writing the third instalment of the Crushtor.net 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 - Riitiir
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...