Now that the flurry of end-of-year's lists has ceased...its time for mine! We start with the music one. Scroll down if you just wish to see the top 3 - asides the top 3 the rest are in no particular order.
THE ALBUM TITLES ARE LINKED TO FULL ALBUMS WHERE AVAILABLE. Each mini review also has links for the best songs on the album in it. Enjoy.
10. Jack White - BLUNDERBUSS
I thought the age of rock stars was gone. While this might be the case, Jack White might be the last of a dying breed. A rock star needs to be eccentric, a bit nutty, arrogant, and make killer music. This dude has got it all - the songs on his debut solo effort, Blunderbuss, are often catchy, consistently innovative and above all slick and cool. Some of the more experimental tracks such as Weep Themselves to Sleep satisfy the purists, while there is even a little hit or two in the form of Sixteen Saltines and Freedom at 21 Lets hope for more original and above all, unique, artist like good ol' Jack in 2013.
9. Ellie Goulding - HALCYON
These days pop is increasingly diluted by electronica and dubstep. So it is very heartening and pleasant to the ear when this kind of dilution works well. I've listened to Ellie before - and her hit single Lights caught me as one of the most strikingly good pop songs in recent times. Good to know she is keeping the tradition with this album, as almost every track is a must hear. Suggested songs include Figure 8, My Blood, Hanging On, Explosions and Need your love.
8. Holy Knights - BETWEEN DAYLIGHT AND PAIN
Old school, vintage 98' power metal in 2012? I'd have thought it impossble. Though there were albums on my full top 20 list that I listened to a bit more, this one gets on the list just because of the sheer boldness of it. Its no bullshit, no compromise power metal - it does not care if its stock, it does not care if its kitsch - it just ripps. Check out Beyond the Mist and Glass Room for proof.
7. The Killers - BATTLEBORN
The Killers are a consistently good band, but I must admit their previous outing wasn't too interesting. With this album they finally complete the transformation from brit-pop band into the Bruce Springsteen band - and that is, overall, a good thing. Songs like Deadlines and Commitments and The Way it Was have so much feel and weight behind them, you have wonder where Flowers draws his inspiration from, considering he is younger than 40. Listen to Flesh and bone and Here With Me as well.
6. Stone Sour - HOUSE OF GOLD AND BONES PT 1
Much lauded as an epic concept album, its good to know the music actually held up to expectation. Though the album never fully takes off after 3 brilliant opening tracks (Gone Sovereign/Absolute Zero and A Rumor of Skin) it closes perfectly with The Last of the Real, giving us much to look forward too in part 2, coming out in 2013.
5. Keane - STRANGELAND
A unmistakable presence in my summer playlists, Keane are noteworthy because they tend to make happy, inspiring pop with depressing, gloomy lyrics - a contrast I qute enjoy. After a very dodgy forray into mainstream pop, they return with their signature sound - soaring piano, cherubic voice and moody lyrics. The whole album is good. Songs like You are Young and Sovereign Light Cafe are classics, and On the Road. Silenced by the Night and In your own time are pretty damn good to. Insanely catchy stuff.
4. Revocation -TERATOGENESIS
After they ripped the collective face off the metal scene with their thrashy-deathy-proggy masterpiece A Chaos of Forms, Revocation hit us with a free EP and, surprise surprise, it is superb. While probably too brutal for some, it again walks the thin line between death, thrash and even prog and black metal in a wonderful fusion of sheer aggression and technicality. Just when you think the melodies are gone though, they strike back in dashing solo sections. Wouldn't mind even more of the prog elements. These guys are so good, a FREE ep they make (get it HERE) makes the top 10. Revocation are, for me, the future of metal. Songs to hear: Bound by Desire, Teratogenesis, Spurn the Outstreched Hand.
AND NOW.....FOR THE TOP 3! CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC!
1. WINTERSUN - Time 1
(Listen to the full album HERE)
Sounds impossible, pretentious, bloated? Sure - but it's also true. Enter the best album (well, 3 songs) of 2012 - Time 1.
The music is epic, complex, sweeping. Power metal with black metal vocals is an oversimplification for the orchestral, even progressive insanity that surges through your ears and takes hold. Every song has sections that make my hair stand on end in awe (if not the whole song, that is). No song is bad - it is all uncompromisingly glorious.
So why is it not the indisputable best album of the year? Because its not really a full album - its 3 songs. If Time 2 is anything like Time 1, merged together they will make one of the best metal albums of all time.
2. KAMELOT - Silverthorn
(NOTE: Almost NO songs could be found online. Sorry. Download it...)
On paper, everything was promising with Silverthorn. After the gut-wrenching departure of singer Roy Khan, Kamelot hired awesome prog-pop vocal Tommy Karevik to replace him. They promised a return to a more old school Karma sound. Then the album hit the shelves and - I was dissapointed.
Tommy was forced to (mostly) imitate Roy Khan's singing instead of utilizing his own impressive pipes. The Karma sound was only evidenced in bits and pieces. The single, Sacrimony, wasnt very catchy or unique. So how did it become one of the top 3 albums of the year?
This album grew on me with great speed, once again proving my hypothesis that an album must be listened to top-to-botom several times before laying any kind of judgment. In time I came to realize the album has no bad songs, and that it in effect presents the new Kamelot in the best possible light. The verdict - Silverthorn is one of the best Kamelot album to date.
So how come this switch? Yes, Tommy does emulate Khan far too much - but this is really the only true fault of the album, and as such, not such a big deal - I'm pretty sure on the next album we will hear far more of Tommy's own bombastic voice. The Karma sound? It's there - but so is almost every other part of the Kamelot sound spectrum. There is power metal in Solitaire and Torn. There is the melodic vibe of Ghost Opera on My Confession and Sacrimony. There Black Halo-like songs through and through such as Falling like the Farenheit, Veritas and the ballad Song for Jolee. There is even an Epica-B-side-sounding song in Silverthorn. Finally, there is evolution (and some Poetry for the Poison riffing) in one of the best songs on the album - Ashes to Ashes.
What we get in the end is a masterfully produced, executed and composed collage of various Kamelot sounds, an album that is so easy to listen to and acessible it found itself replayed a milion times on my MP3 player after being out for a month or two. Here is to Kamelot for not only surviving the singer change, but thriving.
3. BRENDON SMALL - Galaktikon
(Listen to the full album HERE)
Brendon Small is the author and mastermind between Dethklok - originally a joke band made for his TV series Metalokalipse that is fast becoming a serious, noteworthy metal band. While the story of how Dethklok would fare far better (in my opinion) with melodic vocals is a story for another ocassion - but here is the proof: Galaktikon.
Galaktikon is like the rabid lovechild of Queen, Anthrax, Foo Fighters and Joe Satriani. Its singing is melodic, its riffs are heavy, its solos are...well, galactic! Just listen to Prophecy of the Lazer Witch or Beastblade or check out the Queen laced power of You cant run away.
Though it is a "silly" concept record about a hero's intergalactic divorce and subsequent quest to save his X from his arch enemy, the songs and lyrics bear more weight than many "serious" concept albums - the songs are so well crafted that the comic-book plot adds value, and the lyrics are well written even considering the zany subject matter.
There are no filler tracks here - every song could be a single, another advantage. By the time you are capped off with the scorching instrumental Dangertits and the thrasher On my Way you are left regreting that Brendons side project will never be as popular as his main project, Dethklock - though it is far more deserved of your attention.
- MUSE, Second Law - MUSE are no longer the MUSE we know and love, but still kick ass.
- OSI, Fire Make thunder - You cant go wrong with this Kevin Moore creativity vessel, even though it gets a tad boring at times.
- STAMINA, Nocebo - Explosive, Nordic, crazy metal. What more do you need?
- KREATOR Phantom Antichrist - The fathers of German thrash metal do it again.
- BLAQK AUDIO, Bright Black Heaven - A guilty pleasure of mine - eurodance mixed with hints of Depeche Mode. 4 good songs wasnt enough for the top, though.
- DETHKLOK, Dethklok 3 - Brendon Small's semi-serious metal outing. Kicks amazing ass, even though I truly wish it had melodic vocals instead of those cookie monster death growls.
- DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, Epicloud - Its Epic, and it is Loud, but I get this feeling of rince-repeat from Devins albums lately. Has 2,3 killer tracks though.
- SERJ TANKIAN, Harakiri - Completely overlooked but, at times, quite good.
- SONATA ARCTICA, Stones Grow her Name - ''Selling out" from their power metal roots didnt do Sonata Artica that good...but the few tracks it did, it was damn good.