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Jsmith

My Top Albums of 2012

Rating: 1 votes, 4.00 average.
In the recent issue of Metal Hammer they reviewed many of the staffers top album picks for 2012. This prompted me to look back at my collection come up with my own list. In Metal Hammer they choose to do a top 20 but I am going to limit mine to top three.

The Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
Devin Townsend has been around for years making music with various bands, and Epicloud represents his 15th album. Epicloud builds upon the framework that started in other Devin Townsend Project albums. As with each of the previous albums, Epicloud takes that formula to the next level.

One of the things I really like about this album is the vocal arrangement. Devin has a good voice, and this is highlighted when he goes from a hard metal edge as in "More!" to a nice melodic tone such as that in "Save Our Now". Once again Devin brings back the Dutch singer Anneke Van Giersbergen. Anneke has such a beautiful voice and really compliments and offsets Devin's. The second track on the album "True North" is a great example of their two vocal styles mixed together.

Epicloud has real diversity between the songs. "Liberation" is this up tempo, even borderline poppy, hard rock song. Immediately following this the album takes you to "Where We Belong" having almost a new age sound to it. The appropriately named "Grace" contains a choral choir. The diversity not only within this album, but also from his prior albums is what really helps set Epicloud apart from the pack this year.

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Prong - Carved Into Stone
Where the other two albums on my list received high praise from the media, Carved Into Stone was less of a critics choice. It does not have the diversity of Epicloud, or the technical aspects of L'Enfant Sauvage. What makes Carved Into Stone my number two pick is that I can listen to this album from start to finish without skipping a single track. More than that, this album stayed in rotation for months and I still find myself going back to it. Carved Into Stone is just a solid back to basics album.

While all the songs are solid, there are a few standouts. "Revenge best served cold" with its hooks was the most commercial song with a music video, regular air play and ranks as one of my favorites. Another top pick is "Reinvestigate" which has a fast driving force while maintaining a clean sound. Finally, "Subtract" with its initial slow driving sound that picks up steam as it rolls stands out.

The one similarity that Carved Into Stone shares with Epicloud is that both albums boarder on hard rock more than heavy metal. While each has its heavy moments, overall they are not so heavy that it is easy to see why they can be in regular rotation.

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Gojira - L'Enfant sauvage
Gojira, a French band, has been taking the metal world by storm. They have solidified themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Sam Dunn, an anthropologist who has been documenting the history of metal on his VH1 series, "Metal Evolution", listed Gojira as one of his favorite bands. This is pretty high praise coming from someone who has interviewed the greats like Dio in person.

But enough about why others like this album, here is why I love it. As mentioned my other two picks boarder on hard rock. There is no doubt that Gojira is extreme metal and this holds true on L'Enfant sauvage. What makes L'Enfant sauvage so special is that compared to similar albums it seems more refined. The easiest comparison would be Meshuggah who released Koloss this year. Both albums are extreme, but L'Enfant sauvage seems a little less in your face about it.

Songs like "The Gift of Guilt" have this melodic sound layered with the pounding metal that seem to draw you in and hold you. Where Epicloud has diversity between tracks, L'Enfant sauvage incorporates diversity within a track. The title track "L'Enfant sauvage" is an example of the change, going between a slow building pace, and all out assault.

L'Enfant sauvage reminds me of the movies American History X or Pan's Labyrinth. Both are great but have such a darkness and weight to them you may need pick me up afterwards. L'Enfant sauvage may leave you feeling this way as well. This would be a perfect time to queue Epicloud and let Anneke voice sooth you away.

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Honorable Mention
The Deftones released Koi No Yokan in 2012. While this album did receive a lot of praise, it did not quite make my top three. I did want to mention it as it was the only metal album I know if this year that was released in hi-res 24/96. Not only was the album available in hi-res, it sounds as though it was carefully mastered. I wish more metal music would go this direction.
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Comments

  1. Jsmith's Avatar
    As luck would have it both Devin Townsend and Gojira are touring together and made it to my neck of the woods. I was really impressed with the performance that both bands put on. One thing that stood out to me is that both bands had a lot more instrumental time in their music than I am normally used to hearing. In both cases, the singer is also a musician in the band. Not sure if there is a correlation between this and the extended focus on instrumental time.

    One thing that I was a little disappointed about was that Devin Townsend did not have Anneke Van Giersbergen with him. This makes sense as he was not the main show, and she has her own bands to tend to. Still, I love her voice and would have really liked to hear her as part of the show.
  2. Jsmith's Avatar
    I have been listening to a lot of new music lately, and I cannot tell you how good Epicloud is and still is.