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Sargon the Terrible

Best Albums


1. Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Pharaoh have been putting out great albums for years, but this is their best work to date, and no other album of 2012 was as powerful, complex, or impassioned.


2. Finsterforst - Rastlos

After several lesser recordings, Finsterforst have produced an album that can stand tall beside the works of their idols Moonsorrow.


3. Dark Forest - Land of the Evening Star

This mysterious, underground band returns with more atmospheric, involving Black Metal


4. Xandria - Neverworld's End

The best Nightwish album since Century Child


5. Al-Namrood - Kitab Al-Awthan

Adventurous, aggressive, and occult. Al-Namrood continue to push boundaries.


6. Eis - Wetterkreuz

Despite being forced to change their name from Geist by some alt-rock pussies, this band comes back with the best album of their career.


7. Paragon - Force of Destruction

A magnificent return to form from this veteran band. Paragon hasn't sounded this good in almost ten years.


8. Sacred Blood - Alexandros

The most epic album of melodic metal produced all year. Like the soundtrack to a movie too awesome to be made.


9. Thy Majestie - ShiHuangDi

After over a decade of shit, Thy Majestie manage a really first-rate album. Stellar.


10. Windfaerer - Solar

Little-heard and unremarked, this was a marvelous EP of expansive, deep-breathing Folk/Black Metal

Disappointments


1. Nile - At the Gate of Sethu

No amount of fanboying can cover up the fact that this sounds like shit.


2. Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead

The single worst thing Candlemass have ever done. We can be glad it's also the last.


3. AxeHammer - Marching On

I've waited almost a decade for this, only to have it be the worst-produced album of the year. I can't even tell if it's good, the recording is so shitty.


4. Castle - Blacklands

Their last one was awesome, this one was dull.


5. Grand Magus - The Hunt

I'd hoped their last one was an aberration, but this one is just as shit.


Larry Griffin

Best Albums


1. Kamelot - Silverthorn

Kamelot - Silverthorn

Simply the most complete and evocative album of the year. With new singer Tommy Karevik, I wasn't expecting much, but Kamelot blew me away with striking poignancy and emotional power, plus their best songs in years.


2. Trail of Murder - Shades of Art

Full of hooky songs, heavy riffs and the inimitable vocals of Urban breed, this is an iconoclastic return for one of metal's long-absent sons. The best true metal album of the year.


3. Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Pharaoh's songwriting ability is unmatched, and with Bury the Light they continue to show why they are one of the best bands around today. Complex, intricate and beautifully melodic.


4. Elysian Blaze - Blood Geometry

A huge, epochal and orchestral work that stuns and amazes with its scope and vision.


5. Hellwell - Beyond the Boundaries of Sin

With a masterful, single-minded stroke Mark Shelton produces another great album, full of creepy keys and otherworldly Lovecraftian lyrics that set one of the best pulpy horror atmospheres all year.


6. Sonata Arctica - Stones Grow Her Name

Sonata Arctica here has written their catchiest album in years. Every song on here is memorable after just one listen and the band sounds inspired and excited to be playing music.


7. Threshold - March of Progress

After the death of singer Mac McDermott I wasn't sure what a new Threshold album would bring, and it turns out we get a massive, sprawling album of serene, super-catchy prog with some of the most insightful lyrics all year and some of the best songs, too.


8. Desolate Shrine - The Sanctum of Human Darkness

Epic, doomy death metal that submerges you in an ocean of torment and pain. This is a sweeping album full of long songs with killer riffs, monstrous vocals and a deep-rooted atmosphere.


9. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist

After a weak album in 2009's Hordes of Chaos, Kreator come roaring back with this sledgehammer of an album. This is Thrash infused with a heavy dose of epic, warlike melody and it makes the songs more forceful, more memorable and more urgent.


10. Degial - Death's Striking Wings

Old school death metal of the highest order, Degial invoke Morbid Angel, Dismember and even classic extreme thrash bands with their debut of furious, ripping Swedeath. Killer.


11. Paragon - Force of Destruction

I didn't even think Paragon would put out another album, but here they are with a killer album of riff after riff after riff, with a ton of energy and great gruff vocals too. Almost every song on here flat out kills.

Disappointments


1. Blaze Bayley - The King of Metal

There are a few flashes of Blaze's usual high quality on here, but mostly these songs are poorly produced and poorly written, and the album as a whole feels really lazy.


2. Bloodbound - In the Name of Metal

Like Blaze's album (which also has an ode to metal in the album title), Bloodbound put out a weak, poorly produced and mostly dull album of what sounds like B-sides from previous efforts.


3. Running Wild - Shadowmaker

There are really no words to describe how lame this is, so I'm not going to bother aside from: don't listen to it.


MetalMike

2011 was such a strong year for Metal it seems to have sucked some of the life out of 2012. Not that there weren't some great releases, but they were fewer and further between. As always, my Top 10 is culled from albums I reviewed for The Metal Crypt, so don't panic if you don't see your favorite on the list.

Best Albums


1. Finsterforst - Rastlos

From utterly out of nowhere (for me, anyway) comes this monumental Pagan Metal masterpiece. Huge, awe-inspiring compositions that effortlessly create epic atmospheres. Stunning.


2. Paragon - Force of Destruction

Another surprise, this time from a band I was all too familiar with. Paragon released some killer Heavy/Power Metal albums early in their career but has been faltering lately. Force of Destruction is Paragon going back to their roots and writing killer riffs and cranking the "heavy" up to 10. Good to have you back, gentlemen.


3. Hellwell - Beyond the Boundaries of Sin

There can't be too many people who were overjoyed by Mark Shelton's last Manilla Road effort, Playground of the Damned. But just when you thought The Shark might be losing it, he lends his awesome voice and guitar to the eponymous band of his friend, E. C. Hellwell, and shows you why can never count him out. Who would have thought Manilla Road with keyboards would sound this good?


4. Autumns Eyes - Please Deceive Me

Creepy and disturbing; just the adjectives you would expect from a band that plays "Horror" Metal. Please Deceive Me shows this one-man band moving beyond the Death Metal of their previous releases, and stepping up the song-writing by an order of magnitude. Add atmospheric, engaging, thought-provoking and a host of other adjectives to the list.


5. Desaster - The Arts of Destruction

As a relative late-comer to Black Metal, I don't have as much history with the genre as some others here at The Metal Crypt. When I told Michel (our benevolent dictator) how fantastic I thought The Arts of Destruction was, he simply replied; "It's Desaster. Of course it's fantastic." As I said in my review, this is joyfully evil. In fact, that probably should have been my entire review.


6. Unisonic - Unisonic

This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my reviews. I'm a big fan of Traditional and Power Metal, so when two of the giants, Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske, get back together, the potential is huge. And the two former Helloween members did not disappoint. Unisonic is Melodic Power Metal at its best, written and performed by some of the pioneers of the genre.


7. Black Majesty - Stargazer

Black Majesty is the most consistent Power Metal band on the planet right now. 2012's Stargazer didn't break the mold the band created on their first four albums but they continued to refine their songwriting and hone their performances. This may not be the equal of some of their previous works, but it is damn good, nonetheless.


8. Testament - Dark Roots of Earth

Last year saw the venerable Anthrax make my Top 10 and this year we go from East Coast Thrash to the West Coast. Dark Roots of Earth has an updated sound that is also, unmistakably, Testament. These songs are going to sound great alongside earlier fan favorites when the band plays live. A fine addition to the Testament catalog and a no-brainer for Thrash fans.


9. Accept - Stalingrad

Stalingrad had one big thing going against it; it followed the amazing Blood of the Nations. Whereas Blood carried no expectations whatsoever, it did set the bar pretty high for the follow-up, Stalingrad. That said, if you have never heard Blood of the Nations (and if so, what the hell is wrong with you?), Stalingrad will hit you with the same sledgehammer force. It is every bit as good as its predecessor and the ballad, "Shadow Soldiers," may be one of the finest tracks Accept has ever recorded.


10. Striker - Armed to the Teeth

There were a lot of good Heavy Metal releases this year, but Striker's Armed to the Teeth was the best of the bunch. It is a hearty mix of modern and 80's-style Traditional Metal with all the right elements, from the vocals to the guitars to the drums. Get your chosen air instrument ready.

Disappointments

Just a few, ranging from "meh" to "what the hell?"


1. Elvenking - Era

This band has continued to get less and less innovative with each release. That might not be a problem if it weren't for the fact that they are rehashing, and in no way improving on, their own previous albums.


2. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist

Boasting some incredible cover art and a great title, I had high hopes for this one. In the past, Kreator pushed the envelope of Thrash Metal but now seem content to rest comfortably within established boundaries. The smooth, slick production really robs the band of their trademark raw and aggressive sound.


3. Candlemass - Psalms for the Dead

Allegedly their last album, Psalms of the Dead has some good stuff on it ("The Lights of Thebe" is fantastic), but most of it is boring ("The Sound of Dying Demons") or annoying (the narration on "Black as Time.")


Christopher Foley

Best Albums


1. Threshold - March of Progress

What can I say about March Of Progress? A masterpiece, and one of the very best progressive metal albums to come out in ages.


2. Orden Ogan - To the End

It was a close call for album of the year, and in a very close second is Orden Ogan's To The End. An undoubted future classic, and a mandatory purchase for any serious power metal fan.


3. Vision Divine - Destination Set To Nowhere

Destination Set To Nowhere has steadily grown on me since its release, there were a lot of stellar Italian power metal releases in 2012 but this one is without a doubt the finest, and arguably the finest I've heard from this brilliant act.


4. Herman Frank - Right in the Guts

Herman Frank and his band of merry men aimed straight for the guts and hit their collective mark with a superb collection of foot-tapping, thigh-slapping, and of course fist-pumping heavy metal.


5. Pharaoh - Bury the Light

Topping Be Gone was always going to be a difficult task, yet Pharaoh nailed it with an incredible album in Bury The Light. Essential, forward-thinking heavy metal.


6. Black Breath - Sentenced to Life

My favourite extreme metal release this year, which says something considering the slew of quality albums we seen over 2012. Sentenced To Life, is a violent, snarling beast and essential for fans of pugilistic, face-smashing music.


7. Mgla - With Hearts Toward None

Mg?a lynched us with a slab of superb black metal this year, standing as my personal favourite in the genre thanks to sublime melodies and excellent songs.


8. Overkill - The Electric Age

Overkill prove time and again that they're one of the premier thrash metal acts, reliable as hell and playing with energy of bands half their age. The Electric Age absolutely kills with great songs and phenomenal production.


9. Sigh - In Somniphobia

Another awesome, mind-melting release from Japanese nutcases Sigh, a must have for fans of avant-garde, prog, and odd-ball black metal.


10. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist

Whilst this didn't hit me the way I expected at first Phantom Antichrist proved undoubtedly worthy with repeated spins. Up there with the likes of Enemy Of God and Coma Of Souls.


11. Visigoth - Final Spell

I think this is the first time an EP has made my end of year list. Final Spell is totally worthy though; inspiring, energetic performances, fantastic vocals and plenty of mighty, fist-pumping riffs is the name of the game here, you need this.


12. Skelator - Agents of Power

Arioch! Arioch! Skelator unleashed their third full-length in 2012 packing plenty of punch and armed to the teeth with riffs and fantastic odes to Elric.


13. Last Kingdom - Chronicles of the North

Last Kingdom took me back to a time when the likes of Falconer, Cryonic Temple, and Timeless Miracle absolutely ruled my speakers with their debut full-length. A charming slab of power metal worship that any fan of the genre should buy without hesitation.


14. Crystal Viper - Crimen Excepta

Maybe their finest yet, Crimen Excepta encompasses everything I love about Crystal Viper.


15. Trail of Murder - Shades of Art

A cracking slab of melodic heavy metal, featuring the mighty Urban breed. Featuring many an excellent hook and plenty a killer song.


Memnarch

A very impressive year for extreme metal, most notably in what seems like a sharp rise in the number of decent black metal bands coming out of Norway again and the utterly stellar roster of death metal employed by the likes of Dark Descent and Memento Mori is simple proof as to the health of the underground at the minute. Long may it continue for a top 15 was insanely hard for me to whittle down this year, but there were two albums that stood head and shoulders above all others.

Best Albums


1. Saturnus - Saturn in Ascension

Well I thought nothing this year could top the Horrendous album, but entering November I was proven wrong. Completely out of nowhere these doom metal legends dropped their latest release and is completely unrivaled this year.


2. Horrendous - The Chills

The best death metal album this year hands down. None come close. Pure Asphyx worship done right.


3. Jess and the Ancient Ones - Jess and the Ancient Ones

Mystical and arcane sounding occult doom with heavy psych undertones. A must for fans of The Devil's Blood.


4. Desaster - The Arts of Destruction

The best album these Teutonic overlords have unleashed in fucking years. Absolutely devastating.


5. Mgla - With Hearts Toward None

A long wait from this Polish horde, but fuck was it worth it. Further cementing their role as one of the most important spearheads of Polish black metal at the minute.


6. Svartidaudi - Flesh Cathedral

To be perfectly honest, I was pretty much certain this was going to be up here before it was even released, that's just how much anticipation people were placing on this release. Monstrous.


7. Ataraxy - Revelations of the Ethereal

Another death metal classic released this year. Who says the Spanish are crap at extreme metal?


8. Baptism - As the Darkness Enters

Harsh black metal from these Finnish legends. A significant improvement upon their previous effort.


9. Wrathprayer - The Sun of Moloch

A disgusting and unrelentingly brutal hybrid of black/death which after continuous delays finally emerged this year. An absolute gem from NWN.


10. Blaze of Sorrow - Echi

Fantastic melancholic and emotional black metal which borrows from the likes of Agalloch among others.


11. Crystal Viper - Crimen Excepta

A brilliant return to form for Marta and her band of Running Wild worshipers. This is how heavy metal with female vocals is supposed to sound. None of your limp-wristed gothic shit here.


12. Darkenhold - Echoes From the Stone Keeper

Fantastic Nordic worship form the Southern regions of France. Everything from Emperor to Satyricon present here.


13. Dodsengel - Imperator

Destined to be a classic, a huge swathe of material spanning two discs from this Nidrosian act. A lot to take in, but give it time and you'll be richly rewarded.


14. Denial of God - Death and the Beyond

Theatrical black metal that is stuffed with absolutely awesome riff work and vocals. A hugely consistent band.


15. Vassafor - Obsidian Codex

A brutal brand of bestial black/death destruction with a wide array of classic elements thrown in for good measure. The Kiwi's certainly love their Blasphemy.


Luxi Lahtinen

Best Albums


1. Tantara - Based on Evil

Bay Area Thrash done right. Yes, this is total Bay Area Thrash Metal worship in the vein of the early albums from Vio-lence, Forbidden, Heathen, Testament, Metallica and the like. Surprisingly, this young Thrash outfit hails from Norway. Riff-tastic, Thrash-tastic, and fantastic, Flemming Rasmussen truly has the Midas touch. Based on Evil is deservingly my very favorite album in 2012 and wins the title "Album of the Year."


2. Angelus Apatrida - The Call

First class Thrash Metal from these talented Spanish thrashers. The melodies are there, the aggression is there, the perfection is there. And much more.


3. Scythe - Beware the Scythe

After Usurper had come to the end of the road, former member Rick Scythe formed an eponymous band and recorded the album Beware the Scythe. It sounds very much like where Usurper left off, with more Hard Rock elements squeezed in. Great fuckin' album!!!


4. Kryptos - The Coils of Apollyon

Along with Demonic Resurrection, Kryptos are some of the most promising Metal warriors from India, flying the Metal flag for their home country. The band's third album, The Coils of Apollyon, impressed the hell of out me, so it's no wonder Germany's AFM Records signed Kryptos in the fall of 2012.


5. Nekromantheon - Rise, Vulcan Spectre

Malevolent, blistering, furious and intense old-school blackened Thrash Metal. That's what the second album from Norway's Nekromantheon was all about – and that's enough to do the trick in my unholy books of respect and admiration.


6. Overkill - The Electric Age

Will Overkill ever record an album that is a total fiasco? It doesn't seem so, even after their 16th album, The Electric Age. These guys seem to get better over the years, the lucky bastards! The Electric Age continued to refine their legacy as one of the finest Thrash Metal pioneers on the face of the planet.


7. Rattenfanger - Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum

Wow, this came out of the blue for me. Rattenfänger is a Ukrainian band that decided to perform old school Death Metal with Latin lyrics on their debut album Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum. Atmospheric, murky and dark old school Death Metal at its best; no more or no less. Perhaps even the Death Metal album of the year for me…


8. Wyruz - Fire at Will

This is another hopeful Norwegian Thrash Metal comet who self-released their debut album Fire at Will. Combine some malicious elements from Slayer's Divine Intervention with some of the riffs taken from Immortal's Sons of Northern Darkness album and then fry this package in a deep, black cauldron together with some modern spices of their own. Voila!


9. Kreator - Phantom Antichrist

Teutonic Thrash legends Kreator have not rested on their laurels for too long. Phantom Antichrist, the band's 13th studio album, deserves a privileged place among the best albums of 2012. Brutality. Aggression. Melody. It's all to be found right here on Phantom Antichrist.


10. Testament - Dark Roots of Earth

A slightly more melodic album than its predecessor, the excellent 2008 comeback album The Formation of Damnation, Dark Roots of Earth brings us back to the sound of albums like The New Order and Practice What You Preach. The band's experience really shines through the whole record and vocalist, Mr. Chuck Billy, sounds better and more powerful than he has in many years!


11. Accept - Stalingrad

Blood of the Nations, the comeback album from undisputed Heavy Metal heroes Accept,, was one of the absolute highlights of 2010. Stalingrad continued the band's crusade in the name of German Metal. Two fine albums within two years and I'm glad to say they are back!


12. Terrorama - Genocide

Early Sadus combined with some early South American blackened Thrash/Death Metal alá Vulcano, MX and Mutilator? That's exactly what these four relentless Swedes in Terrorama offer on the band's third full-length album, Genocide. Savage, brutal, downright vicious and simply murderous; you just gotta love this album!


13. Domination Black - Dimension: Death

Domination Black is a Finnish Heavy/Thrash Metal band that plays exclusively Horror Metal. Horror or not, the band's third full-length album, Dimension: Death, introduced great new vocalist Matias Palm (also in Heavy Metal Perse, Merging Flare, etc.) who stepped into the big boots of the band's previous vocalist, Kari A. Kilgast. Domination Black also refined their Horror Metal sound by adding more melodic and hard-edged elements into the record. The final result is their best album yet. Killer record, 'nuff said.


14. Necrovation - Necrovation

This Swedish Death Metal horde's 2008 debut album, Breed Deadless Blood, was excellent on all accounts and the band's self-titled follow-up record is definitely on a par with it, maybe even a teeny-weeny bit better. Deeply rooted in the underground, Necrovation unarguably prove to be one of the better Swedish old school Death Metal bands. Their second album is brutal, sinister, uncompromising, unyielding; a masterfully executed Death Metal record, indeed.





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