Well, it’s been an interesting year. With a couple releases that snuck in under a lot of people’s radar, a couple releases which leaked in late 2011 so they were almost forgotten entirely (cough Sworn In cough), and a couple sneak attacks altogether, this list wasn’t the easiest to make. However, that doesn’t mean it can just be ignored and put off–so, without further ado, here are my top 25 releases of the year.
25) A Bloodbath In Boston – Odium [EP/Deathcore]
Short but sweet is probably the best way to classify the gem that is Odium. While it crept in under many deathcore fanatic radars, it’s a truly masterful effort of deathcore coming from an otherwise young band. While it might not be mind-meltingly heavy or incredibly concept-driven, the EP is just as heavy as the band’s name might imply. Odium is impetuous and unrelenting in it’s irresponsible attack on the listener’s ear drums, meaning that, if the other 24 albums on this list aren’t quite hard enough for you, throw this heavyweight on there–I’d be willing to bet you’ll be changing your tune.
24) Heart to Heart – Heart to Heart [Full Length/Pop-Punk]
While Handguns certainly held down the poppier, sappier side of pop-punk this year, Heart to Heart took a different path. Using a more mature sound to reach their audience, Heart to Heart’s self titled album hardly has any two tracks with the same feel, and also has possibly the single best guest vocal appearance in “Stuck” of any album this year. If a mature, diverse pop-punk album doesn’t already have you hooked, that track alone should do the job.
23) Thirteen Bled Promises – Heliopause Fleets [Full Length/Technical Deathcore]
Concept albums were in short supply this year, it seems, which is all the more a reason to celebrate Thirteen Bled Promises’ brilliant release, Heliopause Fleets. Packed with a dense and riveting tale of space exploration gone horribly wrong, this album is just as crushing as the gruesome story it tells. With breakdowns that feel like they could crush your skull and guitar work that could hold it’s own against several well-known deathcore greats, Heliopause Fleets is one release you definitely won’t want to put on pause.
22) The Amity Affliction – Chasing Ghosts [Full Length/Post-Hardcore/Metalcore]
Once an angsty, somewhat irksome post-hardcore band, The Amity Affliction have since matured into a globally-dominating, melodic-heavy combination of post hardcore and melodic metalcore. Filled with absolutely stunning clean vocals, diverse, grinding screaming and bi-polar and frantic drumming, Chasing Ghosts is an immersive experience coming from a band which I had personally written off.
21) Subract – Black Soul [EP/Deathcore]
While a lot of deathcore bands are heavy just by sheer brute force, blast beats and crushing breakdowns, some bands do it differently. Of those bands who do it differently, Subtract are among those who do it best. Black Soul is an EP which uses sheer evil and misanthropy to make it’s point and demoralize the listener. Packed with nothing but the dirtiest, foulest, most sinister elements the genre has to offer, with few blast beats and even less filler, Black Soul is a must-have for anyone who wants to be crushed by sheer heaviness rather than cut into tiny pieces by lacerating, grindy blast beats.
20) After Me The Flood – Still Searching [Full Length/Melodic Hardcore]
At first, I gotta say, I was let down by After Me The Flood. Their breakout EP had seized control of my ears and refused to let go. However, after my first listen through of their first full length, Still Searching, I wasn’t sold. It seemed as if so much of the heavy, more emotional darkness in Rememberance had jumped ship. It was only after repeated listens, however, that I realized After Me The Flood were still just as emotionally driven, if not more so. With vibrant heavy-soft, light-dark dynamics, the album quickly jumped high on my list and provided a splendid, much-needed reprieve from the deathcore bubble I’d made for myself.
19) Slice the Cake – The Man With No Face [Full Length/Progressive Deathcore]
Yeah, I know–how the hell am I supposed to even consider taking a band named “Slice the Cake” seriously? Well, like it or not, Slice the Cake combine Between the Buried and Me-style progressive song structure with The Red Shore-esque heaviness, resulting in a deathcore chimera that avoids monotony by never really sounding the same with each listen. Even with the album-length title track, The Man With No Face avoids monotony like the plague, blending in clean vocals, jazz interludes, crushing heaviness and lacerating shred to keep the listener on the edge of their seat, begging for more–even when they don’t know what they’re going to get next.
18) The Tony Tapdance Extravaganza – IIII [Full Length/Technical Deathcore/Mathcore]
While 2012 was a brilliant year for music, it also had it’s fair share of bitterness. The keystone to the sour moments was the announcement that IIII would be The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza’s last album. As a band who has gotten consistently better with each release, I was saddened, hoping that one day, in an asymptotic fashion, the band would reach the very limits of deathcore’s technical realm. As it turns out, I didn’t have to wait long. While it’s certainly shorter than I would like, IIII is a brilliantly technical and crushingly heavy masterpiece with just enough of the band’s telltale “noise-core” influence to keep old fans engaged and attract new ones from miles away.
17) Signal The Firing Squad – Abnegate [Full Length/Technical Deathcore]
I’m not sure what it is about Signal the Firing Squad’s first full length, but it didn’t quite click with me. However, after “Into the Mouth of the Leviathan” and “Abominator” graced my ears, I was hooked and begging for more. Needless to say, I wasn’t let down. Packed to the rafters with technicality sharp enough to slit your eardrums, Abnegate is a manifestation of technical deathcore done properly. With just enough groove and catchiness to keep it stuck in your head and prevent it from becoming overwhelming, Abnegate is perfect for a track-by-track listen through or just a casual one-off listen when you need something heavy as a pick me up.
16) Barrier – Dark Days [EP/Deathcore/Beatdown]
Dark Days is an EP that’s hard to properly feel out. Influenced just as much by beatdown-styled hardcore as they are by visceral, groovy deathcore, Barrier combine the two into a near-perfect mixture with emotional and bitter lyrics to ice the cake. While there are moments where Dark Days seems lost in it’s own sound, this ambient wandering works in the band’s favor, as it provides a new, deep dimension to an album which might otherwise only be surfactory. The bottom line is this–Barrier’s Dark Days is heavy enough to kick your teeth in, but engaging enough to keep you hooked and begging for more.
15) The Ghost Inside – Get What You Give [Full Length/Metalcore]
I’d be willing to wager a lot of people had their doubts when The Ghost Inside’s lineup changed shortly before they announced going into the studio with Jeremy McKinnon to record Get What You Give. While, I admit, I was definitely skeptical, Get What You Give turned out to be an incredibly solid outing in the band’s already rock-hard discography. With the tasteful, brilliant inclusion of clean vocals and the consistently positive lyrical mantras shining over heavy, downtuned breakdowns, Get What You Give in many ways, picks up right where Returners left off, using similar lyrical themes and the ever-present fluid, punctual melodic metalcore dynamic that made The Ghost Inside kings of the genre in the first place
14) Make Them Suffer – Neverbloom [Full Length/Symphonic Deathcore]
There are a whole lot of reasons for me to cringe at the term “symphonic” deathcore. There’s piano? Great. Occasional clean vocals? In deathcore? To be honest, I wasn’t even entirely convinced “symphonic” deathcore could even be classified as a genre. However, with the release of Make Them Suffer’s debut full length, Neverbloom, any doubt I had was laid to rest. Filled with tension-inducing, spine-chilling build-ups and groundbreaking, overwhelming climaxes, Neverbloom is one of the best-executed, symphonically-influenced technical deathcore releases to date. Whether or not “symphonic deathcore” is a legitimate genre or not I’ll leave up to you.
13) Parkway Drive – Atlas [Full Length/Metalcore]
Who didn’t start their metalcore voyage with the likes of Parkway Drive? While these metalcore titans may have taken a little extra time recovering from the misstep that was Deep Blue, it appears that it was time well spent. Atlas is a heavyweight album with loads of harmonization, ambience and harmonization to balance out the back-shatteringly heavy moments that also rear their head. Furthermore, the appearance of guest vocalists and newer, fresher songwriting provides a new look at a band which many people might have written off. While Atlas might not be a 100% return to form, it’s certainly 95% of the way there–which, for fans of metalcore, should be enough to jet it into 2012’s top 15.
12) Silence – Dead Presidents [Full Length/Technical Deathcore/Groove]
“Djent” is a term which is getting tossed around all too frequently these days–especially when attached to a “-core” band. However, Dead Presidents shows Silence incorporating just enough of djent’s telltale grimey, smooth groove in between the hard-hitting breakdowns and hypermelodic riffing to construct a fluid, dynamic new take on deathcore. With metric tons of vocal talent and instrumental mastery to spare, Silence take deathcore in a different direction, straying from the path of blast beats and chug-overload into a more melodic and ambient state: Something I would be more than happy to see more of.
11) Dysphoria – To The Perfect Form of Human Species [Full Length/Techinical Deathcore/Mathcore]
Admittedly, I’ve always been a sucker for hypertechnical deathcore which throws harmonization to the wayside in order to make room more more ear-flaying shred. However, just because I’ve had a soft spot for it doesn’t make it practical–most of the time, it’s good for one or two tracks at a time before it gets homogenous and boring. Enter Dysphoria’s latest full length–intensely technical and dense deathcore with just enough moments of ethereal bliss to keep you interested throughout the whole album. While To The Perfect Form of Human Species is still overwhelming at times, the sheer amount of explosive dynamism in each track is jaw-dropping enough to appeal to any fan of heavy music.
10) Every Hand Betrayed – Kingless [Full Length/Deathcore]
This album truly caught me off guard. I was minding my own business one morning, when I was asked to review this beauty of a release. Lo and behold, my ears were graced with some of the most heavy-yet-melodic deathcore I’ve ever heard. Filled with dynamic song structure, explosive breakdowns and a not-quite-tangible post-rock element to the instrumentation, Kingless is an album which shows that Every Hand Betrayed might have what it takes to become the kings of Deathcore.
9) Thy Art Is Murder – Hate [Full Length/Deathcore]
Alongside Ragnarok, Infinite Death was an EP which welcomed me into the deathcore scene–with open arms, I might add. After years of following the act–through the dark days which defined The Adversary–I was rewarded with Hate, a simple namesake of an album which archetypically displays everything the band has become synonymous with. Dissonant, dense and heavy moments are pervasive, with little space for small talk or breathing room. If you like your deathcore heavy as sin and piercing as nails, Hate has your name written all over it.
8) Handguns – Angst [Full Length/Pop-Punk]
Pop-Punk artists like Mest with corny, sappy lyrics about love and loss are what really attracted me to emotionally-driven music in the first place. And while it’s taken a while to return to my roots, no band provided a better welcome-home mat than Handguns. Angst is a heartfelt, youthful, Summertime rager of an album if I’ve ever heard it. Packed with juvenile lyrics and innocent moments, simply put, Angst will just make you want to fall in love again.
7) Float Face Down – Exitium Veritum [Full Length/Deathcore]
Ragnarok was an EP I couldn’t get enough of as a wee deathcore enthusiast–and after nearly five years of waiting, my since-matured lust for another Float Face Down release was satiated. Jam-packed with all the heaviness and brilliant song structure that Ragnarok had made perfect, Exitium Veritum provides a deeper, more immersive experience that only a full length can provide. With eery breakdowns, diverse yet incredible shredding immense vocal work, Exitium Veritum is just what the doctor ordered–even if it was a couple years past it’s expiration date.
6) The Acacia Strain – Death Is the Only Mortal [Full Length/Beatdown/Deathcore]
After a rough couple of releases, I was skeptical as to put much investment into Death is the Only Mortal. However, it turns out I didn’t even have to put much in. This album took the two cents worth of care I gave it and stored away with compact interest, leaving me with a wealth of atheistic, forlorn heaviness akin to King Midas’ gold. With non-stop dissonant, sludgy heaviness with more matured songwriting and deeper lyrical conceptualization, Death is the Only Mortal is heavy enough to weigh down on the listener, but just light enough to avoid claustrophobia.
5) Demoraliser – A Living Nightmare [Full Length/Metalcore]
It isn’t too often that an album is a true display of an artist speaking their mind–This is one such album. Filled with almost-thrashy riffing that flows and grooves in and out of dense, spine-bending breakdowns, A Living Nightmare is a picture perfect display of a band at the top of their game. Demoraliser are honest, pissed and talented–and this album is the product of each cog of that bitter machine churning in perfect harmony.
4) Infant Annihilator – The Palpable Leprosy of Pollution [Full Length/Technical Deathcore]
Honestly, I would never, in a million years, have thought that Infant Annihilator would end up in any top-whatever list I would write (unless it was for the “top five most generic names of all time.”) However, here they are, with their debut full length The Palpable Leprosy of Pollution only days old and still ringing in many people’s ears. The truth is this: I’ve never heard harsher, more excellently crafted vocals, nor have I heard better, faster, heavier drumming. The breakdowns are sinister, the shredding is intense, and whether or not the name makes you throw up in your mouth a little, this album deserves your attention.
3) Bound By Exile – Defilement [EP/Technical Deathcore]
I began making this list with the intention that this band would have easily secured the number one spot–that’s how much I love this EP. Packed with dense, prophetic shredding, bone-shattering drumming and a two-headed vocal assault that just won’t quit, Defilement is a testament to the strength of deathcore as a genre today. Whether it’s the eery harmonies on “You’re Old News Now, Cunt” or the lacerating, crushing heaviness found on “Desecrate,” anyone who has ever bobbed their head to a blast beat or air-chugged to a breakdown has something to love in this EP.
2) Sworn In – Start/End [EP/Beatdown/Hardcore]
I remember the first time I decided to check out Sworn In. Mistakenly remembering them as “that one pop-punk band that was okay,” I gave Start/End a spin and I have been spinning it almost incessantly since then. Filled with devastating, straight-to-the-face heaviness and lyrics that mean something, Start/End is an anthem for any fan of heavy music and shows the latest step in a band which is fast on it’s way to reaching the highest point the scene has to offer.
AND RELEASE OF THE YEAR GOES TO….
1) Martyr Defiled – In Shadows [EP/Thrash/Deathcore]
As far as staying within the lines, no band leaves their comfort zone as fluidly and brilliantly as Martyr Defiled. Originating as a run-of-the-mill, but still impressive deathcore act, the band have expanded their horizons by drawing upon influences from technical death metal and thrash-laden metalcore alike. The result? The best release 2012 has to offer: In Shadows. While only an EP, In Shadows is so flooded with brilliance that it maintains a feel of a full-length. There isn’t a second on this album that isn’t either heavy or ethereal; gravid or surreal. In a word, this EP is beautiful.
I hope you guys enjoyed the list, and if one of these releases slipped by your radar, do yourself and the artist a favor and check it out. It’s all good…I mean, that’s why it’s on a best-of list, right?
HAPPY NEW YEAR!