[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]I[/dropcap]t’s as close as we get to the Christmas episode of Top of The Pops.
Imagine yourself perched amongst the selection boxes, the fermented gaseous byproducts of semi-digested Brussels sprouts lending their unique piquancy to the festive atmosphere, whilst dad mutters something about how much of ‘a goer’ Gina G looks like, and the matriarch of the house corrects the television’s grammar.
The end of year list.
Trebuchet spurns faffed-about aggregated statistics and seasonally-adjusted ratings systems. Between now and 2013 we’ll offer some of our writers’ unsullied recollections of albums, events, exhibitions and misc., that over the course of the year prompted them to gasp in admiration, and scrabble around the junk drawer for somewhere to write it down before they forget.
First up is music correspondent James Domone.
Self-imposed rules meant no live albums/DVDs (sorry Iron Maiden, Metallica and Machine Head)
20. Muse – The 2nd Law
19. Enslaved – RIITIIR
18. Soundgarden – King Animal
17. Royal Thunder – CVI
16. Kiss – Monster
15. Down – The Purple EP
The mighty Down return with the first of a series of four EPs, and the first one is a cracker. Bringing the riffs, the sludge and the groove, Phil Anselmo and company know how to write a good tune or six.
14. Lamb of God – Resolution
Released way back in January and providing a statement of intent for the year. Lamb of God showed they weren’t afraid to experiment with doomy opener ‘Straight For The Sun’ and orchestra-tinged closer King Me.
13. Black Breath – Sentenced to Life
The result of an expert melding of thrash, punk and crust to create a ‘bang fest’ with awesome buzzsaw guitars raging throughout. No let up from start to finish in one of the year’s biggest surprises.
12. Fear Factory – The Industrialist
Now firmly established as the Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares show (no bad thing) the dystopian futurists returned with a solid album of necksnappers. The atmospheric bits provided depth and acted as a great counterpoint to heavier moments.
11. Baroness – Yellow & Green
The shouts of, “where are the riffs?” rang loud on first listen, but repeated plays revealed a hidden melodic sensibility as Baroness softened their sound for this sprawling double length.
10. Marina And The Diamonds – Electra Heart
Proper Pop music! Catchy choruses, some (slightly) clever lyrics and big synth hooks. Marina knows what she’s doing and she does it well.
9. Testament – Dark Roots of Earth
Following their stellar comeback in 2008 with The Formation of Damnation, Testament couldn’t expect to reach the same heights but Dark Roots of Earth did a pretty good job. This is the cutting of edge of thrash music and they are showing the young ‘uns how it’s done.
8. Katatonia – Dead End Kings
More Swedish prog bleakness from Katatonia who plum melancholic depths to meld big rock hooks with gloomy atmospherics in a sublime fusion that would make even the most extroverted sit down and take stock. Sometimes there is great beauty in the darkness.
7. Upon A Burning Body – Red.White.Green.
Brutal deathcore with proper catchy bits rather than the murky mush so common within the genre. This provides a proper accessible entry point to the genre and it rocks like a cut bastard tanked up on Mezcal. In ‘Texas Blood Money’ they also came up with a glorious anthem to rival the best.
6. Newton Faulkner – Write It On Your Skin
More acoustic guitar balladry (and some more up-tempo stuff too) from everyone’s favourite ginger dreadlocked minstrel. The focus this time was more on the songs than the guitar acrobatics and of these there are plenty of greats to get your ears around.
5. DragonForce – The Power Within
The ‘Force returned this year with album number five featuring, new singer Marc Hudson. With his slightly more limited range than the previous singer the songs had to come to fore. While ‘Cry Thunder’ was them trying a bit too hard, the rest of the album pumps with glorious power metal clichés played to perfection by some of the best guitarists this side of Steve Vai. Some hard work on the live circuit should see DragonForce back on the top of the (Extreme) Power Metal throne soon enough.
4. Primal Rock Rebellion – Awoken Broken
What do you get when you mix Adrian Smith (guitar player in Iron Maiden) with Mikee Goodman, ex vocalist from SikTh? Your guess was as good as mine when it was announced but the result now makes perfect sense following repeated listens. While the band name is a bit dodgy the songs most certainly are not with, Mikee applying his unique vocal stylings over sublime riffing by Adrian. The downtuned riffage is reminiscent of Smith’s work in his 90’s band Psycho Motel but is brought bang up to date and one of the most inventive vocalists since Mike Patton emoting over the top.
3. Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage
The French environmentally conscious titans returned to stake their claim to the title of best Heavy Metal band this century and a damn fine job of it they did too. The technical ability on show puts almost all others to shame while at the same time staying monstrously heavy. The songs are dense, taut, inventive, and propel you through the album with barely time to pause for breath. Hats off.
2. Anathema – Weather Systems
Sumptuous modern prog from one of the original Peaceville Three that supplied beautiful melodies and songs so magnificent in scope they threatened to dwarf the galaxy and envelope deep space. Danny Cavanaugh and co. take the grandeur of previous outing We’re Here Because We’re Here and soften the approach slightly in the sumptuous Weather Systems. Dual male/female vocal harmonies are used to expert effect, with plenty of opportunity for introspection allowing the songs to breathe and development in an almost organic manner. To great heights. Essential listening.
And here we stop. James Domone’s top album of 2012 will be revealed in the Trebuchet End of Year list, coming soon.
James Domone can be followed on Twitter @Jimbo_D