Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top Metal and Beer of 2012

Mosh's Take

Hello again, my adoring fans.  I know it’s been a while.  Yes, I know I said I’d call, but things came up.  No, of course I still respect you, I just haven’t had the time to pick up the phone, which works both ways, you know.  Anyways, it’s time to wrap up another year, and musically it’s been rather lackluster.  There’s a tendency lately for all of the wrong types of metal to be gaining a popular buzz (I’m looking at you, In This Moment), and the atrocity that is dubstep seems to be infecting almost everything (I’m still glaring at you, In This Moment...such a disappointment), but amidst all of the crap that was vomited forth in music this year--metal and otherwise--there were still some really good releases, at least one of them dropped only a couple of weeks ago.

(Note: only one of these was actually reviewed, the rest of them are getting their first spotlight today.)

5. Eluveitie - “Helvetios”
Okay, so I made a big fuss about this album when it first came out, and you know what? That fuss is well merited. This album, more than any other in Eluveitie’s discography, really stands out for me. I like the structure on the album, and the added melody really managed to flesh this out for me. I found the album to be much tighter overall than "(Everything Remains)...As it Never Was".

4. Nile - “At the Gate of Sethu”
I never got around to reviewing this amazing slab o’ death.  In my opinion (and it’s one of the only two that count here) Nile is definitely at the forefront of American death metal, but with "At the Gate of Sethu", they managed to step up their game. All of the trademark Egyptian themes and pulverizing rhythms are present on the album, but the addition of new vocal elements bring the agony of the afterlife into your ears, and pummels the brain. Which is then ritually removed and jarred, and you get embalmed. In metal.

3. The Sword - “Apocryphon”
For me, this is album that truly shows The Sword finding themselves. The first two albums were a thundering battle cry to the ancestors of Sabbath and Zepplin, and Warp Riders was definitely riding in the vapor trails of a cosmic ZZ Top. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that this was a bad thing, but The Sword has taken all of these previous elements and managed to weave a sound all their own. Plus, the cover of “Cheap Sunglasses” was pretty groovy. You know, just sayin’.

2. Baroness - “Yellow & Green”
This album renewed my love of Baroness. On the "Red" and "Blue" albums, Baroness was very much the prog heavy cousins of Mastodon. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, but with this style of “Southern” metal, prog goes a long way, sometimes a little too far (see Mastodon’s "Crack the Skye"). "Yellow & Green" saw Baroness trimming away the prog-fat (can I trademark that?) and using the synthesizers that were left to add an almost delicate sensibility to the subtle aggression of the riffs.

And the top album of the year...

1. The Project Hate “The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda”

I’m going to make a shocking admission: I used to not like TPH. Wait, that’s not necessarily true. The truth is, for whatever reason, I never really gave them the time of day. A year or so back, something woke me up to them (probably Hops’ incessant raving about them), and when the dam broke I realized that these guys (and gal) were definitely a metal powerhouse, and definitely in a league of their own. And then this album came along, quite literally, thanks to the fans. And TPH does not disappoint. There are really no words that can accurately describe the sense of (dreadful) awe that this album inspires. With none of the musical tracks clocking in at less than nine minutes--the longest is a face-meltingly fifteen minutes--this album is a metal masterpiece. The sense of tragic beauty that has always been a trademark, has never so poignantly (and hauntingly) framed the vile, unbridled aggression, that is the demonic underbelly of this great, metal beast. Each song conveys a sense of a mini-album, and there is never a dull moment on the album. Even the “filler” tracks ("DCLXI" - "DCLXVI") are less filler tracks and serve a grander purpose: each one conveys the sense of futility greater than the last, so that by the time “DCLXVI” ends, we are truly ready to “Welcome the Judas Agenda.” For a band that seems to have topped themselves album after album, "...Agenda" is definitely a crowning achievement, and well worth album of the year status.

Honorable Mentions
The ones that almost made the list are Katatonia “Dead End Kings”, Witchcraft “Legend”, and Huntress “Spelleater”. Special mention goes to Down, for the Purple EP. Seeing how this is the first of four EP’s that will no doubt form a whole album, expect Down to top next year’s list if everything has been released in time.

Biggest disappointment

Meshuggah - “Koloss”
Let me start by saying how much I fucking love Meshuggah.  Eschewing the melodies that seem to be the staple of the rest of their countrymen’s metal output, Meshuggah delivers on a grand scale of precise rhythms, earth-splitting percussion, and enough tempo changes to keep you guessing.  That is, until "Koloss". Just having to type this makes me groan, but this album sucked. You want tempo? We give speed. And that was like two miles per hour (or four kilos per hour depending on where you are at). The tempo never changes. This plodding pace was really what crippled this release. A band like this need to change up the speed, or else all the technicality doesn’t mean shit. I can’t tell you if the album was as complex as previous entries (guess what, it’s not), because I fall asleep when it comes on. This album should have had a hazard label on it warning you not to listen and drive. If you try to headbang to this album, you’ll get a crick in your neck from having it bent in one spot for so long. The long and short of it is that this album is just outright disappointing. The same band that released “obZen” should not have this is the next entry in it’s discography. Here’s to next time, though, gents. Every great band is allowed their "St. Anger". And hey, at least it’s better than In This Moment’s “Blood.”

Best Beer of 2012

Here’s the thing. I haven’t had very much to drink this year. I did most of my drinking six thousand miles away. And it was of one beer. And that beer was pretty good. So, now we are at the end of the year, and instead of giving you a top five, I give you: The Only Beer I Consumed All Year: Goldstar! So, this was reviewed earlier this year when I was in Israel. It’s been a while since I’ve had Goldstar, so I can’t go into very many specifics, but I do know that it left enough of an impression on me that I would love to get my hands on some, even if the only way I could get it was in the bottle. Interesting side note: after I wrote the initial review, I went down to Bear’s Pub one of my last nights in Haifa, where I enjoyed a Goldstar Stout. Goldstar Stout kicks you in the nuts like an IDF combat specialist, but leaves you smiling (instead of cradling your pulverized man-nuggets) and wanting more. Alas, that was the one and only time I was able to get a hold of the Stout, but it definitely rounded out my impression of Goldstar as being a pleasantly simple, unique beer, that, alas!, can only be found about six thousand miles away. Maybe my New Year’s Resolution should be to acquire some Goldstar? Or, and this idea is even more promising, maybe actually deliver some beer reviews to you fine folks? Who knows, the new year has yet to begin. Now go light some shit on fire. With metal.

Hops' Take

Below is probably the most unfunny thing I've ever written. I apologize for the lack of comedy. I'm on my man-period, deal with it.


After looking through a list of albums released this year, it became very apparent to me that I missed a lot of great albums that went under my radar. I really paid attention mostly the high-profile releases, but albums like Asphyx, Pallbearer, Black Breath, Witchcraft and Naglfar need more listens and some might make it into this list. Alas, of the albums I did get to listen to enough times to pass judgment on, these are the top ones.

5. Nile - "At the Gate of Sethu"
This one's pretty controversial. Many Nile fans outright hated this release, but I love it. It's pretty easy for a themed band to get stale, and I think they realized that and so threw a few tricks into the mix to keep the formula fresh. I am happy they decided to do so and the result was yet another solid release from the veterans.

4. High on Fire - "De Vermis Mysteriis"
The band started to lose me slightly with "Snakes for the Divine", but this album snapped me back to attention. It's back to the muddiness of "Blessed Black Wings" and "Death is this Communion". I must say though that the band probably needs to go in a different direction with future releases. The albums are starting to blur together a bit. I did appreciate the crazy backstory for this album, which was somewhat refreshing. I think the band struck gold with "Blessed…" and has been riding that for some time, though. Still, a great release.

3. Down IV - "The Purple EP"
There's a full review further down the page summarizing my thoughts, but basically this is the second best Down release by far and I can't wait for the next three EPs. It isn't and nothing ever will be NOLA, but it's the closest thing to it the band has created thus far. A must-own for any fan.

2. The Project Hate - "The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda"
Had I spent as much time with this one as I have my number 1, it'd likely take the number one spot, but being only a little over 2 weeks old I can't properly hail it just yet. It really deserves a full review but I could dedicate an entire website to it and still not truly show my appreciation for it. This album is the perfect compilation of anything and everything you could want in a metal album. It is at times simultaneously the most brutal and the most beautiful thing the band has ever created. I'm not even going to try to summarize it here, but know this: it is the most epic 90 minutes of whatever-goddamn-genre-it-is metal out there. You absolutely must go to band's page, donate a few bucks, and acquire this as soon as you can. Mosh states my feelings in his review better than I can.

And the top album of 2012 is...

1. Baroness - "Yellow & Green"

Of all the records I spun this year, this one got the most plays. There's just something about it causes it to improve with each listen. It made me go back and re-listen to the previous two albums many more times and brought Baroness to the forefront of my listening habits. Sure, it's not as raw or heavy as their previous stuff, it's a little poppy and catchy at times, but it's a great record and my favorite of the year by far.

Honorable Mentions
Corrosion of Conformity - S/T
I was a late bloomer when it comes to CoC and didn't really get into them until the early 2000s, starting with "Deliverance". I was definitely excited for this release anyway, and while it delivers on many fronts, it's not the CoC I was raised on and so it's a hard sell for me. I still spin it regularly, however.

The Sword - "Apocryphon"
Nothing more, nothing less than what I expected from the band, and another victim of "not enough time with the record" for me. Killer album cover, also.

Meshuggah - "Koloss"
The Internet has been all over this album's nuts since it released and I just don't get it. "obZen" brought the band back into focus for me and convinced me to dig back up my old records, which was great. I'm still a huge fan. However with all the hype and buildup I was expecting a monster here, and it just doesn't deliver. There are maybe one or two good tracks, but the rest is just awful. Sure, it's complex and insane and what have you, but it doesn't give me the stiffy I expected.

Goatwhore - "Blood for the Master"
I bought "Carving Out the Eyes of God" knowing nothing of it and was blown away. I had been a Goatwhore fan for a while and had seen them live several times but had lost track of them. I absolutely loved that record, so I was expecting them to take the next step with "Blood for the Master". However, it's more like "Carving…" B-Sides. Seems like the same recycled riffs and song structures. It's listenable, but nothing near expectations.

Beer of the Year

I want to make this image bigger than your screen. I want it to be burned into your skull. I want to make passionate love to this beer. I want someone to draw me while I'm making love to this beer (and NO KEN HUMP PLZ). This beer is coming awfully close to surpassing Stone Ruination as my favorite beer in the world. Endeavour is definitely the tastiest IPA I've had and you don't have to be a hop lover to appreciate it. And of course, it's also $6 per bottle (or $8.50 per pint at the bar). I have expensive tastes. Still, if you were ever considering having sex with a beer, choose this one. I can't express how in love with this beer I am. I am probably single-handedly keeping it on the market. Not just the beer of 2012, beer of my lifetime.

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