Hellbound.ca’s Top 10 Albums of 2012

As promised last week, here are the Top 10 metal albums of 2012 according to the writers of Hellbound.ca. You will notice that, in comparison to our previously published Top 10 Canadian albums of 2012 list, a few Canadian artists actually ended up charting higher here than on the Canuck top 10. The reason for this is simply because we had more writers submit top 10 lists here than did for the Canadian list. All in all there is about seven more submissions here, which has made for a different list than the aforementioned one.

So, without further adieu, here is Hellbound’s Top 10 metal albums of 2012…

-Sean Palmerston

10. Ihsahn – Eremita (Candlelight)

ihsahn-eremita-dlp1Ihsahn may well be one of the best arrangers of the 21st century. Eremita is full of twists and turns designed to grab your attention and your throat while simultaneously dragging you through an emotional hell. The dramatic swells, the soundscapes, the seamless movement from black metal to radio rock or (almost) grindcore are all orchestrated for maximum effect. Eremita finds Ihsahn at his cinematic best leading an auditory journey into solitude and loneliness as only he could present it. (Jason Wellwood)

9. Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud (InsideOut / Hevy Devy / E1)

epicloudEpicloud gives us a new Devin Townsend Project record surprisingly soon after the recent quadrilogy marathon. Here you’ll find gospel, a familiar debt to musical theatre, and the ever-present layers upon layers of sound. But Epicloud, at heart, might be Townsend’s interpretation (and appropriation) of quintessential pop and rock. What that means, basically, is that Epicloud is a collection of upbeat happy music fueled by Townsend’s own kind of heavy simplicity, with 13 ridiculously irresistible tracks as the result. (Laura Wiebe)

8. Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse)

Pig Destroyer - Book Burner cover artAll good things come to those who wait, and after five long years Pig Destroyer returned in 2012 with the pulverizing Book Burner. Featuring dazzlingly manic percussion, broadsides of shredding technicality, compellingly skewed lyrics, and warping electronics, Book Burner was a bio/electro-kinetic slaughterhouse of power-violence, grind, and bleeding raw thrash and death metal. Stripped of fat, Book Burner was lean and unquestionably mean, but its reduced girth only honed its razor-sharp intensity—a truly commanding and decimating return. (Craig Haze)

7. Enslaved – RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)

enslaved-riitiirThe Norwegian band has been in peak form over the past decade, having successfully make a previously unthinkable transformation from black metal to progressive metal, and their 12th album proved to be especially ambitious. By focusing more on lengthier compositions, it allowed the band to tinker with that constant push and pull between extremity and melody, resulting in epic tracks that are not only powerful, but graceful and capable of moments of genuine beauty. Even Vikings have soul. (Adrien Begrand)

6. Mares Of Thrace – The Pilgrimage (Sonic Unyon)

Mares-of-Thrace-The-PilgrimageThis may have been the most anticipated album of the year for Canadian metal fans, and it did not disappoint. From the heavy as hell, yet deft as a juggler drumming, to the punishing swirls of baritone guitar and the vocals ranging from screaming rage to whispered venom, Mares of Thrace have found their groove. With Sanford Parker’s production capturing every breath, every finger slide The Pilgrimage is a masterpiece of noise, angular riffs and irregular time changes. (Jason Wellwood)

5. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker (Prosthetic)

dragged-into-sunlightThe second full-length release from Liverpool, UK’s Dragged into Sunlight was a significant stride forward for the band. Widowmaker is defined by both its overwhelming malevolence and its ruthless control. The record is composed of three tracks of delicious, torturous, perfectly deployed tension. The band have directed their sour, grotesque misanthropy into something as artful as it is awful. This was one of the very few releases of 2012 that genuinely unsettled me, the aural equivalent of an excellent psychological horror film. Widowmaker cleaves the listener; it hates and hurts, luxuriates in its own violence. And yet, it is not a work of base brutality, but capable of clever, subtle, delicate horror. (Natalie Zed)

4. Anathema – Weather Systems (The End)

Anathema - Weather SystemsThe sad thing about Anathema’s ninth album is that few if any people outside the band’s fan base will ever hear it, because more than anything, Weather Systems is made for the masses. Devoid of any trace of “metal” whatsoever (yet marketed toward solely the metal crowd, an odd and frustrating paradox) it dives shamelessly into post-Britpop stadium rock, mirroring the wide-eyed sentimentality of circa-2003 Coldplay, songs building from gentle melancholy to soaring magnificence, highlighted by the stunning, 12-minute “Untouchable” suite that kicks off the record. Romantic, pretty, and with just the right amount of bombast, it’s the boldest statement of Anathema’s career, and their greatest work to date. (Adrien Begrand)

3. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5:Grey Skies and Electric Light (Earache)

Woods-5There are few words to sum up the bittersweet joy that unfolds across the final Woods of Ypres record. It is a heartbreaking masterpiece, would have been even without the untimely passing of its creator. At once David Gold’s most ambitious album, and impossible to listen to without tragically projecting what might have been, Grey Skies and Electric Light’s sorrows are manifold. But the lowest lows can only be balanced by the highest highs, and David Gold hammered both home on Woods 5. Listen in celebration of a life lived on its own path. (Kyle Harcott)

2. Rush – Clockwork Angels (Anthem)

Rush-Clockwork-Angels-e1334152796555 There are a lot of things about Rush that were surprising in 2012, most of all the fact that the legendary Canadian prog rock band would see to release a steampunk concept album for their 19th studio album. As a longtime fan of the band, I have found myself continuously amazed with the level of creativity and, well, heaviness that the Toronto trio now possesses in their what, fifth decade together as a band? I thought Snakes and Arrows was a great album, but in comparison Clockwork Angels is a downright monster that shows off the many different levels this band is capable of working on. (Sean Palmerston)

1. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)

Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction cover artIn a year heavy on incredible doom of the musical variety (silly Mayans) one band stood apart from the rest. Pallbearer‘s Sorrow and Extinction is a near perfect debut. Their vision for heart-wrenching doom appears fully realized. Clean vocals connect with the soul as monstrous tone and monolithic riffs drag out your inner emotions with every measure. This is just the beginning. Pallbearer stand poised to become living legends of modern doom. (Matt Hinch)

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.