2012 may not have provided apocalypse watchers with a satisfactory conclusion, but for music fans it has been an amazing year. The quality of the music regularly gracing SonicAbuse’s desk has often been outstanding and choosing a list of highlights has been a hard task indeed. What we offer here are the twelve records that, for better or for worse, have rocked our world not just at the time of reviewing, but throughout the year. We are truly lucky to be able to appreciate such a wide variety of wonderful music and we have enjoyed sharing the many artists who have submitted work for review with you over the course of the year. In leaving you with this list we wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year wherever you may be, and we also thank you for taking time out to read SonicAbuse: every ‘like’ for the site, every comment left and every hit we receive is genuinely appreciated and we look forward to rocking out with you in 2013.
SonicAbuse’s top 12 records of 2012:
Neil Young And Crazy Horse – ‘Psychedelic Pill’
Hot on the heels of ‘Americana’, an album of reconstructed classics, came ‘Psychedelic Pill’, the beautifully excessive double album from Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Prior to ‘Americana’ The band hadn’t played with Neil for some years and the sheer joy with which all concerned tear into a number of lengthy, epic songs ripples through the whole album. A sublime, nuanced work that simply gets better with every listen, ‘psychedelic pill’ is an unrestrained joy to listen to and it stands tall as one of Neil Young’s finest albums to date.
A tough one, this, because Spectral Lore also released an album in the same year that was equally immense in stature. This one *just* tips the scales because it is so rare to come across so beautifully a packaged and utterly all-consuming record. The music is a wonderful thing –blackened and dark and yet cinematic in scope and stunningly atmospheric. Both Spectral Lore and Locust Leaves offer literary, intelligent music that recalls the splendour of poets such as Blake, Byron and Shelley. It is, without a doubt, essential listening.
Devin Townsend – ‘Epicloud’
Alright – it is, probably, a predictable choice but the case for ‘Epicloud’ is simple. Having completed his adventurous four album cycle, Devin Townsend essentially created a ‘best of’ album that summarises the impossible highs of each of those four albums on one handy disc. Tracks such as ‘Kingdom’ reveal Devin on such astonishingly melodic form that it is hard to keep the joy from bubbling up just listening to the man, and never has the word ‘effervescent’ been so appropriately used as to describe the mellifluous work contained within. Insane, inspired, heavy and beautiful, ‘Epicloud’ is a defining moment from Devin and an absolute treasure.
Paul Gilbert is a guitar genius who never once underestimates the power of rock. Here you will find elements of jazz and blues, a stunning vocal performance and a blistering cover of AC/DC’s ‘Go down’, which is delivered with such white hot intensity that it almost outdoes the original. An album of soul and passion, ‘vibrato’ is a treat for fans of stunning musicianship.
Winterfylleth – ‘The Threnody of triumph’
It is truly difficult to say enough about the wonders of this album without reviewing it all over again. It is a work of immense maturity and intelligence delivered by a band whose powers seem to be perpetually on the increase. It is music as a hymnal to nature, black metal with a folk pulse and a literary bent and it boasts beautiful cover art to match. Powerful, precise, amazing – no music collection is complete without this masterpiece.
Old Corpse Road – ‘Tis Witching Hour – As Spectres We Haunt The Kingdom’
An album of such elemental beauty that it fair eclipsed all that came before it. Taking elements from My Dying Bride’s Shakespearean delivery, traditional folk music and the stunning black metal of Burzum and Bathory, Old Corpse Road shattered even the worryingly high expectations we had for them after their debut. Simply amazing, it is the sort of album that leaves you slack-jawed in amazement after the first listen, and in no lesser sense of awe after subsequent listens. The highlight is the three-part story that haunts the centre of the album – ‘the crier of Claiffe’ – but there are no weak moments here and there is no doubt that this epic work of story-telling will still be revered in decades to come.
Rival Sons – ‘Head down’
The album on which the sons came of age with such startling music that the album drew favourable comparisons to Led Zeppelin in our review which positively frothed over tracks such as ‘manifest destiny parts 1 & 2’ . We’ll simply leave you with the conclusion of our own review: “a near-flawless album of heartfelt, blues and soul-infused hard rock and listening to ‘head down’ is as invigorating and life affirming as rock music gets.”
The Lost vegas – ‘Crhyptnopsych’
Released only on vinyl and as a download, with artwork that flows with colour, the music is equally brilliant. Here you’ll find elements of Syd Barrett, the Pixies, Pink Floyd and much more, all delivered in The Lost Vegas’ own unique style. A psychedelic gem that brings joy to all who hear it – the impossible to pronounce ‘Crhyptnopsych’ is a lovely album that more than deserves its place on this list.
A late addition to albums of the year indeed, but no list is complete without it. Any album that draws comparisons to the jazzy experimentalism of Armia and the stifling art-rock of progressive, post-black-metal act Ulver is clearly something special and Lilium Sova certainly are that. An absolutely blinding album, the song-writing is densely packed and fiercely intelligent making this the perfect album to drift away from the real world to. A work of art from the cover to the conception – ‘Epic Morning’ is a unique album indeed.
Stubb – Self-titled
It really was quite a year for blues-influenced hard rock and stubb are marvellous exponents of the genre. This self-titled effort comes packaged in some rather stunning, Hipgnoisis-esque artwork and features the impossibly excellent ‘scale the mountain’, a song that Josh Homme himself would crawl over broken glass to write. Thunderous, heart-felt (as on the lo-fi ‘crosses you bear’) and music that moves the soul at least as much as the body, this is one pulse-quickening album that you should not miss.
Barren Earth – ‘Devil’s resolve’
The moment that this band truly came into their own, ‘the devil’s resolve’ is an unfettered masterpiece that, over the course of forty-eight minutes makes you realise the sprawling grandeur of their vision. There is no one stand-out track as such, rather this is an album that needs to be appreciated as a whole (although if you do want one moment that demonstrates Barren Earth’s power, try ‘the dead exiles’ with its huge, doom-laden riff). A complex, progressive, unholy beast of an album – ‘Devil’s resolve’ is an unassailable work of evil genius.
Cultura tres – ‘El Mal Del Bien’
Black Sabbath, My Dying Bride, Pink Floyd and Alice in Chains all collide for a sludge/doom album with a difference. We were so blown away by Cultura Tres we had it on non-stop for days after reviewing it and still return with great pleasure on a regular basis. This is passionately delivered and brilliantly constructed darkness with melody and power in equal measure. Available on download and on vinyl, this is an album you simply must own if you love metal.
SonicAbuse’s sneaky bonus record:
Spires – ‘Lucid Abstractions’
As it’s an EP this doesn’t count as one of our twelve albums of the year (so no writing in to tell us we can’t count) but it’s such a wonderful piece of art that it has to be mentioned. A black metal band by the light of the moon, here Spires translate parts of their back catalogue into unutterably wonderful, king crimson influenced progressive/acoustic gems. A side-step from the band rather than a full-blown reinvention, but one of such epic grandeur that it brings tears to the eyes ‘Lucid abstractions’ is a monumental achievement from a very special band.
SonicAbuse’s Re-issue of the year:
Manic Street preachers – ‘Generation Terrorists’
In a world now dominated by deluxe box sets how can one possible stand out? Quite simply by representing value for money, quality of extras, minimal unnecessary trinkets (we’re looking at you Pink Floyd) and an exhaustive approach to the subject matter. The excellent re-issue of ‘generation terrorists’ ticked all these boxes by being a sensible price (£40 as opposed to the usual wallet-raping costs of such things), containing a wonderful array of goodies (3 CDs, a DVD, a vinyl copy of the band’s early BBC sessions, a press pass laminate, a glossy reprint of a Richey collage and a reasonably informative book) and by being of high quality. Truly fans could not ask for more from a re-issue and the demo tracks, collected b sides and outtakes, alongside a brilliantly produced documentary on the DVD make you realise just what can be done by record labels and bands alike if they only have the desire. Add to that the fact that ‘Generation Terrorists’ still sounds blistering after all these years and there’s no box-set to beat it this year.
SonicAbuse’s DVD of the year:
Autopsy – ‘Born Undead’
What else could it be but Autopsy’s monumentally packed DVD which so stretched the boundaries of what is possible by packing in multiple live performances of the newly revitalised band (with quality ranging from the sublime to the bootleg), a documentary that is utterly thrilling to watch and music videos, all into a stunningly designed digi-book with gloriously gory art-work. As essential as metal DVDs get, both Autopsy and Peaceville should be proud of what they achieved here.
SonicAbuse’s Honourable Mentions:
And finally a few records well worth anyone’s time but which didn’t quite make the exceptional list above:
Michael Schenker – ‘Temple of rock’ live DVD
Coilguns/NVRVD – Split EP
Coilguns – Stadia Rods
Euclidean – EP
Tank – War Machine Live DVD
Alt – I’m a dancer EP
Fetoinfetus – ‘Mortuary’ EP
Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day