Another great year of metal has come to an end!
My mental dialogue earlier this week:
Me 1: This has been a great year for metal.
Me 2: Yes, yes it has. But wait, you say that every year.
Me 1: True, true. Maybe you are right. Maybe I would just say that every year …
… but wait, at least I’m not saying that this year was a bad year for metal. Now that would be bad, wouldn’t it?
Perhaps I will always find top-tier releases and memorable surprises in a yearly list of metal, but 2012 had some particularly relevant heavy-hitters. We saw new releases from technical mainstays such as Meshuggah, Hour of Penance, Gorod, Cattle Decapitation, and Dying Fetus, as well as a collaboration on 2012’s Spawn of Possession release so wicked it seemed unreal. As always, 2012 brought us some newcomers to watch in coming years: the galactic destruction of Xenocide; the decadently Necrophagist-esque sophistication of Sophicide; and the usurpers to the throne of Cryptopsy, Desecravity. Oh, and speaking of Cryptopsy, we saw a return to form that will not be forgotten anytime soon. So, without further schizophrenic commentary, here is the top 10 technical death metal releases of 2012, as seen by The Witness to the Void.
10. Cattle Decapitation – Monolith of Inhumanity
The ever-evolving vegan deathgrind of Cattle Decapitation gives metalheads one more reason to hate mankind with every release. Monolith of Inhumanity excels in gore-dripping misanthropy, especially with the introduction of some of the filthiest “clean vocals” around. Unfortunately, some of the accompanying melodic passages (closers “The Monolith” and “Kingdom of Tyrants”) seem a bit tame in comparison to the feeding-frenzy of some of the faster tracks (see the rabid “Do Not Resuscitate”). Although it’s a minor complaint, these parts bring down the album as a whole, especially when its the note that Monolith ends on.
Key Cut: “Do Not Resuscitate”
9. Psycroptic – The Inherited Repression
The Inherited Repression showcases a sophisticated sensibility seen in the likes of Anata, focusing more on a whirlwind of razor blades than bludgeoning clubs. Psycroptic has left their crypt-dwelling days behind them, moving to the more refined and calculated sound heard here. Dwelling in the mid-high ranges works scathingly well for Psycroptic, leaving an imprint like a nailbat…covered in broken glass.
Key Cut: “Carriers of the Plague”
8. Detrimentum – Inhuman Disgrace
Detrimentum’s second full-length boasts the stick skills of Steve Powell (Anaal Nathrakh’s live drummer), but also a major evolution in the band’s style. Inhuman Disgrace is brutal death metal at its malignant heart, but with a progressive flare that demands multiple listens. Although it isn’t the most technical or brutal album on this list, Inhuman Disgrace is definitely one of the year’s most memorable.
Key Cuts: “In the Shadow of the Cross We Burn” and “Journeyman’s Lament”
7. Cryptopsy – Cryptopsy
All hail the mighty Cryptopsy! In this return-to-form, Flo Mournier and company dropped the keyboards and the deathcore, and reacquired guitarist Jon Levasseur. The self-released seventh full-length features a new hybrid of Cryptopsy, a reinvigorated Cryptopsy, that bounces and crushes with those quickly cutting tech streaks from yesteryear. Although the depravity of None So Vile and Blasphemy Made Flesh is missing, Cryptopsy still hits like a sack of bricks to the forehead, again, again, again, and again.
Key Cut: “Damned Draft Dodgers” (includes elevator music!)
6. Sophicide – Perdition of the Sublime
The first full-length from this German two-piece (which started as a one piece!), Perdition of the Sublime dwells in the midranged spectrum of technical death metal, kind of like a chunkier and thrashier Necrophagist. Sophicide showcases the best-case scenario of a metal band with limited members – every song is focused and tight, with everything zigging and zagging in unison. The sprinkling of neo-classical flourishes (reminiscent of Sound of Perseverance-era Death) is effective and efficient, making for a very organic, and thought-provoking listen.
Key Cut: “Freedom of Mind”
5. Spawn of Possession – Incurso
Christian Müenzner with Spawn of Possession?! What a wicked combination it is indeed! Infinitesimal in it’s intricacy, Incurso favors an atonal complexity over blunt heaviness. The subject matter (evil spirituality, possession, etc.) is appropriately dark, yet ethereal and refreshing. As well, the longer songs and occasional keyboards make for a rewarding and varied album. This collaboration is one that should be mentioned in the metal hall of fame!
Key Cuts: “Where Angels Go, Demons Follow” and “Apparition”
4. Gorod – A Perfect Absolution
Gorod’s fourth full-length exhibits a departure from their previously chunkier (yet still highly technical and progressive) releases, evolving into an avant-garde sort of death metal that is at its best when at its weirdest. Ethereal and free-flowing, A Perfect Absolution weaves and dodges like an intricately constructed clockwork insect. Gorod’s complexity and variety of influences (observe the funk on “Varangian Paradise” – seriously, you need to hear this!) will keep any open-minded metalhead demanding more, and once again proves that these Frenchmen are at the forefront of the technical death metal scene.
Key Cut: “Varangian Paradise”
3. Hour of Perdition – Sedition
Savage and bestial, Sedition tops the lists because it is so relentlessly destructive. Hour of Penance’s death metal bulldozes from the brutal side of the spectrum, flattening and burning everything in its path. Sedition is the soundtrack of the destruction of a great metropolitan city by a godzilla-sized beast. In addition, the soaring guitar leads demand mention as well.
Key Cuts: “Enlightened Submission” and “Decimate the Ancestry of the Only God”
2. Dying Fetus –
Dying Fetus continually releases pummeling, offensive, militant death metal that never disappoints. Reign Supreme is no exception – the band’s seventh full-length is everything that you love about technical death metal. It’s heavy, spiteful, caustic, and blunt…yet technical and sophisticated. The most impressive part about Dying Fetus has always been their ability to write such dynamic songs with so many pace changes, which remain technical in a crunchy and memorable manner. That seems like too many things to happen at once, but its true. In conclusion, Reign Supreme contains the following things:
“NO REDEMPTION – NO REGRETS – NO EXCUSES – ONLY DEATH!”
Key Cut: “From Womb to Waste,” “In the Trenches,” and “Dissidence”
which brings us to number one…
1. Desecravity – Implicit Obedience
In the year in which Cryptopsy returned to us, Desecravity reminded us all of all the reasons old Cryptopsy is so memorable. Implicit Obedience pulls all the best attributes from Cryptopsy’s back catalog – the vile depravity of the Lord worm years; the psychotically spastic song structure of the DiSalvo years; and the primeval roar of Once Was Not – and combines these elements with a certain pre-historical, psychological darkness. The first full-length from this Japanese four-piece evokes the feeling of a devolution into the mind of a savage and hideous species that died out thousands of years ago. Deliciously old school yet innovative, grotesquely filthy yet cleanly produced, Implicit Obedience is not to be missed.
Key Cuts: “Immortals Warfare,” “Enthralled in Decimation,” and “Hades”
Lists are always difficult to make, but at the same time sort of enlightening as they force us reviewers to look into albums with an even more critical eye for a one-on-one comparison. It demands us to return our attention and re-evaluate some of our opinions. I hope you have enjoyed the year in review of 2012 as much as I enjoyed headbanging along to it – stay metal in 2013! Can’t wait to see what it brings us… hopefully that Necrophagist album. You hear that Muhammed?!