TBR’s Two-Fisted Devil’s Dozen + The Best Underground Metal of 2012

2012 Devil's Dozen pt1
Posted 09 December 2012   Devil's Dozen, Music Reviews

As of the day of this was written, there are exactly 12 days left in this cycle of the Mayan calendar and I for one am FUCKING STOKED.  Has our collective consciousness reached some sort of critical mass as we approach a new age of enlightenment?  What form might our (d)evolution take?  Will we soon bear witness to the systemic collapse of traditional power structures?  Natural disasters?  Paradigm shifts advanced by some quantum leap in technology?

Whooooo fucking knows?!?!?!

There’s only one way to go into all of this:  With a two-fisted helping of METAL, my friends!!!  It might be a bit audacious to say that these are THE best underground/independent records made this year, but here are thirteen and thirteen again (26) of my personal favourites of 2012.  It includes a broad range of sounds including some oddities and freaks.  I invite you to share YOUR personal favourites in the comments below.

Negativity?  Bitterness?  Fear??

Fuck that.  As we turn the page and look forward to what comes next, I wish you all the best:  Health of the body and mind and the fulfilment of your highest potential.

All the best to you and yours in Baktun 14!

+++  TBR  +++

#26.  Sons of Tonatiuh + Parade of Sorrow  (Hydro-Phonic)

Sometimes, there’s a sort of involuntary reaction that takes place during the course of listening that qualifies an album in a way that nothing else truly can.  For example, I found myself compelled to drive around in my car with “Fallout” positively and repeatedly BLARING for the better part of two weeks.

I don’t mean to detract from the rest of the album, but really, this sort of experience that’s at the heart of what metal is all about.  It’s something that money just can’t buy and for me, it makes “Fallout” one of the single most memorable tunes of the year.  SoT FTW!

#25.  Ice Dragon + Tome Of The Future Ancients  (self released)

The only problem I had with putting an Ice Dragon album on this year’s list is trying to figure out which fucking one it was going to be.  These guys released no less than three very solid full-legnth LP’s this year:  Tome Of The Future Ancients, greyblackfalconhawk and Dream Dragon. Each of them distinctly different, but each of them staying true to what Ice Dragon is all about:  Cheap beer, lots of cigarettes and working on their next record.

Sure, that’s impressive, but it’s also not taking into account the split EP they released and the re-release of The Burl, The Earth, The Aether which is also quite excellent.  For me, it just paints a picture of complete disregard for the rat race and for that, I love them all the more.

Call them “lifers”, call them what you will…  They might not ever make it out of their basement but somehow, they keep bringing the rest of the world in there with ‘em and THAT’S where the real magic happens anyways.

#24.  Tort + Tort  (Totalrust)

Holy fuck is this ever filthy.  Fuck ProTools, fuck all your expensive outboard gear and fancy compressors and shit…  Tort just came and shit all over everyone who spent more than $500 making a record and got a better sound than them anyways.

Musical virtuosity?  Please.  Who needs that shit when you’re as heavy as Tort?!?

#23.  Conan + Monnos  (Burning World Records)

Conan are back with all of the guts, glory and bowel-shaking, low end madness that has earned them hordes of devoted followers through the past several years.  One could easily argue that this deserves to be further up the list.  However, I have found that doing so will tear the fabric of space/time.  Yes.  It’s THAT fucking heavy.

#22.  Slomatics + A Hocht  (Head of Crom/Burning World)

An unprecedented incendiary storm of psychedelic sludge and doom.  Although this first LP has been some time coming, Slomatics are off the chain and it will take the rest of the world to catch up with them.

#21.  Haggatha + Haggatha IV (Choking Hazard)

Hailing from Vancouver, British Coloumbia, Haggatha finally break out into the LP format here on their fourth release.  I’m not sure why it’s taken them this long to put up a long player but what I do know is that Vancouver is second to none with some of the finest pot anywhere on the planet. Maybe the two are related, maybe they’re not, but these guys have made some strides and it’s been well worth the wait.

#20.  Undersmile + Narwhal  (Blindsight Records)

Staggeringly monolithic, Undersmile take the iconic structural form that is doom and lay a new foundation that places Narwhal in among the genre’s finest this year.  Not only does it sound absolutely colossal, it also serves up a heaping portion, clocking in at over at over an hour of playing time. BONUS: A listen through a set of good headphones reveals a number of interesting nuances in the mix.

#19.  Year of No Light / Altar of Plagues split EP (Radar Swarm/Music Fear Satan)

Although 2012 did not yield a full-legnth release from either of these two bands, it’s great to hear them working together and go even further outside their boundaries.  Both tunes are complimentary to one another, employ droning, minimalist song structures that make heavy use of repetition and build their way into towering orchestrations. Where YONL ascend to a more rapturous climax, Altar Of Plagues build the tension until it’s nearly excruciating before resolving it with a crescendo of noise and fury.

#18.  Nidingr + Greatest of Deceivers  (Indie Recordings)

This is one hell of a piece of work but if you can listen to the whole thing through and through from start to finish, that’s cool, but damn…  maybe switch to decaf for awhile and put the knife down, OK?

#17.  Velnias + RuneEater  (Pesanta)

Once again, we have a pair of quality releases that are similar in character but stand well enough on their own that they each deserve a spot on

#16.  Cssaba + Underground Lo-Fi Sounds (Pagan Records)

Call it impulsive, but I was totally hooked the first moment I heard this album.  Firing up the blast furnace, Cssaba has taken the essential elements at the core of metal, and reduced them to their fundamental components.  What’s left in the crucible is then re-constructed it over a framework of proto-industrial beats that stomps like a mechanical bull in a china shop

If you can forgive the clumsy album title, Underground Lo-Fi Sounds will definitely scratch an itch for fans of Streetcleaner-era Godflesh, Coil and late 70′s krautrock.  What’s more, there is a subtle but unmistakeable tip of the hat towards’s Celtic Frost’s classic To Mega Therion by way of the thundering and ominous orchestral horns which make a brief but welcome appearance.

Being that this is the first release by Cssaba and it’s only been in circulation for less than a week, I don’t suspect that you’ll see it on many “year end” lists or even hear much about it for a little while.  Evil never rests and The Bone Reader is always ready to step up.  Highly recommended.

#15.  Krallice + Years Past Matter  (self released)

You know how I know it’s the end of the world?  There’s an up-and-coming USBM band that everyone generally seems to agree on, more or less.  Of course, there were a fairly good number of interesting and deserving releases in the genre of black metal this year, but this is one that I kept coming back to time and time again.

#14.  Dragged Into Sunlight + Widowmaker  (Prosthetic)

Holy fuck!  I guess these guys stopped smoking powdered bleach and went into rehab after making that first record.  Widowmaker??  Whoa!  Now we’re talking!    DIS draws the listener in to a far more thoughtful and compelling experience.

#13.  Bell Witch + Longing  (Profound Lore/The Flenser)

With their star rising from the darkest depths, Longing fulfills all of the dark promises that Bell Witch made on their 2011 demo.  Impressive, emotive and it will be very interesting to see what the future holds.

#12.  Ortega + A Flame Never Rises On It’s Own  (Badger/Tartarus)

Ortega delivers a tight, dynamic and perfectly balanced work in which the whole becomes greater than the sum of it’s parts.  To say it simply, A Flame Never Rises On It’s Own is great a pleasure to listen to, end-to-end.  My only criticism is that I wish there were more.

#11.  The Lion’s Daughter + Shame On Us All  (Pissfork Anticulture)

Instead of jerking themselves off with writing manifestos, creating chat room fodder and the sort of navel-gazing that will ultimately be , The Lion’sDaughter took it upon themselves to write some fucking songs which, unfortualately seems to have become the exception to the rule these days.  I’m not just talking about cobbling different genres together or using monotony as a substitute for developing real artistic vision. Like ‘em or not, these are songs that are well and truly different from one another.

Ironically, I despise the practice of cover songs on principe and in practice, but TLD’s version of “Mr. Self Destruct” is a fucking treat.  Kinda like biting down on a milk dud with a razor blade in it.

 

#10.  Astra + The Black Chord  (Rise Above)

Because a man cannot live on terrible, screeching incantations and blastbeats alone.

#9.  Sutekh Hexen with Andrew Liles + Breed Me In The Darkness  (Aurora Borealis)

Oh for chrissakes, please.   This is to be listened too, not discussed.

#8.  Alaric / Atriarch split LP  (20 Buck Spin)

Certainly the best split release to come out this year and honestly, one of the finest splits that comes to my mind in any year.

#7.  Ufomammut + Oro: Opus Primum / Opus Alter  (Neurot/Supernatural Cat)

Ufomammut are one of those bands who have the total package:  A strong repertoire of albums that have slowly built an , epic live performances and a tremendous visual impact with their artwork and design.  With ORO, the Italian psychonauts weave an intricate and expansive narrative  Essential.

#6.  The Howling Wind + Of Babalon  (Profound Lore)

Take current members and ex-members of Serpentine Path, Unearthly Trance, Thralldom, Aldebaran and Weregoat.  Add copious amounts of drugs and booze, goat’s and/or virgin’s blood to taste.  Crank the gain, shake head vigorously and… Voilà!  The Howling Wind is the perfect blend of black/death/doom metal that sticks to your ribs.  Just like Grandma used to make.

 

#5.  Black Shape of Nexus +  Negative Black  (Exile On Mainstream)

Black Shape Of Nexus have always known how to balance sonic experimentation with enjoyable and listenable results.  Put that together with their penchant for thundering riffs and progressive song structures and it’s a sure-fire win.  Negative Black is a solid addition to their already impressive catalogue.

#4.  Kowloon Walled City + Container Ships  (Brutal Panda)

I didn’t go into this year with any sort of expectations.  Even so, I’m a little surprised at how much I really enjoy this album.  Kowloon Walled City have always resonated with me on a certain level but it was only during this sort of comparative process that I realized how far they’ve pulled ahead with this latest release

#3.   Okkultokrtati + Snakereigns  (Fysisk Format)

Yeah, I’m out on a limb again, but fuck it.  I’ve kept coming back to this album again and again throughout the year and it’s not faded one bit.  Okkultokrati have struck an elusive balance here both musically and aesthetically.

 

Unlike the majority of the cookie cutter hardcore/crust punk bands of today’s day and age, nothing sounds forced or contrived.  Unlike the majority of ham-handed attempts to force a “blackened” vibe on to some unwary sub-genre of music, Snakereigns references the occult and the dark mysteries of the unseen, but it never comes across as hokey or trivial.
From a lyrical perspective, Okkultokrati delve deep into the darkness of the void and stares a harsh and dying world in the eye, it’s devoid of any sort of  bitchy, defeatist “misanthropic” posturing.  This album probably won’t get the sort of widespread recognition that it deserves this year, but if these guys keep their shit together, this one could turn out to be a classic.

#2.  Pallbearer + Sorrow and Extinction  (Profound Lore/20 Buck Spin)

Rarely is it possible to descend so deep and still be so stirring and majestic at the same time.  Classic.

#1.  Hell Comes Home box set vol. 1  (Hell Comes Home)

A sprawling, ambitious and well curated selection that spans no less than twelve 7″ vinyls and features a who’s who of established and up-and-coming artists from around the globe:  Coffinworm.  Thou.  Fistula.  Ultraphallus.  Burning Love.  Kowloon Walled City.  Fight Amp.  The Fucking Wrath  

Hell Comes Home Vol. 1  embodies the best of what’s happening in the underground this year.  Let’s hope they keep after it for years to come.