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These are what I rank as my favourite releases of 2012. If you think there’s any underground gems or even mainstream masterpieces I’ve somehow missed, please tell me in the comments below so I can rectify this. Anyway, to the list!

5) Harmonicraft – Torche

This was my introduction to Torche and I am sure as hell glad that someone recommended it to me. The album so far seems to be have an insanely high replay value. This was something which I discovered after I spent an entire weekend (more or less) listening to nothing other than Harmonicraft. Heavy, sludgy, poppy, awesome, this is a great release and hands down one of the best albums of the year.

4) Brendon Small’s Galaktikon – Brendon Small

As this list will show, I was really into the fun, easy-to-digest (relatively) releases of 2012. Mastermind Brendon Small on guitar and vocals is backed by drummer Gene Hoglan and bassist Bryan Beller. The trio also performs together as a band called Dethklok, which you may have heard of. Galaktikon is a concept album with an interesting and over-the-top storyline, which lends the lyrics more weight, in my opinion. Musically the album is a more melodic, rock-based affair than Dethalbum III (and Dethklok in general).

3) Epicloud – Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend is once again proving that he is one of the greatest producers, singers and composers to have walked our earth, this time through the poppy metal sounds of Epicloud. More than anything, this brings to mind a more advanced and varied version of Addicted. In a word: Fun.

2) Long Live Heavy Metal – 3 Inches Of Blood

I find it difficult to believe that I will ever get tired of these Canadians or their sound. This album was a true return to form for the band after the departure of Jamie Hooper and the slightly disappointing Here Waits Thy Doom. The solos are top notch, the riffs are great, Cam is soaring, the drumming is tight and the production is nigh on perfect. This album is perfect for the fools, the doubters and the naysayers who are convinced that metal is a thing of the past. This album not only proves that metal yet lives, but that it is stronger than ever and getting stronger still.

1) Down IV Part 1 – The Purple EP – Down

First things first, despite this being an EP, it’s also one of the greatest releases I have ever heard, so I’m including it regardless. Returning to the music at hand, this is one of the greatest collections of riffs I have ever encountered. The song-writing is top notch and both the drumming and bass-work are of interest, but for me it goes back to the amazing playing of Kirk and Pepper. This EP isn’t carried by its riffs. It is launched from their backs into the halls of greatness.

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About eighteen months ago I was in what passes for my local record store, browsing around for a copy of the classic Judas Priest album, Sad Wings Of Destiny, which I had, for one reason or another, never heard in its entirety (this has since been rectified). After a few minutes of fruitless searching, I gave up and turned to leave, but a CD on the shelf caught my eye. The cover art was insanely cool and both the album title and the band name convinced me that it was worth taking a risk on and purchasing. About an hour later I had realized just what a good decision it had been to buy Fire Up The Blades by 3 Inches Of Blood.

The Canadians absolutely destroyed. Every single song was awesome on the first listen. Fire Up The Blades was definitely not an album which had to grow on me. In fact, I loved the album so much, I listened to it at least a dozen times over the next week, despite the fact I was meant to be working on various assignments. While not a unique experience this has only ever happened to me a few times before (Persistence of Time, Screaming For Vengeance and NOLA). Which says something for how highly I rate this CD.

While every track on this album is more than good, the track Trial of Champions stands out even among these gems. The organ sounds sick and really furthers the sheer awesomeness of such a song. In fact, since buying this album, the only songs which have lost any appeal to me are Infinite Legions and Black Spire. That being said, this must have been after listen number fifty-and-something when I decided those two were no longer pleasing to me.

One of the albums many highlights is the vocal performance. The two duelling vocalists Cam Pipes, who sings falsetto brings an old school feeling to the band, whereas Jamie Hooper provides a far more modern screaming style. The contrast between these two is essentially the basis of their trademark sound. Guitarists Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark as a duo can stand up to the likes of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton or even Angus and Malcolm Young going by their great riffs and solo trade-offs (see Assassins Of The Light). The bass, played by Nick Cates, performs a mainly supporting role and rarely brings much to the table, however this works well in context. Alexi Rodriguez, the bands drummer, is the final piece of the 3 Inches of Blood puzzle and performs his role amazingly – The Goatriders Horde in particular showcases his skill.

The album is produced by Joey Jordinson, drummer for Slipknot, who brings out the 3IoB’s sound and style very well. The mix is good and all the instruments sound clear without becoming part of “the loudness war” that so many albums in the current music environment get caught up in. In short, the production on Fire Up The Blades is perfect.

To end this review, I’ll leave you with some of the coolest and most poignant lyrics on the album, taken from the song Forest King: “The earth grows quiet, all plant life will dominate again. When every structure falls, you’ll know the forest is king.”

9.5/10

Alright I’m going to cheat here a little bit because this isn’t really an album: it’s a 2 song EP BUT in my defense I need people to find this damn EP and download it. This art is called Not for the Faint of Heart by the mysterious band Black Creek released just earlier this year in April. After some heavy sleuthing I’ve discovered the four man ensemble includes Brent Wijnberg and  Dave Gill on vocals, guitar and harmonica, Nat O’Rourke on bass and Patrick Murphey on drums. To answer your next question: yes, they are all as Irish as they sound. One of my favorite little niche’s about the band is that they’re fully blown Australian, classic Melbourne-ites in fact.

Not for the Faint of Heart is a spectacular piece with a sweet southern feel to it. The vocals are as aggressive as they are melodic and they surf the line of good and bad sound with such candid attitude that it makes young women blush. This toe-tapping smirk engaging both seems similar to every other southerny rocky songy thing; yet seems to do it so much better than everyone else. This song just feels like it knew exactly what it was doing and nailed it perfectly. This song is to alternative southern rock what Tony Hawk is to a 720° kickflip. Full of fun, full of energy, full of noise, and full of win.

The song stopping this EP from being a single is Gone is the Darkness, which is almost going in a completely different direction to the cover song; being much heavier-hearted and full of emotion. You can almost hear the tears as they build up under the eyes of the band as they play along lazily. To be perfectly honest I actually prefer this song to the other, probably because of the overflowing buckets of fells they seem to be carrying with them to the recording room. The song isn’t overly technical, and it’s not retard-pop-easy either; it’s casually experienced for lack of a better bizarre term. This song slid his way straight into my “the world is bad and I feel bad” playlist for a solid reason: it’s a damn good song.

The fact this EP only has the two songs built in makes it so much more astounding that it’s just this damn good. It really shows that the members of the band sat in a circle, staring at each other and coming to the conclusion “alright my warriors of feels and fun, we’re not going to be a band that uploads an album for the bitches-money-powah, we will not upload a song that we don’t enjoy.” Clearly months passed and so this 2 song audible sandwich was released and eager fans like the one tippy-tappy-typing right here and now are forced to wait patiently. Not a single whimper has been heard since the release and what else is strange is that I have only ever been able to find these 2 songs on Bandcamp.com. I really don’t care if it sounds like I’m selling out because I just need people to hear this damn thing.

Have a swell day.
In the name that all is good.
I am Roxburgh.

Where to begin… I only recently discovered the band Gojira, and loved what I heard. I went back to check out some of their more extreme and avant-garde earlier stuff and wasn’t overly impressed personally, and then L’Enfant Sauvage came out of nowhere and stole my heart. To me only a third of this album really captivates me and I still think it deserves a handful of awards (looking at you metal album of the year). This French metal band was formed in 1996 under Godzilla, but didn’t popularize until approximately 10 years ago. Joe Duplantier rocks these unique vocals while pumping out the rhythm guitar, and his brother rides the drums, with addition to their close friends Christian Andreu on guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass. These 5 have been and hopefully will always be Gojira; with not a single change of lineup. ever.

I’ve got to get my favourite song on this album (and honestly my favorite song right now) out of the way good and quick or I’ll rant. Within a few weeks Born In Winter skyrocketed to my most played song on iTunes, and by that time I was strapping people to chairs and forcing them to experience their first eargasm. The slow, yet almost eager opening rift, with dueling guitars and a reliable beat instantly become stapled to your memory as the mesmerizing vocals sooth and calm the soul, yet something is subtly building… but what? Suddenly Mario the drummer gets mad, and when he gets mad, he gets heavy. Somehow the sounds intensity and aggression is increased tenfold whiles still containing the calming eagerness of the original rift. As the aggression dies down you’re left with nothing but that same rift, almost haunting you before an abrupt close. This song gets me every damn time; youtube it, and if you aren’t sold then you hate art.

While the majority of songs on the album has the new feel of smooth technical/progressive death metal (often with groovy influences), there are a couple of songs on this album that have Gojira once again playing with sounds and musicnessness. The song Planned Obsolescence has somewhat of an industrial influence to it, rather than a groovy feel; as well as a strange 56 second silent end. I’m… not entirely sure why, but being in the middle of the album one could make the possible assumption that it splits the album up. The other bizarre song, Pain Is A Master, is not unlike some of their old semi-ambient tracks overflowing with unsettling sounds. Just over a minute in it bursts back into some heavy metal classic feels that seem to come from nowhere. The influences being completely unknown as it isn’t half as groovy as some of the tracks on the album, yet it’s one of the most progressive. Quite interesting if nothing else, and I’m still not sure if I actually like it or not… odd…

On a much cheerier note, the last song on the album, and the album song itself, L’Enfant Sauvage is just an absolutely fantastic song. This is what Gojira was made for: with the perfect combination of progressive, technical, death and groove. Gift Of Guilt is just the tits, and every damn time I listen to it, I get into it more and more. Progressive Groove Death Metal? I’ll take two. Last song I would like to make mention of is Liquid Fire. To me this is that slice of baloney that slides in between the songs L’Enfant Sauvage and Born In Winter. It’s the best of both worlds stewing in a pot of ‘yes’-ness. You may or may not catch yourself singing a line or six, because maybe it’s just me but sweet Jesus this song is catchy.

This album is all-in-all simply amaze-tits. Not much more to be said.
9/10

Have a swell day.
In the name that all is good.
I am Roxburgh.

On my upteenth listen of the album Mezmerize by System of a Down I realized that yes; this review shall be the first of many reviews spewing from my thought-juices straight through my keyboard into your eyes. Mezmerize is SoaD‘s 4th Album and has a direct connection with their following album: Hypnotize (it’s even released as a double album in some states, what fun!). Containing the awesome foursome that SoaD is best known for, and with lead singer Serj Tankian often swapping his powers of ‘lead singer-ness’ with the lead guitarist Daron Malakian in about half of the listed songs. This whole album is filled to the brim with the Alternative Metal Sex that SoaD is best known for.

But enough about the boring ol’ facts and shiznit of it all; let’s get down to business, to defeat, the Huns. To me this album is the epitome of all that is SoaD. It embodies all that they are well known for: the political views, the bizarre alternative sound, the left wing song/s containing near-lovecraftian lyrics, while mostly relating to drugs and politics. Oh SoaD, you so silly. The album opens with a short, acoustic version of a song on Hypnotize, becoming the staple that holds the double album together oh so very firm. It continues with some of the better known songs (B.Y.O.B, Cigraro, Revenga) that simply explodes with intensity and passion. The musicians are having fun and Serj simply nails every last word as if it was almost tangent to the rest of the music; that’s what makes the combination such a sweet, sweet deal. Whether the purpose of the song being towards the unfairness of soldiers dying while our leaders sit behind a desk (“Why don’t Presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?” –B.Y.O.B) or perhaps it’s because Daron is not a humble man (“My cock is much bigger than yours” –Cigaro), but they play off each other with such groove and passion that nothing can stop their musical Bullet Train.

One of my favorite songs of all time (right behind Gojira‘s  Born in Winter) has got to be Violent Pornography. Wait, please don’t go. I’m not some sicko… well not that much at least just hear me out man. pls. This song has everything a good song should; with the arguably questionable lyrics (“It’s a Violent Pornography! Chocking chicks and sodomy!”). The drums go beyond a steady beat, driving the band forward, but instead twists them around the corners of mixed tempos and seductive breakdowns. The Lead guitar shapes the sound and steers the music to follow it intensely, like a heavy metal snake charmer. The rhythm and bass, infamous for creating the body of a piece of music, paints a head-banging fist-pumping groovy-as-leather-in-the-70’s feel that forces everyone except single mother feminists that “don’t need no man” to get up and enjoy the living hell out of this song. But who stars on vocals? Classic Tankian? Perhaps that talented young fellow Malakian flexes his lyrical prowess once again? The answer is both. Oh my. Yes please. Tankian simply devours the quickly spoken sing-song of repeated verse’ that made SoaD (arguably) infamous. Malakian, being only human, simply can’t resist but to scream out in the secondary repeated verse and the combination of all these vocals… all these instruments… all these feels… it’s hard not to like this song as a metal enthusiast, I’d dare you but I hate being proven wrong.

The final two songs, Old School Hollywood and Lost in Hollywood Illustrate the fun drug-pumping party-dance-clubbing of being renowned followed by the horrible crushing realization of the horror in the world of… well… being renowned. Without going into too much detail; unlike the other phenomenal songs on the album (radio/video, this cocaine makes me feel like I’m on this song, Violent Pornography, Question, Sad Statue) None really have the same connection as these two. It’s just nice to have a little bit of depth outside of their unique views on politics and life. If any man, woman, child, animal or plant came up to me and said “Hey friend, cool shirt, what’s a good album to start listening to System of a Down? I just heard them from the videotech” I can scream at them with glee: MEZMERIZE, MY CHILD. MEZMERIZE. In fact this happens far more often than it should.

To wrap things up tighter than Audacity‘s lyrics, the album Mezmerize is filled with food, sex, and drinking. You like that don’t you? Sure you do. Buy this album. Buy it. With your money. Get off piratebay and do the responsible thing. SoaD fans will go crazy, Metal fans will convert themselves to SoaD fans, and everyone else is wrong. A sensual 9/10 from me.

Have a swell day.
In the name that all is good.
I am Roxburgh.