TeethoftheDivine.com’s Staff Picks for 2012


. Another year, another winter spent threatening physical violence upon the staff here to get their year-end picks in. Now that the dust has settled, here are the results – the definitive list of critical picks of 2012’s best and worst releases. It’s all here: top albums, top EPs, top songs, biggest letdowns and the woulda shoulda coulda’s, as hand-picked by the TOTD staff. Feel free to comment, critique and tell us your own favorites for 2012. Thanks to all you guys for reading our little site in 2012 and here’s to another epic year of metal in 2013. Salut!

by Staff

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Jordan Itkowitz

Hard enough to pick from this year’s ridiculous bounty of excellent albums – even harder when your tastes run from black metal to tech-death to prog to sludge and beyond. The biggest change this year was the continued explosion of independent acts who found an audience via democratizing, easy-to-find streaming services like Bandcamp or SoundCloud. The underground has never been so alive.

Best of 2012
1. WodensthroneCurse (Candlelight Records)
Curse, much like its excellent predecessor Loss, is at once gorgeous, cinematic and savage, and packed with thunderous and highly melodic compositions. Its best moments, like my favorite track of the year, “Wyrgthu,” reach genuine and dramatic peaks unrivaled by most other metal genres. After only two full-lengths, Wodensthrone has joined the black metal elite.

2. Gorod – A Perfect Absolution (Listenable Records)
Still one of the most playful metal bands in existence, in any style, and this was the year’s most excellently composed and entertaining technical death metal. Plus no one else does blaxploitation + bossa nova + death metal mash-ups like these guys.

3. Cult of Fire – Triumvirát (Independent)
Cult of Fire certainly has a taste for the dramatic. Their explosive brand of black metal blends raw power, shaggy groove and ’70s occult atmosphere, and their visual persona and live performances have been calculated to match. Another fantastic band from the Eastern European scene, and one Hell of a new discovery.

4. The Faceless – Autotheism (Sumerian Records)
I already knew The Faceless could turn out excellent deathcore and tech-death, based on the quality of their first two releases. However, I didn’t expect this – an ambitious concept album that also pulls in progressive death and Faith No More-inspired theatrics, making it the year’s biggest leap forward for any band on my list.

5. ParadigmMind is Key (Independent)
This Australian outfit came out of nowhere and blew me away with their energetic blend of metalcore, djent and progressive metal, and tracks like “Wish Us Light” and “Written in Blood” have been high on my most-played list since I reviewed the album back in March. One of the year’s most addictive and melodic pleasures.

6. KatatoniaDead End Kings (Peaceville Records)
Dead End Kings takes the delicate web of instrumentation, the fine-tuned dynamics and the unorthodox melody choices of Night is the New Day, and marries it all to one of my favorite batch of Katatonia songs yet – songs that flow, seduce, transport and soothe. Misery never sounded so good.

7. Anaal NathrakhVanitas (Candlelight Records)
Seven albums in, and the ‘Thrakh’s mix of black metal, grind and industrial is as terrifying as ever. Yet it’s these guys’ accomplished ability to take that blood-spattered palette and use it to craft actual songs – grand choruses, gleaming hooks and even the occasional solo – that’s really impressive.

8. XanthochroidBlessed He with Boils (Independent)
2012 boasted a number of elaborate symphonic/avant-garde black metal releases from the likes of Borknagar, Ihsahn, Ne Obliviscaris and Carach Angren, but it was this independent group from California that really grabbed my attention. This release not only boasts swooping symphonics, lilting Diablo-like interludes and intricate, baroque compositions, but it’s also a full-on concept album with its own mythology and world map. Plus the vocalist does the best Ihsahn impression I’ve ever heard.

9. The Great Old OnesAl Azif (Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions)
Otherworldly, Lovecraftian French black/doom that’s ominous, eldritch and surprisingly enchanting. Another great example of how black metal can span great emotional distances, from the depths of the sea to the stars above.

10. TempleOn the Steps of the Temple (Independent)
My top 10 closes out with another indie release, this time from a two-man instrumental sludge/doom duo from Phoenix. Instrumental metal is rarely my thing, but that’s because it’s usually not as awe-inspiring, monstrous or cinematic as this.

11. Chaos InceptionThe Abrogation (Lavadome Productions)
Excellent hyperspeed death metal with a vortex of deadly riffs funneled into 30 minutes of destructive and entertaining songwriting.

12. Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes (Spinefarm Records)
Keep your long-awaited Wintersun epic; Jari Mäenpää’s former bandmates turned out a far more rousing and heroic album this year.

13. Les DiscretsAriettes oubliées… (Prophecy Productions)
Metalgaze, shoegaze, post-rock, whatever – this was not only better than the debut, I thought it was superior to the new Alcest as well.

14. Enslaved – RIITIIR (Nuclear Blast)
A merely good Enslaved release is still a great release in the grand scheme of things.

15. Mgla – With Hearts Toward None (Northern Heritage)
No frills and no atmospheric add-ons, yet this raw Polish black metal release managed to be haunting and hypnotic all the same.

16. Blut Aus Nord – 777 – Cosmosophy (Debemur Morti Productions)
Vindsval’s imagination and his willingness to redefine not just his own aesthetic – but also the boundaries of what constitutes black metal – seems to know no bounds.

17. Dying FetusReign Supreme (Relapse Records)
Best DF release since Destroy the Opposition. This thing just kills from start to finish, and more than that – it’s fun.

18. Züül – To the Frontlines (High Roller Records)
Now this is how you do kickass traditional/heavy metal in 2012. No gimmicks, no experimentation, just great songs and fist-pumping energy. The Frazetta-inspired album cover didn’t hurt, either.

19. IhsahnEremita (Candlelight Records)
Visionary, soaring and at times downright scary, with some of his most avant-garde and challenging compositions yet.

20. AllegaeonFormshifter (Metal Blade)
Melodic death rarely gets my attention anymore, but these Coloradans do it so well – and with so much technical aplomb – that it was impossible not to be impressed.

21. NileAt the Gate of Sethu (Nuclear Blast)
Yeah, the production is as dry as an unearthed Pharaoh, but it’s still my favorite batch of songs since Annihilation of the Wicked.

22. High on FireDe Vermis Mysteriis (E1 Entertainment)
It took a filthy, vaguely psychedelic release like this to finally make me pay attention to these stoner heroes, but now I’m converted.

23. Lord MantisPervertor (Candlelight Records)
In this case, you should definitely judge a book by its cover. The sludge metal inside was equally as brutal, disgusting and mesmerizing.

24. Haiduk – Spellbook (Independent)
One-man thrash/death project that’s razor-sharp, relentless and listenable as hell.

25. Moonloop – Deeply from the Earth (Listenable Records)
Still bummed that Opeth has abandoned progressive death metal? Try these guys, who blend peak-era Opeth with a Gojira-like lurch. Great clean vocals too.

Best EPs
Witch RipperS/T
Former members of Iron Thrones out-Mastodon Mastodon.

Deathspell OmegaDrought
Their most focused release since Kenose, but still as dismal and disturbing as ever.

Blistering prog/thrash/death for free from Scion A/V? Yes please!

One of the best new groups of Sabbath acolytes.

Best Tracks
Wodensthrone – “Wrygthu”
Paradigm – “Wish Us Light”
Enslaved – “Death in the Eyes of Dawn”, “Roots of the Mountain”
Gorod – “Varangian Paradise”
Katatonia – “Hypnone”
Temple – “Mountain”
Ensiferum – “In My Sword I Trust”
Khors – “The Last Leaves”

Best Black Metal Surf Rock Track
Hail Spirit Noir – “Against the Curse, We Dream”

Coolest Cover Art
Blut Aus Nord777 Cosmosophy
WrathprayerThe Sun of Moloch: The Sublimation of Sulphur’s Essence Which Spawned Death and Life
Cult of FireTriumvirát
Deathspell OmegaDrought
TestamentDark Roots of Earth

Best Live Show/Venue
Slaughter on the Water 3, aboard the USS Hornet in Alameda, CA

New and Promising (Stuff I Need More Time With)
The Advent EquationLimitless Life Reflections
Psilocybe LarvaeThe Labyrinth of Penumbra
Inanimate ExistenceLiberation through Hearing

Storm CorrosionStorm Corrosion
Aside from the expansive and gorgeous opening track “Drag Ropes” (with an equally fascinating video), the rest of this album, like much of Heritage and Grace for Drowning before it, was too sleepy, too sedate and not really all that memorable. Pretty at times, but Akerfeldt and Wilson are capable of so much more.

Iron Thrones’ break-up
First Burst, then Isis, now Iron Thrones? Is the entire progressive metalcore/sludge genre doomed? Although the members have all moved on to other quality projects like Witch Ripper and Wolvhammer, I will always wonder what a full Iron Thrones discography might have sounded like after The Wretched Sun, my favorite release of 2010.

Lamb of GodResolution
Randy Blythe’s incarceration and legal troubles were bad enough, but this release completed Lamb of God’s transformation into the Pantera bro-metal successors that the haters have always (incorrectly) pegged them to be. So much for getting another As the Palaces Burn one day…

Yeah it’s in my top 20, but aside from career triumphs like “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” or “Roots of the Mountain,” the rest of the album features too much muddy prog and not enough genuine fire, making it my least favorite Enslaved release in more than a decade.

Best of 2011 Stuff That Still Got Lots of Playtime in 2012
Pagan’s MindHeavenly Ecstasy
Fleshgod ApocalypseAgony
The Devil’s BloodThe Thousandfold Epicentre
MyrathTales of the Sands
BenightedAsylum Cave

Most Anticipated for 2013
Enshine (former Slumber members)
Voices (former Akercocke members)
Omnium GatherumBeyond
New releases by Opeth, Dream Theater and Dimmu Borgir

Already on My Best of 2013 List
Cult of LunaVertikal
Void of SleepTales Between Reality and Madness


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  1. Commented by: Timmy

    Hey! Where’s Dane Prokofiev’s Top 10???!!!!!

    I like what that guy has to say even thought some people give him a hard time for no reason.

    Dane, please dial your top 10 picks in! (even if they’re a bit late….)


  2. Commented by: E. Thomas

    He is no longer on our staff as he left after 3 reviews and a few interviews- im sure hes got a list at one of his other blogs /sites

  3. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Based on some formula and calculations I did- Pallbearer’s Sorrow and Extinction is the TOTD staff album of the year!

  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    hm, Pallbearer was only in 2 guys’ top 10 and 2 guys’ top 15 – sounds like less of a ringing endorsement to me and more an illustration that no one’s top 10 looked remotely the same or featured the same bands.

    which is great for the growth and creative health of metal overall, that 13 different TOTD reviewers (who collectively listened to hundreds and hundreds of albums this year) had wildly different tastes and couldn’t agree on anything :)

  5. Commented by: E. Thomas

    yeah it was hard tallying wildly different lists- but with my formula- Pallbearer came out on top-cos it was on 2 top 10 and 2 top 15s- barely. Belakor was 4th by .5 of a point. Jordan- i added 3 more guys lists since the article went up guys lists – did you count those- had it on 5 lists total?

  6. Commented by: Luke_22

    Yep Pallbearer was just pipped for the number 1 spot on my list and it keeps finding its way into my listening rotation. Of course I was late to the party for Anaal Nathrakh, Haiduk and various other killer bands/albums that had I discovered earlier might have made their way onto my list.

  7. Commented by: Plasmaterial

    No one likes Sylosis? One mention of Allegaeon? Ditto Ne Obliviscaris, Swallow the Sun and Cattle Decapitation? Mors Principium Est? In Mourning?

  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I figured more peeps would have put Cattle Decapitation on their lists too. I liked Ne Obliviscaris but Xanthochroid won out in that battle. And I didn’t even know In Mourning had a new one, sweet!

  9. Commented by: Kevin E.

    Cattle decap was on my list. One of the few if not the only one of us that did.

  10. Commented by: Apollyon

    Mors Principium Est released so late in the year that it’s practically a 2013 release.

  11. Commented by: bast
  12. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I checked out Disfiguring the Goddess back when Stacy reviewed it and kinda dug it, despite my general disdain of death core. Since he named it his #1 I’ve gone back to it and it has taken hold like a horrible fungus in my sack. Been playing it pretty often, just ordered a copy.

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