For this series of Top ten lists, we sent out a call to duty to all the rockers and ragers that make up Arizona's incredible heavy music scene. We got a good amount of responses this year, so we compiled them all here for your amusement. Give this list a good once over, then hit the Axe's Facebook page to discuss, agree, argue and threaten each other with bodily harm. Get into it!
Nate Garrett: TOAD (Take Over And Destroy)
This was the most difficult year of my life to narrow down a rational number of favorite releases. Just know my list should be about three times longer than it is.
12 favorite records of 2012 (in no real order):
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. One of my all-time favorite records of any year, period. I definitely listened to this more than anything else in 2012.
Struck By Lightning - True Predation
This is pure hatred, viciousness, and misanthropy laid to tape. The rage captured on this one isn’t only expressed in the lyrics; it’s evident in the production, delivery, and even song structure. The way I feel about this record is the way Marcus felt about Willie in Bad Santa: “Everything single fucking thing about you is ugly.” I mean that as a compliment, of course.
Crippled Black Phoenix - (Mankind) The Crafty Ape
Words such as “psychedelic,” “progressive,” and “journey” tend to get tossed around, but they are necessary when attempting to describing this record. The band certainly has their influences, ranging from the obvious (Pink Floyd) to the somewhat more subtle (Nick Cave), but they never fail to sound unique and relevant. The songs are heavily textured and chock full of soaring vocal harmonies. Powerful stuff.
Royal Thunder - CVI
This is a solid rock and roll record. The band is beyond tight and their ability to play off of each other’s nearly subconscious cues is flat-out intimidating. Mel is one of the best, most emotionally moving vocalists in any genre of music right now. I know she would vehemently disagree but whatever.
Black Breath - Sentenced To Life
Most people seem to prefer Heavy Breathing to this record, and I agreed the first few times I heard this one, but now I feel the opposite. I love that with the exception of one intro section, every song is just a nonstop sledgehammer to the face. Hence the album cover, I suppose.
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
These guys remain on top of the genre that they invented. With this record, as has been the case throughout their lengthy tenure, they fulfill the challenge of staying true to the straightforward brutality inherent to grindcore, yet expanding upon the genre in a way that few bands can. These guys put every band they’ve influenced to shame.
Killing Joke - MMXII
Killing Joke is another example of a band that should be putting out absolute garbage at this point in their career. Instead, like Napalm Death, they release a record that solidifies their position at the top of their game. There’s plenty of variety on this record, and Jaz’s vocals are immensely powerful as usual.
High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
Here we have High on Fire capturing everything that was awesome about their previous releases, yet also progressing into relatively unfamiliar territory. As someone who loves everything these guys have put out, to hear a record that is an amalgamation of it all without being stale is a dream come true.
Horseback - Half Blood
The first half of this record sounds like they took the Dead Man score by Neil Young and threw it in a blender with the Suspiria score by Goblin, and sprinkled a hint of Gimme Back My Bullets-era Lynyrd Skynyrd on top. The second half of this record is ambient/drone/noise type stuff. I usually can’t stand that kind of shit, but somehow, someway they manage to give it an undercurrent of ... bluegrass? Believe it or not, this record is actually even weirder than I tried to make it sound.
Pinkish Black - Pinkish Black
These songs manage to be beautiful, hideous, serene, frightening, comforting, and unnerving all at the same time. It’s even more difficult to describe than the Horseback record, so just take my word for it and check it out.
Anhedonist - Netherwards
So many bands have been combining sludge, doom, black, and death metal lately that it’s hard to keep up. Anhedonist definitely stand out. The reverb that saturates the entire recording creates a sense of menace that’s definitely lacking in some of the more refined albums in this vein of music. I love the fact that even during the calm, quiet sections of this record, every second of it sounds evil.
Mgla - With Hearts Toward None
There’s a handful of black metal bands out there that excite me. Hardly any, really. The major issue I have with the genre is that a lot of the bands forget to write riffs. I understand that it’s a thinking man’s genre, or that it’s all about atmosphere or whatever, but I like riffs. If I want to think, I’ll read a book or something. If I want atmosphere I’ll watch an Argento flick. When I listen to music I want to feel something, and these guys definitely accomplish that. There are killer riffs galore, and even when a part needs to be repetitive Mgla remember to keep it exciting, whether it’s with a variation in the chord structure or a drastic change in the drum beat. The point is, anyone that wants to think or vibe out on atmosphere can enjoy this, and anyone that just wants to fucking headbang can too.
Zack Hansen: North
10. Old Man Gloom - No
9. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
8. Evoken - Atra Mors
7. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
6. Hammock - Departure Songs
5. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
4. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
3. Alcest - Les Voyages de l'Ame
2. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
1. Gaza - No Absolutes in Human Suffering
Jake Brazelton: Godhunter
1. Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay
2. Baroness - Yellow & Green
3. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
4. Jess and the Ancient Ones - Jess and the Ancient Ones
5. Black Breath - Sentenced to Life
6. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
7. Orange Goblin - A Eulogy for the Damned
8. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
9. Every Time I Die - Ex Lives
10. Graveyard-Lights Out
Mike Jollota: Blister Unit
Gojira - "L'Enfaunt Sauvage"
Baroness - "Yellow and Green"
Wintersun - "Time 1"
Torche - "Harmonicraft"
Ihsahn - "Emerita"
Pig Destroyer - "Book Burner"
Converge - "All We Love We Leave Behind"
Napalm Death - "Utilitarian"
...and our unanimous #1 album of the failed apocalypse:
Anaal Nathrakh - "Vanitas"
Wayne Rudell: Powered Wig Machine
Wo-Fat - The Black Code
Graveyard - Lights Out
Nightstalker - Dead Rock Commandos
Gandhi's Gunn -The Longer The Beard The Harder The Sound
Orange Goblin - Red Tide Rising
The Midnight Ghost Train - Buffalo
The Heavy Eyes - Meara
Twingiant - Mass Driver
Five Horse Johnson - The Taking of Blackheart
Shanska Mord - Path To Charon
Mason Pomeroy: Wrathgate
1. Sylosis - Monolith
2. Meshuggah - Koloss
3. Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
4. Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence
5. Dethklok - Dethalbum III
6. Dying Fetus - Reign Supreme
7. Periphery - Periphery II
8. Deftones - Koi No Yokan
9. Whitechapel - Whitechapel
10. Jeff Loomis- Plains of Oblivion
Kane Flint: Anakim/Kvasura
Lee Renaldo - Between The Tides And The Times
Down - IV Part 1
Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
Soundgarden - King Animal
Mark Lanagan - Blues Funeral
The Beach Boys - That's Why God Invented The Radio
Deftones - Koi Yo Nokan
Jeff The Brotherhood - Hypnotic Nights
Neil Young and Crazyhorse - Psychedelic Pill
Corrosion Of Conformity - Corrosion Of Conformity
Tim Calloway: Sorrower
10. Grave "Endless Procession of Souls"
9. P.O.O.R. "Extinction of Trust"
8. Wolfbrigade "Damned"
7. Tim Barry "40 Miler"
6. Pallbearer "Sorrow and Extinction"
5. Bouncing Souls "Comet"
4. Black Breath "Sentenced To Life"
3. Propagandhi "Failed States"
2. Pig Destroyer "Book Burner"
1. Napalm Death "Utilitarian"
Joseph Rudell: Powered Wig Machine
1. Orange Goblin - A Eulogy For The Damned - This album is amazing. I remember when my brother first showed it to me. I
was floored right from the first track...Orange Goblin's Bass player
is absolutely amazing. So many riffs and so much energy
2. Stoned Jesus - Seven Thunders Roar - I found these guys recently. They are from Kyyiv. This album is a great
listen from beginning to end. Even though its only 6 tracks every track is
like 10 mins long. This album is quite a Journey.
3. The Sword - Apocryphon - I don't think I've ever heard a song from The Sword that I didn't instantly
love. This album re-affirmed that statement.
4. Graveyard - Lights Out
I waited months for this album to come out. Graveyard is probably one of
my favorite band right now. I have them sitting here at number 4 only
bitter that the album wasn't longer!
5. Between the Buried and Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence - I know this is a bit different than everything else on the list, but credit
must be given where credit is due. My prog roots will never go away.
This album is a work of art from it's conception through it's
composition all the way to it's mix and master.
6. Midnight Ghost Train - Buffalo
We actually got to play a couple shows with these guys in 2012 while
they were coming through Arizona
The wall of sound these guys make on stage is unbelievable. This is
one of those albums I like to crank
as loud as I can. Its best that way.
7. Wo-Fat - The Black Code - Another one of those albums where the tracks are like 10 mins each (it seems
I'm a sucker for these). There is so much going during each song its almost
like I can't pick a favorite song ..maybe a favorite part?
8. Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers - So many heavy riffs with rich melodies. This is a band I'd love to
see live. I'll keep watching for them to be in the US.
9. Skanska Mord- Paths to Charon - This album has so much energy but its not just crazy riffs all the way
through. Some of my favorite parts of
this album are the heavy slow chugging riffs. I was definitely caught
by surprise with the track "addicts" that features
amazing female vocals.
10. Circus Maximus - Nine - So...this is a Norwegian Progressive Metal band. They haven't put out
an album in awhile and but this was definitely worth the wait.
Kris Flowers: Wrathgate
1 - Shadows Fall - Fire From The Sky
2 - Be'lakor - Of Breath And Bone
3 - Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal
4 - Revocation - Teratogenesis
5 - In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading
6 - Baroness - Yellow & Green
7 - Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax II: Future Sequence
8 - Pig destroyer - Book Burner
9 - The HAARP Machine - Disclosure
10 - Sylosis - Monolith
Ralph Mastrianna: Am.Are.Is
1 Skycrawler - As It Was Before Us
2 Big business - Battlefields 7"
3 Soundgarden - King Animal
4 Meshuggah - Koloss
5 Deftones - Koi No Yokan
6 Jack White - Blunderbuss
7 Every Time I Die - Ex Lives
8 The Bunny The Bear - The Stomach For It
9 Baroness - Yellow And Green
10 NOFX - S/T
William Walker: Unfortunate Sircumstances
1. Dead Babies Full Of Seamen/ Flying Donkey Punch split 7in
2. Godhunter- Wolves
3. Methra EP
4. Bloody Corpse Dismemberment - Gutfuck
5. 7 Pill Twatt - Stihl Hats and Feral Cats EP
6. Man Bites Dog - Demo.
7. Inxcompxlete - World Wont Listen Compilation
8. Nashgul / Malpractice Insurance split 7in
9. Godhunter/ Inoculara split 7 in
10. Twin Giant - Mass Driver
Charlie Tousuell: Godhunter/Gat-Rot
Baroness – Yellow & Green
Deftones - Koi No Yokan
Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind
Old Man Gloom – No
North - The Great Silence
Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Dammed
Refused – Live in Concert at FYF Fest & Coachella
Hot Water Music - Exister
Gojira - L'Enfant Sauvage
Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction
Nikos Mixas: Twingiant
For the most part, 2012 was probably my the most "metal" year in my life so to only to list my favorite 10 releases of the year wouldn't explain the totality of the "metalness" of it...
1. Barge to Hell. Forty bands playing on a cruise ship from Miami to the Bahamas for 5 days??? Not only were the performances VIP like, having dinner next to Barney from Napalm Death and shooting the shit with Jeff Becerra of Possessed and the dudes from Torche made this the highlight of the year for me.
2. The release of Mass Driver by my band :TWiNGiANT:. Since I was 16, I've dreamed of recording and releasing a full-length metal album, some several decades later, it was finally realized. If I would of put this at #1, most of you would of written me off as narcissistic and stopped reading. Don't bail on me now....
3. Maryland Death Fest. First time going to one of these, the reason I finally went? Electric Wizard. They never tour the states so I went to them. Not only did they draw the largest crowd in MDF history, as soon as their set started, a torrential rain ensued. Doesn't get more doomy than that. The other highlight was finding out by accident that I was staying in the hotel room right across from theirs. Too many geek moments to list.
4. Southwest Terror Fest. I ran into David from Godhunter at MDF and he mentioned this "fest" he was putting together and asked if :TWiNGiANT: be interested. Sure, why not? He did a fuckin' hellava job and nailed it. What's better than playing with all your friend's bands and making more friends over a weekend in October in Tucson???
5. Electric Wizard Legalise Drugs and Murder 7". I don't know how many times my girlfriend said, "You're listening to this again???" Yup.
6. Torche Harmonslaught 7". Heaviest shit they put out in years. Sludge metal meets The Cars.
7. Pallbearer Sorrow and Extinction. This is on everybody's list. Why wouldn't it be? Fucking solid.
8. Kowloon Walled City Container Ships. We played with these guys in 2011, and I felt guilty that I didn't pay to see them. I would gladly pay to see them now.
9. Getting a tape deck for Christmas. How is this metal? I re-introduced over 200 albums and demos to my playlist and just scored 4 Trouble albums on cassettes for $5. That's why.
10. Denver Doomfest II. The first show out of town we played. Constant dick jokes, farting, snoring and an annoyed girlfriend during 36 hours of travel time. Priceless...