Today I bring you the next 10 albums on my Top 40 list of the year's best metal. Like 2012 in general, there's a mix of different sub-genres that make solid showings here. It's also been interesting to watch my own opinions shift, as some of these records started out either much higher or much lower than where they are on this list today. Anyway, without further ado, here are the next 10.
Several long-standing thrash juggernauts released strong albums this year, and in my opinion Testament's effort was the strongest. Given that I think this was the best straight thrash metal album of the year, 30th may seem a bit low on the list. I'm honestly not a big thrash guy, though, and I think several other sub-genres produced better than thrash did this year. With all that being said, Dark Roots of the Earth is a wonderfully executed and surprisingly beautiful album.
Australian melodic death metal isn't exactly the biggest scene in the metal world, but it produced one extremely well-executed and enjoyable album this year. Be'lakor's third release goes a long way toward establishing them as one of the better active names in the melodeath sphere. This album didn't leave the biggest impression, but it was very easy to digest and enjoy.
Supremely catchy traditional heavy metal is Grand Magus's forte. With The Hunt, they added yet another strong entry into their catalog. I've listened to this album more than most of the other records on this list, since it's mellow enough to play anywhere but it's good enough to play even when there's nobody around to object to heavier music. Plus, many of the tracks are highly infectious, including one of my top songs of the year "Sword of the Ocean".
Roman-themed death metal from what amounts to Kataklysm in costume, Caligvla taps into some themes and sounds rarely touched by death metal. The absurdly catchy title track is one of my favorite songs of the year, and the unusual atmospherics keep the entire album interesting and enjoyable.
Hour of Penance, a brutal tech-death outfit from Italy, have released a string of very strong records over the past decade. Sedition is the latest in that series of successes. With all the intensity and precision you would hope for from an album in this style, this release also features a rare amount of melody and cohesion. All in all, this gives you all the things you'd want from a brutal technical death metal album.
The full-length debut from these Australian extreme progressive metallers has received a fair amount of hype in the metal world. Beautifully crafted and epic in scope, I'd say it almost lives up to the publicity. This is clearly an ambitious record, and I love to see a band shooting high, even if they fall just a tad short of their goal. It's an excellent album that's worth the time of anybody out there who is interested in hearing the debut from the next Opeth.
Hailing from Portugal, Moonspell are one of the relatively few Gothic metal bands that release material I personally find interesting. Alpha Noir is a very engaging album with many catchy tracks and a generally very digestible sound. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly I like so well about this album, but I've come back to it repeatedly over the past several months and I always enjoy it.
One of the best black metal releases of the year was the debut album from these Greeks. It's just rough and primitive enough to appeal to the kvlt crowd, but it's well written, well balanced, and well executed enough to make it appealing to anybody who likes good black metal. For a while, I considered this the best black metal album of the year, and given that it's a debut, I look forward to seeing this band's future production.
A Canadian release that falls into that nebulous pagan metal/epic black metal vein, this is the second release by the David Parks solo project. This album really falls into my wheelhouse, with a sweeping epic aesthetic that conjures images of the vast northern wilderness. I was looking forward to this for months before I finally heard it, and it was everything I'd hoped it would be.
One of the best power metal releases of the year came from the Philly-based group Pharaoh. This is highly technical and polished, but it manages to avoid sounding weak or frilly like many power metal albums do. The guitar work is especially strong, but really it's a well-rounded release with no notable flaws and with plenty to enjoy for anybody who thinks power metal would be good if it didn't sound so girly.