In many ways it has been a pretty crap year out there; austerity measures, cutbacks, "we're all in it together" etc etc blah blah blah. You would be forgiven for thinking that the world is drowning in misery and it's all doom and gloom but thankfully the beautiful and creative people of the world have had their minds focussed on other things! Once again music stands out as a beacon of hope amidst the backdrop of Grey Britain and whatever your preferred genre, there have been some fine releases this year.
Once again we harangued our team of writers for their opinion on the best releases and live shows of 2012 and after considerable deliberation this is what they came up with:
While She Sleeps This Is The Six
Both one of the best debuts and one of the best metal albums in years and years. While She Sleeps completely owned 2012 and this is modern metal at its very best. See my review for the full story.
Deftones Koi No Yokan
I said it in my single reviews for Leathers/Tempest; Deftones are just one of those bands who are able to deliver so brilliantly on a consistent basis. Diamond Eyes was in itself a triumph, but this is even more of a step up. To be a truly great album it needs to be difficult to pinpoint any weaker tracks, and that is certainly the case here. Tracks to check out: Swerve City, Gauze, Goon Squad
This was hard to do, like French homework last thing on a Sunday night, hard having to re-learn what you heard all week except this time it was all year. There have been welcome returns; Soundgarden, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Led Zeppelin, perennial excellence - Deftones, Converge and High on Fire topped off with roaring newcomers Negative Pegasus, Serious Beak and Dolphins. Granted there was a load of old tosh too but you've got to take the rough with the smooth. Speaking of rough my favourite was Black Breath's granite hard, groove infused D-Beat fest Sentenced to Life. Their mosh ready riffs, short-sharp song constructions and occult lyrics made for a heady smack in the chops. The sort of record that if I were a Iowan teen in the 1980s I would have had to sneak past my parents such is its corrupting power.
Patent Pending Second Family
Patent Pending's album Second Family may not be the epitome of innovation, but this bundle of fun sure is pure pop-punk pleasure. If Bowling For Soup and New Found Glory are normally occupying your media players (or used to a decade ago or so), relive the spirit of the early 2000s with this fifteen-track stunner.
Fearless Vampire Killers Militia of the Lost
Militia of the Lost documents a year in the fictional city of Grandomina, and the songs recall events leading up to the city's royal palace being set on fire and the repercussions of this - a metaphor for the loss people experience and finding a way to cope when most things are against them. The lads blend together hard-core, punk and classic rock to make this incredible album, one where each track demands to be listened to. It has been on repeat since its release earlier this year.
There are times when you just feel lucky to cross paths with a band in their early stages and now this is the debut album released by the London band. It's atmospheric, beautiful played and sung throughout. Each track has been crafted together with the love and attention for your listening pleasure.
Wideboy Generation No Time To Be Shy
Wideboy Generation have reached that level where one more step up will see them break into the big time. They certainly didn't hurt themselves with their debut album No Time To Be Shy. The North London trio released the perfect 10 tracks to match their enigmatic live performances. Ignore them at your peril.
A Place To Bury Strangers Worship
You know what you are going to get from APTBS and on Worship you are not left disappointed. As always the tracks pound you into submission with their onslaught of distortion and rocking shoegaze and when they're finished - they pound you some more.
A Forest of Stars A Shadowplay For Yesterdays
The Gents have done it again, creating a masterpiece of the avant-garde and forcing upon me an abundance of euphoric emotions. Brandishing modern musical contraptions powered by electricity-generated noise boxes, their third outing into the unknown is met with welcome progressions inspired by folklore and dark musings from Scandinavia. Album of the year 1892.
Converge All We Love We Leave Behind
I swear, every Converge release offers something a bit different, and that something is always as impressive as it is face-melting. They're certainly not resting on their laurels after 2009's crushing Axe To Fall, once again retaining their rightful seat at the top of the metallic hardcore table.
Zico Chain The Devil In Your Heart
Supporting Narrative: The long awaited debut album from Zico Chain was well worth the wait. It exceeded expectations, with a good variety of old school grungey Zico Chain tracks as well as more radio friendly tracks like 'New Romantic' to appeal to a greater audience. The production and editing quality is superb. Not a bad track on the album.
New Romantic Official Video
Architects These Colours Don't Run
Architects roared back into business this year with the brutal and beautiful Daybreaker and this, the first song unveiled live and released from it, is up there with their very best songs. A damning social commentary set to a crushing brutality with a firmly melodic backbone. And featuring one of the best breakdowns. Ever. That sounded like the end of the world it was so heavy. All together now: 'YOU FUCKING PIGS!'
Soundgarden Been Away Too Long
They had been away for too long, far too long. Except for their track for the Avengers, this was the first time Soundgarden were releasing new material to be contained on a new album and it was all very exciting. The track itself is also very good, one of Soundgarden's more upbeat numbers, it delivers in all the right areas. A brilliant track to re-introduce themselves into the fold.
I don't really buy singles nor keep much of a check on what becomes a single but I do know that Leathers from the Deftones latest and greatest, Koi No Yokan, was one such release and it was spellbinding. Their ability to synthesise apposite influences such as 80s synth pop and Meshuggah-esque technical riffs with Chino's always evolving vocals and Frank Delgado's expanding contributions never fails to amaze.
Max Raptor Carolina
R13's very own Lucy Sanderson may not have truly taken to Carolina, but this outing from Max Raptor was one that I shamelessly returned to again and again. And again. The explosive Midlands quartet boldly announced themselves with their mini-album Portraits and if you missed out on that release, Max Raptor handed you a second chance when they set free this snarling animal of a track in early 2012.
GHXST Black Camaro
The very next thing you should do after reading this article is to check out this band from Brooklyn. We believe they are one of the finest rock bands with their distorted "Death Grunge" sound - this track is just perfect to rock out to. Without doubt my Single of the Year.
Hitchcock Blonde Five Pounds
Back to the UK for another band we have loved for sometime. Maybe a new band name but still have the same quality that have made us swoon at their sound and the awesome vocal talent that is Ellen Grace. My EP of the Year.
Future Ages 001EP
Not far behind for EP of the Year is this debut release from new Essex band. All four are talented in every respect and no strangers to playing big stages. 001 EP is a perfect introduction just how to play full on, frantic, original, Rock.
WIFE Stoic EP
Darkly emotive and ritualistic ambient electro-musings from one of the men behind Irish black/post/progressive metal stalwarts Altar of Plagues. Essential.
Agalloch Faustian Echoes
This release seems to have been met with very mixed opinions, but for me this is another storming piece of music from one of the kings of atmospheric, folk-inspired black metal. The single, 21 minute song based around Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's interpretation of the classic Faust story is dense, moody, and darkly exhilarating.
Devin Townsend Lucky Animals
Song of the year, and video of the year.
Creative Adult Dead Air
Creative Adult sound pissed at everything, at everyone, yet their downbeat punk attitude galvanises you into movement and focuses your attention. This EP hits many spots, all at the same time.
Mallory Knox Death Rattle
The first single from their debut album to be released in 2013, this track can only be a sign of the awesome music to come from this band. It is full of singer Mikey Chapman's great vocal range and some fantastic hooks, particularly when it kicks into gear thrity seconds into the track and with crowd sing-a-along elements, it makes for a brilliant first single and their debut album is egarly awaited.
Best Live Shows
Birmingham Academy February 15th
The understated kings of emo returned to our shores after a long absence early this year in the happiest, most invigorated and passionate form they've been in for a long long time. Bringing a blinding show purely based on masterful musicality and stage presence and bringing out hits from their classic debut 'Your Favourite Weapon' right through to their last release 'Daisy', this was an unforgettable experience that showed in full glory how Brand New are one of the best and most influential bands we have and how frontman Jesse Lacey is one of the best and most influential songwriters of this generation. Their legacy should be treasured and savoured.
While She Sleeps
Manchester Academy 2 September 27th
To have this alongside the band producing my album of the year was the icing on the cake. The band utterly destroyed the place and completely proved that they are the heirs to the metal crown. The atmosphere was electric, the band were out of this world and the crowd's chants for 'SEVEN HILLS!' instead of just an encore proved just how much of a movement Sleeps have created. They're doing something intelligent and exciting in all frames of their life as a band and this performance and night were just unforgettable. I'm lost for words!
Download Festival 2012
This was the best live show I have ever seen in my entire life, nothing much more can be said really. Yes, Bill Ward was missing, but this was just a magnificent spectacle. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and of course Ozzy Osbourne just absolutely nailed it despite being well into the years in which they qualify for a bus pass and then some. They were so much louder, so much better than everyone else on the Download bill, nuff said.
Brixton Academy, Feb' 12
Way back in February, Mastodon's UK tour led them to Brixton Academy where they delivered an absolutely storming set. Newer tracks from The Hunter gelled in brilliantly amongst the classics. Mastodon are quite clearly the best metal band of the 21st century, each gig amplifies this. And whilst Dillinger did nothing for me in the support slot, this was my first real introduction to Red Fang, and I've not looked back since.
Video (Dry Bone Valley Live Brixton 2012)
So with Gojira's unveiling of L'Enfant Sauvage, At the Drive-In back together in Brixton and Torche's XOYO show on the shortlist this was never going to be easy but I have the winner: ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace featuring Sleep churning out Dopesmoker, Melvins (Lite) and the infernal Slayer running through a little known album called Reign In Blood. I wish I could tell you more about it but I was having such a good time that critical thinking didn't come into it: horn throwing, beer sinking rock and roll. That is all.
Barfly, 14th September
When The Suburbians released their debut album Follow The Lights last year, you knew these guys were onto something incredible. Their live shows just seem to get better and better each and every time you see them. This performance at the Barfly was brilliant and they went on to SELL OUT the Barfly a few weeks later which rounded off the year nicely. All the performance these guys put on leaves you smiling and wanting to hear more.
You Me At Six
3rd April Brixton and 8th December Wembley
Having seen these guys grow as a band and play small venues like The Monto Water Rats many years ago to SELLING OUT Brixton and then Wembley is a breath taking sight. These two performances were mind blowing - fireworks and smoke machines exploding and the band having thousands of people screaming at them. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing these five young lads do what they do best.
Garage, 2nd December
Madina Lake recently stopped by the garage in Islington to play From Them, Through Us, to You in its entirety alongside tracks from Attics to Eden and World War III. It has been a tough few years for Madina Lake with Matthew's hospitalization but this goes to prove they are on top form and ready for album four and I can't wait!
Cable35 / Valentiine
Joint gig from two up and coming bands you really need to check out. Both heavily influenced by the grunge legends they put their own twist on the sound. Cable 35 are originally from Malta but have been based here long enough to be classed as one of our own, while Valentiine came all the way over from Australia - so shame on you for not going to see the awesome all girl trio.
If you need any further evidence that GHXST are one of the best up and coming bands out there - they go and prove the sheer quality they put on record, is matched by their amazing live show. Next time this band comes over from across the Atlantic you need to go and see them.
Gabby Young and Other Animals
Despite being a highly enjoyable album and worthy addition to any indie fans collection, I would not expect to see Gabby Young's album The Band Called Out For More on any best of the year lists here - the live show used as the album launch at London's Scala was just so enjoyable from the moment you walked in the venue seeing a market stall to the show itself. The crowd literally called out for more.
The Retinal Circus Live @ The Camden Roundhouse
This was always going to be something special. A three hour Devin Townsend show with all the trimmings - a full-on musical extravaganza complete with special guests and who-knew-what-else. Well we got choirs, dancers, giant video screens with a full-show narrative from Stave Vai, two Strapping Young Lad songs with an appearance from Jed Simon, and an eight-foot latex vagina. Standard.
Upstairs at The Garage 8th July 2012
This gig left me mesmerised by what a great show they put on, even in a hot, dark, small venue like Upstairs at The Garage. I had neither heard their music, nor seen them before this show, just heard of them. They have a solid set of well rehearsed songs, are charismatic with individual personalities on stage and just left me wanting more. They are garnering some mainstreem attention already and are a band to catch in a small venue whilst you can. I love to be surprised unexpectedly and that was what this gig did for me.
Public Broadcast Service
Manchester Soup Kitchen 27th October
I went to this on the recommendation of a friend with no real idea of what to expect and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable gigs I've been to in a long time. A really great blend of visual imagery and proto psychedelic tunes. They are one of those bands that are just cool as fuck without even trying and the swathe of arty indie types in attendance suggest that PBS are on the cusp of cult status already.
So not such a bad year after all then?! We keep hearing that it's all going to get worse but whilst there are bands out there who can still write lyrics that touch your soul or knock out a chord progression that melts your head then there's always hope!
Thanks for sticking with us throughout the year and we'll do our best to keep bringing you as much news, reviews and features as we can find over the next 12 months. We hope your Xmas is stupendous! We're all off down the night shelter considering we have about 37p between us and we had to use the last of the tinsel to plug the hole in the broken window to keep the draught out but hey, we're not complaining...much. All the best for 2013 from the R13 team, see you next year!