Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beer Review: 12.12.12. Vertical Epic Ale (Stone Brewing Company)

Today we're reviewing a beer that comes last in a twelve-year line of epic beers. To be honest, I've only had the last two in the series, as I wasn't of drinking age when the series began. However, this beer alone deserves a mighty legacy, and I'm sad to know that I won't be able to find this on shelves in years to come. The 12.12.12. Vertical Epic is easily one of my favorite releases from Stone, so I really hope they'll come up with a new series of peculiar annual beers to follow this up. For those not familiar, each year Stone has released a beer on a date of sequential numbers (02.02.02., 03.03.03., etc.) and it's not possible to do it in 2013, so we'll have to find some new tradition as beer drinkers.

The drink itself is a Belgian-style strong ale, with all the deliciousness such a beverage entails. The beer is thick and dark and the head is a heavy caramel color, with a scent so sweet it's intoxicating. The beer doesn't really drink as sweetly, which is a delight for me. The fruity, almost cotton candy-like scent pairs with a dark, rich beer that goes down smoothly and feels much thinner than the color would make me assume. Like most Stone beers, this is noticeably stronger in flavor than similarly marketed beers, and that's a very welcome characteristic in this ale. This is the second bottle of 12.12.12. I've had the opportunity to enjoy, and I anticipate I'll stock up a couple more for months and hopefully years to come, in case I feel the desire to reminisce about being 25. Thanks to Stone for this delicious beer. Here's to many more years of brewing excellence!

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Label Alert: Male Activity

Today I thought I'd try something new. I don't see this being a regular feature, but I recently became acquainted with this new label from Winnipeg and felt that it'd be nice to do something of a profile on each of their three releases. Each of these tapes is out in incredibly limited quantities (less than 30) and each is distinctive and enjoyable. Without further rambling on my part, here's your quick introduction to Male Activity.

First off, we've got MA:001, a split between Gashkadin and wet nurse. Gashkadin holds down the a-side with three tracks. The music is dense and ominous, evoking a world obscured by billowing smoke. There may be cries for help in the distance, but the likelihood of understanding or helping those on the other side of the cassette is nonexistent. In the last track on the first side of the tape, the yelling becomes clearer as it cuts through screeching feedback. By the time the song ends, the voice becomes buried again, and I feel as though I've escaped some kind of violent fate. Wet Nurse. takes the b-side to a noticeably more depressing place, with some distant melodies joining the mix alongside squealing static and yells of desperation. The tape (or possibly just this side, it's hard to tell by the inlay) is dedicated to the memory of an individual named Sidney Bradford. This almost sounds like a cathartic release for the loss of a friend, but I might be looking too far into it. Regardless, this tape is a fantastic beginning for this label and I'm totally sold.

MA:002 distinguishes itself from the first tape quite nicely, a good omen for this label which proves that they aren't focusing on just one aspect of sonic madness. The second tape is an untitled release by Bedroom Suite, a slightly more calming experience than MA:001.  Subtle piano and crackly loops drone their way across a slowly shifting landscape in the first untitled track, much like the motion of sand dunes which grow and change shape with the winds. The album as a whole has a feeling of remembrance, but isn't quite nostalgic. Instead I almost feel like I'm eavesdropping on a sonic representation of somebody's regrets. There is certainly a depressing and haunting atmosphere here, but as someone who spends a lot of time with darker music, I find this to be overall soothing and highly enjoyable and this will definitely appeal to folks who don't normally delve into the noise and drone genres. As of the time of this article's posting, this cassette has officially sold out. Keep an eye out for more from this artist.

MA:003 is the most recently release from this label, and it's another solid tape to round out an already promising roster of noise artists. This tape, "I" by Khfiva, is perhaps the warmest and most inviting of the three tapes in the initial Male Activity batch. Gentle drones hum back and forth while occasional percussion and clamor occur in the background. Whereas Bedroom Suite is depressingly mellow, this album is slightly less mellow yet seems to come from a more inviting place. For the uninitiated, this might be the most welcoming of the three tapes, although I wouldn't turn anybody away from any of these fantastic albums.

In case I haven't made it clear enough, you should probably rush to Male Activity's bigcartel page for a chance to grab these before they sell out. If they haven't sold out by the time this post reaches your collective eyes, I'm hoping that my kind words will change the scenario.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beer Review: Fixed Gear American Red Ale (Lakefront)

(Image courtesy of

Today I'm drinking a beer that shares its name with a style of bicycles that's become quite notorious. It seems folks are either fanatical about riding fixed gear bikes or they have a disdain for the bikes and their owners. As a neutral fan of any method of transportation that isn't a personal automobile, I feel Lakefront's stellar red ale could appeal to folks on either side.

(Image courtesy of

The beer pours a rich red, true to its name, with a very thin head. This beer carries a scent that is heavily floral, although I'd be hard pressed to name a specific flower.  I can definitely smell some honeysuckle and orange. The beer drinks as smoothly and sweetly as it smells, with a slight bitterness typical of beers with moderate amounts of hops, but it doesn't quite live up to its claims of being bold or having attitude. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but don't expect this to be a beer that kicks your teeth in or turns off fans of smoother beers. This beer is more likely to cruise by on a single-speed bike and entice your taste buds with its smoothness. The only bold or particularly edgy aspect is the slight dryness of this beer, which I find to be another appealing aspect rather than a dangerous selling point.

Whether you're a grizzled beer connoisseur who feels my reviews are amateur in nature (spoiler: they are), or a newcomer visiting for a recommendation, this is an excellent red ale to start off with. While others have a more bitter or challenging flavor, this beer has the perfect balance of typical red ale features and palate-friendly smoothness to win over pretty much anybody. If you're a beer veteran, a six-pack is a wise investment, as these are incredibly drinkable. If you're a fresh drinker or perhaps not fully sold, grab a single bottle and sip slowly to get accustomed to its taste. You'll be a convert, I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beer Review: Harviestoun Old Engine Oil

Lately I've been writing about a lot of old favorites of mine. Not to get personal, but as the weather gets colder, it seems instinctive for me to withdraw from experimentation and return to familiar, comforting things. Old Engine Oil is a beer I was first served at a traditional English pub I used to frequent when I requested the perfect pairing for a plate of bangers and mash. My server gave me one of the most perfect beer pairings I'd had in a while when she presented this delicious black ale that fulfills its name's heavy promise. As a fan of thick, dark beers, I was immediately intrigued, and I was able to savor each drop as happily as the one before. While I'm currently enjoying this beer without a meal, it's still as memorable and pleasant as it was the first time I experienced it.

True to its name, this beer may as well have been dredged from the insides of a machine. Its dark color and thick nose would scare away many folks for whom a Guinness is too strong, but this beer's strength lies in its complexity. Despite its heaviness, Old Engine Oil is just as much of a dark ale as it is a porter, which lends a slight bitterness that fans of lighter beers will find familiar and welcoming. The malty aromas of coffee and caramel are here, as with many traditional porters, yet they accent the richness of the drink rather than comprising the majority of its flavors. The beer's carbonation is minimal, another reason the oil comparison is rather appropriate. The liquid glides across my palate smoothly, without any interference. Most dark beers are slow drinkers, but were I not drinking this with the intention of fully savoring it and writing a review, I could find myself in danger of drinking far too quickly. Still, at only 6% alcohol, this beer isn't as much of a threat as it may seem.

If you're a fan of any traditional Scottish ales, I highly recommend Old Engine Oil. If you ever want a nice dark drink to comfort you on a cold, grey day, I highly recommend Old Engine Oil. If you are making a meal that will stick with you for the next eight hours and want a beer heavy enough to pair with it and light enough to not overwhelm your stomach, you know what to get. I don't see this beer often enough, yet it always seems to be around when I'm looking for it. Seek it out and enjoy your reward.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Music Review: Breathing Problem- "Reactive Attachment Disorder" CS (Wohrt Records)

Today's post came to me rather unexpectedly. When I heard there would be a new Breathing Problem tape released on Wohrt Records, I knew I had to have it. I was told I'd be in for a depressing experience with this album, but even the most intense of warnings couldn't come close. This is a collection of bleak noise and melancholy sound textures that will instantly darken even the brightest of days, and I love it.

This album brings no semblance of purity, joy, or safety. Breathing Problem skips any pretenses by opening the album up with a track that sounds like the listener has walked in during the middle of something bleak and hideous. Let me make it clear that while I often describe black metal albums on here as being hideous, filthy, or dark, the darkness here goes deeper than anything most metal bands would convey. This album delves into some terribly unpleasant territory that makes me feel rather unsettled, with tracks like "Chemical Aversion" boldly describing some of the sickest thoughts and perversions I've heard committed to tape. If the music didn't carry enough depression and futility by itself, a quick glance and the lyrical content instantly makes me uneasy. The moments with clarity and structure are some of the most terrifying here, as drug addiction, physical abuse, torture, and decay are fetishized with no apology. There are many bands whose music conveys an idea or concept that could trouble some folks, but Breathing Problem do it with conviction. As a fan of challenging and uncomfortable music, I'm thrilled to hear something so truly hideous, but this is definitely not an easy listening experience for even these hardened ears. The music is surprisingly soothing at times for the attitudes conveyed here, but it does little to soften the sensation of being slowly smothered by a parent or other trusted authority figure. 

If you're eager for a depressing journey through textured noise of every nature, then I urge you to obtain this cassette immediately, as I expect all 100 copies will sell out within 24 hours. Supplementing the suffocating experience is some of Wohrt's finest packaging yet. My copy came with a zine-style book, professionally printed with lyrics and graphic imagery. In addition, each package comes with a Breathing Problem button and a small paper poster. If you haven't yet heard any of Breathing Problem's output, this is an excellent release to start your collection. Since the official release has just gone live, I recommend grabbing it as soon as you're able.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Then and Now: An Interview with a death cinematic

This post was originally intended to be part of my summary of the year 2012, but the more I think about it, the less that would have made sense to me. It's oddly appropriate that my first interview here is with prolific drone artist a death cinematic, as this project has been important to me ever since I began delving into the deeper reaches of the music community. Forgive me if this post gets a bit personal, but the context is quite important for me.

In 2007, I was just learning about extreme music and had started a musical project with a trusted friend. He recorded all the music and I screamed at the top of my lungs about nature and depression. I remember the music fondly, but the contacts my bandmate made on our collective behalf are particularly memorable. One of the earliest musicians he discovered and contacted was a death cinematic, which was a brand new project at the time. One day I showed up to record a song and my friend handed me a copy of Epochs Shifting Out of Time. The album quickly became mandatory listening and was in heavy rotation for much of 2007 and 2008. I was going through a period of anxiety, self-discovery, and overall turmoil. The bleak yet soothing soundscapes provided me with a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Fast forward to late 2012. Shortly after I established Black Metal and Brews, I found myself in touch with the artist behind a death cinematic for the first time. While I still had the album in my possession, I'd been heavily removed from current output from most artists, and was surprised that the project had grown into something larger and more proficient. As I hadn't heard any of the albums recorded since Epochs Shifting Out of Time, we decided it would be ideal for me to review a death cinematic's latest offering, The New World and compare it alongside Epochs, which I'll pair with an interview with the artist himself. Thanks for reading this rambling introduction, and I hope you enjoy this massive post as much as I've enjoyed creating it.

In addition to having the opportunity to interview a death cinematic/simple box construction today, I’m going to review both a death cinematic’s earliest offering and most recent. Released in 2007, Epochs Shifting Out of Time (which is available for free download), is a hazy, distorted journey through a world that is undergoing the violent yet beautiful process of coming into existence. The song titles touch upon everything from the shifting of tectonic plates to certain species’ experiences as the planet grows and changes. In many ways, the music’s subtle sense of turbulence lends itself perfectly to the turmoil of a world in its infancy. This is all too fitting for an early release from a project whose latest release is an album appropriately titled The New World. While the initial release from a death cinematic is certainly not a work I’d describe as amateur, it’s interesting to see how the art and musical direction has evolved while remaining entirely recognizable as the same artistic mind.

Almost as a direct continuation of Epochs, The New World starts with crackling and frantic guitar that fades in and out of the listener’s awareness, resembling some sort of transmission being broadcast into space. While there’s still a degree of droning ambiance here, the guitars are strummed and create distinctive notes rather than textures and moods. It’s somewhat akin to Earth’s more recent output, with a shimmering beauty that cuts through the overall darkness of the music’s direction. Accompanying The New World is a collection of photographs in a small bound book entitled "A Prelude to The New World." As the title suggests, the photographs contained within detail a bleak, hazy landscape. It's no stretch to say that the marriage of sound and vision here is a documentation of a death cinematic reaching the artistic ambitions made apparent on his earliest of works. While the title and photograph accompanying the first CD from a death cinematic are certainly in the same vein, it's fantastic to see a fully fleshed version of this unique vision.

I had the opportunity to interview a death cinematic himself both about these two albums and his overall artistic process. The interview follows for your information and enjoyment:

Black Metal And Brews: 

a death cinematic has always created very visual music, beginning with the evocative song titles on the very first release, and now including the extensive photography collection included with The New World. How did the hybridization of the two come to mind for you?

A Death Cinematic: 

I guess there was never a question of separation. The two were always entwined for me, so it really became a question of bringing them together in a meaningful and aesthetic way as the projects grew. The visual aspect has always been very important to me and simple box and a death cinematic is an ongoing work in progress. I now consider any artwork, whether it is writing, photography, music, or drawing to be a part and a continuation of this.


Is there a unifying theme to your albums as a death cinematic? Is there a message you’re hoping to convey with a death cinematic’s artistic output?


I think there is a unifying theme. To me it is a journey and each release is the next logical step along that journey. It all goes together. I am not as concerned with conveying a specific message with a death cinematic as I am in building a context for a listener to construct their own message. The work I do has specific meanings for me but I am not concerned that a listener or viewer know what those are for me. I want it to mean something to them on their own personal terms. If I was to say that this album is specifically about x, y, and z and nothing else, it constricts and pigeon holes the work, limiting the experience for the listener. At this time I want to make fertile ground for a willing participant to grow their own meaning.


How has your personal growth as a person and musician changed a death cinematic’s direction? Has it changed the direction?


I am not so sure the direction is changed but I think my personal growth has furthered and moved a death cinematic farther. I work on becoming a better musician/ noise maker and artist and with that this project grows and gets better. At times it feels like there is no movement at all or that it is glacial at best. Those times are the worst, I imagine, for any artist. The times of misperceived stagnation. As I grow and progress with these projects, I get better at editing the work. I also get more efficient with my decisions as how to get to a theme and what materials to use.


You collaborated with Matt Finney on your most recent release. How did that come about?


That was his idea and offering and it was a long time in the making. He suggested we do something back in 2010. He sent me a track of him reading the new world and I recorded the music and sound to it. It was meant to be a download only single but as I was working on that track the concept for the whole album crystallized for me. It just came in a flash and was so complete that I even had the basic concept for the packaging. I then asked him if I could make this album around our track. He was into it and very gracious and patient. It took me a long while to realize the release in its final 150 hand made copies.


What inspired you to establish simple box construction rather than signing off your releases to some other label who can do all the physical production of the album for you? What drives you to craft and oversee every aspect of a death cinematic’s artistic image?


I have been a visual artist or interested in being one for as long as I can remember. simple box originally was going to be a small press for handbound books and limited edition print runs. When I started to get into making music, I looked into finding labels but as I was developing the concepts for the releases, it became clear to me that I should be doing this on my own. So simple box construction was revived and started to be this label of sorts. 

The drive to do everything for a death cinematic is that even though I want the audience to build their own meanings and experiences, I want them to do it in a specified context. That context [is something] I have to construct and be as meticulous as possible about building. It could also be the early signs of madness and OCD, to try to control every aspect and build every copy as if it was a singular piece of art. At times it sure feels that way. I enjoy making the work and it becomes a vehicle to express myself in various mediums at once. Plus, doing it this way I have to answer only to myself and the failure or success of any release is my responsibility.

However, there have been and will continue to be a death cinematic releases on other labels. A lot of the labels that I have worked with allowed me to design and fabricate the packaging for the the releases. On some of the splits, the other artist designed them and the label had them made. It all comes down to what everyone is comfortable with. I found that most of the time everyone is pretty accommodating and respectful of each other's concerns. The new full-length on cassette is being released on tycho magnetic anomalies. They're a great little cassette label who asked me to do a tape release for them. They were very accommodating to my aesthetic concerns and gave me control over the design and fabrication of the whole edition. This was great because I had specific ideas for the album and could work on cassette packaging which I have not done before. So it feels like this album is made on terms that are very agreeable to me. As I talk to other labels who are interested in my work I always ask them to allow me the control of over the design and fabrication of the edition. Even though I have some projects slated on other labels this year, for the most part I still plan on the majority of the albums to be self-released.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beer Review: Monster Ale Barleywine (Brooklyn Brewery)

In this blog, I often describe things as monstrous or beastly, because I tend to like things that can fit into such categories. When a beer is given the name "Monster," then I know it's going to be a great fit for my blog. Brooklyn Brewery's Monster Ale definitely deserves its title and has been on my shopping list a handful of times. It's highly drinkable and a great introduction to barleywines for folks who may not have had one before.

The beer pours a dark, dull amber, with a very small head. The aroma is heavy with notes of grape and honey, with a sip providing a richer version of the same flavors, with a slight hint of hops. The beer as a whole showcases the strength of a barleywine, as it somewhat treads the line between a dark beer with light hop elements and a stronger bottle of mead. The beer is intense and sweet without being thick or syrupy, and it leaves a light, crisp aftertaste. It masks its high alcohol content (10.1%) behind a veil of sweet and vibrant flavors, which makes for a fantastic drinking experience that warrants sharing instead of overindulgence. This is a relatively standard barleywine experience, but being standard doesn't make this boring. Instead, this is one of my easy go-to beers when I want more than a single bottle and I want a solid and drinkable barleywine.

As with most of my beers, this comes highly recommended, even if it doesn't sound like your normal cup of tea (or glass of beer). I'm pretty sure this beer is available year-round, and accordingly it should be a nice addition to your fridge in the near future.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Free Music Friday: Mara- "The Ugliness Within" (Self-Released)

This week's Free Music Friday marks another first for this blog: a posthumous release. That's right, Mara may have called it quits, but has decided to put out one final album to round up some tracks that hadn't yet been put out for the world.  Most of these tracks are reworkings or new mixes of songs from Mara's older albums, but they do flow rather nicely in the format presented here.

While I was not familiar with Mara while it was an active project, I'm intrigued by the blend of sounds presented in this bleak collection of doom-laden black ambiance. While some of the dissonant soundscapes presented on this collection tread familiar territory for USBM of the past decade, the music doesn't feel tired or contrived. Instead, there's almost a hint of mid-period Godflesh fused in with the isolationist black metal sound Mara creates, which lends a small air of beauty, melody, and a stronger sense of rhythm than many groups of this nature. I know the combination might sound bizarre, but it creates a funereal beauty that pairs nicely with the bleak imagery Mara conveys with their titles and album art. Songs like "Industrial Ruins" especially carve a safe haven in the midst of the self-loathing and misery that the rest of this album crafts, and absolutely serve as milestones on this depressing journey.

If you're looking for some good, mid-paced music with a dense and bleak atmosphere, check this out. The band submitted it to me and I was glad to discover this, even if it is after their/his time as a functional unit. I look forward to finding more groups like this in the future, and possibly hearing whatever noise may come next from this tormented individual.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Music Review: Fister- "Violence" 10" (Gogmagogical Records)

Fister's album "Violence" was originally released on cassette sometime last year, but has been recently reissued on vinyl by Gogmagogical Records. Much like the tape, (which was recently featured in a guest post from my friend Jon), the packaging and overall presentation for this record are top notch, but I'll get to that in a little bit. I remember hearing Fister's name once or twice throughout 2012, but somehow they slipped through the cracks as I devoured as many bands as I possibly could while starting this blog. I'm glad they came back onto my radar, because everything about this is just overwhelmingly awesome.

The album seems to follow the theme of humanity's self-imposed end, as evidenced by prophetic and apocalyptic song titles and atmosphere. Opening movement (it's one giant song, after all) "Forced Extinction" dives right in with a pummeling and ominous riff that sits somewhere directly between death-laden doom and crusty aggression. I'm a sucker for a heavy and memorable riff, and this album is exploding with them. The album's title also feels so appropriate for this release, as most of this record creates the feeling of being bludgeoned. The vocals are pure filth here, so any folks who prefer the cleaner bluesier sludge should probably look elsewhere, but it fits the oppressive nature of this music perfectly in my opinion. The album is practically dripping with feedback and other eerie effects, even in sparser passages, which gives the constant pulse of drums a bit more space in the mix and allows for perfect climaxes when the guitars come back in after short breaks here and there. Listening to this album, I get the sensation of digging through the crumbling remnants of the world we know today in an attempt to find the perfect hiding place, only to be torn from the earth like everybody else. If your idea of a great metal album includes slow, agonizing music that creates the sensation of being torn to pieces by some sort of great tormentor, you really need this in your life.

If the music alone isn't enough of a strong selling point, Gogmagogical has released this album in five separate packages, each limited to one hundred copies. Each album cover (and similarly colored record) represents one of the five moments and themes established on this album. The band (or perhaps the label) found a different artist to contribute for each design, and all five did fantastic work. I eventually decided upon the fifth color scheme/album cover for myself, created by artist Josh Rowan, which is entitled "Megabolide." I'm quite fond of blue vinyl and the impending asteroid presented on the cover artwork was too great to not obtain, but each of the other selections was equally tempting in its own way. I also happened to notice on the inner ring of my record that there was a thin carving that says "you've run too far" on the A-side and "you belong to us now" on the B-side. While this isn't a major packaging detail, I love when musicians and labels put as much passion into their presentation as I put into enjoying it. Perhaps the other four versions of this record have different inscriptions, I guess one of you will have to buy a different version of this album and let me know. As a final note, since I don't get to do reviews of smaller products, Fister has some super sweet beer koozies for sale that look mighty tempting to me. Hop on these before they sell out and share pictures of your loot with me. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Beer Review: Abita's Andygator Helles Doppelbock

Today's beer came to me on a recommendation from a friend when I expressed a renewed interest in the mighty doppelbock. The style of beer isn't nearly as popular as it should be, including in my own home. Most people seem to stick with familiar varieties of beer: pilsners, stouts, pale ales, etc. I feel like a good bock gets lost in the mix of great but common beers, so I've been making it a mission to find a few great bocks. This one comes in a dark bottle with the image of a gator implying that danger lies inside, but I found a smooth drinking experience instead of a fearful time.

This beer poured with one of the thickest heads of any beer I've featured in here so far, and a very light, slightly transparent body. In fact, in many ways this beer is a "first" for this blog. This is by far the smoothest and lightest beer I've featured here, yet it stands strong at a relatively potent 8% alcohol by volume. As I'm not usually a drinker of pilsners and the like, I could easily see this beer being something I'd keep on hand to share with friends who typically drink lighter beers but would love to try a new treat. This is on the milder side of the doppelbocks I've had in the past, yet it still retains enough bite to keep me intrigued. This isn't ready to jump to the top of my next list of purchases, but it's definitely something I'd keep in mind when I want a smooth drink to sip casually.

If you're a light beer drinker, I recommend giving the Andygator a shot as your introduction to a slightly more bitter experience. If you drink more bitter beers but have nothing to drink with your friends who are immersed in the world of pilsners, share this with them and you'll find something in common.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Year End Extravaganza: Top Albums of 2012 According to Matt Solis (Cormorant)

I met Matt Solis from stellar prog-metal crew Cormorant about seven years ago when he was playing guitar for Northern California gore fiends Shitstorm and I was doing absolutely nothing with my life. He's always been a respected source of great new music in my life, and has always managed to share his interests with me in an eloquent and friendly way. As he's got a unique perspective on these things, I asked him to contribute some of his favorites of the year and he shared this massive list of wonderful albums. 

25. Of Monsters and Men: My Head is an Animal
I think this came out in their native Iceland in 2011, but fuck that, I got the American release. Eurofolk with just the right amount of pop sensibilities and amazing songwriting

24. Agalloch: Faustian Echoes
One long, badass song. Nice return to their black metal roots. I also dig the creepy “Faust” samples.

23. The Great Old Ones: Al Azif
This record snuck up on me at the very end of the year. Fucking awesome Lovecraftian black metal with tasteful post-rock influences. Hail Cthulhu!

22. Blut Aus Nord: 777 - Cosmosophy
Atmospheric as fuck, great guitar work, weird electronic stuff, an overall sense of foreboding…another solid Blut Aus Nord release!

21. Evoken: Atra Mors
Top notch funeral doom. Filthy as fuck. I sort of want to take a shower after I listen to this record.

20. Deathspell Omega: Drought (EP)
Another weird one from the kings of French black metal. I love the pronounced post rock influences on this EP, and the fast parts make me want to punch holes in the nearest wall.

19. Between the Buried and Me: The Parallax II: Future Sequence
Great follow up to their 2011 EP. If you don’t like BTBAM because they’re “too random,” I want to fight you.

Not quite as awesome as Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde, but still amazing in its own right. Thoughtful, powerful stuff. Black metal that your girlfriend might like. Might.

17. The Sword: Apocryphon
Bringers of mighty riffs and tasty jams. I got this one on orange vinyl and it sounds great. Probably my second favorite Sword record behind Age of Winters.

16. Cattle Decapitation: Monolith Of Inhumanity
The best part about this album is Travis Ryan’s seemingly impossible vocal performances, which are somehow more varied than ever before. Great release from death metal’s most underrated band.

15. Father John Misty: Fear Fun
Ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman reinvents himself as a hip swinging, drug taking, musical dick slinger. Some amazing songs on this one.

14. Deftones: Koi No Yokan
This one surprised the fuck out of me. I pretty much wrote Deftones off in my later adult years, so when I first heard this album my jaw hit the floor. Really, really good. Might even be on par with White Pony for me.

13. Svartidaudi: Flesh Cathedral
Icelandic black metal. Fuck yeah.

12. Neurosis: Honor Found In Decay
Great to see a strong release from Neurosis in 2012. I saw them perform most of this album live recently, and it seems like they have a renewed sense of vigor that’s translating into some really magical stuff.

11. Samothrace: Reverence to Stone
Two songs that will crush your balls into dust. Some of the heaviest shit I heard all year.

10. Worm Ouroboros: Come the Thaw
Beautiful, heartbreaking and heavy all at once. Renowned Bay Area band whore Aesop Dekker brings a lot of subtle dynamics to the drums on this record. I don’t recommend killing yourself in a bathtub, but if you have to, make sure you throw this on the stereo.

More furious than previous release Axe to Fall, yet complemented with some ball swingin’ grooves that produce some of Converge’s most memorable riffs, like that main one in “Sadness Comes Home.”

8. Witchcraft: Legend
Shit rocks. Fuck everyone who says they don’t like the production. The songs sound like classic Witchcraft with even better guitar work.

7. Hooded Menace: Effigies of Evil
Old school death metal with some funeral doom thrown in for good measure. Ye gods, the filthy riffs on this album.

I will always love Rush unconditionally and immediately purchase anything they put out, but allegiance or no allegiance, there’s no denying this is a legitimately great album. The fact that a 40-year old band could write and record an album that’s on par with some of their greatest work is nothing short of astounding. HAIL RUSH.

5. Pallbearer: Sorrow and Extinction
Doom done exceedingly well. Awesome guitar work, chilling vocal deliveries, crushing riffs…it succeeds on all fronts. Great record.

4. Graveyard: Lights Out
Another great album from Graveyard that sounds like it was lifted from the 1974 vaults. This is music that makes me want to stop bathing and roll my own cigarettes.

3. Enslaved: RIITIIR
My favorite metal band releases another instant classic. Progressive, heavy, thoughtful and inspiring. Enslaved cannot be fucked with.

2. Astra: The Black Chord
I really liked The Weirding because it was Pink Floyd worship done right, and I really, REALLY like The Black Chord because it’s YES/King Crimson worship done right. I get high just thinking about this album.

1. Ahab: The Giant
One of the best doom albums ever. I love Ahab’s previous work, but there’s something different about this album…an overall atmosphere that I’ve rarely felt when listening to music. Sounds like being crushed at the bottom of the Mariana Trench by some horrible, undiscovered sea monster. LOVE.