Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kathy's Top Ten of 2012

In no particular order (not all albums were released in 2012)

10) Blut Aus Nord - 777 Cosmosophy

Possibly the best black metal album I've heard in the past 5-10 years, because it's not really black metal. It's a mixture of different styles, it's unique, it's something that can't be pigeon-holed or labelled. From off-key guitar playing, industrial samples, and atmosphere over-saturation, it's an album that hasn't left my queue since it came out in late September.

9-8) Halo Manash - Par-Antra I:Vir / Am Kha Astrie

Halo Manash is a Finnish dark/ritual ambient group I discovered this year and they have quickly shot up to be in my top 3 dark ambient groups ever. Par-Antra is definitely the more lively of these two albums, with very ritualistic, tribal drumming, disjointed and chaotic noises, scrapings, manipulated guitar-work, chantings, etc., while Am Kha Astrie is a much slower, dronier, more meditative album. Featuring a member of black/death outfit Dolorian, Halo Manash is always a musical experience and these two albums showcase their best work.

7) Arktau Eos - Ioh Maera

Arktau Eos is considered one of the "helixes" along with Halo Manash, Aoega, and one more artist. Their music is ... an even slower, more "meditative" style, like Halo Manash's slower stuff. There's a definite comparison in part, to the older ritualistic, experimental minimalism of Ain Soph o

6) Merzbow - Mer Mar
 Merzbow has released more releases than I could possibly comprehend (something like 350 or 400) and this latest release sees Masami Akita doing pretty much what he does best: make pretty damn good noise. In the past ten years, Merzbow's style has "softened"" somewhat, and I use that word lightly. His music is nowhere near as loud as most of his releases during the 90s but they've gained a musical quality that was lacking previously. Mer Mar is nothing original or unique. It's straight up Japanese noise, lots of random noises, lots of samples, lots of potentially headache-inducing, grating layers. And being a fan of noise, it's perfect.

5) Chu Ishikawa - Tetsuo Complete Box (Soundtrack Boxset For Tetsuo 1-3)

Being a huge fan of Shinya Tsukamoto's movies in general, and the Tetsuo movies in particular, I have no excuse for why it only dawned on me this year to hunt down this soundtrack. I have listened to this almost every single day since I got it and for good reason. Pounding, incredibly well-done, vocal-less industrial is hard to come by these days. Chu Ishikawa has done almost all the soundtracks for Tsukamoto's films and also plays in a Japanoise band, Der Eisenrost. But his music for the Tetsuo films is, bar none, some of the best industrial I've ever listened to, and will remain a constant on my music list.

4) Deathspell Omega - Drought

While I do enjoy Deathspell Omega's brand of black metal, I'm by no means a huge fan. Paracletus was the band's pinnacle, but Drought definitely has kept me interested. This EP keeps up their extreme, pounding version of black metal, but has also managed to incorporate and expand upon the quieter moments that were introduced in Paracletus. The attempts at softer melody and "post-rock" moments actually work for them, whereas many other bands are including those sections because it's becoming the "in" thing to do. I look forward to their next release and hope they keep doing their own thing and don't try to mimic their French brethren in Blut Aus Nord.

3) Lustmord - Songs of Gods and Demons

Lustmord is the brainchild of British electronic musician Brian Williams and is my top dark ambient artist ever. His music is seriously dark, seriously droning, and ranges in atmosphere from album to album. Songs of Gods and Demons is a collection of 5 unreleased songs from the past 15 years and contains all the pre-requisite Lustmord attributes. While this is far from being his best work, new material is always welcome.

2) Barn Owl - Lost in the Glare

Your resident host, The Way, introduced me to Barn Owl a few months ago and I instantly fell in love. Part space-rock, part instrumental, part ambient, all goodness. It's the kind of music that just sits you on a cloud and takes you on a wonderful ride, floating you away from everything and everyone. Distortion and drone and soundscapes... it's pieces of my favorite genres all lumped into one amazing album.

1) Evoken - Atra Mors
As The Way stated in his end-of-the-year list, Evoken are back and better than before. Top notch doom from this NJ outfit. Little needs to be said about this amazing offering.

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