Top 10 Albums of 2012

The best of the best. The cream of the crop. Narrowed down from the thousands of albums that came out this year, this list is a summation of the best that 2012 had to offer. Remember, it isn't all about having the best review score. This is based on pure enjoyment, how long the disc stayed in rotation, and the staying power each album possesses. From all over the globe, there are the ten best metal albums of 2012.

10. Dämmerfarben - Herbstpfad
It isn't common for a band to scar you with harsh blackened tones, then gently stroke your hair with soothing acoustics. But that is exactly what this German three piece does track in, and track out on their latest album, "Herbstpfad." In a mere fifteen months, they rounded out not only their lineup, but their sound. The imagery that springs out of your speakers will take you on a journey of your own, one that you won't soon forget. Somewhere along the way, stop for a second and enjoy it.

9. Thy Majestie - ShiHuangDi
When you launch a series of massive concept albums, there can be not a trace of fear in you. For founding guitarist Claudio DiPrima, the sprawling soundscapes have managed to capture the emotion and scope of history itself. This time tackling the tale of the first emperor of a united China, this Italian power metal outfit outdoes themselves once again. Rich symphonics and ethnic instrumentation heighten the experience and transport you to another time and place. This may very well be their best work yet.

8. Katatonia - Dead End Kings
It didn't happen on the first listen. Or even the second. But by the time you get through "Dead End Kings" a handful of times, something clicks. This isn't the Katatonia of 15 years ago, or even the same band you heard on the last few albums; instead, it is an evolution of a band that has the potential to go on for decades to come. By infusing an extra does of melody, as they do on "The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here," and allowing the thundering drums to lead the parade, they take another step toward metal immortality.

7. Elvenking - Era
If you had told us that an Elvenking album would be making our Top 10 list this year, we would have accused you of taking hardcore drugs, and then ridiculed you for days afterwards. But here we are, with "Era" proving that the godfathers of folk infused power metal still have their best days ahead of them. They returned to form, after the off the mark 2010 offering "Red Silent Tides," and delivered one of the most inspiring and accessible albums in their catalog. Not sold? Hit play on "The Loser" and relax.

6. Swallow The Sun - Emerald Forest And The Blackbird
You always know what you are going to get from Swallow The Sun. Or at least we always thought so. But on this new album, one of our favorite Finnish exports took a turn and delivered something wholly unexpected. Melodic, yet melancholic; Explosive, yet subtle. Every track is constructed on a bed of huge guitar sounds, and a drum tone that shakes you to your core. From the opening track to the fourth part of the "Horror" series, "Labyrinth Of London," this is an album that is not only one of the best of the year, but one of the best death/doom albums you may ever find.

5. Atoma - Skylight
We have long studied the marriage between metal and other sounds, and have discovered varying results along the way. But it wasn't until we first heard the tracks on "Skylight" that it truly became a match made in heaven. With the sparing use of growls, and a sweeping atmospheric element, frontman Ehsan Kalantarpour is key in forming the towering wall of sound that buzzes from your speaker of choice. An adventure to that begins with the albums artwork, and ends with clouded distortion is one that will surely stand the test of time.

4. Malnatt - Principia Discordia
Not to be confused with the Neo Nazi punk group from neighboring Milan, Bolognese avant black metal band Malnatt have put their stamp all over the global metal scene. Taking a subgenre and flipping it upside down with the use of accordion and poetry, this four piece is changing the way we perceive their work. Crystal clear production values may help to elevate the instrumentals, but it is the musicianship itself that makes "Principia Discordia" the revelation that it truly is. Humor and melody never sounded so good.

3. Baroness - Yellow & Green
Coming from a band not known for their intricacies, the double disc set known as "Yellow & Green" was a welcomed surprise this year. Stunning acoustic arrangements, perfectly constructed rhythms, and vocals that are as rich as they are honest, the men of Baroness opened the eyes of many. Whether you prefer "Take My Bones Away" more than you do "Board Up The House," does not matter. Two discs, one theme, all memorable. Prepare yourself; the "Baroness is my new favorite band" posts are coming.

2. Wintersun - Time I
Only Axl Rose can truly appreciate the length of the journey, he might not understand the final result. With this album eight years in the making, the members of Wintersun poured every ounce of themselves into the larger than life production of "Time I," resulting in one of the most epic and awe inspiring pieces in recent memory. They take the entire symphonic metal genre to a new level, creating orchestral pieces that would be just as well received in one of the worlds many opera houses as they would in an outdoor festival. With the rumored second part already finished, we may have only just begun.

1. Brendon Small's Galaktikon - Brendon Small's Galaktikon
For weeks before it's release, we heard all about the "high stakes intergalactic" thrill ride that would become Brendon Small's Galaktikon. We met this news with equal parts worry and hope. Sure, there was a distinct possibility that this would just be a derivative of Dethklok, Small's death metal pride and joy. After all, the band chemistry would be the same, as Bryan Beller and Gene Hoglan reprised their roles as Small's backing band. But instead, we got an album that was better than advertised, and even exceeded all expectation. Combining Hoglan's signature gallops with Beller's knack for smooth, rumbling bass lines, Small created something different; in place of the guttural growls of Nathan Explosion, you find clean, melodic vocal lines. By the time you are three tracks deep, particularly in the middle of "Prophecy Of The Laser Witch" and "Beastblade," you will be sold. Fans of Dethklok will enjoy everything they find here. But even more than that, Dethklok's detractors might just be won over with this display of creativity and manual dexterity.