And here we have it, ladies and gents…in what was allegedly the last year of our lives on this earth, these bands came through with new albums recorded as if they would be their last musical statements on this earth. Lucky us. While my 10 Most Truly Abysmal Albums lists are always in no particular order, I usually have one favorite that manages to make its way to the top and this year is no exception.
This year’s list is alphabetical, save for the aforementioned personal favorite, and this year my Album of the Year honor goes to…
Toadies – Play.Rock.Music: With an album title as in-your-face as Play.Rock.Music., the contents had better be stellar. And boy are they ever. In a year delightfully littered with some truly Abysmal releases, Play.Rock.Music. is my fave rave of the year as it has received more play time on both my car and home stereos than any other 2012 release and threatens to displace somebody on the list of all-time Truly Abysmal albums. If the energy and hooks on this disc don’t grab you and have you reaching for your favorite air-guitar, you probably don’t have a pulse. I offer no apologies for my hysterical praise…this album is truly that great. Chorus of the Year honors most certainly go to Magic Bullet, a song that would have been a monster hit if all was right with the world.
And now, in alphabetical order, the Most Truly Abysmal Albums of 2012…all of which should find their way into your personal collection. Enjoy Abysmally…
Akphaezya – Anthology IV: Well, 2012 started off really well for Abysmal music when I received this absolute gem of an album from French avante-garde rock/prog/metal band Akphaezya. The song “Nemesis” is truly something you’ve never heard before and the album courts progressive metal and tuneful hard rock with a gift for melody and deftness of hook that marks this band as something special and this album as one you will want to pay repeated visits to.
Anthrax – Worship Music: Not quite the headstomping return to form I was hoping for, but it’s close. It still ain’t “Among the Living,” but I’d have to be a real ass to stick to comparisons like that. It’s so cool to hear the classic lineup back together again and sounding so juiced. Best disc (by this lineup) since “Among the Living” by FAR! Thank you, Anthrax:) And The Devil You Know just flat out kicks.
Creature Creature – Life and Lust: You might recognize lead throat Morrie from my 10 Most Truly Abysmal Vocalists list. It really says a lot about a singer when they’re so passionate and emotive that you truly don’t care that you don’t understand a single word sung in native Japanese. He was awesome with Dead End and this album shows that he’s not just a singer…he’s a powerful influence on his band. And the band ain’t no slouches, either.
Dead Can Dance – Anastasis: There’s just something reassuring about the fact that the DCD duo of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard are still making music after all these years. While I can’t say Anastasis is necessarily their best work (I’m still partial to Into the Labyrinth and the splendid live recording Toward the Within), it is a more than worthy addition to their mind-expanding catalogue of music and another fine example of the duo proving they can take the concept of world music to other worlds indeed.
The Fixx – Beautiful Friction: You know, I always had a soft spot in my heart for The Fixx, for while many of their “new wave” contemporaries in the early – mid 1980’s (that they were unjustly lumped in with) offered little beyond the odd one-off hit and the even more odd new wave haircut, The Fixx were way deeper than most people realized. Cy Curnin’s darkly romantic and soul searching musings were perfectly expressed with his distinct voice and a deceptively talented band. All these years later, they’re making music that is both true to their original style and a logical modern expansion of it. Beautiful Friction, Small Thoughts, Shaman, Take a Risk and Girl With No Ceiling (my personal fave) showcase a band that doesn’t give a damn that the masses aren’t listening like they were in 1984. They damn well should be, as these 5 songs are but a sampling of an album that makes it perfectly clear that The Fixx are no 80’s guilty pleasure. And did I mention Follow That Cab? Hell, there’s not a duff track on the whole stinkin’ disc. Criminally underrated…and thank God they’re still making music.
Georgie LeHoop – Have You Ever Heard A Painting?: OK…this was released about 3 years ago and you’ve probably not heard of it, but dammit this is one of the coolest concepts I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. I met Georgie at the Mt. Gretna Arts Festival this past summer and saw his amazing paintings, made all the more terminally cool by the fact that he paints by playing drums on stretched canvas with sticks dipped in paint. Amazing to see and a very meditative and calming listen. Don’t worry, these paintings-that-would-be-songs don’t overstate their point and Georgie gracefully redefines the term multi-media with this release. Get the full scoop here.
Lamb of God – Resolution: First of all, it’s Lamb of God. They’ve got their “thang,” they’re awesome at it and you either love it or you don’t. Ain’t no mere “liking” here. I love it. Second of all, it’s Lamb of God.
Lacuna Coil – Dark Adrenaline: A storming return to form for this proud (and rightfully so!) goth metal franchise after 2009’s solid but unspectacular Shallow Life. Christina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro’s vocal yin-yang chemistry is powerful and moving, and the music sounds hooky, strong, dark and inspired.
Mars Volta – Noctourniquet: I have to admit that I’m still fairly new to the mesmerizing freakshow that is The Mars Volta. On first listen to Noctourniquet, I wasn’t sure what to think. Upon second listen, the schizophrenic hooks began to take hold and I thought I was starting to “get it.” I love these kinds of albums. The ones that don’t necessarily grab you with the first listen but rather beckon you for a second listen…where you realize there’s MUCH more going on that what you could ever absorb in one mere listen. A truly unique, talented and gleefully Abysmal band.
Meshuggah – Koloss: An album of gargantuan power, intensity and inimitable groove, this has been my music of choice while doing my geekwork by day. Probably my album of the year if not for Toadies, as it takes everything I love about 1995’s Chaosphere and combines it successfully and profoundly with the vomiting groove of their Catch-Thirty-Three era for the first time.
The Cult – Choice of Weapon: A nice return to form for one of my fave bands…fave despite their sometimes spotty output. Every bit as good as Beyond Good And Evil, this one finds Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and Co. cranking out some excellent tunes with some real fire and passion again. Really faith-restoring after the embarrassing WTF shamefest that was
Born Into Shit Born Into This a few years back.
The Sword – Apocryphon: Dr. Chadrock introduced me to The Sword just a few months before Warp Riders was released back in 2010. Apocryphon is just epic from start to finish and offers some surprises like the video game-like keyboard intro to the title track, which might be my fave tune here because of what happens after said intro. This is the living, breathing classic I so badly wanted Warp Riders to be, and an ethereally gleeful melding of the heavy and the melodic with a curious scent of incense
Testament – Dark Roots of Earth: I still maintain that while I hated most everything Metallica released during the 15 years of Bob Rock-produced albums (one exception is the Black Album…yes, I know, now leave me alone), Death Magnetic proved they benefited from the tighter songwriting skills they developed in the process. Similarly, Testament has benefited from their experiences away from the band, allowing them to return more creative and juiced than ever…just enjoying making kickass music together again. Whereas 2008’s Formation of Damnation was a most welcome return to form, Dark Roots of Earth proves that this most underrated of metal entities is undoubtedly far from finished and more than capable of producing a stone cold metal classic. And damn if Skolnick and Peterson don’t deserve mention in the same breath as the finest rock guitar duos of all time.
Candlemass – Psalms for the Dead: You either love ’em or you don’t. I do…when I’ve had a bad day and there’s no beer in the fridge.
Holograms – Holograms: You really have to hear this one. It’s out there in a cool way.
The Whigs – Enjoy the Company: Hey, it’s The Whigs…a fine disc, but not quite the standout I was expecting.
Fear Factory – The Industrialist: As with The Whigs, Fear Factory 2012 doesn’t disappoint in the least…it’s just not quite Abysmal enough.
Feeder – Generation Freakshow: As with The Whigs and Fear Factory…well, you know. I’m just glad these guys are still making mighty fine tunes.
Melvins – Freak Puke: You just gotta love Melvins. OK…I just gotta love Melvins. There’s no one else quite like them. They’re known for being the “Godfathers of Grunge” but they’ve influenced so many genres of heavy rock that it boggles the mind. This is yet another example of the twisted genius of King Buzzo and crew. Melvins are a band that can successfully surprise and confound even a longtime fan like me, and I love them for it.
Public Image Ltd. – This Is PIL: Because John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon would probably hunt me down and kick my ass just for the hell of it if I didn’t include the new PIL disc here. Fact is, if you like PIL, you’ll dig this one. I do.
Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror: I’m not normally a fan of this style, but damn if Sleigh Bells doesn’t bring back the excitement I felt when I first heard Curve. At-times-abrasive noise with Alexis Krauss’ voice as the perfect foil.
Tiamat – The Scarred People: Listen, we’ll probably never see another Sisters of Mercy album, so it’s just fine with me that Tiamat continues to release music with the dark waft of Sisters smoke about it. And they do an excellent job of it…entirely their own band, yet majorly filling a void mostly due to Johan Edlund’s Eldritchesque vocal leanings. Their best effort since 1997’s A Deeper Kind of Slumber.