Top Ten Turmoil, Twenty Twelve
My bandmates and I typically prefer to opt out of "top tens." The "top ten albums list" is usually a subject of heavy criticism (and justifiably so) from all angles. One argument against the creation of "a list" is that all contents contained will be subjected to intense scrutiny from multiple parties from multiple stances who will be reading the top ten list.
Colorful, classic reactions from the punters will include commentary like: "This list isn't metal enough! I fuckin' hate this dude and his band and his stupid guts now! Their next album is going to be (insert current year's most-hated-genre) bullshit!" Or the ever popular, "This dude doesn't deserve to like (insert culty-illegible-obscure band name here)! That's my favorite band."
On the other hand, with the authors, it can be all about who can "out-weird" everyone else's list in an almost ill-spirited, elitism-off of who can reference bands that will earn brownie points from the most jaded of magazine and webzine journalists.
I say, when it comes to things in life - music, art, movies, fashion, food - don't succumb to being stuck into one thing, one mindset, one genre; don't be afraid to admit to liking things that you're "not supposed to" like due to what kind of band you're in. Instead, be open of the fact that… hey - maybe you are in a Satanic black metal band, but maybe you really dug Bieber's Christmas album - I think that would show some color in your character. (Alright - maybe that was a terrible example, but you get the point.)
So I guess there are some things that "have to be done," like a list containing 10 albums of the year, when you're in a band. So for me, these are not in any specific order, these aren't using numerals (instead, 10 lower-case letters), these aren't subscribing to what I need to list in the adherence of genre or consistency, nor does this tiny list encapsulate all the amazing music that has come out this year. Nowadays, with tools like Spotify, I feel people have incredible music spanning all genres at their fingertips. Dare to try something random and new - get outside of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be immersed in all the great musical goo that is out there.
Here it is. My random selection of my preferred "a-h"s of this year" that I feel were worth jamming out to.
c. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Deluxe Edition)
Although The Suburbs was released in 2010, the Deluxe came out this year. The Suburbs (and Mumford And Sons' Sigh No More) were the albums I listened to each day on the drive to the studio while tracking In Waves. The songwriting is impeccable, the lyrics are heartfelt and gripping. I didn't "get" this band until I saw an international live performance of theirs - to put it in the terms I described it exactly to a friend after seeing it: "It was like the energy of Slipknot… and the amount of people (roughly)… but of a completely different musical universe." The bandmembers are all multi-instrumentalists, trading off on specific-instrumental duties, but utilize instrumentation differently than the typical musical sense. They'll use violin "noise" as textures - it feels like they just do what they feel like doing, when they feel like it. It doesn't stick to rules or genres or anything - it's uniquely a sound of their own.
h. Machine Head - Unto the Locust
The world was definitely anxiously holding their breaths in anticipation for what would follow The Blackening. I've had a long listening history with Machine Head (and a long-time friendship): MH was the first metal band I ever saw live; the third band I've ever toured with; a band with whom we toured together, drawing upwards of 6-8,000 people in the UK. The Burning Red and Through The Ashes Of Empires are without a doubt two albums that helped make me the musician I am today, and with Unto the Locust, Machine Head has again changed the game.
With the new album, MH does things that I didn't expect would happen: a whole new melodic sensibility and level of catchiness I haven't heard yet, utilizing different playing approaches (like Black Metal/tremolo-picking), and the song "Darkness Within" in general. The first time Robb played that song for me, my jaw actually dropped. Locust still feels incredibly Machine Head, but delves into uncharted territory previously unheard in their music.
a. Times Of Grace - The Hymn of a Broken Man
f. Rise to Remain - City of Vultures
It is still hard to grasp the fact that there are bands out there that are influenced by the band I am in. I've known the Rise guys for years, and have had the honor to be able to watch them grow as people, musicians, a band - they're truly coming into their own. Austin's voice live gives me chills - his vocals have come such a long way since his early demo days that it's an insane rate of growth. Their new album isn't quite out yet in the USA (it is in Europe), but let me tell you - it is an amazing preview as to what this band will become in the years to come.
The musicality is fantastic, Ben should have existed in an '80s shred band like Racer X (Hell, he can keep up with those dudes easy, I'm sure), Pat is a drummer capable of anything technically - but hearing him lay back into simplicity when it calls for it really creates an impact. The songs are really something special - heavy, catchy; very now.
These guys are the future of metal - and City is a fantastic promise of great things to come.
g. Rammstein - Made in Germany (Special Edition)
Rammstein is one of my top favorite bands in the world. This band is the entire package. Their creativity does not stop at music; it delves into heavy visual art: intense, performance-art style live shows; music videos that break all boundaries of what a music video is supposed to look like; the only massively internationally popular band that sings almost completely in German. Rammstein does it the way they want. They are creativity defined.
I feel bad using a greatest hits… but hey - if you haven't gotten into this masterpiece of a band, this may be the perfect start. Their songs and style are uniquely their own; unmistakably - when you hear a Rammstein track - you know it's them. Just get into 'em.
b. Mercenary - Metamorphosis
f. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
If I had to describe this album in one word, it would be: beautiful. Musically, it's its own thing. Instruments are used musically and texturally alike; at times, the song structure is its own style of structure - not traditional at all; I judge a good album on whether or not it makes me see a visual setting while listening to it. This is like an auditory soundtrack to a nature scene. A mixture of all sorts of genres and instruments and textures - this album is breathtaking. It feels heavy, sad and uplifting all at once. It can feel hopeful and woeful simultaneously. Truly beautiful.
d. In Flames - Sounds Of A Playground Fading
In Flames is a band, without whom I would not exist in Trivium. In Flames has always been an impossibly vital band to the inspiration to be creative for me. Throughout their existence, they have created different sounds and genres within themselves - with Sounds, they've again paved way for something new for them. The catchiness of the songs, the feeling you get from the lyrics, the utilization of a mixture of their old Gothenburg roots and their layered-electronic-dimensional soundscapes really make something unique on this album. Watching 8,000-plus people in Gothenburg, Sweden singing their hearts out to every song from this album gave me goosebumps.
e. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events
Dream Theater is the only band in the world like itself. They've created their legacy by consisting of some of the greatest musicians in the world, who all can actually write incredible songs. When one strives to hit the level of playing that DT is capable of, typically songwriting takes a distant back seat. Dream Theater does not settle for this fate: from their inception, they've been not only capable of some of the most mind-blowing musical ability seen in an actual band, but they do it tastefully and within some really amazing songs.
With their new album, Dream Theater has captured (and topped) the magic of Images, with a spin of what they've been doing in the later albums. I spent my school years coming home and watching Metropolis Pt.2 daily; I have John Petrucci's Rock Discipline memorized and use it every single show as my warm up before performing with Trivium. I was privileged enough to be able to tour with the band, and I learned more musically on that tour than any tour I've done in my almost 13 years of being in Trivium.
The new album has everything anyone who has ever loved Dream Theater could ever want. It is one of their finest works with some of the greatest songs they've ever composed (and the musicality… well - it's so damn good, it makes you wanna quit guitar/keys/singing/drums/bass).
h. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes has opened my brain and heart up to a new love for a new sound of music. Before Fleet Foxes, I never really knew this style of music (I'll spare them from me trying to "label" the style), but lemme tell you - it's something really uniquely their own. It pulls from things of the past, present and future. The song are incredible, the music really puts you somewhere nature-y.
Every album by this band is fantastic - their musicality and ability in their instruments is intense. This style of playing isn't easy - this level of harmonic-intelligence of how to blend so many vocals, so many instruments into the fantastic arrangements that they do is something special.
This album makes me feel good, it's an album worth living and loving during.
Matt Heafy will be a guest on Full Metal Jackie Radio this weekend (12/16-12/18). To find a rock station near you airing the show, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.