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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top 10 EPs of 2012

Here we go, my favorite EPs of this year. I have to be honest and say that this was a pretty tough list to compile because there were some really great EPs released this year. I thought about expanding this to a top 15 but wound up not going through with it (obviously). If I compromised my list, that'd mean that I would have to compromise reviews, and I just won't do that. But enough of that, let's get on with the list.

10) Njiqahdda - To Escape The Tide [Ivory Antler]
Maybe this isn't the obvious choice from the batch of releases that the Nji boys put out this year, but it's the one that I think has had the most lasting effect on me. The three tracks on this cassette are just direct, no bullshitting pieces of experimentation for them. With the opening title-track being a nice piece of progressive sludge while the following two tracks are both a bit of a change of pace with one track being entirely acoustic and the closer being totally ambient and made up of field recordings. It's not their most ambitious piece, but it was certainly one of their most lasting this year.
Highlight: To Escape The Tide

9) Flourishing - Intersubjectivity [The Path Less Traveled]
There have been some really good death metal albums this year, but almost none of them managed to stack up against a lot of the other genres this year, but Flourishing continues to impress with their three song EP. Their blend of raw and atmospheric death metal with abrasive post-hardcore continues to impress. Each track on here has guitar riffs that made my brain run laps in order to keep up with some of them while the bass lines would come straight through and transform the track into a completely different beast. That, along with some very impressive drumming that was able to go from sixty-to-zero in the course of a couple of seconds showed both impressive technical precision and restraint. It's one thing to make a one good album, it's another to step your game up for the next release, and that's exactly what Flourishing did on here.
Highlight: Intersubjectivity

8) Agalloch - Faustian Echoes [Dammerung Arts]
Agalloch are at a point where it's like whatever they release is bound to be good. They amount of respect with which they are held in the "metal community" has led them to become one of the most acclaimed extreme metal groups to emerge from America. This new track continues their trend of consistently great recordings. From its epic length to its various sections that traverse vast territories of genres, they make it look easy as they segue from one part to the next. All that, as well as the fact that the way they produce riffs that stick with you, and you have Agalloch - a band copied by many, surpassed by none.
Highlight: Faustian Echoes

7) Break Me Completely - Break Me Completely [Independent]
I was extremely surprised when I first put on this record at how good it was. As much as I love the djent sub-genre, there are a lot of bands who just want to be Meshuggah copies (or other popular bands) and some of them can get away with that. I had originally expected this band to be a sort of Periphery knockoff, but was pleasantly greeted with a band who not only knew how to write catchy songs that actually weren't in debt to a single group and actually had a personality of their own. They conveyed an idea in each track and left their mark (at least on me). Definitely a band to watch.
Highlight: Serpents

6) Darin Bennett and The Requiem - Midnight Storybook [Mumbella]
I'm sure plenty of people are going to be surprised to see this one on this list. Last year, And The Giraffe released a great indie folk record and this year Darin Bennett stole the show when it comes to modern country rock. His voice is exactly what I like to hear from guys singing country oriented music, it's powerful and gruff but overly polished. Like I said in my review, it's sort of like Nick Cave meets Bruce Springsteen. In addition to that the songs he writes are really strong and catchy, the right blend of country instrumentation and blues rock. Check it if you can handle it.
Highlight: Holdin' Me

5) Guzzlemug - To Leave The Earth [Speaks Volumes/Bad Human]
Obviously this is the most recent album to make this list, and I think, had I heard it earlier, it might have been higher up. I love progressive rock, old and new, but rarely has the genre sounded just so full of life and energy. At times the band definitely live up to their avant-garde metal tag, but the majority of this release is made up of jazzy progressive rock that pretty much shatters the pre-conceived notion of modern prog-rock in my opinion. It is the personification of what prog-rock needs to be in a modern age - forward thinking and interesting without dwelling too much in the past.
Highlight: Dust On My Tongue

4) Horseback - On The Eclipse [Brutal Panda]
This small release came as a sort of precursor to where Half Blood earlier this year, but also stands on it's own as a single piece of Jenks Miller's ever-expanding genre work under the Horseback name. With the title-track exploring psychedelic folk music while Broken Orb was more of a look into similar territory from his Impale Golden Horn days of ambient-drone based work. Although it may not live up to the quality of the full-length released this year, it's still a damn fine piece of work and a record that any fan of experimental and psychedelic music would be ashamed not to have in their collection.
Highlight: On The Eclipse

3) Bleeding Skies - I Choose to Awaken [Myriad]
I said when I did my review for this EP back when it was first released that it was my favorite EP up to that point, and I still love it to death. Instrumental based "djent" I find to be a rather boring thing to try and listen to, if you've heard the early instrumental demos of Periphery, the first few releases from Cloudkicker, and records from Animals As Leaders and Chimp Spanner, there's little else a band can do that's different. But I've been waiting for Darren Cruickshank to release an album since I first found his Soundclick page several years ago and this release totally lived up to my expectations. Each song manages to be catchy and not totally reliant on low-end heaviness to get it's point across. I think Cruickshank is a great songwriter and this record proves him to be among the best to come out of that early djent group of songwriters.
Highlight: Please Don't Forget Fuko

2) Cara Neir - Sublimation Therapy [Independent]
For me, there was no substitute for the best grindcore release of this year - Cara Neir. Yes, I am saying that this EP was better than that of the Napalm Deaths and Pig Destroyers out there. Garry Brents writes riffs that are just as catchy as they are bizarre and Chris Francis is a maniac behind the mic, and with this they just went full-bore into their grindcore influences. Seventeen tracks in just over twenty-two minutes and there is not a second wasted. It's manic, it's furious, and it's an absolute blast to listen to. This is the best grind album of the year without question.
Highlight: Drink The Rot

1) Deathspell Omega - Drought [Norma Evangelium Diaboli]
As if there was any substitute to this release. When you get as big a release as this for an EP, you can't go much bigger. DSO have yet to disappoint, constant growth and change and this release is no different. Supplying us fans with enough of their trademark dissonant chaos to keep us interested while they explore some of the more moody and melodic territories that they had yet to branch into before. Each track is a small journey in and of itself and stands out as the best EP of this year in my opinion - and hopefully you will share in this feeling as well if you have yet to hear it.
Highlight: The Crackled Book of Life

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