2012 was honestly the first year where I truly paid attention to “current” music. I used to be an unabashed “there’s been no good music made since the mid-’90s” kind of guy, but 2012 got me listening to all kinds of things that I hadn’t given a chance before. My tastes heavily skew towards rock and metal, so the list will reflect that. These are what I think were the best Rock/Metal releases of 2012.
5. Krinkle – Thishitlist
I love me some Guns N’ Roses. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Neither are Krinkle, apparently. But they also love them some Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down and Jane’s Addiction, and they’re not afraid to wear those influences on their sleeves either. Krinkle’s debut EP features some good old-fashioned blues-and-booze-fuelled riffing fortified with a healthy dose of ’90s alt-rock and alt-metal weirdness. Classic, yet modern, hard rock fun!
4. Skyharbor – Blinding White Noise: Illusion & Chaos
The Djent scene might have set the record for least time taken to go from novel and innovative to oversaturated to the point of stupidity. However, Skyharbor’s debut was one of the standouts of 2012. Mastermind Keshav Dhar eschews mindless djenting for actual riffs that groove and pique interest. Songs develop coherently. Ambient sections are seamlessly incorporated into the songs rather than serving as placeholders. Then you have the superb contributions of the All-Star cast consisting of Daniel Tompkins (ex-TesseracT, White Moth Black Butterfly) on vocals, Anup Sastry (Jeff Loomis, Intervals) on drums, Sunneith Revankar (Bhayanak Maut) on vocals, and Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth) with a couple of sweeeeeet guitar solos. Basically this is everything that Progressive Metal in the 21st Century should be.
3. Agam – The Inner Self Awakens
A startling young band who combine Progressive Metal in the vein of Dream Theater with Indian Classical in a fusion of styles that has managed to enthrall even the notoriously elitist fans of Carnatic (South Indian Classical) music. It’s virtually unheard of for a band in India to be equally comfortable playing to moshpits full of black-tshirted metalheads, as they are to concert halls with white-haired septugenarians, but that’s exactly what Agam has made its reputation doing. The Inner Self Awakens’ strong focus on songwriting at the expense of extended instrumental masturbation actually works in its favour, and the album is challenging, compositionally tight and technically impressive without a single note wasted.
2. Indus Creed – Evolve
Stalwarts of India’s hard rock scene return after a 14 year hiatus with arguably the best Indian rock album both of the year, and possibly of all time. The band has traded in its erstwhile ’80s-flavoured hard rock and metal for a faux-prog sound that is often reminiscent of some of the more pop-oriented moments of Porcupine Tree and Spock’s Beard. There isn’t a weak moment on the album, with hooks galore and instrumental flash that always perfectly complements the song. This is a rare album indeed.
1. Twelve Foot Ninja – Silent Machine
Eclectic, unpredictable, wacky fun. Twelve Foot Ninja’s masterpiece Silent Machine is music for the ADD-afflicted. Containing a surprise-a-minute, Silent Machine makes stylistic jumps that span djent, dub, latin jazz and disco, often within the same song! Twelve Foot Ninja are the spiritual successors of Faith No More and Mr Bungle, particularly when it comes to vocalist Kin, who sometimes sounds like a Mike Patton clone. However, Twelve Foot Ninja are purely their own beast and there is very little in the world that sounds like them.