ZAC: "Dad? Dad?! Hey Dad!"
REG: "WHAT?! Goddammit!"
ZAC: "How come Seth gets to make two lists this year and we only got one? Sludge, non-sludge... who gives a fuck?!"
TOBY: "Yeah, Dad. Totally not cool. He just whines and gets whatever he wants all the time. "
REG: "That's not true, it's just that..."
KEN: "Oh, COME ON! Ever since he flunked 7th grade you've taken this new age, Montessori approach to dealing with all his bullshit, so he just does whatever the hell he wants."
REG: "Who's the parent here! I am! Lee and Mark turned out alright, didn't they?"TOBY: "Dad, we haven't seen them in months."
REG: "They've just been in the basement."
ZAC: "What about Misha?"
REG: "Alright, look. It's no secret your brother's always been different. He asked if he could make two lists, and I didn't want another argument. I mean, he was raised in the Midwest, he seems to do alright so long as he's not..."
KEN: "Fuckin' typical, Dad!"
1. The Midnight Ghost Train - Buffalo
I was disappointed when Karma to Burn had to pull themselves from a Chicago show with Truckfighters in March. I hung around the merch booth and tried my best not to be "that guy." Ozo and Pezo were approachable and warm, so when I spoke of missing KtB, they immediately assured me I wouldn't be disappointed. The Midnight Ghost Train took stage and Steve Moss immediately commanded everyone's ear. You'll hear about Buffalo being the next closest thing to TMGT's live show, and it's a safe assessment of David Barbe's excellent production.
The reason I've chosen Buffalo as 2012's best album is because it fucking was. Call it stoner-rock, delta blues, or grit-groovin', muddy soul, this stomper has it all. Every track ties into the album as a whole, though the themes aren't lost when examining each song in itself. I love the fuzz, but that's not enough to craft one of the finest stoner-rock records I've ever heard. Moss is true to his roots, whether they be in Topeka or Buffalo, and you can hear every calloused, bone-stiff blue collar American in this thirty minute trip. I guess the simplest terms and most convenient definitions boil down to this: Buffalo is 100% homegrown.
2. Pelican - Ataraxia / Taraxis
Ataraxia / Taraxis demonstrates both Pelican's fidelity to longtime loyals and their open arms to fresh ideas. The band does more in these eighteen minutes than most bands do on a double-disc greatest hits compilation. Here, Pelican reach their pinnacle with a balance of technical and absolutely fucking beautiful, an accomplished and sand-caked progression toward ever-escalating volume and scope. Ataraxia / Taraxis is only the most recent in a string of assertions that Pelican lead the pack of instrumental outfits. At times illusory and other times heavy, this EP is considerably expansive for its brevity. Contrasting moods and harmonies will have listeners enthralled, while Pelican's musicianship remains simply unmatched.
3. Wo Fat - The Black Code
Riffs. Endless fuzz. It's The Black Code's thickness that sets it apart from the balance of 2012's stoner metal releases. Wo Fat have reached their apex, jamming with a psychedelia that keeps the swamp teeming with sin. The songwriting finds the band at their best (so far), and the fuzz is no detraction from the craft. Dissect this disc from any perspective and you'll find reason to keep coming back. This chewy release is moldy Texas Toast slathered in bourbon barbecue glaze. Fucking delicious.
4. Greenleaf - Nest of Vipers
Composed of accomplished musicians from accomplished acts, it'd be easy for Greenleaf to ride their own coattails and trust that fans of Dozer and Truckfighters would buy the record anyway. It's impossible to deny these songs, and all of Nest of Vipers is timeless and nearly flawless. Our buddy Lee made heavy mention of the record's drumwork, and I'd be a fool to leave it out of this endorsement. I loved this album for adding up to more than the sum of its parts. Exceeding expectations is no easy task. Greenleaf breeze through it.
5. Ufomammut - Oro Opus Primum
It took Oro Opus Primum for me to fully embrace Ufomammut's supernatural, ultra-expansive space-metal. But hallelujah, holy shit... the deceptive tranquility builds toward cosmic doom, all the while the band exercises an incredible use of dynamic progressions. I had a hard time even approaching Oro Opus Alter, simply because I was so stunned by Primum. The natural pacing alone puts this album among the year's best, but Ufomammut's execution and songcraft cement their status as otherworldly luminaries.
6. Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II
If I learned anything about my tastes in 2012, it was that I succumb to drone as easily as I fall for sludge. There's something cathartic and melancholy about drawn out progressions hovering as they snag my sensibilities and make others question my tastes. Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II was 2012's first album that I played incessantly. These five songs perfectly complemented any mood, lending themselves to whatever I was feeling on that day. At times minimalistic, at times incredibly instrumentally proficient, it's easy to see how Earth inspired countless acts. These experimentations are more powerful and memorable than what many bands take years to construct.
7. Nate Hall - A Great River
I'd heard Nate Hall recorded A Great River in the span of one night, and I believe it. Taking an evening away from U.S. Christmas ended up being far more layered and pained than you'd expect from one man with one guitar. Hall plunges himself toward some heartbreaking depths, taking listeners with him. If these songs don't pluck your heart strings, your blood has finally gone cold.
8. Horseback - Half Blood
Well, here comes that weird chill. That chill that only the finest drone metal can inspire. The atmospheres of Half Blood are enough to complement those vocals you can't ignore. The keys and chimes are surprisingly effective, and the guitar layers showcase a band committed to doing things however they feel. Experimentation? I can't say. But I'm hearing more and more with each listen. An album that evolves is an album I can't leave alone.
9. Christian Mistress - Possession
I've got a soft spot for female vocalists in a genre heavily dominated by gruff, aggressive frontmen. When metal's catchy, I get nervous. But when Christine Davis harmonizes over old-school heavy metal hellfire, it's impossible not to get lost in the hooks. The best part? I burned a copy for my wife (a fan of Heart and Joan Jett) and introduced her to 2012's finest nod to NWOBHM.
10. Alice Tambourine Lover - Naked Songs
Alice Tambourine Lover immediately took me on the most bare and basic of trips. The songs are organic and stripped to the bone. Sometimes a woman's voice hits deeper than anything, and pairing Romanelli's guitar warble with Albertazzi's hauntingly sexy vocal is a recipe for some cool jams. I immediately swooned at the stoner slides, but that voice will set you adrift.
11. Snarf - Arrak Bisa Ular
Zac called this album "a prolonged sense of paranoia." This spooky set left me removing my headphones and checking doors and windows. Sprawling and patient, Snarf stuck with me for days. The hypnosis i entered was never a comfortable one, but it was never one I could pull myself from.
12. Pilgrim - Misery Wizard
Alright, let's slow things down. If you struggle to remain patient with your children, leave this album alone. But there was no way this album, what I would call the year's finest classic doom release, wasn't making an appearance. I love the plod, I love the patience, and I love that Pilgrim doesn't care if I love it or not. There are Sabbath nods, and there are hardly any tempo shifts, but I could plug away with Pilgrim all day. Straight-forward and at times completely malevolent, I loved every second. Every weepy, drawn-out second.