Best of 2012
2012 was a part good, part crud year for me. Two good friends dying was the biggest thing to deal with. The rest was somewhat manageable but frustrating with too much lack of focus. I was at least able to be employed in 11 out of the 12 months. Also I have a few ideas that I'm planing on stop talking and writing about doing and actually complete them in the upcoming months.
Re: Music this year - I'm still very much burnt out on the lot of extreme metal.Then there's super praised stuff I just don't have patience for - i.e. Pallbearer's album which would've been better if the songs were shorter. Otherwise, there's a bunch of stuff I managed to listen to in between listening to way too many comedy & wrestling podcasts.
Terry Malts - Killing Time (Slumberland) Probably my favorite band of 2012. The first song I heard, "I Do" mixes Naked Raygun type of guitars,and Phil's often Joey Ramone-like voice. Though the Ramones-isms aren't super duper obvious. Instead, Terry Malts are an honest punk/fuzzed out power pop band with lyrics about love and relationships sometimes heartfelt othertimes just cynical and funny ("Waiting Room"). Their cover of Negative Approach's "Can't Tell No One". Other times they write anti-religious tunes "No Sir, I'm Not A Christian". At least one tune reminds me of proper 90's indie rock (i.e. - Seam) on "No Big Deal". Lest I forget their weird-ass video for "Something About You" that does an intro like KISS' "Detroit Rock City" then some WTF-ery 'ala David Lynch. Granted I coulda saw these guys play live about 12 times this year but only saw them 3 regardless they were great every time.
Antiseen - Falls Count Anywhere: A Collection of Wrestling Songs (Rusty Knuckles) - Yeah, I have these squared circle classics on other albums and singles BUT this also has their cover of the Fabulous Freedbirds (R.I.P., Buddy Jack Roberts and "Bam Bam" Terry Gordy) "Bad Street U.S.A."
Aura Noir - Out to Die (Indie, Norge) Aura Noir started off doing so-so black/thrash but by about 2008 they streamlined their sound and made everything louder, heavier and gutted the thin 2nd wave black metal stylings with their thrash and focused more on what made their influences so great. Namely: Venom, Bathory, Sodom, Possessed & Morbid Angel (as Apollyon does have those flaming ghoul vocals) and really sometimes taking those influences and pushing it forward is ALL you need!
Demona - Metal Through The Time (Dying Victims) - Damn good Speed Metal from Montreal via Chile. I wrote about Demona earlier. Spirialing guitars and thick and catchy but not overblown riffs. Really good vocals from Tanza who also does the leads. Hearing her accent the chorus of "Nightmare" is also really cool. Overall, very good mix of the past sounds while making it something of their own. Also nice to see the title track with guest appearances from a lot of the bands that inspired them (i.e. - the REAL Warrant, Sabbat, Wardance, etc).
Eat the Turnbuckle - Fans Bring the Weapons (Useless Drunk) Nasty, violent & heavy hardcore inspired by the squared circle. Namely, the likes of ECW, CZW and IWA Mid-South. Though they do have a bit of more "big time" influences as well. Speaking of, it starts with a cut up of Mean Gene (Okerlund) from various WWF stuff then goes into a bunch of Death Metal-ish/Heavy harcore tunes as if sung by D-Von Dudley or Brusier Brody himself. These guys won't be playing any Scion-fest (unless they can put their marketing team on a flaming table) nor will the creeps at All Songs Considered promote it on the twitterverse (I hate myself for even writing that). The lot of these guys were from Philly obnoxioids, Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravangaza who's shows at times became riots. Musically this is more in the vein of fellow Philly ragers, Bad Vibes & maybe a hardcore version of Impaled? Bonus for doing a killer cover of Cocknoose's "Invader #1 Must Die" in their live shows.
Hawkwind - Onward (East World) Double CD of newer stuff and it's great to see Dave Brock (now in his 70's) still doing Hawkwind - sure, it's not gonna be Doremi Fasol Latido ever again but their spirit is definitely intact. 25 studio albums and still next to no bummers. And R.I.P. to Huw Lloyd-Langton you will be missed.
Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore) Chris "Professor" Black has done it again and made an excellent traditional Heavy Metal record and yeah it's a concept record about uh...I dunno but there's loads of great riffs, solos and Black's vocals are clear & passionate in the real sense and the in the same way that makes me love the sound of singers like Mike Scalzi and Bruce Dickinson. Songs are just roman numerals. "II" is very speedy and ripping and the ballad "V" doesn't turn up the suck either - especially with the doomy riff bit at 2:30. Now if they could just play the Bay Area with Slough Feg and Hirax.
Superchrist's Holy Shit (Hell's Headbangers) - featuring guitarist Chris Black (and Ian Viper who also plays with Black in High Spirits) was nice and sleazy speedy punk/metal. .
Metz - s/t (Sub Pop) Sub Pop put out something good and loud this year? Yeah and it doesn't sound like Jesus Lizard (Pissed Jeans are OK & all but really I think I heard enough J.L. soundalikes by 1995 but you could emulate far worse stuff like the shit my co-workers listen to). Really bombastic, shouted out vocals and with loud-ass guitars at nearly every moment. Curious to see what they're like live.
Lamps- Under the Water Under the Ground (In the Red) - Noise rawk and garage-racket mix that's somewhere between Pussy Galore and a buncha chaos.
Pins of Light - II (Alternative Tentacles) Rockin' Killing Joke/Hawkwind-gone punk stuff from Oakland with the vocalist from Cross Stitched Eyes. Very not the usual kind stuff in the Bay Area scene and that's makes it all the better. Completely spaced on the fact that Cross Stitched Eyes had an album out, too. But I can assure you that they were incredible when I saw them live in 2010.
White Hills - Frying on this Rock (Thrill Jockey) Big, heavy psych as usual but his time they pretty much stay on point with the rock stuff and avoid the ambient stuff (which I like just fine). Got to see them for the 3rd year in a row at Bottom of the Hills. Got to meet bassist/vocalist Ego Sensation and drummer, Adam after the show in April. Adam said he was sick of all these other band "white this, white that, White Fence White Denim". Which leads me to...
White Lung - Sorry (Deranged) Speedy punk from Vancouver, B.C. Very consistent from start to finish. Rather melodic guitars that change things up on each song. Pisser they couldn't make it to S.F. a few weeks back.
A few runners up:
Pharoah - Bury the Light (Cruz Del Sur) More traditional HM that mixes the likes of Manowar, Priest, Riot and even Rush (on the start of "Year of the Blizzard") but given those influences done with flair and chops instead of generic cheese (see 2000s power metal). Sure it's histronic and over the top. Vocalist reminds me of Eric Adams, Halford and Graham Bonnet all the same time. Obviously this has NOTHING to do with: the blackened/post-/stoner/sludge/deathcore/whateverthefuck
Hawklords - We Are One (Künstler) This is a different, now reformed version of Hawklords with long 'wind & 'lords bandmate Harvey Bainbridge, Jerry Richards (writer & producer for Hawkwind from the 90's-00's), Adrian Shaw on bass and writer for the Quark, Strangeness & Charm & PXR5 albums. Cool interview that sorts out the details here. Only heard two tracks so far but hell, Nik Turner & co. still sound great. The title track has a kind of garage rock feel in the riff only cleaner mixed with Turner's trippy voice & the usual wah-wah guitars & space ritual electronics. Nice thing is the "hello and thanks list" had Dave Brock on it so doesn't seem to be much bad blood in the 'lords vs. 'wind camps.
Grails - Deep Politics (Temporary Residence) - Still sorting through this one and I like it but needs more time.
Carlton Melton – Photos Of Photos (Agitated) - The more mellow" side of 'Melton but still pretty damn good. They never fail live.
White Hills / Farflung – To Find The Secret Door / Fade (Cobraside Distribution) - White Hills here is doing their ambient trip out thing and Farflung doing a killer space rock tune that sure sounds like White Hills (hmm...).
Dancer - s/t 7" (Daggerman) 3 songs of punky power pop and straight up power pop from the Bay Area. Nice and infectious stuff, nuthin' fancy. Funny thing is when I saw them with Terry Malts and Lenz - 3 of the 5 bands on the bill had really tall singers.
King Tuff - Screaming Skull / Love Potion (Sub Pop) 70's-styled strummy, glam-pop mixed with power pop with some nasly goofball on vocals. Super good, earwormy chorus & chords on the A-side. "Love Potion" has the same guitar tone as Bowie's "Suffergate City" but does and a ton of bright guitar chords on side-B.
Warm Soda - Reaction / In Another World (Southpaw) - "Reaction" is just purely, perfect power pop with a bit of mid-70s styled punk. Super catchy, great build up, ticking time rhythm and and a lot stuff that takes from early Cheap Trick and maybe even 20/20. The flip is quite nice, too though more straight ahead with the guitars getting brighter/louder over time plus some nice drum fills. Helluva live act, too. Weirdly the opening guitar wails to "Reaction" to reminds me of some NWOBHM stuff.
Apogee Sound Club - Belligerent (Fully Intercoastal) Solid rhythmic punk and never lets up which I dunno reminds me of the Minutemen or a less spastic Victim's Family and maybe Gang of Four (but I've never got into that band). I could be way off on all that but anyway, go see them live & listen to them here.
Conquest for Death - One Definition Of Success (Tank Crimes) Super fast hardcore on the A side with a ripper tune in Tagalog ("Mga Agawai"). The B-side has a few more mid-paced tunes including the excellent "Against the Wall" Craigums' solo on "One Definition of Success" is ace. Really good lyrics about sexual assault and homophobia, bullying, and the title track deals with the band's perspective of making music and touring all around the world (not just the usual US/Europe/Japan trips but they've been there a plenty). Still probably the only band that I know of that's played 6 of the 7 continents. Looking forward to their Antarctica tour in 2013 with Tubby and The Tusks - the world's only all-walrus garage rock band. (Actual band may not yet exist).
Elegy - Cemetary Earth (Shadow of Fear) - For some dumb reason I thought this was gonna be either medicore crust, the 9459th Swedish death metal worship band or both. (Must've of been the old english "E" in the logo and the headstones on back). Instead, Elegy puts more of the rock n' roll and punk into their metalized hardcore. Somewhere around English Dogs, Inepsy, and Broken Bones. It gets better the more you hear it.
Unholy Two - Cut the Music (I'm the Nightstalker) / Razor (12XU) Menacing noise rock wreck on both sides. "Razor" has more of a "normal", bludgeoning riff mixed with even more feedback but the vocals are purely mental. Haven't heard many bands do this stuff since at least Trance Syndicate label . Also, if you've read my article on Kevin Sullivan in Atomic Elbow wrestling zine (and why WOULDN'T you humanoid?!?) I make the error saying the band is from Australia (but they did put out a release on Oz-land's Negative Guest List) and not Columbus, OH . Bonus for the Razor Ramon pic on the B-side label.
Hellfire - 2012 demo Great speed/proper power metal and a bit of NWOBHM from some young guys from Daly City. The band's founder, guitarist Tony Campos is a pro BMX rider (!) Vocalist Alex Orozoco voice has a great range. Overall, the band shows lot of promise. Plus, they do an ace cover of Jaguar's "Axe Crazy" (or at least did on one live clip I saw). Thanks for Aesop at Cosmic Hearse for letting me know about these guys. Hopefully 2013 will see them release an LP (and maybe my lazy ass will actually see them). Check 'em out here
Astaroth - Satanspiritus / Lady of the Moon 45 (Unseen Forces) Wow! ORIGINAL "occult rock" - no fancy pants site webhype for these guys. Burning proto metal outta Detroit - the A side could be a little long is my only complain. "Lady of the Moon" comes off like a non-bloated take on The Doors on the B-side that doesn't sit around and play the same boring shit, instead it goes off trippy psych tune. "My love is Astaroth it's said /and you shall serve her 'til you're dead/I will see your soul in hell/ and I'll take your life as well" must've ruined a few grooves in late 60's. Dig it.
Codeine - When I See the Sun (Numbero Group) This "complete the set" with all three of the albums from the first & greatest "slow-rock" band. 3 LPs in giant packaging, booklets and CD versions of each LP. Not a cure for the bummer moments of life but it helps.
Black Sabbath - "The Rebel" (Zella) 7" - I dunno if this is 100% legit. Tho' Goner Records had it in their mailorder for $8. So file under "not gonna see THAT everyday", 1 sided but no biggie as this is pre-album from '69 that sees them doing a sort of Beatles-esque (god I hate that phrase) tune with some of their trademarks starting to shine through: Iommi tone and Ozzy's warble-y/not all the clear vocals but it is certain them and it's listening to songs like this that make you forget all the bullshit that's gone on with their recent reunion. Though that said I managed to see it on youpube and they sounded pretty damn good despite Ozzy making part of "Paranoid" sound like he was teaching P.E. class.
Coloured Balls - Ball Power (Sing Sing) - I discovered these guys via one of those Fenriz mixes (that had their song "Human Being"). From there I've been reading up on them ever since. Aussie hard rock/70's rock stuff with some solid guitar tone & attitude. Lobby Loyde should be in the legions of guitar gods and seriously how many more times does anyone need to be told about Jimmy Page? (pun unintended). Now I wish only that Sing Sing would re-issue their singles on vinyl - especially so I can play "GOD (Guitar Over Drive)"." on my stereo instead of little 'ol computer speakers.
Razar - "Stamp Out Disco" / "Task Force (Undercover Cops)" - 7" (Sing Sing) I got this with the Coloured Balls LP 'cause the part of 2012 was listening to a lot of Aussie punk/glam, hard rock stuff (Skyhooks, Cosmic Psychos, Slug Guts, etc, etc). This is raw and mean Brisbane punk from '78. If they were from south side Chicago they could've been playing in the outfield during the disco demolition. The b-side's no slouch either as it sonically & lyrically attacks the cops. The cover of this 7" is also on Bloodstains Across Australia and was on a flyer from some schmo's last radio show.
Razor - Armed & Dangerous (War on Music) Nabbed this LP at S.F.'s excellent Thrillhouse Records. The first release from 1984 by these Canadian ragers. A wee bit into the power metal speed style and a little erm less unchained as they were on Evil Invaders. The title track is still a rager despite not going a 100 mph and there's an early version of their classic "Take this Torch".
Mythra - Death and Destiny (Buried by Time and Dust) Rockin' as fuck NWOBHM from '79 right up there with the equally under the radar Brits, Dark Star. Love the "Warrior of Time" and its use of the very British Status Quo "boogie speed". "Killer" is speed with a ton of guitar harmonies 'ala Diamond Head's "Helpless". Got the regular LP and missed the one that had the poster for the gig they did with Motörhead/Saxon/Girlschool/Saxon/White Spirit/Angel Witch and (*exhale*) Vardis. I guess I'll wait for the super limited "time machine that transports you to that gig" edition
F.U. 2 - Punk Rock (1-2-3-4 GO!) Punk that was first throught to be the "secret Downliners Sect" album". I haven't heard Downliners Sect but I read they were a blues/R&B act in that goes back to the mid-60's. Therefore, it's "fake punk" that comes off quite er, punk. Though the Sect connection is "Stars in the Street" is a really nice romper. There's fast bluesy stuff on "Playing My Guitar". "Sniffin' Glue" sounds more keyboard laden and silly like a Stranglers outtake but it's undeniably catchy. Also, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records is a store I need to get to WAY more in 2013.
Pagan Altar - The Time Lord (Shadow Kingdom) I still had Pagan Altar in the "could use some better vocals" column. But on one hand Terry Jones' "slowed down Katon De Pena" voice comes off pretty nice here. (And yes, I love Katon's voice). But I think well, duh, that's part of the charm - you might not always "get it" but it did and does set P.A. apart from the tonnes of doom that came after them.
Poison Idea - Darby Crash Rides Again (Southern Lord) - Everyone and their dog brings up the USHC generica but weirdly despite their equally if not more intense HC tunes, P.I. seemed to never get the same praise as the Circle Jerks or even later bands like Cro-Mags. Either way, P.I. this has their first release from 1982 and a bunch more stuff from various Portland live shows and some live stuff on KBOO.
Older stuff I also loved:
Blue Oyster Cult - Secret Treaties (Columbia) I've gone back & forth with BOC and heard so much about their first 3 albums that I hadn't really latched onto tho' one of my first rocker friends Kenny had the 1st album t-shirt back in '80 'round the time he was getting me into them, Nazereth & The Scorps. I often found their stuff from 1976-81 hit and miss - for every 4 solid tunes there were weird fillers. This album has NONE of that. The Meltzer (not his relative, wrestling journo, Dave) lyrics are really interesting and damn catchy especially on "Flaming Telepaths".
Contr Act - Cyrillic title (translated to Warriors of Rock) (Werewolves) Siberian (Russian) power/speed metal in the fine tradition of Noise Records on some Belrussian label with only 3 other releases. Not much info on this act but they did make some very cool Kai Hansen-era Helloween/early Blind Guardian inspired speed/power metal sung in Russian. Not much on them on the web cept on their label site and a wee bit on Metal Archives. I got CD for $5 I did at Amoeba. But NWN! has a copy here. Also listen here.
Dark Heart - Shadows of the Night (Roadrunner) One of those records I was afraid of getting instantly disappointed by via the very Duran Duran looking artwork. Turns out I was way off. Rather solid NWOBHM with some nice "ah-ah-ah-ahhhhhh" backing choruses; riffs. Not far from the likes of 1st album and early singles-era Def Leppard, Dark Star, and Angel Witch.
Ded Engine - s/t aka: Hot Shot (Pentagram) - 1985 LP debut of what some called the "American Judas Priest" to some but not as slick or obvious as Malice. Ded Engine was from Detroit and were part of the better side of Michigan metal in the 80's - i.e. Repulsion. "Scream" gets right out of the gate & tears things up sounds closer to Hallow's Eve or Exciter. Weirdly I have no idea why this wasn't include in this era's greatest metalsploitation film. (much less any horror flick). Regardless, check this out it's worth your time.
Mercyful Fate - 1st EP (Rave On) - Bought this a second time (first time I trade my friend Steve in high school this EP for something shitty like Reckless something hey I was a dumb 16 yr old). Sure enough I bought this the day before King's favorite holiday. Went back to Amoeba SF where I got this just yesterday and there's 2 copies just sitting there. I have no idea if this is a super sneaky bootleg but all the right details seem to be there. Either way, fuck it - I have their first three on vinyl (Melissa and Don't Break the Oath I bought when "metal was dead" in 1994 for $4 each).