Saturday, December 29, 2012

That's it for 2012. I'll see you in the new year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Top 12 Albums of 2012

The Best of the Best

I have been fighting with myself over how to do my year-end list in 2012. I considered doing multiple lists in different categories, with a top 25, as last year. I also considered identifying albums as the best of each genre, as the year before. But various things, such as time constraints and a sudden death in the family prevented me from going forward with either of them. But, in addition to that, I think the real quality albums this year have really gone head and shoulders above the rest. A top 12 is not only sufficient, but ideal.

(Please note that an album's place on this list might not necessarily comport with the score I originally gave it.)

So, without further ado, I present you with Full Metal Attorney's Top 12 Albums of 2012.

12. Anaal Nathrakh: Vanitas

Listening to Anaal Nathrakh is always like hearing the gates of hell opened before you, if only a crack. Yet, for all the chaos and intensity, there is still undeniably catchy melody. Most of the time you have to pick one or the other, but not so for this duo. Vanitas finds them experimenting, too, incorporating opera and many other influences into one of the most skull-crushingly fantastic records of the year.

Buy Vanitas

11. Menace Ruine: Alight in Ashes

On Alight in Ashes, Menace Ruine play something that sounds like demonic church music. The hypnotic devil's organ drone and ritualistic, husky female vocals are quite unlike anything I've ever heard before, and after a while, it gets under your skin.

Buy Alight in Ashes

10. Christian Mistress: Possession

Normally, I like my music a bit more experimental and just plain weird. But when a band like Christian Mistress puts forth a record the quality of Possession, I have to put that aside and simply get into their pure heavy metal goodness. The vocals might not be perfect, but they are sung with such passion that it doesn't matter.

Buy Possession

9. Killing Joke: MMXII

I've only really begun to explore Killing Joke in detail, but what I find in MMXII is a perfect blend of anything I've come to expect from their decades-long, storied career. It's post-punk, it's industrial metal, it's 80's synth-pop. It's catchy hooks foretelling of all the reasons our world is soon to come to an end.


8. Botanist: III: Doom in Bloom

Many people dismiss Botanist as a gimmick, or simply can't get into this one-man black metal band's completely weird style of music. Drums and hammered dulcimer aren't typically the primary instruments of any kind of metal record, after all. III: Doom in Bloom is slowed-down, matured, and fully explored themes that are as compelling as they are haunting.


7. Diablo Swing Orchestra: Pandora's Piñata

Let it not be said that I don't know how to have fun. Diablo Swing Orchestra is one of my favorite bands, and their unique blend of metal, swing, Latin music, and just about everything else has never been better on display than with Pandora's Piñata. "Fun" doesn't even begin to describe it, and the name couldn't be a more apt description of what you'll hear.

Buy Pandora's Piñata

6. Wildernessking: The Writing of Gods in the Sand

South Africa doesn't often come up when discussing metal, but Wildernessking could single-handedly change that. They sound like all the best that Cascadia, Brooklyn, and Enslaved have to offer to black metal, readily accessible yet with the depth to warrant multiple listens. Do not pass up The Writing of Gods in the Sand.

5. Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay

I'm careful to provide a simple caveat, and that is I'm not terribly familiar with the back catalog of the legendary Neurosis. Even so, I find it hard to believe they've ever been better, even decades into their career. It's heavy, dynamic, subtle, and intricate. Each song is a journey (if you'll excuse the cliche). This is the reason that anyone ever cared about post-metal in the first place, and a reminder that there are still worthwhile paths to be forged in that well-trodden territory.

Buy Honor Found in Decay

4. Deftones: Koi No Yokan

In contrast to Neurosis, I am thoroughly familiar with everything the Deftones have ever done. And I can confidently tell you that Koi No Yokan is the best thing they've released since White Pony. It's like the Deftones of the last decade combined all their pop sensibilities with the lush layering and dynamics of Neurosis, Isis, and other post-metal bands. That's a difficult feat to pull off, but they have.

Buy Koi No Yokan

3. Panopticon: Kentucky

I'm not sure how many others have such a strong love of both dark Appalachian folk music and black metal. But even if we number in the thousands, I doubt any one of them thought they could be combined into something not only coherent, but revelatory. Panopticon's Kentucky may not be completely seamless, but anyone who hears it will readily agree that there is a common thread between the mad rage of black metal and coal miner protest songs that make up this thoroughly entrancing essay on the plight of Kentuckians.

Pagan Flames

2. Wovenhand: The Laughing Stalk

Speaking of dark folk music, there's Wovenhand. I should say up-front that this record holds a very special place in my heart, because it's been getting me through my brother's suicide more than any other piece of art. The Laughing Stalk is just as bleak and delicately arranged as anything else the band has released, but the overall quality of the music is higher from beginning to end, while previous releases tended to save the best for late in the runtime. And there's a lot more distorted electric guitar than ever before. There has never been a better time to get into this band. But then again, it may be my emotions clouding my judgment.

Buy The Laughing Stalk

1. Evoken: Atra Mors

I've been a long-time fan of Evoken, but they have never disappointed. Atra Mors is every bit the equal of any of their previous masterpieces. Crushingly heavy, bleak, and dynamic are not only the three things I look for most in a record, they are the three adjectives that best describe Evoken's most recent masterpiece. Texture, speed, and rhythm each play a part in setting the songs apart from one another and in driving this point home: Life is despair.

Buy Atra Mors

Honorable Mention

At the Graves: Solar
Atriarch: Ritual of Passing
Baroness: Yellow & Green
Eryn Non Dae: Meliora
Hexvessel: No Holier Temple
The Howling Wind: Of Babalon
Scott Kelly / Steve Von Till / Wino: Songs of Townes Van Zandt
Meshuggah: Koloss
Occultation: Three & Seven
Pallbearer: Sorrow and Extinction
Pinkish Black: Pinkish Black
Satanic Bloodspraying: At the Mercy of Satan

Thank You

Thank you to everyone who has made the year at Full Metal Attorney possible. Special thanks to the additional writers, Metallattorney, Patrick, and joanismylover. Thanks also to the label reps, band members, and promo folks who hooked me up with all the new material: Nathan T. Birk of EarsplitPR, Chris Bruni of Profound Lore, Bob from Relapse, Gad Yehezkel of TotalRust, and countless others. Finally, thanks to Islander for plugging the occasional post on the site. I couldn't have done it all without you guys!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The top 12 list is written. I will need a little more time to format it before release. I hope you'll understand the delay.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Life Goes On

I was sitting with my dad last night. Or, early morning on the 22nd . . . when it's hard to sleep, dates get messy. He worried that going to sleep after my brother's funeral meant that life goes on without him. God, I'm crying even now thinking about it. But life does go on without him.

My kids still do new, adorable things every day. So does my niece, in her cute Santa Claus outfit. Will Christmas ever be a time of joy again?

You stupid fuck! Didn't you know how much we love you? Didn't you know how much we care about you? Didn't you know the joy my children felt just from being around you?

Stupid, inane Facebook updates . . . shuffleboard, bands, food. Take a stupid God-damned test to find out your elf name, because nothing important is happening in anyone's life right now.

As much as I hate to say it, needing a tissue right now, can't get my head out of my hands and can't see the stupid fucking computer screen . . . life is going on. Someone has a baby announcement. Hope your baby doesn't commit suicide some day and leave the rest of the family to pick up the pieces. I know that's unfair, but I fucking hurt.

Yes, Aaron, I would love to try your mincemeat pie, no matter how disgusting it sounds. I just want you to come here for Christmas. Why can't you be here for Christmas? God damn it I miss you.

I need a tissue. I must look disgusting.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I've got visitation for my brother later today, then funeral on Saturday. Still working on my end-of-year list, but it should be up probably right after Christmas. Enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Show Must Go On

Despite the shit that has quite suddenly happened in my life, the show must go on here at Full Metal Attorney. I plan to begin my year-end list or lists this week. I also have a treasure trove of other reviews waiting to be formatted and put into a blog post, but will probably save those for the beginning of next year.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 17, 2012


On Saturday, I was lying in bed, slowly waking up to the sounds of my twins making noise in their cribs. The doorbell rang. I got up, quickly put on some clothes, and went outside to find two deputies standing there.

"Do you know Aaron Hoffart, born February 20, 1984?"

"He's my brother."

"He took his own life." There may be more to this statement, but that's all I can remember.

My legs gave out on me. I literally fell down. Yet as I sat there, my mind racing, I couldn't say that I was actually surprised.

He was a happy child. We played with G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys together. We saved up our allowances and bought a Sega Genesis, and played Streets of Rage 2 for hours upon hours. We played with Legos, and my son now plays with the Legos that Aaron bought after I felt I had outgrown them.

He was also quite gifted. Not quite as smart as I am, possibly, but then again I am one of the smartest people you could ever meet. (I say that without boasting.) He was more gifted than I in science and math. He became a Walter Scott Scholar at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He was doing quite well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Nunslaughter/Abigail: Fucking Satan (2011)


Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Japan's Abigail and Ohio's Nunslaughter share some things in common, not the least of which is their prolific output of recordings. It was only a matter of time before these two bands, who each manage to put out a dozen new releases every year, paired up. Well here we have it, with the none-too-subtle title Fucking Satan. I am sure we are in for a hell of a ride with this one (pun not intended, but definitely appropriate).

Nunslaughter kicks things off and we are immediately treated to their style of punk-inflected death metal insanity. The first track is actually one of the longer ones Nunslaughter has done, a much more complete song than the usual one quick riff with some Satanic lyrics and done. It actually goes on for a couple of minutes and is one of the better Nunslaughter songs I have heard. The second track is much more typical Nunslaughter and lasts about 30 seconds.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deep Desolation: Rites of Blasphemy (2012)


Groove metal is almost entirely an American phenomenon. Like most American-dominated branches of metal (e.g., glam metal, metalcore), it is largely derided by metal elitists. To be fair, they usually have a point. Even when it’s thoroughly infused with death metal (as with Lamb of God) there is definitely something too polished, too clean-cut, and generally too damn palatable about it.

Leave it to that bastion of metal awesomeness that is Poland to fix that. Deep Desolation’s Rites of Blasphemy quite literally answers the question, “What would groove metal sound like if the album cover was an amateurish drawing of hooded figures with a nude woman sacrifice?” I didn’t even know anyone was asking that question.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fistula: Northern Aggression / Loser (2012)

I'm Told You Shouldn't Do an Image Search for "Fistula"

Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Fistula, a Cleveland-based sludge band, have been around for a little over a decade. In September they released their 6th full-length album, Northern Aggression.

This record is extremely abrasive. If I had to sum up the entire album in one sentence, that would be it. Fistula seem to be one of those bands that goes out of the way to make their music as ugly, raunchy, and offensive to the ears as possible. In most genres, that would be a vicious indictment. But in sludge, it's pretty high praise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Geist: Der Ungeist (2012)

Israeli Germanophiles

It seems like Israeli doom-specialty label TotalRust is gradually becoming a black metal-specialty label. Der Ungeist, the debut album of one-man Israeli black metal Geist, is just one more step in that evolution.

The prospect of one-man black metal is probably not terribly enticing to very many of you. There are so many things that can go wrong, and usually do. But thankfully, none of that has happened here. Firstly, it actually sounds like a full band playing live. Secondly, it sounds like they were recorded decently. You know, not like it was done in a legitimate studio or anything, but it’s not like it was done with a cassette recorder either. He’s obviously paid attention to each instrument, instead of relegating one to an afterthought. Also, it’s clear he hasn’t fallen in love with his own non-existent legend like so many solo acts, because the music continues to go somewhere and the record ends after 35 minutes. So I’m glad I could allay those fears for you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Paragon: Force of Destruction (2012)

Take-No-Prisoners Power Metal

This is only the second power metal review on the site this year. You know how much we like power metal in general, but this album is approved by Metallattorney. He is the law.

If I had to think of one genre that Germany is particularly well-known for in the metal world, I would probably have to pick power metal. Not to suggest that other genres are not done well, obviously I am a huge fan of German thrash, but the country really produces a lot of good power metal bands. And not the overly flowery types like Sonata Arctica, real power metal. With groups like Helloween, Blind Guardian, Grave Digger, and Running Wild among others, Germany is definitely a hotbed for power metal.

Paragon is a German power metal band that has apparently been around for more than 20 years but has heretofore escaped my notice. I do not seem to be alone in this respect as a cursory glance at their discography on the Encyclopedia Metallum indicates only one or two reviews for most of their full-length albums. This is the band's first release on a more recognizable label.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Deftones: Koi No Yokan (2012)

Masterpiece 2.0

Since I’ve been listening to the Deftones for such a long time, I feel like I must begin with a small history lesson. If their seventh album is your first experience with the band, you could not make yourself believe the Deftones were--seventeen years ago--considered a lesser alternative to Korn. Korn has since lost all relevance (ironically while making conscious shifts to stay relevant), but the Deftones managed to be perhaps the only nu metal band to garner widespread critical acclaim as well as the acceptance of (at least a large part of) metal’s core audience.

There is a story arc here that has repeated itself. Around the Fur marked the band’s first experiments into carving out their own territory. It was followed by 2000’s White Pony, long considered the band’s masterpiece. They spent a decade struggling to repeat that level of success. 2010’s Diamond Eyes seemed to be a new Around the Fur, exploring industrial metal-cum-Neurosis. Koi No Yokan perfects that formula, becoming the Deftones’ new masterpiece. Yes, it’s at least as good as WP.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Plector: Punishment Day (2012)

End of the Road

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

This is apparently it for Plector. According to the promotional information, Plector will be no more after the release of this album. A lack of forward progression apparently led to the decision to end things for this band. So this, their second full-length, will also be their last.

Plector's sound is mostly thrash metal with the occasional death metal influence creeping in at times. The riffs have a lot of bottom end to them and are heavy and muscular. Coupled with the commanding and deep vocals, Plector has a meaty sound with a lot of crunch. This is Swedish thrash metal in the vein of Carnal Forge and early The Crown. It also has a very modern feel to it. This is not retro thrash metal.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dordeduh: Dar de Duh (2012)

Remember Om?

Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Dordeduh are an atmospheric folk/black metal band based out of Romania. Their formation came after a couple members split from Negură Bunget in 2009. This fall they released their first full-length album, Dar de Duh.

This music isn't easy to really pin down. With long, flowing tracks that smoothly shift from mellow to intense, they have a better grasp than most on the proper use of the soft/hard dynamic. And with little splashes of Middle Eastern folk flavor blended into some of the softer sections, in addition to some folk flavor from eastern Europe, there is a nebulous quality to their overall sound.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Metal Briefs: Death Metal 2012

Death before Dishonor

I don't think there's been any lack of death metal coverage on this site as of late, but I personally haven't written many death metal reviews this year. It's still one of my favorite genres, behind only doom metal (and maybe dark Americana these days) and it's not like I haven't listened to much of it. Here are just a few of the new ones I've heard.

Doomsday: Doomsday
(4 out of 5 stars)

Chicago's Doomsday play some seriously crusty death metal on their self-titled debut EP. It sounds more or less like early Acephalix (before they went Swe-death), so if you have Interminable Night then just play "Christ Hole" to decide whether you'll like this one. In other words, death metal that's been hit in the head with a brick and then sandblasted. Doomsday can groove, but they are at their best when going balls-out fast. I love the drums on "Empty Vessel," too. They close it out with the much more punk-oriented "I Kill Everything I Fuck," which, incidentally--probably not a good pick-up line.

Buy Doomsday

Monday, December 03, 2012

Skálmöld: Börn Loka (2012)

Livin' La Vida Loka

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Well with the opening track on this one I was once again a little nervous that I was going to strongly dislike another album from Napalm Records. The first track is extremely cheesy and sounds like the kind of overly-wrought opening anthem that Manowar would put out. But just when I was getting prepared for some ridiculous Manowar-covering-Bathory ludicrousness, the opening of the second track started.

"Sleipnir" kicks things into high gear with a galloping riff and leads into the harsh vocal style. Everything is still kind of upbeat and sunny but at least it is not as over-the-top as the opening intro lead me to believe it would be. Of course then it went all happy and flowery again on the next track. Many of the rest of the songs continue with this more