Iain’s Top Ten Albums of 2012

It’s officially 2013 and what better way to look ahead to a fine year than looking back on the year gone by.

2012, a year that will be remembered for Olympic Heroes, for the amusingly named Felix Baumgartner making a parachute jump from space, the creation of a Royal baby and of course the plummet in sales for antiseptic cream Savlon. When all these major events of 2012 have long been forgotten, I can safely say I’ll still be revisiting some of the albums that made my top ten list. Starting with….

Rival Sons Heads Up

 10. Rival Sons – Head Down

Read anything about California-based quartet Rival Sons and you’ll hear the same thing. They sound like a bit of a mash-up of The Black Crowes and Led Zeppelin which in theory, sounds great!

My first listen to Rival Sons a few years ago didn’t quite get my juices flowing but 2012 release Head Down has a maturity and the production values that help this band stand out among the reams of guitar based Rock N’ Roll bands doing the rounds these days. The real stand out being Jay Buchanan on vocals.

No, I don’t think they will ever be The Black Crowes or Led Zeppelin but if they keep on plugging away one day they may not be miles away.

9. Stone Sour – House of Gold and Bones Part 1       Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones Part 1

Anybody who knows Stone Sour probably already know that Corey Taylor of Slipknot fame is the singer.

What people forget is that Stone Sour also includes Jim Root, one of the guitar players in Slipknot and that Stone Sour actually started before Slipknot. I’m actually not that crazy about Slipknot but I understand and respect their talents and they do have some blinding songs. I do think however that Stone Sour are a band that allows the individuals to really display their talents and no more so on the album House of Gold and Bones Part 1. There are some explosive riffs, face melting guitar solos, terrifying drumming and simply outstanding vocal displays from Corey Taylor.

So why is this number 9 on the list? It’s a little inconsistent in its awesomeness and too often sets you up for a fall by exciting you with a song like “Absolute Zero” then following it up with a rather boring “A Rumor of Skin”. The good news is however the album appears to be Part 1. Roll on Part 2 I say.

Mumford and Sons - Babel8.  Mumford and Sons – Babel

“Eh? Where did this come from, these guys are pop!”, I hear you cry. Well maybe not, but this is a kind of special mention album in that I enjoy music that has some sort of emotional attachment to it regardless of genre. As much as I preferred Mumford and Sons 2009 release Sigh No More this should still be considered a great album.

A mildly repetitive album? Yeah. so? Nothing bothers me more than the folk that shout “This album just sounds like popular songs from the last album!”. No shit Sherlock, and that’s why it was a number one album! Anyway, Mumford and Sons are my current musical argument. They are a pretty talented bunch, they can clearly write a song and lead vocalist Marcus Mumford seems to invoke emotion in his songs regardless of subject.

Yes I’m guilty of dismissing bands but generally because I can’t spot any talent or song writing skills. Maybe this should be an article on its own…

7. Joe Bonamassa – Driving Towards The DaylightJ&R ADVENTURES JOE BONAMASSA

Joe Bonamassa for me is the best technical and hardest working guitar player of my generation. At the age of just 8 years old he was opening for B.B King, by the age of 12 he was playing regularly in various Blues venues in New York so it’s no surprise that at the age of 35 he is an established guitar virtuoso and practically has his pick of musicians to work with.

In 2012 he released Driving Towards the Daylight and brought in Areosmith rhythm guitatist Brad Whitford. The album sounds like a Joe Bonamassa album which is modern day blues in the style of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Claptop but there is an edge to Bonamassa’s guitar playing that is a little more hard rock which keeps things interesting.

6. Adrenaline Mob – OmertáAdrenaline Mob - Omerta

One of this years “Supergroups” that flew under the radar a little in that, in my opinion, the most well-known member of the band is drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold). The rest of the band consists of Mike Orlando (Sonic Stomp), Rich Ward (Stuck Mojo), Russell Allen (Symphony X) and Paul DiLeo (Fozzy).

Maybe it’s just me but I would have found it difficult to identify this band without a little research but this should in no way detract from an awesome album. For anybody that knows drummers, Mike Portnoy should be a household name, the guy is simply incredible. What you soon discover is that the rest of the musicians in this band are just as talented at their trades and create songs that quite frankly hurt my neck.. in a good way.

Yes, they may be a little late 90′s mean-faced metal but if you appreciate musicianship. Listen to this album.

Fozzy - Sin and Bones5. Fozzy – Sin and Bones

Quite simply this is a fun Heavy Metal album.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys are a talented bunch of musicians that take their playing seriously and Chris Jericho (WWE Superstar) actually sounds pretty good vocally. This may be down slightly to the ‘Ozzy Osbourne’ style vocal production but Jericho himself confessed that growing up he wanted to be two things. A Professional Wrestler and a Rock Star. Fair play to him, how many of us can say by mid-thirties we have achieved our dreams?

For a band that started out exclusively as a cover band they have come a long way culminating in Sin and Bones. It’ll probably never be considered a metal classic but it’s odd infusion of 80′s metal, a little rapping, some great musicianship and odd song titles such as “Sandpaper”, which really has nothing to do with Sandpaper, create an album that I find difficult to turn off.

4. Jimmy Wahlsteen – All Time HighJimmy Wahlsteen - All Time High

Candy Rat Records is a label devoted to acoustic guitar virtuosos primarily playing instrumental music. The stand out for me on this label is Jimmy Wahlsteen who has an individual and unique style and approach to guitar playing which is a difficult claim in a world populated with talented guitarists.

It’s hard to believe sometimes that this is just one guy playing the guitar but his clever use of effects pedals lifts his music above the other extremely talented musicians on this label such as Andy McKee and Antoine Dufour. If I’m being completely honest the guy I rate higher than Jimmy Wahlsteen is Tommy Emmanuel but he’s not released an album this year.

If you’re looking for a popular equivalent of the type of guitarist I’m talking about then think Newton Faulkner who did have an album out this year… but it wasn’t very good.

Sylosis - Monolith3. Sylosis – Monolith

I was very impressed with Sylosis when I saw them in the early part of 2011. Having at that time not listened to them to much on record, I thought they were good but just another, albeit extremely talented and complex, thrash, hardcore, metal band (delete as appropriate).

However, I was blown away this year when I heard Monolith for the first time as it took the raw ingredients of a hardcore band and coupled them with melody and song structures that make this band a little more intriguing than the norm. The average song is around 5 to 6 minutes long but it just doesn’t feel like that as you get taken on a little musical journey which usually ends with around three seconds of disappointment before the next song begins and takes you in a completely different direction.

Not everybody’s cup of tea I understand but like listening to classical music, you may not like every individual component but you can truly appreciate the sum of its parts and the hard work that has went in to complete the masterpiece. No Ramones covers here folks.

2. Halestorm – The Strange Case Of…Halestorm - The Strange Case Of...

Female vocalists are a weakness for me. It doesn’t really matter the style of music or the package that vocalist comes in but I melt a little when I hear a fantastic female singer.

Halestorm just happen to play the style of music that I love and the package that Lzzy Hale comes in is not too shabby either. Her vocal range continues to amaze me and defy the norm as she flawlessly swings from varying vocal styles. This is perhaps demonstrated on the 2006 release ReAniMate : The Covers EP

Listen to the cover of “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” originally by Heart and she fits right in as an early 90′s rock singer then listen to her blistering cover of “Hunger Strike” originally by Temple of the Dog - a band that consisted of two of the best singers in Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell – and she absolutely nails it. She’s one of a kind, Lzzy Hale, and the rest of her band are not too bad either.

I was a little concerned that this album might have sounded  ‘poppy’ due to some success and it did… but I didn’t care after all. It’s awesome!

InMe - The Pride

1. InMe – The Pride

InMe are a band I have a ton of respect for. They work harder than so many bands, they create music that they enjoy and think their fans will enjoy and tend not to compromise themselves in the process, even if that means not being the most successful band on the planet.

I’ve listened to InMe on and off over the years and honestly, found them to be a little hit and miss in places but The Pride seems to hit the mark. If you are reading this and still thinking InMe from early 2001, don’t. Do yourself a favour, and forget who InMe are and approach this album with an open mind and I think you’ll be surprised by the technical abilities of the band and the almost progressive rock/metal style of music they are now producing.

Whilst you’re at it, do yourself another favour and check out front man Dave McPherson’s acoustic solo album The Hardship Diaries. If that was released in 2012 it would have been on this list also. You can read our original review of the album here.

 

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