Ah, 2012, how kind you have been to us music-lovers. The metal world is a delightful place and 2012 did not fail to provide us metalheads with new music. Let’s not drag this out though. Here are some hot picks from the last 365 days!
BEST NEW ALBUM
Well, frankly, I think we all know the answer to this. The long-awaited Time I from Wintersun has finally been unveiled to the world and unlike Chinese Democracy, it was actually everything we dreamed it would be. With a mere five songs, the album doesn’t feel remotely short since their length makes up for number, and quality always wins out over quantity. I happily give this award to Wintersun for this masterpiece.
BEST NEW SONG
In keeping with the album of the year, it makes sense that such an incredible and perfect album would have an incredible and perfect song or two (or five) on it. While hard to pick, I’ll have to go with “Time”, simply for it’s beauty and passion. Brace yourselves. I think this album’s gonna show up a lot in here.
BEST FOLK ALBUM
Ho, surprise! While there are very strong folk aspects to Wintersun’s material, I don’t think it would be quite accurate to call it a strictly folk album (some may disagree); yet there is another band that easily belongs in this category. Since the disappointment of 2009 that was Everything Remains… As it Never Was, I had hoped that Eluveitie would do their best to win me back over by releasing something less dismal, and this year’s effort, Helvetios, indeed did exactly that. With far more life and feeling to it than its predecessor, I’ll happily pass this title on to them. Naturally, if you consider Time I to be a folk album, that’s the winner, but if not, Eluveitie can have this.
BEST FEMALE-FRONTED ALBUM
This year was a pretty big slouch for female-fronted material. If the best thing I could come up with is the snoozefest that is Lacuna Coil’s Dark Adrenaline, I think it’s safe to say that there are no winners here. The best albums featuring female vocals (DTP’s Epicloud, Status Minor’s Ouroboros, and Helvetios) were, unfortunately, not solely fronted by the ladies in question.
MOST EPIC SONG
Ah, one of my favorite categories. To achieve true epicness, there needs to be both a length and magnitude of scope. Yes, you guessed it, “Time” is back again in this category.
BEST SLOW SONG
While I’d like to give this to local power metal group, Status Minor, for “Like a Dream” from the phenomenal concept album they released this year, Ouroboros, featuring none other than the incredible Anna Murphy from the above-mentioned victors in our Folk Album category, I can’t do it. That, my friends, is because I have found Devin Townsend. Epicloud might be sweeping these awards if it wasn’t for the existence of Time I, and I’ve even had a hard time not giving some awards to Dev anyways. However, this one has zero competition. “Where We Belong” is now one of my favorite slow songs ever, let along of this year.
MOST CHILLING SONG
The line between epic and chilling is nonexistent sometimes, and more often than not, a song fits into both categories. That’s right, you guessed it, the winner is yet again, “Time” by Wintersun.
BEST FUN-TIME SONG
Ladies and gentlemen: Devin fucking Townsend. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I liked “Lucky Animals” for a good long while. It’s a plainly bizarre song. And yet, it has a goofy charm that sort of endears me and makes me smile all the time, and now I can only hope to hear it live, repeatedly.
BEST COVER SONG
While Ensiferum’s recent release, Unsung Heroes, was a musical disappointment, I can’t deny that their cover of the Gipsy King’s song, “Bamboleo” is pure delightfulness incarnate. Enska rarely fails to disappoint on the cover front, regardless of the album quality, and this just goes to show that even in musical slumps, these guys still know how to have fun. I hope they keep the sombreros around.
While I am returning to Time I for this award, I am not giving it to “Time”; rather, the haunting and eerie intro riff to “The Land of Snow and Sorrow” gives me delicious chills every time I listen to it, and even though it isn’t fast or furious, it’s the mood it sets that makes it incredible, and I have no regrets in giving that album yet another award here.
You guessed it – something off Time I. While technically both tracks are worthy of the award, I think the album’s opener, “When Time Fades Away” has a little more power. Like when reading books, it’s often the first track that can make or break an album for a new listener, and while I was never a big fan of the old Wintersun, the moment I heard this track, I knew that something special was coming based on its incredible ambience. Winner hands-down.
BIGGEST POSITIVE SURPRISE
So, I’m not sure if I’m being entirely fair here, but let’s do this anyways. I learned about Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad back in maybe 2005, but as much as I love “AAA”, SYL was always a little too harsh and angry for me. I really appreciate the workmanship of the music, but… it’s just not for me. That being said, Dev is back in my life now, and Epicloud is a great album, complete with guest vocals by Anneke van Giersbergen who is “holy fuck” -level great. I hadn’t expected to ever be a fan of Devin based off of my feelings towards SYL, but this album proved me wrong.
BIGGEST WHATEVER (MOST FORGETTABLE ALBUM) & BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
Two nominees and two categories: Ensiferum’s Unsung Heroes and Lacuna Coil’s Dark Adrenaline. Enska’s newest album got off to a strong start with the first four songs, and then just sort of fizzles out, not returning to the ‘good’ zone until the cover at the end; meanwhile, Dark Adrenaline was a complete disappointment after Shallow Life (2009), which was already on a bit of a downslope for the band, even if I enjoyed it for the most part. However, ultimately, I expect a lot from Ensiferum and with From Afar (2009) being an incredible 10/10 album, I have to say that Unsung Heroes was a total disappointment. Meanwhile, I’ve listened to Dark Adrenaline several times now and still couldn’t name an interesting song off it, so I suppose they’ll be taking the biggest whatever.
While Anette Olzon leaving Nightwish was certainly a big event, I’m not convinced anyone would really and truly call it the ‘saddest’ farewell. In fact, I suspect many people would have been quite relieved. However, I was always a fan of Howard Jones and his sound in Killswitch Engage – much more so than Jesse Leech – so to see him tap out was a complete bummer. It is cool that Leech came back as his replacement though, even if I find his voice less appealing.
Hands down, holy shit, Tommy Karevik in Kamelot. Daaang, that guy not only looks and sounds just like Roy Khan – a feat surely few men thought possible – but he also happens to be a better stage presence and performer. While it was tragic to lose King Khan, I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to taking his place.
BEST COVER ART
While technically speaking, I would like to give this to Blind Guardian for their ever-amazing artwork – this time around for Memories of a Time to Come – I’d prefer to not give this to a compilation if possible. Since there is another contender, BG will have to step aside in favor of Swallow the Sun’s Emerald Forest and Blackbird. There’s just something about the paper-white background with that particular shade of green in the eye with the forest reflected, and the outlines both like ink and feathers… I find it very pleasing.
WORST COVER ART
Oof, this year is a doozy. I really loved Status Minor’s Ouroboros. I think it’s a really relatable concept album and I think there’s a lot of heart and soul in the end product. However, first of all, an ouroboros is a snake that eats its own tail to symbolize a sort of never-ending cycle, which beautifully represents the story. What we are actually looking at though, is a perfectly nice background wasted on what appears to be an attempt at replicating the SM logo (and failing – that second body does not look like an M, nor does the first look particularly like an S) with Greek-esque figures, potentially attempting to symbolize the characters from the story, but ultimately are in no way an actual ouroboros… and they’re pretty ugly to boot. At very least they could’ve had the two of them looking more male/female to represent the characters, or holding on to each other to symbolize some form of ouroboros. But no, sadly, this album cover is horrible.
BEST LIVE SHOW
Well, this is another no-brainer. With Anette Olzon out of the picture – mid-tour no less – Nightwish had to replace her on quick notice. I was a big fan of After Forever’s last album, and when that band closed up shop, Floor Jansen was one of my top picks for women I thought should’ve replaced Tarja Turunen after her departure in ’05. The opportunity to see such an incredible band with such an incredible vocalist was a near life-changing experience, and I hope beyond all hope that she somehow finds the time to stay on with them permanently!
BEST MUSIC VIDEO
Okay, I’m terrible at keeping up with music videos, but this year, Korpiklaani released “Rauta” as an official video, and I have a thing for blacksmiths. I can’t clearly tell from the video, but is that blacksmith Mr. Pasi “Tervarauta” Raivio himself? I know he has worked a lot with Korpiklaani in the past. Either way, this video endears me, so I’ll call it the winner of the year.
To finish things off, we’ll have to ask ourselves who, this year, proved to have the most upcoming potential? I’ll have to award this to Status Minor – while their album art displeased me greatly, I do think the album itself was a rousing success and I really look forward to seeing if all these guys – Jukka Karinen (Thunderstone), Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius), and Markku Kuikka (pretty much every band ever) – will be able to release another album in the next few years, and what it will be like when they do!
So while there were some gems in the music world this year, there were equally many disappointments. Fortunately, guiding lights like Wintersun and the Devin Townsend Project kept us afloat.
1. Best New Album: Wintersun – Time I
2. Best New Song: Wintersun – “Time”
3. Best Folk Album: Eluveitie – Helvetios; Wintersun – Time I
4. Best Female-Fronted Album: n/a
5. Most Epic Song: Wintersun – “Time”
6. Best Slow Song: Devin Townsend Project – “Where We Belong”
7. Most Chilling Song: Wintersun – “Time”
8. Best Funtimes Song: Devin Townsend Project – “Lucky Animals”
9. Best Cover Song: Ensiferum – “Bamboleo” (Gipsy Kings cover)
10. Best Solo/Riff: Wintersun – “The Land of Snow and Sorrow”
11. Best Instrumental: Wintersun – “When Time Fades Away”
12. Biggest Positive Surprise: Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud
13. Biggest Whatever (Most Forgettable Album): Lacuna Coil – Dark Adrenaline
14. Biggest Disappointment: Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes
15. Saddest Farewell: Killswitch Engage – Howard Jones
16. Best Replacement: Kamelot – Tommy Karevik
17. Best Cover Art: Swallow the Sun – Emerald Forest and Blackbird
18. Worst Cover Art: Status Minor – Ouroboros
19. Best Live Show: Nightwish ft. Floor Jansen
20. Best Music Video: Korpiklaani – “Rauta”
21. Most Potential: Stats Minor