1) Aesop Rock - Skelethon
Best Hip-Hop record I have ever heard. The lyrical clarity present here has not been heard on any prior Aesop release and the complexity is still a step above almost any other Hip-Hop artist.. Complex and layered beats and thick production accent an Aesop who has got his flow down to a science. The amount of focus present in the actual sound of the record, and in the subject matter is incredible. This is a perfect record and the final track on the record(Gopher Guts) is one of the best endings to any record I've ever heard.
Best tracks: Gopher Guts, 1,000 O'Clock, Crows 1, ZZZ Top
2) The Saddest Landscape - After the Lights
In a genre full of emotionally charged bands, The Saddest Landscape are able to stand out for being emotionally charged. The music is classic Screamo. Songs are filled with huge melodies and intricate structures. The production and musicianship are both top notch. And the vocals. The vocals sound strained and desperate in a way that most bands cannot even hope to capture. It's hard for me to even get through the last song on this record, but I think it will go down as one of my favorite Screamo songs ever.
Best Tracks: When Everything Seemed To Matter, Desperate Vespers
3) Xibalba - Hasta La Muerte
Hasta La Muerte is a big step up for Xibalba, and a great chance for every beatdown band to follow their lead and become a Doom band. Hasta La Muerte adds the variety in tempo and structure that Madre Mia was lacking, ups the depth of the production, deepens the vocals even more, and somehow, is heavier on almost every single track that any song on Madre Mia. This is truly a crushingly heavy record, and there aren't many bands playing heavy music that can keep up.
Best tracks: Mala Mujer, Laid To Rest, Burn
4) Ghostlimb - Confluence
Every time Ghostlimb releases something I think to myself that there is no way they will top it, and somehow they always do. Confluence keeps everything that was good about Infrastructure(blistering tempos, thick production, great lyrics and delivery) and adds some much needed variety in the melody department. A great record made even better by a Hot Water Music cover that they make totally their own to the point that somehow who had not heard the song would not be able to tell it apart from the rest of the record.
Best Tracks: Ardor, Sunlight, Exchange
5) Loma Prieta - I.V.
From record to record Loma Prieta get more and more chaotic, and I.V. is no exception, blurring the line between Screamo and crushing Powerviolence on nearly every song. The variety in sound here is astounding, going through soaring melodies, blistering feedback driven Punk beats, and low tempo distorted sections that put most metallic bands to shame. This is a record of contrasts, made all the more impressive by the fact that every sound showcased on this record is done brilliantly.
Best Tracks: Trilogy 4, Fly By Night, Uselessness
6) Belial - Untitled
Belial are a Hardcore band with attitude from Decatur, AL. Most of the songs on this LP are full of hate for trends of all kinds. The party scene, fake friends, and people who "grow out of" Punk Rock. Musically you could say the band follows the same train of thought. The ten songs on this record are full of variety in tempo and style, and each one is led by raw vocals and some nutty basslines. These dudes have a bright future ahead of them and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.
Best Tracks: No Nicknames For Toby, Skunk Punt, There Won't Be Blood
7) Ceremony - Zoo
Zoo was a tough record for me initially. The Ceremony I knew and loved was most certainly dead, and I was skeptical about what had taken their place. It became apparent after a few listens, however, that this new Ceremony was at least as good, and perhaps better than the old one. Zoo's twelve tracks drone along with driving drums and buzzy guitars, led by Ross's new clean vocals, in a manner than is as Punk as an album can get. There are a few songs(Video, Hotel) that cover TOTALLY new territory for the band, and they are the best songs on the record. Zoo makes me excited to see where Ceremony will go next, and proves that they have a lot of music left to create, and a lot of interesting ground left to cover.
Best Tracks: Hotel, Video, World Blue
8) Creatures - Vesuvius
Vesuvius was one of the first records I listened to this year and has remained one of the best. It is heavy and intense in all the right places. The riffs on this record are consistently heavy, and the songs are varied enough structurally to keep you interested throughout. The vocals are an odd mix of screechy and deep that don't sound quite like anything I've heard before, and are certainly the strongest part of the record. The thing that truly helps the vocals shine the way they do is the production. The wall of sound that the band has managed to create feels like a freight train crashing into you with every song. Always distorted and blaring but never muddy. This is the way Metallic Hardcore was meant to be played.
Best Tracks: Insubordinate, Soulless Possessor, Broken Throne
9) Burning Love - Rotten Thing To Say
Burning Love did something truly cool this year. They released the bluesiest Hardcore record ever written. Rotten Thing To Say is thick and heavy, but every song has melodic sections. The guitar leads are intricate and well thought out, the drums are tight, and the vocals are the perfect compliment. The production is pretty much perfect, with a ridiculously heavy low end, which allows the high pitched sections to shine through and feel a lot more significant. This is Rock and Roll Hardcore at its finest.
Best Tracks: Karla, Pig City I, Broken Glass
10) Joyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired
Joyce Manor is the softest Hardcore band I have ever heard. They have all the makings of a great Hardcore band. One minute songs, raw production, fast tempos, and yet, they are a Pop-Punk band. And that is what makes this record so great. Incredibly catchy melodies delivered in incredibly short bursts that leave you wanting to listen multiple times in a row. Despite the songs being so short there is a lot of variety, and none of them run together or feel too samey. This is a genuinely unique record and they have presented it in a way that I have not heard any other bands of the style do. Best Pop-Punk record of the year by a mile, or ten.
Best Tracks: Drainage, If I Needed You There, These Kind Of Ice Skates
Title Fight - Floral Green
Rise and Fall - Faith
Whirr - Pipe Dreams
Gaza - No Absolutes in Human Suffering
The Menzingers - On the Impossible Past
1) Beware - Won't Get The Best Of Me
Beware is the band that will save Youth Crew. This EP contains six tracks of unrelenting Straight Edge Hardcore, played by incredibly tight musicians, with vocals laid down by one of the meanest lyricists in Hardcore.
Best Tracks: When It Comes Around, Changing Face
2) Wormrot - NOISE
Wormrot are an insane three piece Grind band from Singapore who have just put out their best release yet. Noise is a great name for the ridiculously intense Grind on this EP. The musicianship on this record is absolutely insane. The tempos are insane but the guitar player and drummer don't miss a beat. The level of skill these guys possess is astounding. The vocals are screechy and grating in a way that American vocalists just don't ever seem to capture. There are a few surprisingly melodic moments on this EP that promote it to "next level shit." Wormrot are the best active Grindcore band and this EP is just more proof of that. If you miss out on this you miss out on the absolute best the genre has to offer.
Best Tracks: Perpetual Extinction, Many Funerals
3) Lizards Have Personalities/Adaje - Split
Lizards Have Personalities and Adaje are two relatively new Screamo bands from Tennessee who showcase the very best the genre has two offer. Both sides of the split sound huge and layered, supported by intricate drumming, screeched vocals, and powerful guitar leads. Ladder For A Step stands out as the best song on the split with one of the best bridges I've ever heard. Don't miss out.
Best Tracks: Ladder For A Step, Sanc Kingdom's Collapse, both of the other tracks are insane as well.
4) The Beautiful Ones - Birth of Desire
Birth Of Desire is the most ignorant Hardcore release I have heard in years, and it has some serious substance to back it up. This EP is Metallic in the truest sense of the word. The riffs are heavy and well written, and the breakdowns are sure to get you breaking things in your living room. The vocals are gruff and deep generally, and the clean vocals that do come in are well done and don't come off as cheesy like other bands that try to do them(I'm looking you you, Cruel Hand). The lyrics feel a lot more honest than most bands of this style, and they tie everything together well. This is the best Metallic record of 2012 barring Hasta La Muerte.
Best Tracks: True To Me, Birth Of Desire
5) Deism - demo
Deism are hands down the best Youth Attack band ever and they aren't even on the label. This demo contains four tracks the intense, crusty hardcore that puts other bands in the genre like Hoax to shame. The instrumentation is as tight as it gets, and the basslines are some of the best I've heard this year. The vocals are screechy and intense with solid lyrics to match. The label that doesn't pick these guys up is the label that done goofed.
Best Tracks: Double Blind, That Which Can't Be Soothed
6) Wrong Answer - Cross a Black Cats Path
Wrong Answer refer to themselves as a "naughty" Youth Crew band, and it is apparent listening to this EP what they mean. Musically this band is intense and fast. Most of the songs revolve around Punk beats and two steps, with occasional guitar melodies that are surprising and add a bit of variety where it is needed, capturing the sound of Cycles era Soul Control. The lyrics are vitriolic and downright mean throughout, and the vocals showcase that anger in a very genuine way. The production is clean and lets the instrumentation come through without sounding too polished. Feel the fucking wrath.
Best Tracks: Cross A Black Cat's Path, The Nightmare Continues
7) Suburban Scum- Hanging By a Thread
This EP was written for pitting really hard. Everything about it is heavy and thick. The riffs are insane, the basslines are heavy, and the drumming is as good as I have ever heard in this style of music. The vocals are high pitched throughout, a sharp contrast to other bands of the style that go for gruff, low vocals. The production is completely professional and it allows everything to shine through. And the thing that this band is honestly about, the breakdowns, are the best I have heard all year.
Best Track: Nature Of The Beast
8) Vales - Clarity
Vales are a Screamo band from the UK that range from the huge melodies of traditional Screamo to the fast tempos and driving drums of Hardcore. This EP is high pitched and buzzy throughout, and some of the more epic parts are truly haunting. The vocals are high pitched and emotive, and the lyrics are personal and expertly written. The production is top notch and clear, while still managing to make everything sound massive. And the drumming. The drumming on this release is truly spectacular and pulls everything together.
Best Tracks: Caves, Surrender
9) Holiness Church of the Valley/black hole kids - Split
A split between two of the best bands in Alabama showcasing the buzziest and most distorted face of Hardcore and Screamo. The Holiness Church songs are thick and heavy, with a few moments that drift into traditional Screamo melodies. The strongest part of their two songs is the vocals that sounds massive and haunting. The Black Hole Kids tracks are far more chaotic and crazy, featuring blistering tempos and absolutely insane basslines. Both sides of this split are awesome and do not deserve to be missed.
Best Tracks: How I Feel, How I Felt, Ash In The Urn
10) Eldstad - Dagar av krig Nätter av kärlek
Eldstad are a Screamo band from Sweden who play music that is very much on the Punk side of the genre.The tempos on this EP are fast, and the drums are driving. This is contrasted by sharp, high pitched vocals, and soaring guitar melodies. The songs on this EP are intricate and well thought out, and the production is clear enough to showcase these complexities. This is an emotional and tightly played piece of Screamo that will go right under most people's radars, and it shouldn't. Listen.
Best Tracks: Eldstad, Kvicksilver
Goodbye Cruel World - Goodbye Cruel World
Daylight - The Difference Between Good and Bad Dreams
Soul Control - Borecore
Blacklisted - So, You Are a Magician?
Iron Cages - 2012 demo