Headbangers Brawl 6/15: The (Half) Year In Metal

Posted by on June 15, 2012

Back in January when New & Noteworthy writer Chris Colgan wrote his list of the most anticipated albums of 2012, we only had an inkling of what to expect from the new release calendar this year. Of course there  are gems, some surprises, and some flops, but with the first half of the year all but over, it’s been an eventful 5 1/2 months even given our expectations. With that in mind, this week, we’ll be examining the first half of 2012, as well as speculating on what the rest of the year will bring us!


Biggest Successes

This is a tie for me, because the two bands I’ve chosen are operating under different expectations. On the one hand, you have Lamb of God, whose fame throughout the US has turned them into a household name. The #3 debut of their seventh full-length album Resolution is on par with their previous album Wrath (which debuted at #2), but even though they are one of the biggest metal bands in America, having consecutive top 5 releases is still a momentous achievement for them. On the other hand, you have Meshuggah, a band with a relatively smaller fan base in the US and not as much public presence due to fewer tours in the States. However, that smaller fan base also maintains some of the highest expectations of the entire metal community, accepting nothing short of musical genius on each album. They got just that with Koloss, and the #16 debut for the Swedish group is a testament to just how inventive they are with their music. Honorable mention goes to Van Halen and the #2 debut of A Different Kind of Truth, following their reunion with singer David Lee Roth.

Bram: It’s definitely interesting to see what the metal landscape looks like in 2012. While nobody’s buying records as much as they used to, there are still bands like Meshuggah, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and others that are selling as much, if not more, than they ever have. I’m not going to single out one band, or even all three of them. But to see bands continue to sell, as well as seeing some success stories like the continued push that Volbeat has had, is encouraging. And while bands aren’t getting rich off streaming services like Spotify, it’s led to more listening and experimentation than ever before. If almost everything is available to listen to, there’s a lot more cross pollination, as opposed to when you had to buy or illegally download a record to listen to it.

Zach: Lamb Of God and Meshuggah probably experienced the best first week debuts in metal of 2012 so far. Making it even more of a success for both bands is the fact that they did it on their own terms and without changing their sound to win over mass appeal. However, I think Cannibal Corpse should be given applause with the success of Torture. Though only selling slightly more than 2009’s Evisceration Plague, the fact remains that Torture is their highest ranking debut. And for any death metal band, even as legendary as Cannibal Corpse, to debut in the top 40 is a big deal. Also, while not exactly metal, Tenacious D’s top 5 debut with Rize Of The Fenix also should be considered a success. As the title track’s opening lyric highlights, “When The Pick of Destiny was released, it was a bomb. And all the critics said that The D was done.” Well thanks to their new album, JB and KG are no longer considered “done.”

Kodi: I wasn’t as big a fan of that Meshuggah record as many people seemed to be, but #16 for an album of that extremity is nothing short of incredible.  From a purely musical standpoint, I’d say High On Fire made their best record yet, and the sheer ground-level buzz coming out of Decibel Mag’s Watain/Behemoth tour gave the most extreme-minded metalheads something to rally with going into summer.  But I think the biggest successes really are yet to come, as this is the most attractive group of summer tours I’ve seen since becoming a metal fan.  Mayhem Fest, Orion Music + More, Shockwave Fest, Trespass America…hell, even Warped Tour looks decent this year, and now I just have to figure out how to go see everything!

Biggest Surprises


Chris: Sales-wise, this goes to Iowa’s For Today. The #15 debut of their fourth album Immortal is mind-blowing to me, and huge congratulations to them for such an achievement. Content-wise, though, I’m stuck at another tie, this time between two veteran groups that managed to release some of the best material of their respective careers. Both Soulfly and Overkill were absolutely phenomenal on their new albums, albeit for different reasons. Soulfly followed their standard formula for Enslaved, but somehow, instead of sounding stale and uninspired, these new songs are among the most vicious and unforgiving that the band has ever written. Meanwhile, Overkill did the impossible with The Electric Age, by writing an album loaded with even more pure quality thrash than 2010’s Ironbound. When I first heard Ironbound, I figured that Overkill could retire after that, because they’d written an album that couldn’t possibly be topped. How wrong I have been proven.

Bram: Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised by how solid the Prong record was. I’ve always liked the band, but didn’t think Power of the Damager was all that great of a record, and expected the new album might be somewhat of a shitshow. It was the complete opposite. When you have relaxed expectations of a record and it’s much better, it’s a great feeling. And not that it’s metal, per se, but I felt the same way about the new Van Halen album.On a similar not quite metal tangent, the Night Flight Orchestra album is the exact opposite of what I would expect from a band that has members of Soilwork and Arch Enemy among its members. And like Kodi, I’ll also agree that the Orion Fest was a surprise. The way it was announced it was almost like they were trolling Metallica fans. It got heavier with every announcement, and i’m looking forward to what

Zach: It’s hard for me to name albums that really surprised me content wise. Mainly that’s because most (if not all) the albums I was really looking forward to this year (so far at least) met my expectations. With that said, I guess I could say that  I was somewhat surprised at how much I actually enjoyed Adrenaline Mob’s debut album Omerta. Is it a groundbreaking album? No. Is it a little on the commercial side? Yes. And not every track is a winner. But there are a few songs on that album that are easy to get stuck in your head, and Lzzy Hale (of Halestorm) kicks major ass on their cover of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone.”

Sales wise, something about Marilyn Manson’s mediocre first week stands out in my mind. And that’s pretty weird, since if you look back at his declining sales in the past, the fact that Born Villain wasn’t able to pass the 39,000 copy mark shouldn’t come as a surprise. Maybe it’s more of a wake up call that Manson isn’t the king of shock rock anymore and that DIY isn’t all that it’s made up to be (if you ask some) than it is a shocker.

Kodi: Can I count Andrew W.K.’s brony convention?  Nah, let’s stick to metal.  Orion Music + More is pretty surprising, if only based on the lineup.  It’s a stacked festival, but the indie/alternative-heavy programming shocked a lot of metal fans at first before the metal half of the equation was gradually ramped up.  I thought it was cool to see Metallica branch out and attempt to do their own thing in their own way, however; Orion was such a classic “Screw you, we’re Metallica” move, and it was a blast to watch the firestorm of metal controversy it caused.  Every second spent griping about Metallica is a second spent with Metallica’s name out there, and they get that better than possibly any other band in metal.

On the negative side, Matt Pike going into rehab was tough to watch amidst all of the accolades High On Fire’s De Vermis Mysteriis received, and Mark Reale’s passing early this year after Riot released a next-level comeback album was just plain tragic.  But that’s the thing about surprises.  They aren’t always going to be positive, especially in metal, where so many amazing and terrible things can develop all at once in the course of a year.


Predictions for the rest of 2012

Chris: Honestly, I’m still just trying to wrap my head around the rest of this year’s release calendar. New albums are still forthcoming from Ihsahn, Whitechapel, Gojira, Periphery, Baroness, Nachtmystium, Testament, Katatonia, Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, Vision of Disorder, and Stone Sour before the year is out, all of which points to continual impressive performances on the charts for metal bands. I’m most looking forward to Soilwork’s new album, The Living Infinite, since they’re one of my favorite bands, and they never fail to impress me. 2010’s The Panic Broadcast was a real treat because of the band’s reunion with guitarist Peter Wichers, and now that he’s been back with the group for a few years, I’m really excited to see what they turn out.

Bram: I mean, it’s hard to say what else is going to happen for the rest of the year, but it’s definitely going to be a robust year for metal. In addition to the other albums mentioned here, I think a lot of people are looking forward to new music from Down. And with all the festivals, tours, and one-off shows, there’s no lack of great live music happening. I’m hoping against hope here, but new music from Black Sabbath or Tool would be a great way to end 2012. I’m thinking that when the Mayan apocalypse comes, at least we’ll have had a great run of metal.

Zach: A lot of great releases are coming out soon. In regards to the “new breed” of heavyweights in metal, I think Gojira, Periphery and Nachtmystium have a lot to gain with their new albums this year. Both fans and press have somewhat put those three on a pedestal, and their new albums could push them from “the potential future of metal” to metal’s current heavyweights. I was going to say the same for Baroness, but unlike the three I mention, they have a little more to lose. That’s because from I’ve heard so far from Yellow & Green, Baroness are trying to tap into a larger market. The move could either work (making them metal’s favorite light band and every indie kids’ favorite heavy group) or alienate metal fans.

Kodi: The divide between traditional metal fans and cutting-edge minded ones still has room for the gap to be bridged.  I think we’re overdue for a new band that, like Ghost, takes a classic feel and throws a really challenging edge on the front of it.  And also, this year seems to have been more about established bands making career-defining records so far, with High on Fire, Orange Goblin and Gojira (you won’t disagree once you hear it) standing out as the clear examples.  I’m waiting for the logical counterpunch to that; as Periphery did with their self-titled in 2010, there is so much room right now for a band one or two records into its career to make a brain-rearranging classic and shift the landscape.  I’m not going to put my money on any one scene or artist for that, but that’s what I think is going to create the balance.  I’m waiting on that gap-bridging new favorite, along with a completely boundary-pushing new sound that many will freak out over and others will take a year to catch up to.

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