Theme Thursday: Matt’s Top 5 of 2012 So Far
Posted by RiffRaff
It’s June which means we’re halfway through the year. As with every year there have been a ton of great music releases and some big ones looming on the horizon. Here is my top 5 favorite albums so far this year and feel all of them deserve being checked out by all. I know there are a lot of great albums out there that have been released that I haven’t checked out yet, so hopefully I can play a good game of catch up and they can make the year-end list come January 2013. As a bonus I’m tossing in my top 5 favorite games I’ve played this year too (criteria for this portion only requires that I played it in 2012, as time, money, knowledge of, and hardware don’t always let me play the latest on the market). Let me know what your Top 5s of the 2012 are so far down in the comments. Enjoy! Peace Love and Metal!!
Top 5 Albums
#5 God Forbid – Equilibrium
NJ metalcore/thrash legends have done it yet again. Front to back Equilibrium just shreds non-f’n-stop and they pull off all the high adrenaline metal with conviction and maturity giving fans another well polished top-notch record. Doc Coyle’s riffing and soloing are in overdrive throughout the record making many songs feel larger than life and Corey Peirce’s drumming just hammers every second of each tune home. Byron Davis’ vocals are also in top gear adding great rage, love, introspection. Well worthy of the title of a do no miss album.
#4 Storm Corrosion
What happens when you put 2 of the biggest minds in progressive music together to create a collaboration album. Worlds collide man. Well, maybe not that extreme, but the duo of Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt have went and created a style of music I can honestly say I’ve never heard before. The dark and haunting sounds of their self titled record are musical journeys and are well worth taking through their harrowing ghost stories. The 48 minutes of music contained on the disk is rich and challenging and will give any fan of its members home bands or progressive music fans plenty to chew on for a long time. And that video for “Drag Ropes” is probably going to remain unchallenged for the best video of the year (make sure to watch in HD).
#3 Soen – Cognitive
Between Martin Mendez’s phenomenal drumming being circled by Steve DiGiorgio’s rolling and commanding bass lines and the proggy guitar riffs and powerful clean vocals Soen’s debut record is a force to be reckoned with. Each song on this record contains a nice thick groove as well as lots of introspection and emotion. If you are a fan of bands such as Tool and Rishloo do not wait one more second to check Cognitive out.
#2 Huntress – Spell Eater
Straight up metal. ‘Nuff said. Jill Janus finds a perfect balance in her vocals never crossing into the sugary sweet or overly Gothic areas many female vocalists go, nor does she take the ‘I eat men for breakfast’ (don’t take that the wrong way please) approach like Angela Gossow. Her raspy and operatic voice has great range and melds with the kick ass thrash metal perfectly. Chock with driving riffs, solos, and overcharged drummingSpell Eater will have you headbanging in no time as well as having a good time with the nice and cheesy occult/Wiccan lyrical themes.
#1 Sigh – In Somniphobia
Trying to summarize In Somniphobia in just a few words is nigh impossible as there is just so much going on in each song. While when you first listen to the album it may just seem like a clusterfuck of various musical style spread over a base of black and NWOBHM but over repeat listens you start to hear how smooth everything fits together and how tightly each track is instrumented. Blending the line between dark and evil and happy and fun Sigh have released a beast of an album that I just can’t stop listening to for the life of me. The conga drums, jazz noir sax, power metal guitar solo, and the classical music sections among tons of other things make sure that not one second of this very ‘weird’ record will not go by without your undivided attention. If you’re looking for something fresh, new, and original make this your go to record. I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re up for it, you can listen to the entire record here.
Top 5 Video Games
#5 Rayman: Origins
Mario, I thought it would never come to this and it pains me to say this, it really does, we’ve spent so much time together getting into shenanigans and foiling Princess Peach’s plans to cheat on you. It was great times really. But truth be told, you just haven’t been aging very well on your 2D side. Now, don’t get me wrong, your 3D adventures are great and all, but my heart belonged to your profile. There’s this new kid, Rayman, well, he’s been around for a while now, but I just started to really notice him and when I did he started to please me in ways I’d forgotten about as well as new ones. His hand drawn sprites and backgrounds are gorgeous, his level design is tight and intelligent, and he maintains a great level of challenge that you seem to have forgotten about. I’m sorry Mario, I’ll always hold you dear and remain a friend forever, but this Rayman, well…… ‘sniff’
#4 Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Obsession is an understatement for this game. Beyond the great single player campaign this RTS game really shines in it’s perfectly balanced multiplayer where each match both a battle of wits and speedy execution. The fact that each player you face will try to come at you with different strategies (well, after you pass the cheese strategy ranks, which are actually good for learning some good counters and just to put those cheap bastards in their place) will always keep you on your toes as you race to build the perfect counter for their attack or defense. Ranking up on the online leaderboard has never felt so satisfying like in Starcraft II. RTS fans probably already have this one as I’m a bit late to the game on picking it up. Others, if you have even a slight interest in RTS, make this your go to game.
#3 Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Survival horror games are hard to come by as the best of them either turned away from what made them great (I’m looking at you Silent Hill) or took the Aliens route and added a ton of action to really pull the sense of high tension out of the game (Resident Evil, Dead Space). While the action style horror games were fun and all and I like ‘em, I miss the tension, fear drenched games they used to be (read: Silent Hill 2). I had all but given up on this genre thinking that nothing would ever be able to pull of true survival horror again. I was wrong, oh so very wrong. Amnesia: The Dark Descent will scare the living crap out of you, and not through jump scares. It knows how to get under your skin and really disturb the player. I have never had a game where my heart rate was at an all time high and my fingers were shaking to the point where I was making the wrong keystrokes and mouse movements, and I have a high tolerance for that kind of stuff. If you want a good scare or just want to play a wonderfully crafted game do not miss this one. And if you act quickly, you can get it for as little as $0.01, no lie (but you’ll contribute more, right :) ). It’s included in the insanely awesome Humble Indie Bundle with 4 other must play games, which expires in one week, so get on it. You have no excuse not to give this one a shot. I promise you will be scared.
Don’t let the cute retro graphical aesthetic style throw you off, FEZ is one hardcore game that has tweaked my mental capabilities unlike no other game has ever before. On the surface it is a nice little side-scrolling platform game with a nice trick where you can rotate a 4 sided horizontal plane around a cube to change the perspective and where you can run and jump to. If the game was just this I would have still loved it, but it goes deeper, much, much, deeper. You need to find pieces of a large cube, some of this pieces are quite easy to find, others, no so. Figuring out the puzzles on how to find these cubes will transcend what you know about video games and have you doing things with your game that you would have never imagined. Make sure you have a pen and paper with you as well as the smartest parts of your brain and a whole lot of patience. Every second you put into this stroke of genius will be well rewarded and you will be a better person for it. FEZ is a prime example as to why I am so enamored with the indie game scene right now. Could this be the future of gaming, I could only hope, but probably not. It is nice to know that it exists and be able to play it and know many others are enjoying it too. Keep in mind, by the time you finally reach the end (or close to, no one has solved the final puzzle yet) you may be questioning reality.
#1 Dark Souls
If you ever found yourself thinking that games today don’t quite match up to the challenges they presented in the yesteryears, well I think you may now have your new god. Dark Souls tagline “Prepare to Die” sums up this game perfectly. You’re going to die, and a lot, and you will dive right back in for more punishment. This action RPG doesn’t hold back from baring its teeth and letting you know it’s boss. It’s up to you to grab the game by the horns and make it your bitch. And that ain’t easy. Luckily while the game is tough as nails, it’s never unfair (depending on how you look at it :) ). You need to invest time into Dark Souls and learn it’s in and outs and once you get a nice grasp on the deep combat system and armor/weapon system you will become a force to be reckoned with, just don’t let your guard down for a second. Looking to get a ton of great game for your buck, don’t pass this gem up. (on a side note, I love that tune in the trailer)