There is one good thing about the end of the year. Christmas is around the corner, and while surrounded by good friends and family, it lifts my spirits and allows me to completely clear myself of inner self-conflict. With it, completely look over the year's music with a fresh state of mind.
I will say, that in spite of my completely pessimistic views of music of 2012 over the course of the year, I've discovered that even in a weak year, that some albums have grown on me, and the best of 2012 will surprise a lot of people, considering how much I trashed certain 2012 albums. Basically, if you've read the 2012 Brief Reviews page, it's best to forget everything I wrote, and use this as my actual opinions for 2012 albums,
because this is a true reflection of this year's music.
That said, without further adue...
2012 In Review
2012 was a hodgepodge of releases but with few expectations. I took this year off from detailed reviews, knowing that the majority of the most anticipated albums had come out the year before, and that 2012 was basically a 'leftovers/delayed to 2012' kind of deal...But a few bands I didn't take real seriously caught me off guard this time around, and my Top picks will look very different compared to previous years, though the themes remain the same.
The biggest difficulty was having to choose. One band has to win Album of the Year.
But unlike previous years, there was nobody in the 2012 field that outright stood out and delivered a spectacular album. Like with 2011, every album had flaws or fillers of some kind. With that said, I stuck with the song types I'm biased for. And for that reason...
The Album of the Year
Xandria "Neverworld's End"
I never ever could get into Xandria.
Their music always felt sub-par and lacking something. Now they have an almost completely new line-up, including a new singer, and wrote what could be considered a lost Tarja-era Nightwish
album. I love Nightwish
, that's no secret, and there've been a lot of bands who have tried to copy Nightwish
over the years, but with little success. That said, 'Neverworld's End' is a heavier, more bombastic, guitar-driven-style of symphonic metal album. And, in spite of it's imitation label, 'Neverworld's End' is a vast improvement over anything Xandria
has written in the past, and would give their predecessor a run for their money. For anyone who has yearned for the return of Tarja-era Nightwish
, consider jumping onto the Xandria
bandwagon; they've set themselves up to become a force in the coming years. Congrats to Xandria 'Neverworld's End'
, my Album of the Year.
2.) Amberian Dawn "Circus Black"
I was just thinking if this group read my review of their previous album 'End of Eden?' I criticized the group for overexperimenting in the neoclassical genre and not exploring commercial opportunities as they once did with 'Clouds of the Northland Thunder.' ....problem solved. The band found a perfect balance of neoclassical, power metal, and commercial aspects of both with 'Circus Black,' making it their best album to-date.
3.) Delain "We Are the Others"
Surprised? So was I. The new Delain
, with little resemblance musically to the epically amazing 'April Rain' album, got the Within Temptation
treatment; Instant hatred, followed by a year-long shelving....And then, that damn 'grower album' label kicked in... (which always seems to ruin my year-end review and causes me to rewrite my opinion for the music.) Upon a fresh new start, yea, they didn't stick to the winning formula that worked so well with 'April Rain.' But further listens revealed that this was a guitar-driven version of 'Lucidity,' but with the chorus hooks that made 'April Rain' so great. I don't know why I didn't noticed this the first few times. I should note that I still miss the vocal harmonies and keyboard-driven hooks of 'April Rain,'
so it got a few deductions for this, but it's long forgotten everytime I crank the excellent title track and the monstrous 'Get the Devil Out of Me.' I could see this album climb higher in ranking when the 5-year Retrospect rolls around.
4.) Issa "Can't Stop
Seems to be the year where bands/artists who did things wrong in previous albums go on to address the issues....In the case of Issa
, the question was, could she be a serious AOR/Melodic Rock singer? She was too girly/power-poppy on 'The Storm.' ....It took an album full of obscure AOR covers, but Issa's
voice has grown up. She sings with the power and the passion that would make Robin Beck
proud. 'Can't Stop' is one of the best covers albums I've heard since Lana Lane's 'Covers Collection.'
5.) Halestorm "The Strange Case Of"
At one point, a front-runner for Album of the Year, Halestorm
has taken quite a fall since the beginning of the year. It's difficult to look back and rate this album any higher for a few reasons: The power-pop ballads required by the record label (Beautiful With You, In My Room,) the excessive unnecessary swearing, and the lyrically cheesy 'Private Parts' really brought this down. Heck, I wasn't too sure to keep this in the Top 5....However, Halestorm
does get the benefit of the doubt, not only because it was a weak year, but anthems like 'Love Bites' and 'Rock Show' as well as the powerful ballad 'Break In,' allowed it to tread water. Plus, unlike a lot of US female rock bands, Halestorm
continues to be the hardest rocking of them all; Halestorm
is still the best my US of A has to offer outside of Evanescence.
Best New Band -- Synful Ira
When you have 'Former Evanescence
tribute band under your Resume, one can only expect great things. Their debut, 'Between Hope and Fear,' is a little bit unpolished as far as songwriting goes, but shows a lot of promise.
Best Songs of 2012
It was easy to pick the Song of the Year.
There just wasn't a lot of standout tracks at all. And this one was the only one to make my 'Best of iPod road mix.'
'Get the Devil Out of Me' -- Delain
Very rarely do I pick a song when the verse hook outperforms the chorus hook, but this one's monstrous, and even with my early hatred for the album, 'Get the Devil Out of Me' was an instant love. It speaks for itself. Heavy 'The Gathering' -esk guitars, and a HUGE verse hook that compliments the guitars that sticks on the first listen. A few extra vocal harmonies would've made this better, but it flatout rocks! Congrats to Delain
for landing the 'Song of the Year.'
Best Songs By Album
(Some albums are excluded as I focus on the absolute best.)
My #2 for Song of the Year. Heavy, fast-paced Skid Row
-esk rock anthem that represents Lzzy Hale at her absolute best vocal ability.
-- Amberian Dawn
With the Finnish gothic/symphonic scene all but in limbo, Amberian Dawn
has taken a foothold of the second best Finnish group behind the mighty Nightwish.
They only get better as they get less experimental with their neoclassical tendencies. This duet with Timo Koltipelto shows their potential and what they could become.
'We Are the Others'
A solid #2 behind the monstrous 'Get the Devil Out of Me.'
'A Prophecy of Worlds to Fail'
Nothing like starting an album with an epic-length song that says 'we're gonna be a force in the coming years.' Fantastic song.
-- Dawn of Destiny
A group that always delivers one great commercial track, and one spectacular Savatage
-esk mini-epic. This is the commercial track.
The opening track of her covers album demonstrates perfectly how her voice has matured over the previous album.
'Trip the Darkness'
-- Lacuna Coil
Still relying completely on the duel vocals of Andrea and Cristina, Lacuna Coil
have once again put together 2 or 3 songs that stand above the rest of their filler. The opening track is the best of the bunch.
-- The Murder of My Sweet
They've tripped up a bit, but this song represents tMomS
at their very best.
Crimson Flower -- Amberian Dawn
I Share With You This Dream -- Amberian Dawn
Praying to the World -- Dawn of Destiny
Electricity -- Delain
Milk and Honey -- Delain
Freak Like Me -- Halestorm
Break In -- Halestorm (and my pick for 'Best Ballad')
Rock Show -- Halestorm
Whereever You Run -- Issa
Dream On -- Issa
These Eyes -- Issa
Give Me Something More -- Lacuna Coil
Fallen -- The Murder of My Sweet
I Dare You -- The Murder of My Sweet
Meant to Last Forever -- The Murder of My Sweet
Kind of Lousy -- The Murder of My Sweet
Valentine -- Xandria
The Dream Is Still Alive -- Xandria
Angel With Horns-- Shadowside
Habitchual -- Shadowside
Disappointment of the Year
But as fresh as the Top 5 looks, this was the result of a lot of disappointing albums. I would've had a much more difficult time picking the most disappointing 2012 album, had not one band bailed them all out with a putrid epic fail. But in case you don't already know, it is....
In This Moment "Blood"
It's a no-contest. They absolutely suck now. It's apparent they don't want to be a serious force in the US music scene. Everything In This Moment
did that made 'The Dream'
so spectacular has been completely abandoned. They're an experminental screamo band now. And the few clean tracks are wasted by dull and unadvised experimentation. I wouldn't be mentioning this group at all if they had started as a screamo band and never changed. But knowing what In This Moment
once were, what they could be, and what they've chosen to be, the World must know it was the wrong choice. This is the biggest waste of noise I've ever reviewed in the 10 years I've been doing female rock reviews. And if this is their permanent direction from now on, I have no plans to mention them ever again.
Where Other Bands Need To Improve
As mentioned, I listened to many albums that disappointed me, and In This Moment
bailed them out. But I would like to take this section and mention where some other bands need to improve.
-- Although I'm happy she chose not to retire, her screetch has lost it's power over time. Overall, I liked 'Raise Your Fist' more than the previous album, but I keep hoping she'll experiment more with her clean vocals on the rockers as she does with the ballads.
-- Is it really so difficult to flex a commercial/mainstream mussle? Edenbridge
did so without compromising their style or fanbase. Nightwish
has made a career of it. I just think they won't evolve much more until they cave in and write that one single that puts Epica
on the map. Doesn't have to be a rocker. Could be a ballad. Doesn't matter. Just write a fugging hit single!
-- Love that she's forgotten the 'Wicked Wonderland' past. But, there's a lot more competition in the female rock world then when she was growing up...average just isn't good enough.
-- I've given up saying she needs to write more rockers. At this point, I expect a cluster of slow songs. But auto-tune?
Sure, it was only a couple tracks, but please don't ever use auto-tune ever again.
The Murder of My Sweet
-- They actually wrote an excellent follow-up. But I was disappointed about the vocal recordings. It sounded like Angelica Rylin was singing through her nostrils for most of the album. An easy fix.
-- I liked them for their perfect mix of power metal and modern heavy metal on the previous album. But now they're all modern-tinged heavy metal and with few chorus hooks. Plus, refer to the 'nostril effect' on TMomS.
-- My first introduction of the band is mixed. The music is a modern/heavy via Six Magics,
but saved by tremendous chorus hooks. If the rest of their music structure could catch up with the chorus hooks Shadowside
could become a sleeper Top 5 pick in the future.
-- When they released an album cover reminiscent of 'Crucify My Heart,' I expected 'Crucify My Heart' quality. The vocals and choruses lacked the punch of said album. Rediscover the attitude and the chorus hook, and they'll be a welcome return to the music scene.
Dawn of Destiny
-- The band has completely changed over with exception of its founder. And yet, they still suffer from identity crisis. They want to be a little bit of everything, rather than focus on what they do best. I don't understand why they can't stick to the best of their formula (the heavy double-bassing intro track, the commercial sound ala 'Miracles,' and the Savatage
-esk epics via the title track.) If they did more of these, they'd be great.
The US Female Rock Scene In General.
-- I think I called them out in the past, but they don't listen....Here's a refresher course.... What do they lack? Powerful singers.
I'm calling out Fireflight, Flyleaf, Paramore, Icon For Hire,
and any other fake power-poppers I haven't mentioned. You don't have powerful singers, but very girly ones. Take a good listen to Evanescence, Halestorm,
and We Are the Fallen.
Get singers like Amy Lee, Lzzy Hale, or Carly Smithson, and maybe your music will be mentioned here.
To finish this post, here was the field for 2012:
Amberian Dawn "Circus Black"
Chasing Violets "Outside Heaven"
Dante Fox "Lost Man's Ground"
Dawn of Destiny "Praying To the World"
Delain "We Are the Others"
Doro "Raise Your Fists"
Epica "Requiem for the Indifferent"
Flyleaf "New Horizon" (Not Reviewed)
Lita Ford "Livin' Like a Runaway" (Not Reviewed)
Halestorm "The Strange Case Of"
In This Moment "Blood"
Issa "Can't Stop"
Kobra and the Lotus "S/T" (Not Reviewed)
Lacuna Coil "Dark Adrenaline"
Lana Lane "El Dorado Hotel"
Lullacry "Where Angels Fear"
Nightwish "Imaginaerum Soundtrack: The Score" (Not Reviewed)
Six Magics "Falling Angels"
Synful Ira "Between Hope and Fear"
Tarja "Act One" DVD/Blu-Ray (Not Reviewed)
To-Mera "Exile" (Not Reviewed)
Xandria "Neverworld's End"
Next up: the 2013 in Preview
. This list is extremely short in comparison.
(Forgive me for not doing a 2007 Retrospect. It was a huge year for both gothic/symphonic as well as melodic rock in the world of Female Rock. And after this overview, I ran out of gas.)