Editor Ken’s Top 10 of 2012

Highwire Daze Online selects RIITIIR by Enslaved as the Best Album of 2012

Completing this year’s Top 10 list for both the full-lengths and EP’s was more difficult than ever. With Highwire Daze continuing to be web-based only, we’ve been covering an even greater number of bands from all genres. This year, I could have easily made a Top 20, as there were so many tremendous albums that were surprisingly cut from the list that had been included for a good part of the year.

Some interesting tidbits about this compilation…

Both the Highwire Daze Album and EP of the Year are from the country of Norway – namely Enslaved and Havnatt. One band member has a project on both the Album and EP list – Orion Stephens – In Dying Arms and guest vocalist in For Fear Itself. And there is everything from folk, classic rock, post hardcore to extreme metal represented, showing yet again what a twisted musical enigma Highwire Daze has been and continues to be.

This year, legendary collective such as Heart and Asia unleashed fantastic new albums appealing to both older fans and a whole new generation of converts. Enslaved managed to top themselves yet again with the magnificent RIITIIR. New bands such as The Seeking and Crown The Empire delivered the goods as well, showing that there is a whole lot of creativity and passion in the younger collectives.  And the EP list reads like a gigantic promise for the brave future of local and international music.

Here is a sample of what Editor Ken at Highwire Daze has been overplaying this year. If you only like one style of music, these lists will definitely be puzzling and obscure. So here they are, the Top 10 CD’s and EP’s of 2012, from the mind of someone who may just listen to WAAAYYY too much music.  In alphabetical order by the way.  Read on…

The Top Ten Full Length CD’s of 2012

XXX by Asia (Frontiers Records)
XXX marks 30 massive years since the release of Asia’s first landmark album, which featured the breakout hits Heat Of The Moment and Only Time Will Tell. And with the passage of time, Asia continues to bring heat and passion into their sonic artistry. Whether it’s the powerful Tomorrow The World or the melancholic Bury Me In Willow, Asia has recorded a timeless collection of songs that truly celebrate their status as one of the most respected and revered bands on the planet. (Info: http://originalasia.com/)

The Fallout by Crown The Empire (Rise Records)
Rise Records has certainly been successful in discovering the very best of new and heavy music from around the world. Crown The Empire from Dallas, Texas is definitely the best Rise release of the year, a wildly ambitious post hardcore journey that will leave the listener reeling. From the melodramatic strains of Oh Catastrophe on, The Fallout presents a relentless metallic intensity and driving choruses that will spin maniacally in your head for ages. Crown The Empire’s music has an imagination and a sense of intrigue that is exciting to behold! (Info: http://www.facebook.com/Crowntheempire)

**HIGHWIRE DAZE ALBUM OF THE YEAR**
RIITIIR by Enslaved (Nuclear Blast Records)
Over 20 years in existence, and Enslaved has released a monumental, career-defining album with the mighty RIITIIR. Progressive metal within its finest hour, this stunning 8-song adventure in sound shows this Norwegian collective at their most ambitious. Shimmering tracks such as the epic Roots Of The Mountain and the opener Thoughts Like Hammers are nothing short of mesmerizing. Closing magnum opus Forsaken demonstrates an already innovative band pushing the boundaries of extreme metal into the stratosphere. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/enslaved)

…And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil by Forgotten Tomb (Agonia Records)
Forgotten Tomb from Italy has mastered one of the most compelling and exquisite soundscapes to be heard on the world metal arena today. Depressive, extreme, yet subversively melodic, the tapestries found within the bleak confines of the Forgotten Tomb experience will surely stun and provoke all whom encounter its thrilling sonic reverberations. Love Me Like You Love The Death and Let’s Torture Each Other are grand and glorious metal anthems for the ages. If Joy Division and Darkthrone had a bastard child, its name would be Forgotten Tomb and it’s masterwork would be …And Don’t Deliver Is For Evil. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/Official.Forgotten.Tomb)

Fanatic by Heart (Legacy Recordings)
Fanatic is the 14th studio recording by the supremely legendary Heart. Known for their slamming hits such as Magic Man and Crazy On You, Heart circa 2012 can still deliver the pulsating goods with an all-out vengeance. Mashallah is a hard rocking delight showing lead vocalist Ann Wilson at her most fierce and spellbinding. Title cut Fanatic is a frenzied kick in the head that should be a monster hit single while Dear Old America is vibrant and impassioned. Fanatic is addictive to be sure! (Info: http://www.heart-music.com)

Rivals by Her Bright Skies (Panic & Attack Records)
Her Bright Skies present a smashing combination of pop punk and post hardcore, coming up with a wildly infectious sound that should win them a whole lot of ardent fans worldwide. Based in the small town of Jönköping, Sweden, Rivals is actually the third release for the band and they are clearly headed into the big leagues with this one. Rivals features 11 exciting tracks that will instantly send the listener blissfully soaring through the wondrous melodies and intensive vocals. Top-notch tracks include Lovekills, Up & Away, and the anthem-like Working Class Punx. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/HerBrightSkiesFanPage)

Boundaries by In Dying Arms (Artery Recordings)
Boundaries by In Dying Arms is their third full length, but first as a ranking member of Artery Recordings. Heavier than hell while presenting an absolutely chilling musical atmosphere, In Dying Arms possess a thoroughly imaginative sound. Second Best, The Core Of My Existence, and the ominous GOREgeous will surely be passionately embraced by extreme music fans everywhere. Featuring the work of charismatic vocalist Orion Stephens and lethally tight musicianship, In Dying Arms is a vibrant collective whose time for success has arrived. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/indyingarms)

Folding Leaves by Message To Bears (Dead Pilot Records)
Message To Bears is the ambient folk project of multi-instrumentalist Jerome Alexander. This London based musician released Folding Leaves through Dead Pilot Records, a blissfully gorgeous collection of tunes capable of transporting the listener into the most calming and serene of destinies. From the liftoff of the picturesque Everything Was Covered In Snow to the concluding reveries of Daylight Goodbye, Message To Bears presents the musical equivalence of a warm cozy blanket on the chilliest of nights. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/messagetobears)

Yours Forever by The Seeking (Razor & Tie Records)
Pop rock inflections combined with a dynamic sense of post hardcore intensity render Yours Forever by The Seeking the debut album of 2012. So Cold, Restless, Only A Moment, Alone – the should-be hits keeps on coming. This Sacramento-based band is destined to explode all over the charts if Yours Forever is indicative of great and wondrous things to come. For such a young collective, The Seeking has definitely mastered the fine art of a perfectly crafted rock song. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/theseeking)

Neverworld’s End by Xandria (Napalm Records)
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from the likes of the mighty Xandria, and the band now returns in a dramatic way with an album destined to become a symphonic metal classic. Xandria is sure to enchant fans of such noted entities as Nightwish and Epica. Sweeping compositions of sheer intensity include the thrilling opening cut A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall and their dynamic single Valentine. Manuela Kraller’s voice is absolutely breathtaking and the band remains as tight and resourceful as ever. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/xandriaofficial)

The Top Ten EP’s of 2012

Infinite by For Fear Itself (Swimming With Sharks Records)
While the average age of the band may be 16, For From Itself out of Baltimore, MD manage to devastate the senses with their exhilarating music. Performing with dedication and conviction, their debut Infinite mixes in heavy breakdowns, metallic guitars, and atmosphere synth work, demonstrating a good deal of imagination and flair. One of their songs Act Of Desperation features a guest appearance by none other than Orion Stephens of In Dying Arms. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/forfearitself)

**HIGHWIRE DAZE EP OF THE YEAR**
Havdøgn by Havnatt (Secret Quarters Records)
Havnatt is a Norwegian duo writing, performing and recording dark folk music inspired by the poems of author Tormod Skagestad. Originally a privately commissioned work, Havdøgn has been released worldwide through Secret Quarters Records. Tom Simonsen plays the ominous yet striking guitar work while Cecilie Langlie’s tranquil vocals supply a sense of mystique and melancholia to the proceedings. An absolutely gorgeous effort showing that acoustic music can indeed be extraordinary and adventurous in scope. The Havnatt duo is also involved in other much heavier metal entities such as Omit and Vagrant God – all well worth seeking out. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/havnatt)

Nothing You Didn’t Deserve by Heartist (Roadrunner Records)
Based out of the legendary Los Angeles music scene, Heartist is a young band whose career is just beginning to take flight. Recently signed to Roadrunner Records, Heartist has unleashed a thunderous debut EP entitled Nothing You Didn’t Deserve. Songs such as Disconnected and the thrilling title track hit a home run with their infectious choruses mixed with some pretty brutal breakdowns. The EP serves as a tremendous introduction, with blistering songs that absolutely soar into the stratosphere. It will be exciting to see what the New Year has in store for this City Of Angels based collective. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/HeartistBand)

The Ravenous by I, Omega (Bullet Tooth Records)
I, Omega is a progressive metal quintet from the Los Angeles area musical sense of adventure compare. Within the confines of 5 songs, the collective overpowers the listener with the skilled musicianship and super intensive melodies. East Coast based label Bullet Tooth has looked to the West, signing a band whose musical ambition knows no bounds. With an EP this over-the-top promising, one could only look forward to an I, Omega full length with the greatest of anticipation. Way cool cover art too! (Info: http://www.facebook.com/Iomegaband)

Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity by My Heart To Fear (Solid State Records)
From the label that unleashed acts such as Underoath and August Burns Red onto the world metal arena arrives My Heart To Fear from Williamsport, PA. Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity is staggering in scope, featuring such persuasive songs as Blood Money and Life Under The Stairs. Follow the lyrics for maximum impact and prepare for an emotional wallop. So much passion and conviction to be found within 5 songs! A commanding introduction to a band we’ll be hearing a lot from in 2013! (Info: http://www.facebook.com/myhearttofear)

I’m Not Dying Today by Palisades (Rise Records)
Rise Records has once again discovered a new band destined to slam into the big leagues. I’m Not Dying Today by Palisades from New Jersey is an all-out triumph, containing five tracks that will make you want to take on the world. There is a profound sense of urgency to be found within songs such as Disclosure and Seamless Ending. A lively work of sonic integrity that genre fans will endlessly spin time and again, Im Not Dying Today is a significant post hardcore effort that signifies even greater glories ahead! (Info: http://www.facebook.com/WeArePalisades)

Time’s Running Out by The Relapse Symphony (Standby Records)
The infamous Sunset Strip is back with an all out vengeance, thanks to the glorious songs found within Time’s Running Out by The Relapse Symphony. The odd band out in the DC music scene, the five rockin’ anthems on their Standby Records debut are sure to enrapture pop rocking enthusiasts everywhere. Infectious beyond belief, these songs will be spinning within your feverish brain long after the disc spins to its dizzying conclusion. A guilty pleasure perhaps, but one you’ll want to revisit time and again. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/TheRelapseSymphony)

In, And Of Myself by Restless Streets (InVogue Records)
Showing that conviction and perseverance are destined to pay off, Restless Streets from Albany, New York recently found themselves signed to the InVogue Records. Unleashing a wondrously impassioned brand of metalcore with enthusiasm and precision, Restless Streets is bound to secure fans on hard rocking avenues and metallic highways throughout the world. In, And Of Myself contains such exciting tracks as the spiraling Iwantyouhome and the supremely brutal (yet deceptively titled) At The Ballet. An explosive EP that should garner the band a good deal of attention. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/RESTLESSSTREETS)

Wasteland by Sirens & Sailors (Tragic Hero Records)
Tragic Hero Records continues their winning streak on band signings with Sirens & Sailors from Rochester, NY. Wasteland is a massively heavy collection of metalcore and thrash that will stun the senses. Tunes such as You And Die and I’ve Got A Masters Degree Is Common Sense are highlights within the sailing ship of sonic artillery. Relentlessly intensive and near mesmerizing, Wasteland packs in 6 devastating tracks that will leave the listener breathless.

Here Are The Answers by Treebeard (We Are Triumphant)
Fans of Circa Survive and Dredg are sure to rejoice when encountering the soaring reveries of Treebeard. In an age where metalcore and pop-punk appears to be all the rage, Treebeard from the Columbia/Kansas City, MO area has unleashed compositions so powerful and intricate, music aficionados of all genres are sure to stand up and take notice. Pure sonic artistry from a band not afraid to be imaginative and take musical risks, expect to hear nothing short of an epic when Treebeard present their full-length some time next year. (Info: http://www.facebook.com/treebeard)

And thus concludes Editor Ken’s wild ride through the dirty musical highways of 2012! See you all on the web and at the shows in 2013!

(Compilation by Kenneth Morton)

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