Dan & Arno’s “Best Album Openers of 2012”

January 31, 2013 in Top Lists by blackwindmetal

This is always a fun list to make, even if no one cares other than the two of us. We love getting bowled over by smoking opening tracks, and 2012 was chock full of them. We obviously don’t include instrumental preludes in this list (before you start yelling “Nuh UH! That’s the SECOND track!”), just where the metal begins. Check out our favorites from 2012 below, in no particular order at all:

1. Threshold – “Ashes”, from the album March Of Progress

Dan: Threshold is just about the most accessible melodic prog metal band on the face of the earth, as well as being one of the most consistent (heck, even their longtime lead singer dying didn’t give them a moment’s pause), particularly where delivering smashing openers is concerned. “Ashes” is no exception, and this catchy and supremely well-crafted track underlines just how competent Damian Wilson and the whole Threshold crew are at what they do. We all miss Mac, but good golly does the band do good by him here.

2. Kamelot – “Sacrimony”, from the album Silverthorn

Arno: It seems silly now that we ever doubted Kamelot featuring Tommy Karevik would not result in the splendid effort Silverthorn turned out to be. Part of the initial sale of the new lineup was single “Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife)”, where those unaware of the vocal switch could easily mistake Karevik for the departed Khan. Yet Karevik brings his little touches to the enticing chorus, in which he trades lines with Amaranthe’s Elize Ryd. A blazing dream of an opener, the likes of which were not seen since that classic “Center Of The Universe”.

3. Sound Storm – “Back To Life”, from the album Immortalia

Arno: My personal favorite on this list: a ballsy, devilish overture complete with double-pick insanity and maniacal laughter. Fast, furious and ferocious, its snarling bite is pulled back for a firecracker chorus, setting the tone for what will be one of 2012’s most memorable surprises: the astounding Immortalia. Philippe D’Orange is a Doctor Frankenstein to remember and revere, and this monstrous creation one to worship.

4. Ascension – “Somewhere Back In Time”, from the album Far Beyond The Stars

Dan: As a disciple of “extreme power metal”, I’ve always well enjoyed Dragonforce, Cellador, and the like. But when Ascension showed up and blew those bands right out of my mind with this song, I knew it was a keeper, even if the rest of the album is a bit unbalanced. “Somewhere Back In Time” is a ridiculously fast, frenetic, and catchy blast from Scotland that any power metal listener is going to get into pretty quickly.

5. Dark Empire – “A Plague In The Throne Room”, from the album From Refuge To Ruin

Dan: Dark Empire is a complex and constantly evolving creature, and of all the songs that we’re featuring on this list, “A Plague In The Throne Room” is probably the most removed from the standard style of catchy power metal. All the same, this is a potent, snarling piece of darkened, thrashy power that makes you wonder why the genre has a fruity reputation. Like the rest of the album, this song is one to turn to when you’re looking for a meaty, complex, and utterly satisfying chunk of slamming metal.

6. Forcentury – “Seal Of The Sinner”, from the album Revelant

Arno: You know a song is going to be good when the very first vocal line immediately worms its way into your brain. Before we even hit the chorus, Forcentury deals out a handful of recognizable lines, and even breaks down for a spoken word that sounds like a political rally. Here is a band, that not unlike Iron Maiden, crafts long songs with a minimum of ideas and somehow never makes it sound boring. Indeed all of the accompanying album Revelant retains the bar set by “Seal Of The Sinner”, and as an introduction of the Danes’ style, it is impeccable.

7. Destination’s Calling – “Feel The Rain”, from the album End Of Time

Arno: Being new to this band, I did not succeed in (not even surgically) removing the chorus to this song out of my head for days. Despite its unusual structure and tempo, Destination’s Calling hypnotize, mesmerize, and invite you to slam the repeat button. Even though End Of Time lacks consistency, when it’s good, it’s very good and “Feel The Rain” makes us yearn for whatever these talented Germans are going to conjure up next. For now: repeat, repeat, repeat.

8. Paragon – “Iron Will”, from the album Force Of Destruction

Dan: So, I’m admittedly not the greatest fan of chugging (I mean that in a good way) German power metal, and Paragon has never particularly stuck out to me as anything other than a fairly solid, if sometimes creatively flagging, heavy/power group. HOWEVER, Force Of Destruction is what I would consider a rekindling of old flames. This is a great album with familiar-sounding tracks that have more fire and punch in them than they have for some years. “Iron Will” kicks off the album with high expectations, and by and large, the Krauts keep on delivering.

9. Stargate – “Save The World”, from the album Beyond Space And Time

Dan: Another standout surprise on this list. I don’t think any of us had heard of Stargate, or even comprehended the fact that a prog/power monster lay lurking in the bowels of Italy’s scene.  “Save The World” is a clock in the face for those who believe that equal prog/power fusion doesn’t work, and that Pathfinder’s album of almost the same name is in fact the only one worth hearing.

10. Nightmare – “Sunrise In Hell”, from the album The Burden Of God

Arno: Not a band known for its gripping openers, to my astonishment Nightmare delivered a melodic monolith in “Sunrise In Hell” to kick off their most accessible and catchy record in at least my personal memory. The chorus here is golden as the dawn over the underworld, with Joe Amore’s unmistakable rasp milking the melodies to perfection. The Burden Of God yields manifold pleasures, but “Sunrise In Hell” will always be the first.