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End of year report 2012 Part 2: Top 5 demos and 5 splits of the year

Swiftly moving on from yesterday’s EPs of the year to a double list with Top Five Demos and Five Splits of 2012. This was a year that saw more and more in the metal and hardcore underground release cassette demos and in fact, four of the five demos here were on double reel. Meanwhile, the split releases brought together some perfectly complementary bands. Enough chatter, here are the lists.

Top Five Demos of 2012
05: Jungbluth – S/T tape
While Alpinist sleeps, members have branched out with two new bands cropping up – Schrapnell and Jungbluth. Both released tapes in the last few months but it’s the latter that’s really caught some people’s attention. Not too far away from Alpinist stylistically, there’s a huge emotional depth to be felt with these short, energetic tunes and the explicitly political subject matter makes it all the more urgent and vehement.
04: Tome – Demo MMXII
Tome are one of the new crop of sludgy doom bands cropping up from around the country, along with Nomadic Rituals and Weed Priest to name a couple. It’s all been solid stuff released by each band but Tome definitely impressed the most with this demo cassette. Slow and dirt is the dish of choice with Tome’s two offerings of sludged-out doom that channels the spirits of Electric Wizard and Sleep into a grimy barrage of their own.
03: Bloom – S/T Demo
And they’ve broken up… Bloom were very much short lived unfortunately, releasing just this demo tape very early on in the year. It’s down-tempo hardcore with heavy doom-laden passages, sort of reminiscent of Trenches and In The Hearts of Emperors, and all soaked in melancholy. The band really felt like they had buckets of potential and the demo, while hugely impressive, didn’t have the best production job, leaving us all wondering just what they could have done had they expanded on this. It’s a shame that we won’t hear more.
02: Sodb – Don Seantalamh a Chuid Féin
Sodb’s demo Don Seantalamh a Chuid Féin has been rightfully making waves. Unfortunately it took a while to surface after their first couple of gigs in early 2011 but finally, the tape landed earlier this year and the wait is surely worth it. The band’s ritualistic black metal is expansive and enthralling, feeling like it yearns to shatter through the confines of the cassette’s running time. This is a band with something special brewing.
01: Kólga – Demo CDr
Released by The Flenser, who are responsible for many an interesting and evocative black metal release this year, Kólga is one of the newest projects from Austin Lunn (better known as Panopticon). With members of his other band Seidr in tow, Kólga released this captivating atmospheric BM CDr early in the year. While taking some obvious notes from Panopticon, Kólga toys with even more ambient washes and misty clean vocals from Lunn. For a demo, this is rather expansive at just under half an hour. The overall aesthetic of Kólga is that of hazy atmospherics, felt heavily in each of the three tracks, with sporadic razor edged riffs piercing through the din, like those on ‘Sky Wheel’. The demo is suitably lo-fi in its production but still heavily layered and does beg the question at times if Kólga would benefit from a (marginally) cleaner production job. Either way, this demo is more than impressive. It lays down a formidable gauntlet for the impending album.

Top Five Splits of 2012
05: Northless / Light Bearer
Northless’s Clandestine Abuse is a solid album from the Wisconsin sludge band and truly the beginning of them finding their feet with an interesting sound. That sound was built upon this year by this very split with Light Bearer and the Valley of Lead EP. However, they are dwarfed by Light Bearer. You might remember that they released the album of the year in 2011. Their offering here is the 21 minute piece ‘Celestium Apocrypha: Book of Watchers’, an enchanting and beautifully uplifting piece that expands on so  many ideas that were so vibrant on Lapsus. New albums from both bands should be something special.
04: Barghest / False
Both Barghest and False released impressive records of odious black metal last year on Gilead Media. So, it makes sense that forces would align for this split release between the two. Barghest, who include members of Thou, churn out two slabs of bilious misanthropy, first song of the two ‘Shifting Sands’ being a particular highlight with the band fraternising with a little melody. Meanwhile, False serve up the 17 minute ‘Heavy As A Church Tower’, which is a more than pertinent song title given the track’s crushing riffing.
03: Cloud Rat / Republic of Dreams
Cloud Rat and Republic of Dreams’ split LP is another natural pairing. The former have always tinged their grindcore with a breath of ‘90s screamo, and worked it to wondrous effect. Meanwhile, the latter is rich with unabashed screamo melees one after the other, with very vague grind flourishes to pick up on. Both sides are their own respective beast, and while Republic of Dreams’ 10 dissonant minutes are unrelenting, it’s Cloud Rat that definitely come out on top, also with a searing 10 minute barrage making up their side, which will segue nicely into their next LP, Moksha, coming in February.
02: Thou / Hell – Resurrection Bay
The second Gilead Media released split on this list. The Resurrection Bay 7” brought together two very aesthetically similar bands in Louisiana’s finest of sludge doom, Thou and the Oregon one-man endeavour Hell. With just one track each, both bands effortlessly unfurl two wretched tales with the deafening trudge of Thou’s ‘Ordinary People’ and the eerie ‘Sheol’ from Hell, who subsequently released the misery-laden Hell III. Thou, who are typically prolific (at times, to inhuman levels) have still yet to shine some light on the supposed new LP Heathen. Fingers crossed for a 2013 release.
01: Wheels Within Wheels / Merkaba
So yes, this list is also topped by a Flenser release. The split cassette that brings together Wheels Within Wheels and Merkaba is another near-perfect combination. Both bands have their own sonic purpose within the realms of black metal but, at the same time, both 20 minute offerings are their own entity while still being totally complementary. WWW’s ‘Your Body, Your Blood’ firsts opens with slow trudging riffs in the vein of Year of No Light only to descend into miasmic noise, where indecipherable shrieks begin to penetrate the wall of discordance joined soon by some monolithic  riffing. Merkaba on the other hand use a reverse formula, kicking in straight away with devastating lo-fi BM blasting that soon ebbs and flows between melody and discordance, coming to a beautifully bleak ambient close. Superb – both sides.

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