It’s the end of another year, and that means it’s time to reveal Gibson.com’s list of the finest albums of 2012. From Jack White’s Blunderbuss to Testament’s Dark Roots of the Earth, we’re counting down our favorite albums of this year (in alphabetical order by artist) in the rock, alternative and metal world. Of course, a ton of great releases dropped that didn’t fit on the list, so give us your picks below. Happy 2013!
Deftones, Koi No Yokan
Deftones made a triumphant return this year with Koi No Yokan, a collection of alternative metal tunes that blend Chino Moreno’s soaring vocals with dramatic dynamics, grating instrumental harmonies and an all-over experimental sound. Deftones have always carried their own voice with their metal tunes, and Koi No Yokan is an extension of that creativity.
Halestorm, The Strange Case Of…
Female-fronted hard rockers Halestorm meant business on their sophomore album, The Strange Case Of…, delivering a meaty blend of hard rock anthems and aggressing riffing that shows girls can rock with the big boys. With frontwoman Lzzy Hale’s gritty vocals out front, The Strange Case Of… took a band that was already big in the underground world every further, and it scored a top rock hit for the band in “I Miss the Misery,” to boot.
Jack White, Blunderbuss
With the White Stripes finished, fans were more than ready when Jack White, at long last, released hit debut solo album, Blunderbuss, this spring. Out on White’s own Third Man Records label (in conjunction with Columbia), the album shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, leaving a distinct, guitar-driven punk-blues stamp on music history.
Mumford & Sons, Babel
We had to stick Mumford & Sons’ Babel into the mix for defying the odds. Nobody could have predicted this folk gem would not only enter the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 1, but also score the second highest debut of an album in any genre all year. Choc it up to the band’s bluegrass-inspired folk rock and No. 1 alternative hit “I Will Wait.”
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Americana
Americana is the album that marked Neil Young getting back together with his bellowed backing band, Crazy Horse, for a passionate delivery of amped up folk standards such as “This Land Is Your Land” and “Oh Susannah.” Americana arrived in June, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s first-ever studio double-LP, Psychedelic Pill, followed in October-- another swell set to crank to high volumes.
Regardless of what you think about modern rock these days, there’s no denying the influence of Florida rockers Shinedown. Fronted by soulful vocalist Brent Smith, Shinedown returned this year with the Amaryllis, an uplifting set featuring the band’s driving, hard rock attack and thick, post-grunge guitars. The album scored a No. 1 rock hit out the gate in “Bully,” and guitarist Zach Myers had this to say to Gibson.com regarding the track: “I think it was one of those things where we didn’t say, ‘Let’s write a song about bullying,’ but we’re proud of it, and we’re glad that it’s helping people. A lot of kids have been telling us that “Bully” is helping them deal with being bullied, and that means a lot.”
Slash, Apocalyptic Love
Slash’s sophomore solo studio album, Apocalyptic Love, is more than a solo album: It’s a metal oeuvre that brings together the unbeatable guitar skills of Slash with the towering tenor of Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy. Tracks such as “One Last Thrill” and “You’re A Lie” showcase Kennedy’s flexible range and, of course, Slash’s thick guitars.
Smashing Pumpkins, Oceania
We here at Gibson.com love it when a band with a history continues to push the envelope of creativity, and that’s just what we got with Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins’ latest release, Oceania. From the dreamy textures of “My Love is Winter” to the guitar splendor of “The Chimera,” Oceania is a cornucopia of trippy shoegazer, psychedelia and rock that definitely has our hearts.
Soundgarden, King Animal
Sure, Chris Cornell and the boys of Soundgarden have been back together for a while now, but it wasn’t until this year that they put out a proper studio album; their first since 1996’s Down on the Upside. It’s about time, right? King Animal is a whirlwind of psychedelic sounds, bringing together the band’s longstanding ‘70s metal roots with the grunge for which they’re known. The album marks a strong reunion-- the kind that almost makes you forget they’ve “Been Away Too Long.”
Testament, Dark Roots of the Earth
Thrash goliaths Testament unleashed their latest musical concoction this year, Dark Roots of the Earth, and brutal thrashers like “Last Stand for Independence” and “Rise Up” say it all, with the kind of fast-paced riffing and musical imagination one would expect from the legend. Dark Roots shows Testament are still in their glory days, and it’s great to see them churning out such consistently solid work at this point in their trajectory.