2012 Music Mini-Roundup

There were some great albums that came out in 2012, and I’d like to highlight a few of them. Is this RPG related? I’d say yes, because a lot of these albums are great atmospheric pieces, fit into common RPG themes, or are just plain nerdy as all get out. Of course this list isn’t exhaustive, and I’m sure there are a lot of other amazing albums that came out in 2012, but these are just a few I’d like to bring particular attention to.

Ahab – The Giant
Awhile back, I mentioned that what I’d heard of Ahab’s new album wasn’t that great. I WAS WRONG. The Giant is an absolutely amazing work, a concept album that revolves around Edgar Allan Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The Giant is just as haunting and mystical as Call of the Wretched Sea, but pushes in new and different directions of post-rock influences on the traditional funeral doom formula. If you like songs about the high seas, this album is a must have.

Monarch! – Omens
I’m still not entirely sure what to think of Omens. I enjoy it, a lot, but it remains a bit of a mystery to me. Monarch!’s latest album, Omens is one of the first that is not overtly nautically themed. Or at least that’s how it seems. Unlike the other albums I have by Monarch!, it doesn’t come with liner notes or lyrics, and given Eurogirl’s french accent and vocal style, is not particularly conducive to easy interpretation. Nonetheless, the songs on Omens feel more structured and purposeful than some more meandering previous efforts. Not that meandering is bad, it’s what Monarch! excels at. As much as I like it, I don’t know how well it would stack up against Mer Morte or Dead Men Tell No Tales for use during roleplay.

Burzum – Umskiptar
There have been many mixed responses to this album. The most negative was perhaps Pitchfork’s, which declared Burzum to be an irrelevant old fuddy-duddy who should just hang it up. One of my metal maven friends said “At least as good as Bellus, better than Fallen”. Well, I, for one, loved Fallen. I don’t know if I love Umskiptar, but do appreciate it. Every artist, I think, is entitled to self-indulgence, because if you’re not pleasing yourself, you’re not really creating art. This recitation of the Voluspa set to music (I’m hesitant to call Umskiptar metal; while it is unmistakably Burzum, calling the eclectic mix of folk, martial, and balladry ‘metal’ just doesn’t do it descriptive justice) is clearly something that Varg wanted to do because HE wanted to do it, not because he thought it would be cool, hip or particularly influential to play guitar with a lot of tremolo while reciting the names of around 20-odd random dwarves. If anything, Umskiptar is reflective of Varg’s love of mythology, which has recently taken him back in the direction of fantasy role playing. Varg has been working on his own fantasy RPG, and, based on his previous music and writings on mythology, love him or hate him, agree with him or disagree, it should be very interesting to see.

Towards Darkness – Barren
I don’t really know what to say about this, other than Barren is probably the most beautiful doom album of 2012. Fire up your PIP-Boy, grab a short wave radio and whatever provisions you can. Barren will take you through the end of the world. If you’re like me and like doom metal with a synth heavy rhythm section, you’ll love this album. If you hate hour long albums that only have 4 tracks, you’d probably want to avoid it.

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