2012 wasn't really a bad year for local hardcore and metal music, but there seemed to be more noteworthy demos circulating around than official releases.
Now, I understand that the distinction between a demo and an official release is really just a matter of using the word "demo" to describe the release, and that some people do limited runs of demos with most of the common packaging of an official release, but reviewing a demo is problematic because it is an implied work in progress, a musical rough draft. All the releases in this list are, at least in terms of their branding, final products. I can praise and criticize them without anyone giving me the excuse that they are just demos.
You can also find some of them at local record stores like Revolver and Eastside, and buy the ones you can't find there directly from the labels who put them out.
With that, I give to you my picks for the top 5 best local (non-demo) heavy music releases of 2012.
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Gay Kiss, Fault (Anxiety Machine Records)
It's probably really tacky to include a record that hasn't been released on a best-of list, but Fault by Gay Kiss is already exceptional in so many other ways.
Weird without being "mysterious guy hardcore", ignorant without being jock, emotional without being emo, this is one of the best hardcore releases of the year, local or otherwise. Listen now, and buy it for yourself or an interested friend when it drops on Friday, December 21.
Lusitania, Third Cassette (Holy Page Records)
This tape by Lusitania comes off like a mix of Transilvanian Hunger era Darkthrone and Deathcrush era Mayhem except even more low budget and with a lot more punk influences (and a lot less corpse paint). I like how it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom but has more atmosphere than most big budget metal productions. It's black metal at its humble, but very ominous and presumably gnarled roots.
Rituals, S/T (Alerta Antifascista Records)
Rituals' self-titled album is probably the most mellow record on this list, being a 5-song LP that is 44 minutes long.
Absolutely heavy sludge metal punctuated by moody, almost post-rock interludes. Good luck having ears as well as a neck to headbang with after listening to "Takotsubo Cardiomyopoathy".
The Grand Miracle, Cassette 1 (Manu Forti)
The Grand Miracle is the solo project of Mitch James, the guitarist for two of the bands already listed. It's really interesting to see someone who is so recognized in the scene for one kind of musical role assert complete control over all aspects of a project like this. He's baring a lot of himself as songwriter on this record.
There are so many moments of outright clever musical and lyrical composition on the tape that it may be hard to believe that it was all written and recorded by one person. However, Mitch seems to take his own mockingly delivered advice from the song "Starstruck": "don't ever depend on anyone else" and comes out all the better for it.
Sorrower/Violence of Humanity Split 7" (Orca Wolf Records)
Locals Sorrower play some pretty solid death-grind on this record. It's definitely in the vein of Napalm Death and Carcass with a lot more pig-squeal vocals.
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The alternating vocalists provide a nice dynamic to the songs and the tempo never slows down too much. The side of this record that features Portland's Violence of Humanity is also appropriately brutal, throwing some doomy breakdowns into what is otherwise a really fast record.