2012, not only the year of the predicted doomsday but also NUCLEAR BLAST’s 25th anniversary year, was rung in by the good news of more gold awards for NIGHTWISH’s opus “Imaginaerum” – Germany, Switzerland and Slovakia invested the monumental record with its well-deserved noble metal plating.
As the first release of 2012, legendary US hardcore combo BIOHAZARD revealed its long-awaited first studio album in the original line up for about two and a half decades on the 20th of January and won high praise by the international music press for the musical steam hammer entitled “Reborn In Defiance”. The same can be said about the Finnish newcomer sextet BATTLE BEAST: After their glorious victory at the W:O:A Metal Battle in 2010, the heavy metal youngsters came up trumps with a true-bred steel record in finest NWoBHM manner, which got them into an optimal starting position for their upcoming European tour as support of their label mates NIGHTWISH.
February was started off by Swiss new wave of folk metal giants ELUVEITE with their new album “Helvetios”. A flawless record that justifiably sent the international press into rapture and united all of the octet’s style-defining elements in the form of 17 incomparably energetic and emotionally charged folk anthems under one umbrella. Moreover, on the same day, namely on the 10th of February, the Tasmanian devils of PSYCROPTIC testified their breathtakingly grooving technical death metal might with their fifth studio album that strengthened the exceptional status of the brutal juggernaut from down under within the genre once again. “Surprisingly harsh” is also a good keyword for album number 21 – fittingly entitled “21” – of the traditionalistic trio RAGE. Band leader Peavy and his men created by far the hardest and most brutal album of their entire career, without denying their downright legendary sense of catchy choruses and long runner melodies at any point. A blockbuster through and through!
The second single “The Crow, The Owl And The Dove“, taken from NIGHTWISH’s masterpiece “Imaginaerum”, opened an almost summery March. Dutch symphonic metal icons EPICA followed up, whose “Requiem For The Indifferent” doubtlessly offered an unforgettable experience, as guitarist Mark Jansen had promised beforehand. In the middle of the month, the 8th part of the mother of all clip collections sent all lovers of metallic music videos into rapture – as a bulging 2DVD+BluRay package, “Monsters of Metal 8” offered about seven hours of the finest audiovisual food from every imaginable subgenre of metal. Compliant with the album title, Swedish tech-thrash originators MESHUGGAH served us with a true “Koloss” full of tricky high-end killer compositions. Shortly after that, dyed-in-the-wool traditional thrash metallers OVERKILL proclaimed the “Electric Age” and thereby energized the whole scene!
When Teutonic metal legends ACCEPT deliver a new work, the joy is empirically intense. It went sky high when it came to light in the beginning of April that last year’s album of the year and comeback masterpiece “Blood Of The Nations” got a coequal successor. The highly celebrated stroke of genius “Stalingrad” even exceeded its predecessor in some respects and secured itself the pole position for the title “album of the year 2012” in the blink of an eye! Iconic punk thrashers MUNICIPAL WASTE could confidently be sent to space…to be up to tremendously entertaining mischief there which they shared with us on their new output “The Fatal Feast (Waste In Space)”. At the same time, NIGHTWISH’s golden opus magnum “Imaginaerum” was released as a noble tour edition over the course of their current world tour. The eleventh studio album of Swedish dyed-in-the-wool death metallers UNLEASHED turned out a great deal darker – on “Odalheim”, a high-class post-apocalyptic image based on the Norse mythology was painted with the pitch-black paintbrush of doom. Shortly before the end of the month, the melodic death metal sector offered the first BEFORE THE DAWN album after the departure of Lars Eikind and Atte Palokangas. Even without the characteristic clean vocals of Lars, “Rise Of The Phoenix” was able to enthral critics across-the-board and to rake in rave reviews all about because of its hymnic and gloomy brutality!
The merry month of May didn’t only bring us the first summery days of 2012 but also let the sun shine from the speakers of our stereo systems with a Scandinavian triple pack release in a class of its own! The Finns of SONATA ARCTICA combined only the best of their early works’ catchiness with the experimental approaches of their younger releases, which resulted in their most eclectic work to date, entitled “Stones Grow Her Name”. Not more than a week later, the Swedes struck back with a spot-on double hit: On “Carolus Rex”, epic power metallers SABATON rekindled the Swedish Empire in a bombastic firework of hits and could rightfully be crowned as the true-born rulers of their genre at least since then. With less bombast but all the more traditional heavy metal riffing, GRAND MAGUS celebrated their highly acclaimed Nuclear Blast debut and gave proof of their impressive compositional skills on ”The Hunt” once more.
June turned out to be one hell of a hot month – not only meteorologically to the delight of the festival-goers, but also as far as the releases were concerned. Immediately at the beginning of the month, Swiss dyed-in-the-wool hard rockers GOTTHARD reported back with the first record after the tragic death of their former front man Steve Lee in 2010. On “Firebirth”, new singer Nic Maeder made his debut and the rockers returned to their musical roots, which brought them thunderous applause by both the press and the fans. On the same day, thrash legends KREATOR unleashed their “Phantom Antichrist” – truly a staggering album full of future classics! The Danes of MNEMIC gave us a hefty modern metal punch right between the eyes in the form of their “Mnemesis”, while Luca Turilli took his fans on a heavenly cinematic journey through the shimmering soundscapes of film score metal on the first record “Ascending To Infinity” of his new combo LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY that was founded in consequence of the split with RHAPSODY OF FIRE. The month was closed by a proper death metal steam hammer. Crawling from the depths of legendary US-based death metaller NILE’s catacombs, “At The Gate Of Sethu” sent each and every adherent of the extreme and morbid into rapture!
In mid-July, the promising British metalcore combo BURY TOMORROW made its brilliant debut on Nuclear Blast – “The Union Of Crowns” set new standards in the matter of mighty screams and breakdowns. Two weeks later, all lovers of thrash and death could celebrate a day of rejoicing: Canadian northern hyperblasters KATAKLYSM had a look back at the successful past two decades of their history in the form of the bulging 2-DVD+2-CD bundle “Iron Will – 20 Years Determined”. In the meantime, German alcoholic thrash metallers TANKARD once more debauched to boozy excesses through their 30-years-anniversary record “A Girl Called Cerveza”, while living legends TESTAMENT proved once and for all that the “Big 4” should actually be re-named to the “Big 5”, by releasing their new masterpiece “Dark Roots Of Earth” that justifiably was elected as “album of the month” in many magazines. Thus it didn’t take long until the public enthusiasm also found expression in the German album charts: a phenomenal #4 for TESTAMENT and a well-deserved #32 for TANKARD!
On their 8th studio album “Manala“ (“Underworld”) that was released in both a Finnish and an English version, Finnish folk metal pioneers KORPIKLAANI gave us an understanding of their country’s national epic “Kalevala“ and found such big enthusiasm with it that the record entered the German album charts on a sensational # 47 – the highest German chart position of the band’s entire career!
Metal Queen DORO Pesch offered a foretaste of her pending Nuclear Blast album debut “Raise Your Fist” in the form of the 4-track-EP “Raise Your Fist In The Air”, while Swiss “New Wave Of Folk Metal“ founding fathers (and mothers) ELUVEITIE celebrated their 10th band anniversary with the release of “The Early Years“ – a 2-CD-Digipak, including the completely re-recorded first EP “Vên” plus a re-mastered version of their debut album “Spirit”. As a birthday present, they later on entered rank 67 of the German album charts!
On the 24th of August, British progressive metal legends THRESHOLD spectacularly reported back after five years of silence. “March Of Progress” was voted “album of the month” umpteen times (by Rock Hard Germany, Rock It! and Guitar, among others), got maximum scores everywhere and was talked about as the “prog album of the year” in many cases.
Apart from these strong releases, news about two co-operations of historical significance for Nuclear Blast caused a stir: Nuclear Blast owner Markus Staiger had joined forces with former Roadrunner Records A&R chief Monte Conner in the formation of a new U.S. partnership – Nuclear Blast Entertainment. The new record label would share most major operations with the existing U.S. branch of Nuclear Blast. Conner had recently departed Roadrunner after a 25-year run that saw him sign most of the successful hard rock and metal bands on the label. Plans were also underway to expand Nuclear Blast’s strength in the UK market - the label paired with former Roadrunner UK Managing Director, Mark Palmer. Palmer, who had been with Roadrunner almost from the start and had built the UK branch of Roadrunner into one of the most respected and successful local record company teams the metal world has ever seen, would open Nuclear Blast’s first UK office.
September brought good news for all of those who’d been infested by the incurable prog virus due to THRESHOLD’s ingenious release in the previous month: The “Definitive Editions“ – a re-release series of THRESHOLD’s entire pre-Nuclear Blast discography, including extensive bonus material – of the band’s debut album »Wounded Land« and of the follow-up »Psychedelicatessen« offered pure virtuosic progressive metal compositions. New label signings ORCHID left a first fragrant scent-mark in the form of their 4-track-EP »Heretic«, while Swedish highway pirates BULLET indulged in the wild rock’n’roll lifestyle on »Full Pull«. Meanwhile, WITCHCRAFT, who once have resulted from the same Swedish combo as classic rockers GRAVEYARD, revived the good old times of analogue recordings with their output "Legend". The Norwegians of ENSLAVED stroke a more extreme note and entered the pole positions of the most renowned European metal magazines with »RIITIIR«, while fans of dark melancholic romanticism turned to the new blood-red offering »X« of Helsinki vampires THE 69 EYES.
Former British upcoming hopefuls SYLOSIS – by this time grown to be a staple of the label – opened the month of October with the mightiest and most mature album of the band’s history, programmatically entitled »Monolith«, while THRESHOLD invited us on another journey into the progressive spheres of yesteryears through the “Definitive Editions“ of »Extinct Instinct« and »Clone«. A whopping eight years after the release of their eponymous debut album, WINTERSUN put their fans out of their misery of waiting by releasing »Time I«, the first part of a monumental two-piece album series, and announcing the second part for the near future. Heavy metal Queen DORO delighted with her Nuclear Blast album debut »Raise Your Fist« and the classic rockers of GRAVEYARD added another analogue gem called »Lights Out« to their already unrivaled discography. However, though autumn was on its best behaviour as far as the record releases were concerned – the end of the month was overshadowed by a tragic event. On the night of Halloween, Mitch Lucker, front man of US extreme metallers SUIDICE SILENCE who had recently been signed to Nuclear Blast Entertainment, had a motorcycle accident and died of his injuries shortly afterwards. Nuclear Blast offers deepest commiserations to Mitch’s family, friends, band colleagues and fans all over the world.
The anniversary year slowly drew to a close. Before the turn of the year however, German thrash legends DESTRUCTION beat their fans round the head with their 30-year-anniversary album »Spiritual Genocide« and the Swedish double of HAMMERFALL and PAIN offered a welcome option to the ordinary dull Christmas TV program in the form of their live DVDs/Blu-Rays »Gates Of Dalhalla« and »We Come In Peace«.