In the four years we’ve been posting our annual list of the best Canadian metal albums, it’s become somewhat Hellbound’s calling card, our pride and joy. Canada’s metal scene continues to grow, producing a bevy of eclectic music, and we remain the only publication that shines the spotlight on this burgeoning little pocket of the metal world.

Our method was simple: we polled our staff of writers, having them contribute their own lists of the best Canadian metal albums of the year, and scored each album based on their ranking (ten points for number one, one point for number 10, for example). We kept it to a concise top ten list, and as expected, plenty of good albums barely missed the cut, including albums by Weapon, Haggatha, Sons of Otis, Chapel, Burning Love, Ex Deo, Propagandhi, and Titans Eve. Either way, it’s been an exceptional year for metal in this country, as exemplified by the ten titles below. Here’s to an even better 2013!

Adrien Begrand

10. Vilipend – Inamorata (A389)

VILIPEND-INAMORATA_cvltTo say the full-length debut from Toronto’s Vilipend, Inamorata was impressive would be a gross understatement. Balancing artfulness and aggression Vilipend have delivered a powerfully emotive and violent slap in the face based on a template of post-hardcore noise. Combining melody and malice, angularity and anger, the album is a beautiful bruiser. Venomous vocals, stellar production and brilliant musicianship make Inamorata as deep and intoxicating as the breathtaking artwork. (Matt Hinch)


9. Rage Nucléaire – Unrelenting Fucking Hatred (Season Of Mist)

0(Cold-open with obligatory mention of Cryptopsy). Okay, that outta the way, Rage Nucléaire is a beast of an altogether different stripe. Pure in its single-minded misanthropy, Lord Worm pits his impressive hatescreech over raw old school black metal, and pens odes to massacring the human race that would have made Stalin blush. Don’t expect something radical or technically impressive; listen because the album makes good on its titular promise and immolates you from first note. Relentless. (Kyle Harcott)


8. Cryptopsy – Cryptopsy (Candlelight)

cryptopsy coverAfter the disappointment that was The Unspoken King, with many complaining about both the clean vocals and the keyboards that were added to the band’s sound, it was a huge relief when the long-running Quebec death metal outfit returned with a record that harkens back to their earlier albums. Guitarist Jon Levasseur‘s return to the band has seemingly sparked the troops towards making an album that is more death metal and less metalcore than their previous effort, and with vocalist Matt McGachy dropping the clean singing Cryptopsy seem back on track again. (Sean Palmerston)


7. The Great Sabatini – Matterhorn (No List)

great4It’s easy to say that The Great Sabatini blend sludge, hardcore and ambient metal together seamlessly creating something almost new but familiar enough that you don’t have to try to understand it. That, however, is selling Matterhorn short. There are layers within the songs and sounds you won’t catch upon first listen, things that worm their way into your subconscious. At only 28.5 minutes long, I suggest giving in to the worms and putting it on repeat. (Jason Wellwood)


6. Titan – Burn (Hypaethral)

titan_-_burn_coverThe first word that comes to mind when listening to Titan’s first full length release, Burn, is ferocious. There isn’t a moment on this album where you don’t feel the intensity of the band; even in the quieter moments, it’s a sludgey slow burn as opposed to a hardcore raging forest fire. This is the work of a band throwing its heart, soul and sanity into its craft inviting you too, to burn. (Jason Wellwood)



5. Rush – Clockwork Angels (Anthem)

Rush-Clockwork-Angels-e1334152796555Five years after the impressive Snakes & Arrows, Canada’s great trio decided not to just complacently ride that positive momentum on album number 19, instead challenging themselves with their most ambitious record in ages. A steampunk-themed concept album – complete with a companion novel – Clockwork Angels is imaginative and vibrant, featuring heavy, intricate compositions reminiscent of 2112, yet at the same time capable of moments of tender beauty that blindside listeners. While many people would have been just fine with a decent, safe-sounding Rush album, the band stepped up with a record that deserves to be regarded as a late-career classic. (Adrien Begrand)


4. Bison BC – Lovelessness (Metal Blade)

bisonlovelessThe past year has not been kind to Bison BC, and from the moment you press play on the Lovelessness it becomes glaringly, achingly apparent. Vocalist James Farwell lost friends, his dog and a girlfriend, fueling the subject matter on the album and making it one of the most personal in their catalogue. The songs are much rawer and stripped back as a result, showcasing a genuinely passionate vocal delivery, memorable riffs and impressive drumming courtesy new skinsman Matt Wood. It`s less about love than the absence of it; a biting ode to the bloody gash where love once was. Not only is this one of the finest, emotional albums in Bison BC`s history, it`s one of the best of the year. (Renee Trotier)


3. Devin Townsend Project, Epicloud (InsideOut/ Hevy Devy / E1)

epicloudWith a frantic pace of album releases (six full-lengths in six years), Devin Townsend returned in 2012 with his poppiest album to date. Channeling his love of Def Leppard, bringing in a full choir and once again employing the beautiful voice of Anneke van Giersbergen, Devin goes from ridiculously catchy in “Lucky Animals” to the thundering power of the re-recorded “Kingdom.” Epicloud emphasizes the incredible range that Townsend is capable of and leaves us wondering where he can possibly go next. (Adam Wills)


2. Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light (Earache)

Woods-5If Woods of Ypres invented and embodied Ontario black and doom, the band’s final album stretches that identity to the limit. Musical and conceptual extremes – from the heavy to the unbelievably catchy – grace Woods 5 in the shape of emphatic gestures, capturing the tensions and fusions of rural and urban, nature and concrete, life and death fueling these 11 songs. In between the extremes, the record is more laid back, a series of melancholy reflections, but moving with a comforting kind of gloominess. Now in effect an elegy and the culmination of a too-short career, Grey Skies and Electric Light may be Woods of Ypres’s finest, and most poignant, expression. (Laura Wiebe)


1. Mares of Thrace – The Pilgrimage (Sonic Unyon)

Mares-of-Thrace-The-PilgrimageI have written a lot about this album over the course of 2012. I’ve written about the narrative of transformation inherent in the record which echoes the transfiguration that characters in other stories of pilgrimage go through, such as the travellers in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I have written about Sanford Parker‘s physical, visceral production, which captures the imperfections of the recording process, the squeals and gasps that become as much a part of the tracks as brushstrokes and chisel marks become parts of classical works of art. I have written about the balance of distortion and clarity, the layers of feedback and the way they play against moments of precise, supple minimalism. I have written about the vitality and the energy. After months of listening to this record, which has become an intensely personal and important album the more time I have spent with it, the aspect that I am drawn to more and more is the sub-narrative woven into The Pilgrimage, that of David and Bathsheba. The three tracks that tell their story, about desire, obsession, misplaced love and ultimately personal destruction, have become the core of the record for me, and haunt me each and ever time I listen to it now. (Natalie Zed)


Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.