Given pseudoscientific doomsday theories of galactic alignment and geomagnetic reversal and Nibiru collision and all, metal can certainly look forward to an eventful 2012. What's more metal than the End of the World, right? Unless it's the Return to Darkness, as typified by the recent phenomenon of cities like Highland Park, Mich., and Rockford, Ill., extinguishing thousands of streetlights to save money at a time of fiscal crisis, and scores of other municipalities now considering the same option.
Here's Virginia Tech history professor A. Roger Ekirch -- who in 2005 published a book called At Day's Close: Night in Times Past -- in a recent New York Times streetlight switch-off essay: "Before the Industrial Revolution, darkness conjured the worst properties in man, nature and the cosmos -- brigands, witches, and rapacious beasts were thought to lurk everywhere." How metal is that??
That said, here's to 2012! Here are 15 albums with which metal has kicked open its year's door so far. (Well OK, we cheated: two, including the class valedictorian in our No. 1 spot, technically came out in the waning weeks of 2011, but who's counting?) And OK, one of the best albums comes from some old-fart Californians reunited in proper form for the first time in nearly three decades, and one of the others is from some even older-fart Germans who've been around in some form or other since the mid-'60s -- and who spend their 2012 platter re-recording their oldies and covering other people's. Nevertheless, rest assured that there is sufficient rapacious darkness from vastly younger and more frightening creatures further down below. Dig in, and let the countdown to Armageddon begin.