The 10 Best Bay Area Metal Albums of 2012

Pins of Light
[Alternative Tentacles]

Made up of local vets from such bands as Dead and Gone, Triclops!, and Hightower, Pins of Light deal out a simultaneously earthy and spacey brand of heaviness on their Alternative Tentacles debut, II. Marked by a penchant for locomotive riffs and rhythms that echo Motörhead (bassist Shane Baker's raspy bellow recalls Lemmy as well as Karp/Big Business/Melvins member Jared Warren), "Losing Sleep" and "Western Sky" are pushed forward at a relentless pace by drummer Phil Becker's adroit pummeling. Still, Pins of Light aren't afraid to get weird, layering squalling guitar freakout over a dizzying, circular drum beat on the epic "Sound & Pressure," and applying liberal doses of echoplex to Baker's vocals throughout. -- Dave Pehling

Kowloon Walled City

Container Ships

Like some impossible amalgamation of Helmet and Low, Kowloon Walled City's Container Ships never does what you think it will, even after several listens. It's an idiosyncratically heavy collection of songs with breathing room to spare and enough crushing moments to remind you where the musicians' hearts lie. Guitarist Scott Evans said they wanted this record to be "more of a bummer" than their previous efforts; would that all bummers satisfy so thoroughly. It's hard to catch this band anywhere other than its own S.F., so consider yourselves lucky. -- Alee Karim

Lecherous Gaze
On the Skids
[Tee Pee Records]

Featuring members of the late, lamented Oakland outfit Annihilation Time, Lecherous Gaze leers at '60s psych and '70s riff-rock through a hardcore prism on the band's bracing full-length debut. Opening track "Scorpion" offers a feverish three-way between Hendrix's "Stepping Stone," Love's "Seven and Seven Is," and Devo's "Gut Feeling," while "Babagazo" delivers the ridiculous gonzo energy of a lost Dictators track. Singer Zarayan Zaidi's raspy, Wolfman Jack growl takes center stage, but it's the inventive blues heft provided by guitarist Graham Clise throughout the album that powers Lecherous Gaze's trashy, headlong onslaught. -- Dave Pehling

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