Earlier this year, Down announced that they will record four new EPs instead of a full-length album, setting off a ton of speculation about how the album's days may be numbered, thanks to any number of culprits, from our download-centric culture to the impatience of fans.
While we're not going to proclaim the death of the album format, it does seem like more and more bands are finding ways to turn EPs into viable artistic statements as opposed to stopgaps between records.
On the metal front, Cynic, Between the Buried and Me and Periphery all put out EPs this year that feel fully realized, without a hint of the "Let's save the good songs for the next record" attitude that turns many music lovers off to the idea of EPs in the first place.
In the late '90s and early '00s, bands seemed to drift into longer and longer album cycles, but with recording budgets shrinking and the demand for new music growing, a lot of bands are turning to the EP to stay fresh in fans' minds.
It could be that the EP is the way of the future, but for now we can only speculate and look back at the best this year had to offer.