From an impending apocalypse to the promise of a new Van Halen album with David Lee Roth, the bar was set high for 2012.
Everyone from the Mayans to Nostradamus allegedly prophesied the end of the world in 2012, but who could have predicted Green Day's epic trilogy of new albums, or Joe Walsh's first solo effort in two decades, or Rush churning out their heaviest record this side of 2112?
For a year that was supposed to mark the end of an era, it's quite fitting that 2012 ended up being very much a nexus of past and future.
Aerosmith and Kiss kept the classic rock flame alive, releasing their 15th and 20th studio albums respectively, and ZZ Top issued their finest showing of fuzzed-out Texas blues in years. Meanwhile, excellent debuts from Gary Clark Jr. and Alabama Shakes — not to mention Jack White's debut solo record hitting No. 1 — proved the blues is still a vital force in the hands of true believers.
On the heavier end of the spectrum, Periphery once again upped the ante as the leaders of the new prog-metal movement, and Meshuggah reminded everyone that the groove can still be mightier than the metronome. Lamb of God and Municipal Waste forged ahead as the heads of thrash metal's new class, while legends like Overkill and Testament continued uncanny, late-career resurgences with solid efforts.
But if there's one thing to take away from the 50 albums below, it's this: The guitar is very much alive and well in 2012. It survived the rise of the keyboard in the '80s and the overwhelming bass-barrage of electronic dance music of the early 21st century and shows no signs of waning in relevancy. Whether you're still plugging into a vintage Vox AC30 with your trusty Strat or just got your hands on an Axe FX and a new Ibanez eight-string, the guitar isn't going away any time soon.
And with that in mind, the Quote of the Year award goes to one Eddie Van Halen, who summed all that up so succinctly when he said, "I'm just a guitarist in a kick-ass rock and roll band. What more could I ask for?" Amen, and see you in 2013.
NOTE: This list pertains to studio albums only.