Matt’s Top Ten Albums of 2013
Posted by RiffRaff
2013 was an odd year for me. While there were countless amounts of outstanding releases, I found myself extremely burned out with heavy metal overload. That’s not to say I even for a moment slowed down on my heavy metal listening in the slightest, but found myself with lots of difficulty getting into something new unless it was something extra special. Something beyond just a solid death metal/black metal/post metal/doom metal/etc metal album. It had to be absolutely extraordinary to pull me away from my current need of delving back into the thousands of albums already in my collection.
However, within my current disregard throughout the year for actively seeking out the new or checking out new albums from established artists I’m already a fan of I still did find a good amount of time to embrace the new. There were many great releases this year and I gave a listen a lot of them. On the contrary, many albums you would think would objectively be on my list you may not find here (honorable mention post coming in the very near future), as naturally, a top ten list is very subjective and the following albums are the records that really shone through despite my bout of new music burnout and got lot of playtime in between obsessive bouts of the classics. In fact, every record here I would consider a modern classic and recommend taking some time to check it out. So, without further ado, here’s my favorite releases of 2013.
10: Infestissumam by Ghost
While not as head turning as their incredibly amazing debut Opus Eponymous (which I consider the best debut album of the decade), the Satanic Swedes deliver on all fronts with Infestissumam. Bouts of thick doom metal and catchy pop melodies ooze from every angle of Ghost’s sophomore release. What really keeps me coming back to Infestissumam is the dearth of variety found throughout the album. To go from disco to surf rock to metal and somehow keep the record flowing and cohesive is one hell of a feat, and with the tongue-in-cheek Satanism, no moment on the album leaves me bored or asking for more.
Favorite song: Jigolo Har Megiddo (Listen)
9: Volition by Protest the Hero
I was looking forward to this release, but nothing prepared me for just how much it caught my ear and impressed me, even pulling me out of an obsessive Opeth binger to get amped up on PtH’s unique brand of prog metal. This album really shows some deep growth with the Canadians as a band. The songs are much more mature yet never lose that youthful energy that always attracted me to the band. Between the breakneck prog riffing and a touch bit more of heavy you may be surprised to uncover that the bands most challenging record is also their most accessible and catchy. If you also share the feeling that prog metal is starting to become overly pedestrian, you need to give a listen to this album to restore a bit of faith.
Favorite song: Mist (Listen)
8: The Mouths of Madness by Orchid
Unsurprisingly, one of my all time favorite bands, Black Sabbath, released an album that wasn’t terrible, but unfortunately disappointing in regards to the pedigree behind the album. However, their was another Black Sabbath album released this year that scratched that Black Sabbath itch and then some. While Tony, Ozzy, Geezer, and Bill may not be the members of Orchid, their youthful spirit and energy is just overflowing on The Mouths of Madness. There’s that old school 70s feel and a modern touch I would expect from a Sabbath album in today’s day and age. All the songs are wonderfully written and the riffs, oh lord yeah, the riffs. This is a record that should make Mr. Tony Iommi proud of his acolytes. If you’re a Sabbath fan and haven’t checked out Orchid yet, you are a horrible person.
Favorite song: Loving Hand of God (Listen)
7: The Eldrich Dark by Blood Ceremony
I have fallen head over heels for Blood Ceremony after unwittingly stumbling across them at some point last year. Their style answers the question: What would Jethro Tull sound like if Tony Iommi stayed in the band and Grace Slick took over vocal duties? The proggy jazz flute, thundering doom riffing, slick grooves, and the emotive and seductive vocals of Elia O’Brian make repeat listens to this occult rock album nothing but a joy. And better yet, being their 3rd full length album, Blood Ceremony have honed their unique style to perfection producing music unlike anything I’ve heard before. I love the classic rock homages, engrossing storytelling style of the lyrics and performance, and the modern sensibilities. After such a trio of fantastic albums (The Eldrich Dark easily being my favorite of the three), Blood Ceremony have catapulted themselves into the upper echelon of my favorite bands.
Favorite Song: Lord Summerisle (Listen)
6: Colored Sands by Gorguts
In the wise words of Sir L.L. Cool J. “Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years; Rockin’ peers and puttin’ suckas in fear”. Though they’ve not released an album in over a decade, the impact that Gorguts have had on the metal scene is astounding. And then, as their established style of death metal was starting to get copied to death, the Canadian lads arise from their serene life to remind us all just how to make a tech death album that absolutely crushes. The power and depth on Colored Sands is beyond almost anything I’ve heard since their last album, and with their return, it’s like they have never left. What captures me the most about the record is beneath the insane brutality and technicality, is the heart and passion in the music. You feel every growl, blast beat, riff, and bass thrum resonate throughout your being. And if you take some time to give a skim to the lyrical themes as well as pay a bit more attention to the musical themes you will find that Colored Sands is an album that will bring your mind one more step closer to enlightenment.
Favorite Song: An Ocean of Wisdom (Listen)
5: …In Strange Aeons by Crimson Dawn
Epic, epic, epic doom. Many have tried to write a tune or two that pairs the epicness of metal with the thundering riff and groove haven of doom. Results were mixed, often leaning to the uninspired side of the scale, and I can think of no other band that has actually attempted to create a whole album of epic doom. Crimson Dawn does not only succeed at furthering what can be done within doom metal but writes some damn fine songs in the meantime. Each song is a journey and every chord is the voice of Thor commanding the storms. The epicness of this record has few peers and if you have an emptiness inside of you that can only be filled by some music that will make you headbang while you slay orcs and goblins with your broadsword, you need this album in your collection yesterday. Besides the outstanding guitar and keyboard work, the traditional heavy metal inspired vocals make this a very engaging, diverse, and unique listen.
Favorite Song: Siege at the Golden Citadel (Listen)
4: Yoshu Fukushu (Preemptive Revenge) by Maximum the Hormone
No other album I listened to this year was nearly as fun as the latest from the experimental Japanese metal band Maximum the Hormone. With a mix of Japanese culture, J-pop, pop punk, death core, thrash, death metal, and disco, one would think that MtH would be a rather messy and niche band, yet, due to their overflow of positive energy and catchiness gushing out of every pore Youshu Fukushu is infinitely listenable. In fact, besides my top two picks, this album has got more spins than any other record this year. And seriously, what other album can you say has the most sperm slathered deathcore breakdown ever on it (here’s a translated album preview, the sperm-core is at 5:09)? If you have an open mind, like fun, and want to listen to something from a culture completely different to your Western views on things, go, now, buy, love!
3: Earth Rocker by Clutch
Can Clutch do no wrong? I think not. Yet another outstanding album from the quartet. And somehow, with the simplicity and very established style the band has honed over the past 20 years one may think that they may start to become stale and boring, yet Earth Rocker is as fresh and entertaining as their breakthrough self-titled record. Earth Rocker has quickly found its way into the top part of my list of favorite Clutch records (note: Clutch is very high up on my favorite bands of all time). Variety, energy, intelligence, simple complexity, great performances, originality, and fun fun fun, Earth Rocker has ’em all. Now go unleash your inner Appalachian hillbilly and go listen to this record right now!
2: Pelagial by The Ocean
First I want to say, picking my number one album this year was easily the hardest number one pick I have made in my career of guy on the internet who likes to make lists about things end of the year list. Both records were beyond outstanding and blew my mind to itty-bitty pieces. However, there can only be one number one (I did however mull over calling this one a tie, but that would be no fun, would it?) and the number two spot goes to the cerebral concept album Pelagial by The Ocean. Where to start? For as philosophical and heady both the musical compositions and lyrical themes are the actually density of the album never become overbearing; even when the record reaches the bottom of the ocean and crushes with funeral doom you still have enough breathing room to allow for the absorption of the weight of it all. On top of that the different ‘songs’ also carry a catchiness with them that usually isn’t found in post/sludge metal and gives yet another layer to appreciate the complexity of the album. Let alone the fact that the seemingly disparate lyrics based off the Russian film Stalker and musical themes of traveling to the bottom of the ocean begin to intertwine creating another level of depth. There is just so much to be had within the 53 minute run time of the record and the fact that it can be enjoyed just for its beauty and catchiness as well explored when one if feeling in a more analytical mood is something made of rare cloth. Oh, and the record also comes with an instrumental cut which is another whole experience in itself. If you fancy yourself one who appreciates value as well as quality you’d be brain-dead if this album isn’t in heavy rotation on your music player.
1: Revocation by Revocation
I was a fan of Revocation before this album, but now you can consider me a superfan. Holy crap I can not stop listening to this reinvention of thrash metal enough. Seriously, since the moment that Relapse were kind enough to hook me up with an early promo copy of this album, it has been getting played on a near daily basis. I found myself surprised that when I bought my physical copy there wasn’t a huge warning sticker on it warning a potential listener at just how insanely addictive it is. From the killer opening thrash riff on “The Hive” to the closing fade out of melo-deth on “A Visitation” the record will bring you on a rocket powered roller coaster ride filled with loops and one unexpected turn after another. As a bonus to the rock solid musicianship the album is also lyrically intriguing with many politically charged themes such as the fracking dillemma and greedy politicians; but not without tracks about supernatural supervillians and haunted houses. Mix that with the beyond remarkable guitar work of David Davidson (those solos! OMG!!!! Awesome Awesome Awesome!!!) and raging positive energy of every note within you have an album that will turn heads and then make them bang endlessly. Seriously, words do no justice to how much I enjoy this record, just go listen.
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Posted on January 7, 2014, in Best of 2013 and tagged Best of 2013, Blood Ceremony, Clutch, Crimson Dawn, Ghost, Gorguts, Maximum the Hormone, metal, Music, Orchid, Protest The Hero, Revocation, The Ocean. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.