Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tom's Top 15 Albums of 2013

Another year has come and gone and I am more than happy to share my 5th list as I have done one from 2009 and on. Blogging for all of these years only makes year ends lists harder to complete. Not that they are cumbersome yet, you want your voice to be heard and well. Let's face it, everybody and their mom likes a good list.

The contenders for list but those that did not make the top 15 are:

Anciients - Heart Of Oak
Craven Idol - Towards Eschaton
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance
Immolation - Kingdom Of Conspiracy
Kylesa - Ultraviolet

Now without further ado we begin with #15

15.) Deafheaven - Sunbather
Following up on emotional and chart topping albums from my 2012 list, Deafheaven's sophomore effort tied closely with the stellar Kentucky by Panopticon to generate feelings once thought impossible of black metal. To paint this vivid picture for you the band eschews stereotypes of the genre's Norwegian upbringing by plugging in the shoegaze made popular by My Bloody Valentine, adding A. Lundr's emotion and sealing the entire thing with a pink album cover. This is not an album for black metal purists but is one for those looking for evolution in extreme metal.
Favorite Track: "Dream House"
14.) Intronaut - Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)
In a year without releases from the mighty Mastodon and Baroness, one has to wonder how to whet that progressive and sludgy appetite thoroughly. Enter Intronaut and album #4 which has to be their most progressive to date. This band continues to evolve and seems to take a good deal of atmosphere from the later era of Isis. Sacha Dunable's guitar and vocal work is tremendous but it is truly Joe Lester whose bass lines during some of the intermittent sections can be absolutely breathtaking. If you happen to be a fan of Yes and Rush on top of the aforementioned bands, you have no reason to not add this to your collection.
Favorite Track: "Milk Leg"
13.) Voivod - Target Earth
For anybody who thought that the death of original guitarist Piggy was the death of this Montreal metal militia; think again. Target Earth can be viewed as a new jumping off point for the band as this is the first album to not features riffs written by the late and departed guitarist, it is time now for new guitarist and fellow Quebecois Chewy to shine. The rest of the original four are now intact as bassist Blacky returned to join Away and Snake and form the odd progressive thrash that these fans of Pink Floyd and Kreator are famous for. If you have been pining for more of Dimension Hatross and Nothingface, Voivod have been listening.
Favorite Track: "Mechanical Mind"
12.) Autopsy - The Headless Ritual
The masters of death doom have returned with their 2nd post reunion album with enough Trouble riffs thrown in for good measure, couple this with Chris Reifert blowing up the mic and drum kit in rapid succession and you can already connect the Mental Funeral dots. The album is truly an old school death metal effort peppered with sweet and succulent sections of classic heavy metal and doom metal. This album rewards on repeated listens with something new becoming apparent on listen #3 as opposed to trying to hammer this one out in one go. 
Favorite Track: "Mangled Far Below"

11.) Vreid - Welcome Farewell
Norway's Vreid has continued to surge with their last few albums and their previous album V was a top 10 pick of mine during the 2011 calendar year and Welcome Farewell continues the band's version of storytelling from the perspective of a WWII ravaged Scandinavia as well as the beautiful nature and landscapes that help to give the setting. Black metal runs through the album but their is plenty of rock appeal being shown here and thus the band has been given the appropriate moniker of black n' roll. Call this type of music what you want but don't miss out on a multifaceted and in depth black metal album that rocks and did I mention the drumming is damned near hypnotic?
Favorite Track: "The Reap"
10.) Noctum - Final Sacrifice
This is an album I nearly missed and was alerted to only a month ago, partly do to the fact that I had a plethora of other albums to review and also due to the fact that the press release was written particularly poorly. Whatever the case may be the album was not one to be missed as vocally the band sounds like King Diamond during his Mercyful Fate days, albeit a bit different. The album can be classified as a classic heavy metal album and at times it masquerades as a dark and spooky hard rock album. I was hoping In Solitude's new album would be along these lines and for anybody who felt the same way, Noctum are more than ready to answer the bell.
9.) Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed
Skeletonwitch have continued to grace fans of blackened thrash metal with a continual bevy of great thrash anthems and a live show that never quits. The band has continued its evolution and refined their song writing chops with this their fifth album. Through all of the chaos there exists an incredible amount of melody that doesn't sacrifice any of the ferociousness that Chance Garnette's vocals push forth. Bassist Evan Linger has come into his own and made his mark, the audible bass adds another layer to this band's outer core which has only become continually stronger.
Favorite Track: "Beneath Dead Leaves"
8.) Exhumed - Necrocracy
Death metal has become increasingly more technical these days but if you were to speak with front man Matt Harvey of Exhumed, you would most likely get an education in the old school of Carcass, Necrophagia and Impetigo whom he must've idolized in his youth to produce plenty of horror and bloody themed death metal. The melody found on this album is tough to top as it exudes later era Carcass as well as the oft-forgotten California masters Impaled. Riffs are strong and there are solos aplenty, there were some great death metal albums this year and this is easily one of the very best.
Favorite Track: "Dysmorphic"

7.) Noisem - Agony Defined
Noisem really lit the death thrash world on fire with this true scorcher of a debut. The most amazing part of it is the band were nothing more than teenagers when the album was recorded. I may be extra partial to the band as a high school math teacher but when you remind me strongly of albums like Consuming Impulse and Reign In Blood things can only be going right. Raw power and aggression help this album to lead the charge for all other young and vibrant bands that look to thrash with the best of them and surely the future is bright, with these kids from America's Comeback City.
6.) Purson - The Circle And The Blue Door
Climbing out of the UK and having a knack for the old school, Purson are yet another band found through the union of Rise Above Records and Metal Blade, following in the footsteps of Ghost and Blood Ceremony. Rosalie Cunningham gives the vocal performance of the year and is also an exceptional guitar player. The Hammond organ is a nice complement to the music as the album exudes a haunting aura about it this is further strengthened and the album is straight out of 1970, it doesn't seem to feel like a rehash either it is authentic and original as Black Widow's Sacrifice and Coven's Witchcraft... plus the musicians here are total professionals and masters of their craft. The total band effort on "Spiderwood Farm" will do plenty to tell you how potent a mixture that can be.
Favorite track: "Spiderwood Farm"
5.) Church Of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum
The most fully realized of doom metal albums during the course of the year belongs to these folks from the Land Of The Rising Sun as it combines the doom riffing of Tony Iommi, the fuzz of sludge metal, blues song structures and the lyrically material that will make death metal vocalists blush. If you were to take the masters of doom and give them a modern day NOLA makeover you would have Church of Misery; their overall loud and pervasive sound coupled with the pain and misery the lyrics also provide, give you a bloody good example of what the band does. Bonus points to Hideki Fukusawa for dressing on stage like a Vol. 4 era Ozzy Osbourne. This is where your doom dime of 2013 should ultimately be spent!
4.) Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark
Fans of classic sounding Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath should know that there is a perfect marriage of those 2 bands in the form of Canadian imports Blood Ceremony. The Ian Anderson "singing" flute of Alia O'Brien whose vocals are another welcome addition to this band's repertoire; the riffs explode on impact top of that. I was a huge fan of their last effort; Living with The Ancients and I feel that this tops even that with more riffs, and the thing that truly sets them apart from the rest of the pack; the flute. there is just somehting particularly ominous about a flute being played during an occult rock song and it is just so right. The band tours quite frequently and I much like all of you do, need to get out there and see one of the very best bands in the business.
Favorite Track: "Goodbye Gemini"
3.) Satan - Life Sentence
I wouldn't be able to call myself a fan of old school metal if I had let this NWOBHM slip me by. If you haven't read it you should read my glowing review of this album first. Not enough can be said about the galloping pace that this band's magnum opus (which took over 25 years to release since their last album) is and what it means to fellow revitalized NWOBHM bands like Hell (whose Human Remains is another stellar example of what these older bands are still capable of). If Satan is showing any signs of rust I dare you to find it and present it to me because I find no mistakes in this band's approach as they haven't tried to change over time and remained true to their roots and for fans of old and for fans of literally any kind of heavy metal it is criminal to not acknowledge the product put out here by the band. Consider the criminal justice system based lyrics and Satan may be banging down your door to convict you of your insolence. 
Favorite Track: "Siege Mentality"
2.) Inquisition - Obscure Verses For The Multiverse
Even though black metal is not my favorite genre of metal, I can say for certain if it is a great black metal album it is indeed one I remember more fondly, because of the level of attention to detail by the songwriters themselves. Front man and mastermind of Inquisition, Dagon is an absolute monster of a vocalist; froggy throat and riffs that spill forth from his guitar like an ever flowing stream. The band has done quite a bit of research with astrophysics and it comes out in the atmosphere of the music; you feel as though you are in orbit around the earth and at times some of the darkest and deepest depth of the universe while listening to this phenomenal music. No other album this year has evoked such deep thought and atmosphere in the music and I cannot wait to see what this is like in a live setting MDF XII here I come!
1.) Carcass - Surgical Steel
I like to be the guy who strays from the pack and tell you to deviate from the norm as I can assure you my list has been very different thus far but it all ends just the same. Carcass have recorded the best album of 2013 hands down and it is pure Heartwork bliss. Jeff Walker and Bill Steer sound totally like themselves in 1993/1994, the gruff soaring vocals about medical malpractice, scorchers of guitar solos and the wonderfully displayed medical instruments show that Carcass are more than back (like they were during their 2008 reunion) the urge to return to form was a seed that hadn't left the band since their original "final" album (1996's Swansong). I was essentially introduced to extreme metal through Heartwork and what you get here is a veritable sequel; any fan of the early to mid '90s era would be hard pressed to deny the power of this album. I know plenty has been said about this album and I won't bore you with additional details; but this is a clear choice for me for album of the year and I can only hope there is more where this came from. Congratulations Carcass and thank you for all that you do for extreme metal, you guys are more important to us than you can ever imagine!
Favorite Track and Song Of The Year: "Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard"

In closing I would like to extend a thank you to Mick, Durf and Jack for allowing me time and space on this website to share my thoughts about metal and sports and for that I am eternally grateful. To those of you readers out there expect plenty of more exclusive content from myself in 2014. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am in the comments and if not enjoy the holidays and come back in the new year!

- Tom 

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