Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Best Albums Of 2013

There's been an absolute fuckload of amazing albums this year, and as a task, I decided to make a list of my top forty albums of the year. No easy task when one considers how many I've heard! I could probably make a top eighty if I really stretched it out, but that'd be too easy, so, I'll get right into it! This is all completely my own opinion, and as such, anyone that reads this, I'd love to know your favourite albums this year too, so feel free.

(Honourable Mention). Avenged Sevenfold - Hail To The King

The reason this falls as the honourable mention this year rather than on the main list is down to the simple fact that the songs on here, while good, I've heard before. There's too much here that sounds like it's pretty much ripping off other bands. On saying that, it's the Avenged Sevenfold album I've enjoyed the most out of any of their albums. I also have nothing but respect for the doors that the band's efforts and this album have opened for them, including headlining Download Festival 2014 and Wembley Arena. It really can't be denied how big they are now, whether you're a fan or not.
Favourite Track: Planets

40. Hatebreed - The Divinity Of Purpose

This album kick-started my year with the kind of full-throttle abandon that helps rile you up for a good one. It's my favourite Hatebreed album to date. The old ideas are recycled, yeah, but I ain't complaining when the end product is this good.
Favourite Track: Own Your World

39. Satyricon - Satyricon

Satyricon's self-titled album arrived this year, and it was pretty good as far as albums go. It had a lot of grandiosity and at times, an almost seductive darkness to it that lured you into the album without wanting to turn back. On saying all that, it's not what a lot of people, including me, would've expected from a new Satyricon album. It's solid, a great effort, and proves that the band have no fear of evolving the boundaries of Black Metal, but compared to 2008's 'The Age Of Nero', it didn't engage me as much as I'd like.
Favourite Track: Nocturnal Flare

38. Born Of Osiris - Tomorrow We Die Alive

While many would agree that 'Tomorrow We Die Alive' is not as good as 2011's 'The Discovery', it's still a solid, jarring and well executed album that has a lot of draw and certainly shows that Born Of Osiris stand well outside of the normal boundaries of Metalcore. There's enough going on here both melodic and heavy that there's something for everyone on this album. Definitely keeping a closer eye on this band in future.
Favourite Track: Mindful

37. Sodom - Epitome Of Torture

Sodom albums are almost made for these kind of inane lists that Metalheads tend to compile. They're old faithful; everyone knows what to expect. The reason this isn't higher on the list is that after such a long career, I hope for much stronger songs than some of the ones on show here. So, yeah; it's a decent Thrash album, which is something I've always got time for, but I didn't quite get the kick that I like to get from Thrash.
Favourite Track: Into The Skies Of War

36. Kvelertak - Meir

Kvelertak are 'That band' at this point. Everyone who hasn't heard their music should, and everyone who hasn't seen them live yet is due to get their brains blown by what this Norwegian band has to offer. 'Meir' was released this year, album number two. Is it better than their first? Can't say I'm sure. Sometimes it is, other days it isn't, but either way, this is a band that are crouched and ready to leap towards greener pastures than most bands reach these days.
Favourite Track: Bruane Brenn

35. Hate - Solarflesh
Hate - "Solarflesh" CD cover image

Okay, so it sounds a fair bit like Behemoth, but it's still a great album that proved to be a good start to the year as far as Extreme Metal goes. A lot of chilling atmosphere, and heavy as hell. If dark metal music with a satanic edge to it is what you like, get this release. At the very least, it'll tide you over until the release of Behemoth's 'The Satanist' early next year.
Favourite Track: Festival Of Slaves

34. Death Angel - The Dream Calls For Blood

Death Angel are among my favourite Thrash Metal bands of all time, so getting their newest album is always a welcome treat, and this one had everything I'd hope for in a Death Angel record. All the band members performed well on this album and there's plenty on show for some good ol' fashioned moshing. There's life in the old band yet!
Favourite Track: Son Of The Morning

33. Saxon - Sacrifice

Saxon have had their misfires in the past, and there's no way in hell that this is one of them. Packed from start to finish with classic, British Metal the way it's meant to be done! There's so much here that will make ideal headbanging music at any festival. It's great to see that the old guard have so much to offer to this day!
Favourite Track: Night Of The Wolf

32. Warbeast - Destroy

Warbeast came out kicking in all directions with this record. Thrash at it's nastiest, this album is gritty, grimy, and ultimately, a huge sledgehammer to the face. All the while there is a party element to it that suggests the best way to experience this music is in a big tent at a festival, headbanging with a drink in your hand, throwing the horns and generally making a complete tit of yourself. There's always a place for an album like that. And oh, the riffs!
Favourite Track: Egotistical Bastard

31. Gorguts - Coloured Sands

Gorguts releasing a new album was far beyond ace, and they sure as hell delivered from start to finish on this record. Let it never be said that Luc Lemay rests on his laurels; his song writing in this album is top notch and the instrumentation on show is very impressive. It's a dense motherfucker of an album that demands a lot of attention, but the listener's attention is rewarded frequently enough that it's worth delving into this jazzy, Progressive Death Metal oddball of a record
Favourite Track: Forgotten Arrows

30. Immolation - Kingdom Of Conspiracy

This album proved yet again what I already knew; Immolation are a massively overlooked band. Their albums are so tight and so brutal that I don't know how they don't attract more attention than they seem to. It's no-bullshit Death Metal that tries to make you think with it's lyrical themes. An Immolation album is great anyway, but for them to have attempted a concept album based loosely on Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' is a lofty task. It goes without saying; they smashed it.
Favourite Track: God Complex

29. DevilDriver - Winter Kills

From typically cool album cover, to Dez Fafara's ripping vocals and the colossal grooves, DevilDriver continued in their crusade to pummel everyone's ears with grooves so slick you'd think British Petroleum had fucked up again. DevilDriver's songs always lend themselves so well to the live environment, from the casual screamer to the circle-pit enthusiast, there's something for us all as Metalheads to enjoy about 'Winter Kills'. The band's consistently high-quality studio output is why I love 'em, and they refuse to let me down. Oh, and the hook on 'The Appetite'. If you can listen to that without screaming 'Eyes on fire' then I really don't know how to help you.
Favourite Track: The Appetite

28. Children Of Bodom - Halo Of Blood

We've all known this whole time that Alexi Laiho and his crew can deliver great albums full of shred wizardry and sharp enough riffs to cut diamonds, but for a while there...they just didn't! So thank fuck that 'Halo Of Blood' set the record straight and showed us all that the Finnish legends have still got it! After spending a lot of time this year dreading the release of this one, I was massively surprised, to the point that it stands as a bit of a year's highlight despite it's lower ranking on this list.
Favourite Track: Damaged Beyond Repair

27. Soulfly - Savages

Little surprise here; Soulfly have been on fine form for years, releasing album after album of great Metal music with a distinct flavour to it that only Max Cavalera can bring to the fray. While the album cover isn't one of my favourites, the music on show more than makes up for it without letting up. Brazil's favourite metal legend strikes again, and I can't wait to hear these songs live next year.
Favourite Track: El Comegente

26. Evile - Skull

Evile are pretty much the UK's finest export of Thrash Metal, certainly as far as the Thrash Revival movement is concerned. After 2011's 'Five Serpents Teeth' I thought they'd peaked, and to be honest; when this album first came out I didn't listen to it immediately. Since then though, it's become my favourite straight-up Thrash Metal album of the year. Believe me, to come higher on this list than a Death Angel record as far as Thrash is concerned, is no small feat! Big up to Evile for this one, here's hoping they carry on with this high quality output.
Favourite Track: Head Of The Demon

25. Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

Another surprise for the year is Darkthrone's 'The Underground Resistance'. I, like many people was expecting either an old-school, murky-as-hell Black Metal album or another jaunt into the realms of Crust Punk. What we got was neither. This album has a 70's/80's sound to it and is more akin to the likes of Venom, Mercyful Fate and Iron Maiden than it is to the traditional Norwegian Black Metal sound. It's a majestic, effortless and uncontrived throwback to the glory days of Heavy Metal and the only complaint is that it's too short!
Favourite Track: Come Warfare, The Entire Doom

24. Amorphis - Circle

This is another album that slipped under my radar somewhat when it first came out, but upon digesting it properly, it's nothing short of a stunning Progressive album. Huge riffs, great melodies, vocals to die for and a touching concept that strays away from the usual ideas inspired by Finnish folklore or poetry. A combination of Death Metal, Progressive Metal and even tinges of Folk Metal make this an album capable of standing high as an unsung hero of 2013 in Metal music.
Favourite Song: Shades Of Grey

23. Hell - Curse And Chapter

Unashamedly over-the-top without being uncool; Hell's second album was awaited with baited breath by many in the Metal community after the huge success of 'Human Remains'. We needn't have worried at all. Hell have dragged the 80's kicking and screaming into 2013, modernised the NWOBHM sound in little ways here and there and have released an album full to the brim with big songs, big riffs, and David Bower's show-stealing vocal delivery. Thank god for Hell!
Favourite Track: Darkhangel

22. Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

When this first came out something put me off for a while. I don't know if I was just expecting another album like 'Kairos', or if it was the way Derrick Green's vocals sat in the mix, but after I got over whatever that initial niggle was, this album really grew on me in a big way. There's some real rage and a relentless attitude that we haven't heard from Sepultura in while. I remember thinking that with both Sepultura and Soulfly releasing an album this year I was probably going to prefer Soulfly's album. I was wrong, there; I said it, and I don't say that much.
Favourite Track: Trauma Of War

21. Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side Of Heaven & The Righteous Side Of Hell, Vol. 1

I've always had a big place in my music collection for Five Finger Death Punch, and while that faltered after the release of 'American Capitalist', on this album they redeemed themselves (Though I will note that the less said about Volume 2, the better!). From the get-go, this is an album that I loved as a fan of fun, catchy Metal music. A lot of the holier-than-thou Metalheads may scoff and sneer, but at the end of the day, this album really hit the spot for me as far as modern, mainstream Metal goes. Sometimes you just need to beat your chest and get in the pit. This band, this album, lets you do that.
Favourite Track: Dot Your Eyes

20. Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal

Again, make way for the "Dats not metulz" crowd. Wake the hell up and listen to it. I was never a fan of this band, but to say that this album surprised me is the understatement of the year! Yeah, there's a couple of ballads on there that don't lend themselves to my palate, but the heavier songs on here are REALLY heavy! No longer categorising them as Deathcore, more Electronic-Metalcore, this album is like Deftones meets 'Hybrid Theory' era Linkin Park with a healthy dose of youthful fuck-you attitude. Bring Me The Horizon shocked a large portion of the Metal community with this release, I've spoken to many people who were taken aback by this record. How could they not be? Between choruses, riffs, originality and shout-along moments, this album has nothing to be ashamed of. If the band carry on in this direction, Metalheads worldwide may have no choice but to doff their hats to them, if they haven't already.
Favourite Track: Shadow Moses

19. Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth

Holy chaotic wall of sound, Batman! Fleshgod Apocalypse finally produce the greatness they've threatened to since they started out. I tell you; for their third album, this is good fucking going! Crazy-yet-beautiful orchestrated madness blends flawlessly with modern Death Metal on this album to produce what is one of the unexpected great records of Extreme Metal for 2013. I can't begin to imagine how destructive this material will prove in the live setting, and I really daren't think how the band are going to top this when it comes time to make album four! Scary thought.
Favourite Track: Minotaur (Wrath Of Poseidon)

18. The Defiled - Daggers

Another triumph this year as far as follow-up albums go is The Defiled's second full-length. Where the first, while critically acclaimed, had a few amazing tracks that made the rest of the record somewhat lukewarm, here the band come up trumps with an album stuffed with great songs that carry their trademark stamp of Industrial Metalcore. Sure, it doesn't have any instant hits like 'Call To Arms', but with a few listens, this album grew on me to the point that I prefer it to 'Grave Times' beyond a shadow of a doubt. Potential greats for the British mainstream Metal scene.

17. Kataklysm - Waiting For The End To Come

If you want to hear Death Metal that does more than bludgeon your ears with raw, distorted fury, and would rather hear something with more tasteful song writing and vocals that are easier to understand than most Death Metal; listen to this album. If drums are your thing, you'll probably already know Kataklysm to be an all time great band. If I were to sum up my case as to why this album is higher in this list than some other releases in one word, it'd be 'Elevate'.
Favourite Track: Elevate

16. Avatarium - Avatarium

For all those struggling to get over the fact that Doom Metal has lost the band Candlemass as far as studio output is concerned, this album is the perfect remedy. Showing again that metal can be a beautiful form of music, Leif Edling's new project Avatarium's debut album quickly became one of my favourite albums of the year and Jennie-Ann Smith is the star of the show on vocals. Equal parts Doom Metal and fantasy whimsy, this album is a treat for the ear. If you don't like it, you're either already dead or are deaf.
Favourite Track: Moonhorse

15. Autopsy - The Headless Ritual

Gore, glorious gore!! Autopsy absolutely blew my mind with this release! I knew they were awesome, but THIS awesome? Fuck! Everything the old-school Death Metal fan could want is present here, with added doom passages just to help the disgusting nature of this record fester in your earholes that little bit more. Listen to this album as if your life depended on it!
Favourite Track: She Is A Funeral

14. Watain - The Wild Hunt

The conquest that Watain have taken upon both the Black Metal Underground and the Metal mainstream cannot be denied at this point. 'The Wild Hunt' proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this band is a fearless entity at this point. There is no boundary too strong, no wall to high. From the traditional Black Metal fare of 'The Child Must Die' to the balladry of 'They Rode On', Watain can do it all, and do so with far more gusto than most Black Metal bands that build a glass ceiling above their own heads. Erik Danielsson and co. have far grander aspirations than playing in dingy clubs to twelve of their friends, and I'll eat my hat if they don't get the glory. Oh, and yes; it is as good as 'Lawless Darkness'

13. Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam

Ghost may seem to be a bit of a hokey band to some, with the costumes, the satanism and the mystique that is fundamental to the band at this point, but under all that lies some great music. After the astonishing success of 'Opus Eponymous', some viewed this album as a let-down. I don't understand this. This record has all the pomp and bombast that makes the band's image so appealing, and a slew of great, memorable, singalong songs that will get stuck in your head whether you like it or not. If you weren't sure about this album, I implore you to give it another listen or two. You won't be sorry.
Favourite Track: 'Year Zero'

12. Trivium - Vengeance Falls

Finally, Trivium made an album that has all the hooks and serrated edge riffs that made 'Ascendancy' and 'Shogun' so great. Do I think it's as good as those two albums? Not as good as 'Ascendancy', but certainly as good as 'Shogun' in my opinion, though it is a much simpler and more accessible than 'Shogun'. David Draiman's stamp might be boldly imprinted upon this record, but to me it's Trivium's ability to write great songs that shines through so boldly on this album. A massive step up from 'In Waves', love it!
Favourite Song: To Believe

11. Phillip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only

Phil Anselmo is, without a doubt one of the reigning kings of modern Heavy Metal. His past work with Pantera and Down speaks for itself, and all saw Phil's recognisable vocals help in putting the two bands at the forefront of their respective Metal movements. Now, on his first solo album he's defied the entire Metal universe and stunned it at the same time. This is one album you cannot afford to miss out on. It's bone-shatteringly heavy, the lyrics are sharp and pointed in the manner we're used to of Phil. The music on show is off the wall, almost avant-garde. Must have for 2013.
Favourite Song: Battalion Of Zero

10. Killswitch Engage - Disarm The Descent

Killswitch Engage's first album after Jesse Leach returned put the world of Metalcore to rights. Enough of the bog standard open string riffs, flashy but soulless guitar solos, piss-thin screams and copycat singing vocals; Killswitch have brought the spirit of 2002 back to life, proving to all the style-over-substance wannabes of the last ten or so years that nobody does it like they do. It's a sleek, honest and musically engaging album that proves Killswitch Engage have still got it. Jesse Leach steals the show with ease, and his comeback came at just the right time. If they keep this up, they'll have a throne all to themselves.
Favourite Song: Beyond The Flames

9. Motorhead - Aftershock

Motorhead are always on this list. They're my favourite band ever, the one that got me into Rock and Metal music in the first place. Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee are inspirations to me, musically speaking, and Lemmy is basically god! This, Motorhead's 21st album and even with that much music in their repertoire, this stands out as a great album of theirs! Carrying on the streak of great albums they've had going since 2004's 'Inferno' and easily standing higher than a few albums in their catalogue of brilliant music. If this should turn out to be the last Motorhead album we get, then by fuck they've gone out with a bang!
Favourite Track: End Of Time

8. Rotting Christ - Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

Rotting Christ gave us a delight in a dark, sophisticated take on Black Metal as only they can. This, their latest album is full of brooding charm and a swirling soundscape that most bands would kill for. It's decidedly different, and some may scream that it's not 'tr00 kvlt' Black Metal, but they're what I'd call idiots who judge on face value. Ignoring this album as a Metalhead is, in my opinion just foolish. Everything from the vocals and guitars to the atmospherics on show give the whole album a very unique feel. There shouldn't be any sort of debate about Greece's darkest band's importance and stature in the European Black Metal scene, but if there is, this should annihilate the naysayers.
Favourite Track: Cine Iubeste Si Lasa

7. Man Must Die - Peace Was Never An Option

When I first heard Man Must Die on Machine Head's 'The Black Procession' tour, I fond a Scottish Metal band that I could stand behind one hundred percent! Then, when I got their third album 'No Tolerance For Imperfection' I thirsted for more. After a long fucking wait, this year saw the band release this absolute monster of an album; technical without being a load of wank, melodic without sacrificing impact and with the kind of political and social lyrics that every Metalhead can relate to. Everything about this album exceeded my expectations of the band and I'm going to be listening to it for a long time!
Favourite Track: Hiding In Plain Sight

6. Deicide - In The Minds Of Evil

Brutal, antichristian Death Metal done brilliantly. That's what Deicide excel in, and this album smashes 2011's 'To Hell With God' to pieces, and I loved that album too! Easily the best Deicide album since 'Scars of the Crucifix', and I'm speaking as someone who has never been overly disappointed with Deicide's studio albums over the years. 'In The Minds Of Evil' brings the band's sound closest it has been to the sound of the first two albums in years. Not in terms of production, in terms of song writing and attitude. The riffs are insanely good from start to finish and overall, Glen Benton doesn't write songs better than this. They're still my favourite Death Metal band, and this is one of many reasons.
Favourite Track: Thou Begone

5. Newsted - Heavy Metal Music

Jason Newsted stood as my favourite bass guitarist from the time he was in Metallica. Not to mention his stint in Flotsam & Jetsam, and that amazing bass solo on the song 'Metalshock'. This, his first proper metal album since leaving Metallica, sees him fronting his own band, with his own name, playing guitar, bass and doing the lead vocals. The strength here is the songs. Old school Metal tunes that are equal parts classic Metal and Thrash Metal. Jason Newsted clearly knows the power of a memorable riff built upon a fucking solid groove. This album is so full of that it's hard to pick a favourite moment. Newsted's vocals are unexpectedly good too; with him sounding half like James Hetfield in his prime and half like Chuck Billy from Testament. It's great to have the man back, with 'Heavy Metal Music' in it's truest form.
Favourite Track: King Of The Underdogs

4. Black Sabbath - 13

Black Sabbath. Heavy Metal can be summed up with those two words, really. After such a long wait, just when we'd all abandoned hope of it happening; the Metal band that started all Metal bands released a new album. Plenty of folks can complain that Bill Ward wasn't on the album if they want to, but better though it would have been to have seen a full reunion, this album truly speaks for itself. What we see on display here is Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne each bringing their distinct style, without pulling any punches. The songs don't simply recall former glories, they offer a modern take on what Black Sabbath truly stands for, lest we ever forget. The album '13' is perfectly executed, perfectly timed and reaffirms Black Sabbath's position at the very top of the Metal Pantheon.
Favourite Track: God Is Dead?

3. KaiDekA - Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision

Those of you who don't know this band are missing out massively. Take the speed and aggression of Thrash Metal, the flow of Groove Metal and the quirkiness of Nu-Metal, combine them and what comes out will sound like KaiDekA. This Cornwall quintet's first album 'False Idols & Pyrite Thrones' was a great enough discovery for me, but the step-up in quality between that first record and 'The Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision' is huge! On this record, every band member shines through in these brilliantly crafted songs. My favourite riff of the year is on this record, on the song 'Higs Bosun', which made my jaw drop first time I heard it. I really hope the future holds big things in store for KaiDekA. Check this album out, if you take nothing else from this list, take this as a big recommendation.
Favourite Track: A Blissful Image Of A Dystopian Vision

2. Mechina - Empyrean

As far as vast, all-consuming layers of sound goes, this is one album that couldn't be beaten this year. An early find for me. and a massively impressive one at that. Telling a captivating story through an album that is weaved together in a way which I can only describe as Fear Factory's Cyber Metal meets Nightwish's orchestrated brilliance (only better than Nightwish!). There's so much going on in this album that it requires as much attention as you can give it, otherwise you'll miss something. Brilliantly produced and flawless in it's delivery, this album for the longest time was set to be my album of the year. One album changed that.
Favourite Track: Interregnum

1. Carcass - Surgical Steel

Carcass have always ruled, but this year's best Metal album just made me go 'wow!' from start to finish. After seventeen years without an album from this, one of the UK's most cherished Extreme Metal bands, the pressure was on for them to deliver. I'll be honest, I didn't expect anything special. I was expecting a tired rehashing of old, worn ideas that would simply satiate casual Metal fans. This is not the case. 'Surgical Steel' is a master-class in Grindcore, Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal all rolled into one. Lyrics don't get more savage than this. Riffs do not get catchier than this. It doesn't get faster or more extreme than this. Really, the other bands touting themselves as Extreme should be ashamed of themselves as they stand in the shadow of this album. Carcass have put the smack-down on 2013, and I don't think the Metal Community could be more glad to have them back!
Favourite Track: All of em, can't pick! That's why it's album of the year!!!

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