This was quite a hectic and exciting year. Between getting a new job and moving halfway across the country, I still managed to find some great music. There was everything, from blistering debut albums to a comeback of mammoth proportions. There were even a couple gems from some reliable favorites. Overall, 2013 came in with few expectations, but ended in fine fashion. So without further delay, here are my picks of the year:
15. Chimaira – Crown of Phantoms
Being the first album with a completely new lineup, I have to say that Chimaira did a damn good job of getting it together. I had my doubts about the band’s future once everyone parted ways, but Crown of Phantoms showed that Mark Hunter brought in the right people to keep things rolling. While there are certainly differences between this and past albums, fans should not worry about the band’s ability to churn out cans of kickass.
14. Sevendust – Black Out the Sun
Having gained their notoriety during the much hated nu-metal era, Sevendust have an unfair stigma attached to them by many in the metal community. However, these guys have long been a hallmark of consistency for me. They manage to always write great songs that are heavy, yet accessible. Black Out the Sun is another shining example for the boys from Georgia. There is nothing flashy about it, but the album is just damn good from front to back.
13. Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam
2013 was a bit of an interesting year for Suffocation. Not only did drummer Mike Smith leave the band for a second (and seemingly permanent) time, but vocalist Frank Mullen announced that he would no longer be extensively touring with the band for the foreseeable future. Despite all this, the legends from Long Island released Pinnacle of Bedlam. It is everything I love about Suffocation…pummeling heaviness, Mullen’s unmistakable bellowing, and killer drumming from Dave Culross. Pinnacle of Bedlam is an album that maintained relatively heavy rotation for me.
12. Power Trip – Manifest Decimation
There is always something magical about debut albums. For many bands, it’s a time when they are most raw and unbridled. Hailing from Dallas, TX Power Trip dropped their full-length debut upon the world and it is vicious. While undoubtedly a hellishly thrash record, Power Trip added a bit of death metal weight for added firepower. Manifest Decimation garnered praise and made the list of metalheads everywhere. It’s no surprise. This album made a huge splash and left me wanting more.
11. Dark Tranquillity – Construct
Of all the best-known melo-death bands from the 90s Gothenburg scene, Dark Tranquillity has remained consistently in top form. Construct took a page from 2010’s We Are the Void with more mid-tempo tracks, but it feels better written and more cohesive. From the outset, this album always was a bit different, but definitely grew on me more after each listen.
10. Nails – Abandon All Life
I remember being intrigued about the potential of the album before its release and it delivered in spades. Not only is this the shortest album on this list, but it is undoubtedly the most abrasive album as well. Clocking in around 17 and a half minutes, it is an exhausting exercise in violent grind brutality. Well done, Nails…you have won over a new fan.
9. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
I am of the belief that Amon Amarth can do no wrong. Although they don’t stray too far from their tried and true recipe, it always guarantees a hearty, whirlwind headbanging ass kicking. Each album offers up at least one track that, will send fans into a one-person mosh pit. For me, Coming of the Tide is that track. The groove in the main riff is so damn catchy; it’s this ability to continually create crushing and tasty riffs that make this band irresistible. On their ninth offering to Odin, they come up with the goods once again and left me quite satisfied until their next conquest.
8. Hatchet – Dawn of the Dead
After seeing these guys open for Soilwork, I immediately made a beeline for their merch booth and picked up this album. What ensued in the days and weeks after was a sore neck from the repeated listens of this thrash fest. This album is very much a throwback to the glory days of the 80s and early 90s. The ripping and attacking guitar solos make it nearly impossible not to pick up your air guitar and go to town. I’m a sucker for well-executed thrash and Dawn of the Dead deserves a nod for being an absolutely killer album.
7. Clutch – Earth Rocker
Of the past few albums from Clutch, Earth Rocker is the most rock-focused of them all. It kicks off with the title track and rarely lets up. However, the band doesn’t abandon the groove and dashes of funkiness that fans have come to relish over the years. It’s a fantastic piece of work and I am a bit surprised to not see it acknowledged more widely.
6. Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
Here is a band that gets nowhere near the accolades they should have. There are plenty of melo-death bands, but Mercenary is one of the better and vastly underappreciated. Once I got wind they were releasing an album in 2013, I got excited to see how they would follow up their previous effort, which didn’t quite thrill me. Through Our Darkest Days is filled with catchy hooks and earworm-worthy melodies that repeatedly had me hitting the play button this year.
5. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth
The Italian death metal maestros have been busy in 2013. Not only have they been procuring their own line of wine and foodstuffs, they managed to compose a wonderfully intense album that tells the Greek mythical tale of the Labyrinth of Knossos. Each part of the tale is wrapped in a brutal death metal, classical orchestra mesh that the band has been fine tuning since their inception, this being the most cohesive effort to date.
4. Palms – Palms
Beautiful. After listening to this record, that is the first word that came to mind. A collaboration between Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and former members of Isis, this album may not be the most metal-sounding recording out there, but it is gorgeous. If you skipped over this one, do yourself a favor and prepare to float on warm beams of glowing sunshine, as the soothing sounds on this album carry you away.
3. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
Dream Theater really hit one out of the ballpark with their self-titled album. Their second album with Mike Mangini on the drums has helped the band find not only stability, but also reignited a certain vibe that seemed to be missing for me on the past couple efforts; it’s easy to feel and hear the vitality return to the group. With some grand passages and enough noodling to keep fans drooling for days, Dream Theater was another one of my faves this year.
2. Soilwork – The Living Infinite
This album was probably the earliest candidate for this list. Pulling off a double album is no small feat for any band, but Soilwork pull it off in amazing fashion with this album. With 20 tracks, you would expect plenty of filler, but that is hardly the case here. With Peter Wichers out of the band for a second time, the band felt it had to prove again that it could maintain their quality without his influence. Mission Accomplished.
1. Carcass – Surgical Steel
To say Carcass made a roaring comeback in 2013 is quite the understatement. After a decade and a half of silence, they dropped Surgical Steel on legions of ravenous fans. After such a long absence, many bands try too hard to recapture whatever magic they may have had. However, Carcass put out something so perfect, it almost felt as though they were unlocked from a time capsule and hit the studio. Surgical Steel is everything Carcass fans were hoping for and further cements their legacy as one of the best.