Bridget Erickson Best-of 2013

Friday, 13th December 2013

This has been an exciting and engaging year in the metal scene, everything from events to records and tours. I attended many awesome concerts and got the opportunity to meet up with some awesome musicians, including my all-time treasured artists Opeth on May 26th (them and I pictured above). Though I still favor 90’s metal, I’m impressed with the metal surge that has persistently escalated through 2013.

This year has been swarming with new releases by a number of great bands, several of which have also experimented with a variety of different sounds. Subsequent to the rising trend of last year, I’ve taken notice of many phenomenal transformations (some for the better, others for not ‘worse’ but rather quite different), particularly with bands that have been around since the 80’s or 90’s. As every year, I’ve listened to an immeasurable amount of music. Sifting through all the different bands and albums from 2013 was a tedious but entertaining task. Though it was reasonably easy to pick my top ten albums, the more difficult part was arranging them from one to ten.

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1. Watain – The Wild Hunt (Century Media)
Masterwork The Wild Hunt really exhibits the continuing success of Swedish black-metallers Watain. They have touched on just about every radical approach possible under the black metal genre; of course including satanic symbols, incredibly heavy to melodic dynamics, and misanthropically illustrative lyrics. The Wild Hunt is a well-defined reflection of Watain’s progress and another one of their phenomenal achievements.

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2. Vreid – Welcome Farewell (Indie Recordings)
I saw this Norwegian black’n roll band open for Melechesh a few months back, and even in a ridiculously small venue like the DNA lounge, SF, they put on a thrillingly sick performance. Sture has an excellent voice for black metal with his vindictive and lucid growls. With rocking rhythms enriched by vigorously hostile instrumentation, Vreid’s Welcome Farewell shows how they thrash and thrive in black metal.

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3. Hypothermia/Svarti Loghin Split Tanke & Minne (Total Holocaust Records)
This is a very raw, ambient, and favorably unrefined album. Hypothermia always awes me with their vibrant acoustics and soothing atmosphere, their portion of the split, “Psykotisk Besatthet,” is alluring in its loosely untrimmed recording; in other words, by hearing voices chattering, guitars tuning, and drums setting the beat before leading to the intro of the 11-minute instrumental piece, it’s like listening to a high-quality live performance. The only thing missing from this album is Kim’s vocals, however, Psykotisk Besatthet is only a segment from an hour long demo called Unreleased (yes, it was actually released) with other tracks that do include Hypothermia’s heart-wrenching lyrics. I confess that Hypothermia is initially what attracted me to Tanke & Minne, but I will also say that Svart Loghin’s pieces have a sense of horror-film creepiness that’s mystifyingly balanced with the melancholic tranquility in his voice.

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4. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (Nuclear Blast)
Thematic to the album’s title, the intro of the first song “Kingborn” conveys the sounds of someone escaping from a labyrinth with storming, elemental sound effects and exasperating breaths. And like a labyrinth, this album is a bewildering infusion of musical passages. I highly value Italian extreme metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse for their expansion of technical death metal to orchestral and operatic instrumentals in Labyrinth, for they have genuinely symphonized metal.

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5. October Tide – Tunnel of No Light (Pulverised)
Though the band has alternated through various members (including Katatonia’s Jonas Renske on vocals for their Rain Without End debut) the current line-up (now with Alexander Högbom on vocals) is a fitting transformation for October Tide. I applaud Högbom for his harsh yet clearly enunciated lyrics and give regards to Fredrik Norrman for sustaining the band since 1994. Tunnel of No Light represents October Tide not only by where they have come with their work, but what they have become as band in 2013.

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6. Satyricon – Satyricon (Nuclear Blast Entertainment)
Norwegian black metal mystics Satyricon have gradually shifted their focus album by album over the years, and since their last release in 2008, we’ve been wondering what Satyr and Frost would come up with next. It is interesting that Satyricon never released a self-titled work until their eighth full-length album, but even twenty-one years after their first demo, they are still just as astounding. As with previous records, Satyricon stuns with strongly spirited vocals, both in growls and the rarely heard clean vocals.

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7. Rotting Christ – kατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού/Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy (Season of Mist)
Greek extreme metal icons Rotting Christ have released their eleventh-full length album since founding in 1987, rendering them not only as initiators of the black metal genre but also as devoted disciples. Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy has an extraordinarily eclectic pattern both musically and stylistically with an array of instrumentation supplemented by bagpipes, horns, piano, choral verses, and even a female vocalist on the prominent “Cine Iubeste Si Lasa.” The lyrics throughout the album alternates between languages; sometimes in English, while in other phrases Romanian, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or naturally Greek. Rotting Christ didn’t just record an album, they fabricated a work of art.

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8. Inferno – Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness (Agonia)
Out of the albums I’ve reviewed so far, this remains to be one of my favorites. Czech black metallers Inferno have an incredibly vintage, yet well-defined sound, fervently presented in their recent work. In short, Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness is all-around sonorous, dynamic, ominous, and remarkably raw. Much like their other albums, it is concerted in motifs such as Slavic history, Satanism, Wicca, death, and other symbols Inferno integrates strongly but meticulously.

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9. Cult of Luna – Vertikal (Density)
After seeing Cult of Luna open for Katatonia last August, I grew fonder of their music than ever. More than often, concerts are what accumulate fans, and their live performance is what captivated me. Cult of Luna’s second to newest album Vertikal yields their celestial moods, oscillating instrumentals, and hardcore to intoned vocals. With fusions of atmospheric, progressive, post, experimental, and hardcore metal, Cult of Luna’s Vertikal, and the subsequent Vertikal II also released in 2013, are expressive innovations of their music.

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10. Lustre – A Spark of Times Old (De Tenebrarum Principio)
A Spark of Times Old is not a single; it is twenty unabridged minutes of wavering tones and creeping vibrations in solitary unity. Deliberate tempos in a melancholy atmosphere shape a somberly remote nature deepened by the faintly disembodied howls of Nachtzeit, the one-man-band behind Lustre. Although three new records were released this year, A Spark of Times Old is especially remarkable. It is the third longest piece Lustre has ever composed, yet the lyrics are but a poetic quatrain moving in iambic pentameter: “Amidst the embers, a spark of times of old. Where rivers run, phantoms drift, veiled in mist. Among the ashes, a tale of night and cold. A past long gone, with powers to persist.” This EP is serenely depressive and meditatively embracing, most recommended for isolated listening.

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