Kyle McGinn Best-of 2013

Wednesday, 11th December 2013

2013 was an exceptional year for metal. I can state this because I’ve nearly pulled the hair out of my beard on several occasions over the last few weeks trying to reduce my list of albums I’ve enjoyed down to a mere 10 examples. Just looking at the sheer number of artists I was unable to include blackens my metal heart with sadness. We’ve had some huge comebacks (Broken Hope, Carcass, Gorguts), veteran bands who have continued to produce the quality work their known for (Darkane, Suffocation, Amorphis), and some young bands willing to prove themselves able to carry the metal torch into the future (Rivers of Nihil, Eternium, Æther Realm). And none of those mentioned even cracked the top 10! It’s been one of those years where a top 30 probably would have been do-able.

In regards to the list itself, one of the major considerations used was how frequently they were spun throughout the year. Though some have stayed strong throughout the year, even within the last few weeks, a few albums were able to sneak their way into these coveted positions. While year-end lists are a blast to write and reminisce, there is almost always an album or two that doesn’t get discovered in time (e.g. Wilderun in 2012). So my apologies to whomever the lucky winner is this year. That being said…let’s bid adieu to 2013 with some of the best metal had to offer and hope that 2014 can follow suit with such a plethora of excellent material!

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1. Soilwork – The Living Infinite (Nuclear Blast)
Having been a fan since 2000, I’ve seen/heard the band’s ups and downs over the years. The Living Infinite embodies everything that post-A Predator’s Portrait Soilwork does best as well as giving some subtle nods to their past with bursts of speed and energy. Not to mention it’s a double-album! It was an ambitious move that displays the band in their best form in years. Just listen to “Spectrum of Eternity”, “This Momentary Bliss,” or “Leech” if you need further proof.

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2. Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days (Prosthetic Records)
Through Our Darkest Days successfully merges what worked for the band on Metamorphosis and combines it with the epic sound they had throughout their Century Media trilogy. Though they may not ever end up being metal’s darlings (as they could/should have been), it’s great to hear the Mercenary machine up and running once more at full speed ahead. As a make-or-break album, just listening to “A Moment of Clarity” should tell you that Denmark’s finest are right where they need to be.

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3. Omnium Gatherum – Beyond (Lifeforce Records)
Omnium Gatherum really came through with this one, easily their best work to date. Their evolution over the years truly models that of a fine wine, only growing better with age. Artful, sorrow-filled melodic death metal that proves there’s still room left for creativity in the genre.

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4. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (Nuclear Blast)
Labyrinth takes everything that made Agony such a success and cranks it up to 11. Not to mention the return of some of the dizzying guitar wonder that was present in the band’s earlier material and the addition of some excellent female operatic vocals. A riveting death metal opera that no one should miss.

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5. Revocation – Revocation (Relapse Records)
As a self-titled album, Revocation essentially takes what has worked best for the band and refines it to near perfection. There’s not much change from their previous releases, but their niche of combining old school thrash with technical death metal is done better than anyone else in the business. This album should finally break these guys out of the support band status they’ve been stuck with and rightly into the limelight.

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6. Ade – Spartacus (Blasthead Records)
Look out Ex Deo and other like-minded “Roman” death metal bands, Ade is here and is not so quietly laying everyone else to waste, gladiator-style. Taking the technical brutality of Nile and applying it to their home country with authentic instruments, Ade give the feeling of being in ancient Rome without sacrificing any of the visceral death metal punch.

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7. Ævangelist – Omen Ex Simulacra (Debemur Morti Productions)
Taking the sound of Portal and Mitochondrion and ramping up the atmosphere to that of pure evil, this is one of the most unmelodic albums of the year. Though it’s not without it’s charms. Providing bone-crushing riffs when needed, the atmosphere of this album is one of the most truly horrifying you’ll hear. This has to be what Hell itself sounds like.

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8. Tyr – Valkyrja (Metal Blade)
In contrast to Ævangelist, this is one of the most catchy and melodic albums from 2013. Increasing the catchiness factor from previous albums without diluting down their sound, Valkyrja is their strongest effort to date. The disc-ending Pantera and Maiden covers add a tasty layer of icing to the cake.

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9. Ulcerate – Vermis (Relapse Records)
Despite the level of patience needed to begin to “get” Vermis, it’s ultimately very giving in its rewards. Ulcerate took the atmosphere of The Destroyers of All and brought back more of the death metal brutality to successfully cross-pollinate Vermis and create an album that is so dense and heavy that it’s borderline oppressive, in the best way possible of course.

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10. Ovid’s Withering – Scryers of the Ibis (Subliminal Groove Records)
Symphonic technical deathcore at its absolute pinnacle. A 70-minute plus flurry of genre blending heaviness with orchestration that breathes an air of freshness to what is usually a tired and unoriginal genre. Take off your elitist blinders and give this one a spin!

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