Daniel Keating Best-of 2013Monday, 9th December 2013
It’s impossible to really understand what it’s like to be someone else, but it always makes me thankful to be myself when I think that there are people on Earth who take a casual stance on music. As sensitive as I can be as to music I dislike that permeates popular culture, I am happy to be an avid listener to a robust and healthy genre that exists purely on love from its fans and creators, disassociated from corporate interests and pop-culture. I am talking about the joy of being a metal fan and the fact that due to its permanently underground nature, one must seek it out, and doing so filters out so much of what leaves the hypersensitive music listener jaded in the first place. However, I did accidentally hear my first Rihanna song this year, fuck you very much, NPR.
A fairly tough process determining who made my top-ten list in such an incredibly strong year as 2013, I think it’s best to start by naming the runner-ups. These bands released great albums this year and I look forward to hearing what’s next from them, and will continue to enjoy these outstanding releases for much time to come: An Autumn for Crippled Children – Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love, Enshine – Origin, Shaded Enmity – Forsaken and Forgotten, Wolfheart – Winterborn, and Gris – A l’ame Enflammee, l’ame Constellee. And with that said, here are my top ten albums of 2013:
1. Caladan Brood – Echoes of Battle (Northern Silence Productions)
Carrying the torch forward in the genre of epic/fantasy literature inspired black metal, long ruled by the legendary band Summoning, Caladan Brood explodes onto the scene with a release that virtually made me forget Summoning even released a long-anticipated album this year. An incredible work of majestic music, Echoes of Battle is my favorite album of this year, easy. This enigmatic duo from Salt Lake City left fans around the world flabbergasted.
2. Beastmilk – Climax (Svart Records)
An excellent album of post-punk dreariness with energy, headspace, groove, style, and a croon that will stick with ya, Climax is an instant favorite on the best-of-the-year spectrum. You know you have something special when you listen to an album back-to-back-to-back-to-back in one sitting. While not a metal album, this Finnish “apocalyptic” post-punk band recorded this debut with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou handling the production duties, and the result is stellar.
3. In Vain – Ænigma (Indie Recordings)
Progressive death metal from Norway that has everything I love in metal, in spades: soaring melodies, pummeling rhythms, barbaric heaviness, outstanding musicianship, great songwriting, depth and originality. Outstanding.
4. Vulture Industries – The Tower (Season of Mist)
One of the most original sounding bands to come across my radar this year, Vulture Industries’ brand of avant-garde metal is really fresh and exciting. Substantially theatrical and musically robust, it’s a fun, interesting listen and an all-out impressive album with memorable vocals.
5. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
I don’t think a so-called come-back album could be any better than this. And not even owing to the long-awaitedness of the first new Carcass album in 17 years, on its own merit this material is practically on par with the iconic album Heartwork, which says a lot.
6. Vaura – The Missing (Profound Lore)
As an even longer fan of new wave than metal, it was with great pleasure that I heard this album by Vaura, finally bridging the gap in my heart between my two greatest musical loves. Maybe the most welcome new style on board this year, Vaura keeps the ever-expanding umbrella of black metal sub-genres, well, ever-expanding! Their mix of blackgaze, post-punk and new wave is one of the gems of the year.
7. Imperium Dekadenz – Meadows of Nostalgia (Season of Mist)
More and more, most of my favorite new black metal comes from places other than its traditional home in Scandinavia (France, Germany, USA, England, Ukraine). This says wonders about Scandinavian influence and about the strength of the genre world-wide. Germany’s Imperium Dekadenz has released an incredibly enjoyable work of just-raw-enough melodic black metal in Meadows of Nostalgia…fantastic stuff.
8. Killswitch Engage – Disarm the Descent (Roadrunner)
Nobody does what KSE does better than they do, and I think everyone knows this, regardless of your feelings about metalcore. Disarm the Descent sees original singer Jesse Leach reunited with the band, and they are firing on all cylinders here. Not a bad song in the bunch, moreover, loads of good ones.
9. The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer (Ván Records)
The atmospheric doom and black metal that comprise this saga of a concept album is special stuff indeed, and is upper-echelon material that belongs with the elite of the genre. A positively engrossing and impressive masterwork from this German multi-instrumentalist, Alexander Von Meilenwald.
10. Thy Light – No Morrow Shall Dawn (Pest Productions)
It’s good that much of black metal has emerged from its silly shitty-sounding-on-purpose phase, by and large, and Thy Light has created a work of depressive black metal dripping with desolation in high def. No Morrow Shall Dawn is a highly-acclaimed release by this Brazilian duo. Bleak, melodic despair never sounded so good.
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