David E. Gehlke Best-of 2013

Monday, 2nd December 2013

Discussion of this scribe’s pending nuptials will be kept to a minimum (because really, how more self-involved can one get?), but trying to snag the elusive “first-dance” song has been top of mind of late. There’s no legitimate Iron Maiden ballad (“Wasting Love” is a dud), Priest doesn’t have one of quality; “A Tout Le Monde” by Megadeth is a lovely song, but not wedding material, and anything by Metallica is overdone. Therefore, attention instantly turned to our beloved Katatonia, but they too don’t have anything that jumps out save for “Omerta,” but the f-bomb ruins that, or maybe “One Year From Now.”

However, the first song on the below list is the frontrunner, an all-acoustic number from Fen, of all bands. Granted, the last eight minutes of the song might have to be chopped off, but that’s what fade-out is for. If not, time to hit up the pigs in the blanket, or the cookie table…

*Click on the LISTEN text to…listen*

1. Fen – “Spectre” (from Dustwalker)
Watain’s “They Rode On” is being cited by many as the ultimate black metal “departure track,” but Fen’s “Spectre” has it beat by a mile. All acoustic, even with some country slide placed in the back for effect, “Spectre” is absolutely gorgeous and monumental, stoking visions of the band’s English countryside where this scribe had the good fortune of visiting this spring. The connection was made, and will last forever. (LISTEN)

2. Omnium Gatherum (pictured above) – “The Unknowing” (from Beyond)
OG has never had much of an issue creating memorable tunes, and while past cuts like “Amor Tonight,” “Greeneyes,” and “Nova Flame” continue to resound, “The Unknowing” could be the band’s melodic apex. Not since In Flames were in the throes of their Jester Race/Whoracle era has melodic death metal come across as so gentle, yet shape-shifting. (LISTEN)

3. Tristania – “Requiem” (from The Darkest White)
The classic case of an earworm that will not die, Tristania’s “Requiem” highlights their dutiful The Darkest White effort. Far and away the finest performance turned in by singer Mariangela Demurtas, “Requiem” states its case with an overflowing chorus, and death-duel vocals, making it a Goth treat of the Norwegian kind. (LISTEN)

4. An Autumn for Crippled Children – “Avoiding Winter” (from Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love)
“Avoiding winter” is something a lot of us situated in the Northeast try to do around this time of year, but to no avail. Avoiding “Avoiding Winter” by AAFCC, though, is another story. (Had to go there.) Probably the finest example of the band’s immaculate ability to weave airy melodies alongside heartache-ridden BM, the song manages to be gorgeous in the fray of rawness. (LISTEN)

5. Hypocrisy – 44 Double Zero (from End of Disclosure)
End of Disclosure proved to be one of the more workmanlike efforts in the Hypocrisy catalog, however, “44 Double-Zero” provides a glimpse into Tagtgren’s illustrious late 90’s melodic death metal past. The song is like most of the album – meat and potatoes, but the jarring chorus kicks in, the title is uttered, and one remembers why Hypocrisy have been able to hang around for this long. (LISTEN)

6. Insomnium – “Ephemeral” (from Ephemeral EP)
The precursor to the band’s forthcoming 2014 new full-length, “Ephemeral” should be a sign of greater things to come. With the addition of Omnium Gatherum guitarist Markus Vanhala, one now has the expectations that their Finnish melo-DM palette should be rather expanded. “Ephemeral” appears to be the launch point. (LISTEN)

7. Hanging Garden – “Hegira” (from At Every Door)
A winter-ready, dynamic offering from an emerging cast of Finns, “Hegira” serves notice that Hanging Garden know a thing or two about crafting stalwart dark metal numbers. The song is a slow-builder, eventually hitting a steep climb with a lush melody, and the backdrop of atmosphere done right. (LISTEN)

8. End of Green – “Standalone” (from The Painstream)
A couple of songs from The Painstream are worthy of inclusion, but “Standalone” gets the nod. No real issue with the Alice in Chains-like beginning or commercial pace – the song is a hook-filled goldmine, serving as reminder that a good song is a good song, even with all sorts of alternative influences. (LISTEN)

9. Deafheaven – “Irresistible” (from Sunbather)
Sunbather sure got people all riled up, didn’t it? The now poster-boys for American post-black metal, Deafheaven provided an angular, yet shoe-gaze dominated album, with the short instrumental “Irresistible” ending up as its standout track. Simple and methodical, how could one…not resist. Har har. (LISTEN)

10. Dark Tranquillity – “Weight of the End” (from Construct)
The mixed bag that is Dark Tranquillity’s tenth album Construct provided several moments of worth, but it’s the ebb and flow, along with the momentous conclusion of “Weight of the End” that serves as the album’s high point. While it appears the Swedes have used up every melodic idea in their repertoire, they keep finding new ones to work with, thus the resounding nature of “Weight of the End.” (LISTEN)


Biggest surprise of 2013: Carcass’ Surgical Steel being as good as it was. We’ve been blasted with death metal reunions over the last five years, but there’s not a single band of this ilk that can match what Carcass did with Surgical Steel. It’s essentially everything one could ask for in an extreme metal album, but the songs drip with cohesion, razor-sharp hooks, and an ace production job. Following up Swansong wasn’t that tall of a task, but Carcass should be universally applauded.


Best newcomer of 2013: Twilight of the Gods. It may be troublesome when for the second year in a row a supergroup is nominated as this scribe’s best newcomer (Unisonic took the nod last year), but who cares. With friendly faces from Primordial, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, and Thyrifing in the lineup, Twilight of the God’s Fire on the Mountain is a straightforward, epic metal triumph. Here’s hoping they’ll devote more time to this…lots ‘o potential.

jeff hanneman 2011

Biggest disappointment of 2013: The passing of Jeff Hanneman. Overshadowed in Slayer because of Kerry King’s media presence, the contributions of Hanneman were rightfully magnified after his passing. Name most of the band’s “classics” and Hanneman was the responsible songwriter. The band has decided to forge on, but that’s one mighty shadow…


Most anticipated album of 2014: Anthrax. The pressure is on Anthrax to deliver. Metallica is rendered near-obsolete on the new music front, Megadeth has stalled with Super Collider, and uncertainly looms with Slayer, meaning that at the present time, Anthrax is oddly the most stable of the Big 4. Quite curious to hear what new lead guitarist Jon Donais can do, but frankly, all the band needs to do is stay in line with 2011’s Worship Music and they’ll be fine.

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