Raymond VanRiette Best-of 2013Tuesday, 17th December 2013
Picking top songs is way harder for me than top albums. Both are mood-sensitive and have their best impact when you’re in the right mindset – I can’t see many people wanting to circle pit to Daylight Dies. But albums have space to breathe, and can cover a range of tempos and textures, and the good ones will suck you into the correct headspace by the end.
Songs are different though, and when looking at them individually they need to have an element of immediacy. They need to be able to get your attention quickly, deliver their carefully crafted payload, then disappear with you’re still craving one more headbanging riff or tumultuous drum fill. That’s the only way I could do this, otherwise I’d just want to list 5 songs off each album. Unfortunately, this approach tends to neglect a lot of amazing music from more atmospheric outfits that construct each album like a seamless whole. Are they to be left out? Certainly not… I’ll just cheat and grab a few of those great moments and wedge ‘em in there!
*Click on LISTEN…to listen*
1. Cathedral (pictured above) – “Tower of Silence” (from The Last Spire)
God I love this stuff. Unbelievably thick, heavy guitars that always stay crisp and crunchy, chugging away over caveman drums and big splashy cymbals. The vaguely mystic lyrics and imagery all come wrapped around great songwriting delivered in a lovingly cheesey skull chalice, like a gift from the metal-loving D&D gods. I’m such an easy mark. (LISTEN)
2. Shining – My Dying Drive (from One One One)
I had such a hard time choosing one track from this disc. I ended up going with this one as it featured most of the elements I loved about the record, and would give a quick glimpse of what it sounded like as a whole. Blaring, atonal guitars that struggle to overpower catchy synthy xylophone riffs then collide with instantly memorable pop hooks and razor-throated screams. Good times! (LISTEN)
3. Katatonia – “Inside the City of Glass” (from Viva Emptiness)
Have been really enjoying the 10th anniversary re-release of Viva Emptiness recently, and while I loved the way the original ended a phenomenal album with an epic instrumental, I can’t help it… I really like the new vocals. They sit well on the existing piece and manage to compliment the music rather than overtake it. The original version is still the one that plays in my head when I think about the song, but that could easily change if I don’t figure out how to take this record out of my regular listening rotation. (LISTEN)
4. Mammoth Grinder – “Roperide” (from Underworlds)
Crushing right out of the gate, this track is just filthy. It slides and struts with a swaggering, grimey panache that tastes like phlegm scraped up from the barroom floor. Ugly. Hostile. Awesome. (LISTEN)
5. White Wizzard – “Strike the Iron” (from The Devil’s Cut)
This song is everything great about the album. It jumps out at you immediately with a fun, catchy riff and gets right to the point with clear, memorable vocals building up to an irresistible chorus. (LISTEN)
6. Avatarium – “Moonhorse” (from Avatarium)
This weird track occupies that delightful space between drugs and dreams, where the imagination of a child is narrates an lsd-inspired adventure on the moon while diving through oceans of somber riffs and half-understood metaphor. Think Acid Bath with a little less psychosis and a little more childlike innocence and wonder. (LISTEN)
7. Tad Morose – “Millennium Lie” (from Revenant)
I initially wanted to go with “Ares” for the pick here, but had trouble finding a youtube link. No matter, “Millenium Lie” is awesome. Tad Morose delivers a compelling and muscular powerhouse with an unexpectedly cyber-tinged guitar tone with a deliciously anthemic chorus. You will be unable to resist headbanging and will probably end up singing along and shaking your fist to the heavens. Or maybe that last part’s just me… (LISTEN)
8. Black Sabbath – “God is Dead?” (from 13)
I still have a really sour taste in my mouth after all the drama with original drummer Bill Ward, and the resulting album 13 wasn’t good enough to make end-of-the-year honors, but I still really liked this track. Awesome tone mixed with doomy girth and one of my favorite choruses from any act in a good long while. (LISTEN)
9. Huntress – “Zenith” (from Starbound Beast)
This is a pretty solid track from a band I haven’t spent much time with, but this one made the list because the video is so awesome. It’s freaking ridiculous. I haven’t had this much fun with a metal video since Nekrogoblikon unleashed “No One Survives” last year. Hit the link if you haven’t seen the video and prepare for space ships, ufos, evil nuns and giant monster ladies destroying cities in a trippy, low-fi 70s vision of pure, purple chaos. (LISTEN)
10. Huntress – “Zenith!” (from Starbound Beast)
No one expects you to watch that twice in a row, though I certainly did! I could put almost anything in this last spot, but really how do you follow something like this madness? (LISTEN)
Biggest surprise of 2013: Carcass’s Surgical Steel not living up to the hype. I really just did not care for Surgical Steel. It sounded well-constructed and there were things I would say were “good” about it, but it just kinda failed to keep my attention. I wasn’t a huge fan of Carcass’s early material, but did really enjoy the Heartwork and Swansong albums so I was curious to see what the venerable old ones would do with this release. I’m glad some folks like it, I don’t think anyone could call it “bad,” it just wasn’t my cup o’ tea.
Best newcomer of 2013: Avatarium. This was a great record, and though I feel a little leery of granting the tag of “newcomer” to a group having such excellent veteran players onboard, Jennie-Ann Smith is a legitimate newcomer and absolutely owns the vocal spot. This is a band that has an immediate identity, has the confidence of an act that’s been releasing albums for years and just mesh with each member’s individual chemistry extremely well. They could go on writing albums like this for years and I’d be mostly fine with it, but mostly I’m really looking forward to seeing how they develop and grow from here.
Biggest disappointment of 2013: Ghost’s Infestissumam. I had really high hopes for Infestissumam, and thought it was a very bland album. Opus Eponymous was charming, unexpected, well-crafted and excellently executed (mad love to all the Bret Hart fans out there). The follow-up took a few different directions, which I was ok with, and you can tell the outfit still knows how to stitch together decent rock songs, but ultimately I just felt like whatever tank of magic fueled Opus had run dry.
Most anticipated album(s) of 2014: Grand Magus and Crowbar in the same year – yes please! Both acts’ most recent records were passable but couldn’t live up to their sublime predecessors (The Hunt and Sever the Wicked Hand, respectively), but I have high hopes that JB and Kirk (pictured) will each rectify the faint aroma of “good enough” and really belt these next ones out of the park. Plus I’m a complete Windstein fanboy and will pick up pretty much anything he’s involved with, so hoping for a great album is really just in my own best interests.
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