(Today we begin our 2013 Listmania series, in which the NCS staff and a variety of esteemed guests name their favorite albums of the year. And to kick things off, we’re stoked to present this piece by Chris Ojeda, the main man of two bands who are big favorites around here — Byzantine and Black Cap Miner.)
Hello, my name is Chris. My music friends call me OJ. I front the heavy metal band Byzantine. Been doing that since 2000. I’ve been a die-hard metal fan since 1989. I have been asked by the fine people at No Clean Singing if I would give my $0.02 on my favorite musical releases of 2013. With that offer, I have compiled for you a very short list of fantastic albums that came out this year. I have limited it to metal and/or heavy music since that’s what we dig here.
I must preface this piece by mentioning a few things. 1. I am not a music reviewer and have no prior experience writing such pieces. I am just a music lover who happens to have the opportunity to write a piece such as this. Any typos or musical poor judgments can be filed in the “fuck you” file. 2. Even though I operate in the metal community, my band is on the fringes of said community, and therefore I can freely speak my mind about what sucks and who sucks, in my opinion. I won’t be getting a nasty call from our booking agent, manager, or record label, since I have none of these.
So… Here we go! My faves of 2013.
ANNIHILATOR – Feast
Jeff Waters and co. have struck heavy metal gold yet again with this release. It’s fast, furious, and covered in bullet belts and hair whips. The last Annihilator album I purchased was 2007’s Metal, which was a bit tame and softly produced for my taste. Feast is a return to form of the Annihilator I love.
Jeff Waters, in my opinion, is without a doubt one of the most precise and cleanly recorded guitarists in metal history. Most will spend their whole careers trying and failing to be as tight a player as he is, and it comes across on this album. My one beef is that some of the lyrics have a cheese factor of 8.5. This is a small beef because, as a true Annihilator fan, you must take the lyrics with a grain of salt.
Annihilator’s constant chance-taking on stepping outside of the metal perimeters and dabbling with happier major chords, clean breaks, and the like are what keeps me on my toes, and smiling.
CARCASS – Surgical Steel
For all the reasons I love Annihilator, I love Carcass for the exact opposite. Oppressive, thought-provoking lyrics. Dirty rhythms that grind into your teeth and a feeling of British bleakness. That’s what exists on Carcass’s return to the studio with Surgical Steel. OK, It’s not Heartwork. Nothing ever will be for me. That album was a watershed moment in heavy metal. But after the turd they laid with Swansong, this album is as close to Heartwork as I could have possibly hoped for. With the addition of new drummer Daniel Wilding, the rhythms are as tight as they have ever been. The album starts off a little stale for me, but when track 3 “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” begins, the surgery begins! The solos are fantastic, the lyrics are amazing, and we once again have a new Carcass album that leaves you cold on the operating room floor.
CLUTCH – Earth Rocker
Clutch do no wrong in my eyes. Period. They are one of the few bands on earth that could, if they wanted to, fart into a mic, and I would be jealous that their farts sounded so goddamn cooler than mine. But they don’t waste their time. They straight out rock for 45 minutes on their newest effort, Earth Rocker.
For 6 months out of the year, I grow a hellacious beard in honor of shape-shifting vocalist Neil Fallon. Close your eyes and he sounds like a tall, dark southern gentlemen, lulling you to sleep with tales of future, past, and present badassery, all over one of the deepest rhythm sections in hard rock today. Do yourself a favor and purchase this album. “If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage or don’t do it at all!” – Neil Fallon
DEATH ANGEL – The Dream Calls for Blood
When I purchased their album Act III back in 1990, Death Angel became one of my favorite bands on earth. I wore that tape the fuck out. Fast forward to now. This album is damn near perfect. It fascinates me though, that even with the same singer and the main songwriter/lead guitarist in the band since 1990 they sound like a completely different band. Not many bands can evolve and conquer like DA has. The production is stellar, the riffs are fresh and the key and tempo changes come at perfect times throughout the album, keeping it a fresh listen. Death Angel know how to write a good metal song and this album has about 9 of them on it. Rock!
SOILWORK – The Living Infinite
Anyone who knows me knows my affinity for all things Soilwork. Bjorn Strid is a vocal force of nature and his well-crafted “why didn’t I write that?!?!” choruses carry this double album into my favorite albums of 2013. It is almost impossible for a band to lose their 2 guitarists and primary songwriters and still sound like the same exact band. I lay this at the feet of Strid and longtime bassist Ola Flink and keyboardist Sven Karlsson.
To try to pull off a double album of heavy metal tunes without being repetitious is quite insane. It could have flopped, and big-time. With that being said, there are only about 4 stinkers in the bunch, and cutting 4 would have made it still too long for an LP, so I understand the dilemma. Roll the dice. But in my opinion if those 4 tunes would have been trimmed and if some of the solos been a little more original (the solos on the first 3 Soilwork albums are legendary), this might have been the best Soilwork album ever.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece. Please check out these other notable kick-ass releases as well. Keep buying music and I hope to see you at a Byzantine show in the future. Till then…
The Ocean – Pelagial
Extol – Extol
Trouble – The Distortion Field
Revocation – Revocation
Dream Theater – Dream Theater
Darkane – The Sinister Supremacy
Arsis – Unwelcome
Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing