Dec 162013

(Today, we begin rolling out the year-end lists of our site’s regular staff with the first part of Andy Synn’s annual five-part reflection on the past year. Of course, we will also continue posting Listmania columns by guest writers. Look for additional installments in Andy’s series every day this week.)

So here’s the deal, for those of you who haven’t experienced my massively over-involved and over-thought end-of-year round-up process before (and a reminder for those of you who have forgotten):

At the end of every year I spend some time listing all the albums and EPs which I’ve listened to enough to feel like I’ve formed a solid opinion on them. Then I break them down into three categories.

The Great (the ones I feel like I can legitimately defend as examples of the pinnacle of what the genre has produced this year), The Good (which vary from simply solid to almost awesome, some missing out on greatness by the merest hair’s breadth), and The Disappointing (which aren’t necessarily bad albums… they’re just… well… disappointing in some way!)

There’s definitely going to be some albums missing (for example – there’s no Amon Amarth or Chimaira, as I simply haven’t had the time to listen to either properly), and some that I’ve simply forgotten about, but overall I think it’s still a pretty formidable collection. Case in point, the “Great” section – by far the longest – is 53 albums long, which I think reflects the overall stellar quality that 2013 has brought us.

But enough of that… on to the first list.. the albums which I think are the best examples of this past year in the world of metal.



First off, an honourable mention. Omen by Antestor was actually released right at the very end of last year, so close to the end of the year in fact that barely anyone had a chance to hear it. Which is unfortunate, as it’s a fantastic album of ripping Black Metal with a prominent taste for both the more melodic and the more progressive sides of the genre. Similarly Amiensus officially released their unexpectedly riveting debut Restoration on December 31, 2012, but for me that still qualifies for this year’s round-up.

It’s definitely safe to say that this year belonged to Death Metal, with so many bands returning, reforming, or resurging, in fine form. That’s not to say that Black Metal wasn’t represented well, with both Woe and Aosoth unleashing their own specific brands of black hellfire, and both Inquisition and Lightning Swords of Death demonstrating just how blistering the genre can be, without sarificing the power of the riff.

On the thrashier end of the scale, both Skeletonwitch and Vreid put forth killer albums of raging thrash riffs and pure black venom, showcasing the impressive maturity of their song-writing on perhaps their finest albums yet. While over on the proggy side of the street both Progenie Terrestre Pura and Oranssi Pazuzu used the building blocks of the Black Metal genre as a foundation on which to construct something unexpectedly magickal.

On the more difficult, purposefully challenging side of things, a triple-header of AEvangelist, Altar of Plagues, and The Howling Wind channelled their inner demons into an expression of black art at its most uncomfortable and uncompromising, while Blodsgard came out of nowhere with one of the most gloriously epic and evil albums I’ve heard in a long time.

Something was clearly missing something though, with several of Black Metal’s biggest names unfortunately absent, leaving only three legendary names to keep the black flame burning. Satyricon delighted and disgusted in equal measure with their melancholic, progressively inclined return to the scene, while the ever over-productive Horna finally unleashed a new full-length album, one which captured their raw power with fresh and searing clarity. And finally, there’s no way I can’t mention Rotting Christ, who continued their fine return to prominence, going three for three with the release of Κατά τον δαίμονα του εαυτού.

The proggier side of metal – in all its multiplicitous forms – certainly had a great year as well, releases from In Vain, Cronian, Persefone, and Leprous all vying for the crown with their endless twists and turns and vast array of complex riffs and phenomenal vocals.

On the shreddier, more self-indulgent side of things, both Scale The Summit and Protest The Hero pushed their technical and compositional skills to the very limit, each crafting a thunderously impressive and engaging album out of pure musical talent and a lack of inhibition, and in terms of pure melody, both Omnium Gatherum and Wolfheart put out albums that were almost peerless, melding progressive nuance and sizzling hooks with an artisan’s care.

The Ocean put out a wonderful concept album plumbing their own musical depths on Pelagial, while Benea Reach unleashed some ferocious heaviness and crystalline intelligence on Possession. However, both these bands owe a huge debt to Cult of Luna, who released perhaps their defining album with the Metropolis-themed Vertikal, once more stretching the boundaries of what metal could (and should) be.

Talking of bands pushing their own boundaries and ambition, 2013 also saw the release of two nigh-untouchable double albums, from almost opposing ends of the metal spectrum, with Soilwork’s The Living Infinite and Celeste’s Animale(s) demonstrating both bands firing on all cylinders and producing stellar material at an almost unbelievable rate.

This was also a year of resurrections, with the return of living legends like Carcass, Gorguts, and Extol — as well as the welcome reformation of perennial NCS favourites Man Must Die and Byzantine – all of whom produced career-defining albums this year.

Ultimately though, the year belongs to Death Metal. From the shred-tastic Unwelcome by Arsis to the sheer brute force of Immolation, from the new school depravity of The Black Dahlia Murder to the old-school crush of Grave, 2013 dominated and devastated like no other.

Established legends like Suffocation, Kataklysm, and Hate built upon their legacies with new abums mixing technical skill and sheer blood and thunder aggression, while challenging, caustic albums from Svart Crown, Sulphur Aeonand Ulcerate demonstrated just why they’re the future of the genre.

The angular brutality and hypnotising melody of In-Quest’s The Odyssey of Eternity went a long way towards finally (and deservedly) establishing the band as a real force to be reckoned with, while the sheer insanity and excess of The Monolith Deathcult’s Tetragrammaton continued to show just why they’re considered the true masters of Supreme Avant-Garde Death Metal.

If you want to talk about excess though, then this year was a prime one for fans of the technical arts of death. Quite apart from the already mentioned triptych of Gorguts, Arsis, and Man Must Die, the debut albums from from Nero Di Marte and Rivers of Nihil immediately established the bands as contenders for the throne, and showed that the future of the genre is most definitely in good hands.

I can’t end things without giving well deserved kudos to three of the UK’s finest bands, all who produced fundamentally amazing and captivating albums this year. Chapters finally got around to releasing their long-gestating debut, and it was certainly as good as we’d all been hoping it would be. Eye of Solitude continued to go from strength to strength with the near flawless mix of death and doom delivered on Canto III. And new discovery Rannoch planted their flag firmly in the ground of greatness with the dazzling complexity and artisty of Between Two Worlds.

Oh… and Heaven Shall Burn continue to be great. ‘Nuff said.


Here’s all the bands I selected in list form, so you can all see just how much great music was released this year.


AEvangelist – Omen Ex Simulacra

Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury

Amiensus – Restoration

Antestor – Omen

Aosoth – IV: An Arrow In Heart

Arsis – Unwelcome

Benea Reach – Possession

The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack

Blodsgard – Monument

Byzantine – s/t

Carcass – Surgical Steel

Celeste – Animale(s)

Chapters – The Imperial Skies

Cronian – Erathems

Cult of Luna – Vertikal

Extol – s/t

Eye of Solitude – Canto III

Gorguts – Colored Sands

Grave – Morbid Ascent EP

Hate – Solarflesh

Heaven Shall Burn – Veto

Horna – Askel lähempänä Saatanaa

The Howling Wind – Vortex

Immolation – Kingdom of Conspiracy

In-Quest – The Odyssey of Eternity

Inquisition – Obscure Verses For The Multiverse

In Vain – Aenigma

Kataklysm – Waiting For The End To Come

Leprous – Coal

Lightning Swords of Death – Baphometic Chaosium

Man Must Die – Peace Was Never An Option

The Monolith Deathcult – Tetragrammaton

Nero Di Marte – s/t

The Ocean – Pelagial

Omnium Gatherum – Beyond

Oranssi Pazuzu – Valonielu

Persefone – Spiritual Migration

Progenie Terrestre Pura – U.M.A.

Protest The Hero – Volition

Rannoch – Between Two Worlds

Rivers of Nihil – The Conscious Seed of Light

Rotting Christ – Κατά τον δαίμονα του εαυτού

Satyricon – s/t

Scale The Summit – The Migration

Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed

Soilwork – The Living Infinite

Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam

Sulphur Aeon – Swallowed By The Ocean’s Tide

Svart Crown – Profane

Ulcerate – Vermis

Vreid – Welcome Farewell

Woe – Withdrawal

Wolfheart – Winterborn



Keep your eyes peeled for my next list, covering all the “Good” albums which – while all special in their own way – simply didn’t quite make the cut for greatness this year round!


  50 Responses to “2013 — A YEAR IN REVIEW(S): THE GREAT ALBUMS”

  1. I’m really starting to think I’m one of the only people who thinks Finntroll’s Blodsvept was one of the highlights of the year…

  2. my absolute favorite thing about year-end lists is the potential for new discoveries. wolfchant and blodsgard are absolutely monstrous. i can’t believe i missed those!

  3. That is a fuckin list!!!!

  4. Nephren-ka….man come on! Well I guess if u havent heard it, I guess ill let u get away with missing them in ur list!

    • There’s only so much time in the day/week/month/year!!!

      • I know i, kind of feel like a dick for that comment!. plus I know the releases towards the end of the yea, arent always discovered in time for listmania. Oh by the way “swear to satan” \m/

  5. Hate’s Solarflesh was a good one. I guess since it was released way back in January it’s kind of been forgotten about, but it’s stuck with me. Nice pick. The Howling Wind was another one that I liked a lot but hasn’t had much time in the spotlight.

  6. Now THIS is a list! I’m happy to know I’m not the only person who thought Tetragrammaton was truly one of the year’s best albums.

    Also, I keep seeing other lists pay lip service to how “2013 was the best year for death metal since 1993,” and then include but a handful of death metal albums. It’s nice to see one that actually reminds us just how awesome death metal was this past year.

  7. Solid list, though in my esteemed opinion The Ocean owes a debt to no one.

    • I know you love the band and all, but thhe fact that they acknowledge CoL as one of their primary influences suggests otherwise.

  8. I think I’m the only one who can’t stand the new Suffocation, I’ve tried listening to it more than a dozen times and I just don’t like the production, don’t like the theme, don’t like the riffs, don’t like the drumming, don’t like the lyrics, don’t like Frank Mullen’s performance, don’t like the artwork, I don’t get why it’s getting rave reviews from everyone. I love all their other albums but this one make me cringe from beginning to end, only decent part was the DVD that is included and even Frank didn’t care for the theme or the lyrics, seems like he just phoned it in, which makes me sad.

  9. a really good list, but shame on you for not including Portal. i shed a single tear as i looked to the horizon…

  10. Dude. Discovering some new music from this most metal of lists. Persefone is amazing! And I feel much shame that I’ve never heard of them before. As punishment, I shall boil my testicles in motor oil while listening to the Spiritual Migration album.

    Thanks for the brain droppings!

  11. Quite the comprehensive list you’ve got here, very nice! There are a few I haven’t tried yet in this list, which I will certainly give a go. Overall though, if I were to make a ‘great’ list from last year it would look much the same as this one. No Shade Empire though; if it’s not on either list I highly recommend their new one!

    I am curious about the other two installments 🙂

  12. Is this the part where i say OMG no Deafheaven means you are an ignorant elitist poser, and swear to never visit this blog again? 😀

    Pretty good list tho, even if there are only 3-4 albums here i would call great.

  13. I’m very glad to see Amiensus on this list! I discovered them through this site and they’ve been in my car non-stop ever since january!

  14. One of the best surprises was Sulphur Aeon. After I heard that, my jaw dropped to the floor, then my wife kicked it across the room and then the cat devoured it. This is a great list!

  15. Solid list. Not a lot of overlap with mine, but there are a few spots. Then again, you listen to a lot more black metal than I do, so that’s to be expected.

  16. This is a very biased list.

  17. Andy sugar, i think you forgot Unhuman’s Unhuman, for purely technical death metal’s sake it should be on top of everything in that list 🙂

  18. Dream Theater can’t even seen on this article. Lame

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