(Here’s the second of Andy Synn’s five year-end lists. His list of the year’s “Great” albums can be found at this location. More lists coming in the days ahead…)
So here we are. List number 2. The “Good” albums. It’s a varied list. Not just in terms of a cross-section of the various metal sub-genres, but also in terms of just how good each album is/was.
There are some here that fell just shy of greatness. Some played solely to their own crowd – solid, safe, occasionally impressive – but a good listen nonetheless. There are some albums that went too far (too many songs, too many influences, too much in general…) and some that didn’t go far enough (lacking that one special spark that would really have put them over the top).
The thing to remember is that all these albums are good… maybe even edging on great… it’s just that in a year where the quality was so high (and it really was), they can’t do much more than graciously collect a silver medal this time around.
In terms of sheer bruatlity, the savage technical death metal of Lecherous Nocturne and the sheer symphonic audacity of Fleshgod Apocalypse both offered up multiple moments of excellence (I’d argue that the songwriting on Labyrinth was definitely a step-up from Agony, for one thing), while the ripping, tearing, rabid ferocity of Blood Red Throne’s self-titled effort continued their own path to greatness and glory.
Against The Plagues, Sidious, and Fallujah each produced a brilliant EP’s worth of devastating death metal which promised great things for the future, while Hypocrisy showed once more just why they’re still such a revered and respected force in the extreme metal world.
Despite delivering some truly punishing songs, both Necrophobic and The Bridal Procession bit off more than they could handle with their latest albums, each one going on a little longer than necessary. Some judicious pruning/editing would certainly have helped. The blistering technical/groove/death-thrash of Darkane and Living Sacrifice managed to get heads banging and blood pumping, but neither quite matched up to what the band is capable of when they’re truly “in the zone”.
Two of my favourite French bands fell just short of greatness this year, Gators Rumble… by Glorior Belli rambling where it should have rampaged, and Apex Terror by Otargos pulling back on the atmosphere in favour of pure, primal rage. Shining’s experimental 8 ½ … was a fascinating, if flawed, reinterpretaton of the band’s early days, while Chthonic’s Bu-Tik saw the band straying ever farther from their roots, with a brace of songs determined to embrace as many influences as possible.
Both Svartsyn and Valkyrja unleashed a new wave of maniacal musical murder this year, while Enshadowed and From The Vastland brought black magic to life through a conjuration of whirlwind riffs and stomping force. On the more esoteric side, both Rudra and Tengger Cavalry showed just what can be done when a band takes the basic tenets of a genre and reinterprets them through a fresh cultural prism.
Tunnel of No Light by October Tide didn’t quite manage to reach the same heights of its predecessor, and the otherwise fantastic Aetas Cineris by Agrypnie also faltered ever so slightly, held back by its own excess of ambition. Few bands, though, can be as ambitious as Ulver, whose latest album is as creative and mystifying as anything they’ve ever done.
Amorphis, Memfis, and In Element wove magical melody and taut riffery together with varying degrees of awesomeness this year, whilst new releases from Scorned Deity and Your Chance To Die saw both bands beginning to build a promising foundation of pulverising melodic death metal might.
And finally, this year also saw two living legends – both of whom have suffered with line-up changes and uncertainty over the years – buck the odds and smash out a pretty brilliant album each, with Shai Hulud’s Reach Beyond The Sun and Sepultura’s The Mediator… showing that you most definitely can teach an old dog new tricks.
Here’s the list in total for you all!
Against The Plagues – The Quaternion EP
Agrypne – Aetas Cineris
Amorphis – Circle
Blood Red Throne – s/t
The Bridal Procession – Descent Into Arcologies
Chthonic – Bu-Tik
Darkane – The Sinister Supremacy
Enshadowed – Magic Chaos Psychedelia
Fallujah – Nomadic EP
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth
From The Vastland – Kamarikan
Glorior Belli – Gators Rumble, Chaos Unfurls
Hypocrisy – End of Disclosure
In Element – Era
Lecherous nocturne – Behold, Almighty Doctrine
Living Sacrifice – Ghost Thief
Memfis – Silva EP
Necrophobic – Womb of Lilithu
October Tide – Tunnel Of No Light
Otargos – Apex Terror
Rudra – RTA
Scorned Deity – Adventum
Sepultura – The Mediator…
Shai Hulud – Reach Beyond The Sun
Shining – 8 ½ – Feberdrömmar i vaket tillstånd
Sidious – Ascension to the Throne ov Self
Svartsyn – Black Testament
Tengger Cavalry – The Expedition
Ulver – Messe I.X – VI.X
Valkyrja – The Antagonist’s Fire
Your Chance To Die – The American Dream
Tomorrow, the contentious list of the albums I found most disappointing this year.
Feel free to make guesses and prepare yourselves for the worst, by taking a look at what’s NOT been featured on either of the two lists already published!
I would be a little sad if my album made your “good” but not “great” list. Lol.
I agree. I’ve been trying to get Andy to re-name his lists The Divine, The Stupendous, and The Fantastic.
I disagree with putting Fleshgod here. They deserve better. The bit I’ve heard of the new Ulver sounds more promising too. I just got the new Rudra for nostalgia’s sake a couple days ago on Amazon. I’ll reserve judgment on it til I hear it (and maybe review it?).
Other than that, I approve/remain neutral.
Interesting that Ulver gets so much love on metal sites. I have listened to and enjoyed the new album, but in my view it is hardly metal at all. This is not a knock on it; I gave it an honorable mention on my list of the best ambient albums of 2013.
I’ve been a huge fan for a long time, but I know what you mean. They still retain a weird cross-over factor, despite all the major changes they’ve undergone over the years.
Wow and I also agree with most albums on this list 🙂 as in good but not great. However, Hypocrisy’s newest was downright disappointing to me.. Not one memorabele song on that album for me.
I think there’s some Great songs on it, tbh, just not enough to make a Great album.
I dont know if Id call the new Necrophobic good…”bland” is probably the term Id go with. Not a terrible album, just completely forgettable
I disagree. I had heard some not so positive things about it before it dropped onto my map, but I think when it’s “on” it’s really, really good.
It’s just WAY too long though.
Womb of Lilithu is easily one of my top 10 albums this year! love the vocals, and vocal hooks!
I’d agree with Aetas Cineris; I wanted to like it more than I did. The opening track delivers in spades but the latter parts of the album didn’t hold me as much. It’s the first album of theirs I’ve heard so I might check out their previous releases.
In all honesty I haven’t heard most of these so can’t really offer any comment. But I really like Scorned Deity – it flows to a new segment before becoming stagnant, and incorporates some really good unexpected elements, like electronica turning up out of the blue. I guess if I’d break it down, probably the upper end of ‘Good’ but not ‘Great’ 😉
All Agrypnie’s albums are borderline fantastic tbh, even AC – in fact I was listening to it on the plane over and realised I do absolutely love it. I just couldn’t necessarily say that it achieved true greatness. It’s definitely on the upper tier of this list though.
SD will (hopefully) be featuring in my catch-up reviews early next year!
I would add Amon Amarth in the good list. Much better release than Surtur Rising. Killswitch Engage too (almost a great comeback album).
Never got around to listening to that AA album. I’ll catch up with it sometime next year I would imagine.
KsE was on the list too at one point, must have got mislaid! It’s a good (if not mind-blowing) album though.
ahhhh Hypocrisy, how did i forget that one on my own list?? dang
For shame, son. For shame.
I agree with ALOT of this list. I mean, the albums are good, but they are lacking just a tiny bit to be great
Good but forgettable.
I don’t think any of them are “forgettable” (anything forgettable probably just got forgotten about and didn’t make my list/s at all). It’s more that they simply don’t quite reach the very high bar that’s been set this year for true greatness.
Personal tastes and biases could certainly push some of them up a notch or two though.