(One of the guest lists that I most anticipate at this time of year is by Tr00 Nate, a former contributor to The Number of the Blog and a student of the more underground releases each year. We’re happy he agreed to return to our site with his picks for 2013.)
Before we even get started, I would like to take some time to recognize Battle Beast for making the funniest/stupidest album of the year. This thing isn’t good but it totally makes me laugh.
2013 seemed to go by really fast. Maybe it’s just because I was really busy all year. Whatever the case may be, 2013, like pretty much every year, saw a boatload of good to great releases. And despite me trying to make myself more scarce online, Islander managed to rope me in to write a year-end list for his website, so I’ve sat down, during the last few weeks of school while also attempting to move (cause this is obviously the best time to write things for the internet), to write up. I originally came up with a top 20 but felt that didn’t quite cover all the things I liked this year, so before that you can see, in alphabetical order, all the honorable mentions (unless I forgot about them, like Gorguts and Immolation).
An Autumn for Crippled Children – try not to destroy everything you love
Àrsaidh – Roots
Cerekloth – In The Midst Of Life We Are In Death
Chastain – Surrender to No One
Condor – S/T
Cult of Fire – मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान
Darkestrah – Manas
Dream Death – Somnium Excessum
Emyn Muil – Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glaurunga
Enforcer – Death by Fire
Fates Warning – Darkness in a Different Light
Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
Howling – A Beast Conceived
Lantern – Below
Manilla Road – Mysterium
The Meads of Asphodel – Sonderkommando
Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple
Nekrofilth – Devil’s Breath
Nocturnal Graves – From the Bloodline of Cain
Oaks of Bethel – The Book of Odes: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer (Cryptae Sanguinum – Evangelium Flagrans Henrici Institoris)
Slutvomit – Swarming Darkness
Sulphur Aeon – Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide
Summoning – Old Morning’s Dawn
Supuration – CU3E
Vasaeleth – All Uproarious Darkness
Verminous – The Unholy Communion
Vestiges / Panopticon Split
Now, on to the top 20. Most of these items have a Bandcamp or Soundcloud thing embedded. Some of them I couldn’t find an embeddable thing, so clicking on the album art should bring you to a YouTube link or non-embeddable album stream or whatever.
20. Tribulation – The Formulas of Death
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1175245867 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Tribulation started this year fairly high up on my list. I was blown away by their unique take on death metal, offering a twisted blend of occult atmosphere and progressive songwriting while still maintaining that old school Swedish edge. It’s nice to hear a new band that’s able to push an overcrowded and played-out genre like death metal forward, and this 75-minute monster does just that. However, I found myself listening to it less as the year went on. It’s still really good, but I feel that the progressive nature of the album doesn’t lend itself to getting stuck in your head.
19. Tyrant Goatgaldrakona – Horns in the Dark
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1965532327 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Unlike Tribulation, Tyrant Goatgaldrakona aren’t trying to do anything new. Their pummeling brand of black/death is vicious, with thick heavy riffing and blazing solos. It starts out fast, it ends fast, and in between it’s all speed. This album crushes, and it somehow has the power to captivate even non-death metal fans despite how straightforward it is.
18. Jamie Christopherson – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Vocal Tracks
Alright, this one seems kinda out of place. All the tracks on here are just stupid dumb buttrock tracks. However, they’re from the game Metal Gear Rising, a fucking awesome game made by Platinum Studios whose final boss is basically Dick Cheney. It’s glorious and over-the-top stupid in the best way. and these tracks fit the game so perfectly. This album probably requires the context of the full game to understand why I put it on the list, but I don’t care, it’s great and it’s my list.
17. Bölzer – Aura
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/90047060″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Bölzer’s first EP makes a very emphatic statement. Bursting out of the brilliant but crowded Canadian black/death scene, Bölzer have crafted three songs of swirling cosmic murk, with complexities hidden within their wall of sound. The dash of Arghoslent-style melodicism helps to separate the band from their peers. A short but memorable beauty of an EP.
16. Seidr – Ginnungagap
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3708214277 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
I was a really big fan of Seidr’s debut album For Winter Fire, and I was really looking forward to Ginnungagap (in Norse mythology, Ginnungagap is the name of the void that existed prior to creation). Thankfully, this album managed to live up to those expectations. On Ginnungagap, Seidr have left behind the earthy atmosphere for a wider, more cosmic feel. Clocking in at around 87 minutes, the droning drawn-out riffs evoke the very creation of the cosmos itself. Seidr’s music has always been emotional and heartfelt, and I like how the band was able to expand the scope of their sound along with the album’s theme. If For Winter Fire was like standing on a frozen lake watching the sun descend beneath the trees, Ginnungagap is staring up at the night sky from atop a vast mountain range.
15. Rotting Christ – Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3692310543 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Ah Rotting Christ, one of my all time favorite bands. Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού (True to His Own Spirit, in Greek), is basically the Tolis Brothers and guest musicians. Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού is a hodgepodge of the brothers’ various interests, with a central theme of exploring death and the afterlife from the perspective of various other cultures, with each song focusing on a different culture, ranging from the Aztecs to traditional Romanian folk beliefs. It’s one of the band’s most varied albums, a bit more experimental and less “Greek” than their previous albums, but the melodicism and atmosphere that I love the band for still remain.
14. Ranger – Knights of Darkness
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2124735246 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
This mini-LP is Toronto as fuck. Pure classic speed metal with a nice modern sheen (but not too modern). I picked up on this band because Grover wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it. I love how gloriously. unapologetically 80s this is, and often times being pure 80s worship is enough to get in my good graces.
13. Zemial – Nykta
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2043549736 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Zemial are another legendary Hellenic black metal band. Unlike their more prolific country-mates Rotting Christ, this is only Zemial’s third full-length, despite existing since 1989. Their sound hasn’t changed all that much since their early days. It’s still a lot of the mid-paced classic Greek-style riffing you could find in the early 90s, but Zemial’s musical chops have increased significantly since then. This album features a lot of cool guitar work and excellent songwriting, especially in the two 10-minute-plus songs. A strong return, especially if you like the Greek black metal.
12. Krypts – Unending Degradation
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2813677146 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Walking across a dark barren wasteland. A field of nothing stretches on between you and the farthest horizon. All the filth and evil of the universe rains down upon your wretched head. It’s drowning you. Suffocating you. You struggle, but to no avail. There is no hope. Nobody will save you. Nobody CAN save you. Darkness enfolds you as you fade. Taking your last breath, your lungs filling with the toxic filth, you know only one thing. HATE.
It’s like that, but in the form of Finnish death metal.
11. When Bitter Spring Sleeps – Coven of the Wolves
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=3255338740 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
When Bitter Spring Sleeps is mostly known for three things: Their gimmick of recording outside in a nature preserve, their split with Panopticon, and sharing members with the best-named band in the universe (Satan’s Almighty Penis). With their first full-length, WBSS explore a softer and less raw sound, preferring to abandon a lot of their black metal roots for ritualistic songs with acoustic guitars and chanting vocals. This album has a real reverence for the natural world, which has always shined through in their music, but here it becomes extremely apparent. The lyrics shine through, and even more than most black metal, they decry the corrosive nature of man. Combined with the music, the whole package just works incredibly well. It’s hypnotic, and really easy to get lost in.
10. In Solitude – Sister
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/111130910″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
The entire time I’ve worked on this list I’ve been debating with myself over whether I actually think this album is really as good as its placement implies, or if I’m just enthralled by In Solitude doing something so different than what was expected. This weird combination of 80’s trad metal and Goth rock results in a bizarre, haunted album that’s been pretty divisive. I know a bunch of people who think it sucks shit, and I know others who love it. It showed up at number 2 on Decibel’s list, and while it’s not that good, it’s still a solid album that manages to capture my attention.
9. Magic Circle – S/T
This Massachusetts doom outfit throw in a very refreshing twist on the whole trad-doom revival thing going on these days. Instead of being blatant Black Sabbath worship, they’re blatant Pagan Altar worship. As stated, these guys are heavily influenced by the almighty Pagan Altar, though the title track / “Judgement of the Dead” comparison is the only one that’s really obvious; if you listen closely and are familiar enough with Pagan Altar’s music. you’ll definitely begin to hear not only the similarity in riffing, but also a similar type of lead playing, being shreddy and virtuosic while staying rooted in its subservience to the riffs, much in the way Alan Jones plays. The vocals are really great, energetic, and full, while still managing to stay in the same nasally realm of Ozzy and Terry Jones. This shit is great, and such a love letter to doom metal that I can’t help but fall in love with it.
In addition to Magic Circle, singer Brendan Radigan started up a side project this year called Stone Dagger. Under that name he made the best goddamn song of the year. Seriously, it fucking rips.
8. Sacriphyx – The Western Front
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=104963422 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
The Western Front is very much a thematic album. By which I mean the lyrical subject is mostly singular and really drives the direction of the music. As you can surmise from the album title and cover, this is all about the western front of World War I. The atmosphere that Sacriphyx seem to be trying to create here is one of both aggression and sorrow, capturing the sorrow of the pointless mass slaughter of an entire generation, while also maintaining the ferocity of war.
Unlike Bolt Thrower, the focus of this album is not pounding aggression but rather overwhelming oppression. The riffs are pretty much all mid-paced Australian black/thrash riffs, but the production gives them a weird jagged quality that is slightly strange but all the more captivating. The sorrow of WWI musically comes through in the form of the melodic leads woven throughout the entire album. The leads range from slower, atmospheric solos to fast shredding. Even without the lyrics the sorrow and horror of WWI come through all too clearly.
7. Satan – Life Sentence
In the past few years, there has been a trend in old NWOBHM bands reforming and releasing new stuff. Sadly, most of them either suck or are just kind of there, The only ones who have escaped that fate that I can think of are Pagan Altar and Trappazat, but in both those cases all their stuff was written back in the 80s, and they’re just now getting around to releasing shit (though Pagan Altar’s stuff was floating around on bootlegs since the 70s). I can gladly say that Satan have managed to join those hallowed few.
This album is seriously good. Insanely good. The songs are not boring (Angel Witch), they did not drastically change their sound to try and appeal to the “kids these days” (Cloven Hoof), and the modern production is neither annoying nor distracting (Hell). Satan have still got it to a ridiculous degree.
Satan made Court in the Act, possibly the best album of the entire NWOBHM movement. This is the line-up that made that album. Thirty years has affected them almost not at all (Ross can’t quite hit the high notes he was able to back then). Maybe the best comeback album I’ve ever heard? If you like metal get on this shit.
6. Atlantean Kodex – The White Goddess
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=1592084589 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14 t=2]
I was not a big fan of Atlantean Kodex’s debut album, The Golden Bough, like a of people were back in 2010. I felt that they were a bit too much like a poor man’s While Heaven Wept. and the songs lacked identity. I am happy to say that Atlantean Kodex have fucking stepped up their game with The White Goddess. This album is seriously good. The longer-length songs give them more opportunity to develop their ideas and allow their songwriting and technical skills to really shine through. Honestly, if the only good song on this album were “Sol Invictus”, I would still have it in my top 10 — it is seriously that good. Luckily, all the songs on this album are great, which puts it even higher up on my list.
5. House of Atreus – Into the Brazen Bull
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=761709879 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
So House of Atreus are pretty much the best local band (Minneapolis/St. Paul area) I’ve heard in maybe forever. These assholes, who for some reason refuse to let me give them money, took and refined the Arghoslent style of melodic riffing that I have come to absolutely adore. The fact that they don’t carry Arghoslent’s baggage of horrible racism is another plus. They also put on one of my favorite shows this year, though I was too stupid to buy shit from them at the time. It finally got a physical release early in December, so that’s fucking cool. If you want it, you can contact their label Antitheist Disseminations directly.
4. Satan’s Host – Virgin Sails
Satan’s Host are a pretty amazing, long-running band who hardly get the recognition they deserve. Veering between black/thrash and trad/speed, this is a band that you’re never quite sure what to expect. Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer fame lends his impressive vocals to Virgin Sails, an album of evil, pounding riffs, awesome solos, and good old fashioned Satanic heavy metal. I’ve seen this album on like no lists, and everyone who omits this album is objectively wrong.
3. Caladan Brood – Echoes of Battle
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=870275410 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
Never thought I would see the day when a Summoning-like band would manage to mesmerize me more than Summoning themselves. Caladan Brood should feel proud in beating the masters of atmospheric black metal at their own game. This duo manage to sound less cheap than Summoning, with none of the synths sounding dinky and thin like Summoning (but that’s part of the charm, so I’m not knocking them). The clean vocals used on this album are wonderful, as well as the more solo-y parts of the songs. It adds a more theatrical flourish to their work that helps them stand out from the rest of the Summoning-worshiping pack.
Lyrically, the band is based off the epic fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikison. I tried to read the series a few years back and the first book was such a dense wall of… stuff, that I couldn’t make it through. However, these guys inspired me to pick up the books and try again. Four books in and I’m hooked. So thanks for that guys.
2. Inquisition – Obscure Verses For the Multiverse
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=4119061783 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
So yeah, everyone knew this was coming. Inquisition have been on every metal list, and if you were wondering: Yes, it really is that damn good. Definitely their most accessible album to date; the cleaner production manages not to distract from the excellent riffing that this duo are known for. Describing this album beyond “cool riffs for cool people” is pointless, since you’ve probably read about it on every other goddamn list. Go listen to it if you haven’t.
1. Corsair – S/T
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=2912304512 size=medium bgcol=333333 linkcol=e32c14]
I never expected this album to make it to the top of my year-end list. It’s not the kind of album that would be in a year-end list. It didn’t reach out and grab me. I was not instantly captivated or wowed by the music on this album. But I found myself coming back to it. Over and over and over and over. It’s been a constant on my mp3 for most of the year. I have played it at least once a week, often times more, and I have come to realize I am totally addicted to Corsair in a way no other band this year was able to manage.
This is a throwback album through and through. Corsair didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, but they didn’t have to. Marie Landragin is an amazing guitarist whose use of melodies and solos is highly evocative of the great Thin Lizzy.
Though highly evocative of Thin Lizzy, the best part of this album is how the band are able to maintain their own sound while still drawing heavily from their obvious influences. The production and dual guitar melodies seem straight out of Jailbreak, yet the overall song structures are far more reminiscent of 70′s prog and space rock bands like Hawkwind and Spooky Tooth, with a little bit of very early Journey thrown in. However, despite my constant referencing of older bands, the blend that Corsair have managed to create honestly sounds like their own thing. With the exception of a few melodies and the vocal influence, it’s not obvious where each element of the songs comes from, other than the minds of the brilliant young songwritiers.
It’s really refreshing to hear such a young band nail the classic 70s rock/metal sound so perfectly, to the point where I was honestly wondering if Shadow Kingdom had managed to pick up and re-release some obscure band from the 70s with Corsair. The fact that they have hit the 70s sound so perfectly without sounding derivative is what probably impresses me the most.
So yeah, Corsair by Corsair. Tr00 Nate’s 2013 Album of the Year.