(In this post NCS writer TheMadIsraeli delivers his list of 2013’s Top 10 albums.)
I really wanted to do a top twenty this year. I really did. After a shit ton of scrutiny though, I decided I couldn’t come up with twenty. A top ten has to do for this year, because ten specific albums overwhelmingly stomped everything else for me. This year was an ABSOLUTELY MONSTROUS year for metal, particularly death metal and prog-tinged metal. That’s funny to me, by the way, because a lot of that prog-tinged stuff was also death metal. While my personal favorites didn’t always gravitate in that direction (although three very select choices are indeed on here), I’m overall very pleased with this year.
Now, as for this list: I’ve never done a list before where my order “mattered” per se. I don’t like ranking albums against each other, never have. I figure they’ve done well enough if they get onto my list in the first place. However, this time, some albums were so definitively good that there had to be a ranking. This time the ordering of my list matters (at least to me), and I even have an album of the year.
I certainly hope the musicians I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with and getting to know over this year will understand if they didn’t make the cut. The competition was simply too brutal. There will be honorable mentions though, so this won’t be a hard-locked top-ten-, nothing-else-matters kind of list.
So here they are… my top ten albums of 2013.
10: Feared – Furor Incarnatus
I had never checked out Ola Englund’s band Feared before. I only knew him from his YouTube channel, in which he primarily demos guitar-related gear. I admit, what I could hear of Feared at the time I first discovered them didn’t impress me (and if you asked Ola yourself, he’d probably not fault me for that), but when I first heard Keith Merrow do an instrumental cover of “Live In You”, I was intrigued. He was covering a song that wasn’t even available for anyone to hear yet, and the guitar work of the song itself really impressed me.
When I finally got to hear Furor Incarnatus, I secured the album stream for an NCS premiere with extreme enthusiasm. The hybrid of melodic death metal, groove metal, and post-thrash hit a sweet spot I couldn’t ignore. You want intense, push/pull speed/groove contrast? Feared bring that. You want ballsy riffs and tasteful solos? Feared bring that, too. You want metal that offers up tasty hybridization? Feared deliver that as well, and Furor Incarnatus is the showcase.
9: Feared – Vinter
Not one, but two killer albums in one year from a relatively unknown band. That’s an accomplishment. What’s also an accomplishment is making two albums in the same year that can be differentiated from each other yet be near-equals in their high quality. You could exchange Vinter and Furor Incarnatus in these first two spots, it doesn’t matter. But Vinter, with its death metal focused edge and speedier approach, ultimately edges out ahead of Furor Incarnatus for me on a personal level. Try not to destroy everything around you when “Huldra” comes on. Seriously.
8: Immolation – Kingdom Of Conspiracy
The New York kings of drudgery and filth not only came out with another killer record to add to their legacy, it was their most aggressive effort to date. The foreboding, ominous Immolation was gone, and spit out from the abyss was a carnivorous monster from unknown depths that destroyed all in its wake. They’ve never done any wrong before, and in fact, they’re only getting better.
7: Hail of Bullets – III: The Rommel Chronicles
Hail of Bullets are almost too consistent for their own good. Now with three stellar albums to their name, they’re definitely the current reigning kings of the so-called “war metal” sub-division of death metal. III… is flawless, gargantuan, unrelenting, and ugly. I’ll never get enough of these death/doom shock troops.
6: Omnium Gatherum – Beyond
Oh man. The emotion, the ambience, the melodies. The depressive brand of melodic death metal that’s become the standard lately has been one of the best developments in metal, if you ask me. Omnium Gatherum are further proof of that, having evolved into an ethereal machine of metal thunder and ocean calm. These guys knocked it out of the park. I still stand by my previous words — Beyond is a masterwork within its trade.
5: Soilwork – The Living Infinite
It’s a Soilwork album. A modern Soilwork album. A double modern Soilwork album. The odds pointed to this being a total fucking shit show. Yet it wasn’t. This is the fastest, most vicious, most beautiful, and most melodic Soilwork have been since A Predators Portrait and it may very well be their best album yet. A double album with very little in the way of flaws; it’s just unreal.
4: Hate – Solarflesh: A Gospel Of Radiant Divinity
You can bet your ass that any time any of the major Polish death metal titans unleash a new army of carniverous audio hellhounds, it’ll be on my top albums list. Vader took the cake last year, Decapitated the year before that, and now Hate this year. It’s fucking pure blackened death majesty laden sonic devastation at it’s finest, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3: Man Must Die – Peace Was Never An Option
Who saw this coming? I mean, we all knew a new Man Must Die record was going to be good. But this isn’t just good, this is un-fucking-believable levels of getting fucked, with piss and vinegar and all the violence you can think of. These guys bring an undeniable trifecta of melodic, brutal, and genuinely pissed as all fuck, and they made an album that destroys everything. I don’t even know how you make so much awesome in one album. It’s such a rare occurrence. But Man Must Die did it — they are definitvely an example of everything right about metal as a whole. This is power. This is purity.
2: Suffocation – Pinnacle Of Bedlam
It’s their best record since Pierced From Within, which is really saying something because Suffocation’s worst shits all over most other death metal bands’ best to begin with. Pierced… is a legendary record, and while I won’t say that Pinnacle… tops it, it is definitely equal. Suffocation, to me, are the definition of death metal, the undeniable standard by which all bands shall and will be measured. The fact that these guys are still killing it as flawlessly as they were when they started is absolutely fucking insane. A perfect album from a legendary band.
And my album of the year is…
I never thought I’d see the day another Byzantine album would be released. These guys were so underappreciated, so trampled underfoot by the label machine, I just didn’t see it happening. But it happened, and not only did they come roaring back with a vengeance, they crafted an album every bit as perfect and style-blending as their catalogue had always been. I’m such a rabid devotee of this band, such a passionate fan, I can’t help but put this album as my favorite of the year. So many styles meet at the intersection that is this album, and yet it’s so memorable, yet heavy, yet envelope-pushing. I love this album and this band and always will. They won my number one spot without question.
Honorable mentions though, have to go to Oblivion, Exivious, Extol, and Fleshgod Apocalypse. They put out stellar, absolutely killer records this year. It’s just that these top ten were too undeniable to me.
This year was rather hard for me personally, which is why my writing input has dwindled so much as of late, but metal — as per usual since I fell in love with it — got me through it. I love this site, I love the guys I work with, and I’m still not one fucking iota burnt out on metal and all that it offers. Here’s to the prospect of a badass and brutal 2014.