So yesterday I posted my list of the Top 25 Albums of 2013. But I’m posting another list today, this one consisting entirely of metal albums. I do this because it never feels right to include Gorguts alongside, say, Lorde. Granted, there was one album (Deafheaven’s Sunbather) that appeared on that previous list (and rather highly on it, I might add), but in that case, it would’ve felt wrong including it here, so populist was its acceptance by almost everyone. So I didn’t. If you want to see what did make the cut here, well then, read on!
THE TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS OF 2013
10) NAILS – Abandon All Life
My goodness. My goodness, gracious me. Abandon All Life may barely crack the 17 minute mark, but it doesn’t waste a single second – and it’s momentum is irreproachable. It’s a monstrous, punishing record, fully of dense jagged edges courtesy of producer/Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. Musically, it fits somewhere between the aforementioned Converge and Scum-era Napalm Death, while the album’s penultimate track, Suum Cuique (the band’s longest yet – nearly six minutes!), is more…well, more fitting of a band that’s on Southern Lord, really. If you know the label, you’ll know what that means.
9) RUSSIAN CIRCLES – Memorial
I’ve been hooked on Russian Circles ever since I saw them open for Pelican back in 2005. Nobody knew who they were, and the crowd mood was one of disinterest. Then they started playing – and everyone’s jaw collectively dropped. Memorial is Russian Circles’ fifth album, and in it, they’ve deeply distilled their sound, creating songs defined by either shimmering wonderment or pounding, unrelenting heaviness. I was surprised by how successful this approach worked. The heavy songs, in particular, are a thing to behold (at times reminiscent of the cyclonic mayhem of 5ive – this 5ive, not that 5ive). So. If you want to sand your brain down into oblivion, look no further.
8) CULT OF LUNA – Vertikal
Cult of Luna have always been stuck under Isis’ shadow, and with Isis having disbanded, you’d figure Cult of Luna would use their next album to come forward and claim what is theirs. Not so. Vertikal, released barely one month into 2013, is (like it’s cover art stolen from The Flaming Lips suggests) a markedly stark album, lacking in the intricate ebb and flow that defined so much of both bands’ previous efforts. “Monoliths” is perhaps the best way to describe these songs – and really, what better way to escape someone’s shadow than by forging your own?
7) WEEKEND NACHOS – Still
If you scroll up just a touch, you’ll see the write-up I did for Nails’ Abandon All Life – now, if you were to take that album, and instill in it a hefty dose of sneering, crust-punk “fuck you”, that’s what Still sounds like. It’s an album that, like Abandon All Life, doesn’t stop from the second it starts – but unlike Abandon All Life, Still’s hostility is directed at you. For 21 minutes, the songs pounce about like deranged madmen, forcing you to acknowledge that yeah, there’s bullshit all around. No question. And I’ve done my share.
6) SUMMONING – Old Mornings Dawn
It’s been seven years since the last Summoning album, Oath Bound, was released. That album was a revelation, as it suggested a new mixture of the band’s black metal and symphonic components that hadn’t yet been explored. Well, seven years on, and Old Mornings Dawn confirms that yes, the band should keep doing this. There are very, very few bands capable of making something that’s quite frankly as ludicrous as this work (Moonsorrow is one – I’m hard pressed at the moment to think of another). So I’m glad they’re doing it. Because these songs will instantly make anything approaching dull sharpen right the fuck up.
5) CARCASS – Surgical Steel
Despite Carcass’ resurgence as a live entity as far back as 2007, it seemed unlikely that the band would ever convene again to release new material in album form. Which, given how the band limped off of the stage in 1996 with Swansong, is something that a lot of people would’ve died and/or killed for. So the first noteworthy thing about Surgical Steel, the band’s first album in seventeen years, is that it even exists at all. The second thing is how vital the band sound after all this time; they’ve mercifully jettisoned the death n’ roll influences, and have turned out a tight death/thrash hybrid that fits startlingly well next to Heartwork. Sometimes, the best lineage fix is time.
4) IN SOLITUDE – Sister
This is perhaps the best time in recent memory for bands to just slam their noses to the proverbial grindstone and bust out some classic metal. Baroness and Ghost B.C. proved that there’s a somewhat populist market for neck-flexing and spooky theatrics, respectively. In Solitude, though while classic in almost every sense of the word, don’t really indulge in either. And that’s good thing. If ever there was an heir to what Mercyful Fate and Danzig began back in the 80’s, it’s this.
3) ROSETTA – The Anaesthete
As I mentioned when talking about Cult of Luna up above, Isis are now gone. But I’d like to posit something different: they’re not. Not really. Because Rosetta have, for the better part of ten years, been cranking out material that’s every bit as good, if not better, than the material Isis was releasing in that time (certainly Rosetta’s The Galilean Satellites and Wake/Lift were superior to Isis’ In The Absence of Truth). I’m not going to come right out and say they’re a better band, but I will say that it’s more than fair to indulge the comparison. And if you don’t believe me, listen to The Anaesthete first. Then we’ll talk.
The Anaesthete was self-released by the band under a pay what you want pricing setup via Bandcamp, and can be listened to in its entirety on that page.
2) LESBIAN – Forestelevision
Forestelevsion is comprised of one song that’s 44 minutes long. Now, there’s no shortage of exceptionally long metal songs. Sometimes these songs are marvelous (Edge of Sanity’s Crimson, 40:01). Sometimes, they’re not (the unendurable 75 minutes of Fantômas’ Delìrium Còrdia). But Lesbian’s approach with Forestelevision is absolutely enthralling. It begins slow and ponderous, but it begins to take shape, becoming more lively and intense as it progresses. It’s as if they’re chiseling the song out of rock, making it into something from (next to) nothing – and we get to hear it happen in real time. I know that most people will hate it, but I love weird stuff like this.
I almost hesitate to post this, but, if you’re curious and want to fully invest yourself in this herculean endeavor, click here. The song’s not on Spotify.
1) GORGUTS – Colored Sands
Everyone talks about how mind-blowingly amazing Gorguts’ seminal 1998 album, Obscura is. And rightly so. It’s in a class by itself. But the band shouldn’t be defined by that one album, because they’ve been consistently ahead of the curve since 1991’s Considered Dead. Colored Sands is the band’s fifth album, and their first in over ten years. And, much like Carcass’ new album, it’s a kind of miracle that this thing even exists at all. But the reality of it cannot be questioned, and neither can its quality. When death metal is at its best, it reveals something new to you each listen. And I know that I’ll be unpacking Colored Sands for years to come.
Well, there you go. Another day. Another list. That’ll probably be it for me for 2013. See y’all in 2014!