2013 was a great year for metal. Black Sabbath came back with a new album and it quickly ascended to #1 on Billboard’s charts. Clutch are STILL touring in support of Earth Rocker. I was lucky enough to meet all the guys from Opeth. Even with several powerhouse metal bands missing, the year produced a lot of great metal. I could easily create a Top 25 Metal Albums list, but I’m lazy as hell. So, despite my slacking, here’s my top ten list along with Metal Matt’s. Metal Matt is the new school yin to my old school yang when it comes to metal. He hates Iron Maiden, but he likes great beer and keeps me young when it comes to new bands.
10. Deafheaven Sunbather
Even with their Black Metal influence out of the limelight, Deafheaven blew some minds with Sunbather, a more experimental record. Decidedly rock-driven with poppy hooks, this is Deafheaven’s most mature work to date.
9. Lord Dying Summon the Faithless
I love it when a band grabs me with one song. I listen to a lot of XM’s Liquid Metal when I’m driving, and this band inevitably showed up in my morning commute. These riff-heavy purveyors pf sludge have a knack for catchy doom metal. This record fire both barrels with the opening track,
8. Orchid The Mouths of Madness
I’m so sick of every throwback metal band being called a Black Sabbath copycat. Bands are enjoying popularity and creativity basing their music on older, metal-meets-blues riffs because that rocks. Every band using Orange Amps aren’t trying to reinvent Iommi’s signature sound, just remind us how fucking awesome it is. The Mouths of Madness is Orchid’s first full-length studio album and this San Francisco doom quartet are everything right with retro rock.
7. Black Sabbath 13
The first official Black Sabbath with Ozzy since 1978’s Never Say Die was a huge hit with fans and critics. I’m surprised with half of that statement. Sabbath scored big and clawed their way through the bullshit masquerading as music on the Billboard charts and landed at the #1 spot. Not bad for a band that last made it on the chart over 40 years ago; really cool to even be a band that long. The Rick Rubin produced record played on the old school Sabbath approach and delivered eleven doom-filled catchy songs that are as good as ever. The bottom line is this: when Black Sabbath put a record out, metal fans are morally obligated to check it out. If you haven’t yet, check out the deluxe edition that includes three extra songs.
6. Gorguts Colored Sands
Inspired by Opeth and Porcupine Tree, Gorguts are back with their first studio album since 2001. Impressive since I was listening to these guys back in the early 90’s. The band have gone through personnel changes over the years, finally finding their groove in 2013’s saturated death metal community. The technical death metal on Colored Sands was inspired by Tibet and lends itself well to a concept record. The new songs are stylized and lush, diving to crushing lows along their way to 2013’s “Best of” lists.
5. Fleshgod Apocalypse Labyrinth
Well, holy shit. Where did these guys come from? FA hail from Rome and bring some serious high-metal skills. Somewhere between progressive death metal and opera, FA come across as a theatrical death metal play that you might see performing in a Vampire Chronicles musical. Filled with insane metal riffs, drumming, and guttural vocals, these guys earned a very nice spot in the yearly countdown. Get this album. Thanks, Metal Matt, for the suggestion.
4. Trivium Vengeance Falls
A collective cheer erupted when this dropped. Trivium, already a fan favorite, released Vengeance Falls to overwhelming acclaim. A tour with Clutch and The Sword fueled the fire and helped the band land in the # 4 spot. Tight riffs and racing lead breaks continue to punctuate and define Trivium as they grow as a band. Trivium have a massive fan base inspired by their technical skill and solid songwriting skills. It’s icing on the cake that their music has a soul.
3. Clutch Earth Rocker
Not quite metal, too hard for simple hard rock, Clutch bridge the gap and then some. Despite the prolific nature of Clutch, waiting for their new records is a bitch. The Maryland stoner rock band is back with their best album in years. Earth Rocker has the soulful, organic, heavy, inspired musicianship fans have come to expect. Clutch are fast on this record, providing great contrast to their slower grooves.Big hits on this include Crucial Velocity, DC Sound Attack, The Face, and Earth Rocker.
I was lucky enough to interview Jean Paul Gaster on their second show on the Earth Rocker tour, and you can find that right here.
2. Kverterlak Meir
I first discovered Kverterlak after noticing their album cover illustrated by John Baizley of Baroness. It’s funny how such a thing leads you to such an amazing band. Kverterlak are a little weird and mysterious. Sweden produces a shit ton of talented bands and Kverterlak are no different. This album isn’t even in English and it beats two dozen American releases.
1. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats Mind Control
I honestly don’t see how more metal fans aren’t listening to this record. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats are a musical godsend. Their mysterious origins begin in Cambridge, an English band equally forged of psychedelia, vintage metal, mystery, and a palpable tone of evil. I heard their previous album, Blood Lust, in my car on a bright summer’s day. Even in the 90° Bluegrass summer, this dark record clouded everything around me. Still to this day, every time I hear these guys,I picture myself sitting in a den at Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s California home. This latest record even revolves around a very Manson-inspired concept, but I was hearing this the very first time I listened to Blood Lust in its entirety. Weird, right? If Satan is an Apple guy, this is assuredly on his iPod.
If you like analog recordings and vintage music equipment, this band will catch your ear. Doom has never sounded so good with a strong dose of pop melodies, ritual murder, serial killers, love, and purpose. A seven minute song called Mt. Abraxas sets the initial tone for this melodic doom masterpiece. Vocalist and Uncle Acid himself, K.R. Starrs, has a velvety, rich tone that sets them apart from two dozen contemporaries. The fuzzed out guitars and vintage effect carry the listener to Death Valley on a crisp fall evening. This record is hands down the best thing to happen to doom and/or metal in 2013. Don’t mistake these slow grooves and trippy melodies for anything less than genius.
Metal Matt was cool enough to give me his best metal picks for 2013, so here’s the alt list.
1. Trivium – Vengeance Falls
2. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth
3. After the Burial – Wolves Within
4. Kvelertak – Meir
5. The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack
6. Thy Art Is Murder – Hate
7. Gorguts – Colored Sands
8. Black Sabbath – 13
9. Protest The Hero – Volition
10. Evan Brewer – Your Itinerary