What a year it’s been for the music world, and specifically for the heavy metal world. From the drop of 13 from an Ozzy-led Black Sabbath, to the death of Jeff Hanneman (may he rest in peace) to the arrests and trials of Randy Blythe and Tim Lambesis, it’s been an exciting first year for me here at Metal Riot as I’ve had the chance to interview members of A Pale Horse Named Death, White Wizzard, Secrets of the Sky, Impending Doom and In The Company of Serpents and review such powerful albums as Death Will Reign, To Sail Black Waters, The Hundredth Name, Skull, ReEvolution and Hydra and I could not think of a better way to close out the year than to let you all know what albums I thought were the best of 2013!
Check out my top ten albums of 2013 as well as my year-in-review here.
Before we get to the good stuff, I’d like to take a closer look back at some of the stuff that’s happened this year.
8. Mike Reynolds, of Christian metalcore outfit For Today started the year with some homophobic tweets
He soon after quit For Today to attend Bible College, with aspirations of becoming a missionary, but left in his wake members of bands showing support for the community he had chastised (including Johnathan Vigil of The Ghost Alive, Touche Amore, This Is Hell, Counterparts, Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari and Paolo Gregoletto of Trivium) suggesting that homophobia has little or no place in the modern metal scene.
7. Randy Blythe Arrested
Even though the actual arrest happened in 2012, the saga of Lamb of God‘s lead singer Randy Blythe having been arrested in Prague on charges of manslaughter definitely dominated the metal news sites well into 2013.
Randy Blythe had this to say about the whole process:
“It would be absolutely intolerable for me to hide from this situation. I am an innocent man, but a family suffers the loss of a son, a fan of my band. That is what this whole thing is truly about, not prison, not money, not politics, not ME – it is about a young man who lost his life at just 19 years of age. He will never come back, & it breaks my heart.”
By March 5, Blythe had been acquitted and is now working on a memoir, due out in 2014.
6. Tim Lambesis arrested; charged with ‘Solicitation of Murder’
In May, As I Lay Dying/Austrian Death Machine vocalist Tim Lambesis was arrested on charges of solicitation of murder of his wife. While currently on house arrest for a $2 million bond, Lambesis has pleaded ‘not guilty’ and the case is expected to continue into 2014.
5. Trouble for the metal mammoths in Behemoth
Back over the summer I was stoked about seeing Behemoth play Mayhem Festival, but sometimes these things don’t work out. As posted on the Mayhem Festival Blog, Behemoth drummer Inferno had to have some surgery. Luckily it seems Inferno has recovered and The Satanist is due out in February!
4. Phil Anselmo’s first annual Housecore Horror Film Festival
There is one thing to be sure of, there can never be too many metal festivals. Anselmo’s genius here, of course, is mixing heavy metal music festival with horror movie film festival.
3. Cannibal Corpse turns 25!
That’s right! It’s been a quarter-century since these New York maniacs helped to birth what we now appreciate as death metal.
To celebrate their maturation, they released their entire discography, one wondrous month at a time, on picture disks.
Considering the last two summers they’ve done Summer Slaughter and the Decibel Magazine tour and considering they’re expected to be releasing a new album sometime in 2014, it sounds like the guys in Cannibal Corpse have renewed their deal with the devil and are ready to melt faces and smash skulls for another twenty-five years!
2. Ed Hermida joins Suicide Silence
The next month, the heavy metal community came together to memorialize him, and to rally around the family he was survived by, his wife and his daughter.
Proceeds from the December show (as well as t-shirt sales) went to Lucker’s daughter’s college fund.
Fans of Suicide Silence, such as myself, who came to love Lucker for his range amongst heavy metal vocal stylings and his famous Lucker stomp, thought that Suicide Silence were finished. But then in October we caught wind that Suicide Silence had tapped a new vocalist, Ed Hermida of All Shall Perish. My reaction then was as it is now, I’m hopeful that this is because the members of Suicide Silence are able to move on, and not out of some need for Suicide Silence to fulfill a label contract.
I support Ed and look forward to the work he does as the frontman for Suicide Silence.
Check out Ed’s version of “You Only Live Once”:
1. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman
Back in 2012 I saw Slayer for the first time at Mayhem Festival. The show was awesome, as you’d expect/hope a Slayer show to be, and so it was kind of a shocker when less than a year later I heard that Hanneman had died.
The cause of death was announced to be alcohol related cirrhosis, even though he’d contracted necrotizing fasciitis in 2011.
The Westboro Baptist church incurred the wrath and fury of metal fans everywhere when they announced intent to protest Hanneman’s funeral, and after metal fans had a general laugh and a characteristic, “Bring it on” bravado, the WBC backed out.
With the WBC out of the picture, this celebration of Jeff Hanneman’s life went extremely well, and it is evident that he will be extremely missed.
Without further ado, here is my list of the top ten metal albums of 2013!
10. A Lot Like Birds – No Place (Equal Vision Records)
A very punk album, A Lot Like Birds No Place brings a metallic feel mixed with nostalgia for I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love style emotional hardcore.
9. Evile – Skull (Earache/Century Media Records)
Thrash meets New Wave of British Heavy Metal in a way that is meta without being generic. Evile‘s fourth album, Skull may not be breaking any molds, but this isn’t a list of the most mold breaking albums of 2013 (a task which I may have to attempt next year), this is a list of the ten albums I think are the best. Skull offers fantasy lyrics served up over thrashy-NWOBHM. Bottom line is, even as I write this I’m listening to the title track and I can’t help but to headbang. That’s what metal is all about!
8. Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse (Century Media Records)
Before IV: Empires Collapse the only exposure I had to Warbringer was “Living in A Whirlwind” off of Metal For The Masses: Volume 8. Both have done their fair share to impale my skull. This album offers thrash-tastic brutality.
7. Lesbian – Forestelevision (Translation Loss Records)
There is just nothing bad about Lesbian‘s 44 minute, one track album, Forestelevision. But then, I’m a sucker for things that drag. Forestelevision drones and drags the listener through a lulling adventure of blackened death metal growls and screams into some of the most virtuous instrumental work I’ve heard all year, and before concluding this masterpiece, displaying some grand mastery in the art of traditional metal.
6. Autopsy – The Headless Ritual (Peaceville Records)
Autopsy didn’t reinvent the wheel, they didn’t break the mold, they just gave us brutal death metal! They gave us probably the best death metal album of the year. If you haven’t been pulverized by this album yet, you need to hop to!
5. A Pale Horse Named Death – Lay My Soul To Waste (SPV)
“Gloomy” is the way I’d describe A Pale Horse Named Death‘s sophomore effort. It’s very melodic in a droning, gothic sort of way. Very melancholic both in instrumentation and in lyrical content. In a world of metal focused on angry, angsty, heavy, hard, brutal metal, Lay My Soul To Waste stands out as an album that can crush you with its gothic melody.
4. Secrets of the Sky – To Sail Black Waters (Kolony Records)
This debut effort achieves a grand amount; blending superbly black, death, doom and progressive metal styles into a heavy stew of doomy-prog overlaid with vocal stylings that range from death metal growls, to black metal screeches to just good ole fashioned heavy metal belting. I say, debut of the year!
3. Cynthesis – ReEvolution (Sensory/Lasers Edge Group)
Cynthesis‘s sophomore effort in a conceptual trilogy is prog-metal gold. ReEvolution is as clean and melodic as it is heavy. For those weary of singles, or who prefer to listen to entire albums start to finish, this album is for you. This album tops the list as my favorite prog-metal album of the year both for the way that Rosvold sings and for the way the album is instrumentally dexterous without being obnoxiously jammy.
2. Black Sabbath – 13 (Universal Music Group)
While Black Sabbath‘s 13 may not impress some of the critics, I thought it was a masterpiece. Upon my initial listen I figured that it was mostly filler, save for “God is Dead?” and “End of the Beginning”, but given repeat listens, I found this album, though not Paranoid, to be heavy metal indeed. It includes Iommi’s signature bluesy sound and the kind of lyrical content that made me fall in love with Sabbath and metal in the first place. This lyric, especially, has stood out to me since I first heard it, “You don’t want to be a robot ghost // Occupied inside a human host // Analyzed and cloned relentlessly // Synthesized until they set you free.”
Some say it’s good for a bunch of 60 year olds, I say that it’s good, period.
1. OTEP – Hydra (Victory Records)
Out early in the year, it was the first album I reviewed for the great Metal Riot, but don’t think that this album places first on my list because of that factoid. Instead, with what is claimed to be OTEP‘s last album, the mistress of dark poetry-metal gets claustrophobic. As I described the album in my review: “This isn’t your father’s jam band or your brother’s guitar metal.” And it isn’t and it doesn’t have to be – this album is heavy in the way classic metal always was – lyrically – this album is personal and political in ways that remind me of Black Sabbath and why I got into metal in the first place – because I’m a dirty little outcast.
This album goes down best in the darkest corner of a dark room, OTEP will terrify you, but the journey of Hydra will transform you.
As a bonus, I’d like to present a short list of the ‘Greatest Songs of 2013’ and ‘Greatest Music Videos of 2013’:
Greatest Songs of 2013
4. “Evergreen” by Windhand
3. “Fuck You (In Memory of…)” by Wednesday 13
2. “End of the Beginning” by Black Sabbath
1. “Electric Punishment” by Vicious Rumours
Greatest Videos of 2013
4. “Machine (Lyric Video)” by Born of Osiris
3. “Master of Confusion (Official Rehearsal Lyric Video)” by Gamma Ray
2. “DMSLT” by A Pale Horse Named Death
1. “God Is Dead?” by Black Sabbath