Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013

2013 marked another great year for metal and all its splintered genres. Although some promising acts disbanded, legends passed away, and some douche brought a lot of unwanted attention our way, 2013 was still a year full of celebration. There were great milestones and anniversaries, epic comebacks and most of all, slammin’ new albums for us depraved metal fans to enjoy. Trying to cram a year’s worth of stellar releases into a mere top 10 might seem like an act of lunacy…but that’s us alright, stupid like a fox. This is The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013...

10. Power Trip- Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord)
Riffs on riffs on riffs. Power Trip delivers the riffiest album of the year with Manifest Decimation. This is a chunky, sludge laced throwback to the glory days of crossover thrash. If the sound of Possessed meets Cro-Mags bathed in filthy reverb tickles your fancy, then look no further. There isn’t  a lot of fancy tricks going on here, no wild tempo changes or instrumental wankery, just a shit ton of foot stomping grooves and some wicked dive bomb solos guaranteed to get necks snapping in no time. I’m dead serious about Power Trip’s insane riff prowess on this album. Someone play “Crossbreaker” for James Hetfield ASAP.

9. Defeated Sanity- Passages Into Deformity (Willowtip)
Passages Into Deformity represents the heavier end of the metal spectrum. This is ultra brutal death metal, for those raised on healthy diets of Suffocation, Cryptopsy and Deeds of Flesh. Defeated Sanity pull out all the stops on this record, running the gamut from technical cyborg riffs, absurdly catchy slams/breakdowns and spastic jazz runs that seemingly come out of nowhere. Tracks like “The Purging” showcase the band’s talents, both as players and songwriters. This isn’t just a wall of growls and distortion either, each note and…well, growl, is crisp and audible. This type of death metal goes beyond heavy, it’s bludgeoning.

8. KEN mode- Entrench (Season of Mist)
It means “Kill Everyone Now.” Glad we got that acronym business out of the way. With a moniker such as this, is it any surprise that KEN mode’s latest release is such a feral beast of an album? Listening to Entrench is akin to riding a lawnmower down a flight of stairs. It’s reckless, terrifying and strangely exhilarating. This Canadian power trio delves up a lethal dose of jangly noise rock and blistering hardcore with scathing vocals that sound like PTSD personified. Tracks like “Romeo Must Never No” and the final section of “Why Don’t You Just Quit,” feature woeful melodies that offer a brief respite from the amphetamine laced riffs that drive Entrench. Save for those and the album’s instrumental closer, the rest of the record is straight up bruisers like “No-I’m In Control.” Buckle up folks, it’s one hell of a toboggan ride.

7. Immolation- Kingdom of Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
Robert Vigna continues his streak of utter guitar domination on Immolation’s latest release. As the band’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, Vigna is the culprit behind all those maniacal riffs and otherworldly tones that take center stage throughout Kingdom of Conspiracy. I swear the man pulls these eerie notes out of some sinister pocket dimension. Vigna’s unorthodox orchestrations, coupled with Steve Shalaty’s exceptional double bass drumming and Ross Dolan’s signature, mightier than Satan, roar; creates a pulverizing onslaught of aural shrapnel. Songs like “God Complex” and the album’s title track sound like they were written by roid raged powerlifters . Kingdom of Conspiracy is Immolation’s most aggressive and hardest hitting album in years. Hulk Smash.

 6. Noisem- Agony Defined (A389)
The whole thrash metal revival thing has been getting played out for some time now. Just when you thought it was safe to toss your denim jacket back in the closet, Noisem go ahead and release the most jaw dropping dose of 80’s inspired thrash in years. This isn’t a trendy retro/worship thing either. Agony Defined sounds like a legit slab of Reagan era hostility. Frenzied Kreator style riffs delivered with the blunt force urgency of early Sepultura. The vocals even have that manic echo of Cold War paranoia about them, you know, back when the threat of nuclear holocaust served as both lyrical content and headline news. How this group of youngsters, aged 15-20, crafted such a vicious and authentic debut like Agony Defined is beyond me. Who knows what they’ll bring to the table next time around.

5. Carcass- Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
After a 17 year hiatus, Carcass return to the extreme metal underworld like conquering heroes. With Surgical Steel in tow, one of the finest pieces of melodic death metal since their swansong album, 1994’s Heartwork (we’ll just pretend the actual Swansong doesn’t exist shall we?), Carcass wipe the floor with just about every band that has posthumously aped their sound for the past two decades. Songs like “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” highlight the band’s penchant for catchy hooks, while pummelers like “Captive Bolt Pistol” pay homage to their grindcore roots. Jeff Walker’s trademark rasp is as venomous as ever and the guitar harmonies on display will have any self-respecting Iron Maiden fan’s tail wagging in no time. Leave it to the masters to show them upstarts how it’s done.

4. The Dillinger Escape Plan- One of Us Is the Killer (Party Smasher Inc/Sumerian)

Plagued by lineup changes since forever, The Dillinger Escape Plan have finally retained a stable roster of musicians long enough to record their best album in nearly a decade. One of Us Is the Killer is a brilliantly executed, NASA certified experiment in mathematics and vitriol. From a technical standpoint, the album is a dazzlingly display of musicianship, with enough guitar noodles and chopped time signatures to boggle the mind. Vocalist and lead acrobat, Greg Puciato has never sounded more menacing and current kit slayer Billy Rymer’s penchant for ghost notes and breakbeats proves to be the band’s secret weapon. Dillinger has finally managed to balance the technical savagery from their Calculating Infinity days with the anthemic songwriting they’ve steadily developed since 2004’s Miss Machine. Look to songs like “When I Lost My Bet” for proof.

3. Deafheaven- Sunbather (Deathwish Inc)
Imagine the brooding and sinister undertones of Scandinavian black metal, filtered through the ethereal atmosphere of shoegaze and post-rock. It makes for one hell of a juxtaposition and in Sunbather’s case, one hell of an album. Deafheaven seemingly came out of nowhere with this record. Their 2011 debut Roads to Judah was a promising start, but as Jules Winnfield would say, “…this is some serious gourmet shit.” From the opening salvo of “Dream House,” with its rapidly ascending tremolo guitars and blast beats, to the euphoric culmination of “The Pecan Tree,” a trance inducing Kumbaya-ish moment interwoven with gut-wrenching shrieks, Sunbather is a breathtaking accomplishment.

2. Gorguts- Colored Sands (Season of Mist)
The cast of characters who recorded Colored Sands (featuring members of Dysrhythmia, Behold…The Arctopus and Origin, alongside Gorgut’s kingpin Luc Lemay) might just be the most technically proficient bunch of musicians in the history of heavy metal. Figures they’d go and craft one of the best albums 2013 has to offer. This is mind-bending, soul twisting chaos put to wax (er, mp3…whatever). Lemay’s tortured howls hover above Colored Sands’ bi-polar musical soundscape like a poltergeist. Drums blast along at breakneck speeds before dissipating in a haze of discordant guitars while bass lines splatter like bubbles of quicksand. Be warned, the album’s bleak and topsy-turvy atmosphere makes for a genuinely disturbing experience, creeping into the listener’s psyche with methodical precision.

1. Nails – Abandon All Life (Southern Lord)
Without question, Nails have delivered the gnarliest album of 2013. Abandon All Life expands upon the grim and anguish filled nature of their previous record, 2010’s Unsilent Death, and takes the aggro quotient into the stratosphere. The band’s blend of hardcore, grind and old school death metal culminates in the nigh perfect blend of adrenaline filled rage that is, Abandon All Life. Prepare for 17 minutes of blastbeats, breakdowns and mosh riffs galore, all smothered in Kurt Ballou’s (Converge) glorious dirge soaked production. Kudos to Todd Jones and Co. for crafting the most raw and primal album of the year. This is 100% genuine misanthropy at it's most primal. Tracks like "Tyrant" and "Cry Wolf" blaze along like bolts of concussive energy, while "Wide Open Wound" and album closer "Suum Cuique" crack fault lines with their lumbering, monolithic riffs. In a year filled with so many great and distinctive records, nothing quite stood out like Abandon All Life. With two consecutively killer albums under their belt, Nails have proven themselves to be the 800 pound gorilla of the extreme metal realm. Mark my words; this is the soundtrack to bloody noses and aneurysms for generations to come.


  1. I've not been keeping up with the metal scene this year as much as I usually do. It has been quite a year for us.

  2. I'm happy that, because of you, I know (and have) of some of these releases. Thanksgiving is long gone by now, but thank you!