I’m reasonably confident I won’t hear anything else in the 3 days left of 2013, so it should be safe to finally compose and produce my own year-end list for this year. Ultimately opinions and tastes in the genre are subjective, but here’s what I thought.
For fun, you can also revisit my 2012 and 2011 lists.
10.) Imprecation Satanae Tenebris Infinitas
I’m a sucker for the Incantation sound, and I don’t mean that to lump a giant swath of bands into being Incantation clones, but when bands have low vocals and muddy low tuned guitars and the music churns a certain way, I get the warm and fuzzy feeling all over. 2013 saw the release of a debut by a band who released their demo back in like, 1993 or something? At any rate, the theme for this year has been older, established bands producing some of the best music of their respective careers, so it would only make sense that a band like Imprecation finally emerges from the depths of obscure demo world to join the fray.
9.) Darkthrone The Underground Resistance
When I was really beginning to discover the metal underground in my late teen years I wasn’t much of a fan of Darkthrone; part of me wonders if today my opinion would change if I revisited Soulside Journey or A Blaze In The Northern Sky? That said, at some point Fenriz and Nocturno Culto evolved well beyond black metal into something 80’s inspired, celebrating crust punk and classic heavy metal. And they didn’t do it in a faux ironic way or in an attempt to get cool points by being retro. It has been authentic, genuine, and dare I say tr00? The Underground Resistance, with its dirty Mercyful Fate in a garage vibe, is the peak of the path they’ve been on.
8.) Officium Triste Mors Viri
Probably the first underground subgenre I really took to as a teenager (approximately 1996?) was doom/death and the big three British bands (Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost.) Mors Viri, with its massive crushing distortion, emotive guitar harmonies, tasteful and subtle keys, and grisly low growls takes me back to that time. Not a particularly trendy subgenre in 2013 when most bands want to rip off early Katatonia, but this is the peak moment in the career of this longstanding Dutch band.
7.) Wormed Exodromos
It had been nearly 10 years since this Spanish band had released Planisphaerium, and the wait had been worthwhile. Full of jagged time shifts and almost djent style riffing, Exodromos is one of the most unique sounding slam death albums to have ever come out. And absolutely sick sick sick vocals.
6.) Carcass Surgical Steel
The most important album to come out in 2013 ended up being one of its best. While certainly I would have preferred a little more of the goregrind era, I cannot dispute the quality of the songwriting or the execution of Surgical Steel. Carcass immediately re-established themselves as one of the kings of the metal genre and proving that the old guys can strike with more venom than any of the younger bands borrowing their ideas.
5.) Jasad Rebirth of Jatisundra
Indonesia might be the next hotbed for brutal music, and if there’s justice in the world, Jasad will be the band that makes it big. Another band with a huge gap since their last album, Jasad came back pissed off, brutal, and raw as ever. This is raw, primitive death metal not too dissimilar to Japanese Slam, only better. Sevared Records is distributing this one here in the States, so hopefully that’s a sign that Jasad is about to get a bigger profile in the near future.
4.) Suffocation Pinnacle of Bedlam
The reward for keeping my faith in this band, and a giant “I fucking told you so” to those who wrote them off. Suffocation’s reformation was always going to be a difficult proposition; both Pierced From Within and the Despise The Sun EP are among the most lauded releases in the history of death metal and would represent a hell of a legacy to try to live up to. Unfortunately, the albums that came were uneven at best, and suffered from a terrible production/mix that made the drums sound way too upfront and the music ploddingly slow. That all changed with the replacement of drummer Mike Smith with Dave Culross (ex-Malevolent Creation, played on Despise The Sun) and Pinnacle of Bedlam is the result. Sounding like logical followup to Despise the Sun, this is a leaner, cleaner, slightly thrashier Suffocation, yet it may have stayed in my car nearly all year long. This album needed to be good if Suffocation was going to remain relevant in the scene, and it more than re-established them as lords of the genre they helped create.
3.) Defeated Sanity Passages into Deformity
Intense. The fourth album by this German band is a relentlessly brutal yet technically exhilarating roller coaster of slams, breakdowns, and blasts. I believe that Passages Into Deformity will be remembered as the album where Defeated Sanity emerged from the bowels of the underground scene to the big time.
2.) Vreid Welcome Farewell
The best melodic black metal album since Rotting Christ’s “A Dead Poem”, this is an album that should have had a lot more mass appeal than it ended up having. The black metal snarls, tremolo picking, and grim vibe are all here, but so are the guitar harmonies and solos and big catchy riffs that would transcend that genre. Another album that lived in my car for almost all of 2013.
1.) Gorguts Colored Sands
I don’t know how often I agree with the metal consensus, but there is no disputing that Colored Sands is a massive and epic listen. I think what makes this album so awesome is that plenty of bands have tried to do the noisy, discordant sound but so few of them can do it with the focus and purpose that Luc Lemay did here. This isn’t Ulcerate worship (I do like Ulcerate, btw); this has movements and a nearly orchestral sort of flow. The way those clangy riffs synch up with John Longstreth’s double bass is extremely Immolation-like. Yet among the dense and harsh sounding cacophony, there’s moments of classic death metal release too (that solo in “Enemies of Compassion” is a good example.) Hopefully there isn’t a 12 or 14 year wait before the next one.