By Matthew Davis (Lead DJ Host of Exploding Decibels)
2013 was a good year in the extreme community. It was a tough choice to come up with just top records and those that I did come up with, there were more that I wish I could of added therefore to make it fair I added a couple extra categories! I apologize for the SUPER long read. I appreciate your interest in visiting my picks.
Top EP’s and Short Albums
Acrania- The Beginning of the End (EP)
Acrania quickly garnished hype after the release of their split with “Blue Waffle.” There are only 5 tracks but they hit hard! Luke Griffin’s range in vocals is impressive, some of the best. Definitely the forefront of this band, be expecting a full length in 2014.
Stream “Auctioneer of Depravity”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksPMdU_l9fI
Black Tusk- Tend No Wounds (EP)
(Metal / Thrash / Punk)
I didn’t find this until a couple months after its release date but boy am I glad I did! This baby is full of some of the greatest riffs you could imagine!
Stream “In Days of Woe”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLXsi7YJjrU
Detest- Morals//Realization (EP)
Local band from Evansville, IN. Caught them live a couple of times. One of the best hardcore bands in the Evansville scene hands down. Raw, nasty dark hardcore cut straight to the bone. Be on the lookout for what’s to come from these guys.
Stream “Reminiscing on Better Days”: http://detest.bandcamp.com/track/reminiscing-on-better-days
Faullujah- Nomadic (EP)
(Atmospheric Death Metal)
Fallujah stepped up their game to a whole new level! They’re creating an original sound that you don’t hear from the average death metal band. I’m a sucker for atmospheric/ambient sounds so Fallujah quickly picked me up. Not to mention that the vocals are crushing as well.
Stream “Venom Upon the Blade”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WpQ8MlOoX0
Nails- Abandon All Life (LP)
(Hardcore / Metal / Punk)
Words can’t describe how chaotic and intense “Abandon All Life” is. It was hard for me to put this on my top 25 albums due to the length barely surpassing 17 minutes but every second you’re getting punched in the face! They waste no time. What they achieve in 17 minutes is more than what most bands can in an entire 45 minute album. There’s nothing quite like the experience Nails can bring to your ears.
Stream “God’s Cold Hands”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt7JSI9y46g
Nekrogolikon- Power (EP)
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this EP. The music is definitely brilliant and gives off a fun listen but the amount of cheesiness overshadows the music. It is nothin less than badass but the clean vocals put me off here and there. I really dig the goblin image. Worth your time and listen.
Stream “Powercore”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk1WCupiHOI
Voyage of Slaves- Forged Beneath the Frost (EP)
(Death Metal/Thrash/Black Metal)
A local band around the areas of Western Kentucky. I caught them live a few months ago in Evansville and I was blown away! I purchased their “Victorious” EP and then picked this one up. This is a must for any fan of Skeletonwitch, Amon Amarth, and Immortal. Don’t snooze on this.
Stream “Tyrael’s Blade”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8hAZxinblQ
Weekend Nachos- Still (LP)
These guys are in the same boat as Nails. WN dropped a beast of a record but the length is a factor to put in my top 25 (this one’s a tad bit longer though totaling right under 22 minutes). If you’re a fan of Nails, you’ll be a fan of Weekend Nachos as well. Raw, disgusting, chaotic, punches in the face.
Stream “No Idols & No Heroes”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FefRG5HDuE
Top 25 Full Length Albums of 2013
25. All Pigs Must Die- Nothing Violates This Nature
American hardcore punk band consisting of Kevin Baker (The Hope Conspiracy), Ben Koller (Converge), and Adam Wentworth and Matt Woods (Bloodhorse). There’s so much energy behind their sophomore effort, “Nothing Violates This Nature.” It’s constantly kicking you in the balls! It starts right off at breakneck speed and never lets up until all ten tracks pass by.
Stream “Chaos Arise”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyGb5FxFcS0
24. Ovid’s Withering- Scryers of the Ibis
(Theatrical Tech Metal)
Ovid’s Withering was an accidental discovery for me back in 2012 but for sure a good find indeed! To me they were just, okay but after hearing their newest full length, okay turns into phenomenal. This album experiments and dips into all kinds of different genres. One minute it’s progressive/djent like and then the next it’s symphonic black metal. It’s a roller coaster of a ride!
Stream “Winter in Tomis”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM8IRKGt8ho
23. Bring Me the Horizon- Sempiternal
These guys get a lot more crap than what they deserve. I don’t understand, every record is different, no two are the same. With “Sempiternal” BMTH changed their game around and focused more on the ambience sound found on “There Is A Hell….” but added intense sing along rock anthems. I can’t wait to hear what they turn into next.
Stream “The House of Wolves”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN4GjxT1NDQ
22. Fleshgod Apocalypse- Labyrinth
(Death Metal – Classical)
Fleshgod Apocalypse hailing from Rome, Italy have a unique system going on in their music. They combine the elements of classical music with death metal but on Labyrinth, they dip into some symphonic black metal parts. The addition of the strings and choir voices makes this piece darker. Labyrinth is fresh and stands out from your typical death metal record.
Stream “Minotaur (Wrath of Poseidon)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZiA2TrWtpo
21. Suffocation- Pinnacle of Bedlam
Suffocation are still kicking ass on their seventh release, “Pinnacle of Bedlam.” It really showcases their guitar technicality, it’s the highlight of the album. This record is basically a perfect example of what a death metal record should sound like. Massive vocals on top of technical catchy fast guitar licks, and pounding drumming at breakneck speeds. This record is a must for any death metal fan. The end of the album closer, “Beginning of Sorrow,” will deliver the heaviest breakdowns you could possibly witness.
Stream “Beginning of Sorrow”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXNJ9EPoDSI
20. Thraenenkind- The Elk
(Post Metal/Crust/Post Rock/Post Black Metal)
Thraenenkind dwells into places most bands can’t. starting off with the opening track, “Monument,” is this beautiful mostly instrumental tune with an atmospheric element. The vocals come out of nowhere and are distant. It’s got a great production mix. You’ll find quite a bit of variety as you progress deeper into “The Elk.” It’s a haunting listen that will ease your mind but it’s beautiful nonetheless. Track 3 “The King Is Dead,” is an album highlight showing off the emotional vocals they carry throughout the entire album. It’s hard to label these guys into only one genre. “The Elk” is a strong record.
Stream “Monument”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6QBkje1jd4
19. Exhumed- Necrocracy
Although these guys have been doing their thing since 1990, I didn’t discover them until they dropped their sixth studio album, “Necrocracy.” It’s got a very nice tempo throughout keeping the ball rolling but not losing the listener’s interest. The production isn’t over the top either, it’s very cut back and straight forward. The drumming is crisp sticks out which isn’t a bad thing. Exhumed is even a bit melodic on a few tracks here and there. I spun this album for almost 2 months straight when I first came upon “Necrocracy.”
Stream “The Shape of Deaths to Come”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io-hNojiBzQ
18. Battlecross- War of Will
(Cross-over Thrash/Classic American Heavy Metal)
After hearing the first single (“Force Fed Lies”) for their sophomore effort, I knew these dudes weren’t joking around. The guitars are melodic and super catchy. Kyle’s voice is quite unique as well. It’s got a high raspy tone, something different. Can’t forget to mention Shannon Lucas (Ex- Black Dahlia Murder) takes care of the percussion works on this album and oh boy do those drums shine!
Stream “Never Coming Back”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THgoKxbrNm4
17. Skeletonwitch- Serpents Unleashed
(Blackened Thrash Metal)
Serpents Unleashed is a fast tempoed fun filled little firecracker! The cover art is stunning as well. The production for this record is one of my favorite sounding records of 2013. It’s very raw, distant, and what you hear on a typical modern black metal recording but the guitar tone is thrashy making it stand out. The vocal work is beautiful! Tracks like “Beneath Dead Leaves” and “This Evil Embrace” carry out these distant catchy ass riffs. The bass is completely audible as well! Something that gets buried in most metal mixes. I won’t spoil “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)” for ya but let it be known that it’s a contender for my favorite song of 2013. It’s blackened thrash, sweeps into a melodic death metal chorus, and than back into the black roots. It’ll make you drop your jaw a bit. The album is over as soon as it begins leaving you to crave more from the ol ‘witch.
Stream “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPPPGMGNg8I
16. Erra- Augment
Don’t get me started about the generically littered “djent” bands there are in the community. This is one “genre” that I find extremely generic and boring. Although there are a few bands that use it wisely and keep it interesting (Veil of Maya, After the Burial, Sirens, etc.). “Augment” is a record I didn’t see coming. I wasn’t expecting this to be as good as what it ended up to be. The vocal work is average, nothing special. I actually think the cleans are a bit weak at times but they aren’t making me want to tune out. What Erra really does well are the atmospheric tones they have. There’s a nice background happening through each song. “Hybrid Earth” is a perfect example of that.
Stream “Hybrid Earth”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQIH45i4fmU
15. Heaven Shall Burn- Veto
The vocals. That’s what got me hooked on the newest studio release from metal outfit, Heaven Shall Burn. They’re truly unique and match well among the impressive guitar lines always hitting at full force. The opener “Godiva” is hands down my favorite piece. Starts off slowly and then builds up, pauses, then the vocals come out of nowhere and slap you in the face! The concept/storyline behind this record is very interesting as well. It gives the record more of a feel to it.
Stream “Godiva”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX2ibICHDAg
14. Saviour- First Light to My Deathbed
(Heavy Melodic Hardcore)
I have a lot I could say about the second release from Australian’s, Saviour. I was really impressed when I stumbled upon their debut “Once We Were Lions,” and then I heard the leading single from ‘Deathbed entitled “Jaded.” It was on a whole new level! It’s guarenteed to be one of my favorite songs of the year but the album itself… I struggled to keep interest. Threw it to the side for a few months and then I came back around to it giving it a few more spins. I was like, “What the actual fuck?!” I was suddenly hooked to it! Maybe it just came at a perfect time in my life but it’s a hell of a record to say the least. This album is guarenteed to give you feels. Saviour aren’t a typical hardcore band, their songs feature a beautiful emotional atmosphere to them. First Light to My Deathbed is nothing less than amazing.
Stream “Jaded”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z3xZED1doA
13. Dance Gavin Dance- Acceptance Speech
I have mad respect for these guys. You might label Dance Gavin Dance as a “sceenie weenie” band but people don’t realize how creative these dudes are. They write some of the most original creative music I have ever heard! I’ve always been a huge fan of Dance Gavin Dance, with or without the doucher Jonny Craig. What really makes this band for me is Jon Mess’ frantic vocal style over Will Swan’s sporadic guitar lines. With Red Hot Chili Peppers being my favorite band, I can relate numerous similar styles between the two band. This also marks the debut for new clean vocalist, Tilian Pearson (ex- Tides of Man). His voice is high. Extremely high. It sounds good though with the rest of the band behind him. The only thing lacking on “Acceptance Speech” is the production.
Stream “Death of the Robot With Human Hair”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPOadzdLbhg
12. Deicide- In the Minds of Evil
Deicide. They have nothing to prove to you. They’re legendary in the genre and are madly respected. I could confidently put Deicide in the Big 4 of death metal. The lead single/title track is in the running of one of my favorite songs of the year. It’s so goddamn catchy! Glen Benton has still got the chops! He really outdoes himself on the band’s eleventh release BUT that’s not what makes this record, Jack Owen’s mad guitar skills will blow you away! A must have for your collection for any death metal fan.
Stream “In the Minds of Evil”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSkc-ZISYQM
11. Lord Dying- Summon the Faithless
Unfortuantely I didn’t catch this record when it first came out. I heard a few tracks here and there but didn’t actually dwell into it until about less than a month ago. Lord Dying bring out some nasty doom riffs with raw nasty vocals in your face. The production is nicely done, everything is audible inside a perfect mix but isn’t overdone. Bands like these within the music community is what gives me hope for the future upcoming bands. You have to keep in mind that this is only a DEBUT record! So they’re relatively new but they sound like they’ve been doing their thing for years. An extremely mature record, I’ll be on the lookout for their sophomore release.
Stream “Dreams of Mercy”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM2ofnC1r9E
10. Ghosts at Sea- Hymns of Our Demise
Listen to this record. Now what if I told you that they’re a local band from the Evansville, IN/Lousiville, KY area? Impossible. Ghosts at Sea is a two man studio project and “Hymns of Our Demise” is their debut. It’s a perfect mix of showing off their classic black metal influence you’d expect to hear but they also add a touch of new wave black metal within their music. You can feel the emotion inside this work of art. I saw a couple of their songs posted on Facebook but never bothered to check it out until finally I just got tired of seeing it and had to give it a try. The first song I heard was “A Fitting End to Human Suffering,” it took me away. I puchased a physical copy right after I heard it! My copy never came so I contacted the band. They were extremely grateful and then gave me 2 copies of the record to make up for the wait. Great guys. ‘Hymns’ is melodic, beautiful, atmospheric, and crushing. I can’t but help sing along to “The Weight of 1,000 Suns.” Support local music, especially local black metal because these guys are doing it right! They’ll be dropping another album soon here in the beginnings of 2014. The members have rumored that they’re expanding their sound and adding in some doom influence on top of this, shouldn’t disappoint.
Stream “A Fitting End to Human Suffering”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K75qWKkH-M&feature=player_detailpage&list=PLeb-0yadWN9k2YbIbrX-Dl5TEoyh-rJ7P
9. The Greenery- It’s Looking Grim
Let’s first start off talking about the album cover. Just look at it. A sexy babe with her boobies showing. Does it get any better than that?! The cover is what caught my interest then I streamed “Reaper’s Keeper.” It’s a full on brutal hardcore onslaught! But it’s also catchy and melodic. Zack and I really got addicted to this album for a few months and then one day we saw an update from The Hatch, music venue in Evansville, IN. Listed as the headliner were The Greenery! Coming all the way from California and they hit up Evansville in one of their tour dates. I literally screamed like a little girl, no joke. They knew how to bring the energy onstage. Zack and I talked to the vocalist for a good while after the set. He was a chill guy and a lot of fun to talk with. Tracks like Nailed Down, Reaper’s Keeper, Rain Dance, and Stranglehold bring some of the catchiest choruses. You’ll be humming them for days. Acid Flash, Hellbent, and FSDH show off their heavy side. This puppy is flawless from start to finish.
Stream “Reaper’s Keeper”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf90ontEnEs
8. Autumn’s Kingdom- Autumn’s Kingdom
(Raw Melancholic Black Metal)
When I say raw, raw is an understatement of what to describe the production of this album. This is some of the worst production I’ve ever heard but it’s so bad, it’s GOOD! Damn good! It’s an acquired taste but give it a chance, you may not like it at first. Autumn’s Kingdom is a one man black metal project from Russia. He also used to be a member in the band Annorkoth (badass as well, by the way. After you listen to this, head your way over to Annorkoth’s music). This record will pick you up and whisp you into a colorful naturous autumn forest, literally! Listen to the track “November Remembrances” if you doubt me. The songs are mostly instrumental and the vocals are just growls and distant screams buried inside the mix. This is probably the most atmospheric and beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. When I’m in a down mood, I’ll spin this and it quickly takes my mind off of my struggles in life. Unfortunately, the project is no longer active. AK released 2 demos and a full length this year that you can download FREE from their Facebook page. IF YOU’RE A FAN OF DEAFHEAVEN, YOU’LL BE A FAN OF THIS! Pinky promise.
Stream “As A Lonely Raven”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12oH8L4yd2s
7. A Worse Case Scenario- Blood, Sweat, and Beards
(Melodic Death Metal)
I could ramble on about this record and this band for days. A Worse Case Scenario, Evansville Indiana locals, are the first band I ever interviewed on Exploding Decibels (over a year ago!). Their debut, “Blood, Sweat, and Beards” takes the category as my most spun album of 2013. I haven’t listened to anything as much as this. We quickly became friends and I used to go to their “practices” every Saturday afternoon. Those were some of the greatest times of hanging out. I’d go to shows with them as well. These aren't just some kids playing around looking to be popular, these dudes are serious and know how to bring the heavy. BS&B is a perfect description of how to describe this album. This record will make you bleed and sweat because of how intense it is then by the end of the record, you’ll grow an instant beard (or so it claims. I still don’t have one). On the back of a physical CD itself, what do you usually see? A track list most likely. Maybe some extended artwork. Well that’s not the case for BS&B. Over a plain white background there’s a warning label written “WARNING: THIS ALBUM MAY CAUSE RAPID BEARD GROWTH.” The music is wonderfully crafted. Joshua’s vocals are some of the strongest you may EVER hear by a band! They are perfectly suited over Olivier and Major’s guitar riffs. That’s what this album is, riffs, riffs, and MORE RIFFS but it definitely isn’t a bad thing. Daniel’s bass is bouncing nicely throughout the record. Alex does his thing on the drums as well. Songs like Executive Order 66, Shadow of Death, and Viking Beard Man Man Man will end with heavy ass breakdowns leaving you wanting more. You think the song is about to end, then there’s a pause, BOOM! It hits hard! Full on assault. Shadow of Death features guest vocals from Josh’s sister adding for a chilling effect giving you goosebumps. But nothing can top the album closer Viking Beard Man Man Man. It’s insanely good and only gets better. By the time you reach the 4:50 mark it’s nothing but nasty breakdowns until the end. The only complaint is the production, mostly the drum production. It lacks a bit but it's not enough to take away from the record. Pick this bitch up but you have been warned.
Stream “Executive Order 66”: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Worse-Case-Scenario/128421017223985?id=128421017223985&sk=app_2405167945
6. Deafheaven- Sunbather
(Shoegaze/Melancholic Black Metal)
I haven’t seen one top of the year end’s list that hasn’t listed Deafheaven in it nor one that isn’t at least in the top half! What kind of black metal band could drop a record with a pink album cover and lack satanic imagery?! Deafheaven. I’m sure most of you have heard this record by now. There was a lot of talk behind it after it dropped back in the Summer time. Sunbather really pushes black metal to a whole new level. They created a new sound within the genre that has never been heard before! I have mad respect for these guys. ‘bather kicks off with the positively acclaimed lead single, “Dream House.” It’s a 9 minute journey that’ll leave you speechless. Asking yourself “Whoa, what the hell is going on here?!” Their sound is so positive and happy sounding. They change up the pace and will even contain slow instrumental sections or pauses within the piece giving it a chilling effect. No corpse paint. No gimmicky sounding symphonies. No anti-religious lyrics/statements. No cheesy medieval imagery. “What is there image exactly?” you ask. It’s Deafeaven. Originality. Surreal beauty. As I had you guys vote for your favorite records of 2013, Exploding Decibels’ listeners named Deafheaven’s “Subather” as album of the year. No argument there.
Stream “Dream House”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWyVhIBmdGw
(If you’re still reading)
5. Lawbringer- Of Pure Energy and Light
Of Pure Energy and Light marks as Lawbringer’s debut in the local (Washington, IN) music community. It sure does pack a punch! First off, to get this out of the way, the storyline/concept behind this beast of a record is mindblowing! The songs are a story behind this alien figure named “Snakebeard” and his takeover to enslave mankind. Man tries to capture him and throw him into a “Stone Prison” (one of the song names as well) but he breaks free. The songs aren’t in the correct order of the story so you have to listen hard and well to unscramble the details in chronological order. Before this LP, they released a 4 song EP with a different vocalist. Instead of replacing him, guitar players Todd (lead guitar) and Billy (bass) take over vocal duty remaining as a 3 piece. As you listen to this and get deeper and deeper inside this monster, you think to yourself- “There’s no way this is a 3 piece! That’s impossible!” Well my friend, you are wrong. Lawbringer’s instrumentation is top notch and ahead of their time. Heavily influenced by Metallica and Mastodon, you will spot those influences instantly. Note that I said INFLUENCED not RIP OFF. The material found on OPE&L is in a whole new world (literally!). Cut the Throats of Tyranny, Stone Prison, and Eyes Opened are balls to the walls, showing off their musical technicality. Track 5, Woebegone, is a beautiful technical clean sung feature showcasing Todd’s clean vocals. Also included is this kick ass Rush section! You can’t miss it. This all builds up to the monstrous closer, Snakebeard. 12 minutes and 21 seconds of punching your gonads inside out especially the impossible lead guitar solo found around 8 minutes in. Let me note that that solo only took ONE take! Believe me because I was there when this album was being recorded. I had the fortunate opportunity of spending a 3 day weekend in Indy at the recording studio with them filming a studio video. One of the best times I’ve experienced. Be expecting new music from theses gnar dogs SOON. Very soon.
Stream “Cut the Throats of Tyranny”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFwo7iV2KiY
4. Veldes- To Drown in Bleeding Hope
(Atmospheric Black Metal)
This year, 2013 was the year I discovered my love for atmospheric black metal. Somehow I got attached to the subgenre and it’s become my favorite. This album is the reason why. I discovered Veldes on this random site I was downloading music from and thought I’d give it a try just for shits and giggles. Little did I realize that this album would change my perspective on my music tastes. I can’t exactly pin point what it is that makes this release so special and unique to me. Somehow I can just relate to it, it gives me strong emotional feels. Veldes is a one man project from the country of Slovenia. How exactly I came across this still blows my mind to this very day. To Drown in Bleeding Hope is a dark depressive sounding record. I can get in some down moods here and there but I don’t typically struggle in depression. I just love the atmosphere this album gives off, it’s like no other. After I became addicted to it, I had to buy a physical copy for my collection because I’m a hoarder in physical music. To Drown in Bleeding Hope only contains 5 songs in the tracklist (which is truly unfortunate because I’m starving for more) but the running time exceeds the required EP length (totaling roughly around 35 minutes). Each song offers something different to the table. Opener, “Through the Flame,” is at a moderately fast pace and has a catchy melodic riff throughout. “Featherless Across Burnt Skies” is a tad slower and one of the darkest pieces found on the track list. “Earth As A Nest of Bones and Debris” opens up with a quote from the film, “The Road” which I recognized right away because that’s one of my favorite movies! This album has an apocalyptic end of the world concept to it. You’ll feel it from start to finish. Especially in the closer “Beneath the Grieving Waters.” That song makes you feel like all hope is lost. Just give up and end your life. I might sound morbid but I find this album to be a beautiful work of art. The production is a perfect medium. Everything’s audible but it’s extremely gritty giving it an edgy feel. The darkest part of the album is for sure Tilen Šimon’s vocals.
Stream “Within These Roots Only Sickness Dwells”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNg5_8HU8MQ
3. Amon Amarth- Deceiver of the Gods
(Melodic Death Metal)
Melodic death metal viking leaders, Amon Amarth are back at it again! They never fail to disappoint me which is why they’re in my top 3 favorite bands of all time. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about them or their music. I don’t know how you could dis it? Their imagery is so much fun and educational as well. I feel like I learned more history and mythology by listening to their discography instead of going to history class for like 10 years straight in my life! Critics claim, “if you’ve heard one Amon Amarth record before, you’ve heard them all.” I can’t completely agree with that statement. Sure, they mold the same formula on every release but it’s the tiny changes they make is what keeps them at the top. Nine albums into their career and I can confidently say that this is the most experimental Amon Amarth album yet. They even have a track containing clean singing (Track 8- Hel)! Vocalist, Johan Hegg, still proves that he is on top of the game. Although he doesn’t have much vocal variety, he keeps the listener interested and doesn’t come off as monotonous. The guitarwork is always what keeps the songs moving along. They’re fairly simple, hardly ever coming off as technical. I catch myself humming along to the riffs at times. You can’t help it when you jump into songs like the title track, Father of the Wolf, Shape Shifter, and Blood Eagle. Hel, in my opinion, the weakest song of the album. It isn’t bad by any means and it even features guest vocals from ex- Candlemass vocalist, Messiah Marcolin. I don’t dig the cleans but the next track, Coming of the Tide, is definitely my favorite! The guitar melody is the catchiest and probably one of the catchiest out of all their songs. If you pick up the deluxe version, you’ll get four extra songs that are completely different. A side you thought you’d never hear Amon Amarth be. They aren’t covers but simply tributes to their influences. They aren’t necessities but they sure do make the album more fun.
Stream “Deceiver of the Gods”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z3spJ_z3Es
2. Carcass- Surgical Steel
If you’re still reading (I know this is a long list but I had a lot to say), I’m sure you’re shocked that you see this album ranked as #2. For this was the album I had ranked at #1 ever since it was released. I know I praise this album over and over claiming it the best of the year and until about 2 weeks ago, that held true. A little background information on Carcass and Surgical Steel before I get started- This is their sixth full length studio release and the first one in 17 years since 1996’s “Swansong.” That’s a long ass break in between albums but it was truly worth it. Carcass took a little break and then unleashed this masterpiece work of art. Now I’m not a huge Carcass fan, I like them but I honestly haven’t ever listened to anything pre- Heartwork era back in their grindcore days. I never really had the desire to, I was so content with Heartwork (1993) and Swansong was all right. After I heard the first single, “Captive Bolt Pistol,” I knew I’d be in love with the LP. Carcass do nothing but hit you with riff after riff. The members are in their forties (mostly- excluding the drummer)! How do they still have the chops and working fingers to produce something so technical? Mindblowing, isn’t it? The album starts off with a slow instrumental, “1985,” and leads right into “Thrasher’s Abattoir.” A revisit back into their grindcore days, I assume. Both short tracks and makes it seem like there’s two different openers leading into Surgical Steel. “Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard” was my favorite song on my initial listen throughs. I fell in love with the simple scale riff they played over and over. “Unfit for Human Consumption” or “The Master Butcher’s Apron” are in competition for the most technical song of SS. “The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills” is so cool because of the vocal chorus. They’re not words, instead they are these random numbers but they’re catchy as fuck! The closer, “Mount of Execution” is the track that will be turning a few heads. It starts off as a slow acoustic piece then leads right into this guitar hook. It transitions so nicely. As like the other tracks, it’s catchy, the guitar work is top notch but what this song differs from the others is the transition that occurs around six and a half minutes in. You think the song is finished and the album is done for, then psyche! Snare drum kicks in and leads into this incredible gnarly instrumental closer with the expected guitar wankery. The production isn’t terrible but I feel as if it is a bit on the too clean side. It should have been recorded a little grittier in my opinion but the production is definitely not a factor. I don’t like the album cover as well. I really get into the artwork albums provide but Surgical Steel is almost an exact copy of the band’s “Tools of the Trade” EP from 1992. This is a must have for a 2013 collection.
Stream “Captive Bolt Pistol”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSsrKl6HtAw
1. The Ocean- Pelagial
(Post-Metal/Sludge Metal/Progressive Metal)
I’m not entirely sure what exactly happened, I was checking out albums released in 2013 for my top of the year list and I was like, “hmmm, The Ocean. I heard of it but never actually listened to it. I should probably give that a spin.” Picked it up then SLAP! It fucking hit me hard! The riffs and creativity put into the work of this piece of art is astronomical.
The Ocean (AKA The Ocean Collective) is from Berlin, Germany. These guys are genre defying. You can’t put a label on them. “Pelagial” is the band’s sixth studio album and contains the most badass, if I must say, concepts for an album I have ever heard of! There’s different sections of the album- descending deeper into the album the band changes genre styles resembling the 5 different stages of the ocean. The album starts off as slow and light in the Epipelagic stage which is the surface and the name of the opening track, an intro. Then it ends with ‘Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes’ which is a doom metal song.
Then comes the Mesopelagic, the second stage. Roughly 3,600 meters under the surface, the album is still fairly light during "Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny." It’s got it’s heavy moments as it progresses.
In the Bathyalpelagic stage (Approx. 5,500 meters deep) is where things really start to pick up. There’s 3 different songs in this section, ‘Impasses,’ ‘The Wish in Dreams,’ and ‘Disequilibrated.’ This portion of the record is my favorite. There’s a more heavy vocal style heard now than previously and the instrumentation has picked up at a fairly fast state now seeming very progressive. Each song transitioning into the next and running together. It’s almost like it’s one big song. The instruments are beyond technical and everyone of the members are at a different tempo.
Descending deeper into “Pelagial” comes the Abyssopelagic stage (7,300 meters deep), the band takes another genre change experimenting into the elements of sludge metal. There are soft slow sections, instrumentally and vocally. Two songs resemble this stage- ‘Boundless Vasts’ and ‘Signals of Anxiety.’
Now comes the Hadopelagic stage, a little over 9,100 meters under the surface. The deepest part of the ocean but the album continues to progress even deeper. There’s two songs in the album resembling this stage, ‘Omen of the Deep’ and ‘Let Them Believe.’ The first one is just a transition/interlude track though passing by a little over a minute long straight into the second section which is almost ten minutes in length. The tempo changes constantly back and forth between a slow then fast back to slow then to fast, back and forth. You discover some string sections as well. As found before, the Hadopelagic stage is in another genre. It’s a post rock/metal sound. Not very heavy anymore. Mostly clean vocals are being used. The vocal hooks are brilliant!
The last 2 tracks, ‘Dismersal: Cognitive Dissonance’ and ‘Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes’ complete the abyssamal journey. They’re heavy and slow. ‘Benthic’ takes on a doom metal role, instrumentally. Closing off the album greatly.
“Pelagial” was intended to be a fully instrumental album due to a vocal disorder vocalist, Loïc Rossetti, was going through but his voice healed in time to record vocals over top the instruments. Instead of releasing the album in it’s vocal form, the band includes the instrumental version as well with the purchase of “Pelagial.”
This album contains some of the most creative musical elements I have ever heard. It’s got a nice mix of clean vocals and death metal growls. The instrumentation is progressive and never cease to blow your mind. The production is so clean as well as the mix. It’s basically the most perfect record ever created as well as the concept. It’s original. The only band I can think of that has a similar concept is Oceano’s “Depths” but that doesn't even touch the talent of “Pelagial.” Also worth mentioning, the band made a film behind the concept of Pelagial. It features underwater ocean life footage with this beautiful naked girl groping herself with the music playing in the background. It’s massive chaotic film but adds more flavor to the album. The Ocean went all out with this one.
If there’s ever one album I would rate perfectly, it’s this one. Pelagial by The Ocean.
Stream “Pelagial- The Film”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-NuD1xzzFI
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