It's that time of year again, folks! "Best Of" list season is upon us! It's that magical three week period in December when we music writers wade through the mountain of albums we're inundated with to separate the wheat from the chaff, and then create lists which are forced on our readers in order to justify our hollow existences.
This is my inaugural list for Metal Injection and I'm sure many of you will notice I've left a lot of obvious choices out of the mix. Some omissions, like Sunbather and Surgical Steel, are intentional because both of those albums are already getting a ton of coverage. Others, like whatever boring tech death or derivative melodic blahcore band you love, were left off because that stuff is as compelling as wet cardboard. I would have liked to stretch this list out further because it killed me to exclude some amazing albums, but for the sake of brevity I've boiled my list down to what I think are ten solid albums.
So, without further ado, here is my list of the 10 best albums of 2013. Feel free to insult me in the comments section or on Twitter (@MetalShayne2000)… it won't bother me since I have better taste than you do.
LYCUS – Tempest
Tempest is one the best doom albums of 2013 you've never heard. It's a massive slab of blackened death doom filth that will grind you beneath it's droning waves of guitars and menacing growls. Doom metal bands are a dime a dozen but few of them match the sheer furiosity Lycus demonstrates here. This album becomes even more impressive when you consider the only other thing the band has released is a demo. Dig into my review of Tempest and don't say I didn't warn you. [Standout Track: Coma Burn]
SEIDR – Ginnungagap
Another doom release I loved this year was Seidr's Ginnungagap. This Louisville, KY outfit featuring Austin Lunn of Panopticon delivered an album that's every bit as massive and awe inspiring as Tempest is grimy and grim. This is music listen to while you're staring into the cosmos contemplating your place in the universe. Here's my review of Ginnungagap. [Standout Track: The Red Planet Rises]
CARA NEIR – Portals To A Better Dead World
Blackened hardcore is hard to pull off successfully. Good hardcore has a sense of urgency and frantic energy to it while black metal tends to focus on creating a desolate atmosphere and emotional distance. It's hard enough for bands to fuse these two disparate genres successfully, but Cara Neir have managed it while also incorporating aspects of crust punk, progressive metal, and a myriad of other extreme musical styles. It shouldn't work, yet it does amazingly well. Read my review of Portals To A Better, Dead World here. [Standout Track: Red Moon Foreboding]
BOLZER – Aura
I don't know what to make of Bolzer or their debut EP Aura. The band consists of two Swiss guys who make insane death metal. When I say insane, I don't mean it as a euphemism for good either. Make no mistake, Aura is a great EP. It's just also completely bonkers. One minute you're listening to some fairly straightforward death metal riffing and growling and the next minute singer and guitarist KzR is howling about autoerotic veneration and cosmic wombs awash with semen. The tone of these three songs is all over the place all the time. Also, for a two piece band utilizing only a guitar, a drum kit, and a voice, this EP sounds absolutely MASSIVE. I'm really looking forward to whatever Bolzer has in store for the world next. You can order the LP thought Iron Bonehead Productions or buy the digital version through the label's Bandcamp page. [Standout Track: Entranced By The Wolfshook]
ATLANTEAN KODEX – The White Goddess
2013 has been a bad year for fans of traditional and power metal. Thankfully, Atlantean Kodex dropped a stellar sophomore album that more than makes up for the depressing offerings of the once mighty Rhapsody of Fire and Helloween. Fans of traditional heavy metal (or heavy metal in general) should be snatching up The White Goddess like mad. This is a band that knows how to create a solid album. There's no filler at all on The White Goddess. Even the brief musical interludes that pop up fit in with the rest of the album well enough that they don't feel shoehorned in. If you're curious and want a more in depth exploration of the album, feel free to read my review. [Standout Track: Sol Invictus]
THE RUINS OF BEVERAST – Blood Vaults: The Flaming Gospel of Heinrich Kramer
Alexander von Meilenwald's one man band The Ruins of Beverast has slowly been evolving from a raw black metal project into a slower blackened doom sound since he released his first album, Unlock the Shrine, back in 2004. On Blood Vaults, Meilenwald has finally ditched the trappings of black metal almost entirely. This new album is much slower and has a cleaner, crisper sound than anything Meilenwald has recorded in the past. But it's still engrossing and the gothic atmosphere can get legitimately creepy at times. Fans of earlier, rawer Beverast material may be put off by these changes, but I love it. This is an album you can truly get lost in. Here's my review of the album. [Standout Track: Daemon]
YELLOW EYES – Hammer of Night
Yellow Eyes are so good that they could single-handedly shut the pie holes of all the dopey suburban teenagers who take to the internet and insist the Brooklyn metal scene is populated by coked up hipster posers. Hammer of Night is the greatest USBM album to come out this year and one of the best black metal albums of 2013 to boot. It's just straight up raw, atmospheric black metal with larynx shredding vocals. But the abrasiveness of the music is tempered with finely crafted song structures. There's an ebb and flow to the album that didn't occur accidentally. There's real emotion in the music, too. Hammer of Night is the kind of album that can only be created through sheer love of music. This isn't an album made for a wide audience, but that's what it deserves. You can get a digital copy of one of the best metal albums of 2013 for a paltry $4, so you really have no excuse for not owning it. [Standout Track: Hammer of Night]
OCCULTIST – Death Sigils
I'm not going to lie, I just heard Occultist for the first time two weeks ago. I choose them for this list over three other bands I've been listening to heavily for months. That's how much I love Death Sigils. The band plays old school death metal with some crust punk influence, and the lead singer is a woman. There's no downtime to be found as the band blasts through roughly 40 rage filled minutes of grime encrusted music. If you're still not sold, you can download the album for free at Occultist's Bandcamp page. If you're not downloading Death Sigils by now, you're a lost cause. [Standout Track: Devil's Breath]
POWER TRIP – Manifest Decimation
Texas's Power Trip play a fairly straightforward mash-up of thrash, hardcore, and a little death metal that's totally what I need to unwind after a stressful day. This is the album I dreamt of as a teen while ingesting copious amounts of Slayer and The Cro-Mags. I don't mosh anymore, but when I put this album on I immediately feel the urge to skip in a circle and punch things. Here's my review of Manifest Decimation if case you still don't think you need this album in your collection. [Standout Track: Manifest Decimation]
CLOUD RAT – Moksha
I heard Cloud Rat's sophomore album, Moksha, back in January and I knew immediately that it was going on my year end Best Of list; probably at the top. Twelve months have past, I've listened to the album countless times, and I still feel the same way. If there's one album on this list that I'd recommend everyone own, it's this one. After only two albums, Cloud Rat have created a masterpiece of crusty grindcore in particular and extreme music in general. Every aspect of Moksha is as devastating as it is savage. Even Neil Young's contemplative "The Needle and the Damage Done" is transformed into a raging screed against the destruction drug abuse causes at the hands of the band. Moksha is an album born out of real pain and anger. It's confrontational and exhausting to listen to, but it's worth the investment more than anything else that's come out this year. [Standout Track: The Needle and the Damage Done]