I thought that I got a good head start working on this beast. But as December rolled around and the days started to fly by, I found myself having a really hard time choosing the one standout album of 2013. The rest of the list came together fairly quickly. But there were two albums that kept fighting for the top position – Teethed Glory and Injury by Altar of Plagues and Vertikal by Cult of Luna.
Both are stellar releases and if you gave me another day to mull things over, I’m positive that I would change my mind and switch them around again. But I couldn’t drag this out any longer. When it was all said and done, it basically came down to which album gave me the most pure listening enjoyment and the answer was Vertikal. Also me being a long time Cult of Luna fan who has loved everything they have released from Salvation onward certainly worked in the Swedes favor.
It was another great year for music and no matter what people say, there’s always something new and worth listening to. All you need to do is keep your ears and eyes open. It’s always there. Just look and you’ll find it. Read on to see what I discovered in 2013.
01. Cult of Luna – Vertikal
Over the past few years we’ve seen a groundswell of post metal bands come and go. However before the rise in popularity of this sub-genre, the groundwork was laid by a handful of innovators. One of them being Cult of Luna. Over the past decade and half, the band has strayed far from their initial blueprint and evolved into something truly unique. Something further cemented with Vertikal and as a result, landing it in the top spot on this list.
I liked Vertikal right away, but didn’t fully appreciate what it had to offer until the repeated listens I gave it over the past few weeks. At first it sounded strange, yet familiar at the same time. It was still Cult of Luna, but new sonic territory was being explored and I was undecided about what it brought to the album.
Cult of Luna often has been influenced by their surroundings. 2006’s Somewhere Along the Highway for example, was recorded in a remote wooden barn and as a result the sound of the album was more rough and organic than previous efforts. Vertikal on the other hand has a colder, more modern feel that draws inspiration from Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis. I certainly didn’t dislike what this brought to the songs. It was clear the band made a really good album. But was it a great album? After getting to know each other a little better, I can now say with confidence that yes Vertikal most definitely is a great album.
02. Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury
Unlike some other albums on this list, I didn’t need time to fully appreciate Teethed Glory and Injury. I’ve been listening to it steadily since it’s release in April and have enjoyed it immensely right out of the starting gate. The album is a much different beast than the band’s previous two full lengths. Where songs on those albums easily eclipsed the ten minute mark, that’s not the case with Teethed Glory. Instead, the tracks are shorter and more condensed. Black metal undertones still carry through the album, but there’s a colder feel to the songs that is almost mechanical at times. The result being Altar of Plagues’ most accomplished work to date.
Unfortunately Altar of Plagues broke up after releasing Teethed Glory and Injury. Which is unfortunate. But when you listen to the band’s discography, it’s hard to be too bummed out about their demise. If that is what the band left us with, then you won’t hear any complaining over here.
03. Cough/Windhand – Reflection of the Negative
Yeah, I know. Reflection of the Negative is only a split EP and this is a top albums list. Should it qualify? If you’ve heard Cough’s 18 plus minute “Athame” slowly lurch to life or let the thick, crushing tones of the two Windhand tracks slowly roll over you, then the answer is a resounding yes.
04. SubRosa – More Constant Than The Gods
When I was in grade five I took violin lessons. It sucked. I hated it and to this day I have no idea why I wanted to do it. I lasted one year and quit. Obviously this was well before the existence of SubRosa (who have not one, but two violinists). But I have to wonder if my 11 year old self heard More Constant Than The Gods, would he have kept at that horrid bowed instrument? Not likely. But I would have at least thought those lessons were a little cooler.
05. Naam – Vow
All the normal Naam spaced out goodness is present on Vow, but there’s something new here as well. My brain wants me to believe it’s the result of the band wandering into the desert, getting wasted on peyote and finding their spirit animal. Only in this case Naam’s spirit animal is a named Across Tundras. They tell Naam to continue on their chosen path, but allow it to widen, let the dust blow in and embrace the sparseness. Naam nod in agreement, return to their instruments and Vow is born. True story.
06. Year of No Light – Tocsin
Do you need to ingest mind altering substances in order to make mind altering music? I can’t say for sure, but if you do, then Year of No Light were sky high and blind when they made Tocsin. I was a huge fan of the soaring riffs and feedback that made up 2010’s Ausserwelt and Tocsin is cut from the same cloth. So obviously this is a win-win situation.
07. Kadavar – Abra Kadavar
I don`t know how these three mystical wizards from Germany keep making such killer albums, but I still think time travel must be involved in some way. No doubt Kadavar gain some of their powers from their impressive beards. But it doesn’t matter. Just listen to Abra Kadavar and thank me later.
08. Vattnet Viskar – Sky Swallower
Step 1: Peek interest of sucker for post black metal (me) by referencing Agalloch when promoting the new Vattnet Viskar album, Step 2: Receive a positive review trusted metal scribe Decibel (read religiously each month be me). Step 3: Make a new fan (once again, me) and end up on this list. The system works.
09. Windhand – Soma
I still love Electric Wizard, but I have to come clean. I have a little thing on the side going on with Windhand. However based on the amount of orgies and ritual sex acts seen in the artwork of the last couple Wizard albums, I’m pretty sure they’re flexible when it comes to relationships. So don’t let your loyalty hold you back. Open your arms and embrace Soma. Or just stand aside and let it push through your house like a mammoth glacier. One way or another these six tracks are going to cause some damage.
10. Whores. – Clean.
Type www.worshiptheriff.com into your browser. Where did it take you? Look familiar? It should, because you’re here. I worship the riff and so do Whores. We worship big, dirty fucking riffs. Don’t sleep on this. The end.
11. Rosetta – The Anaesthete
Rosetta was sneaky this year. Either that or I just wasn’t paying very close attention to what the band was up to. Most likely it was the latter. But it was a nice surprise when I found out about the Anaesthete literally days before it was set to be released. If you are familiar with Rosetta, then there won’t be any surprises here. Expansive soundscapes built on deep rumbling bass, loose drum fills, textured effects driven guitar and vocalist Mike Armine screaming about things I don’t understand. So yeah, pretty much everything you would want in a Rosetta album.
12. Shooting Guns – Brotherhood of the Ram
Nod your head slowly. Feel the air moving from the amps and let the phased out effects wash over you in waves. Light bends and wraps around you. Hypnosis is setting in. No words. Just sound. Thick, gritty, spaced out sound. Welcome to the world of Shooting Guns. Welcome to the Brotherhood of the Ram.
13. KEN mode – Entrench
There’s lots of great things to say about this Entrench. But I’m just going to say one. The duel bass assault on “No; I’m in Control” is the audio definition of the bands name. It kills everyone and everything. Now. More of that please.
14. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Josh Homme knows restraint. How he manages to resist throwing down huge earth shaking riffs, is beyond me. However if he keeps consistently rolling out a solid QOTSA album every few years instead, then we’re cool.
15. Thrawsunblat – Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings
It’s refreshing to see how black metal has become such a diverse genre over the last few years. While I enjoy the primal rawness of a band like Craft, I also love seeing artists take that template and layer it with other non BM influences. Thrawsunblat most definitely fall into the latter category. So because of that Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings is not just a black metal album. But rather it’s a diverse engaging listen that shows there’s still lots of fresh ground to cover with this style of music. Go hear for yourself and get ready to be pleasantly surprised.
16. Clutch – Earth Rocker
You don’t see Clutch popping up on year end lists nearly as much as they should. Personally, I think people just take them for granted. The band has been pumping out quality albums for years now and it’s just a given that anything new from Clutch is going to be good. But that’s not how I roll. Clutch gets respect around these parts year round.
17. Kylesa – Ultraviolet
I absolutely Kylesa’s last album Spiral Shadow. Ask me for the definition of a flawless album and I’ll start waving a copy of that around. While Ultraviolet doesn’t disappoint, it’s a much different beast than Spiral Shadow. It took me quite a few listens to fully appreciate the details of the songs and the band covers lots of ground style wise on the album. At first those two things threw me off and I was a little disappointed. But as with many great albums, spending more time with Ultraviolet has proven there is nothing to be disappointed in here.
18. Sandrider – Godhead
For 14 years Akimbo ate beer and shat riffs. Now two thirds of the band moved on to live and crush in Sandrider. If you were a fan of Akimbo and like the idea of the noise rock influence being traded off for a more heavy handed approach, then Godhead is your cup shit… I mean tea.
19. Toxic Holocaust – Chemistry of Consciousness
It’s December 17th and I’m listening to Chemistry of Consciousness for the first time. That means by the time I publish this list I will have played the album half a dozen times at most. Is that enough to properly assess this slab of thrash metal and deem it worthy of being on this list? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?
20. Jucifer – за волгой для нас земли нет
21. Inter Arma – Sky Burial
Billy Anderson engineered this, didn’t he? Did I mention he hates me? Something about my lack of appreciation of “dense” sounding albums (which he may or may not be known for). Even though Sky Burial has a bit of sonic density going on, I’m willing to set my biases aside. Although I think they should have called it Spacejumboblackgrindsludge.
22. Deafheaven – Sunbather
When I heard Deafheaven’s first album Roads to Judah I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. But then after a few months something switched on in my brain and I had a new found appreciation for the album. The same thing is happening right now with Sunbather. Only this time my ears and brain still have yet to fully embrace the album. In the short term that means Deafheaven will be sitting a little lower on this list. But in the long term it means more quality listening to come my way from Sunbather.
23. Ancient VVisdom – Deathlike
A mostly-acoustic band on my year end list? Yeah, that surprised me too. But apparently I’m a big fan of death chants about Satan and other dark shit. Actually, I’m not surprised by this at all. Throw on some Ancient VVisdom and praise our dark overlord.
24. Pissed Jeans – Honeys
There are two kinds of people who piss in their jeans. The accidental pisser who is embarrassed and uncomfortable with the situation. And the raving lunatic who hasn’t even noticed that he pissed in his jeans because he’s too busy screaming a bunch of nonsense into a microphone and being confrontational. Guess which one of those people Honeys is?
25. Corrections House – Last City Zero
“Saxophones. I have no use for you.” That is one of my tweets from about three weeks ago. Yet here I am enjoying this album by Corrections House featuring Yakuza saxophonist Bruce Lamont. To be fair, the saxophone on Last City Zero is subtle and it suits the songs well when it does appear. But this is more Killing Joke than John Coltrane. For something that I didn’t have any expectations for, Last City Zero was a very pleasant surprise. Apologies for the anti-saxaphone tweet.