I don’t really do introductions, but here’s an opinionated list that you probably hate, as I’m likely the most vanilla of the staff as far as taste is concerned. Choosing albums was particularly difficult and at one point I struggled with a list of 15 and ended up with nearly 30 albums, which was weird to think about after many hours of infighting for half of that. So here’s only ten.
Harness the Earth materials, and so forth.
10. Dead Letter Circus – The Catalyst Fire
The Catalyst Fire was an unexpected surprise this year. The Australian fivesome, Dead Letter Circus, came forth with their sophomore endeavor in an explosive, electronic-heavy progressive rock album. Energetic, uplifting, powerful, aggressive—whatever descriptors you’d prefer to use, The Catalyst Fire is an incredible record through and through. [Review]
9. Soilwork – The Living Infinite
It’s not often when a band will lose their primary songwriter, flounder for a few years, see them return, and then leave once more only to pump out practically two albums worth of material that readily measures up to the highlights of their career. Soilwork‘s The Living Infinite is undoubtedly one of the finest melodic death metal albums, not just of 2013, but easily stands toe-to-toe with established titans of days past. [Review]
8. Maximum the Hormone – 予襲復讐 (Yoshu Fukushu)
Not straying far from their typical playfulness, Maximum the Hormone‘s Yoshu Fukushu carries the same spirit that made Bu-iikikaesu and Rokkinpo Goroshi such fabulous, fun albums to enjoy. Catchy grooves and stylish vocal trade-offs are Maximum the Hormone’s staples and used to great effect once again.
7. Leprous – Coal
Progressive metal giants Leprous have returned with, by and large, the best stocking stuffer imaginable in Coal. From the shrieking highs to the droning valleys, Coal drives deep into your heart, burying its black messages, never straying from its melancholic darkness. [Review]
It seemed inevitable that post-rock and black metal would share an unlikely-though-romantic experience in the back of a Becker JetVan instead of a Volkswagen. Having missed the boat two years ago with Roads to Judah, Sunbather allowed me to experience Deafheaven in all their glory. Abandoning the musical grimness black metal usually brings, the post-rock influence shines through in bright guitar qualitites while raspy black metal vocals create a divisive, though enjoyable sound. [Review]
5. Cloudkicker – Subsume
Album after album, it’s hard to say that Ben Sharp can do any wrong. With Subsume, Sharp takes Cloudkicker to familiar places, retreading ground from The Discovery in emotional aptitude and fusing it with more recent tones found in Fade and Let Yourself Be Huge. Absolutely blissful from beginning to end.
4. Jamie Christopherson – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Original Soundtrack
In an unprescedented turn, a video game has actually been responsible for producing one of the best rock albums this year. Jamie Christopherson, best known for his work on B and C-list games and movies, once again rises to the occasion for his work with Platinum Games’ Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, a spinoff of the main series of Metal Gear Solid titles. With high-energy riffing fused with dubstep-influenced electronic elements, Revengeance’s soundtrack complements the on-screen action and ramps up the intense swordplay.
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer
Moving away from the constant onslaught of aggression that The Dillinger Escape Plan is known for, One of Us is the Killer finds a balance in violence and melody, melding together savagery with something a bit more canorous, even coming packaged with a couple of tracks fit for radio play. Despite the sonic slowdown in some of its pacing, the same brutality permeates consistently. Without Dillinger, the world is at rest, and we simply cannot have that. [Review]
2. Protest the Hero – Volition
Scurrilous was widely regarded as an unworthy successor to the highly lauded Fortress, deemed the strongest record in Protest the Hero‘s catalogue. Until now. Volition, a wildly successful venture in crowd funding, managed to do the unthinkinable in overshadowing what was easily Protest the Hero’s strongest work five years prior. With incredibly intricate melodies that come at you like machine gun fire, Volition demolishes your ears in every way imaginable. [Review]
1. TesseracT – Altered State
TesseracT‘s Altered State has been a record that I continually find myself listening to well after its release. After the departure of Daniel Tompkins (for more experimental pastures with Skyharbor, White Moth Black Butterfly, and a multitude of other projects) and a passing interest with Elliot Coleman (whose work didn’t quite fit in with the band), TesseracT found solace in the vocal work of Ashe O’Hara, whose resonant tones gave the band different-yet-brilliant wings to soar with. Though a more meager offering in grooves from One, Altered State provides a greater atmospheric presence for emotional ambiance. [Review]
2013 was a pretty incredible year for music, with probably around a hundred or so truly “top tier” albums being released across all genres. No boring list of honorable mentions to sum. Just real happy to have ears and stuff for enjoying cool tunes.