2013, what a year. Seriously. As of writing this introduction, it’s the 10th of December and I’m staring down the barrel of a list of around thirty releases that I still have yet check out and by all accounts could probably destroy the order of this list but, oh well, c’est la vie. Maybe some day I’ll catch up, but it won’t be any time soon.
Once again, this year I made everything extremely hard for myself by only picking ten records in an effort to counter the fact I enjoyed such a huge selection of metal. This list represents ten records that, when I pick up my iPod to put something on before heading out the door, are the tried and true selections that I tend to opt for — it’s an odd measure, but one that for me tends to pick out the records that I truly love and have listened to enough to know inside out. So, check them out, or don’t, it’s up to you — I just hope you guys had as much of a good year as I did.
10. Revocation – Revocation
Ruthlessly consistent and forever spectacular, Revocation sought nothing more than to consolidate their sound with Revocation and completely exceeded all of my expectations. Coming of the back of an album like Chaos Of Forms that held my attention because it just couldn’t sit still, I’d be lying if I said I instantly hit it off with Revocation, but given the proper time here you start to realise that these are some of the best songs the group have ever written. Gone are most of the ridiculous twists and turns that they would utilise before, with tight and proficient song writing taking the helm here, Revocation have put together and album full of slightly-technical, slightly-death-y but always heavy thrash metal songs that are going to tear through neck muscle when they unleash them live.
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9. David Maxim Micic – Bilo 3.0
Bilo 3.0 is unlike anything else you’ll hear all year. David Maxim Micic‘s ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to writing music has gone above what he achieved with Bilo 2.0 and instead decided that leaving out the kitchen sink was a bit of a misstep in the first place — so here on 3.0 you’re subject to an onslaught of beautiful operatics, brash horns, subdued piano pieces, monstrous riffs, harsh female vocals and strings that weave it all together. And yet, not for a moment does it ever feel messy in any way. Micic has managed to piece together a truly weird and wonderful piece of art here, with each seemingly disparate part crafted seamlessly onto the next.
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8. Deafheaven – Sunbather
I didn’t ‘get’ Sunbather for the longest, longest time, in fact, it’s only really in the last couple of months that I began to see the genius that lies beneath it’s garish pink exterior. Lying at the unknown half way point between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Wolves In The Throne Room, Deafheaven have mined a niche of their own into the burgeoning post-black metal think-tank and created an album that mixes the unrivaled emotive and lush sounds of post-rock with the dense and majestic world of black metal, all to great effect. Put on your best headphones and lose yourself in ‘Dream House‘, it’s one of the best experiences you’ll have all year.
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7. And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures
Calling And So I Watch You From Afar metal is probably a bit of a stretch — sure there’s some real tasteful riffing every now and then, but when it’s surrounded by steel drums, sugary sweet guitar lines and group singing, then it’s a stretch too far for some. However, you shouldn’t discount them based on that, ASIWYFA are one of those non-metal bands that have just the right sensibilities to appeal to your average metal head. Just one listen of ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable‘ or ‘AMBULANCE‘ and you’ll find the music is surging and powerful, based on dragging out those primal emotions in the same way a track from, say, Isis would, but here it’s all just a little more upbeat. And though it may be sacrilegious to even suggest it, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
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6. The Ocean – Pelagial
Can they even do wrong? Thirteen years and seven near-perfect full-lengths says not.
The Ocean made one hell of a story with the making of Pelagial, suggesting at first that it would be an entirely instrumental release before vocalist Loic Rossetti, who was fighting vocal troubles at the time, decided he needed to be a part of it and stepped back into the fold. Looking at it now, I can’t imagine it any other way. The meandering and ruthless twists and turns of tracks like ‘Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams‘ or ‘Mesopelagic: The Uncanny‘ are held together by Rossetti’s vocals and form the basis for the music to weave it’s way around. Or at least that’s what it feels like. Regardless, Pelagial deserves the hype people put behind it and you’re missing out if you skip on it because of that.
5. The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack
On a similar note, The Black Dahlia Murder are one of those bands that while never reinventing the wheel, always seem to impress with every single release. Filled to the brim with concise and frill-free melodic death metal tracks that veer more into the territory of ‘death metal’ than melody, TBDM are a band that know exactly what they want to achieve and exactly how to make it happen. Tracks like ‘Goat Of Departure‘ and ‘In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me‘ are meticulously crafted, to the point where it feels like every single riff was built entirely to sit next to the previous one. Just good, straight-up metal music — the backbone of everything I love about metal.
4. Shining – One One One
Who would have thought the group that bought us the mind-bending free jazz of ‘HEALTER SKELTER‘ or the noisy madness of ‘Blackjazz Deathtrance‘ could put together an entire album of industrial metal anthems? We saw glimmers of it in ‘Fish Eye‘ and ‘The Madness And The Damage Done‘ but on One One One, Shining clearly made a conscious effort to concentrate their madness to a needle point and make songs so infectious they could be considered a health hazard. I can’t exactly explain why I love this record so much, but I’m listening to it while typing this up, which must count for something.
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3. Clutch – Earth Rocker
Clutch are making rock ‘n’ roll interesting again. For all the retro-rock revival bands trying to pay tribute to their favourite dust-covered vinyls, not many can touch the perfect approach of Clutch, especially when they’re on form and making music like Earth Rocker. This record mines a deep southern-fried groove and happily wallows in all the way through, whether it be the raucous shuffle of ‘Cyborg Bette‘ or the sombre twang of ‘Gone Cold‘ — each and every moment makes you want to sit on your porch and neck homebrew.
2. Anciients – Heart Of Oak
Easily the biggest surprise of the year for me. Straight out of Vancouver, Canada comes an act that managed to put together some of my favourite progressive minded acts ever by making a racket that sits somewhere inbetween the days of early Baroness and Watershed-era Opeth. It twists and meanders through winding rhythms and riffs, never settling on anything for too long but quickly bringing it back just as you begin to miss it. The first time I heard Heart Of Oak, I just sat there in awe of just how right this band was getting it, even on their debut — you NEED to hear this record.
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1. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Driller Killer
What the hell is there left for The Dillinger Escape Plan to prove?
Nothing by the looks of it, they’ve managed to mine a niche of their own within the metal consciousness that seems to suggest if you like your music loud and unpredictable then they’re the go-to recommendation. So after four albums of rampant madness and experimentation that ranged from spastic Aphex Twin electronics to falsetto driven ‘pop’ songs, what do you strive for next?
According to One Of Us Is The Killer, you simply refine your sound. DEP set themselves some slightly stricter boundaries and come out all the better for it, producing some of the best and concise songs they’ve ever made in ‘Prancer‘, ‘When I Lost My Bet‘ and ‘Hero Of The Soviet Union‘. In fact, if you want to know how I truly feel about this record, just go ahead and flick through Alkahest’s review, he puts exactly what I want to say into better words than I could.
So, there you have it. Probably a great list to some of you, a shit list to many more of you — but whether you read it in full or not, you’re here reading HBIH so thank you. Whether you simply lurked all year, trolled your heart out, called us names, joined in the discussion, genuinely complimented us or whatever; I enjoyed writing (probably too much) this past year and hope you’ll stick around to do the same next year because we can already look forward to some hopefully great releases from Alcest, Periphery, Behemoth, Cynic, Down, Mastodon, Overkill and many, many more.
Happy holidays! Eat, drink, be merry and listen to Faith No More.