Best of 2013 – Robert Williams
1. Death Dealer “War Master”
Death Dealer are a metal supergroup in the purest sense of the term. Featuring an all-star lineup of metal greats “War Master” ultimately lived up to the enormous expectations and hype surrounding the release of their debut album by delivering ten scorching tracks of true blue American steel. (Although they do feature one Aussie in their ranks) As a longtime Manowar fan it was also great to finally hear what it would be like if Ross “The Boss” Friedman and Rhino were in a band together. (Rhino departed from Death Dealer shortly after the release of “War Master”) Here’s hoping that Death Dealer can do some extensive touring in 2014, these ten tracks really deserve to be performed live!
2. Attacker “Giants Of Canaan”
This album was an early favorite for potential album of the year status and came so very close to securing that coveted spot. Attacker are seasoned metal veterans and should still hold their heads high for delivering an exceptionally strong album like “Giants of Canaan”. This was one of my “go-to” albums of the year for partying with friends, cruising around in my car, sitting around with my dog etc. You can’t go wrong with Attacker’s “Giants of Canaan”. I highly recommend it.
3. Toby Knapp “Static Warfare”
Toby Knapp is back and arguably better than ever. Released in July of 2013 “Static Warfare” ushered in the latest batch of melodic shredding insanity from the former Onward mastermind. It’s not often that an all instrumental album can captivate my attention for more than a few spins but Toby kept things fresh with his unique blend of influences and song structures. Does Toby ever sleep? Who knows? Word on the street is he’s put together a new band dubbed “Where Evil Follows” with Steel Prophet vocalist Rick Mythiasin as well as an instrumental collaboration with Markus Johannson. Sounds like 2014 could be “The Year Of The Knapp”.
Best Live Album
Skelator “Live Chaos”
I can’t get enough Skelator. These guys are one of the best things happening in American heavy metal right now. Italy’s Metal On Metal Records knows this and that is why they released “Live Chaos” in a very small pressing on cassette. Good luck finding “Live Chaos” but if you are lucky enough to you will be rewarded with a stellar live set by one of the heaviest hitters in today’s underground scene.
Best Covers Album
Ignitor “Mix Tape ’85″
Austin, Texas’ hometown boys (and one gal) self-released “Mix Tape ’85″ this past March featuring covers of Neil Turbin fronted Anthrax, Accept, Exciter, Judas Priest, Venom, Mercyful Fate, Exodus and Deep Purple. An enjoyable stop-gap release from a killer band and a perfect album to spin when you’re throwing back beers with your buds.
Ancient Dreams “MMXIII” – I’d never heard this band from Illinois before but I came across it through the trading circuit and with catchy hooks like on the instantly memorable “Andrea’s Dream” and the crushing doom metal stomp of “To Walk The Earth” I’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing more from Ancient Dreams in the future.
Yngwie Malmsteen “Relentless” – This is a captivating look into the origins of the undisputed king of the six string and the founding father of neo-classical heavy metal, as told by the man himself. It’s all here, from his early upbringing in the frostlands of Sweden to his arrival and subsequent takeover of the U.S. shred scene. Tour stories, anecdotes about working with different lineups and everything in between. This is the book that Yngwie fans have been waiting for all of these years. Highly recommended.
Raven “Rock Until You Drop”
This was a pretty cool documentary styled feature from Raven (And it’s about time their story was told) Jam packed with on camera interviews with the band and their peers, archival concert footage and tons of bonus material, this DVD offers a ton of bang for it’s buck.
Iron Maiden/Megadeth – I’ll be honest, I’ve seen Iron Maiden live more than a handful of times. I’ve seen them quite a few times to be honest and I’ll be damned if they still don’t put on one of the best fucking shows in metal, hands down. Once again, I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor of the venue and riding home in a trance like sense of wonderment. “How do they do it? Year after year” I don’t know friends, but when you throw in seasoned thrash metal veterans like Megadeth as an opener with a “Best Of” setlist, what you should end up with is “Concert of the Year”.
Best local band
I was lucky enough to catch Ignitor live a couple times this year and they tore down the house both nights. This is a band on top of their game boasting an all-star lineup of Texas metal greats. Their “Mix Tape ’85″ covers album proved to be this year’s soundtrack to the summer and word on the street is that the follow up to last year’s “Year Of The Metal Tiger” might be in the works next year. If you’re from outside of the Lonestar state, do yourself a favor and checkout Ignitor at http://www.ignitorband.com/
Best new band
Death Dealer emerged in the first quarter of 2013 and their debut full length “War Master” had already surfaced by the summer time. All eyes and ears were focused on what this all-star lineup of metal veterans and legends would sound like and Death Dealer delivered on all front’s, knocking it out of the park with the blistering “Death Dealer” the scorching title track “Warmaster” and the crushing “Hammer Down”. Plus, though he has already departed the band, for at least a moment in time we were able to witness former Manowar alumni Kenny “Rhino” Earl team up with Ross “The Boss” Friedman in the same band. I vote these guys best album of the year and best new band of the year.
I just recently found out about Axxion from Canada and I have to say that I am really impressed with their sound. I was looking at various band logos on a poster for next year’s Ragnarokkr festival and looking up the band’s on YouTube and these guys really stand out as having a unique sound and are now one of the band’s I’m most looking forward to checking out at Ragnarokkr next year.
Greatest hopes for 2014
I hope more really good metal continues to get released in CD format. I hope Heaven and Hell, Stormspell, Pure Steel, Swords and Chains, Witches Brew and Moribund Records sell out of all of their titles and make tons of money. I hope that Angel Witch will be able to do an extensive tour of the U.S. and I hope that someone who is reading this that also works for Fender Guitars will send me an Yngwie Malmsteen signature series Stratocaster with scalloped frets.