Best of 2013 – Aaron Yurkiewicz
1. Carcass – SURGICAL STEEL
Most reunion albums suck, or at the very least, disappoint. Carcass bucked that trend this year with an album that defied the expectations of fans and critics alike. Conceived and recorded in a level of secrecy that probably only Edward Snowden had knowledge of, SURGICAL STEEL could’ve easily been a by-the-numbers nostalgia trip. But nay, Jeff Walker and Bill Steer delivered an album that not only holds up amazingly well alongside classics like HEARTWORK and NECROTICISM, but did so in a way that sounded fresh, inspired, and most importantly, relevant in 2013. Despite an almost 20 year absence from the studio, SURGICAL STEEL reintroduces Carcass to the music scene without skipping a beat. So many exceptional tracks and even more exceptional riffs, SURGICAL STEEL is a flawless record. Can’t wait to hear these tunes live when Carcass hits the road in the Spring.
2. Exhumed – NECROCRACY
Exhumed is the Carcass of this generation, and NECROCRACY is their HEARTWORK. Seamlessly bridging the gore metal days of their past with a dose of social consciousness and a casket full of Maiden licks, NECROCRACY is death metal perfection that is second only to the godfathers of gore themselves.
3. SubRosa – MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS
In a year full of phenomenal doom records, MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS is the most mournful, sorrowful, gut wrenchingly heavy of them all. It’s far from you typical doom metal album, but then again, SubRosa is anything but typical. Combining the heaviest of dirges with a dual pronged violin attack and a siren’s call, this album will make you rethink everything you know about the genre.
4. Windhand – SOMA
This album is so f@#king heavy. Traditional doom at its dreariest; what more do you need?
5. Cathedral – THE LAST SPIRE
These UK doom legends exited the music scene as heavy and unapologetically melancholy as they entered it 20 some years ago. As much as I love this band and as sad as I was to see them go, THE LAST SPIRE is the perfect epitaph for Cathedral.
6. Orchid – THE MOUTHS OF MADNESS
Orchid released a better Black Sabbath album this year than Black Sabbath did themselves. It’s still 1974 on this record, and it’s awesome.
7. Vista Chino – PEACE
Kyuss is dead. Long live Vista Chino!
8. Ghost – INFESTISSUMAM
This album came out at least 8 months ago, and I’m still listening to it, singing along to every track. F@#k the internet, this album is every bit a triumph.
9. Queensrÿche – QUEENSRŸCHE
Once upon a time Queensrÿche was one of my favorite bands, and this album reminded me why. While Geoff Tate continues to milk the nostalgia circuit for all it’s worth, Michael Wilton and crew focused on writing an album that was the equivalent of makeup sex between the band and their fan base. Shaking off the memories of crappy alt rock albums and cabaret shows, QUEENSRŸCHE is a reset for the band and those that still care.
10. Deicide – IN THE MINDS OF EVIL
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Men like Glen Benton, that is. Often imitated but never duplicated, IN THE MINDS OF EVIL is Deicide doing what they do best.
11. Intronaut – HABITUAL LEVITATIONS
12. Fates Warning – DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
13. Watain – THE WILD HUNT
14. Gorguts – COLOURED SANDS
15. Black Sabbath – 13
16. Pestilence – OBSIDEO
17. Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals – WALK THROUGH EXITS ONLY
18. Nails – ABANDON ALL LIFE
19. Incantation – VANQUISH IN VENGEANCE
20. Shallow Grave – SHALLOW GRAVE
Fuck the Facts – AMER
These Canadian purveyors of Grindcore continue to impress with each release, but AMER is their most impressive yet. Introducing a degree of melody and technical intricacy to their frenzied blasts of hostility, AMER grabs your attention and then smacks you upside the head with it.
Best Live Album
Testament – Dark Roots of Thrash
What’s better than a Testament double live album? Not a damn thing, that’s what. Yeah, the band sounds great here, but the setlist is a fan’s wet dream. DARK ROOTS OF THRASH has the mandatory classics from the first two albums, newer material from DARK ROOTS OF EARTH, and a handful of deep cuts thrown in for good measure. But if their performance of “D.N.R.” doesn’t make you want to punch a wall, then you’re just not human.
Black Sabbath – LIVE…GATHERED IN THEIR MASSES
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for 13, and despite Ozzy’s lack of awareness as to what song he’s singing at any given moment, there’s still an undeniable magic that happens when Ozzy, Butler, and Iommi get on stage together. Factor in that Tommy Clufetos looks like a younger version of Bill Ward and a decent setlist, and you’ve got yourself a good time.
Honorable Mention: Roomba Cat Dressed Like a Shark
Okay, it’s not “technically” a DVD, but you’ve got to admit that a cat dressed like a shark riding a vacuum cleaner is a metaphor for the kind of rebellion that heavy metal inspires. Ride on, Roomba Cat…Ride On.
Bolt Thrower with Benediction & Jungle Rot (Reggie’s Chicago, IL)
In a sort of death metal pilgrimage, I traveled 1,000 miles to see Bolt Thrower on their 8-date run of the U.S. this year, and I’m totally glad that I did. Hearing the thundering roar of “The IVth Crusade” live was nothing short of a cathartic experience and having fellow UK death metal legends Benediction open the gig was simply icing on the cake.
Discovery of 2013
That the underground death metal scene is indeed alive and well.
While the traditional blood n’ guts scene never really went away, it certainly awoke with a vengeance this year, getting more attention in the press than I can recall in quite some time. There are a lot of great indie labels that are doing a lot of great things right now for the genre, and more and more bands are taking control of their destiny by releasing their wares independently or through vehicles like Bandcamp; it’s a pretty cool time to be a music fan.
Disappointments of 2013
Trouble – THE DISTORTION FIELD
If there was one album that I desperately wanted to be successful, it was this one. After six years and a load of lead singer drama, Trouble was due some good fortune, but THE DISTORTION FIELD was sadly a hot, hot mess that not even Kyle Thomas could save. Mediocre songwriting, bad production, and zero promotion combined together to create a perfect storm of disappointment around the album. Here’s hoping that Eric Wagner’s debut with The Skull fares better next year.
R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman – Yep, that happened.
And Speaking of Slayer…Seriously, last year it was drummer drama with Black Sabbath, this year it’s Slayer’s turn? C’mon, nothing against Paul Bostaph, but this whole thing is just getting a bit silly now. Slayer will always be a profitable brand and there’s no signs that it’s gonna go away anytime soon, but without Jeff or Dave Lombardo, I don’t know that I’m all that interested.
Hopes for 2014
My First Trip to Maryland Deathfest – I’m looking forward to my crossing a ton of bands off of my “must see live” bucket list this year. Seeing Candlemass, Tryptikon, My Dying Bride, and Nocturnus all in the same weekend? Count me in.
King Diamond – Seems like King Diamond makes my year end list every year in some capacity, so we’re not gonna break tradition now. We’ve recovered from triple bypass surgery, we’ve hit the European festival circuit, NOW GET IN THE STUDIO ALREADY!!!!!
Some Great Tours Being Announced Already: Carcass, Obituary, Death Angel and Nile are just a few names already scheduled to cross the U.S. in 2014, and it’s still only mid-December as I type this. Horns up for a busy 2014 in the pit.