Best of 2013 – Metalette
Top 3 Releases:
1. Finntroll – Blodsvept
The best album of the year, in my humble-but-educated opinion, is Finntroll’s Blodsvept. It’s quirky, it’s evil, it’s heavy, and it’s musically rich. As you expect with Finntroll, there’s a colorful array of instruments used throughout the entire album, coupled with satisfyingly heavy guitar and bass. And vocalist Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns keeps it brutal with his excellent growls. Quite a few of the songs are dark, letting Finntroll’s black metal tendencies really shine through, but there are also the more folksy songs that define their trademark sound. Some of my favorite tracks include “Mordminnen”, “Skogsdotter”, “Skӧvlarens Dӧd”, and “När Jättar Marschera”, but the whole album is a gem.
2. Månegarm – Legions of the North
Legions of the North from Månegarm is a brilliant album. When it was first released I pretty much listened to it in its entirety non-stop for a good long while. It’s the kind of album that makes everything feel like an epic adventure when you listen to it. It’s chock-full of noble, folksy riffs, winter-heathen lyrics, and incredibly catchy choruses. What make this album especially spectacular, to me, are the vocals of Erik Grawsiӧ. He can growl like a beast (no pun intended) but also, man can he sing! He’s got a powerful, rock’n’roll voice, with a strong range. My favorite tracks on this masterpiece are: “Sons of War”, “Hordes of Hel”, and “Eternity Awaits”.
3. Turisas – Turisas2013
Turisas’ aptly-named album Turisas2013 sparked a lot of controversy with fans, from the album art, the title, and the music itself. But guess what? I love it. It’s great. And it’s 100% Turisas. It’s not folk metal, people, it’s something entirely different and it stands by itself in a little, one-band genre that we endearingly call battle metal. This new album brings us more clean vocals than ever from vocalist Mathias “Warlord” Nygård, and they sound fantastic. The lyrics are meaningful and clever, and the music is ever-triumphant. To name a few of my favorite tracks; “We Ride Together”, “Ten More Miles”, and “Piece by Piece”.
Equilibrum – Waldschrein
In their newest EP, Equilibrium gives a 5-song taste of their past, present, and future music – and it all tastes really good. They re-recorded their song “Der Sturm” for the EP, and it sounds better than ever, and is about as noble as it could possibly be. “Zwergenhammer” is also an older song, that was actually never released, but clearly not because it wasn’t a great song. Then there’s “Waldschrein”, the title track, which is the uplifting sound you expect from Equilibrium. It’s fresh but still heavily retains their style, and is complemented by an instrumental version which is just as good and really showcases Equilibrium’s mastery of melodies and exotic instruments. Man, I love them. The Waldschrein EP is an exciting peek into whatever Equilibrium has cooking for their next album; it’s gonna be good. And how could I forget to mention the cover of the Skyrim theme on the EP, called “Himmelsrand”? Only Equilibrium could take a song so epic already and make it more epic – epic enough to out-epic other epics.
Best TV Show
Vikings – History Channel took us all by surprise this year with their first-ever scripted series, Vikings. This show is SO metal. The sense of brutal realism is a breath of fresh air, compared to so many TV shows that sugar-coat everything, and always have the main characters doing “the right thing”. History’s Vikings holds nothing back; they kill Christians, burn villages, kill each other, cheat on each other, sacrifice each other to the gods…the show has it all, plus a strong and visually-appealing cast. (Hello, Rollo!) The show even features Wardruna’s music in an episode, which is just so legit. The whole show is legit. Catch up on it now, in time for the second season!
Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem
We waited so long for this. Metalocalypse’s very own Klok Opera, The Doomstar Requiem – an hour-long special that finally answered the burning question of, “what happened to Toki??” While there are a lot of serious moments in the movie, Dethklok’s usual antics are peppered throughout, starting right from the beginning with their song “Partying Around the World”. All your favorite characters are featured, with some great cameos, and hell, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher does the vocals for the Masked Metal Assassin! What more do you want? An adorable song from Toki? There’s one of those indeed, called “I Believe” which, in fact, I proudly have on my iPod and belt-out along with in my car. The best part of the movie is, though, that it sets Metalocalypse up for a FIFTH SEASON. Ohhh yes.
Turisas “Guards of Glory North American Tour 2013”
Choosing the best concert of the year is like choosing between cute cat-gifs on Tumblr – they’re ALL too amazing to pick just one. When pressed, however, I have decided that the best show I saw, for various reasons, was Turisas on their North American tour earlier this year. This was before they came out with their new album, Turisas2013 (which you’ll notice I chose as one of the best albums of the year…little did I know, when I saw them in March). Why was their show my favorite? First of all, these guys KNOW showmanship, inside-and-out. They go all-out, with their red and black warpaint, and fur and chain-mail accented clothes. Their music is fantastic live, and oh-so sing-along-able. They’re extremely personable to their fans, and frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård completely breaks the fourth wall. When I saw them, it was a fairly small crowd compared to what they normally play (Florida, ok?) so there was a casual, intimate feel to the whole show. Mathias talked…a LOT. And it was very entertaining, especially considering he kept a steady flow of alcohol into his body through his entire performance; so naturally he got more and more entertaining. In fact, after a joking request that the audience do so, members of the crowd started bringing Turisas drinks from the bar – which the band gladly received! So, all factors included, Turisas’ show tops my list for the bands I saw this year. At the end of their show, they showed the audience an immense appreciation, and shook the hands of as many fans as they could reach – I personally have never touched so many sweaty Finnish guys in one night! ….hey, get your mind out of the gutter!
Best Local Band
This beardy group of guys is a truly unique band in the LA metal scene. The blending of melodic death with pagan undertones gives this California band the sound of quality, European metal. Their music is original and professional, with nothing out of joint, yet their melodies are often delightfully unpredictable. They include clean choruses alongside their predominant, strong growls, and mix evil heaviness with refreshing upbeat sections. And having 6 members in the band allows for a lot of technical goodies and general fun, including call-and-response segments between guitar and keyboard when Sirion performs live. They’re altogether a talented, one-of-a-kind band that stands out in a scene of so many noisy, cookie-cutter bands, so I’m very proud to say that Sirion is LA’s very own.
Best New Band
Finnish band Vorna got their start this year with the release of Ajastaika. They’ve got a symphonic, black metal sound, with a lot of fun folksy elements thrown in. One of their biggest strengths is their vocalist, Vesa Salovaara. His vocals range from deep, growly lows, to throat-ripping highs, and, though used sparingly, great clean vocals as well. Vorna uses a huge array of instruments on their album, and each song seems to feature different sounds, like harps, accordions, tolling bells, organs, flutes, and more.
Vorna also throws in acoustic guitar picking and strumming in truly unique and surprising ways. I’m excited to see how their sound develops in future albums!