From DESERT: “Horns up, Warriors! Now we can officially confirm, that one of the special guests on our upcoming album will be the one and only – Mr. Ralf Scheepers ! The legendary voice of Primal Fear, Gamma Ray and Tyran’ Pace. Ralf kindly agreed to contribute his voice to one of the songs on our new record. We are still excited, that one of the best Metal singers in the world, who’s voice built our musical taste something like for 20 years, had sang one of the most killing and powerful songs we ever wrote !!! We have no patience to show you the results of this collaboration!”
As always, the top albums are for releases from 2013 that are full albums (no EP’s or demos). They also have to be new studio albums for the year, not re-recordings, re-releases, cover songs, or live material. Below the combined TOP 30 are links to each staff members personal “best of” lists which besides the top albums contains such things as best new band, best DVD/Blu-Ray, best metal book of 2013, disappointments of the year, greatest hopes for 2014, personal metal discovery of 2013, and various other related categories. Enjoy!
When it was announced that the original Black Sabbath would reunite to record a new album, their first new material in over three decades, fans were both ecstatic while some were skeptical. While the album wasn’t rated at #1 in all of our personal lists, it was highly placed in many of our staffs list, thereby slightly surpassing #2. Where 13 really succeeds is in providing some much needed closure to a heavy metal journey 40+ years strong. The fact that Ozzy, Tony, and Geezer felt like that they still had one more in them is reason enough to give 13 a fair listen. Decide for yourself. Credit the band for getting it together and putting this album out, perhaps the passing of Dio and other metal icons along with Iommi’s cancer providing the impetus needed and realization that there might be no tomorrow. Ultimately, 13 contains many of the trademarks of early Sabbath while coming across as more consistent than say the debut. Perhaps a bit too slow, and lacking any real experimental dash, 13 cannot deliver Sabbath back to the glory days, and really who could expect it, even though it is the first Sabbath album to ever reach #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts. However, there is no question that this comes very close to the sound of the early 70s with a different and modern production.
I am an unashamedly a huge fan of power metal, especially German power metal. It’s soooo awesome that the founding fathers of the genre are not only still at it, but that they are still at the top of their game. When I had to select a number one album of the year, it wasn’t hard to select Helloween as this album has been played so many times all throughout the year.
2. Stratovarius – Nemesis
Stratovarius – Nemesis
I was a little hesitant with NEMESIS when I first heard it due to the techno-ish keys in some places which kind of took the place of some of the neo-classical influences. The album turned out to be quite a grower. The performances from all involved and the songs themselves were just too good to let a few “alien” sound effect ruin. I’d go as far as to say that this is the band’s best album since INFINITE (2000).
3. Týr - Valkyrja
Tyr – Valkyrja
Here’s a band that quickly became one of my favorites back in 2009 when I was introduced to them with the glorious album “By the Light of the Northern Star”. That was followed by 2 albums, including the latest – Valkyrja, that have continued on in pretty much the same vein. Playing it safe is OK when you’re onto such a winning formula, but I do think they have left some of the folk metal behind with this album which is too bad. Regardless of slow evolution away from folk metal, these guys are still one of the best out of any “newer” band.
4. Black Sabbath – 13
Black Sabbath – 13
The band that started it all, the mighty Black Sabbath pulled off a damn near miracle when the stars aligned and they recorded and unleashed a brand new studio album in 2013. I had faith that this would rule from day one, sure it’s sad the Bill Ward isn’t on here, but rather than mope about that, the good news is it rules anyway.
5. Avantasia – The Mystery of Time
Tobias Sammett’s Avantasia – The Mystery of Time
The awesome little dude who started Edguy and branched out to the epic Avantasia has come a long way. Early Avantasia was a little too power metal, then things seemed to go too far into the hard rock realm, but especially with The Mystery of Time, the delicate balance has been perfected. There are faster power metal songs, hard rock songs, epic songs etc. This album covers so many bases.
6. Saxon – Sacrifice
Saxon – Sacrifice
After all these years, Saxon as as good as, if not better than, ever! Hopefully this isn’t their final studio album.
7. Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Land of New Hope
TIMO TOLKKI’S AVALON “The Land of New Hope”
In the vein of Avantasia, former Stratovarius maestro, Timo Tolkki has released a new masterpiece. Part two is already being worked on as this is to be a trilogy of albums. After the ups and downs in Tolkki’s career, it’s great that he is still releasing new material.
8. Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood
Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood
I’ve loved Death Angel since the 80′s and was especially enamored with their ACT III album. After a long hiatus (in terms of studio releases from 1990 to 2004) the band returned in 2004 and have since released four albums including their 2013 release. While all their albums have been good, The Dream Calls For Blood kind of took me off guard. It isn’t just good…it is fantastic! For me it still doesn’t top ACT III, but it’s the best they’ve done since then.
9. Huntress – Starbound Beast
Huntress – Starbound Beast
Their are very clear nods to classic heavy metal and old King Diamond and Mercyful Fate written all over STARBOUND BEAST by Huntress. Last year I selected Huntress as “best new band” and for 2013 they again shot back with a new album which was even stronger. Sure, the band might get extra press because of their extremely easy on the eyes lead vocalist, but it’s for the strength of their and their relentless touring that the band has been making themselves known while others have been left in the dust.
10. Megadeth – Supercollider
Megadeth – Super Collider
I don’t care what other critics say, this album is great. It’s clearly not RUST IN PEACE or PEACE SELLS great, but it’s nowhere near the un-listenable RISK. It’s more in line with the good melodic Medadeth albums like YOUTHANASIA or COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION. Even though I enjoy this album a lot, it would be preferable if Dave and the boys got back to more thrashing on the next album.
11. Rhapsody – Dark Wings of Steel
Rhapsody Of Fire – Dark Wings of Steel
So here we have the first Rhapsody of Fire album that does not feature guitarist and founding member Luca Turilli who has moved onto his own version of the band. While the album is overall an enjoyable listen, I do have some misgivings. Sadly, the guitars take a backseat. Sure there are plenty of solos, but the riffage is way too backburner. The other bummer is the tempo….mid-tempo music is NOT what I want from Rhapsody. Problems aside, a crippled Rhapsody can still outpace many. As well, the vocals of Fabio Lione are as always, fantastic!
12. Motorhead – Aftershock
Motorhead – Aftershock
While AFTERSHOCK doesn’t have the immediacy or heaviness of INFERNO, it is still is very strong. With 2013 being the year that Lemmy’s lifestyle began catching up with him, everyone hopes he can keep the tank rolling. If it means limited touring and more studio albums, that’s not all bad news for sure.
13. Lord – Digital Lies
Lord – ‘Digital Lies‘
The shred heavy power metal-ish Aussie band, Lord returned with their fourth album in 2013. From the band’s excellent videos which show they have a great sense of humor(!), to the acrobatic shredding, Lord are simply great.
14. Gloryhammer – Tales from the Kingdom of Fife
Gloryhammer – Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife
My initial introduction to this band was not by a song, but was through a picture of the band. They looked seriously retarded. I could not take them seriously and assumed they were taking the piss and not worth further pursuit. After reading JP’s glowing review, I had to give them a shot and I’m glad I did!
15. Annihilator – Feast
Annihilator – FEAST
While I can’t imagine that Annihilator will ever top their two glorious albums Alice in Hell (1989) or Never, Neverland (1990), FEAST is an album that has a lot of those classic elements of melody and thrash.
16. Flotsam & Jetsam – Ugly Noise
Flotsam & Jetsam – Ugly Noise
It hasn’t been since CUATRO (1992) and DRIFT(1995) that I’ve really had a lot of time for F&J. They’ve had some moments since then, but overall were not that memorable. With UGLY NOISE there is again more time given to the melodic side. I would of liked it if the songs were even more like those two aforementioned albums with perhaps a couple classic songs a la Hammerhead thrown in.
17. VoiVod – Target Earth
VoiVod – Target Earth
Even though TARGET EARTH is the first to not feature the sadly departed guitarist Piggy (the last two albums, Katorz and Infini, still had Piggy on them), it’s very cool that Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain was able to channel the Piggy of old and pull the VoiVod sound out of the doldrums of stoner rock and back to progressive thrash, the style that we all love Piggy and VoiVod for!
18. Queensryche – Queensryche
Queensryche – Queensryche
Sure, this is not to the levels of amazballs of OPERATION MINDCRIME, but c’mon….Tate didn’t want to be playing prog metal any more and the band hasn’t been relevant in years. Sad that it took the band this long to DARE to step out and get a great vocalist and record a proper album. I still think this needed to be heavier, faster, a lot less “modern” sounding, and more like classic QR….but hey, it’s one helluva great start and I hope there’s more to come!
19. Ashes of Ares – ST
ASHES OF ARES
Matt Barlow, back in the saddle singing metal…nuff said really! Love his vocals!
20. Carcass – Surgical Steel
Carcass – SURGICAL STEEL
Not as jaw-dropping as HEARTWORK, but they really pulled their shit together and made quite a triumphant return!
Best Live Album / Best DVD/Blu-Ray
I’m combining these two categories as everything I bought had both lives CDs with the Blu-Ray.
Nightwish: Showtime, Storytime
Nightwish – Showtime, Storytime
Finally, Nightwish have a singer that does justice to both eras of the band. Floor Jansen is my favorite female vocalist, so hearing her sing these songs really brings new new to them and the band….can’t wait to hear her on her own Nightwish material!
Runners up: Testament “Dark Roots of Thrash” (Skolnick live is soooooo good!), Sabaton “Swedish Empire Live” (the Amazon earbook edition has glorious packaging).
Gamma Ray – Master of Confusion
As Gamma Ray are pretty much my favorite band, it reallyyyyyyyy sucks that their previous studio album came out nearly four years ago in 2010. That’s too long of a wait as the band’s peers are not being to lax or spinning their wheels in boring side-projects…..Sigh…. So we get an EP, yes, it’s one of the longest EPs in history, but still… Regardless, it’s Gamma Ray, I worship them and Kai Hansen, so this was easily the best EP of the year for me.
Blind Guardian – A Traveler’s Guide to Space and Time
This has to be the best box set I’ve ever bought. Full details on the content can be read here.
Just wow….look at the pic below!
BLIND GUARDIAN – A Traveler’s Guide to Space and Time
While sHEAVY were inactive for all of 2013, the band was busy behind the scenes writing/recording two albums. The first of which was released at the end of 2013.
KISS: 2013 was not a good year for travel for a number of shitty reasons. Therefore, I missed out on a few concerts that I had tickets purchased for including Helloween and Kamelot. I’m sure one of those would of made for my best concert of 2013, but since I could only see what was worth seeings here at the ass and of the planet, the best concert was KISS. They still have a killer show with the pryo and stage set, and it was my first time seeing them live, so it was quite a show!
Alex Skolnick – “Geek to Guitar Hero”
Alex Skolnick- Geek to Guitar Hero Cover
I’m always reading metal books and metal bios but the one that touched me the most in 2013 was Alex Skolnick’s “Geek to Guitar Hero”. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to be a better guitar player. It’s not just a book about “look at me and all I’ve done”. It’s more introspective, it makes you think about your own musical journey, while hearing all about Alex’s own tale. The geek/outsider theme is one I relate to as I’ve often felt the same.
Runners up: Yngwie J. Malmsteen “Relentless: The Memoir”, Stephen Pearcy “Sex, Drugs, Ratt & Roll: My Life in Rock”
Best New Band
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you like traditional metal, power metal, epic/symphonic power metal….first listen to the band. They may dress silly, but their music is powerful.
Thomas Winkler – Vocals
Christopher Bowes – Keyboards
Paul Templing – Guitar
James Cartwright – Bass
Ben Turk – Drums
Amazingly, no albums that I was anticipating was a complete disappointment in 2013. The major bummer of the year, against which everything else pales in comparison, is the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Ugh
Hopes for 2014
New albums from Primal Fear, Judas Priest, Edguy, Gamma Ray, etc……
I have very broad tastes in Heavy Metal. I enjoy almost all genres and sub-genres. Coupled with the fact that I’m fortunate enough to get exposed to hundreds and hundreds of albums each year, it is easy to find something enjoyable. However because Metal-Rules.com focuses on Real Metal, my choices weighs heavily on Classic/Traditional/True and Power Metal.
I don’t think there has ever been a ‘bad’ year for Metal. I’m heavily involved in the industry so I actually have many different Year-end Top Lists for the various groups that I work for, including my own personal one, which will often take a couple of years to solidify because it takes a long to actually hear all the albums I want to hear and also to see if albums stand the test of time and repeated listens.
I find lists like this often challenging to do because of those very factors; too much material I have not heard and not enough time to spend with the album. There are many albums I did not get to hear which conceivably may have made my list, based on my past enjoyment of the bands, for example, Silent Force, Majesty, Dark Avenger, Dragonhammer and more. Additionally, while many, many of my favorite bands put out great records (Helloween, Stratovarius, Running Wild, U.D.O., Avantasia, Rhapsody, Metal Church) I’m using this opportunity to showcase mostly newer bands that are making exciting new music, instead of just picking my old friends.
1. Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Spellbound (Universal)
Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Spellbound
The only exception to my rule to focus on newer bands, Yngwie as my favourite guitarists of all time, takes my top spot. Although technically released only in Japan in late December 2012, SPELLBOUND brings everything Yngwie has to offer to the table. One of the major label releases that bookend my list.
2. Gloryhammer-Tales From The Kingdom Of Fife (Napalm)
3. Sigum Regis-Exodus (Ulterium)
4. Death Dealer-War Master (Indie)
5. Dragonsclaw-Judgement Day (Killer Metal)
6. Evertale-Of Elves And Dragons (Indie)
7. Bane Of Winterstorm-The Last Sons Of Perylin (Indie)
8. Ascension-Far Beyond The Stars (Limb)
9. Messenger-Starwolf Part I-The Messengers (Massacre)
10. Avalon-The Land Of New Hope (Frontiers)
11. Thalion-Dawn Of Choas (Maple Metal)
12. Reinxeed-A New World (Liljgren)
13. Golden Resurrection-One Voice For The Kingdom (Liljgren)
14. Twins Crew-The Northern Crusade (Scarlet)
15. Epicrenel-The Crystal Throne (Inverse)
16. Divided Multitude-Feed On Your Misery (Fireball)
17. Tad Morose-Revenant (Despotz)
18. Memory Garden-Doomain (Metal Blade)
19. Victorius-The Awakening (Sonic Attack)
20. Kobra And The Lotus- S/t (Universal)
Best Live Album
Rhapsody: Live – From Chaos To Eternity
RHAPSODY OF FIRE ‘Live – From Chaos To Eternity’
Manowar-Lord Of Steel-Live
Best Remake album
Harem Scarem-Mood Swings II
Best Covers album
ReinXeed-Swedish Hits Goes Metal II
Relentless by Yngwie J. Mamlsteen
Best Tribute Album
Strong As Steel – A Tribute To Anvil
Raven – Rock Until You Drop
NA. Slow year for Metal related TV and movies. No Holliston, no Metalocalypse.
70,000 Tons Of Metal
Best local band
Kobra And The Lotus
Best new band
Predictions/Hopes for 2014
W.A.S.P.’s Blackie Lawless decides to release the mountain of archived footage (and the long-lost Japanese only video collection) in a cool, historical 3+ DVD set. Blackie also finishes his autobiography he has been rumored to have working on for years. (Carried over from 2010, again).
Matos just rejoined Viper. Can Viper make good Power Metal record again like they did in the 80’s? Who will be the new Angra singer? (Carried over from 2013).
New WA.S.P. album. It’s been five long years since Babylon. Can Blackie come roaring back? We hope so!
The mighty Voivod has set new boundaries for metal since WAR AND PAIN came out. When the legendary guitarist Denis “Snake” …. passed away, releasing a new album was entirely mystery. However Voivod with the recruited new guitarist toured heavily all around and questions about a new album started emerging. Target Earth is an awesome album and definitely worth for every Voivod fan to bang for Kluskap O’Kom.
2. Carcass – Surgical Steel
Carcass – SURGICAL STEEL
Before Carcass reunited, Jeff Walker strongly insisted there will no new album at all. Some years passed by and we have got nothing, but an amazing album with killer songs with the Carcass trademarks. Surgical Steel blows every skeptical one away and proves Carcass is back.
3. InSolitude – Sister
In Solitude – Sister
I was already blown away by the previous InSolitude opus and was definitely eager to get a hold of their new opus titled Sister. The album is a real twisted metal opus when Mercyful Fate meets Cure.
4. Hell – Curse And Chapter
5. Onslaught – IV
6. Vorum – Poisoned Void
7. Warlord – Holy Empire
8. Motorhead – Aftershock
9. Coffins – Fleshland
10. Queensryche- S/t
11. Sodom – Epitome Of Torture
12. Inquistion – Obscure Verses For Multiverse
13. Autopsy – The Headless Ritual
14. Jex Thoth – Blood Moon Rises
15. Amon Amarth – Deceiver Of The Gods
16. The Devils Blood – III Tabula Rasa Or Death And The Seven
17. Black Sabbath – 13
18. Rotting Christ – Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy
19. Ashes Of Ares – Ashes Of Ares
20. Watain – The Wild Hunt
Best Live Album
Machine Head -Machine Fucking Head Live The Bay Area groove bulldozer metallers are extremely murderous and vital on the stage. The four piece’s aggression and head blowing riff with the heavy grip have been managed to capture on this new live album.
1. Ghost – If You Have The Ghost Even Though the second album got a massive buzz, but somehow this eccentric EP with cover tunes sounded quite weird as produced by David Grohl. Even though the Ep was recorded in 2012, but saw the dark of the night in 2013
2. Ranger – Knights Of Darkness The Finnish power speed squad came out of blue, getting nothing utter huge praises all around.
1. Bolt Thrower
The British death warmachine Bolt Thrower came and conquered the Tuska Open Air festival by offering the utter lethal set of the brutal and nihilistic songs from the long career. Bolt Thrower was one of the required and demanded bands to Tuska.
The Dutch death metal veterans had been booked by the Roadburn organization to perform the heaviest and doomiest songs. The gig turned out to be a real ear ripping death metal blitzkrieg with Martin Van Drunen’s raw and barbaric growling.
The Swedish doom metal veterans went through the singer change when Robert Lowe dismissed and the band’s long time friend Mats Leven stepped in. The six piece unleashed the real epicus doomicus and above all metallicus gigs at both Swedenrock and Hammer Open Air.
Best new band
1. Vorum – Poisoned Void All right labeling Vorum a new band is truly unfair, but the band’s debut album POISONED VOID is a strong piece of evidence of the true brutal death metal is still alive.
2. Ashes Of Ares – S/T
AOA is kind of super-group featuring ex-members of Iced Earth and Nevermore. The album is a pure heavy metal from the beginning to the end.
Ranger being the Finnish power/speed metal on steroids. The four piece metal squad definitely kicks ass hard and fast with the catchy riffs. All the old school metal bangers.
Major events in the Metal world
The premature loss of the Slayer guitarist Jeff Hannemann
KRK called its quits. (No Hammer Open Air, No Black Flames Of Blasphemy)
Predictions for 2013
Killer Line-up of Jalometalli 2014 can be expected
2013 was one of the best years for music. Some fantastic new artists hit the scene and we lost lost some at the same time. We were hit with a few surprise releases and comebacks plus some just reinvented themselves. This was the hardest year yet to choose a Top 10. There were some borderline artists that put out terrific albums but were they Metal enough for Metal-Rules or do they belong on Lets Get Rocked? Either way, here is my list of favorite’s from this past year.
1. Motorhead – Aftershock
MOTÖRHEAD – Aftershock
Just when we thought Lemmy and the guys were finished we get hit with this incredible album.
2. Black Sabbath – 13
Black Sabbath – 13
The first ‘Real’ Sabbath album in decades. Too bad Bill wasn’t a part of it to make it a full return.
3. Beasto Blanco – Live Fast, Die Loud
Beasto Blanco – Live Fast, Die Loud
This hit me BIG TIME when I first heard it. I cannot stop listening to this release. The rawness and grittiness help make it refreshing and new in a world of overproduction. Debut of the year from a ‘New’ band
4. Famous Underground
The debut from FU (formerly Revolver) is one I loved from initial listen. Hints of Nick’s old band Slik Toxik are present which helps the listener identify with it a bit more. Another killer debut of 2013.
5. KiLLeR DWaRfS – Start @ One
Tough call on this one. Recorded in ’92 but released in 2013. Hmmm…? It was released in 2013 so it made the cut. Russ and Dunk are now back playing shows with Gerry “Cod Dwarf” Finn and a new bassist Johnny “Dwarf’ Fenton. Dwarf Nation is in full swing again……Go Dunk!
6. Kadavar – Abra Kadavar
This was the album that introduced me to the ‘Stoner/Doom’ genre. It’s a wonderful mix of Metal and the 70’s.
7. Orchid – The Mouths Of Madness
Similar to Kadavar, this was the other release that helped me discover a new genre of music. Fantastic album with Sabbath overtones.
8. Scorpion Child
Yet again, a killer debut. I love this style of music and cannot get enough. Easily one of my most listened to albums of the year.
9. Oliva – Raise The Curtain
Jon gives the fans the perfect blend of TSO and Savatage on RAISE THE CURTAIN.
10. Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Never a huge Death Angel fan. I did own THE ULTRA-VIOLENCE and FROLIC THROUGH THE PARK on tape back in the day and remember EvilG having ACT III but that was about it. I saw the deadly artwork, read a review then bought the LP. Excellent choice. The ultimate in old school Speed/Thrash.
11. Annihilator – Feast
Lost track of these guys over the years but loved their METAL album from a few years ago then lost track again. Enter 2013 and a new album and I am back listening to this killer Canadian band. Everything about this album screams Metal.
2013 saw two Queensryche releases from two totally different bands. I anticipated that the Tate fronted one would be the better of the batch. Was I wrong on that prediction. Tate’s was a solo CD backed up by a cast of special guests. The ‘Band’ album with singer Todd LaTorre is Queensryche of old. All they need is to get DeGarmo back.
13. Voodoo Highway – Showdown
It was the cover that caught my attention. Voodoo Highway have been around awhile and worth checking out. Taking a gamble on an album based solely on cover art pays off at times.
14. Lord – Digital Lies
Australian Metal band Lord was a surprise this year. I liked previous efforts but they were too Power Metal for my day to day listening. DIGITAL LIES was the perfect mix for me. The musicianship and just the overall quality made this one of 2013’s greatest albums. Hopefully they continue on this path and we get more of this in the future.
15. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven and The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol. 2
We saw both volumes of 5FDP’s THE WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN AND THE RIGHTEOS SIDE OF HELL get released in 2013. I loved Volume one but when the second volume got released a few months later it was clearly the stronger of the two even with the Metal God guesting on the first volume.
16. Voodoo Circle – More Than One Way Home
An interesting album to say the least. Very melodic with a huge Whitesnake influence. Another album that received a lot of plays at the Celtic house.
17. Michael Schenker – Bridge The Gap
With only a couple of spins so far this new release created quite the positive initial impression. This album is sure to get many, many more plays in the near future and for years to come.
18. Flotsam & Jetsam – Ugly Noise
Another old band rediscovered in 2013. Haven’t listened to these guys since DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER tape way back when. Upon hearing the title track I was hooked and it has seen many plays throughout the year.
19. Krokus – Dirty Dynamite
Like many bands or artists you lose track over the years. When I saw this was coming out I took the gamble and ordered it. Glad I did as it’s an enjoyable Hard Rock album. Similarities will be made to AC/DC but this is better than anything AC/DC have issued in decades.
20. Ghost B.C. – Infestissunam
After discovering these guys last year I was anticipating the new album and delivered.
Top Rock Albums of 2013 (LGR Top 10)
1. Deep Purple – Now What?!
One of my all-time favorite bands. This is their best album since PERFECT STRANGERS. Every song is excellent.
2. Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose
A highly anticipated album that delivered. Ricky’s vocal’s add that Irish flair that is needed and the Lizzy influence is strong.
3. David Bowie – The Next Day
The years biggest surprise as nobody knew it was coming. Rock comeback of the year!
4. Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street
White Lion singer’s most honest and heartfelt release to date. Total surprise and not what I was expecting to hear. Amazing album!
5. The Answer – New Horizon
The cover artwork is what drew me to this album initially. It was done by the late Storm Thorgeson and it brought out some curiosity and after listening to it, it became a favorite of the year.
6. Coney Hatch – Four
Hatch is back! It took a bad situation to make it happen but the result is on par with the early albums.
7. Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes
Long overdue solo album from the Cinderella frontman. Like the Tramp album it is different from the band that made him famous except in Keifer’s case this is what you’d expect to hear. Very well done and enjoyable.
8. Dave Davies – I Will Be Me
A 60’s icon solo release. Kink’s guitarist Dave Davies, the man responsible for the infamous guitar sound of “You Really Got Me”. One of my most listened to releases of the year.
9. Eric Burdon – ‘Til Your River Runs Dry
Known as the singer of the 60’s band The Animals, Eric Burdon has never left the business. Another blind buy early in the year that has been consistently listened to.
10. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt
Took a chance on this as PJ lost their spark after the first three albums for me. A few good songs here and there but that was it. This one is closer to PJ of old and quite an enjoyable album.
Honorable Mention: Todd Kerns – Borrowing Trouble / Near Life Experience
Canadian icon and current Slash bassist released this via Pledge Music. The acoustic album really showcases Kerns’ talent as a writer, singer and vocalist.
Comeback of the year
Their new album 13 was one of the years greatest Metal albums. It would have been much better had they put aside differences and Bill Ward was part of the project.
David Bowie (LGR):
His THE NEXT DAY came out of nowhere and his coming out of retirement was welcomed by fans and critics. We even got treated to an EP of Extras later in the year. There are rumors floating that he is to tour this year making for a full comeback.
The Beatles – On Air; Live At The BBC Vol. 2
The second volume to 1994’s LIVE AT THE BBC release came from out of nowhere. It wasn’t expected but welcomed. To keep everything uniform they went back and redid the first volume to improve the sound quality and made a couple of small changes, including the cover from Sepia to B&W.
This came out on Record Store Day. It is both LP’s by Marc Bell’s band before he joined The Ramones and became Marky Ramone. Easily the best reissue of the year. I cannot for the life of me figure out why these guys weren’t huge.
Best Live Rock Album
Neil Young – At The Cellar Door
I love Neil Young’s music and I am a sucker for all his Archive and Performance Series releases. Always high quality and done correctly. This one is a nice mellow, acoustic performance but it’s time for Neil to move past this era and give the fans some newer shows and the next volume of ARCHIVES or at least gives us the first one on LP. Keep them comin’ Shakey.
1. Ugly Kid Joe – Stairway To Hell
UKJ are back! I wasn’t sure if this was an EP or a full length but decided on EP as there is technically only 6 ‘New’ songs. Whit and band are back and I couldn’t be happier about it. I loved these guys back in the day and missed their style when they disbanded. Good to have them back and hopefully it won’t be too long before we get a proper full length LP.
2. Blues Pills – Devil Man
Heavy Metal Janis Joplin is the best way to describe Blues Pills debut EP DEVIL MAN. Fantastic EP from start to finish. Definitely a band to watch out for.
3. Metal On Ice
The EP that goes with Sean Kelly’s book of the same name. This EP features some of Canada’s best doing one of their signature songs along with a new title track written by Sean and Nick.
Best Remake album
Russ Dwarf – Wireless
KiLLeR DWaRfS singer Russ ‘Dwarf’ Graham give us acoustic renditions of KiLLeR DWaRf classics. Interesting to hear the songs done on an acoustic but they don’t come close to the originals.
Best Covers album
Anthrax – Anthems
Not normally a fan of cover songs or albums but this was a fun and enjoyable listen.
Metal On Ice
I connected to Sean’s book in a big way. Many of his memories were similar to mine in discovering bands and listening to the same albums. Excellent book on Canadian Hard Rock and Metal.
Runner up, is a tie: Al Jorgensen’s THE LOST GOSPEL’S ACCORDING TO and Stephen Pearcy’s SEX, DRUGS, RATT & ROLL. Both are filled with Sex, Drugs and Debauchery. Many similarities between the two but yet very different. Amazing that Uncl Al is still alive.
Honorable Mention: Bobbie Brown’s DIRTY ROCKER BOYS
The “Cherry Pie” girl releases her autobigraphy that is quite an eye opener. Who knew she was as messed up as the Rock Stars she married and dated? Excellent read.
Best Live Video
Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria (Blu-Ray)
The most enjoyable concert Blu-Ray this year. They played the entire Hysteria album along with a couple of hits from PYROMANIA as an encore. The kicker was they opened for themselves under the Ded Flatbird moniker playing other Lep hits and deep cuts. Excellent release all around.
The Rolling Stones – Sweet Summer Sun (DVD)
Fantastic Stones show from Hyde Park in London this past summer. Pretty typical Stones release except Mick Taylor comes on stage for a bit making for a memorable “Midnight Rambler”.
Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers Live (DVD)
Classic Purple with Blackmore on guitar. Nothing more needs to be said.
Steel Panther – Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World
In pure Panther style this video has it all. The lead off single from their upcoming album is a Rock n’ Roll party, Steel Panther style.
Got to see KISS twice this year in back to back shows. Seeing them on Saturday night was a great deal fun. Shooting pics from the pit then watching the show from the stands on Gene’s side then again the next night from about 6 rows up side stage on Tommy’s side. An eye opening experience seeing some of the workings of a KISS event. Always a great time.
Best New Band
Beasto Blanco: Longtime Alice Cooper guitarist’s side band Beasto Blanco released a killer debut in the latter part of the year. It’s raw, grittty and loud, the way it’s suposed to be. This CD was the only disc in my car’s player for well over a month. Fantastic album that I cannot say enough good things about.
Best New Band Runner’s Up:
Black Star Riders – Basically the touring Thin Lizzy without Brian Robertson. Fantastic debut album.
Famous Underground -Similar to Black Star Riders in that it is another band redefined, this time it’s Canada’s Revolver. Vocalist Nick Walsh (Slik Toxik) delivers a solid Hard Rock album with some Metal overtones. Another fantastic ‘New’ band that gave us a killer debut album.
Debut of 2013
Beasto Blanco’s LIVE FAST DIE LOUD
This was the debut that hit me full on. There is nothing negative I can say about this album. Killer album from start to finish.
Discovery of 2013
Doom/Stoner Metal genre: This year I heard Kadavar for the first time and was literally blown away by how great they were. This was followed by Orchid, then Scorpion Child, The Sword, Trouble…etc. All of them fantastic.
Metal Headline of The Year
Jeff Hanneman: The loss of Hanneman was devastating. In a way you kind of expected it but not so soon. A huge, huge loss to the Metal community. Slayer will never be the same without his distinct guitar sound.
Disappointment of 2013
I never really had a disappointment so to speak as every release I had hopes for delivered. There was one release however that deserves to be mentioned and this is the proper place for it.
Bret Michaels: This album is a complete and utter train wreck. Not even in the way that you can’t stop listening. This is pure 100% Shit, and I am a Poison/Bret fan. It is all over the map and with the special guests it should have been a stellar release. Avoid this release at all costs.
Predictions for 2014
Led Zeppelin Reissues: Page has been hard at work prepping the Zep catalog for re-release this year. Hope these are done correctly and he used the original analogue master tapes and they are issued on LP.
Steel Panther’s All You Can Eat album: I have been a fan since the day I heard them. These guys are extremely talented and the music is good time party music. Hopes for a killer third album.
Blues Pills: Their debut EP DEVIL MAN was amazing. I am really excited to hear a full length album from them later this year.
Packaging Of The Year
EvilG gave me this idea in reference to my LP purchasing. For those of you that do not know, I am a vinyl guy. This year (on RSD to be precise) I became more serious about my buying and all my music purchases from that point were on LP (except where LP wasn’t an option). G suggested that I let the readers know my favorite pressing of the year. Here goes…..
Without a doubt the single coolest pressing I bought this year was the recent Black Friday press of Ghost’s debut album which came on White and transparent Blue vinyl. The split was right down the center and looks very nice.
I also have to mention that Music On Vinyl did some remarkable pressings this past year, especially the Faith No More catalog with limited colored pressings of each. The ‘Epic’ Green for THE REAL THING was beautiful. They should also be commended for their double purple edition of the Mother Love Bone compilation. It sounds as good as it looks as did the Rory Gallagher KICKBACK CITY compilation complete with postcards and comic novel.
For ‘New’ releases the silver press of the Black Star Riders 2LP debut set stood out amongst the pact, especially with it’s mirror-like gatefold cover.
I could not do this without mentioning Nuclear Blast. I ordered many nice, colorful editions from them. The white Death Angel, blue Blues Pills EP, along with colored Orchid and Kadavar.
Glorious. Majestic. Goddamned life-affirming! All of these apply to the magnificence that is THE WHITE GODDESS. Atlantean Kodex very nearly won my album of the year in 2010, and this year they take the prize with ease. There’s not a single weak song on this album; just pure heavy metal brilliance.
2. Stratovarius – Nemesis
Stratovarius – Nemesis
Stratovarius keeps getting stronger without Timo Tolkki (who makes his own appearance further down this list). Pure power metal perfection from a band of pros.
3. Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall – Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall
Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall
Magnus Karlsson has been writing songs for other musicians for a long time, so it’s awesome that he’s got a solo release to showcase himself. What’s more awesome is the fact that the album is absolutely amazing and is easily the top commercial metal/hard rock album of the year.
4. Carcass – Surgical Steel
5. Helloween – Straight Out of Hell
6. Hypocrisy – End of Disclosure
7. Gloryhammer – Tales from the Kingdom of Fife
8. Saxon – Sacrifice
9. Timo Tolkki’s Avalon – Land of New Hope
10. Damnations Day – Invisible, The Dead
11. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods
12. Amorphis – Circle
13. Vangough – Between the Madness
14. W.E.T. – Rise Up
15. Diamond Plate – Pulse
16. Satan – Life Sentence
17. Avantasia – The Mystery of Time
18. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
19. Sodom – Epitome of Torture
20. CrashDiet – The Savage Playground
Best new band
OK, obviously Gloryhammer is not doing anything new with their Rhapsody (of Fire) styled power metal, but even knowing that, there is a freshness and energy to their music that makes it infectious. TALES FROM THE KINGDOM OF FIFE is nearly perfect power metal.
Pleasant Surprise of the Year
There were a few pleasant surprises this year (Magnus Karlsson, Running Wild), but none with the impact of the godly Carcass reunion which produced the spectacular SURGICAL STEEL album.
Discovery of the Year
Damnations Day – Invisible, The Dead These Australians absolutely blew me away this year. INVISIBLE, THE DEAD is an addictive mixture of power, progressive, and traditional metal, topped with irresistible hooks and vocals. I cannot wait to hear where they go next.
Best Live Album
Whitesnake – Made in Britain/The World Record I admit I didn’t hear many live albums this year, but of the ones I did, Whitesnake’s second live album of the year was easily the best. Awesome set list? Check. Fiery, on-point performances? Double check. Even in the latter part of their career, David Coverdale and his bad boys bring the goods.
Cascus – Cascus Cascus came out of nowhere and knocked it out of the park this year with their self-titled EP. Progressive death metal has rarely sounded this good.
Martin Popoff – Scorpions, Top of the Bill
Martin Popoff – Scorpions, Top of the Bill
Canadian scribe Martin Popoff is arguably the pre-eminent author on heavy metal, writing mature & informative books for the stats and minutiae-obsessed (i.e. people like me). Thus, his book on Scorpions not only fills a massive gap (how are the no other major books on this band?) but is an amazing read full of all kinds of tasty tidbits on the band.
Disappointments of the Year
The death of Jeff Hanneman: R.I.P. Jeff. Thanks for your many riffs and songs that will live on.
Dark Tranquillity – Construct: I have been a huge fan of DT since the first strains of “Punish My Heaven” blew through my speakers, and have been along with them for the ride ever since. While their many experiments haven’t always worked out, CONSTRUCT represents the first time that the band sounds tired…are they nearing the end?
Missing a ton of new releases this year: As usual, time was not my friend in 2013. I missed so many albums this year, from the likes of: Ghost, The Black Dahlia Murder, Ashes of Ares, Motorhead, Twilight of the Gods, Witherscape, Trouble, Anvil, and Kalmah. There were more…many more. Time, I STILL just don’t have enough of it.
Greatest Hopes for 2014
New kick ass Judas Priest album: Here’s hoping the fresh blood in the band returns them to making kick-ass heavy metal.
New W.A.S.P. album: C’mon Blackie! It’s been four years since BABYLON…hit us with some new music already!
W.A.S.P. Retrospective / Historical Set: As JP and I have said in the past, Blackie needs to get off his duff and put out the definitive historical W.A.S.P. set. This band’s history is as interesting (and sordid) as they come and it would be a fascinating listen/viewing.
New album releases: Looking forward to the likes of: Iced Earth, Sanctuary, W.E.T., and many more.
I didn’t manage to make it to a single concert in 2013…for shame, I know. I’m hoping to rectify that in a big way in 2014 with planned trips to see Black Sabbath, Iced Earth/Sabaton, and Primal Fear.
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 – 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
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
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
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
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.
Fates warning has been one of my favorite bands since I started listening to metal. The delay between this album and FWX was 9 long years, many fans including myself wondering if we had heard the band’s last album. DARKNESS IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT is a continuing evolution of the band’s sound, and while it is not as vital or awe inspiring as some past albums, it is still a great album that immediately reflects the return of pivotal past member Frank Aresti.
2. Hardcore Superstar – C’Mon Take On Me
Glam/Sleaze metal’s finest band in my view releases one of the best albums of the year in C’MON TAKE ON ME. The band’s driving rhythms and infectious choruses are grounded in the finest tradition’s of glam metal. Sure, I like bleak and oppressive vistas as well as raging slabs of angry aggression as much as the next metal head, but when I looked for something fun and upbeat I found myself reaching for this album over and over this year.
3. Ghost – Infestissumam
Ghost – Infestissumam
One of the most anticipated metal albums of the year did not fail to disappoint me. Ghost is over the top to be sure, both lyrically and image-wise, but the music and song construction are not the work of clowns by any means. Ghost’s music sinks like hooks into the brain, and while not necessarily the heaviest music on earth, it is a damn fun ride.
4. Reckless Love – Spirit
Reckless Love – Spirit
These Finnish metal lovers barely lost out to Hardcore Superstar for best Glam/Sleaze metal album of the year. SPIRIT is another fun, catchy album that also has some heavy chugs and odes to metal on it as well. There is a comfortable balance of hooks and aggression to satisfy a wide range of fans.
5. Black Sabbath – 13
Black Sabbath – 13
There is already a tome of opinions out there on this album, but here is something I have not seen yet so I will say it. This is no sympathy award, but a album that grew on me. 13 is not the band’s finest album, and in general it plays it pretty safe. However, old age and modern production aside, this is basically the sound of the band in their heyday.
6. Circle II Circle – Seasons Will Fall
Circle II Circle – Seasons Will Fall
Zak Stevens has been one of my favorite singers since the EDGE OF THORNS album with Savatage. SEASONS WILL FALL is vintage Circle II Circle, but closer to the earlier albums than the heavier and more down tuned last few have been. It is a welcome return from a band that remains a consistently melodic and respected institution.
7. Helloween – Straight Out Of Hell
Helloween – Straight Out Of Hell
I sorta lost track of Helloween for many years but I got back on board with STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL. The band aimed for more happy melodies and held back much of the dark material dotting the landscape of the previous two albums. This recalls favorably the glory days of my first discoveries of the Keeper albums, and while that brilliance is not matched here, it does a worthy job of reminding us how important a band Helloween is when they play to their strengths.
8. Crashdïet – The Savage Playground
Crashdïet – The Savage Playground
Crashdiet are a great band that went for a more raw style on this album. The excellent vocal harmonies are still present though, and the album overall is quite respectable. Still, I felt that it was a step back for the band, perhaps to be expected after such a long run of almost perfect albums.
9. Death Angel – The Dream Calls For Blood
Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood
The cover art for Death Angel’s last two albums have given an excellent idea as to the content within; heavy, uncompromising, and taut thrash metal. THE DREAM CALLS FOR BLOOD picks up where the previous album left off, Osgueda and Cavestany continuing to release bold and often unconventional music.
10. Oliva – Raise The Curtain
For the Oliva fan, RAISE THE CURTAIN has elements of all the styles Jon has been involved with over his long and storied career. Though this is his first solo album, it is an outstanding one with a perfect balance of the heavy and the melodic.
11. Týr – Valkyrja
12. Artizan – Ancestral Energy
13. Absolon – Darkness Risng: The Tale Of Derek Blackheart
14. Eden’s Curse – Symphony Of Sin
15. Powerwolf – Preachers Of The Night
16. Pretty Maids – Motherland
17. Satan – Life Sentence
18. Queensrÿche – S/T
19. Twins Crew – The Northern Crusade
20. Stryper – No More Hell To Pay
Best New Band
Absolon: DARKNES RISING: THE TALE OF DEREK BLACKHEART
Absolon: DARKNES RISING: THE TALE OF DEREK BLACKHEART
Ken Pike (Guitar/Vocals)
Ed Dumas (Lead Guitar)
Tyler Colick (guitar)
Matthew Tomasone (keyboards)
John Gaffney (bass
Geoff Kirchoff (drums)
Best Live Album
Iced Earth – LIVE IN ANCIENT KOURION
Iced Earth – “Live In Ancient Kourion”
Testament – DARK ROOTS OF THRASH
Testament – Dark Roots of Thrash
Discovery of 2013
Daylight Robbery An excellent UK band, their album was released in 2011 and thus did not qualify for our list. Playing tradition metal with flourishes of melodic hard rock, this is a band that is taking their second shot at the big time, after their first attempt in the early 90s did not work out.
Best Local Band
Absolon Absolon is an Orlando, FL band founded by Ken Pike. Pike was the singer for a glam white metal band band in LA in the 80s called Malachia. Absolon is a great band that leans more power metal and traditional metal with flourishes of Crimson Glory. Keep an ear out for them, they are moving up.
Megadeth – SUPER COLLIDER Probably the worst ‘Deth album since RISK, the opening track is maybe the one truly worthy song, “Kingmaker” being a great start. Unfortunately, the limp wristed title track was the first single and video most fans heard, and ended the album for a good portion of them.
Geoff Tate – Frequency Unknown Not a surprise but certainly a disappointment after all the egotistical drivel Geoff spewed assuring fans how great the new album would be. Please.
Death of Jeff Hanneman A tragic loss for Thrash Metal and one of the greatest riff masters of the genre. R.I.P. Jeff.
Greatest Hopes for 2014
New Savatage Album: The new Oliva album was a very welcome compromise, but I say it every year. We need a new Savatage album.
New Judas Priest Album: With K.K. Downing gone and a new album planned for 2014, let’s hope it is better than NOSTRADAMUS. Black Sabbath proved that advanced age is no longer an excuse for senseless drift.
New Slayer Album: How will the band respond with no Hanneman? The new album will hopefully be a worthy tribute to Jeff and the band returns inspired and molten.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Epic, inventive, majestic – Dream Theater have spun the wheel of prog once again and hit upon another winning combination. In an album of concise bites (you could almost say accessible except that Dream Theater don’t hold anyone’s hand) there remains an ambitious multi-part opus that only Dream Theater, with their musical dexterity, could make sense of.
2. Motorhead – Aftershock
MOTÖRHEAD – Aftershock
After Lemmy’s recent healthscares, Aftershock feels even more precious. There’s a powerful hope that it’s not the last Motorhead album because it’s a reminder of how great this band is. It’s classic Motorhead – we don’t want anything ‘new’ – we want the sound that made this band so great, and Aftershock captures that.
3. Black Sabbath – 13
4. Phil H Anselmo & The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only
5. Voivod – Target Earth
6. Vried – Welcome Farewell
7. Airbourne – Black Dog Barking
8. Venomous Maximus – Beg Upon The Light
9. Victor Griffin’s In-Graved – S/T
10. Protest The Hero – Volition
11. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
12. Tombstone Highway – Ruralizer
13. Civil War – The Killer Angels
14. Ghost – Infestissumam
15. Evile – Skull
16. DevilDriver – Winter Kills
17. Red Fang – Whales & Leeches
18. Black Spiders – This Savage Land
Top Rock Albums
1. Clutch – Earth Rocker
What can I say except that Clutch continue to surpass themselves, having outpaced everyone else a long time ago. They manage to do something different with every album, yet it’s always tight, fluid, and Clutch. I don’t think there’s a band doing more to keep rock ‘n’ roll relevant and Earth Rocker is a great example of that.
2. Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose
Best live album
Devin Townsend – The Retinal Circus
Philip H. Anselmo/Warbeast – War Of The Gargantuas
Best covers album
Anthrax – Anthems
Best Rock DVD
Rush – Clockwork Angels
Best rock concert
Metallica – Through The Never
Major events in metal
All the Slayer sadness – Jeff Hanneman’s tragic death and Dave Lombardo’s exit
Randy Blythe’s acquittal
Joey Jordison departs Slipknot
Lemmy’s health issues reminding us of the vulnerability of our giants
Predictions for 2014
We might see a few more festivals going under in the UK – not the big names (Download, Bloodstock – and hopefully not Sonisphere) – but more of the grassroots festivals, which will be a massive shame.
I hope that the rumours about a new Tool album are founded and we get a tour as well.
I was never expecting to hear a new music from Carcass but I’m gladly wrong here. SURGICAL STEEL presents the hungry and a merciless-sounding band which is in unbelievably tight shape. The album is full of killer songs and Jeff Walker still growls like back in the day.
2. Motorhead: Aftershock
MOTÖRHEAD – Aftershock
Lemmy Kilmister has lately been headlines other but musical reasons but the fact is that AFTERSHOCK is another masterpiece from the legends. Many people do think that if you’ve heard one Motorhead album you’ve then heard them all but that’s not true at all. Although there are all the Motorhead elements needed on the album, AFTERSHOCK is different to its predecessors, definitely. The album is a bit slower and it shows the bands bluesy side which is often forgotten. If you don’t believe, check it out by yourself.
3. Annihilator: Feast
FEAST is Annihilator’s strongest release in years and definitely the best album from the Dave Padden era.
Annihilator – FEAST
4. Stratovarius: Nemesis
Stratovarius have been more or less lost since the breakup with Timo Tolkki. NEMESIS is the third album released without him and now it sounds like the band has finally get over it. NEMESIS is the best album from Stratovarius in over 20 years.
5. Black Sabbath: 13
Talk about album with enormous expectations here… Fu***n Black Sabbath releases new album with Ozzy after 35 years and the results are… very mediocre. The album is full of slow or mid-tempo songs and most of the material is just forgettable. Unfortunately.
6. Avantasia: The Mystery of Time
MYSTERY OF TIME is another strong release from Sammett and co. It’s more straight forward album than its predecessors and goes high in my Avantasia album rank.
7. Pretty Maids: Motherland
MOTHERLAND is a great follow-up for PANDENOMIUM and one of the best hard rock albums released in 2013.
8. Krokus: Dirty Dynamite
Not as good as HOODOO was but still a solid release from the Switzerland’s finest.
9. Queensryche: Queensryche
After 25 years of disappointing releases this was a great effort from Queensryche. It’s going to be interesting to follow where the band goes next from this?
10. Dream Theater: Dream Theater
A decent release from the prog metal kings and better than DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS but far from the glory days still.
11. Airbourne: Black Dog Barking
The curse of the third album? Nah, BLACK DOG BARKING is another good, straight head rock album from the Aussies. The new album is not even close of rate of their brilliant debut but it doesn’t lose an inch for the second album.
12. Helloween: Straight Out Of Hell
STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL is solid but a bit neutral release from Helloween. Hopefully there will be more variations and new ideas on the next releases?
13. Saxon: Sacrifice
There’s nothing wrong with new Saxon disc either but it’s just another good album on the bands long list of releases.
14. Death Angel: The Dream Calls for Blood
A positive surprise from these guys. I kind of lost interest after boring KILLING SEASON but this one sounded great.
15. U.D.O: Steelhammer
Sometimes the bands do changes when they have to and sometimes bands do changes when they want to. Don’t know how it was with U.D.O but after recent line-up changes they now released the best U.D.O album in years.
16. Megadeth: Super Collider
This album has been bashed more than anything what Megadeth has ever released. But it’s not that bad album really. There are several decent songs there and as a whole it’s a way better than A WORLD NEED A HERO or RISK.
17. Children of Bodom: Halo of Blood
HALO OF BLOOD is another decent release from the Finns. Nothing spectacular though.
18. Stryper: No More Hell to Pay
Easily the bands best post re-union album. Melodic 80’s hard rock/metal at its best.
A way better release than its reputation but why there are so many unnecessary re-recordings of QR classics on the album?
20. Amorphis: Circle
There’s nothing wrong with this release either but seems that the band is just repeating itself too much nowadays. Time for a change?
BEST ROCK ALBUMS OF 2013
1. Michael Monroe: Horns and Halos
HORNS AND HALOS is a follow-up to Michael’s “successful” comeback album SENSORE OVERDRIVE which was released two years ago. Guitarist and main songwriter Ginger is gone and he’s now been replaced with Swedish Dregen (Backyard Babies). The new album does not quite reach the level of its predecessor but it’s definitely worth to check out because there isn’t too many bands/artists left on this genre who are still capable to release such a great music.
2.Deep Purple: Now What?
NOW WHAT? was a pleasant surprise from the veterans. After a few somewhat disappointing albums, it’s definitely something different from the band. Probably it’s because of legendary producer Bob Ezrin who now worked the first time with Purple.
3.Black Star Riders: All Hell Breaks Loose
I had huge expectations for this and it’s a good album. The problem is that it’s not great, just good…
4.Stone Sour: House of Gold & Bones 2
Stone Sour is one of those bands which I have found later on and I currently own all of their albums. As a whole “HOUSE OF GOLD & BONES 2 is perhaps the strongest album from the band to date.
Buckcherry is always been one of my favorite bands from the late 90’s. It’s great to hear that after a little disappointing ALL NIGHT LONG the band is now back on track.
6. The Winery Dogs: The Winery Dogs
If band called Winery Dogs does not ring any bells for you should still recognize at least some of the following names: Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheenan and Richie Kotzen. The Winery Dogs is “a supergroup” and its self-titled debut is mostly very nice album to listen to.
7. Alice In Chains: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
AIC is another band which I started to listen to only a few years ago. BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE was an excellent comeback album from the band but this one is not far behind it.
8. Rob Zombie: Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor
It’s not another HELLBILLY DELUXE but better than some other Zombie albums. A kind of “back to roots” release in a good way.
BEST LIVE ALBUM
Scorpions: Live at Athens
In fact this was the only live album I purchased in 2013. Acoustic releases can be sometimes be boring and sound like forcibly made but this one is a pleasant exception here. First of all, the band sounds great, as always. But the main reason to pick up this great album are the songs. There are a lot of songs from the bands entire career included which have never been played live by the Scorpions before.
Skid Row: United World Rebellion: Chapter One
Honestly, I don’t buy too many EP’s but with this one I did exception. Of course, this EP sounds nothing like the first two Skid Row albums but it’s a way better than almost disastrous REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE a few ago. If nothing else, it definitely gives hope from better future of the band.
BEST COVERS ALBUM
Like with EP’s I don’t usually buy covers albums neither but did have one exception. Anthrax is always been a very successful with cover songs choices and Anthems doesn’t make any exception here. From surprising Boston song “Smomin” ‘till a rough rendition of AC/DC classic “T.N.T” Anthrax does make ‘em all sound like Anthrax itself.
KISS: Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975)
There wasn’t too many great metal/rock books released last year but his one. The book chronicles the crucial formative years of KISS, culminating with the groundbreaking success of their classic 1975 album Alive! The book includes interviews with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss, as well as with producers; engineers; management; record company and other related people.
1. JUDAS PRIEST: Epitaph This time there was really tight fight between these so I decided to share victory between the two Nearly two and a half hour DVD includes songs from every Rob Halford era Judas Priest album. Highlights include rarely played “Blood Red Skies” and “Never Satisfied” and of course all mandatory Priest classics. Well filmed and produced DVD from one of the best metal bands ever.
2. NIGHTWISH: Showtime, Storytime Nightwish have gone through numerous changes during the last two years. Especially their latest “Imaginaerum” -tour turned out much differently than they or anybody else could have anticipated. Nevertheless, this DVD is great to watch. New vocalist Floor Jansen gets the job done in style and the band plays as tight as always. The second DVD includes nearly two hour long documentary called “Please Learn the Setlist in 48 Hours” and it’s truly interesting material to watch too.
That Metal Show
Excellent interviews and interesting quests night after night.
There were tons of great shows last year but these three were the most memorable ones.
1. KISS: Kiss Kruise III, Caribbean Finally the band listened its fans and played a set list what truly was a dream come true for many long-term followers. “Almost Human”, “The Oath” and “Anything For My Baby” had never been played live until now and set also included many rarely played classics like “Let Me Know”, “Ladies In Waiting” and “Mainline”. This was easily one of the best performances from the band in ages.
2. KING DIAMOND: Tuska-Festival, Helsinki King Diamond returned to stages last year after a long hiatus. It can’t be denied that King’s amazing performance in Swedenrock was something to remember, it was just perfect but… although King now performed in full daylight this one was even better. Hail the King!
3. ALICE COOPER, Seminole Hard Rock Casino, Ft. Lauderdale
I haven’t seen indoor Cooper show in few years and this was definitely worth to check out. A lot of things had now changed since the last time. A reinvented band, a new stage show and pleasant surprises on the set list. What more you can ask?
BEST NEW BAND
Winery Dogs: Hopefully the band will stay together and we can hear more releases from them in the future. The world needs “supergroups”
MAJOR EVENTS IN METAL WORLD
Deaths: I know I’m repeating myself here but once again there were lot of sad news announced in metal community. A lot of great musicians joined the celestial band last year. Jeff Hanneman, Clive Burr, Trevor Bolder… the list goes on and on.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2014
MORE REUNIONS: There are a few interesting re-unions already on the way. Norwegian hard rock legends TNT is one of those and I can’t wait to see the band with Tony Harnell in charge once again. Also it’s going to be interesting what’s going to happen with KISS after the Hall of Fame ceremony… AND what’s even more interesting is that maybe Vinnie Vincent is finally activating next year…
NEW RELEASES: There are many interesting new albums coming out next year. If everything goes as planned we will have new albums from such names as: Jake E. Lee, Accept, Judas Priest, Anthrax and Ace Frehley. It’s going to be another good year for METAL!
GREAT TOURS AND FESTIVALS: Next year will be really busy. There are again tons of great festivals in Europe on the summer. Swedenrock, Hellfest, Download, Tuska etc etc. Lot of fun indeed. And of course there will be individual tours from many great bands.