Friday, 20 December 2013

Top 10 of 2013

One of the things a fan of music must do is put themselves through the annual trial of trying to figure out which of the albums they bought/borrowed/stole this year are the best. It took me until about March last year. This year I have been a little more proactive and have produced a list already.

I bought 55 albums this year. I also acquired a further 58 through freebies, promos, borrowings and artists giving me stuff. That's a lot of stuff to choose from. I was considering limiting my self only to stuff released this year, but decided that some things were too good to leave off despite them being discovered by me this year, although released some time in the past. This didn't end up making the job any easier.

Anyway, after much deliberating, thinking, changing of minds and giving up in disgust, I have produced a list of 10 albums split evenly across "metal" and "non-metal", as well as a handful of "honourable mentions." So, without further ado, and in no particular order, the top several albums of 2013!

Metal

Be'lakor - Of Breath And Bone (melodic death metal, 2012)

First up, Australia's Be'lakor with their third album, Of Breath And Bone. I reviewed this one on The Mix Eclectic and said how much I liked it. And I still do. It's one of those albums that's accessible on the surface (depending on your appetite for melodeath, I guess), but has plenty of depth for those who want to look for it.

Dark Tranquillity - Construct (melodic death metal, 2013)

Ah, Dark Tranquillity. Another album, another top 10 mention. This album has split opinion; it is doomier, gloomier, and less hooky than previous albums. But that doesn't take away from the excellent song-writing, musicianship and immersion. And it's a doomy death metal album you can actually sing along to without having to follow along with the lyrics booklet thanks to Mikael Stanne's typically excellent vocal delivery.

Parasite Inc. - Time Tears Down (melodic death metal, 2013)

More melodeath! This time from Germany. Unlike Construct, this album does have hooks. It is catchy, it is heavy, it is mind-pummelling and brain melting and it's brilliant. Melodeath has oft been called "samey" and "tired", but this is the third release in this list that proves otherwise. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Tribulation - Formulas Of Death (ostensibly death metal, 2013)

Ostensibly? Yes. Tribulation's new album sounds more to my ear like some kind of blackened jazz gone haywire. There is never a dull moment, even during the 13 minute closing track, thanks to some excellently positioned riffs, grooves and jazzy moods.

Mael Mordha - Damned When Dead (doom/folk metal, 2013)

A doomy folk metal record about Irish history of invasions and war. What more could a folk metal fan ask for? The liner notes include historical passages explaining the context and content of the songs, and the songs themselves are hard and heavy and educational all at the same time. Having seem them live at Warhorns festival I can conclude that they are a force to be reckoned with in the world of folk metal.

Non-metal

Ancient VVisdom - Deathlike (trippy rock, 2013)

I have no real idea what genre Ancient VVisdom (with two Vs) fall under. They're not really "metal", hence them appearing in this list, but they have metal-ish themes. The sound is almost post-shoegaze rock but with the reverb turned up to 111 and the ominousness slider at maximum. Anyway, it's really good even if they can't spell.

Sigur Rós - Kveikur (post rock, 2013)

Iceland's greatest musical export (sorry, Bjork) are back with a new album that harks back to earlier outings like Takk... and Ágætis byrjun in mood, darkness and crunchiness, rather than the rather lighter whimsy of recent albums. The opening track has an epic base boom that the juices flowing and the mood continues apace throughout the whole album, giving it a certain uncomfortable edge while engaging the listener and drawing them in.

Editors - Weight Of Your Love (alt rock, 2013)

Certainly the most "pop" record on my list, Editors take the new direction introduced with In This Light And On This Evening and run with it. The melancholy is piled on (sometimes too) thick but it has an enduring charm and strong enough music that it maintains interest. It's like doom metal sentiments for the indie rocker.

Steeleye Span - Wintersmith (folk rock, 2013)

If you like folk rock or Discworld, there's something for you on this album. If you like both, then it's a must-have. The music swings wildly from the whimsical to the energetic, the melancholy to the balladic. From the utterly silly The Wee Free Men to the heart wrenching Love Enough it's a whole lot of emotion all wrapped up in a package that is amusingly sinister.

Paul Leonard-Morgan - Dredd: Original Film Soundtrack (electronic post-industrial? 2012)

A soundtrack? On a top 10 list? Surely it must be utterly amazing to have got this far? Yes, it is. If you liked the film, or if you like the sort of ambient post-industrial noise of NIN and the like, you'll like this. It is even somewhat similar to Sigur Rós's album, also in this list, but with less Icelandic oddities and much crunchy Dreddness.


Honourable Mentions

It is traditional to mention a few albums that almost made the cut but had to be dropped because I'm not doing a top 100. Noumena is first up with Death Walks With Me; another melodeath album, this time incorporating female vocals and surprisingly coherent growling. Gormathon, another melodeath band discovered at BOA 2013, get a mention for their 2010 album Lens Of Guardian, a death metal album with almost pop-like structure and catchiness.

Next up is Entropia for their latest atmospheric black metal outing Vesper, with tracks named after famous philosophical and artisan types and a cameo from David Bowie in his role of Nikola Tesla in the film The Prestige on the track cunningly titled Tesla. Thy Light also have an atmospheric black metal album in No Morrow Shall Dawn, although this time incorporating other aspects such as ... spanish guitar? Sort of, yes. A very interesting and thorough relaxing experience.

Last up is Riverside with their album Shrine Of New Generation Slaves (or S.O.N.G.S. for short. Yes, I know ...) It took me a good while to get round to listening to this one, but when I finally did I was glad to have.

And that's it for 2013. If you disagree with my selections for the year, then ... good? I guess. It's good to hold your own opinions.