The Best Metal Albums of 2013, As Chosen by Metal Musicians Themselves — Part I: Machine Head’s Robb Flynn
Every year, MetalSucks invites musicians from across the metalsphere to tell us what they thought were the best albums of the year. Usually, we try to make these busy musicians’ lives a little easier by not requiring that they write any explanation to go with their year-end list… but Machine Head‘s most excellently loquacious Robb Flynn simply cannot be contained! And so while the other musicians’ lists will be run throughout the week in small groups of four-five, we now present to you Mr. Flynn’s choices, along with his extensive thoughts on those choices. We hope you enjoy it! Now take it away, Robb…
These are the records that rocked 2013 for me. Not all of them were released in 2013, more than a few of them were older and I discovered or re–discovered them in 2013. For the first time in a while, I got into some hard rock albums.
This is loooooong. I explain what I like about each album. Feel free-as-a-fucking-freebird to skip over it if you don’t have the time.
10) BLACK SABBATH – 13
Quite possibly my favorite band of all time! The band that literally made me want to play guitar, smoke weed, drink beer, fuck chicks, snort crank, fry on mescaline, worship satan, and generally make music that scared people. Yes, the first six Black Sabbath records, Heaven and Hell, and Mob Rules changed my life.
So, to say that I was NOT looking forward to this record would be an understatement.
Music is often a reflection of where you are in life, and I was afraid that Sabbath would ruin that previous pivotal moment with new tunes that sucked.
Just like they ruined it for me the first time I saw Sabbath back in 1995 at The Warfield in San Francisco. Tony (The Cat) Martin was singing for them and man, four songs into the show, listening to him butcher “The Wizard,” was all I could take! That was it; I left determined to keep my good Sabbath memories.
So with great trepidation, I pressed play on Spotify to listen to 13, and man, was I surprised. By the time it ended, I was pretty damn stoked. Sure, it wasn’t earth-shattering, and surely Rick Rubin said “go and copy ‘Black Sabbath,’ ‘War Pigs,’ and ‘Planet Caravan’ for the first three tunes,” but after that, it got really damn good. Even the blatant “Black Sabbath” rip-off, “End of the Beginning,” had such mind-melting, acid-trip, psychedelic lyrical juicy-ness that I couldn’t help but smile when listening to it.
The bluesy stomp of “Damaged Soul” brought that earlier jazz feel of the first album back, and while it would never truly get in to Bill Ward-swing-awesomeness, the dude from RATM did a solid enough job.
After 37 years, well fucking done Black Sabbath!
“Age of Reason”
9) TESSERACT – ALTERED STATE
A few months ago I went onto our long-running message board, “The Frontlines,” and was asked by one of the members if they could be my “music-dealer.” I was told he’d be “like a drug dealer, but for music.” I said “sure.” I was looking for something new and I hadn’t been inspired in quite some time and I was honestly fishing. So one of several things that he sent me was the band TesseracT. This was the one band that truly stood out. The track that just floored me was a song called “Nocturne.” It was part Meshuggah, part Pink Floyd, and part “I’m-not-even-sure-what,” with a singer that sounds like a girl.
This was the year that bands came out with male singers that sounded like females, and something about it just fucking rocked my world. This guy’s voice is truly phenomenal. The long, slow vocals that he does are simply mesmerizing, and the band’s musicianship is fucking staggering. The rest of the record doesn’t hold up as well for me — it gets a little too same-y after awhile — but this song, as well as the opener “Proxy,” are truly a breath of fresh air in the metal world.
**TIE FOR 8)** CHRIS BROWN (FEAT. BUSTA RHYMES) – “LOOK AT ME NOW” (SONG)
Chris Brown’s a douche. I’ve never owned any of his records and honestly couldn’t even name a song prior to this cut. Not too long ago, I was walking through a mall somewhere in Europe and I heard Busta Ryhmes’ voice, so I slowed down a bit and heard this totally jaw-dropping verse in this song. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I followed Busta in Leaders of The New School, and his scene-stealing “Rowr Rowr like a dungeon dragon” bar in Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” and loved it! I liked his late-nineties solo stuff, too, followed him through his many recent cameos on Lil’ Wayne, etc, but he was always a little off my radar.
Until this track.
With a RIDICULOUSLY SICK beat from Diplo and Afrojack. Brown puts in a tolerable performance I‘ll admit. But when Busta gets on and introduces a new style of rapping called “supersonic”? Forget about it! It’s an almost inhumanly-fast rap, it’s one of those “GOD DAMN”??!! musical moments. When he takes the pretend-breath at the end, your head spins and you laugh out loud.
Then Lil’ Wayne comes on, and flops.
“Look At Me Now” (Busta starts at the 1:40 mark)
**TIE FOR 8)** BLACK VEIL BRIDES – WRETCHED AND DIVINE
Okay, okay, I know I’m going to get a ton of shit for this, my drummer Dave is probably going to disown me, but fuck it! I’m a sucker for a good pop song and I can’t help it. There’s something about this record that just fucking grabbed me.
I didn’t even want to listen to this record, but after hearing about the singer’s semi-meltdown at the Revolver Awards, and then watching it and then listening to Chris Jericho’s hilarious comment “You know… I think I just started liking the Black Veil Brides,” I was like, alright, I should give this record a chance.
But I didn’t.
Instead months and months went by and then a few months ago while driving home listening to Octane on Sirius XM, the song “We Don’t Belong” came on. I went “Wow! This is fucking catchy as shit, who is this?” The DJ came on and said that was Black Veil Brides. I groaned, “Oh god.” The DJ then proceeded to say, “This next song is a stone-cold-classic, this is ‘Let The Bodies Hit The Floor’ by Drowning Pool.” AGH!! I changed the station back to Howard Stern, but sure enough, like all annoyingly good pop-metal songs do, BVB’s stuff gets stuck in your head.
So I Spotify-ed it and gave the rest of the record chance, and to my utter shock, it was a damn good pop-metal record. In fact it was a really, really good pop-metal record. I mean, make no mistake, it’s a pop metal record, and after a few spins it’s the record the Avenged Sevenfold should’ve made.
There’s a few duds on here where some songs are just too damn poppy, but the ones that rock are “Shadows Die,” “Wretched and Divine,” and “Resurrect The Sun,” amongst others. There’s a surprising classical element on the record that is done very well with orchestral sweeps, as well as a nod to “Operation Mindcrime”-era Queensryche (minus the high vocals) throughout the whole thing. As a big Operation: Mindcrime fan, this was a cool vibe to bring back.
It’s got a few short and quick bursts of thrash metal, which never last more than five or ten seconds, but they’re good enough to keep it interesting. Imagine it as somewhere between Operation: Mindcrime and American Idiot-era Green Day or maybe Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge-era My Chemical Romance meets Bad Religion meets Trivium and you have Black Veil Brides, musically.
P.S. As far as the makeup… I don’t know what it is about dudes wearing make up, but it never bothered me, probably because after watching A Clockwork Orange my friend Vance and I started wearing eyeliner. But whether it was Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil or The Cure or all the way down to pretty much any black metal band, Rob Zombie, or even Slayer on the back of Show No Mercy (which I thought was awesome), it’s never bothered me. So these guys doing their trip? It still doesn’t bother me.
“Wretched and Divine”
7) TRIVIUM – VENGEANCE FALLS
I’ll start this off by saying Trivium will always be my boys. I’ve known these guys for nine years now and they’re great dudes, awesome musicians, and even if I don’t like a record of theirs they will always be a good band. One that I always look forward to hearing what they’ve come up with. I LOVED In Waves, and to me it was the best thing they’ve done and the album where they finally found “their sound” after searching (in public) for it.
That said, I’ve got to be honest here, the presence of Disturbed/Device frontman David Draiman as the producer has added an extremely annoying element. Unfortunately so much so that at times, he almost completely turned me off to this record. In fact it wasn’t until I went and saw them live that the songs truly came together for me. Once that happened I could look past the blatant Draiman-isms. Honestl,y it almost seems like Draiman is singing in the background, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was laying a basic track for Matt to follow that they just kept in.
But on to the good points!!
There are some fucking jammin’ tunes on here, which are helped greatly by the sterling production job of Colin Richardson. The title track and “Brave the Storm” stick out to me as some of the catchiest things they’ve ever done. “At The End of This War,” “Strife,” and “No Hope for The Human Race,” while not as full-on catchy, are just straight rippers.
As always, the guitar solos are phenomenal, Corey and Matt are one of the best guitar teams around, insane stuff they are doing together. New drummer Nick and ridiculously talented bassist Paolo are locked in tighter than flea pussy, with Paolo in particular having some crushing bass tone.
“Brave The Storm”
6) ROB ZOMBIE – HELLBILLY DELUXE
Yes, yes, I know this record is fifteen years old, but I can tell you at the beginning of January, my six-year-old son Wyatt began his first true obsession with a rock artist, and that rock artist would be Rob Zombie. One day I was hanging out with him and he looked at me and he said “Dada, can you play that song that goes ‘Hey YEAH, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah?’”
I thought to myself, “Is that Rob Zombie? I’ve never played Rob Zombie for him.” He said our babysitter played it for him. “Okay, sure buddy.” I played him “Superbeast,” showed him the “Dragula” video, and man, after seeing that, it was like a light went off in his head! I have never seen him freak out so hard over any music like this, not even mine!! So between the look, the moves, the makeup, the dreads, the race cars, and the monsters, WOW!! My son Wyatt flipped his LID for Rob Zombie.
He then got my nine-year-old, Zander, into it and as a result, for the last eleven months now, I have had to listen to Hellbilly Deluxe about 300 times! Not to mention that I toured with Zombie all summer! AGH! But the fact is I got back into Rob Zombie and this record especially all over again.
Listening to the songs and kind of hearing them in a new way through my kids’ eyes and hearing them in a new way through my own ears fifteen years later really made me realize there are some classic songs on there. “Superbeast,” “Dragula,” “Spookshow Baby,” “Phantom Stranger,” “Demonoid Phenomenon.” The kids didn’t like “Living Dead Girl,” which was a surprise as it was such a big hit. One of the things that I really enjoyed was just listening to the simplicity of it. The simple-yet-heavy beats, simple-but-heavy riffs, cool, mindless-yet-provocative lyrics. I never realized how much cool electronics were on it. Zombie had it all on this one.
Fifteen years on, this record still a fucking badass record, and I have my sons Wyatt and Zander to thank for getting me back into it all over again.
“Call Of The Zombie” + “Superbeast”
5) KING 810 – MIDWEST MONSTERS EP
I started hearing about this band after they started a small riot at a The Contortionist show. On Mayhem off-dates I’d ask kids, “Hey, what have you been listening to?” People started talking about them and what I remember most was the phrase, “They’re assholes, but the record is really good!”
There was something about that statement that I connected with very much. It reminded me of early Machine Head… yeah, we were banned from three clubs for fighting and we were assholes, but we were pretty good.
Sometime ago my friend Shaun sent me a track, but I never got around to really listening to the EP till I Spotify-ed it about a month ago. Holy fucking shit is it pissed off! Word on the street is that the singer is like a white 50 Cent (shot a few times, etc., hopefully that moniker doesn’t stick), but the lyrical portraits that he paints of Flint, Michigan are truly terrifying.
Look, I’ve been to Flint, Michigan twice. We played The Machine Shop and there’s nothing that really stood out, but after listening to this seven-song EP I’m not in a hurry to ever get back. The lyrics are vivid and harrowing. There’s a shocking level of honesty and brutal crime-filled rage both directed at himself and at others. Most people would probably file this somewhere between nu-metal and Slipknot (mainly because the vocals are “rapped,” albeit brutally) and The Burning Red-era Machine Head. But vocally, if these weren’t delivered in this manner, they’d miss the mark completely! Because the lyrics are so real and truly gritty, the authenticity of what they are is what really makes this so powerful.
When the singer, Gunn, says “I just sit and wonder why, everything that I touch dies,” or Mmy mother was a bank robber down in Terre Haute, my father was a… I don’t know,” man… you believe it because you feel it.
Musically,it’s modern groove hardcore, and despite its simplicity, there is some incredibly original and powerful drumming. And the bass player is completely locked-in, creating a wide array of dynamics. Guitarist Karl brings in brutal riffing with excellent arrangements and plenty of the one thing that almost every band out there gets wrong: key changes! The guy has key changes or riff variations, every bar or two and it keeps the songs really interesting and dynamic.
But its singer Gunn that is the highlight of this album. His contribution is a truly cathartic one. We’re talking pure rage-filled hatred. A man crazed, sounding like he’s about to lose it at any time, about about to cry, or kill you… or both.
“Murder, Murder, Murder”
4) EMINEM – MARSHALL MATHER LP 2
While I’ve only been listening to this record for about a month, I got to say it’s easily the best hip-hop record of the year. The lyrics are as always brutally frank and at times shocking, yet, at times, so disarmingly honest that they really strike a chord. One minute he’s bragging and arrogant, the next minute falling apart, completely unsure of himself and insecure and the next minute attacking the world and every rapper in it.
The real shocker on this comes when he apologizes to his mother, Debbie Mathers, in the song “Headlights.” Which as a longtime Eminem fan, was, well, shocking! Especially after listening to the multitude of songs on the original Marshall Mathers LP where he rips her, and in particular “Cleaning Out My Closet” from The Eminem Show, where he essentially publicly IMPALES his mother for suing him for $20 million dollars.
It was/is intense stuff, and combined with the other songs on other records about his step-father molesting him and his hilarious yet thoroughly disturbing ex-wife-killing-fantasy “Kim,” he’s written some vicious stuff about the women in his life. “Headlights” is a song every person should hear, even if — or especially if — you don’t like hip-hop.
But the track here which is the track of all tracks is “Rap God.” Six-and-a-half-minutes of some the most insane bars that ANY rapper has spit, ever! When it gets to the 4:20 mark, he goes into the aforementioned Busta Rhymes-inspired “supersonic-style.” All hell breaks loose and it’s truly mind-boggling to listen to someone spit so many words, so precisely and so clearly and yet, most importantly, in a way that’s so easy listen to.
With complex rhyme schemes that last for four or five sentences (where you get the zinger at the sixth line), it’s incredible stuff. As a lyricist, I can tell you that some of the rhyme placement he uses is truly the stuff of genius, as it’s so hard to tie together even on paper, let alone in a song. Yet somehow he manages it to put it altogether and tell a story on top of it.
In the hook of this song he states that he’s “beginning to feel like a Rap God,” and after listening to this song, he very well may be right.
3) BRING ME THE HORIZON – SEMPITERNAL
In one fell swoop, BMTH went from a faceless deathcore band to something bigger, something more. The Cure meets Linkin Park in the Deftones’ backyard while BMTH play a show. What Deftones did with Diamond Eyes, Bring Me The Horizon did with Sempiternal. They evolved yet stayed the same. They brought in new influences (and the great addition of a keyboardist) and Oli began to sing and they immersed themselves in Disintegration-era The Cure for probably a year, thru in a few choice Machine Head riffs, but totally kept their sound. It’s one of the hardest things to do as a band, and one of the most important things a band HAS to do.
And it’s heavy, it’s actually fuckin’ HEAVY!
I’ve probably liked one song by these guys up until now (“Football Season Is Over”), but liked their attitude a lot. We took them on tour two years ago and our fans hated their guts! They “boo-ed” them mercilessly and threw garbage cans and shit at them on a semi-nightly basis. And you know what? I gained a lot of respect for them. Just watching them go out there and take the abuse with double-fingers held high was something else. I’d see them in catering and I’d say “Man, you guys had it rough last night…,” and they’d say, “Yeah… sometimes you gotta go out there and work for it.” It was an impressive attitude.
But it still didn’t make me listen to them.
But I heard from so many of my friends that this new album was different, solid. I finally dug in. Some of it’s a little too poppy at times (“Sleepwalking,” “Seen it All Before”) but “House Of Wolves,” “Antivist,” “Empire (Let Them Sing),” “Shadow Moses,” and “Crooked Young” are so “fuck you,” and so anti-religious, so confrontational, and yet about to fall apart at the same time, it’s fucking chaotic and exciting to hear.
But what really grabs me are the mellow tunes, in particular “And The Snakes Start To Sing,” and “Hospital for Souls.” I’ve always been drawn to depressing Cure-esque songs and these deliver in spades. Lonely, haunting, and perfect.
“Empire (Let Them Sing)”
“And the Snakes Start to Sing”
2) STONE SOUR – HOUSE OF GOLD & BONES PART 1
Truth be told, up until now I haven’t been that big of a fan. I’ve liked a few songs over the years, primarily their ballads. “Bother” was freaking amazing and a great video. “Silly World” was great (and also a cool video), “Through Glass,” ditto. But their hard stuff just came across as, I dunno… “Slipknot-lite” to me. However, this new stuff is ridiculously good. The production is massive, and Jay Ruston did a fantastic job on the mix. There’s some great arrangements and great lyrics. The song “Absolute Zero” is a stone cold monster rock tune.
“You’re looking at an absolute zero / I’m not the devil, but I won’t be your hero”
Such a great line! I’m so sick of bands singing about America, and capitalism, how they’re gonna win / be rich, etc. This isn’t exactly big news to the world, but we’re not all gonna win. We’re not all gonna be rich. So it’s great to hear somebody finally say, “I’m a fuckin’ loser” and own it.
“Taciturn” is incredible! Such a passionate vocal performance. Corey Taylor pours his heart out and you can feel the ache. “Give me a sign, show me the light / Maybe tonight, I’ll tell you everything.”
Wouldn’t we like to know everything about somebody? Him? We would, but if we found out everything we probably wouldn’t want to know it. But then Corey doesn’t tell us everything, and it leaves us that much more interested.
“Influence of aDrowsy God” may contain my favorite lyric on the album, I mean I’ve kicked myself thinking “Why the hell didn’t I think of that? It goes “Take all the examples and what have I learned? / Nothing can heal you when everything burns.” FUCK! SO damn good!
“Influence of a Drowsy God”
I didn’t like the follow up Part 2 as much at all, but Part 1… great hard rock.
1) HE IS LEGEND – IT HATES YOU
I got turned onto this record about a year ago by my guitar tech on a road trip down to play the Mitch Lucker benefit. Driving down to LA, we pulled it up on Spotify, and “holy fucking shit”! Sort of like Alice In Chains meets Diamond Eyes-era Deftones but released before Deftones made Diamond Eyes. We played this record every time we got in the car! Three times on the way back alone. It just blew my fucking mind. It’s soulful, heavy, cathartic, chaotic, and beautiful. “That’s Nasty” was the first song we listened to, and man, that fucking tuning, it’s so LOOOOOOOW. Then that incredibly melodic, soulful vocal comes in and just throws your whole brain for a loop! I could not listen to this record enough times this year! It’s so fucking good that not even a month later, I went and I did an acoustic tour and I covered one of their songs, the haunting “Stranger Danger.”
Bizarrely, it was kind of a good thing that Scott started me with “That’s Nasty” near the end of the album, because the first three songs on the record blow. Not only that, but the album cover is retarded. It’s only after the first three tunes that the record turns into something truly incredible. From what I understand, it’s more of an ode to their older style, which I listened to, but didn’t really “get.”
But from fourth song, “The Primarily Blues,” through “Cult Of She” into “Stranger Danger” into the glorious “China White III,” the record this takes such an unbelievably amazing turn I can’t even begin to tell you. The lyrics… “Our land is so terribly dry, and we see no crop, without the raindrops, only the weeds will survive, and keep our seeds from thriving. Will we ever see the spring?” Good fucking shit!
Vocalist Schuylar Croom’s voice is magical. They go from a hard rock classic-ness into screeching screaming heaviness, then into the most soulful, almost-female-like vocals out there. And again, I don’t know what it is with this year, but so many bands with male singers that sounded like girls, really connected to me for some reason.
They toured the US recently (unfortunately I missed it, didn’t even know) and now they’re supposedly making a new record which I eagerly await. So until then this record is worth every second of your time, check it out.
Love, love, LOVE this band!!
“China White III”