David Lee Rothmund’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2013
Well this concludes my first year (ish) at MetalSucks. I’ve been bringing you hot coils of Shit That Comes Out Today, as well as some other magical presents here-‘n’-there. More to come! But for now, bow to the following list. And by “bow” I mean rock the fuck out of it and disagree with me in the comments section. I’ll be watching you.
Technical deathcore is a tough nut to crack. It’s so easy to fall into the “breakdown here, breakdown there, breakdown everywhere” trope, and then you just end up sounding fucking useless. But breakdowns are sexy! But only when they’re done right, obviously. Especially, though, when they’re sandwiched between super-sharp noodle riffs and brilliant tempo shifts and hard shit that sounds actually original. There’s an art to it, ya know? And 2009’s Creature and 2010’s Invade kept it wicked. Elite is no different. Not a huge departure from Within The Ruin’s past, but definitely a progression into faster, weirder, and sexier.
The “omg it’s sped up” blowhards can shut the fuck up. Honestly, I don’t care if it is. Haven’t even read the drama, and I’m surprised I even know the drama exists. What I know is that Dingir is aliencore. Emphasis on alien? Something fresh, and in this case, it sounds futuristic. It hits like a flying saucer crashing into an oceanliner full of marbles. It actually gives me a headache sometimes. But real story: Dingir gives me those ultimate feels, like that they’ve put the absolute maximum number of notes and snare hits and blast beats as possible into the record. It’s nuts! For that, it gets a spot on this list.
Listen: “Peeling Arteries“
There’s always been something so silky about Soilwork. They give you the go-get-’em feels without sounding weak or cheesy or vajazzled. They’re one of those bands whose choruses rightfully overpower the verses. It’s something about the way that the long screams and consistent drumming mix together to produce what turns out to be actual upbeat music. The Panic Broadcast is still my all-time favorite Soilwork album, but The Living Infinite is quite honestly so much more. Two CDs! More is always better, especially when there is no real sacrifice in quality or Swedishness.
Listen: “Spectrum Of Eternity“
You cannot not headbang to No Rest, No Peace. There’s such a perfect balance between hardcore and metal in this album. Perfect fodder for drunk bar jamming. So, melodic death influences the razor riffage and sharp cuts, but there’s also something heavily punk about it. That’s what I mean. And while punk was never my thing, this whole “fuck your face” mentality is. So while No Rest, No Peace is a black swan in my library, I love it hard. I love it for making me feel fucking energized and for being so goddamn easy to listen to. No concentration needed! Party.
Listen: “No Rest, No Peace“
I was listening to the Flies EP while trying to write a blurb about it, but I got distracted. I’m drunk. This means you’ll probably not read this while you listen, too. So fuck it, rock the whole fucking album and love it so, love it so.
Listen: Flies EP
To me, Protest The Hero is the happier, gentler version of Revocation (see below). The clean vocals, the percussive and upbeat guitar work, and the excellent orchestration have made every PTH album fantastic. Volition is even better. I always get hard for bands whose albums consistently get better! Improvement is still a thing, ya know. Makes you excited for what’s next, but also reassures you that a) it’s going to be solid and b) it’s going to make you feel like you felt when you first listened to that first song. That initial shock is worth a thousand bucks/euros/whatever. You can buy this one for like, what, ten?
Listen: “A Life Embossed“
Vomit-inducing. Usually when you hear “vomit” you think, uh, no, fuck that shit. But you know when you’ve had a few too many drinks and you get the spins? And you lay down to try and make them better and they just get worse? That’s how Vermis is. Like a bad drunk. Like you’re fucking stuck in hell and nothing you can do will get you out. Drink water? Ha, you’ll just puke it back up. That’s why I love Vermis so damn much. Because once I put it on, I can’t turn it off, even though it ruins my palate and makes everything else sound just so, uh, shitty weak.
So with Pelagial, The Ocean picked a wicked theme and stuck to it. Descending into the dark depths of the ocean? So fitting! But the way the album progresses deeper and deeper into the ocean as the tracks wear on is simply inspired. But still simple. Beauty in that simplicity, by the way. But what makes this album noteworthy is its worthiness in instrumental form. It becomes a wholly different beast without vocals. And although I prefer the vocal version, the true swing, talent, and ethos of the album come through without. Earthy, progressive, deep, and listenable postmetal at its absolute finest.
Listen: “Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams“
The Process Of Human Extermination from 2011 was plenty good, but it lacked nuance. It was a heavily straightforward and heavy-breakdown album by a heavily straightforward band. The extra two years put some wine into Fit For An Autopsy, because Hellbound brings them into the tech-death world. And it’s a sick world full of wicked bands! What sells Hellbound, though, is its insistence on not being too technical. Letting the drums and vocals poke out of the guitar mix every once in a while is a damn fine idea. Which is why Hellbound is a damn fine album. It’s got goddamn character, and listening to it will build some for you too. But mostly cause it’s violent as hell.
Listen: “Mother Of The Year“
Metal. So many types of metal here, duh. But what about straight-up metal? Um, we have plenty of bands from the 1980s and 1990s which we could easily put into that category. But being modern these days is more about being sub- this and post- that. Reinvention? Revocation has always stuck with purity. No filler. All killer. Old school as fuck, but fresh. So we can thank David Davidson (vocals and lead guitar) for his double-whammy. Lol find me somebody else on this fucking planet who can rock a guitar as hard as he can. Please. What an almighty god.
Way back when in 2010, a band named Czar released an album called Vertical Mass Grave. We listened to it and saw that it was good. Fast forward three years, and No One Is Alone If No One Is Alive is more of the same kind of sheer goddamn brilliance we love/want. There’s a purposeful chaos to the whole mix, a sense of feeling lost and abjection without a map, but no real need for one in the first place. Also, a fucking Beatles cover. I hate the Beatles. So enough said, it’s a win on all fronts.
You know something is by-goddamn-golly good when you can’t find the one perfect song from an album to share. Every moment on Das Seelenbrechen is wholly distinct from the next. Genres shift in and out of flux and the mix and the mood and, incredibly, it all coagulates into a highly cohesive whole. That’s where the brilliance is: You can’t summarize it without the entirety present. Albums this inspired and yet so singular can easily become fragmented and lost in their own pursuit for perfection. One man’s genius is oftentimes another’s garbage. But Das Seelenbrechen is about as perfect as prog can get. Just one man: Vegard Sverre Tveitan. And he put me into awe.
Cover albums are a thing. Usually a shitty thing. But every once in a while a band with true elemental grit (cough, Ghost) injects their feels into already awesome songs. There’s a difference between covering as an emulation and covering as an interpretation. The If You Have Ghost EP is solid interpretation. It showcases Ghost’s obscene and sheer talent in a slightly subtler, more heartfelt genre. And because it steals my heart, it gets to be damn close to #1. And for a cover album! That says enough about Infestissumam. So consider this #3 an all-around circlejerk for everything that Ghost has ever done. <3
Listen: If You Have Ghost EP
Get bent if you’re going to give me the oh-my-god-that’s-not-metal bullshit. I’ve put more listening hours into Random Access Memories than most other albums that came out this year. Because, honestly, 98% of what I listen to is metal. But sometimes the metal needs to shut its yapping mouth and leave some room for something slightly more not metal. Random Access Memories is distilled, warm, derelict, and human. It’s decisively post, full of mood swings, and relentlessly catchy. To me, it’s de facto metal. But it’s not a metal album. It’s also not a dance album. And thank god it isn’t either, because I can’t slow-grind or headbang when I’m covered in goosebumps and my lips are quivering at the sweet sounds of songs like “Touch”. Touched me right in the feels.
I’ll put it this way: No album in 2013 came out of literally nowhere quite like The Tower. It’s goddamn more obtuse than trigonometry allows, and fuck math, ya know? The Tower is wild, disconnected therapy for me. It yelps, arms extended, crying out for help, for love. I have so much to give. It wants exhilaration and bewilderment and joy, and I want the same things. It’s language, and I communicate with it. And I get what I want. No idea what I’m saying? Who cares. To each their own. Vulture Industries, you win. Jam on, you glorious motherfuckers.
Listen: The Tower