Leyla Ford’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2013
I don’t think my list should cater to anyone. That being said, I think there’s a little something for all manners of taste and predilection here. So gird your loins and join me, weary readers, as I take you on yet another journey of all the music you’re sick of hearing about. Or music that you don’t care about. But it’s that magical time of year when maybe you’ll let some light in your heart and there’ll be something in here to make you go, “YEAH,” and high-five me. Let us graciously walk 2013 to the door rather than boot it in the ass and Dio bless us all, everyone.
I can’t help but like Running Wild. They might not be the best at what they do (punch-drunk, unadulterated, soaring, blissful metal), but bless them, they do keep trying. This album is a great introduction for both those who’ve never really paid attention to them and loyal fans that just can’t quit them.
Listen: “Adventure Highway”
I do believe in giving credit to the classics and the originators and the granddads and grandmoms of metal (though I’m pretty sure Doro would kick my ass if I referred to her as a granny), but this year it came down to which legends. It’s sacrilege to say, but Black Sabbath got a big mneeaahh from me in 2013. Manilla Road, however, earned their spot right here. They’ve been a band since the year my parents were born, and have had a steady output since the ‘70s; they just keep chugging out those no-nonsense doom-overlaid riffs, like the one in “The Grey God Passes.” Though long careers often provide for some mediocre output, Mysterium is a solid album that’s heavy on the somber, no-bullshit heavy metal.
Listen: “The Grey God Passes”
Like the courteous, respectin’ my elders kinda gal I am, here’s another “classic” band that I deem good enough to pay attention to. (Or, rather, keep paying attention to.) Von have been credited for influencing most of American black metal and with their dark, dissonant clashes of creepy beats and violent peaks, this album proves just why. If you can stand the ugliness, the screeching, the unrelenting coldness, it’s a rough-but-rewarding ride all the way through.
Listen: “Ancient Flesh of the Dark Gods”
As (their) luck would have it, I listened to this album as I was writing up this list, so they edged their way in by booting some unfortunate souls off. But this sort-of super-group, made up of Municipal Waste’s Ryan Waste, DRI’s Felix Griffin, and Volture’s Nick Poulos, is filled with punk venom and Motorhead riffs I couldn’t resist. It’s a raw-but-complex listen all the way through (even though it’s just an EP), and you can tell the amount of fun they had recording this based soley on how ridiculous the song titles and lyrics are.
Listen: Primitive Age
I love Havok because they’re comic book thrash: loud, aggressive, infantile, but still really, really super fun. It’s what thrash should be, and since so many of our classic bands are all letting us down (though I’m doing my best to be respectful as the aforementioned choices show), why not support the younger guys? From its Toxic-Avenger-like mad scientist cover to its sharp, jabs of pure speed energy, Unnatural Selection is one of the top albums of the year.
Listen: “It Is True”
We all need a little artistic weirdness every now and then, and this album has it in spades. Industrial doom with electronic grooves and creepy Blut Aus Nord-esque silences is enough to pique the interests of fans and non-fans alike. Industrial gets a lot of undeserved criticism, but don’t let all the Thrill Kill Kults (whom, I admit I am fond of) ruin the experience of this one-man mechanical robot dinosaur space trip.
By far my favorite KEN Mode record. The amount of fuck-you attitude and relentless anger is just breathtaking. It’s like all those punk bands you looked up to as a kid warped (tour) into one super-pissed-off rant against, well, everything. Best part is, no Johnny Rotten shilling butter or selling his million-dollar home to completely negate any message received.
To fill my blackened, crusty quota is Agrimonia with their third release. Though their roots are firmly entrenched in hardcore, they are not without their layered grooves, which are smoothly integrated with the sludge. This is a seamlessly put together epic of sounds that although runs a little long for me, is highly captivating in the effortless way the melodies are spun.
Listen: “The Battle Fought”
I’m sure there’s many an outraged blowhard already ranting that Carcass is so low on my list. Yeah, they put out a solid album and yeah, it is very, very good. But I’d bet good money that they will appear on every single list this merry season. To completely ignore them might not be right, but smacking them in the number one spot does not sit well with me. Especially since they are NOT my number one. So, as a compromise, here they are in the middle.
Listen: “Thrasher’s Abattoir”
I’ve written many a word about Bloodlights, and I’m sure there’s an interview and review around here somewhere to dig up. Thin Lizzy riffs and Iggy Pop attitude with a generous helping of racing speed makes the band’s third effort just as catchy and enticing as their first. It’s dirty garage rock in its sloppiest, best form.
Listen: “Sure Shot”
If Havok are comic bookish, then Axeslasher are just horror movie/Ninja Turtles-on-meth batshit insane. Gross, loud, completely oozing slime thrash that’s scarier than Leatherface’s chainsaw. I don’t know anyone who had a bad word to say about this album, and I know I’m waiting eagerly for the rest of the anthology. Pizza ‘til you puke, dudes. Extra pepperonis and garlic on mine.
Listen: “Order of the Coven”
When in doubt, always go Motörhead. That’s all I have to say about that.
Listen: “End of Time”
I almost threw up in excitement when I first listened to this album. Gothic, fast-paced, ridiculously riffy, and with vocals that sound like Ian Astbury’s less glam little brother? Yeah, this was everything I was looking for in high school. And I suppose now as well. The best thing about Sister is that it does not sound dated (though my high school years are not that long ago, excuse me). There’s none of that New Order flamboyance with not much substance (and yes, I do like New Order so get off my back). It’s a creepily dark album that is weirdly easy on the ears and manages to be angry and soothing at the same time. I love it. Love. It.
I really had no expectations about this album, and the band name had already raised my eyebrows before all the online jabber about it. Little did I know I would end up staring at my computer screen with a lovesick, about-to-vomit expression, my hands clasped in utter bliss, drooling in joy. (Apparently this year is highlighted by my urge to puke every time I hear something beautiful… and beautiful this is.) Climax will make you nuzzle at its teats (I’m sorry! I didn’t get to review this album I want to make silly puns!) in pure ‘80s post-punk nostalgia. There are the obvious Morrissey comparisons, but the fact that I can look past that speaks volumes because Morrissey sucks. Clean vocals with that gothic edge I so enjoy (hi, In Solitude!), this is a hard rocking shot of espresso in your café au beast lait (I tried).
Listen: “Fear Your Mind”
1. Tomahawk – Oddfellows (Ipecac)
Oddfellows is fantastic. From his slithering, cooing vocals that seduce you to his maniacally vitriolic pounding, Mike Patton proves again why he is my secret imaginary boyfriend. From jazzy grunge to acid trip lounge to brutal riffs, this album covers every genre and invents a couple just for the hell of it. See you in the pit.
Listen: “South Paw”