December 14, 2013 by Dan Swinhoe
I’d love to say my favourite record this year was something edgy and complicated, something deep that makes you think. But no, the album that’s been on almost endless repeat this year is Monster Truck’s Furiosity. 12 tracks of pure, unbridled southern rock boogie from Canada. Addictive, fun, yet never forced or derivative. A pleasure from start to finish.
German sludgey progressive death metal types The Ocean have always been fans of grand ambitions. We’ve had several double albums featuring grand themes like time and space, but their releases had always fallen short of their visions. But in Pelagial, everything finally came together. Another grand theme [this time the very depths of the ocean itself] combined with top notch songwriting and a quality performance from vocalist Loïc Rossetti. Epic from start to finish.
After a relative hiccup with Strange Cousins From The West, Clutch are back on form. Earth Rocker does exactly what it says on the tin; a raw, aggressive album full of in-your-face rawk’n’roll. Not since Blast Tyrant have Clutch been so instantly gratifying. Some are saying it’s their best yet, I don’t agree but it’s still a surefire classic for the back catalogue.
Kyuss in all but name, Peace is the album stoner fans have been waiting a long time for. And unlike so many overlong gestations, this really delivered. A heavy yet psychedelic and melodic trip that did more than just rehash old Josh Homme riffs, Vista Chino meant stoners got an album they’d been dying for but without losing Queens Of The Stone Age. A win all round.
When was the last time you heard an album of such sheer venomous vitriol? Walk Through Exits Only isn’t a Pantera rehash, just raw aggression distilled onto one disk. It’s not thrash, it’s not hardcore punk, it’s SuperJoint Ritual on steroids. I think the two EPs either side of WTEO‘s release contained the more interesting songs, but this was the main meal. Not a classic of the Anselmo cannon, but still worth any metal fan’s time.
Yes Black Sabbath released an album this year [more on that later], but that doesn’t mean it was the best classic-sounding doom release out there. Not by a long shot. Magic Circle’s self-titled effort was an instant winner. Classic NWOBHM meets 70s doom and quality vocals from Brendan Radigan give it a timeless quality. Worth checking out on Youtube, as are Radigan’s other band, Stone Dagger.
Despite being a big LOG fans, I’d never really understand the hoo-hah over As The Palaces Burn. You could tell there were some good songs in there, but it sounded like shit and so it never really appealed in the same way Ashes Of The Wake did. With this 10th Anniversary remix & remaster, it suddenly clicks. The whole thing sounds huge, and is crushingly heavy. A re-release well worth getting, even if you’ve got the original.
You know what you’re getting with thrash albums, so it’s rare and a real novelty to be surprised by one. Warbeast’s Destroy surprises because it’s so damn relentless. It sounds huge, and it’s pummeling from start to finish and an upgrade on their debut in every way. If you only buy one thrash album this year, make it this one.
Two songs, a near half hour run time. Grayceon are another sludgey, progressive post metal type outfit, but still stand out from the pack. A cello as a lead instrument, female vocals, and some serious songwriting skills. Long, intricate, heavy, but never boring.
10th was a difficult one. In the end I went with Intronaut’s Habitual Levitations. A more jazzy take on the progressive metal model, it’s adventurous and complex. It isn’t an easy listen, it demands your attention, that you listen to each track intently. But it’s rewarding and worth your time.
Also vying for tenth were both Dynahead’s Chordata I and Mandroid Echostar’s Citadels. Dynahead have morphed from a progressive thrash outfit into Latin America’s answer to Meshuggah, while Mandroid take Coheed & Cambria’s progressive pop and add some really biting riffs to the formula.
Carcass and Black Sabbath both returned from the metal icon’s retirement home to show the youngsters how it’s done, to varying degrees of success. Carcass’s Surgical Steel was equally brutal as it was gory and melodic, while Sabbath’s 13 was a good but not spectacular effort.
Since joining as the band’s frontman Ashe O’Hara has made TessercT his own on their latest effort, Altered State. But with the exception of the epic ‘Nocturne‘, it’s generally away from Djent riffing and into more progressive and melodic territory. Not a step backwards at all, but not nearly as satisfying to headbang to.
A special mention has to go to Russkaja for writing the most catchy song of the year in ‘Energia!’ The album of the same name isn’t too shabby either, but the song is the perfect mix of rock, metal, folk, polka and vodka. The video isn’t too shabby either.
Looking Forward To In 2014:
Lionize are due to drop their new one in the first half of 2014. On youtube the band have promised something that ‘is just better’ than their previous releases, which if true is very exciting. Their last was one was pretty good you know.
Mastodon are on the studio and are promising something epic, while Taint successors HARK are to release their debut Crystalline in March. Also due is Devin Townsend’s country project Causalities of Cool and Z², the Ziltoid sequel.
Down are almost finished with their new EP, and Corrosion Of Conformity are also working on their lasted record as a Pepper-less three-piece. Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society are also promising another studio record to follow this year’s acoustic live effort, Unblackened.
The ever-productive Max Cavalera will be joining forces with Mastodon’s Troy Sanders and Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato for Killer Be Killed, and also made noises about a possible Metallic White Stripes record with his brother Igor.
And who knows, we may see new releases from Tool, and/or Guns’N’Roses, and maybe even a Metallica record that isn’t shit.