2013 was the year that I was way too busy all the time, so there’s quite a few records that I just couldn’t get to. I know, standard disclaimer. I should probably complain less and be more metal. But out of what I did listen to, these records kicked my ass. Don’t take the order too seriously.
Also, this list is simply my own personal romp, and not representative of any collective consensus between all of us here at Gear Gods. But there’s only three of us. And I’m the only one that made a list. So I crown myself king metalistmaker. Woot.
Ephel Duath – Hemmed By Light, Shaped By Darkness
I really wanted to love this record, but as soon as I saw the words “Karyn” and “Crisis” and the phrase “new vocalist” I knew I was in for a rocky ride. I can deal with her voice more than most people I know. I even like it at points. But there’s an old, creaky fence between “creepy demon” and “cartoon demon” and she smashes through it a little too often for me. Vocals aside, this is a brilliant album, much closer to (although still a step below) Ephel Duath’s Pain Necessary To Know, and a big improvement over their last record Through My Dog’s Eyes–partially because Marco Minnemann’s drums don’t just sound like cardboard cutouts of drums.
15. Big Business – Battlefields Forever
I’m afraid Big Business might be slipping. This is still a great record, but maybe I just miss the swagger they used to have back on Here Come The Waterworks.
14. Inter Arma – Sky Burial
This was the year that colossal, slow, and atmospheric made a comeback, partially by adding in other tempos besides slow. Sky Burial took a while to grow on me, but I’m glad I gave it a few listens and didn’t write them off because of genre associations.
13. Northless – World Keeps Sinking
See above. Not to pointlessly compare bands, but Northless’ killer note choices in their chords puts them on top for me. I’m also a sucker for a punk beat in a doom song.
12. Deafheaven – Sunbather
Yes, their album cover appeared in an Apple keynote. Deal with it.
11. Cloudkicker – Subsume
EPs are the perfect length for Cloudkicker records. For whatever reason I can’t listen for more than four tracks in a row, but I frickin’ love the four tracks. If only every other band sniffing Meshuggah’s buthole would put as much of their own distinctive stamp on it.
10. Carcass – Surgical Steel
This could have gone so wrong, but it turned out so right.
9. Kowloon Walled City – Container Ships
Technically this came out on December 4th, 2012, but as you can tell by the date at the top of this article, year-end lists come out right around that time of the month, and gems like this are often unheard. As I said with Inter Arma and Northless, I was kind of done with slow and sludgy, but in 2013 bands kept finding ways to bring in new influences and shake things up. Kowloon Walled City succeeded by bringing in a vibe that hints of old Amphetamine Reptile or Touch And Go bands, and by having an amazing production fidelity.
8. Ghost B.C. – Infestissumam
I’m actually a little bummed I didn’t like this even more, but the songwriting lacked the legendary choruses of “Death Knell” or “Satan Prayer” off of their previous album, Opus Eponymous.
7. Ulcerate – Vermis
I’m about to say this about KEN Mode, but this was the first time that I really got Ulcerate. They were good and all, but maybe a little over hyped? I can’t tell if I just needed more listens to get over the hump, or if they just kicked a little more evil into their evil this time around the evil track.
6. Mutoid Man – Helium Head
For a while now I’d written Steve Brodsky off. I just haven’t liked any Cave In since Jupiter. Even the band’s return to heavier material didn’t sit right with me. But apparently all he needed to do was get Converge’s Ben Koller behind the kit, which Cave In kind of did but only for a fleeting moment. Somewhere in an alternate universe he stayed there, and it was awesome. Bonus points for the Smash TV reference.
5. Intronaut – Habitual Levitations
What can I say, I love bands that are nicheless. People who group Intronaut with post-metal bands like Isis are off their gourd. I’d say that I could listen to Danny Walker play drums on anything, but then I’d be committing myself to listen to the next Job For A Cowboy, and that might be one train stop too far.
4. Kayo Dot – Hubardo
See the above about nichelessness. Toby Driver is out of his mind. I don’t know how you write music like this.
3. KEN Mode – Entrench
This was the album that sold me on KEN Mode. I always liked them well enough, respected what they were doing and their work ethic, but I was never excited about the prospect of a new LP from them. Entrench changed that. Also, guest vocals from Kiss It Goodbye/Deadguy’s Tim Singer guarantees a spot on any best of list.
2. Tidal Arms – Tidal Arms
Engine Down/Sunny Day melancholy and massive doomy oppression are such a good combination that I’m surprised it’s not a played out genre, but very few bands do it. But of those that do, none of them are as adept as Tidal Arms. They pull it off perfectly live. I’ve literally never heard a band with a better pocket and groove in the metal scene.
1. Gorguts – Colored Sands
I’m pretty sure this record was created in a black hole that stole all the talent and songwriting chops from every band in some alternate dimension. Colored Sands defines riffing brilliance, and John Longstreth turned in the best drumming performance of his career.