Top albums of 2013, by Doug Moore
These intro blurbs are traditionally a place for writers to reflect on the macro-level events and trends of the musical year in question. Several more capable writers than I have done so elsewhere at this juncture, so I’ll spare you. Besides, I’ve been distracted this year. When I think back on 2013’s metal happenings in the future, I’ll mostly remember boring autobiographical things — chiefly, recording my band’s sophomore album and becoming the editor of this website. I hope that I’ve done well by you all as IO’s show-runner for the last few months, and I hope that my band’s album doesn’t suck. (Please forestall judgment on the latter until it comes out next year.)
Regarding my methodology here: these lists are always super arbitrary, so I’m not inclined to take my own too seriously. I recommend that you don’t either. A lot of great metal came out this year, and my mind changes hourly regarding which specimens I like best. These picks lean towards bands that I thought could use some extra love, but not exclusively. By extension, they lean away from albums that have already done very well for themselves on year-end lists. I also picked albums I felt like discussing when I wrote the list. (Again: arbitrary.) And I dispensed with the honorable mentions, as I’m not convinced that anyone reads them.
This post concludes the bulk of IO’s year-end coverage. If we’ve missed any essential albums thus far, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Alternately, it’d be cool to see what made you guys’ lists. Your eyes, ears, and voices keep this site alive. Thanks for sticking around.
10. Orbweaver – Strange Transmissions from the Neuralnomicon (USA, self-released/Primitive Violence Records [cassette]) (stream here)
This weirdo-death EP ran a dead heat with their parent band Gigan’s excellent 2013 album. Since Orbweaver are newer, without a proper label, and more in need of a boost, they get the nod. I see the cartoon monsters on this album cover dancing around my screen whenever I’ve been staring at IO’s WordPress dashboard for too long.
Favorite riff: The stop-start lurch at about 2:18 in “Those of Non-Being” has a melody line that’s sickly enough for hospitalization.
9. Iron Lung – White Glove Test (USA, Iron Lung Records) (stream here)
The Times of Grace / Grace-style double-album format that Iron Lung did with this album is awesome, and pretty unusual for a band that blasts a lot. When I saw them live earlier this year, they introduced three songs in a row by saying: “We’re gonna play one more song.” Then they introduced another song by saying: “We’re gonna play ninety more songs! We’re never gonna fucking stop!” I wish they hadn’t. Maybe they didn’t.
Favorite riff: There’s a frantic moment about thirty seconds into the title track where drummer Jensen Ward (I think?) screams: “Short, fast, violent actions.” End of discussion.
8. Voices – From The Human Forest Create A Fugue Of Imaginary Rain (UK, Candlelight Records) (stream here)
Evidence that I do not fully understand the music industry: on paper, Voices seem like they should’ve gotten an aggressive PR push from Candlelight. Three-fourths of these guys were in Akercocke, who were pretty popular in their own right, and Voices trade several of that band’s more off-putting components (gurgly vocals, crummy production values, weird sexy Satan lyrics) for accessible ones (bright tones, lotsa melody). Regardless, I wouldn’t have known about this album in advance if a buddy hadn’t tipped me off, and I can only find one Stateside distro selling physical copies for a reasonable price — and they’re basically Candlelight’s out-of-house US storefront. This logic passeth my understanding.
Favorite riff: The very first riff on the album — the slide-y opening figure from “Dnepropetrovsk” — sold me on the rest right off the bat.
7. Code – Augur Nox (UK, Agonia Records) (stream here)
Another friend of mine is fond of arguing that when a band loses a charismatic vocalist, they should just change their name rather than try to replace him or her. Augur Nox provides an equally strong counter-argument in the form of new singer Wacian. Where did this guy come from? Rare talent, great songs, same spirit.
Favorite riff: Not a riff precisely, but the chorus from “Garden Chancery” has been stuck in my head for so long that it might as well be a part of my brain.
6. Vuyvr – Eiskalt (Switzerland, Throatruiner Records) (stream here)
Vuyvr main guy Michaël Schindl used to be in a great, proggy metallic hardcore band called Impure Wilhelmina. Now he’s playing black metal with an old bandmate and a dude from Knut. He has not lost his ability to write chord progressions that ache like nobody’s business; he’s just trying harder to hurt you with them now.
Favorite riff: At 2:35 into “Slaves,” a rhythm-section pause precedes a coda riff that has a hotline to my neck muscles.
5. Castevet – Obsian (USA, Profound Lore) (stream here)
All three guys in this band can shred super hard. Unlike most such musicians, they don’t mindlessly wail away on Obsian. Instead, they write really good songs, which may be even harder to do, given that said songs are still complex as hell. My favorite metal production of the year.
Favorite riff: The melody that breaks out around the six-minute mark in “Cavernous” begs for a wanky sunlight-on-a-cloudy-day metaphor.
4. Patrons of the Rotting Gate – The Rose Coil (Northern Ireland, self-released) (listen here)
When I heard The Rose Coil back in September, it boggled my mind that one dude was able to put almost the entire thing together by himself in just a few months. I still don’t understand how he did it now. I haven’t been this excited by a one-man black metal LP since Massive Conspiracy Against All LIfe.
Favorite riff: Black metal albums are not supposed to get as brutal as the recurring chug motif in “Pride In Descent” momentarily does at 5:33.
3. Wormed – Exodromos (Spain, Willowtip) (stream here)
I hated Wormed’s first album, 2003’s Planisphærium. How did Exodromos become my most-spun album of the year? How can a tech-death band with a giant cricket on vocals be so fucking catchy? How does an album loaded with abstruse rhythmic shifts and incomprehensible lyrics about space-time vorticity make such a perfect workout companion? I don’t know. Metal is weird.
Favorite riff: The grade-A riffs fly past so often and so quickly that picking just one is kind of an idiotic exercise, but if the SETI Institute had pointed the Allen array at Spain while Wormed was writing the sequence of next-level slams that begins at 2:16 in “Techkinox Wormhole,” they might have found what they’re looking for.
2. Inter Arma – Sky Burial (USA, Relapse) (stream here)
It makes me happy that Inter Arma managed to line up Relapse’s substantial institutional muscle behind this album. As a result, Sky Burial has probably reached a lot of teenagers who don’t know much about metal, and I can imagine it appealing to them as powerfully as it appeals to me. It offers both depth and accessibility — that’s a rare combination these days. Maybe we’ll hear a lot of bands with noticeable Inter Arma influences in the future.
Favorite riff: If this album consisted entirely of the telegraphed haymaker that kicks in at roughly 5:55 into “The Survival Fires,” I would probably still like it.
1. Gorguts – Colored Sands (Canada, Season of Mist) (stream here)
When I was compiling this list, it occurred to me that the only real criticism I could levy against Colored Sands is that I don’t like it as much as Obscura. It then occurred to me that “I don’t like it as much as Obscura” is a pretty stupid criticism. Though I’m semi-allergic to consensus, it’s done my nerdy heart good to watch this album pile up acclaim over the course of this month. Hopefully it has done the same for the people who made it.
Favorite riff: I dunno, most of them? Like the Wormed album, there are so many great riffs on this one that picking a single standout is for goofs. The incredibly spiteful solo break at 5:07 in “Enemies of Compassion” does as well as any, I suppose.