Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Satan Spawn's Best Of 2013

Year: 2013

2013 was a great year for metal indeed. Month after month, fans were bombarded with releases from their favourite bands. There were no dearth for quality releases from big bands and except for a couple of bands, all the others managed to live up to the hype surrounding their releases. Another thing that must be mentioned about the releases this year, is that it was a year for comebacks. 

Big names that had been in slumber, arose from their hibernation and delivered some amazing stuff this year. Due to the sheer number of releases, I was unable to check out all the good ones. However, I did go through a substantial amount of records and the following ones are the ones that I feel are truly the best.

#13 Tesseract – Altered State

After their critically acclaimed debut full length 'One', the expectations for their second album were pretty high. And following vocalist Dan Tompkins’s departure, a lot of people were left wondering if his replacement would be able to match up to him. Ashe O’Hara lays all such doubts to rest with his beyond amazing vocal delivery in their second full length ‘Altered State’. This album is more melodic than their previous outings, with atmospheric elements and peculiar arrangements adding to the overall beauty of this record. This  is a delightful treat to all the fans of the band and I’m sure that it will appeal to newer fans as well.

#12 Suidakra – Eternal Defiance

This is a band that has been criminally underrated among both folk metal and melodic death metal fraternities. Their 11th album ‘Eternal Defiance’ is an absolute mish-mash of Celtic folk and death metal elements that managed to abduct the listeners to an enchanted and brutal version of the medieval times. This album contains some of the most memorable melodies written by the band and though it may not be the best pick from their big discography, it is a suitable contender for the title nonetheless. Arkadius’s vocal work on this record is more powerful than ever and the female vocals which are mesmerizing and contrasting to Arkadius’s growls, add a whole new dimension to this record.

#11 Orchid – Mouths of Madness

This is an album that will make one feel like it is the 1970's all over again with their brand of fuzzy, occult influenced rock and roll. Though they proudly brandish their affection for the old Black Sabbath, they also manage to have signs of originality in their songs. Their occult themed songs are rendered in true 70's fashions by the work of guitarist Mark Thomas Baker, who’s riff based song writing approach leaves a very memorable impact. This is definitely a must listen for those who think that the good ol’ days of fuzzed out rock and roll have ended.

#10 Leprous – Coal

These Norwegians have been hailed as one of the best modern progressive acts and they offer enough reasons to justify that in their new album, ‘Leprous’. Progressive metal with avant garde elements has never sounded so enthralling. The band shows tremendous improvement from their first full length from four years ago and delivers a very compelling progressive record this year.  There are balanced quotients of both experimental portions and traditional metal, which makes ‘Coal’ a very interesting listen. After listening to this record,  I regret having missed their first live performance in India this year.

#9 Watain – The Wild Hunt

Now this is an album that has contrasting receptions from fans and critics alike. While some people lauded the new direction the band takes on this album, others shunned it. I for one, embrace the new Watain album in all its glory. They experimental efforts of this band works quite well and frankly, their first attempt at song with only clean vocals (‘They Rode On’) is one of the most addictive songs of the year, hands down. What is appreciable about this album is the fact that it is different from their other works and presents something fresh and new from Watain. 

#8 Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed

Out of the hordes of thrash metal bands that have been forming post 2000, Skeletonwitch is one of the most tight and original bands. After their amazing 2011 release, the lads are back with ‘Serpents Unleashed’ this year. This time, they have increased the amount of black metal elements substantially, to create a highly rabid sounding form of blackened thrash metal. Short song lengths, great guitar work and originality, make this one of the best thrash albums released this year.

#7 Immolation – Kingdom Of Conspiracy

The god fathers of the New York Death Metal scene prove once again, why they are the best at what they do. ‘Kingdom of Conspiracy’ showcases that consistency of quality, which the band has been brandishing throughout its discography. Technical, brutal and yet catchy song writing are few of the highlights on this one. Though the band hasn’t changed much in terms of style, the album is very enjoyable and absolutely crushing. This is one of the finest technical brutal releases of this year and a must buy for anyone who adores this genre.

#6 Inquisition – Obscure Verses For The Multiverse

Speaking of things that do not change, Inquisition came out with an album this year. And as can be expected from the demonic duo, they haven’t changed in the slightest. Yet, maintaining the same style, they deliver some crushing abrasive black metal that surpasses most other black metal releases this year. Alternating between abrasive raw black metal parts and dark atmospheric parts, this album entertains in every way possible, without getting monotonous even over repeated listens. It is an album that keeps the madness going right from the first beat and it lasts almost a whole hour. The guitar work in particular, shows some influence from classic heavy metal and it fits in well with the other black metal elements.

#5 Exhumed – Necrocracy

The masters of gore have risen again, only to deliver something different this time: a classic riff based death metal album that sounds very mature. This is not what many people expected from the same band that created ‘All Guts, No Glory’. The grinding edge that their songs carried is almost gone and its replaced by some very meaty death metal riffs that are immensely addictive. The chaos seen in their previous outings are replaced by structured and organized song writing which gives the band a much matured feel. Instead of trying to sound as brutal as possible, the riffs carry a certain tune to them, which invokes a natural sense of brutality. The best thing about this album is that the band has not tried too hard and has written something which comes to them very naturally. This is felt in the music of the album as nothing feels contrived or forced.

#4 Toxic Holocaust – Chemistry Of Consciousness

This is quite possibly the album that I had the most fun listening to in 2013. It is the same old Toxic Holocaust sound with their punk influenced thrash metal, with black metal leanings. Joel Grind plays a mean guitar on this record and his fast riffs are hard to get out of the mind. He snarls and barks his way through this joy ride of a record. What makes this album so fun to listen to, is the sheer simplicity of it. There is nothing complex about anything on this record and everything is done with a minimalistic approach. So if you are looking for a record that will make you bang your head for no reason, then get this record and start thrashing now!

#3 Preludium – Redemption

I sure am glad that I decided to listen to this album before doing my year end list. This album came out pretty late in 2013 and it is quite a masterpiece in blackened death metal. To describe the music on this album, it is like an absolutely beautiful place that is surrounded by roaring seas and thundering storms. Of course, the beautiful place here refers to the subtle dissonant melodies on the guitar work and also the deep philosophical lyrics of the songs, while the roaring seas and thundering storms refer to the dark atmosphere, fast tremolos and crushing drumming. This is the best polish death metal record of the year in my opinion and I urge anyone reading this to give Preludium a try.

#2 Gorguts – Colored Sands

The first Gorguts album after their reunion in 2008 came out this year and it does not disappoint. The pioneers of technical death metal, take an avant garde direction on ‘Colored Sands’. The result is a deeply layered record that enthrals completely. The orchestrated arrangements come together to create a moody melodic brand of death metal and sounds very ethereal. Listening to this album is an experience in itself as the progressions and dynamics are sure to transport the listener to a very surreal place. The genius of this album is that it challenges the boundaries of genres and presents a form of technical death metal that does not show off useless and unnecessary guitar work. 

#1 Carcass – Surgical Steel

Many bands made comebacks this year. But none of them did it like how Carcass did. After 'Swansong', the band was thought to be dead. But after 17 years of staying off the radar, the band came back with an album that would sit perfectly between 'Necroticism' and 'Heartwork'. While people wondered which direction they would take with 'Surgical Steel', Carcass added a bit of both melodic death metal and deathgrind to create the perfect record. Though predominantly a melodic death metal album, songs carry a grinding edge. Bill Steer’s guitar work is the highlight of the record, especially when it comes to the grand solos. The melody quotient is kept to a limit and it is not overdone. As quoted in my review, this album justifies the name ‘Surgical Steel’ as it is a very precise and sharp record, which earns it the top spot on my list. Welcome back Jeff and Bill. We missed you.

Honourable Mentions

Egypt – Become the sun
Autopsy – The Headless Ritual
Black Sabbath – 13
Sodom – Epitome Of Torture
Coffins – The Fleshland
Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent
Ghost – Infesstisumam
Hypocrisy – End Of Disclosure
Suffocation – Pinnacle Of Bedlam
Wormed – Exodromos
Darkthrone – The Underground Resistance

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