Friday, December 6, 2013

Chris' Top 40 Metal Albums of 2013

It's that glorious time of year once again. The time of year when I try to quantify my tastes by grinding them down to a bloody pulp in an effort to extract the 40 best records that dropped over the last 12 months. 2013 was a great year for metal, as are most years it seems. This year my listening habits took a turn for the disgustingly depraved. I found myself listening to a lot of blackened death metal (dig those ritualistic grooves!) and a shit load of doom, but don't worry there are still some choice black metal records dotting the list. Without further ado, here are my 40 favorite albums of 2013.

40. Clandestine Blaze – Harmony of Struggle
39. Lake of Blood - Omnipotens Tyrannus
38.  Enabler - Flies/ Shift of Redemption
37. Jucifer - The Russian Album
36. Portal - Vexovoid
35. Lychgate - Lychgate
34. Death Karma - A Life Not Worth Living
33.  Lantern - Below
32. Nails - Abandon All Life
31. Yellow Eyes - Hammer of Night
30. Celeste - Animale(s)
29. Fister - Gemini
28. Vastum - Patricidal Lust
27. Agrimonia - Rites of Separation
26. Cult of Fire - मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान
25. Castevet - Obsian
24. Churchburn - Churchburn EP
23. Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu
22. Forn - EP
21. The Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults: The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer
20. Demonomancy - Throne of Demonic Proselytism
19. Prosanctus Inferi – Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night
18. Wormlust - The Feral Wisdom
17. SubRosa - More Constant Than the Gods
16. Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse

15. Aosoth - Aosoth IV: An Arrow in the Heart -   France has a long standing tradition of delivering pummeling, atonal, decrepit black metal and Aosoth stand at the top of the pack. Alongside bands like Deathspell Omega and Antaeus, Aosoth creates black metal that is both immediately satisfying and a layered dissertation on innovation in a genre that can stagnate quickly.

14. Inter Arma - Sky Burial - Inter Arma made an appearance on my list last year with their excellent album Destroyer. This year the Richmond, VA doomsters upped the ante and dropped an album that shows an improvement on their sound in almost every way. Crushing doom, spacey interludes, and the right amount of black metal vitriol make Sky Burial a joy to experience.

13. Cosmic Church - YLISTYS - This was a late arrival on my list. It's been in near constant rotation for the past 2 weeks and the more I listen, the better it gets. Black metal of this nature has the potential to either enthrall or bore; Cosmic Church definitely falls under the former. Incredibly layered black metal that is hypnotic and surprisingly meditative. A major accomplishment.

12. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory & Injury - I've been a marginal fan of Altar of Plagues for a number of years, but they never seemed to differentiate themselves enough from other post black metal bands (Fen, Deafheaven). That all changed with Teethed... This album is one lean motherfucker. A noticeable shift in songwriting did wonders for the band. It's a shame they called it quits earlier this year.

11. VHOL - VHOL - A super group of sorts, featuring members of Hammers of Misfortune, YOB, and Agalloch; VHOL play metal, plain and simple. Their debut is a fucking riff machine filled with alternating styles. Everything from dbeat crust to 70s era Judas Priest are represented here, and to great effect. This record satisfies on so many levels.

10. Hexer - Hexer - This collection of two previously released cassettes by Philly's mysterious Hexer is so fucking fun it hurts. Raw black metal with an infusion of punk rock melody; this record rips from beginning to end. Perfect for sound-tracking a night of drunken drive-by mailbox baseball.

9. Grave Miasma - Odori Sepulcrorum -  I like my death metal to leave a layer of grime on my eardrums, and Grave Miasma have that shit in constant supply. Monolithic riffs, ritualistic grooves, and enough of a blackened tilt to please the haters make Odori Sepulcrorum THE death metal album of 2013.

8. Seven Sisters of Sleep - Opium Morals - This shit really gets my motor running. A pummeling mix of groovy stoner/doom riffage and dbeat style crust punk set SSoS a head above their peers. The thing I like about Opium Morals is how well it shifts from style to style. Never boring, always crushing. SSoS deserve a hell of a lot more attention than they are getting. Their split 10" with Shaman's Owl was also one of the year's best.

7. Fell Voices - Regnum Saturni - Cavernous black metal in the vein of Ash Borer; Fell Voices came out of nowhere this year and delivered their best work to date. Regnum Saturni is icy, bleak, beautiful, and thought provoking. A great achievement by one of USBM's most important new bands.

6. Lycus - Tempest - Similar in style to bands like Ahab and Mournful Congregation while still being distinct, Lycus' particular brand of funeral is just about the saddest thing I've heard all year. Huge, depressing guitars, guttural vocals, and enough atmosphere to get lost in, Tempest sets a new benchmark for the genre. A must have.

5. Abstract Spirit - Theomorphic Defectiveness - More funeral doom! Russia's Abstract Spirit are masters of atmosphere. This record plays like the soundtrack to the end of days. The use of choirs and clean vocals (at times) really set Abstract Spirit apart from the rest of their genre peers. Ridiculously good.

4. Grave Upheval - Untitled - A lot of death metal bands claim to sound evil, and a lot of them succeed, but those bands don't hold a candle to claustrophobic darkness that is Grave Upheval. The band's untitled debut LP is what I imagine it would sound like to be in a bunker 30 feet below ground while the final judgement rages above. Pure. Fucking. Evil.

3. The Body - Christs, Redeemers - I played this record for my roommate the other day and he hated it so much. That, in essence, is what I love about The Body; you either love it and get lost in its hypnotic waves of artful noise, or you hate it and think it sounds like a choir singing while a dude gets kicked in the testicles. Listen and decide for yourself.

2. Gravecode Nebula - Sempiternal Void -  This album was a total surprise for me. I'd listened to Gravecode Nebula in the past and was never that impressed, but holy shit did they ever change my mind! Sempiternal Void is a chaotic mix of black/death/and doom that throbs and pulsates like a festering wound. Visceral, haunting, and all together sinister, Gravecode Nebula are officially a force to be reckoned with.

1. Usnea - Usnea - The debut album from Portland's Usnea is absolutely stunning. It's rare for such a young band (formed in 2011) to release such a fully formed album, but that's what you get here. The attention to detail on Usnea helps create an album that not only sounds fresh now, but will age beautifully. The first time I heard this record I thought "Man, that's really good." The second time I thought "Wow, this is the best thing I've heard all year." That was 6 months ago and my opinion is unchanged. A mournful and moving album that fuses the best of funeral doom and sludge with the chaotic cadence of black metal; Usnea's debut album is an absolute gem. If you're not on board with this, you're not doing it right. Essential.

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