I know we are film makers and that primarily this is a blog for film musings but music is my other great love and I’ve not seen enough movies this year for me to do a “best-of” list. I have however listened to a lot of music, I’m also curious to see if any of our readers are on the same page as me musically as my tastes are rather niche. Please read ahead and comment!
2013 has been a banner year for music and one where I’ve tried to be less selective about my listening choices. I’ve opened up my heart and my ears to more than my usual Hip-Hop/Metal palette, not much but it’s a noticeable amount. I’m not going to round this list into a number or put into genre sub-lists but I’m just going to write about each album as they appear to me whilst scrolling through my iTunes.
Disfiguring The Goddess – Black Earth Child/Deprive. (Brutal Death Metal)
Cameron Argon has been good to us this year, first announcing a new album then streaming it for free alongside an unannounced send sister album. The first, Deprive follows on from 2011’s Sleeper, exploring his love of electronic music in a much more subtle way than that album. It augments the brilliant Brutal Death Metal on show here much more comfortably making an extremely aggressive album a lot more dynamic than it could have been. The second Black Earth Child finds Argon exploring a more straight up, old-school Death Metal style, a bit slower, a bit more stabbing but no less affecting. Two brilliant, brutal albums from a one man machine.
Mephistopheles – Sounds of the End. (Technical Death Metal)
This Tasmanian band is new to me but their heritage is impressive, featuring former members of Spawn of Possession and Psycroptic. As you can imagine, they play a brand of almost cosmically warped Technical Death Metal, made all the more tantalising with jazzy flourishes and clean vocal led passages ala Cynic. This is a release that begs to be listened to over and over again such is it’s vast genre hopping and deep, complex structuring. Initially bewildering and uncompromising in it’s strangeness, the pieces soon form to show you a genius whole.
The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults (The Blazing Gospel Of Heinrich Kramer) (Progressive Black/Doom/Death Metal)
I don’t much about the one man who forms The Ruins of Beverast but I can tell you, he must be a very busy man. This is a staggeringly complex album, well over an hour long and compromised of an embarrassing wealth of genres and dynamics. He tackles bleak, harrowing Black Metal one minute before bringing in magnificent, Doomy riffs the next. There are even choral segments and lyrics in Latin. It’s a tiring listen but so ripe with detailed religiously themed lyrics, genre blending brilliance and haunting atmospherics that you’ll hear something new 100 listens in. It’s the most dense, impressive listen of the year, how one man put this together alone is beyond my comprehension.
Chelsea Wolf – Pain is Beauty (Dark/Atmospheric Folk)
Chelsea Wolfe is one of those new found frontiers I’ve been discovering. I came across her name several times because she’s a big metal fan and has toured with and covered many of my favourite bands but up until this year I was too close minded to see how she fit. She plays beautiful, haunting folk music with a despair that is that obvious link to the Doomy kind of bands she is often on the road with. It’s her sense of pacing and build up that wins it for me, she has this brilliant knack for pushing a lyric over and over again till it swells and swells and she keeps pushing to cathartic climax. It’s spellbinding, as is her amazing voice.
Drake – Nothing Was The Same (Hip-Hop)
Drake is someone who receives a lot of flack simply for having a softer side, something not often acknowledged by the lunkheadedly macho Hip-Hop world. But Drake can hang with the big boys, his croon is abundant here but his ability to craft a hook means he is probably the most in demand feature in all of Hip-Hop and when the time calls, he can rap rings around some of the toughest competition the game has to offer. His lyrical schtick can be a little samey bout you get that with most Hi-Hop artists and when the beats are this good (and with NWTS, you get 5 or 6 of the best beats of the year and one of the most cohesive sounds an HH album has given jus this year) it’s hard to resist.
Dirty Dike – Sloshpot EP/Return of the Twat. (UK Hip-Hop)
Earlier this year, Dike gave us something different. A more reflexive, less boisterous piece of work in The Sloshpot EP. He even sounded a bit sad, regretful even. But he came back mid-year to bring us his most outrageous, offensive album yet – Return of the Twat. It was business as usual for Dike, spitting bars about graffiti, slags, drugs, slags and drugs. But even in the 5 month gap between the two, Dike had become noticeably even more lyrically dextrous, giving us some of his best bars yet. And as usual, the whole gang came along giving us the biggest Hip-Hop track of the year with just about everyone of note in the UKHH scene; Stig Of The Dump, Dr. Syntax, BVA, Datkid, Verb T, Jam Baxter, Ed Scissortoungue, Mr. Key, Fliptrix & Leaf Dog. Get that? Cripes.
Bölzer – Aura (Atmospheric/Progressive Death Metal)
This Swiss oddity is just three tracks deep and twenty minutes long but if it’s anything to go by then this is the band to watch out for. Death Metal is a genre that is usually a paint by numbers thing, Doom and Black are the ones tamper with traditionally. But there’s something very off about this demo, it’s Death Metal but not as we know it. Those growls sometimes drift into pained yelps, as if the lead singer is stuck down a well, or more appropriately, in a black hole. This is the most cosmic I’ve ever heard DM, I’ve heard DM with a Sci-Fi bent, but this is different, this isn’t so much alien as spectral, as if from a different dimensional. It also happens to be downright anthemic and it’s brief length lends it to repeat listens, one after the other because it simply compels you to.
Okay, lots of ground to cover, quick-fire round.
Kanye West – Yeezus (Post Neo-Industrial Punk-Hop?)
What can be said that hasn’t already? This is the most game changing album that has been released all year and the age doesn’t even know it yet. Just like people dismissed 808’s and Heartbreak back in 2008 and then 3 years later, Drake appeared and everyone was hoping on ‘Ye’s style, so to has Yeezus been shunned. But years from now this will be regarded as monumental and jumped on by every young gun in the game.
Flatbush Zombies – BetterOffDEAD (Hip-Hop)
Flatbush Zombies aggressive, psychedelic take on Hip-Hop is as woozy and disorientating as it is infectious. Like a zombie I suppose. You won’t find bars as aggressive, on point or dextrous as this lot on any mixtape this year nor any set of beats this East Coast old-school. It’s a perfect package and for my money, the best true Hip-Hop release of the year.
Intronaut – Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones) (Prog Metal)
A lush, bouncing prig album. Intronaut pretty much dropped all of their heavier aspects and released the most relaxing set of riffs you could imagine.
Palms – S/T (Post-Metal)
When Chino from Deftones gets together with 3/5’s of Isis what do you get? A band that sounds like Isis with Deftones lead singer. It’s that good
Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (Hip-Hop)
Pusha’s debut gave you everything you’d expect and more. his Kanye co-sign has given him access to a litany of great beats to throw his drug takes down over.
Deafheaven – Sunbather (Black Metal)
The great divider. A Black Metal album with major chords and is that hope I hear? Either the future of Black Metal or horrible, hipster/emo rubbish depending on who you talk to. It’s a monumental record filled with beauty and sadness and a sense of dynamics not possessed by a great deal of “kvlt” Black Metal.
Ephel Duath – Hemmed by Light, Shaded by Darkness (Progressive Death Metal)
A truly bizarre album. Death Metal if you simplify it but ultimately it’s much more human than that, pained and structureless, bolstered by a truly harrowing vocal performance.
Inter Arma – Sky Burial (Psychedelic Post Black/Death/Doom & More)
No record this year besides Kanye’s has mixed genre’s so deftly. Psychedelia wraps itself around Doom majesty, Black Metal horror and crushing Sludge. Album of the Year but one that I feel I’ve also barely scratched the surface of.
Rivers of Nihil – The Conscious Seed Of Light (Progressive Technical Death Metal)
Technical Death Metal in the best possible way. Not noddley, aimless crap like, most of it’s genre ilk, but dense, and consuming. Riffs galore, it sounds like what Morbid Angel’s latest should have.
Rag ’n’ Bone Man & Leaf Dog – Dog ’n’ Bone EP (Soul/UKHH)
Rag ’n’ Bone Man has a glorious soulful voice. Throw a couple of Leaf Dog verses and production from the man throughout and you have the saddest, most bluesy HH record of the year.
Ulcerate – Vermis (Progressive Atmospheric Death Metal)
The Kiwi beasts return and somehow take their template and make even more impenetrable before. This music makes me believe in magic because I have no idea how anything like this can be conceived. Insane in every sense of the word and tectonic in it’s size.
Vaura – The Missing (Goth-y Post Black Metal)
This is Black Metal as a musical base without the screeching that would put off most casual listeners. Instead you get pseudo-80’s Goth crooning. It’s a potent, melancholic mix.
Vattnet Viskar – Sky Swallower (Post Black Metal)
Black Metal made massive. Bolted to a Post Metal backbone, this is BM almost in slow motion. Simply breathtaking.
Stomach Earth – S/T (Doom)
Doom Metal in it’s fiercest, most stomping variety. The vocals are clearly augmented but that doesn’t stop them from being
(The Swedish) Shining – 8 1/2 Feberdrommar I Vaket Tillstan (Depressive Black Metal)
Shining mailman Nicolas Kvarforth brought in an A-list selection of Black Metal vocalists to re-record a bunch of old tunes. The results are as brilliant as it sounds.
Primitive Man – Scorn (Sludge)
Nothing was as audibly pissed off this year. Deeply, deeply misanthropic and suffocating in it’s sound, yet it’s endlessly listenable and actually a little bit fun. That comes from a reverential treatment of their hatefulness and a deftness of composition that few bands can match.
Lychgate – S/T (Black Metal)
Black Metal with ritualistic flourishes, keyboards and choirs. Never as cheesy as it could have been, this a dark and exhilarating stuff.
Cult of Luna – Vertikal (Post Metal)
A thematic concept record loosely based on Metropolis. It’s industrial churn matches it’s lyrical content. Good thing it is as high and dense as it is because just days ago the Swedes announced their hiatus.
Hate Meditation – Scars (Black Metal)
After dabbling in gothed up synths and psychedelic flourishes with main band Nachtmystium, Blake Judd gives us a dose of unadulterated Black Metal. Lacerating, essential.
- THE RUINS OF BEVERAST Streaming New Album (americanaftermath.net)
- Grim Kim’s Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2013 (metalsucks.net)
- What if Black and Death Metal Albums Were Children’s Books? (metalsucks.net)