‘Tis the season for making best of the year lists. I can’t claim any great authority for this list – there are many releases from this year that I haven’t heard, and also many that I’ve heard that haven’t really had time to sink in. But no one wants a “best of 2013” list that comes out in July 2014, so this will have to do.
But feel free to leave a comment asking, “But how could you leave off [insert your favorite album here]?” It’ll probably be something that I missed out on and should hear.
Looking over the list, 2013 seems to be a great year for comeback albums, EPs, and music inspired by Dante.
Honorable mention: Between Two Worlds – Rannoch.
This is a really lovely piece of chuggy, 8-string-driven technical death metal. I think it might well have made my list this year, but I haven’t had quite enough time to digest it, since it came out late in the year, and I’ve been listening pretty obsessively to my top-ranked pick for the last few weeks.
10. Raynham Hall – Sweet Ermengarde
I think it’s fair to say that Sweet Ermengarde pay an obvious tribute to Fields of the Nephilim, with their pulsating bass lines, chiming guitars, and baritone vocalist. But this album is much more than a nostalgia exercise, managing to bring these elements together in a way that feels fresh.
9. The Wisdom of Crowds – Bruce Soord and Jonas Renkse
Bruce Soord wrote a collection of songs designed to be the perfect foil for Jonas Renkse’s voice. What could be bad about that?
8. Ascension to the Throne Ov Self – Sidous
Blast beats, a mighty vocal roar, and judicious use of keyboards make for four tracks of majestic blackened death metal.
7. The Manuscript – My Dying Bride
Thunderous riffs, plaintive violin, and Aaron Stainthorpe’s lyrical gift for conjuring imagery are here in abundance in the space of just four songs. A perfect miniature of an MDB release.
6. Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού – Rotting Christ
From the hypnotic opening track, “In Yumen-Xibalba” to the odd jangly piano of “Cine iubește și lasă” to the stirring chant of “χξς”, this album is an aural delight, if an orthographer’s nightmare.
5. Surgical Steel – Carcass
Not sure what I can say that won’t be said by everyone else who’ll be putting this on their list this year. I had some doubts about whether Carcass would deliver after such a long hiatus, and they did.
4. Tunnel of No Light – October Tide
Doom with a hint of groove, overlaid with beautiful melodic lead guitars. I just keep coming back to this one.
3. The Brightest Light – The Mission
The second comeback album on my list, and also one about which I had my doubts. This album sees the band explore a variety of styles, from the blues-rock of “Black Cat Bone”, to the country-inflected “Ain’t No Prayer in the Bible Can Save Me Now” to the shimmering gothic rock of “Swan Song”. But it all works.
2. Demo MMXIII – Temple of Void
What happens when you layer Paradise Lost-style guitar leads on top of Bolt Thrower-esque riffs, and top the whole thing off with a vocalist who sounds like he’s gargling razor blades in Hell (quite literally in the case of the track “Exanimate Gaze,” which features lyrics quoted straight from Dante’s Inferno)? You get Temple of Void. Perhaps it’s ridiculous to put a mere three song demo so high on my list, but if it is, I’ll be ridiculous.
1. Canto III – Eye of Solitude
These 66 minutes of music based on Dante’s Inferno make for a true sonic journey. There are moments of crushing heaviness, moments of quiet, moments of rage, and moments of sadness. It’s an enthralling album from start to finish.