Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013 Musical Releases PART I

     So, firstly, this post is to discuss and rate albums that came out in 2013 that I heard. There were plenty of releases this year that I either didn't listen to or didn't know about, so the list is lacking quite a bit, especially in the Death Metal realm. What this post lacks in completeness I hope it gains in diversity so that any reader can find an interesting new release to check out. If I can spread music to at least one other person, this post will have been worthwhile.
     I would also like to add that while I discovered a number of (now) classic (to me) releases this year, they did not come out in 2013 or were compilations of older material that was re-released. I may utilize a separate post for discussion of said releases.
     Also, I will gladly review any music that you, the reader, would like me to, simply leave a message on one of my posts or email me at


(In alphabetical order by artist):
1. Autopsy- "The Headless Ritual"
This American Death Metal Act is one of my all-time favorite for the genre and in music overall. They are inventive and fiercely original. They traditionally combine over-the-top drumming with even more over-the-top vocals that sound like a demented Cookie Monster alternately belching or being castrated. This all over a nasty, doomy, bloated and distended sounding death riffs that only Autopsy could muster. This release is no exception. In fact, I am tempted to call it my favorite since the bands re-formation in 2008/2009 though all said releases have been solid. The album starts out with 'Slaughter At Beast House' which has some super old sounding leads and quickly breaks into some tight almost d beat drums and evolves into some atmospheric soloing and doomy riffs before slamming right back into the grue. 'Mangled Far Below' keeps a more steady pace but, as always, with very interesting drumming. 'She Is A Funeral' gets points for its length (7+ minutes!) of solidity with some interesting effects on the guitar to open and some very clean sounding solos that work. 'Coffin Crawlers' is nice and creepy on the riffs. 'When Hammer Meets Bone' has some great drumming with excellent riffage, the main riff masterfully manages to mangle some minor notes then get even faster. Then the song starts crawling in slimy doom, it's a powerful transition that hasn't failed to amaze every time I listen to it. 'Thorns And Ashes' has as its main riff a bit of a change for Autopsy, less demented sounding, more powerful sounding but it works as a segue piece for 'Arch Cadaver' a great fast-to-mid-paced sing along saturated with catchiness. The last three tracks 'Flesh Turns To Dust,' 'Running From The Goathead,' and 'The Headless Ritual' are all solid and work in a similar vein to the rest of the album. Overall this album continues in the steps of 2011's "Macabre Eternal" in that Autopsy still sounds like Autopsy but the members of the current line-up have let some more influences flow through to keep the Autopsy sound fresh and always interesting. If you like Death Metal, BUY THIS! If you like muppets, BUY THIS!

2. The Beyond- "FrostbitePanzerFuck"
This release continues the sleazy punk rock style that has been creeping into this American Black Metal band's act. This is most notable on the opener "Roto-Cunt." The rest of the album continues with alternations between sounding more like early Norwegian Black Metal with tons of tremolo picking and blackened punk rock sleaze, though the opener is definitely the best example. I was a bit disappointed by this release as I expected the band to have gelled their style a bit more, but it seems to me that they are clinging too much to the Black Metal when they really want to let the sleazy punk rock in, and they should because they do it well. This is an American Abigail waiting to happen. Other songs of note are "Necro Overlord" for its thrashy overtones with a very punk approach, I hear plenty of Motorhead in there too. I also liked the album closer "Exterminate Humanity" for its slowness and doom in the mega-tough main riff that sounds quite a bit like an early Darkthrone rip-off (in a good way!), The Beyond actually manage it quite well considering the rest of the album keeps it pretty snappy in the speed department.

3. Black Sabbath- "13" (review of digipack release with bonus tracks)
Let me save you the trouble of reading below, BUYBUYBUY BUY NOW! If you now or have ever liked Black Sabbath in any incarnation, this release will not disapoint! Black Sabbath are without doubt in the upper reaches of my top 5 bands EVER and this album solidifies that position. I will also add that having seen them tour for this album in Philly, they still deliver and excellent stage show!
Ok, so about the tracks: 'End Of The Beginning' got a good bit of radio play, which it deserves, the opening riff is slow and doomy reminiscent of Black Sabbath's title track from their eponymous debut, without being derivative. The song flows through with some more classic riffs that satisfy most deeply, not mention Ozzy sounds great! This song really feels like an intentional throw back song to the old Black Sabbath material with Ozzy in both sound and lyrics and is a fantastic way to open the record, showcasing that fact that the band and the magic are back. Never Say Die! Right, so then we have 'God Is Dead?' which is nice and moody and does the doomy blues as only Black Sabbath can. This also got plenty of radio play and deserves it. The riff development and progression towards the end really hit the spot, including a slow, restrained solo. 'Loner' is a fun track that feels more like something off "Never Say Die" in composition and style but keeps some restraint and slowness so that the song goes from semi-slow doom crawl to hard rockin mid-pace quite well. 'Zeitgeist' gives us an effect-laden opening and some acoustic guitars and feels quite a bit like 'Planet Caravan' again without being derivative. 'Age of Reason' opens with some catchy drums and a catchy as all hell guitar lead, this track should have gotten more airplay, as it is a bit more accessible than other tracks, but it still very majestic and characteristic of mid-to-later Black Sabbath sound. 'Live Forever' gives us some sturm und drang with slow doom and mid-pace heaviness that is quite good. 'Damaged Soul' follows with plenty of blues and soul, possibly with some the most underrated riffing on the album. 'Dear Father' has some super heavy and powerful riffs in classic old Sabbath tradition, it easily could have come from the "Master Of Reality" album. 'Methademic' also starts with some moody, sad acoustics and picks up with some slow to mid paced riffing. This is a decent track but weaker in comparison to the rest of the album. 'Peace Of Mind' has some great classic style as well, with the bass pounding on through, just the way it should be in a slower Sabbath song. This also feels like a slowed-down version of something that could have been on "Never Say Die!" which is A-OK by me! The album closes with 'Pariah' which is also slow and sad then flows into some mid paced heavy and memorable riffing. This may not be a super epic closer worthy of the incredible opening but it more than satisfies and would be quite remarkable if it didn't have to keep pace with the rest of the album. It's like comparing a handful of gems to a hill of gold, all are valuable just one is more-so.

4. Carcass- "Surgical Steel"
I love Carcass and this album was a great return to the melodic Death Metal that they pioneered. It opens with '1985' a great stage-setting instrumental that suddenly drops away to 'Thrasher's Abbatoir' which delivers just as much thrash death metal brutality as its name suggests, great solos! 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' goes for more of a melodic approach but has mega-speed and toughness. 'A congealed Clot Of Blood' feels much older in the riffing and drum approach. Overall it has a feel like "Tools Of The Trade" updated a bit in production and style. This pattern of older style with a great mix of the more melodic style continues throughout the album with some more rocking riffs in 'Intensive Battery Brooding" (available in the digipack version or as a B-side on the "Captive Bolt Pistol" single 7"). If you like mid-period Carcass (and you should!) then this is a great release. They lyrics contain plenty of the classic Carcass medical musings but also a good bit of politics as well, which was much appreciated by yours truly. Keep in topical and brutal guys!

5. Coffins- "Fleshlands"
Coffins are an incredible doomy Death Metal band from Japan that sound an awful lot like the first Black Sabbath album mixed with Autopsy and the Amebix, so you know I love that shit! This album delivers very nicely their usual style with 'Hellbringer' being notable for its d beat smashfest that Coffins to so well, as well as 'Tormentopia' for its interesting and stonerish solos. A bit unique for Coffins! I look forward with great relish to seeing these guys at Maryland Deathfest in 2014!

6. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult- "Necrovision" The female-fronted German Black-Death Metallers deliver another unholy slab of dark nastiness. If you like their prior work, this will not disappoint! The whole album is perhaps more on the side of Black Metal than previous releases, though it is more balanced about halfway through the album. Overall it sounds like some very necro-productions from the early days of the Norwegian scene as bands were just starting to experiment with the sounds that would become their brand of Black Metal, so this release should appeal to fans of that sound as well. Onielar does great vocals and guitars throughout the album though perhaps her best screaming is on the last track "Necrocosmic Vision"

7. Darkthrone- "The Underground Resistance"
Darkthrone continue to let their older and older influences shine through with each release, this one sounding like a classic and slightly progressive album from the 70's mixed with a slight touch of your choice of awesome early 80's bands and of course filtered through Darkthrone's own sensibilities. These guys are yet another of my favorite acts for their devotion to the riff and production, who are not afraid to evolve their sound to keep the sounds of the underground alive. 'Dead Early' has a great tough riff and is mid-paced. 'Valkyrie' is slow and majestic, score on this one guys! 'Lesser Men' starts off with a mean riff that moves in some obscure directions that continue to feel progressive but darkly so like Voivod, and a bunch of other stuff I can't put my finger on. 'The Ones You Left Behind' is an awesome fist-pumping sing-along that sticks in your head like crazy glue, Darkthrone has been showing quite a talent for this on the last 4 or so albums. 'Come Warfare, The Entire Doom' earns its name with its slow Sabbath-y intro followed by some galloping and rocking bits with some excellent tough riffs that just blow you away about halfway through and don't let up until the solo'd out end. Finally, we end the album with the extra-powerful and progressive sounding "Leave No Cross Unturned." How one song can be so long (13+ minutes!) and remain so catchy, intense, and urgent is quite a feat. Fenriz has made it long known that he loves long tracks and this one showcases his skill at composing such songs. This song also marks the record as longest Darkthrone song ever, beating 1992's 'Kathaarian Life Code' by a full 3 minutes and 10 seconds. This is quite a feat when you consider the amount of atmospheric intro on 'Kathaarian...' GET THIS ALBUM!

8. Death In June- "The Snow Bunker Tapes" (Peaceful Snow Demos)
This album continues in the vein of Death In June's acoustic folk albums. If you like this period of DIJ's career, this release won't disappoint. If you are not, this release is not likely to convert you. If you've never listened to DIJ, check them out if you are interested in a melancholic and misanthropic acoustic guitar-driven folk band that focuses on themes related to Germanic culture. By the way, DIJ are ultra Left-wing and Douglas P (the brainchild behind DIJ) is openly gay. He's worked with Boyd Rice though, so take that how you may. See my prior review of DIJ live for more info on the band.

9. DOA- "We Come In Peace"
Much like Death In June, this album sounds like their other releases so if you like them, you'll like this, if not, this won't change your mind. That said, I love DOA so this albums was great! It doesn't sound like a copy of older work. Stand out tracks are 'We Occupy' and 'Who The Hell Do You Think You Are.' Also much like DIJ, see my earlier posting on DOA live for more info on the band.

10. Dubcon "UFO pon di gullyside"
Here's another great cEvin Key (of Skinny Puppy) collaborative side-project. Dancy and tripped out, this is a great release to sit down and do something weird (or mind-altering!) to. If you like the stuff his Subconscious Communications label has been putting out and you like his Plateau project and want more in a similar vein, this release is for you.

11. Evil Army- "I, Commander" 7" EP
Their first major release since their self-titled full-length debut in 2006, this EP delivers what this American Thrash Metal group is known for: catchy hooks with fast nasty riffs and drumming, overall sounding like some of the best 80's black thrash that effortlessly incorporates some punk roots. I got to see the band on tour in support of the 7" and they sounded awesome! Even more powerful than on the recordings, quite blistering. I will say that a ton of rumors circulated around the tour suggesting that the members of Evil Army were stealing equipment, but I can neither confirm nor deny. I can only judge the music. Also, the show I saw ended very quickly and abruptly. The band showed up late, played only about 20-30 min (even though they were headlining) and then they bailed out early so that was a let down. This was exacerbated for some in attendance by the fact that Suffocation was playing a few blocks away at the same time and many had to choose between shows. I will add that it was an incredible, energy-packed 20-30 minutes though. If they can keep their shit together, this will be a band to watch, and they have already been featured on Fenriz of Darkthrone's 'Band of the Week.'

12.  Front Line Assembly-"Echogenic"
FLA is a mostly Canadian electronic band known for its prolific frontman, Bill Leeb and its early contributions to the industrial and body music genres. This album was a departure from even FLA's varied sound. It seems like Bill Leeb (FLA mastermind and former Skinny Puppy member) is having a hard time keeping all his projects separate (I can't even count how many projects he has, it seems there is always another or a new one), since this album is missing the intensity or directness characteristic of most FLA albums in favor of a slower, slightly trippy, and often pop or disco like leads/hooks hiding behind the distortion. I can't really get into this album too much, at best it will probably live on as background music for me at best. The album does attempt to return to a more focused and stripped down sound, which I appreciate, but it is largely unsuccessful. I hope this serves as a transitional album in the bands career, with the new line-up gelling together and pooling their talents for a killer release next time.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

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