No objectivity from me, but that’s besides the point: this is killer stuff. It’ll get filed under that newish wave of experimental metal ala Ulcerate, Gorguts, Portal, and Deathspell Omega, but the noise rock and late ’90s “chaotic metalcore” influence is strong (think forgotten bands like Playing Enemy, or Mike Hill’s pre-Tombs project Anodyne). But there’s an improvisational element you don’t really here elsewhere, which pushes this into territories unknown. Not an easy listen by any means, but this is some killer mindfuck metal.
Such a weird, great record. You know you’re in for a good ride when you can’t even describe what you’re hearing, but it’s catchy as fuck.
I know I wasn’t the one to write about it, but goddamn that Artificial Brain record is the tits. (Coffinworm, too.)
I blame myself, if only for not wearing more flamboyant metal shirts at the office. My vast metallic wisdom could have saved us all.
I’ll always respect Adrien and I’m a huge fan of his writing (though our listening habits only cross over on occasiona, seemingly at random) but I think the dB essay comes off a bit strange, as if it’s framed incorrectly. It’s put forth as this Definitive Stamp on 2013, yet it reads more like the personal chronicle of someone struggling to keep up with the whims and shifts of a genre he’s long self-identified with. In Mike’s post he mentions that it might just be a case of semantics, and I think that’s exactly it. When a lot of us talk about “metal”, we’re not talking (only) Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Metallica. Metal to me–and maybe it’s because I’ve been reading Decibel magazine for years, and their open approach to all types of heavy and extreme music has clearly rubbed off–is a wide, wide genre, much like rock n roll was before it dissolved into a billion unrelated fragments. Maybe metal will do that, too, and this is just a noticeable point of transition. Either way, I’m more than happy with the current “every direction at once” expansion of the metal world.
Evil always returns ;-)
This might make me sound like a really goofy version of a “nothing but the demos” elitist, but in this case it’s true: I way prefer Under the Running Board over anything else they did.
Thanks for the kind words!
The new Triptykon record comes out in April, which should rule. Woods of Desolation has a great one coming out in January, which I expect we’ll be covering soon. And then two from Profound Lore coming in early 2014: the long-delayed (and well worth the wait) Avichi record, as well as Artificial Brain which is… mindblowing. Fans of the weirder, organic/tech records of 2013 will love this thing. Think new Gorguts, Ulcerate, and Castevet rolled into one. The year is off to a good start before it begins!
Honestly we all listen to just about all of it anyway, but our individual taste tends to shine through in the lower ranked entries on a list like this. If I hear good power metal, I’m more than happy to write about it, and the same goes for more mainstream metal stuff. That said, plenty of stuff gets passes over simply because it isn’t very good (I assume no one reading this site is clamoring for coverage of the new Pop Evil record, for example).
I think you can read it as a bias if you choose to, but it’s not necessarily that black and white. By my count we have 20 black metal albums on the list… with maybe another dozen or so that have a black metal influence. Granted, virtually every “black metal” release on here has major influences from other genres as well: Aksumite could as well be a noisy punk band, Ruins of Beverast is far more doom than black, etc. And then you’ve got “black metal bands” who didn’t make black metal albums, like Darkthrone (who made a straight up trad metal throwback) and Altar of Plagues (closer to industrial). If anything, I’d say our list tends to hone in on the hybrid bands mostly just because they’re often doing the most interesting stuff, and those bands have a tendency to draw from black metal slightly more often than other styles for whatever reason. FWIW, I’m a “death metal guy” (along with Doug, though I can’t speak for him), and I’m pretty stoked with the way this thing shook out.
I caught Deafheaven in LA and had the exact same reaction to the crowd. The issue with a band that’s getting sudden crossover attention from “mainstream” press sources is that you get an entire different type of audience, the type more interested in the buzz itself than the band or the actual music. LA is probably more prone to this than most places, but I assume NYC isn’t far off. A metal show thrives on a certain type of enthusiasm (even if it’s, um, misanthropic), or the sense of community Mike mentions in his writeup–the crowd I saw was more content to talk over the songs… something that shouldn’t even be possible at a metal show. I stand by Sunbather as an album, but I found the Deafheaven live experience frustrating almost entirely due to the crowd.
I spun it once off of youtube… I’m not sure how they distributed that record, but it never really popped up via the normal channels, which is why so many outlets probably ignored it. It was definitely interesting… just a wee batshit for my tastes. Definitely worth hearing, but I’m not sure if I’d pony up the bucks for that one, especially when the back catalog still exists and kicks so much ass.
Good call on Ulcerate and Portal for sure–I know they just missed inclusion here by a few votes. (I need to hear this Blodsgard still…)
Argus was another solid record with clean singing, along with Sinister Realm. Both were solid, but not necessarily amazing… hence their absence here. I was beyond excited for Atlantean Kodex after the first album became an instant trad classic, but the new one left me a little bit cold, sadly.
I go into every year hoping for some amazing trad metal or non-terrible power metal (Blind Guardian!)–this year it came by way of Satan, and it is definitely worth hearing. Spun that on vinyl at a friend’s house this weekend and I think we had some new converts by the time it was through.
Good call, Jim! That’s easily my favorite track I’ve heard in ages.
(And Avichi’s kicking some ass, too.)
I lurk in the shadows. Thanks for the support, Jim!
I’ve always had a weird fascination with “Heavy 33″ by the Verlaines. It sounded like nothing else here, and it still seems like hardly anyone else remembers that band. For the record, their greatest hits collection is pretty stellar, and I never would have found it had I not heard them here first, many, many years earlier.
Besides that, “Glynis” and “Effigy” rule pretty hard.
That’s exactly what it is. A double-disc compilation of random covers recorded across the years: some recorded “new” at the time of release (1998), some randomly tossed off at various points, and some pulled from the old Garage Days EP that they did in ’87, which was Newsted’s first proper recorded appearance in advance of …And Justice For All. As a collection it’s more of a curio than anything… some decent tunes, some dogshit, and in ’90s Metallica fashion, just waaaaaay too fucking long.
What’s interesting to see is what constitutes “best” here… I get the sense St. Anger is coming out above Load because St. Anger is the more “metal” of the two, which is pretty much undeniable. I draw the line between the two simply: I can listen to Load. St. Anger is a horrendous, unpleasant listen, bereft of songs, literally painful to experience (that. fucking. SNARE.). At it’s best, Load sounds like Down, or Crowbar-lite. They were mixing southern rock with metal in a way that occasionally hit hard, and was rarely awful if not exactly exciting. Sure, the country songs suck, but they’re just as much of a creative departure as the nu-metal freakouts were on St. Anger, and at the time plenty of folks thought “Hero of the Day” worked just fine. In defense of Reload: I like Marianne Faithfull enough to get excited to hear her voice in the midst of an otherwise feeble record.
Doug, I know we’ve debated plenty on this list already, but I gotta hand it to you: this is a killer piece of work. Stellar album write-ups, completely respectable order (ever if we disagree), and I now feel a desperate need to listen to Master of Puppets on my drive home. Cheers!
My personal order:
1. Ride the Lightning
2. Master of Puppets
3. And Justice For All
4. Kill Em All
5. Black Album
7. Death Magnetic
10. St. Anger
I get the sentiment, and I see where you’re coming from, but I also think an awful lot of metalheads would agree that the first four metallica albums are literally better than all other metal. Of all the albums you mention I’d put Metallica handily above each, with the caveat that Led Zeppelin really are not a metal band, no matter what they occasionally got called in the early days.
Great list, and a great overall understanding of the band in question. That said, I obviously disagree with a few placements, naturally, because I’ve always been such a massive U2 fan, and I’m coming into this with a different set of age-related expectations. I can see why some folks like ATYCLB, but honestly… it’s so completely watered down compared to virtually every album that came before. I’d take October over ATYCLB in a heartbeat. Or Pop. Probably even Rattle and Hum, though I fully understand putting that one last. Latter day U2 is supremely disappointing, sad to say, with HTAaAB as the worst offender of all. Achtung Baby at #1, though: spot on.
Yeah, it’s funny when a band dodges a particular association only to have all of us writer-folk make the obvious comparisons anyway. Oh well.
The feedback is much appreciated!
As our group’s resident Blind Guardian nerd and sometimes power metal fan (as well as being a preexisting fan of Atlantean Kodex) I probably could have knocked out that writeup from a place of comfort, but I’m glad Doug got to do it for a few reasons. (1) It’s fun to cast against type, and (2) I think Doug hits on an important point. With so many entry-points to the genre, it’s easy to find your way in without developing much of an interest in “classic” heavy metal, particularly when it comes to some of the more flamboyantly melodic offshoots. There can be a fine line between tastefully majestic (Atlantean Kodex) and hamfistedly cheesy (Hammerfall), and I think that’s more or less what Doug was expressing here.
Re: the “doom” thing. It’s largely how the band describes themselves, in part, I’m assuming, to avoid the “cheesy” stigma of being called power or trad metal. Sure, “Epic Traditional Doom” in this sense sounds to the modern ear like slowed-down power metal, when in reality power metal is really just sped-up traditional metal anyway. It’s all about perception. It’s a wide genre when you’ve got bands playing stoner doom stuff butting up against death/doom, funeral doom, drone/doom, and then more melodic stuff like this, which is just a variant on classic metal played slower. Argus are another modern band doing something similar, and they typically get tagged the same way.
PS. I love that you take the time to engage so fully with everything on this list every month. Your comments / track breakdowns are fucking awesome, and I hope they continue!
I like. Safe bet that anything Sean is willing to post over at cvltnation is well worth hearing, and this doesn’t disappoint. Gnaaaaarly vocals, and I dig the weird sci-fi leads that swoop in out of nowhere.
I have to chime in (again) just to second everything Doug wrote about the new Oranssi Pazuzu. Stellar fucking record.
Color me jealous.