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Sargon the Terrible

This was a year when I got so far behind on my promos that it became finally clear that no mere mortal can possibly claim to hear even a fraction of what is out there. Far from being a list of the Top Ten, this is just a list of the Ten Best Albums I Heard. Make of that what you will.

Best Albums


1. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

I waited seemingly forever for this album, and it fulfilled every possible expectation I had. A complete masterwork.


2. Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn

Seven years after the milestone of Oath Bound, Summoning return and show everybody how it's done with the best album of their career.


3. Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle

Out of Utah comes the fantastic debut of this band who came within a hair of matching Summoning at their own game.


4. The Fall Of Every Season - Amends

An unexpected, massive, powerful Doom album. Atypical and moving.


5. Mael Mordha - Damned When Dead

This Irish band can do no wrong, and their latest is no exception.


6. Nordland - The True Cult of the Earth

The arrival of a real force on the landscape of Black Metal.


7. Amon Amarth - Deceiver of the Gods

The wrath of the Northmen shall not be easily turned aside.


8. Alpha Tiger - Beneath the Surface

A joyful, energetic slab of old-fashioned Heavy Metal.


9. Battle Dagorath - Cursed Storm of Ages

Epic Black Metal obsessed with Tolkien. Not original, but compelling.


10. Cauchemar - Tenebrario

A fine full-length debut for this occult band of Doom fiends. An album I can't stop spinning.


MetalMike

2013 seemed like a down year until I went back through my list of reviews and found it quite difficult to cut the list down to only 10. Nobody was going to outdo Atlantean Kodex but, after that, it was wide open. My list has a good number of new bands to go along with the more established acts and a couple of bands that been around for a long time but still know how to get it done. As with prior years, I only consider bands I've reviewed for The Metal Crypt, so if you favorite album is missing, it could be I didn't hear it or, more likely, I just didn't like it.

Best Albums


1. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

The White Goddess is best album of the year, by far, and is destined to be one of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time.


2. Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn

I felt like I was reading The Lord of the Rings while listening to Old Mornings Dawn, so evocative are the moods and atmospheres created by Summoning. This band has been at the Epic Heavy Metal thing for a long time and still manages to sound fresh.


3. Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle

Echoes of Battle could easily be considered 2A on this list, but I'm going to give the masters, Summoning, the edge. That in no way should be seen as taking anything away from these newcomers, who have released an album of deep, rich atmospheres that takes the listener to a land and time far away.


4. Armory - Empyrean Realms

It took this Massachusetts band seven years to release the follow up to their debut, Dawn of Enlightenment, but rarely has an album been worth so long a wait. Empyrean Realms is near-perfect Power Metal with songwriting that is almost flawless.


5. Oliva - Raise the Curtain

Ostensibly a solo record, Raise the Curtain contains the last remaining music written by Jon Oliva's brother, Criss, prior to his tragic passing. This makes Raise the Curtain as close to a new Savatage album as we're likely to ever hear. If that weren't enough, the songs are all outstanding.


6. Taberah - Necromancer

Necromancer contains more awesome Power Metal, this time from down under. Speedy and catchy are two of my favorite adjectives and they describe this album to a tee.


7. The Devil - The Devil

More often than not, "different" means an album isn't very good, but that couldn't be more wrong when describing The Devil. Not anything you would expect from the title, this combination of Doom Metal and powerful, historic spoken word is something quite special.


8. Argus - Beyond the Martyrs

Album #3 from Pennsylvania's Doom merchants starts off in familiar Argus fashion but by the end, the songwriting takes a huge leap forward. Beyond the Martyrs contains some of the best stuff this band has ever created.


9. Ranger - Knights of Darkness

I almost never include EPs on my end of year lists but Ranger's Knights of Darkness so faithfully recreates the classic 80s Speed/Thrash sound, I couldn't leave it off.


10. The Meads of Asphodel - Sonderkommando

Not for the faint of heart, this view into the Holocaust of World War II is as moving as it is disturbing.

Disappointments


1. Serenity - War of Ages

I originally gave this release a pretty good rating but it hasn't stood the test of time very well. After the amazing Death & Legacy, War of Ages seems a bit flat and one-dimensional after repeated spins.


2. Love.Might.Kill - 2 Big 2 Fail

The use of "2" instead of "too" should tell you all you need to know. LOVE.MIGHT.KILL has turned in a commercial direction and while they can still write some good Heavy Metal, they seem to be heading in another direction.


3. Nightbitch - Chainmaker

The name Phil Swanson usually means things like "underground" and "cool" but this release by Nightbitch sounds like Danzig, which is the opposite of "underground" and "cool."


4. Arctic Flame - Shake the Earth

A band with a cool name, cool artwork and cool album titles just keeps cranking out crappy records. I keep waiting for them to step up and blow me away, but after Shake the Earth, I'm still waiting.


Christopher Foley

Best Albums


1. Dream Theater - Dream Theater

To think, I thought the last one was a pinnacle amongst their work. Here they reaffirm everything that was ever good about Dream Theater, completely eschewing the trendy Portnoy elements that arguably plagued their 00's output.


2. Armory - Empyrean Realms

I didn't expect this to be so good, pure power metal bliss. If you have a love for the style then Empyrean Realms is an album you seriously need.


3. Arrayan Path - IV: Stigmata

Another one I didn't expect, it just keeps growing on me. Excellent performances and stellar songwriting has ensured this a place in my playlists ever since I first heard it.


4. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

I'm sure this will make album of the year for a few people, and rightly so. Some of the best heavy metal you're going to hear. Absolutely colossal, and it destroys The Golden Bough.


5. Stratovarius - Nemesis

Maybe their best, either way Stratovarius have continued to jump from strength to strength since the exodus of Tolkki. Nemesis is no different, and a step into exciting territory both for the band and genre.


6. Tyr - Valkyrja

Armed to the teeth with catchy and addictive songs, Týr have never sounded so good. The shift to near full-fledged power metal is a good one in my book.


7. Carcass - Surgical Steel

In a year of comebacks this one takes the cake. Plenty of Heartwork-style magic to be heard throughout, this one gets better every time.


8. In Solitude - Sister

Another surprise, In Solitude ditched a portion of their eighties metal worship in favor of Goth rock and managed to land right on the money, in a word; spellbinding.


9. Helloween - Straight Out of Hell

Their strongest album in a good while, everything great about modern Helloween is here in spades. This was one of my saving graces early in the year.


10. Evertale - Of Dragons and Elves

Despite being released at the very end of the year, Evertale ensured themselves a spot on my list thanks to their muscular approach to the fantasy power metal album. The riffs are aplenty in this delightful romp through Ansalon. Imagine a cross between Blind Guardian and Gamma Ray with Tim Ayamar helming, and you wouldn't be too far off!


Luxi Lahtinen

Best Albums


1. Violator - Scenarios of Brutality

Reeking of smelly denim, this album is energetic and fast with violent, crossover riffs that make your ears bleed from pure enjoyment. This is Thrash done right.


2. Onslaught - VI

Legendary British Thrash veterans prove yet again that their comeback was meant to happen. This is absolutely their best recording since the band reformed in 2004.


3. Satan's Host - Virgin Sails

These Denver, Colorado-based blackened Heavy Metal heroes just keep releasing amazing albums year after year. There are quite a few moments on this record that send cold shivers down your spine.


4. Deicide - In the Minds of Evil

Glen Benton and his true disciples of Satan are back with a vengeance. In the Minds of Evil is clearly one of Deicide's best works to date, hands down!


5. Panikk - Unbearable Conditions

Bay Area Thrash Metal by way of Slovenia. This band came out of nowhere and captures the Bay Area vibe and spirit perfectly on their debut. You say Vio-lence's Oppressing the Masses kick ass? So does Unbearable Conditions by Panikk.


6. Autopsy - The Headless Ritual

After the long-awaited comeback of the mighty goremeisters Autopsy, the California veterans put out Macabre Eternal, which managed to squeeze the shit out of me. The Headless Ritual throws us another chunk of rotten flesh, pus and maggots, served by a headless torso. So tasty, so yummy indeed...


7. Scythe - Subterranean Steel

Rick Scythe doesn't make empty promises just some magnificent sounding, blackened Thrash Metal. That's you get on the band's second album, Subterranean Steel. Rick lets his Metal flow beautifully and Subterranean Steel has earned an unconditional place on my personal Top Ten Albums Of 2013 list.


8. Fueled By Fire - Trapped in Perdition

Still relatively young, the third album from these California thrashers also happens to be their best to date. Combine such names as Death, Slayer, Dark Angel and Devastation into one tight package, and you have Trapped in Perdition. Riff-tastic old school Thrash with style.


9. Condition Critical - Operational Hazard

They are nicknamed "Demolition Hammer Jr." and, after hearing this debut, I don't wonder why at all. Devastatingly murderous, crispy, in-yer-fuckin-face Thrash. Gotta love this release.


10. Ranger - Knights of Darkness

Young Finnish Speed Metal merchants fuse the pure, old-school Heavy Metal of Whiplash, Exciter, Spectre, Destructor, Slayer and such, on their 5-track mini-LP. Ranger offers us a nostalgic trip back to the times when head-banging, beer drinking and wearing denim vests were a mandatory part of youth.


Edward T. Head

Best Albums


1. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess

Maybe the best album of the last few years. Exceeds simple music with its sheer emotion, and somehow manages to surpass their already outstanding prior output. Quickly became one my favorite albums of all time.


2. Amorphis - Circle

The role these Finns have been on since 2006's Eclipse is astounding, all leading to this 2013 masterpiece of moody Gothic/Folk Metal.


3. Wisdom - Marching for Liberty

Power Metal like it's 1996 all over again. Incredibly fun and catchy, with great lead work and excellent choral vocals.


4. Exhumed - Necrocracy

The student surpassed the master, with this album easily besting Carcass's comeback. The combo of traditional song structure, and grinding Death Metal, is nearly perfect.


5. Evertale - Of Dragons and Elves

Imagine a heavier, less fruity Rhapsody, then make that band even better. Best debut of the year.


6. Manilla Road - Mysterium

Fixing the issues that bogged down the previous album, the USA's best band release an album harkening back to the glory days of "Crystal Logic" and "The Deluge".


7. Mael Mordha - Damned When Dead

Heavy, heady and dripping with emotion, much like country-mates, Primordial. These Irish gents improve an already impressive résumé with each release.


8. Hell - Curse & Chapter

Proving that that the "comeback" album was no fluke, and surpassing it with several tracks. Occult-themed, NWOBHM-tinged metal at its best.


9. Keldian - Outbound

Spaced-out Power Metal with a touch of AOR, makes for an immediately memorable listen.


10. Sulphur Aeon - Swallowed by the Ocean's Tide

Into the realm of the Great Old Ones, this album is Lovecraftian feast of claustrophobic, wall-of-sound, Blackened Death Metal.

Disappointments


1. Black Sabbath - 13

Even with low expectations, this Ozzy/Sabbath comeback was still disappointing. Lack-luster, go-through-the-motions songwriting, coupled with Ozzy's deteriorating vocals, made for an incredibly boring experience.


2. Holy Grail - Ride the Void

Prior release, "Crisis in Utopia", was an excellent piece of modernized, traditional Heavy Metal, with excellent songwriting. This album simply fell flat with a lack of anything memorable.


3. Rotting Christ - Kata ton Daimona Eaytoy

While not that different from the last album, something about this one just didn't stick. It feels more akin to world music that metal. Cool packaging, though.


4. Queensrÿche - Queensryche

Not a bad album, but with all the live videos of the Todd la Torre-fronted group performing older scorchers, it was more than a little disheartening to hear a mid-paced effort, more in line with "Promised Land".


5. Rhapsody of Fire - Dark Wings of Steel

Never thought I'd say it, but this incarnation of the band sorely misses Luca Turilli. Gone are the huge and memorable choruses, in favor of proggier effort throughout.





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