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Articles : Jonathon Besanko’s Best Albums of 2013

By on December 21, 2013

What a year 2013 has been for metal. A wealth of local and international releases euphorically assaulted the ear over the course of the year with their riffs, vocals, and melodies. It can be said that it’s been a great year especially for fans of power metal and death/melodeath, too.

With the return of bands like Carcass, the release of incredible local power metal albums from the likes of Bane of Winterstorm, Silent Knight, and Taberah, and excellent new entries from the likes of Children of Bodom and Amon Amarth, it can safely be said that we were certainly gifted with the great selection of titles on offer. So much so that for a while, finding time myself to listen to them all turned out to be a task in itself. An enjoyable one though, that’s for sure. For those reasons alone, this list was edited, rewritten, and reordered many times over until I finally settled on something I was satisfied with.

It can also not be stated enough how treated Australia was with the wealth of tours we received this year also, both from local acts, as well as the international scene. Many bands – such as Amorphis, Moonsorrow, and Sirenia – all toured Australia for the very first time. To name just a few of the other international bands we received down under, there was Eluveitie, Alestorm, Ensiferum, Korpiklaani, Nightwish, Sabaton, and more.

Here’s hoping 2014 will be just as great, and with announcements already made such as a new crowd-funded Obituary album and a new instalment from Iced Earth, it’s looking to be good far.

But now, to the list!

 

Australian Releases

 

Blackened+Angel++Australia10. Blackened Angel – Chronicles of Damnation

You can thank Andy Dowling (LORD) for the addition of this band to my list, as I only just discovered them myself through his own Best Albums of 2013 list. But upon listening to it soon after, I knew this had to be added in. An awesome bit of traditional metal meets thrash and black metal; Chronicles of Damnation is a solid album in every respect. And as Dowling wrote in his summary, I was indeed pleasantly surprised. Definitely check it out. It features Lord Tim on vocals, lead guitar and keys.

Check out: “Of Wings and White

the-wizard-ancient-tome-of-arcane-knowledge9. The Wizar’d – Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge

Hearkening back to 70s style heavy metal, The Wizar’d bring their unique brand of doom-laden classic rock to the fore, channelling the likes of bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple, but with a distinctively separate sound all their own. The witch-like vocals may take a little to get used to at first, but the fine musicianship on display here makes it more than worthwhile. The solo for example in “The Moss that Grew on the Sorcerer’s Grave” is completely engrossing and soulful.

Check out: “The Moss that Grew on the Sorcerer’s Grave

72649_truth_corroded_the_saviours_slain8. Truth Corroded – The Saviours Slain

What this album delivers in death/thrash, it also delivers in spades with headbanging. Inventive drum patterns and crushing riffs complement the pained growling of Jason North. The Saviours Slain is a solid, powerful release that deservedly led to Truth Corroded being signed internationally to AFM Records.

Check out: “Of Gods Drowned in Blood

1379402_10151631566781957_958753320_n7. Harlott – Origin

Holy shit! This album came out of nowhere (and I mean that in the sense that it was like a punch to the face the first time I listened to Origin). The power and force of this album alone gives Overkill and Kreator a run for their money. An excellent record. This is straight up balls-to-the-wall death/thrash, ladies and gentlemen. That’s all that can be said.

Check out: “Export Life

1002729_10152961620235473_202547886_n6. Mason – Warhead

To state it simply, Warhead is one of the best thrash metal albums to emerge from our humble country. Enough can’t be said about this album. Chris Czimmermann’s riffs are memorable and catchy as all hell, the vocals of Jimmy Benson are perfectly tailored to the band (only further augmenting the excellent rhythm section), and the unique drumming of Nonda Tsatsoulis should help separate them from the hordes of other thrash bands currently in the scene. Go buy this album. Like, right now. You won’t regret it.

Check out: “Warhead

silent-knight-masterplan-cd-300x3005. Silent Knight – Masterplan

These guys really surprised me the first time I listened to them earlier in the year. When I was given the opportunity to write this Best of 2013 list, Masterplan was one of the first albums that entered my mind. Incredibly melodic, the galloping rhythm of the guitars thrums along to frontman Zoran Cunjak’s inspired vocals. Silent Knight is one of those rare power metal bands that remind me of the reason I fell in love with this subgenre in the first place.

Check out: “Prophets of War

3646294. LORD – Digital Lies

Digital Lies is yet another example of how far ahead of the curve LORD is not only in power metal, but the metal world in general (Lord Tim’s vocals and fretwork honestly leave me in awe every time I listen to a LORD song). Channelling industrial at times, and at other times blending together elements of traditional, melodic metal, there is an incredible heaviness that flows throughout the album, while still sounding distinctly like a power metal record. The soloing and riffs are also a major highlight (look at “Because We Can”). Highly recommended.

Check out: “Betrayal Blind

Orpheus-ResIllusion-1024x1024 3. Orpheus Omega – ResIllusion

I first discovered Orpheus Omega earlier last year when I saw them open for Amon Amarth at the Billboard. Since then, I’ve been in a secret love-affair with their music. Orpheus Omega feels decidedly fresh, and ResIllusion is an excellent follow-up to their strong 2011 debut, Bleed the Way, only further raising the bar for what this band can achieve. Trust me when I say this is some of the best Euro-inspired melodeath you’ll find (whether in Australia or otherwise). It’s ode to a band’s ability, and equally their skill as musicians, when they feel this in-sync with one another and the music flows this well. These guys are the new standard in melodic death metal as far as I’m concerned.

Check out: “De6enerate

TaberahNecromancer2. Taberah – Necromancer

Wow, what can I say? With its subtle undertones of classic rock, this is simply one of the best melodic power/heavy metal releases I’ve heard all year, and not just from Australia. Listening to Taberah is for me what it’s like listening to Power Quest. It just puts you in a good mood, and it’s testament to this band’s skill as musicians that I was completely hooked on their riffs, vocals, and solo’s. A hats tip, I must say.

Check out: “Burning in the Moonlight

Bane1. Bane of Winterstorm – The Last Sons of Perylin

For anyone who read the review of this album, it probably comes as no surprise that this was chosen as my number one. This is not only one of the best metal albums to come out of Australia this year, but it’s also one of the best to have come out of our country – period. This is symphonic power metal at its absolute best, brightest, and most inspired. A true classic.

Check out: “The Warlord’s Last Ride

Honourable mentions: Germ (Grief), The Amenta (Flesh Is Heir)

 

International Releases

 

603239_385629761473501_204425449_n10. Gloryhammer – Tales from the Kingdom of Fife

Already being a fan of Christopher Bowes and Alestorm, when I first heard news of his new power metal project earlier in the year, needless to say I was pretty intrigued. Tales from the Kingdom of Fife did not disappoint. Laden with cheese and epic arrangements, Tales… is a fine example of power metal done in the spirits of Rhapsody-level epic storytelling, while also being a band that knows how to enjoy themselves and not take themselves too seriously. And Thomas L. Winkler, oh man! Where has this guy been all my life? His vocals are incredible. It certainly helps ring true to what it originally meant to be labelled a ‘power metal band’.

Check out: “Angus McFife

Powerwolf-Preachers-Of-The-Night9. Powerwolf – Preachers of the Night

The German power metaller’s don’t release many dud albums, and Preachers of the Night doesn’t change that. It can be said with confidence that Attila Dorn is one of the best vocalists currently in the power metal scene, and Preachers… puts his excellent vocal range on full display. With a healthy offering of bilingual tracks (English & German), the keys and solo’s are a further highlight on this release, and the fantastic song writing brings to the fore more tales strewn with the stained blood of folklore.

Check out: “Sacred & Wild

ashes-of-ares-ashes-of-ares8. Ashes of Ares – Ashes of Ares

The only reason this album isn’t listed higher is because of the clear distinction between Ashes of Ares and Iced Earth, not just for the fact it features ex-members Matt Barlow and Freddie Vidales, alongside Nevermore drummer, Van Williams, but for the fact the song’s are remarkably similar in arrangement. Don’t go into Ashes of Ares expecting a reinventing of the wheel, but you will get an amazingly produced melodic power/heavy metal album. And it has to be said that Matt Barlow’s vocals only seem to get stronger with age.

Check out: “This is my Hell

Children-of-Bodom-Halo-of-Blood7. Children of Bodom – Halo of Blood

It can be argued that Halo of Blood is the best album Bodom has released since Hate Crew Deathroll. This album, however, brings a level of experimentation and progression not often gleaned by the band in past releases, but with a similarity that still sounds uniquely them. Expect one of the most enjoyable melodeath experiences you’ve likely had in a while.

Check out: “Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)

6CarcassSurgicalSteel. Carcass – Surgical Steel

Their first album in 17 years, Carcass really pulled out all the stops with this album. Surgical Steel is fucking awesome! With varying musical elements spanning Carcass’ career, this is one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard all year. The legends of British extreme are back, and things are looking good! Here’s hoping At the Gates will follow suit.

Check out: “Captive Bolt Pistol

MonsterMagnetLastPatrol5. Monster Magnet – Last Patrol

Sitars are out, drums are kitted, and Dave Wyndorf is ready for some swaying action! A firm return to the band’s roots, Last Patrol is stoner-fuelled ‘space rock’ at its best. Even with the absence of guitarist Ed Mundell, Last Patrol rolls on with inspired, atmospheric tunes coupled by a meaty wall of synths and riffs, and hefty drum and bass lines. The song writing is killer and the rhythms’ even better.

Check out: “Paradise

Avatarium-Avatarium4. Avatarium – Avatarium

The current brain child of Leif Edling, founder and mastermind behind Candlemass, Avatarium is an ambitious debut to say the least. Layered with elements of Candlemass-esque doom and beautiful gothic vocals from female vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, its arrangements shift between melodic interludes and rhythmic, forlorn patterns with gorgeous success. This entire album is a treat for the ear. A doom-laden aural journey if there ever was one.

Check out: “Moonhorse

Tyr-Valkyrja3. Týr – Valkyrja

Týr is one of those bands that only get better with age and Valkyrja delivers one of the best and most melodic albums Týr have made to date. Heri Joensen’s vocals are as powerful and versatile as ever, and the lyricism behind the heroic stories being told on Valkyrja even outdoes 2011’s fine effort, The Lay of Thrym. The synchronicity between the musicianship and vocals is outstanding, and Týr work as a single unit delivering a rapturous onslaught of folk and Viking metal as each element complements the next. A fantastic, solid release.

Check out: “Blood of Heroes

Jungle-Rot-Terror-Regime2. Jungle Rot – Terror Regime

Jungle Rot are perhaps one of the best examples of 90s fuelled death metal currently in the scene, perhaps no less for the fact these guys were born out of that era. Unlike many other death metal bands that spawned from the 90s, however, Jungle Rot didn’t go the route of excessive digitisation in later records. At no point with the production does it come across as if any of the rawness or aggression that makes up this subgenre was later lost beneath the button presses of a soundboard. Expect heavy, mournful riffs, thrashy undertones (especially in tracks like “Ruthless Omnipotence”), and vocals from Dave Matrise that’d make Ross Dolan weep with joy.

Check out: “Blind Devotion

AmonAmarth-DeceiverOfTheGods1. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of the Gods

This wasn’t too hard of a pick for my number one. Amon Amarth is in top-form as usual. Deceiver of the Gods is another great entry in the bands discography, and serves as a reminder of why it was this band that made me fall in love with melodic death metal and Norse mythology in the first place. Excellent song writing coupled with memorable riffs, and the added punch of Johan Hegg’s vocals, which are at their strongest here since 2006’s With Oden On Our Side, Deceiver of the Gods is a solid album in the beer-gutted Viking’s career and definitely one worth picking up.

Check out: “Warriors of the North

Honourable mentions: Hypocrisy (End of Disclosure), Suffocation (Pinnacle of Bedlam), Ayreon (The Theory of Everything), Deals Death (Point Zero Solution) – cheers to Pär Sundström for steering me towards this little Gothenburg gem!)

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.