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Articles : Sam Maher’s Best Albums of 2013

By on January 2, 2014

This year sucked.

Well, that’s how I thought this year’s article would start. By the time 2013 was half way done I was actually excited at the prospect of getting to be original and say that this year was boring, that there weren’t enough good albums to warrant an entire article so everyone can have the rest of the day off. Unfortunately the drought of good albums eventually broke and the musical monsoon began around mid-year. All of my hopes and dreams were washed away as I started drowning in new releases, splashing and choking on amazing material from bands of which I’d never even heard before. Now here I am, climbing onto the banks of 2014 listening regretfully to the playful sounds of albums I never even got the chance to admire as they get washed down the river of time.

As the flood lines recede, I’ll see if I can regurgitate some of the best music that I swallowed this year and hope that it is different to your dinner on New Year’s Eve and still taste as good the second time around.

 

The Muhammed Suiçmezaward for not releasing an album:
VildhjartaThousands of Evils EP

Vildhjarta‘s cacophonic musical stupidity continues to hurt my brain just the way I like it, even if the release is only as long as one song should be 25 minutes long.

Album That We all Wish Cynic Were About to Release But Sadly Probably Will Not:
ExiviousLiminal

If you like your metal all fancy and jazz-fusion-y then I hope you liked Exivious‘ album because by the sounds of it, the new Cynic opus is going to leave a lot of us prog fans very, very sad.

 

Top 10 musical regurgitations, 2013 edition!

10. Last Chance to ReasonLevel 3

I feel so sorry for this band. You see, nobody hates them. They have a comparable creative approach to rhythm and song writing as Periphery but they are not “djent”. They have the harmony and ambience of The Contortionist but they are not “deathcore”. How are they supposed to achieve fame and fortune if they do not have bandwagons of haters (yes, that is the correct collective noun) spreading their name to every corner of the land? Poor lads.

Could someone go and start an argument on “The Escapist” video for me? Try blowing your nose in their general direction and accusing their parentage of being hamsters and smelling of elderberries. That should do the trick.

9. The Schoenberg AutomatonVela

Who has heard of “The Meshuggah effect”? Next time you see that band live, look out over the crowd. You will see it in that moment when the time signature changes and everyone does that awkward little double-headbang trying to get back in time. It’s hilarious.

It seems that the aim of The Shoonaberk Autonabon is to achieve this effect every two bars or so and instead of just chugging on low notes in those odd meters they do it with a sort of spazzed-out contortion of The Faceless‘ playing. The end result is even zanier and crazier than the band’s name and significantly less annoying when drunk.

Recommended track: All Roads Lead to Rome

8. SoilworkThe Living Infinite

The last time Peter Wichers left Soilwork the resultant album was pretty abysmal so honestly I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this one after he left the band again (seriously, who does that?). Needless to say, I could have set my expectations pretty high and still have been impressed by The Living Infinite. The band has well and truly escaped the confines of melodeath melodic death metal and have now established an innovative sound quite unto themselves, naturally losing half of their fan base in the process. The other half was lost when they couldn’t get through both discs of this new album so I’m probably upsetting all my readers by including this here. Sorry about that.

Recommended track: Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard

7. James Norbert IvanyiAphasia

Picture this, if you will. Guthrie Govan joins Psycroptic. After exploration the delicious combinations of sounds that they can produce, he introduces them to the joys of western blues slide guitar and violin-accompanied folk tunes (it’s Guthrie; he can do it, ok). Now imagine that this is all the work of one solo artist from his Sydney studio and all represented in one slick instrumental album. Yeah, it happened.

If you want my more detailed analysis, please click here. If you want to hear it for yourself, try here. If you want to hear a recorder playing the 20th Century Fox theme, click here.

#living

Recommended track: Reawakened

6. Uneven Structure8

An EP consisting of one unbroken 24-minute song? Now we are talking! I tend to see Uneven Structure as the perfect blend of the dark ferocity of Vildhjarta and the melodic beauty of Tesseract. It would then follow that vocalist Matthieu Romarin would be the equivalent of three vocalists wrapped up in one, except that he is not. He is better. Much better. More generally, the syncopated morass of 8 is like the Milky Way cutting through the night sky: it is a quagmire of dark, sinister tones shot through with breathtaking ambience and melody. Ok, we’ve reached the point of stupid cosmic similes, it’s time to move on.

Recommended track: 8 (No, really)

5. KarnivoolAsymmetry

If all the Slayer fans wouldn’t mind leaving the room for a moment we are going to have a little chat about a non-metal album (*shockhorror*). Actually, those individuals can probably just stay outside because fuck Slayer.

With Asymmetry, Karnivool managed the fabled double-win: they made an album in the same league as its wildly successful predecessor without just making that album again. After the polished prettiness of  Sound Awake I really wasn’t expecting the dirty, arrhythmic weirdness of the new release. This is not an album that you will get into immediately, but you will get there. It will take a while to figure out that that wild percussion does work with those dissonant riffs and that vocalist Ian Kenny is still amazing. Ok, that last one was never in question. Never mind.

Recommended track: Eidolon

4. TesseractAltered State

The history of Tesseract in three simple steps.

1) Acquire incredible vocalist -> release magnificent album -> world rejoices.

2) Replace amazing vocalist with shitty vocalist ->  release awful EP reinterpreting songs off magnificent album to show world just how bad new vocalist is -> world is sad.

3) Replace shitty vocalist with amazing new vocalist -> release Altered State -> show world that you are actually a prog band with saxophones and shit -> world goes into party mode.

Recommended track: Of Energy – Singularity

3. GorgutsColored Sands

The first time I listened to this album I was walking down my unlit street in the middle of the night and, I have to say, it was one of the most utterly terrifying experiences of my life. As fans of Ulcerate can attest, there is a point at which music can become so twisted and demented that it just becomes…hypnotic. Gorguts, however, have moved past this point and have created something so utterly corrupted that it will leave you questioning your own sanity. Or does it? We’re not really sure now. We just want to listen to more. Don’t we, precious?

Recommended track: An Ocean of Wisdom

2. Caligula’s HorseThe Tide, The Thief & River’s End

The road we make, we own.

Honestly, there is no combination of words I can use to impress upon you how sublimely grandiose, how sumptuously opulent, how subtly gorgeous or how lavishly pristine this album is. So please, ignore my fumbling with the English language and just go listen to it. This is what happens when the best parts of Dream Theater and Karnivool are excised, doped with testosterone and drop punted into the Brisbane music scene. I don’t even know where to start. The highlight is surely the exultant voice of Jim “The Ken Doll” Grey, who in addition to having a voice likely to have started religions in years past also happens to be very, very pretty. Or perhaps the highlight is the mass guitarist resignations occurring Australia-side as a result of Sam Vallen’s Petrucci-esque guitar pyrotechnics. Or maybe it’s the fact that the lyrics are as profound as the music is intricate, and the music as intricate as the composition is deep and …geez, why are you still reading? Just listen.

Recommended track: A Gift to Afterthought

1. PersefoneSpiritual Migration

Andorra is European micronation about the size of Darwin. However, instead of producing half the world’s VB consumption and some story about a cyclone, Andorra has spawned Persefone who sound kind of like every other band on this list thrown into a blender (yes, it will blend). Somewhat like a death metal version of Symphony X (or perhaps Children of Bodom mixed with Dream Theater and a much-needed pair of testicles), Spiritual Migration exhibits the schizophrenic rhythms of The Schoenberg Automaton, the frenzied lead guitar work of Caligula’s Horse (except doubled and with keyboards too), the vocal depth of Uneven Structure and the dynamics of pretty much all of it combined. The album is fast-paced, frenetic and outrageously technical, yet dynamic, sprawling and likely to cause more addictions than a new pub in the heart of Darwin.

Realign body and soul, perceive the great reality

Look in the window of my life to let the light come inside

Evolve

Recommended track: Inner Fullness

About

Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.