Dan and Arno’s 2013 in Review: Best Album Closers

January 23, 2014 in Top Lists by blackwindmetal

Round two of 2013, and this one wasn’t quite as challenging, but it’s an area that we feel many people overlook. Sure, everyone loves a good burner to open an album, but what about the last track? You get some bands that save their best material for near the end, some that just throw the filler there, and of course, Rhapsody, which chucks its long, pointless material in the rear. So what 2013-released tunes really rounded out their respective albums well? Look no further for some of the best.

1. Illusion Suite – “Premonition” from the album The Iron Cemetery

Dan: I think both Arno and I would agree on The Iron Cemetary as our favorite melodic progressive metal release of 2013, and also that, at 38 minutes, it was an all-too-brief one. However, if Illusion Suite had to leave us hanging and hungering for their next round, “Premonition” was a surefire way to do so. It’s quite the abstract narrative on war in the Holy Land, and with Illusion Suite’s signature mix of hard-hitting prog, abrupt tenderness, and all around mastery of melody, becomes a compact but highly ambitious capstone to a marvelous album.

2. Royal Hunt – “A Life To Die For” from the album A Life To Die For

Dan: No matter how much we toot the horns of DC Cooper and this band, we can’t toot them enough. Even I, a tried-and-true Silent Force fanboy, can’t despair DC’s departure from that project overly much when faced with the sheer dramatic chemistry that Royal Hunt has displayed on its last two albums. Song lengths may be longer and a little less digestible than the most compact of melodic prog, but “A Life To Die For” illustrates the band’s brand of grandiose, symphonic prog at its best.

3. Tad Morose – “Gypsy” from the album Revenant

Arno: At first sight “Gypsy” is just another solid song on an already strong comeback album. Then the chorus unfolds like dragon’s wings and steps up the game considerably, showing the majesty of Tad Morose’s darkness has one last trick up its sleeve. Ronny Hemlin gives it his all and fulfills us with the awe and fear for the titular gypsy.

4. Overtures – “The Oracle” from the album Entering The Maze

Arno: “FROM THE ASHES AND THE STOOOOONES”. Sometimes yelling is all you need to describe a song. “The Oracle” may be on the lengthy side, but Overtures finishes in style with a huge chorus and such a professional impression it underlines once more how far these Italians have come. A lot of song appreciation comes down to the chorus and just look at how huge this fornicator of maternal individuals is (technically I didn’t swear). (Sorry, no audio for this one)

5. Masterplan – “Novum Initium” from the album Novum Initium

Arno: This one didn’t click with me initially, but then again not much of Masterplan’s MK III did. Over time I have come to regret my harsh review and the album and its closer have found a place with me away from Jorn Lande-related prejudice. A dark and twisted epic unlike anything Masterplan has tried before, therefore proving how many wells in that band are still untapped. Rick Altzi’s voice is not the most instantly likeable, but I’ll never get enough of him softly setting in that chorus.

6. Iron Mask – “The Portrait Of Dorian Gray” from the album Fifth Son Of Winterdoom

Dan: This is definitely going down in my book as one of Mark Boals’ greatest moments. Maybe he doesn’t hit his highest note, and maybe he doesn’t tackle his longest fermata, but boy is he the centerpiece. Boals just wrecks this song with the aggressive, blasting vocal energy that he’s capable of when singing his best. Delightfully, it’s also a tune that sees a piece of “classic” literature getting a great rep in the metal sphere (better than Demons & Wizards’ take, at least). A well-written slugger with plenty of guitar hooks, enjoyable lyrics, and a few rounds of “DORIAN’S SOUL IS DOOMED TO HEEEEEEEEEELL!” (Note: unfortunately, we have no audio of this song to share with you)

7. Rhapsody Of Fire – “Sad Mystic Moon” from the album Dark Wings Of Steel

Arno: Luca Turilli may have mostly outshone his former colleagues with Ascending To Infinity, and Rhapsody Of Fire may have returned with a record too safe to make a big splash, but on the closer the grandeur of the Italian dragon lords is in full force. Fabio Lione is mostly a gun-for-hire these days, but here he’s right at home and proud in showing so. The operatic chorus is how we like our Rhapsody, and now that Staropoli and the ragazzos are firmly rooted in tradition again, I’d like to see them branch out a bit more under the light of a sad mystic moon.

8. Mystic Prophecy – “Set The World On Fire” from the album Killhammer

Arno: Symphony X and Firewind may have gone there before – and with great results – Mystic Prophecy adds its own shade of power metal snarl to one of the (on fire set) world’s most horrible song title cliches. For some (yes you, Dan) there may be an overdose of cussing and adolescent lyrics, but Mystic Prophecy shows some musical and topical range here on an album that once again features its share of Satan-worship. A fresh breath on an album that is saved by several bursts of it and the load is on to the next uninspired band’s shoulders.

9. Odd Dimension – “Far From Desire” from the album The Last Embrace To Humanity

Dan: Odd Dimension has captured our attention the last couple of years with its knack for hard-hitting and surprisingly emotional prog that shifts moods and speeds as if it were stripping off layers – and with effortless ease. “Far From Desire” is just such a feature: a powerful, demanding listen to end the second strong effort from these Italian up-and-comers. (No audio here either)

10. Keldian – “F.T.L.” from the album Outbound

Dan: My song of the year, hands-down, which also makes it a clear pick to round out this closer list. The soft build of the captain’s call (“Engaaaaaaage!”) to the bright guitar lead, and onward to shimmering keyboard lanes through space and time, Keldian braves parts as-yet unknown with the crowning achievement of its career. The clincher is the chorus build and the one-line explosion, which manages to mount in drama every time it is repeated. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about “F.T.L.”, Outbound, and Keldian in general is the band’s ability to magically integrate emotion with striking, spacey metal, and rather simple melodic lines. From a genre of entertainment that often comes off as so (understandably) cold and synthetic, Keldian is anything but.