SpaceKev’s Best Of 2013
My taste in music is a little bit of an anomaly at Black Wind Metal. Some of my musical tastes reflect my linear origin in the space/time continuum that is different than that of some of my peers, and this list bears that out. 2013 was a great year for music. While there is always a healthy dose of new and newish blood making good music, I was surprised by the quality of releases from some veteran bands. A couple of the veterans righted their ships and re-established themselves, another reinterpreted the legacy of a legend, and yet another took a step outside of themselves and did something different. I realized that if someone were to actually look at my list, it might raise their eyebrow and blood pressure, as a couple of my choices were divisive due to the expectations of their fan-base. No matter what anyone thinks, I love each and every CD here.
10. Metalocalypse – The Doomstar Requiem: A Klok Opera
Probably the most surprising entry on my list. Life is too short to not laugh at yourself, and Brendon Small’s Metalocalypse does it in such a way that I can’t help but feel like I am in on the joke. The Doomstar Requiem is very much a musical in every sense of what a musical is, but it also goes beyond the melodic death metal that is Metalocalypse. Included with the metal is 70s era Elton John interludes, creepy string arrangements, and even a nylon string acoustic ballad. Metalocalypse’s lyrics have always been tongue in cheek in every juvenile sense of the meaning, but this time around, and due to the story arc of the series, are actually almost more melancholy than funny, and even a little heartbreaking. I think that The Doomstar Requiem really pushed the boundaries for TV, but also acts as an inspiration for anyone who is living in an apartment with just the bare minimum of musical gear and big dreams.
9. Karnivool – Asymmetry
Of all the prog-metal bands out there, Karnivool is the band that has made the genre interesting for me. This being the third release from them, they have gone further down the rabbit hole. Asymmetry is full of lush soundscapes as well as being infused with plenty of “what the heck is happening?” moments as well. Every member of the band steps forward and has a chance to show off. Whether it is a underwater-sounding feedback-infused guitar intro ora drum fill that sounds like a piano falling down the stairs, they all come together to make Asymmetry something truly unique. As a bonus, I had to break out the dictionary to look up half the song titles, as I had no clue as to what they meant. I couldn’t find them there, so I still don’t know.
8. Megadeth – Super Collider
This entry onto my best-of list might irk some people because few bands in 2013 caused as much hullabaloo with their music as did Megadeth. Many thought that Super Collider drifted too far away from the tried and true Megadeth sound. Personally, I don’t think the members of the peanut gallery have much ground to stand on. While the title track and lead-off single is commercially accessible to a wide crowd, it is no more different that a song such as “Trust”, and the CD as a whole is really no more un-Megadeth than Cryptic Writings. That aside, I am quite happy with them doing something a little different by having a song like “Super Collider” on it, as well as the banjo-infused darkness that makes “The Blackest Crow” such a refreshing change. Other than these two songs, Super Collider is as every bit as thunderous and aggressive as any Megadeth CD. Dave Mustaine is probably my favorite song writer of the original thrash era, and Super Collider proves that he is not limited to what he helped create, but has the ability to move beyond it.
7. Queensryche – Queensryche
The version of the Queensryche that many loyal fans consider to be the “real” band emerged in the spring with a new singer and self-titled CD with new music. While the new music does not exactly sound like what they where doing back in the late 80s, it does sound like the next logical step their sound should have taken had tyranny not taken foot in the late 90s and drastically detoured the band. This lineup of the band has firmly reclaimed their metal heritage, and they sound thoroughly reinvigorated. This new vitality really comes across in the music and it is infectious. What I found quite pleasing, along with the music, is the overall short length of the songs. They accomplish so much in such a short period of time that I hardly even noticed any time had passed, and I don’t feel like I have missed out. Much can be said about getting a lot done in such a little amount of time and leaving feeling satisfied. If the self-titled release is any indication of where Queensryche is going, I can only imagine a better future for the band.
6. Lords Of The Trident – Plan Of Attack
While Plan Of Attack only has four songs, it made enough of an impact on me to include it here. In the midst of all of the songs, Lords Of The Trident’s tongue is planted firmly in their check as they go about parodying the stereotypes of metal similar to the way of Gloryhammer. It begins with an energetic, in-your-face falsetto charge and ends with a gallop off into the sunset. They have tales of video game assassins, the dreams of Viking warriors, and knights in shining armor. When listening to Plan Of Attack I just couldn’t help but find myself pounding my fists and smiling from ear to ear.
5. Evile – Skull
Evile wears its influences out in the open, and is not the least bit ashamed of it. Skull is the CD that I think every Metallica fan wishes they would make, but haven’t. There is no denying the comparison: Evile is very much influenced by 80’s American thrash. Skull is not a stagnate snap shot of a time gone by, but rather a refreshing reminder of what thrash is without all of the evolutionary extra bits thrown into the mix.
4. Stryper – No More Hell To Pay
No More Hell To Pay is a CD that was a long time coming. You can read my full review of it here. If you don’t feel like doing so, I will briefly sum up my thoughts: Michael Sweet, the lead singer and main songwriter, did not go chasing after a hit song, much like the band did after Stryper broke big in the 80s. What he did was sit down and purposefully write music in a style that garnered them the well-deserved attention they got in the first place. While only a couple of the songs on No More Hell To Pay sound like classic Stryper, all of the songs are so well done and capture the essence of what makes the band so good, you don’t feel like you have missed anything. It feels like the band has regained their footing and delivered a one-two punch to all the naysayers out there.
3. Battle Beast – Battle Beast
Battle Beast did not suffer the sophomore jinx when their self-titled CD was released. After a well received first album, Battle Beast replaced their original singer. This could’ve been a death knell to some, but not for them. The new singer, Noora Louhimo, is just as good as her predecessor (if not better), and even offers a little more of a softer side on some of the few quiet moments on this CD. The real change from their first work to their second is the strength of the songwriting. The music on Battle Beast is a major step forward. It has all of the hooks of a great pop song blended with the power you want from a straight ahead metal band. I am not one to swoon over keyboards, but the keyboards here have a distinctive 80’s sound. Maybe it is the nostalgia in me, but I wholly embrace them and delight in the free spirit and the over-the-top excess that they bring to the music and the decade it reminds me of. Whatever internal changes the band made to their membership and their songwriting style, it worked, and I love it.
2. A Sound Of Thunder – Time’s Arrow
In my humble opinion, A Sound Of Thunder is a band that could break out from a regional touring/studio project to a national and international recording act, if the right opportunity arose. From the opening basstastic riff of “Power Play” to the fading sound of the theremin on “Reign Of The Hawklords”, Time’s Arrow is just loaded with one great song after another. How often has anyone ever heard a love song that takes place during a zombie apocalypse? Not many, if any. Josh Schwartz is a songwriting riffmaster and Nina Osegueda has a voice that is a force of nature. The music on Time’s Arrow got under my skin, and it was all I could think about for the next few weeks after I got it in the mail.
1. Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose
Hands down my favorite CD of the year. Thin Lizzy influenced a great number of musicians and bands throughout the decades, but none were ever able to capture the magic and poetry that Phil Lynott created until now. Most of the members of Black Star Riders are the current touring lineup for Thin Lizzy. The time eventually came for them to feel the itch to make something new and pay homage to the late great Irish legend. Guitarist Damon Johnson really got into a groove and wrote some great 70s style hard rock that could have probably gone on any Lizzy record back in the day. The real credit goes to Ricky Warrick for writing lyrics and delivering them in such a manner that it sounds like Phil himself was an angel on his shoulder. To top it off, Kevin Shirley’s production of the album captures the raw energy of the band and makes it feel as if the listener is actually in the rehearsal space with them. Even after the initial flurry of listening to it when I first got it, All Hell Breaks Loose has remained in regular rotation on my iPod.