11 Jan 2014

2013, Part V: Honorable Mentions and Runner-Ups

For the past couple of years I've done top 10's as well as some other stuff in one long post. This form just isn't very easy on the eyes, so this year I've decided to split the end-year post into 5 parts, which are as follows:

Part I: Stuff I Missed in 2012
Part II: Disappointments of 2013
Part III: Top 10 - Non-metal
Part IV: Top 10 - Metal
Part V: Honorable Mentions & Runner-Ups

Part V: Honorable Mentions and Runner-Ups
These are the albums that were hardest for me to exclude from the 2013 top 10. All these bands and albums represent something that many other groups lack, and these albums - like the ones on the top 10 - are noteworthy in their own right.

Abyssous - ...Smouldering
If Cannibal Corpse had made Pleasure to Kill, this is what it would've sounded like. ...Smouldering is a spectrum of old school death metal with the expression and aesthetics of teutonic thrash metal. Centered around the thrashiness of the riffs, the album is set in both fast and slower paces, allowing both the thrashiest and the most death metal-infused parts to become prominent. This ambiguity is one of the strongest points of the young German band and goes to show that the Germans have become a vital part of the international death metal scene these last couple of years. Though ...Smouldering isn't an album as such, it feels like one. The release compiles the demo of the same name from 2012 and four new tracks in the same style. The fact that the songs were likely written and recorded at different times doesn't show, and this in itself is a feat. Abyssous captures the feeling of old school extreme metal without its sloppiness and has impressive production values to go with it. A band well worth keeping an eye on.

Altars - Paramnesia
I mentioned in my review of Abyssal's new album in the Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013 that Portal must yield to the force of newer bands. Altars is such a band. Hailing from the same country as their lovecraftian brethren, Altars' sound is predominantly death metal with trips to the edges of experimental territory, much like Portal. But Paramnesia, Altars'debut album, is a variant of the Portal sound, focusing more on old school death metal song structures. You easily become engulfed in the fiery, hellish sound of Altars' cavernously grizzly vocals and the powerful guitar sound underlined by the kicks and hisses of the drums. Paramnesia is as immersive as you could possibly want for a dark, experimental death metal album such as this, and it practically drips with abundant corruption and decay. The vocal department is wonderfully articulate, forming each word in perfect conjunction with the ponderous roars of the guitar. The sounds of Paramnesia fill every gap and void with forceful tones of death.

Argus - Beyond the Martyrs
I had been looking forward to another Argus album since I heard Boldly Stride the Doomed from 2011, and out of nowhere dropped Beyond the Martyrs, which - true to the Argus way - delivers a number of powerful doom-laden modern heavy metal anthems, courtesy of the guitarist's innovative riffing and the vocalist's epic vocals. It seems every singer in metal nowadays does growls, grunts, shrieks, screams or something to that effect, and as such the powerful vocals on Beyond the Martyrs is a breath of fresh air. Like the previous album Beyond the Martyrs provides varied songwriting with lots of detailed work which speaks volumes of the band's musicianship, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The band is by any standard at the top of their game three albums into their carreer. Fans of Slough Feg, Dawnbringer and Grand Magus, heed the call of Argus.

Cultes des Ghoules - Henbane
Some would say Henbane is a product of poor musicianship, but I would rather see it as a comment on modern metal. Cultes des Ghoules go back to the very roots of the genre and create an abomination, any sound engineer's worst nightmare, with galling strings, battery from hell and vocals gargled forth with nothing but contempt driving it forward. This is not art, and nor does it pretend to be. The Polish band takes delight in a wonderfully unceremonious approach to the genre, which in their pursuit to be as abrassive and offensive to all five senses as possible ends up with a grizzly cavalcade of several highly original riffs. They will drag you through the mud, chastise you and leave you to rot.

Denouncement Pyre - Almighty Arcanum
The Australian formula for thrashing, gritty extreme metal is really something. Denouncement Pyre is closely related to Nocturnal Graves and other prominent Oz bands, and indeed the two bands have been around for an equal amount of time. 2013 saw the release of both bands' second album, and both are ferocious in their own right. You want to slow down? Too bad. Almighty Arcanum isn't quite as staccato as From the Bloodline of Cain, and the riffs are centered more around atmosphere rather than catchiness with the black metal influence weighing in more heavily, but they are equals in terms of speed and brutality.

Impalers - Power Behind the Throne
Remember when Kreator was fast as fuck? Impalers remember. With German thrash classics in mind the Danish group have created a thrashing mammoth of an album with riffs and d-beats at break-neck speeds and the crispiest production this side of the Equator. Power Behind the Throne is as well-crafted as they come. In terms of musicianship the band's debut album may not be virtuosic or completely avant-garde, but there can be no doubt of their skills in handling their instruments at commendable speeds or their ability to forge enjoyable thrash songs. Memorability is at the very core of Power Behind the Throne and as such the album doesn't need to be enjoyed in its entirety. Tracks such as Nuclear Nights and Army of Darkness stand well on their own, and in fact the only thing I could wish for in any future Impalers albums would be for them to mix things up a bit. True, When the World Hungers is a bit out of the usual Impalers tune, but there is room for more variation in composition without compromising their easily distinguishable sound.

Inter Arma - Sky Burial
The band from Richmond has been compared to Neurosis and other notable groups, but they are entirely their own. I had come upon them by accident whilst looking for a band called Sky Burial, the same as their newest album. Though I didn't get what I was looking for, I wasn't disappointed. Inter Arma's latest album presents a force of sludgey riffs dragging through towering black metal blast beats and bleak ambience to go with it. Sky Burial is an enveloping, all-consuming trip through blackened metal landscapes with a number of detours into vast expanses of southern-tinged stonery sludge metal. The album is a bit long at about 1 hour and 7 minutes, but it's an hour well spent.

Intöxicated - Rock n Roll Hellpatrol
Engaging and enthusiastic songwriting in the name of sex, drugs and speed metal is the essence of German newcomers Intöxicated. It might not come as a surprise, but Rock n Roll Hellpatröl essentially sounds like Motörhead engaging in fisticuffs with Gehennah under the influence of hard liquor. Intöxicated isn't gifted with the deepest of lyrics, nor is the music particularly original in that way. But they're not trying to reinvent anything, and the result is a liberating, enjoyable speed metal album with balls. So lock up your daughters, put on some slutanic speedmetal and crush your local disco to the sounds of Intöxicated.

Satan - Life Sentence
1983's Court in the Act is by many considered a NWOBHM gem, and the later albums of Satan are also held in high regard. But non but the best may be compared to Life Sentence from 2013, 30 years from the band's album debut. A comeback album of sorts, Life Sentence ranks up there with the best of its kind. For a 2013 heavy metal album it's completely ingenious. It's got everything you could ever want, from crispy, catchy guitars, andpowerfully soaring vocals to noteworthy choruses. Life Sentence has the same weird songwriting style that Satan has always had, and it serves to underline that Satan are unique. They have aged significantly better than many of their fellow NWOBHM bands, and time has honed their skills. Life Sentence is a cornucopia of awesome heavy metal, and I mean awesome in the literal sense of the word.

Spektr - Cypher
I first got acquainted with Spektr through their debut "Et Fugit Intera Fugit Irreparabile Tempus" and then kind of forgot about the French band until they released Cypher in 2013. Et Fugit wasn't exactly a gem of industrial black metal, but moderately enjoyable in some aspects. With Cypher, Spektr have returned after a 5 year recordless stretch, and they return victorious. The latest album is strangely bizarre and much more well-written than their previous efforts with its alien, paranoid atmosphere achieved through excessive programming and sampling as well as aggressive blackened metal riffs. The album is primarily instrumental, which fits the style very well. The ambient parts of Cypher are the weakest points but serves well for bringing focus to the cold glory of the black metal elements.

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