This year is one I’ve been waiting to write about. 2013 might well be one of the best years for metal of this decade. Veterans and newcomers alike came out with releases that would stand the test of time.
Bölzer – Aura
Aura is the second release by black death duo Bölzer. The band debuted a year earlier with the Roman Acupuncture EP and though it was a sign of things to come, nothing could have prepared us for this. Aura is a revolution in three tracks. Wild riffs that blast through guitar and bass amps alike, create an unreal wall of sound that is only cut through by the vocals. Vocalist Okoi Jones howls, gasps, shouts and growls in the performance of a lifetime. This combination is key to the band’s monumental sound as layers of guitars roar in dissonant unison.
Aosoth – IV: An Arrow in Heart
Another black metal masterpiece came in the form of Aosoth’s An Arrow in Heart. Two years prior, Aosoth had first realized their potential on Violence & Variations but An Arrow in Heart took their sound to a new level once more. During this hour-long seance, Aosoth contrast bona fide black metal with enthralling atmospheres. An unusually thick and present bass backs the dissonant and frizzy guitars of BST, who also supplies benchmark drum programming for the album. The result is an invasively captivating and visceral experience and a true piece of dark art.
Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury
Yet more black metal with Teethed Glory and Injury by now defunct Altar of Plagues. I remember the choice for the post-black metal album of the year being between this one and Deafheaven’s Sunbather for many. At the time, I chose Sunbather. Now I choose Teethed Glory and Injury. On this album, Altar of Plagues present inaccessible and harrowing arthouse metal. From throbbing rhythms over guitar dirges to disharmonious assaults, the band rejects all songwriting conventions, crafting a heavy unease and tension. The outstanding vocals ranging from throatripping screams to dismal howls further underline the album’s haunting atmosphere.
Despite the otherness Teethed Glory creates there is still something organic that shines through in its highlights. The cleansing waves of guitars on A Body Shrouded before plunging down into an abyss. The chilling climax of Burnt Year as it continues to spiral out of control. The pounding mid-section on centerpiece Twelve Was Ruin. Teethed Glory and Injury is speckled with moments that will stay with you forever. Nothing on this album has been done before. An exemplary for the potential of the genre.
Audrey Horne – Youngblood
Norwegian hard rockers Audrey Horne came out with an album in 2013 that keeps me coming back to this day. Unlike the grungier material on previous albums, Youngblood is a full-on hard rock party. From the fiery guitars of Redemption Blues and This Ends Here over the anthemic Straight Into Your Grave to the gloomy The King is Dead. Youngblood is true to its title, a catchy and energetic modern hard rock classic.
Gorguts – Colored Sands
After twelve years of absence, death metal visionaries Gorguts made their comeback with Colored Sands in 2013. The new line-up features Luc Lemay as the only original member, joined by allstars of technical metal Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel and John Longstreth. The result of their collaboration once again proved Gorguts to be ahead of the game. Atmospheric tech. death with angular, counterintuitive riffs and bursts of kick heavy drumming was one of the most popular schools of the genre in this decade. Bands like Ad Nauseam, Sunless, Flourishing, Artificial Brain and many more come to mind. And despite these bands making competent claims to fame, Gorguts remain on a different level.