overground scene

Music worth listening to from 2013

The year 2013 has been a great year music-wise. Lots of new albums came out from some of my favorite and not so favorite artists and I got the chance to listen to many of them. As usual, I focused my attention mostly on extreme metal this past year. I will start with the albums I enjoyed less, continue with albums that I enjoyed a lot and conclude with my favorite of the year.

On their new album titled End of disclosure Hypocrisy kept the style to which they returned with their previous album which is more akin to The Final Chapter (1997), Into the Abyss (2001) and The Arrival (2004). I liked some of the songs but I was overall not impressed. Helloween released another album which I did not particularly enjoyed (Straight out of hell). Interestingly, the songs I find myself liking off the previous few Helloween albums came from Markus – a musician who did not contribute at all in the old days – rather than Michael or Andy whose song-writing style used to appeal to me the most. On this new record, Markus has written a couple of cool songs and Michael also came back with a couple of good songs as well. I was not impressed by Ghost‘s second album (Infestissumam). For sure they refrained from shamelessly ripping off Mercyful Fate and other popular bands this time around (good for them). However, apparently the ripped-off elements gave me a reason to hate them and like them at the same time. Now without them they just sound dull to me. I also disliked Deicide‘s new album (In the minds of evil), just like all albums since the departure of the Hoffman brothers. The Ocean is a band that represents the influence of hipster culture in metal music. I got drawn to their new album because of the praise it received on the press. To my ears sometimes it sounds like Mastodon, but the way I really interpreted their music is no more than contemporary pop metal. By this I mean that many of the melodies and structures, although played with electric instruments and big, heavy orchestrations, are akin to pop music (and by pop music I mean both boy-bands and pop-rock music of the nineties). As a person who has grown up with Metal music and who has despised the different incarnations of pop music throughout my life I cannot relate to this band. Sepultura made a pretty brutal and intense album (The mediator between head and hands must be the heart). The new drummer gives a nice groove and when he is fast he respects the old-school Cavalera beat. Although I eventually got bored of the album after a few listens, it is apparent that Sepultura enjoy what they do and that they put all their passion in putting together a song.

Moving on to the albums that I actually enjoyed, I start with a Megatherion of Death metal. Suffocation‘s last album (Pinnacle of Bedlam), although I preferred it to its predecessor, did not destroy me. Nevertheless, there were a few songs which I consider to be some of the best Suffocation ever composed, such as the excellent “Sullen Days“, “As Grace Descends” and “Eminent Wrath”. Not that the rest of the songs are not really good. My problem lies with the sound which was a bit too modern for me and the drumming which – being the typical Culross drumming – was amazing albeit, in my opinion, not as fitting to Suffocation’s sound as Smith’s. Finally, Frank’s vocals sound a bit weird to me. In some cases I can tell that it is him singing but most of the time it could be anyone (maybe his limited lyrical contribution made the songs less interesting for him to sing). Broken Hope made a comeback with an extremely brutal and really good album (Omen of disease) mostly reminiscent of their pre-Loathing days. This means that it is quite simpler than Loathing (1997) and Grotesque blessings (1999), without this meaning that it lacks in awesome riffs and groove. However, as much as I like it I cannot help but think how much better it would have been if the album was comprised of only five of the existing songs (“Womb of horrors”, “Ghastly”, “The flesh mechanic”, “The docking dead“, “Choked out…”) and Brian Griffin was also part of the reunion and had written the rest of the songs… I was pleasantly surprised by Darkthrone‘s new album (The underground resistance) which sounds to me much more coherent and interesting than their last few albums, nailing the mix of traditional heavy metal with the black metal aesthetic. Sorcery‘s Arrival at six is another really cool album from 2013. The style is typical early Stockholm death metal, with buzzsaw riffs, a fair share of D-beat and slow atmospheric parts. At times it sounds a lot like early Dismember, especially the singer who sounds something between Kärki (Dismember), Bröms (Afflicted), Grewe (Morgoth) and even a bit like Jan-Chris from Gorefest.

One of the non-metal albums I got and liked a lot was the new album from the Adolescents (Presumed Insolent). This new album and the previous one (The fastest kid alive) sound like they were recorded at the same time, which is why, although I loved their previous album, this new collection of songs did not offer me something new. That being said I still think that all the songs are really cool (check out the awesome “Here comes the summer” and “Tic tac at the alligator tree“). The album also includes the song “Daisy’s revenge“, the continuing saga of “Stage diving Daisy”, a song which appeared on the sweet ADZ record Piper at the gates of Downey (check Tony’s Blog for more info on the story). The new Bad Religion album (True north) was also quite amazing. It is not too different from New Maps of Hell (2007), but with a more stripped down sound bringing into mind the mindblowing Suffer (1988)No control (1989) and Against the grain (1990). 1916 from 1990 was the last album by Motörhead which I found amazing. After that album I only liked a few songs off each album, which if put together would make a masterpiece**. Exceptions to the rule was Kiss of death (2006) which I thought was through and through excellent. Coming to their new album (Aftershock), I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than their last two albums. Fast songs like “Going to Mexico”, “Queen of the damned” and “End of time”, bluesy diamonds like “Dust and glass” and “Lost woman blues” and mid tempo songs like “Silence…” are great!

Other albums that I have either paid little attention to or I have not listened to their entirety and, as such, I cannot offer an informed opinion include the new Rotting Christ, Trouble, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine and Exhumed albums. The few songs I heard from the new album from Trouble sound pretty much like their awesome eponymous album from 1990 (check this out). A couple of songs from the new Exhumed album also sound pretty cool (check this out). The new Jello Biafra, from the little that I heard, also sounds awesome. Which leaves us with the albums I enjoyed the most and could not stop listening:

1. TormentedDeath Awaits

tormentTormented is a good example of a band that does not need to be technical or to break new ground to be brilliant. For these guys, playing old-school death metal is in their blood. Their simple and old-school death is so captivating that after listening to this album non-stop for the last five months I still cannot get used to how awesome it is, making it without question my favorite album from 2013. For a more detailed account of Death Awaits read this. My three favorite songs off the album these days would be, “Into the crypts of death”, “Black sky” and “Insane with dread”.

2. CarcassSurgical Steel

Carcass-Surgical-Steel-300x300Surgical steel would be my second favorite album from 2013. An unexpectedly phenomenal come-back from the band which defined to a large extend what extreme music is. I will not get too much into how amazing it is, I have written a much more detailed review here. I will only make a short mention to some of the lyrics which are fucking amazing, and I could not know that when I did the other review (the album had not been officially released yet). After the immature “Thrasher’s abattoir”, in which Jeff pours out his hatred towards posers and hipsters, starts an anti-war trilogy, an attack toward the military institutions, religion and the fetishism of violence. The theme of “Non-compliance” brings back some of the silliness, with Jeff singing about how the death metal scene is just a bunch of copy-cats, about how every new scene is doomed to be born, grow and die (‘this is the way of all flesh will decay’) and about the stale state of extreme metal (‘the cycle of death exhausted’). My favorite songs would be “Surgical steel”, “The granulating dark satanic mills” and “Cadaver pouch conveyor system”.

3. AutopsyThe Headless Ritual

autopsy-the_headless_ritualMacabre eternal (2011) did not cut it for me, but I think that Autopsy’s new album is brilliant. Reifert, Cutler, Coralles and Trevisano shine through as seasoned musicians who have perfected their craft and give their best in this album full of wonderful songs. It is really difficult to come up with favorite songs, so I’ll just go with one song from each band member: “She’s a funeral” composed by Reifert is a death metal monument, “Mangled far below” by Trevisano is heavy and punky with excellent lyrics, “Arch cadaver” by Coralles is definitive of Autopsy’s sickness and “Running from the goathead” showcases Cutler’s brilliant madness and ability to use well-tried musical recipes in a creative way that is breath-taking. Plus, hats off to the band and Peaceville for producing an aesthetically amazing record, making the process of listening with lyrics a pleasure.

4. ImmolationKingdom of Conspiracy

immolation-kingdom-of-conspiracy-300x300Immolation is one of those strange cases of bands that develop their unique style of music and stick to it without deviating at all from the basic formula, yet manage to not repeat themselves or get redundant. After more than two decades of playing the same devastating, cerebral style of death metal they keep coming up with songs that challenge and impress. (To my ears, however, and although most bands look tiny before “Kingdom of Conspiracy”, I cannot compare it to their back catalogue up until “Harnessing Ruin”, when each album was an unprecedented masterpiece.) The main theme across the album could be described as Foucauldian, in the sense that all lyrics have to do with the control of information by powerful institutions (governments, religions, corporations), the production of what Foucault calls knowledge-power, and the indoctrination of the masses. I would have liked the album much more if the drums did not sound so fake and were not so loud and prominent in the mix. Some amazing moments are the  part were Dolan growls ‘No one but ourselves to blame, no one but ourselves to shame’ on the eponymous song, the massive breaks on “Serving divinity”, the untamed brutality and the second-to-last riff on “Indoctrinate”, and the Morbid Angel-esque touch on “A spectacle of lies”. If I had to pick my three favorite songs these would be the monumental “Keep the silence”, “The great sleep”and “Serving divinity”.

5. Black Sabbath13

Black-Sabbath-13The impression that I got from various webzines and forums is that for many people Black Sabbath’s new album is a disgrace. For me, on the contrary, it is a pretty awesome album. For sure, to a large extent this album is a product of the higher and non-productive echelons of the music industry, a fact that I don’t like. For sure I would have preferred Tony Iommi not having been instructed by any producers what to compose. For sure I would have liked executives and managers having stayed away from Sabbath. And I would also have liked Ozzy to have actually been able to sing without the use of technology. However, if I leave all these things aside and if I accept this album as merely a studio project, I have to admit that I love it! For sure Iommi provided songs on Rick Rubin’s demand, but the stuff he came up with are awesome. I also have to admit that Ozzy’s melodies are awesome. Butler’s bass-lines are addictive as always, yet less frantic than in the past, and Iommi’s leads are, as usual, from another world. The drums are boring but, with the exception of the albums that Bill Ward was on, all Sabbath albums have boring drums in my opinion. Although all the songs are amazing I would say that my favorite ones are currently “Age of reason”, “Damaged soul” and “End of the beginning”.

** For example, “Asylum choir”, “Jack the ripper”, “Too good to be true”, “Lost in the ozone”, “Death or glory”, “Don’t let daddy kiss me”, “Sacrifice”, “Out of the sun”, “I don’t believe a word”, “Dead and gone”, “Take the blame”, “We are Motorhead”, “Stagefright”, “Wake the dead”, “Brave new world”, “Smiling like a killer”, are songs that I love from the 1990s and early 2000s Motorhead. 


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