Last week, we unveiled our 10 Best Metal Albums of 2013. But, it’s been such a great year for metal that we’ve decided to acknowledge some additional heavy albums worth the neck soreness they’ll cause you post-headbanging. With a shout-out to some local bands, here are eight (more) metal albums that deserve your attention.
See also: The 10 Best Metal Albums of 2013
One of the most deeply grooving metal albums of the year, Terror Regime makes serious death metal seriously fun. Jungle Rot–who hail from Kenosha, Wisconsin–throw down hooks in the spirit of classic bands like Carcass and Bolt Thrower. The band’s name refers to the grisly foot infection otherwise known as a Tropical ulcer. Perhaps it also speaks to the nature of their dank riffs which are, in a word, infectious.
Warbeast’s Destroy is a monolith of ripping Texas thrash, released on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records. Here is an instance where the energy of the album cover perfectly illustrates that of the music. A neon green creature, looking like what would happen if the Hulk mated with a triceratops, roars through flames, a battle cry seared on his face. The image is kinetic–and just this side of ridiculous. Likewise, Warbeast’s tunes forcefully crush the listener in an avalanche of loudness (expertly mixed to preserve the lower register)–alleviated by a sense of humor. Check out “Egotistical Bastard,” and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.
Pinnacle of Bedlam
Long Island natives Suffocation have served up consistently ruthless death metal since 1988, and Pinnacle of Bedlam delivers another unrelenting round of punches to the proverbial gut. Scalding solos (“As Grace Descends”), glottal vocals, and the killer attack of Dave Culcross’s drums made this one of the year’s earliest (in February) great releases. Angular time signatures create a broken waltz out of “Sullen Days,” while the title track is a wartime march to the beat of a psycho drummer. These death metal vets are like a maniacal orchestra–armed with chainsaws, lawn mowers, and tanks.
The Devil’s Cut
Bass player and songwriter Jon Leon of White Wizzard is always the first to offer jokes about his Los Angeles band’s ever-evolving lineup, which now has seen 16 musicians (besides Leon) pass through its ranks in the last six years. Comparisons have been made to Deep Purple and Spinal Tap (two bands that usually should never appear in the same sentence), but at this point, Leon rivals Dave Mustaine with his penchant for hiring and firing at will. It’s a pity, as White Wizzard achieved an outstanding homage to the NWOBHM with The Devil’s Cut–due in no small part to the breathtaking vocal range of Joseph Michael and the dueling guitars of Will Wallner and Jake Dreyer. But singer Michael was fired by Leon in October; following which, Earache Records dropped the band, and the remaining members quit. At least the-guys-formerly-known-as-White Wizzard still have the consolation of an excellent record to mark the year that saw the demise of their band.
Rings of Saturn
Calling this Bay Area deathcore album “technical” does not even begin to describe the extremity of this music. No one else plays like this. The sweep picking by guitarists Lucas Mann and Joel Omans is so fast against drummer Ian Baker’s machine-volley blast beats, the experience of listening to them is like being trapped in a pinball machine. Add to that the petrifying vocals of Ian Bearer, whose voice is so low it seems to emanate from his bowels, resonating around the same frequency as the bass lines by Sean Martinez. This record is almost unlistenable, best digested in small doses. And that’s a compliment.
Dream Theater were the first prog metal band, and their self-titled album proves they’re the reigning champs of the genre. (They’re also the second Long Island band on this list.) Keyboardist Jordan Rudess is widely recognized as the master of his craft; indeed he is so undeniably strong here that even skeptics (like me) who sometimes wish synths had died in the ’80s can’t help but be won over by his skill. He’s balanced by guitar god John Petrucci, whose solos are always transcendent. Not since Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore have a keyboardist and guitarist been so equally matched. This is one of the band’s best efforts to date.
When you think of technical death metal, you probably don’t think of Buddhist monks. But lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Luc Lemay of Gorguts finds no contradiction in pairing violent sonics and non-violent philosophy. The “colored sands” of the album title refer to the intricate mandala sculptures in Tibet, and the lyrics sparsely chronicle the turbulent history of the region. Joining Lemay (who is French-Canadian) are New Yorkers Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel, and John Longstreth. (It’s been a good year for the locals!) Although the tracks were recorded over two years ago (the release was delayed due to record contract complications), the arrangements are forward-thinking, densely coiled around an instrumental centerpiece, “The Battle of Chamdo,” performed by a string quintet. This is–if you will–thoughtful death metal, forged in compositions of the highest caliber.
The Theory of Everything
Personal bias alert: I am obsessed with this album. Obsessed.
Epic is too small a word to describe this prog metal opus, conceived and composed by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen. The album’s 42 tracks fill two CDs with 84 minutes of music. The storyline, about an autistic savant, features seven characters voiced by seven extraordinary singers (including Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil, Marco Hietala of Nightwish, and John Wetton of Asia and King Crimson). There are world-class guest musicians (Rick Wakeman of Yes, Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater, Steve Hackett of Genesis, Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer…to name a few). There are instruments you may never even have heard of: uileann pipes and whistles by Troy Donockley (Nightwish), an Irish bouzouki played by Michael Mills (Toehider). And there’s the man keeping it all together, the incomparable Ed Warby on drums. It’s Pink Floyd meets The Who’s Tommy meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Jethro Tull meets metal. It’s awesome. It’s genius. It will give you chills.