Y’know how when an awesome album comes out at the end of the year, and you tend to forget about some of the ones that first appeared in February? Yeah, this year had a couple of those. But I also made sure to take a look at every record I reviewed in 2013, to make sure that those early gems didn’t get left out. All in all, I feel there’s a steady stream of releases from throughout the annum–but I’ll be damned if some darn good ones didn’t drop in late October!
10. Argus – Beyond the Martyrs
Alas, the third album from this Pittsburgh power-doom outfit didn’t strike my fancy quite as much as its predecessor, which claimed the third spot on my 2011 list. But while they’re a little more power, a little less doom this time around, they still deliver some solid traditional metal for those who like their Iron Maiden with a side of Candlemass.
CHOICE WORDS: Album number three begins with “By Endurance We Conquer,” which sounds like something straight outta the mouth of Schwarzenegger (as Conan, natch). But this number doesn’t immediately crush its enemies, taking a slow buildup towards a brisk power-metal gallop, with some doomy breakdowns thrown in for good measure. — Hellbound.ca review, September 17th.
9. Kings Destroy – A Time of Hunting
Hard to believe these guys are a buncha Noo Yawk Hahd Koa veterans, as their second album channels Candlemass much more than, I dunno, the Cro-Mags or something. In any case, I hafta give Kings Destroy credit as the only band to hand me a keychain in 2013. If that doesn’t scream DIY, I dunno what does!
CHOICE WORDS: “The Toe” keeps the sorrow coming with some deadly doom riffing that kinda recalls Candlemass. The refrain of “Lay down and diiiiieeee” almost makes me wanna do just that. Oh and “Don’t forget to bring libations/to the funeral of Satan” is a line Ghost only wished they could write, heh heh. — apparently this one went unpublished…
8. Revelation – Inner Harbor
Fun Fact: I have personally attended the last three Canadian gigs by this Baltimore-based trio–and in three different cities, to boot! Alas, while I didn’t see Revelation in 2013, they did plenty to tide me over with this warm slice of progressive-tinged, 70’s-rock-influenced, traditional doom metal. Not many bands make you namecheck Rush, ZZ Top and Saint Vitus on the same record… These guys do.
CHOICE WORDS: “Rebecca at the Well” gives off a bit more of a traditional doom vibe at first with some soaring guitar bends, while becoming progressively more progressive with its share of tasty keyboard patterns. A case of doom-metal mind meld with the other John, Sir Gallo of Blizaro, perhaps? — Hellbound.ca review, April 26th.
7. BL’AST! – Blood
OK, so this one wasn’t recorded in 2013, but rather in ’87, although it took over 25 years to see the light of day. These SoCal skate-punks shared stages with Neurosis and inspired Fu Manchu to pick up instruments–although you would hardly know it today. That said, you could certainly file this one next to the first couple Neurosis records, back when they were still considered a hardcore band. And if your local record store’s nerdy enough to have a post-hardcore section, well, they could probably put this one there, too.
CHOICE WORDS: “Sequel” has a similar feel initially, though it’s more than twice as long at 3:46, and contains a killer change-of-pace to some lightning-fast riffage, preceding an unexpected stop-start section. Again, shades of very early Neurosis, and considering that the latter were cutting their teeth around this time, one has to wonder who inspired who? — Hellbound.ca review, September 3rd.
6. Corrections House – Last City Zero
Speaking of Neurosis, Scott Kelly features prominently in this quirky post-sludge supergroup that also includes the likes of Mike Williams and super(-sludgy) producer Sanford Parker. But this record takes you places that even the Neurot tribe, in all its expansive glory, rarely ventures. We’re talking spoken-word poetry, harsh electronics and Satanic saxophone solos. Put that in your horn and blow it!
CHOICE WORDS: And speaking of out-there, how about a four-minute acoustic guitar/saxophone interlude (“Run Through the Night”) that gives way to whispered vocals and a blackened fuzz brigade? Definitely don’t hear those every day. — Hellbound.ca review, November 10th.
5. Pyres – Year of Sleep
This is hands-down my Canadian album of the year. They even beat out Blood Ceremony–no small feat in my books. Alas, while I wasn’t too familiar with these Torontonian post-sludge practitioners (perhaps you’re detecting a theme now?) before this one landed in my inbox, I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Sure, there are shades of all the masters: Neurosis, Isis, hell, even a little Sleep–befitting of the album title–but it’s presented in an overall package that sounds pretty refreshing. Oh, and they’re pretty sweet live, too!
CHOICE WORDS: The title track spans nine-and-a-half minutes of melodic post-sludge, starting off slow and mellow with a definite Neurosis vibe. Even when the vocals indicate an increase in aggressiveness, it maintains that NeurIsis feel, contrasting the vicious barks with some Aquarian instrumentation that particularly recalls the latter. — Hellbound.ca review, July 24th.
4. Mothership – self-titled
The best all-out, balls-out heavy-rock record of 2013 in my books, this Texas band of brothers channeling AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and the finest southern rock on their self-titled debut. I mean, this one dropped back in March, but still remains top of mind, due at least in part to their barnstorming tour with a whole buncha bands back in early October. Pretty sure they sold every copy of this thing during the course of that shindig–and rightfully so!
CHOICE WORDS: Wait, did I say southern rock? Cuz the ominous opening riff of “Hallucination” actually reminds me of vintage Vitus! I reckon it’s got a bit more boogie than the kings of lo-fi doom, but dayum—didn’t see that coming. — unpublished(!!?) review
3. Atlantean Kodex – The White Goddess
Whereas Argus went more towards power metal with their 2013 release, their German counterparts put the doom in power doom with this hour-long epic. Blessed with one of the most potent voices in the genre, these guys manage to make songs that would sound totally dorky if sung by some loincloth/tunic-wearing band instead seem simply crushing. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment in itself!
CHOICE WORDS: Yes, this is an 11-minute song right off the bat. The chorus comes crashing down before launching into a brief frantic fury that might even make Dragonforce’s heads spin. But this isn’t pure wankery, as they quickly bring things back to a chugging, fast-paced verse. — Hellbound.ca review, September 9th.
2. Earthless – From the Ages
Everybody’s favourite instrumental stoner jam band is back with their first new platter in five freakin’ years! But if you’re still bummed out about the wait, well, you obviously haven’t heard From the Ages yet–and if so, I pity you. Very few trios are able to turn it up and dial it in like these guys, making 30-minute numbers fly by like Napalm Death B-Sides. Mind you, there is only one such epic track to be found here; elsewhere, they’ve dialed things down to 14 minutes and change. You won’t be disappointed at that, though…trust me.
CHOICE WORDS: None. Dude, it’s Earthless! ;)
1. Church of Misery – Thy Kingdom Scum
Although there’s no shortage of praise that can be heaped upon this pugnacious platter, allow me to repeat what I recently wrote on Hellbound’s Top 10 countdown: “The U.S. government screwed us outta seeing Church of Misery this year, which is truly a shame after such an awesome album. Always been a fan of these serial-killer doomsters, who inject an unhealthy amount of groove courtesy of bassist Tatsu Mikami. And man, Thy Kingdom Scum has everything: mass murderers, distortion pedals, a cover of early 70s outfit Quatermass… Like I said when I first reviewed this thing, Church of Misery out-Sabbaths the new Sabbath record, and it’s not even close.”
(More) CHOICE WORDS: Hey, I know they’re pretty much preaching to the choir at this point; I’ve been worshiping at the Church of Misery for quite some time now. That said, for fans of fuzz-heavy doom, I repeat: this is better than the new Black Sabbath. Call your local record store, cuz they probably don’t have it on their shelves… — Hellbound.ca review, July 29th.