The process by which TDM calculates annual lists involves numerous people, a points systems, and blind submissions. This takes a lot of time, wracks the nerves, and always results in extended discourse.
However, none of that happened this year, because everyone was busy with other stuff, so now you are stuck with only me, resulting in a best of 2013 list going to press in August. Of 2014. Sorry about that one.
“If it’s so late, why even bother?”
Let me share a short story that, along with some reader comments, rekindled my drive to complete this list. In recent weeks I saw a list that placed Deeds of Flesh in only the honorable mention. On a list of 40! I was livid. I raged. How could the writer miss that!?
In short, I hope this list inspires the same reaction. Or, gets some listeners to check out some new bands. Sorry if I left out your favorite, as I make no claim to having heard all the possible albums (even some of which are covered by other writers on this site, sorry guys)… and if I did, please let me know in the comments.
– Witness to the Void
This vessel of crushing galactic death metal may have slipped under the radar for many. If this happened once, don’t let it happen again. Nebulous make for a quality contribution to any collection.
Grooving galactic death metal with Warhammer 40k lyrics, plus bonus track remixes of them in 8-bit? A must buy, especially at the price of 1 CAD. Exterminatus will appeal to metalheads who want their tech combined with grooves.
18. Mephistopheles – Sounds of the End (Willowtip)
A genuinely weird release featuring “Chalky,” former vocalist of Psycroptic. The jazz/brutal death parts are fantastic, but the clean singing portions seem a bit out of place, and mess with the smoothly pulverizing flow. Although certainly respectable for the artistic effort, it may be alienating to some listeners.
Fusing galactic death metal with blackened riffing and classical composition results in an intriguing debut for Oblivion. The newcomer group consists of a professor of music and modernist composer; a math PhD student; a 25 year music veteran; the drummer for The Zenith Process; and the founding bassist/primary songwriter for All Shall Perish.
16. Serocs – The Next (Independent)
TDM has followed Serocs since their one-man instrumental EPs, and The Next is a huge step forward. It falls somewhere between brutal death metal, technical death metal, and deathgrind, but whatever genre-obsessed bloggers wish to call it, the full band effort is all crushing.
A bit of a stretch for this, Carbonized Gnawing Mandible may be the odd band out due to a heavy dose of black metal. However, Anointed is relentlessly vicious and will turn/shred your ear at first listen. Furthermore, with a name-your-price rate for this debut, I feel no one should complain.
Banisher introduces just enough of the experimental to make Scarcity sound atytpical and offbeat, but not obtuse, pretentious, or self-indulgent.
Does your calendar read 1993? Sometimes mine does. It would seem Incarnator’s does too, because despite forming in 2007, the band plays formative era tech/prog death straight from the good ole days. Caeca Superstitio fuses Individual Thought Patterns with Heartwork for a detailed and trend-refuting reminder of yesteryear.
12. Nervecide – Impermanence (Independent)
Philosophical themes delivered with the force of a bulldozer? And for free? Yes, please. Nervecide is Meshuggah-tinged technical/progressive/brutal death for the thinking metalhead.
Combine the old world/mythological subject matter of Nile, the technicality of Origin, and the slight melodic catchiness of Neuraxis for one of the most exciting debut of the year… and offered at a name-your-price rate.
10. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (Independent)
To some listeners, the idea of full technical death metal with an opera may sound like a car wreck, and for most bands it would be, but these composers make depravity and disgust classy. Much more accomplished than 2011’s Torment, Fleshgod Apocalypse have solidified their own microgenre with Labyrinth.
In contract to Banisher, Gigan goes for all out Lovecraft The Colour Out of Space weird… and succeeds at summoning forth a cosmic behemoth from beyond the void.
8. Portal – Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
Speaking of the void, Portal is the void. Twisting and contorting like smoke in this wind tunnel of death meal, these Aussie’s latest release snakes out an uncomfortable enigma.
Conventional descriptors like “weird” or “dark” don’t even begin to describe the uncomfortable lurch of Ulcerate. The only possible complaint is that it may not cause listeners to squirm like the first time, which, for me, was Everything is Fire.
The best independently released technical death metal album of 2013, It Rains is no refreshing spring shower; these are sheets of sledgehammers, deluges of concrete from the sky, the sound of unimaginable pressure and weight. And the best rainy day record of all time.
Katalepsy demonstrates brutal depravity at its most developed and precise. The surprise recommendation of the year for me, from Rimmon.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hit the replay button on my CD player so quickly. This isn’t just Album Of The Year, it’s Album Of The Goddamn DECADE. Maybe more so than that. I can now safely say that no other album in 2013 can touch ‘Exodromos’ or hope to match it… It even manages to go beyond a death metal triumph as important/groundbreaking/original as ‘Pierced From Within’, ‘Obscura’ and ‘Elvenefris’; this a musical work for the ages. A true combination of genius, virtuosity and timelessness.”
“Their style has evolved into much more massive attack. More lively and muddy sound came in more atmospheric regions. It reminds me sludge – progressive – groove / death metal. Heavy like a tanker but also subtly speeding through the ocean of unusual melodies.
“They are able to move seamlessly between at least four varieties of metal. Sometimes they are nimble like a fox hunting in the snow, however, great emphasis is placed here on the prevailing atmosphere of tension and weight. They will massacre every smile on your face and you feel like your skin goes moldy. I like the way, they perfectly combine everything I love in metal. They confirm highest form and reward greatly this long, 12 years of waiting for the new material. Time spent with “Colored Sands” is always as intense as overwhelming. Extremely valuable material, in every way.” – Rimmon
2. Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam (Nuclear Blast)
“Pinnacle of Bedlam, overall, is much more modern and diverse than many may remember Suffocation. This is a citadel of dehumanization, shining luminously in an already brilliant catalog, and it may win over numerous young’uns unaware of Suffocation’s greatness. Just ignore the complaints of the xenophobes who want a rehash of Effigy of the Forgotten.”
1. Deeds of Flesh – Portals to Canaan (Unique Leader)
“Deeds of Flesh has always written complex and contorted songs, but on Portals the combination of the new talent has resulted in a captivating blend between ten-ton sledgehammers and precision lasers, pairing old Suffocation with modern Spawn of Possession. This is meticulously calculated obliteration, moved from the decaying crypts to alien landscapes.”
There it is folks, TDM’s best of 2013, as seen by Witness to the Void. I have to admit that the choice between Portals to Canaan and Pinnacle of Bedlam was probably the single reason this list goes to print so late, however, I just couldn’t put my mind at ease about a choice either way. In the end, I found Deeds of Flesh’s implementation of the sample from The Thing to remain in my mind as a powerful image of what the album accomplishes; hence, I found myself spinning it more often than anything else from 2013.
Although 2013 gave us strong entries from heavy hitters like Deeds of Flesh and Suffocation, as well as a large dose of the weird from Gigan, Portal, Ulcerate and Gorguts, a heavy percentage of the bands included on this list are newcomers. In contrast, 2014 has delivered fists to the face from huge names like Origin, Archspire, Inanimate Existence, Pyrrhon, Hour of Penance, Omnihility, Gridlink, Fallujah, Beneath… I am getting excited about next year’s list already. This time I will make sure to get my list in order ahead of time…speaking of which, I think I have some playlists to make…