Thursday, July 31, 2014

Metalholic’s 50 Best Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2013

December 16, 2013 by  
Filed under 2013 Rankings, Features, Rankings

50 Best Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2013

50 Best Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2013
And yet another year had blazed by in the blink of an eye. It seems we just unleashed our Best of List for 2012 yet here we are again closing in on another huge year for hard rock and metal. So it’s time to look back at the Best Hard Rock and Metal Albums of 2013. The ever interesting thing about music is how it can grow on you or grow apart from you: Albums originally thought to be genius lose luster over time, and some that were overlooked initially begin to take on a life of their own. In scouring our album reviews for 2013 we noticed several that received high marks when reviewed which did not even make this list, and others which, if re-reviewed today would receive much better marks.

Perception and perspective…

As with all lists, no one will agree with many of the choices that follow. Some excluded bands will be hailed as brilliant, and unforgivable lapses on our part, while some inclusive of this list will be picked apart, and our journalistic credentials vilified. Remember, in the end, this is all opinion, and undoubtedly with the morass of albums released in 2013 we undoubtedly overlooked a handful that might have made the list had we heard them.

As always, there are no EPs (which left out Nails and Noisem), greatest hits, covers, or live albums on this list. These are full length studio efforts only. The list was compiled with feedback from the various Metalholic staff, and ultimately the question to be asked at the end of the day was/is which albums did you return to the most this year? These are ours:

50. The Black Dahlia Murder Everblack (Metal Blade)

TheBlackDahliaMurder-Everblack-300x300Everblack  serves well in keeping the momentum going for the The Black Dahlia Murder’s career even with the many lineup changes that have plagued them. The sound remains the band’s own as well, with room to experiment with several elements. Bringing back some of the blackened influences on “Everblack” introduces that taste of nostalgia as well as a refresher to the ears. Even though the album has many positives, I still feel that the album falls short of executing some excellent ideas that could make it a contender for the top at the end of the year. Either way, you’re bound to find something you like, whether you’re a new fan or old.  - Jeffrey Allee

49. Monster Truck – Furiosity (Dine Alone Records)

Monster Truck - FuriosityMonster Truck could easily be another one of those new bands mining old ground without creating anything lasting or memorable. They could be because they tap into vintage rock and roll and also use elements of 90s grunge, and the millennium stoner sludge revival. They could be, but they are not. Monster Truck‘s success rests in its collective ability to craft genuine no frills rock and roll that resonates with fans across the board. “Furiosity finds four gifted musicians playing music with heart, from the heart. Let the rock and roll revival begin. Can I get an Amen? - Rustyn Rose

48. Avenged Sevenfold – Hail to the King (Warner Brothers)

A7X_Hail to the King_Album CoverAvenged Sevenfold has stripped their sound down to its musical core on “Hail to the King” and it’s a complete departure from the band’s previous work. It is an intimate look at a band rediscovering and reimagining itself.  In the beginning of the CD the songs are similar, dark musically and lyrically, but as you proceed forward track by track each song feels more comfortable and confident. “Hail to the King opens shadowy, difficult, stuck while circling mid-tempo, but by track 5 they start to pull themselves out of it and by “Crimson Day” they are moving over the hump. “Hail to the King is a testament of Avenged Sevenfold’s abilities, resilience and determination to continue full steam ahead.  - Maven Rena

47. Finntroll - Blodsvept (Century Media)

finntroll_cover2013Blodsvept” as a whole maintains that typical Finntroll aggression, especially in the title track, but a lot of the heavier more black metal like elements are lost. A step in the more melodic direction may not necessarily be a bad thing for the band, as even though this album is very contrastive to any in the past, it’s an outstanding release and something to be proud of. A few classic Finntroll fans may be lost, but this is opening a door to an entirely new group of fans, those of us who enjoy the folkiest of the folk metal, rather than the black metal dipped in a light folk metal batter. Face it, most of us don’t understand the lyrics, and have to use Wikipedia to track down what an album even is referencing. So listen to the album expecting these happier sounding tracks, some even bordering silliness, grab a beer and enjoy… as that is definitely the point of the album. - Mattie Jensen

46. POWER TRIP – MANIFEST DECIMATION (SOUTHERN LORD)

Power TripDallas metal desecrators bring their own brand of hardcore thrash to the table. A notable debut record that will strain your neck muscles and shred your sinews. There is plenty of muscular riff and chug combined with rapid fire bursts of tasty solos from Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart. Riley Gale’s dominating vocals are dynamic and beastly.  The dual Chris’s, Whetzel (bass) and Ulsh (drums) lay down a solid rhythmic foundation for the band’s aggressive attack. One could complain about some of the cavernous production values, but this is in fact some of what makes the album stand out. This is an album that makes you want to get in the pit and hit some shit. Let the decimation begin. - Rustyn Rose

45. Mors Principium Est - …and Death Said Live (AFM Records)

and Death said liveThe highlight of “…And Death Said Live” comes in the form of a beautiful haunting piece that is the title track of the album. Instrumental, but speaking volumes, the song manages to remind you of the concept behind the title – that “having Death on your side means the end can wait..especially if he’s the beginning and driving force behind it all.” If those words don’t lull, inspire, and give one a sense of hope, then this song definitely will. Mors Principium Est have once again managed to defy comparison, even though that has been tried again and again. Bands like Children of BodomDark Tranquility, and In Flames have had their likes compared to the sounds on “And Death Said Live”, but I digress. You will need to listen for yourself and come to your own conclusions. Either way this album is an essential on the lists of fans of melodic death, death metal, and symphonic metal alike. - Doron Beit-Halahmi 

44. Suidakra – Eternal Defiance (AFM Records)

suidakraeternalcdSuidakra have crafted their most interesting mélange yet of melodic death metal and Celtic folk elements around its story. The finished product being a tale of epic proportions. All in all, “Eternal Defiance” is one of Suidakra‘s strongest releases yet, and a much more focused concept album than 2006?s slightly misguided “Caledonia, if I might add. The band play to their strengths and at the same time don’t shy from trying out new elements, making this a great balance of brutal and melodic. Would that all our history chapters be this epic more often. Sairaj Kamath

43. Kill Devil Hill – Revolution Rise (Century Media)

Kill Devil Hill - Revolution RiseThe feeling of hunger seeps through on this entire album. After more than a year of heavy touring, Kill Devil Hill has brought a stronger, more noticeable chemistry to this record. It is clear in listening to the powerful and energetic undercurrent of “Revolution Rise” that the quartet has never been hungrier or more determined. Throw away the tired super-group label, Kill Devil Hill is simply one ass-kicking hard rock outfit making heavy as fuck rock and roll music. - Rustyn Rose

42. Pop Evil – Onyx (E1 Music)

pop evil - onyxOnyx” finds the Michigan boys back in the studio with producer Johnny K, (Disturbed, Sevendust, Megadeth), but this time around the guys already knew what they wanted to do and had earned the stripes to do it. After two years of non-stop touring, refining their style and solidifying their line-up, they poured their swagger and energy into a dozen powerful new songs. Drummer Josh Marunde makes a propulsive debut, and as always, Leigh Kakaty’s vocals are the band’s defining magic. He can go from soaring melodies to his trademark rock-rap with fluid grace. It’s exciting that Pop Evil is taking a heavier and darker approach. This may not be as instantly accessible as its predecessor, “War of Angels“; but “Onyx” is a dynamic beast of a record that outshines many of the band’s contemporaries. It will surely elevate Pop Evil to the next level. - Rustyn Rose

41. Vattnet Viskar - Sky Swallower (Century Media)

Vattnet Viskar - Sky Swallower-604x604Sky Swallower” is a must for those that eat, drink, and sleep atmospheric black metal. New metal listeners may not be able to fully grasp the idea and emotion behind this record, but I think that they should still give it a chance. The production is perfect for the style of music, as a lot of black metal bands tend to go for a more raw sound that drives even more listeners away. This characteristic alone really helps these guys out. Finally, the record can seem a bit straightforward, but there are many moments that can be overlooked that bring out a lot of the beauty and elegance that this sub-genre offers. - Jeffrey Allee

40. In Solitude – Sister (Metal Blade)

insolitude-sisterSweden’s In Solitude continues to evolve its sound on the band’s third effort, “Sister” Dark, atmospheric passages overlay a classic NWOBHM foundation. One fan hails “Sister” as “a plunge into dark wonder and madness, beauty and grotesque, the human condition with the welcomed issue of a little bleeding stigmata…” The vocals are both angsty and melancholy with moody ambience. There is something of the occult here as well, giving the entire album a bizarre yet ornate feel. A better album than Ghost‘s “Infestissumam” by far. - Rustyn Rose

39. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell

FFDP2Every performance on this album hits the mark, though Volume 2 is the slightly weaker of the set. Jason Hook adds some tasty and infectious solos. Chris Kael’s bass work is perhaps a bit too buried in the mix for my taste, but his style blends perfectly into the group’s signature. The bottom line is, “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell” picks up where the previous three albums left off. If you like or love Five Finger Death Punch you will embrace these albums with two fists. If you are among the “haters” nothing here is likely to change your point of view. - Rustyn Rose

38. Benedictum – Obey (AFM Records)

benedictum_obey_front2With “Obey“, Benedictum continues to lay down a classic, old school metal onslaught in the vein of Accept, Dio, Rainbow, Sabbath and their ilk. Pete Wells once again proves he is one of the most overlooked riff-masters out there. The band may need to add a second guitarist to bring his fret mastery to life on tour, and vocalist Veronica Freeman hints that this may just happen. It is too soon to tell if “Obey” is Benedictum‘s best album so far, but it is certainly every bit as strong as anything they have recorded, and it is bound to make many a year-end “best of” list. - Rustyn Rose

37. Voivod – Target Earth (Century Media)

VoivodtargetWith “Target Earth” Voivod not only keep Denis “Piggy” D’Amour’s  memory alive but breathe new life one of metal most iconic legacies. The spirit of Piggy soars onward through equal parts emulation, respect, and enthusiasm. “Target Earth” fits right into that mix of the band’s most seminal works  as if it were born of that era. The vocal performances are among Denis “Snake” Bélanger’s best in over two decades, while his lyrics continue to intrigue. Michel “Away” Langevin remains one of metals elite and most overlooked skinmasters, and the distorted rumble of Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault’s bass marks a welcome return. New guitarist, Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain performs with soul and emotion, paying homage to the departed D’Amour, while staying true to his own heart and style. All of these elements come together on “Target Earth” in an inspired, freakishly weird, imaginatively wondrous, and oddly beautiful album. - Rustyn Rose

36. Stratovarius – Nemesis (Edel)

stratovariusnemesisTo say this album changed my life would probably be an understatement. I am so grateful to the band for creating this wonderful, inspirational work of art. Honestly, this album is a perfect example of what power metal always meant for me. In the post-Tolkki Stratovarius world, there are lovers and haters of the new direction the band is going in. This album in particular is a more modern, digitized sound, with some seriously amazing production quality that really resonates with me. I am consistently sucked into this album with all of the atmospheric keyboard touches and pure beauty and depth in the musicianship, no matter how many times I’ve listened to it already this year. The album also has one of the best written Stratovarius ballads, hands down. I have never really been a huge fan of their ballads (“4000 Rainy Nights” anyone?) but this one is flawless. Which makes sense, since the album as a whole is nearly perfect as well. - Mattie Jensen

35. Death Angel – The Dream Calls for Blood (Nuclear Blast)

Death-Angel-The-Dream-Calls-for-BloodBay Area thrash lords, Death Angel, have long been one of metal’s more overlooked bands. Barely out of high school and pimples when the band broke onto the scene in 1982, they return some three decades on with a most impressive follow-up to 2010?s brutal, “Relentless Retribution“. Still driven by guitarist Rob Cavestany and vocalist Mark Osegueda, the band’s fiery riffage and highbrow lyrics continue to set them apart. Less experimental than its previous effort, “The Dream Calls for Blood” is simply an aggressive, throat-ripping, skull-crusher that bleeds violent intent. Osegueda in particular shines here with some intense and menacing vocal work. This is a full-scale thrash barrage of the highest caliber. - Rustyn Rose

34. Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose (Nuclear Blast)

Black Star Riders - All Hell Breaks LooseOne listen to “All Hell Breaks Loose and it’s clear that Phil Lynott would have been proud. The heart of the Thin Lizzy sound breathes through Black Star Riders, but the guys also set their own identity here. Still, the songwriting is infused with the legacy of seminal Thin Lizzy, and that Irish magic is woven through the sonic tapestry of every track. “All Hell Breaks Loose” is inspired and inspiring, reverent and reckless, bluesy and bombastic. Scott Gorham and company not only keep the spirit and majesty of Thin Lizzy alive, they breathe fresh life into an era of rock and roll that has been on life support for two decades. Black Star Riders are not a shadow of the past but a present day force. - Rustyn Rose

33. Motörhead - Aftershock (UDR)

motorheadaftershockcd_600One might think that nearly four decades and 21 albums into their storied career, Lemmy Kilmister and Motörhead wouldn’t have much gas left in the tank or anything worthwhile to say. You’d be wrong. The band’s swagger returns in a big way on “Aftershock”, and the sound is grittier, ballsier, and filthier than we have heard in years. The familiar Motörhead speed and grungy groove are on fine display, but the band continues to push its own signature into new directions. It is fucking Motörhead! Enough said. – Rustyn Rose

32. Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)

darkthrone-theundergroundNorwegians Fenriz and Nocturno Culto return for yet another spin through everything from black metal, thrash, punk and of course, classic traditional metal to create a signature that is as diverse as it is unique. Darkthrone even dip into some proto-metal with this offering. The duo manage to capture the sounds of 30 odd years of metal majesty on “The Underground Resistance”. As one fan put it, “They simply just don’t care what passes for metal nowadays, they are doing their own thing, period. If slick production values are what you are looking for, you need not look here, the spirit and passion for metal doesn’t need a big digital deal. Raw chaos is the real deal!” Well said! – Rustyn Rose

31. Falling in Reverse – Fashionably Late (Epitaph)

Falling In reverse - Fashionably LateFashionably Late“’s musicality is better and it is sonically stronger than “The Drug In Me Is You.  The lower end tones have more weight, the bass is supporting the kick and there is a nice rhythm throughout.  It simply sounds good vocally and musically. Fashionably Late as a whole is a remarkable album and something I feel Falling In Reverse should be proud of.  There will be plenty of hate towards this CD but there will also be plenty of love.  Those hardcore FIR fans understand Falling In Reverse’s vision and they are not going anywhere.  - Maven Rena

30. Amon Amarth – Deceiver of The Gods (Metal Blade)

Amon-Amarth-Deciever-of-the-GodsGjallarhorns of warning sound along the coastline, as Amon Amarth storm the shore once more with blood, steel and fire in their eyes, to deliver another huge slab of Swedish Vi-Kingly death metal. “Deceiver of the Gods is a concise statement of power, filled with undeniably catchy, crushing melodies that lodge in your brain, only to be unearthed once more when you awaken a few days from now. And if that’s not enough, it’s wrapped in the most sublimely titled “Hel” featuring Messiah Marcolin on vocals, as Thor Doom combination insanely concludes the album with Mjolnir in full glorious color. What they have done here is so complete and realized that it’s cinematic in scope. - Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi

29. Leprous – Coal (InsideOut/Century Media)

leprous-coalWith their new album “Coal“, Leprous have set the bar up real high for the progressive metal scene, creating a unique, original identity for themselves.  Deftly managing not to sound technical or bland, they sail through with flying colors. A lot of the components in the album remain the same throughout. Like the hypnotic vocals, the evident bass lines, the odd time drumming, the amazing synth giving the dark, sorrowful atmospheric feel, the album had it all and the band hit the bull’s eye with what they were aiming at. This album is a solid proof that you can make great progressive music without sounding too technical and notice, sans any solos! It is that captivating, and it will go on to play as an infinite loop in my mind for days to come.  So go out and give this rejuvenating album a well deserved shot. - Vishaal G

28. Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic)

Serpents UnleashedSkeletonwitch plays a unique style of blackened thrash that also mixes in some of the 80’s flair as well as an old school doom metal vibe. Not only have these guys been consistent over the years, but they have also kept to their roots and only get better at their craft as the years pass by. Every song, every melody, every note just screams metal and everything good about it. I may be exaggerating this a little, but in all honesty, you don’t see many bands carrying on as strongly as Skeletonwitch does. In “Serpents Unleashed, there isn’t much progression in their sound from the previous record, but you can’t help notice the subtle changes that differ. The solid production, tightened instrumentals, and effective songwriting are the elements that elevated this opus to one of the top albums of 2013. - Jeffrey Allee

27. Asking Alexandria - From Death to Destiny (Sumerian)

From_Death_to_DestinyFrom Death to Destiny is musically cohesive and takes some of the greatest elements of our 80s metal past and blends it with a modern edge to create music so decadently enjoyable it is most certainly sinful.  The musicianship is impeccable and not overworked.  Things are simple when they need to be,  complex when required, and although sometimes adding an orchestra to a song can sound contrite, here it only brings depth to the sound.  The lyrics are thought-provoking and even in the harshest lyrical moments of this CD the musical arrangements make those dark moments seem exquisite. Asking Alexandria’s sound has changed, but change is not always a terrible thing. – Maven Rena

26. Exhumed – Necrocracy (Relapse)

necrocracy_1500Following up 2011’s “All Guts, No Glory, was going to be a daunting challenge for Exhumed.  I was skeptical as to whether the band could follow-up such a good album. After taking a five-year hiatus from the band proved that they were more than a legacy act cashing in on previous credibility.  In many ways, “Necrocracy” needs to be as good or better than “All Guts, No Glory” to show naysayers that Matt Harvey and crew didn’t just catch lightning in a bottle. They did. Exhumed use their trademark mixture of thrash and traditional death metal and extreme gore to make one of the best albums of their long career.  The main thing that makes “Necrocracy so impressive is the band’s song writing. - Rob Ratliff

25. Battlecross – War of Will (Metal Blade)

battlecross - war of will This marks the Battlecross’s sophomore effort, and the growth is noticeable from the band’s stellar debut, “Pursuit of Honor“. The album was produced by Mark Lewis (Trivium, DevilDriver, Chimaira) and Jason Suecof (Whitechapel, Motionless in White, Job For a Cowboy). The latter also laid down a guest solo. Joey Vera (Armored Saint, Fate’s Warning) mastered the album. With “War of Will” the guys have forged a brutal effort. Kyle Gunther‘s beastly vocals lead the charge, and the guitar duo of Tony Asta and Hiran Deraniyagala shine like the diamond tip blade of a buzzsaw. Don Slater‘s low end rumble fits perfectly into the mix and plays a perfect rhythmic counterpoint to guest drummer Shannon Lucas‘ (The Black Dahlia Murder,  All That Remains) stick and pedal work. - Rustyn Rose

24. Pretty Maids – Motherland (Frontiers)

pretty maids motherlandDenmark’s Pretty Maids have been making great hard rock and metal for more than three decades. In 2013 they returned and delivered with “Motherland” one of the year’s most impressive, powerful and melodic metal albums.  They have managed to pull together the best elements of hard rock, symphonic and power metal, and blend it into a real rock and roll statement that reminds us that true heavy music can still be accessible and memorable. “Motherland” is an absorbing and dramatic heavy metal album on many levels: Excellent performances, insightful lyrics, and well-crafted and melodic songs all put together in one dynamic 13-track record. - Rustyn Rose

23. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us Is the Killer (Sumerian/Party Smasher)

dillinger-oneofusThe premier math-metal miscreants return with another grey-matter shuddering offering. Vocalist Greg Puciato’s cacophonous wails stab at the membranous tissues of your ears until your soul bleeds. The album radiates sonic dissonance, and guitarist Ben Weinman heaves about his jangly and raucous discord like a man possessed. DEP does not go for breaking new ground with this record but instead builds upon the foundation it has mastered over its previous four records. “One of Us is the Killer” is pure, raw eclecticism. This album will pierce your id and crush your cranium. - Rustyn Rose

22. Orphaned Land – All Is One (Century Media)

All is OneIn an age where metal music has become so pathetically disposable in the mind of an average listener and attention spans have waned to the point of oblivion en masse, Orphaned Land’s latest album, “All Is One serves as 2013?s ideal musical litmus test for the initiated and uninitiated alike. The people who get the simplicity and the breathtaking beauty present in this record will be in for a treat beyond treats, and the rest will simply shake their heads in bemusement. - Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi

21. Warbeast – Destroy (Housecore)

warbeast - DestroyThe Texas thrash titans return with a blistering scorcher of an album after a nice split, “War of the Gargantuas” earlier this year. Bruce Corbitt and company have bloodied our collective ears with this menacing slab of retro-thrash nirvana, making a “Destroy” a poetic title. As one fan put it: “This album will te raar off your face then use it for a floor mat!” I concur. The band’s 2010 debut, “Krush the Enemy” was powerful, but “Destroy” is much heavier, more technical, and far more brutal. Housecore Records founder and former Pantera frontman, Phil Anselmo produced the album if that gives you any indication of how raw and neck-wringing this album is. Every instrument is allowed to shine: The drums and bass are teeth-rattling and the guitars crush. Corbitt’s vocals are corrosive and ferocious. Plenty of speed and groove to go around. A+ - Rustyn Rose

20. Chthonic – Bú-Tik  (Spinefarm/Universal)

Chthonic - Bu TikBú-Tik proves to be consistent throughout, which some albums tend to fail at.  This record isn’t the most technical, nor is it something totally out of the ordinary or new, but the presentation and approach really grabs you. There are the usual heavy moments and catchy guitar works, but I think the overall message these guys are going for help them stand out ever so slightly among the mainstream crowd. Bú-Tik is another strong addition to the band’s already impressive discography and they should be proud of that. - Jeffrey Allee

19. Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth (Century Media)

Fleshgod-Apocalypse-LabyrinthFleshgod Apocalypse; you have the core which is pure technical death metal, next you have the charge and body consisting of the guitars and orchestration and finally you have the propellant consisting of Francesco Paoli’s commanding double bass powering the whole setup right into your room. The result is a an album that will rip your face off. “Labyrinth” has gone straight to number one on my top ten albums of the year list. Fleshgod Apocalypse have really pushed their boundaries with this album. They seem to have perfected their sound and have achieved their vision. On the way they may have alienated a few fans but they have gifted the metal community one of the finest albums of this year. - Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi

18. Atlantean Kodex - The White Goddess (20 Buck Spin)

WhiteGoddessIn talking about music and metal in particular, the word “epic” is tossed about freely. With “White Goddess”, German metallers, Atlantean Kodex have redefined the word. Big, bold, brash and beautiful, this album is a genuine gift to metal fans. Picking up where the band’s 2010 debut, “Golden Bough” left off, this concept piece carries the torch forward. Massive melodies are the back drop for meaty performances of grandiose design. Throughout the near one hour assault one can hear nuances of Bathory, Fates Warning, Manowar and While Heaven Wept. “White Goddess” is simply put, a majestic cacophony, finely produced and gracefully performed.  – Rustyn Rose

17. A Sound of Thunder – Time’s Arrow (Mad Neptune Records)

Time's ArrowTime’s Arrow” is easily A Sound of Thunder‘s best and most inspired album to date. They continue to set their own bar higher, and so far they’ve made the growth from one level to the next a seamless journey.  A Sound of Thunder has been one of those under-the-radar gems that only the fortunate few have discovered. “Time’s Arrow” is the perfect time for the uninitiated to jump on the bandwagon as it is a shining example of what metal should aspire to in this era of often uninspired sonic drivel. As powerful and impressive as it is on first listen, this album bears repeated listening to truly grasp the grandeur and depth of the record. - Rustyn Rose

16. Children of Bodom – Halo of Blood (Nuclear Blast)

Children-of-Bodom-Halo-of-BloodA unique thing about Children of Bodom is that they are never repetitive; each song is crafted ingeniously with powerful melodies, heavy riffs and inspired guitar and keyboard solos and has the power to captivate you with its uniqueness. Their albums are never monotonous and each album, heck each song, offers us something totally new. And such is the case with “Halo of Blood. The people searching for their old sound will be quite satisfied, while for others it will possibly be on the list if top three Bodom albums. At the end I would just like to say: Listen to it, you’ll be damned! Varun Khatri

15. The Ocean – Pelagial (Metal Blade)

TheOcean-PelagialPelagial” is a journey. Two journeys, though thematically different, yet both very emotional and psychological in nature. To be able to pull off a feat such as this album is remarkable. To call “Pelagial perfect would be an overstatement but there really is no other way to describe how flawless this album is. From the expansive concept and theme of the album, to the amazing orchestrations,  melodies and riffs, it encompasses the entire spectrum of the progressive metal genre.  - Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi

14. Dream Theater – Dream Theater (Roadrunner)

Dream-Theater-Dream-TheaterIt is evident that progressive metal might be only strengthening in the last few years, but it’s the older bands like Dream Theater, that are still forging the ways for what the genre is and will be. Over 20 years into their existence, Dream Theater still shows no obvious signs of aging or slowing down, which is basically a testament to the band´s authenticity and drive. With “Dream Theater“, their 12th platter, the band once again proves that they’re seasoned elder statesmen of progressive metal with no sushi in sight. This is yet another slab of righteous, highly technical progressive music with tons of hooks and it demands the horns be raised high in homage. - Owais ‘Vitek’ Nabi

13. Kylesa – Ultraviolet (Season of Mist)

Kylesa-UltravioletLike every other Kylesa full length, “Ultraviolet“‘s greatness lies in interplay, whether it be that between punk, indie, and metal; between the gruff and noodly Laura Pleasants and the simple-yet-effective co-guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope; the gradually widening percussive canyon between Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry that only adds to the dynamic; or even that between being esoteric and acceptable. Thirteen years into an unbroken wave of revitalized and omnivorous metal bands, it feels almost ridiculous to have to keep saying this, but: If you’re not paying at least some attention to this stuff, you’re screwing up. Achintya Venkatesh and Owais Vitek Nabi

12. SubRosa - More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore)

MoreConstantThanElegance in doom is hard to come by and Salt Lake City’s SubRosa does a hell of a job showcasing it. The quintet introduces elements and instruments you would not normally hear in this genre, including elements of folk. The female vocals are beautiful and easily mold within the instrumentals, which include electric violins that are used surprisingly well. If you’re looking for that obscure band that does not fit into the usual specifications of the genre, SubRosa can do that for you. Morose yet radiant, “More Constant Than the Gods” is a tempest of broody grandeur that breathes plaintive whispers of sorrow into a spiraling tempest of fuzzed-out, weeping doom. - Jeffrey Allee

11. Protest the Hero – Volition (Razor & Tie)

PTH-VolitionVolition” marks a turning point in the band’s career for many reasons. Some would say this is the best music they have made to date while others would say that it is because of the statement they have made with the label vs. independent argument that has been a hot debate for a few years now. I can say that I agree with both statements above. “Volition” could end up being a huge influence on what happens in the future with labels and the other related parties of the industry. Why? Well, probably because the album ended up surprising many people, including myself. “Volition”  has qualities that immediately speak out to the listener but also has hidden gems with every listen you give it. The catchy hooks and choruses, mixed with complex musicianship, should draw in a broad spectrum, even if this music is not their preferred style. - Jeffrey Allee

10. Clutch – Earth Rocker (Weathermaker)

clutch-earthrockerThe 10th studio release from this Maryland based hard rock contingent is easily one of the quartet’s best affairs to date. Stepping away from the bluesier approach they have taken in recent years, the band amps up the energy level and gets back to a more straightforward rock and roll approach on “Earth Rocker”. The album is propelled forward by Tim Sult and Neil Fallon’s grand riffage, and the pace, while fluctuating, is constant and fiery. Clutch retain their passion and intensity and continue to evolve their sound while remaining true to the Clutch signature. – Rustyn Rose

9. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish)

sunbatherIntensity and nuance are at the core of Deafheaven’s sound, and the San Francisco based black metal meets shoegaze duo of George Clarke (vocals) and Kerry McCoy (guitars) have delivered a stunning sophomore effort with “Sunbather”. Building off the band’s 2010 debut, “Roads to Judah”, Deafheaven have crafted an album in immense in scope and stark, melancholic beauty. “Sunbather” is a transcendent album that journeys between darkness and light, hope and angst. - Rustyn Rose

8. Witherscape - The Inheritance (Century Media)

witherscapecd2013Dan Swanö is a man of legend in the metal world. He has established himself as a key influence in the underground metal scene. His newest project seeks to continue his success, and I have to tell you that it won’t be much of a problem doing so. Witherscape suddenly appears out of nowhere and may have very well released one of the best albums of 2013. The showcase of great songwriting (both lyrical and instrumental) displays some of the best characteristics you’ll find in the sub-genre. With every listen of “The Inheritence” you’ll find yourself becoming more immersed than before, and that is always a good thing. - Jeffrey Allee

7. Ayreon - The Theory of Everything (InsideOut Music)

Ayreon-Everything “The Theory Of Everything” is way more than a concept album. Genius isn’t a word I throw around too often, but I can’t really think of a better way to put it. I’ve never heard a story told through such beautiful composition, while being so intelligent in both the psychological aspect and the mathematical/physical one. This album, as is life, is full of pain, anger, jealousy, love, triumph, and sadness. It’s the best movie I’ve never seen. It’s one of the best albums I have ever heard. The fact that Arjen Lucassen was able to take the story of a Savant and turn it in to such an intriguing and inspiring tale is something I will never be able to forget. It’s pompous, it’s cocky, but progressive music is indeed “intelligent music for intelligent people”. I am arguing that this may be the best example of that line that I have ever had the opportunity to hear. - Mattie Jensen

6. Tesseract - Altered State (Century Media)

tesseract altered state reviewAltered State can be summed up in a few words: Beautiful. Majestic. Emotional.  Although many folks wouldn’t consider it to be metal, I see it as the opposite side of the spectrum that metal has been placed, but still contained within it. This album is all about atmosphere, progression, and a different kind of heaviness you don’t find in many other albums. This album is composed of four sections, that traverse all these characteristics stated above, and more. - Jeffrey Allee

5. Alter Bridge – Fortress (Roadrunner/EMI)

Alter_Bridge_-_Fortress_album_coverAlter Bridge took its sweet time between albums but no one can deny the wait was certainly worth it. “Fortress” is arguably the band’s most cohesive and fully realized effort to date. Myles Kennedy’s voice continues to be the band’s magic weapon, and his songwriting continues to expand having worked closely with Slash and others in recent years. Alter Bridge continues to build upon its already impressive foundation, and “Fortress” is packed with a wealth of heady sonic goodness. The opening track alone, “Cry of Achilles” tells the listener everything that needs to be known about the immensity of this record! – Rustyn Rose

4. Kvelertak – Meir (Roadrunner)

Meir_coverMeir” marks the band’s debut release for Roadrunner Records whom they just recently signed with. That may be the only real change for Kvelertak who keeps everything else pretty much in line with its 2010 debut eponymous album, including maintaining its vocals in Norwegian. The band continues its sonic marriage of traditional metal with hardcore punk rock’s bombast and melody and the relentless and aggressive attack and harsh vocals of black metal. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik takes his cue from the latter rather than the former, offering up something of a nihilistic growl and bellow. In all, “Meir” is, in its purest sense, an unabashed celebration of rock and roll. A record packed with unhinged sonic festivity, hard-hitting riffage, and an unending supply of engaging melodies. - Rustyn Rose

3. Queensrÿche – Queensrÿche (Century Media)

Queensrÿche ArtworkThe last time Queensrÿche released a self-titled effort was 30 years ago, when they unleashed their dynamic four-song EP. From the opening riff of “Queen of the Reich” metal fans around the world were hooked, and their love for the band cemented.  The current line-up is revitalized and more excited than they’ve been in years. That enthusiasm shines through on this record, which clearly marks a rebirth for Queensrÿche. That is why the band chose to self-title this effort. All that is old is new again. Wilton says the band is “firing on all cylinders;” a statement proven out over the 11 tracks represented on this record. As impressive as “Queensrÿche” was upon first listen, it was not until repeated listens later that I realized how substantial and monumental it truly is. There is real depth here, and the subtleties resonate more loudly with each listen. This is not merely an album that recalls the majesty of Queensrÿche’s seminal and iconic works, it stands head and shoulders with its legendary brethren: A top 5 effort. For some the frequency may be unknown, but this Queensrÿche is all dialed in: The real Rÿche hath returned. - Rustyn Rose

2. Gorguts – Colored Sands (Season of Mist)

Gorguts - Colored SandsCanada technical death metal luminaries, Gorguts returned this year with founder Luc Lemay (vocals, guitar) as the only original member. That did not stop him from crafting one of the band’s most indelible records to date, and the first in a decade. “Colored Sands” is a deliciously deviant slab of surreal progressions. Aggressive devastation and aggression blend with spectacular technical dexterity and beauty. This is like no previous Gorguts album, yet it is clearly primal Gorguts brilliance. This is a statement album for Luc Lemay and the band; thick with groove and prog flourishes, yet equally dark and weighty. One of the year’s best, by far. - Rustyn Rose

1. Carcass - Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)

Carcass-Surgical-Steel-300x300Who saw this extreme metal beast coming from Liverpool’s, Carcass? With “Surgical Steel”, the band has reclaimed the flag they planted so many years ago, bringing the band back to classic form while making a modern bombastic statement for a new generation. Founders Bill Steer (guitars) and Jeff Walker (vocals) have created their best work in the last 10-12 years. “Surgical Steel” marks a kick in the gonads to a mindless plethora of wannabe pretenders to the throne. Mixing classic NWOBHM with the best of modern extreme metal riffage and blast-beats, Carcass is back to hand out a blistering lesson in melodic brutality! Steer is the unmitigated cornerstone of this record; his stunning guitar work and guttural growls step on your throat and lay claim to your soul. He also lays down the bass in marrow-rumbling style. Walker is one of the few harsh vocalists who can lay forth his corrosive growls while still allowing fans to understand his words. He shines here, as does new drummer Dan Wilding who triturates his kit. Expect to find “Surgical Steel” on many a year-end list of best albums. - Rustyn Rose

As with any list of this magnitude, it is subjective to personal taste and opinion, but we strive to cover as much ground as possible, yet there may be a gem or two left unturned by our staff.  So please feel free to add your own input below. Metal is a community, not as many seem to believe, an elitist oligarchy.

Alright, now that we have spent untold hours building this list for your reading pleasure, let the vitriolic judgement begin.

You can also check out our 2013 lists for Top ThrashTop Power Metal and Top Progressive Metal.

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