The year is drawing to a close and so the time has come to choose my top 10 favourite albums of 2013.
10 – Clutch: ‘Earth Rocker’
This is an album that has grown on me a lot. When it was released in March it caught my attention with the monolithic ‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Crucial Velocity’, however a lot of the album didn’t immediately click with me. Fast forward to the end of the year and with numerous critics’ polls citing the album in the top five, I decided to revisit the album which I had almost bought on release.
I was very surprised with what I heard second time around; the songs that I had initially dismissed (like ‘Gone Cold’ and ‘The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…’) really caught my attention the second time around. Overall ‘Earth Rocker’ does as it says on the cover; it rocks from the beginning to the very end. There’s no five minute solos or instrumental detours, just an unapologetically hefty collection of riffs, oozing in attitude and ultimately a real love for what they do.
Listen to: ‘D.C. Sound Attack!’
9 – Karnivool: ‘Asymmetry’
The Australian progressive metal outfit had a lot to live up to with their second album ‘Sound Awake’ firmly under their belts. Fortunately ‘Asymmetry’ lived up to all the expectations set by its predecessor by keeping up the same brand of metal on ‘We Are’ and ‘Nacash’, but also opting to expand their pallet with dreamy soundscapes like ‘Float’ and experimental excursions like ‘Alpha’ and ‘Asymmetry’. With their third record, Karnivool have cemented their position as one of the best and most diverse metal acts, managing to marry brutality with beauty seamlessly across the album.
Listen to: ‘Eidolon’
8 – Nine Inch Nails: ‘Hesitation Marks’
After a five year absence, Trent Reznor finally returned from soundtracks and his (largely-disappointing) side project How To Destroy Angels, to focus on his once world-topping Nine Inch Nails. ‘Hesitation Marks’, like most NIN records, has its own unique sound, ditching the cold and harsh atmospherics from ‘Year Zero’ (and ‘The Slip’ to an extent) and replacing it with warmer instrumentation. Whilst there are a lot of direct songs, focused on instant gratification (akin to ‘With Teeth’), the album has a good measure of experimental tracks, building on his work with ‘Ghosts I-IV’.
Overall ‘Hesitation Marks’ is a return to form for Trent Reznor, who has managed to include nods to previous efforts, whilst simultaneously building up an album that flows and will sit happily next to the widely established greats of ‘The Downward Spiral’ and ‘The Fragile’.
Listen to: ‘All Time Low’
7 – Wisdom Of Crowds: ‘Wisdom Of Crowds’
Who would have thought a year after Steven Wilson and Michael Akerfeldt joined forces to create Storm Corrosion, that the world of rock would witness another Brit/Swede collaboration in the form of The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord and Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse. Like Storm Corrosion, Wisdom Of Crowds doesn’t stray to far from their natural habitats, keeping the almost art-rock feel of their respective bands.
Although it’s a shame that Soord doesn’t provide any vocals, his instrumentation is very distinct and compliments Renkse’s voice perfectly, as if they have been playing together for years. A lot of the album is dedicated to sparse, atmospheric textures, but tracks like ‘Radio Star’ and ‘Stacked Naked’ showcase the duo’s energetic side too. Ultimately ‘Wisdom Of Crowds’ is an example of the all-to-rare occasion when a super group/collaboration lives up to everything it should be.
Listen to: ‘Stacked Naked’
6 – Coheed & Cambria: ‘The Afterman: Descension’
Regular readers of RockAtlantic will know about my love for all things Coheed & Cambria. ‘Descension’, released in February, is the second half of ‘The Afterman’ double album and concludes the story of Sirius Amory. Storytelling aside, ‘Descension’ has some of Coheed’s finest work since 2004’s ‘In Keeping Of Silent Earth: 3’; bringing back the energy and pop influences in ‘Number City’ and the epic guitar-work in ‘Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant’.
‘The Afterman: Descension’ manages to keep up the same high-octane and talented musicianship featured throughout their back catalog and builds upon the first half of ‘The Afterman’, concluding this chapter of the grand sci-fi series created by frontman Claudio Sanchez in fantastic style. In my (albeit biased) opinion Coheed & Cambria are one of the most underrated progressive bands today, and this record deserves all the acclaim it receives.
Listen to: ‘Number City’
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this week’s blog, please like, comment and subscribe to email updates. Look out for part 2 of my top 10 of 2013 on Friday.
Have a great festive period.