In Monday’s post I listed the first half of my top 10 albums of 2013. Such was the quality of music released this year that many records that deserve to be nominated unfortunately missed the cut. Deciding the order of the top 5 was an even harder exercise, but after much deliberating, the top 5 albums of the year (in my opinion) are as follows:
5 – Biffy Clyro: ‘Opposites’
After the (deserved) success of 2007’s ‘Puzzle’ and 2009’s ‘Only Revolutions’, the four year wait for ‘Opposites’ meant it was one of the most highly anticipated records of the year. Once again Biffy Clyro have managed to out-do their previous effort, building on their unique brand of hard rock and confirming their place as one of the UK’s biggest rock bands.
The album’s brilliance is even more incredible when you consider that they have yet again catered for two sets of fans: the ones approaching from the rock side and the ones approaching from the chart-music side, without alienating either set. ‘The Joke’s On Us’ and ‘Modern Magic Formula’ show the band’s ‘heavier’ side; the three-piece attack driving through the riffs at pace, whilst ‘Opposite’ and ‘Biblical’ are more commercially orientated (but by no means are they bad tracks).
Listen to: ‘Victory Over The Sun’
4 – Stone Sour: ‘House Of Gold & Bones Part 2’
After a lull in form with the release of the bland ‘Audio Secrecy’ in 2010, Stone Sour’s ‘House Of Gold & Bones’ double concept album refocused the Iowa-based band back to their riff-centric metal as featured on their first two albums ‘Stone Sour’ and ‘Come What (Ever) May’. The trilogy of ‘Blue Smoke’, ‘Do Me A Favor’ and ‘The Conflagration’ is one of the double album’s highlights, showing Stone Sour’s maturity with their ability to write brilliant songs whilst fully immersed inside Corey Taylor’s concept. The rest of the album flows well too, amalgamating odd refrains and riffs from part 1, to create a very strong concept album that any top prog band, let alone a metal side project*, would be happy to call their own.
Listen to: ”82′
3 – Steven Wilson: ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)’
Although ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ is my ‘least favourite’ of the three Steven Wilson solo albums so far, the high quality of Wilson’s work means that the record is still superior to many of his contemporary’s efforts. This is his first solo effort written for his current backing band and as such the effort has a more prominent ‘band feel’ and reminds of Dream Theater; each player taking it in turn to highlight their musical supremacy.
‘Luminol’ showcases Nick Beggs’ talents on bass, whilst Guthrie Govan’s lead playing is exploited to its fullest potential on ‘The Watchmaker’ and ‘Drive Home’. The inclusion of pianist Adam Holzman and saxophonist/flautist Theo Travis, mean Wilson’s grand vision of 70s-inspired progressive music can be realised, culminating in one of the finest progressive records of the 21st century so far.
Listen To: ‘Luminol’
2 – Atoms For Peace: ‘Amok’
Thom Yorke rarely disappoints and ‘Amok’ is an example of why. As with Radiohead, he constantly looks to explore the marriage of electronic aspects of music as well as traditional instruments and ‘Amok’ is the perfect union, creating an album with which the line between computer and man is not just blurred, but has disappeared altogether.
Atoms For Peace lets Yorke et al. explore and experiment like children in a musical playground. All the traditional shackles of writing a rock album have been removed and as such the music flows like a jam between talented musicians free from restraints. It’s rare to get an album where every song is flawless, whether it’s the dark and moody ‘Unless’, or the likes of ‘Amok’ and ‘Reverse Running’ which are layered with sparse, expansive textures, each track has its purpose and if it wasn’t for the next album in this list, ‘Amok’ would be number one.
Listen to: ‘Judge, Jury And Executioner’
1 – Tesseract: ‘Altered State’
With ‘Altered State’ Tesseract broke out of the captivity of the djent movement that held back their debut ‘One’, to make an outstanding progressive metal album. Even though the album is split into ten musical movements for greater accessibility, it was designed to flow as one long musical piece, which is a vastly underrated approach in today’s music scene.
Whilst elements of djent still remain as an integral part of their sound, the removal of screamed vocals and the addition of saxophone on several tracks, in addition to a new found maturity in the songwriting process, has resulted in the emergence of Tesseract as a leader in the progressive metal genre. ‘Singularity’ and ‘Nocturne’ provide great examples of Tesseract’s sound, contrasting crushing rhythm sections with both mellow and dark atmospherics, alongside Ashe O’Hara’s ethereal vocals. Ultimately ‘Altered State’ is the best album of 2013 and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
Listen to: ‘Of Reality – Eclipse’
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Have a great festive period.
*Pedantic Footnote: Even though Stone Sour formed before Slipknot, the project was restarted as Taylor’s side project to Slipknot. Although now it’s questionable if you can still call the highly successful Stone Sour a side project.