When I first started thinking about how to approach THKD’s year end shenanigans for 2013, I tried to come up with ideas for different types of lists that would get away from the traditional top albums countdown. Turns out I’m more scatterbrained than creative, because what I ended up with was a bunch of stuff that really didn’t fit together or adhere to any sort of unifying theme. Instead of giving up on the idea, I decided to gather a few of these things together under one banner even though it didn’t make any sense whatsoever, just for the sheer joy of it, in addition to a more traditional year end list. So here it is, the second year end “bonus list” prior to the top metal albums countdown, which will be published on 12/13/13; THKD’s top 10 random-ass things I enjoyed in 2013.
1. FINALLY seeing Danzig live.
I waited twenty years, TWENTY FUCKING YEARS to see this man in concert, and he delivered and then some. I seriously could’ve cried. I’ve celebrated the man’s entire catalog since I was thirteen, and the fact that the night was loaded front to back with classics, including a mini-set of Misfits songs featuring none other than Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein (the closest thing to a Misfits reunion we’re ever likely to see) was just icing on the mind-blowing cake. I tried my best to put it into words, but honestly, words fail when you’re reduced to a giddy, wet-behind-the-ears fanboy.
2. Wrapping my head around Swans.
I’ve been trying since college to get into this band, but for some reason I always found their music to be impenetrable, which is saying something considering some of the pretentious shit I was listening to at the time. I decided to give it another try when I happened upon a used copy of The Seer recently; my typical strategy for approaching a band is to either start with their most recent release and work backward or start with their first album and work forward (isn’t that how everyone does it? do any of you jump in mid-stream?), so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to give Herr Gira another go. At the moment I can’t say what changed exactly (maybe I just wasn’t ready for Swans in my early twenties?), but I’m loving The Seer and looking forward to digging deeper.
3. ÄÄNIPÄÄ – Through a Pre-Memory (Editions Mego)
The year’s best non metal album is a collaboration between SunnO)))verlord Stephen O’Malley and Finnish madman Mika Vainio, with agonizing vocal incantations from ex-Khanate throat Alan Dubin. Droning guitars collide with programmed beats and washes of noise both soothing and sadistic to create one of the most singular listening experiences I’ve had the pleasure of torturing my ears with in a long time. This an insanely tough one to describe, best you just listen for yourself…
4. Getting my Zorn on.
At this point I’m starting to realize that like a typical Iowan, I’m late to the party on just about everything. I’ve been aware of Zorn’s work for ages now, yet for some reason never bothered to check it out… probably because I’m not what you’d call a huge fan of jazz, my thought was always “he plays saxaphone, how extreme can this shit really be?” Well once again, the used CD gods smiled upon me and I picked up a copy of Naked City’s Torture Garden / Leng Tch’e out of sheer curiousity. Turns out Zorn is pretty fucking extreme and now I’m pretty much addicted to it.
5. In Solitude no longer sounding like the poor man’s Mercyful Fate.
Alright, I know Sister has been hyped to the high heavens by the likes of Decibel, but it really is pretty great, and definitely the best thing In Solitude have released. It isn’t often these days that bands drastically change their sound for the better, but in this case In Solitude seem to have found themselves in doing so, because this new direction fits them a heck of a lot better than aping King Diamond and Co. This album just didn’t fit on my top 15 metal albums list for whatever reason, but I really do dig its mixture of traditional heavy metal and gothic rock stylings. Very much looking forward to seeing where they take this with future releases.
6. Tapes, tapes and more tapes.
Sorry haters, but whether you like it or not, the cassette revival is here to stay, and great labels like Caligari, Sygil, Fallen Empire, Graceless and a few others are keeping things on point by making their releases available at ridiculously affordable prices and emphasizing quality over quantity. You can dislike the format all you want, but you’re missing out on some great new music from up-and-coming bands, especially in the black and death metal arenas.
7. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork (Matador)
I’ve been a pretty huge QOTSA fan since discovering them around the time R came out, but I don’t get to write about them often, as their music doesn’t exactly fit the tone of THKD. I have to admit, I hadn’t been crazy about their last few albums, but Like Clockwork brought the band back to the top of my playlist for much of 2013 with its dark, druggy vibe and emphasis on varied, dynamic songwriting. This is the first album since 2002’s Songs for the Deaf where Josh Homme and the band sound fully comfortable in their own skin, as if they’ve finally settled into their sound after a couple exploratory albums and a handful of lineup changes.
8. Lycia – Quiet Moments (Handmade Birds)
With the weather getting colder by the day, now is the perfect time to curl up with the return of darkwave pioneers Lycia. On Quiet Moments, Mike VanPortfleet creates music that’s as cold and desolate as the album’s cover photo, but it’s also heartbreakingly beautiful and meticulously crafted. It’s an icy, dreamy journey into the depths of melancholy that’s downright mesmerizing and quite unlike any other music out there. While much of the album’s style hearkens back to classics such as Cold and Ionia, it also sees VanPortfleet exploring a more beat-oriented direction that could serve as the seeds for the next phase of Lycia’s evolution.
9. Jarred and peteys review corner
The best music blog ever. 10/10!!!!!!! nice!!!!!!!! http://singintothecomputer.tumblr.com/
10. Backlit zine
I guess this is self-promotion of the most shameless variety, but I just can’t help but be wicked proud of Backlit. I get to work with a ridiculously talented group of writers and designers, and I’m constantly being inspired to strive to be a better writer by my interactions with the staff, even though I know I’ll never hold a candle to them.
Well that’s all for this utterly nonsensical list… stayed tuned for THKD’s top 15 metal albums at the end of the week.