Your world will hate this: THKD’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2013

THKD TOP 15 2013

Normally, this is the part where I get all reflective regarding the year in metal.  I had a scathing year-end rant all ready to go, an ice cold glass of haterade to throw in the faces of the all the people and things that annoyed, dismayed and pissed me off in 2013… and then I read what I’d written and realized that I sounded like a complete dick.  What’s the point in dwelling on the negative when there was so much good this year?  I had one hell of a hard time whittling down my list to just fifteen albums, and there’s still a lot out there that I’ve either yet to hear or yet to fully digest.  It’s pretty darn easy to ignore the mountain of crap when there’s an equally tall mountain of greatness staring you in the face, and yet sometimes I forget that… I guess that’s what my anti-depressants are for.
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Is this cassette shit getting out of hand?

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I first started covering the resurgence of the cassette tape early last year with a review of Blut Der Nacht’s demo and a mammoth piece on the various wares of the infamous Crepusculo Negro and Rhinocervs labels.  I instantly fell back in love with the format that had enchanted me in my younger years; I was once the proud owner of a big brown Fisher Price tape recorder which I would use to listen to music, interview family members and record skits with friends, eventually graduating to a boom box when I got older. Some of the first metal music I ever owned was on cassette (specifically a single of Metallica’s “One,” aka the song that kick-started this over two decade long love affair with all things heavy).  Granted, the ultra-corrosive black metal of a band like Blut Der Nacht was pretty far removed from jamming Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the Fisher Price in my youth, but I was still reminded of how my initial interest in music was sparked by cassettes.
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Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme (Relapse, 2012)

reignsupreme_1400There isn’t a band in existence that does technical, moshy, brutal death metal better than Dying Fetus.  Sure, John Gallagher and his ever-changing lineup have had their ups and downs, but since paring down to a trio in 2007, the band has been absolutely killing it, releasing the devastating Descend into Depravity in ’09, and the equally wicked Reign Supreme in June of last year.  Due to the unbelievable avalanche of great music released in 2012, I’m just now getting ’round to having my brains irreparably mutilated by Dying Fetus’ seventh album, but I’ll be goddamned if it wasn’t worth the wait.
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Oodles of Brutals: A descent into the putrid bowels of technical, brutal and slam death metal.

JACKETTechnical death metal, brutal death metal, slam death metal… it’s all sort of one big subgenre mish-mash to me; bands classified as one of these often have elements of one or both of the other two in their sound. It’s not a type of death metal I listen to often; I nearly tech deathed and brutal deathed myself to uh, death during college (did they even have slam death metal back then?), when I was knee-deep in bands like Atheist, Anata, Gorguts, Suffocation, Psycroptic, Necrophagist, Aborted, Devourment, etc, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate simplicity and primitivism over flashy guitar-work and five-million-mile-per-hour blast beats (which is probably why I listen to way more black metal than death metal these days). But every so often I can’t help but get a hankering for this crazy shit, so I have little choice but to dive in headfirst and see what the fuck the kidz are listening to these days…

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Pig Destroyer – Book Burner (Relapse, 2012)

I think I was the only person in the world that wasn’t excited about the prospect of a new Pig Destroyer album. After the grinding greatness that was Prowler in the Yard and the warped masterpiece that was Terrifyer, the band’s fourth album, 2007’s Phantom Limb, was a total letdown. It wasn’t that Phantom Limb was bad by any means, but with its emphasis on longer compositions, breakdowns and grooves, it simply wasn’t what I wanted from a Pig Destroyer album, and as a result it failed to resonate with me. So, when the news broke that the Virginia-based grinders would be unleashing their first batch of new material in half a decade in the form of Book Burner, and the wheels of the hype machine subsequently started to turn, it only served to further lessen my enthusiasm for a long-overdue album from a band that had seemingly “lost it.”

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Weapon – Embers and Revelations (Relapse, 2012)

To listen to the three full length albums Weapon have released since 2009 is to witness a band searching for their sound.  This is not meant as a knock on the Canadian quartet, in fact quite to the contrary; bands are supposed to evolve and grow from album to album.  This fact is often lost in the context of death and black metal, where more often than not a lazy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude prevails.  Weapon spit blood and fire in the face of that attitude; they’re ambitious, dedicated craftsmen with world domination on their minds.  Embers and Revelations, the latest in that aforementioned trio of albums, is the band’s most complete and commanding work to date, a work that sees Weapon finding that sweet spot between death metal’s pulverizing violence and black metal’s Luciferian spitefulness; harnessing it to create something totally their own.
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Baroness – Yellow & Green (Relapse, 2012)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware that Baroness were very recently involved in what appears to be an absolutely horrific bus accident, while on tour in the UK, leaving three-fourths of the band seriously injured (as well as various members of their crew).  This would be an absolutely tragic thing to befall any band, but it is even more so for Baroness when one considers the triumph that is their third album, the fantastic Yellow & Green.
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Exhumed – All Guts, No Glory (Relapse, 2011)

I remember almost exactly when my preoccupation with gore started.  I can’t remember how old I was (I do know I was quite young), but I definitely remember the circumstances.  I was over at my next door neighbor’s house and they just so happened to have a VHS of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  We must have watched that movie a thousand times.  We were completely obsessed with it.  I remember running around outside yelling “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”.  I also remember going to the local graveyard and being disappointed to not see even a single flesh-eating ghoul lumbering around.

As I got older, the obsession continued and intensified, ultimately leading me to much more repulsive films, comic books and finally to death metal.  As I’ve previously documented, I didn’t care for death metal when I first heard it.  But then one day, something clicked.  I realized that death metal was the musical equivalent of the all the horror movies and comics I’d freaked out over in my youth, and after that there was no turning back.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because no death metal band today exudes those putrid ethos that remind me of the fun of my gore-drenched upbringing more than Exhumed.  After a self-imposed eight year silence between full lengths (six if you count the all-covers Garbage Daze Re-Regurgitated) the band is back with All Guts, No Glory, a viciously executed slab of sickness that finds the California quartet doing what they do best; gore, gore and more gore. By backing off the musical and conceptual complexity of 2003’s Anatomy is Destiny in favor of a more refined and catchy approach, they have crafted what is easily their finest album to date.

Of course, a host of bands with more disgusting cover art and more offensive album/song titles have sprung up in Exhumed’s absence, but there is one very important thing separating them from the average Sevared Records band (for instance), and quite frankly, that thing is talent.  Exhumed knows how to write brutal yet classy songs that will stick in your head like a surgical saw to the cerebral cortex, the metallic equivalent of a Romero or Fulci film, making the competition look like the direct-to-DVD hacks of death metal.

Taking elements of death metal, grindcore and thrash and tossing them in a vat of musical quicklime, Exhumed goes straight for the jugular with cuts like “As Hammer to Anvil” “Through Cadaver Eyes” and “Necrotized”.  It’s frightfully awesome stuff, steeped in pitch-black black humor and backed up with some serious chops.  Speaking of chops, the guitar-work of Matt Harvey and Wes Caley (ex-Fatalist, Uphill Battle) is the album’s highlight, a grisly mixture of eviscerating razor-riffage and frenzied soloing that puts the guts in All Guts, No Glory.  Exhumed’s rhythm section are no slouches either and as expected, the playing of bassist Leon del Muerte and drummer Danny Walker (also of Intronaut) is as tight as a canister of 2-4-5 Trioxin, infusing the songs with the necessary speed and precision.

As crushing and brutal as All Guts, No Glory is, there is also an infectious sense of fun that permeates the recording.  It gives me the same feelings I felt watching that first zombie chase Judith O’Dea through the cemetery, that feeling of adrenaline and giddiness and terror all rolled into one.  The zombified band photo gracing the cover is telling; I have a hunch that Exhumed are a group of guys that love this shit as much as I do.  So, if you’re like me and looking for the perfect soundtrack to your gore obsession, look no further, because Exhumed are back from the dead and ready to party.

http://exhumed.bandcamp.com/