December 26, 2013

Atanamar’s Favorite Albums of 2013

By Atanamar Sunyata.

Django the Thrawsuncat

I dedicated myself to the cessation of physical media in 2013. I’ve had a long and illustrious career of collecting CDs, as the sagging shelves of my voluminous and hulking media racks can testify. But lest my house collapse and its foundations shatter under the weight of plastic discs, I have chosen another path.

As I will settle for nothing less than lossless digital audio (I discussed the glory of FLAC here), Bandcamp is the place to be, and here we are. Regardless of your chosen format, Bandcamp’s social features have turned out to be indispensably badass, leading this lost soul to many a marvelous musical discovery.

Still, there are recalcitrant and tardy record labels that aren’t completely on board our party boat. Thankfully, nearly all of my favorite albums made their way onto Bandcamp this year. I do have a few regrets; I wish Profound Lore would keep their store up to date. Castevet’s Obsian would most certainly be in my top five. Also, P.L.F.’s Devious Persecution And Wholesale Slaughter is ludicrously delicious grind; I don’t know why small labels like Six Weeks Records aren’t leveraging the platform.

Alas, I’ll keep it true; these are my favorite Bandcamp albums of 2013:

14. Mephistopheles – Sounds of the End
Cover art by Bill Dean.

Mephistopheles convey an articulate death metal chaos, forging something raw and primitive from esoteric riffs and peculiar melody. Strange arpeggios roll together in bizarre and baroque arrangements. Schizophrenic balance is preferred to overt brutality; Sounds of the End is uniquely satisfying.

13. Scale the Summit – The Migration

Believe me, instrumental prog-metal was the last thing I imagined falling in love with this year. The Migration walks the fine line of wankery and sweet shred, conjuring visions of Gordian Knot and Cynic circa 1993 along the way.

12. Vastum – Patricidal Lust
You know when you put on an album, and you’re compelled to turn it up louder, and louder, and louder? Patricidal Lust is that kind of album. Vastum marry the most seductive elements of death metal, laying lusty riffs over neck-wrecking cadence. Surrender yourself to the primal power death.

11. Lantern – Below
Illustration by Alexander L. Brown.

Below sounds like it was recorded in Belo Horizonte circa 1987, in the same subterranean grotto as Sepultura’s Schizophenia. Speaking in tongues of noxious catacombs and desecrated cathedrals, Lantern leverage superlative riffs in a morbid pursuit of quirky, proto-death glory.

10. Ulcerate - Vermis
Artwork by Jamie Saint Merat.

Ulcerate use dissonance as a weapon of mass destruction, scouring the outer limits of rhythmic oddity. Inhuman feats and unfathomable riffs mark this marvelous, bleak listening experience. Vermis is pleasure and pain.

9. Bölzer - Aura
Bölzer bring the thunderous, bulldozing, death-black goodness on their debut EP. These ball-crushing compositions are blessed with unhinged vocals and impossibly compelling riffs. The entire package is seasoned with satisfyingly sinister melody.

8. Gigan – Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science
Artwork by Dr.Winter

Gigan have traversed the summit of utter oddity and descend now into lands of compelling technical death-grind. Make no mistake; this is some crazy shit. These impossible odes to deep space dementia, however, are sustained by the mundane magics of songwriting skill, riffs, and rage. I gladly resign my sanity unto Gigan.

7. Exhumed – Necrocracy
Exhumed push closer and closer to death metal nirvana with each release. Necrocracy slips and slides through tight curves of thrashing death-grind annihilation. Every move feels effortless, every riff is righteously ripping, and every solo is sinuous melodic perfection.

6. Aosoth – Arrow in Heart
Cover art by Benjamin A. Vierling

Aosoth nail the heart of my preferred black metal aesthetic in 2013. My initial trepidation regarding the album’s sultry sonic palate melted into adoration and addiction. The warm swarm, the gorgeously organic drums, and the carefully crafted madness are irresistible to my ears.

5. Gorguts – Colored Sands
Artwork by Martin Lacroix.

I was the guy who thought Obscura sucked when it first came out, selling it back immediately to the music store from whence it came. Clutching my copies of Considered Dead and The Erosion of Sanity, I wept at the album’s flippy-floppy oddity. Oh, ye death metal purist, how the years have proven you wrong. Returned from the grave, with Dysrhythmia in hand, Gorguts have constructed a modern classic. I would not be sad if Luc Lemay were my father.

4. Vex – Memorious
Vex slice and dice metal tropes in an endlessly listenable manner. Death, black, folk, and traditional truths are sculpted into paeans to soaring victory. Ridiculous riffs and boisterous dynamics seal the deal; Memorious won’t soon fade from memory.

3. Beaten to Death – Dødsfest!

Dødsfest! is an ode to joy and a lethal dose of fuck-all freedom. Although presented with tongue firmly in cheek, the album's unique grindcore vision is endearing and irresistible. Bravery and innovation are useless in metal without the chops to back them up; Dødsfest! is wall to wall riffage of the utmost quality. Check your pretensions at the door, or fuck off and die.

2. Cloud Rat – Moksha
Artwork by Brian Uhl.

With delicate grind-sludge destruction, d-beat debauchery, and impossibly vicious vocals, Cloud Rat have concocted the year’s most genuine articulation of rage. Moksha is diverse, but effortlessly complete in vision, welding beauty to a chassis of blastbeats and Thou-worthy trudge. Moksha’s lyrical sentiments speak to me, as do its attractive departures into melancholy. Cloud Rat summon sublime, immersive fury; I’ve been basking in it all year.

1. Thrawsunblat – Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings

If I rated albums solely on the number of headbangs they induced, the number of invisible oranges they caused me to crush, or the number of inextricable air guitar outbursts generated, Thrawsunblat would win in a landslide. Beyond the visceral appeal of Wanderer, however, lies a brilliant articulation of songwriting majesty and compositional might. Sage sentiments are woven into arcane tales of woodland legend, warfare, and loss. I rarely identify so closely with all aspects of an album, but Wanderer has been a constant companion, filled with irresistible riffs, rhythm, and vocals. Strive, struggle, mourn, but emerge victorious. “If every step is a mountain, enjoy the fucking view, and see the miles you’ve traveled stretching out below you. If nothing is forever, we are roaring stars. All that we endeavor is all of who we are.”

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