2013 Top 5

(#1) Skeletonwitch/Serpents Unleashed (2013)
[Album Rating: Classic 10/10.]
[Country: USA. Genre: Blackened Thrash.]

STAY FROSTY: Defiantly Melodic Skeletonwitch is Not a Christian Band.

In one of the most brilliant tour pairings of the decade, Skeletonwitch will be joining Amon Amarth in their early 2014 North American tour. But due apparently to their evil nature, Skeletonwitch will not be allowed to join AA at the Disney H.O.B. in Orlando, FL. Either the Christians have fully weaseled their way into the Disney management infrastructure, or someone simply read some 'Witch lyrics. Maybe both. Indeed, on Serpents Unleashed, the music is SO good and so fun to listen to that the lyrics pretty much have to be as wretched as they are -- because otherwise, as uplifting as these tunes are, this album could mistakenly get tossed into the Christian metal bin. That would be a mistake.

On their fourth 10-star album in a row, Skeletonwitch invite in a little more mid-tempo and a little more doom. But do not be fooled, folks, this is a blazing blackened melodic thrash album -- as jagged and as compelling as their previous two. Aside from their live performances (when they do it every night), though, Skeletonwitch have not yet re-reached the level of metallic divinity achieved on their iconic Beyond The Permafrost (2007). But, it will be fun to continue to see them try!

It will not always be the case during our lives that we will be able to witness one of metal's historically most vital acts in their prime -- not only bursting onto the scene via soul-thrashing mastery of the recorded medium, but also via a near-relentless daily presence at venues throughout the land -- maintaining this unusual level of greatness. So, enjoy it. 

The cover does not lie, people. The finest metal album artwork of 2013 comes paired with a flute of 11 fine offerings -- unmatched by any other band this year. As the wind and ice take the flesh of a majority of the atonal retro-thrash and second-rate death & black metal groups, we are treated to this stand-out band spreading their blackened thrashing wings. On Unending, Everliving a doomy intro morphs into a Tipton-Downing riffage moment, and then the brutal beauty that could only be Skeletonwitch comes crashing through. Though much has been made of More Cruel Than Weak being somewhat of a doom song, do not be fooled -- 90 seconds in... this track will scorch your flesh and in no way leave you mellowed out and ready for sleep.

Indeed Serpents Unleashed marks the 4th time that Skeletonwitch has easily passed the Reign In Blood test -- another sub-40-minute rare gem of a metal album that finishes too soon leaving you absolutely needing to play it again. Listen closely to the closing solos of From A Cloudless Sky, Burned From Bone, and This Evil Embrace. The totally different attitudes of these solos are emblematic of the fresh sounds these Ohio natives are continuing to soak into Skeletonwitch -- while all the while defiantly maintaining their defining fiery, jagged melodicism that once heard, you will need to continue to hear, with volume, and often.

Synopsis: Among the truest defenders of the metal faith (taking into account the various colours of the metallic faith, as it was recorded throughout the resplendent 80s and 90s worldwide), the 'Witch has given birth to another precision slice of chaos that is a joy to listen to from start to finish.
[Album released October 2013 on Prosthetic]
For further study:

 (#2) Amon Amarth/Deceiver Of The Gods (2013)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Sweden. Genre: Melodic Death.]

 With the riveting Deceiver of The Gods -- a vengeful thunderstorm of an album! -- Amon Amarth have claimed the crown as the World's Greatest Metal Band currently in their prime. THIS is the album that fans have been hoping for -- to follow-up the stellar AA-career defining duo of 2006's With Oden On Our Side and 2008's Twilight Of The Thunder God. 2004's Fate Of Norns took Amon Amarth to the next level (though they were already on just about the highest plane imaginable, true) with their two all-time greatest songs: The Pursuit Of Vikings, and The Fate Of Norns. But it is with this latest trilogy of albums (skipping 2011's weaker Surtur Rising) that Amon Amarth claims top-dog status in today's worldwide metal scene. This is where Iron Maiden once stood, and this is where Opeth once stood... At the pinnacle of metal -- music's greatest genre, featuring nearly 100,000 bands (see Metal-Archives.com!), and still surging as one of the greatest cultural phenomenons of our lifetimes. Raise your horns to the sky, for the Metal Gods from Stockholm -- who, (as if all of this were not enough) have also created one of the most epic music videos of all time for track 3: FATHER OF THE WOLF!:

Synopsis: With lyrics that *will* transport you, this is an intense & driven album, stoked with a dazzling sense of melodicism.
[Album released June 2013 on Metal Blade]


(#3) Children Of Bodom/Halo Of Blood (2013)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Finland. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Children Of Bodom have been busy over the past 10 years since 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll.... They have aggressively provided themselves with horrific self-inflicted wounds to the head, heart, and soul in the form of their past 3 albums. To almost any observer, it was clear that this band had gone down In Flames. Gone were the intricate, jaw-dropping neo-classical melodic histrionics. Gone was the youthful enthusiasm & exuberant energy. Roy had gone from a grimly romanticized representation of death (early album covers) to a dumbed-down splash of gore (Blooddrunk album cover). And the music followed suit: unmemorable and generally annoying. In Flames were secure in their control over the most heart-breaking precipitous fall from greatness in metal history, but Children Of Bodom were, in their own dumb way, trying to take it from them.

There they were, Children Of Bodom, after their 3 self-inflicted scythe strikes / albums, lying in a halo of blood. It sure as hell looked over. There were other bands to listen to now, and we all could clutch the early Bodom records to our chests as tremendous examples of how great rock music can be. And then suddenly it's June 2013.., we see an album cover with a pensive Roy searching the ice for the beating heart of the Hatebreeder. A bright surprising late Spring release of a record with a classic icy aura! With an album title that could be an acknowledgement of their recent near-death status that they had brought upon themselves, the true, frosty Bodom corpses that had waited, ignored, on the gurney, for a decade, in the dank hall outside the hospital basement-floor morgue, remembered their talent and stood up to Follow The Reaper and run wildly up the hospital escalator with their fittingly-named Halo Of Blood comeback album. With this, the craziest of Finns broke out from under the ice, to live again.

Synopsis: Bodom is back to doing what they do best...back to doing what made them worth paying attention to in the first place!
[Album released June 2013 on Nuclear Blast]

(#4) Kalmah/Seventh Swamphony (2013)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: Finland. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Yes, we noticed: Finnish bands Kalmah & Children Of Bodom both shared a synchronous one-decade-long piss break: 2003 to 2013. Kalmah has always been associated (fairly or not fairly depending on your opinion) with Bodom, and because of both bands' JUNE 2013 return to roots after ill-advised THREE ALBUM forays into more thrashy territory, the mental association between Kalmah are Bodom is not about to change any time soon -- because Bodom released their 2013 tuneage JUST 7 DAYS SOONER! Though the Children showed no signs of life over the past 10 years since their 2003 album, to be fair Kalmah did display several vital signs since their 2003 album. (As an example, we would like to submit Swampwar and Hook The Monster off of 12 Gauge into the record as evidence that this band is brilliant even when they are off the track.) But alas, neither band uncorked a truly classic album in the past decade... but they have both done so this month.

Synopsis: The neo-classical thrashings of Finland's most down-to-Earth band have rarely sounded better! The swamp things from Oulu wisely subjugate the weaker modern metal touches that marred their last few albums.
[Album released June 2013 on Spinefarm]

 (#5) Carcass/Surgical Steel (2013)
[Album Rating: Near-Classic 9/10.]
[Country: UK. Genre: Melodic Death.]

Carcass resurrects to channel their proper follow-up to their signature slab of licorice pizza, Heartwork. Released in 1993, that one was. 2013, this one. Now, 20 years is about as long of a piss break as you can take, but hey, we'll take it -- this eviscerating offering proves that time itself is meaningless!