#25: Cult Of Luna: “Vertikal”
First full-length in 5 years (since the excellent “Eternal Kingdom”) and it’s some of the best post/atmospheric metal you’ll hear as well. If it wasn’t for the fact that The Ocean, Tesseract, and Russian Circles put out great albums as well, “Vertikal” would be even higher.
#24: Tesseract: “Altered State”
New vocalist Ashe O’Hara adequately replaces both Elliot Coleman and wunderkind Daniel Tompkins in a surprising fashion. “Altered State” sees Tesseract going less aggressive, but still with the technical proficiency they’re known for. They’re rising to the top of the progressive metal world.
#23: Oathbreaker: “Eros/Anteros”
Deathwish Inc. (owned by Jacob Bannon of Converge) puts out entirely too many of the best hardcore and metal records to date – Self Defense Family’s new record “Try Me” (which will be released the first month of 2014), the new Touche Amore album, and the new Doomriders album all received critical acclaim across the board. “Eros/Anteros” is no exception, containing a volatile mixture of metal, sludge, hardcore, and tinges of black metal. A challenging listen, to be sure, but one that will stand high in the Deathwish catalogue.
#22: Diamond Youth: “Orange”
My personal favorite EP of 2013, Diamond Youth’s “Orange” is an exercise in simplicity and catchy Foo Fighters-inspired jams. Though short at under 25 minutes, tracks like “Separator” will immediately remind you of Jimmy Eat World and many other bands that made the mid-90’s so great. 6 songs of absolute gold.
#21: Stray From The Path: “Anonymous”
Their 4th release for Sumerian Records, Stray From The Path continue their RATM-influenced hardcore sound with some great guest vocalists – Jason Butler of letlive on “Scissor Hands” is a definite highlight.
#20: Dead Letter Circus: “The Catalyst Fire”
How do you follow-up the career-defining (to date) “This Is The Warning”? By perfecting and honing your progressive rock sound to a razor’s edge. Australia has given birth to some of the most adventurous bands of the last decade – Sleep Parade, The Butterfly Effect, and some band named Karnivool – but Dead Letter Circus is firmly cemented in that category. Glorious.
#19: Protest The Hero: “Volition”
Completely fan-funded, “Volition” is another in the long line of adventurous Protest The Hero albums. Some of the best music modern progressive metal has to offer. Rody Walker’s vocals are tops in the genre, as well. Recommended.
#18: A Day To Remember: “Common Courtesy”
A great comeback story if there ever was one, A Day To Remember overcame a bitter legal dispute with Victory Records to improve in every way from “What Separates Me From You”. Tracks like “This Document Speaks For Itself” are dripping with venom, while tracks like “Right Back At It Again” are filled with the anthemic quality that makes their overall sound so accessible.
#17: The Ocean Collective: “Pelagial”
Progressive/post-metal giants The Ocean Collective continue to make great records. A concept album (in descending order) signaling the oceanic depth zones, it’s certainly an intriguing idea that very few bands could pull off well. But they do. The track “Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated” is probably the standout song of the album – but do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing.
#16: Night Verses: “Lift Your Existence”
Well, this one came out of nowhere. Previously unknown to just about everyone, former The Sleeping vocalist Doug Robinson wasted no time forming another project. Night Verses hits a home run out of the park with “Lift Your Existence”, releasing one of the best post-hardcore albums in recent memory. This isn’t hyperbole – the album combines sharp vocal hooks with a sometimes venomous vocal style not seen often in Robinson’s previous work. One of the best debut albums of 2013 – maybe the best.
#15: Have Mercy: “The Earth Pushed Back”
TopShelf Records is one of the MVP’s of 2013 – and this release could be the best of them all. Personally reminds me of a cross between Seahaven and Brand New. Refreshing alternative/indie rock that’ll connect with listeners due to the lyrics’ confessional honesty.
#14: Balance And Composure: “The Things We Think We’re Missing”
While not as aggressive (with a few exceptions) as their previous album “Separation” was, B&C sees Jon Simmons refining his vocals and forging a unique identity in the alternative rock genre. Tracks like “Tiny Raindrop” are destined to become permanent live staples.
#13: Soilwork: “The Living Infinite”
Soilwork pulls off the unthinkable – an ambitious double album with basically no filler. Even half the material here would compare favorably to classics like “Natural Born Chaos”. After 2 somewhat average albums, Soilwork proves they have greatness in them once again.
#12: The Wonder Years: “The Greatest Generation”
Pop-punk gets mature – The Wonder Years continue to release great albums, and “The Greatest Generation” is ambitious, too – listen to the finale, “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral” for proof of how far they’ve come.
#11: Misery Signals: “Absent Light”
It feels like I had to wait a lifetime for this album to reach my ears – but the 5 years was just about worth it. Another great Misery Signals album. The thing I’ve always loved about them is that vocalist Karl Schubach’s vocals are both consistently decipherable and energetic. One of the best metalcore albums you’re likely to hear.
#10: Russian Circles: “Memorial”
The title track (which features Chelsea Wolfe) and “Deficit” (which is one of RC’s heaviest tracks) rank as two of the best in the post-metal band’s discography. It may be under 40 minutes long, but when you have an album that’s a great album – and not just individual songs – you achieve greatness.
#9: Bring Me The Horizon: “Sempiternal”
“There Is A Hell”, released in 2010, somewhat foreshadowed the more experimental elements of Sempiternal. But what that album lacked in that department was more than made up for in secret weapons Jordan Fish (keyboards, programming) and producer Terry Date (who produced White Pony, among other things). Jordan Fish, especially, is highly successful in adding textures and soundscapes to tracks like the excellent “And The Snakes Start To Sing”. And while there’s a misstep on the live staple “Anti-Vist” (it’s still a good song, but the lyrics aren’t very good) the rest of the album is quality material. “Can You Feel My Heart” is the perfect opener – the electronic-heavy keyboards will catch you off guard.
#8: Senses Fail: “Renacer”
Senses Fail caught me off guard with “Renacer”, which has the band veering toward a more melodic hardcore sound. Sure, the 4 songs from their greatest hits collection foreshadowed this to some extent, but I don’t think anyone was ready for pounding, mosh-ready workouts like “Canine”. I surely wasn’t.
#7: Touche Amore: “Is Survived By”
Jeremy Bolm screaming “Please stay here tonight” never gets old. And neither does the rest of this post-hardcore gem, which sees Touche Amore expanding on their short songs more to give us 30 minutes of awesome music. It gives the album more room to breathe than on “Parting The Sea…” and it’s all the better for it.
#6: Deafheaven: “Sunbather”
“Sunbather” seems to be everyone and their mother’s AOTY in 2013. And the hype is justified. The blend of shoegaze, dream pop, and black metal is an acquired taste to be sure, but if you’re into it – it’ll grip you and not let go. It’s miles better than the already good “Roads To Judah” was. I’d argue that it’s been years since an album this heavy received attention from outlets like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.
#5: Polyenso: “One Big Particular Loop”
It’s amazing what a band can do when they completely change their style around. You might remember post-hardcore band Oceana, who were massively popular in their hometown of St Pete, Florida. Releasing 2 full-lengths and an experimental EP on Rise Records, the sky was the limit for them. “Birth Eater” in particular is one of the best post-hardcore albums I’d heard in a long time.
“OBPL” is the product of many nights recording in the studio – but nobody saw a change like this coming. Polyenso forges a sound more akin to Radiohead than anything else – but with an indie rock edge that’s totally authentic. Brennan Taulbee sounds more at home with his vocals than anywhere on Birth Eater, too. The track “Always Ending In You” is a fantastic love song.
#4: o’brother: “Disillusion”
Post-rock, indie rock, and ambient soundscapes combine to make something truly unique and exhilarating. I can’t say enough about how much I love the atmosphere here – which reminds me of the feeling I get while listening to Isis – but it’s never so heavy as to be difficult on the ears. If you threw Deftones, Russian Circles, Radiohead, and Alice In Chains together, you’d have o’brother. It’s even better than “Garden Window”.
#3: Intronaut: “Habitual Levitations”
Post-metal/prog-metal band Intronaut refines their sound and shifts to mostly singing for “Habitual Levitations”, their 4th album. And it’s all the better for it. Previous albums like “Valley Of Smoke” were excellent in their own right, but a vocalist can only keep aggressive vocals for so long. While the singing may not be excellent (it’s still pretty good) it does go very well with the music – especially on “Milk Leg” and “The Welding” – the latter of which is the best track I’ve ever heard Intronaut release. Danny Walker puts on a spectacular drum performance, too.
#2: Erra: “Augment”
Absolute GOLD – lightning can indeed strike twice. Erra’s second full-length for Tragic Hero Records sees the adventurous metal outfit reaching new heights and expanding their sound into something monumental. There’s just no filler here at all. Tracks like “Dementia”, “Ultraviolet”, “Alpha Seed”, and “Pulse” rank as some of the best individual songs you’ll hear all year. Jesse Cash’s vocals continue to improve, as he’s one of the best overall singers in the genre. It would be my favorite album of 2013 if it weren’t for…
#1: Daylight: “Jar”
Daylight being so awesomely great at churning out a god-tier ROCK album. Legit the best alternative rock album I’ve heard in years, the album is so 90’s-inspired it’s unreal (look at the album cover) but it also sees the band searching inwardly to explore some tough themes – the track “Sponge”, for example, deals with the death of Taylor Madison’s stepfather (see here for the interview we did with him, which elaborates more on the album process). They only came to my attention because of a media outlet which showed their record had leaked a month ahead of release – and they released it early themselves to give their fans the great sound quality. Smooth move by RFC Records. The opening track “Sponge” sets the tone for the rest of the album with its pounding drumbeat, but it’s the slower-paced songs like “Youngest Daughter” that really make the album the absolute best album I’ve heard all year. I’ve never stopped listening to it since day 1 – and neither will you once you hear it. A crowning achievement to cap off an amazing year of music.