As we enter a new year, we reflect back on some of the best releases of the past year. Everyone has their favorites, many of which show up on multiple lists. We have the unique opportunity at Heavy Planet to hear some of the best independent and underground bands from around the world as well as some of the more popular artists we love and enjoy. Some of these albums may come as a pleasant surprise to many of you, and many will be of no surprise at all, especially in my case with three of my all-time favorite bands putting out a release in 2013. So here it is, in all it's ear-gratifying glory, my Top 20 albums of 2013.
20. Weed is Weed-Blunt Force Trauma
After seeing these guys perform at the Borracho "Smokin" Brown Ale" release show in DC last spring, I have had this album in heavy rotation. Tasty riffing, doomy grooves and gruff vocal barking from Dave Sherman (Earthride) provides the backbone for this album about what else, weed. It also marks the reunion of Gary Isom and the aforementioned Dave Sherman, both from Spirit Caravan. Tracks such as "Weed is Weed", "Low To No", and "Big Green Patch" are highlights of this killer, soon to be legendary stoner doom record. Look for it's re-release by Ripple Music sometime this year (hopefully on Green vinyl).
19. Orchid-Mouths of Madness
The last release "Capricorn" from Orchid was my number one album of 2011, now it is 2013 and these dudes from San Francisco keep laying on the 70's Sabbath-influenced jams. Possibly the most prolific new doom rock band to come out in the past few years, they have inspired a new legion of fledgling bands to follow in their footsteps. Great riffs, awesome retro feel and precise delivery. Personally, I have to say that I love this band.
18. Monster Magnet-Last Patrol
Sure, Monster Magnet goes down in the books as one of my favorite bands of all-time and if it were not for all of the remaining albums on this list, "Last Patrol" would have probably been ranked much higher. The band returned primarily to it's roots providing a more vintage sound and a less "commercial" hard rock sound. This album is more psychedelic and atmoshperic than their previous few efforts and provides a more trippy vibe. I can dig it.
This three-piece from Australia is stoner rock in the truest sense of the genre. Warm and fuzzy guitar tones, seventies psychedelics, doomy riffs and a steady groove glisten amongst tight melodies. Reminescent of such luminaries as Dozer, Lowrider and Truckfighters. Don't let this one pass you by.
Harkening back to a bygone era, the seventies were possibly the best time for hard rock music. Beelzefuzz has managed to capture that sound. While not your typical doom, the music does have a doomy feel but is more in the hard rock variety. Great melodies, tight musicianship and a vocalist that for some reason reminds me of Michael Kiske of Helloween fame makes this one a winner.
15. Lumbar-The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
Facing a daily battle with Multiple Sclerosis, Aaron Edge (Himsa) poured out his heart, soul and emotion onto this record. With the help of Mike Scheidt (YOB) and Tad Doyle (TAD) how could you go wrong? The riffs are gigantic and the tone is merciless. Intense, vile and grim sludgy doom... just the way I like it.
14. Sons of Huns-Banishment Ritual
This is my pick for the album that basically just kicks your ass. Portland, Oregon has recently become a hotbed for great music and with the release of "Banishment Ritual", Sons of Huns has firmly cemented a place in my top 20. From 70's inspired super-bluesy doom riffs to sonic blasts of stoner metal fury, there isn't a bad one in the bunch. The vocals lie somewhere between Brian Connolly of The Sweet and J. D. Cronise from The Sword. Each time I listen, I feel my beard getting thicker and thicker.
While I was on vacation this past spring, Seth did a "New Band To Burn One To" on this band in my absence. Ever since I have been hooked. Hailing from Argentina, this full-length from Paissano is an addictive hard-driving blast of fuzz-fueled stoner metal. Thanks for this one Seth.
12. Stoned Cobra-High and Mighty
An awesome psyche-tinged stoner doom band isn't something that you would typically find in the state of Alabama, at least one without a glimmer of southern sludge, but Stoned Cobra came as quite a surprise. Slow chugging rhythms, mind-bending psychedelics and a vocalist with great chops. From soft balladry to heavy as fuck pummelling, these guys found the right balance to make one hell of a record.
High and Mighty indeed!
11. Earthless-From the Ages
The last time Earthless released an album was in 2007 with the classic "Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky", a year before Heavy Planet made its internet debut. Well all I have to say is it is about damn time. For those of us that have patiently waited for this release, many like myself were not disappointed. Personally, I am a huge fan of instrumental albums and the great thing about Earthless is that their music demonstrates a huge emotional connection with the listener. The musicianship is once again stellar and the songs just ebb and flow with key precision and timing. So freakin' amazing!
10. Black Rainbows-Holy Moon EP
One of my wife's favorite bands has quickly become one of my favorites as well. And why not, this "EP" is a perfect representation of what is so great about this genre of music. Hailing from Rome, Italy, the band rages on with breathtaking psychedelic freakout soloing, face-melting fuzziness and a kick-ass groove to boot.
09. Switchblade Jesus-Switchblade Jesus
Oh hell yeah, my buds from Corpus Christi, Texas finally released their debut album and what a killer album it is. Don't let the intro fool you folks, this is one scorcher of a record. Great riffing with a southern swagger and a groove, dare I say, the size of Texas. Stand up and take notice because Switchblade Jesus is kicking ass and taking names. Vinyl coming sometime in 2014.
08. Egypt-Become the Sun
This album came out way back in January of 2013 and I tucked it away so I wouldn't forget about it which I tend to do with releases early in the year. This is such a great rock record. The mega-riffing and gruff vocals from this Fargo, ND band will stick to your ribs on a cold and snowy night. Unfortunately, I missed out on my vinyl copy of this release. By the way, they also released a killer split with one of my all-time favs Wo Fat called "Cyclopean Riffs". You should check that one out as well.
The sophmore effort from this Boston-based band under the Summoner moniker is full of strong song structures, swirling psychedelics and chest-crushing riffs which captivate and obliterate as you are guided through this epic and mighty journey. This album is the perfect follow-up to the band's critically-acclaimed full-length "Phoenix" released in 2012. Vinyl is the way to go on this one, you'll thank me.
06. Tumbleweed Dealer-Tumbleweed Dealer
Opening track "Opiates" is hands down my favorite song of the year. That song is the perfect introduction of what to expect on this intense and brooding instrumental masterpiece. The perfect album to put on headphones and chill-out to.
05. Vista Chino-Peace
Finding the right words to say why you like an album can sometimes be a daunting task, whether it is was because you were expecting something different or you were so knocked off your feet that you were at a loss for words. This album for me is a little bit of both. For one, I was expecting something a bit heavier. Secondly, some songs on this album are just so damn good. Primarily speaking, "Adara", "Still Remain" and "Barcelonian". Sure, this album is still heavy, but in a different way. The intense vibe and song build-up is more vibrant and song-writing is just superb, Garcia's vocals are as good as ever and Brant Bjork's drumming is so fluid. Bruno does a tremendous job and Nick provides a solid bass line.
That's enough, just enjoy.
I had the opportunity to meet these fine gentlemen and had the pleasure of seeing them play live on a few occasions this past year. After hearing them play the songs live, I couldn't wait to hear them on record. We were even given the opportunity to have the exclusive stream of this gem back in July. These guys in my opinion are one of the premier bands in the land and "Oculus" just blew me away.
One of the shows that I was referring to in the Borracho script also included this band from my backyard. This five-piece progressive studge metal band from Pittsburgh, PA blew my mind as well. It was not until the second time I saw them that I had mentioned to a few of my fellow Heavy Planet compadres, that were also in attendence that these guys would sound awesome on record. They agreed, and Supervoid did not disappoint.
02. Black Sabbath-13
While the album was maybe a tad bit over-produced and didn't capture the "sound" that I was expecting and was a bit dissappointed to see Bill Ward not partake, the album still had plenty of great songs and masterful riffing. I could probably write a book on what is good and bad about this album, but I don't want to bore anyone. Black Sabbath will always be my favorite band. This is primarily a nostalgic ranking and if not for a primo release by the next band this would have been number one.
01. Clutch-Earth Rocker
Well, would you expect anything else? It is no surprise that this was my number one album of the year. How many bands can actually go on tour and play just about every song off of a new album and have their fans not give a shit because it was so damn good. That takes balls. This was an amazing album throughout and the band still impresses with their live performance each and every time.
Thank you Clutch!!