This past year had just about everything when it came to metal: Pioneers making monumental comebacks, bands taking huge risks progressing their sound, and groups stripping things down to bare bones.
Picking our 10 best metal albums of 2013 — from anywhere, not just L.A. — was extremely difficult. Here are our choices.
See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History
Old Mornings Dawn
Austrian folk-black metal duo Summoning is more about the atmospherics than aggression. The cacophonous, desperate screams of band founders Silenius and Protector are backed by traditional folk instruments, symphonic keyboards, and tribal drumming. The duo's Tolkien-inspired musings take dark, musical journeys to Middle Earth.
The bone-rumbling stoner doom of Richmond's Windhand evokes genre legends like Saint Vitus. Their sound contains equal parts hooks and fantastically psychedelic guitar work. The haunting vocals of Dorthia Cottrell would be equally at home in the '70s Sabbath worship scene and the '90s shoegaze scene.
8. In Solitude
Swedes In Solitude best combined darkness and melody this year, largely due to the vocals of Pelle Ahman. But the darkness is offset by the guitar duo of Niklas Lindstrom and Henrik Palm, who bring a rock 'n' roll swagger to some of the catchiest metal riffs of the year.
The Formulas of Death
Moments of jazz, psychedelics, and almost danceable grooves appear on this second full-length from Swedish death-metallers Tribulation. This progression beyond their traditional death metal sound helps create a masterpiece, one that takes hypnotic twists and turns throughout its ambitious 75 minutes.
Australian one-man project Germ whips black metal, electronic music, shoegaze, and dizzying guitar histrionics into a frenzied brew. It takes a crafty hand to make all of this work, but Tim Yatras pulls it off. Whether it's desperate screams or guitar solos that would make Joe Satriani proud, it all results in a fantastic ode to depression.
Deafheaven's Sunbather is a wedding of beauty and beast. This Bay Area group tempers outbursts of blasting black metal with gorgeous post-rock atmospherics. The screams of George Clarke are haunting enough, but the beauty of Kerry McCoy's shoegaze-inspired guitar work makes it all just a little more chilling.
4. Power Trip
Unbridled fury. On Manifest Decimation, the thrash from Texas quintet Power Trip is aided by a crust-punk underpinning that lends a sense of urgency. The pitting simply does not stop on tunes that stand alongside original genre classics like Metallica's Kill 'Em All.
Abandon All Life
Eighteen minutes of pure mayhem and fury, the sophomore album from O.C. outfit Nails is a pummeling whirlwind of grindcore, powerviolence, and no-frills hardcore. The caustic screams of vocalist/guitarist Todd Jones are powerful enough to strip paint from walls. Even though it's short, Abandon All Life is exhaustingly ferocious.
Technical-death metal is saturated with bands of insane musical technicality, but they're not always super listenable. Thankfully, vocalist/guitarist Luc Lemay has revived Quebec genre pioneers Gorguts after a 12 year dormancy to show the kids how it's fucking done. Lemay's barks are as powerful as ever, but new recruits Colin Marston (bass) and Kevin Hufnagel (guitars) fall into line pretty quickly and provide strong support. The final product is a thick beast of fully realized tech-death goodness. We would call this the comeback metal album of the year, if it weren't for…
During their initial run that ended in 1995, Carcass pioneered two specific subgenres — gore-grind and melodic death metal. The group's comeback album falls more into the melodic death metal vein, but they've nonetheless revitalized a subgenre that was becoming flooded with mediocrity.
Songs such as “Thrasher's Abattoir” and “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” meld the spectacular guitar harmonies of the Heartwork period with some of the band's goriest lyrics since the early days. The songwriting of original members Bill Steer and Jeff Walker hasn't lost a step. It's like the last 18 years of inferior bands never happened.
Like us on Facebook at LAWeeklyMusic.