Let’s crunch some not-so-scientific numbers, shall we? Of the ten metal albums featured here, five of them are by bands pushing 15 years of periodic existence or, in most cases, much longer. Three albums are shorter than 30 minutes while one fills the CD’s maximum storage capacity (79 minutes). Two are debut albums. One features a completely bizarre and puzzling cover that continues to give me nightmares. What does all of this mean? Most tellingly, established bands continue to show that metal is a lifelong pursuit; young’uns will forever run up a hill strewn with bloody corpses like Sisyphus in a Saxon tee.
But in thinking about 2013 in metal, it’s hard to ignore the damn-near universal love for Deafheaven‘s scene-smashing Sunbather. Even my not-so-metal colleagues loved it enough to place it on NPR Music’s Favorite 50 Albums of 2013. That’s a tremendous thing when I think about it. Even if Sunbather barely got lopped off my list of personal favorites the year, I hold crossover albums in high esteem, as they turn new ears onto heavy music. We all started somewhere — some lucky enough to have been there for the release of Metallica‘s Kill ‘Em All or Death‘s Scream Bloody Gore; others finding their way through late ‘90s alt-metal; younger-skewing audiences karate-moshing to metalcore. The true seekers then dig and, like the grizzled vets featured here, stick around for life.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the one metal song that I listened to endlessly this year: “One Last Chance” off High Spirits’ 2013 tour demo. Chris Black is heavy metal’s unsung champion of that classic ‘80s sound, with an attention to melody so deft that he makes it all seem so effortless. How he will top this demo version of “One Last Chance” I don’t even know.
Because numerical ranking is silly, this personal top 10 list is in alphabetical order. (If you’re aching for more than 10 albums, head on over to my blog for the metal records I hated to cut.)