Best Of 2013 XIII (An Enigmatic Journey)

Hello and welcome to my first ever top albums list. While I've been listening to metal for over 15 years I've never compiled an actual year end list. The reason for this is because I feel my current favorites to be ever changing dependent on mood, season and situational. But the reason I feel it's necessary is because I want to spread the joy of music. I see many people jaded on music, well if this list is any indication music is alive and doing some amazing things. I've encountered so many lists this year and honestly can't say there's anything close to my list. Whole brilliant albums left off of list after list, but it is all opinion. Other albums held up in high regard that just made me shake my head or perplex me. Even reading many lists gets annoying do to slideshows or advertisement overload or no explanations, I've made this as easy to browse as I could. This is a celebration of the music of 2013. Doing this list was fun yet stressful for me. To me a list isn't a versus or better than. It's just a personal list, still I want to make the numbers carry weight and importance.
Enjoy, comment below and spread the word

Created by: EnigmaLake | 06.03.2014

1. In Vain - Ænigma
My favorite album does what anyones favorite album should do, it speaks to my inner soul. The talent and songwriting combined with the ability to which they use those skills is unmatched in 2013. Incredibly heavy yet melodic with a progressive flow. One listen to "Floating on the Murmuring Tides" is all it takes to see why this release is massively special. It's the best song I've heard all year. Acoustic guitars, blackened death elements, saxophones, orchestral strings, chanting, beautiful singing, screams and growls from the depths of the abyss. This album has it all.
2. Soilwork - The Living Infinite
This double album never misses, if you're a fan of Soilwork they deliver the goods. Whether it's speeding along, rocking out mid-paced or crawling along beautifully or destructively. This is controlled chaotic brilliance from veterans of this music refusing to be have their best be behind them, if this is any indication…it isn't. This is a masterstroke.
3. Amorphis - Circle
This album is a mixture of folk and doom and all the addictive and haunting elements associated with metal at it's core. Tomi Joutsen has become one of my favorite vocalists, just listen to the intense growls on "Shades of Grey" that flow into a seriously infectious chorus. Make sure you check out the albums bonus tracks as well. They add to the album instead of bring it down at all. The production of Peter Tagtgren and the mixing of Jonas Kjellgren just make this all the crushingly better.
4. Obscure Sphinx - Void Mother
I admit, I'm not a huge fan of post metal, doom or sludge, but something about this album really strikes a cord with me. The band name, album cover, the slow building moments that unleash huge sabbathy doomy riffs that serve as a focal point throughout the album. The singing/screaming element is beautifully tortured. The drumming has some of the most interesting patterns I've heard all year. The atmosphere drips off the music. An obscure gem indeed.
5. Haken - The Mountain
This band takes risks, they show off, they also strip their inner feelings down. An amalgam of different bands borrowing from the past. Excellent prog metal fun tossed in and around around delicious harmonies, perhaps jazzy moment or a choir arrangement here, even an a cappella moment there, there's always something impressive, heartfelt and cool going on. "As Death Embraces" and "Nobody" could impress people that hate anything metal. "Falling back to earth" and "Paredolia" will make prog fans rejoice. "Somebody" is the perfect closer. This is always creative, this mountain is a journey you'll come back to time and time again. Make sure you get an album with the bonus tracks too, they are a must.
6. Tesseract - Altered State
-Atmospheric, futuristic and impeccably performed. The production makes everything shine at all the right moments. The story is as simply complex as the music itself. Be it a warm heavy rhythm, a shimmering vocal moment or a lighter reflective lyrical passage. This is a pitch perfect complex concept that will catapult them into the spotlight.
7. Turmion Kätilöt - Technodiktator
Industrial, hypnotic, weird, powerful all rolled into one. A fitting album cover for sure. This just may be my favorite Turmion Katilot album yet and there hasn't been a mistake through their whole discography. There's a consistent flow through the album that builds to more lengthier closer. I don't understand a word of Finnish that this band vehemently spews, but it doesn't matter being mesmerized by the riffs that will drive into your stick in your head like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth. The quirky anime/video game/techno elements blend perfectly with the rhythms to intoxicate you.
8. Vulture Industries - The Tower
Wholly original, certainly over the top at times but this band has so much damn unbridled talent that it works. They certainly rely heavily on the performance of the vocalist, thankfully they and the lyrics are the highlight here and some of the best of the year. Oh those vocals, they stand out, being instantly recognizable and morphing to fit the mood of each moment. This is avant garde metal without being alienating.
9. Chthonic - Bú-Tik
Taiwan weren't known for metal. Chthonic is here to change that. With a passion unmatched this album displays something primal and raw yet also sharply produced. There's a thrashy feel with echoes of black metal accentuated with oriental melodies backed up with a spiritual vibe and effective female vocals. Also that which adds depth is the historical theme presented in the lyrics. It ups the replay value immensely when there's conviction behind every word.
10. Shade Empire - Omega Arcane
Heavy orchestral flim-esque metal. If you're a fan of Dimmu's Borgir's prime era (97-03) you'll love this as I did. Blast beats, grooves, this album throws the kitchen sink at you all the while staying metal through and through. This is massive and perhaps even too long. They certainly give you your hard earned money's worth. All in all guys chiseled out such a enjoyable listening experience for a seasoned metal listener and I thank them for that.
11. Tristania - Darkest White
What really impressed me here was the performance from the amazing 3 vocal front. This album will take awhile and listens to grow on you just like the murky production. Once they take hold the thought provoking introspective lyrics and memorable song-writing filled with it's dark melodies and chilling chorus's that will bury into your mind.
12. Omnium Gatherum - Beyond
The tones soothe your earbuds at the same time formidably crushing them ("New Dynamic", "Nightwalkers", "Formidable" "The Unknowing"). Probably one of the reasons have been on my radar since 2003. I just enjoy what they are doing so much. There's an artistic approach they take to dominating their instruments that strikes a chord within me. So many memorable moments of monumental beauty.
13. Persefone - Spiritual Migration
From all places (one of the smallest in the world) comes some amazing metal from Andorra. It's technically jaw dropping with Symphony X, Wintersun and Necrophagist like proficiency. The interludes are soothing and necessary meditations between all the instrumentation theatrics and catchy riffing. Dark, atmospheric, powerful and complex.
14. Ayreon - The Theory of Everything
Arjen is a man of immense musical talents, even more so he has some of best ears for music. Album after album he finds steller guest musicians to do his prog metal opera's. The Theory of Everything is no different. Another huge double album to delve into. Vocals and keyboards dominate the complex and intriguing storyline. I'm not sure why the songs were broken up into so many tracks the way they were, but I'm not a fan of it. Regardless the man knows how to make his albums total enveloping experiences. You'll need some time to let it soak, this is best listened front to back for full impact.
15. Deviant Syndrome - 66 Ways to Redemption
These Russians came as on the biggest surprises to me this year, thrashy, melodically creative and just overall catchy. Overtop of the blasting and technical progginess is a Finnish style melodicism that just adds a delicious layer overtop of everything. Sound clips, choirs and other elements thrown in give it their own countries stamp. The vocals are straight forward, harsh and throaty yet understandable. Technical Melodic Death Metal Masterpiece.
16. Kalmah - Seventh Swamphony
Kalmah releases another speedy thrashy melodic deathly powerful metal of superior high quality. The band switches things up just enough to make each album exciting and yet remain them. Fans of riffage, solo's and lead's will love this album. The band has vastly improved their lyrics from their early albums. Which just adds to the depth that is also in the production and intense song-writing going on here.
17. Orphaned Land - All is One
The middle eastern and orchestral elements are the core of the sound here now. There's more balance and a trim the fat feel. The message of joining people together is a powerful and important one. There's no weak tracks, even the bonus tracks are worthy. Less progression and more accessible which could be a bad thing, but these songs and melodies are just too good. This is straight from the heart music. All is one and all is well in Orphaned Land.
18. Leprous - Coal
While not an instant classic like all over the place, quirkily "Bilateral" this band still delivers an amazing album full of jaw dropping ideas and moments. Ideas that are expanded upon throughout whole songs and along the way you're treated to unique prog-avant garde metal with a highlight on the impressive vocals. Hypnotic in a way at times, breaking in fresh territory other times. Songs like "The Valley", "Echo" are must listen to highlights.
19. Carcass - Surgical Steel
An album that's just about on every music list that matters this year. These lads return with a re-imagining of Heartwork of sorts, Surgical Steel Edition. I guess I'm the only one that misses Micheal Amott on this. All surgeries aside this is excellent precision metal done by the masters. A must have, a must listen. This will be a comeback model pointed to and repeated by others.
20. Volbeat - Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
In the past Volbeat had some songs I enjoyed here and there but on this album they caught my full attention. For 15 tracks there's almost never a mis-step and when there is they more than make up for it. Metal mixed with Rockabilly/Southern Rock is the bands foundation, but in their uniqueness with Michael Poulsen's vocals and catchy song-writing is where they succeed. This is a band given the spotlight and they more than shine. Once again make sure you get the bonus track, it rocks
21. Killswitch Engage - Disarm the Descent
Well Jesse is back with that brings a more passionate and intense album. He's the highlight here surrounded by great melodic metalcore instrumentation. Definitely a return the classic Alive or Just Breathing era. Tons of shorter energized tracks with an emphasis on structural balance utilized for maximum impact.
22. Witherscape - The Inheritance
Dan Swano and Ragnar Widerberg, both multi-instrumentalists really create a great prog-death album. Mr. Swano first off has some of the best growls in the business, his singing is an acquired taste, but once you appreciate it, it's enthralling. His very own production here is spot on perfect. The tracks are impeccably ordered. The cover of the album, gorgeous. A brilliant gem.
23. Pretty Maids - Motherland
Long time hard rocking metallers deliver a delicious slab of memorable songs, mainly due to the talents of vocalist Ronnie Atkins. The crisp production shines with the perfect mixture of heavy tunes and slower metal ballads. All the while being both incredibly familiar and memorable. Excellent.
24. Parasite Inc. - Time Tears Down
This german bands debut is a perfect way to start off their career. Melodic Death Metal that's thrashy borrowing from a ton of bands (, In Flames, Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy, etc.) but mixing them perfectly. With crisp, sharp, blastable production. What a fun surprise.
25. Hateform - Sanctuary in Abyss
The Great, the underrated Hateform give you 10 kickass thrashy death songs of immense skill. Energetic, Aggressive and armed with the technical skill to make them stand out. They also aren't afraid to try new things, while the guitar work is top notch and intense, they ease up with a beauty that makes the destruction all the much more enjoyable. It's about time they get noticed.
26. Pomegranate Tiger - Entities
I'm not typically one for full on instrumental albums but this is quite mind blowing, technical yet catchy and fun. Full of tempo changes and experimentation, doesn't hurt they are obviously huge fan of Dali and Zappa.
27. Finntroll - Blodsvept
Folk polka metal from the finnish gang. There's a fair amount of welcome craziness here. Catchy, cheesy, fun music. Underneath it all there's a serious insanity running throughout. This band never seems to disappoint. A delightful album indeed.
28. The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer
First time I saw DEP was right before Miss Machine, what a show that was. The band has left a huge impression on me and the music scene. Lots of more great songs abound on this Dillinger release. The way they blend chaotic dissonance with accessibility here make it one of their best. Lots more ammo for those intense live shows.
29. Humanity's Last Breath - Humanitys Last Breath
Intense rhythmic slamming with djenty deathcore laden Vildhjarta-ish-ness. There's a complex all over the map sensibility in the riffage that makes this album (and that damn huge production sound that's enough to level a small town) stand out from the seemingly 1000's of bands doing the same thing but coming up way short of this.
30. Ihsahn - Das seelenbrechen
A journey through the destruction of a psyche. With it's German title and passionate music from one could sense this was going to cryptic. Yet always daring and imaginative. The first 7 tracks alone are worth the trip. Ihsahn is a creative stand-alone in a sea of imitators.
31. Wolfheart - Winterborn
Frigid Finnish Melodic Heavy Metal. Distortedly infectious guitar-work amid acoustic interludes, soul-searching solo's, violins and keys. Mastermind of the band Tuomas Saukkonen delivers a deep churning progressive composition worthy being checked out even the most frost-bitten ears. Great album for the winter blues
32. Ovid's Withering - Scryers of the Ibis
Part a ton of styles (Death Metal, Deathcore, Prgo, Groove, Blackened Symphonic Metal) but the most important part, it's lots of fun in the process. The vocal variation and intense conviction is the highlight here. A long journey full of interesting lyrics and musical twists and passion above mere technical prowess.
33. Caligula's Horse - The Tide, The Thief, The Rivers End
A technically proficient well rounded pro rock/metal band from Australia. The best part about this band is the wonderful tone and execution of the vocals.
34. Annihilator - Feast
I'm including this as a double album (that 2nd disc full of re-recorded Annihilator songs is fucking sweet). The Underrated thrashers never do seem to get the spotlight that more known bands of similar ilk seem to get. Jeff Waters is one of best guitarists of this genre and Vocalist Dave Padden has become the perfect running mate with him. This is the the 4th consecutively excellent album from these guys. Fast, sharp thrash with some interesting additional themes.
35. Enshine - Origin
This melodic death doom debut release has something special. A spacey out of body kinda experience from the sound. The band has moments of keyboard transcendency, somber moments and oh yeah a great big wall of atmosphere and sonic audio bliss at their espousal. Also check out the song "Brighter" (it's free) not included here on this album, for some reason (it was released as a digital single before the album). Astonishing beginning to what I hope is many more releases.
36. Dark Tranquillity - Construct
What you have here is an album filled with more mood keys and atmospheres than the past 5 albums. Which surprised some people I'm guessing, it's a reconstruction of past sounds (Haven/Projector). Stanne is one of my favorite vocalists and lyricists in music and he doesn't disappoint here. Another high quality release from the Swedes
37. The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack
Well they've been honing this sound for well over a decade now and this is their heaviest and darkest since Nocturnal. "Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorns" is one of the best songs they've written. A great album by a consistently good band
38. Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
If you know Hypocrisy then this is them through and through, no surprises here, but 10 tracks (plus one bonus cover song) of high quality melodic swedish death metal. Peter Tägtgren is one of my favorite musicians in all of music for many reasons. The production and song-writing here gives this metal veteran a warm smirk of enjoyment. The perfect blend of melodic brutality.
39. Kingcrow - In Crescendo
This prog rock/metal band from Italy really impressed me with this release. They are more structured and restrained in a good way then ever before. Their vocals more memorable. Master of subtlety and cleverness, I see Pain of Salvation being a huge inspiration to them (helps they have toured with them). The whole thing is well written and well balanced and passionately performed.
40. The Ocean - Pelagial
A massive concept about what else, oceans. The whole thing is heavy yet beautiful and progressive all at the same time. Bringing through the ebbs and flows and sonic currents. It's Deep.
41. August Burns Red - Rescue & Restore
a band that speaks and plays from the heart. Another great album showcasing exactly that. Keeping their sound intact while adding new elements. Songs like "Treatment" and "The Final Step" are some of the best songs the band has written.
42. Avatarium - Avatarium
Doom metal that echo's 70's rock, heavy psych and is sabbath tinged. Excellent female vocals amidst the crunch. Not over the top operatic vocals, just normal, clear, powerful female vocals.
43. Darkane - The Sinister Supremacy
This is just simply very good catchy swedish melodic metal. Peter Wildoer proves he is a monster behind the drums and one of the best drummers. Great to see Lawrence back on vocals and Bergstrand fine-tuning the sound.
44. Fleshgod Apocalypse - Labyrinth
Speedy double bass blasting death metal with choirs, female and male singing and symphonies make Fleshgod stand out and forge something different. While I wish the guitars weren't so buried in the mix there's just a ton interesting things going on here and is another great release.
45. James Labrie - Impermanent Resonance
Another strong album from James who I've become more interested in his albums than Dream Theaters lately. Sure there is some cheese and mis-steps (suppose that happens with 14 tracks) but the meld of Dream Theater's vocalist and Darkane's drummer intrigues me. If huge riffs, creative drumming mixed with pop elements is your thing you'll be a fan.
46. Sodom - Epitome of Torture
Ten tracks of German Thrash from the old veterans. Still sounding as angry yet fun as ever. More melody has been added to spice up their sound. Developing while staying true to your roots is very hard to do, this band has been around for 30 years now and they still are releasing excellent tracks and solid albums.
47. Gorguts - Colored Sands
One of the many return album reunions this year, Gorguts has created something unique and also one of if not the most complex release I've heard this year. It takes a dedicated listen to enjoy. It's not as harsh as one would expect from the genre. Dissonant, Unorthodox musicianship, Intriguing
48. Ulcerate - Vermis
A bludgeoning wall of sound that seemingly moves around at some progressive massive jolt. In the same universe but at different ends of the spectrum than Gorguts. The sound of chaos and it's strange emptiness. Cacophonous riffs teamed with abstract percussion and otherworldly growls. it's all very interesting.
49. Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
The thing that's wonderful here beyond the creative song-writing is the track order. A balanced journey through progressive rock with jazz, flutes and piano flourishes. This really isn't metal but it's great prog rock that'll take you on a journey.
50. Hacride - Back to Where You've Never Been
Groove laden metal that's hard to label. Elements of pro with heavy, sharp and futuristic riffs. The vocals are more shout-y than most bands, but also have some excellent singing as well. There's a wonderful contrast, just as there is between the atmospheric moments and the heavy catchy sections. Quality stuff.

Disclaimer: All top lists are unofficial and do not represent the point of view of the MS Staff.
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