Every year we listen to a lot of music, and while some records might be superior, they don’t always contain the best songs. So, I started doing the “Top 10(ish) Songs o’ the Year” to point out the amazing songs that I love even if they come from records I don’t have to love. So here’s the first of my amazing Top 10(ish) lists from 2013. I’ll write a year-end look for my Top 10(ish) albums later, so without further ado:
#(ish): Final Symphony London: “Final Fantasy VI” — Yeah, sure, this isn’t a real release, and yeah, the original wasn’t released anywhere near 2013. But who cares? This rendition of the Final Fantasy VI music is quite possibly the best arrangement I’ve ever heard. It works amazing, and the Kefka music is especially awesome.
#10: Leprous: “The Cloak” — I didn’t even realize there was a video for this, but from Coal this was easily my favorite song. That’s saying something, as Coal has continued to grow on me since it was released and, frankly, I hated it. The melody from Ihsahn‘s backup band actually reminds me of my favorite Opeth stuff, with its melancholy and beautiful vibes; walking the fine line between Marillion prog and catchy melodies. Really amazing to listen to every, single time.
#9: Ulver: “Son of Man” — I really wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got an e-mail from Hr. Garm with the promo of Messe I.X-VI-X. It took me a long time to get into, but I keep coming back to “Son of Man.” This track demonstrates a couple of things: first, the value of the slow build; second, that epic is metal even when those making the epic don’t want to be metal. Way to go, Ulver.
#8: Wisdom of Crowds: “Frozen North” — Bruce Soord and Jonas Renkse created a pretty cool post-Depeche Mode record this year that I really enjoyed. With Renkse’s special voice, this project nails the post-metal Katatonia sound and was just one of the songs I came back to the most often this year.
#7: Black Sabbath: “Dear Father” — So, while Sabbath can’t take the cake for the best record o’ the year (SPOILER ALERT!), they did definitely contribute one of the best songs of the year in “Dear Father,” which is probably the crowning jewel of 13. And while it takes shots at the priests—surprise, surprise—this is simply among the band’s best writing since the ’70s and should be mentioned with its greatest moments. Also, Ozzy sounds great. How’d they do that?
#6: Anciients: “Raise the Sun” — In case you’re wondering why I’m putting this list, just go forward to 1:30 and listen to that friggin’ riff! Of all the bands mixing more ‘classic’ heavy metal into their sounds, I think that Anciients pulled it off the absolute best. This riff is crushing and the song is 6:34 of amazeballs. So well-written, and groovy as hell.
#5: Riverside: “The Depth of Self-Delusion” — SoNGS is a pretty good record, but it’s best song was definitely “The Depth of Self-Delusion” (sic). I’m not sure how to even describe what these Polacks do that just rocks my fuckin’ boat, but the groove and the writing and the melodies all just show off the best that progressive rock has to offer. “The Depth of Self-Delusion” has all the things that hit home for me: amazing melodies; great composition; inaudible lyrics so as to not piss me off. And it’s produced really well. It’s just downright rad.
#4: Orphaned Land: “Brother” — Orphaned Land‘s 2013 platter wasn’t an album loaded with amazing songs, but “Brother” is special. “Brother” is an emotionally poignant track that is a letter written from Isaac to Ishmael and reads like a letter from Israel to Palestine at times. It’s extraordinarily well-composed, and it is the lyrics that really do it for me. That’s not a thing you often hear when it comes to metal.
#3: Haken: “Cockroach King” — Haken‘s newest record is awesome, but unlike a lot of amazing records, this one still has a track that outshines the rest of it: “Cockroach King,” which shows off the band’s wacky side. With a video that rips off Queen while using muppets, it’s hard not to love these guys. “I long to be a disciple of the cockroach / I was hopelessly choking on the roach fallacy / thankfully, when the mirage finally melted / the impurity of the cockroach was revealed to me.” Yeah. Like. What more can I even say?
#2: Trials: “Upon this Day” — In the Shadow of Swords is an epic album with a several tracks that made my final considerations, but I have to say that the track “Upon this Day” definitely stands alone in its epic heaviness. It’s true that I like my music epic and poignant and this track offers all of that in spades, with a heavy dose of groove and an excellent vocal performance from thrash metal crooner Mark Sugar. An absolute highlight.
#1: Amon Amarth: “Hel” —— Amon Amarth and Messiah Marcolin? What more do I need to say? It’s a Swedegasm. This track absolutely rules. Messiah sounds immense, and Amon Amarth wrote their best song since “A Thousand Years of Oppression” or “Fate of Norns” (I can’t decide which) to feature the man on. The melodies are haunting and the track is heavy and doom, just Messiah’s speed. I didn’t know the minute I heard it that this would be the best, but at the end of the year it’s not a surprise. Horns and hammers raised to Amon Amarth!