Madam X’s Top Ten(ish) of 2013

MXWow, what a year! A large portion of 2013 has had me working my ass off in preparation for my stint out at sea with 70,000 Tons of Pure Fucking METAL! I’ve tried to curtail my excitement, but fuck it, this is huge – Carcass, Septicflesh, Finntroll, Overkill… what more could a girl ask for?

2013 in metal has been decent. Granted, there were a few releases that left the mucky, grim taste of disappointment in my mouth. But by contrast, there were also some dark horses that bolted the stable and had me heading off on galloping tangents straight to Hell.

I’m mightily pleased that this year saw me becoming a full-time contributor and member of the unholy trinity that is AMG – it’s a blast working with our Angry Metal Overlord and of course Steel “Mini-Overlord” Druhm, and I hope that 2014 goes on to see AMG growing bigger, bolder and more angry. To the new writers that have joined, it’s great to meet you all. And sadly to Alex Franquelli, sorry to see you go friend. Finally, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the site – keep it Angry!

Here’s to 2013:

Avenged_Sevenfold_-_Hail_To_The_King(ish): Avenged Sevenfold // Hail to the King – This hard-rock album shows a stripped down side to A7X, that’s catchy and easily digestible and probably closest to a mix of their self titled offering from back in 2007 and Nightmare. They’ve done away with much of the flashy, over-the-top duelling guitar theatrical crap that Syn and Zacky are known for, and re-focussed their attention on delivering a lean, uncluttered attack that’s more honest and organic. In tune with the laid-back, melodic feel of the tracks, Syn delivers his solos like a well tattooed fist to the face, they’re packed with melodic hooks and shift between being melancholic and bizarrely messed-up. This album shows a maturity to A7X that I didn’t expect, go an pay homage to the title track for a taster.

black-sabbath-13-cover#10: Black Sabbath // 13 – If you have “blood on your conscious and murder in mind,” 13 provides one hell of a soundtrack. Though the album sounds distinctly modern and easy-listening when compared with what Sabbath have done in the past, tracks like “Loner” and “Live Forever” are still reminiscent of the bygone days of Heaven and Hell to leave you with a hefty dose of nostalgia. In light of the advanced age of these metal maestros, Rick Rubin pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Ozzy belts it out in top form, sounding like he hasn’t aged a day and is well placed up front in the mix, which is a huge draw-card for me. But it’s Tony Iommi’s jazzy solo at the end of my favourite track “Zeitgeist” that brings this album to an absolute pinnacle for me – what’s not to love about the ‘Guitar Black Messiah.’ 13 proves that Black Sabbath haven’t lost their fascination with the darker side of life.

Parasite-Inc.-Time-Tears-Down-Cover#9: Parasite Inc // Time Tears Down – With the vocal might of a werewolf and instrumentation that hits like a wrecking ball, it would have been sacrilege not including these guys in my top 10. Parasite Inc have a strong lyrical backbone, destructive groove, skilful breakdowns and versatile vocals and despite the album including a hefty 13 tracks, don’t be alarmed if you hit “Deadlife” and you find yourself questioning WTF happened. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Time Tears Down is over just way too damn fast!

Hell Curse and Capter#8: Hell // Curse & Chapter – Axl Rosenberg put it perfectly during an interview with Oderus Urungus of GWAR. “Metal is SUPPOSED to be theatrical; it’s SUPPOSED to be fun. We’re not curing cancer — we’re purging demons.” Curse & Chapter is exactly that, Dave Bower’s shrill vocals are so over-the-top, theatrical 80’s power metal cheese that somehow like Attila Dorn’s (Powerwolf) they become more endearing than annoying. What can I say about this album that Steel Druhm hasn’t already said. If you can get past Dave Bower’s vocals, or like me grow to love them, Curse & Chapter’s brimming with top-notch instrumentation that makes this wild ride a must have!

monstermagnetlastpatrol#7: Monster Magnet // Last Patrol – When Steel Druhm blew the whistle that Monster Magnet’s creatively adorned, smoky van was back in town trolling and that they had free candy, of course I had to see what that was all about. Last Patrol’s disorientating, stoner-themed hard rock proved to be a great place to start with Monster Magnet. And I highly recommend that if you’re new to the brand of sleaze these oddball rockers kick out, crank up the volume to full and hit play on the trippy title track, the bizarrely doomy “Three Kingfishers,” or surrender to the “Mindless Ones.”

Misanthropic Propaganda Cover#6: Quest of Aidance // Misanthropic Propaganda – My infatuation with Swedish deathgrind band Quest of Aidance and their V concept album (based on the 1983 television series) didn’t wear off. Their take on death metal’s technicality and grind’s brutality collided head-on, reminding me of a Dying Fetus, Misery Index mash-up with some Travis Richter (The Human Abstract) progressive elements thrown in for good measure. The album comes at you head on with a two-prong vocal assault consisting of raging, deep-throated, growls and larynx-shredding screams that have some similarities to Travis Richter’s vocal style. If you haven’t already done so, get your hands on “Section 34,” “Red Dust” and “The 5th Column” for a taster of what Misanthropic Propaganda delivers.

Obscure sphinx#5: Obscure Sphinx // Void MotherObscure Sphinx play a kind of tasty, female-fronted post-metal that, as I mentioned before, brings to mind the intensified texture and aggression of Tool‘s 10,000 Days and the atmosphere of Melencolia Estatica‘s Hel. Having picked up this beautifully adorned album based on the album art, it was a pleasant surprise when I got stuck into Void Mother and discovered the otherworldly, awe inspiring vocal style of this frontlady. She goes from delivering blissful cleans and skin-crawling shrieks in “Waiting for the Bodies Down the River Floating” to in stark contrast, bassy growls worthy of her male counterparts in “Decimation.” Void Mother is bass heavy, packed with distortion, richly atmospheric and climbs from moments of absolute minimalism upwards to deliver dramatic, climaxing crescendos. Check out “The Presence of Goddess,” slackers!

Cerekloth#4: Cerekloth // In the Midst of Life We Are in Death – Born from the ashes of Church Bizarre, Cerekloth’s début death metal release has all the darkness of a Svart Crown offering combined with the funereal dirge-like feel that I crave from Loss. In the Midst of Life We Are in Death bleakly trudges through the bands own struggles with chronic illness among other dark subjects all set to a brutally pessimistic soundtrack. Much like that heavy feeling you have when you schlepp a body behind you through the woods, tracks like “Halo of Syringes,” “Mesmerizing Holy Death,” “When Outcast Become Kings” and “The Reapers Instant Is Our Eternity” will slowly and deliberately haul you into Cerekloth’s own personal hell. Since the release of this album, the band’s been put on hiatus.

Eudaimony#3: Eudaimony // FutileFutile is the unholy début of former Dark Fortress front man Matthias Jell (the bearer of dark tidings), Naglfar’s Marcus E. Norman on guitars, bass and synthesizer and Secrets of the Moon‘s Jörg Heemann on drums. As soon as you hit play you’re berated with a mixture of traditional black metal and crushing misery that suggests that happiness is an illusion and that from the moment you first draw breath, your life is in fact ending. Jell’s horse, anguished ministrations bring to mind elements of Watain, Urgehal and Ragnarok, and if his intense delivery and the bands dark message doesn’t get under your skin, then absolutely nothing will!

Carcass - Surgical Steel#2: Carcass // Surgical Steel – Listening to this album it still blows me away that it comes a lengthy 17-years after Swansong. From the onset you’ll hear that Surgical Steel is packed to the hilt with aggressive song-writing, intelligent, penetrating guitar solo’s that I can only describe as breathtaking in size and ravaging, dizzying drum work. That said, it’s frontman Jeff Walker’s rabid vocal style that crosses between a kind of snarled growl that brings me back to this album time and time again. Contrary to the title of my favourite track, Surgical Steel is anything but “Unfit For Human Consumption!”

#1: Shade Empire // Omega Arcane – It seems the epic grandeur of Omega Arcane vehemently resisted all attempt at slipping into obscurity. Shade Empire’s beast of a fourth album will appeal to fans of say Fleshgod Apocalypse, Septicflesh or Chaosweaver and it’s tracks like “Dawnless Days,” “Ash Statues,” “Disembodiment,” “Slumbering Giant” and the title track lay hint to the different dimensions and melodic beauty that Shade Empire deliver. The vocal style on the album flows between otherworldly chants, malevolent whispers, hellish black metal screams and savage, death-like roars – in other words, a little something for everyone. My only complaint remains that at 72 minutes Omega Arcane is a daunting listen. A top notch release!

Shade Empire Omega


Honorable Mentions:

GWAR // Battle Maximus – A battle of epic proportions ensued, and the mighty GWAR triumphed! Battle Maximus proved to be a worthy piece of monster metal enforcing that GWAR are back and stronger than ever.
Enforcer // Death by Fire – A vintage mashup of NWoBHM and early American speed metal. As the year wore on, this zany, galloping thrill-ride had me craving the smell of hairspray while earning its place as my favorite side of Enforcer!
Space God Ritual // Eldritch Tales – A fuzzy, ’70s era slab of American doom, paying homage to Lovecraft. Go on, get lost in Space God Ritual’s grip of “Madness!”
All Else Fails // Fucktropolis – Fucktropolis served up with a healthy dose of truth and blasphemy fused together with dizzying solo’s and Wagner grandeur. A metalcore work of fine art.
Skeletonwitch // Serpents Unleashed – A full-throttle, blackened thrash thrill-ride that doesn’t let up!
Blood Mortized // The Demon, the Angel, the Disease – Delivering old-school Swedish death the way it was intended… with bone-crushing, brutal intensity!
Audrey Horne // Youngblood – An addictively edgy hard-rock opus brought to you by members of the mighty Enslaved and Sahg.

Disappointments o’ the Year:

Fleshgod Apocalypse // Labyrinth
Satan’s Wrath // Aeons Of Satan’s Reign
Motörhead // Aftershock

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