We’ve reached the half-way point of 2013, so what better time to take a moment and reflect on the year so far from a rock and heavy metal perspective? It’s a rhetorical question, but I hope you’ve all answered ‘now’ regardless!
All things considered, 2013 has been a pretty decent year to date. There have been plenty of excellent releases across a broad range of subgenres. I had hoped to offer my top 10 of the year so far in this post. However, having considered things in great detail, I have to admit that this was too difficult and would have inevitably missed some great albums and bands that deserve a mention.
Instead, I have decided to split this post into three or four and throw a few names at you in each, in brief fashion. More detailed breakdowns will feature at the end of the year when I complete my Top 20 of 2013.
The choices are not in any order of preference, they are just mentioned as they spring to mind.
So, in a rather haphazard and disorganised way, here goes:
Riverside – ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’
Over the past few years, I will admit that my interest in Riverside had dwindled. I was knocked out by the debut ‘Out Of Myself’ and impressed by the difficult second album, ‘Second Life Syndrome’. However, I was less enamoured with what followed with albums three and four, ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ and ‘Anno Domini High Definition’.
With ‘Shrine of New Generation Slaves’, however, the Polish progressive rock band have climbed back to the top of my estimations once again. The fact that the album title’s acronym is ‘SONGS’, is in no way accidental because this album is a fantastic slab of moody and atmospheric progressive rock, with strong hooks, beautiful melodies and powerful song writing throughout.
Cynthesis – ‘ReEvolution’
The brain child of the Tipton Brothers, Jasun and Troy, of Zero Hour fame, “ReEvolution” is album number two in a three-part dystopian concept piece. If you are familiar with these artists’ other band Zero Hour, you know that you can expect some four and six-string gymnastics. Indeed there are occasions where the musicianship will boggle the mind with its technicality and speed.
That said, the main focus with Cynthesis is atmosphere and this album delivers it in spades. Swathes of keyboards, quietly picked guitars and a heartfelt vocal performance from Erik Rosvold all play a significant role and counterpoint the bursts of technicality to great effect. If emotional progressive metal sounds an appealing prospect, you have to give this album a try because if you don’t, you’ll regret it.
Amaranthe – ‘The Nexus’
Amaranthe are one of those bands that seriously divide opinion. On the one hand, many metal fans will dismiss the output of this young outfit as vacuous, plastic nonsense, a synthetic hit of ear candy. To a certain extent, they’d not be too far wrong as much of the material owes more to pop music than it does to melodic death metal. And the fact that the band has three singers to cover all bases does little to help the Amaranthe cause.
However, delve more closely into the music and several things become abundantly clear: the vocalists are actually very good, the hooks and choruses are hugely infectious, the guitar work and strong rhythm section is out of the metal top drawer and the song writing is undeniably slick and nicely arranged.
Personally, this second album is a big step up from the debut and it is an album I unashamedly enjoy. I suspect that if you give them a chance, many of you will enjoy them too.
Rotting Christ – “Κατά τον Δαίμονον Εαυτού” (Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy/Do What Thou Wilt)
It feels like Rotting Christ have been around forever. Throughout their career, the Greek metallers have never been afraid to try new things, dabbling with death, grind and Gothic metal as well as their core of black metal over the years as they’ve toiled relentlessly in the extreme metal underground.
With “Κατά τον Δαίμονον Εαυτού”, loosely translated as “Do What Thou Wilt”, Rotting Christ have created an album that manages to sound huge, creepy, ominous and threatening but also melodic and relatively accessible at the same time. It is an impressive feat, but the end result is fantastic. Again the music is black metal at its core but Sakis and Co. draw in plenty of other influences into the overall sound, including plenty of ethnic instrumentation to add yet another dimension. This is not the most technical music you’ll hear but it doesn’t need to be – it’s great just as it is.