This year alone, I wrote and published 153 reviews. One hundred and fifty three. Which means sorting through them to pair down the best of the best wasn’t necessarily easy. For the most part, I’ve reviewed everything on this list–and the things that I didn’t get to write a full shpeal for still got a nice blurb. Musically, twenty-thirteen was a great year–or at least I thought so. While there wasn’t much in the way of an immense musical revolution (although low and slow deathcore and twinkly, mathy emo have matured immensely and continued their haydays), there have been countless displays of near mastery, and more prodigal brilliance than I could shake an entire forest’s worth of sticks at.
So, without further ado, please take some time to check out the following releases! If you haven’t heard of one, or several, then do yourself a favor and give it a spin–it’s on this list for a reason.
Idols - Choose Hate [Deathcore]
City Lights – The Way Things Should Be [Pop-Punk]
Fate Worse Than Death – The Worst Things In Life Come Free To Us [Metalcore/Beatdown]
Touche Amore – Is Survived By [Emotional Hardcore]
Grimus – Omnicide [Deathcore]
Letlive – The Blackest Beautiful [Post-Hardcore]
After the Burial – Wolves Within [Technical Deathcore/Groove]
SPECIAL SHOUTOUT: Killer Mike & EL-P – Run the Jewels [Hip-Hop/Rap/Bangers]
I remember when my friend Travis told me—well, I remember several times he told me—to check out Run the Jewels. After all, I’d enjoyed Killer Mike’s 2012 release R.A.P. Music and EL-P is a well known producer, so, why not? Well, for whatever reason, I never got around to it until the last week of December. While I don’t have the familiarity (or the wherewithal) to comfortably place it in my top 25 (plus, it’s so wonderfully arranged already), I believe that the more I listen to it, the more it really should be here. It is a comprehensive, catchy and fun rap release that will have you bobbin’ your head till you break your neck. With fun, chuckle-inducing lyrics and flow so smooth it sounds as if it’s coated in frozen butter, any fan of rhyme-slinging, beat-heavy hip-hop will find something to love in this release.
25) The Black Dahlia Murder – Everblack
[Technical/Blackened Death Metal]
What is there to be said about The Black Dahlia Murder that hasn’t already been said ten times over? Ever since their prodigal display of death metal-turned-deathcore style of intense, vicious musicianship, Unhallowed, this talented group has done nothing but refine their sound and progress deeper and deeper into the realm of blackened death metal. All of their maturation and development culminate in Everblack, a crushingly heavy and contagiously catchy release that attacks the listener with punishing percussion, visceral vocals and—of course—shredding, immense riffs that beg to be heard again and again.
24) Shadow of the Colossus – End Game
While Shadow of the Colossus’ debut release was little more than a perfectly-executed display of basic deathcore prowess, their sophomore release is much, much more. Using dynamic and immersive instrumental elements along with a diverse vocal onslaught to tell the story of life’s journey and the trials and tribulations—mundane and severe alike—that complicate it, End Game is nothing short of comprehensive. Where the band’s self-titled debut had moments lacking inspiration and cohesiveness, End Game encounters none of these problems, using vocals and music alike to tell a story so captivating, it could have been written by J.R.R. Tolkien.
23) I Speak in Calculus – Giant Ash of the Earth
It isn’t too terribly common to see concept albums held in such high standing on a top-anything list—let alone a concept album entirely lacking vocals. This doesn’t slow down Michiganian metallers I Speak in Calculus, however. Slashing and burning their grindcore history and saving merely the roots, Giant Ash of the Earth tells the story of the creation of the planet we all call home. Using immersive and intense instrumentation that varies from lightning-fast and grinding to electronic and catchy, this is one album that begs attention based on simple variety alone—never mind how brilliantly executed everything is.
22) Commotio Cordis – Commotio Cordis
Maybe you’re like me in the respect that your death-and-metalcore sensibilities were developed on Salt the Wound’s Carnal Repercussions or As Blood Runs Black’s Allegiance. Well, if this is true, then you’re probably also like me in the sense that you’re constantly pining for more of music the “way it was.” Well. If this true, then look no further for Commotio Cordis’ self-titled debut. Bass-guitar lines that range from Claypool-like funk to intense, beefy gallops and drumming that practically tears the listener in half, this release is one of the best deathcore debuts not just of this year, but in recent history.
21) Tomb of Doom – Bone Thieves
This past year saw an enormous focus on a style of beefy, chunky deathcore that earned the half-joking, half-onomonopaeic tag “meat.” One of the best displays of this “genre” was found in Tomb of Doom’s debut full-length release, Bone Thieves. Filled with lightning-fast blast beats and technical riffs separated by vast expanses of chug-ridden, gang-chanted, immeasurably heavy breakdowns, this album is hardly for the faint of heart. Rather, it is nearly an hour of some of the most incessantly aggressive yet technically prominent beatdown-tinted deathcore that the year has to offer—which is something, considering the incredible number of bands flaunting this style that came out of 2013’s woodwork.
20) Saviour – First Light to My Deathbed
I was worried I’d get skimped on emotional, intense hardcore when La Dispute weren’t due to release an album this year. Fortunately, I was worried for nothing. Saviour’s First Light to My Deathbed takes all the passion and fury of La Dispute’s lyricism and smashes it head-on with The Ghost Inside and Parkway Drive styled instrumentation. Driving, aggressive breakdowns and catchy, fist-pumping riffs serve as a backdrop to a heart-rendering story that brings tears to the listener’s eyes and whimpers to their throat. On top of it all, Saviour provide the perfect vocal dynamic of clean, serene female vocals and harsh, throat-tearing screams to provide an experience for the listener unlike that of any contemporary –core band.
19) Nails – Abandon All Life
When it comes to brooding, bone-busting and raw hardcore, none do it better than Nails. Capable of delivering what feels like an eternity of pain and suffering in under half an hour of raw, relentless anger. In-your-face, hammering percussion breaks the listener’s jaw with bold, blunt deliver and raw, ruthless fretwork tramples the listener into the dirt. If you feel like polished, overly-technical metal-and-deathcore acts have been taking over the scene, discover Nails and Abandon All Life.
18) Ovid’s Withering – Scryers of the Ibis
Few had any idea what to expect when a full-length release by progressive, symphonic titans Ovid’s Withering was announced—myself included. However, even my wildest dreams could not have prepared me for the incredible experience found within Scryers of the Ibis. Every vocal style imaginable is painted across backgrounds of deep, colorful instrumentation. These layers of stellar, stacked musicianship flow from enormous obelisks of symphonic beauty to crushing, grinding heaviness worthy of the grittiest deathcore albums. In short, Scryers of the Ibis is additionally a scryer of sheer, wondrous and comprehensive death metal.
17) Erra – Augment
In a time where countless metalcore bands rely on catchy songwriting or a pretty voice to sell records—often resulting in nameless, faceless releases that sound exactly the same—Erra do it differently. Augment is proof of this—as it makes use of some of the best vocal work in the business alongside stunning fretwork and immersive, engaging song structure to hook the listener and reel them in. Clocking in at close to an hour, most bands would stumble and falter over the hurdle of monotony. Erra, however, leap this obstacle with incredible grace and ease—bounding over the releases of their peers in the process.
16) The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever
What a mouthful, huh? Well, believe it or not, The World is a Beautiful Place… crafted an emo album as brilliant, catchy and intriguing as their name is obnoxious. Filled with elements that make each song dynamic and beautiful in its own way, Whenever, If Ever is home to countless moments of musical brilliance that define the genre’s releases for 2013—and likely for several years before.
15) Stray from the Path – Anonymous
Ever since Our Oceania and Villains, Stray from the Path have been a constantly-growing and maturing force of change in the hardcore scene. A bastion to blunt, bold and tactless hardcore honesty, Anonymous is a juggernaut of nu-metal (see: Rage Against the Machine) tinted hardcore that combines catchy, sing-a-long choruses with punchy chants and punch-the-listener-senseless heaviness. Not only that, but Anonymous also happens to be home to some of 2013’s finest guest features—with some of the best lyrical concepts and messages to support them.
14) Counterparts – The Difference Between Hell and Home
There seemed to be a period of time where a great many hardcore bands were choosing to pursue either passion or aggression. That is, until Counterparts broke onto the scene with Prophets, a release that beautifully (although, slightly clumsily) combined emotion and anger—serenity and brutality. Their dynamic was further refined in the releases that followed, but perfected in The Difference Between Hell and Home. Covering issues ranging from faith and frustration to love and loss, Counterparts leave no stone unturned, allowing true emotional ties to be formed with the listener, only to sever them with razor-sharp rage.
13) Legion – Woke
One plus side to 2013’s lack of releases from heavy music chuggernauts The Acacia Strain, I Declare War and Emmure was the ability for other, lesser-known acts to rise to the occasion and fill the void—Legion being one such band. Woke is a comprehensively devastating release that is nothing but heavy from beginning to end. Packed with evil riffs, punishing breakdowns and dominating vocals, Woke is a release that will shake your house from floor to ceiling—and wake the neighbors in the process.
12) Of Glaciers – Heart Museum
This year was a year where, more than others (it seems), bands bit the bust—releasing highly anticipated albums only shortly before imploding under the weight of their own success. Unfortunately, this is all-to-true for Of Glaciers. Combining progressive, entrancing musicianship with uncanny emotional lyrical content, Heart Museum uses every means possible to wrench open the listener’s rib cage and invade every chamber of their heart, flooding it with feeling and sealing it shut with dense, artery-clogging heaviness.
11) Northlane – Singularity
Oh, Australia. Mecca to fans of heavy and masterfully melodic musicians alike. No band exemplifies this more than Northlane, who, capitalizing on the critical discovery of their debut full-length, Discoveries, went on to release Singularity early in the year. With instrumentation that leaps from the listener’s headphones and goes right to the deepest annals of the brain, and lyrics that peer into the innermost portions of the soul, Northlane have created one of the most stunning journeys to be found in progressive metalcore—a genre whose trail has become obscured by overgrowth and overpopulation.
10) Submissioner – In Retrospect
Coming from what seems like nowhere, these Californian comrades of the chug erupt onto the heavy music scene and start off the top ten countdown for 2013’s albums of the year. In a word, In Retrospect is beefy. Thick, looming tones and incessant, hammering instrumentation provide an experience that seems to grind, wear and tear at the listener’s sanity, leaving them with nothing but shreds of a soul and little more than that of a body. Even through it all, though, one thing that makes Submissioner such a genre-defining act is their ability to top their musical attack off with lyrics that truly touch the listener and mean something.
9) I’ll Be An Empire – Aquarius
Truly, Aquarius lives up to the namesake of its creator. I’ll Be An Empire crafted a monolithic empire of melodic, engaging, technical and crushing music with their debut release—a release that practically spells “prodigal.” Stunning percussion and simply marvelous fretwork accompany dynamic vocals and catchy song structuring that makes Aquarius venomous—as it is all too prone to find itself injected firmly into the listener’s ears only to spread like a contagion throughout the meninges of their brain.
8) Hail to the King – Dynasties
Technicality is great—to some degree, even a “must” for groovy, aggressive music. However, when it comes to infectious grooves smashing head on with ho-hating aggression and misogynist misanthropy, none do it quite the same as Hail to the King. With sections of subtle, cheeky technicality and more than its fair share of head-busting breakdowns, Dynasties is a comprehensive release, and a must-listen for anyone who has ever been lied to, cheated on, led around and led astray by their significant other and feels nothing but contempt (especially if “significant other” in this case happens to apply to a female).
7) LIFERUINER – Future Revisionists
Simply put, for a band that started as a satire, LIFERUINER have practically done the unimaginable. Listening to the cheeky, silly anger pervasive throughout their debut full length, No Saints, it’s hard to believe that Future Revisionists even comes from the same band. Make no mistake, however, that this passionate, ground-breaking and emotional hardcore release is from the same group of boys-turned-men. This time, with lyrics that preach acceptance, tolerance, perseverance and love, LIFERUINER are back at the top of their game with a release that will drop the guard of even the most steadfast of souls.
6) Fit For an Autopsy – Hellbound
Some bands do something so well that they become the standard for which other bands get compared to. Just as every guitar solo will forever be compared to “Freebird,” every deathcore album will be compared to Fit For an Autopsy’s Hellbound. Comprised of every element that a deathcore album should have—lacerating blast beats, crushing breakdowns and visceral vocals—Hellbound is proof that a band doesn’t necessarily have to something new to do something right.
5) Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
I was all too willing to write off Eminem after years of stale, radio-friendly albums and singles that lacked fire and “pizzaz.” However, given the universal (and personal) acclaim given the first Marshall Mathers LP, there was no way I could pass this album up—and I’m glad I didn’t. Simply put, this is the closest to a return to form that anyone could ask from Mr. Mathers. Far from kid-friendly and filled with fuming, furious hate, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is catchy and sinister—bordering on downright evil—everything a fan of turn-of-the-millenium era Eminem could want.
4) WolveXhys – Servants of Penance and Purification
How often is it that one would expect a band’s debut release (full length or otherwise) see the inside of a top-five for the year list? Well, against all odds, the UK’s latest-and-greatest, WolveXhys have done it. Laden with lurid, offensive heaviness and grimy, grotesque grooves, Servants of Penance and Purification is one release that will split the listener from toes to tea kettles and spill every one of their organs and every ounce of life onto the pavement. The faint of heart need not apply.
3) Prime Meridian – Dialogues
It’s practically the only given that happens every year—some band will release something in the waning weeks of November or December that will flip a top-ten list on its head. Dialogues did just that. Simply put, I hardly knew this release was coming out—let alone knew what to expect from it once I did. However, even before my first listen was done I knew this would be a release I couldn’t get enough of. Grooves, riffs, great vocals and crushing heaviness all combine to create a cohesive, immersive listening experience that no fan of heavy and progressive music should be without.
2) The Last Ten Seconds of Life – Invivo[Exvivo]
One part catchy, one part evil, one part shreddy and the rest heavy, The Last Ten Seconds of Life shocked me into submission with the masterpiece that is Invivo[Exvivo]. In a word, this release is dark. Tackling depression and other aspects of sociopathic behavior with this loosely conceptual full length, The Last Ten Seconds of Life use every weapon in the heavy-music arsenal to renovate their status as “that one beatdown band” to “masters of misanthropic musicianship.”
1) Sworn In – The Death Card
If you didn’t see this coming, then you obviously haven’t known me since July. This release is nothing short of perfection: it takes the listener on a journey through Hell in the mind of a twisted, malcontent and misanthropic man. On top of that, the lyrics are poetic and twisted, the instrumentation is tight and punchy and the song dynamics are simply off the meter. If there is one full-length album you need to have listened to from 2013, this is that album.
Immoral – Antipathy [Deathcore]
KDNPRS – Volume One [Math Rock/Hip-Hop]
Ghost Atlas – Gold Soul Coma, Volume One [Post-Hardcore]
The Armed/Tharsis They – Split [Chaotic Hardcore]
25) Mailman – Elder
If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year whether I would find my way relapsing into the same blend of heavy, aggressive metalcore and melodic, soothing post-hardcore, I probably would have said “no.” In January—and even February—I was firmly of the opinion that originality in that genre had gone the way of the do-do. However, 2013, and the subsequent emergence of bands like Mailman made me think otherwise. Smashing, heavy percussion combines with soothing, dynamic vocals to create an immersive experience that will change the mind of even the staunchest opposition.
24) Athena’s Grace – Cardinals
Another young, but promising band, Athena’s Grace find themselves into this years top-25 EP’s list. Cardinals is a brief and touching display of immense passion and crushing heaviness. With some tracks forming crushing layers of dense, suffocating heaviness. Athena’s Grace show not just heart, but mind—with the ability to use such a short run time to their advantage and create an immersive, structured release that still speaks with energy and life force.
23) Osiah – Reborn Through Hate
Osiah are another example of a band that might not break new ground, but break ground with the perfectly arranged arsenal of tools. Reborn Through Hate is everything a crushing, sinister deathcore release should be—just long enough to weigh down on the listener and heavy enough to leave more than a lasting impact. Punishing, blazing-fast percussion combines with looming, plodding guitar and simply crushing, hate-filled vocals. Osiah might not renovate the genre with 13-string guitars, chapman sticks or seven vocalists, but they do renovate the genre with the simple depth of their blend of deathcore.
22) I Exalt – Vessel
Whether they’re overhyped or not, a year without a new Infant Annihilator release might have left some listeners wanting—were it not for bands like I Exalt and their technically pervasive blend of punishing, immersive deathcore. Blistering blast beats, lacerating layers of shred and an entire cavalcade of vocal styles create a stunning, creative experience for any listener to get lost in. On top of it all, Vessel has moments of La Dispute-esque poetry and lyricism that really, truly touches the listener at their core—a core exposed by intense, crushing instrumentation.
21) Genocide District – Revolutions
Revolutions is an aptly named combination of beatdown and deathcore—as not only is it a revolutionary blend of the genre, but it will hit the listener so hard in the jaw that their head won’t stop spinning for weeks. Crushing, down-tempo heaviness and sinister, immersive ambience make Genocide District’s 2013 EP one for the record books, as it will undoubtedly serve as a main citation for the influences of beatdown, knock-down, drag-out releases in years to come.
20) Sirena – The Uncertainty of Meaning
If you weren’t convinced by the cunning blend of metalcore and post-hardcore in Mailman’s Elder, then Sirena’s The Uncertainty of Meaning will undoubtedly turn the tides of your heart. With heaviness that wouldn’t feel out-of-place on a The Acacia Strain record and soothing, catchy choruses that would fit on A Day To Remember or Memphis May Fire’s next release, Sirena prove that they have the “post-metalcore” movement down to a science. On top of it all, they sprinkle their release with touches of progressive, groovy instrumentation to allure fans of djent and technical –core music alike over to their figurative “dark side” of metalcore.
19) Disfiguring the Goddess – Deprive/Black Earth Child [Dual EP Release]
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it five hundred times: I am picky about slam. However, Disfiguring the Goddess is a one-man-band that has always melted a soft spot in my heart—by using inferno-like hatred and blistering, bold instrumentation, of course. The dual EP release of Deprive and Black Earth Child shocked many fans, and for good reason—not only was it completely unexpected, but both releases were immersive, immense, and, without a better way to phrase it, obelisks to slamming deathcore perfection. Catchy electronic elements and crunchy, crushing heaviness make these releases perfectly dense, but not unlistenable.
18) The Alaskan – Yukon
Just short enough to be considered an EP, Yukon freezes the listener with the barren, bone-chilling cold of an Alaskan wilderness, but lights a fire inside the listener with a heat of ten thousand suns. With brooding, bitter lyrics and plodding, crushing heaviness, The Alaskan bring more meat to the table than the owner of a slaughterhouse, and it’s all cooked to a perfect medium rare.
17) A Night In Texas – Invigoration
If I Exalt wasn’t full-bodied enough to fill the hole in your soul created by a lack of an Infant Annihilator album, then perhaps you should supplement it with A Night In Texas’ Invigoration. Dense, immense and crushing, there is nothing not to love about this EP—even if it might have slipped through the cracks of the early spring’s countless number of deathcore releases. While it is certainly far from catchy, it comes with unfathomable depth and crushing, brooding heaviness which will last the listener for weeks on end.
16) Borderlines – Reborn
How much “djent” is too much—and more importantly, how much is the right amount? However much Borderlines use is the perfect amount—Reborn is a beautiful combination of crushing, aggressive metalcore and stellar, atmospheric soundscapes. On top of it all, diverse and dynamic vocals serve as the icing on the cake, making this release a prodigal one—as it may be a young band’s debut release, it hits with the well-seasoned fury of a perfectly aged and experienced group of musicians.
15) Black Tongue – Falsifier
There are hardly words to properly describe just how heavy Black Tongue’s debut release is. Packed with atmospheric, sludgy, snails-pace riffs and low-down and grimy heaviness for eons, there is nothing for fans of heavy music not to like. With perfect mixing and mastering and touches of post-production brilliance to add flare and depth to this stunning and remorseless release.
14) Left Behind – Death, Take Me
Where there was an entire maelstrom of deathcore bands adopting a penchant for beatdown and throat-punching tendencies, there were also bands like Left Behind jumping onto the scene with raw, raunchy hardcore aggression and in-your-face, no-holds-barred beatdown. Driving, aggressive bass serves as the impetus for this mile-a-minute release that whisks the listener to a violent and swift demise.
13) Gift Giver – Daddy Issues
Evil can take many forms—hatred and bitterness can manifest itself in a whole variety of ways, that is. Gift Giver choose to show off their unique blend of agony and despair by directing it at themselves. Daddy Issues is a violent, self-hating and obtrusive release that packs more whallop than an atom bomb. Punishing percussion and intense, dynamic fretwork combined with a diverse and loud vocal onslaught provide an immersive and enveloping experience that truly, darkly encourages and inflicts harm upon the listener.
12) Sentinels – Idylls
Idylls is a perfect example of wonderfully organized chaos. Sentinels create whole galaxies of immersive, deep tracks comprised of punchy, unstoppable percussion and riffs that could cut clean through a diamond. On top of it all, Idylls is an idyllic display of vocal mastery—with screeching highs, bellowed lows, harsh mid-range screams and enough clean vocals to keep the listener’s ears from being completely severed, there is more than enough diversity throughout this brief EP to keep even the most picky listeners occupied and entranced.
11) Beacons – Endless
Beacons are, without a doubt, one of the hardest working bands in the Floridian metalcore scene (perhaps one of the most expansive metalcore scenes there is). With release after release pouring out of these fine fellows like water from a faucet, it would seem as if there is no end to this band’s magnificence. However, rather than succumb to complacency or create stagnant, stale music, Beacons continue to progress—Endless is proof of that. A short, but multi-faceted EP, Endless features several guest vocalists and is boundlessly (dare I say Endlessly) heavy, while maintaining the band’s penchant for the emotional and heartfelt.
10) Perdition – Absentia Mentis
It’s always a sad say when a band calls it quits—especially a band as talented and unique as Perdition. However, not without regard and well-wishing for their fans, Perdition left the scene with an immense and petrifyingly heavy swan song—Absentia Mentis. With symphonic elements straight out of a Tchaikovsky piece and crushing, demoralizing heaviness a la Make Them Suffer, Absentia Mentis is nothing short of pulverizing.
9) Ingested – Revered by No One, Feared By All
Ingested are to slam what The Acacia Strain are to straight-up deathcore—giants. Their most recent (albeit brief) release, Revered by No One, Feared By All is proof of this. With the effect of swallowing an entire medicine cabinet’s worth of neurotoxin, Ingested go right for the listener’s head—more specifically, the neck, as they aim to decapitate their victims with nothing but the filthiest, most putrid slamming elements tinted with masterful, yet unobtrusive deathcore.
8) Immoralist – Widow
Even as it was released early in the year, Immoralist break onto the scene with an inspirationally heavy and brooding display of down-tempo deathcore. Widow is hellish enough to burn entire cities to the ground and steamroll the ashes with nothing but brute heaviness. Pummeling, deep percussion creates a canvas for crushing, plodding guitars and hate-filled vocals that disembowel the listener and paint the ash-scarred streets with their innards. Widow is hardly a release for the faint of heart.
7) Arbiter – Ironclad/Machinations (Dual EP Release)
As far as I’m aware, no band has attacked a concept with as much drive and ambition as Traverse City’s Arbiter—leave it to Ironclad and Machinations to prove that. Two EPs that function as mirror images—enantiomers if you will—of the same battle and point in time, Arbiter have created a dual-release that functions smoothly and brilliantly as one, all while packing the same whallop and leaving the same impact as two.
6) Lorna Shore – Maleficium
Leave it to Lorna Shore to craft an EP that is as dense and heavy as a full length without the boring, generic, blast-beat-packed filler that comes standard on many deathcore releases. Maleficium is a masterful display of musicianship that combined with visceral, perfect vocal performance to create a release that cuts as deeply and sharply as shattered glass, but flows as smoothly and serenely as a river of melted butter.
5) Manipulator – Manipulator
As a born-and-raised Michigander, I have every reason to hate Ohio with every fiber of my being—however, bands like Ohio’s Manipulator are making that harder and harder to do. I decided to work with these fine gentlemen one day in the early Summer and I’ve been listening to this EP non-stop since then—simply put, it’s a customized, personalized trip through the mind of a psychopath and it is exactly as haunting as it sounds.
4) Tormentor Absolute – Lesser Morals
I almost cried when Subtract called it quits—tears I was glad I’d saved when a majority of the band decided to re-form under the moniker Tormentor Absolute. However, after the shortening of their anticipated full length into an EP, I became skeptical once more. Would it actually get released? Would it be up to the standards set by Subtract’s material? I was left with a head full of questions. Fortunately for me—and fans of heavy music everywhere—I was worried over nothing. Lesser Morals is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Crushing, rampaging heaviness, lethal levels of groove-tinted riffing and bitter, pissed vocals for days, Tormentor Absolute put it all on the table, leaving the listener with nothing but suffering.
3) Up In Smoke – In Medias Res
Just long enough to push at the boundary between full-length and EP, In Medias Res is another release which took my top-25 list by storm in the frozen, final weeks of December. With shredding, soul-devouring riffs, dark, abysmal lyrics and gut-wrenching, prolapse-inducing heaviness, Up In Smoke are armed to the teeth with everything they need to burn the listener’s house down—with them still inside.
2) Villains – 10 Code
10 Code could easily be written off as a Sworn In B-side, or, worse—a Sworn In rip-off, however, Villains are much, much more than that. With self-directed bitterness, endless amounts of violence and hate-fueled insanity that will keep the listener going for days on end. Guitars walk a tightrope made from groove, shred and chug over a pit of voracious, snapping vocals and punishing, bone-breaking guitar with such precision that it—the entire release—inspires nothing but the purest form of awe in the listener.
1) Towers – Into the Void
It isn’t often a band can delay a release as much as Towers had to delay Into the Void and still release it as a strong and standalone album—letalone have it reach number one on a releases-of-the-year list. However, Towers have done it—simply put, Into the Void is worth its weight in any precious metal you so choose, which is saying something considering it is an endlessly heavy and marvelously, perfectly dense release. Into the Void is a display of progressive, pissed and punishing deathcore so perfect that it must be heard to truly understand.
Best Newcomer: WolveXhys
Runners Up: Traitors, Manipulator, Up In Smoke, Tormentor Absolute
Best Cover Track: WolveXhys – Ignition Remix (Originally performed by R. Kelly)
Most Unexpected (But Incredible) Release: Prime Meridian – Dialogues
Most Plays: Sworn In – The Death Card (242 complete album play throughs. Most played track: “Death” at 943 plays)
Best Single: Incarcerate – “Doomsday”
Runners Up: Traitors – “Dead Nerves,” Barrier – “Behind Closed Doors.”
Best Split: The Armed/Tharsis They – Split
Runners Up: Touche Amore/Pianos Become the Teeth