Who knew 2013 would be another banner year for great metal releases? Death metal continues to lead the way for the new underground renaissance, but nobody is complaining. It looks like this train is going to keep rolling straight into 2014, but in the meantime, here's a handy Xmas shopping list to give your family. Hopefully they won't just chicken out and buy you multiple copies of Anthrax's I'm the Man (it happens).
1) Beyond, Fatal Power of Death (Iron Bonehead) – The best record of 2013, hands down. Tons of bands claim to be influenced by Necrovore, but Beyond's first full-length is death incarnate. Finally!
2) Imprecation, Satanae Tenebris Infinita (Dark Descent) – 20 years in the making, and worth the wait. Traditional death metal of the first order, made in Texas, and destined to take over the world.
3) Aosoth, IV: Arrow in Heart (Agonia Productions) – Aosoth's aim is surer than ever on this, their magnum opus. Melancholia collides with discordant violence to magnificent and hideous effect.
4) Gevurah, Necheshirion (Profound Lore) – Surging black metal goetia from this promising Montreal duo. Live shows, s'il vous plaît.
5) Morgengrau, Extrinsic Pathway (Blind God) – A death metal gem hailing from the golden era of Roadrunner Records. Put another point on the board for Texas.
6) Autopsy, The Headless Ritual (Peaceville) – A step forward from their uneven last album, Autopsy gets back to basics and gives us an overdose of caveman metal writ large.
7) Master, The Witchhunt (FDA Rekotz) – Somebody say caveman? Paul Speckmann and his beard return with another album full of cynicism and square-jawed riffs. Not for wimps.
8) Immolation, Kingdom of Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast) – While it suffers from too much modernity in both themes and production, Immolation proves again to be one of the underground's most durable names. Morbid who? Cannibal what? Get with the program, people.
9) Grave Miasma, Ordo Sepulchuri (Sepulchral Voice) – A brooding black cloud of South American death metal drifts over Demoncy's practice space on its way to London.
10) Voivod, Target Earth (Century Media) – A bold and mostly successful reboot for Quebec's most famous foursome, Target Earth confidently propels Voivod past legacy status.
11) Thou Art Lord, The Regal Pulse of Lucifer (NWN Productions) – Unexpected but very welcome, Necromayhem and Wampyr Daoloth return with a surprise attack of Hellenic black metal the way you always worshiped it.
12) Zealotry, The Charnel Expanse (self-released) – Tons of corkscrew riffs and discordant melodies that never drift into excess or incoherence. Luc Lemay, take note.
13) Krypts, Unending Degradation (Dark Descent) – Finndeath done right. That should be all the reason you need.
14) Temple of Baal, Verses of Fire (Agonia Records) – While Aosoth knocks you down, Temple of Baal kicks you in the head while you're struggling to get up. Violent and regressive, this album proves that French black metal is still serious business.
15) Convulse, Evil Prevails (Svart Records) – An otherwise convincing return to the death metal fray hampered by weirdly inoffensive production. A remaster could make these good songs become great.
16) Vorum, Poisoned Void (Dark Descent) – A Swedish-Finn death metal hybrid that works initially as a slow burn, and then renders you dead before you hit the floor.
17) Sheol, Sepulchral Ruins Below The Temple (Iron Bonehead) – Another UKDM upstart with a bright (dark?) future. Gristly and unpolished, the ugliness only helps their case.
18) Nocturnal Graves, From the Bloodlines of Cain (Hells Headbangers) – Shrapnel and company come blazing back onto the field with black thrash that hits harder than a rugby fullback.
19) Irkallian Oracle, Grave Ekstasis (Bolvark) – A Gothenburg band that doesn't sound like they're from Gothenberg, but rather a terrifying otherworld where noodly solos don't exist. Thank Satan.
20) Mortem/Pentacle, Liquefied Blood of the Saints / Five Candles Burning Red split EP (Iron Pegasus) – Two bands you could never say no to with two songs that rule hard.
Yeah, yeah, there's tons more where this came from. Go ahead and make your own list if you like, but don't miss out on the above stuff in the meantime. It's all worthy!
For more info: Jeff's band, Birth A.D., also had an album out this year. He wasn't about to add it to this list, but it wouldn't hurt his feelings if you added it to yours.