The Brainfart’s Top 13 of ’13 The Brainfart December 9, 2013 Album Reviews, Music Editorial 1 Comment 2013 was a pretty happening year for The Great Southern Brainfart and for heavy metal/hard rock in general. I can remember at the end of 2012 as I looked back on that years releases and saying to myself, “How in the living hell will 2013 even come close?” Well, 2013 did the unimaginable and proved to be a massive year of amazing releases. Matter of fact, it was such a great year that it was damn near impossible to whittle this list down to the 13 of ’13. This year seemed to be somewhat of a Swedish Invasion as Sweden dominated the list this year. We saw the return of two favorites from my youth delivering amazing albums and a little band from Pasadena released an album that rose above the rest of pack proving to be the best metal album of 2013! If you own any of these albums, I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you don’t own any of these, I hope this list will have you gravitating towards them and feeling the same love that I have for each and every one of them. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Brainfart’s Top 13 of ’13. Horns up! -The Brainfart ================================================ Album of the Year Holy Grail – Ride the Void Release Date: January 18, 2013 Ladies and germs, I give to you the Brainfart’s Album of the Year! It’s kinda funny to see that my favorite metal album of 2013 was pretty much one of the first ones released this year. I remember when I was praying for a late 2012 release for this album and when I heard it was coming out early in ’13, my first thought was, “This just may be the album of the year.” Right when I put the new CD into the player and “Bestia Triumphans” came flying out of my speakers I quickly grabbed a plate to catch my melting face and then said, “This just may be album of the year.” I decided to put that idea to rest and with each passing month and each passing release, I kept coming back to Ride the Void as the cream of the crop. Song for song this album is absolutely stellar. It showed so much growth in both the band’s performance and songwriting and is without a doubt one a soon to be classic. The band toured hard for this one as they always do and seeing these songs performed live just solidified the fact that this was an untouchable album. ================================================ Blues Pills – Devil Man Release Date: October 29, 2013 Blues Pills was a band that I totally discovered on accident via Kadavar’s Facebook page. I was just checking out their photos and there was a pic of them with a band with a very attractive female singer and it said, “Hanging out with Blues Pills. Great band.” Well, if Kadavar says so, it must be so. I checked out their independently released Bliss EP and right away I was floored. Not long after I heard that the band had been signed to Nuclear Blast Records and would be putting out another EP called Devil Man. Containing a re-worked version of the song “Devil Man” and three other songs, this EP was a mainstay on my stereo for weeks and continues to get at least a weekly spin. It’s no surprise that these cats are from Sweden (where all the good shit seems to be coming from these days) and the band just hits all the marks. It’s the psychedelic blues of bands such as Sabbath and Cream with a singer (Elin Larsson) who sounds like a much more controlled and disciplined Janis Joplin. This EP was just a tease of what’s to come from this great band and I cannot wait to hear what they release to the masses as a full length album. The best is yet to come from these youngsters. ================================================ Scorpion Child – Scorpion Child Release Date: June 25, 2013 Austin, Texas’ Scorpion Child was another one of those bands that came out of nowhere and completely blindsided me with their own brand of kick ass, psychedelic blues/alternative based hard rock. What I loved so much about (and still do) about Scorpion Child is that they took that kind of roots based classic hard rock sound and infused it with a bit more of a modern flair ala Blind Melon and Soundgarden (who already were playing on those classic bands). Their debut album is a monstrous hit from start to finish and not only is it a spectacular fucking album, it’s an album that I can’t believe isn’t in the Top 10. Scorpion Child is one of the few (if any) of the bands that I love that really could have a mass commercial appeal but all without trying to do so. Every time I listen to this album I find a new “favorite song” and even find myself hearing things I didn’t hear the previous time around. A great album is an album that with every listen is every bit as good as the first time you heard it and Scorpion Child truly made a fantastically great album. ================================================ Stryper – No More Hell to Pay Release Date: November 5, 2013 The fact that Stryper even made this list is probably a shocker to many but not as much of a shock to yours truly and I mean that in all due respect. Stryper is a band that I loved as a kid but in all honesty, even since their “comeback” in the 1999 or so, just went completely off my radar. I had given their later albums a listen and nothing really seemed to even turn my head until this year when Stryper released No More Hell To Pay. This is not just an amazing Stryper album but a truly amazing metal album. Stryper really dug deep into their roots and reclaimed a youthful energy and fire (no pun intended) of a band ½ their age. The songwriting was outstanding, the band performs with serious passion, and they sound like a timeless, classic heavy metal band. These guys definitely have the chops and are very much deserving of a place in the top tier of heavy metal bands. This is an amazing album and one that I am so glad made its way into my collection. ================================================ Blood Ceremony – The Eldritch Dark Release Date: May 28th, 2013 Blood Ceremony was one of those, “Don, you’re going to LOVE this band” bands. A buddy of mine texted me from their opening slot with Kylesa and immediately, I checked them out and found out that he was right. With their psychedelic Jethro Tull meets Black Sabbath hybrid sound, Blood Ceremony’s “The Eldritch Dark” quickly became an album that I just couldn’t stop gushing over. Clocking in at a mere 40 minutes and eight songs, The Eldritch Dark is all killer and no filler. Lead singer/flautist Alia O’Brien is the key element to this band that separates them from being just another clone of what’s already been done. The influences are there but her voice is so distinctly unique that it makes their sound borrowed as opposed to blatantly stolen. The Eldritch Dark is a perfect album combining all of the elements of folks music, psychedelic rock, and classic 70’s hard rock that will without a doubt find its way into the hearts of any and everyone who will offer it an open mind. ================================================ Black Star Riders – All Hell Breaks Loose Release Date: May 28, 2013 I could hear the eyes of the world rolling back into their heads when Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey announced that Thin Lizzy would be resurrected with a full new lineup featuring Almighty guitarist/vocalist Ricky Warwick. I too felt the same way and thought that it was pretty absurd. I heard and saw their performances and in all honesty, they were fucking bad ass but I couldn’t help but wish that they would drop the Thin Lizzy moniker as without Phil Lynott, it was impossible to truly be Thin Lizzy. This new line up was really fucking good and I really wished that they’d maybe even make some new music as a band. Well, they did just that as Black Star Riders with All Hell Breaks Loose. What a great fucking record full of gritty, hand across the face rock n’ roll in the spirit of Phil Lynott. Do they sound like Thin Lizzy? Of course they do but they do it so fucking good and even proved that they could put some top notch new material that stands on its own very well alongside even the most classic of Thin Lizzy songs. This album really blew me away and was one of the biggest surprises of the year without a doubt. ================================================ Sabaton – Swedish Empire Live Release Date: October 22, 2013 There is really only one way to capture the awesomeness of Sabaton and that’s by seeing/hearing them live. Recorded in 2012 at the Woodstock Open Air in front of more than 600.000 in Poland, Swedish Empire captures the energy and the excitement of a Sabaton performance to a “t.” From the bombastic opening of “Ghost Division” to the corny yet awesomely fun metal history lesson of “Metal Crue”, Swedish Empire reminded me just how fucking amazing Sabaton as a band truly is. Their studio albums are always a great listen but it’s this live album the truly captured the essence of what this band is all about. Sabaton never ceases to amaze me and have quickly become one of my all-time favorite live bands. There is nothing that sucks about a Sabaton live show and this live CD/DVD proves that. This is the perfect album to start with if you are new to Sabaton as it touches on all aspects of the band’s fruitful 14 year long career. This album is Sabaton at their finest hour and as a fan has me very excited about what the band will bring us in the years to come. ================================================ Avatarium – Avatarium Release Date: November 1, 2013 Avatarium is a band that literally came in at the last minute. Just when I thought I had heard all the great new music I was going to hear for 2013, here comes this (SURPRISE!) Swedish band with an a sonic eargasm that found a nice comfy home on my list of amazing albums released this year. Avatarium’s self-titled debut has so many depths to it and while their sound is similar to that of Blood Ceremony, Avatarium’s sound finds them teetering more on the metal spectrum with a nice touch of Pink Floyd thrown in there for good measure. It’s a psychedelic, mind/face melt that really caught me off guard with its unique yet comfortably familiar sound. This is definitely an album to listen to with the headphones on. Don’t let it just become background music. Take 40 minutes out of your day to just sink into this album and it will take you places. ================================================ Kadavar – Abra Kadavar Release Date: April 12, 2013 Right after SXSW, Erik Kluiber from Gypsyhawk calls me and goes, “Don, you need to check out Kadavar.” Ok, so I did and what the fuck man! These guys fucking killed my face. This power trio from Germany delivered their 2nd album Abra Kadavar (so clever) this year and the band just expanded on their Hawkwind meets Captain Beyond meets Blue Cheer sound. “Doomsday Machine” quickly became my favorite track off this album but with every listen my favorite song changed. This is perfect windows down in the fall/summertime music. Just listening to this album makes me want to rage with my buddies over some beers and just pound my fist while Kadavar rips shit apart. Unfortunately Kadavar didn’t make it this way for their first US tour. I don’t hate them for it because this album is so fucking good so that makes up for it. This isn’t so much a listening “experience” as it is just a kick ass album. It’s a really raw, gritty, and classic sounding slab of hard rock that should quench your thirst when all you wanna do is rock the fuck out. ================================================ A Sound of Thunder – Time’s Arrow Release Date: 2013 Washington DC’s A Sound of Thunder was a band that flew completely under my radar until I was made aware of their 2013 EP Queen of Hell. The title track completely blew me away and had me anticipating the release of Times Arrow. Times Arrow shows a band that has grown into their own skin and carved out their own little notch into the belt of heavy metal. Lead singer Nina Osegueda has such a powerful, distinct voice that suits this ASOT’s brand of epic power/progressive metal and as a whole the band plays with passion and precision. Time’s Arrow is also responsible for spawning the song “Power Play” which is without a doubt one of the best fucking metal songs of the year. The album as a whole is sonically perfect without sounding overly polished or fabricated. A Sound of Thunder totally blew me away with this album and proved themselves more than capable of running with the big dogs and keeping up with them with ease. ================================================ Noctum – Final Sacrifice Release Date: October 28, 2013 Ok, seriously. What the fuck is it about Sweden? Is it the water? Is it the air? I’m telling you, we are experiencing a serious Swedish Invasion. Looking back on this list, there are five Swedish bands and all are perfect examples of the diversity and passion for hard rock and metal music in their country. Noctum, much like their brother/sister bands, has a sound that is kind of a throwback to the metal of years past but instead of the more bluesy based early Sabbath influence, Noctum dips their toes into the waters of early NWOBHM bands sounding more like early Iron Maiden with little bit of King Diamond added in to take it over the top. Much like Avatarium, Noctum came in just under the wire as I felt like my year was pretty much winding down and made their way to this here list. Final Sacrifice is probably one of the biggest surprises of 2013 and has since been a mainstay on my iPod since picking it up. ================================================ Skid Row – United World Rebellion: Chapter 1 Release Date: April 16, 2013 Brand new Skid Row album in 2013? Wuhhhht? Yeah, I know right. As a huge Skid Row fan since the very beginning, I’ll be the first to admit that even I was a bit apprehensive as to what “new” Skid Row would sound like. Their first album with singer Johnny Solinger, 2003’s Thickskin, had its moments as did their 2006 follow up Revolutions Per Minute but I never felt that they completely captured that same magic that they had on Slave to the Grind. Well, something must have happened in 2013 when a spark turned into an all-out fire for their EP United World Rebellion: Chapter 1. Skid Row managed to tap into their inner fire and really pull out an amazing 5 song EP that easily could’ve been the follow up to Slave to the Grind. Maybe it’s that the band has found some comfort in its most stable lineup to date ridding themselves of exploding drummer syndrome. Whatever the reason is we don’t need to over analyze it. All we need to know is that with UWR: Chapter 1 Skid Row has proven that they are still very capable of delivering their brand of hard rock that put them on the map in the first place. This long time fan couldn’t have been any happier hearing such a strong release from a band that stands as strong and as mighty as they ever have. Anyone who wonders if there really is life after Sebastian Bach needs to listen to this album and soon they’ll be saying, “Sebastian who?” ================================================ Testament – Dark Roots of Thrash (Live) Release Date: October 15, 2013 Testament released a stellar live album from their 2013 Dark Roots of Evil tour that had the band sounding and looking better than they have in years. This release had the band dipping more into their recent material showing that ever after 20+ years Testament is more than capable of releasing new material that is every bit as strong as their classics. The band delivers faceemelting versions of newer songs like “Rise Up” and “Native Blood” which stand tall and strong alongside classics like “Into The Pit”, “Over The Wall” and my all time favorite “Disciples of the Watch.” This CD set also comes with a DVD which takes the experience to an all new high level of awesomeness. This was an awesome release by a classic band who proves that they have not even begun to tap out of ideas. Based on what I saw and heard on Dark Roots of Thrash, Testament’s best days are still ahead of them without a doubt. Like this:Like Loading... Graham Stevens says: December 9, 2013 at 11:57 am Great list, DDL! Only hiccup: Kadavar is from Berlin, Germany with a French bass player:) keep rockin, buddy!