Heavy Music, 2013's Best

In a year with no great albums, still many killer tracks.

It’s end of year, and as usual the metal snobs are cooing about C-grade dreck that will be forgotten in January. I recall when we bought albums and listened to them for years, like Master of Puppets—an epic because all its songs were great—or Girls, Girls, Girls—a mediocre set, but with a classic opener.

Whether hard rock or metal, they used to write songs—and when we were lucky, whole albums—that somehow deserved to live forever.

Well I continue to seek out those killer tracks. And they still exist.

Click titles & links to listen on Spotify, where available.

Gemini Syndrome - Stardust

Welcome back 90s nu-metal, oozing 80s buttrock sleeze, and a 70s hippy dippy chorus... a formula I can totally get behind! This track will make you believe in rock again, if humming the lyrics for days straight doesn't drive you completely mad. God save us if radio ever discovers this one. As the last notes fade, you'll swear you can still hear echoes... it's the whole of Sweden still singing along.

Also check out on Lux: Pleasure and Pain
Buy the whole album? No

James Labrie - I Will Not Break

The last track on the 17th album and 5th solo effort by a 50-year old singer of a hit-free prog band doesn't seem likely to produce something that more than his 250 closest fans would be interested in... not to mention probably the best heavy rock track this year. But here it is. Loose and driving metal drumming behind simplified Gothenberg guitars lead into a Holy Shit double rainbow chorus that will send your head through the windshield over and over. Bottle a whole album of this (and tracks like I Got You and Lost In The Fire), rock will sell again.

Also check out on Impermanent Resonance: I Got You
Buy the whole album? Yes

Dream Theater - The Enemy Inside

Channeling their renowned Train of Thought tempo, DT's self-titled 12th album gets off to a metal start. Time-changes aplenty morph into a chugging Megadeth-inspired main riff over a gothic keyboard background. Solid chorus, decadent instrumental middle (despite yet-another-Jordan-Ruddess-ragtime-wanktime-solo), challenging and tight composition, the kings of progressive metal deliver a sweet single.

Also check out on Dream Theater (self-titled): Behind the Veil
Buy the whole album? It’s middle of the road DT, so Yes

Sevendust - Decay

Sevendust embodying Sevendust: They bust out another weak album containing probably one of their three best-ever tracks. A perfect driving rhythm, Lajon swooning and then elevating, a chorus that rips at your heart, repeat, repeat. Bass and drums pound and drop the floor, they start going apeshit, and then it’s over too soon.

Also check out on Black Out The Sun: Dead Roses
Buy the whole album? No

Trapt - Experience

I confess, I’m a sucker for earnest, youthful music. And even though Trapt are all a bunch of oldface now, they still know how to write power-mall music (with reliable power-mall lyrics). This track is all sweetness and light, and even the ghetto bass fits in. Actually, I take back the dig on the lyrics, they’re quite moving. Shut up.

Also check out on Reborn: Honestly I couldn’t stand anything else
Buy the whole album? Fuck No (too defensive?)

Soilwork - Spectrum of Eternity

Soilwork used to write so-so music — I checked out for awhile. When did they become the strongest Swedish metal act? (Not quite the competition it used to be?) A symphonic opening blasts right to warp speed and fires you directly into the sun. Laser restraint system on, JJ Abrams doesn’t have enough lens flares in his arsenal to accompany this cinematic hyper-prog. This will be the fastest favorite melodic metal track on your tricorder.

Also check out on The Living Infinite: Loyal Shadow (instrumental)
Buy the whole (double) album? Yes

Trivium - Villainy Thrives

This is a dark comic trapped in a banner anthem. Trivium dishes out many themes on their latest album, and this one lands a solid Blam! Pow! (I’m trying to sustain a motif here, but I don’t know a goddamn thing about comics.) Matt Heafy is the best guitarist/vocalist/lyricist since Hetfield, and he owns this track. Killer rhythms chug for 5 minutes, plenty of solos and changes, I’ve replayed this one a hundred times already. Pow!

Also check out on Vengeance Falls: To Believe
Buy the whole album? Yes

The Black Dahlia Murder - In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me

BDM doesn’t try to fool anyone, they’re a bunch of twisted goofballs (one of Trevor’s song intros from a live show went like “this next song is about digging up a corpse and fucking it”, the club roared with laughter—ah, humanity). But they can write some ripping metal that sets a terrifying tone, and this one is a hellride. The classic BDM schizophrenic vocals are here in their glory over a pure driving black canvas.

Also check out on Everblack: Their Beloved Absentee
Buy the whole album? Only if a BDM fan already

Killswitch Engage - All We Have

I wasn’t impressed with early Killswitch and Jesse Leach’s first run initiating the scream-to-clean metalcore template—but what a blessing that he returned after a walk in the woods (and a great reunion album with Adam D in Times of Grace). This track is straight metal with a punk pace, and… …sorry, Jesse’s pipes blasted me into unconsciousness for a moment. Give me a second… a bit woozy here…

Also check out on Disarm the Descent: Beyond the Flames
Buy the whole album? Yes