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DISCLAIMER: As I did with last year's Top 10 list, I will refrain from putting what I think are "Obvious Choices" on the list. That means no At the Gates, no Revocation, no Exodus, etc. These are releases that I personally listened to the most, was most excited for, or had the biggest impact on me this year. Now, here we go:
10. Axattack - Toxic Wasted
Ok, ok, before anyone who knows me freaks out; yes, Axattack is my band. Yes, I know this is kinda cheating and shameful, putting your own band on a top 10 list, but I’d be lying if this EP hasn’t been the most listened to thing on my iPod this year. I’m not going to brag about my own band, because your own band honestly SHOULD be on your top 10 list. If you aren’t making music you want to listen to, who will want to? So yeah, I’m putting Axattack on the bottom of my top 10 list. Sue me.
Ok, so I lied in the disclaimer and I’m definitely going against my own rules a bit for this one, but this is the first time in a while that I dug a major release so much. I LOVED Municipal Waste’s first few albums, but after Art of Partying they seemed to get stale. Plus I was getting more and more into the punk side of thrash. Iron Reagan was the perfect answer to that and Tyranny of Will brought the band up as their own band rather than some side project. There were a lot of awesome thrash releases this year, but this one was my favorite (although Lich King still has a release due for Christmas...)
When I first heard about Trees on Mars (when they were just called Trees) they were described to me as “math rock,” and while they definitely have roots in that area, the genre doesn’t quite fit their sound. For fans of Scale the Summit and Russian Circles, these guys are melodic and filled with soul. Featuring a guest solo from Australian guitarist Plini, these guys released an emotionally driven instrumental metal album that is both memorable and accessible for even those who aren’t into metal.
I am so glad that there are still bands like Cemetery Filth out there. These guys put together some impressive old school death metal with roots in Autopsy and Scream Bloody Gore era Death. Mixed and mastered by Damian Herring of Horrendous and Subterranean Watchtower Studios, this record is dark, heavy, and tastefully done. It’s no wonder that they were almost instantly scooped up and made poster children for Unspeakable Axe records.
This may not be my personal favorite on the list, but it’s definitely the heaviest. Forcefield Records sent me this album in late 2013 before it had dropped and I was kinda disinterested at first. It wasn’t until I went back and listened again that I really grasped just how incredible this release is. This three piece sludge/grind/metal punk thing is truly a force to be reckoned with. Switching from slow oppressive heavy ass riffs to break-neck speed grind, you really get the whole package.
Wings Denied is one of those bands that I think gets lumped into a category of newer up and coming prog bands such as Periphery and Tesseract, but I disagree. Wings Denied has a few things going for them that set them apart from these bands. On one hand their songs are brilliantly catchy. They aren’t out to write rhythm bending “djent” breakdowns. Every song on Mirrors for a Prince is memorable in some way and I’ll find myself humming their songs all the time. Another thing they have that really drew me to them in the first place is a tremendous vocalist. Luka Kerečin doesn’t do harsh screams (all the harsh vocals on the album are done by guest musicians) and he truly has no need to. Kerečin has a fantastic voice that is powerful and melodic without sounding “whiny.” Combine that with tasteful riff driven prog and you have a fantastic record.
Oh Lazer/Wulf. You never cease to impress me. And by impress I mean warp my fragile mind into a Salvador Dali painting and then forcibly bend it back into place. In the best way. The trio’s first full length was FINALLY released on Retro Futurist records this year and because playing incredible progressive metal that is diverse, fun and intricate wasn’t enough for these bastards, they decided to make the album a palindrome. That is to say that the first half of the album shares elements with the other side, only backwards. Still trying to wrap my head around that.
Another entry that some may think is cheating since I was in this band at one point, but I say NO! I was a huge fan of these guys before I joined back when they were Divulgence, and still am. They’ve always blended thrash, black, and death metal together with a very balanced formula that’s technical while still being not only catchy but exceptionally tasteful. While the new EP leans away from a lot of the old thrash stuff that Divulgence was famous for, they don’t lose any of that tasteful catchiness.
These guys made my top 10 list last year at number one with their full length Recursions, and for good fucking reason. So when this EP came out back in January I instantly knew that it would make it somewhere on my list this year. The only thing keeping it from being higher on the list is that it is only 2 tracks, but these 2 tracks have solidified Cryptodira as the progressive marvel that they are. Everything seems to click with this release and it shows that they’ve really found their sound.
The entire underground metal community is raving about these guys, and has been since they released their first album a few years back. And they fucking should be. Horrendous has been consistent with all three of their releases. They put out the best old school death metal today. And while Ecdysis is definitely rooted in the styles of Pestilence and Dismember, it isn’t afraid to venture into realms more akin to 80s traditional metal. Listen to When the Walls Fell and you’ll see what I mean.