Marty Rytkonen 2013 recap and best of

This past year has been a completely frightening struggle on the personal front, but we made it through and are greatly anticipating good things to come from 2014. On the music front however, 2013 has offered many noteworthy releases that stand the test of time and shall linger in my listening rotation for years to come. To those of you who claim that metal music is tired, boring, or has nothing left to offer… I’m sorry… you are so completely wrong and should maybe stick to other pursuits!

Having been a “critic” for so many years now who always took pride in searching out as many new bands and releases as possible so that I could become absorbed in all the scene had to offer, this year, probably due to everything going on, I found more peace in taking new material as it came while reconnecting with more of the older gems in my collection to act as that welcomed and familiar friend/security blanket. So I cannot attest to having all the answers or knowledge when it comes to everything 2013 had to offer, but the following list stood out as exceptional on my quest for this year. Here we go!

1. Summoning – Old Mournings Dawn (Napalm Records)
“Oh the synths are too thin and plastic sounding.” “This band is weak and cheesy Hobbit music.” “The songs are boring”. I’ve heard a myriad of complaints in regards to Summoning’s 7th epic full-length opus, and yes… all of them would be horribly wrong. Such is the reaction of the instant gratification generation on their quest to consume product quickly and largely forget it. If it doesn’t click immediately, it’s on to the next downloaded folder of 1’s and 0’s to find that cheap thrill. Old Mournings Dawn is easily my most listened to and emotionally connected album of the year. When it came out, I listened to this gem everyday, for most of the day, for 2 weeks straight. It’s still in my head and heart. Summoning finally procured an even sound in the production area. The guitars don’t sound overly processed, rather warm and free flowing with proggy and atmospheric riffs. The synth tones feel more alive and possess a depth they never really needed, but have benefited greatly from. The songs are so full of emotion and wonder for me, it is impossible to escape their grasp. Old Mournings Dawn is nothing new for Summoning, for their grandiose and amazing formula is still intact, but damn… it is such a rich and vibrant formula, for people to say that this music flat out sucks, or is boring, there is something terribly wrong with their way of processing music.

2. Seidr – Ginnungagap (Bindrune Recordings)
The points I have made regarding people passing over Summoning due to not investing the time to connect with a piece of music so dense and spiritual, also applies to the mind expanding and crushingly brutal strike of experimental doom found on Seidr’s 2nd album, Ginnungagap. This album is an emotive and stirring masterpiece of expertly constructed death doom with an affinity to step outside your comfort zone with hypnotic drone elements and an atmosphere that journeys through the cosmos like a comet. The vocals are deeply brutal and unique. The music exists on a lofty plane of expression atop a mighty wall of distorted guitars while peering into folk and other more eclectic and depressive musical spectrums. This bold yearning for musical cross-polination truly makes Seidr a special find in the doom realm. With passion erupting from the song structures that would make diehard fans of Neurosis take note, this band is influenced by many, yet sounds like their own vibrant and essential entity screaming for answers from a star littered night sky. Ginnungagap is an all consuming and emotional ride that leads the listener to the climatic closing track “Sweltering II: A Pale Blue Dot in the Vast Dark” where this 25 minute monolith of a song toys with your sadness, only for Blood of the Black Owl’s own Chet Scott to step in with his misery tainted vocal approach to reduce the listener to a teary eyed reflection of the grief in his words. Granted, I did release this album, so I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m offering you all a biased recommendation, but I’m not. Ginnungagap is that good if you are open minded and ready to connect to something this challenging and rewarding.

3. Zemial – Nykta (Hell’s Headbanger Records)
I have always been a fan of this force of creative Greek excellence, but it hasn’t been until the epic metal influenced and completely great “In Monumentum” album that I have fully fallen into worship of Zemial. Nykta capitalizes on that triumphant style found on the previously mentioned album, but sole member Archon Vorskaath has worked in the unique thrash elements found on other releases like the Face of the Conquerer EP (rules) and even taking it all one step further with spaced out prog jam sessions that will hurl your thoughts deep into hypnotic trance. I find it very impressive that a 1 man band can enter the studio, play every instrument, yet still achieve that sense of freedom and space rock openness in the music. Meaning, the 2nd half of Nykta sheds the structured thrash/epic metal uniqueness and charisma to embrace a sound that is even more interesting and expansive. There is a definite attitude and unique stamp of Zemial’s own identity all over this album, one of which has become a living amalgamation of every era of their creative journey, to create an album that is so completely great and worth spinning for years to come.

4. Caladan Brood – Echoes of Battle (Norther Silence)
My first reaction to Caladan Brood was anger actually, for this duo has shamelessly borrowed, or ripped off (however you want to look at it) Summoning’s sound and formula. Hell even the 2LP release of this has 2 Summoning covers as bonus tracks… which the band nailed by the way. Thankfully I’m enough of a Summoning freak to look past the musical plagiarism since CB after all are caressing someone else’s creative family jewels with obvious love and skill. I’m seriously glad I invested the time, for these songs quickly dig in, demand respect and even beg for repeated listens. As one becomes more familiar with the material on Echoes of Battle, yes the Summoning influence is prevalent, but CB are working in their own powerful elements into these songs to set them slightly apart, and in some ways maybe even surpassing their idols. For one the guitar tone is more up front/full and masterful solo work adds a 3rd dimension to these tracks. And the vocals…. though the harsh screams are the main delivery, there are many instances of bombastic pitch singing… like an medieval barbershop choir, though not as cheesy sounding as that description would suggest, are thrown into the meat of these songs and it really gives Echoes of Battle a Middle Earth dwelling black metal meets epic power metal fusion that is very pleasing to the ears. Give this album a chance. Really looking forward to see what this band does next.

5. Gorguts – Colored Sands (Season of Mist)
Colored Sands is a glorious return not only for Gorguts, but for death metal as well. I know, DM hasn’t slowed or stopped since Gorguts has been gone, but Luc Lemay has struck back with a dark and endlessly scary album that teeters on the brink of technical madness that hasn’t been felt with this much sincerity in DM circles in a long time. Though I’ve liked everything released as Gorguts, Colored Sands sheds the quirky ideas found on such acclaimed albums like Obscura that never fully sat well with me. The creative precision of John Longstreth’s drum performance is inspiring, as are the individual performances of all the new members upholding Lemay’s vision. In spite of the albums stirring technicality, the songs maintain a brooding catchiness that is unshakable and allows the bulk of this material to stick in your head. A crowning achievement indeed.

6. Arckanum – Fenriz Kindir (Season of Mist)
I listened to this album a lot for sole visionary of Arckanum. Shamaatae, has return revitalized with his form of woodland black metal that rages with a metallic buzz of punk rising from its core. The experimental elements seem more authentic this time out and it enhances the spirit of the metal side of the album. This material shines due to Shamaatae’s unique riffage and equally impressive vocal attack that possesses a characteristic undeniably his. You could line up 10 black metal vocalists and you could tell instantly when Shamaatae is screaming. Arckanum are a strong entity all their own standing out with a unique voice/message in an over bloated black metal community filled with imitators.

7. Fyrnast – Eldir Nott
Dense like early Emperor and just as enveloped with innovative synth work, the one man project Fyrnask strikes out with more of a nightmarish onslaught than their peers. Eldir Nott is an all consuming experience that takes the listener to a polluted world of dark/dead landscapes and chilling sounds/structures that ring through as a completely unique treasure of tortured emotion. Envision a cross between Emperor and Blut Aus Nord for the quick description. For a deeper investigation, see the review located elsewhere on this site.

8. Infera Bruo – Desolate Unknown (Self Released)
Another band heavily influenced by older Emperor, but Boston’s Infera Bruo incorporate their own sense of songsmithing by way of a lethal delivery and innovative dark electronics buzzing below the surface. The tracks on here are very well considered and executed, allowing a very mighty flow to enter the bulk of this album, for Ihsahn inspired screams to weave their misery throughout. Perhaps you missed out on this one, but now is a good time to rectify that misstep!

9. Vex – Memorious (HPGD Productions/Eihwaz Recordings)
Another release that I’m involved in making the list!! Oh the humanity! Seriously though, REAL melodic death metal makes a come back in a big way in 2013. Vex have honed their skills over the years to arrive at such a beautiful sense of songwriting that does pay tribute to the Swedish form of melodic death, though they never lower themselves to emulate the cheesy/overdone characteristics that started to arise from and kill the Gothenburg scene in particular. A great release all the way around that is long, but never feels like it due to the spirit within and expertly written content.

10. Bolzer – Aura (Iron Bonehead Productions)
This duo is taking the underground by storm and though it is largely deserved since the Aura EP is a great slab of sinister death, but I can’t help but focus on 1 specific and truly amazing riff on this EP that simply crushes the rest of the EP and has catapulted this band to new heights. That world ending riff resides on the amazing “Entranced by the Wolfshook” track with its extra long measure and mind scrambling flow/melody line drifting out of its tremolo born delivery. That riff alone is almost too good. Seriously. I would have liked this band anyway, but they set such a high bar for themselves to reach creatively with that one song, the other 2 tracks on the EP are good, but not as good as “the riff”. Can a band recover from writing the perfect riff? Can they forge on and create a full album worth of material that will rival the power and brilliance swirling around in the Wolfshook? We shall see. Until that time comes, enjoy this great 3 tracker.

11. Craven Idol – Towards Eschaton (Dark Descent)
Musical and stylistic development is important in the world of death metal, whether you agree with that statement or not, and England’s Craven Idol have seriously stepped up their game with Towards Eschaton. This band excels at a thrash tinged death metal hybrid focusing on well written songs and a powerful delivery. Dark Descent had another great year and Craven Idol are at the forefront of that quality for sure.

12. Inquisition – Obscure Verses for the Multiverse (Season of Mist)
Faster. More evil. The swirling storms of hell explode on Obscure Verses for the Multiverse. Inquisition may sound a bit more like Immortal on this one, but it really doesn’t matter for the duo has stuck to their game and created another greatly entertaining album. I haven’t made a lot of time to sit with this one, but when I have, my devil horns ripped the heavens with spite!

13. Feast Eternal – Forward Through Blood (Self Released)
Another great example of melodic death metal by way of Bolt Thrower comes from Michigan’s Feast Eternal. The 4 tracks on this self titled MCD are seamlessly written with obvious focus on memorable riffage and moving song composition. Sure these guys aren’t reinventing the wheel, but Feast Eternal sure know who they are and how to write a moving death metal song. I have spun this one a lot.

14. The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer (Van Records)
This album would easily have ranked higher on my list if it wasn’t for the fact that I just heard it for the first time 3 days ago. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, but I found myself engaged for the whole of its 1 hour 20 minute playing time. Deathly black metal with a nightmarish strand of the bizarre spun throughout this album makes The Ruins of Beverast stand out from the throngs of BM sheep. Besides… any project containing a member of the sadly missed Nagelfar has got to be a good thing. So yes… all the hype surrounding this album is indeed warranted!

15. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast Records)
I was of course skeptical going into this album, knowing it would be leaning heavily into the Heartwork frame of expression (An album I like, but is a far cry from the greatness found luring in their early years), but Carcass have taken the high road and crafted a lethal album that you actually want to hear, full of aggression and a balanced walk between tasteful harmonies/guitar work and a fierce delivery. So yes, Surgical Steel could have sit quite comfortably between Necroticism and Heartwork without missing a blast beat. Carcass have done what they needed to do here, righting the horrible wrong that was Swan Song.

Honorable Mentions…
Black Sabbath – 13 (Vertigo Records)
I often feel like the only person on this Earth that liked 13, but I’m okay with that. When this album came out, I spun it incessantly. Perhaps it doesn’t have the staying power since I now realize that I haven’t played it since it came out, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that the members of Sabbath that participated on this album wrote some solid songs. Sure, they are nowhere near as influential or important as the mighty catalog of material empowering their past, but really this is a core of musicians that no longer needs to “prove themselves”. They are our parents age for chris’s sakes…. give them a break.

Ashes of Ares – S/T (Nuclear Blast Records)
This one certainly isn’t anything new in regards to commercially viable power/traditional metal, but it is Matt Barlow’s glorious return to the mic and I have always been a big fan of his bluesy pipes. If you were expecting Iced Earth, you will be dissapointed, as AoA is definitely their own voice that relies on simplistic though endlessly memorable songs that soar with melody and excellent vocal choices. A good album that hints at greater things as we get to the middle point of the material. I expect the follow-up to this album to be much more developed and adventurious.

Worst album of 2013: Necrophobic – Womb of Lilithu. Hands down.

Most overrated album of 2013: Cult of Fire – मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान (This album isn’t horrible, but I don’t get all the fuss. Sounds pretty typical to me)

Bands I could give a shit if I ever hear due to all the praise in the press: In Solitude and Watain. No thanks. Both are beyond overrated and more image driven than content concerned.

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~ by martyworm on January 1, 2014.

4 Responses to “Marty Rytkonen 2013 recap and best of”

  1. Fuck! I totally forgot about Thou Art Lord!! That should have been on the list!

  2. I liked “13” too (though the bonus track “Naïveté in Black” was by far my favourite) . . . but really, it just made me want to dig out old Sabbath, and I haven’t returned to it since. Maybe next summer, I’m always in a Sabbathy mood in summer. I haven’t heard the Cult Of Fire yet, but from the tracks I’ve heard, I’m not sure what the fuss is about either. And hurrah for Watain hatred! I found “Lawless Darkness” too slick and hyped, and don’t want anything to do with the new one, after everything I’ve heard about it. Shame, since they put on an excellent hackles-rising live show nonetheless.

  3. I wish you all the best for 2014 then! Good to see we agree on a bunch of albums. Nykta is still on it’s way to me, only ordered it a couple days ago. Anticipations are high… And yes, although they did make some good albums in the past, Watain have totally fucked up this time. In Solitude? Don’t know ‘m, don’t care.

  4. I really liked the Black Sabbath album too. My expectations going in were so low and I put off getting it for so long that I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I ended up liking it. The more I listened to it the more I liked it and it still gets some regular spins with me. I think people who were expecting much more out of this album had unrealistic expectations. I think the Cult of Fire album is pretty solid, at least enough to make my forthcoming year end list. Although I am not hyping it up saying it is greatest thing ever. It is definitely not on the same level as something like Eldir Nott or Desolate Unkown for that matter, but damn enjoyable nonetheless imo.

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