Best of 2013 in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal ... Part 3

Sabbath returns, death metal breathes fire, Ghost gets eclectic
By Peter Lindblad

Death metal did not take a holiday in 2013. Ghost took a strange, but wonderfully odd left turn into psychedelic pop and progressive-rock. Toxic Holocaust taught us all about chemistry, and heavy metal's godfathers made 13 their lucky number.

Let's be honest: 2013 was all about Black Sabbath. 13 was surprisingly virile and dark as night, mapping out territory they've explored before, but stumbling upon fresh ideas and deep caverns of rumbling menace in doing so. And that made it a top 10 favorite.

Exhumed also made a comeback in 2010, and that led to Necrocracy, one of the most devastatingly brutal records of their career. Ghost's (the B.C. is, as they say, silent) Infestissumam was a little out of character for them, but its architecture was stunning. Furthermore, everyone should join The Resistance. Their Scars will never heal, but you wouldn't want them to.

Here are 10-6 in our "Best of 2013 in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal" list of albums, Part 3:

Exhumed - Necrocracy 2013
10. Exhumed: Necrocracy – Death metal sourpusses Exhumed returned with furious vengeance in 2013, lashing out with murderous hatred at a political system so bloated and corrupt that to truly capture just how ugly society and government have become, only the revolting imagery and language of rotting corpses and gory violence can adequately describe the horror. Captained by a singer who growls like a grizzly bear possessed by demons, Exhumed grinds and thrashes its way through the carnage with angry, doom-laden riffs, vicious grooves and complex, contorted dynamics that shift speeds seamlessly on this joyless ride from an evil, spindly crawl to a immense, fast-moving conflagration. Not for the faint of heart.

Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of
Consciousness 2013
9. Toxic Holocaust: Chemistry of Consciousness – Joel Grind gets an A in science for Chemistry of Consciousness. Less trashy and disease-ridden than past Toxic Holocaust recordings, but just as combustible, Chemistry of Consciousness sharply focuses Grind's love of crusty D-beat and dangerously fast thrash metal into nuclear weaponry that could almost be described as sleek or streamlined, were it not for Toxic Holocaust's feral rage. Never for a second does Chemistry of Consciousness lose any bit of its momentum or ferocity. It is a relentless attack, binging on and then purging itself of Venom or Bathory influences, as Toxic Holocaust forges its own identity and fearsome reputation. 

Black Sabbath - 13 2013
8. Black Sabbath: 13 – Three-fourths of the original Black Sabbath is better than nothing. Although this much-ballyhooed reunion fell short of reuniting the entire original lineup, it did produce the kind of churning, sludgy riffage that only Tony Iommi can dream up, while painting a charred, burned-out landscape of doom metal that's the stuff of good old-fashioned nightmares. And while it feels as if Sabbath has come full circle, revisiting its exhilarating early days one last time, 13 doesn't simply rehash the past. What fresh hell is this? It's one of Sabbath's making, full of awesome dread, soul-crushing alienation and the sense that God may have abandoned this place. It could be that this is Sabbath's last meal. What a satisfying one it is.

The Resistance - Scars
7. The Resistance: Scars – Somehow, Scars fell between the cracks. At least it did for critics. Hardly any Best of … lists for this year have mentioned the latest from these raging death-metal hardliners, and that's a shame. Scars gives a whole new meaning to the word "intensity." Aggressive from the word "go" and set ablaze with outright hostility, Scars sees these In Flames refugees slamming and crashing into anything their path, and then rising from the burning wreckage to do it all over again. Blistering speed is prized by The Resistance, but they are also completely into complexity and chaotic, high-impact dynamics, the likes of which are breathtaking to behold.  

Ghost - Infestissuman 2013
6. Ghost: Infestissumam – A coat of many sonic colors from these mysteriously Satanic Swedes, the defiantly diverse Infestissumam certainly threw a pop-oriented curveball at the world of heavy metal, leaving some to wonder whether they'd wandered too far off the path. Ghost's wildly eclectic ambitions came to the fore on Infestissuman, as their progressive and psychedelic inclinations drive songs that assume more pleasing shapes than past efforts, enhanced by choirs and other not-so metal accoutrements. Are they trying to redefine heavy metal? Maybe. They've certainly pushed its boundaries pretty far on Infestissuman, an album that grows more and more enticing with repeated listens. The darkness will return, and when it does, Ghost's black magic may be more powerful than ever.

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