Alter Bridge - Fortress
The AB III tour turned Alter Bridge into arena-level stars in Europe. The band only affirmed their position with follow-up Fortress, which both retains the heaviness of its predecessor and reincorporates the larger-than-life scope and hooks of Blackbird.
Long story short: it has everything. Lead single Addicted To Pain is adrenaline in sonic form, darting from downtuned chugs to piercing howls, before Calm The Fire and the title track push the band’s songwriting and Myles’ voice to untested extremes. Cry A River is all-out thrash metal exhilaration, yet it somehow isn’t jarring when cast against the balladry of All Ends Well.
The best One Day Remains chorus that One Day Remains never got even shows up on Farther Than The Sun. Alter Bridge may have outclassed their peers on Blackbird, but here they ticked all the boxes needed to make flawless melodic metal.
Beastmilk - Climax
It would be easy to wile away an hour or six pinpointing the influences that lurk behind Beastmilk’s voyage into bleak post-punk realms, but the truth is that they’re a fearsome proposition with a distinctive personality of their own.
Climax is an album of cold shadows and harrowing uncertainties as brittle riffing, clangourous reverb and the purposeful thud of tribal percussive mantras collide. Beastmilk – better known these days as Grave Pleasures – are plainly exorcising demons, but this is not just an exercise in venting bile.
Instead, they whip up a pulsating, monochrome squall that, despite a superficial kinship with indie-friendly fare like Editors and Savages, belongs firmly in the realms of unconventional heaviness.
Black Sabbath - 13
It arrived as a major landmark: the first Sabbath album with Ozzy since 1978. And now, it has even greater significance, as the last Black Sabbath album, period. 13, produced by Rick Rubin, did not deliver all that Sabs diehards had dreamed of. Bill Ward was absent due to a contractual dispute. His replacement, Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk, while powerful, lacked Ward’s groove and feel.
But in the bigger picture, 13 was a triumph, with echoes of the band’s classic early albums in key tracks such as The End Of The Beginning and God Is Dead? When 13 was released, Geezer Butler called it “a perfect way to finish”. He’s been proven right.
Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal
The point where people finally started taking BMTH seriously, if only because Sempiternal’s Linkin Park-inspired choruses and polished, earworm keys are too potent to ignore. Oli Sykes’ tight-throated rage at its zenith but in a cleaner, more direct manner; Hospital For Souls takes his newfound melodies and pits them against luscious keys for an almost Deftones-esque seven minutes.
Sempiternal’s main selling point sees relentless riffing bounce around delicate, dare we say radio-friendly sections, kicking BMTH to a level that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier.
The Bronx - The Bronx (IV)
After a trio of self-titled albums full of searing hardcore and musclebound hard rock, The Bronx took a leftfield detour via the unexpected success of their mariachi alter-egos Mariachi El Bronx.
By 2013 it had been five years since their last full-on punk album but their fourth eponymous album (generally known as The Bronx IV) showed they’d lost none of their fighting instinct. Lyrically they had matured, with the likes of Along For The Ride and particularly Life Less Ordinary showing a more reflective side, but they still packed a hefty musical punch.
Carcass - Surgical Steel
Imperious. There’s no other word for it. Carcass returned after a 17-year absence with an album that upgraded their classic, Heartwork-era sound and made it even more viciously metallic.
Recorded as a three piece, with founding members Jeff Walker (bass/vocals) and Bill Steer (guitar) alongside new drummer Daniel Wilding, Surgical Steel gave the distinct impression that Carcass had never been away.
Whether it was short, sharp bursts of melodic death fury like Thrasher’s Abbatoir and Captive Bolt Pistol or more intricate, grandiose fare like the snappily-titled Nomcompliance To ASTM F899-12 Standard, the band’s sixth album was rightly hailed as a blistering comeback.
Cathedral - The Last Spire
For many bands the end of their career is taken out of their hands by the circumstances surrounding it. Cathedral not only bowed out when they wanted to, they planned it with the care of sacred funerary rites.
Frontman Lee Dorian has said he never cared for happy endings and The Last Spire certainly wasn’t a cheerful farewell. It was a masterful one though, eschewing the wilder flights of psychedelic fancy they’d explored and returning full circle to the dense doom metal of classic debut album Forest of Equilibrium. The Last Spire was demise by design and quite beautiful in its own self-aware sense of bleakness.
Clutch - Earth Rocker
Roaring back to top form after the only-slightly-less-than-top-form Strange Cousins From The West, Clutch sounded like a band with fresh creative winds billowing their sails. From the nuts-to-the-wall groove of the title track onwards, Earth Rocker was a noisy and fascinating reminder of the quartet’s unique power.
Whether flooring the accelerator on Crucial Velocity or whipping up a storm of tooth-rattling hobo funk on D.C. Sound Attack, the tenth Clutch album lived up to its title in no uncertain terms. Everybody get the message?
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Deafheaven’s second full-length saw the San Franciscans further perfect their sound and position themselves at the forefront of a niche and nascent blackgaze scene that would – largely on the back of this release – come to far greater prominence.
Sunbather was a nuanced and layered album that ebbed and flowed with glittering walls of sound, post-metal washes of invention and a blackened bite still lurking somewhere at the heart of it all.
Featuring unexpected interludes (a recording of one side of a drug deal, Neige from Alcest reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being) alongside its emotive atmospherics, it was an album that transcended genre limitations and had a huge impact in the metal world and far beyond.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer
By the time OOUITK arrived The Dillinger Escape Plan had already long established and perfected a formula of melody, twisted math metal and schizoid noise beautifully coalescing.
And while this album continued that tradition with the likes of the murderously angry opener Prancer and the slinky title-track, it felt weirdly like the most straightahead Dillinger album. Brilliant, obviously, just slightly less of a headfuck than we were used to.