This year, Burning Ambulance is publishing two year-end lists, one covering jazz and one covering rock/metal. Here is the second installment of our countdown of the 25 best rock/metal albums of 2013. (Click to see #s 25-21.) Enjoy!
Best Rock/Metal Albums of 2013, Part 2
20. SubRosa, More Constant Than the Gods (Profound Lore)
One of three albums on this list to feature violin as a lead instrument. SubRosa‘s third release, second for Profound Lore, is their most powerful work to date. The songs have a mournful, midnight-on-the-prairie quality weaving through the psychedelic doom metal that’s their primary mode, the rhythms slow and steady as a march to the grave, the lyrics deep and personal, translating real-world pain into something more abstract that any listener can carry with them until the moment of need. (Adrien Begrand interviewed two members of the group for Burning Ambulance issue 7.)
This is the second album on this list to feature violin as a lead instrument, and unlike in the case of SubRosa, with Resolution15 there’s no guitar to compete for space. It’s Earl Maneein‘s show; the drones, the melodies, and the savagely heavy riffs—somewhere in the neighborhood of Prong, Meshuggah, and/or Strapping Young Lad—are all him, working through pedals and effects. At times he sounds just enough like a guitar to make your ear perk up, while at other times he embraces the violin’s violin-ness, searing the air with fierce bowing as the bassist and drummer keep the pit going. (We interviewed Maneein back in February.)
Stream “Kali” (which features second violinist Joel Lambdin):
OK, this isn’t a metal record by any stretch. Still, Trent Reznor‘s always been the depressed metalhead’s electronic musician of choice, and his 2013 return found him up to his old tricks (verses composed of ultra-simple, paired couplets; spooky noises turned into beats; piano heard from the bottom of a well; the occasional shouty chorus). There are a lot of disparate sounds on this album, from scorched-earth pop-punk guitar rock to glitchy/noisy hip-hop beats to old-school (read: early ’90s) industrial dance tracks, and they shouldn’t work side by side, but somehow they all congeal into a remarkably strong album-length statement that would have been a better follow-up to The Downward Spiral than The Fragile was.
Watch the video for “Came Back Haunted”:
17. Hedvig Mollestad Trio, All of Them Witches (Rune Grammofon)
Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad came out of nowhere a couple of years ago with Shoot!, an album of searing instrumental rock that sounded like a particularly head-down blend of stoner metal, grunge, and ’70s boogie. A cover of the Melvins‘ “Blood Witch” was only icing on the cake; the band’s originals, and their organic, plug-in-and-explode sound, were what made them worthy of attention within the avant-garde and metal scenes alike. Two years later, All of Them Witches finds the trio nobly refusing to fuck with the formula, delivering 10 more tracks that will make fans of Brant Bjork (or even latter-day Dick Dale; check out the surfing-the-tsunami vibe of “The New Judas”) as happy as dudes still cranking Van Halen and pre-MTV ZZ Top. “More of the same, only better” is a fine artistic standard to hold yourself to, and Hedvig Mollestad can put an album this rock-solid out every two years forever if she wants to.
Speaking of instrumental power trios…2013 was the year we got Caspar Brötzmann back. His group Massaker was the ultimate fusion of noise-rock with Jimi Hendrix-circa-1970 fretboard pyrotechnics; the son of legendary saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, he learned the value of loud noise early, and made a string of crushingly heavy albums—The Tribe, Black Axis, Der Abend der Schwarzen Folklore, Koksofen, Home and Mute Massaker—between 1988 and 1999, but virtually disappeared in the new millennium. On this album, Brötz is backed by his dad’s Full Blast rhythm section of bassist Marino Pliakas and drummer Michael Wertmüller, and calling the results apocalyptic almost feels like an understatement. Wertmüller in particular is maybe the greatest abuser of the toms to ever sit behind a kit, and he provides a constantly, seismically shifting ground upon which Brötzmann takes endless, feedback-swathed solos that aren’t quite solos. On two tracks here, the three are joined by Einstürzende Neubauten‘s FM Einheit, because things weren’t noisy or clanging enough. This is one of those albums for which speakers big enough haven’t been invented yet—and may never be.