So here is the stunning conclusion of our monthly looks back at MMXIII in music. Now, I can hear some of you grumbling, "what about November and December?" Patience, those months will be covered next year. I learned a hard lesson last year that you can't possibly find all the best albums, let alone process them without the proper perspective that can only come with the passage of time. So enjoy, October was the best month of the year for releases, there were at least 50 albums I could have chosen for the Best of October. It was tough whittling it down to 20 ...
October 1 - Black Rainbows (Holy Moon EP)
October 1 - Horisont (Time Warriors)
October 4 - Argus (Beyond the Martyrs)
October 4 - IRON MAN (South of the Earth) - Everything came together just right for Iron Man on 'South of the Earth', the band's fifth full-length album and first with the current line-up, to create an album that resonates long after it's finished. Guitarist and sole remaining original member Alfred Morris III put in the performance of a lifetime, flashing a fluid hand at blues and doom fundamentals while blazing when called upon, there isn't much he doesn't do on this album and do well. On the opposite side of the stage Louis Strachan put in the bass guitar performance of the year, complimenting Morris III with wah funk while blazing a few trails of his own. Vocalist Dee Calhoun provides the exclamation point marrying memorable, well-crafted lyrics to a booming, expressive voice while drummer Mot Waldman both punctuates and reinforces the whole thing. After recording the album independently it got the notice of Lee Dorrian of Rise Above Records who promptly signed the band to the label. The album was released and distributed by Rise Above / Metal Blade Records and the band is closing out the year and ringing in the new with a first-ever trip to London to perform at the Rise Above 25th Anniversary Show. The success of the band couldn't have happened to a more deserving bunch of musicians. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "South of the Earth" and "Whore In Confession". Rating 5/5
October 9 - TOMBSTONES (Red Skies & Dead Eyes) - Granite heavy Norwegian doom trio, Tombstones summoned their fourth album from the molten depths and released it on SoulSeller Records. In some ways 'Red Skies' continues along the familiar trajectory of their last album, 'Year of the Burial', but I would say this new one is thicker in sound, atmosphere and composition. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Black Moon" and "Obstfelder". Rating 4.5/5
October 15 - ORANSSI PAZUZU (Valonielu) - Finnish blackened space rock quintet (yes, you read that correctly) Oranssi Pazuzu may not have set out to, but they ended up recording and releasing one of the best horror soundtracks of the year. "A space ship broken down on a remote asteroid, the crew must find shelter in the caves, but it is only there that they encounter ... the shape!" or something. This is a terrific, atmospheric album but beware of harsh vocals. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Uraanisula" and "Vino Verso". Rating 4.5/5
October 15 - RED FANG (Whales & Leeches) - Red Fang's long awaited return may have resulted in the most underrated album of the year. Many were disappointed with the direction the band took on this one favoring battering ram rock n roll over sludgier compositions, an uptempo direction which also carries the bulk of the band's beloved fun factor. Go into it with no expectations however, and 'Whales & Leeches' is a terrific album. Get it here. Highlights include: "Crows in Swine" and "Blood Like Cream". Rating 4.5/5
October 15 - UZALA (Tales of Blood & Fire) - Uzala's second album is a dark slice of doom sludge with psychedelic overtones. A specific kind of atmosphere penetrates the listener in the same way that the abyss stares back at you. 'Tales of Blood & Fire' is less an album and more an addiction. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Seven Veils" and "Dark Days". Rating 4.5/5
October 17 - MONSTER MAGNET (Last Patrol) - Dave Wyndorf and company returned after a three year absence with the most psychedelically tinged Monster Magnet album since 'Dopes To Infinity' on this date. Though the band is getting older they show no signs of slowing down, but every now and then they got to trip out for awhile, get a grasp on life's ever-changing perspective. That's what this album's all about. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Last Patrol" and "Mindless Ones". Rating 4.5/5
October 18 - Seremonia (Ihminen)
October 20 - Space God Ritual (Eldritch Tales)
October 21 - GAGGLE OF COCKS (Low Class Trendsetter) - This upstate New York power trio's second album and first in about 12 years is the place to go for some high powered in your face rock n roll. I'll admit I wasn't expecting to like this album very much but even if it had been on my most anticipated list it still would have floored me with its hooky power and unrelenting heaviness. Get it here. Highlights include: "Low Class Trendsetter" and "Black Helicopters". Rating 4/5
October 28 - Bardo Pond (Peace on Venus)
October 28 - MOUNTAIN WITCH (Cold River) - Now we've come to what is arguably the best retro rock record of the year. 'Cold River' was all about seventies sounds and dark feelings. The eight songs on this album were built around expansive structures, extended instrumental sections and solid resonant vocals giving the album depth. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Shrubbery the Warlock" and "Sleepers Chant". Rating 4.5/5
October 29 - Noctum (Final Sacrifice)
October 30 - At Devil Dirt (Plan B: Sin Revolución no hay Evolución)
October 30 - BLIZARO (Strange Doorways) - This mammoth 40-song 2-disc collection drags a rake across John Gallo and co.'s back catalog of demos and give them their much deserved first official release. Add to that a whole other demo album's worth of material previously unavailable anywhere and you've got a horror doom must have. Original review here. Get it here. Highlights include: "Sacrifice" and "Demonhenge". Rating 5/5
October 31 - In The Company of Serpents (Of the Flock)
October 31 - ZEMIAL (Nykta) - This expansive, hour-long nine-song album released through Hell's Headbangers Records probably flew well under the radar of most doom metal fans because this Greek one man project is categorized as Black Metal. But there's more doom here than black metal. Actually, this one takes a sweeping survery of metal in general touching on different movements at different points throughout. Old school metal and doom are of course the standout moments here. Thankfully there's a good number of them. Get it here. Highlights include: "Ancient Arcane Scrolls" and "Eclipse". Rating 4/5
Best Album From June 2013:
'From the Dark' by NYMF
Best Song From June 2013:
"Woodbine" by WINDHAND
The quality that makes "Retro Rock" is nearly indefinable or at least requires exactly the king of technical language that is not part of my toolbox. Basically, if it sounds "old", but is actually "new" it is retro rock. Devil's 'Gather the Sinners' and Magister Templi's 'Lucifer Leviathan Logos' albums fit that mold perfectly but they would be more accurately described as "Retro Metal". Anyway, you know it when you hear it.
And I hope you had a good year, I'm sure it had its challenges but I'd imagine you're tougher for the experience. Have a good 2014 and we'll see each other on the other side for another series of Chronicles next year. Thanks for reading!
Here are my ten favorite Retro Rock albums of the year ...
Top 10 Retro Rock Albums:
1). Mountain Witch - 'Cold River'
2). Brutus - 'Behind the Mountains'
3). Kadavar - 'Abra Kadavar'
4). Horisont - 'Time Warriors'
5). Seremonia - 'Ihminen'
6). Noctum - 'Final Sacrifice'
7). Spirits of the Dead - 'Rumours of a Presence'
8). Doublestone - Self-titled EP
9). Vidunder - Self-Titled
10). Spiritual Beggars - 'Earth Blues'