Ten metal gems you might've missed in 2013

Ten metal gems you might've missed in 2013

So much metal. So little time. Three decades into extreme metal's history, bands are still finding ways to squeeze something fresh out of its carcass. Unfortunately, most people, even metal fans, don't have the bandwidth to accommodate it all and a few big albums can clog up the works pretty fast. Much of the conversation this year was dedicated to albums like Deafheaven's blackgaze epic, Sunbather, which wormed its way into the mainstream and spawned endless debates in the underground over authenticity and "trueness." These albums weren't necessarily conversation starters but shredded with unholy fervor nonetheless. So, without further delay, dive deep into the shadowy pits of the best metal albums you might've missed.

See also: The ten best faceless metal bands

10. Lycus - Tempest (20 Buck Spin) Lycus's brand of slow-burning funeral doom/death was all the rage in the mid- to late-'90s, with the likes of Evoken and Thergothon leading the charge, but it's fallen by the wayside in recent years in the wake of more experimental doom outfits. Still, Lycus fly the flag high and proud with these three hymns of spirit-draining melancholy. There's plenty of melody on Tempest, such as on the wonderful "Coma Burn," but it's aimed at tearing your heart open rather than giving you a moment of respite from the darkness. The tempos, while all certifiably slow and doomy, are varied enough to keep boredom from setting in, and then band even throws in a few speedier sections to momentarily wake the soul from its slow death for one last desperate gasp.

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9. House of Atreus - Into the Brazen Bull One of the biggest surprises of the year, Minnesota's House of Atreus achieve the nearly impossible on Into the Brazen Bull: The band makes death metal fun. Opener "Bastards in the Hillsides" tears out of the gate with a hyper-kinetic riff that practically thrusts a beer into your hand and commands your head to bang. The riffs even contain ever-so-slight hints of bluegrass, reinforcing the "good ol' times" vibe throughout. "Melodic death metal" became cursed words a decade ago when Scandinavia flooded the world, both directly (See: In Flames) and inderectly (See: Killswitch Engage, et al.), with sugary-sweet, dual-harmony garbage, but Into the Brazen Bull is a stark reminder that the style still has a lot to offer.

8. Grave Upheaval - Untitled It's strange that an album so dense and devoid of traditional structure could be so engaging. It hasn't been conclusively proven that Australia's Grave Upheaval isn't just an epic troll job by someone determined to prove that metalheads will praise anything if they think it's cult enough (the band members are even credited as "-" and "-"). This is technically death metal, but there are no riffs to speak of, really. Just a constant drone, like two great slabs of earth slowly grinding together, punctuated by ritualistic drums and distant blast beats. Otherworldly vocals call to you from just beyond the veil, beckoning for you to surrender your soul to chaos. This is the pinnacle of murk.

7. Wreck and Reference - No Content (The Flenser) People often say that the hardest part of getting into extreme music can be the vocals. If that's the case then this EP is an excellent starting point. The vocals, though heavily distorted, are strangely tuneful, painting the image of a mournful lover, slumped over in a bathtub as he calls out to the nothingness for comfort. Even the harsher moments are layered over music, which, while extremely dark, is less abrasive than, say, a full-on dose of Origin.

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