10. Magoa – Topsy Turvydom
9. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful
8. The Dangerous Summer – Golden Record
7. Arteries – Arteries EP
6. Balance And Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
I may live in Campbelltown now, but I’ll always be a Blacktown boy and nothing’s stronger in music than hometown tribalism. Blacktown has one of the most fanatical underground hardcore scenes in the world, so it’s little surprise that Northlane, often hailed as the next Parkway Drive, hailed from this suburb full of McDonalds restaurants and used car dealerships. If you can find a better one-two punch than ‘Genesis’ and “Scarab,” you’re lying, and I’m telling your mother on you. “Worldeater” is one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever written; “Aspire” is an audial behemoth; “Dream Awake” and “Quantum Flux” are two of the most mature and uplifting songs in the world and the Meshuggah-meets-funk album highlight “The Calling” is a masterpiece. In short, Singularity is aural sex. Ho ho, the things I do with words…
Newcastle has a rugby league team, a mine, a shipping port, and one of the best mathcore bands in the world. Safe Hands is Australia’s answer to Norma Jean, and their debut, Montenegro, is probably the best debut I’ve ever heard. Opener “Death In Leura” harkens back to the feral energy of Norma Jean’s “Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste,” while songs like “Any Port In A Storm,” “Sweet Pendulum” and “History’s F-cking Afterthought” ensure there’s not a second of filler to be found here. However, the true gem is closing title track; a soul-crushingly introspective lament. If you don’t get shivers up your spine when Jen Buxton’s guest vocals kick in, you’ll definitely feel them when you can almost see vocalist Anthony Webster’s tears of shame weeping through the speakers as he screams “Dad, I only ever wanted to make you proud/but sometimes I feel I could fill a book with all the ways I’ve let you down.” It’s one of the most honest, gut-wrenching climaxes to one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.
Norma Jean has been so damn inconsistent over the years. For every “Liarsenic” or ‘Face: Face’, there was a “Human Face, Divine.” Wrongdoers did away with all that irritating inconsistency. It’s undoubtedly their magnum opus. “Hive Minds” is a wonderfully dark, sludge opener that transitions into the blitzing If You Got It At Five, You Got It At Fifty” and just gets better from there. The highlight is, far and away, “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes.” If you threw a female singer in there, replaced the instruments with an acoustic guitar and left everything else intact, it’d be a pop mega hit. It’s just a sublime record.
August Burns Red is the band that got me into metal. They’ve held a very special place in my heart ever since I first heard Thrill Seeker, and Rescue & Restore sees them at the top of their game. A stunning recovery after the disappointing Leveler, Rescue & Restore is ABR’s best album yet. Where every other band says “Let’s do synth!,” ABR says “Let’s do strings and horns and xylophones!.” Pennsylvania’s finest are a decade into their tenure and still improving with every release.
Everyone said that releasing a double album in this current record-buying climate would be career suicide. Scottish alt-rockers Biffy Clyro, of course, promptly ignored all the advice and did it anyway, and a damn good thing, too. Opposites kicked off a whirlwind year that included multiple European headlining tours, a North American tour in support of Muse and headlining Reading Festival (their “support” acts included System Of A Down, Nine Inch Nails and Eminem); career suicide, it ain’t. Featuring songs like the heartbreaking title track, the climactic “Victory Over The Sun,” the brilliantly varied “Black Chandelier,” and arguably their best song ever, the glorious ‘Biblical’ (among so very many others), how do you not love every second of this thing? Mark my words; these boys are taking over the world.
11. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
12. Protest The Hero – Volition
13. Tesseract – Altered State
14. Misery Signals – Absent Light
15. Impending Doom – Death Will Reign
16. Oh, Sleeper – Titan EP
17. A Day To Remember – Common Courtesy
18. Jack The Stripper – Raw Nerve
19. The Devil Wears Prada – 8:18
20. The Storm Picturesque – Arrival
Top 10 Songs:
1. “Montenegro” – Safe Hands
2. “Creative Captivity” – August Burns Red
3. “Little Hospitals” – Biffy Clyro
4. “Lost Your Name” – Balance And Composure
5. “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” – Norma Jean
6. “Into The Comfort” – The Dangerous Summer”
7. “White America’s Beautiful Black Market” – letlive.
8. “Betraying Grace” – Magoa
9. “Care More” – The Devil Wears Prada
10. “The Calling” – Northlane
Best Live Show: Soundwave Festival – Sydney Olympic Park 2/24/13
Seriously, look at that lineup. Brilliantly organized and a killer lineup, the addition of sufficient food, water, shades and toileting made it the best Soundwave ever. Bring on 2014!
Best Comeback: Misery Signals – Absent Light
The darlings of alternative metalcore Misery Signals funded Absent Light with an Indiegogo campaign, initially started as a means to gauge interest from fans. The response was overwhelming, and these fine men delivered with an excellent album that proved just how much they’ve influenced the metalcore scene.
Biggest Disappointment: Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth
This album had me so excited. I’d never listened to Fleshgod Apocalyse before, but the reviews I read made them sound like something akin to the Second Coming of Christ. Well, the first song on Labyrinth is brilliant. It’s like there’s a colossal tidal wave sweeping over you, and yet it conveys a sense of desolate isolation. Unfortunately, even the most impressive one-trick pony is still a one-trick pony, and all Labyrinth does is blast beat over a symphony. Snore. Listen to Ovid’s Withering instead. They did this right.
Most Improved: Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
They released a crappy deathcore record called Count Your Blessings, a sub-par metalcore record called Suicide Season and another subpar metalcore record called There Is A Hell, Believe Me I’ve Seen…oh I don’t even care anymore. Then they got a new guy called Jordan Fish and, holy crap, released one of the best albums in history. A post-rock extravaganza brimming with soul, rock, dubstep and sing-alongs, it’s a mind-blowing left hook that literally no one expected. Songs like “Can You Feel My Heart?,” “Hospital For Souls,” “Deathbeds,” “Sleepwalking” and “And The Snakes Start To Sing” demonstrated song writing ability and an understanding of musical composition that no one new they possessed…and, let’s face it, they probably don’t. They may as well be called Jordan Fish feat. Bring Me the Horizon, and credit should be given where it is due. Fish took one of the most hated bands in history and turned their dodgy, half-cocked, self-indulgent music into a masterpiece. Thank you, Mr. Fish, for giving us Sempiternal.
Make Them Suffer – Neverbloom is arguably the greatest Australian metal album ever released. With a follow-up due in 2014, I’m beyond excited to see what they do.
For All Eternity – I wrote a review for their debut Beyond The Gates and that review is what landed me my first official contributor’s gig. Without these guys, I wouldn’t be writing this, and I can’t wait to hear what they cooked up in the States earlier this year.
Blink 182 – Because Neighbourhoods was awesome (shut up, it was). They still got it.
Mastodon – Come on, do I even need to justify this? It’s MASTODON.
Parkway Drive – Australia’s metal kings broke new ground with Atlas. Will they continue to mature, or will they regress into nothingness? Oh please, they’ll never die out. They’re a genre-defining band.
The Amity Affliction – Chasing Ghosts hit #1 on Australia’s mainstream ARIA charts. Can they do it again? And will they alter their style even slightly this time around? Stay tuned to find out.