I threw Altars’ aside as a generic and uninteresting metalcore band. It wasn’t until the quartet released Something More this year that I realized that the true meaning was found in their message. With their sophomore release, they’re seeking more — a difference-making proposal to a generation lost in soul seeking and plagued by negativity. Altars found a way to connect with me with their honest, heart-filled formula. A revamped sound that spews bits of post-hardcore and hard rock helps too, and clean vocals and reverberating guitar riffs support the call-to-action lyrics in every way. The final two tracks, “Westboro” and “To Give,” have inspired me to make a difference — and through love and hope alone.
Although I’ve been in and out of pop-punk throughout 2013, The Story So Far’s second album, What You Don’t See, has been a constant play year-round. The band sticks to the same successful approach of their debut: hard-hitting punk songs with catchy choruses and furious lyrics. “Right Here” is a storm that soaks the listener with its bouncy riffage, while “Empty Space” brings the heat with its anthemic lyricism and punk pounce. “The Glass” finds singer Parker Cannon working alongside raw, powerful instrumentation with his enraged vocals. A fire has been burning since this band’s career started, and – as demonstrated by the intensity of their second record – it’s not going out anytime soon.
August Burns Red has been one of my favorite bands since I became a fan of metalcore, and Rescue & Restore gives me some much-needed faith in the genre. Moving on from Leveler’s clean, compact emblazonment, Rescue & Restore prospers from instrumental rawness and Jake Luhrs’ raspy screams. The frontman sounds as inspired as ever throughout the record, screaming about diversity in “Treatment,” idolatry in “Fault Line,” and mourning in “Meaning In Tragedy.” Of course, while the band plays their sound well – breakdowns and all – they continue to expand the genre at the same time. Spoken word sections, horn outros, and orchestras make their metalcore stylization as fresh as newly-baked bread. Man, that’s fresh.
My #1 and #2 were extremely hard to arrange, but Twenty One Pilots ends up with the #2 spot on my list for the fabulous conglomeration of indie rock, hip-hop, and electronica on their Fueled By Ramen debut, Vessel. While the band can’t be praised enough for their energetic live performances, they deliver a similar vibe on the record. Vocalist Tyler Joseph crafts choruses with catchy sing-along moments and dominates with his Eminem-esque rap sections, but he’s at his most real when belches out scalding screams. “House Of Gold” makes use of ukuleles, while “Car Radio” uses piano melodies to its advantage. In addition to these two songs, the stadium-ready combo of “Guns For Hands” and “Trees” brings together one of the most passionate releases of 2013. From beginning to end, Vessel is memorable, sincere, and just downright lovely.
Amidst much label drama and album delays, A Day To Remember’s fifth album, Common Courtesy, hit the world in October. And it did not disappoint. Being the band’s heaviest release since For Those Who Have Heart, it contains a heaping pile of face-melting breakdowns and mosh calls. But at the same time, it shows the group both at their most calm and comfortable; in “I’m Already Gone” and “I Surrender,” the band mellows down into acoustic-driven theatrics, and with “Best Of Me” and “City Of Ocala,” the band’s hearty pop-punk side shows. Considering that A Day To Remember has been one of my favorite bands for years, I was already sold before I heard the first note. It’s a fan pleaser for sure, and the pure energy and enticement contained in every single song makes Common Courtesy my favorite album of 2013.
Biggest Surprise: Senses Fail – Renacer
Biggest Disappointment: Red – Release The Panic
Best Live Show: Hundredth, Counterparts, and Being As An Ocean at The Fireside Bowl in Chicago
Most Anticipated: The Ghost Inside