** Every year we do it. Decibel assembles a list of killer albums based on a secret algorithm. This year, I wanted to add to our Top 40 list (as published HERE). Albums I felt were overlooked on our list. The artists and albums reflect my opinion only and weren’t subject to the secret algorithm.
Sulphur Aeon “Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide” (Imperium Productions/F.D.A. Rekotz)
Germany’s Sulphur Aeon hit Cthulhu in its lidless eyes on debut, Swallowed by the Ocean’s Tide. And if judging by the cover art, Sulphur Aeon has death metal’s top spot occupied by a nautical mile. It’s a sight to behold. Ola Larsson’s interpretation of Cthulhu emerging from the ruins of R’lyeh is brilliant. Musically, Sulphur Aeon remind of Storm of the Light’s Bane, but there’s a heavy helping of bottom end. The rumble that cuts through Torsten Horstmann’s leads is nearly indescribable. The feeling is like ancient buildings crumbling in near-real time. Brutal. But also memorable.
Bölzer “Aura” (Iron Bonehead)
Though an EP, Aura deserves a spot on our Top 40 list. At 22-minutes, Bölzer’s debut for Iron Bonehead is audacious yet savage, taking death and black metal to new places. Much of Bölzer’s uniqueness comes from KzR’s guitar sound, which must be heard to fully understand. He has the low-end of, say, John McEntee but uses a high-end technique that could only be described as tremolo picking with an E-bow. The song construction also deserves notice. Aura’s three songs race by at a frantic pace, but at no point do they feel contrived or glued to convention. KzR also possesses an alternating growl and howl, which—during Bölzer’s slower moments—reminds of Neurosis’ apocalyptic vociferations. 2014 will be a huge year for the Swiss. Also, huge points for naming their demo, Roman Acupuncture. Why? Dunno. Sounds ancient like Assyrian Aqueducts.
October Tide “Tunnel of No Light” (Pulverized)
Ex-Katatonia members Fredrik ‘North’ Norrman and Mattias ‘Kryptan’ Norrman unite (or re-re-unite) for the second October Tide album to not feature Jonas Renkse. On Tunnel of No Light, the Norrman brothers create a fantastically desolate landscape. The difference between Tunnel of No Light and its equally awesome predecessor A Thin Shell are the licks, the introspective interludes, and newcomer Alexander Högbom’s screams. Though I’m a sucker for Tobias Netzell’s (also of In Mourning) textured gurgles, Högbom complements October Tide’s blue tunes. Clearly, the Swedes’ sound won’t move mountains, but fans of early Katatonia, Rapture, Daylight Dies, and Swallow the Sun shouldn’t sleep on Tunnel of No Light.
Valkyrja “The Antagonist’s Fire” (WTC Productions)
This little dirty gem of an album hit Decibel’s desk a bit late. That being said, Valkyrja’s third assault on organized religion is violent, blood-thirsty, and fucking catchier than Mary Magdalene’s gonorrhea. Frontman A.L. invokes Swedish greats (no need to mention names) throughout The Antagonist’s Fire’s seven stunners. At times, however, it sounds like he’s gargling. Combine that with slight echo and, well, goose bumps. S.W.’s a Bible-burning axe-slinger, his runs on “Betrayal Incarnate”, “The Cremating Fire”, and “Season of Rot” particularly effective at sounding Swedish while also battering temporal lobes like a seasoned vet. If Watain went off the rails on The Wild Hunt, Valkyrja’s The Antagonist’s Fire probably the album of most (similar) interest.
Soilwork “The Living Infinite” (Nuclear Blast)
Two-discs and not one sleeper. That’s how I feel about Soilwork magnum opus, The Living Infinite. Gone are the flat-headed American-isms that permeated most of Peter Wichers’ work. Replacing them is a Euro-centric approach (Sylvain Coudret synching up with David Andersson is a huge deal!) to melodic death metal, the likes of which Soilwork perfected on The Predator’s Portrait (and Americans stole wholeheartedly from). But this is no The Predator’s Portrait, Part II. Soilwork in 2013 are a different band. Better players, new members, and—absolutely—better songwriters. It sounds stupid, but the choruses on The Living Infinite are epic. Addictively massive. Björn ‘Speed’ Strid is still venomous as ever, but his singing voice has improved tremendously. The guy’s lines across every track (20 of them) are, to be cliché, illegally catchy. Add the massive (and warm) production and there’s nothing left to discuss. Lights out competitors. All tracks are choice, but I recommend starting with “Spectrum of Eternity”, “Let the First Wave Rise”, “Rise Above the Sentiment”, “The Living Infinite II” and the stupid stupid good closing track, “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard”. The Living Infinite is the metal album of the decade. Dispute that? Give it a fair shake without being a diehard douche first.