Christopher Urban's Top 10 Albums of 2013

10. Phinehas - The Last Word is Yours to Speak
Just squeaking onto the list, California's Phinehas made its mark on the metalcore scene this year with this record by doing something that few have taken the care to do in the genre: write consistent riffs. The guitarwork and songwriting definitely made this band rise above many others and songs like "The Deepest of Graves," "Out of the Dust," "Fleshkiller" and "Salting the Mine" really make this album stand out. As much as I'd like to make this record a top five on my list, the vocal work was just a bit too same-y for me to give it that placement, but its bright spots are bright enough for it to grasp a spot.

9. Amaranthe - The Nexus
Sweden's symphonic metal band Amaranthe is no stranger to catchy choruses or dangerous synth hooks, and this record truly shows off its potential in the metal scene. Containing the same flair you'd expect from a European power metal band, clean singers Elize Ryd and Jake E have an incredible display of talent, and screamer Andres Solveström has just the right kind of scream to give each track the edge it needs to keep you interested. Standout tracks like "Invincible," "Theory of Everything," "Stardust" and "Infinity" will drive a hook into you from the get go.

8. Last Chance to Reason - Level 3
Easily earning my personal award for most underrated band in the metal scene, Maine's Last Chance to Reason did a fantastic job with its third release. Considering singer Mike Lessard is now the full-time vocalist for The Contortionist, we might not get a new album from this band in quite some time. That being said, the soaring guitarwork, lyrical and melodic vocal play and the impressive drumming make Level 3 another hidden gem in prog metal this year.

7. Arsonists Get All the Girls – Listen to the Color
Welcome back, Remi Rodburg. The former lead vocalist has returned to the band for the first time since The Game of Life, and boy does it hit hard. Not only does it have the same of ferocity and overall wackiness that the band is known for, but it goes above and beyond any sort of limitations that the band had in the past. Arsonists Get All the Girls is back in the big leagues of grindcore, and Listen to the Color is proof of that.

6. TesseracT - Altered State
I'm not often given a reason to be entertained by djent, considering few bands aside from Periphery are willing to strip the title and go for a more prog metal approach. Thankfully, the UK's TesseracT brings some fresh light to the fad, giving djent the prog rock flare it so desperately needed. That being said, what really brought me to giving this album such a high spot was the emergence of prog metal’s newest singing prodigy, Ashe O'hara. Well done, djents.

5. letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful
Post-hardcore's not dead, people. This year has been fantastic for the dying genre battered and bruised by the scene, but letlive. has come back with a sophomore record that shatters molds, gets you jumping and doesn't want to let up for one second. Jason Aalon Butler does an incredible job varying his style as well as keeping each track catchy and accessible, all while writing honest, poetic lyrics. The only gripe I have with this record would be the mix, which just seemed low in quality; it is a painful blemish on an otherwise perfect album.

4. Citizen - Youth
It's been a while since I've felt so strongly for a record like Youth, especially considering that, overall, it's pretty simple at its core. That being said, Citizen has laid down an album for both the masses and the hipsters, with tracks that carry serious emotional depth and honesty, as well as catchy hooks and accessibility in ways that I don’t think anybody expected. Citizen is 2013's sleeper band – by a long shot.

3. The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
Probably the best thing to come out of Philadelphia since the cheesesteak, The Wonder Years unleashed what I might consider its possible magnum opus earlier this year with The Greatest Generation. Nothing is spared from the band's last release; the members only add to their brand of infectious, feels-driven pop-punk, and the album rocks on several levels the whole way through. The final track, "I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral," brings the entire album to an incredibly appropriate close and left me with a tear in my eye.

2. Erra - Augment
These last two spots left me emotionally conflicted on so many levels that it was ridiculous, but don't look down on Augment just because it didn't make the top spot; this is, without a doubt, the metalcore album of 2013 to own. Both the clean and harsh vocalists stepped it up this time around, and the instrumental work is both crushingly heavy and melodic beyond anything I've heard before in the genre. On a side note, another major factor for my liking of this record would be how you could actually hear the bass in the mix – something most bands these days usually leave lost behind the guitars; it was very refreshing to hear.

1. A Lot like Birds - No Place
I believe I've said it once before and I will happily repeat myself; I am an absolute sucker for concept albums. That being said, I left that particular interest a bit behind when I was doing this list, yet I still felt that A Lot like Birds deserve this number one spot. No Place literally covers every base I could ask for almost to perfection – in some cases beyond. Songs like "Connector" and "Kuroi Ledge" jarred me from their accessibility as well as their beyond impressive structure. Aside from that, No Place does a good job with subtlety, making more and more little moments noticeable with each listen. I couldn't ask for anything more out of a record than what was given by No Place.

Honourable Mention
The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is the Killer
Treebeard - Stars over Somber Skies
Ghost - Infestissumam
Mandroid Echostar - Citadels
Funeral for a Friend - Conduit

By Christopher Urban ~ Me Gusta Reviews



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