Every year when the holidays roll around, it’s only natural that we think back on the year that was, and reminisce about some of the noteworthy things that happened during the year. Most of the time, these kinds of articles try to pick not just the best, but also the worst of things from the year just ending, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to do that, because I don’t like to focus on the negative. I would rather focus on the positive things, which in my estimation are more deserving of notice than much of the negativity we are surrounded with in our daily lives. Besides, who wants to write a retrospective that has to deal with such nonsense as censorship, failed presidential health care rollouts, or Miley Cyrus’s indecent and incessant public ‘twerking’ offenses? Certainly not me!
So, without further delay, I give you My Top 5 Albums of 2013!
#5: Megadeth’s “Super Collider”
“Super Collider” is the latest release by Dave Mustaine and the troops behind Megadeth: David Ellefson on bass, Shawn Drover on drums, and Chris Broderick on lead/rhythm guitar. For some reason, the critics seem to be hell-bent to trash this latest release by legendary thrash metal band, Megadeth. I’ve been seeing out in the blogosphere that many of the critics out there aren’t happy with this release, for one reason or another. I’m not one of them.
From most of the reviews I’ve read, these critics are disappointed mainly by the ‘lack of speed’, and the lyrical content of the songs included on this album. They want the same old Megadeth that put out such incredible works as “Peace Sells. But Who’s Buying” or, “So Far, So Good… So What?”
Personally, I think that if a band just keeps churning out the same kind of album, one after the other, that the band will just become stale and boring. Bands that do that are simply playing it safe, and are demonstrating that they are afraid to stretch their musical boundaries in favor of not rocking the boat, either at the behest of their fans or their label. They become comfortable and complacent. Don’t confuse a band’s particular style, formed over time and experience with complacency – a trained ear can tell the difference. Megadeth has a particular style, and this is not a band to sit back and rest on their laurels. Dave simply wouldn’t allow it.
Contrary to some of the other reviews I’ve read about this CD, I find the lyrics to be insightful and just as bluntly truthful as any Megadeth release before it. Granted, the message is a bit less raw in both its lyrical content and overall musical production, but I fail to see how any of that detracts from the quality of this album. To my way of thinking, this is a testament to how much Dave has grown as a person from a philosophical and musical point of view.
#4: Sevendust’s “Black Out the Sun”
The critical acclaim given this latest album by Sevendust is richly deserved. The band’s ninth studio release did not disappoint their fans or the critics. The follow-up to 2010′s ‘Cold Day Memory’ features the Atlanta rockers at the top of their game, with such standout tracks as “Decay”, “Faithless”, “Picture Perfect”, and the title track “Black Out the Sun”, so it’s no surprise that this album has performed so well on the charts, as the band has toured relentlessly in support of it.
The album showcases the incredible vocal talents of Lajon Witherspoon, and the aggressive riffs are provided by guitarists John Connolly and Clint Lowery, while bassist Vinnie Hornsby keeps the rhythm section steady and powerful on the bottom end, as drummer Morgan Rose throws down behind the drums and offers up some of those killer banshee screams that Sevendust fans crave. This album will stand out among not only their own discography, but will no doubt stand the test of time among the fabled metal masters like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Pantera, and Black Sabbath. Which brings me to the next pick on the list…
#3: Black Sabbath’s reunion album with Ozzy.
With the joyous news of Ozzy’s reunion with his former bandmates in Black Sabbath, and the release of their first new album together in 34 years, the sight of metal fists pumping into the air, and the collective screams of “Hell Yeah!” could be heard the world over.
Black Sabbath, the heavy metal juggernaut that was almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of the Heavy Metal music genre with their breakout hits, “Paranoid” and “Iron Man,” was back with a vengeance with their new album, “13.” This was an album that lived up to the hype, and in many ways it surpassed the expectations of even the most critical of listeners. With the release of “13”, and the tour that followed, Ozzy, Tony Iommi, and Geezer Butler proved that they are only as old as they want to feel, and that they could still melt faces with their brand of heavy, blues-infused rock that only they could bring to their gleeful, adoring fans.
The only thing that was missing was Bill Ward behind the drums, both on the album and on their world tour. Ward’s replacement on the album, Brad Wilk, performed admirably on the new recording, bringing a real sense of vitality to the drums on the recording, while staying true to the Sabbath sound. Tommy Clufetos, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, was slated to record the album with the guys in Sabbath, but was shunned by their producer, the inimitable Rick Rubin for unknown reasons, hence the use of Brad Wilk in the studio. As a consolation prize of sorts, Clufetos was tapped to play drums with the band on the world tour, and by all accounts, Clufetos did a magnificent job on the road.
#2: The Winery Dogs.
What else can be said about a band with the likes of Richie Kotzen singing and playing guitar, Billy Sheehan singing backing vocals and shredding on his bass, and Mike Portnoy tearing it up behind the drum it, that hasn’t already been said?
Most of the bands that have worn the “super group” title have been flash-in-the-pan groups that didn’t go beyond their first — and usually only — album. Kotzen says, “Most of those super-group bands suffered from personal/personnel issues that destroyed them before they ever got to do a second album, so that’s just not us.” Sheehan says in a recent Guitar World interview, “We didn’t get together to try to capitalize on what we have done before in each of our respective pasts. We wanted to do something that was straight out of the box.”
The incredible response to this amazing power-trio’s eponymous debut release has been nothing short of phenomenal, as have their live shows in support of this release. With songs like “Elevate”, “Desire”, “I’m No Angel”, “Time Machine” breaking out as hits on this album, there’s no doubt that The Winery Dogs are here to stay, and I can’t wait to see what these three virtuoso musicians can come up with next time around.
#1: Queens of the Stone Age – “…Like Clockwork”
Josh Homme is one of those personalities that attract the weird and wonderful, the irregular, and the outcasts. It’s that kind of spellbinding attraction that QOTSA has bestowed upon their listeners. When someone hears their music, they instinctively know they’ve never heard anything quite like it anywhere – ever. “…Like Clockwork”, the first release of a new studio album by QOTSA since 2007, is just such a distinctive album. “…Like Clockwork” is monumental in every respect.
I just can’t seem to get enough of this album. I keep playing it over, and over, and over… It’s brilliant in every respect. The lyrics are intelligent, deep, and yet they’re relatable to everyone. This is music that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. It has a raw, savage feel to it, yet you are forced to appreciate the virtuosity of performance that this music demands, in order for it to be created and controlled by the writer and performers. It demands much of the listener as well.
It takes a certain kind of openness to ‘the new’, as well as a musically inclined intellect to truly appreciate the beautifully controlled bedlam that this album brings – a luminous kind of musical chaos that shines for the listener. The blending of styles and sounds on this album are analogous to that which a master impressionist painter from the late 19th century would paint with oil and canvas, using sounds to create aural imagery with colors and textures that are vaguely familiar, yet painting a picture completely new, in a style all their own. It’s perhaps not an entirely new concept; however, the presentation and performance is fresh and unique to them, as well as the audience. “…Like Clockwork” is the penultimate Queens of the Stone Age album. It is, to date, Josh Homme’s magnum opus.
So there you have it, my friends. Whether you agree with my picks or not, it is enough that this list generate conversations about music, and what it means to each of us, individually. As long as I’ve been able to bring some music to mind that you might not have otherwise thought to consider, I’ve accomplished what I had set out to do.
I do hope that in the coming year, you all will continue to support music and the musicians who make it, by buying the music you love from your favorite bands and artists, and that you will also make a point to go out to your local concert venue, or your local bars that showcase local talents and continue to support the musicians who work so hard to entertain and inspire you. It’s what we musicians live for — to have our music heard by others, be it on a stage in front of twenty thousand screaming fans, or in a smoke-filled bar with a dozen of our closest friends.
Happy New Year, everyone!