As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve been giving the site over to artists to let us know what they’ve been listening to. It’s proven to be a diverse year for artists and albums alike. You can check out part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, and part 4 here, and part 5 here. However, we also want to let you know what got us going this year. You can read what Chris Colgan, Zach Shaw, Matt Brown, Chip McCabe and Bram Teitelman dug, but these were Kodi McKinney’s favorites and honorable mentions.
Less heralded than a lot of other really good thrash and grind records from this year, Ramming Speed straddles the gap between those two beautifully while including some downright heroic dual guitar lead action. This isn’t as savage as Nails or Noisem’s new records, but it’s more fun, arguably more memorable and more melodically executed, as if the band listened to a whole lot of Overkill and then tried fusing it to grind breaks. For those whose prefer a little extra melody with their brutality, this nearly-unhinged speedfest of a record is 2013’s poison of choice. “Grinding Dissent” is one of the best metal songs of this year, but the downhill grind of “Extinction Event” and the tongue-in-cheek carnage of “Anthems of Despair (Summer Jam)” show separate facets of why this band just completely and totally shreds.
Skeletonwitch is a long-running band of blackened thrash road dogs from Ohio who sound like they were spawned in the depths of Hell – that is, in a live setting. Their records have always been a little thinner; even though 2007’s Beyond the Permafrost had some particularly brilliant songwriting, the thin production did these guys no favors, and subsequent albums have improved negligibly without quite the same top-to-bottom song quality. So it’s all the more satisfying that the band picked this record to bring Kurt Ballou on as a producer, as Serpents Unleashed has the most consistent songwriting of any Skeletonwitch album while also being the equal of their instantly memorable live shows. It’s been the most successful record of theirs too, and with a high-profile tour in support of Amon Amarth set for early 2014, everything is finally coming together for a band that has always deserved more credit than they’ve gotten. Among the thrash revivalists that once rose up with them, Skeletonwitch stands alone.
As a longtime Clutch fanboy, I hate to admit that there aren’t a lot of Clutch albums I really love. Sure the self-titled is a classic, and Blast Tyrant was a gloriously updated new look for the band, but the rest of the discography tends toward records with three or four killer singles and some just okay songs around them. So I’m glad to say that Earth Rocker is the third truly great Clutch album, bringing back some of the early Clutch heft while keeping just enough of their new blues in play. The band made the right move in bringing Machine back to produce this record (his first since Blast Tyrant), as he nails both sides of their signature sound here. Equally shaking hips and leveling the room, Clutch remains the only band in heavy music that can pull off Motorhead-like burners and in-the-pocket blues rock jams equally.