To say we are surprised by some of the names on our Top Ten list is an understatement. There were some magnificent surprises in 2013. Not least the wonderful moments on Volition and Dream Theater. Leprous continued their foray into Progressive Metal superbly, despite having to follow Bilateral. Jolly somehow pulled off part 2 of a great album. Blue October stepped back from the over production and let Justin’s awesome voice command the album Sound of Contact came from nowhere with a brilliant offering. Haken stepped a little away from metal to produce an album full of quirk and charm. Steven Wilson hit us with some kind of doom-funk in his solo album’s opener. Biffy Clyro kicked the whole year off with a bang. Opposites got us all arguing at the start of the year and that’s always a good thing. There are some very notable omissions too: Coheed and Cambria, Children of Bodom, Avenged Sevenfold and the mighty Black Sabbath. This is a Top Ten however not a Top Twenty or Top Thirty, and we have embraced all genres in our list, although we obviously lean very unapologetically towards rock. Our apologies for some great albums that failed to make this list, and there were a few. We have compiled a list of honourable mentions below the list, which will give you an idea of who just failed to make the list.
SO HERE WE GO
STEVEN WILSON – THE RAVEN THAT REFUSED TO SING
It’s all doom and gloom with Steven Wilson and his solo Progressive Rock masterpiece. Typically Porcupine Tree with its quiet passages and softly exuded vocals before giving way to the epic, anthemic wall of sound that is so typical of the man. What stands out for us though is the album opener ‘Luminol’. Since when did he get funky? Compelling bass with a wonderfully upbeat rhythm eventually gives way to slower and dark passages. Such a lot of style and all in one opening track. Superb track, great album.
BIFFY CLYRO – OPPOSITES
Whilst we’re not completely sure why 80 minutes of music has to be split into 2 different discs, we are completely sure that this album is wonderfully produced and written once more. Yes the arguments rage on whether the Biffs have stepped over to much to the pop side of their music, but this remains an awesome rock album. Yes take note…ROCK album. Wonderful vocals and harmonies, hints of PUZZLE like production, Biffy Clyro stand alongside Andy Murray as doing Scotland proud. Okay we thought they might take a more progressive approach with this album or at least a heavier one, but don’t dismiss this as pop music. It most seriously is not, and there is so much more to come from these guys, so give them some credit for being the standard bearers they are. Great album with marvelous highs.
SOUND OF CONTACT – DIMENSIONAUT
Well it has to be said that this is one hell of a progressive rock debut album. Collins, Kerzner, Nordstrom and Dorsey have combined to put together a quite beautiful and uplifting album at times. This is probably a lot lighter than the rest of our list but it has some great hairs standing up on the back of the neck moments. Great musicianship and yes, we know Simon Collins is the son of Phil Collins and you might expect the vocals to be good, but this is his best vocal performance by a mile. Buy it, chill out and let the music take you drifting off.
BLUE OCTOBER – SWAY
Gone is the over heavy production of the previous album and in its place we have a much crisper leaner sound that we thank God for. Justin Furstenfeld is God’s gift to the human voice.Hold on a minute, I’m an atheist. Well Justin’s voice rocks. Surely the logical successor to Peter Gabriel, the leaner and meaner arrangements allow him to excel with a selection of finely crafted songs. It’s not heavy, it’s not progressive, it is however, bloody brilliant! Treat yourselves to one of the finest voices in rock music ever. All hail, King Justin.
JOLLY – THE AUDIO GUIDE TO HAPPINESS – PART 2
Yet another progressive rock album makes the Vinylization Top Ten. A mixture of prog, metal and a whiff of pop sends this album spinning across a range of musical genres. Sneakily complex music compels the listener to play it again and again to discover these delights. Varied and edgy compositions form a layered musical landscape to capture the imagination of the tech-freaks and those who long for simplicity. It’s all here.
AMORPHIS – CIRCLE
Well you might be as surprised as we are to see this here. Amorphis have been around a long time and they have skipped across our radar, without so much as a passing mention from us, and yet here they are. So what have they done differently? Well nothing much to be honest, but…the band do what they do well with what seem like much stronger songs overall. The wall of sound provides some wonderfully epic sounding tracks. Years of experience have been honed into what is an excellent album. Maybe it’s just time we gave the band some credit or maybe it’s just a blood great album.
HAKEN – THE MOUNTAIN
If there was a truly great album of 2011, it was without doubt Haken’s ‘Visions’, with it’s ridiculously brilliantly title track and the brooding ‘Shapeshifter. An absolute ‘must have’ in any one’s collection. So how the hell do you follow a release like that? Well I guess the answer is, you don’t. What you do is produce an album that moves away from the previous one and explores different areas. Slightly less metal but a little more adventurous, Haken get seriously quirky and remind us very much of the likes of Shaolin Death Squad (ahem, new album boys please). Having said that, Haken have an identity all of their own and the musical ability to go where other bands fear to tread. Innovative and surprising, this is surely only the beginning for these glorious pushers of boundaries.
DREAM THEATER – DREAM THEATER
If Justin Furstenfeld is God’s gift to the human voice, then John Petrucci is surely God’s gift to the guitar, infuriating 7 string owners everywhere in their relentless drive to play Dream Theater compositions. We actually don’t think that this album is as good as A Dramatic Turn Of Events but, it is still good enough to make number 3 on the 2013 list. On the plus side Petrucci is in brilliant form once more, Mangini has more of a personal contribution to the album. Not only does it provide us with the usual technical excesses, it also broods emotion. All this and the boys provide us with a 22 minute epic final track. You should seriously add this to your collection. It’s Dream Theater, enough said.
LEPROUS – COAL
Leprous had a similar problem to Haken. How do you follow a brilliant previous album? Leprous decided to get altogether more darker and brooding, and it works. The songs don’t switch between styles like Bilateral’s did, but they do retain that undeniable strangeness that we have come to embrace. The vocals remain melodramatic in a good way and the whole dark atmosphere compels us to put this at number 2, in case our souls are lost forever. Well, that and we love it.
and our number 1 album of 2013 is…
PROTEST THE HERO – VOLITION
Well not only is this our number 1 album of the year, it was also the biggest surprise of the year for us. We have never been quite sure of the guitar work, as superb as it might be. It always seemed to be a little overdone to us in the past. Nevertheless the quality of Protest The Hero has never been in dispute. In the past the songs never seemed quite good enough and the vocals just were not strong enough. With the release of Volition, not only have the band put together some beautifully crafted songs but Rody Walker has delivered some great vocal work. Yes, the constant guitar work may be too much for some, but there are some really elegant moments in this material as well as the technical proficiency. Vinylization say well done to Protest The Hero for realising their undoubted potential with this album.
Absolutely brilliant and absolutely Number 1.
Voivod – Target Earth
British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy
Alter Bridge – Fortress
Haim – Days Are Gone
Killswitch Engage – Disarm The Descent
Avatarium – Avatarium
Stone Sour – House of Gold and Bones Part 2
Clutch – Earth Rocker
Finntroll – Blodsvept
Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal