BW&BK 2013: The Scribes Speak – Carl Begai

So, once again, a wrap-up of the Hots and Nots from the year gone by courtesy of my day job at BW&BK. The whole rundown of Brave Embarrassments, Best Concerts, assorted predictions and pleas to stop music industry stupidity can all be found here.

Below you’ll find my Top 10 list of favourite albums of 2013 and a long-winded summary of why the year didn’t suck for music… at least in my world.

Top Ten – 2013

2) CHILDREN OF BODOM – Halo Of Blood (Nuclear Blast)
3) STRYPER – No More Hell To Pay (Frontiers)
4) QUEENSRŸCHE – s/t (Century Media)
5) HEADSTONES – Love & Fury (Universal/Frostbyte)
6) DUSKMACHINE – Duskmachine (Massacre)
7) THE NEW BLACK – III: Cut Loose (AFM)
8) JAMES LABRIE – Impermanent Resonance (InsideOut)
9) THRAWSUNBLAT – Wanderer On The Continent Of Saplings (Ignifera Records)
10) HELLOWEEN – Straight Out Of Hell (Sony)

Looking back on 2013, it was the predicted 12 month rollercoaster of triumph and tragedy in the metal world.

Arguably the two biggest attention-getters were Black Sabbath’s return with 13 – minus Bill Ward, unfortunately – and the death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away on May 2nd at the age of 49. If folks are being honest, nobody expected Ozzy / Iommi / Butler to deliver a noteworthy album let alone take it on an international tour and live to tell about it. Hanneman’s passing was a staggering shock to the system; Slayer’s been around so long and remains so vital to the scene that it’s easy to forget the people behind the music are mere mortals.

The epic kick in the ass on a personal level was the quality and energy of live shows attended this year. And there were a surprising number of ’em. Didn’t see a single show where the band phoned in their performance, and the audiences gave back in a big way. Gotta say there’s nothing like seeing homeboy Danko Jones play to an armpit-to-elbow packed house of 800+ people when he has problems getting serious attention in Toronto. Y&T was the bucket list show for the year (vocalist/guitarist Dave Meniketti is unreal), and Kamelot managed to burn their Munich gig into the back of my skull with a killer set and easily the best lightshow ever crammed into a club. Annihilator took the prize, however, playing clubs to the largest crowds they’ve had in years across Europe. The gig in question (Nuremberg) was a barnstormer not only due to the band’s killer performance, but they played to a crowd well suited for festival-sized mayhem.

I was also schooled in the stupidity of judging a book by its cover. Swedish/Dutch sextet Amaranthe, whom I dismissed early on as being too pretty / too pop / too polished, succeeded in pasting me to the back wall of the venue with a crushing full-on metal set. So damn impressive that I travelled 200 km to catch them support Stratovarius a week later.

And oddly enough, a year later I find myself referencing Queensrÿche and Nightwish once again.

For the Todd La Torre fronted ‘Rÿche, who managed to bring back their old school sound on a new album, they’ll find out in early 2014 if they get to keep the band name. Hell knows they deserve it given the quality of the record versus former singer Geoff Tate’s ham-fisted attempts at cashing in on what really is his past.

As for Nightwish, I applaud them for making vocalist Floor Jansen’s position as their singer official. She’s perfectly suited to the band’s sound, she can sing anything from their catalogue, and as I discovered is totally committed to making Chapter 3 in Nightwish singer history the last one. Their new DVD/CD Showtime, Storytime is highly recommended as a taste of what’s to come once Jansen hits the studio in July.

Finally, two personal fave comebacks: Headstones and Saigon Kick, the former having been buzzed about for quite some time and the latter signaling the end of close to 20 years of in-fighting. The Headstones did not disappoint with the Love & Fury album; here’s hoping Saigon Kick hits the studio in 2014.