We'll be collecting together favourite albums (and more) of the year from the FG team soon but to kick things off, here are my top fifteen albums of the 2013. Listen to tracks from each album (including the likes of Pearl Jam and Clutch) in the YouTube playlist below.
15: Alice In Chains – 'The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here'
In 15th place, a comeback from a band who must be the least prolific veterans of all time. Lead by the evergreen Jerry Cantrell, Alice In Chains released album number 5 and their 2nd since the death of Layne Staley. Must hear: 'Stone'.
14: Ministry – 'From Beer To Eternity'
This is maybe the third attempt at a last, as in final, Ministry album but it’s by far the best of the last ones. 'From Beer To Eternity' is not the most promising title but Al Jourgensen still has a lot to say and the album is a fitting tribute to guitarist Mike Scaccia who sadly died this year. Must hear: 'Punch In The Face'
13: Phil Anselmo And The Illegals – 'Walk Through Exits Only'
Phil Anselmo is going through an intensely productive phase right now and this album is comfortably my favourite of his recent output. It doesn’t have to be anything other than an exercise in extreme music with no holds barred and there’s a great sense of freedom as a result. Must hear: 'Battalion Of Zero'
12: Pearl Jam – 'Buenos Aires, AR 3-April-2013'
The first of several live albums in the list, for which 2013 was an excellent year. Pearl Jam released a new studio album this year that was only so-so but this live set is an absolute cracker. There are a vast multitude of Pearl Jam live albums but this one tops them all, capturing a cracking live performance in front of an amazingly amped and vocal audience. Must hear: 'In Hiding'
11: Humble Pie – 'Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore: The Complete Recordings'
Recently reviewed here on FG this is a truly phenomenal document of a band on top form raising their game to amazing heights. The production quality is quite outstanding and the seventies never sounded so good. Steve Marriott shows what a genius he was, making his subsequent and fatal decline even sadder. Must hear: 'I’m Ready'
10: Baroness – 'Live At Maida Vale'
Baroness were in the UK touring their terrific studio album 2012’s 'Yellow And Green' when an horrific road accident literally ripped the band apart. This session was recorded before the event and has a wonderful energy and freedom, sounding full of confidence. Baroness have happily survived the turmoil and are back touring with a new lineup, finishing their recent UK tour with a brilliant show at the Electric Ballroom. Must hear: 'Take My Bones Away'
9: Ihsahn – 'Das Seelenbrechen'
Ihsahn is a giant of the Norwegian black metal scene, his career starting with the band Emperor. This solo album represents a slight departure into a compositional territory explored by the likes of Anathema and Opeth of late. But this is highly original and a first rate piece of music making. Must hear: 'Regen'
8: Earthless – 'From The Ages'
Instrumental psych rock of the highest order from Earthless, led by the guitar of Isaiah Mitchell, backed by the bass and drums of Mike Eglinton and Mario Rubalcaba. In a neat reverse of some of the other albums on the list, this is a renowned live band really cutting the mustard in the studio. Must hear: 'Equus October', 'Violence Of The Red Sea'
7: Church Of Misery – 'Thy Kingdom Scum'
Church Of Misery are Japanese heavyweights who make albums of songs about serial killers (with a cover always thrown in for good measure), and despite numerous line-up changes, their sound remains remarkably consistent. This album gives the rhythm section more space than usual, which is beneficial. Must hear: 'Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)', 'Lambs To The Slaughter (Ian Brady/Myra Hindley)'
6: High On Fire – 'Spitting Fire Live Vols 1 & 2'
Matt Pike has finally shed the burden of 'Sleep’s Holy Mountain' and established his band High On Fire as the highpoint of his career. This double album represents a level of commitment that has sometimes been missing from their shows, but on this occasion well and truly nails their colours to the mast. Impressive indeed. Must hear: 'Snakes For The Divine', '10,000 Years'
5: Corrections House – 'Last City Zero'
Scott Kelly of Neurosis heads up this noisy post-rock supergroup featuring members of Eyehategod, Minsk and Yakuza. It’s an intense listen and features a variety of styles in communicating a bleak message. In the main it has a strong industrial groove that carries the listener through the wreckage of the American dream. Must hear: 'Serve Or Survive', 'Drapes Hung By Jesus'
4: Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – 'Black Pudding'
We reviewed this earlier this year and it has remained a firm favourite ever since. The prolific Mark Lanegan’s strongest work for a long time and a very fruitful partnership with the multi-talented Duke Garwood. I hope they do it again but for now this is a massively good album. Must hear: 'Death Rides A White Horse', 'Cold Molly'
3: Clutch – 'Earth Rocker'
Simply the best rock and roll band on earth! Now veterans of the scene, their live performances are incendiary and their musicianship is outstanding. Clutch continue to write great songs on this their 10th studio album – quite a rare feat in itself. Must hear: 'D.C. Sound Attack!', 'Oh Isabella', 'Earth Rocker'
2: Jesu – 'Everyday I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came'
Reviewed on FG recently, this is Justin Broadrick’s solo project at its very best. He has an amazing CV and puts all of his accumulated experience into the extended workout at the blazing core of this album, 'The Great Leveller'. The rest of the album is pretty damned good too. Must hear: 'The Great Leveller', 'Homesick', 'Comforter'
1: Cult of Luna – 'Vertikal'
The 10/10 we gave this album back in January could well have been a hostage to fortune. But this album has stood the test of time in remarkably robust fashion and it rather easily tops my list this year. Courageous, uncompromising and quite brilliant, 'Vertikal' has a depth and ferocity that makes for a compelling listen. Must hear: 'In Awe Of', 'I: The Weapon', 'The One'
Read more of Simon's work here and find him at @nxgater.