There’s been a lot of great music this past year so it was tough to come up with a “best of list”. Instead, I wanted to put together a list of the albums that impacted me in some way, whether it be emotionally, professionally, or by sheer smack me in the face shockingly! These albums are not ranked in any particular order, but are rather listed by the categories I felt were most appropriate for them. So with further ado, here are the top 25 albums that got me through 2013:
Best Prog Metal:
1. Leprous – Coal – This band just seems to continue to reshape the way prog metal is going, and the direction they are taking the genre into is unbelievable.
2. Dream Theater – self-titled – DT continue to bang out solid releases, and this one is no different. They are the band that can never tire.
3. The Aurora Project – Selling the Aggression – I don’t know how many people know who these guys are, but they have such a seemlessly awesome blend of the dramatic and the heavy. Selling the Aggression hooks you in and makes you sing along while head banging.
4. Riverside – Shrines of New Generation Slaves – Going in a bluesier/70s rock vibe, this album grooves hard. I mean, how much funkier can you get than blues riffs in 7/8!
Best Prog Rock:
5. Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing and other Stories – I only have one word to describe this record; sick. Ok two words; beautiful.
6. Spock’s Beard – Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep – Lineup change after lineup change and this band still delivers. I just can’t help but feel happy when I’m listening to this record.
7. Big Big Train – English Electric Part Two – Precisely where I wanted the part two to go. Prog rock = yum.
8. Dawn of Midi – Dysnomia – I feel that everyone needs this record. It’s mesmerizing, it’s mind blowing, and to think that it’s all done live and through analog makes it that much cooler!
9. Levin Minnemann Rudess – Obviously this would be on my top list. You put my favorite bassist with my favorite keyboardist, and throw in one of my favorite drummers, well yeah, of course, I wasn’t expecting anything but face melting awesomeness.
Best Forget Your Troubles
10. Mutiny Within 2 – It’s just a solid record and every time I listen to it, I forget why I was ever in a bad mood to begin with.
Best Compilation/Derivitive Work:
11. Peter Gabriel – And I’ll Scratch Your’s – The anticipation of this album has been killing me for years. Finally it came out, and totally delivered.
12. Katatonia – Dethroned & Uncrowned – Semi-acoustic, minimal drums, and yet it remains just as heavy. Only Katatonia could pull something like this off.
13. The Pineapple Thief – Build a World – No matter the length, TPT always give you more bang for your buck. This EP does not let down.
14. Steven Wilson – Drive Home – And if Steven Wilson couldn’t do anymore, he does with this EP of brilliance.
Best Kind of Epic:
15. Tyr – Valkyrja – If you forgot to pick up your folk metal well this is the one for you. Crank it up and channel your inner viking.
16. Ayreon – The Theory of Everything – Hands down Ayreon’s best record to date from start to finish. Taking some time off is exactly what Arjen needed.
Best Forward Thinking:
17. Ulver – Messe – I never know what to expect from these guys, and I always love everything they put out. And it doesn’t matter how many times I play this record, I’m still hearing it as if for the first time. I couldn’t get sick of them if I tried!
Best Mash Up:
18. Wisdom of Crowds – How could Bruce Soord and Jonas Renske team up? And how could a record label provide these artists with the artistic juice to make it happen? Somehow the worlds of these two artists and KScope collided, and the result was a beautifully written and produced modern day alternative prog record.
Best Dramatic Monolgues:
19. Tarja – Colours in the Dark – Tarja as a solo artist keeps getting better and better. There is a consistency in this record that just makes it so operatically delicious and heavily rock.
20. Jon Oliva – Raise the Curtain – Like most people, I would love to see a Savatage reunion, BUT, despite that, the solo efforts of Jon Oliva is more than enough to settle for. Imagine a stage and broadway, imagine hard and precise guitars, and you’re listening to Raise the Curtain.
21. Anathema – Universal – In the last few years, Anathema have found a way to mesmerize and inspire me. When I think they’ve reached their peak, they surprise me again with something more outstanding, something more breath taking, and something more substantial. Universal is not only one of the best concerts that was fortunate enough to be filmed, it also makes you feel like you’re listening to an album of new music altogether.
Best Way to Relax:
22. Nosound – Afterthoughts – This record takes you out of your head and into a trance of comfort. Kinda like being gently dragged off on a bed of clouds.
23. Jordan Rudess – All that is Now – I’ve always found piano music to be soothing. Rudess impresses with technical ability and massages the mind.
24. The Flaming Lips – The Terror – Absolutely dark, but absolutely breath taking and meditative at the same time.
Best Way to Melt Your Face:
25. Sigur Ros – Kveikur – This album takes intensity to a new level. With an opening track that starts off industrial and the anticipation of angst, to the more classic, shoegaze hypnosis that Sigur Ros is known for, this album is the only way to achieve true face melting.