Ever since 2012, at the end of the year, after I’ve had enough time to digest everything from the past 365 days, I write up a list of what I think were the best albums and songs in the metal world (out of whatever I had listened to). Every year, I pick out what I thought were not just the best songs and albums and fill out a list of categories I’ve created. However, 2013 proved to be problematic, as nothing truly earth-shattering was released this year. It makes for a very difficult to pick favorites when nothing stood out, but lets see what I can come up with!
As I just mentioned, there was nothing particularly *great* in 2013. However, I was very happy with “Blodsvept” by FINNTROLL. I like the direction they’re going in, I like their new sound, and this album is lots of fun to listen to. It wasn’t earth-shattering by any means, but it’s certainly good enough to get this vote.
Unfortunately, I have no winner for this award. It’s pretty common for my favorite song of the year to come from my favorite album, but in this case, I enjoyed the album as sort of a whole, completely, and no one song lashed out at me and dragged me into its depths. So though there were many good songs this year, I am unwilling to label one the ultimate champion over all others.
MOST EPIC SONG
The Most Epic Song was a bit easier. For one, there were not many bands that I listen to that put out big epic songs this year. Though DREAM THEATER released some great material, their songs are so long that it’s usually only part of the song that I love. As such, I’m going to give this one to HELLOWEEN for “Nabataea.” That song was an immensely good throwback to their older material with a bit of new flare and I enjoyed it probably as much as the rest of the album combined.
BEST SLOW SONG
The Best Slow Song was again no contest. While I often harshly criticize AMARANTHE for their generic-sounding, catchy, poppy fast songs that all sound the exact same, they have been consistently hitting home runs with their slow songs. “Burn With Me” is a very passionate, emotional track, and it tugged on some chords within me that made this an easy choice. It is an easy successor to their winning slow song of 2011, “Amaranthine.”
MOST CHILLING SONG
Most Chilling Song usually goes to a track that gives you goosebumps for its soul-wrenching qualities. Past winners were “Time” by WINTERSUN (2012), “Huuto” by MOONSORROW (2011), and “Curse My Name” by BLIND GUARDIAN (2010). Remember how I said that not a single album in 2013 really gripped me? Well, there was certainly nothing in 2013 to claim this award as a result.
BEST COVER SONG
Best Cover Song didn’t have many… or even any contenders this year, at least that I heard about, save maybe WITHIN TEMPTATION‘s okay cover of “Radioactive” by IMAGINE DRAGONS. I was about to announce “no winner” in this category until I was reminded that CHILDREN OF BODOM did a version of “Sleeping in My Car” by ROXETTE. I’ll give them credit – while I’m not a huge fan of the band, they usually do quite well with their covers and that happens to be my favorite ROXETTE song.
I often have a hard time picking the Best Solo/Riff of the year, because my knowledge of music is rather limited, technically speaking. Sometimes the choice is obvious, like in 2010’s winner, “The Lights are Many” by KIUAS. The keyboard solo in that song still gives me chills to this day. However, 2011 didn’t have a winner because there were no great solos that caught my attention. But, since I spent a good portion of 2013 complaining about “Turisas2013,” I’d like to give TURISAS a little credit for their drinking song, “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea.” There was not nearly enough violin audible in that album, so that song made me really happy. Not only could you hear the incredibly talented Olli Vänskä for the first time during the whole album, but he was amazing. I can happily give this award to TURISAS and ignore the weird Alvin and the Chipmunks that kind of ruined the song as a whole.
Best Instrumental. Hmm, did I even hear an instrumental track in 2013? DREAM THEATER had some unbelievable instrumental work on their self-titled album, but they weren’t full instrumental tracks, so no winner.
BIGGEST POSITIVE SURPRISE
And, since every album that I expected to be good was good, and every album that I expected to be terrible was terrible, there was also no winner for Biggest Positive Surprise.
BEST NEW DISCOVERY
Likewise, I didn’t discover any amazing new bands in 2013, so there was no winner for Best New Discovery. Orphaned Land isn’t a new or remotely new band, so they aren’t eligible by my made-up rules for this.
Now, most years bands part ways with certain members or with each other in general. NIGHTWISH lost Tarja Turunen in 2005, NORTHER dropped Pete Lindroos in 2009, and ICED EARTH lost, regained, and lost Matt Barlow again over the span of several years and albums. This year, the saddest thing to break my heart was KIUAS’ decision to disband. They have been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to them when I moved to Finland in 2009, and I am actively convinced that the reason they made this decision was because Ilja Jalkanen was genuinely irreplaceable as a vocalist. Since his departure broke my heart in 2010, I suppose this one was to be expected in the end. Thanks for the great albums and unbelievable live shows. “Lustdriven” will always remain one of my favorite albums.
With the sadness of loss, there is often joy in the selection of new members. In 2012, the saddest farewell was given to Anette Olzon when she gave up on NIGHTWISH. While she was never my first choice for Tarja’s replacement, I still enjoyed the music she made with NIGHTWISH. However, there is no doubt in my mind that Floor Jansen is exactly the kind of vocalist I would’ve picked if I had been given the choice. I loved her with AFTER FOREVER, and I loved her as the replacement vocalist for Anette over the summer. I am delighted that they made the situation permanent (and special mention to the addition of Troy Donockley), but the Best Replacement is undeniably Floor Jansen in NIGHTWISH.
BEST COVER ART
Best Cover Art is usually a great award to give, because I don’t need to love the album to love its cover art. this was, yet again, a tricky one. Both HAKEN and FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE had album art that pretty thoroughly matched the album names, and I’m a huge fan of Samuli Ponsimaa‘s (FINNTROLL) art. However, this will have to go to AYREON for the rather evocative art for the concept album, “The Theory of Everything.” The crashing, crushing waves against the tower really work well with the concept.
BEST LIVE SHOW
This category may have had the most contenders. I managed to see a few bands live for the first time this year, some of which were surprisingly good. One example is that I saw MANOWAR for the first time in my life in 2013. They didn’t even make the top three. Anyways, the runners up for 2013 were THE DARKNESS, with their crazy stage performance, and encore with the vocalist riding around on his brother’s shoulders in the crowd, and any NIGHTWISH gig I saw with Floor Jansen. Seeing Tuomas Holopainen smiling like that warmed my heart. They didn’t win this one though, because they’re only just starting their new life together and I expect them to remain contenders for the award when their next album is released. With that said, the ultimate gig of 2013 was undoubtedly KIUAS’ farewell show. I’ve never seen anything like it. They had every member they’ve ever had performing with them, which at times meant two keyboardists, two drummers, and two vocalists together. The only complaint I had about it was that there were some truly awkward moments, like when Asim Searah started to try and publicly make amends for whatever happened, and then proceeded to do, yet again, a terrible job of “Lights are Many.” But I love KIUAS with Ilja Jalkanen so much that I’m willing to forgive that (especially since Searah did do a great job of “The Visionary”) and still award them with the show of the year because I’ve never seen anything like it, and don’t expect to see anything like it again.
BEST MUSIC VIDEO
When it comes to music videos, it’s always a tough call. It’s very subjective, and I myself am a bit judgmental when it comes to what I’m seeing my bands do in their videos. Though AMARANTHE’s “The Nexus” had an interesting first-person-shooter thing going on, I ultimately am going to go for something simpler in picking a favorite. “The Wanderer” by AMORPHIS was set to a simple yet nicely-done video of the band performing the track. Sometimes less is more, and for 2013’s selection of videos, I think they nailed it. I could’ve given the award to DARK TRANQUILLITY for “Construct” or AVENGED SEVENFOLD for “Hail to the King” on the same criteria, but in the end, I liked AMORPHIS’ song better, so they took it. I’ll give a special mention to another runner up, WITHIN TEMPTATION featuring Tarja Turunen, for their video for “Paradise (What About Us?).” It was a cool video; I just wish I knew the story behind it.
New bands in 2013? Hmm, there was Anette Olzon‘s solo work, but it was more or less what was expected, which was good but not great. I may have to call no-winner on this one.
At this point, I’ll express my condolences over the loss of Clive Burr, Jeff Hanneman, Claudio Leo, and any other artists who passed away in 2013. I never listened to SLAYER, and I don’t know much about the musicians from LACUNA COIL, but Clive Burr was the original drummer from a band that greatly changed my life as a teenager, and surely without these musicians’ contributions to music, many lives would be different today. Farewell and rest in peace.
So, that’s it. I just wasn’t blown away with anything new that came out in 2013… at least not enough to actually name a best song. However, I’m going to leave on a positive note and list some of the albums that I’m looking forward to in 2014, in the hopes that some of them make nominations for these awards in early 2015!
Albums to look for in 2014:
1. Iced Earth – “Plagues of Babylon”
2. Within Temptation – “Hydra”
3. Sonata Arctica – “Pariah’s Child”
4. Lacuna Coil – “Broken Crown Halo”
5. Delain – “The Human Contradiction”
6. Tuomas Holopainen – “Music Inspired by The Life and Times of Scrooge”
7. Sabaton – “Heroes”
8. Wintersun – “Time II”
1. Best New Album: Finntroll – “Blodsvept”
2. Best New Song: n/a
3. Best Folk Album: Finntroll – “Blodsvept”
4. Most Epic Song: Helloween – “Nabataea”
5. Best Slow Song: Amaranthe – “Burn With Me”
6. Most Chilling Song: n/a
7. Best Cover Song: Children of Bodom – “Sleeping in my Car” (Roxette cover)
8. Best Solo/Riff: Turisas – “No Good Story Ever Starts with Drinking Tea”
9. Best Instrumental: n/a
10. Best New Discovery: n/a
11. Saddest Farewell: Kiuas’ disbanding
12. Best Replacement: Nightwish – Floor Jansen
13. Best Cover Art: Ayreon – “The Theory of Everything”
14. Best Live Show: Kiuas – farewell gig at Nosturi
15. Best Music Video: Amorphis – “The Wanderer”
16. Most Potential: n/a
Written by Bear Wiseman
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”