Every year feels like the best year in metal and 2013 was no exception. To discuss what shone the brightest, the Shrapnel team sent each other one too many emails to discuss and debate. Involved in the conversation was Blackrat guitarist and vocalist Ian Lemke, Chieftain and Frightenstein drummer Tanner Wolff, Hellborn Death Engines guitarist Brandon McNeil and Smolder drummer Sarah Kitteringham, all regular Shrapnel contributors. Given that we’re all pals and drunken shit heads, some of it was self-celebratory. Mostly though, it was a celebration of all the incredible metal, extreme and otherwise, which came out or was performed in front of us this year.
Sarah Kitteringham: It feels like 2013 has been the best year for metal in a long time. It might be because our metal scene is among the strongest and biggest in Canada. It’s also because between four of us, when we compiled our list of our 10 favourite albums, there were only a handful of overlaps. As for local bands, we had great records from across the spectrum! The Weir, WAKE, Sigil, Blackrat, Gatekrashör, False Flag, Chron Goblin, Vile Insignia, Doberman, Phantom Limb, Exit Strategy, Bloated Pig, 10 other bands… all of you put out strong albums. Our many, many rip roaring local shows reflected this.
Ian Lemke: Noctis is an obvious frontrunner for best show every year, but in all honesty last year’s lineup was rather more up my alley. Still, Possessed, Barbatos, Satan’s Satyrs and Bölzer meant the seven-year-old fest had a proper burial. Next to Noctis, J. Destroyer’s (Savage Streets, Fornication) Fuck Off Life proved that you don’t have to fly bands from across the globe to have a ripping time. Ominosity, BurialKult, and Runeblade were highlights. Can’t wait to see what madness ensues next year, Satan willing.
Tanner Wolff: Calgary’s thriving metal scene has always had somewhat of a dual community, but 2013 marks the year where both sub-communities have had plenty to look forward to. Whether you bought your Calgary Metal Fest three-day pass weeks in advance or you were more drawn to the stellar Fuck Off Life festival, there was something for you. This has continued almost every weekend. Multiple venues hosted metal bands, and frequently three shows a night were going on, and all of them had high attendance. Division and specification can be a healthy thing in such a large system as the Calgary metal community.
SK: True. I’ve been getting more and more into the extreme, dark side of things when it comes to Calgary bands, so certain gigs stand out for the music as much as the drunken shenanigans and broken glass. As for Noctis, I think it was pitch perfect: can’t complain whatsoever about seeing Bölzer, Candlemass, Girlschool, Carcass and Exciter. Blasphemy was hugely anticipated, but unsurprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly, sloppy. As for other festivals, at Roadburn Festival, Asphyx and the Ruins of Beverast were highlights. Maryland Death Festival was a blast. Seeing Cobalt, Bolt Thrower, Pagan Altar… Damn.
IL: My own personal trip to The Gorge in Washington to see Black Sabbath for the first, and probably last time, was the misadventure of a lifetime, not entirely relating to the music. An adequate performance with almost the original lineup was the climax of a ten-day binge which took us to the EMP museum in Seattle, all-night bowling alleys, illegal sand-dune campsites infested with meth dealers, and tetanus-inducing squatter hangouts. But I digress! One hundred long stories short, 2013 ruled.
SK: Pretty much. Trying to even cull my best of list down to ten albums was a problem. Doom is my one and only true love, so I was drooling this entire year over everything from classic doom, to weird-ass hybrid bands. Magic Circle’s Magic Circle, Sacriphyx’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Ruins of Beverast’s Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer, Procession’s To Reap Heavens Apart, Funeral Circle’s Funeral Circle, and House of Atreus’ Into the Brazen Bull were amazing. I can’t recommend Atlantean Kodex’s The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth) enough. Inquisition’s Season of Mist debut slayed. So did Bölzer’s Aura EP, Portal’s Vexovoid, Cult of Fire’s मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान and Canadian black metallers Monarque’s Lys Noir. Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance features some serious metal anthems. Don’t like it? FOAD!
TW: Gorguts’ Colored Sands, Carcass’ Surgical Steel, Nocturnal Graves’ …From the Bloodline of Cain, Abyssal’s Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius, Exhumed’s Necrocracy, and Cult of Luna’s Vertikal should be added to the list.
Brandon McNeil: Revocation wins this round, hands down and probably for the foreseeable future. The amount of technical musicianship, unique style and flat-out boner-inspiring guitar work that Dave Davidson and the gang crammed into that record is downright terrifying to an up-and-comer like myself. We’ve all got to step our game really hard if we’re ever going to compare to that. Other than that, I really dug The Black Dahlia Murder’s Everblack, Motörhead’s Aftershock, Kalmah’s Seventh Swamphony, and Death Angel’s The Dream Calls For Blood.
IL: There were going to be some overlaps, but too many good albums need mentioning. So, I’m throwing my votes in for Shitfucker’s Suck Cocks In Hell, Vastum’s Patricidal Lust, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats’ Mind Control and Nekrofilth’s Devil’s Breath. Alongside those, I really dug Obliteration’s Black Death Horizon, Condor’s Condor, Witchgrave’s Witchgrave, and Burialkult’s A Call From Beyond the Grave.
SK: So much variety. It’s almost a bit insane to see that. I thought by this point the quality and thus popularity of doom metal that really has been peaking since 2007 would have tapered off. Not so. Also, death metal seemed pretty stagnant last year. This year, it seems like a lot of people are playing with the template and making seriously innovative music. As per usual, black metal was consistent. But that’s not to say everything has been great: I’m already getting sick of some of the Canadian NWOTHM bands. Not Iron Dogs though. They do it right. There have been a few other shitty things about 2013 too.
IL: Torment in Fire’s abrupt cancellation was the biggest bummer, as well as the new tour tax, although I think its effects are yet to be truly felt. Also, I don’t think the end of Noctis will totally sink in until next September, which I’m sure will be a depressing time for all of us. Hopefully, something else fills its massive void. Only time will tell.
BM: I’m going to go with this year being overflowed with garbage, down tuned “djent” releases. Dave Brockie did an interview recently and referred to the stuff as “sounding like a bunch of instruments being thrown down the stairs” and he’s absolutely right. All these bands like Veil of Maya, Periphery, Rings of Saturn, Born Of Osiris and their ilk can take their stupid, new wave, post-prog nonsense and let the next fad come in anytime now.
TW: For 2014, I am making an honest effort to have very few expectations. This affords me the ability to be surprised and lends a sense of purity to the year. I am extremely proud and excited to be releasing a record with Chieftain and I can’t wait to see what the year holds in store for my talented friends in countless bands across this city. I am confidant the community’s lust for heavy metal and less than sober shenanigans will prevail and make 2014 a rad year all around. Up the horns and keep it fast and loud!
By Team Shrapnel
Live photos: Sarah Kitteringham