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20 Best Metal Albums of 2013

The year’s wildest, smartest, most intense heavy music

Heavy Metal Albums

Courtesy of Reprise Records; Courtesy of Peaceville; Courtesy of Deathwish; Courtesy of Century Media Records

Are these the most extremely extreme albums of the year? No, they're more interesting and exciting than that. If there's a thread running through these records, it is a lack of purity, a willingness to mess with metal's structures and strictures. Here are Rolling Stone's 20 favorite metal albums of 2013.

Contributors: Joe Gross, Kory Grow and David Marchese

In Solitude, "Sister"

Courtesy of Metal Blade Records

4

In Solitude, ‘Sister’

With singer Pelle Ahmen's fight-the-horde belt leading these Swedes into battle, this black mass functions much like Sonic Youth's Sister:"a smart band putting the pieces together in a way that both solidifies and futzes with their sound adding goth rock textures to old school Scandinavian thrash worship, making for a record that sounds both more accessible and more personal.  

Windhand, 'Soma'

Courtesy of Relapse Records

3

Windhand, ‘Soma’

If Windhand played the songs on Soma any faster, they just might sound like a punk band. But because most of the Virginia doom crew's oeuvre maintains a pulse just above flat lining, they constructed a mournful yowl they can call their own. Their secret weapon – other than heaping servings of feedback – is frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell, whose vocals sound as if she's singing them from another realm, breaking through some gauze of reality. Judging from how Soma turned out, the rest of Windhand should encourage her to get comfortable in that headspace.

Kvelertak, 'Meir'

Courtesy of Roadrunner

2

Kvelertak, ‘Meir’

Two minutes and forty-five seconds into "Bruane Brenn," the Norwegian sextet brings its maelstrom to a halt and lets some light in, as the guitarists Vidar Landa, Bjarte Lund Rolland, and Maciek Ofstad let loose some major key licks — it's as heroically epic a moment as rock delivered in 2013. That sort of savage beauty is all over Meir, the band's second effort. Even when frontman Erlend Hjelvik is growling and roaring, as on "Evig Vandrar," the band injects a glorious AOR approachability. It may not be pure, but it's purely thrilling. 

Deafheaven, "Sunbather"

Courtesy of Deathwish

1

Deafheaven, ‘Sunbather’

Part black metal scream, part shoegaze blur, all emotional overload, complete with a pink cover and a title implying that the musicians therein do, indeed, go outside, Sunbather was a mind-blower, bowling over innocent listeners with fist-pumping hooks that wouldn't sound out of place on whatever U2 is finishing up. To paraphrase their sonic forefathers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, "Sunbather" raise its skinny fists like antennas to heaven, while keeping a toe in hell.

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