Like some people do, each December I always find it stimulating to look at the soon-to-be-over year and summarize all that has transpired in its past months. For us metalheads, that translates into “Best of the Year” lists and noteworthy events in the metal world. We’re fortunate to live in an age in which the music we love is quite alive, healthy and varied, with dozens of bands providing us with tons of quality material each year. Some of those acts are new, some are old, and some are… unexpected. Regardless of your preference in metal genres there’s no doubt that some of the most expected and talked about records of the year were those created by recently reunited bands. Oh yes! Those loved and hated comeback albums!
No doubt 2013 saw a lot of interesting comeback releases. A few of those came from some of metal’s greatest bands ever while others came from more obscure acts. Some were amazing, some were good, and some were so-so. A handful of them generated a lot of hype while others were barely noticed. Well, guess what? We’re here to briefly discuss and pinpoint 10 comeback albums that fit one or several of those characteristics.
Now, before any doubts appear let’s make it clear that by “comeback” I’m referring to bands that had split and later reunited. So, we’ll discard the work of outfits that took a long while to come up with new material but weren’t officially disbanded, like Fates Warning or Extol, who released new records in 2013 after a long hiatus. Bands that had ceased to be and now live again made the albums of this list.
Black Sabbath – 13
We shall start with the most impressive of them. Why not? Black Sabbath’s 13 album is actually their 19th overall and their eighth studio record with Ozzy Osbourne behind the mic. But what’s most impressive is the fact that these metal gents are sixty-plus years old and still got the minerals to put some monstrous shows and craft some quality doom/heavy metal tunes. And while this album certainly isn’t on par with their classic seventies material (some missed Bill Ward’s wild drumming), it has no dearth of quality either, with thunderous seven-plus minute compositions boasting Iommi’s riffage, Geezer’s rich throbbing bass lines and Ozzy’s signature wails that bear the royal seal of the house, the oldest one in the metal realm. Sure, Sabbath are long past their prime, but to come up with such a mighty effort at this point in their career is plainly amazing.
Broken Hope – Omen of Disease
This death metal ensemble from Chicago, Illinois perhaps never were one of the top death metal bands of their time but they produced five solid albums during the 90s. Around 2007 the band members discussed the possibility of a reunion, though those plans were hindered by the unfortunate suicide of long-time vocalist Joe Ptacek. Fourteen years after their last record was released, Omen of Disease finally came to be, again showcasing these guys passion for gruesome old-school death metal, empowered with a muscular modern production and a spectacular Wes Benscoter cover artwork. They found a suitable replace for Ptacek in Gorgasm’s frontman Tom Leski, who provides this new incarnation of Broken Hope with inhumanly low brutal growls.
Carcass – Surgical Steel
As one of the most influential death metal bands ever to plague the Earth, Carcass had reunited a good six years before one of 2013’s top releases, Surgical Steel, was composed and unleashed unto the slavering masses. In that lustrum they parted ways with Arch Enemy’s Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson, recruiting Daniel Wilding to do the skinbashing while Bill Steer remained the sole axe-man of the band. The result is a mind-blowing masterpiece of punishing and elegant melodeath that’s mostly nurtured by the band’s previous three albums, from seventeen and more years ago. This one escalated quite a number of “2013 Best Of” lists, often claiming the first place, and with good reason. Personally, I’ve put this one on the second place, both in terms of an outstanding comeback and album of the year. My first pick is a few paragraphs ahead.
Christ Denied – Cancer Eradication
Another death metal band whose last album was released seventeen years before this one, Christ Denied lied dormant while its mastermind Dave Rotten (the Spaniard with the T-Rex throat) kept busy with a number of death metal acts, in particular his main project, Spanish death metal kings Avulsed. A couple of splits were co-released under the Christ Denied moniker at the turn of the century, but Cancer Eradication is the band’s first long play of the current millennium. Dave parted ways with David Nigger and completed the other half of this deathgrind monstrosity with Infected Flesh’s Roger Infected. The result of this unholy union is a no less blasphemous 40-minute blastbeat-impulsed death metal assault that will please the ears of those craving for good ol’ sonic torture.
Convulse – Evil Prevails
Evil always prevails dear metal brothers and sisters, don’t forget. Another death metal resurrection (there were more than a few in 2013), the Finnish Convulse had released a pair of above-average albums in the early 90s before undertaking a nineteen-year slumber in the grave. But something has summoned the Finns and now they’re back with a vengeance, arriving timely to partake in the old school death metal craze of these last years. Perhaps they went too far with that, since Evil Prevails has a flawed nineties-sounding production that hinders some of its potential. Nonetheless, tracks like “World Downfall”, “God is Delusion” or the closer “Oceans of Dust” display powerful soloing and well-constructed riffs with a macabre aesthetic that death metal enthusiasts will surely enjoy.
Gorguts – Colored Sands
The alchemist of death metal Luc Lemay gathered an entirely new and very talented crew for the revival of the Canadian legendary Gorguts. There was a lot of expectation about this one, given Lemay’s tastes in experimentation and envelope pushing. The final product, Colored Sands, was met with mixed feelings. Some people were satisfied by the sophisticated, mysticism-infused tech death style employed by Lemay and his companions while others felt that they played it a little tad safe here. Truth is, while Gorguts’ fifth long play isn’t as mind-bending and puzzling as 1998’s Obscura the band seems quite healthy and back on track, both for touring and for subsequent releases, and that’s a triumph on itself.
Satan – Life Sentence
“It’s been twenty-eight long years”, Brian Ross sings on the title track of THE comeback album of 2013, in my opinion, at least in terms of musical quality. Actually the band’s preceding record, the suitably-titled Suspended Sentence, was released 26 years ago, with a certain Michael Jackson delivering vocals. But life crept back into this helluva band, one of NWOBHM’s strongest entities, and boy do they deliver here! Ten tunes of astonishing classic, classy metallurgy and unbridled power that will make you head-bang like there’s no tomorrow. The guitar work is especially awe-inspiring but you’ll also notice that Brian Ross voice hasn’t aged a damn bit and he almost sounds exactly the same as his younger self on Court in the Act from thirty years ago. A must-hear if you like old school heavy metal performed flawlessly.
Sorcery – Arrival at Six
Another death metal band that has cheated death itself is this Swedish cult act that only released a handful of demos, an EP and a LP before calling it quits in 1997, though not permanently. Arrival at Six arrives a good twenty-two years after the release of their single album, the obscure Bloodchilling Tales, and it’s a good honest effort by the veterans. The rhythmic section is composed of new members but the malign spirit of the band remains intact. This is an old school death metal record (witch)crafted by real old school death metal musicians and even though it seemed to criminally pass almost unnoticed by a great deal of the metal community it surely deserves credit and attentions. It isn’t the ultimate OSDM album of 2013, given the vast amount of material with a similar styled released thoughout the year, but I truly recommend it to any death metal fan.
Suicidal Tendencies – 13
Well, as you can see, there was another album titled 13 released by another high-profile veteran act this very year. While not as revered and well known as Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies have staunchly carved their name in the history of metal, as one of the first bands to add foreign sounds (punk, funk and hard rock) to their brand of socially conscious thrash metal thus creating what is known as crossover thrash, a style better known these days by the work of Municipal Waste and the like. Thirteen years have passed since the band unleashed Free Your Soul… and Save My Mind and while they haven’t really disbanded since their 1997 reunion, I broke my own law here (Judas Priest taught me that) ‘cos I believe this was another criminally unnoticed gem. The material here is as good as these guys have ever done, with mighty tunes like “This Ain’t a Celebration” amongst others.
Warlord – The Holy Empire
The last one on this list is also one of the best. Warlord’s fourth long play in a career spanning three decades is an epic tour-de-force of mid-paced US power metal drenched in glorious keyboards and warlike marching drums. It also displays a Middle-Eastern cadence in many of its towering compositions and the forceful vocals of Arrayan Path‘s Nicholas Leptos, the only new member recruited for the 2011 reunion of this veteran act. Now, I haven’t listened much of their older material, but The Holy Empire deserves more than a few accolades. The Frederic Church-inspired cover artwork is gorgeous and every single track here is memorable and powerful. The riffs are simple but catchy, and while most of the lyrics are Christian related they aren’t overtly preachy and other subjects are explored as well. This album is so massively epic you’ll find yourselves craving to watch Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments after listening to it.
I might have missed some other comeback albums of 2013, but I hope this list has provided you with a couple of nice surprises and material previously unknown to you. Would you like to contribute with any unmentioned released you’re welcome to write us in the comments section. Hope 2013 had brought you as much head-banging and fist-pumping as it did to me. We’ll see what 2014 brings us. Cheers to you all! \m/