Exit! is an experimental big band free jazz record with a lot going on. There's over twenty musicians on this album, and you'll often be hearing many of them play at once in what builds up to a complete pandemonium.
The album is chaotic and organised, both at once. There are times where you'll have stuff like a steady bass line and drum beat while at the same time saxophones, clarinets and pianos will be going insane, all synergising to create these incredible compositions. Compositions which twist and turn into completely unpredictable directions, always maintaining suspense.
This is a truly great jazz album.
4 - Weapon by Skinny Puppy
I think it's fair to say that Skinny Puppy are the one of the most important bands in industrial music, and to many, myself included, they're also by far the best. So like many bands with such acclaim, whenever they release a new album, it will inevitably be met with an air of cynicism from certain fans and comparisons to their past masterpieces, which is rather unfortunate.
Is Weapon another Last Rights or Too Dark Park? No, of course not, nor does it attempt to be. Like most of the post-reunion era of Skinny Puppy, Weapon is much more energetic and straight-forward electro-industrial as opposed to the dark and abrasive soundscapes that were the focus of albums like Last Rights. Which is not to say that they don't do experimentation anymore or that their current stuff is much more accessible (Weapon definitely took me a couple of listens to get into and recognise everything that is going on in the music), but the last four albums have been substantially different from what the band were doing before they broke up.
A more apt point for comparison would be the 1984 EP Remission, especially since the new album contains a remake of the song Solvent. Weapon is very much a refinement of the style found on the EP with added elements of the modern Skinny Puppy, and it's something that ends up working very well.
With Weapon I think Skinny Puppy have continued the trend of each post-reunion album being better than the last, which should say something as all of them are great. Weapon contains some very good song writing with a lot of subtle melodies over the great beats, all accompanied by the usual abstract and political lyrics.
Something Skinny Puppy have always been great at is maintaining an atmosphere and theme throughout their albums, and this one really gives the sense of a cyberpunk dystopia to me, which is fantastic.
While I wouldn't put Weapon up there with Last Rights, Too Dark Park and The Process, it is still a great album which makes me feel very happy that Skinny Puppy decided to reform ten years ago.
3 - Earth Rocker by Clutch
This is without a doubt the 2013 album I listened to the most this year. I suppose that's in part due to it coming out back in March, but mostly what I'm getting at is that it's an incredibly addicting album that I just can't get enough of.
Earth Rocker is an absolutely fantastic hard rock album with a hint of blues rock that is overflowing with great riffs, vocals and songwriting. Every song is infectious, from the title track opener, to the slow and especially bluesy Gone Cold, to the loud and rocking closer The Wolf Man Kindly Requests.
It is an incredibly fun album to listen to. As far as pure enjoyment goes, this was the most I've had of it this year.
2 - Vertikal by Cult of Luna
From the pure fun of Earth Rocker, we come to the bleak and miserable atmospheric sludge metal journey that is Cult of Luna's Vertikal.
And a journey it is. Very thematically and atmospherically strong, Vertikal is an absolutely captivating piece of beautiful melancholy with incredible instrumentation and the incorporation of many influences from post-rock, electronic and ambient. Well over an hour long, the album never drags or gets boring and just continues to surprise the listener.
Cult of Luna are clearly the masters of their craft, and with them announcing an indefinite hiatus, this coupled with the equally amazing EP Vertikal II is their final artistic statement.
I'm sad to see them go, but what a note to end on.
1 - Das Seelenbrechen by Ihsahn
The Breaking of the Soul. Taken from Nietzcshe's writings on art, there could hardly be a more appropriate title for this masterpiece.
Das Seelenbrechen is the fifth solo album from the mastermind behind the most influential and innovative black metal band Emperor, and is easily the best thing he has done. Considering how incredible his work with Emperor, Peccatum and his solo project is, for Ihsahn to outdo himself again is no small feat.
Created in an entirely different manner than his previous four albums, Das Seelenbrechen is a largely improvised piece that gives us a deep personal look into Ihsahn's true psyche.
It's very difficult to describe it. I suppose it's because of albums like this that we have terms like avant-garde. Stylistically, it's all over the place in the best possible way. You have the opener Hiber which deliberately reels you in with a false sense of familiarity to the progressive black metal of his previous albums, but that familiarity is shattered barely half-way through the song when it takes a completely different turn. Following this are tracks like the symphonic Regen, the electronic tinged beautiful and personal Pulse, the experimentation with time signatures in the terrifying recreation of black metal Tacit II, the atmospheric spoken-word piece M, the chilling experimental drone-influenced See, and five other tracks, all of which are very unique.
Despite it's chaotic nature, the album still feels very coherent and all the tracks very much act as one continuous experience.
Das Seelenbrechen is a display of incredible musicianship in every aspect. Beyond that, it is a display of creative genius.
It's definitely not an album that will appeal to everyone, but to me this not only blows everything else from this year out of the water, but it ranks amongst the greatest albums I have ever heard.