1. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork
Six years can seem like an absolute lifetime, especially when you’re waiting for new Queens of the Stone Age material, but luckily Like Clockwork satisfies in every way imaginable and exceeds all preconceived expectations.
Fear not, frontman Josh Homme hasn't been idly twiddling his thumbs between records; he's been producing Arctic Monkeys, writing and touring with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures and becoming a father for the second time. Throw in some complicated and very painful knee surgery which led to a spell of deep depression and you can understand why this album is self-proclaimed as the toughest album QOTSA have ever made. Commercially, it's their most successful album, hitting the top spot on the US Billboard 100 – the highest of their career. Homme isn't one to allow friendship to interfere with the creative process and history kind of repeated itself when Homme fired long time drummer Joey Castillo during the recording process, akin to Nick Oliveri's departure in 2004. Homme won't say much about either. Still, with Castillo gone, Dave Grohl was a natural substitute for stickman duties and the record features a variety of guests including Mark Lanegan, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner, the aforementioned Oliveri and even a rare cameo from piano heavyweight, Sir Elton John. Like Clockwork is eclectic dessert rock at it's finest. Homme's sultry and expansive vocal range is both alluring and tantalizing and the record itself - intelligent, majestic and unpredictable. Josh Homme and his merry men don't fail to deliver, once again.
2. Paramore – Paramore
Whoever thought Paramore were down and out when the Farrow brothers left the group three years ago, almost certainly ate their words when the band released their most recent record. The Franklin, Tennessee natives well and truly put their smell all over 2013 with the birth of their fourth record; their second self-titled - a collection of songs that evidence Paramore's ability to continue as a three piece with just as much horse-power as before and affirm a reintroduction to who they are as artists right now. Keeping true to their bubblegum emo-pop roots, Paramore is as catchy as it is thought provoking, but it's also simultaneously ballsy and sprawling, peppered with a plethora of other genres throughout the entire record. Hayley Williams, once again steps up to the plate and shows that she's still the pint-sized woman with the incredible, gargantuan voice, a little lady who's grown into a formidable front-woman and proves her worth as a writer too, with a credit for every single song on the record. Paramore illustrates that their co-founders swift exit and cutting critique of Williams and their record label didn't kill off the spirit of the band at all, it lit a fire under the remaining members and pushed them to create an album that is slightly dark, implicitly passionate and utterly thrilling.
3. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
Vocalist Oli Sykes has in the past said that Pantera is the only band universally liked by every member of Bring Me the Horizon, so working with producer Terry Date must have been nothing less than a fantasy come true. The band traditionally chose a desolate part of the Europe to write their records and England's picturesque Lake District was decided on for the inspiration and creation of Sempiternal- which is derived from the Latin word 'Sepiturnus' meaning 'eternal'. Shortly before the album's release and after almost three years in the band, Aussie guitarist Jona Weinhofen announced his departure fro BMTH and claimed credit for some a significant portion of the album - a statement that Sykes refuted and subsequently went on to write the track “Antivist.” allegedly about Hofen - the lyrics of which reflect seething betrayal and unbridled anger towards his former comrade. Released on April Fools Day, 'Sempiternal' is anything but a joke. The Sheffield gang have produced a furious melting pot of death metal, post-hardcore and electronica - the addition of keyboardist Jordan Fish to the full timeline up, thickening up the latter. Each track blends palatably into the next, making for a cohesive record that is both melodic and emotive. Bring Me the Horizon have been known to divide the metal community and thrive on knowing that there are a community who despise them, but this album truly affords them acclaim and love them or hate them - they fully command and deserve respect.
4. Arctic Monkeys – AM
Anyone who brands Arctic Monkeys as ‘indie’ is sorely mistaken. This is a band who quite simply melt genre-boundaries for fun and ‘AM’ is easily their most experimental album to date. The record’s tempo changes more frequently than the English weather and obviously hint and play homage to some of their most diverse musical influences, which range from Black Sabbath to Dr Dre. Even mentor/peer Josh Homme makes an appearance - an impromptu collaboration spawned from a 2am tequila-drinking session. AM is quite frankly, predominantly balls-to-the-wall rock – garage, desert, blues, psychedelic – you name it. Incorporating new instruments such as a piano, celeste and a drum machine on AM is testament to the fact that Arctic Monkeys are completely unafraid of taking risks and expanding their musical horizons. Alex Turner’s thoughtful and inspiring lyrics are complimented by rich retro-pop vocal techniques and his move from brown-stoned Brooklyn to trendy Los Angeles has seen a slight image change in him too; donning a teddy-boy quiff and a more confident posture, he's arguably the coolest kid in music right now. Unquestionably one of the UK's most exciting exports, sky's truly the limit lads.
5. Clutch – Earth Rocker
Having the same original line-up for just shy of a quarter of a decade speaks volumes about the dynamic, ethos and dedication of Clutch. For a band who like to jam and create music organically, Clutch took a very different approach with Earth Rocker by mapping out exactly what they wanted to do before they had so much smelled the studio; a decision influenced by producer Machine. After touring with Thin Lizzy, Clutch wanted to make a straight up rock’n’roll record and by trimming the fat they’ve created an album that’s daringly punchy and oozes testosterone. Brimming with authentic stoner blues like only a Clutch record can, Earth Rocker is propelled by motorized plug-in-and-play musicianship. It's not just full of soul, it's full of heart too.
6. Black Sabbath – 13
For a long time, it seemed like an original Black Sabbath reunion was about as likely as a lottery win, but thankfully the gods of fate smiled upon us and Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward hit the studio two years ago to record 13. Sadly, due to a ‘contractual dispute’, Bill Ward didn’t participate in the recording sessions in the end and was instead relieved by Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk. With Rick Rubin at the helm, 13 demonstrates exactly what Sabbath can do despite being well into their 60s – still produce original material to support the genre that they invented. Their competition is obsolete. The band’s eighteenth record boasts 8 tracks of spooky blues-infused heavy metal, deliciously doomy and awkwardly eerie. Recorded in the US and UK, 13 topped the charts in both - welcome back Black Sabbath - you are simply incomparable.
7. Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
After the success of 2009’s Black Gives Way to Blue it would have been criminal for Alice in Chains not to do another album with the current line-up. The controversially titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the band's way of cheekily implying that some religious beliefs might be rather far-fetched, despite saying that they avoid the subject of religion at all costs (that and politics). The reborn AiC’s sophomore release is a beast of a record – sludgy, dark and haunted with the chilling vocals of Jerry Cantrell - whose radical haircut threatened to steal most of the record’s publicity. The grunge Godfathers confirm that they can still produce powerhouse material that’s authentically Alice in Chains and any doubts to the prospect of their future are completely erroneous.
8. Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull
Let’s face it, everything Kings of Leon touch turns to gold. They’re incapable of making a bad album and that’s why Mechanical Bull slots perfectly into their back catalogue of greatness and provides another step up on their ascent to new levels of success. The career of the ever-consistent Nashville natives has seen them graduate from garage rock to stadium rock and to keep record execs off their back, they even bought a studio to record Mechanical Bull in and eradicate the pressure of time constraints. Kings of Leon have had their well-documented rockstar moments but (maybe because they’re all settled down and reproducing) their latest offering shows they’ve introduced a fierce aurora of romanticism into their exciting indie-pop bread and butter. In short, Mechanical Bull reaffirms KOL as kings of the charts and a real force to be reckoned with.
9. The Temperance Movement - The Temperance Movement
The Temperance Movement are a sure fire part of the reason that blues rock is still relevant in 2013 and their self-titled debut demonstrates this perfectly. TTM’s Southern-infused 70’s-esque classic rock blueprint discreetly nods to the likes of Skynyrd, Free and Peter Gabriel beneath the weight of gritty war-torn vocals. The band themselves describe the record as being about friendship, good times and redemption; all three matters being relatable. Even Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page has given them his stamp of approval, an honor bestowed to few. The Temperance Movement is an on the money self-titled snapshot of the group today - a new band with a bunch of real old souls.
10. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One of Us is the Killer
Over the years The Dillinger Escape plan have lost members to injury, conflict and even Coheed and Cambria, but as they approach the better part of two decades since their inception, their resilience is still remarkably impressive. The physical demand of being a member of TDEP is seldom acknowledged, but it is this energy and aggression that long-time producer and friend Steve Evetts never fails to deliver on record. One of Us is the Killer’ showcases the band making a conscious effort to try new musical techniques and push themselves into uncomfortable mathcore territory. The album beholds an element of the unknown, whilst simultaneously being reassuringly Dillinger.