My Top Ten Albums of 2013!

Alright. Here we go. The annual list! This is my top ten albums of 2013. Lots of albums were considered, and though I liked certain albums more than some of the ones presented here, these are the ones that I felt I enjoyed the most, showed the most improvement in bands, or for whatever reason felt deserving to be acknowledged here. Feel free to disagree. 10. Kvelertak – Meir [Roadrunner Records] I first saw Kvelertak live, opening for Converge, and they gripped me with their solid stage performance and for how much fun they really seemed to be having. But after that, I kind of forgot about them for a while. It’s not that I didn’t like them, they just didn’t stick around much in my head long enough to revisit them on an album setting, on my own time. Then the band kind of exploded in popularity when I wasn’t looking and the video for Bruane Brenn came out and I was hooked. It’s really kind of low-hanging fruit to hate on the “black-and-roll” bands out there, and I know it’s not super-heavy metal, it’s not super-thrashy, it’s not super-technical or even super-memorable in the long run, but it’s got great vibes, fun leads, great songs, and plenty of sing-along chorus-y goodness (if you can understand and sing Norwegian). It’s got a lot of things that it lacks in, but it makes up for it in one category that placed it on this list: It’s a FUN album. For Fans Of: Mastodon, Baroness, Red Fang Standout tracks: Bruane Brenn, Kvelertak, Månelyst 9. Expire – Pendulum Swings [Bridge Nine Records] When I first discovered Expire, a few weeks after this LP dropped, it was in constant rotation for weeks. Some metal purists would make the argument that hardcore isn’t metal, but I’m not one of those people, and I fully embrace the hardcore scene for being every bit as violent, heavy, and full of heart as any mosh pit ever was, sometimes even more so. This album rules, and it relies on its generous portions of heavy riffs, great amounts of tact, and spitfire lyrics to prove that point. My only real complaint with the album is that a few of the tracks sound a bit same-y, but it’s nothing incredibly difficult to bear. Sometimes, more of the same is perfectly acceptable. Get ready for the gang vocals. For Fans Of: Backtrack, Take Offense, Trapped Under Ice Standout tracks: Just Fine, Abyss, Pendulum Swings 8. Protest The Hero – Volition [Razor & Tie Records] There’s a lot of people who just don’t “get” Protest The Hero. For a very long time, I was one of them. I didn’t like the vocalist, I didn’t care for the over-the-top-ness of it all, I didn’t get the endless soloing. But then I saw the video for Clarity and I was instantly interested in the album that was garnering SO much buzz. When I finally got around to checking it out, I didn’t have […]


The Pen Challenge!

Every once in a while I come across (or create!) some cool little audio exercises, and I’ve got one today for you to take a crack at! It’s called “The Pen Challenge”, and as the name would have you believe, it involves simply a pen (and a microphone, of course). I very much like restriction, so I’ve put a ton of them on this one. Every part of a pen makes noise, so let’s see what is in there! Step 1) Record up to five minutes of any sounds you can make using your pen and your pen alone (don’t write or hit it on other things – things you do to it are fine though). Be creative – take it apart, find what makes it tick, blow across tubes, etc.  You cannot go back and record more later! Step 2) Take your recording into a DAW (I used Audition), and cut it up into small little beats and patterns. Do not use any processing unless it’s room noise reduction. Step 3) Organize your clicks and pops and sounds into…something. I chose to make a beat pattern out of them. Use panning, gain control, and bussing to affect the mix. YOU CANNOT USE ANY DSP HOWEVER (No reverb, distortion, compression, etc). I preferred working with a time limit so I took two hours. Step 4) Upload it and show me the link! 🙂 Variations: Allow re-recording of additional sounds You can only add sounds by overdubbing entirely new recordings – you cannot edit the recordings however once they are made. Allow other objects to be incorporated (Write on paper, hit parts on different materials, etc) Using VST’s Avoid making patterns, so that you create some sort of soundscape. Using several pens with different  tonal qualities to get different timbres. Create a dry version with no DSP according to the instructions above, but then go back and make a DSP’d version without changing the placement or track bussing routes. Anything else you can think of. Here’s two of the ones I made: In this first one, I focused on a short set of clicks which I used sort of like a drum pattern, then layered other stuff around it. In this second one, I got a little more complex. I used a lot of the FFT filter that I discussed last week (that’s the chimes you’re hearing) and some other reverby and stretchy goodness. Anyway – that’s what I got this week. –Chris