Total Guitar's Best 20 albums of 2013
The Total Guitar team and contributors have had their iPods out and put their thinking caps on to choose their favourite guitar albums of 2013. Now the votes are in and here, in descending order, are the top 20.
Alkaline Trio – My Shame Is True
Guitarist: Matt Skiba
A whole eight albums in, Alkaline Trio never fail to surprise us with their knack for mixing killer hooks with lean punk energy. In a genre that’s become an increasingly dirty word (and increasingly lacks the ‘punk’ part), Alkaline Trio are still producing guitar-heavy pop-punk in its truest form.
Joe Satriani – Unstoppable Momentum
It’s not just the technical prowess, although there’s obviously truckloads of that, peaking with the napalm tapping section on Lies And Truths. It’s the melodies. All widdlers reckon they play ‘songs’, but Satch is one of the few who never feels like he’s working through a scale book.
Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Guitarists: Jerry Cantrell, William DuVall
The songs Hollow and Stone typify the AIC approach, but Voices and Scalpel verge on countrified territory, while the title track echoes Facelift-era epics. TDPDH proves they’ve overcome the risk of a post-reunion sophomore slump
Biffy Clyro – Opposites
Guitarist: Simon Neil
Across both discs here, Biffy manage to stay focused and true to their instincts. Confident and expansive, with an effortless complexity and monster chorus after monster chorus, Opposites is the sound of a band who have hit a powerful groove and now seem almost unstoppable.
Deap Vally – Sistrionix
Guitarist: Lindsey Troy
Hailed as everything from the saviours of rock to the girl-girl WhiteStripes, Deap Vally were under plenty of pressure to turn in a pretty special debut album. And they have. The electricity is reminiscent of the Stripes, though Lindsey Troy’s playing owes more to Hendrix and Page than White.
Tesseract – Altered State
Guitarists: Acle Kahney, James Monteith
The British progressive metallers returned with a worthy follow-up to their 2011 debut, One, and a sound all of their own: intricate grooves folded into dreamy clean layers. It’s inclusive prog or transcendental metal, depending on where you’re coming from.
The Artistocrats – Culture Clash
Guitarist: Guthrie Govan
Inspired by the mind-melting experience of touring, Culture Clash is a blast. It sees thevirtuoso trio of Guthrie Govan on guitar, Bryan Beller on bass and Marco Minnemann on drums serve up
a giddying cocktail of impossible solos and surreal, morphing Zappa-esque arrangements.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Guitarists: Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner
Again, The National prove they’re equals to the likes of Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and Wilco, and natural inheritors of REM’s crown. The Dessner twins intertwine their telepathic six-strings into atmospheric picked intros, EBow’d lines and resonant riffs.
The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars
Guitarist: John Paul White
Welcome to the bittersweet. White’s tasteful guitar and Charlie Peacock’s sensitive production frame this second album perfectly. Their songs – including the beautiful ballad Same Old Same Old and the gritty blues of I Had Me A Girl – are timeless enough to become standards.
Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
Guitarist: Lee Malia
Oli Sykes has never screamed less, with tracks such as And The Snakes Start To Sing offering a mix of melodic singing, atmospheric clean delayed guitars, choirs and sampling to keep fans guessing. It’s progressive on a grand scale, thankfully without ever forgetting it’s a metal album.
City And Colour – The Hurry And The Harm
Guitarist: Dallas Green
This is Green’s most cohesive and addictive C&C album yet. It manages to be confessional without self-indulgence, and the rich upfront acoustic tones and distant pedal-steel textures make this a slow burner – but one that will burn into your affections. Refreshingly honest music.
Jimmy Eat World – Damage
Guitarists: Jim Adkins, Tom Linton
Very few can write bittersweet paeans to the human condition that are as immediate as Jim Adkins (No, Never and one of his best yet, Please Say No are standouts here). He and Tom Linton are now masters at using melodic colour to enhance sublime songwriting with sparkle and dirt.
Clutch – Earth Rocker
Guitarist: Tim Sult
With a rhythm section burrowed deep in the pocket, Tim Sult mainlines righteously kinetic riffs, matched by Neil Fallon’s inventive lyrical magic and vehemence on standout tracks Crucial Velocity, DC Sound Attack!,Unto The Breach, Cyborg Bette... actually, most of Earth Rocker.
Karnivool – Asymmetry
Guitarists: Drew Goddard, Mark Hosking
Karnivool’s greatest strength is that the talents of the rhythm section share equal space at their sonic table, especially in the more open compositions Aeons and Sky Machine. One of the most exciting progressive alt-rock bands to emerge in years.
Jon Gomm – Secrets Nobody Keeps
Gomm’s complex fingerstyle technique and acts of rhythmic physical violence on his guitar are no mere novelty; these are exquisite arrangements, and somehow no element ever upstages another. Perhaps the best percussive guitar album we’ve ever heard.
Dream Theater – Dream Theater
Guitarist: John Petrucci
From the moment opener False Awakening Suite fuses orchestral sounds, mind-bending riffs and dramatic transitions, it’s clear we’re in safe hands here. Petrucci’s trademark thick Mesa rhythm and leads are present, while The Looking Glass reveals crunchy cleans that evoke Alex Lifeson.
Soilwork – The Living Infinite
Guitarists: Sylvain Coudret, David Andersson
With a revolving door of guitarists, and principal songwriter Peter Wichers leaving (twice), all bets were off for the Swedish metallers. But here are 20 tracks, no filler and a show of their strengths: massive riffs, sophisticated shred, huge vocal melodies, and a fresh progressive ambition.
Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King
Guitarists: Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance
The paced class here is refreshing. Gates’s solos feel cinematically grand, too – fluid neoclassicism in Heretic, wah spiralling into the abyss on the gothic grandeur of Requiem,with Slash-levels of expression in power ballads Crimson Day and Acid Rain.
Russian Circles - Memorial
Guitarist: Mike Sullivan
This Chicago instrumental trio have made very good albums before, but none have sounded as complete and compelling as their fifth record. Mike Sullivan builds bleak towers of discordance and riff metal on Deficit and Burial, always fortified by the heroic drumming of Dave Turncrantz.
Alter Bridge – Fortress
Guitarists: Mark Tremonti, Myles Kennedy
Harder, faster, heavier: book-ended by Blackbird-scale epics Cry Of Achilles and Fortress, while punishing, groove-some syncopated riffs reign supreme elsewhere in The Uninvited, Peace Is Broken, Cry A River and the bruising Bleed It Dry. The energy never dips.