It was a year of comebacks, with great records from Suicidal Tendencies, Tom Keifer, Skid Row, Carcass and, of course, Black Sabbath. All made the list in one form or another.
It was a year of surprises as a couple of albums that I would have predicted to be neck and neck for my top spot slid down, while a couple of unexpected ones moved up.
It was a year of two albums from bands named Queensryche, neither of which, it turns out, were really the best Queensryche album of the year. But more on that a little later.
So, without more blather, here are my favorite hard rock and metal records of 2013 (order subject to change) ...
10. Pamela Moore -- Resurrect Me. I'm a latecomer to this album, and I fully expect it to rise higher in this list. Moore, who performed the part of Sister Mary on Queensryche's classic Operation: Mindcrime record, delivers a fantastic album in the vein of that release. So far, I haven't found a song on the record that I dislike.
9. Pinnick Gales Pridgen -- Pinnick Gales Pridgen. This is a great, grooving and rocking record from an all-star project. Guitarist Eric Gales, King's X bassist/vocalist Dug Pinnick and Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen bring the funk and the heaviness on a collection of memorable numbers that will remind listeners of all of their previous projects, but has a sound all its own.
8. Suicidal Tendencies -- 13. I had pretty much written Suicidal Tendencies off before the release of this record. Main man Mike Muir has put together a great backing band for his psychotic rants and delivers shades of the band's entire history from the hardcore punk of the early days to the thrash of the late 1980s to the funk metal of Infectious Grooves.
7. Carcass -- Surgical Steel. This may have been the surprise of the year for me. I'm pretty picky when it comes to death metal, and I was not a huge fan of Carcass the first time around. This comeback album, though, has just as much thrash as death, great musicianship and some incredibly catchy tunes. I still blow out my speakers every time "The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills" comes on (and no, I still don't know what the numbers mean).
6. Soilwork -- The Living Infinite. Here's one of the few exceptions to the rule when it comes to double albums. I've always maintained that most of them have enough good material for one record, but Soilwork delivers one of the best records of its career in double album form. There is filler, but not as much as you'd think, and the songs here span the spectrum from blazing melodic death to dark and moody.
5. Oliva -- Raise the Curtain. I would have bet the bank (if I had one) that the first solo album from Jon Oliva would top my list for this year. I'm an avowed Savatage fanboy, and Oliva has never done anything that I consider remotely weak. That trend continues with this somewhat interesting solo record. It contains the last unpublished music from his late brother and guitarist Criss Oliva, but also brings a great many other sounds to the table besides the metal that he's known for. It's a great progressive rock record, but the more I listened to it, the more I wanted something a little heavier.
4. Black Sabbath -- 13. Here's another record that I expected to vie for that top spot, but it never quite made it there for me. Perhaps my expectations for this record went beyond what it could possibly deliver. It's a great record, and it hasn't left my playlist since it came out, but I still end up feeling just a bit of disappointment when I'm listening to it.
3. Flotsam and Jetsam -- Ugly Noise. I thought the band's last album, The Cold, was a really good comeback record. This one puts them back in full fighting form. Ugly Noise plays on the more progressive leanings of my personal favorite F&J record, Drift, but also thrashes with a vengeance. It's a record that ranks among the band's best.
2. Tom Keifer -- The Way Life Goes. At the midpoint of the year, this was my favorite record, and though it's slipped a bit, it still hits me pretty close to home. Much like my favorite overall record of 2012, Blackberry Smoke's The Whippoorwill, this is one of those albums full of songs that I see a lot of my own life and situation in. It's a very personal listen for me, and well worth the long wait.
1. Amon Amarth -- Deceiver of the Gods. So here's an album that I didn't expect to be in this position six months ago. I knew it would be on my year-end list, and probably high, but as the year went on, it kept pounding away at me like a brutal Viking warrior until I had no choice but to put it in my top spot. It's an insanely heavy record with incredibly melodic songs, and that's something that I can't resist. From the chest-pounding "Father of the Wolf" to the doomy groove of "Hel," it shows different sides of the band, and I never skip a track.