7. Screamer - Phoenix
This was the first album from 2013 that I heard and it still stands out as one of the best. This band seems practically unknown and I cannot figure out why, because they've released two traditional heavy metal albums that match or exceed what bands like White Wizzard, Enforcer, Cauldron, and others are doing. This album holds back on the hard rock influence a bit and is more focused on metal than the last record, but is probably still a slight step down. The record has everything you could want, from high-speed riff-fests, to long epics with wicked shredding, to headbanging inducing hard rock riffs. The vocalist is one of the most genuine sounding singers in metal, as are the guitarists. The leads were better on the prior album, but everybody needs to listen to "Lady of the River" and tell me that isn't a masterpiece of a solo. My favourite songs are "Demon Rider", "No Sleep 'til Hamilton", "Mr. Noman", and "Lady of the River".
6. Gloryhammer - Tales From The Kingdom of Fife
When Alestorm's mainman announced a side project, I didn't think it would be anything better than Alestorm. Until I saw the cover art, that is. This record is everything I love about power metal. It feels epic, the melodies are soaring and catchy, and it's just a lot of fun. It doesn't take itself seriously, but it doesn't need to. The vocalist is really impressive, and I'd love to hear him do some more material. The only downside to this album is that there are a couple of melodies that sound very similar to some melodies from Alestorm records, but it is nothing too egregious. The best songs are "The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee", "Angus McFife", "Amulet of Justice", and "The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder".
5. Helloween - Straight Out Of Hell
Helloween is on an absolute roll with their last 4 records. "7 Sinners" in particular really blew me away, so I knew not to get my expectations too high because I didn't think they could match that album. "Straight Out Of Hell" goes above and beyond what "7 Sinners" was, and is probably the best Helloween album since the Keepers records. Although I'm not a fan of 60+ minute albums, there is little wasted material here. I loved the classic Helloween stomp of "Far From The Stars", while "Burning Sun" delivered the scorching speed metal that I want to hear from the band once in a while. "Nabataea" is a true epic in every sense of the word, and it also has a few classic Helloweenisms (the "children children" part, and the "Once there was a land midst of the chaos" drum build up). "Hold Me In Your Arms" might just be the best ballad they've ever done, while the track that precedes it has one of the world's catchiest melodies. I cannot say enough good about this album, but it definitely proves that the inventors of the genre are back on top (well, not quite; but more on that later
) The standout tracks are "Nabataea", "Far From The Stars", "Waiting For The Thunder", and "Asshole".
Tomorrow comes the top 4, and those records are somehow even on another level than everything else I've heard this year!