Quite a few bands broke up in 2013. Here are ten of the best. Sad faces.
On the advent of a new calendar year, it’s always prudent to look back at the year that was and reflect on the triumphs and tragedies of the last twelve months. In this instalment we wax lyrical about ten of the best bands to either go on hiatus or break up completely in 2013.
Altar Of Plagues
Irish trio Altar of Plagues fit firmly in the category of “bands that disbanded just as they broke through into new heights”. Their final album, Teethed Glory and Injury, made many year-end lists this year and put the band into the metal spotlight – then they broke up to do other things.
Kudos for them for going out on top and before they became stale and boring, but it is a tremendous disappointment for fans; especially those who have followed the band for a couple years now. They aren’t gone forever – the members are involved in other projects that will undoubtedly carry the sonic torch of the band – but Altar of Plagues are done.
From their humble roots of their First Plague demo, through the White Tomb and Mammal full lengths, a split with Year Of No Light, Altar of Plagues had quite a coloured career in their short time, wielding their unearthly brand of post black metal. Look for other projects from the members, including WIFE, Malthusian, and Sodb.
As with many breakups, in hindsight you can see the signs and precursors. In the case of The Chariot, who announced the end after a decade in an emotional “final tour” video, it was probably when bassist John “KC Wolf” Kindler left the band in June 2012 that the seeds of their ultimate demise were sown.
Whilst the band’s lineup has been a veritable revolving door of personnel, KC Wolf had been ever-present since 2006, and was the group’s longest-serving servant besides sole remaining original member Josh Scogin.
Five albums and an EP is a good wedge of output for ten years, but what The Chariot were really known for was their live show. As the below video attests, as will dozens more on YouTube – including one show where they decamped to the roof of a house in Australia – they really were a spectacle, on par with the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan for intensity, wild abandon, and apparent disregard for personal safety. Hanging from rafters, leaping into crowds, and slinging instruments across the stage to each other; it was something alright.
They’ll be a big miss for the scene, but there is a small light, in that Scogin has already resurfaced with The ’68, an apparent guitar/drum duo, so we’ll have to see how that one pans out.
An ambient post-metal band hailing from Oswestry in Shropshire, The Elijah put out a couple of EPs as well as their 2012 debut full-length I Loved I Hated I Destroyed I Created – but despite a relatively short career, put together some pretty interesting performances, including a truly magical performance of the aforementioned album in full with the help of the London Niche String Quartet.
The performance has been immortalised on DVD if you didn’t get to see it, and the live report on the show we published was quite glowing, and it’s testament to the hard work of the band, who unfortunately seem to have decided to part ways whilst on the cusp of something truly special. They have long drawn comparisons to the likes of Devil Sold His Soul, but certainly had what was necessary to step out of that particular shadow.
It’s unclear exactly why the band decided to split, and it’s not clear what/if any of them are up to now, so we’ll have to keep our ears to the ground on that one.
It is really too bad that Fanisk broke up this in August of this year, just after releasing their absolutely brilliant final album. Insularum was a crystalline masterpiece of what the band refers to as “black solar art.” The Portland, Oregon-based band released three albums over thirteen years, improving and refining their sound with each one. Their use of keyboards set them apart from most other black metal bands, and their crystal clear production made the difference all the clearer.
Their sound could only barely be described as black metal. Tremolo picked riffs and blast beats were used, but the keyboards sounded far too pretty to make this a pure black metal band, which is likely why they described themselves as they did. Fanisk are sadly underrated in the extreme metal scene, but when you go ten years between your second and third albums, that might be expected – especially for a band in an already fairly fringe genre of metal.
The Gates of Slumber
Almost the most long-lived group on this list, The Gates Of Slumber were formed by guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon. There’s not much information on the band until the early 2000s, when bassist Jason McCash joined the band – and it was ultimately his departure in September that precipitated the end of the trio, which also included drummer Bob Fouts.
Simon ended The Gates Of Slumber about a week after McCash quit, saying “I always said I’d never go on doing TGoS without Jason.”
Their back catalogue is as respected as it is deep, with five full-lengths smattered with a plethora of demos, splits, and five EPs, including this year’s Stormcrow.
Fouts still works as a respected local promoter in the Indiana scene, so there’s that to be thankful for, but the band’s dissolution will certainly have a left a big hole to fill, as they toured relentlessly. We can only assume that, after over a decade, that might have been what took its toll on Jason, but that’s purely speculation. Karl Simon indicated that things had changed somewhat three years ago, so if nothing else, this was a long time coming.
2013 was certainly a tough one for GAZA. After the critically lauded release of No Absolutes In Human Suffering in 2012, they were immediately hit with controversy in January when frontman Jon Parkin was accused of rape in a bizarre anonymous Tumblr post.
Two days later, the accuser issued a statement that indicated a “resolution” had been reached, and no more was said. Two months later, GAZA broke up.
It was an odd situation, made more suspicious by the fact that the other three members of the band - Michael Mason, Casey Hansen and Anthony Lucero – almost immediately formed a new outfit called Cult Leader.
Whatever the truth behind the accusation, it doesn’t look like GAZA will be getting back together. It’s a real shame, because the band had been raising their game consistently for years, and were an absolute tour-de-force of caustic, venomous hardcore.
When a band has been around as long as God Forbid, you kind of assume they’ll always be there, for better or worse – your Metallicas, your Slayers, your Panteras… – so when lead guitarist Doc Coyle announced he had left the band in August, it was a bit of a shock. For the most part, God Forbid were one of those groups whose members didn’t quit every few years – the only casualty was Doc’s brother Dallas in 2009 – so the writing was certainly on the wall for the two or three days before the group’s demise was confirmed by both drummer Corey Pierce and vocalist Byron Davis.
I don’t think thrash metal is as widespread as it used to be, but God Forbid were still producing fairly regularly, including last year’s well-regarded Equilibrium, their sixth full-length, and were undoubtedly still one of the most reconisable and respected names in American heavy metal.
What the members will do next, we’re not quite sure. God Forbid is a pretty heavy fix to go cold turkey from, so there may be a period of ‘readjustment’.
The Mars Volta
Although the band included a plethora of talented and able musicians amongst their number throughout the years, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and vocalist Cedrix Bixler-Zavala – alumni of the iconic At The Drive-In – were The Mars Volta. More than that, it seems that it was mostly Omar who called the shots.
It was he who originally put TMV on hiatus last year, to focus on his newer project Bosnian Rainbows - and that seemed to rub Cedric up the wrong way, as he quit the band in January, precipitating it’s complete collapse. The statement he released seemed pretty bitter, thanking the fans for their support and “ever giving a fuck about our band” - and ultimately laying the blame at his long-time co-conspirator’s feet. He wanted to get to a point where original keyboardist Isiah Owens and original drummer Jon Theodore might return, but alas, that first line-up – the one that was present for the groundbreaking Deloused In The Comatorium – will never be seen again; let alone any other iteration.
The project’s music wasn’t for everyone – they got steadily more ‘experimental’ with each album – but they were truly progressive in the vein of Rush or Pink Floyd, and in these days where the term is bandied around a lot, The Mars Volta were the real deal.
If the fall-out is as bad as it seems, as well as TMV, this probably means the end of the At The Drive-In reunion, as well as squashing any hope of more De Facto. Never mind; Bixler-Zavala and bassist Juan Alderete are now in a new band called Zavalaz, and I imagine ORL will be making a lot more of his work in the future.
For what was initially a side project, Nachtmystium did pretty well for themselves. Thirteen years and a treasure trove of releases, including seven full-lengths, four EPs, four splits, five live albums, and some compilation/demo stuff, you could hardly call them lazy.
Originally stating that the band would be going on indefinite hiatus to focus on his new band Hate Meditation, founder Blake Judd terminated the group entirely on November 13th after being released from almost a month in custody on November 1st, having been being arrested “on charges of misdemeanour theft by unauthorised control of property.” He detailed issues with substance abuse as well as legal troubles, and decamped from Chicago to focus on recovery and rehabilitation. You can’t say fairer than that for a reason to give something up, as much of a shame as it is.
The black metal-based band’s final album The World We Left Behind was slated for release in early 2014, but whether or not that’s still happening is somewhat unclear, but there is potentially something more to come as one last “hurrah.” They were a fierce voice in the metal world, rejecting modern black metal and striving for originality in a sea of what Judd viewed as carbon copies of each other. That, in itself, is something that will be missed by many.
War From A Harlots Mouth
German metalcore band War From A Harlots Mouth are the only group on this list, really, that we’re even remotely likely to see again. Although the phrase “indefinite hiatus” often means the same thing as “disbanded,” there is always hope.
The reason for the breakup – aside from the band technically being another side project – is their dissatisfaction with the metal subculture as a whole, remarking that “the scene we’re a part of used to be an inspiring subculture but has turned into an abortion of mainstream accessibility, with choreographies on stage and cute little matching outfits.”
Whilst I doubt they expect their departure at the end of 2013, after seven and a half years, to be the catalyst for a widespread and comprehensive rethink on behalf of all these groups, it will probably do them some good to be away from it for a while. Once enthusiasm is gone, it’s hard to get back, so the promise that this is indeed a hiatus and not a breakup seems prudent. Only sith deal in absolutes anyway, am I right?
It seems not all of the members feel quite so strongly, as drummer Paule Seidel has taken over The Ocean‘s drumming duties from the incumbent Luc Hess. Otherwise, expect some downtime from one or two of the other members at the very least.