What a year as far as music was concerned, even if everything else is pretty much shit it is the tonic that keeps us going through it all and there has been no shortage of choice. It would not have been too difficult a task to actually put together a top 40 this year and I felt myself facing an insurmountable challenge just honing things down to 10 choices especially as good albums did not stop arriving even at the dying end of the year. 2015 is already threatening to continue in this way and we will embrace it all with open arms. No doubt there will be plenty of surprises along the way and it is never boring wondering just what is going to come next. Until it does, enjoy all our varied choices from 2014. There are no right or wrong answers, it’s all down to personal choice and if you discover something you missed from these lists it’s all the better and our job is partly done.
1: Voices – London (Candlelight)
Moving between passages of genre-shifting heartfelt fragility and tumultuous discourse ‘London’ conceptually bristles with urban paranoia, taking the listener on a wild emotional ride through the underbelly of its heaving city.
2: Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)
Cleaning the streets once more and baptizing the world in fire. It’s a welcome return from Brummie industrialists Godflesh whose purification rites are as potent and acerbic as they were before their sudden demise.
3: Behemoth – The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
A triumphant and two fingered salute to the disease that could have prematurely ended his life Nergal and co returned with a work of epic and biblical proportions which literally brought the walls tumbling down. Ave Satanus!
4: Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (Season Of Mist)
Ugly and harsh, discordant black metal from Norway’s innovators with a cold and calculated feel about it. Exuding a dreadful and decrepit atmosphere this is a real anti-human necromantic ritual heralding mankind’s ultimate destruction.
5: Stream Of Passion – A War Of Our Own (S/R)
Yes a surprise ‘happy’ entry but the symphonic charge of Stream Of Passion called and could not be ignored. Gorgeous, sublime and beguiling this is ultimately a passionate display that made my heart literally melt.
6: Darkspace – III I (Avantgarde)
A trip to the outer limits that proved absolutely compulsive as it sprawled like a fantastic voyage to the far flung darkest edges of the universe. Like the greatest sci fi film never made this is a chilling event horizon of an album.
7: Vallenfyre – Splinters (Century Media)
A gritty exercise in old-school dirty death spat out by battle-scarred scene veterans reliving the heydays of the 80’s. ‘Splinters’ really gets under the skin coating everything in a thick, scummy layer of crust
8: Krieg – The Transient (Candlelight)
Brutal and experimental in equal measures Krieg have really come of age here. From innovators to leaders within the USBM scene N. Jameson has forged his personal annus horribilis into a challenging and ever changing album which showed no limits to genre conventions.
9: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
A frosty and suffocating exercise in suffering and one that has scope to suck the life out the unwary. Triptykon’s exercises in profound doom and gloom may well be a vision of hell but few can better them.
10: Mysticum – Planet Satan (Peaceville)
Threatening to never arrive, when it did it was with a drug fuelled crash bang and wallop. Mysticum have fused industrial blackness here with manic zealousness and Planet Satan proved a total assault of the senses.
1: Vesania – Deus ex Machina (Metal Blade)
Enveloped in an outwardly symphonic black metal cloak, “Deus ex Machina” explores the genre in its entirety. This completely stunning album from Poland marches on defiantly, with twists and turns at every grisly corner. Its creepiness and eccentricities reinforce the message and serve to enrich this all-embracing journey through the darkest of territories
2: Anubis Gate – Horizons (Nightmare Records)
Anubis Gate pull off a metal album with soaring melodies which take us high into the sky and beyond. “Horizons” is fearless as unashamedly commercial songs and sounds mingle with progressive metal imagination. The result is something extravagant and luxurious.
3: Dark Fortress – Venereal Dawn (Century Media)
Once again, Dark Fortress drag us through the black metal miss with “this musical expression of dark abysses”. As some people have a way with words, so these Germans have ways of making nightmarish journeys into disease-ridden chasms seem like an adventure. “Venereal Dawn” is controlled, black and extremely creative.
4: John Bassett – Unearth (Stereohead Records)
If “Mr Bassett from Hastings” sounds mundane, this is the polar opposite. His solo album gently enters our minds with track after track of magical atmospheres and innuendo. The underlying melancholic mood sways in all directions and in many styles but in complete harmony with the intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics. Oh, and Hastings has the most musically sophisticated residents in the UK, according to a survey.
5: Foscor – Those Horrors Wither (Alone Records)
Foscor bring Catalan passion and intrigue to this fluid work of progressive death metal. Utterly fluent and laced with contrasts, the structure is such that it’s like that book that you simply can’t put down. Gripping.
6: Vortice – Host (Alone Records)
This album must win the year’s prize for technical energy. Modern in its djenty style, words like “epic” and “massive” are not out of place on this musical equivalent of a hammer drill.
7: Oberon – Dream Awakening (Prophecy)
This seasoned bard from Norway guides us through dreams and aspirations but it’s so much more than that. Apparent innocence is overlaid with richness and depth, such as you find on a Porcupine Tree album. The impact is devastating.
8: Manes – Be All End All (Debemur Morti)
Throbbing, shadowy atmospheres with a haunting trumpet refrain at the end, this album falls between Atrox and Green Carnation appropriately enough as Manes are from Norway. It’s utterly bizarre with some trip hop thrown and an atmosphere of alienation and isolation. It’s all part of the charm.
9: Self Inflicted Violence – The Sanctimonious Hypocrites of Reality (Art of Propaganda)
This band from Lincoln defies its name and delivers an album of unbelievably rich textures. “The Sanctimonious Hypocrites of Reality” is heavily progressive, naturally dark, harsh and imaginative while featuring a touch of indie and a good deal of post metal of a flamboyant kind.
10: Anathema – Distant Satellites (Kscope)
Amid lush and often comforting scenes, sonic variations and ever developing atmospheres, there are haunting tunes and tales of being lost. This is music to help you through those star-gazing moments. It’s typical of modern Anathema – powerful and thoughtful.
Really enjoyed the stuff I’ve heard this year (obviously! This IS a Top Ten…), I hope that came across in my reviews. it was the usual nightmare to get it down to just ten, and even then I’m not sure my list is in any particular order…but it’s as near as dammit – here it is;
2: Sanctuary – The Year The Sun Died (Century Media)
If you are going to reform a band after 20 years, then THIS is how to do it. Fantastic.
3: Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
A Progressive Rock/Metal masterpiece – their ever expanding journey continues.
4: Sinbreed – Shadows (AFM)
Top class Power Metal, the best of its genre I heard this year.
6: Evergrey – Hymns For The Broken (AFM)
The album that almost never happened – and probably their best!
7: Delain – The Human Contradiction (Napalm)
Free from outside constraints and with a point to prove – job done!
8: Vanden Plas – Chronicles of the Immortals – Netherworld (Path 1) (Fronteirs)
Progressive Metal by seasoned masters, played with class and conviction. Such an unassuming and unpretentious title too!
9: Vintersorg – Naturbal (Napalm)
Vinty on top form once more.
10: Scapes – One:Unseen:One (Nihil Ultra)
Only just come out but I’m sure it will get many more spins in the coming months, high quality Atmospheric Metal.
1: Midnight – No Mercy For Mayhem (Hell’s Headbangers)
One of my most played records of 2014, this record is as addictive as it is sleazy. The perfect marriage between punk and black metal, it’s not going to win any prizes for musical adeptness, but it’s filthy and loads of fun. This won’t be leaving my turntable for a long time.
2: King Dude – Fear (Not Just Religious Music/Van Records)
I played this album so much when it first came out that I made myself sick of it, so I took a break, came back to it and fell in love with it all over again. Imagine Johnny Cash singing songs about The Devil and you’re halfway to describing King Dude’s irresistible sound.
3: That Handsome Devil – Drugs and Guns for Everyone (Modern Savage)
A late entry to the list, but it deserves a high spot because of how well crafted and wonderfully low brow it is. With vocals much like the above record, but mixed with hip hop and electronics, what’s not to love? “I may be drunk, but I’m not drunk enough.” Perfect.
4: Trap Them – Blissfucker (Prosthetic)
This is one of those records that’s like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart and if ‘Gift and Gift Unsteady’ doesn’t work you into a vicious frenzy then you’d best check yourself for a pulse. Probably the best hardcore record released all year; perhaps one of the best ever?
5: Zola Jesus – Taiga (Mute Artists)
Given the experimental nature of Zola Jesus’ past works this record was a shock to the system on first listen, given how poppy it is. This is another album that’s scarce left my ears and seeing it performed live just deepened my love for it. ‘Dangerous Days’ is wonderful.
6: Die Antwoord – Donker Mag (Zef Records)
I’ve been a convert to the Zefside since hearing ‘$O$’ back in 2010 and have followed Yo-Landi and Ninja ever since. This was probably my most anticipated release of this year and it didn’t let me down. What’s not to love about a song called ‘Raging Zef Boner’? Nothing.
7: The Great Old Ones – Tekeli-Li (Les Acteurs De L’Ombre)
This was probably my favourite black metal release of this year. There’s something about TGOO that is so beautiful yet so utterly heartbreaking that listening to their music is akin to reading a sonnet or looking at an oil painting…or something less flowery. I dunno.
8: Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight)
Up the clads. These guys manage to smash it with every single release and are some of the best homegrown talent I’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping my lugholes round. Packed full of smash hits, if this album isn’t somewhere on your EOY list then you’re a dickhead.
9: Young and in The Way – When Life Comes to Death (Deathwish)
This doesn’t really sound like a YAITW release at all, but still absolutely slayed. Given the typical hardcore nature of their music, this was banging the black metal drum real hard; to the point where this would be something Jeff Whitehead would be proud to call his.
10: Warpaint – Warpaint (Rough Trade)
If I were to compile a list of my top played songs this year then ‘Love is to Die’ would probably snatch the top spot. Despite the fact this came out super early in the year, and it’s now December, I haven’t stopped listening to it all year. Hipster dream pop at its finest.
Out of all the things I’ve done this year for the site, this has been the most difficult of them all. It’s taken me a good few weeks to be satisfied with this for the simple reason, every time I think it’s ‘set’, another great album comes out and changes the list completely. If this were a top 20 of the year, I could do this no problem, but shrinking that list down to 10 means some great albums end up being missed out (AC/DC, Prong, Triptykon, Body Count and 11 Paranoias narrowly missing out). Without dragging this out much longer… Here we go.
1: Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today (Candlelight)
Narrowly taking the top spot, Welsh doomsters Sigiriya deliver a perfect album. Full of riffs, big grooves, fantastic musicianship and incredible vocals, the boys from Wales deliver a finely tuned stoner rock come doom album which is essential listening for anyone who is a fan of that sound, or who wants to hear something new.
Standout track – Sleeping with dogs.
2: Overkill – White Devil Armoury (Nuclear Blast)
Middle fingers raised in the air and sticking to their guns as always, the most consistent and criminally overlooked of the thrash bands, Overkill deliver another slice of top quality thrash metal. Full of aggression and energy, Bobby and the boys push themselves to deliver something new, but still keeping that trademark attitude and musicianship which has been the core of their success and sound over the years.
Standout track – Armorist
3: Stubb – Cry of the Ocean (Ripple Music)
Bringing back the classic 60’s and 70’s feel with elements of classic rock, blues and psychadellica, Stubb bring out one of the most captivating releases of the year and if it wasn’t for the two albums ahead of it, this one would have been my pick for top release of 2014.
Standout track: Sail Forever
4: Never Awake: Underground (Self Released)
Progressive metallers with one of the best debut albums of the year. Never Awake play an accessible brand of heavy prog metal with their own unique sound and style, separating them from the rest of the pack with a well-rounded album.
Standout Track: Wander
5: At The Gates – At War With Reality (Century Media)
One of the most anticipated albums of the year for a lot of people here did not disappoint. Following on from the stylings of ‘Slaughter of the soul’, the legendary death metallers continue their trademark sound, but adding more groove to it to help create a riff filled dose of heavy and intense metal, showing that they haven’t missed a step in their 18 year absence.
Standout Track: The book of sand (The Abomination)
6: Mother Of Millions – Human (Turkey Vulture Records)
Greek progressive metal which takes us on a well-polished journey with a dark and despair filled theme. The 5 piece from Athens blend metal and traditional Greek music with thought provoking lyrics and samples to take you on a journey which reflects society today.
Standout track: Fire
7: The Haunted – Exit Wounds (Century Media)
Marcus Aro back on vocals, and the extremely talented Ola Englund on lead guitar duties see the Swedish metal outfit bring back the hard hitting aggression of their earlier work. Full of heavy and fast riffing, plenty of edge and anger, The Haunted are doing what they do best. Standout Track: Cutting Teeth
8: Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss (Candlelight)
British worshippers of doom filled rock and roll and disciples of the riff, Orange Goblin give us yet another offering of groove filled and powerful music. “If you understand, raise your right hand, repeat after me, we are stone free”
Standout Track: Sabbath Hex
9: Axegressor – Last (Listenable)
Finnish thrash with a huge Teutonic vibe to it. ‘Last’ is thrash the way it should be – no nonsense, no compromise. The album is a controlled burst of speed, anger and power which some established thrash bands need to listen to and learn from.
Standout track: Mind Castration
10: Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium (Napalm)
The triumphant return of the Cavalera brothers is a hard hitting slice of chaotic aggression which pulls no punches. With Marc Rizzo and Nate Newton helping out, Iggor and Max put out one of the most brutal sounding albums of 2014 which has a real throwback to the classic 90’s sounds of Sepultura and Nailbomb, but with a more modern take on them.
Standout track: Bonzai Kamikaze
1: Nightbringer – Ego Dominus Tuus (Season of Mist)
In a strong year for black metal, the US-based outfit release perhaps their most defining record to date. Huge-sounding, massive in scope, replete with myriad sonic details and pitch, pitch black in tone, ‘Ego Dominus Tuus’ is ‘big’ black metal done properly. Their sonic path may be well-trodden these days but few – if any – deliver it with the bombastic, furious aplomb of Nightbringer.
2: YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Recordings)
We all know that Mike Scheidt is a talented fellow indeed and ‘Clear the Path to Ascend’ just serves to underline what a boon to the genre the man is. Four lengthy tracks scale soaring heights of deceptively intricate sludgy doom with Scheidt’s trademark vocal dexterity and guitar nuances being the undeniable stars of the show. At once both crushing and affecting.
3: Ascension – The Dead of the World (World Terror Committee)
Just pipped by Nightbringer to 2014’s black metal throne, ‘The Dead of the World’ is another punishing slice of colossal, razor-sharp blasphemy from this terrifyingly talented German outfit. In the four years since their debut full-length, Ascension have honed their art to precision, the stunning musicianship and winding song-structures carving an album of lasting impact.
4: Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III – Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti)
Returning to the more melodic, soaring soundscapes of the Memoria Vetusta series, Vindsval once again proves that he is virtually peerless within his genre. Another mesmerizing collection of glittering black metal hymns, ‘Saturnian Poetry’ is lent further power by the addition of live drums for the first time to a Blut Aus Nord record. A welcome development and another towering highlight in this project’s impressive discography.
5: Dirge -Hyperion (Debemur Morti)
A top 5 ‘one-two’ from the tasteful Debemur Morti stable, ‘Hyperion’ came out right at the start of 2014, laid down a marker and has remained a highlight ever since. Lurching, monolithic slabs of Neurosis inspired weighty metal are lent a surprisingly reflective air by the addition of swathes of emotive guitar ambience and the occasional spacey synth. By and large though, Dirge CRUSH, Hyperion itself being akin to an assault by the very elements themselves.
6: Darkspace – III I (Avantgarde Music)
In space, no-one can hear you scream apparently. No-one told this lot though and after seven long years, the Swiss trio return to deliver another relentless battering of their void-black cosmic assault. Very much of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mould, ‘III I’ sees Darkspace add little to their established sonic template – but what a template it is. Three lengthy songs, frenzied mechanized percussion, buzzsaw guitars and howling synths describe a universe that consists only of frozen, empty blackness.
7: Ghast – Dread Doom Ruin (Todstreib Productions)
The UK’s finest purveyors of horrific, dungeonic black metal, Ghast deliver on the promises of their earlier releases with this gruesome slab of ghastliness (pun intended). Their second full-length sees them capitalise on their strengths – a growling bass sound, stoic percussion, strangulated-yet-melodic guitar lines and a truly demented vocal performance courtesy of the wonderfully-named Arrrrrrrach. Genuinely unnerving at times, ‘Dread Doom Ruin’ is a gruelling trawl through a cold, unpleasant world.
8: Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (Martyrdoom)
Arguably the most vital death metal band around right now, Dead Congregation’s second album has taken a long, long time to finally see the light of day. Worth the wait? Of course. Taking the churning, lurching approach of classic Immolation, ramping up the speed to neck-breaking point and drenching the whole affair in a convincing atmosphere of crawling darkness, ‘Promulgation…’ is an intoxicating, exhilarating riff-fest.
9: Pallbearer – Failures of Burden (Profound Lore)
Fusing Morgion’s more pastoral approach with the reflective tones of our very own Solstice’s ‘Lamentations’ debut, ‘Failures of Burden’ may be bang on-trend but it’s also undoubtedly a great record with pounding, cavernous percussion underscoring some inventive guitar work and Brett Campbell’s distinctive, soaring vocals. Yes, it’s a touch ‘hip’ but there’s no denying the quality of Pallbearer’s song-writing nous and flair for crafting spirited, doom-tinged metal hymns.
10: Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere (Eisenwald)
In which the progressive Portland outfit return to underline their importance to – and elevation beyond – the saturated ‘post black metal’ genre they helped to kickstart. Opening with the monolithic ‘The Birth & Death of the Pillars of Creation’ and closing with the stirring ‘Plateau of the Ages’ across its 60-minute plus length and aided by a wonderfully spacious production, Agalloch’s fifth album could well be their best yet.
Honourable mentions to – Voices – ‘London’, Bethlehem – ‘Hexokosiohexacontahexophobia’, Dysangelium – ‘Thanatos Askesis’, Thine – ‘Dead City Blueprints’.
2014 has been the rollercoaster from Hell: Musically and personally it has left me in bits on the floor as my personal vehicle jumped the rails at the absolute top of the world at the same time as two of the greatest pieces of music I’ve heard in a decade have raised my spirits.
Trends? ‘Occult rock’ aka 70s Sabbath riffs gone soft and often female fronted has plunged from cookie cutter bland into ‘hey guys, just pack it in already’, stoner and sludge (apart from Of Spire & Throne with their mesmeric 2014 contribution) mostly still thinks that one riff per half hour and turning your back on the audience is ‘edgy’ and true doom has had it with the lot of them and gone into hibernation until the squatters leave. And the utter road crash tragedy of Alt-Fest and the loss amongst many of Rik Mayall just made everything taste like ashes.
On the plus side, we in the UK had the inaugural Temples festival which was just exceptional in all departments and every album in my Top 10 got a 9 or above or I didn’t review it.
2014? Fuck off and die. 2015? You’re mine, mine alone and I’m not sharing this time.
1: Sleep Of Monsters – Produces Reason (Svart)
This is the sound of explorers still capable of wonder despite their cynical eyes, almost like an ordered scrapbook of their travels or a conversation with a long lost friend as the bar slowly creeps into the small hours. This is a familiar friend changed in so many different ways and all of them intriguing. It’s one of those albums that you think of as ‘yours’ and you want to keep for yourself, safe and selfish.
1.5 Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity (Candlelight)
This album came to me at a time when feeling anything was hard or dangerous. Yet it worked its way inside and not only allowed me to feel it, but made me confident enough to do so. Not because it is a ‘safe’ album or a ‘predictable’ one, because it isn’t. It is because the sure footing of the band and the simple confidence they have gathered about them here is inspiring. It inspires trust. Their finest yet, and I think their best is still ahead, too.
3: Stryker – City Of Gold (Napalm)
Like Iron Maiden on turbo, Wolf on speed and the spirit of the 80s screaming into the 21st century Canada’s Striker hit a home run with this all killer no filler underground rooted pure metal album. Made me glad I was born a metalhead.
4: Voices – London (Candlelight)
If their debut wasn’t enough of a warning that Voices are more than just a little bit special, this album beats, pummels, whispers, caresses and slides it between your ribs. Unsettling, darkly beautiful and very very different. Prog death black insidious sensual metal music. It slices open the dark, weird underbelly of a city and all Hell slithers out.
5: The Order Of Israfel – Wisdom (Napalm)
Proof positive that taking from the 70s doesn’t have to mean dull rehash. Dancing between classic rock, screaming metal and bludgeoning doom, they came from nowhere and rocked my world. High On Fire meets blues rock god and occult weirdness. A blaze of light in a mundane scene.
6: Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)
Harking back to the harsh soundscapes of Streetcleaner more than Hymns this comeback just confirmed that Godflesh are unique and were just biding their time for the world to be shit enough for us to understand them again. Brutal, bleak and the sound of industrial destruction. Brilliant.
7: Vampillia – Some Nightmares Take You Aurora Rainbow Darkness’ (Candlelight)
A world of misty melody, bursts of kinetic energy and sweeping grandeur. There’s nothing contrived here, no trying to be weird or chaotic. If they are then it us simply their nature and how they bring out what is within, and what is within is a light and a beauty and a warmth we all need. Beautiful.
8: Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call (Metal Hell)
Fierce genuine metal from truly fiery and immensely proud folk; Tengger Cavalry have not only outdone themselves here but this Mongolian sun is going to cast challenging shadows over all of folk metal. Make no mistake, compared to anyone you can name in the folk metal field: This Is Huge.
9: Sargeist – Feeding The Crawling Shadows (World Terror Committee)
Sargeist just don’t sound like anyone else; others try (and fail) to sound like them but they stand apart and are unique in a tight, focused Finnish scene.Whether you prefer this to ‘Let The Devil In’ will be a minor matter of taste and will only become clear as the months and years roll on. This is as perfect a demonstration that in Finland the true heart of black metal still glistens in the darkness and that Sargeist are in the ascendancy.
10: Solstafir – Otta (Season Of Mist)
I’m so behind the rest of the world this was my first real encounter with Solstafir. If Sigur Ros had started out as a heavy metal band they might have progressed to somewhere around these enigmatic musicians. Sometimes amidst the ugliness of the world, beauty is your best defense and Otta is beauty.
Just missed out: Sturmtiger (only ‘cos I’m not convinced it really qualifies as an album), Death Penalty, Wijen Wij, Narrow House, H A R K, The Osiris Club, Mortals, Coltsblood.
Best split: P.H.O.B.O.S./Blut Aus Nord ‘Triunity’
Best E.P: Of Spire & Throne ‘Toll Of The Wound’
Best gig: The Annihilation Of Glasgow (Atlantean Kodex, Solstice, Dark Forest)
Best Live Set: The apocalyptic war by Neurosis @ Temples
Best Festival: Temples
That’s yer lot. Now go and buy them all, see them live, tell them how good they are.
1: Horrendous – Ecdysis (Dark Descent)
This album hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only the most impressive introduction to a band that I’ve had in years, this is also the best album I’ve heard in an equal amount of time. As a consequence, it’s the first record I’ve given a perfect score to in two-and-a-half years with Ave Noctum. Just to re-cap: fans of death metal are likely to go into raptures at the contorted, sophisticated machinations herein. Essential.
2: Vader – Tibi et Igni (Nuclear Blast)
If it weren’t for the above monster from the States, Vader’s latest album would have been my number one without doubt. While it’s probably on a par, burning the fence down is better than sitting on it… Irrespective of rank, this is Vader’s most complete record – in terms of production, songwriting and blazing performances. In particular, James Stewart’s drum-work shares much in common with Doc, allowing the metal nuances to flow as free as they ever have.
3: Morbus Chron – Sweven (Century Media)
Possibly the most cerebral record in my collection, this is full of opposing energies which are harnessed brilliantly. Transcending leaps and bounds beyond the admittedly crushing death of their debut, ‘Sweven’ sees Morbus Chron form death metal a new arsehole. Shifting from spaced out passages to absolute hellish torture, the music here explores every corner of our psyche. What’s more, there isn’t an ounce of pretentiousness to be found. Pure class.
4: Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (Season of Mist)
On the face of things, it seems odd for a band to go more underground, murk-ridden and (arguably) extreme as they have ever been in a thirty year existence. But that’s exactly what Mayhem have done here. Granted, the line-up has changed fundamentally in the guitar department but all for the better. ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is the audial equivalent to voluntarily breathing in acrid carbon monoxide fumes.
5: Execration – Morbid Dimensions (Duplicate)
Brimming with mystery, terror and explorations of our dark subconscious, ‘Morbid Dimensions’ expands on its blackened, ritualistic predecessor with magnificent ease. On a more primal level, the album also manages to blur the boundaries of ripping death/black and progression to the point that it’s impossible to appreciate ‘Morbid Dimensions’ as anything other than masterful extreme metal, pure and (not so) simple.
6: Decapitated – Blood Mantra (Nuclear Blast)
Decapitated have done something which, for me, is most unusual: a death metal band who have incorporated more ‘conventional’ metal elements into their sound and become stronger. Jagged colliding rhythms, sparing use of blast-beats and crusty aggro vocals – not to mention liberal use of groove – deliver one hell of a combined punch. More impressive still is the way that varying emotions have been successfully injected into this once so mechanical beast.
7: Obituary – Inked in Blood (Relapse)
Obituary’s return has been full of ups and downs: from the lukewarm ‘Frozen in Time’ comeback to the increasingly better likes of ‘Darkest Day’ to departing band members. ‘Inked in Blood’, out of it all, qualifies as the most death metal and the most musically consistent disc since ‘Cause of Death’. The introduction of Terry Butler and Kenny Andrews to the band’s line-up, tours reliving the first three albums and a five year gestation period have all obviously played their part.
8: Desecration – Cemetery Sickness (Metal Age)
When you need to be relentlessly beaten, there’s few more qualified to deliver the service than Desecration. What I appreciate most about ‘Cemetery Sickness’ is how it captures the band as they sound live. Razor wire riffs catapult out, drums fire remorselessly away while vocals alternate between guttural barks and insane shrieks. Possibly the only downside is the continued misogynistic lyrical fixation. Otherwise, this band is one of the few things I actually miss about the UK.
9: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
Where Mayhem’s new album suffocates like noxious gas, Triptykon’s is a musically impenetrable swamp of undulating tar – sludgy and suffocating but also strangely beautiful. While it hasn’t hit me as monumentally hard as ‘Eparistera Daimones’ did, it is yet another lesson in extreme metal intellectualism from Mr Fischer & Co. Flippancy aside, this line-up is building on Celtic Frost’s awesome legacy to create something altogether more unsettling.
10: The Haunted – Exit Wounds (Century Media)
This is my first The Haunted album since ‘One Kill Wonder’. One listen to the return of Dolving on a sampler CD was enough for me to opt out of the band indefinitely. Until now, that is. While not a full-on thrash-fest, ‘Exit Wounds’ sounds almost like they were when I left off. With the affable Marco Aro and Adrian Erlandsson back on board, it’s been like getting reacquainted with an old (albeit angry) friend.
1: Monuments – The Amanuensis (Century Media)
The Amanuensis takes a burgeoning genre and raises the bar for the rest. Seriously, you’d be hard-pressed to find another modern progressive metal album that could match this for impact. The band have refined the array of techniques they displayed on debut Gnosis and added the vocal gymnastics of Chris Barretto to their line-up. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he takes the album to a whole new level. Throughout “Origin Of Escape” and the epic “Quasimodo” he’s tearing out lumps from your lugholes by firing out elongated roars that he bends into long, base-to-peak crecendos. During “Horcrux” and “I, The Destroyer” he fishes out those bowel-loosening piq grunts of his and for the remainder he’s scraping the skies with a sweet, melodic drift that gently echoes and swirls around inside your skull. On this performance, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better fit for this infectious band. This is a completely, crushingly epic goliath of tech and groove; wall-shuddering, space-flooding both by design and in performance.
2: Servers – Leave With Us (Undergroove)
Some groups may mesh a couple of genres together to create something fresh and dynamic – Servers are an octopic rock band with a groping arm in every pie. They are the very definition of the band you simply cannot pigeonhole. Song by song, their chameleonic music takes in grunge, dark rock, screamo, sludge, cult metal, new wave, industrial and punk n’ roll. Their debut is an absolute behemoth spouting musical ear-worms that boast grit, melody and muscle. Tracks like “Universes & Supernovas” and “Run With The Foxes” come bursting at the seams with vast riffs and big, sparkly choruses that will aggressively weld themselves to your brain. When they cool their heels they produce stuff like the intensely gothic, Icicle Works-friendly comedown of ‘Claustrophobia‘. Welcome to your new favourite band.
3: Zodiac – Sonic Child (Napalm Records)
Straight out of left field this one. By opening with an intensely moving spoken passage telling of the utter joy of music, Zodiac grasp your attention and retain it from the first note to the last. The no-nonsense unencumbered groove that drives this album slackens and quickens to purpose but at every moment it pushes forward through the genres of blues, soul, country and rock n’ roll. “Just Music” hauls some 70s kitsch out of the closet whilst “A Penny And A Dead Horse” digs out the good old boy steel guitar to suck you into a dizzying world of galloping horses and chain gangs. So leave your hang-ups at the door, come on in and just lose yourself, even if only “just for a little while”.
4: Intervals – A Voice Within (Self-Released)
By making a sudden switch-up to a combination of rhythmic backline and glorious, moving vocal interplay, Intervals have produced a work of real joy, passion and pomp. Mike Semesky, now on lead vocal, craftily wraps his eye-popping, hugely emotive lyrics around the spasming instrumentation in such a way that you’ll find them worming their way into your cortex. From the fast-slow pomp of “The Self Surrended” to the all-conquering “Atlas Hour”, this album is undeniable proof of just how perceptive and unrestricted by the concept of genres, our modern metal bands have become.
5: Skyharbor – Guiding Lights (Basick)
Sounding smoother and sleeker whilst staying inventive and demanding, this latest model from Skyharbor takes the band away from their bumpier, grittier debut. Driven by the triumphant, emotion-soaked vocal of Daniel Tompkins, the album delves deep into the realms of post-rock and dream pop. Earworms like “Evolution” and “The Constant” suck you in, whilst the sheer beauty of “Halogen”s construction and the heart-rending pain that inhabits “Patience” will demand continuous repeats. The organic ebb and flow of the album ties neatly in with the themes of life, evolution and entropy. It is a work of art that will toy with your senses and reduce grown men to tears. This band are going places and Guiding Lights is proof that sharing their future journey will be something of a delight.
6: Cavorts – Got Your Brass (In At The Deep End Records)
Jumping on the screaming punk n’ roll bandwagon, Cavorts have leaped from the shadows to produce an album with more conviction than Cancer Bats, more nous than Kvelertak and more punch than Feed The Rhino. They’ve achieved this by opening out the song structures and firing out more barbarous hooks and crushing riffs than you can shake a stick at. If tracks like “Wait On”, “Put Down The Hammer” and “Save Some Things” don’t have you forming invisible oranges and shouting the lyrics to the skies then there’s something inherently wrong with you.
7: Animals As Leaders – The Joy Of Motion (Sumerian)
A step forward away from the inaccessible complexities of earlier albums, this perfectly-titled songbook still opens with music that’s as manic as a warzone, where bullets are replaced by notes. There are strafed leads that descend into an absolute cacophony before abating into the most gloriously laid-back infectious moments of jazz, electro and post-rock. Within the space of two tracks you are taken from the Earl Klugh-esque, low-slung jazz guitar of “Another Year” to the addictive slap funk majesty of “Physical Education”. If this were hooked up to a graphic equalizer it would create only the most achingly beautiful of shapes. There you have it… The Joy Of Motion.
8: Craang – To The Estimated Size Of The Universe (Pink Tank Records)
As a debut album, quite frankly TTESOTU is astounding. There have been plenty of releases of late riding the retro gravy train but this four-track concoction of space, stoner and psych is quite unlike anything that has come before. Yes, some of its content may bear a passing resemblance to Hawkwind, Zappa or Pink Floyd but it actually draws strength from far more contemporary sounds than these. Take “Butterfly” for example. It digs out the kind of sick, splattering riff that Fu Manchu or Orange Goblin might have conjured and rides it until it sinks so far into your consciousness that you cease to notice it any more. You can feel your own pulse begin to syncopate, realigning itself with the music to create a new cadence for you to live by. There is definitely no hiding from the enigmatic joy, passion and crushing presence that this album carries.
9: Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt (Deadbox Records)
Music and humour are two beasts that can cause sparks when combined. There’s the simple shits n’ giggles kind – bands like Tenacious D and Psychostick – and there’s the lunatic fringe featuring goliaths like Rammstein and Devin Townsend. Aligning themselves closer to the latter, Evil Scarecrow tackle everything from genetically-modified mutant-robot crabs and the brilliant concept of losing a priceless library book called “The Book Of Doom”, to paying tribute to the interactive virtual-reality world that was late-80s kids TV gameshow Knightmare. With razor-sharp wit, a very special guest and now stunning production to boot, Galactic Hunt (say it fast) is proof of just how far they have come in their quest to find our funny bones.
10: Devin Townsend Project – Sky Blue (HevyDevy)
Bursting from the confines of Dev’s Z2 package comes this utterly mind-blowing collaboration with Anneke Van Giersbergen. Sporting great diversity, at times, it wallows in sheer euphoric arena rock whilst at others it spasms into sections of electro, dance and pop. There’s also the mind-blowing wrap-around sound of “The Universal Choir” to wallow in. What more could any fan of music want?
1: Behemoth – The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
A no brainer for my no. 1 slot of 2014, and many other people I imagine. ‘The Satanist’ saw Nergal and co visit a darker, more contemplative side of Behemoth’s history, stripping back the recent layers of technicality and destructiveness to hone their sound into a heaving, festering beast of aural evil.
2: Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (Season of Mist)
Mayhem have always been a band to divide opinions, but for me, ‘Esoteric Warfare’ is a clinical, cold and calculated attack with a winning concept to back it up. It marked their 30 years of existence with a monolithic exclamation point.
3: Darkspace – III I (Avantgarde)
Even though there is no sound in space, if there were, it would sound like Darkspace. III I marks another alien, cold and creepy approach into black metal and dark ambient, perfectly moulding the very fabric of time and space for your listening pleasure.
4: Mysticum – Planet Satan (Peaceville)
This had been a long time coming, but it was more than worth the wait. Mysticum returned with the long awaited ‘Planet Satan’, reminding us all why they were so painfully missed for all those years of inactivity. Crushing, futuristic and brimming with twisted glee.
5: Sargeist – Feeding the Crawling Shadows (W.T.C)
One of the darkest hues of Finnish blackness returned once more in 2014, bringing a sickening miasma of death and pestilence with them. The very upper echelons of black metal elite have yet another album to worship in ‘Feeding the Crawling Shadows’.
6: Incantation – Dirges of Elysium (Listenable)
The best album Incantation have released in years, revisiting their very finest moments and somehow making them grimier and more disgusting. ‘Dirges of Elysium’ is packed with the finest quality slabs of occult death metal you’re likely to hear in 2014.
7: Near Death Condition – Evolving Towards Extinction (Unique Leader)
A band which came out of nowhere for me and took my head off with their unrelenting attack of death metal. ‘Evolving Towards Extinction’ is an unfettered beast of an album, mixing discordant brutality with a fine ear for melody to concoct a winning formula of death.
8: Nocturnal – Storming Evil (High Roller)
‘Storming Evil’ is packed with intuitive ideas which habitually hark back to the classics, while still managing to bring a level of freshness to the table. Rather than sounding like a dull re-hash of the band members collective vinyl collections, this is REAL metal, made for true metal heads that’re jaded with the modern, plastic and accepted ‘extreme’.
9: Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (Martyrdoom)
Filthy, trudging death metal once more from Dead Congregation, with many crushing earworms that burrowed deeply into my psyche. ‘Promulgation of the Fall’ is an unrelenting tyrant of an album which deserves every second of the time it takes to seep in.
10: Teitanblood – Death (N.E.D)
Teitanblood, kings of the underground. ‘Death’ features a vortex of sludgey death metal which swirls around you, infecting every atom which it comes into contact with. Destructive.
2014 has been an excellent year for metal fans of all persuasions with outstanding and essential releases coming on almost a weekly basis. So much so in fact, that I still have quite a few highly anticipated albums from 2014 still in my ‘to do’ pile, including Godflesh, Agalloch and Behemoth. In some respects I’m quite glad I’ve not heard them yet as to have done so will only have made the already maddening experience of compiling this list even worse. Anyway, without further ado…
1: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
Nobody does it quite like Thomas Gabriel Fischer. As true artists often suffer for their art, Tom G’s well documented battles with his own demons somehow seem to bring him to levels nobody else can manage. Melana Chasmata maintains the untouchable form he has been in since ‘Monotheist’ with another incredible set of songs providing a window to a tortured soul.
2: Vallenfyre – Splinters (Century Media)
Following up on their superb debut ‘A Fragile King’ was always going to be difficult, but Vallenfyre managed to surpass expectations by cranking up the intensity and delivering a masterclass in gloomy old school extremity.
3: The Order of Israfel – Wisdom (Napalm)
It was going to take something special to stand out amongst the tide of doom released this year, and The Order of Israfel’s debut is very special indeed. A diverse and surprising album full of originality, epic tales, majestic riffs, and a bloody great Noctuus.
4: Conan – Blood Eagle (Napalm)
A testament to the crushing nature of Blood Eagle is that it is responsible for me ruining 3 sets of headphones and one set of ears this year. With a sound so heavy they could level buildings, Conan are at the top of their game with this one.
5: Vader – Tibi Et Igni (Nuclear Blast)
Vader are one of those bands that never fail to deliver. ‘Tibi Et Igni’ may have a slightly more commercial tone to it than previous albums, but they still remain true to their roots and are close to a career high with this collection of facemelters.
6: Blues Pills – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
Blues Pills much anticipated debut is everything I hoped it would be. A time warp of an album full of outstanding late 60’s early 70’s bluesy rock songs, yet it’s Elin Larsson’s soulful voice that is the real draw here. Superstardom beckons.
7: Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville)
All concerns over Old Nick’s ability to deliver a convincing vocal performance were well and truly dispelled within seconds of the opening track. An outstanding display of old style death metal and arguably Bloodbath’s best album.
8: Doom:VS – Earthless (Solitude Productions)
The third album from Johan Ericsson’s solo project is another shining example of bleak and beautiful melodic funeral doom. Both dark and uplifting at the same time, the soaring lead melodies and excellent songwriting make this something special.
9: The Wounded Kings – Consolamentum (Candlelight)
Released prior to Sharie Neyland’s departure from the band, this is occult doom at its finest with Sharie’s vocals having a spine tingling spookiness to them. Another classic album from a band that can do little wrong, regardless of who is singing.
10: The Deathtrip – Deep Drone Master (Svart)
It’s rare that a band lives up to the tag of ‘True Black Metal’, but The Deathtrip has all the atmosphere of old school black metal with modern production values. Aldrahn’s wonderfully unhinged vocal performance is the frosty icing on the cake.
Notable mentions also go to Orange Goblin, Serpent Venom, Overkill, The Skull and At the Gates.
My criteria were simple….. what have I played the most? Not what is the most muso friendly beard stroking techno-wank, not what’s the most arty farty, not what’s the most br00tal & slamming, not what’s the most evil & nekro sounding but what have I actually enjoyed listening to the most…. So here it is. And if you disagree, remember, it’s only my opinion (and therefore fact!)
1: Menace – Impact Velocity (Season Of Mist)
It’s not often I can describe an album as ‘beautiful’ but fuck me, Mitch Harris (Napalm Death) has produced a truly stunning work of art with his Menace project (which includes the Man Of A 1000 Bands – Shane Embury on bass). Melodic, heavy, technically superb and with just simply amazing songs. This is true labour of love from Mitch and each and every one of the meticulously crafted tracks is bursting with feeling. From the almost poppy opener, ‘I Live With Your Ghost’, this album is a roller coaster ride. You need it.
2: Orange Goblin – Back From The Abyss (Candlelight)
London’s… no Great Britain’s hardest working band followed up the career defining ‘Eulogy For The Damned’ with this groove dripping, hook laden heavy metal classic. The back to basics approach pays off big time in tracks like ‘Sabbath Hex’ and ‘The Devils Whip’ plus the hook filled ‘Heavy Lies The Crown’ must be one of the best metal tracks of the year….. by any band. Every track is a master class in stripped down rock superiority and Joe Hoare is one of the most underrated riff generators in heavy music. When journalists are whining about there being no one to fill the shoes of Sabbath, Priest & Maiden, do me a favour – ram this album down their throat and carve ORANGEFUCKINGOBLIN on their chests. OG are the standard bearers of British steel!
3: Mage – Last Orders (Witch Hunter Records)
Think Candlemass, think Sabbath, think big fat gnarly RIFFS!! Heavier than a skip full of anvils and more hooks than an explosion in a fishing tackle shop. Mage’s second album really grabs you by the riff nodes and hurls you round in a cosmic maelstrom of doom. Another killer album by another killer British band. Now play darn sarf!!
4: Accept – Blind Rage (Nuclear Blast)
Fourteen albums in and the Germans are still nailing it. The third album with former TT Quick frontman, Mark Tornillo on vocals is every bit as awesome as anything in their back catalogue. Catchy, infectious & anthemic – Wolf Hoffmann’s Teutonic Warmachine is still a dominating force of pure metal. Great production (obviously) from Andy Sneap is the icing on this iron cake….. if you don’t like Accept then you don’t like metal. Simples.
5: Cannibal Corpse – A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade)
Come on now – this is Cannibal Corpse… you could lock this band in a room with no more than some saucepans and an ukulele and they would still be able to make a record that shits on every other death metal release that year. Switching producer from Erik Rutan to Mark Lewis detracted nothing from the bands trademark brutality and they served up yet another first class lesson in sonic violence. Come on now…..FIRE UP THE CHAINSAW
6: Basement Torture Killings – A Night Of Brutal Torture (Grindscene Records)
London’s finest serial killer obsessed psychos really blew my skirt up with this release back in January. Technical, brutal death metal played at light speed by men in cardigans. You can’t teach it… and you can’t fault this album. Beneath the masks Tarquin & Bertrand’s guitar work is incredible and songs like ‘Car Trunk Caroline’ and ‘Basement Bitch’ showed a catchier side to the band’s grinding death than we’d seen previously and the new tracks slot in their (always amazing) live set with ease. Great band…great merch and great shows.
7: Amputated – Dissect, Molest, Ingest (Sevared)
One of the first UKDM releases this year and a belter. The lads really carved out a winner with this, their third full length. New boy (ish) vocalist Mark Gleed brings much more to the gory, blood-soaked party than the previous vocalist and the band sound a lot more ‘grown up’ as a result. The material on this album simply buries the previous stuff and is an addictive mix of Cannibal Corpse style speed and technicality and Dying Fetus slamming brutality. Good, nasty fun.
8: The Dagger – The Dagger (Century Media)
Probably my most played album this year. Deep fried retro gold from former Dismember er…members. This little gem is the real deal. Part Maiden, part Purple, part BOC all brilliant. Catchier, more head bangier and simply better than any other so called retro / classic rock band. These boys clearly love this material and (unlike some groups) at no time sound like a parody. Must be listened to in a Brando jacket and aviator shades for the maximum effect.
9: Thanatos – Global Purification (Century Media)
Now listen, Thanatos are one of those bands that have been around for ever yet are always forgot about when people talk Eurodeath. I used to take great joy in spinning records like ‘Realm Of Ecstasy’ to mates and feeling superior in my DM knowledge. They were MY secret band….. all of that is bound to change shortly with this recent release. A proper thrash/death metal record full of addictive riffs, blasting drums and snarly venomous vocals. If you truly love extreme metal you’ll love this album. AND they’re playing their long overdue first UK gig in April!
10: Eastern Front – Descent Into Genocide (Candlelight)
Well these local (to me) leather clad, war torn badgers knocked it out the park with this, their second album and follow up to 2010’s ‘Blood On Snow’ and promptly destroyed their naysayers in the process. Epic, atmospheric and amazingly well crafted, every song is a belter. Hard graft, relentless touring and unparalleled commitment has paid off with eight thought provoking tracks, every one deserving of it’s place on the album and zero filler. Kicking back a good few quid from sales to ‘Help For Heroes’ was a classy and respectful touch too. Good work fellas.
One thing can be relied on in the world of rock and metal and that’s the endless inundation of amazing albums, some by established acts but also by upcoming bands that give the rock and metal world a real kick up its arse in case they were resting on their laurels and wallowing in complacency. Like previous years the culling of some truly great albums took place for my list and whilst some may have been comparable high flyers for me this list represents what I have enjoyed the most as well as the odd live show that helps fortify the music into the mind.
1: Behemoth – The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
As I stated in my top ten of 2013 I predicted that Behemoth’s mighty opus would be in my top ten and it has stayed virtually unparalleled through 2014 and culminated in their devastating live show at the close of the year too, showing what a potent force this Polish act has become.
2: Thanatos – Global Purification (Century Media)
From out of nowhere this Dutch death metal band obliterated my auditory senses with some of the greatest riffs I have heard in many years, and coupled to ear shattering power this album is a sonic detonation.
3: Audrey Horne – Pure Heavy (Napalm)
I just love this band, always have, always will, their no nonsense hard rock is infectious delivering copious amounts of amazing hooks, candied melodies and sublime lead work, topped by a vocalist who is incredible both on studio output and live.
4: Skull Fist – Chasing The Dream (Noise Art)
Having been put onto this band by a mate, these Canadian shredders capture everything about heavy metal that is glorious, the high pitched fantastic vocals linked to some of the finest tunes you’ll ever hear the band are a speed metal dream.
5: The Vintage Caravan – Voyage (Nuclear Blast)
Making huge waves in rock this Icelandic band has had a prolific year show casing their considerable song writing talents and with each guy looking about 15 years old and with ball busting live shows ‘Voyage’ was conveyed brilliantly live and has some fabulous hooks and choruses bound to a very retro production.
6: Sabaton – Heroes (Nuclear Blast)
The continual march to global recognition from this Swedish act shows no stopping, their massively affable tunes are wondrous to listen wherever you are, but live Sabaton always kill and with this brilliantly conceptualised album the advance to worldwide domination is that bit closer.
7: High Spirits – You Are Here (High Roller Records)
Flying well and truly under the radar is this release, combining stalwart traditional heavy metal with a more laid back hard rock style, High Spirits are a beautiful listen, the vocals are sublime, with mesmerising choruses and the guitar work is utterly fantastic.
8: Triptykon – Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
Never ones to care about what anyone thinks Triptykon’s sophomore is a beast, like its predecessor, the sludge like monolithic riffing is drenched in darkened cavernous death doom, and fills you with manifest despair and despondency.
9: Massacre – Back From Beyond (Century Media)
Appropriately titled, the return of Massacre was unbelievable for me and whether their longevity will last I’m not sure but this album contains unabashed deathly bludgeoning, harking back to their debut the power is immense.
10: Falconer – Black Moon Rising (Metal Blade)
Probably a surprise to some but this Swedish power metal band released an eighth album of blazing glory, with rampant double kick runs arm in arm with anthemic song writing and charismatic choruses.
2014 – Another great year for rock and metal. As usual I probably didn’t like – or sometimes even hear many of the albums that make the end of year lists of many other peeps. Well they are all idiots. Only my list is troo!
No order here just ten gooduns
The Admiral Sir CLoudesley Shovell – Check ‘em before you Wreck Em (Rise Above)
I was worried that these South Coast boys couldn’t follow up “Don’t hear it…….Fear it” Completely unfounded ! This kind of beer soaked blues rock is a cornerstone of British Rock and Roll and has been since the days of John Mayall et al. The Admiral channel the past and sprinkle it with 21st Century crackling space dust.
Stoneburner – Life Drawing (Neurot)
From Portland Oregon they came. Laying down the sludgey groove like a JCB spreading tar. Lo and behold I did get stuck in their groove and gave in to the glorious muck. No struggle did I make just a constant rhythmic nodding of the head with a toothy grin on my visage.
Devilment – The Great and Secret Show (Nuclear Blast)
It could have been the Emperor’s new clothes but instead turned out to be a fantastic new shiny dancey metal playsuit with a top hat to boot. Sanity Hits a Perfect Zero and Even Your Bloodgroup Rejects Me have me hitting the rewind button like a teenager with a porn tape. Not just Dani Filth and extras – the birth of a new exciting British band.
Hang the Bastard – Sex in the Seventh Circle (Century Media)
Everything here sounds so big – the drums and bass are thunderous and I don’t want to over egg the pudding that is the riffs but come on! The vocals are a splash of colour across a deliciously dark canvas, a slash of red lipstick across a camo painted face .
Byzanthian Neckbeard – From the Clutches of Oblivion (S/R)
Guernsey . The Channel Islands. Not the first place you think of when it comes to sludgey doomy metal. Well that was until the Neckbeard tore Bloodstock and new one then released this bad boy . Stick Plant of Doom on and wig out baby. (I apologise for the very ,very………….. very, slow whiplash it will incur).
Godflesh – A World Lit only by Fire. (Avalanche Recordings)
I didn’t think I could get excited by a Godflesh album again. Never has a welcome surprise hit like such a shovel in the face. A shovel that has been used to mix cement. Then dipped in lava. Deadend is just hypnotising in it’s stark brutality. The rest of the album ain’t half bad either.
Kontrust – Explositive – (Napalm)
I quite like cocktails. Not all the time mind. Let’s not go overboard, I am English not Floridian. Once in a while though it is nice to sip from a glass that contains a surprising mix of elements that refreshes the pallet whilst also puts a tingling on your tastebuds. Explositive is one such aural cocktail.Take one part Roots era Sepultura, one part Skindred , a twist of System of a Down , the rind of Les Claypool, a hint of Mad Capsule Markets and use a glittery cocktail shaker made from Eurovision song contest costumes. Set light to the fucker and suck through an asbestos straw. Yummmmmm!
Morodh – The World of Retribution (Witching Hour Productions)
New style black and roll this ain’t!
What it is , is eight tracks of beatific bleak yet uplifting Black Metal. At times there is an element of shoegaze in the mix but the harsh and upfront vocals mean that all is not lost in the swirl. The titles themselves prepared me for what was to come.” Desperation , Ritalin, Regret, Fatality, Desolation, The End, Loneliness, Lie. “ This is despair and tragedy that you will want to wallow in .
Down – IV part II (Warner Music)
OK it’s an E.P but it is longer than a lot of albums. This is Down doing what they do best and doing it without Kirk Windstein and pulling it off. Conjure is the track to pull you into the bayou and make you take a deep lungful of that Louisiana swamp.
Necrophagia – Whiteworm Cathedral (Season of Mist)
If Hammer Horror had a house death metal band Necrophagia woulda been it. Fantastic B movie clips are peppered around this groove laden deathfest. Fear the Priest has a riff that just won’t quit. Delightfully delinquent.
If I was going to be totally honest, my top album would be Deaf Dealer – Journey Into Fear, so why not in the list? It was recorded in 1987 and hasn’t seen the light of day till this year, so in the spirit of lists etc…it’s missing. But check it out!
2: The Morningside – Letters from the Empty Towns (BadMoodMan Music)
Progressive and melodic death metal that has utterly mind-bending arrangements that keep you interested, its sounds easy but this is a technical masterpiece.
3: Dawnrider – The Third Crusade (Raging Planet)
Portuguese doom/heavy metal, mixing everything from Grand Magus, Trouble, Count Raven and Candlemass, totally epic heavy metal recently supported Trouble & The Skull in Europe. A real find.
4: Fisthammer – Infallible (Horror Pain Gore Death)
A furiously intense mix of battering death metal with some black metal infusions exhuming complexity and genius in the arrangements, it’s a clever amalgamation of sounds
5: Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen and Unseen (Church Within)
In terms of doom metal, Serpent Venom have developed into the UK’s leading torchbearers. The arrangements have progressed and the band sound on fire and on par with the bigger names of this genre. A stunning lesson in traditional doom.
6: Riot V – Unleash the Fire (SPV/Steamhammer)
A fitting tribute to their fallen guitarist, with vocals from Todd Michael Hall, this is as strong as any of their albums, but harks back to their traditional US power metal era of the late 80’s with a fresh recording. Solos, melodies, metal…it’s all here.
7: Ambush – Firestorm (High Roller)
An album I had waited a long time for and didn’t disappoint. Influences includes early 80’s Judas Priest and Ambush’s ability to write a catchy hook and melody is why this album is so infectious.
8: Blues Pills – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
Believe the hype, along with The Vintage Caravan, this band prove you are never too young to write classic hard rock. Reminding me of the UK explosion of the late 60’s/early 70’s, this is how to burst into a music scene!
9: Amulet – The First (Century Media)
This is a band I have followed from the very start, with this major label debut things are really promising for this band. Taking their traditional metal of the late 70’s and NWOBHM inspiration to the masses, Amulet are a band that truly deserve to wear the gloves of metal in all their glory. You better watch out for that hangman though!
10: Reactory – High On Radiation (Iron Shield)
Teutonic thrash, pure and simple. A young band, this is thrash at its most vibrant. This keeps you head banging no matter how many times you hear it.
Near Misses…albums by: Caronte, ADX, Dark Forest, Judas Priest and Overkill.
Top 5 Demos and bands to watch: –
Seven Sisters – The Warden
Demon Bitch – Death is Hanging
Dracula – Open the Graves at Midnight (re-release)
Blizzard Hunter – Conqueror of Destiny
Cloven Altar – Cloven Altar
As this whole bloody extreme music thing continues to fragment, each vein is mined vociferously, and then fragments again. Blame the internet or salute it for its expository powers, but for those prepared to look hard there is just so much good music out there – in cyberspace and even in those often poorly attended live venues. The trick is finding it. So, for whatever use they are, quickly on to those honourable mentions: Akrotheism, Enthroned, Imperial Triumphant (admittedly a compilation and ignoring from that ridiculous video from 2013), Nightfell, Lord Mantis, Fides Inversa, Downfall of Gaia, Solstafir and Folge Dem Wind. EPs: Inter Arma and Vahevahian’s Demo 2015 (which was actually released in May 2014).
1: Spectral Lore – III (I, Voidhanger)
Not content with the high bar he had set for himself with previous releases, Spectral Lore’s mastermind Ayloss decided to top it all by going stratospheric this time round. Packed with hair-raising twist after hair-raising turn, I will not mince my words here: this is a work of black metal genius.
2: Schammasch – Contradiction (Prosthetic)
A blackened sermon driven by tribal percussion and dark, twisted chords. Schammasch scream their disaffection at the heavens while the nine spiralling tracks each draw you down to the depths like a stripped-down, occult-worshipping Neurosis. Lift your eyes and let Schammasch reveal the truth.
3: Nux Vomica – ST (Relapse)
Anyone fancy a bit of blackened d-beat crust? One of my best finds of the year without question, Nux Vomica’s self-titled album – and the rest of their back catalogue – is like a rush of adrenaline as well as (a little bit of politics here) a nice counter-balance to the often tiresome and childishly right-wing politics of much of the Northern European extreme music scene. New Year’s resolution: more crust punk.
4: Dark Space – III I (Avantgarde Music)
Whoa…! WTF just happened!? Dark Space, that’s what. Somewhere between music and a sonic overload that brings new meaning to the phrase ‘Wall of Noise’. Black metal of truly cosmic proportions – especially if that cosmos is full of the souls of the tormented and damned and ruled by cybernetic gods of flayed flesh and adamantine skin.
5: Vanhelgd – The Relics Of Sulphur Salvation (Pulverised)
A steady-paced blackened death metal band from Sweden that pretty much sums up my perfect death metal sound. Rasping and restrained to the point of sinews bursting with a seething anger that sounds like it will very likely result in self-implosion. By the sounds of this, someone in Sweden is very pissed off indeed.
6: Varathron – Untrodden Corridors of Hades (Agonia)
Explosive stuff from Greek originators that really should think about putting out an album a little more often. This one secures them their place in the forefront of Greek black metal. Powerful and visceral, Varathron take no prisoners and bow to no man – or band.
7: Nidsang – Into The Womb of Dissolving Flames (Pulverised)
I could mention four or five black metal releases that almost made the cut here (see my quick run-down above) but this is a classic black metal album that still sounds fresh even though it is firmly rooted in the 90s. Nice to see it’s possible to produce something in that traditional style that is still so full of crackling energy and vibrant riffs, dark enough to wake the dragon itself.
8: Howls of Ebb – Vigils Of The 3rd Eye (I, Voidhanger)
Ragged death metal so shambling, dirty and rotten you’ll feel like blowing its head off with a double-barrel shotgun. But despite the obvious stench of the recent dead about this, it is still one of the freshest things I’ve heard this year with its discordant, at times almost jazzy vibe and chaotic rush. All in the worst, blackest possible taste, of course. Lock, load, leggit!
9: Taake – Stridens hus (Dark Essence)
There are a few bands that for me that can do no wrong, musically at least. He may have been a silly boy in the past but hopefully all that is behind us now and we can focus on the fact that Hoest is a creative force and a consistent beacon in the endless, cold darkness of the Norwegian black metal scene.
10: One And All, Together, For Home – Various (Season of Mist)
The bright spark at Season of Mist who gave this the green light deserves a medal. Put together by Drudkh guitarist Roman Saenko, this is an absolute must for anyone who has even a passing interest in the folk and black metal scenes. With some amazing newly recorded tracks by the likes of Kampfar, Häive and Drudkh as well as some from bands I’m less familiar with (Himinbjorg and Mondvolland). Excellent.
This year has been a tough one to whittle down to just 10 albums; considering the likes of Spider Kitten, Stubb, Satan’s Satyrs, Audrey Horne, Bigelf, Yob, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter, and the normally guaranteed to place Electric Wizard didn’t make the cut, you can guess how tough it was to choose in what for me was an excellent year of rock and metal. Oh well, here goes.
2: Blues Pills – Blues Pills (Nuclear Blast)
A contender for the top slot with soaring vocals supported by superlative musicianship, played with a maturity beyond the years of the band.
3: Sigiriya – Darkness Died Today (Candlelight)
Following a stunning debut and a new singer, the band manages to just simply get better and better, the album playing superlatively live.
4: Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen and Unseen (Church Within)
This crushingly heavy doom LP was the total package, from superlative artwork to chest crushing riffs, how could it not make my top 10?
6: Admiral Sir Cloudsley Shovell – S/T (Rise Above)
As well as boasting some of the finest sideburns since Graeme Garden was a Goody, The Shovell have hook laden riffs aplenty, there humour and guileless charm not quite concealing how well they play.
7: Corrosion of Conformity – IX (Candlelight)
The classic three piece line up fire out another stunning album that encompasses the varied styles of their whole long career, proving the rumoured return of Pepper Keenan is not a necessity, just a potential bonus.
8: Grand Magus – Triumph and Power (Nuclear Blast)
Arriving early in the year these mighty Swedes were in danger of being edged out of the list, but just one listen to their unpretentious and massive traditional metal ensured their place. A neck wrecking classic.
9: Prong – Ruining Lives (SPV)
Tommy Victor reaches deep into his never ending bag of riffage and from it produces an album of energy and enthusiasm that bands of a like vintage could to well to take note of. Backed by powerhouse live performances, it’s a cracker.
10: Bloody Hammers – Under Satan’s Sun (Napalm)
Part magical ritual, part horror movie sound track, and all solid rock, with this third album the band just go from strength to strength.
Honourable Mention: Down – Down IV Part 2 – Roadrunner: With six tracks and a running time in excess of the likes of the new AC/DC, it’s only the insistence of the band calling this an EP that stops it flying high in the list of top 10 LPs.
Gig of the Year: Yob, Pallbearer, and Buried Sleeper – Audio, Glasgow: A concert of three superlative acts, all playing to their utmost to a packed house. What more could you ask? Oh, a wave of crowd surfers at a Doom gig, you say. Yep, that happened too.
Disappointment of the Year: Pink Floyd – The Endless River – Parlophone: An illustrious career ends not with a bang, but a whimper, churning out an album of off cuts recycled into soporific lift music for multi-storey head shops. Recommended only to insomniacs.
Special thanks for banner design to Peter Theobalds