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Metallomusikum’s Top 14 albums for 2014

For our end of the year effort, Derek and I recorded a really funny best of albums for 2014 podcast. Then I immediately lost the audio file. Thanks technology!

Anyway, we still wanted to share our countdown of best 14 albums for 2014. So here are our lists in narrative form! We can come to your house and read it aloud to you if you want that podcast effect, but it won’t be the same. You will miss all our impeccable comedic timing, giggling and all drinks we consumed.

Anyway, here goes. There is some overlap but not much. Mary’s picks are labeled (M) and Derek’s picks are labeled (D). Not surprisingly my list skews heavily toward black metal and his skews toward doom. We hope you will discover some new music here that isn’t on other website’s best of lists.

best of metallomusikum

Barbelith – Mirror Unveiled (M)
Barbelith is what I call New Wave of 21st Century American Blackened Metal. Influenced by both noise and post-rock, this Baltimore-based outfit is pioneering a path of blackened metal style music, at which Deafheaven have failed miserably. Inwardly focused lyrics and highly melodic, this album was a joy to listen to from beginning to end. Lush atmospheric sections interwoven with harsh blistering passages will give you goosebumps and send your spirit soaring.

Coffinworm – IV.I.VIII (D)
I don’t know what to say about Coffinworm. They defy my attempts to lazily classify them. All I know is this album feels like a warning that some catastrophically huge beast is coming to devour us, but that it will be completely indifferent or perhaps even unaware of our existence as it does so.

PACT – The Infernal Hierarchies Penetrating the Threshold of Night (M)
For more traditional USBM, you can’t go wrong with PACT of Erie, PA. Unfortunately in November, PACT split up with vocalist Hag joining Kult ov Azazel and the remaining members forming Pact Infernal. Still, this final collection shows that US true black metal can simultaneously sound fresh and also that it was written decades ago in a Scandinavian country. From the beginning chords to the final refrain, this album is aggressive and powerful with excellent production (sorry black metal elitists) and engaging songwriting.

Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend (D)
An appropriate title for such a transcendent work. Mike Scheidt’s style is distinctive enough to pick out within a few chords. This is him doing what he always does, only better.

Abazagorath – The Satanic Verses (M)
Another strong contender for best in USBM, the longstanding Abazagorath of New Jersey has surpassed their previous and excellent efforts with this album. Production here is somewhat raw, with vocals searing their way into the listener’s skull. It grabs you by throat and throttles you until the bitter end. Snarling, growling. One of American’s best true black metal bands, hands down, and a beautiful album that bears all the trademark Abazagorath riffs and rhythms.

Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem (D)
Like Motorhead, one of the band’s most obvious influences, Midnight doesn’t stray too far from their raucous signature sound from one album to the next. And, as with Motorhead, I have no problem with that whatsoever.

Myrkur – s/t (M)
New blackened metal needs a woman’s touch, and I love what Myrkur (Amelie Bruun) is doing in her self-titled album. Like the one-man black metal performers before her, this one-woman act lends her angelic voice to more traditional sounding melodic black metal melodies. She is an angel of darkness with clipped wings forced to ply her trade among mere mortals. Don’t think she is “trve” enough? Fuck off. There might not be anyone more “trve” coming out of Europe right now. Check out track 3, Må Du Brænde i Helvede (May You Burn in Hell).

Earth – Primitive and Deadly (D)
Earth has returned to form after a handful of floundering, lackluster releases. This is the first thing I’ve really dug since Hex. Here Dylan seems to be taking the best elements of each of Earth’s earlier eras and combining them into something new and truly exciting. Well, exciting for drone. You know what I mean.

YAITW – When Life Comes to Death (M)
YAITW (Young and In the Way) come to blackened metal via a hardcore approach. Are you feeling angry? YAITW is angrier. Do you hate someone? YAITW hates everyone. Every track here is filled with horrifying rage and provides the catharsis society desperately needs. Although they seem to find their way into black metal categorization, I still feel they belong in the hardcore camp due to the plaintive tone of Kable Lyall’s vocals and some of the obvious hardcore rhythms used. This does not affect my love for them. These songs are tight, memorable and invoke complete chaos.

Lord Mantis – Death Mask (D)
All I keep thinking is this album feels like a march, compelling you forward in spite of the pain. One that you keeps coming back to so you can do it all over again.

Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (M)
Mayhem does not follow any rules of so called black metal on this album. The songs are complex and unhinged. At times they dip into experimental sound patterns that defy classification. Attila plays lets his vocals explore new territory. Loved every minute of it.

Pilgrim – II: Void Worship (D)
Clearly inspired by Reverend Bizarre as well as Gary Gygax, this is right proper Doom, here. Low and driving, dark and foreboding. All with amazing vocals throughout to guide you through the album’s mystical landscapes. A voice that even gave me a surprise emotional sucker-punch on the closing track.

Satanic Warmaster – Fimbulwinter (M)
The one-man black metal project Satanic Warmaster has put out an amazing album filled with fiery black metal riffage with a good dose of lovely acoustic interludes. The album even closes out with some melodic synth melodic black metal that I wish was part of a video game. 51 minutes of music that has been on repeat for me lately.

Bongripper – Miserable (D)
This is the perfect album for those times when you just want to kick back, relax, and get crushed under an enormous sonic bolder. With riffs like these who needs vocals? I cannot wait to witness these guys in person again.

Lord Mantis – Death Mask (M)
Lord Mantis is dirty, filthy, unfiltered American blackened metal. Band members have told me that Chicago is a horrible soul-raping city. If this music is a product of that environment, then I can believe them. Charlie Fell’s torturous vocals sound like he is pleading for his captors to please kill him and release him from his shitty existence in every song. Beautiful and terrifying.

Young and in the Way – When Life Comes to Death (D)
This band is serious business. The blend of black metal and hardcore doesn’t sit well with everyone, but it suits me just fine. The madness and violence here has been a very apt soundtrack to 2014. Fuck this life.

Black Anvil – Hail Death (M)
If you have ever listened to Black Anvil before, Hail Death may sound a bit foreign to you. But I think it represents the natural evolution of this band. It took me several listens to really appreciate it. Head-banging tunes and masterful black metal songwriting abound. Black Anvil is one of America’s best black metal bands, forever.

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (D)
A continuing collaboration that represents some of the best work from two independently accomplished artists. It’s fun to hear El-P play with braggadocios lyrics instead of the usual heavy, depressed New Yorker existentialism.

Dead in the Manger – Transcience EP (M)
Despite what YouTube reports, Dead in the Manger is not from Sweden. Their members come from several sources and have chosen to remain anonymous. I have broken my own rule by including an EP in this list but who cares! You need to know about Dead in the Manger who bring together elements of black metal and grindcore to create something altogether sinister and infectious. Kind of like ebola for your ears.

Have a Nice Life – The Unnatural World (D)
A cold and indulgent Joy Division inspired release that’s in danger of ousting Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s I See a Darkness as my go-to sulk album.

Taake – Stridens Hus (M)
As with previous Taake albums, this collection of songs sounds a little rough in production and a little musically disorganized. These are not bad things to me because they keep the listener on their aural toes. Hoest has a way of finding musically satisfying riffs from metal and rock and constructing them into songs that ultimately have purpose. Since everything is in Norwegian, I have no clue what the songs are about but assume they are something terrible. The album begins with little fanfare blazing through one song after another and then ending as abruptly as it started, all the while showcasting the trademark flamboyant guitar work inherent in every Taake song.

Thou – Heathen (D)
Both bold new directions and true to what they’ve always been. There is an exploration of range here that makes the experience even more crushing.

YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend (M)
This is a YOB album. Therefore it is good. I love Mike Scheidt’s vocals too. I will defer to Derek’s previous description for all other points of commentary on this fine work.

Trap Them – Blissfucker (D)
Easily my most anticipated album of the year. Blissfucker is a worthy followup to 2011’s flawless Darker Handcraft. And just like its predecessor, the only reason this one ever leaves my car stereo is because I get worried I’ll burn out on these guys. But there’s been no indication that that’s even possible.

Fortress – Unto the Nothing (M)
Everyone knows I hate most doom I hear, but this is most definitely a doom album. Hey, this is my list and I can do what I want. Grindingly slow, meant to be played loudly, Fortress opens up a portal to hell with this debut. Chaz Campbell’s vocals will drive you to madness. There’s a Crosby, Stills and Nash cover. I dare you to listen to it.

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (D)
Gather ’round children. It’s time once again to contemplate some big-picture hopelessness and futility with Pallbearer! Turns out my concerns that they’d be unable to top the heights of Sorrow and Extinction were unfounded.

Abysmal Dawn – Obsolescence (M)
Technical death metal can be a narcissistic wank fest. But Abysmal Dawn does it just right. In terms of “technical death metal” this is the best you are going to get. In terms of metal in general, Obsolescence offers memorable riffs that make you want to hit repeat. The songs and lyrics are filled with an overall delicious aggression that you must sink your teeth into. Perfection.

Mantar – Death by Burning (D)
Not only the album I listened to the most this year, but often several times in a row. I’ve had a lot of different reactions to the music on this list. This is the one that makes me want to get up and fight.


Abazagorath rekindling the black flame of American black metal

Although many look to Scandinavia for “trve” black metal, the Americas have always played a role in the propagation of this extreme musical subgenre.  Abazagorath, from New Jersery, have reigned as pioneers of the USBM aesthetic  since 1995. Hey, New Jersey is not frostbitten, but it certainly can be very grim.

Over the years, Abazagorath (which I believe is pronounced Ah-BAZ-ah-goh-rahth) has remained close to their satanic roots, keeping alive themes noted in their public biography:  “war, melancholy, darkness, evil, the occult and death.” They eschew the pagan or shoegaze-y approach that many so-called American black or “blackened” bands seem to be using these days,  and that’s a good thing. There is nothing more satisfying to my ears than the pure, unadulterated sound of raw, unrestrained hatred channelled into musical form. Abazagorath is visceral. Even some of the more melodic passages of their songs are hate-filled.

abaz-logoLast fall, the group put out a five song self-titled EP which you can listen to/buy on BandCamp here. Prior to that, they had three songs on a split with Blood Storm. But their last full-length album has not been since Sacraments of the Final Atrocity in 2004. Abazagorath is about to change that with a new album, The Satanic Verses, on Negativity Records out this fall. They claim this new recording “may deliver their most controversial and blasphemous release yet.”

I interviewed Warhead, drummer and vocalist for Abazagorath, via email. Below is the transcript of that Q & A.  Come see Abazagorath in Wheaton, Md. on Saturday, Aug 24 at Sergio’s Place, where they will be performing with Isenblast, Nachzehrer, Haethen and Death Shroud.  Facebook event page is here. They also have other dates this fall such as Philly, Chicago, Boston and others, so it is best to check their Facebook page for the specifics on those shows.

What is the current lineup of Abazagorath?

The demonic entities known as Abazagorath consist of Warhead (drums, vocals) Maelstrom (guitar, vocals and studio bass) Ciemnosc (guitar, synths and studio bass).

Tell me about your song writing process.

Well, the last two recordings Maelstrom demoed the music with a drum machine and sent it to me. I would then listen to it, and play to the music through headphones adding my own drum style and Warhead flavor. Ciemnosc was then taught the material and given free range to add harmonies, solos, etc. Once everyone knew what they were playing, we would then begin our live rehearsals getting the material tight and ready to record.

What is your opinion of the current state of black metal in the world and also specifically in the US? For example, who do you admire/respect among the American black metal bands?

I believe nowadays that we are over saturated with a lot of bands claiming to be black metal. I hear a lot of garbage being released from people’s home computers that just sucks. I have also seen some local bands caring more about dressing up rather than the actual music (which pisses me off). With that being said, there are some newer bands I do enjoy such as Nachzehrer, Abysmal Gates, Ptahil, One Master, Haethen, Ritual Chamber and Dethroned Emperor to name a few. When I first started Abazagorath there were only a handful of USBM bands so I respect all my old school war brothers and sisters who have been at it as long as me such as Absu, Bloodstorm, Krieg, Demoncy, Kult Ov Azazel, Famine, Inquisition, Summon,Manticore, Grand Belials Key, Teratism, Necrovore, Demonic Christ, Engorge, Black Witchery, Judas Iscariot, Krohm and Nachtmystium.

What is your opinion of the trend in what some are calling “hipster black metal” that includes bands like Liturgy or Deafheaven (who are getting a lot of attention right now)?

Here is my opinion, I don’t give a fuck. My goal is to keep Abazagorath running at full potential and keep putting out releases each one better than the next. I have no time to worry about what attention other bands are getting. The true diehards know what USBM is. (Several who are from MD\VA area and always shown Abazagorath support).

From your discography, which recording (EP or full length or whatever) are you most proud of and why?

Honestly, I am proud of every single release Abazagorath has put out over the years. I started this band because when I began playing music I wanted to create something I wanted to hear, luckily every member who has been part of this disease known as Abazagorath has agreed. So each release is a combination of each member’s feelings at that time.

You only have two full-lengths to your credit. What are your plans for another full-length recording? And what label will you be on?

True we only have two full lengths to our credit, but we have released numerous EP’S and splits throughout our entire career.10 brand new hymns have just been recorded and are being mixed as we speak. Entitled “The Satanic Verses” this may be our most controversial and blasphemous release yet due out later this year on Negativity Records. An epic concept album based on the satanic temptation of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. (Writer’s note: Warhead is specifically referring to the Salman Rushdie book by the same name.)

Where do you go for musical inspiration? For example, do you get ideas from books, movies, other styles of music etc.?

Previous releases were definitely inspired by books and movies, but I always go back to my old school roots for musical inspiration with bands like Kreator, Sodom, Venom, Death, Slayer, and Celtic Frost. But since I have no time for movies or books anymore all of my musical inspirations have come from everyday life and people with a little Sativa\ Indica help.

How important are theatrics, corpse paint, candles and atmosphere to your performance?

Although I would not mind to play with some kind of fire live if possible, you will not get any stage show from Abazagorath. What you see is what you get: no corpse paint, religious articles or bullshit chatter in between songs. Once you get blasted with our live assault of pure mayhem theatrics are not needed.

What do you want people who see/hear you to feel or experience when they see your show?

We are a Black metal band I don’t give a fuck what people feel, this band was started to play music we enjoy. Now if you enjoy it cool. Guaranteed the crowd will be left with wanting more Abazagorath and hopefully the crowd leaves with feelings of loneliness and depression.

What do you hope to accomplish with this current tour?

The goal of this upcoming tour is to promote the new album and to play some states we have not been to before; it’s time to spread this cancer known as Abazagorath away from the north east.

Over your nearly 20-year history, what have been some of your most memorable moments as a band? And why?

Unfortunately most of our memorable moments were never good things that I can remember. They usually involved lots of alcohol, a beat down with fellow war brothers Summon, car accidents, drugs, a NYC public access TV appearance, and finally jail. (Writer’s Note: Sounds like I need to do some follow-up questions here when I see them in  August!)

Who would you love to share the stage with?

VENOM of course

What’s next for Abazagorath? For the rest of the year? For next year?

Abazagorath has begun writing our next album already, and for the rest of the year our plan is to play our already confirmed dates Philly, MD, NY, CT, MA and for our first time ever Columbus OH and Chicago. For 2014 we will focus on getting another album recorded and I have already been approached by numerous promoters who want to see Abazagorath on the left coast\ mid-west. There have also been talks about an Abazagorath\ Kommandant split as well.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

The new album “The Satanic Verses” will be out later this year on Negativity records. If you are looking for show dates, news merchandise check out our Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Hails and Horns. AS DARKNESS FALLS WE ARISE.

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