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.
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. https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/mirror-unveiled
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. https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/iv-i-viii
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWi8PCFi6hg
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. http://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/death-mask
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd1dTrFdZkA
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. http://youtu.be/evsCobSLyOg
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.
Maryland doom engineers Iron Man have released a video single from their forthcoming album, South of the Earth. The track “Hail to the Haze,” is posted below.
Iron Man recently signed to Rise Above Records in Europe and will be distributed stateside by Metal Blade Records. You can pre-order your very own copy (CDs, for now) via the Metal Blade website here, which will be shipping in the USA on Oct 1. Vinyl will be available but it is as an import and kind of pricey. Still if you want it, it’s can be found on Amazon.
There are lots of exciting things on the horizon for these east coast doom stalwarts, including the possibility of some international show dates. I am glad to see them finally getting the recognition that they deserve. Guitarist Alfred Morris III has kept this dream alive for more than 25 years, and all I can say is better late than never.
Upcoming show dates include:
Iron Man has an upcoming show on Sept. 11 at Cafe 611 in Frederick with Keefshovel (members of Elder), Admiral Browning and Rhin.
With Saint Vitus, Pallbearer and Hookers on Oct. 13 at Metro Gallery in Baltimore. The event page is here.
Autumn Screams Doom festival, Oct 25 -26 at the Ottobar. Iron Man plays Friday. The full line up and ticket info can be found here.
Here’s an audio-visual preview of what to expect at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest Thursday night. I will try to post live videos for all the previews, unless I just can’t find one or the sound is horrible. Then you will get a studio recording. (Remember that Evoken has been moved to Friday.) Thanks to Carrie Patrick for compiling the set times and locations because I am a slacker this year.
First up, we have Noisem (formerly Necropsy), young death metallers out of Baltimore. Noisem – 4:40 – 5:05 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)
What’s this hellspawn from the Philippines? It’s Deiphago. Looking forward to this mayhem. Deiphago – 5:20 – 6:15 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)
Pallbearer will slow things down considerably but will probably be as loud as the previous band. Hold on to your bowels for this one. Pallbearer – 6:30 – 7:20 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)
Japan brings us Abigail’s blackened thrash. Or is it thrashened black metal? Abigail – 7:35 – 8:25 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)
Cobalt has been described as black metal, extreme metal, avant garde metal. Whatever, you want to call this, I am excited to see them. Solid stuff here. Cobalt – 8:40 – 9:30 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)
Closing the night is Bolt Thrower, the quintessential death metal band from England. Just awesome. Great way to open the fest. Bolt Thrower – 9:50 – 11:00 (Sonar Stage 3/Inside)