Karl V.H.

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01.02.15 Wizards Top 21 In Heavy Music For 2014 12.30.13 Wizards Top 20 In Metal For 2013
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Wizards Top 21 In Heavy Music For 2014

What an insane year I?ve had in 2014 and it almost got to the point where I didn?t think I would ever have a moment to write again for this site. As many of you know by now, my family workload has increased with a newborn and the challenges only mounted around that time with shutting my family business down after working there for fifteen plus years and starting a new job down the street at the competition. Regardless, I reflect on these moments and feel overwhelmed with joy in knowing how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life. I also reflect on these weighty moments in life with a look back at my favourite heavy albums in 2014. What you will see below is a list of my personal feelings coming to surface through most of these albums and a parallel to the weight of their issues as well. Heavy music is a revered type of music to most fans and you can see how personalized each list is based on the events happening in their life (my opinion anyways). With 2014 also came a bunch of nonsense hype and a trial of disappointment (At the Gates, Triptykon and Darkspace being particular big ones with me). 2014 was also the resurgence of black metal and the death of death metal, arguably the two most popular extreme genres in metal. What I found most criminal with death metal was this false sense of original song-writing masked by a slew of regurgitation that was, quite frankly, boring as shit. Simply put, death metal was examined in all the wrong places (see my dm picks on this list and see what you missed). Black metal however had a fantastic year exploring old with a sense of reinvigoration and a few new envelop-pushers releasing some stellar material as well. Here is a good reflection of heavy music represented from someone who has never cared about elite-popularity contests and just cares about the quality of heavy music.
1Lord Mantis
Death Mask

Sometimes heavy metal needs a kick in balls and if there ever was a time where it was needed, that time was now! Let?s face it, heavy metal needs controversial tactics to warrant it?s disgusting and often offending nature to reinforce its brutal existence and what better band to do this than Lord Mantis (album cover and all). Easily the most controversial album of 2014, Lord Mantis are the mother-load of brutal blackened sludge with a hint of industrial ooze; the type that bodies are filled with through punishing torture as they squirm in agonizing pain as every orifice is consumed by a slow, withering death. Except for one thing, Lord Mantis disguises their stewing sludge in a frantic, speedy black metal gang beating. Believe me when I say this, nothing even came close to the amount of rotations this did in 2014 and hells hoping you get on this if you want your balls kicked inside out.
2Sun Worship
Elder Giants

2014 belonged to black metal and to be quite frank, no other sub-genre delivered the goods within a hundred miles as black metal produced a plethora of material that I?m still sifting through as I write this. Sun Worship is my number one for black metal this year and here?s why: it?s as genuine and honest to the source material from where it came from without sacrificing originality. Just throw on ?We Sleep? and you will totally understand where ?Elder Giants? is going and how it came to fruition. Developing a sound that?s both equal American/ Scandinavian black metal, this German act is the first fully realized unison between the two sounds and therefore wins my blackened heart over every time I need some grim black metal that conjures picturesque Norwegian frozen landscapes and the temperate mountain forests of the US west coast together in harmony.
The Serpent and the Sphere

I know exactly what you?re going to say and I will give it right back to you; you?re all wrong about this album. Since when has Agalloch ever created the same album twice? Since when has Agalloch given you an album that you would expect from Agalloch? From the opening folk doom masterpiece ?Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation? to the blackened post metal glazed ?Dark Matter Gods? to the gothic infused, dark metal renaissance of ?Vales Beyond Dimension?, Agalloch gives and takes in such subtle ways that only the purest, hard-headed metal voyagers would totally criticize this without a second-chance listen. The truth is all of these songs (including the brilliant interludes of Canadian folk master Musk Ox) penetrate deep into the darkest crevices of the mind and linger there until you have no choice but to bow-down and give this album the time and effort it deserves. In my humble opinion, it?s Agalloch?s second best album to date in their staggeringly amazing discography.
4Morbus Chron

How and where the hell did these guys come from? I barely paid attention to their debut a few years back and now I find myself coming back to this (as well as ?Sleepers in the Rift?) and looking at it as a prime example of everything I love about cult death metal that stirs the imagination instead of constant hammering upon my cranium. The only way I can describe this is by tuning into Autopsy?s sloppy hack surgery, Chuck Schuldiners? nibble fingering and coat it in some obscure Jethro Tull prog-rock drilled out in a foggy cemetery. Sounds weird but fuck it, Morbus Chron and a couple other death metal bands (featured on this list) were the only ones not regurgitating in my ears and instead coming up with something fresh and exciting in a stagnating death metal world.
A World Lit Only by Fire

Who the hell doesn?t love this band by now? They?ve influenced more bands than I can list and were totally responsible for modernizing metal in so many ways (mostly good, a bit of bad). Industrial and even power electronics owe Broadrick and Green a huge debt to this day. I also can?t think of a better time as to when Godflesh could make as a big a grandiose comeback album as now with the amount of bands aping the shit out of their sound (all due considering with the amount of mostly great comebacks this year to boot as well). If you have never given Godflesh their due time, it?s never too late to stop being a puss and get going on their discography after giving this a go.
From All Purity

The first song on here is called ?Rape?! I mean it?s called RAPE, an eight minute tromp through slamming chords, eardrum reducing feedback and a screech that peels flesh and spits in the wound. Sludge doom?s most underappreciated band had only began to crush most of their peers with ?Guiltless? and the only way they could have topped that was to go even insanely heavier which they miraculously pulled off. A key feature on this album is Bill Bumgardner (also of Lord Mantis) whose subtle yet violent rhythm patterns are truly something to marvel at as he?s one of the best extreme metal drummers out there (especially in Lord Mantis). The heaviest album released in 2014 by a long shot!
7Nero di Marte

No one and I mean NO one touched upon atmospheric metal like Nero Di Marte did. These Italian planet smashers do the avant-garde atonal notations (Ulcerate), mind-blowing poly-rhythms (Meshuggah), and the post-metal crescendos with ease (Neurosis). I don?t need to say anymore about this constructed death metal because I?m sure you?ve already listened to it (very, very sad if you turned your nose up at this release).
8Full Of Hell and Merzbow
Full Of Hell and Merzbow

Back in July, I read on the Profound Lore website that Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) had donated a bunch of material to the young and raging power violence quartet Full of Hell and were to release a double album collaboration between the two artists. My ears were perked hard like a stiff viagra concoction to the wiener and the wait was totally worth it when this dropped in November. Disc one contains some of the very best power violence of 2014 and the integration of Akita?s left over noise clips absolutely brings these full throttle tid-bit songs into a realm of their own creating something so violently scary and unnerving. Disc two or the ?Sister Fawn? album contains five carefully carved power electronic dirges by Akita himself that represent the other end of the spectrum but not so different than what Full of Hell are trying to accomplish. And what is it you ask such a young band like Full of Hell are trying to accomplish? Death, destruction, fear, repeat.
Where Greater Men Have Fallen

I?m going to be completely honest here; I didn?t have high hopes for this album at all. ?Redemption at the Puritan?s Hand? wasn?t exactly a failure per say but more a longing to create something bigger and bolder without sacrificing the past. As ambitious an idea as Primordial strived towards, I truly believe it was a total misstep in their brand of folky blackened war chants and thank whatever God you pray to they steered the battering ram back in the right direction. I?ve read some people?s thoughts exclaiming they?ve harkened back to their roots but I say ?nay nay? to that statement (come on people, did you actually give ?Imrama? a proper listen?).
Carrion Skies

If you were a hater of this band, chances are you totally scoffed at Fen?s newest opus quietly dropped this year. Too bad for you because you?re missing out on the evolution of a top quality post-metal/ blackened metalgaze band that makes all of those description tags seem irrelevant. Fen are doing their OWN thing these days displayed through darkened corridors and passages of a castle built and destroyed by epic battles. Disc one sees a tightening of reigns and a condensed pallet of their past efforts but it?s disc two where Fen lets loose over grassy foothills and charges into battle with a more textured post-metal prowess. For those of us who cared about Fen over the years, now is the time to rejoice because they dropped their magnum opus upon us.
11Dead Congregation
Promulgation of the Fall

I was thoroughly anticipating Profound Lore to drop Dead Congregations next album when they began to sell their back catalogue in their distro. Low and behold I was right and truthfully I was also satisfied with the ends results; those results being crushing old-school atmospheric death metal done with a modern twist. What?s most notable on here is the duelling, frantic riffage of Anastasis Valtsanis and T.K. as they pummel, squeal and destroy their way through riff after riff after riff and add in some tasteful leads/ solos that more or less mesmerize than instantly gratify. If you loved this album as much as me, I highly recommend 2014s ?Incendium? by Burial Hordes which also features members of Dead Congregation too.
12The Great Old Ones

Did 2014 come with a lot of surprises or what? The Great Old Ones (who also have a debut that?s great too) caught my attention with sophomore ?Tekeli-Li?. I find it incredible how much post-metal has seeped into black metal over the years and it?s finally getting to a point where black metal is learning to integrate it into a flowing picture instead of a collage of random pieces stitched together with masking tape. TGOO mostly bring the modernized atmospheric black metal (and integrate the post-metal leaning too) to the table in a non-traditional fashion, crafting movements with an amazing amount of ease and flexibility around tight riffing, slick hammering drums and throat scrapping rasps without the repetition that usually occurs within most atmospheric black metal. Long compositions can be tricky when stacked one upon the other but TGOO make the desolate journey an incredible feat of musicianship.
Sacred White Noise

Canada?s bizarre hypo-blackened death metal were one of my favourite surprises of 2014. Whenever a band tries on the atonal dual guitaring patterns, I cringe for the most part due to an over-eager brainfart to create whippy-windy, doodling messes instead of feeling out some grounded song structures (I?m looking in your stinky direction Dodecahedron). Early second-wave black metal blasting; check. Off-kilter and often angular guitar work that circulates within a breathing song-structure; check. Raging blackened death metal surges that swell and subside into an abyssal cauldron of cult relevance; big fat check on that one! If you don?t believe me, go play ?Where I End and the Hemlock Begins? and tell me that?s not one of the best songs out of metal this year.
14Blut Aus Nord
Memoria Vetusta III - Saturnian Poetry

Blut aus Nord are not so much predictable as they are an ever changing shape-shifter within the black metal context (which becomes predictable in my mind). Going on twenty years, it?s rare when I would recommend every single album a band has done with a career that lengthy and discog that immense (maybe not so much the last two albums of the ?777? trilogy but still an interesting post-industrial goth dirge they went on). ?Memoria Vetusta III? is more so a refined back-to-your-roots album instead of a natural dive into more avant-garde progression that ?Memoria Vetusta II? so boldly masked itself in. The black metal is more aggressive, the song-structures race by at lightning speeds but it all still sounds like the demented black metal Blut aus Nord helped pioneer with a slew of other bm bands straight out of France in the mid 90s.
Consumed By Elder Sign

Talk about no-frills melodic death metal, Australia?s Innsmouth put out the album At the Gates should have released but we all know how watered down ATG?s sound these days with their supposed comeback album (if you put it on your 2014 AOTY lists, I won?t read it). ?Consumed by Elder Sign? tremolo riffs, staccato?s and Swedishly riffs around late 80s/ early 90s death metal patterns coming out of Scandinavia and polishes it off with a fine production where everything is clear yet sinisterly death-like. Innsmouth are so damn good at the mid-tempo melodic dm, they?re not even afraid to throw in the odd tasteful synth that would have been a game killer for them when guitar, bass, drums and vox were the only truth and everything else was false.
A Merging to the Boundless

Old school doesn?t apply to StarGazer even though they?ve been around since 1995. Nothing about their sound is old-school, not even their earliest demos all the way to their forever in the works debut LP ?The Scream that Tore the Sky?. Another Aussie death metal band to make this list and one I?m sure most of you ignored in favour of once again, new At the Gates. StarGazer are a total anomaly in the death metal world, coming across as this ancient progressive form of unearthed death metal that puts one foot into the past and one foot forward into the thinking man?s realm of sci-fi themes and off-the-wall dynamics. Props go out to Damon Good for his unreal bass work that does most of the lifting on this album.
17The Austerity Program
Beyond Calculation

Metal can be too serious for its own good. Where the hell are the bands I constantly comeback to that challenge me as a listener and put out some damn fun tunes in the process? Those repetitive bass licks locking gears like a destructive machine, the programmed drum beats gnashing at the tit, the infectious guitar lines that groove and cause one to twerk and the hilariously sarcastic lyrics of teenage youth are all just part of the fun. Leave it to the duo that is The Austerity Program and their distinct brand of industrialized noise rock to make you laugh, smash and just have a quirky good time.
18Old Man Gloom
The Ape of God I

Old Man Gloom have not only put out their best disc?s ever in 2014, they also made most retarded click-bait metal tabloid sites look like they have no idea what they?re talking about (I could have told you this before they ever pulled metal?s greatest prank by releasing a false promo unto unsuspecting ears). Not only did they bring me much joy in diminishing the credit of Metalsucks, Metal Injection, Blabbermouth, etc., they also put out two stellar sludge/ experimental albums. Disc one is more or less the same chunky song-writing as past discs but far more aggressive and noisy. Disc two stretches the parameters of time with an emphasis on building dynamics and is by far the most complete work the band has done to date. If you loved Isis as much as me, Aaron Turner is still lurking in some heavy sludge on this juggernaut and will please most fans of his primary work.

New Orleans Thou have dropped anything remotely mid-tempo from 2010s excellent ?Summit? and are finally nurturing their slow-as-a-constipated-poo doomier side that is only rewarding to those who can handle a little torture to their approach. ?Heathen? is so damn trudging and heavy that I find myself being sucked into their sound like I would with ambient music. The seven main tracks on here are all worth spending ample amounts of time on when you feel that life is passing you by too quickly and make no mistake about it, Thou demand your attention to their marching hymns off social injustice and complete misery.

I always consider these guys to be more power electronics than blackened whatever everyone else has labelled them. Regardless, ?Postsocial? is the soundtrack to a space-shuttle losing its hatch-door mid-flight and the sound of your body being sucked into outer space while your ears bleed and brain explodes. Maybe that?s an exaggeration but the hypnotic whirling of guitar blips and blurs and the literal screaming inside your head throughout the fives tracks is going to be enough to make most of you write reviews about how you ?don?t consider this music? and will make the other five percent of us continue to hit play. Either way, Wold are not an easy band to listen to but we can all agree they create some maddeningly insane noisescapes.
21Woods of Desolation
As the Stars

Aussie?s Woods of Desolation are a complete enigma when it comes to order with their discography. ?Towards the Depths? was just boring DSBM (sue me, it sucks), ?Torn Beyond Reason? was a fascinating corner-turn towards blackened shoegaze and ?As the Stars? is the most stripped-down blackgaze album you will ever listen to. No lengthy pristine intros, no syrupy dream-shit vocals, just downright glacial moving tremolo riffing with swaying rhythm patterns and a tortured rasp. There?s no bullshit on this album, just an amazingly concise thirty-five minutes of blissful blasting that made me expand my usual year-end list to 21.
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