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12.10.14 A Year In Metal, 2014: Volume I

A Year In Metal, 2014: Volume I

2014 has been a weird year for me. I haven't listened to music in the same rway that I usually do, which may be for the better. Therefore I don't feel like rI should do a typical end of the year write up. Instead I will dole out some of rthe better metal records this year. It's been a constant for me throughout r2014 and it's been a great year overall music wise. So without further ado:

At first this folk black metal band seemed kind of cheesy, indicative of the silly flutes at the beginning of "Children of the Mist," but what evolves is something truly special. These Scottish guys pay tribute to their beautiful country by invoking their rich Celtic heritage. It feels genuine and heartfelt and stands tall amongst most releases this year.
2 Blut Aus Nord
Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

Riffs, riffs, and more Riffs. Blut Aus Nord can't really do anything wrong and this glorious record calls to mind their fastest most aggressive black metal. It's rich, fierce, and perfectly composed. "Saturnian Poetry" is standout for the band as well as metal in 2014.
3Wreck and Reference

I want everyone to want to talk about this record as much as I do. I've seen it described as "the future sound of metal" and while that may be some major hyperbole, it's an interesting thought. While Opeth and Baroness talk about taking metal into a different direction, Wreck and Reference do it better and more poignantly than anyone else. Instead of stripping away the overt heaviness, the band adds emotional weight and trims some of the harshness and noise. What is left is one of the most affecting records of the year, featuring "heaviness" not in noise but in feeling.
Aphotic Womb

Sinmara hail from Iceland, bringing an oppressively dark and dreary form of black metal with them. The scathing riffs contained here rival most bands, with an atmosphere that is pitch perfect.
5Dead Congregation
Promulgation of the Fall

"Promulgation of the Fall" mat be THE death metal album of the year. Yeah it's been talked about a lot when people discuss the death of, well death metal, but it couldn't be more off the point. Deep, groovy, and featuring the best production of any album this year (yeah I said it), the band's latest is a triumph. It's a beautiful combination of old and new with a fun darkness that gives it enough character to stand out.
Primitive and Deadly

"Primitive and Deadly" represents a change. With their eighth album Earth buck their trend and give us a glorious piece of psychedelic drone which emphasizes lyrical content and euphoric voids. It's a huge, murky album but full of warmth and light.

Seeing this band live was a treat. Their charming blend of sludge and pop is ever present here, with the band refusing to lose a step during their hiatus. Fun and quirky, Floor are back and better than ever.
8The Body
I Shall Die Here

I just love The Body. Harsh electronics crammed into a thick sludge is the best way to describe their latest, "I Shall Die Here." It's an ugly and jagged mess of weird sounds and horrifying melodies that somehow works. However, it's the imagery that really seals the deal. The album and art and videos all have a retro-outer space feel to them, making it all seem like a soundtrack to "2001: A Space Odyssey" written by Sunn O))).

Unfortunately "war metal" is sort of a thing. Fortunately, "Gesundrian" is a cool and fun death metal record that is appropriately fast, heavy, and over quickly giving you the feeling of being punched in the gut.

"Musta Seremonia" came out a long time ago, and while I'd like to say that the death metal band hasn't missed a beat, that wouldn't be the case. Actually, they really haven't missed a beat so much as they've changed their tune completely. Bringing their doom elements to the forefront, "Ulvaja" is a different kind of beast. It's murky and inky and absolutely refreshing.
11 Darkspace

Spinning last year's "Das Tor" during a lonely, cold day while the snow raged outside was a perfect musical experience. So lacking such an expressive and affecting record this year was disappointing. Thankfully Darkspace return at just the right time, dropping "III I," an abrasive dark ambient black metal record that stands tall next to everything the band has released thus far. With a grating production and ear splitting riffs, the record seems like a sure fire hit. However, underneath this is a sophisticated album whose members have a keen ear for their music. Each moments is filled to the brim is emotional weight. Bold, beautiful, and one of a kind, "III I" is an absolute metal contender of the year.
12Lord Mantis
Death Mask

This album is exactly as the cover art suggests and that....that's totally fine.

"Heathen" is sludgy, doomy perfection. It's no wonder why Thou keep popping up on end of the year lists, because "Heathen" is as close to a masterpiece as they come. Crushing and densely layered cords ebb and flow with some of the thickest sounding bass around. But its in the moments of clarity that the band shines, as the restraint is just as powerful as the unrelenting force. On a side note, it's amazing to see an album seen as traditionally unwelcoming being embraced by music publications from Pitchfork to Metalsucks. It's indicative of the changing climate in metal as attitudes are being altered in favor of musical experimentation.
The Satanist

Okay, all I really hear with "The Satanist" is Behemoth. Yeah that's fine, but it isn't like "The Satanist" is a holy grail amongst the bands..decent catalogue. It makes this list, however, because it is probably the most important metal record this year. A runaway success matched only by the next album on the list, "The Satanist" has been embraced by just about everyone. With a Metacritic score of 92 it's up their with some of the most widely celebrated albums EVER. That's right, Behemoth have not only made their biggest album, but also one of this biggest albums of 2014. Yet for the same reason with Thou, it's nice to see it get embraced even if it's just a slightly better Behemoth album.
Melana Chasmata

Here's another black-ish metal record popping up on several end of the year lists. And while it is yet another album whose hype I don't really get, it's deserving of praise for its diversity. "Melana Chasmata" never sticks with one style for too long, so doom and death intermingle with black and gothic metal frequently. It's a quirky, heavy album that is sure to be talked about for a good long while.
Worship Death

"Worship Death" is loud. It's loud, fast, mean, hateful, and heavy. It's a death metal record that has no reason for existence other than to be really, really loud, fast, mean, hateful, and heavy. It's a dumb and fun listen for those who need a pick me up.

"Origins" is a really interesting Celtic melodeath record. I would write more but that will pretty much tell you if it's you thing or not.
Sacred White Noise

Thantifaxath are a pretty neat band on paper. Writing emotionally draining black metal, the band burst onto the scene while riding the coat tails of Deafheaven's success. I really wanted to like this better than I did. Truly, I tried. And it wasn't the gimmicky anonymity that the band employs, what with the cloaks and hoods and the like. It's simply a sophomoric black metal album with a superbly unimpressive production that severs each member from the band and makes everyone stand out distinctly. There is no atmosphere that isn't contrived, nor is there anything really of merit. It's black metal by a band that just discovered black metal and created by people who have no idea what they are doing. The riffs are devoid of anything special and the themes of depression and isolation have been done to death. Wait why am I even including this again?

As a self proclaimed Boris superfan,"Noise" is everything I wanted....but not more. While I love the oppressively heavy atmosphere and chunky guitar, "Noise" doesn't do much outside of the typical "heavy Boris" formula. But honestly, I eat it up anyway. Boris do thick, heavy metal better than anyone else. It's deep and droning and full of memorable moments. Even a miss for this band is still a winner.
Picturing a Sense of Loss

It's 2014 and it's the year after "Sunbather." While I liked "Sunbather" quite a lot, I really wish that it would not have had the legacy that it does. Arguably the biggest metal record of last year and possibly of the last several years, Deafheaven's sophomore record left an indelible mark on just about everyone. No we do not need another "Sunbather." Name dropping should not have the effect that it does, but this year I've noticed a disturbing trend. Either bands are quick to cash in on Deafheaven's success, or people need to realize that there were a lot of records like "Sunbather" before said album was released. I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here other than to quit comparing every band to "Sunbather" like it's the new blueprint for black metal.
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