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2014 In Rock

While I haven't exactly listened to all the major albums of 2014, so can't give an objective and rcomprehensive overview of the year's best music, of the lesser-known artists I've found myself listening rto there have been some truly incredible rreleases that deserve all the attention they can get. I'm rpredominantly interested in 'rock' music so you'll find some (complete) bias towards that genre. rNevertheless, these albums are absolutely worth your time - contrary to popular belief, there is still a rgreat deal of innovation and fresh ideas being injected into these well-worn sounds.
25 Honourable Mentions
Not ranked
24Villagers of Ioannina City

Stoner/folk rock
23El Paramo
El Paramo (2014)

22Mars Red Sky
Stranded In Arcadia

Stoner rock
Trails and Passes

Hard rock
20Wo Fat
The Conjuring

Stoner rock
19Wishbone Ash
Blue Horizon

Prog/blues rock
18All Them Witches

A 25-minute long blues-rock jam that is an atmospheric journey through a dark and murky
swamp on a warm summer?s night.
17The Visit
Between Worlds

A 15-minute song comprising entirely of a single cello and wordless vocals. Heartrending stuff.
Stream/free DL:
16 Top 15
15Somali Yacht Club
The Sun

4/5 - The Sun is one of the year?s most promising releases from a band falling into the
category encompassing such styles as stoner, psychedelic and hard rock. The band?s greatest
strength is their blending of fresh and unexpected influences and sounds within that familiar,
tired format. From the opening sitar ambience of Loom, to the reggae-esque middle section of
Sightwaster to the epic tremolo-picked crescendo of Signals, each song on the album is
distinguished, showing the band?s impressively competent song-writing skills. Should they
develop their musicianship, we?ll have another album to add to our next end of year lists? or
at least I will.
The Road of Bones

4.1/5 - IQ are one of the oldest and most respected neo-prog bands, and are still managing to
make albums as powerful and relevant as in their 80s prime. I wouldn?t consider myself a fan
of the genre, but there are certain bands who transcend their cheesy roots, IQ being one of
the best examples with the spine-tingling darkness and melancholy that propels their music.
The title track is a perfect example of this, with a chilling cinematic atmosphere that could
make it part of a modern film score, rather than a sci-fi TV show of the 80s.
13Methadone Skies
Eclectic Electric

4.1/5 - More proof that there can still be innovation in stoner rock. Infusing their sound with
folk instruments like a mandola and saz baglama as well as a healthy dose of post-rock and
guest vocalists, Methadone Skies have continued carving out their own space in the genre on
their sophomore LP. Dreamy opener Mirra and massive centrepiece Tatabong create one hell
of an atmosphere.
Jetpack Soundtrack

4.1/5 - Hard rock is another genre that attracts boos and hisses, which makes it all the more
impressive to find a band carving out their own style. While unfairly overshadowed by their
contemporaries Clutch, whom they have undeniably tried to emulate to a degree on this
album, Lionize know exactly how to marry extremely catchy vocals, clever lyrics and
energetic guitar riffs to create countless replay value. Sadly, they have dropped the
funk/reggae influences that made their previous album ?Superczar and the Vulture? their
magnum opus, apart from on closer Sea of Tranquillity which could be their best song to date.
Its spacey, somewhat psychedelic reggae vibe and excellent use of studio production and
editing will leave you in a state of euphoria, marijuana aside.
11Dream The Electric Sleep

4.2/5 - Merging a shoegaze-y alternative rock sound with progressive leanings (which can
never be a bad thing), DtES describe their music as ?concept rock,? and while the concept of
Heretics is not immediately obvious, the quality of the song-writing is. Shifting and changing
over the album?s 73-minute runtime and contrasting between thundering heaviness and
moments of mellowness, the album does not have a stale or half-baked moment and you?ll
barely notice that time go by. This is what the idea of an ?album? is for.
10Colour Haze
To The Highest Gods We Know

4.2/5 - Now this was a surprise. Colour Haze, being at one with nature and the music and all,
do not engage with social media which meant their latest LP after 2012?s excellent ?She Said?
managed to slip out with barely anyone noticing. And though I haven?t had much time to
listen, it?s immediately obvious that they?ve proved once again how consistently brilliant their
music is, and what an unique and incredible guitarist Stefan Koglek is. Most interesting it the
title track, which runs 11 minutes without ever slipping into the band?s usually bluesy fuzz,
instead experimenting with Eastern-influenced acoustic guitars and ambience. This is only a
good thing, showing that Colour Haze are trying to avoid the pitfalls of becoming formulaic
and unoriginal.
(streaming on Spotify)
9The Grand Astoria
The Body Limits [From Montenegro Split]

4.2/5 - While this is technically from a split-EP with the band Montenegro, The Grand Astoria?s
epic 30-minute song takes their psychedelic stoner-rock sound to new limits. Starting with a
gentle clean guitar and the sound of a river flowing, the song builds up so slowly and
hypnotically you barely notice until you are hit with a barrage of gratifying riffs. What makes
the song even more impressive is that both of the band?s guitarists are given their own
channel of the mix, making their interplay even more prominent. One can only hope that their
next LP will live up to this promise.
8Seven That Spells
The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: IO

4.2/5 - Guitarist Niko Babi? said that they set out aiming to capture what ?modern psychedelic
music should sound like? and this Croatian band have done exactly that with IO, the second in
their album trilogy. Having released a crazy kraut/jazz/noise album almost every year since
2003, 7tS tightened up their sound for the ??Krautrock? trilogy to a cleaner, more progressive
sound. Featuring a massive choir singing Eastern religious mantras, ridiculous time signatures
and Niko hypnotically charming his guitar like a snake, I feel a magnum opus around the
corner. Yes, this band are not just good because every single one of their covers features at
least one naked damsel.
Pagan Fruit

4.3/5 - That astonishing artwork is perfectly reflected in the album?s lush guitar tones and
vocals, making for a distinctive blues-rock album in an overpopulated crowd. While the guitar-
playing isn?t anything unique or outstanding when compared to something like Anubis or
Motorpsycho, the band compensate with tight song structures and atmosphere, creating a lot
of promise for the future as they become more experienced.
6Ethereal Riffian

4.4/5 - Slightly ridiculous name aside, this is an extremely well-crafted stoner-rock/metal
album, essentially flowing as one long song over four tracks and successfully conveying a
spiritual, meditatory atmosphere akin to bands like Om. Not a single riff feels forced or out of
place, the progressive-leaning elements of each song working a charm to give new life to a
stagnant genre and leading ER on their way to becoming one of the best recognised purveyors
of stoner-rock, or as a Sleep fan would have it, true Maruajinauts.
5 Schizoid Lloyd
The Last Note In God's Magnum Opus

4.4/5 - Possibly the most insane album of the year. Working from their core of progressive
metal recalling Haken and of course Dream Theater in their use of crisp yet heavy guitars and
cyclical guitar riffs, the band absorb countless other styles including the harmonies and
grandiose of Queen, the madness of Mr Bungle and even the atmospheres and delicacies of
Anathema. From here we have a batshit-crazy, constantly evolving beast that is also one of
the year?s most refreshing and entertaining.
Illusory Blues

4.5/5 - Perfectly combining that modern ?post-progressive? rock sound with ethereal folk guitar
and vocals, plus a touch of the psychedelic, Messenger have created an instantly distinctive
sound on their debut album, which is possibly one of the most impressive of its kind this year.
What stands out most is Jaime Gomez Arellano?s drumwork. never using a conventional,
boring drum pattern and giving every song a special kind of intensity. The epic 9-minute
Midnight is one of the songs of the year.
Behind The Sun

4.7/5 - Not meaning to repeat myself, but here is another Norwegian band continuing an epic
creative peak. Motorpsycho have had an ever-shifting style in their 20 years of existence,
moving from extreme metal to indie rock to jazz, currently settling in a style of psychedelic,
progressive rock. Only two years after they redefined the genre with the sprawling ?Death
Defying Unicorn? that made use of a jazz orchestra, the band have returned with a near-
perfect rock album. The level of musicianship here is simply incredible, evidence of a band
who have had years to refine their sound and chemistry. Centrepiece Hell, part 4-6 perhaps
best encapsulates this, but due to its diversity the album should be taken as a whole. Stream:

4.8/5 - Gazpacho have countlessly proved themselves to be one of the forerunners of the art-
rock or ?post-progressive? movement with a string of stunning and diverse albums. Demon
marks the 5th in a row of creative peaks for the band and is yet again different from 2012?s
streamlined, folk-influenced ?March of Ghosts? and 2012?s more familiar, conceptual ?Missa
Featuring only 4 songs, with one a short accordion-solo break, the album is a unique,
sometimes dark and always moving piece of work, based on the madly scrawled ramblings of
a man who claimed to encounter the devil. At times the band even slip into avant-garde
territory, as seen in the dense 18-minute closer Death Room which has no conventional climax
and proves Gazpacho?s seemingly endless wealth of creativity and variation.
Hitchhiking To Byzantium

5/5 - The word ?neo-progressive? might send many running to the hills with the allusions to
the Genesis rip-offs of the 80s and 90s and an utter lack of innovation associated with many of
the bands of this genre, stuck in the tired prog-rock sounds their dads used to play to them
when they were wee nippers.
Despite the lush, streamlined sounds of their atmospheric keyboards and clean guitars being
rooted in that of their forefathers Marillion and Pink Floyd, Anubis are anything but derivative.
Hitchhiking To Byzantium is a vast 78-minute opus with every instrument played to virtuoso
levels transcending many of their more popular peers, while the band also maintains an
intense level of emotion throughout without ever falling into the wankery that plagues prog as
a genre. The title track demonstrates the album?s masterful subtlety that takes multiple listens
to reveal, with Steven Eaton?s drums and Douglas Skene?s guitar gradually building to a
heartrending climax that still somehow manages to get better every time. Skene?s style is not
overly technical but has a relentless ability to tug on your heartstrings; acoustic heartbreak
song Tightening of the Screws also features perhaps one of the best guitar solos of the
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