The Editor-in-Chief’s favourite records of 2014
(Which obviously means they’re more important)
For some reason, every year that I do this year-end best-of song and dance, I feel the need to elaborately qualify that this is a list of the ten records I enjoyed the most, and not what I think are the definitive ten best.
I’ve not listened to YOB‘s Clearing The Path To Ascend. A World Lit Only By Fire graced my dispassionate ears but once. The time I’ve afforded to post-rock and post-metal like This Will Destroy You or even PSOTY, which I have spun a little, has been insufficient. Mastodon‘s new one barely got any time – I understand it’s a bit of a grower – and the slew of Blue Swan records and general hardcore output was largely left out in the cold.
But as succinctly as possible: here they are; I hope you find something you like.
In Humor And Sadness
I miss The Chariot. A lot. It’s weird, then, that I didn’t really pick up frontman Josh Scogin’s new project’s first record until months after it came out. It’s funny and a little sad, really, which is apt given the title of ’68′s debut.
A guitar, a drum kit, and Scogin’s voice might sound a sparse recipe – like Doritos and dip for dinner – but it works. It just works. Josh has one of the most recognisable inflections in core, and as he screams, wails and yelps infectiously over thick, simple riffs, crashing cymbals and walls of feedback, you might feel perhaps a little less sad at The Chariot’s passing.
Is the pyramid rising with the balloons, or being dragged under by some black, serpentine beast? This is a quandary that permeates the entire record, including the story of its creation, which is shrouded in clandestine drug use and self-realisation.
It’s undeniably got some of their most aggressive songs, but it’s largely delicate and introspective, with their trademark layers of delay and melody intertwining gorgeously. Anthony Green’s voice is tinged with the angelic and the beastly; matching the discordance of the more belligerent passages as much as it flies with the fairer ones.
Whilst not as immediately accessible as some of their previous records, it’s an amalgamation of all that’s come before, and should be a pleaser for fans of every album – no matter your favourite.
I didn’t rate The Contortionist’s last two albums – not for quality, but they just weren’t my thing.
Language is so my thing. Language is stunning.
Like a flower opening to the sun, it’s warm, organic and comforting, but displays bite where necessary. Haunting passages of Jeff Buckley-esque delicacy intertwine with the layered genius of new frontman Michael Lessard’s vocals, which croon and growl – often over the top of each other – icing a fantastic exercise in composition and musicianship.
It’s a significant departure in sound for the band, but one I hope they continue to explore – it will be a rich vein this talented bunch can exploit to maximum effect.
Are You Kidding Me? No
Tech metal is hard. Tech metal is respectable. Tech metal is staring intently at your fretboard. Damn it Destrage; tech metal is not running around in funny sports gear, grinning like an idiot and singing about zombies!
Well, actually it can be, and the Italians’ third album Are You Kidding Me? No. is brimming with both hook-laden technical wizardy – from the frantic guitars to the jaw-dropping drumming – and ear-to-ear smiles; they kid about, but also they don’t (it’s all in the title, innit).
The band are, to a man, thoroughly nice and loveable chaps, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Odd little segues keep the listener on their toes – think Europe’s answer to Between The Buried And Me – and the constant fills, flourishes and soaring solos add more than a little flavour to an exceptionally performed and crafted album.
Devil Sold His Soul
Belong ╪ Betray
Integrating a new vocalist is probably the hardest of all potential member changes – especially when the former frontman has been incumbent for 4 records.
Enter Paul Green, who has seamlessly slotted into Devil Sold His Soul, and with them forged this majestic slice of ambient metal. His cleans are strong and clear, whilst his harsh vocals compliment the absolutely massive sound that the band have shown mastery of again and again.
I love me a good EP, and this displays the format perfectly; sharp, precise writing, absence of filler, and that immediate replay factor. I couldn’t pick a favourite track from amongst them, but as there are only 5, I don’t have to wait long before each comes back around.
Every Time I Die
From Parts Unknown
Not since Hot Damn! have Every Time I Die felt so train-out-of-control pacey; had such clip to their acerbity. Special mention has to go to drummer Ryan Leger for this, in conjunction with Kurt Ballou’s perfect production – the kit punches with the power and precision of Bruce Lee.
Sixteen years is a long time to be going, and even more so to still have this kind of verve, but it also feels more experimental than any previous release, which is possibly the best thing about it. Centrepiece “Moor” – an ode to the desire for revenge – is unlike anything the band have produced before, melding the weird and off-kilter, and building up to one of their best pay-offs to date.
And as always, unfussy but effective guitar work rounds off what will surely be many fans’ favourite record, which from a catalogue of seven with few missteps, is no small feat.
I don’t normally rank or pick a favourite, but if I did, this would be it. This album almost feels like it was hand-crafted for me personally. It came out on the first day of the year, and nothing has surpassed it in almost twelve months of trying.
Glass Cathedrals strips the verbosity from post-metal and condenses every bludgeoning riff and sliver of emotion into songs that last on average about four and a half minutes. No fluff; all fight.
Robin Urbino’s vocals are raw and expressive; soaring hauntingly like a chorus of demons, or roaring gutterally like a man in torment. Every passage is purposeful, and the quality doesn’t let up for a second.
There’s basically no fighting that Mogwai are the kings of melancholy instrumental rock. Anyone tries to out-mood them, and they dial the solemnity up another notch.
Not really post-rock, the Glaswegian quintet continue to play with a plethora of sounds on Rave Tapes, building around their trademark atmosphere with dark synth lines and electronic elements.
Tracks like the stunning “Remurdered“, the frantic, bassy “Hexon Bogon” and the Mr. Beast-like “Blues Hour” are diamonds in a pile of gems, and show Mogwai at their absolute best.
From the opening bars of The Amanuensis, it’s clear that Monuments – darlings of the British progressive metal scene, but as yet to fully realise their potential – have majorly upped their game. Majorly. This album absolutely blows its predecessor out of the water, and that wasn’t a bad album.
The addition of modern metal butterfly Chris Barretto – whose involvement with bands like Periphery, Haunted Shores, Friend For A Foe and Ever Forthright has in the past been either fleeting or sporadic – is a masterstroke; he was the missing piece, and his absolutely fantastic vocals and incredible stage presence have helped push a stunningly tight and technical band to the next level.
Rhythmic and aggressive, The Amanuensis espouses the best qualities of the djent sound; hard-hitting riffs, great, towering slabs of groove, and above all artful songwriting. There will be many imitators, but few who can touch the multi-faceted gem that is this album.
Never before has a band captured my attention so vividly and quickly as Zoax. It took them half an hour in an upstairs bar in Islington and I was hopelessly in love.
Barely a year old, and with two rollicking Download appearances under their belt already, the London quintet mix the carefree aggression of Glassjaw with the infectiousness of Every Time I Die. It bounces along with unbounded energy, with always the right note or fill used to superb effect.
Another EP, XIII is probably my most revisited record of the year, and considering it’s only 5 tracks long, this is no mean feat. I’ve played it over and over again, and even as I write this, I’m not even close to being bored of it.
Zoax have a follow-up EP coming in February. If they could release a few new tracks like these every year, that would be absolutely fine with me.
Alcest – Shelter
Destiny Potato – Lun [Review]
Exist Immortal – Darkness Of An Age [Review]
Full Of Hell – Full Of Hell & Merzbow
Intervals – A Voice Within [Review]
Nojia – Gheist
Old Man Gloom – The Ape Of God
PSOTY – Fragments Of Uniforms [Review]
Sianvar – Sianvar EP
St. Sleep – St. Sleep
Thanks for reading guys; see you next year!