Dan runs down his favourite records of 2014
Another year has come and gone, and with that, we all hunker down and begin the arduous task of whittling down our large list of albums into something a bit more cohesive. What makes it even harder is that this year saw a monumental amount of gnarly releases, but as always, my list comprises of albums that stuck with me and left a lasting impression. Anyway, lets get to the fun stuff. Here are the ten albums (in no particular order) that made my year tolerable. Enjoy!
After the release of Me From Myself, to Banish back in 2012, French hardcore band Direwolves have not only made a name for themselves in the scene, but also in my list of favorite bands. With only six tracks, their EP made such an impact on me that it made my top ten list that year, and in 2014 the band released their first full-length album, Aegri Somnia - and with it have taken another spot on my top albums list.
Aegri Somnia holds true the passion and angst heard from their previous work, and magnifies it ten-fold. It’s easily one of the most emotionally-driven albums I’ve heard all year, and it flows at a steady yet aggressive pace from beginning to end. Full of hooks, riffs, and breakdowns, it’s enough to make any listener of hardcore take notice – and for me, it was well worth the wait, and an album that got plenty of attention in my rotation, and will continue to for years to come.
I’ll just come right out and say it: I love this band – and since the release of Communion, my love for them has only grown. The inclusion of symphonic elements brought the band’s music to a broader, more epic level.
While I was pleased The Great Mass, it didn’t leave a lasting impact, but the same cannot be said about Titan. This album is a beast, hitting hard both musically and vocally – and speaking of vocals, Seth Siro Anton has a voice that could bring down mountains, it’s so damn powerful.
Titan is also more reminiscent of Communion, which is what kept me hooked. I can’t help but compare every album they release to that particular album, and with Titan, they managed to capture the feel and tone, but still kept it fresh enough to stand out on its own.
I’m not sure how Septicflesh will top Titan, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they do next.
Hammer Of The Witch
A longtime favorite of mine, Ringworm have been dishing out their brand of brutal metallic hardcore since the 90s, and with each new album, never losing their touch. No strangers to my year end lists, their 2011 album Scars, earned a top spot, and the same can be said for this year as well.
Hammer of the Witch, the band’s sixth full-length album, is one of the heaviest and angriest albums I’ve heard all year. The band, lead by frontman Human Furnace, continue their wrecking ball of heavy riffs, and devastatingly raw vocals that leave the brain battered and your eardrums ruptured. Simply put, Hammer of the Witch is thirteen tracks that never let up and never slow down.
I’ve always heard the name King Dude mentioned here and there, but never took the time to check him out. So luck have it, TJ Cowgill, aka King Dude, was gracious enough to release a new album this year, the aptly titled, Fear.
A cross between Johnny Cash and Danzig, his music blends genres such as blues, folk, and punk-rock, all the while adding a luciferian touch. Fear saw a change in direction from his previous album, 2012’s Burning Daylight, but nothing that would scare away longtime fans.In fact, upon going back to check out that album, I feel that Fear is a more cohesive and well-constructed album, and for that reason, it brought me back for repeat listens.
After the intro track, the album kicks off with a rocking tune full of haunting vocals and dirty sounding chords, and from that moment I was hooked. As a whole, Fear is unlike anything I’ve heard this year – or the last couple years for that matter. It’s a haunting yet beautiful album that I believe any fan of rock and metal would dig.
The Flesh Prevails
I’m a bit surprised this album made my list. That’s not to say Fallujah are bad; quite the opposite actually – these dudes are quite talented and deserving of all the acclaim they received this year with their second full-length album, The Flesh Prevails.
To be honest, I wasn’t much of a fan of The Harvest Wombs, but when I gave The Flesh Prevails a listen, to say I was blown away is an understatement. The growth and direction the band took is much more focused, and the complexity juxtaposed against the melody is catchy as hell.
I was drawn in like a moth to a flame. The album has a sense of continuity throughout, as one track blended into the next, it provided a steady play-through without having to skip any of the tracks, and that goes for the fillers as well. I only wish they would have released an instrumental version of the album; that’s how much I dug the instrumentation. I wasn’t a fan before, but after hearing this album, I am now. Well played Fallujah; well played.
Dark, unrelenting, and chaotic, Passenger is the debut album from Oakland, CA blackened hardcore/punk-rock band Black Monolith. Containing only six tracks, but clocking in at a runtime just shy of forty minutes, this album has plenty for all purveyors of heavy music.
Desolate soundscapes and ravished screams are scattered across an array of scathing riffs and pounding drum work. The album at its core is dark, but Black Monolith offer up serene moments that add more layers to their sound, rather than just jack-hammering the hell out of your ears. Plenty of melodic passages are heard throughout that give the listener a breather, but just enough before it comes back and reminds you that you’re not out of the woods yet.
The album closes with a stellar instrumental track, which has a very post-rock feel to it, and brings the albums overall dark tone a bright light. Do not sleep on this album. Check it out, and play it loud!
Once More ‘Round The Sun
I’ve always been a fan of Mastodon, but after Hunter, which I enjoyed, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied with it as a whole. So when Once More ‘Round The Sun was released, I had some reservations, and was hesitant on checking it out.
But as stated earlier, I’m a fan, and I was digging “High Road”, so I gave the album a shot. And I’m glad I did.
This album, while not out of the gate ear-pleasing, earned its place in my rotation after I gave it my undivided attention and about 100 play-throughs. It took some time, but I can say that I’m more than pleased with Once More ‘Round The Sun, and hold it very high in their discography.
Does it come close or compare to Leviathan, Remission, or Crack The Skye? No. But then again, I’m not sure any a bum they release will ever top those. But Once More ‘Round The Sun isn’t meant to top them – it is an entity all of its own, full of groovy, technical riffs, catchy choruses, and that trademark Mastodon tone, this record is enjoyable from beginning to end. Songs I didn’t care for on the first few plays later became favorites. The album takes time to soak in, but when you reach that point, it is easily one of the most enjoyable and exciting spins of the year.
After the emergency bone marrow transplant Nergal had to undergo, it was unclear as to the fate of Behemoth - but luckily for Nergal, the band, and us fans, his operation was successful and we not only had a prominent figure in the metal community recovery successfully, but we were also treated with a new album.
While previous albums were very brutal in nature, The Satanist is more subtle in its approach, relying less on that brutality and shifting focus back to their blackened roots. It’s a powerful and dynamic album, full of immense and evil-sounding riffs and passages, which take the listener on a twisted journey into the depths of hell itself. The album speaks volumes, and is easily one of their best.
Even if you’re not much into the lyricism and/or meaning behind the album, you can still enjoy the instrumentation, which overall, was a nice change of pace for the band, and one I welcomed with open arms. Behemoth are one of the best in the genre, and this album does well to solidify that.
At The Gates
At War With Reality
Nineteen years is a long time to wait to throw your hat back into the ring, so when news broke that Swedish melodeath pioneers At The Gates were writing a new album, the metal community as a whole took notice and made their excitement known.
And for good reason; At The Gates are one of those bands that just about every metalhead listened to, and the thought of hearing a new album from them was nothing short of awesome. Would it just be another Slaughter of the Soul? Would it sound like their earlier death metal albums? Or would it be something completely new to match the current trend of metal music?
Simply put, it’s album that resembles SOTS *and* Terminal Spirit Disease era of At The Gates, but it’s strong enough to stand out from those two albums, and it quickly became one of my go-to albums of 2014. Granted, it came out late in the year, but I could not pull myself away from it. The more I listened, the more I was hooked, and the second it ended, it was back to track one to start it all over again.
I dare anyone to listen to this album and not bang their head, or for that mater, just accept that At The Gates are back and much like Carcass did last year, have returned with an album that is more than a worthy addition to their discography.
Young And In The Way
When Life Comes To Death
I love me some good ol’ blackened hardcore, so when North Carolina’s Young And In The Way - who play a blend of black metal with elements of crust punk and hardcore – offered up their latest album When Life Comes to Death, I was a happy man. Bluntly, this was the one album that hit me the hardest this year; the pure viscerality, both musically and vocally, was all I needed to get through whatever nonsense I was dealing with.
It’s almost a literal punch to the face, and the angst cuts deep in the form of jagged riffs and raw throaty screams. When Life Comes to Death is an album worth listening to all the way through, and with well-rounded production adding more weight to the albums emotional pull, the intensity of the band is truly captured. Shifts in mood and tone provide the listener with surprises and help keep it from feeling stale and predictable – which over the course of eleven tracks is a worthy feat. In my humble opinion, Young And In The Way have released their opus, and while I understand this is up for debate, the fact remains, this album crushes.
The Mire – Glass Cathedrals
Fink – Hard Believer
Trap Them – Blissfucker
Thomas Giles – Modern Noise
Hexis – Abalam
The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Bane – Don’t Wait Up
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Interpol – El Pintor
Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere
Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite