Picking these releases has been difficult. There's been a lot of good stuff that came out in 2014, perhaps even more so than last year. I found myself stuck on a little over fifty albums I found to be very solid. Assembling has only been easy for my number one and two picks. Everything else has been the struggle. And whether you hate lists or not (personally I love lists, even if they're awful and ill informed), here's my top fifteen picks for 2014. With a full glass of Jameson, here's to 2014.
MY FAVORITE 15 ALBUMS OF 2014*
Powerviolence is a genre I've loved since I first heard it. The raw aggression and unbalanced, schizophrenic nature is frankly kick ass. ACxDC are one of the best bands to take up the genre. And their (finally) full-length on Melotov Records has shown that they're not out of the game (which was a genuine worry for a few years). Antichrist Demoncore boasts sixteen tracks of madness and rage. The twisting and turning, beating and burning showcases the band at the top of their game. Satanic, guttural screams and high pitched wails with booming drums and fiery guitars make this album some you should not have (and still shouldn't) miss this year.
“The drugs are more important than you.” It's true, they are. And while I may have (mostly) fucked up the medical definition of a fistula in my review (that error will remain so I can later reflect on my failures when I'm sober), there is hardly a better way to summarize Vermin Prolificus. The savagery and ugliness is in full swing on the band's latest full-length. The sludge unit, ripe with hardcore/punk influence, has released one of the best offerings I've heard this year. Miserable and unflinching in its portrayal of negativity and savagery, Fistula is a band that deserves the recognition they're getting. The flow of the album is virtually flawless and just when you think it can't sink any deeper, it does.
I don't like long songs. Just consider that for a moment. Songs that breach six to seven minutes tend to make me weary. Why? Because of my very short attention span. Usnea has me by the ears though. As though the band reached out, grabbed me and started screaming in my face. The doom/drone of Random Cosmic Violence took me hook, line and sinker. The whole LP bolsters four songs, the shortest clocking in at just over twelve-minutes. Usnea has crafted a maddening experience here. Between raging doom and slow, drifting sections, they've created something that's a cut above the genre. If “Healing Through Death” doesn't grab you then this is not the album for you.
Archspire are like something out of an extra dimensional science fiction novel. Their sound and artwork has always reminded of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Planescape setting (best one by the way) gone sci-fi. The Lucid Collection even carries that uncertain, unwieldy feeling. It's heavy and technical as hell. Tracks weave in dreamy sounds, parts that wave and drift but still remain terribly brutal. Take into consideration that they can also craft a catchy song (see: “Scream Feeding”). Archspire are a band of a lot of talent and The Lucid Collective is a hypercube of incredible achievement.
Maybe I'm just nostalgic for Death. I'll be the first to admit that. The band is still very possibly the greatest metal act to ever exist (and yeah, I totally voted for that on MetalSucks). Cannabis Corpse's latest offering proves that they both have the capacity to write excellent tunes while referencing excellent bands (namely, Death and Gorguts). From Wisdom to Baked is a stoned death metal maelstrom of bongs and blunts. Cannabis Corpse has evolved into a band that can meld technicality with melody and keep on a solid song. Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise was a fantastic album but From Wisdom to Baked perfects the formula. Blunted and kick ass.
10. Eyehategod – Eyehategod
The sludge masters are back after fourteen years. And after two EPs over the last two years (New Orleans is the New Vietnam and Liar's Psalm), we finally have Eyehategod. Still sludgey as hell and still plenty hardcore/punk, Eyehategod treads territory that you'd find more in their Dopesick or Take as Needed for Pain days. The screech and knock of “Agitation! Propaganda!” is a straight up haymaker. Something that rips right off the line melding thick slaps of sludge with the push of hardcore/punk. Others like “Robitusson and Rejection” fall more into stoner metal territory; agonizing and slowly burning. Eyehategod is a welcome addition to the band's small but impressive roster. Though it does mark the unfortunate passing of Joey LaCaze, whose drumming was incredible on this album.
9. The Banner – Greying
One of the darkest releases to come out this year, and one I've been anticipating for six years. The Banner have left behind their path of sonic brutality in some respects and settled for a more varied sound. Greying is one of the most gothic records this year that also showcases an impressive evolution. Suffering and agony are no strangers to The Banner and Greying weeps plenty. However, it's not without its aggression. The chains that bind are rattled plenty and the tortures of the damned are blasted throughout. It's different and pretty goddamn good.
Misanthropic, hateful, drug-addled and completely disconnected from life, the titans of doom/stoner metal have unleashed one of their strongest releases. Time to Die is a gigantic middle finger to everything and everyone, as well as a lingering threat. Never stop the drugs, and continue the slaughter. Songs are baked and thick. Jus Oborn's wail sounds just as hectic as ever. It's the Electric Wizard everyone has come to expect, though not as noisy as Dopethrone. Some have speculated (MetalSucks among them) that this might be Electric Wizard's final hurrah. For once, I find myself placed in the optimist corner speculating that this isn't. Yeah, it ended with Dopethrone's beginning and the title signifies an end. That doesn't make this the end, though. Time to Die might just be the beginning of a new era for Electric Wizard. And if it's not, well their final say on the matter is simply this:
“Die, DIE! Fuck you!”
Fitting parting words, but they're not dead yet.
This is the most honed, calculated and deadly album Misery Index (named after an Assück record, if you somehow didn't know that already) has completed to date. The Killing Gods is a titan of death/grind and one of the best the genre has to offer this year. Also the meatiest of all the works they've released. Starting out with a five part epic collectively titled “Faust”, the band has honed a more epic sound without losing an single aspect of their aggressive edge. The sharp bite of records like Traitors and Heirs to Thievery remains ever present. “The Killing Gods” and “The Weakener” jam their jagged knives right to the heart. Not a second of this album feels safe. Even when it's slowed down, it's really just getting ready to attack again.
Hardcore/punk/thrash crossover titans unleashed their latest rager The Tyranny of Will on Relapse in September. From the moment you hit play the album blazes. From fun bangers like “Miserable Failure” to the speedy “Glocked In” and the chant worthy “Four More Years”, every aspect of this album is a shows how much control Iron Reagan have over their sound. And the album does have an impressive display of range and distinguishing songs for the genre it plays to. Does it have a problem with “the Man”? Yeah, but don't we all at some point or another?
The status “hiatus” or “on hold” can hold a great deal of fear. Seeing Gridlink fall into this category sucks as they've turned over some incredible music so far. Still, they are from the ashes of other amazing bands (see: Discordance Axis, Kill the Client). Longhera is a grind album on crack. Fourteen songs in twenty-one minutes that sound like Dillinger Escape Plan and The Kill teamed up. Melodic at moments, chaotic at others, Longhera has impressive width and range within its sound that never sounds like it doesn't belong or is simply misplaced. One of the finest technical grindcore albums you're ever going to hear.
Few bands play as well as Tiger Flowers on their debut. Most bands on their third album don't play as well as Tiger Flowers. Now consider the fact (according to me) that the sound they've harnessed is one of great difficultly. A melding of soothing, sections along with great melody, heaviness and aggression. To put these together often sounds corny and passe. Tiger Flowers are anything but. Dead Hymns as an introductory full-length is mind boggling. The nine tracks they present to you are like a gallery of head explosions. Some of them fast. Some of them slow. An impressive debut to say the least.
This is devastation. This is suffering. This is agony and hate. The Body, one of doom/drone/noise's most despondent acts (very possibly their most), has unleashed their latest full-length I Shall Die Here, produced by The Haxan Cloak. Summarizing this album is difficult in a single paragraph. From the high pitched screams to the bubbling drums, to the heartbeat-like noise-violence, I Shall Die Here is both adequately named and executed. A rare piece of art in its form. The album is so bleak and moody that you might find yourself staring at bottles of pills, wondering if maybe, just maybe, it's time to pass on (seriously, don't do it though). And yet the album is so perfectly executed. Never does it feel like it's forced. Never does it feel like it has any filler. It trudges along slowly and kills with the might of a bear. I Shall Die Here is The Body's masterpiece thus far. Utterly desolate.
Pure fucking destrution. Every moment, every fucking chord, every vocal-chord-shredding scream, every metallic screech is pure goddamn destruction. After 100+ listens, these albums are still killing it (yeah, Sister Fawn is included with this). The Full of Hell &Merzbow collaboration went above expectations. It showcases both artists at their most sinister. The grinding attack of Full of Hell is their most aggressive assault yet. The Merzbow side is moody, distant and desolate. It is a perfect melding of noise and grindcore, with dashes of sludge and drone.
As far as I'm concerned there was no competition this year. Thou's Heathen blew everything else so far out of the water that when I look at the rest of the list they're like specks on the horizon. Thou has erected (aside from me) a desolate landscape of sweeping proportions. The gray of the album cover excellently captures the sounds and mood that persist. Pieces take their time and even when they're vicious they still hold an odd picturesque beauty. “Feral Faun's” melodic section holds together what is otherwise a sonic carving. The five-minute intro to “Free Will” isn't testing in the least and when the song picks up it does so with a wrecking ball. Every second is so coldly calculating, it's amazing. With the mood of a Wisconsin winter and a philosophical bone to boot, Thou has unleashed one of the best albums they'll ever produce and one of the best albums I'll probably ever hear.
This section is more or less, a bunch of albums that could have fallen into slot sixteen. They're absolutely worth checking out and are in no particular order.
Trap Them – Blissfucker
Indian – From All Purity
Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution
Thaw – Earth Ground
Frail Vessel – Frail Vessel
Protestant – In Thy Name
Nux Vomica – Nux Vomica
Osk – We Will Never Change
Barghest – The Virtuous Plague
Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend
Torch Runner – Endless Nothing
Nesseria – Fractures
1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos
Corrupt Moral Altar – Mechanical Tides
Homewrecker – Circle of Death
Water Torture – Pillbox
Suffering Mind – Suffering Mind
Columns – Please Explode
Puig Destroyer – Puig Destroyer
Suffering Mind – Suffering Mind
Atriarch – An Unending Pathway
Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
Today is the Day – Animal Mother
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God
Generation of Vipers – Coffin Wisdom
P.L.F. – Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration
Six Brew Bantha – Intravenously Commodified
OFF! – Wasted Years
Chest Pain – Weltschmerz
Internal Rot – Mental Hygiene
Nausea – Condemned to the System
MY FAVORITE 5 EPS OF 2014
5. Wormwood – Wormwood
4. Vermin Womb – Permanence
3.Primitive Man & Fister – Split 12”
2. Thou & the Body – Released From Love
1. Iron Lung – Savagery
NON-METAL ALBUMS THAT I DUG
Conor Oberst – Upside-Down Mountain
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – West of Memphis OST
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Self Defense Family – Try Me
Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Lang Lang – The Mozart Album
Thurston Moore – The Best Day
Liars – Mess
First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
Weird Al Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
Boris – Noise
*It should be noted that at the point of my making this list, I have yet to hear the Endon Mama release
and The Kill's Kill Them…All. Both*** One of these albums are amazing from what I've heard so far and would likely make this list. Unfortunately, I have not managed to get a hold of them yet. Especially with Endon being a Japanese band and having no European or American release/PR. If you haven't heard either of these bands, absolutely check them out. Both are incredible.
2015 NEW ALBUMS WISHLIST (in alphabetical order)
Likelihood: Very possible. Agoraphobic Nosebleed pretty much moves at Scott Hull's pace. And while Pig Destroyer is still riding the wave of the awesome Book Burner it'd be nice if these four records would see the light of day as we've been hearing about them for a long time. ANb has yet to release an album I don't love (though they did sound really off in The Poacher Diaries split with Converge, they were still the stronger set despite getting the Kurt Ballou Entombed treatment), so doubtless it'll be worth the wait. However, impatience has set in. But then again, according to a recent interview with J.R. Hayes, Hull is up to his ears in ANb stuff right now.
Likelihood: Unknown. Completed Exposition are one of Japan's finest exports next to Endon. Their last full-length Structure Space Mankind was an incredible trip into the realm of neo-powerviolence. The band are absolute masters of riffage and jutting insanity; kinda like if Calculating Infinity-era Dillinger Escape Plan went powerviolence. Songs switch and break with neck-snapping velocity. Hopefully, To Live a Lie Records, 625 Thrash, or Deep Six (again) will pick them up and put their next record out. And hopefully it'll be in 2015. Japan has some seriously killer bands and Completed Exposition is only the tip of the iceberg.**
Death Toll 80k
Likelihood: Unknown. The Finnish Death Toll 80k haven’t spoken a word on a new record as of yet and their awesome Harsh Realities has only recently been released in the US via Give Praise Records, which by the way you should give fuckin' praise to this label for bringing this badassery over to U.S. soil. Though the Side A/Side B Bandcamp download leaves something to be desired. Whatever, I'll cut it up myself and re-label it as my OCD self sees fit. Death Toll 80k are the Insect Warfare of this generation. Hopefully Death Toll 80k are ready to unleash a new hellish masterpiece this year because I am damn ready to receive.
Likelihood: Unknown. One of my all time favorite bands. Where the fuck did you go? No interviews or news—nothing. Hopefully they're lying in wait and are going to predatoraly (<–not a word) spring upon the unsuspecting world and crush everyone. *sigh* I can dream anyway.
Likelihood: Unknown. Fell Voices aren't exactly the most talkative bunch. There's no official website, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr for them. And that's fine so long as Gilead Media lets us known when the next apocalypse is coming. Hopefully 2015 will give us something but we'll just have to wait and see.
Likelihood: Probable. God Seed has entered the studio to record their second full-length. Unless something utterly suck-worthy happens, it will likely come out. Here's to hoping.
Likelihood: Unknown. Hey, guys. How's Instinctus Bestialis going? I'll just be here. Patiently waiting. Crossing my fingers. Etc.
Likelihood: Unknown. The band's last release was Crusher for Scion A/V. Go on, let the Scion hate flow. The EP was good not great. Magrudergrind are apparently still working on material for a new release. What's the progress been like? I don't know. The band has been rather hush-hush on the whole thing. They're still touring though. My fingers are crossed. It's been almost six years. Let's rage.
Likelihood: Very. The band recently released the very awesome Consume EP which was part covers, part original material (but more so covers).
Likelihood: Unknown. Psyopus is an odd band. Their focus on finger-tapping and hyper-technical melodies has made them a standout songwriting-wise but they're also just an all-around killer band. Their last album Odd Senses was released in 2009 and was their most stern offering yet but the band entered hiatus in 2010. Then they came back. Then they were gone again. Hopefully they've just been focused on perfecting a new monstrous album.
Likelihood: Unknown: Primitive Man's Scorn was a kick ass album and the viciousness of Ethan Lee McCarthy in this year's Vermin Womb has only continued to solidify his projects as a sort of awe. Not to mention he was also in Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire and Death of Self, the guy's come some credentials in kicking ass. McCarthy artwork is also pretty badass and his noise (see: P/M Noise, especially the track “They Will Not Even See the Faces of Their Killers”) is nothing to be trifled with either. It would seem 2015 be a logical year for a follow-up to the awesome Scorn. It's been almost two years. The excellence of the album is only growing more and more by word-of-mouth. Though if he chooses to do a full-length of Vermin Womb instead, I'd be fine with that. For now though, I hope we see some more Primitive Man. Excellent band, excellent tunes.
Likelihood: It's gonna happen. Unless the world blows up first. Which I doubt it will. Plague Widow are the best death/grind band that has yet to release a full length. They've done a demo and a split with Oblivionized (whom are also awesome) and have over 70,000 Facebook likes. And while the whole Facebook thing might seem trite, that's insane. Death/grind isn't widely accessible music. Stacking on top of this is the fact that guitarist Hal Rotter (aka Rotting Graphics) is one of the best artists in the metal field (Atrarch's An Unending Pathway front cover is designed by him). Hell, I've got a test print of “Decay” framed above my computer. Plague Widow have already entered, and presumably exited, Earhammer Studios (in Oakland, CA) to record Within the Void of Human Life which will be released on Willowtip Records. The chances of this ending up on my best of 2015 list are pretty fuckin' good.
Likelihood: Unknown. Rotten Sound's practice space recently suffered a major fire. Which sucks ass. Hopefully the band will recover and throw something together for 2015.
Likelihood: Heheheheheh.. Probably not.
Likelihood: Probable. With a track record of an album being released every other year, Weekend Nachos are hopefully going to have a new record out in 2015. The band has been consistent in their quality and has only gotten better over the years. I had the pleasure of seeing them in May with Pig Destroyer in Chicago and they totally stole the show. And I got to do the ending vocals to “Unholy Victory” so I can finally die happy.
Likelihood: Extremely likely. Wormrot has become more active in the last six months and has even posted pictures of them writing a new record. It's been three years since Dirge. I say bring this shit on.
That wraps up my 2014 best of and my 2015 wishlist. So what made your top ten? Post it in the comments. I am, after all, a list whore. Feed me.
**If you or someone you know wants to get some Japanese/Asian crust/grind/hardcore/punk/metal bands exposure here in the US or Europe (I also contribute to Echoes and Dust) please e-mail me. There are a lot of Japanese/Asian bands that deserve recognition worldwide. Also, understand that I'm unfortunately a monolingual bastard so I can only communicate in English which, I know, sucks.
***The Kill's – Kill Them…All has been moved to a January 2015 release. Don't be surprised when it ends up on the "Best of 2015" list.