May 2018 Review Round Up

Hoo boy, June kind of just appeared, didn’t it? Was still hammering out a review or two in the wee hours of publishing day morn. It was a pretty easy month to get distracted by though.

I started the month by travelling to see Ihsahn. As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the great icons of metal and it showed in his live performance. Credit too goes to Direct Touring for matching him up with some great support. Mar Mortuum were frosty and aggressive like black metal should be. The ludicrously good Ylva gave me vertigo through sheer heaviness. And Hybrid Nightmares were so over the top it was pretty well impossible to not enjoy them. But the man himself put them all to shame. Cracking night out.

On that topic of Ihsahn, Àmr is my album of the month. I expect high quality from him. We all should by now. But this is a step beyond. It’s probably the finest album in his catalogue. I’m sure some Emperor purists will disagree, but they should know they’re wrong.

Shout outs go to Altarage and Woundvac for some kick ass merch. Always appreciated when bands do merch in big guy sizes.

I’ll be back next month. As usual, if you have comments or critique, you can hit me up on Facebook.

Enjoy

Album of the Month
Ihsahn – Àmr
(Progressive Metal – Norway)
Candlelight – 2018/05/04

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If you only have one Ihsahn album in your collection, make sure it’s Àmr. It takes all the good things from his previous solo works and distils them down to nine tracks of perfection. It’s technically superb, emotionally vivid, and memorable in a way that defies expectation. From its opening moments I haven’t wanted to listen to anything else. It has completely dominated this month.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amorphis – Queen of Time
(Progressive Metal – Finland)
Nuclear Blast – 2018/05/18

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This is all over the place. I can’t remember another album quite like it to be honest. It has some songs that are contenders for track of the year. It also has a couple of appalling tracks that you just can’t listen to. The production values are universally top notch, so this is all about stylistic choices. And I just can’t fathom how it all came together.

Blood Tsunami – Grave Condition
(Thrash – Norway)
Soulseller Records – 2018/04/27

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Kudos to these mad thrashers. This started life as a four track ep, which they then bulked out with some unreleased material. But for Dungeon of the Rats (originally from For Faen!), I wouldn’t have noticed. It’s real impressive that it sounds so cohesive. Better than cohesive, it’s high quality and entertaining as hell. Quality musicianship from all involved.

Depravity – Evil Upheaval
(Death Metal – Australia)
Transcending Obscurity Records – 2018/04/30

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The toughest albums to review aren’t the great nor the grating. They’re the merely good. And that’s what Evil Upheaval is. Heavy without being crushing. Fast without being blistering. Entertaining without being memorable. And that’s the key point; if you like death metal, you will definitely like this, but don’t expect it to linger in your consciousness.

Drudkh – Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring)
(Black Metal – Ukraine)
Season of Mist – 2018/03/09

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Following up the terrific A Furrow Cut Short was going to be a tall order, but They Often See Dreams is a resounding success. Invigorated and pissed off, Drudkh’s signature invocation of misery has never sounded so vital. A dark undercurrent of furious energy drives this, never allowing it to settle. The Drudkh renaissance continues.

Ekranoplan – Hypnopædia
(Sludge Metal with a dash of Grind – Germany)
Narshardaa Records – 2018/01/30

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I remember Ekranoplan’s demo being much more of an Entombedcore affair, so this progression was a surprise. While there is still a mighty fistful of HM2 going on, the sound has been built on and enriched by adding aggressive, pounding, High on Fire-esque sludge. It’s not straight up mean; it’s complex layers of mean.

Mesarthim – The Density Parameter
(Black Metal – Australia)
Avantgarde Music – 2018/04/03

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Mesarthim want you to know that if you stare into the void, the void will never stare back. The void does not care that you exist. There is nothing out there but a vast frozen emptiness, occasionally lit by beautiful clouds of radiation capable of flaying flesh from bone and burning bone to ash. Existence is a perilous, bleak, and futile endeavour.

夢遊病者 (Muyūbyō-sha – Sleepwalker) – 一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e – For this time only, never again)
(Avantgarde Black Metal – Japan)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/05/25

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I have quietly anticipated this album since it was announced. It just seemed so intriguing. It delivered on that promise. It mesmerises as it slowly unveils its many secrets. Such esoteric bleakness really shouldn’t sound this welcoming and warm. And, yet, it’s distant and almost unknowable. This is deliberate, challenging, masterful.

Petrification – Hollow of the Void
(Death Metal – United States of America)
Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2018/04/23

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I could have been harsh and just written “See review of Depraved – Evil Upheaval”, but that would have doing them an unkindness. What we have here is an album that gives the listener the most tantalising hint of what a live experience would be. It’s evocative of headbanging front rows, circle pits, and windmilling hair. Definitely would see this live.

Serum Dreg – Lustful Vengeance
(Black metal – United States of America)
Vrasubatlat – 2018/04/20

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There’s something about this merciless slab of blackened nastiness that really makes me think of Nachtmystium at their finest. Aside from that being high praise, it comes with the added benefit of being Blake free. It’s more than just aggressive; it has a pervasive, creeping dread that gives it a febrile touch of madness. Sinister at all levels.

Thou – The House Primordial
(Drone Doom – United States of America)
Robotic Empire – 2018/05/01

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Ethereal and beguiling. Bleak and distressing. Horrific and vile. The House Primordial is all these things at once. It creates a maliciously pressurised sonic landscape so catastrophically heavy that light (joy, hope…) struggle to escape it. Thou specialise in these nightmares, but everything on display here still sounds as novel as the freshest hell.

Turbonegro – RockNRoll Machine
(Deathpunk – Norway)
Mercury Records – 2018/02/02

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Something got under the skin of the band in the years between Sexual Harassment and this. Deliberate throwbacks and obvious homages to other rock greats are delivered with their characteristic shit eating grin. It’s like their saying “Didn’t like what we did last time? Want us to only do things how you like it? Fine. RockNRoll Machine beep boop.” And yet, it’s still pretty damn good.

Woundvac – Terrorizing the Swarm
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-Released – 2018/05/04

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Listening to this, you might be tricked into thinking that Phoenix, Arizona is some sort of frozen wasteland. Why else would Woundvac need to bring this level of blistering heat? Believe me; this is an absolute scorcher and it rendered me slightly insensible for a bit. So much so that I temporarily forgot the US has other grind acts. It’s that good.

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July 2015 Review Round Up

It’s happened. It’s finally happened. A demo has taken out “album” of the month. I can’t think of a more deserving band than Lxs Jugadxs. They are the band that reinvigorated my love of grind. No more hanging out for the occasional Napalm Death or Pig Destroyer album. Now I want it. I crave it. Thank you for the obsession. Muchas gracias por la obsesión.

I also need to give due respect to Abyssal. Antikatastaseis is a monster. To be fair, they’re not straight up death metal; there’s definitely black and doom in there too. But death metal needs to claim this. Stick a goddamn flag in it. It’s some of the evilest death metal to come out in years.

Enjoy and I’ll be back next month.

Album of the Month
Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
(Grindcore – Argentina)
Self-released – 2015/07/21

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I’ve been a huge fan since I heard their 2013 demo, but everything they’ve done before pales in comparison to this. While remaining undeniably grind, there are strong influences from techdeath, melodeath, and thrash all the way through the four tracks. Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them. No hyperbole – they are the best grind band in the world right now.
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis
(Death metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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There are times when you find yourself reminded that black metal doesn’t have the monopoly on evil. Abyssal sound like nothing less than a worse version of Dante’s depiction of limbo. Listening to this album definitely allows you to visualise hoards of panicked people running around being relentlessly attacked by wasps, except it’s pitch black and there’s broken glass everywhere. It’s nightmarish beyond belief.
Try before you buy: A Casual Landscape (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Abominor – Opus: Decay
(Black metal – Iceland)
Invictus Productions/Vánagandr – 2015/03/26

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Two tracks of deep, involved black metal. Abominor are another band that take stylistic cues from Deathspell Omega and I was getting real close to dismissing them as derivative. But there are important differences that become evident as the release progresses. They embrace melody far more readily than their French compatriots. It’s still a challenging listen, but it feels slightly less like sandpaper on the soul.
Try before you buy: 474 (Bandcamp)

Anopheli – The Ache of Want
(Post-crust – United States of America)
Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies – 2015/07/02

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Anopheli continue to be the premier proponents of cello in punk. They also continue to insist on describing themselves as emo crust. But the label fits; the music on The Ache of Want is hard edged and gritty, but is born of an overwhelming sadness. The ineffable grief that permeates every note bleeds over into barely controlled anger. It’s a softer album than A Hunger Rarely Sated, but is no worse for it.
Try before you buy: Squanderer (Bandcamp)

Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament
(Black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/03

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Barghest continue to make furious, hateful music for furious, hateful people. The three tracks are involved meditations on the bestial nature of man. Intensely violent and yet surprisingly contemplative, it’s insightful in a way that truly highlights the often dualistic nature of black metal. If you want some food for thought, this will sate your hunger; if you want to feed your beast, it will throw gamey carcasses.
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean (Bandcamp)

Battle Hag – Battle Hag
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/03/05

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This is a public service announcement, brought to you by Metalshopped. Tired drivers die. Thank you. I’m doing my civic duty because Battle Hag could have killed me, as it is some of the most soporific doom I have heard in a while. Doom requires more than just down-tuning, reverb, and low growls to be worthwhile. It’s lazy doom that only aims to check boxes. Bass lines can only carry a band so far.
Try before you buy: Never Turn Your Back on the Sea (Bandcamp)

Choking – Choking
(Blackened sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/15

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True misanthropy takes total dedication. Any idiot can hate, but to take that primal, animalistic emotion and extend it to the entirety of humanity and the self requires a level of commitment few can sustain. Choking sustain it though. Seething contempt suffuses every note, every growl, every sustain. Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine (Bandcamp)

Epäihminen – Epäihminen IV
(Ambient black metal – Finland)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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I almost dismissed this; the flat production values and the borderline stereotypical introduction lowered my expectations. But I’m glad I pushed through, as there is a depth to this release that left me aching. It’s like standing on a sunlit fen on a winter day, feeling almost uncomfortably cold, and contemplating mortality and the futility of existence. It serene in the bleakest way possible.
Try before you buy: Op. 24 (Bandcamp)

Haldol – Haldol
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/22

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An interesting take on post-punk. It’s not without its faults, but overall it’s definitely worth your time. The vocalist doesn’t have the strongest of deliveries, but that doesn’t detract heavily from the experience. The release saves itself with its guitar work. There is an unsettling disorientation to the music that turns familiar gothic riffs into distorted refrains of discomfort. There’s a lot to like.
Try before you buy: Law of Indifference (Bandcamp)

Indesinence – III
(Doom metal – United Kingdom)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/07/21

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It’s an odd thing to say given that the majority of tracks come in around the ten minute mark, but this album doesn’t truly shine until it hits the even lengthier tracks near the end of the album. Indesinence’s take on doom, while undeniably oppressive, allows flickers of lights through. It’s like moonlight filtered through broken glass in a bombed out hellhole. This panorama is in sharpest relief in III’s longest form.
Try before you buy: Mountains Of Mind / Five Years Ahead (Of My Time) (Bandcamp)

Jesus Wept – Pit of Blasphemy
(Blackened Brutal Death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/09

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde all over this release. At it’s best, it cherry-picked appropriate elements of black metal and used them to invigorate slamming brutality. At it’s worst it’s like the thing was recorded with djent sticks and clockwork toy drums. Even the vocals are on an extreme spectrum. Annunciation is key. Done properly, they’re articulate and sinister. Done badly, it’s a guttural recitation of vowels.
Try before you buy: A Pit of Blasphemy (Bandcamp)

Krvshr – Church Burner
(Sludge metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/05/25

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There must be something wrong with me. Hateful noise shouldn’t make me smile so much. It helps that it lands squarely between the good drugs for hard times vibe of High on Fire and the darkness of deep space blackness of Lord Mantis. It opens slow as pitch, but builds steadily to a mid-paced riff-fest and not in the stodgy, bland way. Each riff has the space to ooze. Nasty in a really satisfying way.
Try before you buy: Highlander (Bandcamp)

Kult of the Wizard – The White Wizard
(Doom metal – United States of America)
Reflections Records – 2015/03/13

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Bonged out doom firmly in the mould of Blood Ceremony. According to the band themselves, this is their first release with vocals. I’m glad they took their time, because she’s amazing. She has that sultry white soul quality; it makes you wonder why she isn’t singing about not going to rehab because of the son of a preacher man. She gives the otherwise standard doom the necessary lift to separate it from the masses.
Try before you buy: Black Moon (Bandcamp)

Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
(Groove metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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Lamb of God: the Garth Brooks of metal. Sure, they’re popular, but why? Didn’t understand the appeal for years. But their seventh album¹ makes me eat my words and my doubts. There’s a melodic quality to the tracks that brings to mind the peak of the Gotherburg sound, but it doesn’t sacrifice the Lynard-Skynard’s-grindcore-album Southern rage that has made them Pantera’s spiritual successors.
Try before you buy: Overlord (YouTube)

Melechesh – Enki
(Blackened death metal – Israel)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

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How have I not listened to Melechesh before? It should have been a no-brainer given that to my ear they sound like an amalgamation of Absu and Rotting Christ. I love Enki. It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. But it’s done with a level of nuance that turns a relentless assault into a cinematic portrayal of devotional violence. I can listen to it over and over.
Try before you buy: Multiple Truths (YouTube)

Padre Lobo – Padre Lobo
(Stoner sludge metal – Spain)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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The first thing that stood out to me was just how much the vocalist, Lore, sounds like Jessicka from Jack Off Jill. I actually double checked to be completely sure she wasn’t. It’s uncanny and, more importantly, very appropriate. The riot grrrl by way of goth vocals belted out over the top of Orange Goblin proximate stoner jams works in a satisfying way. They could probably benefit from a whisper more variety, but damn this is fun.
Try before you buy: Lilith (Bandcamp)

Rebel Wizard – Negative Wizard Metal
(Blackened heavy metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2015/07/17

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First Peasant, and now Rebel Wizard. I’m coming across a few blackened heavy types at the moment. Rebel Wizard are pretty good too. They do lack the knock out punch that Peasant has, but that’s a slightly unfair criticism. The important thing is the riffs the rock are high energy and on the thrashy end of NWOBHM worship. They still retain the sinisterness that black metal requires. Blast it a kvlt gatherings.
Try before you buy: Heavy Negative Wizard Metal (Bandcamp)

A Secret Death – Epilogue
(Hardcore – Australia)
Monolith – 2015/06/25

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Good hardcore is a bit like religion; you hope and you pray for it, but a lot of the time it feels like nothing’s there. But then an album like Epilogue descends like an ecstatic vision. Nuanced aggression is interwoven with deft touches of gentle melody and passages of Dillinger-esque intensity. There is a level of sophistication here that is so very rare in the broader genre. It’s a bright light in an often dark place.
Try before you buy: Strong, Silent Type (Bandcamp)

Sigh – Graveward
(A little bit of everything – Japan)
Candlelight Records – 2015/05/04

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This may seem like a strange thing to say in a metal review, but this is a noisy album. Obviously it’s loud. I mean noisy in the sense that there is a lot going on. It’s confrontational in its creative scope. I still have a fondness for the album, but there’s no doubt I had to open myself up to it. Mirai is one of metal’s great composers; I don’t think anyone else could get this to work. Chaos is a tough thing to reign in.
Try before you buy: Out of the Grave (Bandcamp)

Symphony X – Underworld
(Progressive neoclassical metal – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

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I get the feeling their time on Nuclear Blast hasn’t been the happiest, but Underworld gets it right. It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good. It’s lyrically sophisticated too; successfully synthesising classical mythology and mediaeval poetry into a cohesive whole. A long awaited and much appreciated return to form.
Try before you buy: Nevermore (YouTube)

Vanum – Realm of Sacrifice
(Black metal – United States of America)
Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

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Vanum have a real sense of organic flow on display with Realm of Sacrifice. And by organic flow, I mean every note is driven by what comes before and in turn pushes the rest of the album forward. It’s like blood coursing through your veins or synapses firing across the cerebellum. Experiencing an album like this is like having another key system in your body. It becomes a part of you and you need to let it do its thing.
Try before you buy: Convergence (Bandcamp)

Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate
(Progressive metal – India)
Self-released – 2015/02/18

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I really like this. So much could have gone wrong with a one man, self-released, progressive title. Especially since he openly discussed production problems on his Bandcamp page. But any negatives are quickly brushed aside by his excellent sense of melody. Effortlessly transitioning between heavy grooves and delicate movements is not a skill usually seen in prog part-timers. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Try before you buy: Perception (Bandcamp)

¹Burn the Priest never counts.

Releases of the Year for 2014

It’s finally here. A bit later than most annual lists, but I stand by my policy of waiting to review everything. Some amazing albums turned up late in the year and no list would be complete without them.

I’ve put the list together differently this year. Last year’s list was just a collection of my previously unreleased reviews. Reposting old reviews didn’t seem right, so I went back, relistened to everything, and tried to reflect on the year.

So without further adieu, here’s my best of 2014.

Album of the Year
Sólstafir – Ótta

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Season of Mist – 2014/08/29

What I said then: If you can’t appreciate the wonder of this album, I weep for you.
What I say now: This album really does improve with every listen. By the time I’m two tracks in, I’m already choked up. It’s raw and devastatingly emotional, but it’s so beautiful I will take the pain.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Death Angel

I saw these guys supporting Kreator. They completey blew their Teutonic compatriots off the stage. I haven’t been so thoroughly entertained by a band for a long, long time.

Best cover art: Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable by Ola Larsson

It’s a remarkably evocative piece of art, perfectly suited to its album. It doesn’t just convey a sense of palpable darkness; it conveys the futility of even attempting to fight it.

My Other Picks for 2014
2) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen

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Metal Blade Records – 2014/11/25

What I said then: Few bands can do what Primordial do; fewer still could match this effort.
What I say now: I really didn’t expect another album to muscle its way into the top three, but underestimating Primordial was foolish on my part. Awe inspiring and heart wrenching in equal measure.

3) Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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Century Media Records – 2014/04/14

What I said then: [The] album is replete with the seething contempt and haunting introspection that make his work so engaging.
What I say now: The darkness only deepens the more you listen to it. Hardly a surprise though. Triptykon are masters of the inky depths. Few bands can juggle beauty and despair this well.

4) Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite

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Artemisia Records – 2014/07/08

What I said then: It takes alienation and isolation, and makes them beautiful.
What I say now: Easily the most soothing release on this list. I can lose myself in their ambience for a long time, reclining into their subtle blend of delicacy and tension. It’s a thing of beauty.

5) Opeth – Pale Communion

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Roadrunner Records – 2014/08/24

What I said then: Rich, evocative rhythms are woven through with striking string passages and delicate accoustic movements, creating sumptuously dark listening experience.
What I say now: I figured Pale Communion might have lost some lustre over the passing months. Wrong. Very wrong. It drew me in as easily now as it did when it was released in August.

6) Swans – To Be Kind

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Young God Records – 2014/05/12

What I said then: That an album can be so dense and seemingly impenetrable, but be utterly compelling is a mark of true genius.
What I say now: It admittedly isn’t an album I’ve returned to often, but that’s because every time I start, I’m compelled to listen to it in its entirety. It’s an album that demands to be experienced.

7) Wovenhand – Refractory Obdurate

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Deathwish Inc – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Just as the band deftly tiptoes around classification, so too do the songs dance gracefully across the emotional spectrum.
What I say now: Wovenhand really have put together something wonderful. It’s contemplative in a way that shouldn’t be possible given the album’s pacing. Excuse me while I rock out while meditating.

8) Trap Them – Blissfucker

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Prosthetic Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: You are pummled with fury and defiance, and yet, track by track, desperation and exhaustion creep in.
What I say now: The fury of this album is still the chief selling point of this album. Lots of bands do angry; few do it with the absolute lack of restraint on display here. Relentless, malicious abandon.

9) Devin Townsend Project – Z²

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HevyDevy Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: This double album hammers home both Townsend’s talent and his bizarreness.
What I say now: Devin Townsend makes his music so damn easy to listen to. It’s big and bombastic, successfully filling any empty space in your mind with ridiculously good music.

10) Decapitated – Blood Mantra

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/09/26

What I said then: Blood Mantra is polished death metal perfection, delivering non-stop pummelling action.
What I say now: The polish has endured; not a hint of tarnish to be seen. It remains an album that blows you away from the moment you press play. It deserves it’s ‘2014 best death’ crown.

11) Various Artists – One and All, Together, For Home

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Season of Mist – 2014/05/23

What I said then: Serious, moving, and proof that black metal can have some pride without going full Varg.
What I say now: The contributing artists clearly throw everything into these songs, as the raw emotional heft remains as potent today as it was in September. Best compilation in years.

12) Agalloch – The Serpent & the Sphere

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/05/13

What I said then: The rhythms and melodies flow with a natural progression that turn lengthy songs into meaningful reflective experiences.
What I say now: The Serpent & the Sphere is the model modern black metal album. It doesn’t piss away its energy with mindless fury; rather, it cultivates a mature, yet devastating ambience.

13) At the Gates – At War With Reality

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Century Media – 2014/10/27

What I said then: They have released an album that sounds exactly like it came out of the creative high-point they were in for Slaughter of the Soul.
What I say now: The comparison to Slaughter of the Soul may have been a whisper generous, but this is still some of the best melodeath out there. Easily the best thing out of Gothenburg for a long time.

14) Winterfylleth – The Divination of Antiquity

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Candlelight Records – 2014/10/07

What I said then: The guitars are furious but clockwork precise, the drums are captivating in their intricacy, and the vocals have a nuance rarely seen in black metal.
What I say now: Winterfylleth improve with every album they do. And The Divination of Antiquity is far and away their best effort to date. Technically proficient and emotionally mature metal.

15) Death Fortress – Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable

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Fallen Empire Records – 2014/11/15

What I said then: Their take on darkness is a contagious invocation of malice and domination, infecting your soul with hatred most profane.
What I say now: When it starts, you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. By the end, you’re pretty sure you can’t live without it. Congratulations, Death Fortress has recorded damnation.

16) Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare

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Season of Mist – 2014/06/06

What I said then: It’s easily the best thing they’ve done since they defined the genre all those years ago.
What I say now: Alienation and obliteration. That’s what Esoteric Warfare serves up. This isn’t just Mayhem; this is Mayhem at their most ruthless. Which is a terrifying thought.

17) Plebeian Grandstand – Lowgazers

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/03/31

What I said then: It’s a combination of avant-garde darkness and technical fury that creates an atmosphere of relentless misanthropy.
What I say now: That it sounds like a combination of blackened horrors, Deathspell Omega, and jazz metal weirdos, Shining, is reason enough to get this. It remains a dark revelation.

18) Grand Magus – Triumph and Power

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Nuclear Blast – 2014/01/31

What I said then: Triumph and Power has everything you could possibly want in a metal album: anthemic choruses, towering solos, fist-pumping rhythms.
What I say now: It’s an album I have listened to a lot this year. I keep on getting the itch and it can only be scratched by Grand Magus’ particular brand of metalness. Rousing good times.

19) Earth – Primitive and Deadly

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Southern Lord – 2014/09/01

What I said then: It can bring a tear to the eye while simultaneously destroying speakers.
What I say now: Sublime in its contemplativeness, Primitive and Deadly is an album that, four months on, is already demonstrating that it will stand the test of time. Irresistible and immovable.

20) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30

What I said then: Even the weakest track on the album will kill the competition.
What I say now: Horsehunter justifiably took home the crown for best self-released title for the year. What they’ve done on their own, most of their labelled genre-mates couldn’t hope to achieve.

21) Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/08/19

What I said then: It draws you in and keeps you nestled in its heart.
What I say now: Pallbearer have put together a benchmark album here; it’s the album by which they, and many others, shall be judged from here on out. It’s a defining moment in quality doom.

22) Gnaw Their Tongues & Alkerdeel – Dyodyo Asema

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ConSouling Sounds – 2014/01/01

What I said then: Be transported to a scene of abject horror.
What I say now: Sweet Jesus, this is bleak. I’m used to Gnaw Their Tongues’ brand of horror, but the introduction of Alkerdeel’s maddening sludge took this to an unexpected realm of darkness.

23) Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun

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Reprise Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: It’s a beautiful expedition into progressive expanses, that is challenging, uplifting, and hard rocking.
What I say now: There was a 50/50 chance I was going to return to this and feel let down. But I wasn’t; it’s held up over the passing months. It remains an album dedicated to rocking the great riff.

24) 铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 远古呼唤 / Ancient Call

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Metal Hell Records – 2014/02/01

What I said then: Ancient Call is more blackened than their last album, but it is still an utter joy to listen to.
What I say now: I fretted that maybe Tengger Cavalry were, dare I say it, a one trick pony. But I can’t argue with results. They put out consistently high quality blackened folk that begs to be heard.

25) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25

What I said then: Woundvac’s self-titled debut is the sound of emerging from a mosh pit, covered in sweat and blood (not all of it mine), nose busted across my face, spitting teeth, and smiling like a madman.
What I say now: Why did I rate this so highly? Oh yeah. That’s right. It kicks the living shit out of everything in sight. It’s easily the best pure grind album in a year populated with excellent grind releases.

26) Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

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Debemur Morti Productions – 2014/10/10

What I said then: It’s an album that, knowing it already speaks to the other, seeks to engage rather than alienate.
What I say now: I’m glad that this is another addition to the Memoria Vetusta series. As much as I love Blut aus Nord’s more avant-garde material, what they do with trad black metal is amazing.

27) Lord Mantis – Death Mask

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/04/29

What I said then: Death Mask is a concentrated mass of metastasised malignancy.
What I say now: It hasn’t so much aged like fine wine as it has putrefied like a corpse in a swamp. It was nasty when I first got it and has somehow grown into something much worse in the interim.

28) Eyehategod – Eyehategod

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Housecore Records – 2014/05/27

What I said then: Thanks to Hurricane Katrina and their own personal demons, the notorious sludge lords truly have been through hell and back, [which] has translated directly to their music.
What I say now: I enjoyed revisiting this. I had forgotten just how punk it was. Unmistakably metal, don’t get me wrong, but still punk as fuck. It makes an already grimey band sound extra dirty.

29) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19

What I said then: Everything from the vocalist’s range to the intriguing solos is near perfect.
What I say now: The year’s best thrash album, right here. The fact that it doesn’t play to either the traditional thrash tropes or a frat house mentality helps. That it kicks ass is more important.

30) Rotten Soil – Los Caretas

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The Olmo Records – 2014/06/02

What I said then: Aside from the in your face immediacy, Los Caretas succeeds in combining hardcore rhythms with death metal tuning in a way that few of their genremates do.
What I say now: I continue to be a huge fan of their deathcore for the attention deficient. The album snaps by a breakneck speed, but still somehow allows the music room to breathe.

31) Tombs – Savage Gold

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Relapse Records – 2014/06/10

What I said then: Densely symbolic. Thematically complicated. Tantalisingly unknowable.
What I say now: I have always been a fan of Tombs’ smart metal. I love to be challenged intellectually by music. Savage Gold takes the intellectual approach and adds extra layers of nasty.

32) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02

What I said then: There is more to this than naked rage; there’s something darker in there, possibly grief, possibly melancholy.
What I say now: A grimey grindcore nasty, Lxs Jugadxs’ most recent demo stands as a firm reminder that some of the world’s best grind comes from deep in the underground. ¡Viva grind!

33) The Haunted – Exit Wounds

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Century Media Records – 2014/08/25

What I said then: This is a seemless blend of thrash and melodic death metal, keeping the invigorating energy of the former and the naked aggression of the latter.
What I say now: The simple joy of Exit Wounds makes you wonder why they’re the only ones nailing it. It has a familiarity that allows you to drop staight in at the deep end of the mosh.

34) Alcest – Shelter

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Prophecy Productions – 2014/01/17

What I said then: The end result is a sun-drenched journey through the ether.
What I say now: Neige’s full embrace of shoegaze is a welcome thing. I loved his previous trvegaze work, but Shelter is a step apart. It allows his dreams to bloom out of the shadow of nightmare.

35) Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind

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Century Media – 2014/08/05

What I said then: Bitterness, regret, and occasional self-pity make for a surprisingly honest outcome.
What I say now: Blake Judd may have gone out of his way to act like a colossal, steaming turd, but that’s no reason to take it out on The World We Left Behind. It’s a striking, stark beauty.

36) YOB – Clearing the Path Ascend

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Neurot Recordings – 2014/08/29

What I said then: Another fantastic addition to Yob’s already outstanding catalogue of American heaviness.
What I say now: As ominous and oppressive as a looming thunderstorm, Clearing the Path to Ascend is a literal embodiment of doom. It has some rough edges, but that’s not a bad thing.

37) Panopticon – Roads to the North

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Bindrune Recordings – 2014/08/01

What I said then: Roads to the North is absolutely coruscating black metal that incorporates Southern song structure and fiddles in a way that pays due homage to the band’s Kentucky heritage.
What I say now: I’m willing to add Panopticon to the list of bands that get heritage metal right. Right up there with Primordial, Winterfylleth, and Drudkh. Heartache and fury abound.

38) Ancient VVisdom – Sacrificial

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Magic Bullet Records – 2014/10/28

What I said then: It sounds fantastic and feels like you are having your own damnation broadcast directly to you.
What I say now: Coming across as less folksie and more like a lower, slower Ghost (B.C.) has worked wonders for the band. It sounds like they actually have forward momentum again.

39) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01

What I said then: The driving rhythms speak to a post-humanity environment; mankind is dead and this is the music of the machines.
What I say now: I’ve heard lots of industrial influenced black metal in my time, but Ofghost’s synthesised approach sets it apart. It adds some novelty to a genre that is normally far too staid.

40) Shores of Null – Quiescence

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Candlelight Records – 2014/03/24

What I said then: You don’t often get to associate the word ‘beautiful’ with death metal, but that’s what Quiescence is: beautiful death metal.
What I say now: This is somewhat more aggressive than memory served. But so it should be. I remembered the excellent gothic parts, but I needed the reminder of how kickass the death passages are.

41) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21

What I said then: It truly is a remarkable ep; every listen unearths something new, nuances in song structure that, while not immediately noticeable, make every song completely and truly vital.
What I say now: As much as I love Our Lives Out of Balance, I still feel I’ve underrated it. It plays with black metal tropes like a cat with its prey. It sounds familiar but is remarkably different.

42) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20

What I said then: Once the sample fanfare ended and the rock started, I was left with an ear to ear grin.
What I say now: There’s way more fun contained here than should be legal. I’m sure some will say it needs more polish, but they’re the sort of people who think no social event is complete without doilies.

43) Vermin Womb – Permanence

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Throatruiner Records – 2014/09/01

What I said then: Its merciless, pitiless, remorseless blast-driven beat underscores some of the nastiest guitar work I’ve heard this year.
What I say now: Permanence goes way past nasty. This is the sonic equivalent of violently hate-fucking in filth. It’s hateful, malicious, and contemptuous. It would kill you if it could.

44) Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God

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Profound Lore Records – 2014/11/11

What I said then: Much like a mad emperor, it effortlessly commands you, but you cannot be at ease.
What I say now: The decision to write fewer tracks but make them substantially longer paid dividends. This isn’t only the superior Ape of God; this is an outstanding album in its own right.

45) Twilight – III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb

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Century Media Records – 2014/03/17

What I said then: Twilight is black metal that embodies the death of light of their namesake phenomena.
What I say now: It’s a crying shame that Twilight have gone their separate ways, as they improved with every release. Beneath Trident’s Tomb is sinister black metal performed at the highest standard.

46) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24

What I said then: The combination of harsh, crusty guitars and more elegant string sections create an e.p. that is beautiful in its anger, furious in its eloquence.
What I say now: It still seems somewhat antithetical for a crust album to not be 100% grimey, but credit to Anopheli, they have successfully incorporated lighter, cleaner elements without losing impact.

47) ACxDC – Antichrist Demoncore

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Melotov Records – 2014/06/24

What I said then: The sheer level of audio violence crammed into these twenty odd minutes is truly inspiring.
What I say now: Wild and anarchic, I had forgotten just how punishing this album was. There is no safe volume level for this. Played at one, it’ll start a fight. At eleven, it’ll start wars.

48) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08

What I said then: I could easily ramble about the quality of the performers, but I’d rather marvel in the creation of a sound that is distinctly, and uniquely, Amnesian.
What I say now: It may seem a bit low on the list, but I love Amnesian. They approach grind in a way that still seems fresh almost a year after this was released. An amazing new band.

49) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02

What I said then: As I listened to Dead Dogs it slowly dawned on me that I may be listening to the best hardcore release of the year.
What I say now: I was right; it is 2014’s best hardcore release. They strike a balance between technical skill and pure vitriol that is desperately lacking across the genre as a whole.

50) Morbus Chron – Sweven

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Century Media Records – 2014/02/24

What I said then: Their music has an otherworldly quality to it now, which allows them to expand their songwriting into progressive territory, while still indulging in the supernatural.
What I say now: Sweven remains a stand out album for straight up death metal. What it trades out in tempo it more than makes up in composition. Swedeath has a bright future here.