Albums of the Decade 2010-2019, Part 3 (40-11)

Part 3 of 4. Getting ever closer to the top of the tree. The bands that have got themselves this far have truly produced some amazing work to get here. Not just to beat out the previous 60 acts, but to also beat out the 100s of great albums that almost made the list. For the record, if I’m asked why [insert album here] isn’t in the top 100, it came in at 101.

As usual, enjoy.

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40) Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows
Relapse – 2016

Crushingly heavy. I swear, I’m going to overuse that phrase, but it’s so useful. And there’s a surprising amount of room to move with it. For example, Paradise Gallows is akin to being caught in one of those moveable wall traps. Think the garbage pit scene from Star Wars, except it doesn’t stop. It’s implacable and remorseless in its attack on your ears. The combination of sludge and drone, held together with blackened threads, is a methodical juggernaut. It cares not for what’s in its path.

39) Nadja – Sonnborner
Broken Spine Productions – 2018

I still find the pacing of this album thoroughly confusing. Opening with that titanic, 30 minute track, then following up with a handful of significantly shorter songs is odd. And, yet, it works so well. They present drone in a way that’s beautiful in a haunting sort of way. The distortion and the sustains warm the soul. And then it transitions to a more up-tempo approach, which breaks the reverie and re-engages the listener with reality. It’s a welcome reinterpretion of the genre.

38) Esoteric – A Pyrrhic Existence
Season of Mist – 2019

Is this actually slow? It seems pretty damn fast in places. The confusion is pretty intense. The thing you have to realise is that Esoteric have hit that terminal point of heaviness. The singularity. Black hole density. Listening to A Pyrrhic Existence puts you firmly past the event horizon and time starts to distort, to lose meaning. It’s satisfyingly weird to have something so crushingly heavy yet dexterously mercurial. It gave me a fresh insight into how funeral doom can shift within its own boundaries. Innovation can be a jovian weight to bear.

37) Batushka – Litourgiya
Witching Hour Productions – 2015

May the metal gods continue to bless the black metal drama machine and keep its cogs oiled and toothsome, because I would never have discovered this gem of an album if the band didn’t go the full Gorgoroth. Whatever your opinion on the acrimony, there’s no denying that Litourgiya is the work of a very skilled band. The interplay between Eastern Orthodox liturgical music and black metal is thoroughly engaging. I wanted, no, needed to keep listening to it; I had to unravel all its hidden truths.

36) Pissgrave – Posthumous Humiliation
Profound Lore – 2019

Death metal, by its very nature, has a certain degree of inherent violence. It’s up to each band to decide how exactly they want to channel it and how they want it dressed. Pissgrave come at the violence with absolutely zero artifice. Their approach is horrifyingly stark. There’s no attempt abstract or obfuscate their aggression; they lay it out naked and unadorned for the world to recoil from. To listen to it is to allow yourself to be dehumanised. It’s sadistic in a way that defies description.

35) Kvelertak – Kvelertak
Indie – 2010

When this came out in 2010 I had no idea how much I would want it. Then I got a taste of their faintly blackened, definitely over the top punk rock hullabaloo and it’s an album that’s been on regular rotation ever since. It’s got punch in the face tempos, ridiculous hooks, and the catchiest damn Norwegian lyrics ever. I don’t understand a word being yelled, but I yell right along with it. Or at least as well as my understanding of phonics will let me. I still get that rush every time it kicks off.

34) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015
Self-Released – 2015

I very nearly cheated and put down all three of their demos in one entry. They’re a hell of an act. But doing that would undersell how good these four songs actually are. They’re a whirlwind of absolute madness, forever threatening to completely tear itself apart but always hanging on by the loosest of frayed threads. That the closing track feels so titanic at just under two minutes is indicative of just how brilliantly wild the preceding three tracks were. I hope they continue to play and release material.

33) Today is the Day – Pain is a Warning
Black Market Activities – 2011

One of my go-to albums for getting amped all the way up. It’s not just that it’s an energetic exercise in noise rock; it’s that it’s so smartly delivered. The slow passages brood with barely constrained intensity, the fast movements drive with pulsating dynamism, the clean vocals croon with genuine soul, and the harsh vocals are like acid, hallucinatory and corrosive, on the ear drums. It’s a sonic package so expertly delivered that it continues to surprise and amaze years after release.

32) Blood Incantation – Starspawn
Dark Descent – 2016

No band does death metal like Blood Incantation. They work at an intensity level that deliberately pushes them far outside conventional comfort limits. They take hostility and magnify it to apocalyptic rage. They take dread and amplify it to chthonic horror. And they take bloodlust and warp it into a febrile, extrasensory longing that can never be satiated. Starspawn attacks you and it’s up to you to endure it. It’s unhinged and does what it wants. Such a monstrosity is something that needs celebrating.

31) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat
Century Media – 2015

That the grindfathers of grindcore have released an album of this vitality so far into their career is testament to their relentless drive and commitment to their message and to their craft. It’s not just that they blast incendiary beats as hard as they can; it’s that they’re willing to throw in curveballs for the listener. The industrial vibe of album’s title track and the oozing sleaze of Dear Slum Landlord… are prime examples. It’s a furious album that indulges in the many faces of anger.

30) Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme
Prophecy – 2012

Alcest are probably my favourite practitioners of blackgaze and Les Voyages de L’âme is definitely my favourite album. It perfects the interplay between shoegaze and black metal. The songs are written with a beautiful, dreamy ambience that fills the sonic space with light. But that light, glorious and blinding, casts long, inky shadows. In those shadows lurk beasts, sharpened fangs, and razor claws. An insatiable hunger lies at the heart of this album and all the splendour does is mask its ravenous intent.

29) Leprous – Malina
InsideOut – 2017

Malina is possibly the most depressing album on this list but certainly the most beautiful. Leprous have taken inspiration from a piece of bleak and oblique Austrian literature and transformed it into a gorgeously affecting prog opus. Heavily syncopated, the album conveys a necessary level of turmoil and unrest without sacrificing narrative flow. And I cannot think of a better vocalist for this than Einar. His contra-tenor is thematically perfect. Sad, sensitive, wonderful.

28) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms
Profound Lore – 2015

I still struggle to reconcile the sheer power of this album to the fact it’s a two piece: bass, drums, vocals, that’s it. It’s so heavy that it sets everything nearby rattling; so much so that you can’t play it subtly. If it’s on, you will feel it. But the amazing physical phenomena on display pales in comparison to the music itself. Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s delivered with such a deft touch that it transcends funeral doom. It creates a hypnotic effect where the crushing weight traps and holds the light.

27) Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
Metal Blade – 2014

Soaring, majestic, and strident, Where Greater Men Have Fallen is a stirring lament to the modern ills of this world. It has the requisite level of bitterness for this style of black metal, but it’s delivered as a call to action; Primordial don’t want the listener to passively mourn the what-ifs of this existence, they want people to be pissed off and engaged with their rage. This dynamism and purpose is truly what sets them apart. They want compatriots not witnesses.

26) High on Fire – Luminiferous
eOne – 2015

An unstoppable beast of an album, Luminiferous sounds like nothing less than an out of control freight train made entirely out of thunder. There’s no second guesses and no chance to over-think things; there are only titanic riffs rolling over everything in their path. And the beauty of it all is that this is not a simple album. There’s a sophistication to it that is only enhanced by the rampaging juggernaut beat down it inflicts. It leaves you with things to think about once you’re standing and have found your teeth.

25) Horrendous – Anareta
Dark Descent – 2015

I think the highest possible praise I can give to Horrendous here is that Anareta gives me the same satisfaction that Leprosy does. Yep, I’m comparing them to Death. While they are very much their own band with their own approach, the end result is an album that marries visceral intensity with distinctive technical flourishes and is delivered with passion and an ear for the listener. In that regard, it’s very similar to a certain, dearly departed Floridian’s oeuvre. A classic album born of legendary roots.

24) Bölzer – Hero
Iron Bonehead – 2016

The moment the intro track, Urðr, starts, you know you’re listening to something different. Something special. It somehow succeeds in being extremely traditional black metal and a wholly new approach to the genre all at once. It burns as brightly as the most powerful stars in the sky, but is kept grounded by a chill groove that is unusual stylistically yet thoroughly welcome. It’s an album of contrasts, as the band juggle the infernal and the mortal. It’s a remarkable album from a remarkable band.

23) Watain – Lawless Darkness
Season of Mist – 2010

Stirring anthems and soaring choruses aren’t just for power metal, you know. Done right, they have a happy home in any genre, irrespective of how ordinarily abrasive it usually is. This is an excellent thing for Watain, who have approached their proselytising for the Dark Lord with both the fire of abject zealotry and the huge hooks of stadium rock. Some may cry “FALSE!” Fuck ’em. As devotees of darkness, they understand that preaching to the choir is reductive and self-defeating. Darkness for all!

22) Enforcer – Diamonds
Earache – 2010

As great as this album is, it still manages to sound like a deliciously guilty pleasure. On a technical level, it’s brilliantly delivered speed metal. Driving rhythms, killer riffs, memorable vocals, the whole deal. But then you get to what it is thematically and it is gloriously lurid. High stakes gambling and swordfights on the neon-washed streets of Tokyo seems to be the narrative they were aiming for, but they also threw in a liberal dose of the devil. It’s utter madness and it all the better for it.

21) Trap Them – Darker Handcraft
Prosthetic – 2011

The absolute kings of Entombedcore and the high priests of HM2 worship, Trap Them took a chainsaw approach to their punk, creating an unmistakably hellish racket in doing so. Nothing exemplifies this as much as Darker Handcraft. Once again, you’ll find yourself in Barren Praise, the ghost town the band centre their narrative around. But this particular trip is harrowing, miserable, and dangerous. Their blend of grindcore and hardcore shouldn’t be this gloriously atmospheric, but it is.

20) Sólstafir – Ótta
Season of Mist – 2014

Winner of the “Holy Shit I Should Learn Another Language” award goes to Sólstafir. Ótta is haunting, lonely, and dripping with ennui. It’s evocative of a weary traveller crossing the tundra on a misty evening. I just wish I could match the lyrical themes to the music. The lyrical delivery is so delicate, sounding so pained yet so inviting at the same time. The emotional depths that this album plumbs transcend language barriers; I may not completely understand it, but I remain touched and enthralled throughout.

19) Altarage – Endinghent
Season of Mist – 2017

I probably overuse the word relentless. I don’t really think about that sort of thing usually, but upon revisiting Endinghent, it’s abundantly clear that I do. And shame on me for watering down the word through overuse, as no other album embodies relentlessness as completely and overwhelmingly as Altarage’s second full length. It’s as delirious and as terrifying as a fever dream in a war zone. Every beat and every riff sounds like they are trying to tear down the walls of reality. Relentless indeed.

18) Alder Glade – Spine of the World
Self-Released – 2017

It still strikes me as odd that an album so deeply rooted in Nordic heathenism could be made to such high quality by one man in Brisbane, Australia. Brisbane: the city winter forgot. But whatever journeys brought him to this point payed dividends, as Spine of the World is possessed of a true blackened aesthetic that makes you believe magic is very real and very dangerous. It helps that the magic is backed up by a unique approach to the genre. It’s crisp and sharp, like it’s been flash frozen in nitrogen.

17) Cloud Rat – Pollinator
Artoffact Records – 2019

This is nothing less than a startling vision of what grindcore could be. Of what it should be. Here is a band that is unafraid to take their fury and vitriol and wrap it in something more than blasts, shrieks, and distortion. It still has all those things, but the band unleash them with a sophistication more akin to prog or post-metal. They present their anger with as much complexity musically as there is in day to day existence. The real world isn’t simple and Cloud Rat dare to acknowledge that.

16) Revocation – Chaos of Forms
Relapse – 2011

Revocation’s signature blend of technical death metal and classic thrash was perfectly realised on Chaos of Forms. Oddly enough, I firmly believe the key to marrying the two genres together this well lies in David Davidson’s jazz background. He understands how to channel different sonic forces and wield them together to create a seemless, yet unpredictable union. In this sense, the title “Chaos of Forms” is entirely apt. Every song is a whirlwind of sound, a technical wonder and a classic banger all in one.

15) Clutch – Earth Rocker
Weathermaker Music – 2013

This is an album that never fails to get me, as they say, right in the feels. So you don’t misunderstand me, this isn’t some florid, weepy exercise in melodramatic sentimentality; rather it’s a powerful testament to healing powers of rock and roll. I never really thought about how much music has helped me get by in life until Earth Rocker stirred me up and got me assessing things. It’s an album that puts its existence up in lights and justifies the ever-living shit out of it with pure rock fury.

14) Nachtmystium – Silencing Machine
Century Media – 2012

There’s an awful lot of awful things you can say about Nachtmystium’s front man, Blake Judd. Junky, thief, and conman leap to mind. But there’s no doubt that when he channelled his self-destruction into his music instead of himself, the results were intense and inspired. Produced just before his life fell completely to shit, this is an album all about the stuttering flame of hope being snuffed out. It’s industrialised, progressive black metal at its most despairing.

13) Hacride – Back to Where You’ve Never Been
Indie – 2013

If you had asked me at the start of the decade which emotionally mature French progressive death metal act would make the most impact on me, I genuinely doubt Hacride would have been on my list. But BtWYNB is an absolute revelation. It sounds absolutely huge; the sumptuous and verdant soundscapes they create are a joy to luxuriate in. And yet, the songs are so personal, so intimate that it feels almost like an intrusion to listen to them. Their combination of hefty sonic bombast and intense emotion leaves an indelible impression.

12) Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment
Volcom – 2012

This is more than a return to form; this is a glorious, sleazy, denim-clad triumph over adversity. The Duke of Nothing on vocals isn’t Hank, but that’s the point. The ten tracks on offer require a rougher approach and that’s what he brings. Sexual Harassment doesn’t just showcase the band’s still-sparkling talent; it allows them to exorcise all the demons born of their turbulent hiatus. It makes for an unusual, yet real mix of hostility, bitterness, relief and gratitude. Catharsis sometimes requires raucous partying.

11) Swans – The Glowing Man
Young God – 2016

Come. Come to the great high mass. Give yourself to the church of sound and abase yourself upon the altar of Swans. Michael Gira’s masters of post-punk have always delivered in ritualistic, almost fevered fashion, but The Glowing Man is transcendent. It offers mania and catharsis, but it requires time and commitment. Exposing yourself fully to its complete panoply of sound is to give yourself over to a devotional that extends to almost the two hour mark, but will leave you feeling the touch of the divine.

October 2019 Review Round Up

October was an abbreviated month in terms of volume of reviews. I stand by my decision to spend my music budget on Revocation/Cattle Decapitation tickets instead. See Revocation live whenever you get the chance. Always.

Of the few albums I did buy, Hope Drone were the pick of consistently entertaining lot. It’s an absolutely gripping experience to listen to, because it hits hard as a truck and with a dancer’s grace.

The list season is almost upon us. I know I’ve been banging on about it most of the year, but it’s my favourite part of the critical year. Especially so when the decade is ticking over. The lists are being prepared. If you have an album you’re particularly sold on, hit me up and make your case.

I think November and December are going to be similarly abbreviated. Not a budget thing, just a slow end of year thing. All the more reason to send me suggestions. I can’t be everywhere. Wouldn’t want to be either.

Facebook is still the best place to reach me. Considering getting a Twitter though. Maybe. Perhaps.

See everyone next month. Enjoy.

I Need Caffeine. My God...

Album of the Month
Hope Drone – Void Lustre
(Blackened Sludge – Australia)
Moment of Collapse – 2019/08/30

I listen to Inter Arma for their intense approach to crushing heaviness. I listen to Nachtmystium for their miserable synthesis of the psychedelic and the industrial. Based on Void Lustre, I will continue to listen to Hope Drone, as they have amalgamated these these two distinct sounds into a terrifyingly claustrophobic bad trip.

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
(Progressive Metal – Sweden)
Moderbolaget – 2019/09/27

First things first: listen to the Swedish version; it flows easier than the English one. That distinction aside, what Opeth have delivered isn’t exactly revelatory; it’s more a further polishing of their Heritage-onwards pure-prog efforts. It has everything you should reasonably expect from them these days, but it seems to do it all better.

Swans – Leaving Meaning
(Post-Punk – United States of America)
Young God – 2019/10/25

Michael Gira’s latest incarnation of Swans succeeds at being very different from what came before, but still very much on brand. The almost suffocating density has been replaced with a ritualistic minimalism. Stark, yet eerily beautiful, but also profoundly discomforting, Leaving Meaning isn’t easy to unpack, but is totally worth it.

Teitanblood – The Baneful Choir
(Blackened Death Metal – Spain)
Norma Evangelium Diaboli – 2019/10/18

Welcome to the soundtrack of evil triumphant. Teitanblood have always had the knack for blasting sonic malignance, but The Baneful Choir is something else. They portray a world devoid of light, where hope is a curse, and agony is the only respite from the ever-present realisation that good is dead and gone for the rest of this wretched eternity.

July 2016 Review Round Up

So. Here it is. The first triumphant post of my glorious return! Or, at least, a collection of assorted words I hope are entertaining.

But what of the first half of the year? It’s gone but not forgotten. I won’t be going back over anything I’ve listened to prior to July 1, but quality albums are still eligible for my end of year list. That’ll add a bit of extra mystery. Also, regrettably, I won’t be doing a Best Self-Released list this year. I haven’t listened to enough independent releases and it would only represent the best of July through December.

Leading the charge is Swans’ latest masterpiece, The Glowing Man. I don’t think Gira et al have put a step wrong since returning and it’s all led to this; eight tracks of dense, complicated beauty.

Getting the Honourable Mention is Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum. I’m pretty sure I’ll just refer to them as E-dawg from here on out. Ignoring their deliberately inaccessible name, I was left with a brutal techdeath album that reinvigorated my love of the genre.

It’s not the most review heavy month. I’m still getting back into the groove of things, but damn it feels good to be back.

Album of the Month
Swans – The Glowing Man
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Young God Records – 2016/06/17

As someone whose experiences with psychedelics have been universally bad, the feeling of disconcerting expectation this album is saturated with is uncomfortably familiar. It makes the expected uneasily unexpected. The eight monumental tracks thrum with an energy so fundamental it could spawn new life.
Try before you buy: The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mention
Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum –  Prajecyrujučy sinhuliarnaje wypramieńwańnie Daktryny Absaliutnaha j Usiopahłynaĺnaha Zła skroź šaścihrannuju pryzmu Sîn-Ahhī-Erība na hipierpawierchniu zadyjakaĺnaha kaŭčęha zasnawaĺnikaŭ kosmatęchničnaha ordęna palieakantakta, najstaražytnyja ipastasi dawosiewych cywilizacyj prywodziać u ruch ręzanansny transfarmatar časowapadobnaj biaskoncaści budučyni u ćwiardyniach absierwatoryi Nwn-Hu-Kek-Amon, uwasabliajučy ŭ ęfirnuju matęryju prach Ałulima na zachad ad ękzapłaniety PSRB 1620-26b
(Brutal techdeath – Belarus)
Amputated Vein Records – 2016/07/10

A ridiculous album title by a ridiculously named band playing ridiculous brutal techdeath. I haven’t enjoyed a brutal album this much in a long time. I’ve payed lip service here or there to quality albums, but none have given me that sublime feeling of pure enjoyment. High-concept slamming goodness.
Try before you buy: Da pytańniaŭ ab suziraĺnym paznańni naradžęńnia trahiedyi j niaŭchiĺnaści hibeli isnaha ŭ Wučeńni Anihiliacyi, jak pra pieršaęliemienty praŭdziwaj pryrody askietyčnych praliehamienaŭ mižhałaktyčnaha smutku smierciśćwiardžajučaj mudraści Šapienhaŭęra, jakaja kuje apakatastasičnym połymiem hietęradaksaĺnaha katarsisu artęryi mietafizičnych siłahizmaŭ u liazo Liucyfieryjanskaha rozumu j Akaŭzaĺnaha Waliuntaryzmu, zwiartajučy ŭ prach saliarnyja zikkuraty apošniaha świtańnia nadychodziačaj Juhi Nicšęanstwa (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Caïna – Christ Clad in White Phosphorus
(Black metal – United Kingdom)
Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings – 2016/07/15

My last experience with Caïna didn’t light my fires, but they have a certain critical appeal, so I’ll try again. Good idea. This is a tumultuous affair; a blast of unhallowed negativity that is emotionally exhausting on a level beyond most black metal’s limits. As precise as in utero surgery, as destructive as a cyclone.
Try before you buy: Fumes of God (Bandcamp)

EDxKEMPER – Cut Her Head and Love Her
(Grindcore – Greece)
Symbol of Domination/VEX Microlab – 2016/01/30

This is a deceptive release. It’s straight up, back to basics grindcore. No frills. Nothing pretty. But it’s done so damn well. Violence gushes from every note. Grind is inherently furious, but these Greeks take it to a further, darker level. Dan Swanö’s mastering puts the cherry on top. Ugly, brutal, satisfying.
Try before you buy: Desperate Cries (Bandcamp)

Gevurah – Hallelujah!
(Black metal – Canada)
Profound Lore – 2016/06/03

Some black metal bands approach their Satanism with evangelical zeal; others with intellectual rigour. Not Gevurah. They hate. Sometimes with fury, sometimes with ice in their veins, but always with as much hate as they can humanly muster. It leads to a refreshing listen to be honest. Intimidation made spiritual
Try before you buy: Un Feu Indomptable (Bandcamp)

Goolagoon – Life of Crime
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2016/06/28

I genuinely enjoyed Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo, so it’s interesting to see how the band has progressed their sound. For one thing, they’ve eschewed a lot of their quirkiness. Only two Spongebob samples this time round. In its place is a doubling down on their manic energy. The eight tracks are a relentless blitz of furious punk.
Try before you buy: Pressure (Bandcamp)

Oligarch – Hypocrisy Oath
(Blackened death metal – Australia)
Self-released – 2016/05/19

Think of a blackened death metal album you want to listen to. Imagine the overlap between fury and violence. Factor in the musical skill necessary to make the album worth both your time and multiple listens. That leaves you with Hypocrisy Oath. Oligarch have put this together with apocalyptic violence in mind.
Try before you buy: Winds of Apocalyptic Incineration (Bandcamp)

Through – Manuskript
(Black metal – Ukraine)
Hell Division Productions – 2016/07/13

Always a shame to come across a quality band after they’ve broken up. Through are fantastic. Each track on Manuskript starts with crackling fire and a whispered incantation. It sets the atmosphere perfectly before launching into fretwork that is equally cryptic and pitiless. A dark and sinister swansong.
Try before you buy: Сфера (Bandcamp)

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.