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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Releases of the Year for 2015

Another year down, another fifty releases that everyone should give a crack. I’m pretty comfortable saying 2015 was one of the best years in metal for a long time. For at least half the year I was worried that I may be too generous in my reviews; by the end of the year it was clear that the standard of music was simply better.

This will be the last of my regular posts. I will still do occasional one off reviews and I will most likely release a considerably smaller best of 2016 next year, but as far as regular, monthly posts go, I am finished. It has been tremendous fun though.

Thanks for all the support. I hope everyone loves these releases as much as I do.

Album of the Year
Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/05/12

What I Said Then: Frozen Niagara Falls lives up to its name; it’s awe-inspiring, seemingly unnatural, and thoroughly unsettling.
What I Say Now: What makes this a truly remarkable album is its emotional complexity. It is buoyantly unsettling and tumultuously welcoming. There is skill beyond measure on display here.

Some Other Top Things Worth Mentioning
Best Live Act: Revocation

In a year populated with top tier live acts (At the Gates, Mastodon, Opeth, etc), these tech-thrash bruisers stood tall. They play with an almost psychotic amount of intensity. Real take-charge live metal.

Best cover art: Purple by John Baizley

Aside from being a fantastic musician, Baizley is also one of metal’s great artists. Unsurprisingly, he saves some of his best work for his own band. Purple is a complicated piece that matches the emotional tone of the album.

My Other Picks for 2015
2) High on Fire – Luminiferous

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eOne Music – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: The whole album sounds heavier than the Hercules–Corona Borealis Great Wall.
What I Say Now: This remains an absolutely titanic display of pure riffing. There is an almost alchemical genius at work here as, slow or fast, these songs supernaturally heavy. Press play and marvel at the masters at work.

3) Bell Witch – Four Phantoms

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/04/28

What I Said Then: They let the light in[;] the flashes may stop the lonely fumbling in the dark, but they do illuminate the barren hopelessness that surrounds you.
What I Say Now: This isn’t the sound of darkness killing light; this is darkness gently caressing the light as it dies in its arms. There is as much tact and beauty here as there is soul-crushing misery and grief.

4) Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

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Century Media Records – 2015/01/27

What I Said Then: It still has the visceral hostility that has made them one of the all time greats, but is delivered as a rally cry not raw invective.
What I Say Now: Giving this another critical listen has only raised it in my esteem. From its industrial yet monastic opener to its rabble rousing final track, there is vitality permeating every moment.

5) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/07/21

What I Said Then: Wild and raucous, yet possessed of a controlled fury, Lxs Jugadxs make the contradictions work for them.
What I Say Now: Lxs Jugadxs’ third demo came together in a perfect storm of manic aggression. Its four short tracks have more revolutionary firebrand in them than other grinders get in a career.

6) Baroness – Purple

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Abraxan Hymns – 2015/12/18

What I Said Then: Purple is still redolent with their trademark languid grace, but there’s an unmistakable fire in its belly.
What I Say Now: Effortlessly charming, Purple is an album that makes itself a home in your heart and you’ll never want it to leave. There’s something about its high energy melancholy that leaves you warmed through.

7) Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower

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Relapse Records – 2015/09/18

What I Said Then: At its core there is self-loathing and rage, which is obfuscated by clouds numbing dope smoke.
What I Say Now: Unfathomable grief rings out with every note. Its naked emotion is what makes this album stand out. Doom is often depressed, but few albums achieve this level of ineffable sadness.

8) Gold – No Image

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Profound Lore Records/VÁN Records – 2015/11/06

What I Said Then: The bleakness goes right to the core[;] this is apocalyptically beautiful.
What I Say Now: As depressing as this album could have been, it’s remarkable just how uplifting it actually is. It turns the desperate clutching of the cold, barren void into a warm and loving embrace.

9) The Rodeo Idiot Engine – Malaise

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Throatruiner Records – 2015/11/23

What I Said Then: Rusty cheese greaters scrubbing the soul to a bloody mess.
What I Say Now: Such furious intensity shouldn’t be such a joy to listen to. It’s emotionally calamitous, but played with such infectious, energetic zeal. It is literally impossible to not enjoy.

10) Sunset in the 12th House – Mozaic

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/06/05

What I Said Then: Mostly instrumental, melody ebbs and flows like the tides, building to a massive storm surge of blackened elemental fury on the final track.
What I Say Now: It’s a truly remarkable sonic dreamscape. Sprawling continents of sound are brought to life and populated with attention to detail. If I believed in magic, I would know that sorcery is at work here.

11) Folivore – Eve of Conception

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Black Goat Records – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: It’s a particularly whacked out blend of marijuana and Mephistopheles.
What I Say Now: It still astonishes me that this is a demo. The certainty of the production and the sophistication of the music are far above demo quality. They may well be the most competent stoners in metal.

12) Enslaved – In Times

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/03/06

What I Said Then: From start to finish, In Times soars to the towering heights of majesty.
What I Say Now: Enslaved have struck an intriguing balance between light and dark on In Times. Stirring and inspiring, cold and bleak; there is a pervasive warmth here, if you let the cold wash over you.

13) Sumac – The Deal

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/02/17

What I Said Then: The Deal comes across like Jovian gossamer; delicately crafted but astronomically heavy.
What I Say Now: There may be heavier albums on this list, albums that pin you in place with crushing weight, but none can match The Deal for oppressiveness. It looms over you like a towering monolith.

14) Abyssal – Antikatastaseis

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/06/23

What I Said Then: 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.
What I Say Now: The comparison to Dante’s Inferno that I used in the initial review was more apt than I realised at the time. This may be a nightmarish hellscape, but there’s an enduring poetic quality to it.

15) Symphony X – Underworld

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: It maintains the heavier tone of their recent output, but is reinvigorated with the complicated fret work that made their earlier work so good.
What I Say Now: I sincerely hope Underworld is the album that gets Symphony X the wider profile they deserve. Progressive and aggressive; tense and dense; I haven’t been awed by fretwork this fine in a long time.

16) Marilyn Manson – The Pale Emperor

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Hell, etc – 2014/01/19

What I Said Then: It’s the work of a man looking back at his legacy and taking stock of all his missed opportunities and regrets. 
What I Say Now: I still have lasting concerns that this is an elaborate suicide note. Its mature and understated approach is perfect for its barren and lonely themes. Who knew that Muz had an album like this in him.

17) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Self-released – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: This is an album that gushes evil from every rollicking note.
What I Say Now: Of the seven deadly sins, pride is traditionally the most heinous. Makes sense listening to this hellraising racket. A self-assured swagger and raucous braggadocio is inherent throughout.

18) Leviathan – Scar Sighted

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/03/03

What I Said Then: Scar Sighted expertly balances esotericism and malice[, which] makes for an album that is simultaneously contemplative and destructive.
What I Say Now: Wrest has crafted one of the most challenging sonic landscapes for 2015. Untold legions of malice lurk, obfuscated by an often impenetrable miasma of contempt. He makes hatred a tangible sensation.

19) Pissgrave – Suicide Euphoria

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [The] music they play is easily some of the most satisfyingly visceral death metal out there.
What I Say Now: The grotesque cover art is perfect advertising for this album; there is only putrefied, noisome death here. It’s straight to the point and that point is it wants to kill you. Horrific in a satisfying way.

20) Deafheaven – New Bermuda

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Anti Records – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: The five tracks on New Bermuda have that rare knack of being instantly memorable without being simplistic.
What I Say Now: No other band manages the interplay between light and dark quite like Deafheaven does. Here the warmth and light only serve to remind the listener that storm clouds are bearing down.

21) Gnaw Their Tongues – Abyss of Longing Throats

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Crucial Blast – 2015/08/04

What I Said Then: [As] much as Abyss isn’t as nakedly sadosexual as some previous works, it still fills you with a spiritual dread and a carnal longing that should not sit side by side.
What I Say Now: Abyss is the void looking back at you, its sensual malevolence longing to infect you with its chaos. It remains a profoundly unsettling, uncomfortable experience.

22) Motörhead – Bad Magic

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UDR Music – 2015/08/28

What I Said Then: Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away.
What I Say Now: Motörhead are one of metal’s oldest institutions, so it’s not surprising that people may not get excited for a new album. But you should get excited for Bad Magic. Every track is a solid gold hit.

23) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Self-released – 2015/10/26

What I Said Then: It’s an intense experience in the best way.
What I Say Now: Definitely puts the post back into post-hardcore, as there is a definite Swans-esque embrace of otherness. It’s more than distortion or structure; Lamantide pulls hardcore into brave new forms.

24) Choking – Choking

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Self-released – 2015/05/15

What I Said Then: Choking is an apt name for the band, as every stanza tries to crush the life out of you.
What I Say Now: I’m hung up on just how suffocating this release is. The appropriateness of the name has only increased with time. It violently sucks the air out of the atmosphere, leaving the listener breathless.

25) Kylesa – Exhausting Flame

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Season of Mist – 2015/10/02

What I Said Then: Groovy in the good way, but possessed of a gnawing melancholy, this may just be the most upbeat sad album you’ll hear.
What I Say Now: Kylesa’s grimey heaviness is delicately balanced with their ear for emotional heaviness. Exhausting Flame is just that: exhausting. It’s a draining experience, but in a satisfying way.

26) Leprous – The Congregation

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InsideOut Music – 2015/05/25

What I Said Then: The music weaves a hypnotic tapestry for the ears, while the vocals are delivered with a Muse-esque pathos.
What I Say Now: Meandering in a most deliberate manner, The Congregation is easily the urgent daydream of 2015. It’s aggressive beauty isn’t just aging well; it’s becoming more dominant by the second.

27) Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo

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Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

What I Said Then: I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
What I Say Now: I still find it hard to believe that the Spobgebob schtick hasn’t grown old. But it hasn’t. The odd combination of powerviolence and surf rock keeps this fresh listen after listen after listen.

28) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Self-released – 2015/04/07

What I Said Then: The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole.
What I Say Now: The way these four tracks build pressure is amazing. The atmospheres just keep on piling up, breaking bones and forcing the air from your lungs. It’s a terrifying force of nature in your ears.

29) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Self-released – 2015/09/08

What I Said Then: Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent.
What I Say Now: Woundvac get it. Their approach to grind is as unforgiving as Sheriff Joe’s understanding of Christ. It’s a non-stop blast of expertly crafted aggression. Hostility is the winner here.

30) Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

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Profound Lore Records – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: The cacophonous darkness of the rhythms is punctuated by howling melodies which swell into fierce solos.
What I Say Now: Charnel Passages burns real slow. It’s not until the final track burns out that you realise that it’s taken everything around it with it. It’s destructive in a way that you can’t turn off or ignore.

31) Alder Glade – Demo II

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Auris Apothecary – 2015/05/14

What I Said Then: The second demo builds on the oppressive atmosphere of the first one, somehow managing to meld the brooding swampiness that came before with the permafrost of traditional black metal.
What I Say Now: Don’t know what I was thinking when I first reviewed this; I should have been far more glowing in my praise. The wholehearted embrace of the tyranny of isolation is impressive.

32) Boak – Boak

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Self-released – 2015/06/03

What I Said Then: It sounds like a frenzied melee, with breaks in tempo acting to add emphasis.
What I Say Now: Singularly aggressive hardcore-by-the-way-of-powerviolence. Drumming that sounds like a swarm of angry hornets underscores guitars and vocals that exist solely to injure.

33) Hate Eternal – Infernus

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Season of Mist – 2015/08/21

What I Said Then: With such aggressive fret work on display, there’s no possible way to be disappointed.
What I Say Now: Sleeper of the year in my opinion. I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is more than a stellar death metal album; this is one of those albums will age spectacularly. It’s left a lasting impression.

34) Abstracter – Wound Empire

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories et al – 2015/02/10

What I Said Then: They have taken all of black metal’s misanthropy and reflected it inwards.
What I Say Now: This remains as darkly captivating now as it was when I first gave it a spin. Suffused with creeping misery that is as relentless as it is achingly slow, Wound Empire is a glacier of haunting depression.

35) Manhunt – Manhunt

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625 Thrash/Lethal Dose Records/RSR – 2015/01/16

What I Said Then: Make no mistake, lots of punk is destructive as a cyclone; Manhunt tear shit up like they’re the red spot on Jupiter, whipping around at 600 kilometres per hour.
What I Say Now: This is the real thing. You can feel the press of bodies in the pit. You can smell the acrid tang of sweat. You can see the steam rising off the superheated mob. Savour the hardcore sensation.

36) Leucrota – Demo

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Sentient Ruin Laboratories – 2015/02/28

What I Said Then: It’s unforgiving, but absolutely necessary.
What I Say Now: Putting traditional punk immediacy on the back-burner in favour of persistent sinister menace makes this 2015’s most intimidating punk release. Violent in a way that hints that it could be much more so.

37) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Self-released – 2015/09/29

What I Said Then: Thuggish and muscular black metal is made even nastier with sociopathic noise.
What I Say Now: Cataclysmic noise given only the barest semblance of structure, Unyielding Love take metal to a new uncompromising extreme. Challenging and hateful, this demo is a black spot on the soul.

38) Cloud Rat – Qliphoth

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Halo of Flies – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It doesn’t hesitate to bring the blasting violence, but it also allows itself to plumb darker depths of humanity by slowing down and letting melody reign.
What I Say Now: The sophistication that Cloud Rat bring to grind continues to seem incongruously oxymoronic. The mingling of ferocious blastbeats and crystal delicate melodies required amazing skill.

39) Horrendous – Anareta

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Dark Descent Records – 2015/10/30

What I Said Then: Slowly We Rot atop the Altars of Madness while we Scream Bloody Gore until Fuckin’ Death seems to sum it up.
What I Say Now: There is a warm glow of nostalgia radiating from every note. The throwback to death metal’s origins is welcome. But the top quality performances from all involved is what makes this so necessary.

40) Carnero – Carnero

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Self-released – 2015/05/29

What I Said Then: It has that perfect combination of energy, intensity, and message that all great hardcore has.
What I Say Now: It’s releases like this that keep me connected to hardcore. There’s nothing disingenuous here; it’s pure, nasty, violent punk. It’s everything that made the genre great in seven tracks.

41) Drudkh – Борозна обірвалася (A Furrow Cut Short)

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Season of Mist – 2015/04/20

What I Said Then: Drudkh is the Gold Standard for black metal because they keep on putting out albums as good as this. 
What I Say Now: There’s an anguished longing at the core of this. It aches. It needs. It wants. It hungers. I doubt any other band could conjure such excruciating exquisiteness and sustain it so long.

42) Serpents Lair – Circumambulating the Stillborn

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Fallen Empire Records/Duplicate Records/Hellthrasher Productions – 2015/11/03

What I Said Then: Sometimes icy in its hate, sonetimes scorching in its wrath, Circumambulating the Stillborn is always venomous.
What I Say Now: There’s something to be said for tremolo picking, Christ punching, trve kvlt traditionalism. So long as it’s done well of course. Serpents Lair nail it with an album that is both violent and hypnotic.

43) Sunn O))) – Kannon

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Southern Lord – 2015/12/04

What I Said Then: Sunn O)))’s first non-collaborative work of the decade is less total speaker destruction and more monks at the temple of loud.
What I Say Now: Crushing tectonic force is what’s on display. The slightest shift in tone causes rumbles that can be felt for miles. As contemplative in tone as it is, Kannon is loaded with destruction.

44) Krallice – Ygg Huur

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Gilead Media/Avantgarde Music – 2015/07/30

What I Said Then: An immovable object given irresistible force.
What I Say Now: Brilliantly technical and possessed of a sensibility for other genres, Ygg Huur is a black metal album apart from its genre. It’s fascinating listening to an album that twists the norms so ably.

45) Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/07/24

What I Said Then: 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[.]
What I Say Now: Given that LoG hasn’t been relevant to me since I replaced my teenage angst with adult ennui, it’s impressive how much of an impact this made. Proof that groove metal isn’t always a pejorative.

46) Melechesh – Enki

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It wields fury and malice like a fanatic wielding a censer brimming with balefire. 
What I Say Now: With music like this, it’s no wonder Melechesh isn’t welcome in their home country anymore. Its combination of blackened death and Middle Eastern folk is unforgettably vicious.

47) Iron Maiden – Book of Souls

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Parlophone – 2015/09/04

What I Said Then: Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar.
What I Say Now: I’m a big fan of Maiden’s millennial work, but Book of Souls is their first bona fide classic in a long time. It’s a double album where everything sounds necessary and vital. Essential listening.

48) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Self-released – 2015/10/15

What I Said Then: Make no mistake: these guys can write riffs that put most other death metallers to shame.
What I Say Now: Ironic Reversal know how to death metal. The fine balance they strike between the technical and the progressive is not an easy thing to achieve. Few bands have the raw talent that this duo do.

49) A Forest of Stars – Beware the Sword You Cannot See

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Prophecy Productions – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: They got the interplay between blackened intensity and Victorian aesthetic spot on.
What I Say Now: It’s an album almost punget with the acrid smoke of coal-fired industry and the incense of Infernal mysticism. It’s intriguing and beguiling with more than a hint of razor-edged danger.

50) Enforcer – From Beyond

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Nuclear Blast – 2015/02/27

What I Said Then: It’s a glorious reaffirmation of everything good about heavy metal.
What I Say Now: It’s leather and big hair from start to finish. Enforcer’s brand of beautiful speed metal anachronism works so well because they have the balls to go there and the talent to back it up. Play it loud.

Best Self-Released Titles for 2015

It’s my second year of celebrating the best of the bands who do everything themselves. I may have dropped it down to forty from fifty, but I still feel thoroughly enthusiastic about the underground. And so should you.

The undeniable winner was Lxs Jugadxs’ Demo 2015. I’ve been a big fan of theirs since I first heard the 2013 Demo, but 2015’s demo brought everything together in spectacular fashion.

Fleshing out the top five are Peasant, Lamantide, Choking, and Cavernlight. Given how very different these bands are, it’s testament to how diversity has strengthened the heavy underground.

Last year’s caveat still applies: I think I’ve done my due diligence and only included independent bands, but if I’ve made a mistake, let me know and I’ll modify things. At the very least I’m certain that all releases were independent at the time of review.

Every band here deserves your support. Enjoy them at maximum volume.

1) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2015

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Grindcore – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: La Nube Negra

2) Peasant – Go to Hell

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Blackened heavy metal – 2015/04/20
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Wretched Codex

3) Lamantide – Carnis Tempora: Abyssus

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Post-hardcore – 2015/10/26
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Immortalis Lapis

4) Choking – Choking

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Blackened sludge metal – 2015/05/15
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Labyrinthine

5) Cavernlight – Corporeal

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Droning sludge – 2015/04/07
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms

6) Woundvac – Disgraced Convert

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Grindcore – 2015/09/08
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert

7) Boak – Boak

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Powerviolence – 2015/06/03
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Who is the Animal Here?

8) Unyielding Love – Demo 2015

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Experimental black metal – 2015/09/29
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Swelling Absence

9) Carnero – Carnero

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Hardcore – 2015/05/29
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: La scelta del corpo

10) Ironic Reversal – Dysgenic

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Progressive death metal – 2015/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Consume

11) Boar Worship – Boar Worship

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Sludge metal – 2015/07/08
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Two

12) Shaidar Logoth – Chapter II: The Ritualist

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Atmospheric black metal – 2015/03/01
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Drink Thine Wretched Wine

13) Invertebrate – Regression/Devolution

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Powerviolence – 2015/03/26
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Fuck Punk, Fuck Grind, Drive Scion

14) Kriegszittern – Frostbite

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Death metal – 2015/08/16
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Primitive Instinct

15) Cartilage – It’s Necrotic

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Death metal – 2015/06/14
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dialect of the Dead

16) KharmA – SubReal

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Death grind – 2015/02/06
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: Obliterados

17) Concealed Blade – Demo 2015

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Hardcore – 2015/02/17
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Don’t Get Caught

18) Fractal Generator – Apotheosynthesis

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Atmospheric death metal – 2015/07/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Paragon

19) Deathblow – The Other Side of Darkness

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Thrash – 2015/04/21
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: The Other Side of Darkness

20) Barghest – Into Weeping Firmament

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Black metal – 2015/07/03
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Neo-Promethean

21) Dowrr – Demo Tape

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Metallic hardcore – 2015/08/10
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Misfortune

22) Steel Chains – Demo 2015

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Post-punk – 2015/02/14
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow

23) Sermos – (husk)

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Death metal – 2015/07/04
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh

24) Bleed the Pigs/Thetan – Split

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Grindcore – 2015/02/27
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Justified

25) Vishwanath – Portals to the Inanimate

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Progressive metal – 2015/02/18
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Perception

26) Devoid – II

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Droning sludge – 2015/06/09
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Excavation

27) Blutbad – Abandonment

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Harsh noise – 2015/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Ritual

28) Ēōs – Ēōs

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Drone doom – 2015/01/01
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Umwelt

29) Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step

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Powerviolence – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive?

30) The Horn – Volume 14

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Black metal – 2015/12/02
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Spell 174

31) Sovereign – Deceptum

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Crusty black metal – 2015/06/04
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Colourless

32) Brain Famine – Exploding Paranoid Universe

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Deathgrind – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Hallucinating Contagion

33) Krvshr – Church Burner

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Sludge metal – 2015/05/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Highlander

34) Tales from Beyond – Putrid Realm

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Death metal – 2015/05/17
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Psychosis

35) Leash – Demo 2015

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Crust – 2015/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Revelation

36) Verheerer – Archar

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Black metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Archar

37) Tuer – Ivresse & Enfer

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Grindcore – 2015/09/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Odyssée Ethylique

38) Evenstate – Inside

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Progressive metal – 2015/07/25
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Chosen One

39) Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater

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Death metal – 2015/09/12
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies

40) Sombre – Flora and fauna, Feast Upon My Flesh

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Blackened noisey sludgeviolence – 2015/08/03
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Humans of Earth

September 2015 Review Round Up

[insert editorial content]

That’s how it feels this month. Maybe if I had a broader focus than reviews, I’d have more to wax editorial about. But I like reviews. It keeps a hermit like myself engaged with the community.

The picks of the month, Motörhead’s Bad Magic and Goolagoon’s Patrickviolence Demo forced me to re-evaluate some core beliefs.

Motörhead will always be Motörhead. You know what you’re going to get. But Bad Magic proves that albums that stick to a well worn oeuvre can still demolish expectations, so long as the delivery is up to scratch.

I ordinarily have a not unjustified suspicion of gimmicks and a Spongebob themed anything that’s not actually Spongebob has no right to work. Again, the delivery is what matters. Goolagoon exemplify this. They could sell any idea with delivery that sharp.

Feel free to Facebook me. If you share my beloved vanity blog, tag me too. I like to keep up with publicity.

See everyone next month.

Album of the Month
Motörhead – Bad Magic
(Rock and Roll – United Kingdom)
UDR Music – 2015/08/28

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Bad Magic is a friendly reminder that Airheads, despite its flaws, got it right: Lemmy is God. Forty years of performance and Motörhead are still capable of releasing an album that blows you away. All bands long for this sort of longevity. Phil Campbell’s guitar work is nothing short of spectacular. And Mickey Dee owns the drum kit like a kid half his age. They rock and they roll and they bring the energy and they do it damn well.
Try before you buy: Fire Storm Hotel (YouTube)

Honourable Mention
Goolagoon – Patrickviolence Demo
(Powerviolence – United States of America)
Dickcrush – 2015/03/30

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If you’re going to a band with a gimmick, you better not be tiresome. If you’re a gimmick band in the grind/crust/pv family, you had best be fucking awesome. If your pv gimmick is based on Spongebob fucking Squarepants, you better be blowing my skin off with awesomeness. Boy howdy, do Goolagoon deliver on that. I sit here, flayed, wondering how a concept so stupid can pay off with such overwhelming satisfaction.
Try before you buy: Walking Small (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Blutbad – Abandonment
(Harsh noise – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/19

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So. That’s a harsh noise wall. Kind of unnerved that I don’t hate it. The unrelenting cascade of static is alienating and unnerving. It’s also oddly soothing. It creates the effect of listening to a comforting, repetitive noise, like a waterfall crashing. It’s relaxing, but after a while it sounds like someone is drowning in the endless stream of water. It gets discomforting once you start to hear it. Unsettling. Very much so.
Try before you buy: Ritual (Bandcamp)

Cavernlight – Corporeal
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/04/07

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Each listen draws you in more and more. The first time you listen to it is like crossing an event horizon; you may not realise it, but you’re inexorably and inevitably drawn to a crushing black hole. The first three tracks of droning sludge pave the way for the final, crushing track of true drone. Subsequent listens allow the listener to truly appreciate sophistication of this release. It’s intricate in its slowness.
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold of Reason, Embracing Our Corporeal Forms (Bandcamp)

Concilium – Demo
(Occult doom – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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I’m a huge fan of occult-flavoured doom, especially the sort that features a strong female vocal lead. Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth are huge in my book. But even I have to admit that the field has been a little saturated of late. Concilium is a fine example of this. They have a damn fine singer; her vocals are as silky as Jex’s. But the music, while atmospheric, lacks the necessary power to hold interest. It’s regrettably dull.
Try before you buy: Tempest (Bandcamp)

Devoid – II
(Droning sludge – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/06/09

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The second low and slow release for the month, and it too is a damn fine example of drone metal. The sustains have Sunn O)))-esque malevolence and the distortion can easily ruin your equipment. It’s not afraid to up the tempo either, which makes for well-considered stylistic changes. There’s no doubt that II is at its finest at its slowest though. It manifests a palpable sense of dread and aguish with every tortured note.
Try before you buy: Excavation (Bandcamp)

Iron Maiden – Book of Souls
(Heavy metal – United Kingdom)
Parlophone – 2015/09/04

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It’s a testament to Iron Maiden’s obvious love for their craft that so shortly after Bruce’s run in with cancer, they put out their best album since Matter of Life and Death. Admittedly, the vocals do sound a little chemo affected still, but not in a way that’s an overall detriment. The decision to make a double album paid big dividends too. Never have Maiden songs had this much room to soar. Another classic.
Try before you buy: Speed of Light (YouTube)

Monolith – Legacy of the Opium Eater
(Death metal – South Africa)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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Rumbling along, this ep is about as slow as death can get without being death doom. Ordinarily, this sort of deathly barage comes across like a plague of zombies; a slow, steady, relentless crush leading to an inevitability bloody end. Monolith tweak this a bit. It’s far from a mindless barrage; there are some evil smarts at work here. Instead of zombies, it’s more like wights. Possibly bodaks. Slow, but intelligent death at work.
Try before you buy: Seemingly False Fantasies (Bandcamp)

Mouth Breather – Mouth Breather
(Grindviolence – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/14

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Mouth Breather is one of those tough releases that definitely not mediocre, but it is still hard to get enthusiastic about. They do grindcore with an endearingly lunkheaded charm. And, despite the racket, it’s not a sloppy release. Every bark, every blast well considered. But it’s lacking something. It feels like they have held something back; as though the option to go to eleven was there, but ten suited them fine.
Try before you buy: Death Metal Hell (Bandcamp)

Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed
(Brutal techdeath – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/08/28

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Memory is a funny thing. Every time a new Nile album rolls around, I’ve done the mental gymnastics to convince myself I don’t like them. I waste a lot of time; time that could be better spent listening to Nile. I broke the cycle this time and jumped straight in. Even by their already high standards, Unearthed is monstrous. It strikes a perfect balance between technicality and brutality that every band in the genre should strive for.
Try before you buy: Call to Destruction (YouTube)

Sermos – (husk)
(Death metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/07/04

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Some death metal exists to wallow in misery. Some exists to ruthlessly molest frets. And some simply exists to be enjoyed. Sermos is definitely in the latter category. (husk) has a loose, faux-sloppy sound that is just a joy to listen to. It’s the sort of release that begs to be drunkenly headbanged to. It has some forays into guttural territory, which don’t work as well, but overall it’s a fine release that every death buff should get into.
Try before you buy: The End of Flesh (Bandcamp)

Slayer – Repentless
(Thrash – United States of America)
Nuclear Blast – 2015/09/11

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Definitely sounds like Slayer. Any concerns about the transition from Hanneman to Holt have been assuaged. I think the transition has had a positive effect. The songs have a depth that has been lacking from recent releases. It no longer sounds like a collection of solos loosely stitched together with melody. It’s a welcome reminder of why Slayer is one of metal’s most important acts.
Try before you buy: Repentless (YouTube)

Steel Chains – Demo 2015
(Post-punk – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/02/14

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I spent way too much time trying to fit this demo into a convenient genre. It’s post-punk. But it’s really upbeat. But it’s gloomy as hell. But. But. But. I eventually settled on the moniker, Tsunami Punk. It’s got the upbeat slacker sound of surf punk but it’s infused with a pervasive sense of imminent doom. I love having my expectations messed with. And I’m happy to find another post-punk band that is a joy to listen to.
Try before you buy: Hard to Follow (Bandcamp)

Verheerer – Archar
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is a release for fans of Dissection, Watain, and Necrophobic. It’s firmly in the mould of melodic yet aggressive black metal made great by the aforementioned. Importantly, Verheerer’s take on majestic darkness is a hell of a racket. It allows a minor lack of originality to be completely forgiven and forgotten. It’s proof positive that operating in genre boundaries can work.
Try before you buy: Archar (Bandcamp)

Woundvac – Disgraced Convert
(Grindcore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2015/09/08

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There’s nothing quite as satisfying as grindcore done well. The intrinsic violence played out in short, sharp bursts isn’t so much a thoughtful musical exercise as it is a raw emotional outburst. Woundvac is one of the bands that best exemplify this. Their songs see anger and disaffection collide in explosive blasts of discontent. It’s like they put the barest minimum of effort into control, allowing for an unhinged sound.
Try before you buy: Disgraced Convert (Bandcamp)

Zombie X Incest – The First Violent Step
(Powerviolence – Nepal)
Self-released – 2015/09/12

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This is raw. I’m left wondering whether it’s a limitation of the recording environment or a stylistic choice. Whatever the answer, the coarse grain sandpaperiness of their sound works to their advantage. It comes across like the band are right there next to you instead of in a studio/basement thousands of kilometres away. The in your face aggression is complemented by damn entertaining melodies too.
Try before you buy: How is punk dead when powerviolence is still alive? (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.

Best Self-released Titles for 2014

In December, a kind commenter, boo909, said I provided the best round up of Bandcamp metal. It’s a great compliment. It got me thinking too. There are many top notch bands out there that have released amazing albums this year via Bandcamp and have done so without a shred of label support.

I think that’s worthy of recognition. So I put together a list of the top 50 self-released titles for the year. Some bands on the list have gone on to find label support. Others were merely between labels or wanted to release something off label. And others still are steadfastly independent. It doesn’t matter though. Every release here demands attention in its own way. So check them out; you never know what you might have missed.

Congratulations go out to Horsehunter on taking top spot here. Caged in Flesh is an absolute monster and should be listened to by everybody. And congratulations to Amnesian for getting two mentions. If there’s any justice, they will be major label huge as soon as possible.

If I have failed at my due diligence and have included a release that was labelled all along, apologies. But I’m pretty sure I got everything right.

1) Horsehunter – Caged in Flesh

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Self-released – 2014/09/30
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Witchery

2) Woundvac – Woundvac

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Self-released – 2014/02/25
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Upon the Threshold

3) End Silence – The Waters

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Self-released – 2014/09/19
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Soul Charger

4) Lxs Jugadxs – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallar

5) Ofghost – Eeva

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Dust

6) Außerwelt – Our Lives Out of Balance

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Self-released – 2014/09/21
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Grey Matter

7) Black Khox – Akab

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Kong

8) Anopheli – A Hunger Rarely Sated

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Self-released – 2014/04/24
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Incompetent Sires

9) Amnesian – No Atonement

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Self-released – 2014/02/08
Originally reviewed in February
Try before you buy: …Mania

10) Fvck Mountain – Dead Dogs

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Self-released – 2014/10/02
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Violence

11) Of Doomed Morale – Ritual on Black Mountain

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Self-released – 2014/11/04
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Haruspex

12) Iprit – Iprit

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Self-released – 2014/10/01
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Солнце не взойдет

13) El Hambre – El Hambre

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Self-released – 2014/01/13
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Valkiria

14) Pregnancy – Demo

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Self-released – 2014/01/19
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: A Backing-Up of the Bowels

15) Mörkhimmel – Ostří černé kosy zní

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Self-released – 2014/12/24
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Na věky věků

16) Ironic Reversal – Clonus

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Self-released – 2014/10/15
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Simulants

17) Alder Glade – Demo I

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Self-released – 2014/08/28
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Imprisoned in the Stars

18) Abysmal Growls of Despair – Lovecraftian Drone

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Great Old Ones

19) Hegeroth – Three Emperors’ Triangle

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Self-released – 2014/09/05
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: The Enforcer

20) James Doesn’t Exist – The Kid Wins Again

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Self-released – 2014/08/06
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: To High to Get High

21) Skinflint – Nyemba

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Self-released – 2014/09/06
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Veya

22) Coffin Birth – Necrotic Liquefaction

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Self-released – 2014/07/31
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Ripping and the Tearing

23) Afterwalker – Afterwalker

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Self-released – 2014/10/19
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Denied

24) TarLung – TarLung

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: Last Breath

25) Agonized – Consumed

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Self-released – 2014/02/22
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Indefinite

26) Videmur – Finality

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Self-released – 2014/08/25
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Desolate Essence

27) Amnesian – Inhospitable

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Self-released – 2014/09/28
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: Symmetry Hymn

28) Gnaw Their Tongues – Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

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Self-released – 2014/11/01
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Wir essen Seelen in der Nacht

29) Practically Extinct – Again

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Self-released – 2014/07/03
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: WxFxFxFx

30) Omfalos – Fallacy

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fallacy II

31) The Mark of Man – Exeunt

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Self-released – 2014/08/21
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: The Craven

32) ExVx – Contra Violence

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Self-released – 2014/03/04
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Parochial

33) Ephemeral Ocean – Honour in the Mask

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Self-released – 2014/04/05
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Wrong Dismemberment

34) Voidcraeft – Disgust

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Self-released – 2014/02/18
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: Where There is No Image

35) Aronious – Truth in Perception

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Self-released – 2014/04/04
Originally reviewed in April
Try before you buy: Truth in Perception

36) Al Goregrind – Asses

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Self-released – 2014/08/01
Originally reviewed in August
Try before you buy: Psychedelic Fart Symphony

37) Catapult the Dead – All is Sorrow

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Self-released – 2014/04/20
Originally reviewed in May
Try before you buy: Valencia

38) Larvae – Grave Descent

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Self-released – 2014/01/14
Originally reviewed in January
Try before you buy: Fallen, Left to Die

39) Muldjord – Color of My Soul

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Self-released – 2014/07/02
Originally reviewed in September
Try before you buy: A Thousand Paths

40) Oberion – Return

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Self-released – 2014/06/04
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Eerie

41) Jane Dark – Doors to Silence

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Self-released – 2014/07/29
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Fading of Flowers

42) Serpent View – From Darkness to Light

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Self-released – 2014/10/25
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: The Sun is Going Down

43) Deadbeat – Demo 2014

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Self-released – 2014/03/23
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: Nuke Fear

44) Barren Altar – A Monument to Endless Suffering

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Self-released – 2014/10/08
Originally reviewed in December
Try before you buy: The Nectar of Human Blood

45) The Tovver – The Tovver

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Self-released – 2014/11/22
Originally reviewed in November
Try before you buy: To Sleep and Awake Unafraid

46) A Red Nightmare – A Red Nightmare

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Self-released – 2014/06/02
Originally reviewed in June
Try before you buy: Enemy

47) Defamer – Monolith of Filth

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Self-released – 2014/08/19
Originally reviewed in October
Try before you buy: Conflagration of Divinity

48) The Apache Revolver – The Morningstar EP

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Self-released – 2014/05/01
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Morningstar, Son of the Dawn

49) Amora – Violence is Human

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Self-released – 2014/03/28
Originally reviewed in March
Try before you buy: For Those Slain

50) Pekla – Speed’n’Roll

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Self-released – 2014/07/07
Originally reviewed in July
Try before you buy: Nuo Sutemų iki Aušros