(Editor’s Note: In a series of articles by the greater staff of Ghost Cult that will carry us through the end of the year, various writers will bring you readers their musings and observations on the year that was 2014 in metal and other heavy music.)
173. That’s how many of this year’s metal releases I’ve partaken of. Seriously. That’s not counting the twenty-odd re-releases, and another twenty-odd ‘splits’ and other offshoots. If I didn’t love this thing so much, there’d be some serious burn-out…
That’s one reason why albums such as the monumental efforts from Primordial, Anathema and Slipknot, among many others, came nowhere near to breaking my top twenty for the year. Godflesh is number 61, for Chrissakes…the main driver, however, is the fact that the bone-rattling lower chord had arguably its finest year since Tony Iommi first picked up a guitar. Prior to a certain single track EP bursting my mind and making it inconceivable to believe that anything else will matter, like, ever, my top five consisted of some of the best doom-centric albums this century has thus far produced.
Devon’s (UK) supreme low-end inventors, The Wounded Kings, headed my list for eight months with their mammoth, sprawling Consolamentum (Candlelight), before a staggering twin-pronged attack arrived from across The Pond. First, Pallbearer’s expansive, crushing Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore) briefly preceded the beautifully moving yet heavy as a manhole cover Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot) from the spiritual weight of YOB; before the pair flattened venues together across the UK in surely the greatest live pairing these shores have seen for a generation. Only the black-tinged, edgy melancholy of Latitude Egress’To Take Up the Cross… (Art of Propaganda) punctured the realm of the weighty chord before, right as the chimes began to sound on 2014, five guys from Virginia released a one-song EP which could change the face of heavy music forever. Inter Arma’sThe Cavern (Relapse) is a sprawling masterpiece which blends the staggering power of sludged doom with the adventurous elegance of Floyd, and makes 45 minutes sail by in an instant. The planet-shuddering coda, both monolithic and euphoric in its emotion and power, positively screams out to be heard.
As well as having the great fortune to hear this handful of brave, resonant additions to the ‘metal classics’ canon, the experience has been reinforced by witnessing four of the five in a live setting and, thanks to Messrs. Baker and Tovey, sharing chat-time with some of them also. 2014 has been, for this ageing scribe, a fair shout for the most powerful and influential period in metal, and what a privilege its been to feel so involved.
The waiting is over, and Ghost Cult Magazine is delighted to announce that our official Album of the Year for 2014 is Behemoth‘s modern day classic The Satanist (Metal Blade / Nuclear Blast).
Released on 3rd February to immediate critical and fan acclaim, the bands tenth album progressed the blackened death metal sound that had formed the background of their successful career to date and propelled them to even greater heights.
Even back then writer James Conway predicted the album would do well in terms of our end of year list:
“It’s clear that a whole lot of thought and talent has gone into the crafting of The Satanist. The songwriting is clear and consistent, the band sound tight and utterly in control and the album feels like a glorious declaration of victory. Far from rehashing old ideas, Nergal and his cohorts have crafted a concoction of songs with a stunning level of variety, power and bite. This is their best album to date and an early contender for album of the year. Welcome back and fuck cancer!” You can read the 9/10 review in full here
Speaking to Senior Editor Ross Baker, main man Nergal said at the time:
“The fact that I am healthy and I have the deadliest weapon that Behemoth has ever created in my hands makes my life complete. When people listen to The Satanist, it will stimulate them in many different ways.”
It isn’t just the fact that Adam “Nergal” Darski had successfully recovered from leukemia, this is no award given out of sympathy, but a celebration of an excellent record. In an age of good, The Satanist is great, an album of significance. Starting out with the writhing ‘Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel’ through to the epic closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun’, not just the best track Behemoth have ever produced but one of the best extreme metal songs of the modern age, The Satanist is a dark, complex, aggressive, challenging and intriguing record that ticks every Extreme Metal box imaginable.
No hyperbole, a truly great album, worthy of the title of Album of the Year 2014.
In amongst the big boys now, with the Official Ghost Cult Top 10 Albums of 2014. Kicking off with albums 10 to 6, these were the attention and headline grabbing albums that provided the soundtrack to the year…
10. DEVIN TOWNSEND – Z2 (HevyDevy/InsideOut)
Not one but two aural explosions from everyone’s favourite Canadian ADD sufferer. Disk 1 showcases the epic pop-Metal melodies expounded on Epicloud, in a vibrant collection of melodies, twists and simply great tunes, while Disk 2 is the long awaited Ziltoid sequel, a more symphonic and aggressive take on the original. Devin has shown, once again, that no matter what project fills his head, he is a pure musical genius, with 3 albums (technically) in our Top 50.
“Double albums are notoriously difficult beasts to grapple with. If there’s a suspicion of ‘all filler, no killer’, that’s perhaps understandable given some of rock music’s recent inglorious past when it comes to musical heft. The common consensus on this sort of exercise ranges from how to edit Use Your Illusion (Geffen) into one digestible chunk; realising that, yes, Fleetwood Mac really did do ALL of the drugs when recording Tusk (Warner Bros) and, frankly, even Corey Taylor must think that there is way too much padding on House of Gold and Bones (Roadrunner). Breathe easier, then, as this is not a sprawling, indulgent mess. Z2 is indulgent and there is a LOT to get through but Z2 is two records being issued simultaneously rather than some attempt at a single, 23 song epic.”
9. AT THE GATES – At War With Reality (Century Media)
After a gap of 19 (NINETEEN!) years the Fathers of the Gothenburg sound released the follow up to one of the greatest extreme albums of time, the genuine legend that was Slaughter of the Soul (Earache). That they didn’t embarrass themselves is one thing, that they were able to ignite the flame of excitement in older fans and pick up newer ones, whose favourite bands swore by the altar of ATG is testament to their quality.
“At War With Reality is a genuinely worthwhile listen and worth the 19 year wait. It still sounds like At The Gates, not the razor-focused Slayer-worship of Slaughter of the Soul, although those moments are still present, but an all-encompassing At The Gates that draws from the band’s entire back catalogue. At The Gates have shown the world that they’re still the most powerful force in melodic death metal. At War With Reality does more than just prop up the band’s legacy, it enhances it.”
8. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)
Doooooooooooooom, beautiful doooooooooooom! Melancholy, poignant, mournful and emotive, the second album from Arkansas’ Pallbearer set new standards in textured 70’s styled doom, twining haunting, reflective leads, heart-felt impassioned lyrics and vocals, and down-tuned crashes.
“Superlatives and panegyrics are thrown around like confetti these days, and mostly for albums that just don’t deserve them. Here is an entity beyond words. The blend of crushing weight and sadness that twines with an almost paradoxical ascension to light throughout this quite magnificent set is sublime and inspirational. This willingness to puncture doom’s boundaries and travel outside them surely hails Pallbearer as the most important band of their genre right now.”
7. TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata (Century Media / Prowling Death)
The sound of decomposition in thick, gloopy, stained riffage, the darkest end of despair in musical format, the sound of utter personal devastation hammered relentlessly into your ears as Tom G Warrior continues the styling first unveiled on Celtic Frost’s swansong, Monotheist. Beyond the gloom, beyond the end of the universe, lurks Triptykon’s second opus magnificum.
“Still gloriously innovative at 50, the enigmatic and death-obsessed Thomas Gabriel Fischer returns with his latest and possibly most enigmatic incarnation. The darkly expansive Eparistera Daimones, the first Triptykon album, displayed a panoply of musical styles. Remarkably, sophomore suite Melana Chasmata sees a deeper mining of that creativity, reaffirming the band’s reluctance to be confined by any musical barrier and confirming the triumphant second coming of Gabriel’s most inventive, diverse and impressive guise.”
Perhaps the most hotly anticipated “pure” Death Metal release of the second half of the year, this Polish hate machine did not disappoint, with a career and genre defining masterpiece, adding to their impressive canon with an absolute killer of cemtex-infused vocal growls, blistering drumming, colossal grooves and excessive riffs. But this was no old school rehash, the Krosno krew enhance their wares with industrial touches, and an insinuation of Slipknot showing this is a thoroughly modern and quite exceptional Death Metal band.
“With this much skill at their disposal, looking back it almost seems embarrassing that they were ever doubted. To use a lazy comparison, Decapitated are like (Marvel Comics anti-hero) Blade; they possess all of the strengths of Death Metal and none of its weaknesses. And it’s increasingly evident they cannot be killed. Quite simply Blood Mantra is one of the finest Death Metal albums to be released now or ever and it’s difficult to see how it can be topped. One thing is for sure; Vitek would be proud.”
French doom monoliths Monarch complete this years Damnation Festival line. They will be joining the likes of Saint Vitus, the reunited Raging Speedhorn, Cannibal Corpse and the events headliners Bolt Thrower at the events ten year anniversary bash at the Leeds University in November.
French drone doom outfit MONARCH! will play their only UK show of 2014 at Damnation Festival.
Their live “sonic assault” completes a PHD Stage cast of Ahab, Solstafir, Black Moth, H A R K, Atlantis and Corrupt Moral Altar.
While the Eyesore Merch Stage makes its return to Damnation, this year with a more sinister black metal billing of Fen, Wodensthrone, A Forest of Stars,
, and Falloch, who’ll join previously announced Bast and Obsidian Kingdom in Mine.
The final additons to this year’s event – which will be hosted at Leeds Universtity Union on Saturday, November 1 – are orchestral metal quartet Xerath and Welsh death metal standard bearers, Amputated, who make their debut at Damnation Festival opening a Terrorizer Stage which boasts the brutality of Cannibal Corpse, Anaal Nathrakh, Revocation, Winterfylleth and Aeon.
Completing the line-up is the main Jagermeister Stage offering of Bolt Thrower, Saint Vitus, Orange Goblin, Raging Speedhorn, Stampin’ Ground and October File.
Commenting on their return to Damnation, Fen said: “We are honoured to be invited to play Damnation after our first appearance four years ago.
“It was one of the highlight gigs of our career – this festival (and the audience in particular) – is a very special one for us and we cannot wait to head back to take to the stage again.
“Fen has progressed significantly over the last four years and we are really looking forward to taking the discerning Damnation crowd by storm once more!”
A Forest of Stars added: “We’re extremely excited and honoured to be asked to play the wonderful Damnation Festival.
“We hope we won’t let everyone down too much – especially considering the impressively amazing line up – and look forward to devouring vast quantities of claret and opiates in celebration of the occasion, and maybe even playing a song or two.”
Festival Director Gavin McInally said: “This year’s line-up is fitting of a tenth anniversary party and with tickets on track to have 4,000 friends with us, it’s going to be a bash to remember.”
The complete line-up for Damnation Festival is Bolt Thrower, Cannibal Corpse, Saint Vitus, Ahab, Raging Speedhorn, Orange Goblin, Anaal Nathrakh, Monarch!, Stampin’ Ground, Revocation, Solstafir, Winterfylleth, Fen, Aeon, Black Moth, Wodensthrone, H A R K, Amputated, A Forest of Stars, October File, Xerath, Falloch, Bast, Atlantis, Obsidian Kingdom and Corrupt Moral Altar.
Fans who arrive in Leeds the night before can warm-up for Damnation Festival with A Night of Salvation at The Belgrave Music Hall, featuring Dyscarnate, Hang the Bastard, Latitudes, The Atrocity Exhibit and Cattle. Tickets priced £6 are available on the door.