It’s time for another Ghost Cult “End Of Year” Guest post! We’ll be sharing lists, memories, and other shenanigans from our favorite bands, partners, music industry peers, and other folks we respect across the globe all month long! Today we are lucky to have a list from Kristina Esfandiari, of projects like Miserable, King Woman, NGHTCRWLR, and more/ Kristina shares ten favorites’s from 2019, in no particular order. etc.
…And so we continue with our countdown of the Official Ghost Cult Top 50 Metal releases of 2014 by bringing you Albums 15 to 11. As we get closer the top, the sheer unadulterated quality of the albums covered is astounding, and every one of our Top 20 should proudly sit in your collection already. And if it doesn’t, you should get investigating immediately…
15. GODFLESH – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)
Joining the growing list of bands who have returned from a leave of recording absence in style, Justin Broadrick resumes where he left off thirteen years ago, delivering dissonant, nihilistic, industrial cold post-metal. Innovators and leaders to a previous generation of bands, Godflesh returns with metallic precision and destructive poundings.
“The crushing landscapes of Streetcleaner (Earache) are recalled in the merciless dehumanised beats yet the harshness of the eight string guitar has taken this unforgiving creation an even blacker more disturbing feel. The momentum never lags throughout this fearsome monolith feeling urgent and vital throughout. It may be their first full length in thirteen years but every fibre of the bands DNA has mutated into an even more virulent strain of post-Sabbath paranoia whose icy claws cannot be escaped.”
Read ROSS BAKER’s 8/10 review here
14. INDIAN – From All Purity (Relapse)
Extreme doom has never been in a healthier or more prolific state, and is a scene with a surfeit of reeking repugnancy spread over a growing horde of performers. Oozing themselves to the very peak of the sludge mountain is Chicago’s Indian, with a release that tests the very limits of just how hideous a piece of music can be and still be appreciated. Essential art, manifested as abhorrent compositions.
“Over the course of 39 harrowing minutes, Indian attempt to batter the listener into submission with a ceaseless barrage of spiky sludge riffs that aren’t afraid to repeat themselves to make their point well and truly felt, percussion that hits as hard as a drunken preacher taking his belt to a cowering sinner, horrible harsh droning noises that sound like a possessed radio broadcasting live from Chernobyl, and all topped off with Will Lindsay’s throat-shredding howls and screeches.”
Read JAMES CONWAY’s 8/10 review here
13. OPETH – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
On Heritage, Mikael Åkerfeldt led his Swedes away from a technical Death Metal past towards the Prog Rock light. With Pale Communion, transition completed, he perfects the marriage of Opeth and their new slant, constructing a beautiful, reflective, warm and overwhelmingly natural album that speaks in an altered, more progressively refined tongue to the previous voices of Opeth.
“Fast forward three years and Pale Communion is, in many ways a continuation of such a direction, but one that see’s Mikael’s uncompromising view drawing more clearly into focus. Harking back again to the late 60s and early 70s this eleventh studio opus features fluid dexterous drum patterns, moody distorted organ work and another all clean and highly proficient performance in the vocal department. Where Heritage felt somewhat disjointed on occasion Pale Communion is richly woven into a tapestry of ornate and complex elements rather than flitting from one genre to the next.”
Read ROSS BAKER’s 7/10 review here
12. YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)
Like one of their own dark, weighty epics, Yob’s career is slowly unfurling, opening out as expansive riffs draw out of the dark, and slab-heavy tones meld Post and Doom Metal. Yob’s previous two albums, in particular, have been preparation for this career defining opus, where the permutations of delicate beauty and unsubtle heavyweight guitars are woven skilfully.
“Clearing the Path to Ascend begins by showing a return to the inventive aspects of …Cessation with a gently repetitive chords, and mellifluous tones riding a colossal riffs that move with the speed of a tortoise. All four tracks far exceed the ten-minute mark yet none here exceed their welcome. Combining the best aspects of the band’s aforementioned last albums this is a perfect blend of weight, hostility, melody and ecstasy, and will need many plays to yield its full array of splendour.”
Read PAUL QUINN’s 9/10 review here
11. TOMBS – Savage Gold (Relapse)
While predecessor Path of Totality (fortunately not a dub-step album, like Korn’s of the same name)) was a great album in its own right, it is in 2014 that songwriter Mike Hill, backed by a crystalline production by Erik Rutan, has finalised the blueprint of how to merge granite flecked post-Metal with rusted Black Metal, bathing us all in cold, exacting, current, intelligent and hostile extreme music, where the caustic overwhelms.
“Savage Gold, the third album from Brooklyn quartet Tombs, is certainly no easy listen. Since their debut release Winter Hours in 2009, the band have attempted to show just how black and post-metal should go together and once again stand head and shoulders above the competition, for Savage Gold is a triumph in visceral aggression and brooding atmospherics.”
Read JAMES CONWAY’s 9/10 review here
Compiled and additional words by Steve Tovey
There are two things I want to get out of the way before I get into this. The first is that I’ve never really seen the appeal of the whole Atmospheric Pine Forest BM thing – even ignoring the uncomfortable nationalist overtones, Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Drudkh et al leave me cold, and A Forest Of Stars seem like a band who had a great idea for an image, but rushed into the studio before they’d written any songs. It’s not a style I’m inclined towards, despite its current popularity, so when an album in that style does click with me it’s something to pay attention to.
The second thing is that Fen have made me rewrite my End Of Year List just over a week before the deadline, and for that I am not happy with them.
On paper Fen are very much part of the aforementioned Black Metal subgenre, and their previous albums have all passed me by much like their peers, but despite no obvious shifts in style Carrion Skies (Code 666) manages to transcend the limitations of its chosen style. A big part of the problem with this music for me is that “atmospheric” is frequently an excuse for nothing to happen – big, heart-rending riffs take their own sweet time to float majestically past, and everything is filled with a sense of mounting tension that never goes anywhere – but Carrion Skies is dynamic. Songs are long but eventful, striding purposefully from huge riffs and tormented shrieks to more contemplative passages as if THERE’S ACTUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR THEM TO DO THAT, rather than it simply being lazy musical short-hand for “we are interesting”. There are suggestions of latter-day Enslaved at several points, but without the sense of lazy back-slapping and tedious “maturity” that plagues their recent albums.
Another thing that’s frequently absent from the more “atmospheric” or “progressive” Black Metal bands is passion. Indeed, it’s a concept that Black Metal bands frequently struggle with balancing effectively, either overloading on it to the point that they’re constantly spitting fury anger and nothing else, or they’ve traded in all their feeling for vague “atmosphere” and ripping off a bunch of second-hand Pink Floyd references (hello again, Enslaved). Carrion Skies is a passionate album, charged with fist-waving bravado, teary-eyed loss, bits that go Duh-Nuh! Duh-duh-nuh! and all the other ridiculous stuff that makes Metal great, but it balances that passion with a thoughtful, contemplative approach to song-writing which strengthens rather than detracts from it.
What really makes Carrion Skies stand out not just in its own subgenre but in Extreme Metal in genre is the depth and range of expression. Extreme Metal is by nature monolithic – that’s frequently one of its selling points – and it’s rare to hear an album that spends much time exploring more than one mood. We can have Angry, Sad, Majestic or Bat-shit Insane, but having more than one of them across an album is ambitious, and blending several together in a rich, unfolding tapestry of more than one feeling? Is that even legal?
Carrion Skies is certainly one of the Metal albums of the year in any sub-genre, and a genuinely impressive achievement for a band who until now have usually been mentioned in reference to other, similar bands. It ranks alongside new releases by Pyrrhon and Tombs (with whom they share some similarities, but Fen are the rawer, rockier, more achingly human cousin to Tombs’ Neurosis-driven thunder) as the richest and most emotionally expressive Metal albums of 2014, and should have something to offer even to people who haven’t previously found Fen and their peers terribly interesting.
We now know that our version of The Ape of God (Profound Lore) – the one that was released to the press – is a compilation of parts of the two new albums issued by Old Man Gloom only and not full version(s) of the pair, both released with the same title. On their Facebook page the L.A. super-group claim they would stand by the truncated compilation as an album in its own right, and indeed it would serve as such.
The sludge-drenched hostility of ‘Fist of Fury’ and ‘The Lash’ collides with fuzzed-out riffs and post leads underpinning the titanic crunch, fully embracing Aaron Turner‘s Isis background. That lead is a howling current through the intense roar of ‘Predators’, an ominously building ambient crescendo falling to eerie wails; the angry Neurosis vibe screaming from every pore and indicating a deeper sense of gravity. This segues into the savage, visceral pummel of the monstrous ‘Shoulder Meat’, the deep lead underpin almost sorrowful whilst crashing thunder is eclipsed by a stone breaking, torturous riff. As these two tracks don’t follow each other on the albums proper, the organic melding of the join displays the length OMG went to fool the media.
The breakneck aggression of Nate Newton‘s Converge is evident in the sequencer-filled bruising battery of ‘Never Enter’, while eerie atmospherics cede to the mutilating slash and oscillating crunch of ‘Promise’. The weight and hiss of the rhythms are as oppressive as the consumptive vocal roars, Santos Montano‘s drums and Caleb Scofield‘s bass pounding and throbbing through the Gregorian psychedelic drift of ‘Simia Die’ before the soaring riff carries the coda to tumultuous skies. Closer ‘Aarows [their spelling] to Our Hearts’, which also closes the second album proper, is a fourteen-minute epic displaying the full gamut of creativity with a slow build through ambient samples, a maudlin drum march and picked riff graced by gentle vocal intonations. As the fuzzing noise gradually swells through the seeping gloom into an agonised, pulsing horror, so does the unbearable tension. It’s the kind of track Cult of Luna have it in their power to make, but haven’t appeared angry enough for years to execute.
With our review copy of the albums being four tracks shy of the full complement, this is still representative of a mighty effort from a band totally at the top of their game, dwarfing last album No (Hydra Head) and destined to rattle many ‘top ten’ lists of 2014.