In previous incarnations of these end of year pieces, whether hosted by the good ship Ghost Cult, or wherever, I’ve indulged myself by launching into a kind of state of the world address at the outset. You’ll be pleased to know that, in the main, I’m going to spare you such an ordeal and just get down to the business of Heavy Metal brilliance. Why, you cry? Because, listening-to-music-wise (and in general), I’m in the best health I’ve been in for a good twenty years, I’m back in my zone of loving what I love… oh, and there’s a lot of damn good metulz to get through! So, here be my snapshot in time at my thoughts on 2017… (note, “favourite”, not “best”) Continue reading →
For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the first person approach when it comes to reviews or metal writing, but as this is a personal run down, and seeing as it’s you lot, I’ll break that particular fourth wall just this once… Continue reading →
…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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
…And so we continue with our countdown of the Official Ghost Cult Top 50 Metal releases of 2014 by bringing you Albums 20 to 16. 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 they don’t, you should get investigating immediately…
20. VOICES – London (Candlelight)
A truly fucked-up concept album that mirrors the underground and back alleys of a fragmented urban dystopian hell-hole, a dark, horrible atmosphere is conveyed through blackened, deathly, atmospheric riffs and a harsh tale is unveiled and delivered in a deliberately contemporary discordant genius.
“The roots of the majority of this unit may have history together in Akercocke (David Gray, Sam Loynes and Peter Benjamin all previous members) but this is still a new band in some sense of infancy, yet with an already formidable reputation and artistic vision. London is a tremendous feat which not only surpasses expectations, but buries them deep underground, an album that sees Voices as not only one of the UK’s but the world’s most forward thinking and captivating extreme acts, and should be seen as a benchmark release. Huge in scope and style, but pulled off with astonishing effect.”
19. CANNIBAL CORPSE – A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade)
Thirteen albums in, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cannibal Corpse’s Death Metal powers should be on the wane. However, summoning the energy and vitality that bands half their age struggle to muster, an extremely high level of musicianship is utilized to produce powerful, slamming riffs without descending into showboat territory, and once again the Corpse show why they reign in gore.
“Bringing more violent, gory goodness that only Cannibal Corpse can create, what makes this album stick out and not sound like “just another Cannibal Corpse album” is the sheer evil and eerie direction that the instrumentals and lyrics take you. A Skeletal Domain from start to end is a roller coaster of terror, aggression, and more blood than a pit of zombies and has shown the world that Cannibal Corpse is still on top of their death metal game and just how evil these guys can be.”
Formerly known as Code Orange Kids, this sophomore effort is one hell of an aural growing up. The grit of Neurosis and the dervish of Converge mixing elements of drone, post-Metal and post-Hardcore, all captured in crushing sonic perfection by the ubiquitous force du jour Kurt Ballou.
“Overall, Code Orange have proven on this release that they are no longer kids, as I Am King shows the makings of a band not content to just sit in the realms of safety and complacency. But a band ready to expand their sound and not afraid of experimentation to broaden their horizons. At times heavy, trippy and crushing all at the same time, I Am King is what all follow up albums should strive to be”.
Sprinkling more accessible moments such as twin guitar breaks and the occasional cleaner bellow and working intelligent dynamics into their aggressive, technical (without being techy) melodic Death Metal, Boston’s beasts of the underground and unknown have made their mark with another critically acclaimed album that should place them well and truly in the ranks of more modern Death Metal bands who make a difference.
“This four-piece death metal outfit has been dismantling dictators through their onslaught of epic death metal for years now and they continue to get better and better. Revocation’s newest release, Deathless has certainly pushed Dave Davidson and the gang up another notch on the death metal ladder. Ten tracks coming in at around the 48 minute mark will still leave you itching for more, even if all of that shredding has melted your face. Just when I thought this band might have been getting close to their ceiling with the previous self-titled release, Deathless has come around and shot right through this proverbial ceiling and into my ears, and boy does it feel good.”
16. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight)
The best bands have their own distinctive, defined sound, a series of identifiers that mark who they are while expanding and progressing their style. On their fourth album, Winterfylleth achieve that elusive mix of laying down a career defining opus that intrinsically delivers every aspect of the core Winterfylleth melodic, epic Black Metal sound, while pushing past the boundaries of everything they’ve produced to date.
“Winterfylleth, whose odes to Blighty’s ancient past have struck a chord with those searching for a bit more meaning in their homegrown talent, are a joy to behold. After three albums of high quality “English Heritage Black Metal”, Winterfylleth are sitting pretty and new album The Divination of Antiquity looks set to continue their ever-so glorious reign. In a scene renowned for gimmicks and plagiarism, their brand of sweeping, epic black metal just keeps revealing more with each release.”