Getting close! The Very Best of the The Very Best of 2014 as brought to you by Ghost Cult. Coming up are albums ranked 5, 4, 3, 2 in the Official Ghost Cult Albums of the Year… You’ll have to wait just a little longer for the unveiling of our number one!
5. SóLSTAFIR – Ótta (Season of Mist)
Shaking off any last vestige of Black Metal from their sound, Sólstafir somehow managed to take 2011’s incredible Svartir Sandar and improve on it. Vocalist Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason has stepped up to join the rest of the band at the level they’d previously set and, with elements of Wild West flirting in and out of their gorgeous Sigur Ros flecked post-rock, Ótta is simply a wondrous album. Taking beautiful emotive post-metal, folk, goth and intelligent indie-rock and telling the story of the changing moods and emotions of the different phases of the day, Sólstafir take their place as one of the modern day leaders of great music.
“Ótta, the latest album from Icelandic musical vagabonds Sólstafir is one of the most uncompromising and challenging records that you are likely to hear this year; it is also one of the most compelling. it sounds uniquely Sólstafir and Sólstafir don’t sound like anything else you have heard. Admittedly, you might be able to detect echoes of other bands, of other singers but not delivered with this verve, guile and eccentric charm. Second, Ótta is an aural experience like no other: this is an immersive, emotional and evocative album, multi-layered, nuanced and brimming with pulsating and invigorating ideas; it is music for the head as much as the heart.”
Read MAT DAVIES’ 10/10 review here
4. SLIPKNOT – .5 The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
The biggest band in our realm of Metal were up against it. The tragic loss of Paul Gray, the personal decision to part ways with key songwriter and distinctive drummer Joey Jordison, and a scene that had picked the carcass to the bone of everything Slipknot had left them in terms of influence and had moved on in their absence. Yet the Iowa giants didn’t just come back strong, they smashed it out the park with their strongest release since the seminal Iowa. Diverse yet unmistakeably Slipknot at every turn, The Gray Chapter paid tribute to their departed brother in a style he would only have been proud of.
“.5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance, a statement of intent, a mountain-strong collection of hate-anthems to stand with Slipknot’s best. All Killer, No Filler, And then some. .5 punches hard, deep and long, undeniably their most consistent album since 2001’s Iowa. The Slipknot sound has long been established, their influence is inherent, but what .5: The Gray Chapter achieves is unity – a pulling together of all the relevant bits of Slipknot into one tribute to their past, and to those that passed. Nine may have become seven, but if you’re five five five, then they’re (still) six six six. As I said before, .5: The Gray Chapter is an album of some significance.”
Read STEVE TOVEY’s 9/10 review here
3. MACHINE HEAD – Bloodstones & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast)
There’s something about Machine Head that it seems like every time every time they come to a new album, they have to prove themselves all over again. And every time they unequivocally deliver. From the moment Through The Ashes Of Empires repaired the damage of the misguided and substandard Supercharger, through The Blackening (all Roadrunner), perhaps the mainstream metal album of this century, this has been a decade long comeback of sensationally high quality, as a post-Adam Duce revitalized fighting machine led by The General, Robb Flynn laying down a marker. Machine Head bring the thrash, the groove, the blood, the sweat, the tears and above all, the songs.
“All the elements the band has been working with for most of the last ten years, as well as their classic sounds are all intact, with a few new twists and turns. Tons of grooves, chill-inducing dynamic shifts, and of course, those head-nodding riffs galore are heard. Many bands have started out hot and fizzled out badly or had trouble staying relevant over time. Machine Head is perhaps the greatest American metal band right now, because they have a sense of purpose about their writing that above all makes you care what they are saying lyrically, and where they can take you musically.”
Read KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES’ 9/10 review here
2. MASTODON – Once More ‘round The Sun (Reprise)
A theme of a number of the Ghost Cult Top 50 albums of the year is that of refinement on past excellence. Of a standard and a sound being set by a predecessor before the perfecting of the modus operandi in 2014, and it’s an approach that applies to Mastodon. The Hunter was a great album, a simplifying and a commercializing of the trademark quirk, groove and buffeting the ‘don had unleashed previously. Once More ‘Round The Sun takes The Hunter’s approach, and improves on it. For ‘Curl of the Burl’, read ‘The Motherload’, as anthem after anthem is spat out by the Atlanta quartet who, with this album, defiantly prove they belong at the top.
“When the band said earlier in the year that this album was a continuation of 2012’s The Hunter, they weren’t kidding and there are a ton of catchy prog and stoner grooves on this album to satisfy. The evolution that Mastodon began almost fifteen years ago, continues in 2014 as they prepare to drop their newest album. Along the way there have been few easy roads taken, and any battles won were well-earned on their climb to success. Certainly no one who started out with the band in their early days would have predicted where they would be today as a major international headliner, but this is where they are. As the band has grown they have picked up some new fans along the way who seemed to click with the newer, psychedelic rock vibes of their last few albums. If you have followed their entire oeuvre from the start and stayed, or came in as of late, this album has your name all over it.”
Read KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 8.5/10 review here
Compiled and additional words by Steve Tovey