My Year in Metal, 2014 - 20 Favorite Albums


Here are my favorite albums of 2014. This year my list lives at Last Rites, because that's where it's at.

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Execration - Morbid Dimensions (Duplicate Records/Hells Headbangers, 2014)


The new Execration album is an excellent addition to the year's bounty of inventive and off-kilter death metal. I wrote about Morbid Dimensions over at Metal Bandcamp.  Don't miss this late-year great.

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Horrendous - Ecdysis (Dark Descent, 2014)



I drop bombastic praise upon the spectacular new Horrendous album over at Last Rites.  Ecdysis will undoubtedly be one of my favorite albums of the year.

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The Best of What You've Missed



This past week I wrote for Last Rites for the first time, contributing to days two and four of their feature on hidden gems of the first half of 2014.  I wrote about Irkallian Oracle and Lay Down Rotten.  Good times were had and much new music was discovered.

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Incantation - Dirges of Elysium (Listenable Records, 2014)


I wrote a bit about the new Incantation album because it's awesome, naturally.  Check it out at Scratch the Surface.

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Onward to Deathfest


I’m going to Maryland Deathfest this week.  After years of false starts, failures, wimp-outs, and disaster, I’m finally going to make this happen.  It’s been fourteen years since I last attended a metal festival.

In the summer of Y2K, I packed up my shit, jumped on a plane with my trusty friend, Jeremiah, and flew up to the Milwaukee Metalfest.  I had no idea what I was getting into; the plans were sketchy, and the hopes were impossibly high.  I vaguely recall seeing a handful of the incredible bands listed on that flyer; there’s no telling which bands cancelled and which were wiped from memory by impossible amounts of alcohol.  King Diamond ruled, Entombed drooled, Mayhem were bizarrely entertaining, and Katatonia were received with a resounding thud.  But none of them were the real reason I went.

I was absolutely obsessed with Opeth’s freshly released Still Life at that time.  The Milwaukee Metalfest would be the band’s first American appearance, and their inclusion on the bill pushed me over line.  Opeth’s performance, in a room that looked like an elementary school gymnasium, was incredible, legendary, unreal.  Never in my metal life have I felt anything like the absurd enthusiasm of that moment.


Not only did Opeth bring down the house, they hung out during the entire weekend, talking to fans, drinking beer, and shopping for records.  My unhealthy love of Mikael Åkerfeldt was kindled in those hours (it’s since faded to weak admiration).  It was a righteous experience.



Much like my decision hit up the Milwaukee Metalfest, the inclusion of one band in particular has pushed me over the line to attending MDF.  That band is My Dying Bride.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  I’ve been a fan of the band’s gothic death-doom since I first laid ears on Turn Loose the Swans in 1993.  I narrowly missed seeing them play at Coney Island High in 1997 (on tour for Like Gods of the Sun) and have regretted it ever since.  That was their last American tour.


Naturally, I approach all things with caution.  I’m trying to temper my excitement.  Hope is, after all, the destroyer.  The MDF schedule has helped out by having My Dying Bride overlap with one of the other bands I’m excited to see (Mitochondrion).  What can you do?  Here is a short list of bands I’m also looking forward to:
Triptykon
Castevet
The Ruins of Beverast
Cancer
At the Gates
Mgla
Necros Christos
Taake
Agalloch
Incantation
Kill the Client
Coffins
Impaled
Dark Angel
Diocletian
Nocturnus AD
Unleashed
Bolzer
Hooded Menace
Asphyx
Sick/Tired
Inquisition
Gorguts
Candlemass
Mutilation Rites
Mitochondrion
Ulcerate
Immolation
Maruta
Death Toll 80k

Besides the bands, I’m also psyched to meet some of the people I’ve become acquainted with over the years via the interweb metal community.  Amongst these are the venerable Dave Schalek, the Last Rites folks, and former denizens of The Number of the Blog.  Let’s meet.  Let’s do this.  Dial me up on the Farcebook.



One last word on the 2000 Milwaukee Metalfest.  I found this wonderful review of the weekend on Brave Words by none other than Profound Lore’s Chris Bruni.  It gave me a good laugh, and it fired up some of the memories that I thought were permanently burned from my brain.


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Thantifaxath - Sacred White Noise (Dark Descent, 2014)


This Thantifaxath album is outrageous, gorgeous, righteous.  I try to wrap my head around it over at Scratch the Surface Webzine.

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Thou - Heathen (Gilead Media, 2014)


I wrote about Thou's titanic new album with a bit of brevity over at Metal Bandcamp.

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Morbus Chron - Sweven (Century Media, 2014)


I wrote about the incredible new Morbus Chron album over at Scratch the Surface Webzine.
Dig it.

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Castevet - Obsian (Profound Lore, 2013)


I wrote about Castevet's latest mind-melting opus over at Metal Bandcamp.

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Lay Down Rotten - Deathspell Catharsis (Apostasy Records, 2014)


Once upon a time, I preferred a modest helping of melody in my death metal.  These days, I prefer moderation; it’s too easy to rely on worn out, saccharine templates.  On their latest album, Lay Down Rotten nail a victorious ratio of harmony to massacre. Deathspell Catharsis is ridiculously well crafted, crammed full of compelling riffs and songwriting.

Lay Down Rotten display admirable architectural instincts; Deathspell Catharsis beckons you in with dynamics that demand much banging of the head.  The compelling rhythmic panoply recalls both Amon Amarth and Lamb of God in their earliest incarnations.  The melodic accents evoke the sinister sensibilities of God Dethroned in their prime.  Sublime, shredding leads wrap up this wickedly complete package.

This was my first encounter with Lay Down Rotten; I was completely unaware of their existence, let alone their tenure on Metal Blade records.  Given their ability to sustain my interest throughout a lengthy LP, I think it’s high time to check out their catalog.

Deathspell Catharsis is out on February 11th.  Check a track below:

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Ritual Chamber – The Pits of Tentacled Screams (Self-released, 2013)


I’ve been bending a knee to the Incantation discography of late, pondering the many bands who’ve made worthy, if unsuccessful, attempts to approach the glory of their sound. I discovered Ritual Chamber fresh off a spin of Mortal Throne of Nazarene. After shaking off confusion and amazement at the magnificent music at hand, compulsion quickly set in. The Pits of Tentacled Screams is a feast of quality, consistency, and neck wrecking glory that rivals the elders.

Creeping, tentacular riffs and howling, cavernous auras do not a good album make. It’s the fucking songs, man; composition, dynamics, and riffs give life to death. Ritual Chamber have got it figured out. Or rather, Numinas, the band’s sole member, has got it figured out. I can’t fathom how one man could conceive and execute such a righteous paean to putrescence.

This is not just another roiling rollercoaster of filth; these songs are oozing with numinous character. Whenever the heaving murk threatens to pull you under, a festering and contagious guitar lead will elevate the proceedings towards triumph. A wonderfully hands-off production job lets all of the instruments shine through the darkness.

I’ve been worshipping at the altar of death for many a year; I’m comfortable letting my instincts lead the way on this one. The Pits of Tentacled Screams is worthy; genuflect.


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Catalog Blasphemy: Emperor – IX Equilibrium


I discovered and downloaded a shit-ton of music in the Napster era.  In fact, most of my initial encounters with black metal occurred in that epoch.  I burned through Darkthrone, Emperor, Mayhem, and various other proponents of the second wave; I was completely unimpressed.  Black metal, as I understood it at the time, held very little appeal to me.

In junior year of college (1999) I was somehow convinced, along with a group of my friends, to take a spring break trip to South Padre Island in Texas.  This, of course, was an awful, awful decision.  Just before the trip, I came across a promo copy of Emperor’s IX Equilibrium on Napster, which I burned to CD for listening on ye olde Discman.

South Padre Island was, in fact, hell on earth.  I’ll spare the wretched details, but I’ve never been so fully out of my element as in that putrid spring break paradise.  The hilarious highlight of the trip, in my memory, was seeing Vanilla Ice perform “metal” versions of his tired hip-hop “classics.”

The worst part of the week in South Padre was the incessant cacophony, at all hours of the day and night.  I fought noise with noise and became very close friends with my headphones.  IX Equilibrium was the key brick in my wall of sound; I recall falling asleep to it almost every night.

I was very fond of IX Equilibrium; it was the first time that a second wave band had truly appealed to me (although Emperor was already straying mightily from black metal orthodoxy). The riffs, melodies, and production finally felt like they could stand up to the imperial bombast of the omnipresent keys.  Ihsahn’s clean vocals, in particular, struck a chord in my metal psyche.  I still love the shit out of “An Elegy of Icaros.”

Despite my appreciation of the album, I never ended up buying a physical copy.  Prometheus is the sole Emperor album on my CD rack.  Throughout the years, I’ve tried repeatedly to stoke an interest in the band’s early, universally lauded work.  It’s never stuck.

I recently picked up the band’s discography on Bandcamp, forcing myself to try to grasp the appeal of In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.  I can understand their allure, but my ears keep coming back to IX Equilibrium.  I blaspheme, I know.  But if I cared, I wouldn't be writing this.



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