Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Thus far in 2014, I’ve enjoyed six albums.
Not total, mind you. I’m still mining the musical history of the Earth, finding not-so-hidden gems with damn near every brushaway of dust. But albums that were released during this calendar year?
It’s not that this year has been bereft of releases (far from the case), but I can’t sit here and honestly endorse fifteen to fifty-five records and expect you to believe that I’ve fallen in love with them. Not only is it physically and mentally impossible to absorb that much material and be intellectually honest about it, but it also does the art a disservce. Disposability is not a virtue. (Have I mentioned this before? GUYS, I FEEL LIKE I’VE MENTIONED THIS BEFORE)
Also, shoving a massive, unsolicited catalog in your face and saying, “HERE, LISTEN TO ALL OF THESE” is kind of a dick move. So, here are six–just six–records not released by ZZ Top that are awesome for different reasons, yet united by a common ethos: Rules are for assholes.
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ENABLER – LA FIN ABSOLUE DU MONDE
Enabler is the complete package. No band on the planet can match their blend of prolificacy, work ethic, and standard of quality right now. Essentially, they’re the freestylecore version of High On Fire. And like that trio, their attack is way dependable, so instead of switching up their ethos from recording to recording, they play with the presentation. (La Fin is decidedly filthier than their last LP, All Hail the Void.)
But to dismiss La Fin as a variation on a theme would be folly. Enabler is still seam-bursting with fury, but they’ve upped their game considerably, wedging massive hooks (“Balance of Terror,” “Sickened by the Wake”) into jagged crevices while still ripping everything to fucking shreds. Elsewhere, nuanced, seething cuts like the five-minute “Felony” that had been brewing for years finally reach the surface, coming to fruition as the band reaches their prime.
That prime is now. Don’t miss the ride.
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MISERY INDEX – THE KILLING GODS
This band has always been one to trigger fleeting infatuation; rousing in short bursts, but lacking in long term impact. (Which is truly a shame, as they’re one of the few death metal bands out there with something to say beyond “here’s a bunch of different ways to objectify women and diminish the value of human life.”) But The Killing Gods dials back the last record’s claustrophobic clang, letting the songs ride on potent choruses (!) and Adam Jarvis’ grind-minded drum attack.
Will this still be on the master list come December? Who knows. But right now, these are the jams.
(And that “Thieves” / “NWO” Ministry mashup? Ho-lee shit, son.)
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ANIMALS AS LEADERS – THE JOY OF MOTION
Weightless was a scary little sophomore slump, a spaced-out curveball that, while expectedly virtuosic, contained little of zip n’ pep that had everyone losing their shit over “CAFO.” But The Joy of Motion? This is the record that truly establishes AAL as the band of prog’s futurepresent, delightfully daring (the bop of “Physical Education,” the flair of “Para Mexer”) yet crushing at all the crucial points. By bringing such a wild array of influences into the heavier spectrum, not only are Tosin Abasi & Co. doing the world an incredible service, but they’re also kicking a ton of ass in the process.
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TENGGER CAVALRY – ANCIENT CALL
Let’s face it. Folk metal is deader than…dead. It was a faddish stand-in for the carcass that power metal and melodeath left lying in the early aughts, just with more underweight dudes in Blizzard Entertainment t-shirts talking about mead while drinking Bud Light.
But just like melodeath’s twilight, there are some latecomers worthy of attention. Okay, one. Tengger Cavalary fuckin’ delivers, and not just ’cause their use of traditional Chinese instruments (and the way they seamlessly incorporate them into the compositions, rather than rely on them for signposts and digressions) sets them apart from the pack. There’s an innocent, youthful exuberance that permeates Ancient Call, stoking a long-dead fire that flutters the heart like it’s the first time.
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BLACK MONOLITH – PASSENGER
In less capable hands, this could’ve come off like a cut-and-paste job. But nearly three years after a rickety, raging demo, Black Monolith might’ve crafted the best non-traditional black metal album of the year.
Yeah, there’s something to be said for craftsmanship (Old Wainds and Bastard Sapling: Nice work, gents), but this thing is so goddamned unhinged in its need to bash out the riff that it hurts. It rips along in a beautiful, rarified range, neither strident towards the avant-garde or confined to a preconcieved rulebook, a vision birthed of early-second-wave rebellion and swaddled in 2014’s vitality.
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CLOUD RAT – BLIND RIVER
Blind River is a collection of split and comp material spanning the past two years. The reasons it merits inclusion here are 1) The first four tracks have been culled from a split with Orgullo Primitivo, released earlier this year, and 2) Cloud Rat fucking rules.
It’s a cool mini-doc of the subtle progress this punk-leaning grind outfit has made in a brief period of time. 2012 cuts like “Keba” and “Moving Mouths” boast a savage, crusty churn, whereas the new material reveals a quirkier, more dextrous approach. (The five-second sickness of “Trial By Water” is followed by the crazy-smart “Childcraft,” which builds from sorrowful drip to FUCKING BLAST FURNACE with stunning fluidity.)
Pushing, pulling, straining, giving, taking. On their own terms.
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Those are my picks, Last Riters. What are your favorites so far?