Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the halls, not a creature was stirring, not even a Gaahl; church fires were started by the Norwegians with care, in hopes that Satan soon would be there. King Diamond was nestled all snug in his coffin with freshly applied corpse paint he required so often; and Fenriz in his kerchief, and Nocturno Culto in his mittens, had just finished bathing all of their kittens; when high from the mountains there arose such tremolo, everyone ran into the woods to hear the guitar solo. Through the cemetery and into the night, their path was brightened by the great northern lights. The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow, provided enough light to put on a show, just then, they realized the staff of Last Rites did append, one tiny addition to the lists of top-ten. Who on Earth would submit a blurb after the editors were finished for the day?! “My-oh-my, it’s the one-and-only KK!”Who sleeps in the day and works only by night, and only plays music when there’s no one in sight. Which albums did he choose then, could it be Blut Aus Nord? No… that sounded like a B-Side from the album that came before. How ’bout his other favorites such as Primordial or Anaal Nathrakh? Surely, he had those two albums on lock. Perhaps, though, what he looked for was something a bit more unique, since albums that sound the same are too easy to critique. As blast beats and screams always brighten his day, he figured there were ten things that he had left to say. And so the generous editors once again opened their doors, “For KK we will get on our keyboards! Last Rites’ only “wild card” and resident jackass he may be, but when we least expect it, he gives us Christmas poetry!” He may not write as much with a career tending bar, but fans should know he’s never very far. So please sit back and add his favorites to your iPod, for these are the albums to which he gives the nod. Aside from the top-ten, to him nothing matters, so onto the albums and enough with the chatter. So call home King Diamond, Fenriz and Culto tonight, and tell them they can listen inside without getting frostbite. And so, to all readers, I do write sincerely, Merry Christmas to you whom I love so dearly.
Enjoy my favorites of the year, YOU FUCKERS!
Top Ten of 2014:
10. Kriegsmaschine – Enemy of man
Although this album didn’t quite contain the gloriousness that was displayed on Mgla‘s breathtaking With Hearts Toward None, members Darkside and M. probably weren’t planning as melodic a release when they decided to team up with Destroyer (AKA Konrad Ramotowski) for the release of the band’s second full-length and first in almost ten years. Punishing, brutal, dark and absolutely relentless. This album will rip your soul to shreds with razor sharp guitar, drum, bass and vocal assaults. No Solace records is a small but unstoppable force in the world of black metal. And yeah… Destroyer and I have something in common. We have cooler names than all of you. Deal with it.
9. Gridlink – longhena
There’s something unsettingly bizarre about this album that I can’t really figure out, and that’s probably why I’m so fond of it. From the song structure, to the cover art — this cut may be quick at under thirty minutes but the wound it leaves goes pretty deep. Nearly eighty minutes of Darkspace was easier for me to crack than this bad-boy, and that’s saying something. It’s a perfect combination of what I wish Shai Hulud‘s sideproject, Zombie Apocalypse could have been and proper grindcore. Good shit here. Beware, the repeat button. You may have this on for hours.
8. Panopticon – roads to the north
I tend to be very objective when doing something like making top-ten lists, as was the case when I stood by the decision to rank Enslaved in front of Mgla two years ago. This, however, hits way too close to home for me to not consider putting it into my top ten, and only because four songs. I reviewed this album, and I could go without all of it today were it not for “The Longest Road” trilogy and “Norwegian Nights.” Like Austin Lunn’s family, my grandmother’s family were Norwegian immigrants, and she passed away this year. I have listened… and listened… and I cannot hear this trilogy of songs without tears flowing down my face. Even as I type this, the emotions of her quickly surface. My last living grandparent — immortalized by this song among many other things. Lunn and Panopticon, like all good musicians, write deeply personal music. This just happens to be very personal to me as well.
7. horrendous – ecdysis
I hear hipsters run from death metal like the plague, and if that’s the case, this was 2014’s ebola virus. Although Incantation, Dead Congregation, Diocletian, VADER and many other bands released some punishing albums, this was my favorite of the group. Groovy in all the right ways, Horrendous takes all the old elements of what made death metal excellent to begin with and puts them together in new ways. Everyone has their favorite death metal this year, but as someone who gets most of my enjoyment from the blacker side of things, I generally love death metal albums that are well-balanced. And HOLY FUCK THAT ALBUM COVER IS THE TITS.
6. nasheim – solens vemod
Even though it’s a bit more well-known, this album is the Ylistys of this year. By that I mean, Nasheim, much like Cosmic Church, has crafted a beautifully dark, cold, and dreary album that isn’t the slightest bit evil. In fact, it is very positive in its sad singularity. Both albums’ lyrics are written in languages I don’t need to understand in order to perceive; both are composed and performed entirely by one person; and both are filled with loss, sorrow and longing. If music is a language, both Solens Vemod and Ylistys speak my language.
5. giant squid – minoans
There’s lots to love about Giant Squid. The vocals soar, the music is incredibly unique in just about every way, the band worships everything that is mysterious and magical about the ocean, and the musicianship is beyond superb. You know what, though? I love this band, and this album, because both are just really fucking cool. No other description is needed, really, even though Dan Obstkrieg gave one for the ages in the review of Minoans. Brevity may not always be his thing, and writing well may not be mine, but holy shit if we don’t see eye-to-eye on this killer album.
4. Agalloch – the serpent and the sphere
Unlike any other Agalloch album I’ve ever listened to post Pale Folklore, I wasn’t really crazy about this one at first. Every other full-length of theirs, as well as both The White and Faustion Echoes, knocked me out of my seat right from the get-go. This one took a while, but after seeing it performed live a few times (even though their sound was the worst at MDF), the seed finally sprouted and it started to grow. I want you all to mark my words on something when we look back at this band ten or twenty years from now: Agalloch is not only a great example of true, modern American music — they are the flag-bearers of it.
3. entartung – peccata mortalia
Wow, how so many black metal worshippers let this album fly over your heads, I will never understand. We are — and I mean “we” as anyone who considers themself anything close to a metalhead — in the fucking BIZNASS of being impressed by riffs. This album has all of them. All of the riffs. And nobody to listen to them. No, I would not put in on par with Aosoth‘s release of last year, Mgla‘s of 2012, Inquisition‘s of 2011, Sargeist‘s of 2010, Arckanum‘s of 2009, or Horna‘s of 2008. (I just gave you the best black metal releases of those all of those years, so have at it). However, the album is still worthy of any ears that still worship the truthfulness of black metal’s second wave. Get on this one, I’m telling you.
2. pallbearer – foundations of burden
Just… wow. This is one band I will take my mom to see with me one day. Absolutely beautiful in just about every traditional aspect of heavy metal in its purest form. I am still obsessed with Pallbearer‘s first full-length, and thought there was no way on earth the band would top it. The way I see it, however, is that neither of these albums are better than the other. They are both perfect and different enough to not sound the same. Absolutely inspired, this band is. “Foundations of Burden” was a fabulous album to end the Summer, almost the very best the year had to offer, and certainly the best “new” traditional doom metal I’ve heard since… well since the band’s last album.
1. spectral lore – iii
Not. Even. A. Question. Greek black metal God Ayloss has not only demonstrated that art is much more powerful as an expression of singularity, but he has done so to the absolute highest degree. One-man projects are the way of the future that is art expression through music, and Spectral Lore has mastered it. Introspective, thought provocative and precise, III was indeed the best album that I came across this year. Blut Aus Nord fanboys and fangirls should know that I stand among you as blindly loving the genius of Vindsval as much, if not more, than you do. But there is no contest when it comes to comparing Memoria Vetsusta III side by side against the similarly-named III. Get yourself one final Christmas present and pick up this album. Do it. Now! AYLOSS COMMMMMANDS IT!!!!!
Best EP of 2014
Blut Aus Nord / P.H.O.B.O.S. – Triunity
most overlooked album of 2014 that’s not in my top 10
Furia – Nocel (Seriously… LISTEN TO THIS!)
ALBUm i listened to the most from 2014 that’s not in my top 10
Darkspace – III I
album i listened to the most That’s not from 2014
Mgla – With Hearts Toward None (Winner! Three years and counting!!!)
Catch-up duty: Song I listened to the most not from 2014
Cosmic Church – “Ennen” (One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard in my life. Do yourself a favor and give it the time, especially if you love Nasheim).
Album I didn’t get around to listening to, but i know that i will listen to it a shitload next year
Pyrrhon – Mother of Virtues (Doug: I’m still mad at whomever books your tour for always making you skip NOLA. I’ll learn these songs by heart before you come and play… I promise!)
Thank you for reading. Seriously. I never remember why I still try and pretend I’m a writer until I finish writing these lists with a smile on my face. Enjoy your Christmas. Come visit me in NOLA anytime. I love you guys and gals, especially those of you on what I consider to be the best team of music writers and music lovers that exists on this planet. See y’all next year.
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