Last Rites’ Best Of 2014 – Combined Staff List

Greetings, friends. The time has come once again to civilly and sensibly discuss the Last Rites Best of 2014 list, as collected and voted upon by our noble crew. If your favorite releases are missing, it’s likely because one of us illegally stacked the deck. If nothing else, we are most certainly a crafty & dastardly lot.

We would love to hear your thoughts, discuss your gripes, and offer a comforting shoulder for any quiet or not-so-quiet weeping you have to offer. But mostly, we’d love to see what made your lists as well. Individual Last Rites staff lists will begin this coming Friday, December 12th.

Additionally, the entire crew would like to thank each and every one of you for making all of this writing madness still worthwhile – there’s obviously no shortage of competition out there, and we are nothing without our faithful readers.

We sincerely hope 2014 was good to you, and we look forward to banging forward into 2015.

– The Last Rites Crew

LIST HO!!

• • • • •

25. AMBUSH – FIRESTORM

Amwho? Firewhat? How the Hell did this land on our list with virtually no hype to precede it? Left field, friends. Sweden’s Ambush rode straight in from left field atop a burning cannonball and right into the faces of two of our most cuddly crew members, and the contagion spread from there. Good-time oldschool heavy metal in a similar vein as the Enforcers, Stallions and Skull Fists of our current scene, with a level of dexterity that defies the band’s relatively short existence. Plug in, turn up & bang. Repeat as necessary. [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: High Roller Records May 24th

 

• • • • •

24. MIDNIGHT – NO MERCY FOR MAYHEM

No Mercy for Mayhem remains another very strong and ludicrously fun album. It probably won’t elicit the same drunken grin as your first spin of Satanic Royalty, but it further proves that no one can quite match Midnight for hybridizing some of 1981’s best.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Hells Headbangers Records August 19th

 

• • • • •

23. IRON REAGAN – THE TYRANNY OF WILL

“There’s not much to say about Iron Reagan, except that they take the established crossover formula and rip with it. Yes, it’s retro, and yes, it’s been done before, and yes, despite what Foresta claims, he does sound a bit like Kurt Brecht and thus this has a more-than-noticeable DRI slant. But still, when it comes down to it, thrash is about riffs and energy and fun, and The Tyranny Of Will (fuck that Will dude) has all three in copious amounts.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Relapse Records September 16th

 

• • • • •

22. MARTYRDÖD – ELDDOP

“Elddop is a grand statement of modern punk, moving beyond the constraints inherent in the basics of their style, adding elements outside the norm, but never forgetting to  rage like all holy hell.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Southern Lord Records

 

• • • • •

21. SANCTUARY – THE YEAR THE SUN DIED

“Though it’s a step into the past by nature, as reformations always are, The Year The Sun Died is also a logical progression for Sanctuary. Most importantly, it’s easily one of the best records I’ve heard all year . . . . It’s as good a comeback as I could have ever expected, the next step in Sanctuary’s evolution, with more than enough Nevermore vibe to satisfy fans of Warrel’s more recent (godless) endeavors.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Century Media Records October 6th

 

• • • • •

20. DEATH PENALTY – DEATH PENALTY

“Like the best of Cathedral and the Witchfinder General album whose title it appropriates, Death Penalty is a doom album that’s not so much downtempo as it is just oppressive and gloomy. It flirts heavily with a NWOBHM-ish traditional take, a galloping gait here and a melodic lead line there, and more of it is uptempo than isn’t, even if it’s still Sabbath-heavy throughout. Most importantly, it swaggers and rocks, never forgetting that even doomy downers need to swing.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Rise Above Records August 11th

 

• • • • •

19. NASHEIM – SOLENS VEMOD

“No mockery of Abraham’s descendants. No idolization of the dark mothers. No propaganda. Nothing explicit. Just four glorious Scandinavian hymns to the perpetual darkness that lies in wait in the back of our minds since birth, spreading slowly to each and every corner of our consciousness before finally devouring everything that’s left of it.” [JUHO MIKKONEN]

Released: Northern Silence Productions February 14th

 

• • • • •

18. GRIDLINK – LONGHENNA

“It’s a grind album, and most rational humans hate grind. It’s loud, abrasive, ugly, consistently punishing, and to an extent it’s fucking exhausting for a twenty-one minute album. Which is exactly why it is kind of perfect, in its own way. Whether viewed as going out on a high note or as a middle finger to music, Longhena is the perfect way for GridLink to pull the curtain down.” [CHRIS REDAR]

Released: Selfmade God Records February 19th

 

• • • • •

17. INCANTATION – DIRGES OF ELYSIUM

“. . . adhering to the tried and true Incantation formula, but with renewed vigor and ferocity . . . . Though it is short on surprises, Dirges of Elysium is long on killer riffage . . . . I urge you: do noT sleep on this one. Dirges of Elysium is every bit as good as, if not better than Vanquish in Vengeance. Incantation, twenty-odd years in, is as strong as it has ever been.” [JEREMY MORSE]

Released: Listenable Records June 10th

 

• • • • •

16. AGALLOCH – THE SERPENT & THE SPHERE

“It must be hard to be a band like Agalloch, with at least two (some would say four) genre classics under your belt. How is one supposed to match the stellar opinion that people have of what has gone before? But saying The Serpent & The Sphere is no Ashes Against the Grain is akin to saying “Yeah, the Mona Lisa is nice, but it’s no Last Supper.” The quartet continues to make some of the most beautiful, starry-eyed neo-pagan metal in the world, and our ears are all the richer for it.” [KEITH ROSS]

Released: Profound Lore Records May 13th

 

• • • • •

15. EXODUS – BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT

“So after a decade’s worth of B-grade Exodus, we finally get back to where we were in 2004. Zetro’s back and now, as then, the band is in fine form. And not surprisingly, now, as then, Exodus has one of their best records to show for it. Blood In, Blood Out is a damn fine modern thrash record, the old masters reforming and returning to show they’ve still got plenty of fire left.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records October 10th

 

• • • • •

14. DAWNBRINGER – NIGHT OF THE HAMMER

“With its surfeit of slower material, and cloak of doom and gloom Night of the Hammer is not as immediately accessible or fun as its predecessor, but it is insidiously infectious. Given appropriate attention, these songs will leave their mark on your psyche. Night of the Hammer in its own way is every bit as rewarding as any of Dawnbringer’s previous work.” [JEREMY MORSE]

Released: Profound Lore Records October 28th

 

• • • • •

13. THANTIFAXATH – SACRED WHITE NOISE

Sacred White Noise makes great strides in travelling the path between the sane mind and the inner thoughts of the much less sane. It’s evident from the off-kilter organ and dissonant riff that kicks off “The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel” that we’re dealing with artists willing to shape some of their nastier inclinations into noises that represent such leanings. It’s like circus music composed from a ferris wheel in Chernobyl.” [CHRIS REDAR]

Released: Dark Descent Records April 15th

 

• • • • •

12. SAOR – AURA

“Conventional wisdom tells us that one-man black metal projects are meant to be depressive, misanthropic, and self-destructive. With Aura, Andy Marshall proves that not only can they be uplifting, welcoming, and life-giving, they can be truly beautiful. Yes, there is sorrow and longing in the sounds of Saor, but it is a sorrow that cleanses, not destroys. For an hour, Aura uses blasts, tremolos, and screams to make you believe in a better world.” [KEITH ROSS]

Released: Fortriu Productions June 6th

 

• • • • •

11. PRIMORDIAL – WHERE GREATER MEN HAVE FALLEN

“To spotlight a single moment: 5:20 into “Come the Flood” is pure, savage emotion that’s free of the fetters of unseemly studio trickery. “Wash the blood from my hands,” indeed; this is the motherfucker you want warping trepidation into triumph and leading you straight into Armageddon.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Metal Blade Records November 25th

 

• • • • •

10. PYRRHON – THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES

“With The Mother of Virtues, Pyrrhon has shed any remaining boundaries. But more than that, they’ve just gone wild. Their unpredictable, laboratorial songs employ death metal only as the basic formula, utilizing deconstruction as a compositional tool, and noise as an invasive texture. While always an accomplished band, the massive leap in maturity here is nothing short of staggering.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Relapse Records April 1st

 

• • • • •

9. BLOODBATH – GRAND MORBID FUNERAL

“From the opening of “Let The Stillborn Come To Me,” Grand Morbid Funeral is first-rate – virtually one rotting, snarling, carving death metal masterstroke after another. The trademark Swedish buzzsaw guitars; Renkse’s deep and cavernous bass; Martin Axenrot’s ferocious drumming . . . . It’s all here, everything that made Swedish death metal the grand morbid fun that it’s always been.” [ANDREW EDMUNDS]

Released: Peaceville Records November 17th

 

• • • • •

8. DEAD CONGREGATION – PROMULGATION OF THE FALL

“…crush, roar, tromp, furiously whip, and then burn what’s left of the husk in a grimy dumpster that weeps its impurities to the earth via its rotten underbelly. Repulsiveness. Beautiful, beautiful repulsiveness brought wriggling to life through exquisite regressive death metal that mocks the idea of reinventing the wheel as if it were sitting front-and-center at a Don Rickles show circa 1985.” [MICHAEL WUENSCH]

Released: Martyrdoom Productions May 5th

 

• • • • •

7. MORBUS CHRON – SWEVEN

“EVERYTHING about this album is lush. The production allows the music to fully blossom, the music is beautifully written with seamless transitions between songs, and the musicianship is about as good as one could hope for. The music is progressive, but not overly technical, a measured application of simplicity that allows the music to breathe and grow.” [DAVE SCHALEK]

Released: Century Media Records February 24th

 

• • • • •

6. OVERKILL – WHITE DEVIL ARMORY

“To the legions of green and black thrashers, know that White Devil Armory not only meets and passes all expectations with devil-grinning satisfaction, but is possibly the best of this wildly fun new era. Now, let’s qualify that for a second. Because of what Ironbound represented to Overkill fans, it will likely maintain the strongest hold on their hearts, but the band has systematically settled back into this whole “being an elite band again” thing, and White Devil Armory reveals the fruits of that newfound confidence and songcraft.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Nuclear Blast Records July 18th

 

• • • • •

5. BLUT AUS NORD – MEMORIA VETUSTA III: SATURNIAN POETRY

“Saturnian Poetry is an absolute deluge of riffs and ever-forming melodies, utilizing fewer of the softer passages from MVII to arrive at material that is dense, churning, and damn near intimidating in its awe inspiring and meticulous construction.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Debemur Morti Productions October 10th

 

• • • • •

4. GIANT SQUID – MINOANS

“For an album to so starkly embrace its own ultimate irrelevance with such finesse, honesty, and grace is a gift. Ultimately, this is a document of choosing to live ecstatically, even in the shadow of the valley of time.” [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

Released: Translation Loss Records October 28th

 

• • • • •

3. YOB – CLEARING THE PATH TO ASCEND

“There is an immediate urge to call Clearing the Path to Ascend one of YOB’s greatest achievements; time will tell. There is little doubt, however, that this was a very important album for Mike Scheidt and company to write at this stage in their career, proving to themselves that they could truly evolve, without just changing something on the surface such as production. Evolve they have, and as a result, achieve they have.” [ZACH DUVALL]

Released: Neurot Recordings August 29th

 

• • • • •

2. PALLBEARER – FOUNDATIONS OF BURDEN

“It’s easy to focus on superlative moments in an album as littered with them as Foundations of Burden, but in truth the magic of Pallbearer’s second album arises not from any single phrase, riff, lyric, or crescendo; instead – and this is where the album is not so different from Sorrow & Extinction – the album’s greatest accomplishment is that it constructs a tactile world. It’s a house, or a cathedral, or any habitable space that invites you to feel the grain of its timber and the tilt of its earthen floor.”  [DAN OBSTKRIEG]

Released: Profound Lore Records August 19th

 

• • • • •

1. HORRENDOUS – ECDYSIS

“Against all odds, Ecdysis is an improvement over its stellar predecessor. The album retains all of the delicious, ripping sonic qualities of The Chills, but ups the ante across the board. The compositions remain both groovy and grotesque, but leverage a more intoxicating ratio of mid-paced massacre to sinister melodicism.” [ATANAMAR SUNYATA]

Released: Dark Descent Records October 14th

 

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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