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2014 Year-End List!

It’s about that time!! Was 2014 the best year ever in metal? YUP.

As always, this list is completely subjective and has nothing to do with what the “best” albums are, just the stuff that I liked. But do note that my music taste is incredible.

If you think reading about music is dumb, which it is sometimes, just listen to this Spotify playlist of great tracks from all these albums. If you hate metal, skip straight to Aphex Twin.

BEST ALBUM PROMOTION

Old Man Gloom – The Ape Of God I & II

The Ape Of God (II)

We will always trick you.
We will always trick you.
We will always trick you.

Old Man Gloom released / leaked a full-length album called The Ape Of God right before their actual album The Ape Of God came out. Ya follow? This sure got a lot of people talking about OMG, which is great. Was anyone even mad, that they had to listen to a FAKE OMG album before getting the real one? Probably not! It sounded like an album they would write and release! Which they did!

BEST WORST SONG

I heard this song late at night on KEXP, and it was lodged deep in my brain. While dealing with newfound self-hatred, I started googling around and found all sorts of blogs dissecting and arguing over “PC Music”, the mysterious person/collective fueling this new(?) kind of sound. This track “Hey QT” is not my favorite thing – basically every track by Sophie is better & less annoying.

Runner-up: BABYMETAL – Gimme Chocolate!!

BEST METAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

The Flesh Prevails

Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails
(technical death metal)
This was one of my favorite albums to lift to this year. Nonstop energy from start to finish. Seriously love all these riffs.

Heathen

Thou – Heathen
(doom metal)
god this album is a sludgy masterpiece. The riffs are SO GOOD, everything sounds amazing, and it’s just epic as fuck. I seriously can’t get enough of that guitar tone.

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Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion
(instrumental jazz metal)
Really upping their game on this album. Not as ‘metal’ as their first two, but the complexity on this one is off-the-charts. Caught these guys at SXSW this year, SO AWESOME

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Art Far Away – Verisimilitude & The Second Estate
(swedish melodeath)
I haven’t really cared about the Swedish death metal scene since I got into In Flames and Soilwork. But damn, this one is pretty incredible.

My Game Doesn't Have A Name

A Pregnant Light – My Game Doesn’t Have a Name
(screamo+metal)
Last-minute addition; this guy sounds like what I want The Saddest Landscape to be. Super bleak one-man metal project. Really clear lyrics which let the riffage take a backseat; not something that you hear often with metal.

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Botanist – VI: Flora
(hammered dulcimer black metal)

Live with Intronaut

Cloudkicker – Live with Intronaut
(djent)
Cloudkicker, being a one-man djent project, would probably be super boring to watch live. (Poor man’s Cloudkicker show: wearing headphones, head to Starbucks and stare at someone over their Macbook Pro.) Thus, they teamed up with Intronaut to bring his songs into another dimension. It rules, and since I love both these guys, it’s like a delicious PB&J of metal.

Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay

Downfall of Gaia – Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay
(post-black metal)

The Cavern

Inter Arma – The Cavern
(sludge metal)

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Young Widows – Easy Pain
(angry hardcore)

OTHER STUFF I REALLY ENJOYED

Syro


Aphex Twin – Syro

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BADBADNOTGOOD – III

LP1


FKA Twigs – LP1

Artificial Sweeteners


Fujiya & Miyagi – Artificial Sweeteners

Zaba


Glass Animals – Zaba

Wonder Where We Land


Sbtrkt – Wonder Where We Land

The Unnatural World


Have a Nice Life – The Unnatural World


Ruins


Grouper – Ruins

Noise > Metal.

Lately I’ve been having this feeling, that as I continue on my journey to discover the heaviest metal in existence, that I’ve been looking in the wrong place.

Blastbeats? Riffs? Melodies? It’s all played out.

There’s something truly evil going on when you listen to “noise”. You’ve left the world of songs and entered a world of compositions, of pieces. If any ‘normals’ hear what you hear, they’re not just appalled; they’re confused, they’re offended. They can’t understand why you would CHOOSE to listen to such a racket.

But you know why you listen to noise. It’s so you can truly be engrossed in the sound, letting every layer build on the last until you’re listening to an entire tower. It’s so you can hear one wavelength and how it’s affected by everything around it. It’s so you can so fully occupy your brain that every other thought goes silent in the wake of noise.


Lately I’ve been digging into the back catalog of Locrian. There’s a lot of good stuff in there! My favorite thing at the moment would be this “Rain of Ashes” track. I love the twinkly, evil descending scale thing going on at the 10-minute mark.

I really love the B-side of this album, which is a track called “Sehsa fo Niar”. Because I am an idiot, I didn’t even notice that this track was actually “Rain of Ashes” played backwards. I was just listening to the album over and over, thinking, “that second track is definitely my favorite.”

Is This Even Metal? – Menace Ruine

Let’s get weird.

Menace Ruine is an artist I caught last year when they opened for Botanist. Two folks playing weird synths, this French woman howling about somethingorother. I didn’t particularly enjoy their set – it was missing a lot of the things I want from metal, like DRUMS…

I’m still not sold on their older material, but with this album, it’s starting to come together for me. First of all, the instrumentation on this album is way better – less overblown synth work, more tangible stringed melodies. All the distortion and reverb that’s piled on, it sounds a lot more ‘purposeful’ than their previous work, actually adding depth rather than obscuring it.

The closing track is definitely my favorite. Like a drone composition, I love the way you get sucked into that octave melody, then by the time you’re 11:30 into the track, the sound starts piling up and chugging onward. You’re in the meat grinder now. Crank it up and you can hear all these weird harmonics bouncing off the creaky top-line melody.

Also digging the track “Red Sulphur”, which sounds like Satanic surf rock.

Hammered Dulcimers Reign Supreme

It’s hard to hate-listen when there’s so much good metal coming out, right?

The new album “VI:Flora” by Botanist has been rocking my face lately. This band is TOTALLY WEIRD, yes, but if you’re down with something new and unique, headbang wif me:

What I love about this band is, they’re totally doing exactly the things black metal does, but the instrumentation is weird! All the blastbeats and tremolos and distortion are still there. It ends up sounding evil in a culty way. It makes me want to worship the gods of nature.

This new album reminds me a bit of Deafheaven – the song structure just has the same sort of drive to it, and the song-ending crescendos just stimulate the same parts in my brain.

Full album at their Bandcamp page.

Hate-Listening to BABYMETAL

Hate-listening is a thing I do where I challenge myself to listen with an open mind to bands I know I’ll despise.

babymetal-logo-620x283

Does BABYMETAL need an introduction? Probably. What you already should know is that BABYMETAL went viral with their music video for “Gimme Chocolate!!” Something funny about this is, I already love this song “I Want Pancakes” by grindcore project / father-daughter duo band Sockweb. But they’re totally legit. BABYMETAL, is not. They’re an “idol”-type band, where some teenage girls audition to be in a band. Some suits at Amuse Inc. sat around in a board room and thought, oh, you know where there’s marketing potential? Combining the hard-crushing sounds of metal with J-pop. Teenage boys will love it! Teen girls will love it too! You know, for the fashion. (Sorry, is that sexist?)

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being marketed to.

babymetal

…here are some other things I hate though:

  • How the vocals are super-clean while everything else is dark and dirty. And the entire album has the vocals mixed way forward in the mix. It really makes all the riffage sound like it’s nothing more than background noise.
  • How god-awful it is when even any bands use tried and worn-out formulas to write pop music. The whole reason I got into metal in the first place is so I didn’t have to hear the same fucking 3-minute pop song formula over and over again. Metal celebrates breaking rules and pushing boundaries.
  • The spastic styling of “line!”, which starts out being sort of a heavy dancy industrial track, before fading into pure sugary J-pop, then by 1:30 they’re play J-trap. That’s right, J-TRAP, as if regurgitating some bassy beats in the middle of the song is somehow an intelligible artistic statement. Then it’s super heavy with growly vocals by 2:00. Why would a band ever do this? This actually seems like at least one part of the song is going to annoy everyone. Same complaint goes for “Song 4″, which has a reggae breakdown in it. (really)
What chord do you think she's playing here?

What chord do you think she’s playing here?

Is there anything worth checking out in this record, though? Meh. The first two tracks are totally passable as electro metal. I’m not even mad at “Megitsune” – it’s got operatic vocals, sure, but at least it’s heavy throughout without spastically jumping into other styles. And god, I hate to say it, but “Rondo of Nightmare” is heavy as fuck! Check out that Meshuggah riffage…

Overall, the thing I hate most about BABYMETAL is the entire industry behind it. Something I believe is true about metal, perhaps more so than any other genre, is its meritocracy. Like, I want to believe that the good metal bands rise from the ashes, and the shit bands sink. The reason people are talking about Fallujah, for example, is because they’re doing something new and incredible with a stagnant genre. You know, maybe it’s not just because someone marketed the band correctly?

And, I mean, of COURSE there’s marketing behind any band that I’ve heard of, so maybe this is a futile argument. Metal bands do tons of ridiculous things to get attention (corpse-paint, the legends of Mayhem, girls in leather, etc. etc. to infinity). What’s offensive about BABYMETAL though, is that the marketing and profit motive came first, before the desire to create something heavy. The minds behind it know exactly the path they’re exploiting to gain popularity and financial success. They WANT metalheads to cry out in anger. And it’s working! To rub salt in the wound, 99% of metal bands don’t make enough money to live! All the bands playing by the rules of metal are losing if you judge success in a monetary way, or even if you judge success by popularity / views / whatever.