Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy  2014, err'body! 2013 was a pretty excellent year for music, especially for fans of all things fast and heavy. I don't want to call this a "best of" list, as it's rather genre specific, but these were my 13 favorite records of the year.

13. Seven Sisters of Sleep - Opium Morals: The mark of a good doom/sludge/drone album is its ability to create a consistent atmosphere throughout the entire recording. What makes Opium Morals special is the the band's ability to inject frenetic, blast beat sections without ruining the overall flow.

12. The BCASA - Fuck You Shredder - It's a punk rock concept album about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I shouldn't have to say more than that, however for those unfamiliar with the band you are in for a hell of a ride. Catchy, well written jams that have infinite replay value.

11. Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Consciousness - It's rather difficult to criticize Joel Grind for a lack of innovation when he successfully distills everything we love about dark d-beat / thrash on every subsequent Toxic Holocaust record. "Chemistry" is nothing new, but that's the point.

10. Weekend Nachos - Still - I have a soft spot for bands that commit to pissing off as many people as possible. Fans of the powerviolence sub-genre either love these guys, or believe they singlehandedly ruined the genre. I belong to the former camp and "Still" is another excellent offering of pissed off negative hardcore / powerviolence. Favorite Track: S.C.A.B - a song ridiculing punks for espousing political beliefs they don't understand just because it's trendy. 

9. Noisem - Agony Defined - In their debut full length, this group of young whippersnappers (I think their average age is 19) hailing from Baltimore have released quite possibly the best thrash metal album of the year. Great songwriting that displays each member's insane chops without getting masturbatory and never takes its foot off the gas pedal. Very reminiscent of "Reign in Blood"-era Slayer. Your neck will get sore from headbanging.

8. Lumbar - The First and Last Days of Unwelcome - This is a recording that requires a bit of back story to really appreciate it; Lumbar is a special side-project comprised of three members: Tad Doyle, Mike Scheidt, and Aaron Edge. While recording the music that would eventually end up on this record, Aaron Edge was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and his deteriorating condition almost prevented him from completing the project. It is clear his experiences found their way into this recording and infused it with additional emotion heft. Musically, Lumbar produces somber, atmospheric doom clearly influenced by YOB and Bothers of the Sonic Cloth, but with Edge's heavier vocals make this comparable to Eagle Twin. 

7. Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam - It is difficult to separate the band's overall aesthetic from the music. For those unfamiliar, the members of Ghost BC perform and give interviews in full costume never revealing their true identities. Their  lead singer, Papa Emeritus, and his band of Nameless Ghouls bill themselves as a Satanic cult hellbent (see what I did there?) on bringing about the destruction of the Catholic Church and paving the way for the Anti-Christ. Their music is therefor obviously 70's pop rock...wait what? To be clear, Ghost is all about the pageantry; these were a bunch of Swedish kids who saw KISS and knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. Therefor it's difficult to say whether "Infestissumam" would stand up on its own without all the inverted crosses and anti-pope stuff, but I still find it super groovy!

6. Baptists- Bushcraft - Big thanks to Shane Saunderson for putting these guys on my radar. Their first full length after signing with reigning kings of heavy Southern Lord Records and recorded at Kurt Ballou's (Converge) God City Studios, Baptists successfully marry unbridled D-beat / crust ferocity with deft musical prowess. Drummer Nick Yacyshyn, formally of mathcore band A Textbook Tragedy, is a total Goddamn beast on this record. 

5. NAILS - Abandon All Life - Using sub-genre monikers to describe NAILS' latest record wouldn't aptly explain what's going on in "Abandon All Life". Elements of Hardcore, punk rock, grindcore, powerviolence, death metal, and D-beat are present, but they seem to appear all at the same time, crammed into 10 tracks and the whole thing barely lasts 17 minutes.  If "Cave Your Goddamn Skull In-core" was a thing, this would be that thing.

4. Deafheaven - Sunbather - A bizarre merger of black metal and shoegaze, bizarre only in that Deafheaven are able to marry the two styles of music so perfectly. Sunbather is a visceral, haunting, beautiful piece of music. Of course, nothing pisses off black metal purists like innovation from a couple of un-kvlt shorthairs injecting a bunch of that girly "feelings" crap into their super serious Pagan blood rituals in mom's basement. Deafheaven seem to revel in taking a poke at Metal's grumpiest sub-genre; beyond the daylight name of the record, the album art is bright pink. U Mad Bro?

3. Dead In The Dirt - The Blind Hole - This young Atlanta-based grindcore outfit sure seems angry. I mean, if I were vegan and straight edge, I think I'd be angry all the time too. (no offence to my vegan and/or straight edge friends; please don't beat me up.). "The Blind Hole" is a misanthropic slab of grindcore filth, but the group's ability to deftly add doom and hardcore influences provides the music with a satisfying low-end heft. One of the elements that makes "The Blind Hole" so successful is the production value; the tracks are clear and levels are perfect without subtracting from the crushing, oppressive vibe. Quite the opposite, actually; eschewing the grindcore / Crust technique of making a record feel "authentic" by having it sound as if it was recorded with a Sony Walkman encased in a layer of dog poo, the added weight lent to the bass and drums allows "The Blind Hole" to deliver a much more effective gut punch.

2. Mutoid Man - Helium Head - Evil Shananigans said it best "MUTOID MAN IS FUCKING AWESOME. I’ve gushed enough about this band by giving them awards for both song and rookie of the year, but I’ll just say this – keep supporting these guys so that they want to make more music and don’t deprive the world of their audio insanity." Helium Head is a great combination of heaviness, groove, and rock-n-roll fun times. Ben Koller, one of my all-time favorite drummers, lays complete fucking waste to his kit on this record. I Think I could listen to the title track "Gnarcissist" on repeat for a month. 

1. Full of Hell - Rudiments of Mutilation - Recommending this album feels like recommending the movie "Schindler's List"; undeniably great, but not really a pleasurable experience (unless there is something fundamentally wrong with you). Full of Hell's new record is pure sonic torture meant for only the most discerning of masochists; a blend of hateful negative hardcore and experimental noise music that is more bleak and menacing than anything I've ever heard before, and a brilliant follow up to 2011's "Roots of Earth are Consuming My Home". The excellent music blog CVLT Nation summed it up nicely " this record fucks with your ears, drags them through the dirt and subjects them to all manner of agony, rage and paranoia. It is nothing short of enjoyable."   

I'm sure I missed a bunch of great stuff, so if you've got any recommendations I'd love to hear them. Let's hope 2014 is just as good for music as 2013 was!

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