Thursday, January 1, 2015

Because There Aren't Enough of These Already: Jesse's Top 10 Albums of 2014.

Near the end of the year, everyone's social media feeds start to look the same; embarrassing holiday party stories. pictures of miserable kids / pets dressed up as Santa, and a near infinite number of lists purporting to tell you what were the best albums of the past 12 months. Of course, most of these lists could be more aptly titled "I have an insatiable need to tell you about my excellent taste in music, because I'm a pretentious shithead." The following list fits snugly into that category. 

2014 was an incredible year for music, especially for those who enjoy all things noisy, heavy and grim. I will more than likely need to write a follow up to this list in the New Year as I've still got a stack of records from 2014 that I have not yet listened to. I know, what a slacker, right? Anyway, below are ten records that sufficiently rustled my Jimmies in 2014. As always, I hope you find something you dig!

10. ACxDC - Antichrist Demoncore


After over a decade of singles, EP's, and splits Los Angeles Powerviolence misanthropes ACxDC have put out their first full length album; a blistering, vitriolic, blast of fury and fun.  Antichrist Demoncore finally sees ACxDC's tunes get the production love the previous material lacked. I know there is some PV/Grind badge of honor earned by having all of your recordings sound like someone took a shit on the 4-track, but actually being able to hear parts of the drum kit beyond the snare and high hat, as well as proper low end out of the guitars and bass, imbues this album with satisfying weight without sacrificing any of the intensity. Lead singer Sergio Amalfitano's lyrical content continues to run the gamut of intense social commentary, touching personal reflection, and sardonic hilarity (any band that writes a song making fun of Burzum fans is A-okay in my book). 

9. Mastodon - Once More Round The Sun

I know I'll probably catch a bit of flack for this, but I really enjoyed Mastodon's newest record. Mastodon fans who complain that the band have lost touch with their original sound are not wrong; Once More Round The Sun bears little resemblance to either Remission or Leviathan , however I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, sometimes we want our favorite bands to keep chugging out re-hashed versions of the stuff we fell in love with, but you can't blame a band for wanting to explore other avenues over the course of a 15 year career. Yes, this record sees Mastodon continue down a more radio-friendly road, but if this was the type of shit I heard when I turned on the radio than I am all for it; Great songwriting, catchy riffs with a good dollop of classic Mastodon proginess, and a coherent musical narrative throughout. Once More Round The Sun actually feels like a record as opposed to the disjointed collection of songs that was The Hunter. 

8. Black Anvil - Hail Death

I picked up this grimy little gem at the Relapse Records tent at Maryland Deathfest purely on record cover alone. Just  how fucking Necro is that cover?! It looks like the kind of thing a 16-year-old midwestern teenager would get as a tattoo to prove just how Cvlt he is to his four friends on the internet. Thankfully, Black Anvil's Hail Death is far more than its wonderful design work. This is gritty, blackened death metal that is as brooding and evil as it is uplifting and epic. The attention to detail Black Anvil pay to songwriting has created a record packed with incredibly memorable tunes; I can't tell you how many times I've listened to the songs "Still Reborn" and "Seven Stars Unseen" on repeat during my commute to work, using all of my strength to suppress the desire to headbang from Jolicoeur to McGill.

7. USA Out of Vietnam - Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes

It is an impossible task to describe this record with any degree of accuracy in only a single paragraph. Simply listing the possible influences and sub genres contained within Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes would keep us here all afternoon, but this is what makes Montreal's USA Out of Vietnam so wonderfully confounding. There are some more predominant aspects; Doom, drone, psychedelic, post-rock, and dream pop elements all feature heavily, but again going too deep into the comparison hole really doesn't tell you anything as the music is far more than the sum of its parts; richly layered, contemplative, haunting, and utilizing an incredibly diverse pallet of instrumentation and sounds. The only other clue I can provide is that the band recorded this record at Hotel2Tango where Godspeed! You Black Emperor recorded some of there best stuff.

6. Coffinworm - IV.I.VII

Hey friend, feeling a bit down in the dumps? Need something lift your spirits? Something to add an extra dose of sunshine to your day like a warm hug from a friend or a YouTube video of kittens playing with ribbon? Then don't listen to this fucking record. 

Coffinworm's newest offering may be one of the most unsettling pieces of music I've heard in quite some time. The songs seem single-handedly crafted to impart a maximum dosage of despair and  existential terror, while at the same time treating us to 35+ mins of masterfully crafted, strangely satisfying doom/sludge.

5. Baptists  - Bloodmines


Dudes in Baptists, how the hell do you drop a record this great only a year after releasing the equally excellent Bushcraft? You realize that now we are going to expect a new slab of razor-sharp Entombed-core madness at regular 12 month intervals, right? Maybe Kurt can build you guys an apartment behind God City. 

For those of you not aware of Vancouver hardcore act Baptists (what's the rent like under that rock?), let me pose some comparative questions. Do you like bands like Trap Them, The Secret, and Converge? Does Kurt Ballou's name seem to pop up frequently in your record collection? What if we added a drum performance from percussion Wunderkind Nick Yacyshyn that will melt the flesh from your unworthy bones? Sound groovy? (warning: Video is awesomely NSFW)

4. YOB - Clearing The Path to Ascend

I am admittedly a latecomer to YOB, only hearing about them after purchasing last year's The First and Last Days of Unwelcome by Lumbar, the excellent collaboration between YOB vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt, Tad Doyle (Tad) and Aaron Edge (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Grievous, Swearengen, lots more..), and only purchased Clearing The Path to Ascend after seeing it pop up on almost every end-of-year metal album list. Well, better late to the party than missing out entirely and after giving this record multiple spins, I completely understand the praise. YOB have created a truly monolithic hour+ of monstrous, rumbling riffs set to a glacial pace. The wonderful dynamic shifts keep the songs, which each clock in at around 15 minutes in length, engaging while creating a trance-like atmosphere. "Marrow" may be one of the songs of the year. 


3. Nux Vomica - S/T

With their newest full length, Portland's Nux Vomica continue to prove that progressive composition need not subtract from punk's ferocious indignation. Far from it; the subtle, melodic facets contained within Nux Vomica's brand of black and doom metal-infused crust punk make the sections of unbridled savagery that much more satisfying and impactful. It's as if Neurosis and Tragedy had a baby who grew up to burn down Wallstreet.

2. Behemoth - The Satanist 

It may sound pretty corny, but I believe The Satanist is the album Behemoth were always meant to make. After lead singer / guitarist Nergal (aka Adam Darksi) was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, Behemoth's future was of course uncertain. Thankfully, Nergal was able to receive a bone marrow transplant and make a remarkable recovery, and if I were to use one word to describe Behemoth's newest offering it would be "Triumphant". The Satanist is truly Behemoth's best and most compelling work to date. The music, while more blasphemous than a crucifix made out of severed goat penises, is majestic and strangely inspirational. Behemoth's musicianship has always been top notch, but the quality of the songwriting allows us to better appreciate that skill. 

1. Full of Hell / Merzbow

Is anyone really shocked? Given the opportunity, I will talk your Goddamn ear off about Full of Hell, a band that is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting acts in contemporary extreme music. Full of Hell have always been fans of incorporating Noise elements into there music, infusing their already cacophonous hybrid of grind and hardcore with even more discord. So it makes total sense that FOH would look to collaborate with reclusive Japanese Noise musician Merzbow on their new record. The result is joyful sonic torture. 

As I mentioned, I missed a BUNCH of great records this year and it may take until mid 2015 for me to catch up. Here is a list of stuff that probably warranted a spot on this list if I'd actually had the time to listen:

1. Trap Them - Blissfucker
2. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden
3. Obliterations - Poison Everything
4. Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God
5. Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God (yeah, they released two of them)
6. Mortals - Cursed to See the Future
7. Code Orange - I am King

Of course, 2015 is shaping up to another excellent year for music. Here is a list of albums I am looking forward to:

1. Sumac - The Deal (Aaron Turner from ISIS and Nick Yacyshyn from Baptists? Does the special edition come with a fresh pair of boxers?)

Yeah, I'm sure there are tons of other things I could put on this list, but I'm just so incredibly stoked to hear this Sumac record I really can't be bothered to think of anything else.

Well, that's it for now! As an expecting father, I'm predicting my 2015 best of list will include crushing jams from the Disney and Dora the Explorer catalogue. Stay tuned!

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