Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Sludgelord Presents: Daniel Jackson's Top 25 Records of 2014

25. Freedom Call - Beyond

I will always remember 2014 as the year I learned to embrace traditional heavy metal and power metal. This album is downright joyful and it’s one I turned to whenever I need a spiritual lift. Top notch power metal.

24. Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer (The 7 Temptations of Man)

Ferocious and often completely unhinged black metal. It’s slightly less progressive than 2010’s ‘Time is Sulphur in the Veins of the Saint’, but the narrower focus makes this album more cohesive than its predecessor and therefore better in my book.

23. Vanhelgd - Relics of Sulphur Salvation

More restrained than most in the speed department for a death metal band, and the riffs are able breathe and leave a lasting impact as a result. Not just any band could make this approach work, but Vanhelgd has mastered this style

22. Necrophagia - White Worm Cathedral

A bit of a surprise for me as I’d kind of given up hope after a string of releases that didn’t click with me at all. This one’s supremely catchy and the classic horror schtick is through the roof (in a good way).

21. Generation of Vipers - Coffin Wisdom

This one crept up out of nowhere. I’d never even heard the name prior to this one landing in my inbox, and beyond the massive heaviness, you’ll have a difficult time finding a band with a better rhythm section or just rhythm in general for a post metal band.

20. Judas Priest - Redeemer of Souls

This is the first Judas Priest album since Painkiller that’s really resonated with me. The one-two combo of ‘Halls of Valhalla’ and ‘Sword of Damocles’ is a deadly one and the album’s highlight, but there’s plenty more greatness to go around. It’s great to have them in such a strong form again.

19. Bastard Sapling - Instinct is Forever

This was almost guaranteed to end up on my list just for existing. A love letter to the less necro side of 90s second wave black metal. This album scorches from top to bottom, though ‘Lantern at the End of Time’ is one of the great songs of the year.

18. Slough Feg - Digital Resistance

Though very different musically from Freedom Call, Digital Resistance gives me a similarly joyful feeling every time I listen to it. There’s no band that sounds like Slough Feg in 2014 and that’s a testament to just how creative they are.

17. Mare Cognitum - Phobos Monolith

Wonderful atmospheric black metal. Not so heavy on the atmosphere that it loses ferocity when it’s aiming for it. Mare Cognitum are a similar hemisphere as Darkspace, but wisely very different and willing to change things up.

16. Nux Vomica - Nux Vomica

In my review of this album, I thought it would have to be a hell of a year for Nux Vomica to end up out of my top 3 for the year. Turns out it was a hell of a year, but this is still an elite level sludge/crust hybrid, with a better grasp of melody than most.

15. Midnight - No Mercy for Mayhem

This band seems to be incapable of doing much wrong in my mind. Sleaze upon sleaze, Venom upon Motorhead; this band is going to be a consistent favorite for years to come at this rate.

14. Panopticon - Roads to the North

They’ve somehow managed to improve upon the Kentucky formula with the bluegrass and folk elements being performed at a higher level and the inclusion of mid-90s Gothenburg death metal riffs being a great new addition to the overall direction.

13. Mortals - Cursed to See the Future

Even being in the top 15, I may have underrated this album when I look back on this list over the years. Blending black metal and sludge driven by brilliant rhythm choices and riffs that are layered but not over-busy. They’re a must-watch live, too.

12. The Great Old Ones - Tekeli-Li

There’s so many elements melted into one cohesive sound with The Great Old Ones, that it’s damn near impossible to give a truly accurate description of them. The base is post metal and sludge, but you’ve got tons of black metal and even some Daylight Dies style melodic death-doom. You’ll just have to listen to it.

11. Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

Thick, melodic doom with its heart belonging to 70s and 80s metal and hard rock. They’ve got a lot of appeal outside of the metal bubble, likely because they’re gifted songwriters and can craft a merciless hook, but it is what it is: a metal album that places more importance on melody than worrying about metal purism.

10. Diocletian - Gesundrian

This is something else. See, I’m a huge fan of Angelcorpse and bands along those lines. This is the ugliest, nastiest version of that style of death metal. Albums like Gesundrian are why I’ll never really get into ultra-polished death metal acts. This is just too much more engaging.

09. Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation

Talk about a fully-realized band concept from start to finish! They sound just like their album cover looks. It takes the feel and atmosphere of Gorguts/Immolation/Ulcerate and combines it with this awesome mechanical bass tone that sounds like a android freaking out. Not the most eloquent description, but it’s the best one I’ve got.

08. Nightfell - The Living Ever Mourn

An excellent marriage of Tragedy-style crust with Mournful Congregation style doom melodies resulting in a fantastic new death/doom metal band. Because the two styles haven’t really been blended very much, it sounds fresh and interesting despite its relative orthodoxy.

07. Skull Fist - Chasing the Dream

Very much stuck in the past, but still overflowing with youthful exuberance. Tremendous heavy metal songcraft with top-tier consistency from top to bottom. Might be a bit glam-sounding for some folks, but this is the year I’ve wholly embraced 70s and 80s metal in a way that I never have before, thanks to the awesome 80s Essentials series that Last Rites published this year. This hit that same sweet spot in a big way for me.

06. Thantifaxath - Sacred White Noise

Showing that there’s no need to get into post-anything in order to keep black metal moving forward, Thantifaxath have created a sound that avoids being derivative while still being clearly black metal. It’s unnerving, jarring, and harrowing; which black metal rarely is anymore. If ‘The Return’ is a classic Universal monster movie, Sacred White Noise is Martyrs.

05. Dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer

I’ve written a lot about this album, but in a nutshell it comes down to this: Dawnbringer wring every drop they can out of each and every riff and do so while keeping everything so simple and memorable that everything on the album means something. Sure on the surface its a combination of classic heavy metal and doom, but the care that goes into it is in a class all its own.

04. Morbus Chron - Sweven

I struggled with the order of the top 5 quite a bit. Any of these albums could justifiably be at the top. In Morbus Chron’s case, they’ve have taken a foundation of early Death and built from that wild, visionary sound that indicates that they’re not done exploring. Experimentation is a beautiful thing when it’s successful.

03. Horrendous - Ecdysis

A lot of people have heaped praise on this one and deservedly so. Ecdysis and Sweven have been neck and neck for me ever since I got a hold of Ecdysis in the early fall. Neither is really better or worse than the other, but a tie is a cop out where one isn’t needed. I’ve given the slightest of edges to Ecdysis because there isn’t a song on Sweven that quite matches up to “The Stranger”. It might be more conventional than Sweven, but the narrowest of songwriting margins favors Horrendous.

02. Primordial - Where Greater Men Have Fallen

It’s hard to come up with something to write about Primordial that hasn’t been written about them by people much smarter and more eloquent than I will ever be. If you’ve heard Primordial over the last 10 years or so, you have a general idea as to what this will sound like. This is on par with To The Nameless Dead if not better, which would make this one of their two best albums to date. Not to mention they’ve recorded their best song to date with Wield Lightning to Split the Sun

01. Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

This is the best complete album of 2014. While many of the albums on this list are a tremendous collection of songs; Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry feels like a singular journey from start to finish. Melodic black metal rarely reaches this level of depth and intricacy without becoming something else entirely. A magical album from the opening note.