In early December, I decided I wasn’t going to do a year end list. It isn’t that I’m all of the sudden anti-list; I still love lists, but this year I just wasn’t feeling it. I gotta be honest, after five years of doing THKD I’m fucking weary, and laboring over a list just felt like yet another metal writing chore. Besides, if you read the blog regularly and follow me on social media, you already know what I liked this year.
But then it occurred to me that being just one person, I’m only able to cover a fraction of what I like, even though I’m averaging around ninety posts a year. So, why not make a list covering the best of all the great metal I wasn’t able to cover? Seemed like a pretty fair idea. So without further ado and in no particular order, here’s a list of albums I enjoyed thoroughly but simply didn’t get the chance to write about for one reason or another. Most of these will be familiar to you, but that doesn’t make them any less worth celebrating.
1349 – Massive Cauldron of Chaos (Season of Mist)
1349’s latest is an exercise in thrashing traditional black metal carnage and a refreshingly straightforward change of pace for the band after the experimental nightmare that was Revelations of the Black Flame and Demonoir‘s somewhat unfocused-sounding attempt to split the difference. They might have been a little late to the party, but with Massive Cauldron of Chaos they’ve grown into kings of the genre with a penchant for infectiously ripping riffage, as well as blast-beating havoc courtesy of drummer Kjetil “Frost” Haraldstad. The fact of the matter is, there simply isn’t another big league band doing Norwegian black metal as well as these guys right now.
Today is the Day – Animal Mother (Southern Lord)
For twenty-two years and ten albums, TITD has been one of the ugliest-sounding, most intense bands that I can think of. Animal Mother sees them returning to their noisy, chaotic roots after the more traditionally rocking (but still plenty twisted) Pain is a Warning, and the result is some of the best material they’ve put to tape since 2002’s epic Sadness Will Prevail. The album seethes with TITD founder Steve Austin’s patented brand of insanity, his guitar tone the audial equivalent of someone scraping off your flesh with steel wool. Each and every Today is the Day album is a descent into madness, but Animal Mother is surely among the band’s most potent statements of maniacal intent.
Orange Goblin – Back from the Abyss (Candlelight)
Is there a band in existence that can out-riff Orange Goblin? Fusing elements of stoner rock, sludge, punk and Southern rock, the Brits have been on a roll that started back in 2007 with Healing Through Fire and continues to gain momentum seven years down the line on Back from the Abyss. Indeed, it’s because of that hard rockin’ riffage and devastating swagger that this album became a permanent fixture in my car this year; there’s no better soundtrack for cruising down the road on a sunny California day. In a world where real rock ‘n’ roll still mattered, these guys would be ruling the airwaves and headlining your local enormodome, but at least those in the know can blast the likes of “Ubermensch” and “Devil’s Whip.”
Exodus – Blood In Blood Out (Nuclear Blast)
I hadn’t really kept up with Exodus these past few years due to my dislike for vocalist Rob Dukes; his indistinct vocals and alpha male persona were a bit of a turn-off for a cream puff like myself. So when it was announced that Steve “Zetro” Souza, the man who’d shredded his pipes on thrash classics such as Pleasures of the Flesh and Fabulous Disaster was returning to fold, I decided it was finally time to check back in with the Bay Area’s finest. Turns out Blood In Blood Out is every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be, with guitarist Gary Holt peeling off a barrage of classic thrash riffs and Souza bringing his signature leather-lunged nastiness to wicked-ass tracks like “Salt the Wound” and “BTK.” Indeed, Exodus still thrashes harder than bands half their age.
Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (Dark Descent)
Canada’s Thantifaxath create terrifyingly angular, dissonant black metal on Sacred White Noise, an album that brings a sense of mystery and willful obscurity back to the genre. The production is crystal clear, allowing one to fully appreciate each song’s tangled mass of madness, yet the ear-bleeding treble attack that characterized the earliest manifestations of the 2nd wave is also present and accounted for. Indeed, it is Thantifaxath’s ability to push the genre forward while at the same time exhibiting an unwavering reverence for what came before that makes them such a special band, which in turn makes Sacred White Noise one of the most compelling black metal debuts to come along in ages.
Mastodon – Once More ‘Round the Sun (Reprise)
While I miss the conceptual psychedelia of Crack the Skye and the ten-ton heaviness of Remission, Mastodon are morphing into quite the pop metal band, and what seemed a bit like a failed experiment on 2011’s The Hunter is finally starting to come to fruition with Once More ‘Round the Sun. Songs such as “The Motherload” “High Road” and the title track are among the catchiest the band has ever written, yet they still manage to flex plenty of metallic muscle. The thundering sludge and cerebral concepts of the band’s early days may never return, but one can’t deny that with Once More ‘Round the Sun, Mastodon have matured into the best metal band in the mainstream.
Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)
I have to admit to being skeptical about the return of Godflesh; mainman Justin Broadrick has been doing Jesu for so long now that I wondered whether he still had it in him to create the kind of oppressive, mechanized heaviness that characterized the band’s heyday. A World Lit Only By Fire more than silences the naysayers (myself included) by being their heaviest album since Streetcleaner. Rather than progress the Godflesh sound, Broadrick and bassist G.C. Green have taken the band back to its roots, resulting in one very satisfying comeback album. Much like Carcass’ Surgical Steel last year, A World Lit Only By Fire is the one comeback album that not only lived up to the hype, but smashed it to smithereens.
Code Orange – I Am King (Deathwish)
I had never heard of Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids, apparently) when I got the presser about them, but once you hear the devastating excellence that is I Am King, you sure as shit can never un-hear it. The album brutalizes your ears with sounds ranging from ferocious metallic hardcore to quasi-industrial noisescapes to shoegaze in the space of thirty-three short minutes, yet it somehow manages to hang together as a cohesive whole thanks to exquisitely dynamic songwriting. These guys and gal are probably young enough to be my fucking kids, which means Code Orange is just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential. Consider yourselves warned.
Electric Wizard – Time to Die (Spinefarm)
Electric Wizard are one of my favorite bands of all time and yet I never seem to write about them. Perhaps it’s because I subconsciously prefer to keep them pure, enjoying them strictly as a fan w/o subjecting them to the analysis that THKD requires. Whatever the case, I consider it a cause for celebration anytime they release something, and Time to Die is a long, strange trip that recalls the bad ol’ days of Dopethrone and Come My Fanatics… or maybe I’m just hallucinating that due to the presence of original Wizard drummer Mark Greening. Whatever the case, Time to Die is dark, dirty and fucked up, just the way I like it from these Dorset doom-mongers.
Crowbar – Symmetry in Black (eOne)
Symmetry in Black might be the best metal album of 2014 that no one seemed to be talking about. Easily Crowbar’s finest hour since Odd Fellows Rest, Kirk Windstein and Co. sound positively rejuvenated here, hammering out tunes like “Walk with Knowledge Wisely” “The Taste of Dying” and “Symbolic Suicide” as if their lives depended on it. The band continues to have a knack for coming up with riffs and melodies that walk a fine line between depressive and ass-kicking, and Windstein’s guitar tone is so thick ‘n’ chunky that you could probably use it to beat someone to death. Crowbar have always been something of an underrated band, and it doesn’t appear that Symmetry in Black did anything to change that, but it damn well should’ve.
Honorable Mentions I didn’t write about:
Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville) – It’s great to hear Nick Holmes growling again.
Obituary – Inked in Blood (Relapse) – I don’t get why so many people hated on this.
Earth – Primitive & Deadly (Southern Lord) – Dylan Carlson is my eternal man-crush.
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (Season of Mist) – Dig those Thorns-y RIFFS.
Disfigurement of Flesh – Herbarium w/ Grotesque Necrotic Malformations (Death Metal Industry) – Of all the ignorant slam I listened in 2014, this was my fav.
Mysticum – Planet Satan (Peaceville) – Space whistle kvlt eternal.
Traumatomy – Beneficial Amputation of Excessive Limbs (Morbid Generation) – More ignorant slamz from Disfigurement of Flesh dudez + the vocalist from Gorevent.
Black Twilight Circle – Tliltic Tlapoyauak (Ajna Offensice / Crepusculo Negro) – I’ll have the BTC sampler platter, please.
Boris – Noise (Sargent House) – Because it’s Boris, and Boris can do no wrong.
Guttural Secrete – Recreating the Stumps (self-released) – Technically a compilation of odds and ends, but GS do br00tal death metal better than anyone else.
Best Live Shows I didn’t write about:
King Diamond @ The Warfield, San Francisco, CA – Hail to the King, baby!
Macabre / Ringworm / Panzerfaust @ Starlite Lounge, Sacramento, CA – Macabre knocked it out of the park, Ringworm was crushing, and Panzerfaust were the surprise of the night.
So there we have it, another year in the books; hard to believe I’ve stuck with THKD for five years and counting… It’s officially the longest I’ve ever stuck with any of my various creative endeavors. Normally this is the part where I do my “thank yous,” but at this point y’all know who you are. That said, I can’t thank those of you that have been reading and supporting THKD throughout the years enough, it really does mean the fucking world to me! I hope you’ll stick with me for another five years and beyond, because even though I might need a break every now and then, I intend on doing this ’til I’m in the ground.