Here is a collection of recommended items from the blacker end of the metal spectrum that I spotted and heard yesterday; I have some others that I’ll feature tomorrow. I wrote most of this last night, just before the alcohol-soaked holiday party hosted by the place where I work. The parts that don’t make any sense were written this morning as I began the long road to recovery.
Yesterday brought additional details from Profound Lore about the next album by Leviathan: As previously disclosed, the album’s title is Scar Sighted; it will be released March 3 digitally and on CD; it was produced, engineered, and mixed by Billy Anderson; and it includes nine tracks. There was also this info about the album’s packaging, with a reference to the artwork I’ve included at the top of this post:
“Scar Sighted” will be packaged as a boxed CD edition (the only version of the CD this will be available as) which will come with eleven two-sided inserts featuring exclusive paintings by Jef Whitehead himself (one of them being the one pictured, LEVIATHAN logo watermarked specifically for online purposes, there is no actual front cover for “Scar Sighted”). The vinyl edition, to be released a month or so after the CD/digital version will also be specially packaged and will be released via the artists’ own Devout Records imprint (in which we will directly update you on its progress in due time).
This is an album I’m eager to hear, in part because I have a feeling it will include some surprises (see this interview of Wrest for reasons why I think that). This is the track list:
(Comrade Aleks brings us this interview of Michał Śliwa of the Polish atmospheric doom band Echoes of Yul.)
Echoes of Yul (Opole, Poland) was started as an instrumental doom project with some experimental influences that give their first self-titled album some unique and strange atmosphere. Time has passed, and with each new release Echoes of Yul became stranger and more eclectic. Their second LP brought even more researches with dark electric sound and haunting samples, so I was not surprised that their EP Tether came with a bunch of remixes amidst a few new tracks. Even the name of the new drone-like track “Asemic”, which was included in a 2014 split-CD by Echoes Of Yul and Thaw, means “a wordless writing”, as the project remains an instrumental one. But Michał, the man behind Echoes, has some words to share, so we did this interview a couple of days ago.
Salute Michal! What’s going on in a life of Echoes of Yul? Did the sales of your last album “Tether” go well enough?
Hello Aleksey. Echoes of Yul is very busy – as always. I am recording and arranging a new album, doing remix work etc. In September I released a split album with Thaw on the Instant Classic label.
Regarding the sales of “Tether” I’m not sure whether Zoharum Records are satisfied with the results. I am aware that it is niche music with a small number of listeners, and it’s a good thing that Zoharum is rather a child of love to music than a business venue, so I haven’t heard any complaints. But you know in a wider view streaming music, downloads, etc. is slowly killing small labels. I totally respect their passion to increase their catalogue with new bands. They put a lot of effort and cash into promoting, packaging, and discovering hidden treasures.
(Combined in this post are two different reflections on the live performances by Sólstafir, Mortals, and Pallbearer in Seattle on December 10, 2014, one by BadWolf and one by me (Islander). And for a third, you should also read Gemma Alexander’s wonderful write-up at her own blog — here. Unless otherwise noted, the photos accompanying this post were taken by me on a iPhone because BadWolf forgot his fancy camera.)
REVIEW BY BADWOLF
A band whose time has come.
Those are the only words that suit Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir in 2014. Most musicians never achieve what I’ve witnessed this year in Sólstafir—a moment (well, series of moments) that seem like the culmination of disparate chains of events, causal and serendipitous. In short, a climax. The money shot, one that seems both cathartic and earned, not for Sólstafir’s listeners, but for the band themselves.
The band of black metal cowboys has made music for two decades in relative obscurity, at least in the United States. I first encountered the group while trawling message boards in college, ravenous for progressive metal and finding most of it lacking. Sólstafir were different. Their early tracks came via shady download sites in low bitrates, with files unable to properly display the accent marks in their song titles, but still I found myself enamored of their unique sound, a mix of atmospheric sludge and progressive black metal that strived for beauty, not abrasiveness. Since then the band became a perennial NCS favorite and inked a deal with Season of Mist records, who released their fourth album, Svartir Sandar to a wider audience. Still, conversationally, Sólstafir was a footnote in greater conversations, even though one of their songs debuted at #1 in Iceland.
(We welcome our old friend deckard cain back to the site. He brings us his list of the 50(ish) best albums of 2014, listed in no particular order, despite the appearance of numbers.)
And yet another morbid year turns to dust, leaving only ashes in its wake. Dread sells on the television, nations bathe in the crudity of oil, religions find legitimacy through violence, virus and vermin swing the scythe ever so swiftly, and the world inches ever forward to becoming an all encompassing panopticon.
Our lives are doomed. But there is beauty in doom. And music in all its glorious manifestations (let alone metal) keeps our sanity at bay. 2015 was good for metal. And so shall it be with each passing year. More doom equates to more room, nay more cause for metal to remain relevant.
Imagine. Several years from now, as humanity is laid decimated or completely brought to naught, an alien species lands and scours the land for the remnants of a civilization that once was. They find amidst the rubble of a once glorious city, caked in the dust of the preceding eons, a curious looking circular disc. With the words etched, stark in their prophetic reach, “The Dead of the World”.
And with that I start the first entry in my list.
(Andy Synn’s five-part retrospective on the year in metal concludes with his list of the “Personal Top 10″. Previous installments on the “Great”, the “Good”, the “Disappointing”, and the “Critical Top 10″ albums can be found here, here, here, and here.)
So this is it… it’s the Final Countdown (cue the music!)
Seriously though, I hope you’ve all enjoyed and appreciated all my lists so far, and discovered (or rediscovered) some new or overlooked gems in the process. It’s definitely as much fun for me to write the things as I hope it is for others to read them, as it allows me to collect my thoughts and really take stock of just how good each year is, and look back on all the various trends and twists that have come and gone.
My “Personal Top 10” list is exactly that, a simple representation of what I have personally (and almost uncritically) loved the most this year. Whereas I try and make the “Critical Top 10” list as impartial and honestly representative of the year as I can do, my Personal list is just a reflection of my own tastes and biases – unashamed and unfiltered.
I can tell you right now, in fact, that even if I were to expand the list to 20, only a few entries from the Critical list would probably get a look in. Some would, no doubt about it, but by and large my personal favourites differ quite a bit from what I’d objectively class as the year’s “Best” albums. Though I’d argue that many/most of these albums definitely are amongst the best I’ve heard this year.
So, without further ado, my final list of completely super-pretentious garbage for all of those unlucky enough to have been born after the 1970s!
(We bring you the premiere of a new song by New Jersey’s Apocrophex, with an introduction by Austin Weber.)
Earlier this year at NCS, I wrote about a two-man technical death metal group called Apocrophex. They are a new band, having just released their first material in February of this year, a two-song EP entitled Wheels Within Wheels that I discussed in that earlier post. Hot off the heels of that introduction to their world, they are giving NCS the opportunity to showcase a tantalizing new song, “The Grey”, as a teaser to their upcoming debut full-length, Suspended From The Cosmic Altaar (featuring cover art by Raul Gonzalez).
While they only have two members, with Justin Buell handling the guitar, bass, and drum programming and Pete Colucci providing the vocals, their music really does sound like the expansive and multi-faceted work of a full band, which is a testament to both their skill and their songwriting craft. I was already hooked on them from their first EP, but figured they still had untapped potential that would keep us interested in what their future might hold. Well, “The Grey” shows them tapping into that potential.
(We’re delighted once again to bring you a “best of the year” list from our friend Jacobo Córdova, the man behind the magnificent Majestic Downfall from Mexico, and a fixture in the lethal Zombiefication as well.)
I am very grateful for being able to share with all NCS readers, and for the second year in a row, what I consider to be the best releases of 2014. Once again I want to say that although I didn´t listen to everything I wish I had gotten my ears on in 2014, I certainly got to a lot of it, and my overall view of the year for Metal is quite positve.
This time, and to make it a bit different from last year, I will have other “sections” mentioning great albums that although not released this year, had something special and came to life this year (at least for me, since their dues were not paid on time).
(Austin Weber introduces our premiere of a new song by a Connecticut band named Archaic Decaptator.)
2014 isn’t over just yet. But I am already on to 2015 releases, earlier than normal I might add. While getting a break would have been nice, when good metal music beckons, I try to answer its demented siren call and spread the word. Which is why I needed to write about Archaic Decapitator, a Connecticut-based death metal group, one who are fairly new to me.
I found out about the band because technical death metal badasses Formless quite recently posted a link to a newly released song of theirs, “Sublevels” (which I will embed below). I suspect they did so because their bassist, Craig Breitsprecher, is in both bands, and also does backing vocals in Archaic Decapitator. I’m pretty happy to have heard this audio recommendation, as this turns out to be yet another underground band worthy of championing.
I struck up by the idea of a song premiere, leading to this newly released eargasm, “Ethereal Aspects”. The impeccably badass song serves is an early teaser to the band’s upcoming EP, The Catherine Wheel.
Five days have passed since I compiled the last round-up of news and new music. I’ve seen and heard many things I would have preferred to write about as they were appearing, but I’ve been otherwise occupied with year-end lists — not writing them myself, of course, but doing the much more important work of embedding album art and song streams and currecting typoz. This takes time, and after doing it for more than a hundred different albums over the space of five days, my brain now has the consistency of porridge.
So, to give my brain a chance to gel again, I’ve taken a break from my immensely important editorial duties and collected the following items for your entertainment (and mine). Though these notices are not all timely, I believe they are all worthy of attention.
KEEP OF KALESSIN
What you see above is the gatefold album art for Epistemology, the new album by Norway’s Keep of Kalessin, which will be released on February 16 by Indie Recordings. The artwork was chosen by the band based on a contest in which more than a hundred artists submitted designs.
(Andy Synn’s five-part retrospective on the year in metal continues with his list of the “Critical Top 10″. Previous installments on the “Great”, the “Good”, and the “Disappointing” albums can be found here, here, and here.)
So there’s just two more lists left this week, and then I’m (almost, maybe, possibly, ok not really…) done rounding up this past year in metal.
To differentiate between the two, I’ve dubbed them (as in previous years), the “Personal Top 10” and the “Critical Top 10”, as I’ve taken a slightly different approach to compiling each one. The “Personal” list is, as you might have guessed, simply a list of my ten favourite albums of the year, which simply gives an insight into my own personal tastes and preferences, whereas the “Critical” list is where I’ve tried to be as impartial as possible, and really select albums which I think I could (semi)objectively justify as being the year’s best.
However, this year I’ve made the decision not to explicitly rank the “Critical Top 10” albums – partially because I was having enough trouble just slimming my initial list of candidates down to just 10 in the first place, and partly because I’ve decided to try and do things slightly differently this year – and instead I’ve tried to focus more on providing what I think is a cultural (and critical) snapshot of the year, selecting ten albums, from across the length and breadth of the metal spectrum, that I think embody the spirit and variety of the genre, as well as being amongst the best that 2014 has had to offer.
Think of it like a time-capsule of the year in metal, with me trying to select ten representatives that future generations will be able to look back on with a mixture of awe and incredulity.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. After the jump, my selections for ten of the best, most critically praised albums of 2014!