photo by Charnelle Stöhrer
(We’re pleased to bring you a year-end list of favorite releases from Chris Grigg, a man of many talents and the founder-vocalist-guitarist of Philly black metal band WOE, whose 2013 album Withdrawal is one of the year’s highlights.)
Carcass – Surgical Steel
I can’t stand Heartwork, no matter how hard I try, so I had no good expectations for their return album. Do you ever expect to hate something, or maybe even WANT to hate something, and then feel a sense of excitement when you’re wrong? It reminds me that the world is not always predictable and that even old dogs can learn the best fucking tricks they might ever perform. This album is unrelenting in its union of intense, memorable riffs and brutality. Sacrilege though it may be, I find it hard to argue that this is anything but the best work of their career.
Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty
Oh, how I love this album. I was a huge fan of her last one, but I had a feeling that she hadn’t quite arrived at her destination, like it was a sound still in transit. This makes good on all the promise of her past work. The electronic elements are all worked in tastefully, the diverse approach pays off. More than anything, I feel as though I can on occasion hear an honest-to-Satan black metal influence when it comes to melody and arrangement. In the past, I didn’t really get it and couldn’t tell if the claims of influence were lip service paid or just too subtle to present itself overtly to my ears. Now, tell me you don’t hear Burzum in “Feral Love,” tell me that pulsing percussive noise in the background is not supposed to evoke a blast beat, and I’ll tell you that you’re a goddamn liar.
Gorguts – Colored Sands
This is one of those albums that is so powerful that I feel unworthy approaching it, like a filthy peasant trying to stand side by side with Alexander the Great. Gorguts have created an album that brings together absurd technicality with unquestionable listenability, a difficult feat that most bands will never pull off. As I approach the ripe old age of 30, I find myself less interested in unplayable blast beats and more interested in music that is direct/powerful/concise, but those camps often end up at odds with one another. Not here. This album is a testament to human creativity, a reminder of how few barriers there really are within the world of metal.
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Extremely inventive, catchy, and ominous. These guys opened me up to a world of weird textures and different ways of approaching music. They occupy the same space in my catalog as Gorguts, this total, “what the fuck, where does this come from!?” vibe and approach that I find absolutely breathtaking, refreshing, and exciting. Fans of music that pushes boundaries owe it to themselves to give this album some time.
Kanye West – Yeezus
I became a diehard Kanye fan in the end of 2013. When Woe was on tour in September, we visited the Moog factory in Ashville, NC and it sparked a serious interest in analog synths. The seeds were planted earlier in the year, when an obsession with the gothic doom of My Dying Bride led to an obsession with the gothic goth of Sisters of Mercy and other 80’s bands. Fuck Buttons opened the floodgate and allowed me to really appreciate the brilliance of Kanye’s compositions and the endless ways he can work to craft a powerful song. Yeezus has a claustrophobic, direct intensity that is extremely unique and effective, a powerful expression of Kanye’s vision. It may not be my favorite of his albums, but it is a release of true significance.
Other favorites, also in no order:
Beastmilk – Climax
Crystal Castles – (III)
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Hivelords – Cavern Apothecary
Inter Arma – Sky Burial
My Bloody Valentine – MBV
Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Sadgiqacea – False Prism
Vows – Vows EP (the Brooklyn electronic band, not the NJ indie band who also released something this year)
A Wilhelm Scream – Partycrasher
Chris, remember when you wrote a lengthy, angry manifesto directed toward Liturgy decrying “positive black metal” as “absurd”?
Why are they worth so much vitriol yet Deafheaven is worth including on your best of the year list?
I fail to see anything “positive” about the mood of Deafheaven. The use of Major chords does not immediately indicate “positive” music. Personally I find the mood of the album to be rather unsettling (in a good way), especially towards the end.
That, and deafheaven aren’t declaring themselves “above” anyone else and writing manifestos about how amazing and transcendental their music is. They’re just doing what they love and putting out albums without any pretense. Hopefully Chris will swoop in and answer this though, I’m curious as well.
This is pretty much what I was going to say. So I’ll just hit the “Agree” button.
I’m glad someone else gets creeped the hell out by Sunbather. The whole “I’m dying/Is it blissful?/It feels like a dream/I want to dream” stanza kills me every time I hear Dream House.
Can’t really reply without writing another lengthy, angry manifesto and I’m not playing that dumb game. I don’t get “positivity” from Deafheaven and my feelings about Liturgy’s “positive black metal” thing had NOTHING to do with the length or anger of that essay.
Thing is, Deafheaven is awesome, whereas Liturgy was always pretty shit.
I started getting into Chelsea Wolfe this year. I’m partial to the acoustic album, but Pain Is Beauty is a great listen. Nice to see some love for that allbum.
very diverse list, i like it
“Phillie” black metal band? Don’t you mean Philly?
Dang. I make this mistake all the time. It’s caused by the fact that my first exposure to the existence of Philadelphia was via baseball. (I fixed the error.)