(Today we welcome Dan Barkasi to NCS. Dan plans to provide a monthly column on new metal releases that ring his chimes, and in this post he introduces himself with a year-end list of top albums and EPs.)
Hello, fine folks of NCS! My name is Dan Barkasi, and I’m a newcomer to this fine collection of music lovers. Who the hell are you, you say? Simply, you’re looking at a guy who – like yourself – has a very keen love of music. And, yeah, this guy tends to never shut up about it. But that’s good, as I get to share lots of goodies with you all!
I’ve been writing since 2003, am 32-years-old, and have been listening to the good stuff since I hit the ripe old impressionable age of 12. So really, about two decades of living this sort of music. That makes one feel really old!
Anyways, the subject of this monthly column is going to be what’s been rotating that’s new and fresh in my scattered brain. Maybe a mention of some classics along the way, as well.
While thinking about what the best way to introduce myself to you fine folks, the conclusion was to cook up an extensive year-end list. You’ll get to know my musical preferences – which are all pretty damn eclectic – and maybe you’ll find a few gems that you may not have stumbled upon otherwise. Great! Enough of my blathering – to the tunes!
Top 30 Albums of 2014
These youngsters hailing from Cyprus have put out an absolutely killer debut. A mix of riffy black/death with ample doses of melody and a little bit of a symphonic touch is what to expect.
29. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
Mysterious and abstract black metal is Thantifaxath’s staple, and it’s one to devour immediately.
28. Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun
Consistent as can be, these masters of dreary melodic death metal have dug up yet another gem.
27. Kuolemanlaakso – Tulijousten
Finnish death/doom that stands out distinctly within the genre, with a variety of vocal styles and well-done harmonies.
26. Alcest – Shelter
This is a controversial one, with Neige stripping the band of what was left of their metal sound, and going for a dreamy post-rock vibe. No care for those complaining, as this album is soulful and smooth to a tee.
25. Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn
Whoever thought blackened death of this quality would come from hipster central, aka Portland, Oregon? This beast will make them run and hide in their upscale coffee shops.
24. Lie in Ruins – Towards Divine Death
Oh, those riffs! Lie in Ruins brings them hard and fast, putting forth a dose of top-shelf Finnish death metal. It’s a long one, too, but that doesn’t detract one bit.
23. Burden of Grief – Unchained
These guys harken back to the roots of melodic death and do it right, with a signature twist on the classic 90s sound.
22. Legion of the Damned – Ravenous Plague
That this band has been ignored in the US is a crime. Simply the best death/thrash band on the planet, and they’re eager to prove it.
21. Iskald – Nedom Og Nord
This album came out of left field! Melody-filled black metal with thrashy riffs that could produce ice at the equator.
20. Ascension – The Dead of the World
A late December release that was well worth the wait, Ascension’s approach to black metal is one of their own. In a word – fierce.
19. Infestus – The Reflecting Void
With some of the most intricately composed black metal in some time, this one-man project from Germany is in a class of its own.
18. Morbus Chron – Sweven
Progressive to the truest degree, these Swedes have crafted a brand of death metal that cannot be compared to any other band. A landmark release.
17. Fen – Carrion Skies
Dustwalker is a hell of a difficult album to follow, but Fen has managed to do so with style. Biting and dark, but with atmosphere to spare and a touch of beauty that creates a special sonic landscape
16. Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole
Looking for something one-of-a-kind? Listen to Emptiness. This disc is one that can’t be compared to anything. Listen and soak it in.
15. Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
All over the map black metal, and that’s just how Blut Aus Nord should be. Their latest is eclectic to the highest degree, with a quality level to match.
14. Vallenfyre – Splinters
Vallenfyre’s sophomore effort is even nastier than the first. Hard to believe, sure, but the proof is blatantly obvious
13. Mors Principium Est – Dawn of the Fifth Era
Shredding harder than Enron did their financial documents! MPE have followed up their acclaimed comeback album with another dose of riff heaven
12. Twilight’s Embrace – By Darkness Undone
Yet another high-impact debut, Twilight’s Embrace boasts well-written songs that are a seamless meshing of death, doom, and downtrodden gothic sensibilities
11. Temple of Void – Of Terror and the Supernatural
A musical sledgehammer to the skull, this is another one that came out of thin air. Color me impressed.
10. Neurotech – Infra Versus Ultra
Since I have a large affinity for electronic music, a perfect pairing of such with metal is always appealing to this guy’s ears. Neurotech have always been a step ahead, and this album is simply infectious. Wulf is a mad genius.
9. Ghost Brigade – IV: The Oncoming Storm
Album #4 maintains all of the esteemed qualities of the rest, with the right mix of downtrodden and hard-hitting, with some of the most haunting vocals in the business.
8. Swallowed – Lunaterial
This is bleak and a little wacked, but that’s what makes it. Grimy and it feels so good.
7. Vanhelgd – Relics of Sulphur Salvation
It’s been a great year for death metal, and this is far and away one of the best examples. Vicious and unrelenting.
6. Hideous Divinity – Cobra Verde
Continuing on the death metal tangent, this may be the heaviest album of the year. Blast this and go on a tear.
5. Decembre Noir – A Discouraged Believer
Brilliantly composed and emotionally tinged as it is devastating. These Germans have crafted a slab of death/doom that is unmatched this year. Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe this seasoned debut.
4. Anathema – Distant Satellites
Weather Systems may have been a little better than this, but it’s also comparing gold with gold. The kings of melancholy and beautiful songwriting, Anathema tug at the heartstrings like no other.
3. Helevorn – Compassion Forlorn
How this band has evaded me all these years is a mystery, but finding them has been a revelation. Majestic doom metal done flawlessly, with melodies that are out of this universe
2. Aenaon – Extance
Weird progressive black metal, with strong jazz influences? That’s what you’ll find with Aenaon’s latest, and it’s divine. Creativity to the sax! Yes, pun definitely intended.
1. Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel
When Portal of I hit in 2012, it was a mind-blowing experience, to put it mildly. Following up an album that good is a challenge that can kill a band, but these supremely talented Aussies put that fear to rest with the utterly brilliant Citadel. NeO pick up right where they left off, with their music naturally progressing perfectly, with a lot of world music feel that helps set them apart from, well, everybody. This band constantly reminds me of why I love music so much.
Even with a listing of 30 albums, there was a whole ton that had to be left out of the list. Here are a few that just missed the cut that deserve your attention.
Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall
Dark Fortress – Venereal Dawn
Coprilith – Death March
Downfall of Gaia – Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay
Fuoco Fatuo – The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of What Remains
At the Gates – At War with Reality
Necropoli – I
The Chant – New Haven
The Haunted – Exit Wounds
Thy Darkened Shade – Liber Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet
Top 5 Eps
The full-lengths aren’t everything, as there are plenty of short plays that are deserving of attention! Here are five that particularly got me in a tizzy.
5. Nader Sadek – The Malefic Chapter III
Hard-hitting death metal solo-ish project, featuring some notable guest contributors. Salivating stuff
4. Universe217 – Ease
Soothing, relaxing, and well-composed, Universe217 has produced a sure winner. Lots of emotions to be had with this one, folks.
3. Mournful Congregation – Concrescence of the Sophia
Australian funeral doom masters showing their dreary stuff with a wrenching 30-minute short-player.
2. Bölzer – Soma
Bölzer have created quite the buzz, and rightfully so! Their latest EP is a wall of unrelenting heavy that must be heard. Can’t wait until they put out a full album!
1. Majestic Downfall/The Slow Death – Split
Note that I’m rating the Majestic Downfall portion and not the The Slow Death portion, even though their contribution was awesome. Also, my condolences to the family and friends of Gregg Williamson of The Slow Death, who sadly passed this year.
It was a struggle to sort out where to classify this – as an EP or a full-length album? It runs for a little over 35 minutes, which could be in full-length territory, but in the end I couldn’t classify a split as an independent album. So, this piece of genius lands here! These Mexican doomsters have crafted something so undeniably dazzling that it classifies as one of the best pieces of doom metal this guy has yet to hear. Ever. Listen, now.
A special mention needs to go to Dark Descent Records, who have had a damn impressive run of pristine releases this year. Keep it coming!
That’s a wrap, everybody. Thanks to those who stuck around and checked this out. I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And who knows – maybe you found something awesome that you didn’t know about? I listened to around 200 albums this year, but even with all of that music, I’m sure there are a few things that I missed. With that in mind, feel free to recommend your favorites in the comments section, as they’d be most appreciated.
Great find on Neurotech, hard to stop listening… the choirs just give me that warm and fuzzy devin townsend vibe with a depressed mode kind of atmosphere. I am surprised that The Satanist nor Triptykon’s latest effort didn’t fit the list, but you are right. There were so many damn good albums this year it is seriously difficult to fit them all on an end of year list. Serious props for including Aenaon though. I have been listening to that fucking album since it dropped and it felt like no one else even noticed.
Aenaon’s “Extance” has actually appeared on four of our year-end lists so far. And today I’m adding a track from the album to our list of the year’s “most infectious extreme metal songs”. It really is an amazing album.
Their earlier stuff like “Antagonist” is much more aggressive and straightforward, but man, this new one has so many layers and nuances. They just released an instrumental single called “The Halcyon Symphony” that I need to check out, too. Glad to see some love for them, as they’re not very known. 🙂
Triptykon’s album was absolutely awesome, but there were other stuff that simply stood out more for me.
The new Behemoth was solid, but I also liked Evangelion more. Good listening from a band that doesn’t make anything bad, but not overly spectacular for me, either.
Aenaon, yeah, not much else to say about them! That’s a band that needs to be heard by any metal fan.
Thoughts as I’m scrolling down, very stream of conscious.
1) Enjoying Stormcast.
2) Holy shit, someone else knows who Burden Of Grief is and listened to the new one. Thats one disc I was always intending to look into and never got around to it.
3) I hear the vocalist for Twlight’s Embrace is a garbage person.
4) Holy shit, someone else knows who Neurotech and Helevorn are.
It’s very difficult for metal vocalists to put bread on the table, so I don’t hold it against one who empties the trash to make ends meet.
Stormcast was a band I saw at MetalDays in 2013, and have been watching them closely ever since. Their singer/guitarist Mike is a super chill dude, and obviously, he and his bandmates make some killer stuff.
I’ve been a fan of Burden of Grief for a while. Hope to be able to catch them live someday. So consistent.
I have no idea about the singer of Twilight’s Embrace, but the music rules, so that’s all I have to go by. And as Islander said, his profession is his own concern. LOL
Glad to see another fan of Helevorn and Neurotech!
That Twilight’s Embrace band are pretty damn good.
See? Absolute garbage.
Dan, that fellow who masquerades as the vocalist for Twilight’s Embrace is our writer Andy Synn. 🙂
I hate that guy.
Well, son of a bitch haha. Starting to detest him already.
Get in line.
Its okay, I fell for it and bought the disc too.
The worst part is, you’re our biggest fan!
Dan is a friend of mine. Don’t hold it against him 🙂
Blame alien frogs.
This is a really interesting list. First thoughts – why haven’t I heard Stormcast before… oh, it only just came out earlier this month. Sneaky late year releases.
I obviously need to listen to more Mors Principium Est, and Neurotech is an interesting find.
Late releases are always a bitch. I refused to make this list until I got a hold of the new Ascension, as it came out in late December and going by the EP, it had a good chance of making this list.
Yes, definitely listen to more MPE. Their previous album, …And Death Says Live, was a real neck wrecker, too. Glad to have them back.
i love seeing Legion of the Damned show up on so many year end lists, that band is criminally underrated : )
It’s crazy, right? They get a good deal of attention and are relatively known in Europe, but here in North America, it feels like 20 people know who they are. I’d love to see them at MDF. They’d fit in perfectly and it would be a hell of a way to get noticed here.
I almost forgot about that Mors Principium Est record. I’ve loved most of what they’ve done, and love this new one too. One of the more consistently quality bands out there.
I dig every album they’ve put out, and since their re-formation, they seem to be getting stronger. They absolutely rip live, too.
Welcome Dan! Burden of Grief and Helevorn were new finds for me and greatly catchy. Thanks!
And Stormcast is similar sounding to Stormblast I believe. Whats with the storm names?
Helevorn was the biggest out of nowhere album for me. Just sort of stumbled upon it, and it captured my attention really fast. Burden of Grief rocks, too. Glad you’re enjoying!
Ha, you’re right on the “storm” thing. Just like there’s a ton of bands starting with the Æ symbol. It’s like a virus.
I found Helevorn on Bandcamp and have not stopped listening! Solid band. I’m new to deathdoom and ordinarily I don’t care for “gothic” elements. But they really pull off the depressive melodies very well. Thanks for the list, and welcome! I’m pretty new to NCS myself.
Thanks for the welcome! There’s a TON of great death/doom out there. Helevorn are definitely more on the melodic end of the spectrum, and there’s a lot of variances in that sound. If you like Helevorn, you’d probably like Hanging Garden, October Falls, and The Fall of Every Season. And for something really crushing, give Ataraxie a go. 🙂
Gonna go ahead and second those suggestions, especially Ataraxie. Their double album from last year was in my top five of the year.
Really nice list.
Kuolemanlaakso, Iskald, Ascension, Infestus, Morbus Chron, Fen, Blut Aus Nord, Vallenfyre, Temple of Void,
Vanhelgd & Aenaon released great offerings this year. I’m also nod agreeing to your honorable mentionings
and the EP list. I wish I had more time to check out Lie in Ruins, Stormcast & Helevorn.
Looking forward to your monthly column, Dan.
Thanks for this list! I counted 14 releases from bands I’ve never heard of so I can’t wait to listen to them. I’m surprised Archspire’s “The Lucid Collective” hasn’t been mentioned. I thoroughly enjoy that record.