(Our guest Ben Smasher provides a year-end of favorite releases.)
In the early 2000s or so, metal began to embrace to its fullest extent the importance of utilizing recording, mixing, and mastering styles to further the atmospheric effectiveness of an album. The albums that taught us this were incidentally opportunistic in this fashion, yet their happy accidents became precedent. So bands all became incredibly capable of making records that sounded amazing, yet I feel the genre really got stuck in the mud as far as progression in influences and song writing.
In 2014 I feel like we’ve finally worked through this period and bands are really starting to write great albums again. Albums whose notes and rhythms seem to wrap themselves around each of our veins and alter our being as we take it in. I look for next year to bring this quality to the stage even more.
1) Falls of Rauros – Believe In No Coming Shore
My life is now divided into two chapters: before this album entered my life, and after. Words cower in the presence of this album, so I won’t waste them. Listen to this now.
2) Panopticon – Roads to the North
Sincere, elaborate, illustrious, and effective. This is a remarkable accomplishment and an album that will continue to influence music for years into the future.
3) Merkaba – Bones of the Sacred Forest
Bones… is an ensorcelling, unfathomably powerful effort. It has everything that a brilliant album should.
4) Eternum – Devouring Descent
It is rare that music comes along so steeped in atmosphere, so capable of pulling me into another world so effectively and comfortably. I can’t get over how brilliant this album is. It’s perfect.
5) Cross Vault – Spectres of Revocable Loss
Totally enjoyable record. Simple, unique, and sorrowful. I wish more doom sounded like this.
6) Bekëth Nexëhmü – De Svarta Riterna
These guys are probably a bunch of assholes, but they make some of the most chilling black metal I’ve heard in the last decade.
7) Waldgefluster – Meine Fesseln
It all comes together on this album. This is a stirring and effective opus drenched in feeling.
8) Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel
Holy Bathory! If you squint your eyes a bit, you can pretend that this album happened instead of Requiem and Octagon. What an unbelievably masterful debut.
9) Jute Gyte – Vast Chains
UGH! This is so ugly, off-putting, and gritty. I pretty much die for metal like this. Totally disharmonic, destructive, dissonant, chaotic, obnoxious metal. If the vocals and drums were better, this would be much higher up the list.
10) Ghoulgotha – The Deathmass Cloak
Comparing these guys to any other band would be idiotic. This is a much-needed, refreshing, and original take on meat-and-potatoes death metal. Pick this up and you won’t be able to put it down.
Editor’s Note: Dark Descent’s official release date for this album is January 13, but Ben provided photographic evidence that he received his copy of the CD in the mail last week.