(We have one more late addition to our LISTMANIA 2014 series — Andy Synn’s personal list of the Top 10 songs of 2014.)
So it turns out I’m not quite done making lists. Who’d have thought? (Answer: anyone who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention over the last couple of years… but I digress…)
This time around I’ve chosen my favourite single songs of last year, with little regard from the actual albums they come from, or the genre they represent. It’s just a selection of tracks which, for whatever reason, helped to define 2014 for me personally.
There’s an almost distressing lack of outright brutality on the list this time around as well… maybe it means I’m mellowing in my old age? Or that last year was a surprisingly un-brutal year? Or… and this is just a possibility… maybe it’s just a complete coincidence.
Anathema – Anathema
We’ll start things off with something totally contrary to the (by now well-defiled) ethos of the site, with Anathema’s eponymously titled track off the stellar Distant Satellites.
The sheer emotional weight of this song is almost unparalleled, Vincent Cavanagh’s soulful, forlorn vocals bleeding forth pain and loss with each anguished cry of “But I loved you!”, over a hypnotic ripple of ebbing piano keys, building towards a magnificent climax of ringing chords and spiraling lead guitar (with a few subtle nods towards the band’s earliest years) which rises and rises… only to dissipate suddenly at the moment of climax, dissolving back into the ether once more.
Behemoth – O Father O Satan O Sun
This one really just HAD to be on the list, didn’t it? It’s a frankly titanic song, through and through, and emblematic of the grandiose power and majesty wielded by Behemoth at their very best. The way in which the massive riffs and marching, martial pace of the song – coupled with the incredibly effective interweaving of clean background vocals with Nergal’s inimitable roar during the verses – transitions slowly but surely towards the haunting atmosphere of the song’s lengthy and captivating outro is a delight to behold, capping off a truly gargantuan, monolithic monster of a track in peerless style.
Cormorant – Sold As A Crow
The instant I heard this track I knew it was going to be an absolute classic. That mesmerizing introductory melody sets the stage for a frantic, fast-paced piece of Blackened Prog-Metal that whirls and swirls like a raving dervish, dancing nimbly from one moment of controlled chaos to the next, weaving effortlessly between moments of primal savagery and melodic contemplation with all the band’s customary flair and creativity.
Demon Hunter – I Will Fail You
Now, while I acknowledge that Demon Hunter can (and usually are) a very hit and miss band, I’m not ashamed to say I absolutely love this track. It’s slow, melodic, and melancholy, to the extent that I’ve heard some people refer to it as being very Paradise Lost-esque… a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a brilliantly well-written song – simple but nuanced throughout — but it’s that fantastic chorus that really sells it for me (see also “Departures” by Ghost Brigade for a similar example).
Ion – Echoes Through An Open Wound
An almost-13 minute instrumental track? Off my absolute favourite album of last year? Well why not? It’s my list after all…
Seriously though, this is one truly phenomenal, utterly beautiful, and at times overpowering, piece of music. It moves from gorgeous, atmospheric Post-Metal ambience to thrilling Black Metal intensity (and back again) in an absolutely seamless manner, the cosmic thunder of the drums driving the track through every twist and turn, peak and plunge, while the guitars and bass work in perfect harmony to conjure a ceaseless array of incandescent riffs and glorious lead melodies. Mindblowingly good.
Junius – The Time of Perfect Virtue
Days of the Fallen Sun was, without doubt, one of the best EPs released during 2014, brimming with brilliantly atmospheric songs and soaring vocals, carried along by some truly brilliant and nuanced drums and waves of storm-driven post-metal guitar work. “The Time of Perfect Virtue” just absolutely epitomizes the band’s ability to be both achingly vulnerable yet unexpectedly formidable at the same time. A compelling contradiction in no uncertain terms.
Lascaille’s Shroud – Reborn: The Lamentations of a Dying Universe
This is a bit of a shameless inclusion, mainly because I actually got to perform guest vocals on this track. However, I’ve decided to simply embrace the nepotism, at least to a certain extent (rather than being completely self-congratulatory by including something from Beyond Grace or Twilight’s Embrace), in order to bring some further attention to an extremely ambitious, technically proficient, and brilliantly rewarding album of pure sci-fi prog-metal goodness.
Nero Di Marte – Finis Terrae
Woefully overlooked, this little gem appeared on Nero Di Marte’s crowdfunded split with Void of Sleep, written and recorded to help both bands recoup the losses they suffered after they were robbed while out on tour. Landing somewhere between Ulcerate and Solstafir (though, I acknowledge, that’s an over-simplification), “Finis Terrae” is an absolutely stunning piece of work, a real slow-burner of a song that draws you in with its haunting layers of strange, esoteric melodies before erupting in a roiling torrent of punishing, perplexing power.
Wildernessking – Flesh
Another one that’s been seemingly overlooked by a lot of folks, I’ve been a huge fan of this band ever since NCS brought them to my attention, and “Flesh” is one of the finest songs they’ve ever done. Absolutely pulsing with life and visceral energy, the rolling, blasting drums ripple and flow like a man-made avalanche beneath an electrifying cascade of searing riffs and squalling distortion, all laced with threads of expressive, evocative melody which bloom and blossom like pestilent plague flowers as the song builds to its crescendo. Inspirational, unmissable stuff.
1349 – Godslayer
And finally… was there every any doubt about this one? Those massive blackened thrash riffs, that darkly progressive undercurrent, and THAT chorus… all make this one of the most instantly infectious and blisteringly savage songs I heard all year.
And, you know what? Screw it. Here’s five more songs I absolutely could not get out of my head this last year, all on the more aggressive and/or brutal end of the scale!
Beneath – Putrid Seed of Affection
In the Metal Alphabet, ‘B’ is for ‘Brutal’… however it could also be for Beneath, as they epitomize the sonic brutality of the Death Metal genre with aplomb. “Putrid Seed of Affection” is as violent, vicious, and downright violating as anything I heard last year, marrying a plethora of torturous technical twists and unexpectedly harrowing hooks to a backbone of utterly punishing power. Like an octopus, squatting on my brain, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head all year.
Goatwhore – Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh
While the rest of the party was collectively losing their shit over the band’s knowingly ’80s, leather-clad speed metal injections of spiky, blackened thrash on their latest album, I was the guy who sat over in the corner mentally murdering everyone to the sounds of this song. Going almost full-on Death/Doom, the song’s sludge-soaked pace and grimly guttural vocals channel the best elements of prime Asphyx and Celtic Frost to take the band in an even darker, more desolate direction.
Hellish Outcast – Hunter Supreme
There’s not a single weak track on Stay of Execution, I can tell you that right now. And, in fact, my absolute favourite seems to change quite often, fluctuating between this, the frantic desperation of “I Can No Longer See The Sun”, the ominously oppressive “Heresiarch”, the unapologetic brutality of “Gods of Fear”, and the pneumatic Death Metal stomp of “Machines”. Still, I plumped for “Hunter Supreme” as my favourite this time around, if only because the sheer energy of the track, and the menacing darkness of its chorus, make me want to commit acts of unprecedented violence. In the best possible way.
Riwen – Nature Calls Us Back
There’s always going to be a part of me with an affinity for Hardcore, so when I heard that Cult of Luna mastermind Johannes Persson had put together a more street-level crew of collaborators to produce some nasty, gritty music under the name Riwen, you’d better believe I was one of the first in line to check them out. And their self-titled EP did not disappoint, particularly on the caustic antagonism and dissonant, dirge-like density of “Nature Calls Us Back”.
Vader – Hexenkessel
Welcome to Riff Town. Population: you.
That’s right… from its overblown orchestrated intro (which I love, by the way) to its effortless grasp of chugging Death Metal fundamentals, to its utterly monstrous blast-and-burn main riff, this is one of those tracks that I almost always feel compelled to skip back to listen to again immediately after it’s finished. In fact it usually takes about 5/6 listens before I’m able to remind myself that the rest of the album exists. It’s that good.