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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Seth's 2014 Year In Review

I needed every second of 2014 to craft a list of favorites. Saying goodbye to the year and its bearded buoyancy (weren't beards the rage lately?), I left behind a trail of hard-earned dollars and dodged awkward gay-bar glances as things grew real foggy. I've scratched and scribbled in hopes of trimming down an impartial litany of the most-spun releases from the last twelve months. The task is daunting, so I'll work to keep things simple and clean.

Sunday's Best

I've got two stacks. One toppled by the bands served on silver platter Sundays. The other towering with records I wasn't smart enough to write about. Regardless, these lists are little more than a refresher on a year in which the best sounds blasted down Highway 251 as I ran out of colorful descriptors. Here are the Sunday smokers that lifted our heads highest.

Possessor - Electric Hell

I had a brief obsession with Vince Bugliosi's Helter Skelter years ago. Something about these nine grinders immediately took me back there (that album art surely played a role). From cavernous doom to rat-rod drudge, Possessor gripped my fuckin' nuts and beat me into compliance. Oozing sweat and sex and handshakes with Satan, Electric Hell immediately became my favorite album of 2014.

Disastroid - Missiles

It's always fun to say an album's sound defied categorization, but this was the year's best example. Missiles struck a chord and nestled into my frontal cortex, forming memories I didn't realize existed. Steady and damn-near perfect, the shifts are never forced and the 90's morning wood never kills my buzz. It's sonic anesthesia peppered with sobering stoner-sludge, and every minute is devastating.

Godhunter - City of Dust

I knew Godhunter would deliver the goods before I even heard this 8-track crusher. What was staggering was the message, and the caviling delivery of rebellion's impetus is Godhunter's true trophy here. City of Dust marked an assured stomp toward this band not only cementing their name, but more importantly fisting convention and never caving to blind acquiescence. If only we could all be so bold.

Druglord - Enter Venus

There was no prepping for this brand of heaviness. The doom crushes, yes. But the psychedelia and doped-out howls leave a glaze on your fingers and the crushing blows are relentless. Crashing timbers couldn't shake the Earth like these four tracks. This album is just one step too far in that bad trip. Point of no return? Shit, man... Your best bet is to own it, become it. (Just stay off your neighbor's lawn).

No Way - Sing Praises

The NYC edge hardly goes wasted here. No Way's violent blend of smoke, sludge, and noise put me on my back and never offered help getting up. The sonic deception can't cloud the album's smoothest moments, but Sing Praises is at its best when it's at its most rough. Savage for being so harmonic and sprawling for being so brief, these are four tracks I'll endorse over and over.

Lotus Ash - The Word of God

The post-metal marriage composed of members of two of Milwaukee's finest bands cultivates a bullied cadence that aches gorgeously. Lotus Ash offer metal of a more acute order, grooving with violent permutations and balancing prospect with cold, concrete realizations. Whether you're a thinker or a stumbling stomper, The Word of God holds plenty for you to fall in love with.

Ancient Altar - Self-titled

Twisted slabs of filthy dregs wriggle with strange, hot psychedelia on Ancient Altar's sludgy spiral into madness. Buoyant and laced with whispers of smoke, this debut offers four tracks promising more doomy wisdom than newcomers should have any right to. Balancing those sounds of the 70's with the ugliest, grimiest assertions of tomorrow, this album hits the nail on the head. Repeatedly.

MotherSloth - Moribund Star

Sullen complexity takes its time on MotherSloth's sophomore opus. Moribund Star sprawls with precision and sprays with abandon, hoping and deflating and completing a cycle of life that you'll have on repeat. Stoner-sludge rhythms never club you, but they leave just enough burn to slug your senses numb. Instrumental outfits appear to work just a bit harder, and this is the progressive payoff.

The Powder Room - Curtains

The swagger strapped to this noise is refreshing and unmatched. The Powder Room blow smoke in your face and get real punchy real fast. If you develop a stutter, you may need to step back and pass on this one. Curtains is that asshole at work who has the dirt on management and can do as much or as little as he wants. Luckily, we're still on his good side. These tracks are way too cool for guys like us.

Giza - I Am The Ocean, I Am The Sea

Instrumental swells and hovers slammed me through Giza's sludgy atmospherics, strangely prophetic considering not a damn word is spoken here. Slow, patient boulder tosses span these five depth-charging tracks and result in 2014's most accomplished marriage of brawn and brains. Giza here boast they're only getting better with age.

And the others?

The number of submissions we receive is ever-increasing and wholly humbling. Even more difficult than working through them all is actually enjoying the music NOT sent our way. So whether I was spoon-fed the sweetest sludge this side of the bayou or had to do some crate-digging, here are ten other 2014 releases that shouldn't go unmentioned.

Yob - Clearing the Path to Ascend

Point blank, this is the best record I heard in 2014. Yob are peaking, but it's difficult to imagine this band hitting a plateau of any kind. The musicianship has never been better, and the expanses crafted within these four songs are progressive, profound, and encompassing. Each listen reveals something new, and under each layer is another mouth-breathing moment I can't wrap my head around. Yet again, this trio fails to disappoint.

Monolord - Empress Rising

Relentlessly lumbering fuzz-doom that hovers, staggers, and resonates. Empress Rising took me by surprise with its gloom and unmatched gravity. Monolord's riffs spun a web in my skull and I haven't bothered mounting an escape. This is heavy, tasty, and worth every fucking cent. Ribboned with stoner repetition, this timber drops long and sits fat. Delicious.

Lightsabres - Spitting Blood

It's easy to be impressed, knowing this is just one man. But the true accolade should be tossed toward what that one man has shaped with the sound. Spitting Blood's lo-fi, muffled, point-on-a-spinning-globe approach sounds fresher than the bulk of bullshit dealt our way this year. There's something timely and beautifully unsettling about these songs, and I can say my biggest 2014 regret is not giving this release the Sunday treatment. You'll love this record.

Swans - To Be Kind

A year in review generally results in me flipping open my wallet as album copies run out. THIS album fucking blew me away! Is this the backlash against the backlash? Hipsters LOVE this album. Wait! Hipsters HATE this album. Dude, I just had my mind raped by Swans, so I don't give a good fuck where you think these sounds fall. My torso evolved into a littered cemetery as I listened. Essentially, To Be Kind is a mindfuck of an album and Swans remain patient, experimental royalty.

Electric Citizen - Sateen

Electric Citizen toured with Fu Manchu and made no haste in stealing the bill. Four decades of influence, no shortage of guitar fuzz, and Laura Dolan's witchy presence combine to make Sateen doom's sexiest response to Sabbath. The band's dark majesty is more substance than hype, trust me. The psychedelia buzzes and chops at comparisons, carving little option but to embrace Electric Citizen as your new favorite band.

Ogre - The Last Neanderthal

I've loved Ogre since they served a strange hearken of classic predecessors in 2010, but here they cement their meld of doom and stoner metal in a hurried, focused fashion. This latest is honed and pared, resonating with the good-feel of brothers reunited. Fuzz-headed doom needn't overthink things, but Ogre find smarts when they find restraint. 70's influence saturates recent releases, and Ogre may be the most backboned of the lot.

Greenleaf - Trails & Passes

To which Keith alluded, these sounds vary and sprawl. The stoner supergroup that is Greenleaf has yet to stumble, and despite their loveseat haze, they still offer a bit o' heart. Not a damn one of these nine songs mimics the inflated horseshit of their imitators, yet none manage to posture in the shadows of the members' other bands. Greenleaf burn their own path, and every detour is just as delicious as the last.

Rodha - Welter Through The Ashes

I've finally found a Rodha ally in Pete. These boys pack emotion into every corner and the gravity injected into every note just fucking amazes me. Channeling sludge violence and (incredibly) funneling feeling under stoner-doom cadence is nothing short of miraculous. How the FUCK is this band not conquering the world right now?! Good GODDAMN this is gorgeous!

Indian - From All Purity

Indian opened up 2014 without a glimpse of hope. This is flat-out fucking violent and vile, six scorching sludgers that can't find relent. From All Purity is abrasive and scornful, so much so that I'm shocked I can even return to the bloodied corpse of last winter. Indian ensure you'll feel every barbed note and forget about enjoying your dinner. Sludge? Doom? Noise? Fuck. This album sounds like murder.

Floor - Oblation

Roaring over beautiful 'scapes and cascading melodies, Oblation is that devastating pull between hope and lament. The chewy sweetness complements the fuzziest of tones, structured underneath a shiny psychedelia rarely found. It's as if stoner-doom took the day off to spend some time under palm trees. Then again, the screeches and crushes remind us where to plant our feet.

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