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Year End List for 2014

I did no reviews last year. Therefore, I’m going to still do a top 10 list and disappointment list for 2014 releases. Without further ado, here goes my ten favorite releases from last year:

10: Junius – Days of the Fallen Sun EP: Stunningly heavy and dense without ever having to go into traditional metal tropes, Junius’ short release burned up my headphones for quite a long time in 2014.

9: Bloodbath – “Grand Morbid Funeral”: Yes, please, more with the heavy and the dark and the genuinely old school feel and vibe. I completely enjoyed this album.

8: Alcest – “Shelter”: Dream pop at its finest, but the overall sound lost contrast quickly when the intensity was removed.

7. Agalloch – “The Serpent & the Sphere”: A band, whose music is typically dense, melancholic, and reminiscent of the sky just before the clouds break, offers up a serving of the coldest, darkest music they’ve done to date in my opinion.

6. Devin Townsend Project – “Z2: Dark Matters”:  Campy, original, filled with fart jokes, and evoking a 50s radio play, this album’s jaunt through Dev’s witticisms is fun if not a touch too saccharine at points.

5. Behemoth – “The Satanist”: Ranked this high due to the sheer factor of sarcasm dripping from Nergal’s voice in the first track: “Blow your trumpet, Gabriel!”  I was never a fan before, but I find that I am now.

And, because I’m a massive and amazingly terrible writer that cannot make up his mind, I have 4 albums in a tie for the first spot, depending on my mood (which will be listed below) and these are in no particular order:

1d.) Causalities of Cool – “Causalities of Cool”: Dark, melancholic space country rock?  WTF, Dev?  This album has seriously some of the most amazing textures, rolling noise, and themes I’ve heard in a long time. Here’s “Ether” from that album that demonstrates this wonderfully:

I found myself gravitating to this when I was feeling extraordinarily stressed or needing to reflect.

1c.) Opeth – “Pale Communion”:  Holy shit, it’s not a jangled mess of riffs and thoughts. While I enjoyed Heritage, it was like a sentence fragment.  Here’s “Moon Above, Sun Below” from the album:

I found myself going to this one when I needed the melancholy feels from Opeth and when I wanted something openly and unrepentantly creative.

1b.) Solstafir – “Otta”:  This album defines Iceland in my mind now. It is stunningly gorgeous, filled with texture, and wonderfully performed. Here’s “Lagnaetti” from the album:

Similar to Casualties of Cool, I found myself coming to this album as I could when I needed a bit of stress relief. Even the abrasive moments are wonderfully performed and never out of context or character.

1a.) Tritypkon – Melana Chasmata”:  Oppressively heavy, stunningly depressive, and at times hauntingly beautiful, the album hits a progressive metal fan right in the gut and does everything it needs to do well.  Further it has a love poem dedicated to Emily Bronte on it. I enjoyed their first album greatly, but I didn’t get overwhelmed by it.

I came to this album again and again just because I wanted to hear it.  It appealed to times when I was down, but also times when I needed to explore a different headspace.

Biggest disappointments of 2014:

1.) Soen – “Tellurian”: Their first release, “Cognitive,” stunned me.  It was an amazing album.  This album I listed to maybe to or three tracks and switched to a different band and never went back.

2.) Encoffination – “III: Hear me, O Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)”:  This album was on the list because if you are going to name yourself with something as off  the wall as this, then you better damn well be good.  They weren’t.

3.) Mayhem – “Esoteric Warfare”:  These are the fathers of Norwegian Black Metal?  Eeeeeesh.

Two Albums that Blew My Fucking Mind:

1.) Primus & the Chocolate Factory:  Like listening to the soundtrack only (no pictures) of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on LSD.  I need not say more.  Listen to this album.

2.) Cynic – “Kindly Bent to Free Us:” Like listening to the soundtrack of peace and harmony on LSD.

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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Accountability, Art, Lists, Music, Ranks

 

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Music Review of the Week: Kontinuum’s Blood Earth Magic (2013).

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Yes, I realize full well that this album was released in Europe in 2012; otherwise, I would have had no chance to have listened to it.  It first came to my attention via No Clean Singing during its European release, and I took the opportunity to give the album a listen recently as it finally arrived.  Anything that bills itself as post-black atmospheric progressive metal is most likely going to catch my attention at least for a song or two.

Billing themselves on their bandcamp page as ambient metal/occult rock, this Iceland band offers nine songs on their first release.  Songs are sung in English and in Icelandic without ever truly losing any quality in the lyrics or in the voice.  As I have found I do not like to write a song by song approach to a review of a band’s music (unless it’s absolutely necessary), I will focus on the overall approach to the album.

First off, the album is well produced, each instrument is able to be heard cleanly and the fuzzy qualities in the instrumentation sections are used to build the album’s ambience.  Further, the band do not utilize overly long sections in which one or two notes are used to “build” the ambience (see Storm Corrosion from 2012 or any of Sigur Ros’ albums).  When they build, the sections reach their logical and skillfully performed conclusions, and when they drop you down, you feel the loneliness and coldness for which they strove.

They are talented instrumentalists in the vein of Solstafir and Sigur Ros and never actually quite hit the metal genre label.  Yes, they have sections of tremolo picking and piercing shrieks, but they are moments in the overall composition and feel of the piece.  I really liked the tribal/folkesque introduction to “Steinrunnin Skogur” in which deep Sisters of Mercy style vocals sung in Icelandic drive over a gentle guitar section.  Generally, they feel to me to be an ambient progressive rock band that is willing to use metal song structure and extreme sounds as part of a composition.  They feel at their best and most focused when cleaning singing and building ambience.

Ultimately, Kontinuum’s release is a successful first effort. It is an album that is equally beautiful and grotesque, and is stunningly peaceful.  I look forward to following this band as they continue to develop their sound, and build further off into their own.  Some of the highlights off the album are “Moonshine,” “Lys Milda Ljos,” and “Red.”  The album’s lowest point is the song “Strange Air” which just does not seem to fit with the rest of the album’s compositions.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Accountability, Art, Geek, Inspiration, Music, Rants, Reviews

 

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