BEST OF 2014: 40-31

Sons of Crom40. SONS OF CROM, “Riddle of Steel” (Debemur Morti): It may sound clichéd and silly, but I enjoy when metal makes me think of picking up a sword, holding it aloft, and heading into battle. And pretty much trying to avoid the fighting, but whatever. Sons of Crom’s great debut “Riddle of Steel” felt like a natural continuation of what Bathory started before them, and the duo’s mix of epic doom metal and tenets of folk and black metal really hit the adventurous spot in my metallic heart. It burns, churns, and takes you on a galloping ride that’ll splatter blood all over your dented battle shield. (Released Sept. 12)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sonsofcromofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: http://www.debemur-morti.com/en/

IVR036_Mare_Cognitum_Phobos_Monolith_front_cover_1600px39. MARE COGNITUM, “Phobos Monolith” (I, Voidhanger): Jacob Buczarski already was one of the most inventive minds in the U.S. black metal field before his incredible third album under the Mare Cognitum banner dropped. “Phobos Monolith” still drenches you in atmosphere and thrusts you toward the stars, but there are more urgent melodies, more heaviness, and more tumult than ever before. These four tracks account for some of the best work Buczarski has done to this date as an artist, and they hint toward unexpected pathways that could lie ahead for Mare Cognitum. (Released Nov. 3)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MareCognitumMusic

To buy the album, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/mailorder.htm

For more on the label, go here: http://www.i-voidhanger.com/

Botanist cover38. BOTANIST, “VI: Flora” (Flenser Records): Anyone who has visited our site regularly the past few years knows we have an affinity for Botanist, the hammered-dulcimer-and-drums-led black metal project that is the brainchild of Otrebor. Over the years and releases, he has expanded protagonist the Botanist’s natural world (the Verdant Realm) as well as the musicians who play along with him, and “VI: Flora” is the most ambitious, musically fleshed out so far. The album is praise and adulation for surrounding plant life, and the themes of the destruction of humankind for their misdeeds step aside for a bit while the true magic of surrounding greenery can be celebrated. That makes the music more upbeat and positive than anything else in Botanist’s canon. (Released Aug. 11)

For more on the band, go here: http://botanist.nu/

To buy the album, go here: http://store.theflenser.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/

Barghest cover37. BARGHEST, “The Virtuous Purge” (Gilead Media): Fury and disdain, disgust and destruction, those are items you are going to find on the latest Barghest release “The Virtuous Purge.” The filth-ridden black metal band from Baton Rouge actually cleaned up their sound a bit from their fully scuffed-up 2011 self-titled debut, and they even incorporate more death metal into their sound this go-around. By the way, when we say these seven cuts sound cleaner than their previous work, that’s only in the Barghest sense, because this record still maims, drags you into mud, and clobbers you for the very offense of your existence. Live they’re even deadlier, but if all you have is the vinyl right now, it’s a good enough beating until they can bloody you in person. (Released June 17)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/barghestsoulless

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Fistula cover36. FISTULA, “Vermin Prolificus” (PATAC): I am shocked more hasn’t been made of Fistula’s “Pig Funeral,” the 9:15-long diatribe and call for war against oppressive police forces who have been a target of the band. With what has gone down on Ferguson, Mo., New York, and Cleveland (from where the band hails!) with office brutality and questionable deaths, you’d think people would have grabbed this dose of outright revolution and violent protest and used it as a war cry. Maybe it’s too harsh? Well, that’s not all that’s noteworthy about the sludge band’s massive new record that feels like a monster slithering after you and walloping you over and over. There’s not a moment of mercy and calm on this thing, and if you’re with their mission, you might find yourself amid a rally, protest sign in one hand, Molotov cocktail in the other. (Released Feb. 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fistula666

To buy the album, go here: http://www.patacrecords.com/distro/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.patacrecords.com/

Cretin cover35. CRETIN, “Stranger” (Relapse): It had been eight years since we heard from deranged grind monsters Cretin, but the band finally returned with just their second record in their two-decade run with the awesome “Stranger.” Everything we’ve come to love form the band–meaty thrashing, Marissa Martinez-Hoadley’s beastly growls, Matt Widener’s psychotic, at times perverse lyrics–are firmly ensconced in the band’s sound, and the huge upgrade comes at lead guitar with Elizabeth Schall taking over at the helm. And absolutely ruling. So much good, twisted stuff on this 14-cut crusher including “Ghost of Teeth and Hair,” “My Frye the Janitor Guy,” “Sandwich for the Attic Angel,” and “Husband?” that picking a favorite is like choosing the best jarred fetus in your basement. Damn it, you just love them all! (Released Dec. 9)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cretanic

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Dawnbringer cover34. DAWNBRINGER, “Night of the Hammer” (Profound Lore): The most disturbing and violent record of Dawnbringer’s run also happens to be the most interesting of all the Chris Black-led band’s works. The album feels like a reach back to late 1970s and early 1980s heavy metal, where melody is key and there is more focus on the vocals. It’s not the instant pleaser like albums such as “Into the Lair of the Sun God,” but the more you visit, the more it digs in its claws. Just take a trip with “The Burning of Home,” ultra-memorable “Nobody There,” creepy “One-Eyed Sister,” and smashing “Damn You,” and you’ll get a killer dose of metal glory that’s painted heavily with menace. Black can do no wrong, and every new step he takes with Dawnbringer is a rewarding one. (Released Oct. 28)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/deathofhunger

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

TOAD cover33. TAKE OVER AND DESTROY, “Vacant Face” (Comfort Point): Take Over and Destroy’s second record sure is a bizarre, eccentric one. Doom, noise, accordions, crazed yowls from Chthon, you name it, there’s nothing on this record that acts or feels normal. In fact, much of it teeters on the edge of sanity, with just the slightest wind able to push it off and send it soaring into insanity. It’s an incredibly interesting listen, one filled with manic personality, and if there is a band Faith No More in their heyday could look in the eye and nod knowingly that what they started was in good hands, it would be TOAD. This is unclassifiable, confrontational, always morphing, and definitely heavy. It’s also one of the most interesting records of the year.  (Released Aug. 19)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TakeOverAndDestroy

To buy the album, go here: http://www.takeoveranddestroy.bigcartel.com/

Agalloch cover32. AGALLOCH, “The Serpent & the Sphere” (Profound Lore): One of the finest live performances I saw this year was Agalloch’s world-toppling set at Maryland Deathfest, a performance that was one of the primary reasons for my sojourn there in the first place. It was my first time seeing them live, and it was worth every mile I drove, every asshole I had to pass in the slow lane because apparently the left lane concept it too tough. Hearing tracks from the band’s dramatic, slowly unfurling fifth record “The Serpent & the Sphere” was a major part of that. As you might gather from that description, this record isn’t as immediate or cascading as albums such as “Marrow of the Spirit” (one of the best records of the past decade) or “Ashes Against the Grain,” but spending time with it and getting to know it reveals different kinds of riches than anything in the band’s catalog. It’s dramatic, utterly passionate dark and black metal that awaits, and it’s a journey that, once you’re finished, you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. (Released May 13)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.agalloch.org/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

1349 cover31. 1349, “Massive Cauldron of Chaos” (Season of Mist): I never got the bitching everyone did about 1349’s last two records “Demonoir” and “Revelations of the Black Flame.” They were pretty different, I grant you, and they were murky and mysterious, but both albums resonated with me because they were so damn dark and monstrous. Well, anyone who whined that they wanted the 1349 that released “Hellfire” can clean up their soggy tissues, because “Massive Cauldron of Hate,” the Nordic black metal band’s sixth full-length, is a fire breather, hammering you from front to back. Commanding vocalist Ravn sounds like he has buzzing hornets in his throat, while the rest of the band throttles you with full-steam-ahead punishment that should soothe everyone’s hurt feelings that 1349 had the audacity to experiment. (Released Sept. 29)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.legion1349.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

BEST OF 2014: Top 40 runners up

This is the toughest year to date for compiling best-of lists. There is too much stuff. Too many really good records that I had to jam into a top 40. Take into account we run a Pick of the Week every week of the year, and there isn’t enough room in the top 40 for all of those. It’s good stress, though.

So this is the entry every year I feel bad writing, the one where I feel like I’m saying, “Your record was good. Just not good enough.” That’s not the case, though. These runner-up entries are worth your time and money, and if you haven’t heard them yet, definitely remedy that before the onslaught of 2015 releases start smashing down our doors (or inboxes, as mine already is being bombarded with good stuff). I’ve spent a lot of time with these albums, will into the foreseeable future, and salute the artists for making some pretty damn great music.

Mantar coverMANTAR, “Death By Burning” (Svart): The two-player model is fairly played out in the world of rock music, but there remain some pretty savage groups of this nature in metal. Germany’s Mantar is one of them, and their debut “Death By Burning” added some interesting, provocative new twists that dash color and blood all over this 10-track smasher. Their mix of sludge, doom, and death is a satisfying, devastating assault, and they add attitude and swagger to killer cuts such as “Cult Witness,” Astral Kannibal,” and wailing closer “March of the Crows.” The band was saddled by health issues toward the end of the year, but as of now, they’re back on the road, smashing skulls, and blazing a path forward. (Released Feb. 7)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/MantarBand

To buy the album, go here: http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.svartrecords.com/

Slough Feg coverSLOUGH FEG, “Digital Resistance” (Metal Blade): Sick of going to shows and having to look through a tapestry of smart phones blocking your view? Tired of navigating through traffic because some asshole in the fast lane is going 10 mph under because he’s on the phone? Long-running metal warriors Slough Feg have your backs on their ninth record “Digital Resistance,” where they wonder what the fuck ever happened to not being glued to an electronic device 24 hours a day. The music is as catchy, punchy, and awesome as ever before, with tons of great cuts including chugging opener “Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den,” “Laser Enforcer,” and “The Price Is Nice. This is glorious and true heavy metal. (Released Feb. 18)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.sloughfeg.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://metal-blade.com/

Hail DeathBLACK ANVIL, “Hail Death” (Relapse): The heaviest, densest, most metallic of their three albums, “Hail Death” dropped like a ton of bricks. While all of those descriptors accurately describe this record, on the other hand it’s also their most rock and roll to date. So you have a slithering, unforgiving beast from this NYC black metal band, yet also one that’ll stick to your ribs and get you good and fired up at the same time (plus, their cover of Kiss’ “Under the Rose” is an unexpected treat they handle with reverence and darkness). This band is evolving and growing deadlier three records into their run. It’s anyone’s guess where they’ll go for album four, but no doubt it’ll be another challenger. (Released May 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BlackAnvil

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

Nightbringer coverNIGHTBRINGER, “Ego Dominus Tuus” (Season of Mist): Colorado black metal cultists Nightbringer just get more bizarre and ambitious with each release, and they created a new high-water mark with “Ego Dominus Tuus.” Dark, heavy, dramatic, sweeping, and destructive, this record is a full-bodied journey the demands the most from its listeners but also rewards them heavily with hell-born chaos. This fourth album from Nightbringer sprawls a deadly 71 minutes and doesn’t relent for even a second, destroying you from the opening two cuts “Prayer of Naphal” and “Et Nox Illuminatio mea in Deliciis Meis” all the way to thunderous capper “The Otherness of Being.” This is black metal at its most imaginative. (Released Sept. 30)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/NightbringerOfficial

To buy the album, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/

Alunah coverALUNAH, “Awakening the Forest” (Napalm): This great doom band has been at for a good eight years now (not four, like I idiotically stated when I talked about them two months back), and their excellent third record “Awakening the Forest” is their best one to date. In front of this band, which is soaked in true, old school doom, is fantastic singer Sophie Day, who is an absolute pleasure to hear belting out over these tremendous six cuts. The highlight for me is the centerpiece title track, where Day carves out a chorus that will stick in your head forever, and the sweltering “The Mask of Herne” puts a grislier, more dangerous touch on the album. Anyone into Sabbath or Candlemass, not to mention newer bands such as Blood Ceremony and Subrosa, will find a lot to love in Alunah and their third album. (Released Oct. 3)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.napalmrecords.com/

Encoffination coverENCOFFINATION, “III – Hear Me O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)” (Selfmadegod): Grossly, there are some records that practically reek of death. Encoffination managed to create one of those with their suffocating third album “III – Hear Me O’ Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs).” From the start of their latest opus, the band drags you through the dead worlds, offering praise and respect to the end of life, the inevitable snuffing of existence. The band’s two figures Ghoat and Elektrokutioner have been making these deadly sounds since 2008, and each one has gotten more and more miserable sounding. You can’t get grimier than a full, eight-track, 58-minute homage to death, so bow your head and follow these demons into the night. (Released Oct. 21)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/templeofencoffinment

To buy the album, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/en/shop

For more on the label, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/

Auroch coverAUROCH, “Taman Shud” (Profound Lore): Auroch are one of the stranger bands in metal, with a new, second record that is named after one of the most bizarre, unexplained deaths of the 20th Century. Well, that’s pretty fitting, because what you’ll hear on the band’s rather compact 26-minute sophomore effort will make your head tilt as much as it’ll make your neck thrash. The playing is interesting and inventive, the vocals are savage and nasty, and they waste no time getting in, perplexing the hell out of you, and disappearing suddenly like a spirit on its way to the next haunting.  This record didn’t seem to get nearly as much attention as it deserved this year, which is a shame because it was one of the freshest death metal records released in 2014. (Released June 24)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Aurochmetal

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

BEST OF 2014: EPs, split recordings, and mini releases

EPs, splits, and mini releases should not be underrated. They’re worthy contributions to the metal world and each year, there are a good bit of them that excite not just me, but the metal world. This year is no different, and it’s time to celebrate the smaller releases that made a huge difference in our listening experiences. They also contributed to destroying our hearing.

Anicon BelusANICON/BELUS, split (Dead Section): We’ll start with one we stupidly didn’t cover on the site this year. Hey, it happens. You can’t get to everything, and sometimes really good stuff gets left behind. So we’re making good now by mentioning this awesome split effort that brings together spacey black metal NYC crushers Anicon and Brooklyn-based maulers Belus. This 32-minute, four-track offering gets you a nice taste of what each band does well, with Anicon dizzying you with their half of the record and Belus going for your throat with their two mashers, highlighted by the nearly 11-minute “Amidst Decay.” The other cool thing about this release is both bands really are at their starting point. Both of their resumes are short, so you have plenty of time to get to know each band and get in on the ground floor. Anicon is a well-noted killer live act (they just played my hometown last week, a show I sadly missed due to a cold kicking my ass), and Belus (who boast Mortals vocalist/bassist Lesley Wolf in their ranks) also will eat you alive when they play. These are two bands that are just starting to make waves, and this collection will show you why they are two of the most promising acts in underground metal. (Released June 4)

For more on Anicon, go here: https://www.facebook.com/scrapingearthandsky

For more on Belus, go here: https://www.facebook.com/belusband

To buy the album, go here: http://deadsection.dk/store/

Or here: http://fragilebranch.com/?post_type=product

For more on the label, go here: http://deadsection.dk/

Or here: http://fragilebranch.com/

Myrkur coverMYRKUR, self-titled (Relapse): Oh, the hand wringing over this one. When Ex Cops member Amalie Bruun had the audacity to begin her solo black metal project Myrkur, you would have thought the most blasphemous act ever to occur to the scene had taken place. Look, the PR campaign was murky. Sure. But what else would you have them do, considering metal fans can be a pretty closed-minded bunch? Anyway, the music is what really counts, and this seven-track EP is one that I’m not afraid to say I enjoyed. It took a little while–it’s not perfect, and there does need to be some creative growth on the debut full-length she’s recording with members of Ulver and Mayhem–but the beauty and imagination behind the thing eventually took root. It’s atmospheric, it wouldn’t sound out of place on Napalm’s roster, and it was a frozen breeze infused into black metal’s terrain. I eagerly await the full platter, as well as the silly internet meltdown that is sure to occur thereabouts. (Released Sept. 12)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/myrkurmyrkur

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Mourn ConMOURNFUL CONGREGATION, “Concrescence of the Sophia” (20 Buck Spin): Any submission from Aussie funeral doom beasts Mournful Congregation is a welcome one, and this two-track mammoth was plenty to tide us over from 2011’s “The Book of Kings” to whatever comes next. If you’re down with the band, you likely knew what to expect, and you weren’t disappointed. Newcomers got the band’s trademark slow-driving, sorrowful, crushing, emotional doom, including the fantastic 21-minute title track that probably sounded like nothing they’d ever heard before. Funny enough, the entire release is about a half hour long, which qualifies as a full-length in some metal sub-genres. But for Mournful Congregation, it merely was a quick, dark portrait of stormy emotion that makes it feel like depression’s waves are crashing down upon you. (Released June 24)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.mournfulcongregation.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

Godflesh coverGODFLESH, “Decline & Fall” (Avalanche Inc.): Before the legendary industrial metal band’s comeback LP “A World Lit Only By Fire” dropped like a planet out of the sky, there was the teaser EP “Decline & Fall.” These four cuts stood as the first fresh music from the band in more than a decade, and it certainly lit the burners under their fans to get ready to dig into that hotly anticipated full-length that arrived and destroyed in the fall. These four tracks and 20 minutes of fury snap you up from opener “Ringer” and keep throttling you all the way through the closing title track, and not a second of this thing is wasted. I hoped this was a sign of things that were yet to come, and we all know now that’s what we got when “A World” dropped. That full-length will be celebrated heavily, and rightfully so, but don’t forget their incredible 2014 story started right here. (Released June 2)

For more on the band, go here: http://godflesh1.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://avalancherecordings.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://avalancheinc.co.uk/

Of Spire and Throne coverOF SPIRE AND THRONE, “Toll of the Wound” (Broken Limbs): Talk about a release that flew crazy low under the radar. This great Scottish doom band didn’t get a ton of traction in the States, and that’s too bad because “Toll of the Wound” is one hell of an intriguing listen. This thing is drubbing, devastating, draped with drone in spots, and full of evil intent. It feels like smoke is pouring out of this thing, choking and oppressing you, making you beg for clean air again. It’s a beast of an EP, and if you’re into grimy, mean doom, you’d be wise to go try this thing on for size. Of Spire and Throne have yet to offer up a full-length during their run, but when they do, it’s going to be one hell of a mighty statement. (Released May 13)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ofspireandthrone

To buy the album, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/shop/

For more on the label, go here: http://brokenlimbsrecordings.com/

There were plenty of other smaller releases that came out this past year that are hammering our senses and making us drive a little faster. If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out: Drudkh/Winterfylleth “Thousands of Moons Ago/The Gates” (Season of Mist); Dead in the Manger “Transience” (20 Buck Spin); Blut Aus Nord/P.H.O.B.O.S. split (Debemur Morti); Bolzer “Soma” (Iron Bonehead)’ Cara Neir/Venowl split (Broken Limbs); Venowl/Highgate split (Tartarus).

On hatred, respect, and treating people like humans in heavy metal circles

I’m annoyed because today was supposed to begin our look back at the metal year 2014, one in which there were so many records I liked that putting a list together was extremely difficult. It’s also one where I had some of the most positive show experiences of my life, and that my local metal community has grown and become mightier.

Yet here we are, having to tackle an ugly issue that has plagued metal for a while and reared its puss-filled head over the weekend. By the way, I’m stream-of-consciousnessing this thing, so if it’s all over the map, that’s why. I’m not going to rehash the entire thing here for a number of reasons, the largest of which is I don’t want to further distribute the garbage that was disseminated via social media this weekend by Phil McSorley of Cobalt (who anyone who knows this site or me knows how much I love their music) and Mike Meachem of Loss. The talking points here are bashing people because of their sexual identification and wishing death on them; tearing down feminism and making women feel lesser for being in the scene; and being torn down publicly for having the audacity to be a person with feelings and compassion toward others. There are other statements that go even deeper that were not a part of this weekend’s idiocy, and they’re just as awful and despicable. By the way, a lot of this got sparked by an article based on an interview with Andy Curtis-Brignell of Caina and his disgust with women and other people being attacked by metal fans. Gee, how dare he try to act like a human? By the way, the band’s new record “Setter of Unseen Snares” is fucking awesome, and we’ll have an extensive review when it drops next year.

First thing I’ll say is the use of derogatory terms toward people of the LGBT community—or any, really—is not acceptable. It’s not metal. It’s not black metal. It’s not cult. It’s not cool. It’s not true. It’s not fun. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke. It’s garbage. It’s unacceptable. It’s childish. It’s evidence of a dense brain and a lack of intellectual thinking. It makes me laugh at you and also feel sorry for you. I don’t endorse it. I don’t want it near me. I don’t want to associate with music or musicians who freely use this kind of speech and honestly, meaningfully direct it at other people. It shows a black hole as far as humanity goes. You think it’s OK to jokingly say, “That band is gay”? It’s not. Stop fucking saying it. Challenge yourself and find a better word. Are you 11? The fact that prominent member of metal’s underground have publically used this type of speech, and that sheep followers have liked or endorsed or re-Tweeted, or reciprocated their words is so beyond stupid to me, I’m having a hard time grasping it. The fact that much of this was directed at a female writer who happens to be one of the hardest working, most respected members of the metal media infuriates me. And trust me, she doesn’t need my support or backing. She’s a bad ass, someone I am honored to call a friend, and someone who helps this site in a gigantic way. She also probably forgot more about metal than most people know. That pisses me off heavily to see her treated this way. It’s not fucking metal. It’s weak. I also understand one of the musicians above is raising a young girl. Oh boy. I don’t even know what to say there. Good luck, kid. I wish you well.

On this topic, I have a friend who is both a female and gay who told me that she often doesn’t like to even be around metal folk because of how she gets treated. The fact that anyone, much less this person whose metal knowledge likely trumps most people’s, has to feel this way in 2014 is a failure not only for metal but for society. It’s music. It’s a show. Are we not all laughing at Varg these days? Do we not our shake our heads in disgust over Faust’s heinous murder of a gay man in 1992? If not, you’re fucking doing it wrong. Metal can be a community. It can breed familial scenes and friendships. If not for this very thing, I don’t know how I would have gotten through high school. Maybe I was “lucky” to be a white heterosexual male, and perhaps that same thing is what makes me feel comfortable in my current circles. But I also know the company I keep are tremendous people who never, ever would stoop to the cowardice of the musicians mentioned above. I feel fortunate for that, and I hope my friend one day finds that for herself. And she always has a friend in me.

Now onto women in metal and their inclusion in the scene. Seriously, this is still a thing? We haven’t yet figured out women are just as worthy, just a worthwhile as men? I mean, this obviously is a problem not just inside metal’s walls. It’s still an issue in America. We’re still belittling and questioning and shaming rape victims. There still are people who openly mock the concept of equal pay for women. Sadly, there people in my Facebook feed who are a part of this shit, and it takes all of my strength not to respond. I don’t because it’s not worth throwing shit against a wall. I’m thankful I don’t feel the way these people do and I work hard to make sure people are included and treated justly. I don’t deserve a pat on the back for that.

Funny, the people trashing women’s plight for respect usually are white dudes who clearly feel threatened. Be confident in yourself, and if you are, it won’t matter to you that other people have the same rights and privileges as you. And look, the basic idea of feminism is striving for equality for women in all aspects of life. I’m a fucking feminist. A proud one. A boisterous one. I have a lot of amazing female friends who are listeners, fans, and musicians that I admire, respect, and look up to very day. It’s so stupid I even have to point this out. It should be a, “Duh, who doesn’t feel this way?” but that’s not the case. Funny, but these musicians above want to throw around the word “pussy” when describing bands, musicians, or fans who have the temerity to value women and want to celebrate their accomplishments in metal and the world. I chuckle when they use that word because their value as people drops as a result. Like, that’s the best insult you could muster? I’d also argue that people who take to social media and harass people and mock others aren’t exactly showing an admirable level of guts. It’s fucking weak.

Do you remember Iron Maiden ever trashing their female fans or fellow musicians? Harassing gay or trans members of their audience? Having to make some macho asshole statement just to prove what men they really are? How about Ronnie James Dio? Black Sabbath? Hell, Judas Priest? Those artists are legends. The cretin listed above might not even have a medium to pour their pure hatred if not for them. They don’t even deserve the honor of plugging in their guitars. You think those bands lose sleep at night that female or gay artists are afforded equal chances as them? No. Because they are/were awesome fucking players and don’t sit around worrying about what others do.

I see metal as a family. I feel fortunate to have a ton of friends—musicians, writers, label heads, metal fans—who I consider friends and who I interact with daily. This site is an homage to metal, a celebration of the sounds that fill my heart with joy and power every day. Yes, there is a place to express negativity and ugliness in metal, and we have covered and will continue to cover that music on a regular basis. But when that comes down to harassing people, to wishing real death upon others, to stripping people of their dignity and equality, it goes beyond dark music. It exposes a sick, dishonorable way of being that I refuse to celebrate. The artists listed above? You won’t find them here ever again. I’m sure they don’t give a shit. Fine with me. It’s how I feel about their careers now. I also commend Erik Wunder, the other half of Cobalt, for publicly distancing himself from McSorley’s bullshit commentary. Good for him. He’s a brilliant artist who does not deserve to be dragged into such sad territory. (UPDATE: Wunder has since removed McSorley from Cobalt and will continue on as a band without him.)

Although I did not do that here, I do hope people keep reposting the hateful messages these and other artists have the stupidity to put into public consumption. People need to see this. They need to know what artists are not worth supporting. Yes, it also spreads their message and gives them attention, and it’s the double-edged sword kind of thing. But awareness is key. I’ll trade these guys getting their names more attention and asshole followers endorsing them if more people realize what failures at life they are and stop supporting their art. In fact, if you disagree with what I’ve said in this piece, feel free to never come to this site again. I don’t need you. We’re not exactly a site with the highest traffic ever, but I don’t need to be if it means weeding out people who are just poisoned. I’m here because I love metal, and I don’t care if it makes me false or whatever asshole descriptor you want to add to it. Trust me, I’ve been called every insult in the book at one point or another in my life, and I have a pretty hard fucking shell because of it. I’d rather you trash me than the fantastic people who are facing such idiotic attacks.

In closing, I want to be proud of metal. I want to defend it to the death. I want to tell people they are wrong about their archaic misconceptions about metal and its artists. Then things like this happen, and it takes a lot of the piss out of my argument. Hatred, anti-women, anti-gay/trans, and racist undertones have been a part of metal for too long. It has to stop. It’s garbage. It’s a sign of a failure to evolve as people. It’s something I refuse to tolerate. It makes metal look like a meat-headed society. I know it largely is not that. The filth aspect in metal is a minority, in my experiences, but that ugliness clearly is still out there. I urge you, please, if you face this type of harassment, if you are under attack for your gender or your race or your sexual orientation, please know you have a friend here at Meat Mead Metal. Reach out to us. We want you to feel like family, like you are respected and wanted, because you are. You matter. If Phil McSorley thinks I’m a pussy because of that, I seriously could not care less. I think it’s clear what he’s about, and his views mean shit to me. Maybe part of his issue is the stress of being in the military or perhaps mental issues, and if that’s so, I hope he gets help. I hope anyone who feels this way gets help or gets a chance to have an eye-opening experience. Anyone can better themselves and change the way they are.

It’s going to be 2015. We can have a positive impact on the world and prove that metal’s not a cesspool of hatred. But we need to be active and vigilant and protective of one another. Real hatred should not be tolerated or accepted or celebrated. To do so makes you an archaic joke whose existence is just sad.

Brian Krasman

@bkrasmanmmmetal

PICK OF THE WEEK: Cretin’s sick grind, repulsive storytelling make ‘Stranger’ disgusting fun

CretinHere, on this day, when we run the final review of the calendar year before we get into a few weeks’ worth of 2014 in review, we bring you the most disgusting, perverted, disturbing of records. This one should put a smile on your face, and if it doesn’t you may have no capability to feeling the sheer glee of a band rolling in filth and chaos. Yeah, we saved the sickest for last.

Cretin are a long-standing death-splashed grindcore band. But even though they’ve been together for more than two decades, we only have two full-length records from the band—2002’s splattering “Freakery” and their brand-new opus “Stranger.” It’s not that the band hasn’t had inspiration or plenty of horrific stories to tell, but its members have been plenty busy with other ventures. Plus, the story of guitarist/vocalist Marissa Martinez-Hoadley’s coming out as a transgender woman and continuing to defy anyone who stands in her way not only was a major step for the closeted, macho, often unaccepting world of metal, but for her personally. She has been an inspiration to so many. Maybe some meathead out there wondered if Cretin would retain their savagery and sick sense of humor after all of this—and if you’re one of those people, perhaps consider wallowing in embarrassment—but that was pure silliness. This is Cretin. This is a grindcore force, and on “Stranger,” they’re more than willing to rip a hole in your chest and piss in it.

Cretin coverWe’ve covered Martinez-Hoadley, whose vocals are even deadlier and full of bloody character than they were on “Freakery.” She’s an absolute joy to hear rage on these tracks, and I can only imagine how great they’re going to sound live. Along with her are longtime bandmates Matt Widener, who plays bass and also pens the horrific words you hear barrel out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth; destructive drummer Col Jones; and new secret weapon Elizabeth Schall, one of the most impressive and dynamic lead guitarists in all of metal, who fronts the scathing Dreaming Dead. This formation of Cretin is a monster, with each member contributing to the muck, and “Stranger” is a record that will haunt and taunt you long after it’s done.

A nice thing about Cretin’s work is their songs are longer and more realized than most grind acts. There are very few 30-seconds-and-done cuts, and that begins with “It,” complete with dizzying playing, Martinez-Hoadley’s grunt-like growls, and maniacal thrashing that wastes no time getting you into the bruising. “Ghost of Teeth and Hair,” a pretty gross title, opens with dazzling soloing from Schall that lets things burn before the track hits its guttural, deathly glory. The track is muddy and ugly, and when that weird bicycle bell rings at the end, you’ll feel a little uneasy inside. “The Beast and the Drowning Bucket” absolutely mauls, with mucky vocals crawling out and drums being obliterated. It’s hard to keep your head above water on this one (fitting, right?), and the fierce shrieks that erupt toward the end should rip your skin apart. “Knights of the Rail” is another nasty one that starts with a hefty assault but then hits another gear part of the way through, like they’re blasting into hyperspeed. “We Live in a Cave” rampages from the gate, with total heaviness, spat-out growls, and a lightning-fast chorus that blows by so fast, you won’t know what hit you. “Sandwich for the Attic Angel” is one of the most memorable, creepy songs on the record, with Martinez-Hoadley blasting through a volcanic chorus that puts a knife right in the heart of this ghost story. The title cut is speedy, raspy, and violent, with Martinez-Hoadley howling, “Stranger!” over and over, while the rest of the band plows through frightening power. Schall stabs her way in with another stellar solo, adding a sense of classic metal to this mangy crusher.

“Mr. Frey the Janitor Guy” is uncomfortable, bursting with rage, and pretty damn disgusting, and surely the band would have it no other way. The track is grossly fast, with Martinez-Hoadley howling the story about the underappreciated, sadly mocked mop man who gets his comeuppance in the most self-destructive manner possible. Seriously, don’t be eating while reading the words. “Mary Is Coming” is gory and mangling, just crushing everything in front of it, leading into “Honey and Venom,” a track that makes me a little uncomfortable due to my bee sting allergy. The drumming is rapid-fire killing, and the band hits a thrashy groove that might be designed to get you maimed live. Who’s to say? Or complain? “Freakery” follows, which also is the title of their debut record, and it is mashing, smashing chaos. The story is forced out of Martinez-Hoadley’s mouth, and Schall’s guitar work tears through like a sword looking to draw blood as quickly as possible. This thing’s just mean. “They Buried the Lunchbox” has a vicious tempo, with speedy vocals that rage out of Martinez-Hoadley’s jaws, and the bulk of this assault is soaked in rotting meat. “Husband?” is the shortest and one of the most disturbing cuts on the album, a blast of total carnage that gets an extra hint of creepiness with the closing whistling. Yikes! Closer “How to Wreck Your Life in Three Days” actually starts with a calculated pace, making it seem like Cretin might let you down a little easier. You should know better than that. This sucker rips apart, with more guttural growls that destroy, an awesome dose of thrash goodness, one final razor-sharp solo, and everyone chanting, “Fire!” as the record reaches its end. As does the main character’s existence.

Hopefully Cretin’s studio output will become as little more common after this head-ripping second album “Stranger.” This is a deadly, vicious lineup, and this record is the best grind album that came out in 2014 by a long shot. Remember to keep the buckets nearby in case the stories get to be too much and some analgesics for your pain, because you’re going to need both once you spend a trip letting Cretin destroy your body and psyche.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Cretanic

To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Dimesland’s incomprehensible metallic creations crush the mind on ‘Psychogenic Atrophy’

Photo by Shannon Corr

Photo by Shannon Corr

Anyone out there who’s ever had a panic attack knows they are no fun at all. I mean, at all. Times I’ve had them, my body goes weak, my arms get heavy, breathing accelerates, certainty of imminent death is the only thing on my mind, and the idea of calming down and taking deep breaths is the last thing on my list of things I’m able to do capably.

Saying that Dimesland’s music always makes me feel like I’m in the midst of a panic attack might make it sound like a negative, but really, it isn’t. That’s because I’m not actually in one, and I feel just fine. Yet it makes my mind race and insanity take over, but usually instead of curling into the fetal position, I start whipping around and getting shit done. So it’s a positive panic attack you could say. That’s the best way I can think to describe the band’s manic, all-over-the-fucking-map debut LP “Psychogenic Atrophy.” Deciding where on the metal sub-genre scale the band falls is near impossible. Noise? Prog? Math metal? Death? Doom? Uh, try all of those, with no one element ever taking over another. It’s perplexing stuff, this great first full document (their 2012 EP “Creepmoon” only hinted as the craziness ahead), and there’s no way you’ll have the same experience with this music twice.

Dimesland coverDimesland are comprised primarily of members of the awesome Wild Hunt (their 2012 smasher “Beyond the Plane of Angles” is a revelation), that being guitarist Drew Cook, bassist Greg Brace, and drummer Harland Burkhart. Along with them is guitarist Nolan Cook, and together they pump out a musically dynamic, sonically perplexing, often manic, always sweltering collection of eight songs. Truth be told, these guys may annoy some people with their sound, because its harshness isn’t always easy to take. For me, I revel in it, rolling around like I’m trying to cover myself in mud and pine needles, hellbent on scaring the hell of the neighbors or any scared child on the block. It’s OK. I’m moving soon.

Bizarre noises and trickling sounds introduce you to opener “Are They Cannibals,” a question you might direct right back at the band once you get your first dose. Yowled vocals and tricky, sprawling playing highlight this thing, with cries of, “Unhinged violence!” practically standing as the song’s calling card. “Dying Foretold” combines deranged yelling, music that feels like it bubbled out of an unauthorized science lab, and dizzying thrashing into a blast that is thrashy and mangling. “Institutional Gears” blows open with a rumbling bassline, lead guitar work that burns the brows from your face (literally … I have no more eyebrows now), and metallic strikes over top that remind me of a crazed person trying to stab blindly over a wall. And hitting the target every time. The final moments have chunky crunching and what sounds like a freight train trying to navigate under water. “Xenolith” is the longest track of the group at 8:43, and guitars rip this thing apart before everything freezes over and puts you in a trance. Then things gets weirder. A roiling tempo rises up, as mechanical voices convey unintelligible information before the band blows up the scene again and ends the thing in a cloud of smoke.

“That Cold Moment” is furious and nasty from the start, with howled vocals, guitars cutting through everything like a sword, and eventually fluid melodies that serve to bring the temperature down. The guitars get exploratory and spacey, while the bass and drums meld together to reach out and spread something that would make Rush proud. “Malfunctioning Gears” charges and trudges, with blurry oddness eventually making its presence known and making everything feel kind of drunken. No complaints there. Growls blow in, the pace gets deadlier, and an eerie calm steps in and pulls the song to its finish. “Bound in Store” is a monster, splattering blood everywhere, letting the music barrel out of control and toward any poor bastard in its path, with the final seconds simmering and blowing steam into closer “Odd Feats Are Bid and Won.” This one has a proggy, intriguing start before the bottom drops out and devastation returns. It’s a strange little journey, with angry bursts striking here and there, guitars later warming up and spilling over the track, harsh shouts emerging to poke a few final fingers in your eyes, and the song naturally ending as strangely as possible.

You might want to wear a helmet, tape your fists, hide breakables, and warn loved ones if you plan to take an extended trip with Dimesland. “Psychogenic Atrophy” can be as dangerous as it is musically stimulating, a collection that might make you turn into a whirling dervish of energy, looking for any task to complete while on this artistic high. Or maybe there’s just something wrong with my brain that it makes me feel this way. Either way, be prepared. These guys are out to challenge, and even hurt, your puny little brain.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.dimesland.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://dimesland.bandcamp.com/

Eye of Solitude deliver imposing 50-minute boiler drowning in dark emotion on ‘Dear Insanity’

Eye of SolitudeIf there’s one complaint I constantly hear from people who are not inclined to like doom, it’s that the songs tend to be long. This isn’t an inaccurate assessment of a lot of doom bands, and if you don’t have the patience for songs that take their time and stretch, you might want to go read something else. Today just might break you.

English doom band Eye of Solitude have one of the more demanding releases that recently landed, that being their new EP “Dear Insanity.” First, I take issue with this being labeled an EP, but that probably has more to do with what that kind of release entails. You know, a handful of songs that come and go. Yeah, OK, this is just one track, that being the title cut. But this son of a bitch is just a few ticks under 50 minutes long, a full-length document for any other band on the planet (and this is only 16 minutes shorter than the group’s last record “Canto III”). Sure, there is plenty of room to split hairs there, and I don’t care to do that. Instead, let’s focus on the major commitment you must make to this thing. You’re not pulling out a bit here and there. There are no multi-track movements to help you navigate. You get it all. In one large chunk. For consumption in one sitting. So yeah, if long doom tracks aren’t your thing, you’ll want to bow out.

760137663027_TOX042_Eye-Of-Solitude_Artwork_480x480I feel bad for anyone who decides to avoid this thing, because “Dear Insanity” is one hell of a compelling listen, and it doesn’t feel like it lasts as long as it does. Along the way, we get heavy drubbing, funeral doom-like weariness, gothic transmissions, drone, and outright fury, with so many peaks and valleys, it’s easy to lose count. The band—it consists of four Sidious members in vocalist Daniel Neagoe, guitarists Mark Antoniades and Steffan Gough, and bassist Chris Davies, with drummer Adriano Ferraro the only one not in the other group—weaves this huge piece together nicely, and giant helpings of drama and emotion packed into this song should be more than enough to keep you tuned in from front to back.

The track gets started with a serious pocket of synth fog, boiling and taking its time to get started because, let’s face it, they’re not in a hurry to get anywhere. There are wails in the background, sounding pained physically and emotionally, and the initial growls are buried under murk before the song breaks open eight minutes into the epic. There, the screams get nastier and meaner, with sorrowful melodies sprawling and dragging you into the darkness. At about the 15-minute mark, synth rises up and overrides the madness, with foggy, dreary passages, and minutes later the track heading into teary, goth-style melodies. The bottom drops again about a half hour into the song, driving slowly and letting the fires gain steam and choke your lungs, but that’s later displaced by another front of calm, with keys trickling and injecting some psychedelic notes into the track. With about 10 minutes remaining, all of the previous elements come together, with lead guitars churning over top, the track storming steadily and menacingly, and the last throes of punishment finally giving way to dark keys that evaporate into the night.

Even longtime fans of Eye of Solitude might be taken aback by what they hear on this release, but if you’re familiar with the band’s past and growing ambition, you won’t be surprised. It’s an interesting project they undertook here, and the fact they deliver it so well and devastatingly goes to show how good these guys are as creators. Get comfortable, take a deep breath, and get ready to take a trip that demands your undivided attention.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/eyeofsolitudeband

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.kaotoxin.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://kaotoxin.com/