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).

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