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/

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