Best of 2014: 20-11

Foreseen cover20. FORESEEN HKI, “Helsinki Savagery” (20 Buck Spin): Crossover thrash hasn’t been totally oversaturated yet, luckily. There are a handful of good bands who play the style really well, and one of those is Finnish group Foreseen HKI. Their debut “Helsinki Savagery” is aptly named, because that’s what you get on this masher that slams 10 cuts into a little under 37 minutes. The tempo are absolutely crushing and looking to do damage, the vocals are harsh and attitudinal, which you absolutely need doing this style, and there isn’t a down moment on this whole thing. These guys should appeal to anyone still dining on DRI and the Cro-Mags as well as younger fans who have found a haven of madness with bands such as Power Trip and Noisem. Get ready to get your face ripped off. (Released Nov. 11)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Witch Mountain cover19. WITCH MOUNTAIN, “Mobile of Angels” (Profound Lore): One of the year’s biggest downers as far as stories are concerned is Uta Plotkin’s decision to leave Witch Mountain and strike out on her own. No doubt she’s going to go on to great things, as will this band, but they worked so damn perfectly together, evidence of which is “Mobile of Angels,” easily their best record. This is one of those albums where you can tell all the players had stumbled onto the same magic and were just in the zone with what they were creating, and Plotkin is dynamite here. She lets emotions run over, shows the right amount of restraint when it’s called for, and absolutely soars everywhere else. Opener “Psycho Animundi” is threatening and cold; “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” could be their best song to date; and closer “The Shape Truth Takes” feels like the proper ending for this version of the band. (Released Sept. 30)

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

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

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

MR cover18. MUTILATION RITES, “Harbinger” (Prosthetic): There’s nothing pretty about what NYC black metal destruction unit Mutilation Rites does. And there doesn’t need to be. They’re filthy and furious, with their trademark sound helping them stand out in the pack. You know the band when you hear them, from their furious riffing, to the destructive drumming, to George Paul’s sore throat-style howling. “Harbinger” is a huge step up creatively from their great last album “Empyrean,” as the group’s time being road warriors is paying off. There is a ferocity here that sounds well planned but also off the cuff, as the guys storm through opener “Black Pyramid”; “Contaminate,” which sounds like “Rust” era Megadeth, only more animalistic and malicious; and “Suffer the Children,” which could bust up your kneecaps and then apply a submission hold you can’t break and they won’t release. (Released July 22)

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

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

Or here: http://store.prostheticrecords.com/

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

Occultation cover17. OCCULTATION, “Silence in the Ancestral House” (Profound Lore): Profound Lore, whose releases practically dominate slots 20-11, have one hell of a diverse roster. One of their most unique is Occultation, a band that didn’t get nearly enough credit for their amazing, entrancing second album “Silence in the Ancestral House.” There is so much going on here that could put you in a magick-induced haze, with E.M.’s (also of Negative Plane) guitar work creating the perfect mind-altering fog and V.B.’s singing creating the ideal mood for these dark epiphanies. “The First of the Last” never fails to move me spiritually, and it has soundtracked more than one dark beer session over the fall; “All Hallow’s Fire” has burning guitar work that reminds of classic heavy metal, with the singing exploring the mysteries of death and life; and “Forever Hereafter” is downright bone-chilling, a great mix of doom and rock and roll. This thing is spectacular. (Released Oct. 14)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occultation/127574070630828?fref=ts

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

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

wrought iron cover16. WROUGHT IRON, “Rejoice and Transcend” (Grimoire): OK, fine, maybe you think we’re biased that we have this Pittsburgh band Wrought Iron ranked so high. If you’re one of those, go put on the band’s demolition-bringing debut “Rejoice and Transcend” and return to offer your apologies. These guys bring the fire live (there are times when it feels like vocalist Kenny Snyder is going to attack someone), and their nine-track, 35-minute monster of a record delivers just as much bruising. Mixing black and death metal with some grind, there’s nothing on this album that offers any calm. They just piledrive the shit out of you over and over again, with the music fast, dizzying and hellish and with vocals that sound like they originate in hell. So yeah, maybe there’s a little soft spot for these local dudes done well, but what they accomplish on “Rejoice and Transcend” is enough to make any Pittsburgh metal fan beam with pride. And these guys are just beginning! (Released June 24)

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

To buy the album, go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/rejoice-and-transcend

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

Mence Ruine cover15. MENACE RUINE, “Venus Armata” (Profound Lore): So, my wife isn’t a fan of metal or heavy music. I don’t know how we make it work. Anyway, I recently had Menace Ruine’s new record “Venus Armata” on in the car, and my wife noted, “I feel like this is how this type of music is supposed to sound.” What she meant is the amount of haunting, dark bands trying to convey a particular mood but often fall prey to trying to make their sound pretty and digestible lose that sense of danger and mystique. No doubt this band can get into your blood and infect you in the best possible way, and this record has been a trusted companion quite often since the media promo arrived a couple months back. This fifth album is their most emotionally rich and spiritually affecting, as Genevieve’s singing hits amazing high points, especially on “Marriage in Death” and the incredible “Red Sulphur,” which is one of my favorite songs of the year. Add to all of that, the drone is thick and arresting, the noise buzzes and shakes you, and the entire package is one you’ll want to drink in from the first moment all the way until it ends 64 stunning minutes later.  (Released Oct. 14)

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

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

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

Impetuous Ritual cover14. IMPETUOUS RITUAL, “Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence” (Profound Lore): There are bands that try to sound evil and others that practically embody that infernal quality. Australia’s blood mercenaries Impetuous Ritual definitely fall in that latter category, seeking blood and body count on their violent, suffocating second record “Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence.” This band doesn’t care if you think their sound is too ugly or that their brand of death is too harsh. Likely you’re not psychologically strong enough to withstand an assault from these guys, which sounds like metal set on fire and left to melt and suffer. These tracks, from opener “Verboten Genesis,” to “Venality in Worship,” to “Despair,” to “Womb of Acrimony” practically reek of bad intentions and a campaign to hurt you as badly as they possibly can. This is death metal that is not for the weak and easily intimidated. This is the sound of domination. (Released April 15)

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Impetuous-Ritual/128111827293954

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

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

Falls of Rauros cover13. FALLS OF RAUROS, “Believe in No Coming Shore” (Bindrune Recordings): We mentioned in the write-up for the new Fen record that there is music that sounds like it was created for specific times of the year. Falls of Rauros’ impressive new record “Believe in No Coming Shore” felt like it was intertwined with the middle stages of autumn, where cold and war do battle, it’s pleasingly damp outside, and it’s impossible to walk into your house without giant yellow leaves being shed by your boots. This is a beautiful, moving record in a lot of ways, which makes metal dudes nervous because heaven forbid you have a heart and emotion. But that doesn’t bother these guys, and they can be as savage and heavy as any other band plying the black metal trade these days. Falls also mix elements of folk and Americana into their music, making their stuff well balanced, moving, and positively human. This amazing third full-length was one of my most anticipated records of the year, and it absolutely delivered. If you haven’t heard this yet, please remedy that right now. (Released Nov. 1)

For more on the band, go here: http://fallsofrauros.blogspot.com/

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

Or here: http://www.nordvis.com/store/

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

Or here: http://www.nordvis.com/

Triptykon cover12. TRIPTYKON, “Melana Chasmata” (Century Media): Not long after Triptykon’s tortured second full-length “Melana Chasmata” was thrust onto the world, Tom G. Warrior (Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, in case you permanently live under a rock) talked about how difficult the creation process was and that he was not happy with the results. No doubt the man had been through some dark times in the period leading up to this record’s creation, and if he is being truly honest about his state (and there’s no reason for him to be dishonest), we could have lost the man to his darkness. Luckily he and the band survived, and this album is an absolute psychological terror, with Warrior giving no quarter and the rest of the band standing behind him as disciples of destruction. To me, this record is nothing short of a dark masterpiece, colored morosely by Warrior’s personal struggles that I certainly hope he is conquering. From the savage assault of fire-breathing opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” that contains some of Warrior’s most forceful vocals ever; to slow-driving “Altar of Deceit” and it’s hugely memorable, muddy chorus; to warbling, mashing epic “Black Snow”; to the heart-stopping homage to Emily Bronte of “In the Sleep of Death,” this band makes depression, anger, and disappointment feel hugely personal and impossibly heavy. This is an amazing record, one of the best things Warrior has ever done. (Released April 14)

For more on the band, go here: http://www.triptykon.net/

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

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

Sleipnir cover11. THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR, “V.” (Napalm): Colorado duo the Flight of Sleipnir operated under the radar for far too long. But maybe that’s a good thing. While the band was making fantastic records for the Eyes Like Snow label, they were building their machine and refining their messages. That all culminates in their Napalm Records debut and the best record of their career in “V.” Never has the band sounded this varied and packed so many different colors into their records, and they appear to have hit on the perfect formula with this album. Having Napalm on their side means they’ve been exposed to a much wider audience, one they very much deserve, and they respond with some special, incredibly creative tracks including trippy and moving “Sidereal Course” that features really strong singing that might even make you think of classic rock; “The Casting” that reminds you they still know how to use their sharp teeth; “Gullveig,” which is dressed in psychedelic webbing that should make your head feel heavy; and “Archaic Rites” that balances beauty and brutality perfectly. This is one hell of a coming-out party for this band. (Released Nov. 24)

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

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

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

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