Mighty Monkey Wingerschmidt’s Totally Awesome, Kickass List Of Fifteen Pretty Good Albums From 2014
Here we go again…
2014 gave us many wonderfully diverse releases, so many that I could have easily doubled the amount on this list. But narrowing down is simultaneously the fun, frustration, and validation in doing this, right?
When the proverbial (and literal) smoke cleared, here’s what I was left with:
Now here’s a real supergroup roster for you – Troy Saunders (Mastodon), Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Max Cavalera (Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy/ex-Sepultura), and Dave Elitch (ex-The Mars Volta). If you’re not turned off by the rather radio-friendly nature of this album, there are definitely other winning attributes: we get to hear Troy be Troy again (several sections really have that old-school Mastodonian vibe), Greg Puciato is given additional opportunities to croon as he’s been honing his singing skills on the last couple DEP albums, Dave Elitch has never sounded like such a powerhouse, and Cavalera binds the whole package together with plenty of bro/butt-rock riffs that you will love to hate. This probably isn’t the smartest metal you’re gonna hear this year, but it’s thoroughly satisfying in other ways.
Listen: “Wings of Feather and Wax”
By now we all know what’s going on with Bill Cosby, but did you ever wonder what became of Rudy’s adorable little friend Peter who Cos would banter and mess with on the regs? Well naturally this child actor grew up to be a seriously baddass metal drummer, and his remarkable space prog band Torrential Downpour (think BTBAM meets DEP meets Albert Einstein + a chaos pad) released one of the most advanced, heady, future-forward albums of 2014. This is a dense, involved listen that will increase your brain power tenfold and take you on a journey to another universe you never imagined possible. When the rapture comes and super-intelligent monkeys (finally) take control of our planet, they will be listening to this album for inspiration…
An unbridled, no-bullshit foray of post-hardcore aggression, Blissfucker cuts the fat and offers nonstop lean meat in your face. The addition of a new rhythm section has only sharpened the group’s focus, and working once again with longtime producer Kurt Ballou (from a lil band called CONVERGE) deftly sustains the consistency of the authentic TT sound. This album is a tr00 banger, with all the right bursts of fury and chaos….and oh man, that epic ending! Gives me chills every time. Unfortunately we may never see TT’s ferocious live show again due to frontman Ryan McKenney’s long-overdue health ailment discovery (as he told us in July: “I am a very irresponsible person when we play … not paying attention caused a lot of head trauma. I started to have dizzy spells when we played, and headaches, and when we got home from the last tour, I finally decided to see the doctor. And basically I have advanced post-concussion syndrome.”) — which is a crying shame since clearly homeboy has plenty of things to say — but you can always spin the band’s four albums (and presumably more studio output to come) and create a personal mosh pit of your own.
Are we still even calling Opeth a “metal” band? Cuz this album is pure throwback progressive rock through and through. But the style fits the band pretty perfectly, and one almost doesn’t even miss the heavier sections. Almost. Something tells me that snarky Swede Akerfeldt will bring back the br00tal soon enough; given his penchant for ribbing audiences and riffing with interviewers, there’s no question he thrives on interactivity, and given the backlash our beloved ‘peth has received for its gentler status now seems like the right time. Why not return to crushing form when your band is sounding better than it has in years? Just sayin’.
Another Mastodon album, another spark of debate about how this legendary band is losing its edge. But if you are able to let the past sit in the past and open your mind enough to accept the ‘don evolving into a newer ‘don with more melodic/mainstream priorities/tendencies, you will plainly see that this album has plenty of win to offer. Some riffs actually sound more throwback Mastodon than we’ve heard in ages; they’re just shrouded in a shinier veneer with lots more singing and tons more middle-of-the-road hooks. I personally still prefer the best songs on The Hunter to the best songs on OMRTS, but a) I know I’m alone in that sentiment and b) there’s no question that OMRTS works better as a whole than The Hunter. Any which way you slice it, this is the ‘don and you know it’s still the best band ever so shut up.
From the ashes of killer Philly post-metalcore outfit The Minor Times (check THIS shit out) comes fiery noisy rock band Ladder Devils, which formed back in 2009 but has remained largely under the radar with just a couple EPs and a split release with Fight Amp and Kowloon Walled City. Clean Hands marks the band’s first full-length, and it was well worth the wait. Every song tells its own story, and yet they all work extremely cohesively together. Time to get hip to what every heavy music aficionado from Philadelphia already knows: this ladder goes to deep dark places, and the devil will take good care of you once you arrive.
This Italian band of atmospheric post/prog-metallers bears resemblance to New Zealanders Ulcerate, but the comparison stops with the shreddy masterful drumming and ambient elements — Nero Di Marte have an unexpected ability to create more mood than we’ve heard in quite some time, and when the group locks in on a defined part there is no stopping its sheer force. This album is sprawling yet never tiring; a rare feat for bands attempting such ambitiously deliberate material. If NDM can find enough balance on its next release to include a couple of tracks that could be marketed into more earholes, there is no doubt we’ll be seeing much more of them in the future.
Cloudkicker (aka Ben Sharp), has been releasing wondrous instru-metal home recordings on his own for several years now, so it seemed like quite the rare chance to see the guy perform live with a legitimate backing band — let alone prog-metal darlings Intronaut — earlier this year on an unexpected tour that (SPOILER ALERT) did not disappoint in the least. But in another unexpected turn of events, during a day off in Austin, the band recorded its set live (and presumably, live here simply means all playing at the same time in a recording studio, since the “crowd” heard is listed as having been recorded a few weeks later in Cleveland), and surprise surprise – it’s phenomenal. The lack of vocals might contribute to a meandering feeling for some, but those possessing the wherewithal to sink their teeth into meaty instrumental music will be continually thrilled by this release.
Every album sees Revocation getting better and better, and this just might be the outrageously ripping band at its sharpest. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Davidson (who MetalSucks considers to be Modern Metal’s #1 Guitarist) again leads his crew into battle with a keen sense of intense focus and virgin-tight simplicity during every riffing attack that paves the way for another deliciously inventive guitar solo. Stupidly stupendous drummer Phil Dubois-Coyne (also a recipient of accolades on another one of our polls/lists) positively slays every note – the guy destroys his drums with the utmost precision you could possibly imagine. Once again Revocation has managed to feel throwback, contemporary, and forward-thinking all at once, and the dizzying yet grounded result is another amazing album to ingest.
Is Italian tech-prog metal band Destrage kidding us with its zany brand of soulful virtuosity? Apparently not, as this year’s Metal Blade release demonstrates – the group manages to blend the ridiculous with some seriously in-the-pocket grooves and breakdowns, as well as plenty of unabashed in-your-face riffage and unapologetic soaring melodic vocals (plus a nerdly-legitimate guest appearance by fancy-fingered guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thaal). Gleefully, these perky paisanos add a glorious touch of humor to everything they do (they implore us to not take them seriously in one song and “shoot zombies in the face” on the next track), whether it’s lyrically or musically. Wait a second — tongue-in-cheek + metal??? I thought we had the market cornered on that. Vince, call our lawyer!
Naturally, this mind-melting, mathy, mostly instrumental power trio from Atlanta gets umpteen points for even attempting (not to mention super-successfully pulling off) such a deliriously ambitious concept on recent release The Beast of Left and Right, but furthermore these fellers really put their riffs where their mouths are. A palindromic album, you say? Musical elements from the early tracks reversed on the later tracks, eh? A centerpiece song to anchor the album’s middle portion, huh? With such a brilliant idea driving a collection of songs, one might expect the music to fall short of the concept, but that is hardly the case here. Lazer/Wulf have proven to be one of the real breakout acts of 2014, and for good reason – these guys douse the perfect amount of playfulness into every ripping tune, and create a striking mood via top-notch production value. Keep your good eye on this vibrant band.
Listen: “Beast Reality (Center Piece)”
This much-heralded quintet from Richmond, VA gave us quite a treat this year in the form of a single track, forty-five minute odyssey that ebbs and flows in all the right ways and melds together several different genre elements to create a truly unique sound and mood. At times a Southern vibe sits center stage amidst the band’s signature psychedelic doom/black/stoner/prog/kitchen-sink metal mélange, but really this is timeless, amorphous music that could just as easily have come from the West Coast or outer space, really. Top-notch musicianship and creativity all around, and yet despite the power of The Cavern I can’t help but feel like INTER ARMA’s masterpiece and subsequent rise is still to come.
Blah blah blah, buzz buzz buzz band, hype hype hype, metal saviors, newcomers here to save the day…..whatever you may have heard about Reading, Pennsylvania’s Black Crown Initiate, well it’s basically true. This band definitely has something very special and deserves a chance to pleasure your earholes. The massive glory bestowed upon this winning unit may be a bit exaggerated, though – it’s difficult not to feel like songs are repeating themselves a bit by the end of the album – but take a listen to “Great Mistake” and try not to get swept up by the earnest juxtaposition of heavy & clean vocals, as well as the breakdown of the year and some altogether nifty playing by everyone involved. No weak links here!
Listen: “Great Mistake”
This “supergroup”, featuring former/current members of Narrows, These Arms Are Snakes, Minus the Bear and XVIII Eyes, released one of the best EPs of 2014 under the learned tutelage of keyboarder/masterful producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Botch, etc) and featuring the lovely dynamic vocals of standout Irene Barber. Opener “Cusp” is still my favorite song of the year, conjuring the hazy afterglow of Summer sunsets and wading in an iridescent lake while retaining enough sonic punch to leave you winded. I can’t wait to hear what’s next from this stellar group.
“Time to wake up” to this fantastic album by a truly remarkable band putting earthy feeling into every moment… Eugene, Oregon’s YOB inflects a great deal of deliberation (clearly, with songs ranging between ten and twenty minutes) and earnest emotion alongside rich, haunting musicality and powerful vocal expressions throughout the journey that is this album. These longtime stalwarts (est. 1996) have risen to another level with this one, inflecting so much mood, vibe, and distinct character in every passage that you really feel the experience of the music more than simply hear it. Okay, maybe I’m biased by the memory of my gorgeous girlfriend (pictured below) dancing around by Summer firelight to this album in a cabin nestled in the woods while we were on ecstasy, but did she really make YOB sound that good or was it actually the music that increased her sexiness? Perhaps a bit of both.
HAPPY HOLIDAZE, MOFOZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!