2014 has been a hell of a year and every true music lover has their ‘list’ of albums that sum up the highs, lows, successes and failures that make each and every day worth facing. As a newer member of the Shaman camp, it’s been a pleasure discovering new bands, spreading the word on old ones, and lighting the torch for up and comers; the following list is a snapshot of the 10 best albums that have graced these ears over the past 12 or so months; no particular order, but each of these records deserves a force-fed listen:
1. The Brian Jonestown Massacre’Revelation’
Maturity and (periodic) sobriety does a man some good and Anton Newcombe and his band of 60s psych revivalists have been thriving since 2010’s methodronic Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? and the awesome Aufheben (2012) – a retreat to Berlin and a stent in Iceland have seemingly rekindled Newcombe’s true artistic spirit and Revelation continues the momentum. While not as thematically or stylistically consistent as its predecessors, it is nonetheless one of the band’s best outings and assures that the group’s new found focus is not just a transient moment of clarity.
2. Spiral Shades ‘Hypnosis Sessions’
Nothing is more indicative of 21st century technology than two amazing musicians who are able to craft and record one of the best 70s doom/proto-metal revivalist albums in recent years without having actually met – Hypnosis Sessions is a completely virtual record; drum machine, loops, programming, riffs and intuition – seems an unlikely story, but Norwegian guitarist Filip Peterson and Mumbai based singer/songwriter Kushal Bhadra bring us some premier heavy rock listening for 2014.
3. The Cult Of Dom Keller ‘The Second Bardo’
Acid drenched insanity of the sweetest kind; if I could add this kind of buzz to my Lucky Charms every morning, I’d be a happier, crazier kind of cool. Bobby Heckshire’s been gunning for this kind of evil psychedelia since Heavy Deavy Skull Lover – The Second Bardo hands us the precision kill.
4. Greenleaf ‘Trails & Passes’
Tommi Holappa and his Swedish rocking cohorts have been delivering the goods for so long, I’m not sure if they’re capable of a bad album – 2012’s Nest Of Vipers had a lot to live up to after the kick ass, stripped down swank of Agents of Ahriman (2007); topping tracks like Treehorn or Stray Bullit Woman ain’t no easy feat, but the album succeeded on most fronts with only minor missteps. Fast forward to 2014: a revamped lineup and an older school, streamlined sound seem to be the next formula for success and Trails & Passes easily carves its way into Greenleaf’s legacy as arguably their best record.
5. Serpentine Path ‘Emanations’
Serpentine Path’s eponymous debut (2012) saw a return to the primitive early 90s doom/death sound made popular by bands like Bolt Thrower and Cause Of Death era Obituary – somewhat of an interesting turn for Ryan Lipynsky after the demise of Unearthly Trance, given that band’s often unorthodox and progressive take on sludge, doom, and black metal. But Serpentine Path’s relentless bludgeoning and oddly catchy grooves crushed their way into hearts and minds worldwide. Emanations continues along the same brutal mind fuck of a journey…definitely worth the trip.
6. Earth ‘Primitive And Deadly’
Dylan Carlson operates at his own pace and frequency; humble, reserved, meditative and one of the rare artistic geniuses of this current underground (rock) generation, his music has defied traditional classification and each of Earth’s records have been different statements on Carlson’s personal experiences – The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull will probably be regarded as his definitive masterpiece, but Primitive And Deadly‘s rockier take on the former’s tasteful melodies, hooks, and general accessibility (not to mention the inclusion of vocalist Mark Lanegan into the fold) make this record an essential piece of Earth’s growing history.
7. Dead Sea Apes ‘High Evolutionary’
Cardinal Fuzz (label) has delivered some fantastic releases this year and High Evolutionary is another psych rock gem begging for discovery; but anyone who tapped into the psych drone current of 2012’s Lupus knew this amazing record was inevitable. Those who love their acid trips sans vocals will dig this. Essential listening for 2014.
8. Pallbearer ‘Foundations of Burden’
Check any year end best list and you’ll probably find this album firmly tucked at the top – the band builds on its template of crushing grooves, complex arrangements, and extended song structures showcased on 2012’s Sorrow And Extinction; this round sees an emphasis on hook – all gleaned to perfection thanks to (producer) Billy Anderson’s chops. Pallbearer continues to evolve and refine their sound as one of the premier doom/heavy rock acts of the past 20 years.
9. Thine ‘The Dead City Blueprint’
Peaceville Records brought us without a doubt one of the best gothic/progressive rock albums of 2014 in Thine’s The Dead City Blueprint – another record that defies classification, the band fuses elements of doom, folk, hard rock, and classical into a powerfully emotive and timeless sound. The album comes almost 12 years after the group’s highly acclaimed In Therapy – the long wait is the price you pay for an album of this caliber. Essential listening for 2014.
10. The Skull ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’
Classic Troublemakers Eric Wagner and Jeff “Oly” Olson return for the crown with this debut doom juggernaut; backed by Matt Goldsborough and Lothar Keller (guitars), with Ron Holzner (bass) rounding out the rhythm section, The Skull shows us why our classic Trouble records have grooves and scratches a mile thick – if I could walk around with Psalm 9 or Simple Mind Condition (LPs) as neck ornaments without looking completely ridiculous I would For Those Which Are Asleep is an equal contender, but looks to the future as this new band redefines it’s classic take on the genre.
And that’s the list. If you have the time, check these records out…they changed my year for the better. See you in 2015.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore