So 10 Out Of ’14 Ain’t Bad: Jason Hough’s Top 10 Albums of 2014
I’ve never actually had chance to introduce myself but I’m still fairly new to the site, having been kindly inducted by Shaman Lee this summer, for which I am very grateful for, after completing my degree in June. My music taste is actually universal, diving between the mainstream and the underground in all instances so if this list seems a little mismatched or flags up music you may not have encountered before, that would be why. In any case, these are my picks for my top 10 albums of this year (in no particular order), with a few honorary mentions to boot, I hope you enjoy any of them, and thank you kindly for the last few months. Here’s to 2015!
Giant Squid ‘Minoans’
There isn’t much more that really needs to be said about this album from me. I wrote a love letter about it and I still stick by every word in it. Giant Squid are a remarkable breed of musician, the kind that turn conventional logic on its head and decides to genetically modify it how they see fit. They are scientists, storytellers and craftsmen all in the same people, and the cinematic experience that Minoans unravels through its running time is utterly astounding and deeply evocative. A true modern masterpiece.
Cavalera Conspiracy ‘Pandemonium’
A bit of a guilty admission this one, but I have a love of all music hard and fast. A rejuvenated-sounding Max Cavalera has satisfied that spot intensely with the release of the third Cavalera Conspiracy album. While I believe he falls short of the grindcore statement he intended to deliver, it is no less savage or unrelenting in its execution. Rawer, faster, angrier than the brothers Cavalera have sounded in decades, this album is a beast on a rampage, with no other mindset than to destroy, then destroy some more. Pandemonium is defiantly old school, and all the better for it.
James Brown Gang ‘James Brown Gang’
Now everyone with a rational knowledge of the musical world will know James Brown. His impact and legacy will remain eternal in the history books, but as for the James Brown Gang, the link is in name only, their legacy currently being built upon a myriad of musical extremes. These three lads from New Jersey are already prolific in their recorded output, but it’s this summer’s self-titled release, effortlessly blending sludge, doom, metal and psyche with hardcore, that demonstrates their outstanding instrumentation, and signals why they could well be a formidable force in years to come.
Mexican Chili Funeral Party ‘Mexican Chili Funeral Party’
For my money, this Italian hard rock quartet win 2014’s best band name contest hands down. But for what their name doesn’t really give away, they more than make up in the riff department and with a gunslinger’s resolve. They kick surprisingly hard instrumentally, play at entrancing length at times and vocally could compete with the very crème de la crème of stoner rock. Close your eyes and you could even place this back where it all began in the 90’s. But where they are clearly versed in Kyuss and early Queens, it never feels like they retread the same ground covered decades ago. They have twisted the same formula, yet it sounds remarkably fresh and that alone is testament to these guys’ abilities as musicians.
Trap Them ‘Blissfucker’
Fully established at the forefront of a heavier, hybrid breed of hardcore, Trap Them’s take-no-prisoners, leave-no-survivors attitude spawned this year’s uncompromising Blissfucker. Going straight for the jugular from the get-go, the nihilistic tendencies of modern-day American hardcore is present and accounted for, and it’s ear-splitting to boot. However, there lies an equally impressive sludgy side to this four piece, as many catchy, slower burning riff cascades will tell. Violent, for sure, but they live up to their namesake, trapping you between a wall of spikes and an incredibly hard place, and for those not of a nervous disposition, it’s hard not to enjoy.
Stemming from a dark, nasty abyss in the human psyche, this unfathomably heavy offering from Indiana doomsayers Coffinworm is a bleak and tortured landscape stretched over six songs, bleached in the tides of sludge, doom, black metal and hardcore. Where IV.I.VIII could become unpleasant, even unlistenable at times, it constantly evolves, providing faster, heavier or darker auditory punishment at exactly the right moments. Where exciting seems the wrong word to use, it is none the less a gripping listen. If Coffinworm were a predator, they wouldn’t so much slaughter its prey, as disembowel it and strip the carcass clean. Brutal to endure, harrowing to listen to, but somehow engrossing to be in the presence of.
Heterodox ‘Elixir Of Lethe’
How word hasn’t broken out about this New Zealand trio much beyond their homeland, confounds me. Heterodox play a beautiful blend of Sabbath’s doom, modern progressive rock and virtuoso shredding, with a side order of grunge thrown in for good measure. The end result is jaw-dropping. The continuity from one track to the next is unmatched by anything else I’ve heard this year and although all but one track falls under the five minute mark, it all encapsulates into a seamless tour de force. The instrumentation makes the atmosphere feel like a never-ending fight between an earthquake and the outermost reaches of space. Again, how have so few unearthed this group, because this is a phenomenal album, in the truest sense of the word.
Craang ‘To The Estimated Size Of The Universe’
Psychedelic music takes you on a journey like no other and long have I been a fan of music with atmosphere. But in just four songs, none of which fall under the 7 minute mark, Greece’s Craang has mastered the art of absorbing and immersing the listener into a constantly expanding dimension. The album title is spot on. Between guitars that crunch hard or wail at the top of their metaphorical lungs and bass grooves that burrow into your brain, from each song into the next, the soundscape becomes more and more spacious and easier to lose yourself inside. Escape if you can, this is one unforgettable trip, and one of the most overlooked of the year.
Just being released in the nick of time for this list, this Dutch quartet caused quite a stir with their three track demo Seaquake two years ago. Now, in the dying moments of 2014, their first full length effort channels that momentum into an incredibly accomplished debut. Switching gears constantly between blues, carefully calculated sludge, riffs that will topple buildings, grooves that disco-lovers would need hip replacements for, gorgeous psyche-infused progressive jams and vocals that could bring avalanches to your doorstep, Yama’s natural evolution over that two-year span has produced a textbook on how to bend boundaries and still excel within them.
Admittedly, I had a slight reservation about including this album on this list, as high profile names from distinguished luminaries Gallows, SiKth, now Slipknot, not to mention Radio 1 Rock Show’s Daniel P Carter and a cameo from Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, have projected the six-piece supergroup firmly into the public domain by sheer brute force. But that sheer brute force is absolutely incredible to listen to. A bludgeoning sludge siege to the senses, sometimes at an unstable velocity, the vitriol and venom is staggering from an undeniably Fort Knox-tight band chemistry, having only been together for a year. One of the best statements of intent this year, bar none.
That’s my top 10 and the following are albums that didn’t make the cut but are worthy of an honourable mention…
While not quite on par with either Gravity-X or Phi, Truckfighters still released a fine album in their fourth long-player this year. Universe shows a natural evolution for the Swedish three piece, but the riffs remain as infectious as ever in Prophet, and passages such as the end of Mastondont, their longest song written to date, are, and pardon the pun, simply majestic.
Hotel Wrecking City Traders ‘Ikiryo’
Australia’s favourite instrumental hard rock sons provide a molten flood of ear-punching, but incredibly hypnotic blasts from the raw power of just two men, a guitar and some drums. Spanning just five songs, their deafening but captivating prowess continues to push them further into the public eye and Ikriyo delivers much like a ten tonne payload.
Fossils ‘Flesh Hammer’
Intense Danish bass and drum power duo with an insatiable meat lust, continue the momentum from their outstanding debut with another 20 minute ballistic missile of an album. Completely jam-packed with more snarling bass tones, more incredible skin bashing, more killer instrumental action; blink and miss it at your own absolute peril.
Hail Spirit Noir ‘Oi Magoi’
Part 60’s psyche, part 70’s prog and part 90’s black metal, Hail Spirit Noir are an odd, but endearing beast. Their influences are as bold as brass – you can practically hum Stairway over the intro of Satan Is Time – but there is no mistaking that their seamless gear changes between such influences in their songwriting and luscious jams is cause for recognition and celebration.
Thanks again to Lee for adopting me so to speak, the bands that make the music I can write words about and anyone and everyone who has read, said things or supported anything I have written about over the last six months.
Scribed by: Jason Hough