CVLT Nation’s Top 10 Albums of 2014
These are the ten albums that stood out above the rest to us here at the CVLT Nation HQ. We listen to new music every day, and we’ve listened to literally all of the thousands of streams and albums that we’ve posted about on CVLT Nation. When music is your life, the albums that you return to, time and again, become the special ones. It’s a personal list, but it’s also one that we take seriously and that we put in the context of every piece of music we’ve listened to this year. These are our 2014 staples.
TEN: FISTULA – Vermin Prolificus
Why we picked it: This is your brain on dirty sludge.
Perhaps it is because of the highly publicized pollution of Lake Cuyahoga where Akron, Ohio’s Fistula have emerged from, which results in this contaminated, disease-ridden release labeled Vermin Prolificus. On the altar for review this time around is a 7 song release; or more aptly, a late night, intoxicated walk through a bourbon and vomit-filled bog. A caustic mix of fuzzed guitars and bass, interrupted with ear-splitting moments of feedback, that calls forth comparisons to Suppression and some of the now defunct record label Sound Pollution releases. Vermin Prolificus works through a shifting, sludge/crust punk-filled sound, keeping it simple yet addictive enough to continue exploring the album after an initial listen. Fistula have dug out and exposed violent, downtrodden moments of frustration and a sense of hopelessness with this release. The band itself has brought forth songs that range from one and half minute explosions of the pained, nightmarish screams of a Krokodil addict to moments of hyper-slowed-down, lung-crushing bong hits of doom.
NINE: BONE – For Want of Feeling
Why we picked it: This sounds like no other release we’ve heard this year.
I’m at a loss in how describe this band’s brilliance, because every moment of their album For Want of Feeling alters my state of mind! On many levels, I think that BONE have created a the perfect album. This band’s songs are huge trees of emotion that cast shadows of angular doom. The song “Bath Time” is 8 minutes of sonic bliss, in a murky kind of way. When you hear BONE, you can totally tell that these humans are in tune with their musical vision. Even saying that For Want of Feeling is amazing or incredible would be an understatement. BONE is a band that should be known to all of those beings that dig original underground music. So press play below and then share how you feel about this band with a friend, so that they can hear the magic of BONE as well!
EIGHT: THE BODY – I Shall Die Here
Why we picked it: It’s The Body, nuff said.
Review via Resident Advisor:
…produced by Bobby Krlic, AKA The Haxan Cloak, Tri Angle’s dark lord of noir electronics.
I Shall Die Here strips The Body’s music down to its darkest elements. Their long passages of silence are more unnerving here, and their crashing weight feels even heavier. The band wield their instruments with precision, and Krlic’s touch is equally careful. You won’t even know he’s there until the thrash falls away to an uneasy thrum on the opening track, “To Carry The Seeds Of Death Within Me.” On “Alone All The Way,” Krlic compresses Buford’s spastic thrusts into sledgehammer bludgeons. His fingerprints are most evident on “Our Souls Were Clean.” Here the band’s gale force noise is channeled into surging techno—think Mika Vainio—before it slips off into a trap rhythm, giving the chaos an unexpected slinkiness.
While King and Buford make a point of exploring new avenues on I Shall Die Here, they also return to their sludgy doom metal roots. On “Darkness Surrounds Us” and “The Night Knows No Dawn,” scratchy vocals ride the groove like howls lost to the wind, their meaning buried beyond comprehension. Moments like these recall early black metal, where sonic clarity gave way to the sheer force of terror. That spirit lives on in I Shall Die Here, an album whose sophisticated approach belies its pure nihilism.
SEVEN: YOUNG AND IN THE WAY – When Life Comes to Death
Why we picked it: This record is the best thing yet to come from one of our favorite bands.
In the shadows cast by the shimmer of candlelight and glimpsed from the hollows of livestock skulls, North Carolina’s Young and in the Way have been toiling with the dark arts in a way yet to be seen by any other. Their debut off Deathwish Inc., When Life Comes to Death is YAITW’s most accomplished work. On the heels of 2011’s V. Eternal Depression, and splits with Withdrawal and Moral Void, YAITW thread together the sinews left from songs like “Times Are Cold,””Midst of Night” and “Vaticide,” birthing a body of work that towers over all previous creations.
The megaton “Betrayed by Light” hisses the album title through a palpable darkness, announcing its arrival with a thunderclap and riffs conjured from the same storm. The icy, piano-laden ending leads into the nasty relentless “Fuck This Life,” a misanthropic sound ravaging that rends you from ear to ear. YAITW have consistently allowed more energy to shine through with each release and here the aggression in the sound has audible veins bursting through the neck-breaking pace. “Be My Blood” is a highlight of this, easily being one of When Life Comes to Death’s best, destined to become a staple of YAITW’s live performance.
SIX: MONARCH – Sabbracadaver
Why we picked it: Beautiful and deadly.
The essence of the band does not rely on their heavy guitars and slow tempo, but rather on their dense ambiance. This atmosphere that they are able to invoke seems to be fluctuating between a dark, haunting ambiance and an almost dystopian vibe.
A post-apocalyptic nightmare is exactly what the band aims for. Once the opaque ambiance of “Pentagrammes” comes in, it feels as if a void has been unleashed, swallowing all light. With the vocals further increasing this suffocating feeling, the band attacks with cymbal hits and heavy riffs, making the whole process insane. Monarch is constructing a labyrinth made of darkness and fear, in which you have no choice but to lose yourself. Similar is the case of the equally imposing “Louves,” with Eurogirl’s voice echoing through the vast maze. And the real surprise, when the band gives in and lets loose an almost melodic part in the middle of the song, with an intriguing sorrowful melody being repeated, providing an almost cathartic experience. That is, of course, the only remission this album is allowed to have, and once again Monarch put back their relentless mask and plummet in the depths of despair. And that is exactly where they take things off for the final push.
FIVE: KING DUDE – Fear
Why we picked it: King Dude has crafted an album that solidifies his place as the new Man in Black. He makes us want to worship Satan, play guitar, drink and dance til we drop.
Review via The Sleeping Shaman:
King Dude is probably best known for his collaborations with Chelsea Wolfe; however, he has three other full lengths. Fourth and newest album ‘Fear’ is without a doubt his most accessible work to date. What makes this album so remarkable is the diversity throughout; King Dude’s ability to switch between sorrowful and pained to upbeat and catchy sing-along numbers at the drop of a hat is impressive and I’ve had a really hard time turning this album off because of that. I’m typing this review the night before I’m due to see the ‘Dude live and I’m hyped more than anything to see fist pumping number ‘Fear Is All You Know’ live. This is a wickedly upbeat, yet devastatingly heavy slice of what sounds like country music turned all the way up to 11.
The pace on this record runs at break neck speed and before I know it, I’m being torn from the highs of the opening track and plunged into the melancholy pits of ‘Maria’. This miserable, acoustic driven track is heavily reminiscent of Death In June, but that unmistakable American whiskey-tinged atmosphere never dissipates and is a constant reminder of the grittiness currently working its way into my ears.
“Sold his soul for rock ‘n’ roll” is the very essence of lame dad rock; however, King Dude pulls off this gimmick with both style and distinction. He takes all of Tom Waits’ gravelly sadness and pours it out through the medium of songs about the Devil, loose women and times of hardship – what’s more he makes the idea of having a rubbish time of it seem fucking cool. Pact with Satan or not, I’d suffer some of what he’s singing about in a heartbeat in exchange for just an ounce of this guy’s talent. ‘Fear’ is a must have album.
FOUR: MEGATON LEVIATHAN – Past 21 Beyond The Arctic Cell
Why we picked it: This is universe music.
MEGATON LEVIATHAN is not a band. It’s a temple. A church of sorts, a cathedral of mesmerizing sonic beauty, and Past 21 Beyond The Arctic Cell is the latest statement in this legacy, this lineage of immense cosmic power. Throughout the years, the band has been the catalyst for the emotions and visions of Andrew James Costa Reuscher, a real lone wolf and drifter in America’s finest doom. A timid and shy Portland, Oregon, native who has never given up the grasp on his beliefs that Megaton is an unrenounceable source of catharsis and expiation for his soul. Megaton’s music, while it cleanses Andrew’s soul, it also cleanses the souls of all who encounter his majestic craft. Megaton’s music is the sound of liberation. Of sublimation thorough a pathway of sonic pillars that lead up into a vast and desolate night sky in which all existence disintegrates into stardust and cosmic wind. There is such sadness, beauty, solitude and vastness in this music, that you surrender to it in a breakdown of puzzling desperation, but love every moment of it as you get lost in your own hallucinating mind….
THREE: USA OUT OF VIETNAM – Crashing Diseases & Incurable Airplanes
Why we picked it: This album is beautiful, simply put. It sends tingles down our spine. We’re so excited for the future of this band!
I’m not really sure where to start on this one. This album defies any attempt to pin it into a corner with any kind of label or definition. There is so much ethereal shit going on in this record that at at times it feels like it is pulsating in front of your eyes in an enormous cloud of shimmering light, leaving you gazing in amazement as it evaporates into the stratosphere above you. USA Out Of Vietnam from Montreal, Quebec, are just that: a band you can not define for the life of you and that makes music you simply can not grasp. I could name both doom metal and Brit pop to try and define them and I would be neither right nor wrong using either term. There is in fact something about doom and something else about Brit pop in here, but mostly there is everything in between, synthesized in a glorious and light-bloated explosion of celestine magnificence. But forget about the majestic music herein for a second.
USA Out Of Vietnam craft a majestic, ethereal, often surreal and desolate splicing of doom metal, shoegaze, drone, psych, post-rock, dream pop, and often zone out even into straight up Brit-pop inclinations, materializing a final sonic result, that, believe us, you have never fucking heard in your whole life. The band’s sound is centered around thick, crushing and foggy guitars that seem to be driven by minimal distortion though and which appear to be more layered and pancaked one on top of another more than thrusted by distortion. On top of that are pounding and scattered drums that form a hysteric and hypnotic heart beat as a rhythmic backdrop to all the waves and tides of guitars constantly swinging back and forth. Make no mistake, these are all elements that create the blueprint for your typical doom album. But then, this shit is not doom cause so much more happens, and so much insanely awesome shit happens all around to separate this band and its music from what we would all commonly define as doom. The vocals, for example, find no place in doom metal. You could find them in bands like Nothing, True Widow, Slowdive, Low or other shoegaze bands where the beautifully sung and chanted vocals are semi-buried in enormous washes of white noise and static. The whole feat turns out to be extremely luminous, cluttered with light and rays of white magnificence, angelical almost.
TWO: ATRIARCH – An Unending Pathway
Why we picked it: They’ve harnessed their most dark and melodic elements in this sonic expression.
Atriarch’s new “An Unending Pathway” LP, on Relapse, is an arresting and welcome combination of doom metal, death rock, black metal, and Mid Eastern-influenced darkwave sounds.
A good reference point for the Portland band’s new LP might be a few tracks on the 1987 Celtic Frost “Into the Pandemonium” album. That LP marked a dramatic turn for Celtic Frost and included several tracks that seemed to reflect the influence of the relatively nascent death rock and goth scenes in the US and the UK (see the tracks “Mesmerized” and “Caress Into Oblivion” from “Into the Pandemonium,” for example). Atriarch’s approach at blending genres doesn’t sound as rough and raw as Celtic Frost’s attempt in ’87 did, though; this LP is a well-produced and masterful synthesis of its differing components. It sounds confident and assured, a definite step forward in Atriarch’s sonic progression. In fact, I think it’s Atriarch’s best and most cohesive-sounding LP to date. All of the songs complement each other nicely and it feels as if a single narrative underscores the collection of songs.
ONE: EARTH – Primitive and Deadly
Why we picked it: This Earth album is as otherworldly and ethereal as the stunning cover artwork by Bloodbankdesign. We’ve had it on repeat since we got the promo, and it’s one of those records that we’ll never get sick of.
It’s as apt an album title that you can get, as this is the most instinctual that Earth have sounded in years, adding another wrinkle to the band’s dynamic, with slightly pacier riffs and an altogether heavier vibe. Though make no mistake, Earth still sound very much like Earth, and while there’s more pace, it’s still slow and methodical record by most standards, just with a little more grit than before.
What sets Primitive and Deadly apart from the rest of the Earth canon is the inclusion of vocals, a drastic change in how the band does business, being instrumental for 99% of their careers. This clearly wasn’t a flippant decision of course, as the guest vocals on hand have been carefully chosen, one of which is Mark Lanegan, contributing vocals to two tracks, ‘There Is A Serpent Coming’ and ‘Rooks Across The Gate’. Lanegan doesn’t rock the boat in any way, marrying his unmistakeable croon to Earth’s lethargic riffs to supreme effect.
The other vocalist that makes their presence felt on Primitive and Deadly is Rabi Shabeen Qazi, another Seattle native and singer with psych band Rose Windows. Her ethereal drawl, like a mix of Jex Thoth with grungy undertones, features on ‘From the Zodiacal Light’ and is an utter triumph. While the rest of the album features Earth at their usual instrumental self, and tracks like ‘Badgers Bane’ are languid but captivating, the natural meshing of these vocal collaborations has actually stolen the show on Primitive and Deadly.