At the end of 2014, I began to reacquaint myself with music outside of the metal spectrum. I’d been pretty much completely immersed in the genre since starting THKD back in 2009, and it was time to change things up; variety being the spice of life ‘n’ shit. At the forefront of this change in listening habits has been an unhealthy obsession with Brighter Death Now, the pioneering death industrial project of former Cold Meat Industry head honcho Roger Karmanik. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Karmanik released With Promises of Death, the first BDN full length in a number of years back in October of 2014 via his new label Familjegraven, and it is every bit the sickening listen fans have come to expect from him.
As a reviewer, tons of releases come across my desk every year, but few of them actually make me stop and say “Wow, this album is really something.” Burial Hex’s The Hierophant is just such an album; its seamless mixture of disparate tones and textures is simply unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Please believe it when I say this is not another case of music journalist hyperbole, this is simply one of the most stunningly unique, beautiful and unsettling recordings ever to ravage my unworthy ears.
Many moons ago Relapse Records introduced me to noise. That’s probably a bit hard to imagine for younger folks that only know the label as the beard metal stronghold it is today, but trust me, way back when Relapse was releasing some seriously bonkers shit. You see, Relapse used to have a sub-label called Release Entertainment and it was to noise, dark ambient and experimental music what Relapse once was to death metal, grindcore and the like.
Few bands have captured my attention in 2014 quite like Full of Hell. I had the pleasure of witnessing the quartet’s devastating, show-stealing live set back in August and was blown away by their combination of relentless intensity and determination to push the envelope of grind/hardcore deep into the realms of harsh noise. It was like someone had thrown Jane Doe-era Converge in a blender with Release Records-era Merzbow and set that motherfucker to liquefy; easily one of the most simultaneously challenging and exhilarating live experiences ever. Needless to say, when I caught wind of the announcement that they had signed a deal with Profound Lore and their debut for the venerable label would be a collaboration with the aforementioned Japanese God of Noise himself, anticipation was through the roof and then some.
Confession time: I had no idea who Scott Walker was prior to the announcement of Soused. As those of you who read this here blog on the regular might have guessed, I’m not particularly hip to the avant-garde scene. Furthermore, I was a tad apprehensive about another Sunn O))) collab being released this year after experiencing Terrestrials, their underwhelming team-up with Norway’s terminally overrated Ulver. If you’re in the same boat as I, fear not; one doesn’t have to be familiar with Herr Walker’s work to enjoy Soused, and it blows Terrestrials out of the goddamn water.
Universal Consciousness, the label run by Andorkappen of Lord Time (aka Sandor GF of Harassor), is home to some seriously “out there” metal acts. Voci dal Passato, the debut full-length from Italy’s Tony Tears, might be the label’s weirdest release yet and a fine example of an outsider take on an established form within the metal paradigm. Originally released independently back in 2009 and finally getting the vinyl treatment here, it’s forty minutes of quasi-psychedelic traditional doom that’ll likely leave you scratching your head for the first few listens, yet will quickly endear itself to you due to its naive charm.
2014 will be remembered as the year that actually got me excited about extreme music again. I haven’t exactly been bored, but it seems like this year I’m finding so many exciting young bands that are doing something truly interesting within the genre paradigm. One such band is Austin’s Street Sects, who are releasing the second part of their “serial album” in the form of Broken Windows, Sunken Ceilings. The duo creates what can best be described as electronic hardcore; violent, jarring and noisy as hell, like a factory full of automated machinery going haywire and collapsing on itself, the machines still trying desperately to function however imperfectly amidst the burning wreckage.