In 2014, heavy metal wore me out. Trying to keep up with the seemingly never-ending flood of new releases and developments in the scene while at the same time attempting to allow myself opportunities to enjoy the music purely as a fan finally caught up with me, and for a good chunk of the year, THKD felt more like a chore than like fun. On top of that, the faux-outrage that lit up my various social media feeds every time someone got their feelings hurt was especially tiresome (although at times entertaining); as exhausted as I am, I can only imagine how exhausting it must be to be offended by everything, or to be convinced that other people are somehow out to ruin heavy metal for you.
In early December, I decided I wasn’t going to do a year end list. It isn’t that I’m all of the sudden anti-list; I still love lists, but this year I just wasn’t feeling it. I gotta be honest, after five years of doing THKD I’m fucking weary, and laboring over a list just felt like yet another metal writing chore. Besides, if you read the blog regularly and follow me on social media, you already know what I liked this year.
Caligari Records has only been active since 2013, but in that time the label has released an ungodly slew of excellent metal with no allegiance to any particular subgenre. Indeed, the only thread that seems to tie Caligari’s releases together is an ear for quality, and that quality continues to run over the cassette label competition, this time in the form of No Life, the second demo (first EP?) from Boston black metal bruisers Human Bodies.
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.
Of all the legendary bands making comebacks in the last few years, Mortuary Drape is surely among the most welcome around here at THKD. It’s been ten long years since the Italians last released a full length, and given the fact that there’s not another black metal band on Earth (or beyond) that sounds quite like them, that’s far, far too long. Of course, some misgivings are understandable considering the band that now surrounds drummer/vocalist/mainman Wildness Perversion consists of more recent initiates into the Mortuary Drape uh, fold, but rest assured fiends, Herr Perversion’s still got it on Spiritual Independence; in fact he’s still got it to the point that the album stacks up damn impressively next to stone classics such as All the Witches Dance and Tolling 13 Knell.
No matter what you think of Machine Head vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Robb Flynn, it can’t be denied that he’s one ambitious motherfucker. Following his band’s unfortunate descent into the deepest, darkest gutters of the nu metal ghetto, Flynn has re-molded Machine Head back into a post-thrash/groove metal juggernaut, known for penning epic-length tunes that cram more riffs and moods into eight to ten minutes of music than most bands of similar ilk bring to the table over the course of entire albums. For those familiar with Flynn’s tendency to throw everything and the kitchen sink into his records, it should come as no surprise then that Bloodstone & Diamonds, Machine Head’s eighth full length release, is their most sprawling and wildly varied work to date.
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.