We Must Obey’s Top Records of 2014

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A lot of end-of-year lists have short memories. A lot of end-of-year lists seem to forget the year begins in January as much as the statisticians in English football forget there was a top flight before the Premier League. Hence why one or two albums that made this list appear, and it’s not for the sake that they went under the radar, or because we don’t have to feature some multi-million selling band to sell our product. But enough of the snipper snapping.

My focus on this site has really ebbed away in recent months to the point where I don’t know how much longer it can last. But I wouldn’t be doing it right to ignore what has been another stunning year for rock and metal on all levels. The UK underground in particular has never been stronger and if there is one good thing to come out of doing this site for three and a half years on and off, it’s discovering that there’s a ton of bands in this country who if our rock and metal media gave as much a toss about them as the Americans seem to do, they too could wind up a little bit hipster – and would that really be a bad thing for just a little bit of attention?! The UK is in rude health for rock and metal and all its tentacles.

In previous years I’ve split the short releases – the EPs, the splits and the demos – into a separate list, but this year I’ve not had the time to get around to two lists and to ignore those releases would be a disservice as they stack up very well compared to most full lengths. So here is just one list of ten great releases to have rocked my ears and my ears alone. I’ll stop blabbering now and let you read on as to why these records are worth a damn.

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10. Mastodon – Once More ‘Round The Sun (Reprise)

Its become evident over the last few records that Mastodon were not content being the sludge behemoths of their Relapse days nor even being progressively minded as witnessed on ‘Crack the Skye‘. As their profile has increased, they’ve taken several steps to reach a more, what you might say, streamlined sound. What ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun‘ achieves is a balance between reaching that target and still retaining their core essence. The first half of the record is some of the most kick ass rock you will hear for ages, from the twerk-inspiring ‘The Motherload’ to the at-times dream state of ‘Asleep in the Deep’. It’s not an entirely perfect record but it does finish rather satisfyingly with the bullet train of ‘Halloween’ and the most old school track on record, ‘Diamond in the Witch House’. The record finally confirms Brent Hinds as a distinguishable soloist, but more importantly, it proves that Mastodon are on the next step to true greatness. I doubt we’ll get another Metallica in this lifetime, if any at all, but I wouldn’t bet against Mastodon being able to become more accessible and still making big ‘fuck you’ riffs and anthems.

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9. Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul – Splatterhash (Tankcrimes)

Tankcrimes have a knack of putting out killer split releases and ‘Splatterhash‘, a release combining reefer worshippers Cannabis Corpse and horror executioners Ghoul produced the victims in spades. These are two bands who eschew any notion of meer gimmickry through knowing how to write either slamming pit tunes or memorable refrains. CC once again channel their more infamous namesake Cannibal Corpse for their two tracks, ‘The Inhalation Plague’ and ‘Shatter Their Bongs’, which again highlights how far they’ve come – sure it’s all weed crimes and terrors lyrically, but musically it’s tighter than the stuffiest spliff; while Ghoul are on fire with their side, ‘The Inner Sanctum’ a 5-minute journey once again into Creepsylvania, carrying the command at one point to ‘kill’, finishing it off with the brutal slice and dice of ‘Spill Your Guts’. Horror on record is nothing new, but these two bands carry the B-movie schtick with righteous aplomb.

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8. Grey Widow – I

Featuring members of long time grimy sludge purveyors Parole, Dopefight, Thread and the Ergon Counsel, this is a band who on ‘I‘ lived out their mantra of ‘Nihilistic Putrid Fucking Hatred’ in such a way they swerved the word ‘predictable’ by committing sounds that even I could not have anticipated could sound so venomous and filthy. Mostly wallowing in sludge but capable of vomiting forth a blackened blast, yelling bloodied hardcore punk and occasionally a foreboding riff – but mostly violent black sludge. A lot of bands can profess to be as spiteful as this, but few can deliver on it the way Grey Widow did, it such a way it leaves an impression on the mind and an appreciation that some can still craft mastery out of that very word, ‘hate’.

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7. Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn (Southern Lord/Parasitic)

An album featuring the collective talents of Tim Call and Todd Burdette, of acts such as Tragedy, His Hero Is Gone and Aldebaran to name a few, ‘The Living Ever Mourn‘ struck me as a pretty good album at first but has really grown on me in such a way that I cannot ignore it. It’s irresistibly compelling in many ways, from the black metal ugh of ‘The Last Disease’, the truly neck slamming ‘Altars of Wrath’, to the funeral dirge of ‘Empty Prayers’, this is an album thick with tarred riffs and pure hellfire and brimstone. I don’t need to say more than that, other than it fucking rules.

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6. Catholic Girls – Distant (Crown and Throne Ltd)

Bastard offspring of the likes of the Cancer Bats and Trash Talk, this Colorado crew lot have produced arguably the finest hardcore release of the year. That in my opinion nobody of their ilk topped this despite this one coming out early in the year says much for its quality. ‘Distant‘ is a tumult of manic riffing, occasional blasting intensity, and for 12 minutes, an impish batshit fury that only briefly lets up for the swaggering ‘Piston’, which is deserving of far bigger moshpit unions than what they are still likely getting right now. Someone sign them up please!

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5. Bast – Spectres (Burning World/Black Bow)

Another fine proponent of the UK underground, London’s Bast made one hell of a debut with ‘Spectres‘, a multi-spectral album that deviled in doom, sludge, black metal, atmospherics and more. From first second to last, ‘Spectres‘ was a masterclass in how to meld those elements together in high alchemy, whether the rage of ‘In the Beginning’, melding black metal with doom riffs, to the Neurosis-esque cauldron of ‘Psychonauts’ or the cavernous riffing on ‘Denizens’. Terrorizer magazine are marking them out for big things next year, and I wouldn’t bet against them following the likes of Conan into greater consciousness.

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4. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra – Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything (Constellation)

I would argue that this is, emotionally, the most powerful album that could be said of the Western world today. In so much that we’ve seen a lot of austerity, a lot of cutbacks, and yet the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra (or however you know or call them), released this six track call to arms early in the year and it is hard not to feel the slightest bit torn by the music and the lyrical content. It’s goddamn beautiful and yet so heavy, with austerity and the rich/poor divide so evidently the theme as it remains in day to day life. Tell me that by the time you reach ‘What We Loved Was Never Enough’ that you aren’t asking questions of your very own existence, and your very own situation, for it captures your concerns over the present and future. The album’s lengthy title is a bold one, but never truer – we already truthfully know what our country’s state is in, but it will shine a light on what it means to live in the modern era. A magnificent work from a truly visionary band.

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3. Megalodoom – Tectonic Oblivion (Witch Hunter/Tartarus)

The band that used to title demos after Indiana Jones films, and after lines from Predator, got a little bit more serious and received a serious beef up in production for the release of ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘, a four song warhorse of doom that is pretty much a flawless execution of nuclear riffs. ‘Sword of the Spirit’ perhaps best embodied this, shifting from ominous rolling thunder to compelling grooves to an apocalyptic tolling outro, without the need for words. Not many bands can conjure that serpent and convince it to act for them, yet ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘ works that beast a charm in a way to make you sit up and take notice beyond the riffing.

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2. Dephosphorus – Ravenous Solemnity (7 Degrees/Handshake Inc.)

If their previous record, ‘Axiom‘, was stratospheric, then ‘Ravenous Solemnity‘ is Dephosphorus gone interstellar. The Greek grinders’ astronomic approach to their music is one currently unparalleled within their scene, and this album is one that really should garner them more recognition than it has up to now. It melds numerous technical, blackened and deathly influences along with a literary tip of their hats to the late Scottish author Iain M. Banks to coagulate a marvellous text of extremity, from the apocalyptic tone of ‘Storming the Sloan Wall’ to the shadowy mystery of ‘Towards the Cold Dark Infinity’. What was big, big metal blogosphere hype a few years back is no fluke – Dephosphorus are a truly unrelenting force.

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1. Yob – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot)

It turns out that not everything that comes attached with a bucket load of hype attached to it, hanging off the great deceiver of hope on a rope of salacious words, only to unravel and break upon the object in question’s deliverance. Outside of the mainstream, name me one album that really garnered more attention and gaze than Yob’s ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend‘.

Through channeling the words of the great philosopher Alan Watts, Yob remind us it’s ‘time to wake up‘ in the opening chords of ‘In Our Blood’, and for the next 66 minutes they carry you through numeral states of thought as it literally does what it’s title says. It isn’t a slow plod as much as a death march, a journey of exploration. The trick of building up a lengthy song to a verge before quietly waiting on the precipice is one Yob have to a tee, and when Watts tells you to wake up again, the opener fittingly reaches its rise to the surface.

The great thing about this band is that just when you think they cannot conceive any more moments to behold, they turn up with an answer. The thunderous approach of ‘Nothing to Win’, the most anthemic track of this release by way of a chorus of sorts, is only briefly but magnificently halted by a midsection of swirling chaos and despair; ‘Unmask the Spectre’ again utilises a loud-quiet dynamic but on a humongous scale, Mike Schiedt again walking the line between sheer hell and quiet tension and introspection. It’s as if the elements of the opening three tracks literally clear the path for ‘Marrow’, a truly ascendary track – at nearly twenty minutes long it is almost perfect, with the band at times sounding, I daresay, uplifting. It retains the Yob heaviness but rarely has doom of this ilk met such an air of freedom that is able to stick its head above the clouds with a sense of unusual triumphalism.

After naming ‘Atma‘ the best record of 2011, I wasn’t sure I could find a way if enjoying Yob even more, but when the hype you so often buy into actually turns out to carry substance, the results are rarely short of phenomenal.

Peter Clegg

Water Torture – Pillbox

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Water Torture
Pillbox
Nerve Altar

The Buffalo powerviolence trio Water Torture recently dropped their debut full length ‘Pillbox’ into the world and if you’ve been following their early adventures, mapped across various EPs and split releases, this record marks the fruition of true promise and then some. ‘Pillbox’ is seventeen tracks long, and its refreshing in its variation – it can loosely be described as grind/powerviolence but barely any two tracks are the truly the same. Numerous tracks and passages of the album see noise elements swathed between low-end sludge grooves and guttural grind, often tacked onto the end of short blasts of despairing energy, almost like white noise or the dying noises of a machine, and occasionally marked as single tracks of pure noise, e.g. ‘Product One’, a cavernous, drenching wall of howling noise. Not too dissimilar from the approach of acts such as Iron Lung, and fans of that sort of stuff are bound to get into this. Indeed this makes for a much more dynamic grind album – not just stuck at one pace, but taking in sludge and dark acoustic elements – the track ‘Creature of Repetition’ is free of noise and grind elements and owes more to classical in its foreboding arrangement. Having cut their teeth on numerous split releases since forming in 2011, ‘Pillbox‘ is the record that should really get people to sit up and take notice of Water Torture. A band willing to take risks and make primal mechanical animals of us all.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Pillbox’ here
Pre-order the vinyl LP here
Stream it below:

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Old Skin – :consume:

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Old Skin
:consume:

Owing very much to my lack of activity towards the end of last year, I missed the debut release by Mancunian hardcore/metal crew Old Skin, highly anticipated for it containing members of Esoteric Youth and the brilliant Knife Crimes, who we reviewed posthumously after they left the world behind with, for my money, one of the best demonstrations of hardcore of recent years. So Old Skin came with a degree of expectation, but they showed that anyone expecting Knife Crimes mark II on ‘Mære’ that they’re anything but – what this band and that band have in common is an eye for darkness; but Old Skin were open to elements of post-metal, Old English folklore and a slight air of mystery. Whatever your take, Old Skin quickly became a flagbearer for UK hardcore, a scene which is bulging at the seems as it stands. That’s partly what makes the release of ‘:consume:’ such an interesting one.

Anyone following underground hardcore and metal right now, and everyone with an interest in the digital format should take note. For Old Skin have decided this release will only be available from 26/05/2014, up until 01/06/2014. It’s now 29/05/2014, which means there’s only a few days of this left before you properly miss out. And while these two songs don’t open up in the way that ‘Mære’ did, certainly not by way of experimentalism or reflection, it’s still a release worthy of the frenzied hype going around the social networks in a bid to get as many people to check it out before the band take it down forever. ‘Swordcharmer’ starts with a slow build-up, vocalist Michael Ribeiro showing exactly what a beast of a roar he has as the riff coarses and pumps up until 2:23 when it’s very veins explode in a brief crusty shred n’ blast out before dropping back into the main riff. The B-side, if you will, entitled ‘Snakeswallower’, is a more usual affair, albeit a corker, going at the jugular acrest a slight technical lick, before dropping into a mid-paced chug-groove and a satisfying hardcore rodeo to ride out to the finish.

This release will undoubtedly please fans of the genre and anyone into acts like Converge, Integrity, Oathbreaker, etc. who might be looking for something new can’t really do much better than this right now. A full length is planned by the end of the year and the blogosphere is sure to lose theirselves in it all again. One day, we’ll all have old skin, an inevitability, but we could all do with Old Skin in our lives, and the time is now to consume ‘:consume:’, or to watch it disappear forever. Time is ticking.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘:consume:‘ here (name-your-price, until 01/06/2014)

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Mogwai – Rave Tapes

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Mogwai
Rave Tapes
Rock Action

Mogwai are a seemingly enduring force – for the last nineteen, going on twenty years, they’ve never failed to capture the imagination of the critics and enjoy a kinship just on the edge of the mainstream with a reputation that rarely seems to take any sort of battering – a rare thing to say about any one band. I still kick myself for taking ages to get into them, but that’s the price you pay for being a slightly ignorant metalhead in your youth, isn’t it? But I’m having a blast going back through their history at present, which is shelved for the time being owing to the release of another new release for the Scots, their eighth studio album ‘Rave Tapes’. It’s a further departure away from the quiet-loud approach of old, with more elements of their recent work starting to creep in (particularly from their ‘Les Revenents’ soundtrack), and more and more they’re letting songs develop in a meandering, and often dark fashion. They still bludgeon when they feel like it – ‘Hexon Bogon’ and ‘Master Card’ are two relatively standard if pleasing, keyboard-painted riffers – but the real majesty comes from their continuing experimental approach, evident on the spoken word ‘Repelish’, which features a man discussing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’, a vocoder drenched closer holding a brooding emotional sway of the listener. ‘Blues Hour’, while nothing new, is perhaps the album’s most emotive track, the only conventional vocal – a hushed one at that, it builds superbly, before quietly ushering to a close; just as Mogwai have proved masters of doing time and again. Like the eyes that glow in the shadows, with ‘Rave Tapes’, Mogwai continue to watch over their existence in effective and typical, if ever more austere fashion.

Peter Clegg

Mogwai – The Lord is Out of Control (official video)

Buy ‘Rave Tapes‘ here

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Geryon – Geryon

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Geryon
Geryon
Gilead Media

Geryon is the not-so-new project of Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein, known primarily as now key figures in the New York progressive metal scene, due to their work with acts such as Krallice and Castevet. Before they joined Krallice, they formed as Astomatous (who you can read all about here – at Invisible Oranges). That project was mired into the cognitive backburner for a while but survived long enough to be reborn as Geryon. The two combine here, as with Astomatous, purely as a bass-and-drums death metal duo, and here they do an excellent job on Geryon’s s/t debut. The four tracks stand up well as they are put through an intense onslaught of bare bones riffing and battering with as much intensity and complexity as the musicians’ more well-known pursuits. What’s not to love about the breakdown that comes in ‘To The Silenced’, where McMaster delivers a jarring riff, undoubtedly highlighting the lack of a guitarist but equally proving an enthralling concept as well. Death metal often undervalues the power of a bassist, and here it takes centre stage, with fellow conspirator Weinstein hanging on for every twist and turn with precision blasting and verve. Having been allowed to fester in the forgotten catacombs for a year or two, the survival of this project and its overall outcome owes to its members’ time served within the New York scene; an enterprising work that is wholly worthy of your consideration.

You can stream this release below and purchase it from their Bandcamp page. A vinyl version will be coming through Gilead Media in early 2014. Recommended.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Geryon’ here
Stream it below:

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‘Kin Hell Fest 2014 update – more bands, early bird tickets + more

+ We Must Obey officially supporting ‘Kin Hell Fest 2014!

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We are very happy to confirm that once again, ‘Kin Hell Fest have added We Must Obey as one of its official supporters/promoters of its festival, after our coverage of the 2013 edition. We’re absolutely honoured, thrilled and suitably stoked to be part of the alumni, as the fest is set to be even bigger than ever before.

A lot has happened though considering our coverage dropped somewhat because of my running/fundraising exploits and generally a lack of access and family issues to contend with that has really got in the way. ‘Kin Hell Fest have indeed added more in the way of details since then and as such, I’ve constructed this mega-post to get you all up to speed with what’s going on.

What we know so far:

The latest additions

Some stonking bands were added to the line-up very recently, including perhaps the biggest name to be drawn to the fest so far, in the name of Birmingham’s harshest extreme metallers Anaal Nathrakh. Also added are Rot in Hell, hardcore merchants featuring members of UK scene legends Voorhees, as well as Dutch groovy grind/powerviolence freaks Jesus Crost, Falmouth doom duo Monolithian, brutal German slammers Pighead, and Derby’s twisted-punk psychos Ephemeral Foetus

We also got a self-confirm for the first time in the fest’s history, as Leeds post-rock duo Khuda, who split last year, confirmed their appearance at the fest in a one-off reunion set!

Just a couple of days ago, the festival organisers outdid themselves again, with the announcement of five more bands, including Swedish comedy grindnuts Birdflesh, playing their first UK show, a one-off exclusive, since 2006, and Leeds riff lords Hawk Eyes. Both play the fest for the first time and diversify the line-up further than ever before. Also making their first appearances are London’s old-school progressive heavy metallers Amulet, and UK-based crossover thrashers Noise Complaint, comprising members from the USA, Brazil and Italy. Finally, returning for seconds this year are one of 2013’s most impressive acts, Preston grinders The Day Man Lost. Man, they crushed the fest on the Sunday this year and by George, its great to have them back.

Dates

A pre-show will take place on Friday April 26th, 2014 to serve as a preamble to festivities. This show will take place at Eiger Studios in Leeds, with a line-up to be announced.

The main festival itself will take place on the weekend of Friday May 2nd to Sunday May 4th, 2014, at the Vox venue in Leeds.

Bands

27 bands have been announced so far:

Anaal Nathrakh; Wodensthrone; Birdflesh; Hawk Eyes; Deviated Instinct; Ingested; Khuda; Conquest of Steel; Crepitation; Evisorax; Pighead; Necro Deathmort; Jesus Crost; Acrania; Haar; XisforEyes; Amulet; Gets Worse; Noise Complaint;  Iniquitous Savagery; Monolithian; The Day Man Lost; Rot In Hell; Wizard’s Beard; Ephemeral Foetus; Famine; Death Tripper

12 more bands still to be announced, plus the pre-show line-up which is set to be an all-dayer, with announcement of 11 bands for that show at the beginning of 2014, bringing the total up to 50 bands!

Tickets

Early bird tickets for  the fest are now on sale at a modest £49 for at least 39 bands. But be quick – they’re limited to 200 and likely to go quickly! Head here to get yours. More tickets will go on sale at a later date, for both the main festival and the pre-show. The fest are also exploring camping and travel options. Keep your eyes and ears on those if you live many miles away from Leeds.

Finally…

The revamped ‘Kin Hell Fest website is now up and running for 2014. Bigger and better than before, go check it out for the latest news, tickets, band profiles and forum discussion.

You can also keep up to date with the festival and all incoming news on Facebook, and now on Twitter as well.

Phew, that was exhausting. But rest assured, we aim to pick ourselves back up and support this festival loud and proud, heading into 2014 and beyond. Stay tuned for further updates!

Peter Clegg