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

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Megalodoom – Tectonic Oblivion

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Megalodoom
Tectonic Oblivion
Witch Hunter

Some records are so heavy, you feel the weight of their delivery in your ears. Megalodoom’s ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘, quite appropriately, will do just that. Having previously impressed with their demo jam ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief‘ (later properly released through Tartarus Records), their debut EP, recently released through Witch Hunter Records, sees them truly accomplish what you’d expect from a band whose mantra is ‘No words. Just riffs‘. The opening track ‘Polar Vortex’ sounds just evil, in an ominous, Sabbathian way, but such is the boom coming out of every groove from the low end of the guitars and the thunderous bass that it isn’t just a superlative. And as the EP progresses, the Nottingham quartet show they’ve not just enhanced their ability to drag out a riff without losing its appeal, but also to create moments of such cacophony that they might well register on the Richter scale. The opening rumbles of ‘Sword of the Spirit’, the longest track here, are slightly reminiscent of High on Fire or Grief before they throw in another truly monstrous and devastating riff. The superb production ensures Megalodoom’s quaking delivery is pushed to the fore – overall ‘Tectonic Oblivion’ is another fantastic release that should belonging in your already bulging collection and confirms Megalodoom’s belonging in this frankly stupendous stoner/sludge/doom scene we have on these shores.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Tectonic Oblivion‘ here (name-your-price)
Stream it below:

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2012 in Review: An Editorial

A lot of you may have noticed, prior to the publication of the best albums of 2012, that we published a feature called 2012 in Review, something we didn’t do the year before. This is largely because Blogger, which we were on at the time, didn’t offer such a service. We only switched to WordPress in May and so weren’t aware of this feature, which I looked at quite wide-eyed and intriguingly when it arrived in my inbox on New Year’s Eve. It offered me the chance to publish the results, so publish I did. 

3,800 views seems modest, but we’re a modest blog. We did manage to get up to over 15,000 hits when we were on Blogger – I haven’t checked what the figures are for the old site for a while now, but I’m perfectly happy that people simply visit. It shows there is an interest in what we do, and the positive comments we receive either directly via the site, or on Facebook, or Twitter, show that what we do is entirely worth it.

Breaking into the top five posts forms the main crux of this feature, as in some ways shows what people are looking at and perhaps what we can aim to improve.

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Numero uno was our feature on the newest metal magazine to hit newsstands, Iron Fist, which achieved 202 views as of 31/12/2012. I received some great comments from fellow metal fans about this article in which I suggested there was no reason why printed media couldn’t co-exist happily alongside the online format, be it blogs like ours social media and so on. I grew up musically before the blogosphere and Facebook erupted so I considered magazines a valuable tool for getting into bands, and still do. I repeat the call that people should go out and support this magazine. Louise Brown and her team do a sterling job and people buying this excellent magazine in numbers is exactly what is needed in this day and age.

The Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Shopping Centre Expansion: The threat it poses to Huddersfield's music scene and a whole town

Dead in the water! Thanks everyone!

Intriguingly, second was the video for the spoof song that spawned from the campaign that we supported in the Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion. The Kingsgate Shopping Centre is based in Huddersfield and was proposing to knock down The Palace Theatre, an iconic landmark in need of repairs, as well as a number of surrounding buildings including the town’s premier rock/alternative venue The Parish, to expand the shopping centre by 50%. A group of around 1,500 quickly joined against the scheme and we got on board, speaking out against the proposals in favour of a counter scheme for student flats, which would protect The Palace and put a massive dent in the Kingsgate proposal’s plans. In the midst of the campaign, a spoof campaign was set up calling for Kingsgate Water Slide Park, and thus the song ‘Slide One Out For Kingsgate’ was born, sung by ‘local pop megastar’ Bona featuring producer H. Kelk, and a certain Ol Drake from Evile providing the obligatory guitar solo. It provided hilarity amongst a serious campaign which eventually was successful, with the council voting overwhelmingly for the student flats, saving the Theatre and almost certainly guaranteeing The Parish’s status. 

Yes, our interest was chiefly (at first) for The Parish to be saved, in what seemed to be initially a tall order. That we won was incredible. The fact that people bothered to check out an issue that was very much a local one, that more than likely wouldn’t affect them, shows that the time we invested into the campaign was wholly worth it, and underlines not just the importance in protecting our local music venues, but indeed, protecting local commerce, local industry, local history and architecture. Our town centres are far too faceless and formulaic in a flagging economy and revolution and change is what is needed. Hopefully, we won’t need to campaign any more for Huddersfield, but expect us to raise our voices again if the ugly beast rears its head again. If it can reattach it, that is. 

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The remainder of the top 5 consists of reviews or review-esque features. Slightly surprising considering my reviews are ten a penny and that numbers 3 and 4 should stick out perhaps says a lot for social media and indeed the UK underground community. The reviews in question are Megalodoom, a doom/sludge/stoner quarter spawned from UK droners Bismuth and ex-members of Year of the Flood, with their incredibly-titled demo/rehearsal jam Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief; and Iron Witch’s ‘Post Vegas Blues’. The Liverpudlian sludge quintet are tearing up venues with their booze-soaked fury and given our glowing praise for them previously, I guess I’m not surprised to see people digging their stuff. But a rehearsal jam? Megalodoom haven’t been around very long and that they should be number three on my list says that either a) traffic really is low, or b) the UK sludge/doom underground is in rude health, and clearly there’s people out there wanting to see what I said about them, and/or indeed looking to check them out. We do stream releases whenever we can, something I decided to do a while ago instead of plain images and text so people can get an idea of what I’m describing. Clearly, it works. A lot of love too for the reissue of Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker’. One of the greatest albums of all time – fantastic remaster by Brad Boatright and one album worthy of all the adoration it’s received.
 
So what do we have lined up next year? Aside from garnering the attention of more readers around the world – 77 countries and counting so far, cheers everyone! – the truth is, the bulk of what we write is reviews. Mostly albums and short form releases. Occasional live reviews; with two one-year old twins, a job, responsibilities at home, I can’t afford too many but I aim to take what I can get – Mike (Collins), our other contributor, will still submit a few bits here and there, I imagine. I’m mulling over whether to ask for any more people to help with content. I like the fact it’s a small two-man operation, hampered as we are, but without question it would help us be a little more productive, during those times when I’m not able to update it from whichever device I’m using – its been particularly difficult when relying on mobile to update the blog and to then spread word about it – HTC can suck a big fat chode for that one. But there’s still plenty of other stuff we’re looking forward to. Like ‘Kin Hell Fest 2013. Like some corking new albums coming out. Some oddball features. More opinions and rants. Whatever. All in the name of quality, top-notch music.

Did someone say ‘Slayerthon?’

Happy New Year everyone, and thank you all again for your support. 

Peter Clegg

Megalodoom – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief (rehearsal demo)

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Megalodoom
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief (Rehearsal demo)

With a name like Megalodoom, you should know what to expect. And indeed, its no surprise when you start cranking out their rehearsal demo entitled ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief’, it’s the sort of downtuned, chunky, full-fat riffage we’ve come to expect from years of digesting all things descending from the mighty Sabbath. But I digress. There’s nothing like a stoner/sludge metal jam to rock the senses and this is exactly what Megalodoom provide on ‘Temple of Grief’. This demo is a single twenty-minute track, although in actual fact its the band’s current live set at three or four songs long. Irrespective of that, this a pretty awesome demo. No vocals to speak of, just pure unadulterated sludge/doom riffs that conjure classic Grief, Iron Monkey, Church of Misery, etc. And if you’re not rocking out to this at all, then maybe you’re not worthy of the Temple of Doom. Or indeed the ‘Temple of Grief’.

Megalodoom are so kind to make this a free release so check out the stream below, and don’t delay in getting the goods. They appear to have only just started gigging, and share their bassist Tanya with ultra slow duo Bismuth. They also have the track ‘It Ain’t No Man. We’re All Gonna Die’ available for free too. Get on it.

Peter Clegg

Download ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Grief’ (rehearsal demo) here
Stream it below:

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