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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Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit – split 7″

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Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit
Split 7”
Witch Hunter/Dead Chemists

It doesn’t feel like two minutes ago since Iron Witch and The Atrocity Exhibit emerged onto the underbelly of the UK underground music scene, only to stick their boots into its collective craw. Maybe it’s just a sign of how damn busy these bands are to make their name, or how quickly word spreads. Whatever it is, by now if you’re a follower of UK sludge, doom, grind, or any shouty goodness going on, you should be well aware of who both those bands are by now. And if you’re not, where have you been? The two have now combined for a split 7”, contributing a single track each that revels in noise of a putrid splendour, and hatred of its subject matter of a venomous kind.

Iron Witch have long held claim now to being the new kings of UK sludge, and strengthen that claim here with ‘Her Cheating Heart’. Their longest track to date, at 6:42, they credit ‘all the lying, cheating whores who made this possible’. In no way bitter at all, they do what they do best and make it even better – a depressing and thoroughly heavy trudge that riffs hard. Vocalist Chris yells ‘if you had a heart it’d break in two’ with all the spleen of a man wronged and to top it all off, the song ends with an ever so brief but cracking slow lead that reminds me ever so slightly of that awesome one at the end of Iron Monkey’s ‘Fink Dial’. The sort that screams ‘fuck you, I win!’ Or in this case ‘fuck you’. Brilliant stuff.

In contrast, The Atrocity Exhibit take a diversion that their usual blast and destroy approach to grind, which so often works wonders. Instead, theirs is a true slug, a slow and obdurate track entitled ‘Throne of Bile’ that over its course exerts so much sonic pressure you’d think the speakers might explode under the weight. The band go out of their way to make this as uncomfortable a sludge track as you might imagine, eventually shifting upwards in tempo just enough to release some of the tension, but in no way letting the listener off lightly. Theirs too is just as hateful, and appropriately unpredictable.

This split has been available since late October of last year and you can still obtain one of 500 black vinyl copies via Witch Hunter Records and Dead Chemists Records, who came together to put out this release jointly. Follow the links below, stream and support. Smashing job all round.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Iron Witch/The Atrocity Exhibit’ via Witch Hunter Records; or at Dead Chemists Records
Stream it below:

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Gurt/Limb – Split Roast EP

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Gurt/Limb
Split Roast
Witch Hunter

The rules: three songs each. One original, one cover, and one cover from the other’s back catalogue. Bosh. And with that premise, two of the UK – and London’s finest in sludge – Gurt, and Limb – come together for ‘Split Roast’, a special release for the Witch Hunter Records label and one that makes for an interesting experiment and an enjoyable listen at that.

Gurt are up first, with new track ‘Sophisticate’ kicking off proceedings. It feels like Gurt have been around longer than 2010, but their 70’s inspired sludge rock machine and won them many admirers and ‘Sophisticate’ doesn’t change tack on that front, as excellent as what’s come from the band before now. Its then that things take a turn for the curious. I never imagined the day when the Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ would be turned into a mud-crawling sludge track, but Gurt put their own unique spin on it and vocalist Gareth tackles every ‘fa fa fa’ and ‘q’uest-ce que cest?’ with ruthless abandon, while the rest of band chug out to the march of the beat, before turning to Limb’s ‘Gift of the Sun’ to meet their side of the bargain, marking it with a vicious display of snarling intent. 

Limb’s latest release ‘Gift of the Sun’ somehow escaped my attention, despite my appreciation for their demo which showed promising things. Hence while I’ve still a little catching up to you, its great to hear them in fine form on new track ‘Plague Doctor’. They next dive into Queen’s often overlooked eponymous debut to cover the stirring ‘Son and Daughter’ which makes excellent light of Limb’s blues-rock influence and stays faithful to the original, if only of course to serve it with a heavier sound. They choose ‘Soapfeast’ – which originally appeared on Gurt’s split with now-defunct sludgers Dopefight – to close, and delight in taking on the vitriolic potty-mouthed song with a more mid-paced, bluesy tone compared to Gurt’s anvil-heavy fast/slow original.

Now available on Witch Hunter in a variety of options, including limited CD, and you can stream this release below too if you want to see why you too should get with the program.

Peter Clegg

Buy/download ‘Split Roast’ here
Or on limited edition CD here
Stream it below:

 

Gurt official site
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Limb official site
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Confine – Setting Fire to the Western Hemisphere

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Confine
Setting Fire to the Western Hemisphere
Witch Hunter

Comprising of members of numerous UK underground bands, including Corrupt Moral Altar, The Afternoon Gentlemen, Gets Worse, Oblivionized, Horsebastard and Human Cull, Confine are the latest supergroup to explode into the UK extreme scene and as if their previous fine form didn’t tell you anything, their latest project is just as crushing and visceral on their debut release ‘Setting Fire to the Western Hemisphere’. The eight tracks on offer here exemplify the typical rage and raw power that exists in our country’s circles today, and if the artwork doesn’t tell you what to expect, then you’re probably not a grind fan. It’s a bleak harangue on self-reflection, getting drunk, apathy and each member seeks to outdo themselves to the next level and more. Stream this crusher below and get on the pre-orders – release is imminent!

Peter Clegg

Download ‘Setting Fire to the Western Hemisphere’ here (free download) (MP3/various formats)
Pre-order ‘Setting Fire to the Western Hemisphere’ here (CD/vinyl/MP3/various formats)
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Koresh – Chump

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Koresh
Chump EP
Witch Hunter/Withered Hand

One look at the artwork for London sludgecore crew Koresh’s new EP ‘Chump’ can instantly hook a person. It’s bright pink and its got unicorns on it! But this is no ‘My Little Pony’. Koresh can easily be placed under the mantle of sludge if you want to label them, but there’s more than a whiff of punk edge about them as they make one incredible racket here. ‘Chump’ is seven tracks of largely fast paced action – not one song passes the two minute mark, and save for one or two dirges here and there, its largely resurrecting the ghosts of Iron Monkey, Mistress, Raging Speedhorn to name but a few noisy so and so’s of years gone by. Beginning with the excellent ‘Straight Edge Till Midnight’, replete with groovy celebratory jango halfway through, and finishing up on the brilliant, almost catchy ‘You Can Call Me Gaahl’. This is proof that not all things connected with sludge have to be mired in misery – Koresh are having a whale of time drunkenly staggering their way through speedy songs and ‘Chump’ is clearly champ at clocking a quick glass over the proverbial head when required.

Peter Clegg

Pre-order ‘Chumphere or here: (both come with immediate download link)
Stream it below:

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We Must Obey – Two years!

Well, we made it. We limped a bit towards this date, but we made it.

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Yes, We Must Obey is two years old today! Wow, it feels like a long time ago when we started, but despite remaining a small unit, with an increasing workload thanks to the bands, labels and PR firms that fuel this blog, and

Who to thank? Well I must start with the main people who fuel the fire of this blog. These people being Lauren Barley at Rarely Unable, Kim Kelly at Catharsis PR, Chris at Witch Hunter Records, all of whom are among those who continue to furnish us with the latest output and generally show us the love. Paul Priest and Raw Nerve Zine who really went as all out as we did in support of our promotion of ‘kin Hell Fest and hopefully this is an event and indeed a scene you’ll hear a lot more of. Cheers again to Chris Fane for finally providing us with a logo – if only WordPress had a theme as evil and as accommodating of them as possible for us to display them in their full glory. That’s something to continue to work on. Thank you as well to all the bands and label heads who continue to send things my way. I’m sorry if I can’t remember you all by name but you’re too numerous to mention, and you will at some point have seen your name appear here. And if you’re still among those waiting for a review of your submission to appear, I do apologise. The last month or so in particular has been mental, to say the least, and we do aim to catch up. Thanks for not badgering me.

I must also thank Michael Collins for his continued, if fleeting, correspondence for We Must Obey. He’s been here from the start and continues to be most interesting and entertaining in his views, all while continuing to front his current doom band Wort (shameless plug) and while being a part of the Manchester-based promotions crew CLDH, whom you all keep an eye on too.

And of course, anyone who follows our site, be it through Facebook, Twitter, or you dedicated souls on WordPress who continue to pick up our feed on the Reader. Keep putting the word out there folks,

If I’ve forgotten anyone, I do apologise and I assure you that whoever you are, you’ve been a part of this awesome experience and though its getting more and more stressful trying to keep up to date with this in the wake of family matters, new personal interests, my day job and various other things, I will press on with continuing to highlight the very best –and occasionally the worst – our beloved underground scene, from the UK shores to all over the world. And occasionally, we’ll debate, approve, upset, and maybe even surprise.

Peter Clegg