A brief introduction to Dr. Dave: Not only is he one of Sausagefest’s most notable regulars, but he’s a talented musician too. That’s him playing guitar on “The Maiden Song” from 2013. He’s brought a completely different crop of bands to mikeladano.com with his Top Ten of 2014. Enjoy. (For my top ten, click here.)
DR. DAVE’S Top Ten of 2014
Due to some disappointing releases from the likes of Mogwai, Interpol, and the Drive-By-Truckers, my Top 10 is heavy on the metal. What might surprise some people is the number of bands that fall close to, if not well within, the orbit of “black metal.” Yes, this most unfashionable of metal sub-genres has a glacier’s weight of the shitty and silly behind it, but in recent years it has evolved into the most creative force in metal. The vocals are always a dodgy proposition, but I don’t care. At a time when I was bored with the same-old blues-based root-5th power chord ho-hum I’ve heard this 87000 times since last Tuesday shtick, the blizzardy blast-beating barrage of newer BM bands came as a breath of fresh air. So, without further ado…
10. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend
If only for album closer “Marrow.” As the title suggests, this is as much a spiritual as a musical investment. This is not for the attention deficit disorder crowd – in fact, nothing on my list is. On his playthisriff.com website, Bob Balch of Fu Manchu cites YOB as one of the most requested, and difficult to produce, sources of guitar tablature. Must be all those eerie suspended chords. This is not your Uncle’s doom, trotting out the usual second-rate Sabbath bilge. Dive in or stay home. There is no in-between.
9. BLUT AUS NORD – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry
Along with the mighty Deathspell Omega, BAN forms the ungodly one-two punch of French avant-garde black metal. They have as much in common with Arnold Schoenberg as they do with classic heavy metal, and it shows. This is alien music, unsettled and unsettling melodies trapped in a churning maelstrom of rhythm. Yet from the chaos emerges moments of glorious and triumphant power. MVIII features a real drummer and a more organic feel, and while I prefer MVII, this is still undeniable. It will surely alienate conventional music listeners, and that’s fine. If you want to know what Cthulu has on his iPod, well, now you know.
8. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss
Damn. For years I figured Time-Travelling Blues would forever remain my favorite Orange Goblin album. Then they came out with Eulogy for the Damned and challenged that assumption. This does the same thing. They’re not a radically different band now, they just delve deeper into their talent and influences and deliver more accomplished material. They’re hitting a middle-aged stride. Better come along for the ride. And hopefully they come back to these parts – they’re a must-see live band.
7. OPETH– Pale Communion
Wasn’t overly impressed with their last one, but this is killer. They’re not really a metal band anymore, and that’s okay. Any fan of 70’s prog should be all over this like Bill Cosby on a drowsy lady. I’ve always preferred my prog with a healthy helping of balls, and this delivers. Proof positive that metal boasts some of the most versatile and forward-looking musicians of any genre, anywhere, anywhen, anyhow.
6. MASTODON – Once More Round the Sun
As with Orange Goblin, I figured the Highway to Hell, Moving Pictures, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, Queen II-rule would still apply – namely, that the album that first got me into the band would always be my favorite. Once More Round the Sun may, in time, dethrone Leviathan as my favorite Mastodon album. Obviously I’m not one of those dicks who argue that because they’ve gained mainstream popularity they’ve gone soft and toothless. Their use of melody has been honed to a razor’s sharpness, and they swing like pretty much no other metal band can. They are capable of anything, and where they will go from here is anybody’s guess.
5. TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata
Thomas Gabriel Fischer is best known as the force behind Celtic Frost. While I missed the boat on his latest project’s initial album (Eparistera Daimones), this one has had me by the short and curlies for a month now. Oozing with menace and dripping with spite, this is a lurching, gargantuan slab of primordial darkness. Album opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is ridiculous, but it’s the relatively subdued “Aurorae” that really hooked me. A brooding slow-burner, it adds layers and intensity in a post-metal fashion that builds to a neatly twisted guitar solo.
4. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden
I can understand why even some metalheads don’t cotton to the doom. It’s slow, it’s gloomy, it’s repetitive. And then comes Pallbearer, four guys from Arkansas, and everything you think you know about doom can be deposited in a small sack and buried six hundred and sixty-six feet beneath Ozzy’s decapitated bat. The melodic richness of “The Ghost I Used To Be” is a perfect example of where doom is going now because of these guys.
3. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity
The most quintessentially English black metal band, Winterfylleth combines the charging rhythms and regal melodies of Iron Maiden with the blast beats and tremolo picking of black metal to create a supercharged English folk music for the 21st Century. It’s about the riffs with these guys – slight alterations in fingering create micro-melodic textures within the dominant keys, creating the “blizzardy” tremolo-picked sound of black metal. These guys have it down to a science. “A Careworn Heart” is a lot more relaxed, but you will get the drift.
2. AGALLOCH – The Serpent and the Sphere
For my money, the emergence of “post-black metal” has been the best thing to happen in metal this century, other than the “post-metal” of Isis and like bands. So, not surprisingly, Isis and Agalloch are my two favorite bands to emerge since 2000. The Serpent and the Sphere isn’t the instant classic that Ashes Against the Grain and Marrow of the Spirit were, but this is an epic addition to a nearly flawless discography nonetheless. These forest-dwellers from Oregon have perfected the folksy, pagan, post-rock mutation of black metal like no one else. Lyrical and uplifting while still rooted (distantly) in a style of metal known for the ugly and evil. As usual, it’s the build-up and crescendo that is the goal. “Plateau of the Ages” brings it, and then some.
1. PANOPTICON – Roads To The North
Blackgrass? Blue Metal? I don’t know what you’d call it, but genius Austin Lunn has combined his love of grim and frostbitten Norwegian black metal with the bluegrass of his native Kentucky, resulting in an album of unbridled originality. He’s an incredibly versatile guitarist, an insane drummer, and lays down some of the best bass ever heard on a black metal album. I envy this dude in a serious way. In order to fully grasp it, you have to hear all three parts of “The Long Road” in succession, all the way through. You can hear the black metal in the bluegrass parts and the bluegrass in the black metal parts. Fucking genius. Album of the year, regardless of genre.