As you may have been able to work out, the ability to write for this site has been mightily rare over the past year or so. How much time I have to dedicate it over the coming months remains unclear, however one thing that certainly hasn't dissipated is my passion for music of all genres and sub- genres alike. Such has been the influx of fantastic new music in 2014 thus far that it would seem remiss not to acknowledge any of it.
Although I'm sure nobody gives much of a shit (and quite right, too), I've decided to embark on a series of pieces that will feature 5 mini- reviews of albums that I've heard in 2014. There will be a Metal segment, a Hip Hop segment and miscellaneous segment that'll focus on works from the worlds of Indie, alternative and probably some Electronic music too. Some of the albums covered in these segments may have been out for some months, but they're all records that have forced some kind of reaction out of me, and unfortunately for you lot I feel the need to dispense a portion of that reaction.
Anyway, quiet at the back there! Enough chatter! The first of these segments in the first edition of the Metal edition of this series. I hope to get the Hip Hop and Misc editions up over the course of next week, with a second Metal edition to follow some time after. Perhaps in the not too distant future I'll find the time to go back to writing proper reviews (the words "proper" and "review" should always be taken with a pinch of salt when regarding my writing). Until then,
Agalloch- The Serpent & The Sphere
On 'The Serpent & The Sphere', all the characteristics that have defined Agalloch as one of the most favourable USBM stalwarts are here in abundance; their thunderous, cosmic scope, the sharp acoustic dalliances, the slight romance with synths as well as lyrical themes of deities, folklore and general star- gazing mythology. However, much of the epic coda that made records like 'Into The Painted Grey' so powerful is somewhat missing from the core here. Quite often Agalloch don't reach the absolute magnitude they've previously relished in. That being said, Celestial Effigy soars with seamless grandiosity, and the utterly spell- binding 13 minute instrumental Plateau of the Ages brims with all the vastness its title suggests and ends on a particularly heart rendering segment of harmonised tremolo picking.
Anathema- Distant Satellites
Far more to do with a Radiohead- meets- Sigur Ros brand of sonic mass rather than anything Metal related these days, Anathema's sumptuous romanticism soars as expectedly as magnificently on 'Distant Satellites' as one would hope. What makes it so awe- inspiring is that, in all its scope and ambition it seems so seamless, as though it's the only thing that makes sense. It builds its own languorous world and wraps its planet- sized arms around you and refuses to let you go until you're totally a part of it. It's the kind of album that was made for all corners of the spectrum; perhaps a peaceful night in with a significant other and several bottles of wine, or perhaps across one of Iceland's sprawling glaciers. In more down to Earth terms, if you don't weep at least once during 'Distant Satellites' then there's nothing for you.
For a band renowned for incessant drug- guzzling and writing songs about the supposed favoured redneck past- time of incest, on their first album in 13 years Eyehategod sound monumentally focussed. All the riffs and grooves here are smothered in their trademark marshland- caked fuzz and filthyness, but on tracks like the Hardcore crossover opener Agitation! Propaganda! and later the dystopian political disenchantment of Flags and Cities Bound prove that they have plenty of fearsome societal deconstruction to throw around too. And in Trying to Crack the Hard Dollar and Nobody Told Me, 'Eyehategod' boasts some of the best, most monstrous riffs the band have ever written.
Martyr Defiled- No Hope No Morality
Exactly the kind of prospect and album that Death Metal purists will turn their righteous noses up at, Birmingham bruisers Martyr Defiled wear the "Deathcore" tag unashamedly on their sleeves on 'No Hope No Morality'. True enough, they sincerely buy into the breakdown- heavy mentality, but this is an example of this kind of music being performed exactly as it should be. There are moments of insidious atmosphere (Demons in the Mist), nails-on-the-blackboard brutality and defiance (616), heartbroken bitterness (Under The Influence) and Neverender even has a HOOK. You'd have to be pretty stone- hearted to not be moved into neck- snapping action by at least some parts of 'No Hope No Morality'.
Trap Them- Blissfucker
For all Black Breath's hulking rock 'n' roll vibes and all of Nails' blistering nihilism, there isn't one band in the wave of crust- indebted, hardcore inflected Metal bands that comes as close to reducing the human race to a pile of smouldering shame and faeces as Trap Them. On 'Blissfucker', the band pummel that home perhaps harder than they ever have before. The glistening riffing on Gift and Gift Unsteady and the epic but bleak-as-all-Hell 7 and a half minutes of Savage Climbers prove that there's plenty more to the band than crusty meat- headed chug, but it's the violent moments that hit home the hardest, like the terrifyingly feral Habitland or the furious Death Metal of Former Lining Widen the Walls. This kind of righteous hopelessness gives Behemoth's 'The Satanist' a serious run for its money for Metal record of the year.
Next time on Horns Aloft!: Mastodon, Mayhem, Feed the Rhino and more.