Top 30 Albums of 2014: 30-16

Here’s the first half of the top 30 albums of 2014! While this year didn’t impress me anywhere near as much as last year, there were still dozens of great releases, especially in the second-half of the year. I guess as well, since this year has been very quiet for the Rich Reviewz blog (for personal reasons – 2015 will be the return of regular posts), you can see all the albums I’d wish I could have spoken about. BUT. Just before we go on, I have to say that unlike last year, I won’t be doing any top tracks, EPs, splits or cover art like I did last year. To make up for it, here’s some releases that I really enjoyed that just missed out on the top 30 album list or because they were a different format:

Black Swan – “Tone Poetry” [Drone]   GDP – “Collectibles” [Hip-Hop]  /  Full Of Hell & Merzbow – “Full Of Hell & Merzbow” [Grindcore/Noise]   YOB – “Clearing A Path To Ascend” [Doom Metal]  /  Yellow Eyes – “The Desert Mourns” [Atmospheric Black Metal /  Ben Frost – “A U R O R A” [Electronica]  /  Herukrat – “I Bear Witness” [Power Electronics/Noise]  /  Pharmakon – “Bestial Burden” [Noise]  /  Sunn O))) & Ulver – “Terrestrials [Drone]   Mayhem – “Esoteric Warfare” [Black Metal]   Lorn – “The Maze To Nowhere” releases [Electronica]  /  Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “Gone Girl OST” [Ambient]  /  Cold Cave – “Full Cold Moon” [Synthpop/Gothic]  /
H A R K – “Crystalline” [Rock]  /  We Came Out Like Tigers – “Ever-Crushed At Pecket’s Well” [Screamo/Black Metal]  /  Every Time I Die – “From Parts Unknown” [Metal]

Now here we go…

30. Dirty Beaches – Stateless

Genre: Ambient/Instrumental/Electronica/Drone

Dirty Beaches, unfortunately, is no more but Alex Zhang Hungtai has left us with one final, glorious album to remember his oddball project by. This album is four tracks – reaching just over 40-minutes in length – and orientates around the same sort of droney sound that we heard on his previous release “Drifter/Love Is The Devil”. The album seems to be made up of saxophone, synths, some strings and a whole lot of reverb; but while this might sound a bit minimalist or even simple, the result is nothing but beautiful and harrowing at the same time. The sense of loss, yearning and sadness drips into your conscience and sends ripples of those cold bus journeys where you stare out at the passing world through a rain-stained window. To me, despite the bright cover art, this album sort of embeds that feeling of un-belonging, no matter where you are, realising that every city (ultimately) is the same… but sort of accepting it as well. Just a hauntingly atmospheric album.

Favourite tracks: DisplacedTime Washes Away Everything, Pacific Ocean.

29. Blonde Redhead – Barragán

Genre: Indie/Pop

Blonde Redhead have been pretty quiet over the last few years and earlier this year, they popped up again and managed to stir up a fair amount of excitement, as if they never even left the room. On this album, you get your standard Blonde Redhead material: catchy indie-pop backed with synths and keys and vocals from both Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace. The sound here is very stripped back for Blonde Redhead, presenting themselves as their rawest yet. Granted, this has rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way but personally I really enjoyed it.

Favourite tracks: No More Honey, Dripping, Lady M.

28. Shabazz Palaces – Les Majesty

Genre: Hip-hop/Experimental

This one was a grower. At first, I thought the album was ok at best, but man, once you’ve properly listened to it a couple of times you realise that the gold on this release is so fluid through all the tracks that it’s just hard to identify without a dip in Shabazz Palaces maintained quality. Granted, there’s a few tracks that do grab you more than the rest, but the whole thing is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It also shows that as far as production goes, they show no sign of becoming stale any time soon.

Favourite tracks: Forerunner Foray, Harem Aria, Motion Sickness.

27. Thou – Heathen

Genre: Doom Metal/Sludge

Heavy, morose and dark are three things that Thou are well associated with and “Heathen” is just another testament to their already solid back catalogue of releases. Honestly, if you know Thou, you know what you’re in for. Just go listen to it.

Favourite tracks: Feral Faun, Free Will, Ode To Physical Pain.

26. Today Is The Day – Animal Mother

Genre: Noise Rock/Metal

One of my favourite ‘weirdo’ bands in metal came out with one of their best records in years. Again, Today Is The Day make it almost impossible for you to neatly section this album into a single genre name. Noise rock, death metal, sludge, progressive, experimental – “Animal Mother” is all these things and more, but a whole lot more memorable than “Pain Is A Warning” thanks to better mixing, bigger riffs and Steve Austin’s insane vocals are plain and clear; no effects to dilute his truly manic sound.

It’s a shame that soon after the release of the album, the band experienced a woeful car accident while on tour. I just hope Steve and co. make a good recovery (and that we’ll hear some of this material at Temples Festival next year!)

Favourite tracks: Sick Of Your Mouth, Outlaw, Heathen.

25. Earth – Primitive & Deadly

Genre: Drone/Country/Progressive Rock

This was a weird one in terms of the direction that Earth decided to go into with this, reintroducing guest vocals on three of the tracks thanks to reknowned Screaming Trees frontman, Queens Of The Stone Age collaborator and solo artist Mark Lanegan – on two tracks – and the more illusive Rabia Shaheen Qazi – on one. Instrumentally, you can expect the same sort of thing that you can always expect from Earth but there are a few tweaks with a mixture of distortion, sinister atmospheres and proggy leads. The album sort of feels like the merging of the best bits from “Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons” and “HEX: Or Printing In The Infernal Method”.

Favourite tracks: Torn By The Fox Of The Crescent Moon, Even Hell Has Its Heroes, From The Zodiacal Light.

24. Water Torture – Pillbox

Genre: Powerviolence

No point in me going on with this one. Powerviolence with bass and drums, some episodes of power electronics. If those things interest you, you can’t go wrong with another stellar Water Torture release.

Favourite tracks: Terrorism, PillboxMassive Regressive.

23. Sunwølf – Beholden To Nothing and No One

Genre: Drone/Doom Metal/Ambient

These guys were a great new discovery for me this year (as are a few others after this) and are one of those bands that are obviously still in the stages of experimenting with their sound and influences – I would put a confident bet that this collection are fans in some degree or another of Harvey Milk, Chelsea Wolfe, Melvins, Neurosis and a few ambient artists.

Sunwølf make it extremely clear that they aren’t going to stick to a single sound thanks to a number of stylistically contrasting tracks. Opener In The Darkened River… features a mournful and beautiful female vocalist backed with clean guitars and strings; Vultures Crown has thick, heavy guitars and bass with gruff male roars (these vocals are the ones that appear the most through the album); Twelve Sunne is a pure ambient/drone track with shimmering production and a sample running through it; Lotus Land features unforgettable group chants with minimal guitars. The album is just a gripping journey through different soundscapes, and they’re all fascinating.

Favourite tracks: In The Darkened River I Found The Silence Looms, Heathen’s RestThrown Into A Nameless Time.

22. Salem’s Pot – …lurar ut dig på prärien

Genre: Doom Metal/Psychedelic Rock

I’ll be blunt about this: Electric Wizard’s “Let It Die” release was by far the most disappointing and unimaginative album I listened to this year. Where the Wizard was leading the way and popularising a mixture of old-school doom and psychedelia along with a seething attitude; that album just sounded like a shrivelled-up and incompetent king that needs replacing… and so, here we have Salem’s Pot, who offer a far more interesting version of that style, but feeling like it should be a soundtrack for a horror film that involves cults and sacrifices… with cowbell.

Favourite tracks: Nothing Hill, Dr. Death, Creep Purple.

21. Behemoth – The Satanist

Genre: Black Metal/Death Metal

This one is on a LOT of EOY lists and rightfully so. Behemoth’s “The Satanist” may just be their most relevant album in years: much more memorable riffs/grooves and lyrics as well as just being incredibly punishing. Listening to this is like flinching every time someone is about to hit you; but you want it and Behemoth fully deliver. If you’re into black metal and/or death metal, then this is a must have for 2014 releases.

Favourite tracks: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, In The Absence Ov Light, Messe Noire.

20. Ringworm – Hammer Of The WitchGenre: Hardcore/Metal

Even though I’d known about Ringworm for a long while, I’d never listened to them until this album was recommended to me… Ringworm play a very dirty and (death) metal-influenced style of hardcore. Granted, this album isn’t for everyone considering how niche their sound is, but if you just love music that’s fast, heavy and filthy; then Ringworm has you covered.

Favourite tracks: Exit Life, We’ll Always Have The End, One Of Us Is Going To Have To Die….

19. Dephosphorus – Ravenous Solemnity

Genre: Crust/Grindcore/Sludge/Hardcore/Black Metal

Like Ringworm, Dephosphorus are another band known for their dirty and furious sound but these guys have always ventured more into grind, sludge and black metal influences. Really, you could put them up there with those bands that mix all the extremes in metal and formulate them into a sound of their own. One moment you’ll be shredded by blastbeats and shrieking vocals, the next they’ll lock into a Dystopia-esque groove. There’s also a neat cover of Discharge’s The Blood Runs Red at the end.

Favourite tracks: There Is A Color, A Fountain Of Daggers, Ravenous Solemnity.

18. Sd Laika – That’s Harakiri

Genre: Electronica

It felt that electronic music generally hit a big low in 2014 – despite Aphex’s comeback – but Sd Laika is someone who has been criminally overlooked for his incredibly dark and fucked up “That’s Harakiri”. Each track is so disjointed, ugly yet catchy that you can’t help feel a little nauseous and satisfied at the same time. A lot of the time, he’ll somehow jump from discomforting collages of sound to beautiful passages, and then throw you back into the horror again. I might be giving a whole lot of negativity here, but it’s because of these dark parts that I left this on repeat for weeks. It definitely shows a lot of promise from Sd Laika, I can’t imagine what he’ll do to follow this up.

Favourite tracks: You Were Wrong, Gutter Vibrations, Great God Pan.

17. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire

Genre: Industrial Metal/Doom Metal

Even if you’re only vaguely into metal, you should recognise Godflesh without even thinking about it. The industrial-doom legendaries returned this year with an album that truly feels like it could have been the follow up to their classic “Streetcleaner” – a whole lot of heavy riffs, pissed off vocals and moments that feel like a machine that’s about to churn everything you loved into a scrapheap. Honestly, just listen to it, I’m wasting time you could be doing so by having you read this.

Favourite tracks: New Dark Ages, Towers Of Emptiness, Life Giver Life Taker.

16. Sick of it All – Last Act of Deviance

Genre: Hardcore

I’ll keep this one brief: this is classic Sick Of It All material. They’re one of those few – if not the only one – of the NYHC bands that have still kept on releasing quality albums during the 2000’s. Their previous record “Based On A True Story” was my favourite to come out in 2010, somehow balancing catchy riffs and choruses with a slamming heaviness to each chord strike and each snare hit… and so here we are again, with another album that keeps that tradition going. It’s great!

Favourite tracks: Losing War, 2061, Act Your Rage.

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7 thoughts on “Top 30 Albums of 2014: 30-16

  1. Ja'Carra says:

    I heard Myke Ctown name drop you in one of his videos so, I thought I would peep your list. Some I’ve loved, some I’ve never heard of, but will check out. Thanks.

    • richreviewz says:

      That’s cool, I didn’t think anyone really cared when he did that, haha, so thanks for checking this out. What are the ones you loved? And it’d be cool if you came back after you’ve checked some of the others out and lemme know what you think, always interested in hearing opinions on these lists.

  2. Jack says:

    Good list so far! I downloaded your listed favourite tracks off each of the albums and have been working my way through them this morning. I actually listened to the whole of the Dirty Beaches album as it’s only 4 tracks and I like it! “Pacific Ocean” is one of the most beautiful tracks i’ve heard this year I think, it’s all pretty immersive though. I also really, REALLY need to check out the new albums by Shabazz Palaces and Sick of it All. Absolutely no idea/ excuse as to why I haven’t done that yet. Also really liking those tracks off the Blonde Redhead album so I’ll check that out, and Water Torture too. Looking forward to the next 15!

    • Jack says:

      Also this reminds me of how much I need to revisit “A World Lit Only By Fire”. I like it but only listened to it about 3 times so I’m none the wiser as to just how good it is really.

      • richreviewz says:

        Cheers maaaane! Glad you’re digging that Dirty Beaches release – I only heard it about last week but I was so blown away by it that I had to include in the list. I’f I’d heard “Drifters/Love Is The Devil” before my 2013 list, he would have been in that too, so I didn’t want to make the same mistake of not checking his latest out.

        Definitely lemme know about the albums you’ve yet to check out when you have done, interested in your thoughts. And yeah, the Salem’s Pot album is only three tracks long (as well as another album in the next part), but I figure I may as well prioritise them.

        Haha, I guess I just have a soft spot for Godflesh.

  3. sam says:

    totally agree with your thoughts on the sd laika album – i found it much more interesting than the latest actress and aphex twin albums, just annoying how little attention it gained(it took the fact’s end of year list for me to discover it). ill have to go back and relisten to the new Earth album – i remember seeing mark lanegan was featured and had to check it out just out of curiosity really. As for lese majesty, im still struggling – it certainly has a few standouts like forerunner foray, which would have slotted straight into black up, but i guess i just need to make time to give it a few proper listens.

    • richreviewz says:

      Well it’s better late than never! “That’s Harakiri” was a total shock to the system for me, it’s jarring at first but then it hooks you in, at least that’s what it was like to me.

      Earth’s new album is great (I finally got to see them this year as well, shortly after the album was released) but I have to admit, Lanegan’s contributions were a little disappointing, especially with the lyrics. They’re a bit too cheesy for me, but those tracks are still enjoyable.

      Yeah, I think “Black Up” is Shabazz’s tightest release yet, they set the bar high with that one so I think people have been struggling with “Lese Majesty” because of the different approach to it. Hopefully it manages to click at some point for you, but if not: hey, it’s not the end of the world!

      Thanks for taking the time to check the list and music out!

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