Over the holidays, a good friend of mine suggested I create a “Top Metal Albums” list to go along with my plethora of other year-end lists. I at first scoffed at the idea. I’m far from an expert in metal, and when I do listen to it, my interests almost exclusively lie within the genre of doom. I completely ignored some of the most lauded metal albums of the year (Thou, Old Man Gloom, Godflesh) due simply to my inability to get past the grating vocals. Calling me a metal aficionado is like calling a guy who orders ShockTop a beer snob. Despite my limited metal knowledge, I do take pride in the fact that there were five metal albums on my “Top 40 Albums of 2014” list. In fact, my year end list featured more metal albums than all of the following publications’ year-end lists combined: All Music Guide, Alternative Press, A.V. Club, CMJ, Consequence of Sound, Drowned in Sound, Entertainment Weekly, Magnet Magazine, MOJO, NME, NPR, Paste, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Under the Radar (Rolling Stone put YOB at #50, NPR featured Pallbearer, and Spin had Earth – yes, I spent time scouring every single list). Now, more than any other genre, metal is mutating and evolving in fascinating ways, yet major music media outlets don’t give these innovative musicians the credit they deserve. I stand by the following “Top 10 Metal Albums” list, but please keep in mind this small caveat: I’m still just a metal-neophyte. However, if you have also found yourself intrigued by the allure of the dangerous world of heavy metal, follow me as I introduce you to some of the fiercer beasts of 2014.
Tag Archives: electric wizard
For me, this list is the most important thing I write all year. While I enjoy all the various writing avenues I take, the “Top Albums” list is really the end-all-be-all. I’m not blind to the list of other music websites, and as I peruse them, I always find myself scoffing or shaking my head in frustration. Sometimes it’s because of the thinly veiled politics behind picks; other times it’s the unwarranted hype given to an artist who still needs time to grow. I like to believe that I’m so outside the industry and that I can give you a list that is based solely on my passion for music that lurks outside the mainstream. Once again, I’ve compiled a list of some incredible albums that hail from a wide range of genres. Give the first 20 a read through and a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find something that strayed beyond your listening peripheral in 2014.
10. Elliott Smith – Figure 8
Forget everything you’ve heard about this album. Just listen to it. For some reason, ten years after it was released some at Pitchfork still find the need to talk shit on it (check out their top albums of 2009, #46). Didn’t they talk enough when it came out in 2000? “Throwaway… giant, airy studio disaster… go-nowhere melody… one of the least infectious songs… includes some of his least inspired music… unbearably random sounding… a lot to plow through… another step down in terms of songwriting… you only need to hear so much Elliott Smith before you get the point.” Why is there still a backlash (the Oscar nomination? ‘Good Will Hunting’? Signing to a major label?)? I mean he died over 6 years ago! Whether you like the hushed dreamy wistful acoustic folk of his first two albums or the full on rock moments and orchestrated grand Beatlesqe pop of XO, there is something here for you. This album has consistently broke my heart for 10 years now. Again, just forget everything you know about Elliott and this album and JUST LISTEN (including this from Trouser Press: “neither does any of it make the direct connection to a soul and heart.”) I have found that nothing from Elliott connects with any other place. Sure it could have been narrowed down from 16 songs. But just consider it his White Album. – Kid Kilowatt
For the record, I can remember Android50 buying this album while we were in college. I can remember it so vividly partially because for like 2 months I refused to go to class unless I dropped in and listened to a tune off of Figure 8 first. – Songs Suck
I have many favorite albums from 2000, but if I were to pick the most memorable album of 2000, it would have to be Figure 8. My best memories of that year were times spent with some of the BDWPS.com writers in our dorm hall simply known as “The Cave”. Before meeting them I listened to Roman Candle nonstop, lying in bed drinking Mad Dog 20/20 until I passed out, a sad, pitiful creature. My grandma died that fall and I struggled with adjusting to the big time college life, so Elliot’s heart-wrenching songs hit home. Then of course the holy trinity was formed and I no longer needed the sad odes of Roman Candle. I was still a morose mother fucker, but I needed something bigger than one guitar and a whispering voice captured on an 8-track; I needed something larger than life. I needed Figure 8. -Android50
Probably my favorite songwriter of all time. What? What about John Lennon and Paul McCartney? For my money I’ll take Elliot over the two of them combined. – Tyrannosaurus Banks
9. Antony & the Johnsons – s/t
Transcendent. – Dr. Anonymous
I-Tunes calls it “easy listening.” Tell that to my friends who say it gives them a headache and/or make fun of his voice. On one track, Antony sings about searching for kindness in his heart, but instead finding Hitler. Still sound like “easy listening”? It’s bombastic, pretentious, soulful, uplifting, precious, melodramatic, spooky, feminine, beautiful, affecting, subtle, offensive, jazzy, elaborate, masculine, atmospheric, dark, compelling, and disturbing, often in one song. – Suzy Creamcheese
8. Sleater-Kinney – All Hands on the Bad One
Let us talk about regret for a second, shall we? I don’t have many in my life, but I can think of one thing I really regret. I had traveled to Denver for a Gang of Four concert and got there a day early. S-K was playing that night and I was tired, had already seen them and would see them again a week or two later when they came to my town. Maybe my biggest regret in life, not seeing them one more time before they broke up. Probably their most melodic, fun, exuberant and danceable album. How they do that without a bass is beyond me. If I were Android50 I would find this an appropriate time to bust out a Thin Lizzy comparison. And I would be right, but S-K’s dual guitar harmonies are busier, bolder and more playful than Lizzy’s. Like ballads? Check out “The Swimmer”, it happens to be one of my favorites (plus it was the first S-K song this dude ever heard). Can you tell I fucking love/miss this band? — Pthestudp
Makes me want to eat every chic in the world out while I party on my motorcycle. – Johnny Goodyear.
I saw Sleater Kinney in concert and all the douches in the crowd kept asking for songs from One Beat. Sleater Kinney ignored their requests and played “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun”, a song better than anything on One Beat. After finishing up, Carrie Brownstein aproached the microphone and said,”That song is from ‘All Hands On the Bad One’, an album none of you have ever heard of.” I wanted to scream out, “I’ve heard it Carrie and I love it!” Instead, I peed into a beer bottle because I didn’t want to miss a minute of their set. – Android 50
7. Clinic – Internal Wrangler
This album makes me think that Clinic are actually a 60’s band that discovered some drug that no one else was privy to (which may explain the surgical masks they always wear in band pictures and the fact that they get all cowboyed up to rustle up some mental steers [get it? “internal wrangler.” Ha ha.]). Or they somehow found a missing formula in a cave somewhere that showed how to make the usual guitars, drums, bass and organ lineup sound fresh and unique. I don’t know how they did any of it, but every once and a while an album comes along that is really special. Really fucken timeless and special. – Songs Suck
Tribal drums sound off. And then Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart drop a red pill each. Then some obscure 60’s pop band drops by. And we are down the rabbit hole and everywhere else in between. Some gloriously fucked shit and the best example of how dark can be sunny, and cold, inviting. How detached can have a big beating heart. A heart so big it jumps out at you and dances about the room for 30 minutes before one is led to stab it with the fire poker. Will I still be listening to this in 20 years? Are we still listening to the Velvet Underground? Ornette Coleman (see the cover)? Wire? Faust? The Monks? The Fall? Well, some of us are. — Tyrannosaurus Banks
6. Pinetop Seven – Bringing Home the Last Great Strike
Before I heard Pinetop Seven I thought country was gay. A rich and timeless album, Luke Ferdinand of fakejazz.com calls the music a “mix of No Depression country/folk with a small touch of something I can only think of as creepy carnival music.” He’s totally wrong and spot on at the same time. An indescribable album that really has to be heard and digested a few times to really “get it.” — Willie Rambo Strider
Probably my favorite country band of the last 15 years. Seriously, and it’s probably their best album. So there you go. If I ever find a real saloon, (ya know with the swinging doors) I will make them play this while I down a bottle of their finest whiskey. It will also be the soundtrack when Pthestudp finally drags me to Joshua Tree. Sorry U-2. – Songs Suck
If you are playing the cowboy mercenery video game hit “Red Dead Redemption”, turn off the volume on your TV for a moment and play Bring Home the Last Great Strike as you venture through New Austin on your pixelated stallion. You didn’t think the game could get more epic, did you? – Android50
5. Electric Wizard – Dopethrone
It’s okay that the critics don’t get it. They didn’t get Black Sabbath either. Best album cover ever? – Kid Kilowatt
Not the first time the Wizard has been featured on Bob Dylan WPS. Read pthestudp’s review of their 2007 album, Witchcult Today, elsewhere on this site for a fuller description of the Wizard. In that review pthestudp mentions that Dopethrone is a “full on DOOM classic [and it is] a combination of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, the Melvins and Eyehategod.” He is right and if BDWPS is the only site with enough balls to pronounce it, then so be it.4 Somewhere a horned and bearded Satan (is there another kind?) sits on a black throne in his castle, on the side of a hill in a dark forest, with malevolent looking hooded dudes guarding the castle and roaming the woods. This album is what Satan pulls out before he tokes from his gigantic black bong. Doomy, sludgey, monolithic riffs, spacey FX, this album really is the heaviest shit out there. – Ho Chi Unser Jr.
4. Smog – Dongs of Sevotion
You may not get a lot out of this album at first listen (except for maybe realizing his lyrics are fucken genius). Some of the songs are minimalist dirges, and Bill Callahan refuses to follow up on catchy hooks (although “Dress Sexy at My Funeral” is one of his catchiest songs). One gets the idea that either Smog is fucking with us or he really likes Leonard Cohen. For those who are familiar with Callahan’s work, I describe it as the album he is obsessed with death and sex, often in the same song and one seems to follow the other. I get scared to play it loud in my apartment with lyrics like: “I can hold a woman/ Down on a hardwood floor / This was my / My cold discovery.” These lyrics and others, including ones that rhyme tête-à-tête with machete, and every note are going to permeate your brain until there is nothing else in there for weeks at a time. A fucken shame this album did not show up on any of the “best of the aughts” lists, cos it is probably Bill Callahan’s finest hour. – Songssuck
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with these songs playing in my head. Why does this album haunt my dreams? — Suzy Creamcheese
3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven
One time I popped into a record store, just to browse. LYSFLATH was playing. I left immediately. Call me extreme, but I refuse to listen to just parts of this album, at half volume. LYSFLATH demands more. And the more I give to it, the more it gives back. – Willie Rambo Strider
My dad is a pretty cool guy. He is also what I would call a radical devout christian. He loves him some Jesus. But there is one problem. He doesn’t like any Christian rock bands. I guess it’s hard to dig Christian rock when one has already heard Led Zeppelin. Dad cannot deny that the Almighty’s rock bands do not compare to his favorites: Neil Young, Black Sabbath, Steely Dan, Pink Floyd and Zep. He has a bunch of friends who got all excited when Dad told them his dilemma. They were going to show him the light and started bombarding him with Christian music. At first he would come home all excited with a new tape or CD given to him. But after popping it in, he would realize: “it’s crap.” After a while, Dad conceded that Satan had the better music (although he fervently believes that one day Christ will take back the music mantle that Satan took with him to hell and then Christians will truly ‘rock’). But Dad, don’t give up hope just yet! Cos when this nonet’s 3 minutes into “Storm: Lift Yr. Skinny Fists, Like Antennas to Heaven” it is so rapturous and magnificent it must come from heaven. Usually GSYBE albums just convey hell, indignation, grief, anguish and Armageddon, but like any good Christian album LYSFLATH’s last track, “Antennas to Heaven,” chronicles Jesus’ victory over Satan. With that realization GSYBE have added another emotion to their musical palette: joy. Talk about goose bumps. – Pthestudp
2. Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Sunset Mission
Another made up genre exclusively for this list: doom noir-jazz. Seriously, I feel like someone is standing behind me holding a knife while I listen to this. Or maybe I am in a lounge cantina on Mos Eisley and Jabba the Hut just walked in (slithered?). Or I could be driving down the autobahn (the band is German), chain smoking cigarettes, pondering how I am going to get away with the murder I have just committed? No one know whilst this record spins. If you love jazz, doom, or midnight, check it out. – Pthestudp
Bohren & Der Club of Gore bitch slapped everyone who said one had to look to the 60’s to find the last good jazz. Even though most of the people who said that would still think that after hearing this, BDWPS.com readers will know better. – Dr. Anonymous
1. Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica
This really came out of nowhere. And yet, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I liked it, but my 2000 self really didn’t comprehend just how good this album is; it would take a long long time. M&A was Modest Mouse’s major label debut and they made the most of it. Isaac Brock sings about unearthly places and ideas: places I have never been and cannot comprehend; ideas I cannot grasp. But for the first time the music is really ambitious enough to soundtrack his visions. The music comes to us from bad motel, but where is this motel? The 3rd planet? The dark center of the universe? A frozen over version of hell? The stars? An endless ocean/endless desert? Antarctica? The moon? Brock gives a lot to ponder, but offers no easy answers. I think Brock actually knows how the world began, how it will end and what happens when you die. He knows the secrets of the universe, what the meaning of life is and the location of hell. To find them one only needs to listen to this album. But I’ll warn you right now, if one enters The Moon & Antarctica they are going to get mind-raped, and might not escape with their sanity and may not end up knowing where they came out at. – Pthestudp
4 There are almost no reviews of this album on the web, even on music sites I respect.