The Ten Best Submissions I Didn’t Review in 2014

One of the most unfortunate parts of writing about music is that I receive more submissions than I could possibly tackle without hiring a staff to help me write. I’m sure most of you know that this is a one-man operation and that I make nothing off of my website with which I could pay a staff. Even if I start making money from this one day, it’s safe to say I’ll be keeping this personal, which means I’ll always have a shortage of time and an overwhelming amount of great music coming in that I just can’t review with what little time I have.

As December began, I thought of how trite year’s end lists can be. How many people can pick the same handful of well received albums as “the best” of a year before it becomes tedious? How many people can pick a bunch of obscure and off the wall releases before they look like they’re trying too hard to be an outsider of some sort? There’s really no proper way to do it without letting somebody down, and while I did try my hand at selecting fifty albums that I felt were solid representations of some of my favorite listening in 2014, this list occurred to me out of frustration with the whole process. I thought it would be more fun for me to examine ten albums I had wanted to give more time to in 2014. While I obviously won’t be churning out ten complete reviews here, I think this little exercise will show you some of my editorial process while also shining light onto a few gems from last year. Some of these were rather well received elsewhere and some of these probably haven’t been covered at all until this point. Regardless of coverage, I hope you’ll find something new to enjoy on this list.

Alder Glade

Starting things in an alphabetical fashion gives us a fantastic offering from Alder Glade, an Australian project that contacted me in September. I’m not sure how or why I left this out, but I’m glad I’ve revisited this release for inclusion here. Simply titled Demo I, this demo stands strong as a debut offering from an unknown. Haunting keys? Check. Raw, tinny production? Check. This is black metal demo heaven, not necessarily reinventing or adding something new to the genre but this stands on its own without requiring comparison to established acts. This is what I talk about when I speak of my passion for the genre and its many iterations and nuances. Acts like Alder Glade may never become huge, but sounds like these sit so close to my heart.

Auditor- "Form Destroyer"

Our next foray into what was unintentionally ignored is Auditor’s Form Destroyer. Waves of crushing unease force themselves onto the listener like some sort of unseen authority figure. Dread and paranoia rank heavily in Auditor’s emotional spectrum, but this is not the simply shock pandering of many noise or power electronics artists. Instead, there is a focused and even sometimes balanced sensibility to the weight of Auditor’s attack. Sole member Brandon Elkins is aware of the power of each noise and how its placement can impact the listener. The unrepentant declarations of a convicted (and freed) pedophile chill to the bone in opener “Protocol 1” while the monumental “I Can Never Be Far Enough From You” feels like being immersed in pure discomfort. This isn’t scary because it’s over the top–this is scary because of how human it is, reflecting the ugliness in all life.

barghest

Barghest dropped a beast of an album this year on Gilead Media and I ended up not covering it because it coincided with my summer meltdown. Not a proud moment, but these guys offered up something that endured well past my tiny miseries of the summer and is still semi-regular listening for me. That probably doesn’t sound like high praise, but considering that I’m receiving multiple new albums a week and at least attempting to take in most of it, playing anything more than a few times is truly special. Barghest moved towards a meatier sound with this one, and while their debut of super raw hardcore-influenced black metal still holds a fuzzy little place in my heart, The Virtuous Purge shows them becoming a force that can contend on a national level. I look forward to these guys continuing to dominate the world. Hopefully sooner than later.

Dunnock

One of the more fascinating tapes I received in 2014 was Dunnock’s most recent demo from Psalm 88. This project has had my attention since my site was rather young and this imaginative release featured an A-side with three interesting takes and a B-side that is quite unique in that every copy of the Promo 2014 tape has its own special ambient composition. It’s likely I’ll be filming a video with the B-side of my copy soon just so my listeners and readers can enjoy one of the many pieces created for this release. Things like this show true dedication from the artist and a commitment to creating something actually worthwhile.

Gasoline Rainbows

Gasoline Rainbows contacted me in March, sending the release that I might regret excluding more than anything on this list. Noisy electronics and choppy drum machines clash brilliantly with raw black metal guitars and howled vocals in a way that I can’t even explain. Perhaps the sheer intensity and beauty of Shattering Glass is why I never got around to writing about this. I can’t find the words to describe the impact this release has had on me. Every time I look into an oil slick (of which there are many on my walks through the streets of Portland) I am reminded of this release and how haunting it is. It’s also worth noting that almost everything else from the Pastel Voids bandcamp is worth your time. Most of these I hadn’t heard until revisiting this release for this post and I think I need a lot of these tapes in my life.

Eldur- "Siggja"

A black metal release that caught my attention and got buried in my inbox as I was preparing for my horrendously large “Best of” list was Eldur’s brilliant offering, Siggja. Three tracks of dreamy, ethereal metal that helped me find a calmer place within myself certainly deserve a mention here. Folks who enjoy getting lost in the atmosphere of bands like Lustre will find themselves right at home from the first moments of “Dagur” through to the very end of “Sorg.” It’s a beautiful journey whose only fault is that it doesn’t last long enough to satisfy me. Still, even in seventeen minutes of material on Siggja, it’s easy to get lost somewhere in a song. I hope this sees a physical release because music like this becomes even more massive when played in the right format.

Mesmur

I find myself growing fonder of funeral doom over time and I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get around to featuring Mesmur’s self-titled debut when it showed up in my inbox. With a member of Dalla Nebbia, whose works I’ve featured here in the past, I should have given this more time. Luckily, something about Mesmur gripped me and I couldn’t forget it. Clean leads over dense, ugly walls of filth tend to be surefire ways to get my attention and it’s been done to great effect here. I want to find myself lost in the ruins depicted on the album cover while opener “Deprivation” echoes all around me. It’s beautiful, slightly overwhelming, and an emotionally intense experience. Obviously I regret the exclusion of each album on this list, but this is one I’d have really enjoyed breaking to the world. I’d like to think that some of my music writing peers have shared this, but something tells me that this brief post will be the introduction for many of my readers. Get doomed.

Mysticum- "Planet Satan"

Mysticum returned after nearly two decades of absence with the humorously titled Planet Satan. The album title, however, is the only laughing matter here. Efficient and chilling industrialized black metal is the name of the game here and Mysticum do it better than just about anybody else. While the electronic detachment could easily pull a band’s heart out of the music, there’s something so honest and pure about the music on Planet Satan that even my jaded ears found it appealing. This is a joyous hellride to the stars and back. It’s slightly absurd, but you’ll love every second of it even if you wish you wouldn’t. Sometimes you just have to accept that not everything can be taken entirely seriously and enjoy it.

Vixenta- "Predation"

File this as another one that simply got away while I was busy being overwhelmed by life and my own mental state during the thick of things in 2014.  Vixenta’s Predation is one of those albums that’s slightly depressing but doesn’t lean on stale depressive black metal cliches to pander to some sort of melancholy. Instead, there’s just a weight that carries through every note of the album and a general somber feeling that is only strengthened by the occasional synth line. This isn’t the most professional sounding recording, but everything is here and can easily be heard without it sounding overproduced. This is tasteful and well executed black metal, something we could all stand to hear a bit more often.

Vorde

Closing things out, it’s important to pay a visit with Vorde’s brilliant debut LP that came out in 2014. This one got left out simply because I assumed it would receive heavy enough coverage elsewhere, but I was sorely mistaken and I really need to throw in a vote of confidence on this one. After a couple of demo releases on tape, this LP is a huge step in terms of production. The musicianship has always been in place, but it’s so cohesive here that this album simply begs to be heard. Mesmerizing cosmic black metal mastery is apparent on all five tracks of this record, which seemed to be slightly polarizing. Apparently the vocals were a bit of an issue for some listeners, but I feel like the otherworldly groaning here is cut from a timeless fabric. In a genre with vocalists like Maniac, Dagon, and Abbath held in such high regard, these unearthly offerings should be a welcome oddity, especially considering how incredible the musical backdrop is. Vorde conjures the sound of a cosmos beginning to awaken and develop a consciousness. It’s horrific and beautiful in all the right ways.