If you care about metal, you really should subscribe to Decibel, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s not only a source of great writing — not only a place to discover new music and have new light shed upon familiar music — but a barometer for the genre. It’s the authority, the standard, the publication of record. In many ways, all other metal journalism today is either a reaction or alternative to Decibel. That’s not to say I agree with everything written in its pages, but I never feel like anything written in its pages is wrong. Anyway, Decibel’s Best Of 2014 issue dropped in my mailbox last week, and that issue included the magazine’s list of the year’s 40 best albums. I’m gonna go ahead and spoil that list below, so if you’re still waiting for your copy and you want to initially experience the list as it was intended to be read (counted down from #40 to #1, on glossy pages, with writeups for each record), then you should close this page right now, and come back when you’ve had a chance to peep the magazine. (You can buy the print edition here.) But I like to talk about lists, and so do you, so let’s talk about this one:
There have been more than enough unauthorized documentaries and biographies about Kurt Cobain. Next year, though, HBO will release the first fully authorized Cobain documentary. The film will be called Montage Of Heck, and its executive producer is Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean. It will be written, directed, and produced by filmmaker Brett Morgen (Crossfire Hurricane, The Kid Stays In The Picture). Said Morgen in a statement, “I started work on this project eight years ago. Like most people, when I started, I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth. However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4000 pages of writings that together help paint an intimate portrait of an artist who rarely revealed himself to the media.” Here’s something that’s maybe worth mentioning, too: The name “Courtney Love” does not appear once in the Montage Of Heck press release. Here’s the important stuff that does appear in that release:
Brooklyn’s Yellow Eyes are still operating on the fringes of the American black metal scene, although their growing discography increasingly suggests they belong closer to the top. They were one of 2013′s 40 Best New Bands, and their Hammer Of Night LP found its way onto our list of last year’s 50 Best Metal Albums. The band followed that this past January with a 2-song cassette/12″ called The Desert Mourns, and they’ll close out the year with another such EP. Yellow Eyes have always produced relatively lean songs — even the best atmospheric black metal can tend to meander, but Yellow Eyes strip away much of the music’s drone-ish tendencies in favor of hysterical hooks — and Stillicide is perhaps the most immediate work of the band’s young career. Both of the EP’s two songs are richly complex, yet distilled to an essence: There’s no drift or stasis here, just short builds and long bursts. The B-side, “Heat From Other Days,” was premiered over at Hell Awaits earlier this month, but today, we’ve got the title track. Both are great. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, Yellow Eyes are headed out on a short North American tour with another excellent (and under-recognized) Brooklyn black metal band, Anicon. If they’re coming to your town, you should make it a point to attend, because both bands are absolutely ferocious live acts. You can hear “Stillicide” and check those tour dates below.
I listened to a bunch of Iron Reagan stuff this year and it all sounded good but it’s just not my thing, so I don’t really have thoughts of any value — Aaron or Doug or Ian can probably offer actual nuanced opinions on the music. I know people LOVE that band so I’m not that surprised they did well on dB’s list, and while I’ve never met anyone in the band, I’m happy for ‘em just the same.
I’m not sure the metal world has an Arcade Fire analogue; the closest comp would probably be Baroness. Blut Aus Nord lurk in self-imposed obscurity to such a degree that they almost shun accolades if not all media coverage. I’d be surprised if Vindsval has done even five interviews over the last five years, and his output is really idiosyncratic: The first Blut Aus Nord record came out in 1995. The first Memoria Vetusta record came out in 1996. Between 2003 – 2007 BAN released four albums with no connection to Memoria Vetusta I. Then they released the second Memoria Vetusta record in 2009. Between 2011 – 2012 they released all three parts of the 777 trilogy. And in 2014, they released the third Memoria Vetusta record. I could forgive anyone for not being 100% comfortable trying to contextualize a single edition of that catalog two decades after its inception.
That said, BAN’s profile has risen with every passing year, and their last album — 2012′s 777: Cosmosophy — was high on dB’s list that year. However, Cosmosophy (and to a lesser extent the rest of the 777 trilogy) sounds pretty much NOTHING like anything else BAN have ever done AND it is one of the truly essential, undefinable, and most magical metal albums of the decade IMO. Saturnian Poetry is a much more traditional style of atmospheric/pagan black metal. That said it is a masterclass in that style, and I think it’s an apex, too. I’m just playing devil’s advocate trying to justify the exclusion. But in truth I fundamentally disagree with it.
(Not that you implied it was nefarious!)
So dB did 12 issues in 2014, eight of which featured bands promoting new records (the other four were King Diamond, Lemmy, GWAR, and Carcass — as it happens, the Mastodon cover is actually the Jan. 2015 issue). Of the eight eligible bands, only Electric Wizard weren’t on the list — which is actually sort of a surprise now that I think about it. So it’s a pretty solid theory, although it doesn’t seem nefarious to me: They’re just riding for records in December that they were riding for earlier in the year, too.
Yeah I mean I guess you could say release date is secondary; it really depends on when the editors get the music for review. I got that Primordial advance on 9/22, even though it just came out today. That said, looking at some old emails, I’m pretty sure print publications had the Blut Aus Nord record in August so that’s probably not a factor in its absence here.
The impression I got (and this might have been in the writeup, I honestly can’t remember) was that Cult Of Fire arrived too late to be considered for their 2013 list, because print publications have long lead times. Like dB probably had to figure out this list in October in order to get it assigned, edited, to the printer and in the mail on time. Which would maybe explain why Blut Aus Nord wasn’t on this year’s list. (Promos for that thing went out in late September.) But then again, the Cretin record isn’t even out yet and that’s on their list so who knows.
I’m wondering if that one just hit their desks too late for consideration. I can’t think of another (good) reason for its absence.
That could be it but they’re not usually sticklers about genre purity, plus Trap Them and YAITW are no more metal or less crust than Nux. And that Solstafir record sounds like Sigur Ros. I think Nux probably just didn’t get the votes. But IMO it’s better than almost every single thing on this list or any list of 2014′s best records. I could see a stronger case for making it #1 than for excluding it.
I was surprised by that, too. There are a few notable absences on their list, IMO, and that one is particularly glaring.
Yeah, I am saying that! But I actually don’t really like Adore, and the few songs I do like aren’t as good as “Tiberius” IMO. There are songs on Machina and even Oceania that I like more than anything on Adore.