Best of 2014 – Dan’s List, Part Five

HornsUpTop25

Wednesday’s here at last, and it’s finally time for us to do our Final Fours! Except not really. Sure, we’re recording our Final Fours tonight for Episode 33, but that won’t be over your way until Friday. Instead, you’ll get three more randomly selected non-Final Four entries from my Top 25 list, and you’ll like it. Or maybe you won’t, I don’t know. We’ll see.

Anyway…today, I’ll be talking about three more albums from three completely different backgrounds, because as I’ve already established, it’s fun to mix things up, sub-genre-wise. So that said, the three Top 25 entries I’ll be looking back on today are:

The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer (Profound Lore)

2014 did wonders for The Atlas Moth in my book. I’d seen the Chicago quintet live a couple of years back, but for whatever reason wasn’t all that taken with them at the time. All that changed this year, thanks in part to the incredible show they put on opening for The Ocean, but then also, later, to their stellar new full-length, The Old Believer. It’s an immersive trip through atmospheric sludge, potent enough to eventually begin feeling like a physical weight on the listener, dragging you into your own personal abyss. (In retrospect, these guys were actually the perfect tour mates for The Ocean.) What’s more: almost every song here has a definitive, chill-inducing passage. On “Halcyon Blvd,” it’s the clean, ethereal intro—a quick, minute-long change of pace we never knew we wanted; later, it’s the harmonized guitar lines the band uses to accentuate its lumbering beast of a title track. And then, there’s vocalist Stavros Giannopoulos, whose corrosive howl ties the whole thing together and gives the band its bite. You’ll have a hard time forgetting his vocals—or the rest of The Old Believer—any time soon.

Blut Aus Nord – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry (Debemur Morti)

A lot of people have ranked Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry as their favorite album of 2014—or at the very least in their Top 10’s—and I completely get it. Blut Aus Nord’s 11th full-length is an absolute punisher, and some of the coldest, sharpest-biting black metal we heard all year. It’s also some of the most triumphant-sounding stuff you’ll hear from the genre, thanks to leader Vindsval’s innate abilities as a songwriter. He packs an impressively dense set of melodies underneath the relentless array of tremolo-picked, Northern-style riffage, creating an epic, grandiose assault over the album’s 45 minutes. Let’s pause for a second and take a look at the album’s cover art. D’you see that landscape? The tree-covered mountains and the river snaking between them? Now, imagine drawing a sword and ripping your way through them—that’s kind of what Saturnian Poetry does musically. And but for the opening prelude and a quick breather during the standout “Forhist,” it’s never anything less than vicious in doing so. Think you can keep up with it?

Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere (Profound Lore)

For as long as I’ve been a fan of the band, new Agalloch albums have always felt like major events to me. So much so, in fact, that I often temporarily lose the ability to assess them properly—and, you know, use words—during my first few listens. For example, my initial thought stream for the band’s fifth album, The Serpent and the Sphere, went something like this:

-“Wow, this feels kind of doomier than standard Agalloch”

-“No seriously, this is heavier and dirgier than they’ve ever been. Isn’t it? I think it is.”

-“GUHHH ‘THE ASTRAL DIALOGUE'”

-“Y’know, I love me some Nathanaël Larochette, but I’m not sure I’m feeling these acoustic interludes here.”

-“Wow, ‘Celestial Effigy’ plays even better in the context of the album than it did as a standalone.”

-“On second thought, maybe Larochette’s acoustic interludes aren’t that bad. They break up the heavy parts quite nicely.”

-“GUHHH ‘PLATEAU OF THE AGES'”

Aaaaaaand scene. My main inclination is still to describe the album in short bursts of hyperbole, but given a few additional months to reflect, I may actually be able to string together a few consecutive sentences on its merits. All of this is to say: The Serpent and the Sphere has everything you want from an Agalloch album. It’s challenging, intricate, and also quite pretty at times—and made for repeat listening. Agalloch’s established themselves as a band that can really do no wrong, and this album is the perfect reflection of that.

That’ll do it for today. Hump? Jumped. Anyway, I’ll be back with three more from my Top 25 tomorrow, but in the meantime, make sure you check out Corey’s latest round of honorable mentions a bit later this afternoon, and stay tuned for Quickies later on. Until next time, then.

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

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