2014 was a fine year for rock. But rather than get our writers to list their 20 most notable releases of the past 12 months, we set them the agonising challenge of choosing just one. Cruel? Perhaps. So, once the fretting and headaches had subsided, our team picked the following albums…
Poison Everything (Southern Lord)
2014 has been an outstanding year for new music and my pick of the year is Obliterations’ Poison Everything. Its hairy architects – members of Bluebird, Black Mountain and Saviours – have somehow harnessed Discharge’s Fury, Sabbath’s power and Black Flag’s agitation to deliver the harshest sounding debut in recent memory. Check out Mind Ain’t Right for all your sub-two-minute eardrum punishment needs.
_Dude Incredible _(Touch and Go)
No-one, but no-one, makes rock music like Steve Albini, a fact reinforced by Shellac’s first album in seven years. An oblique state-of-the-nation address touching upon surveillance culture, militarism, the Occupy movement, human rights abuses and the betrayal of the working classes, Dude Incredible is a fiercely intelligent, acerbic collection, with an economical, streamlined thump to rival primetime AC/DC. That it also features Albini’s peerless crow impressions and a song about horny monkeys is a bonus, obviously.
Every Time I Die
From Parts Unknown (Epitaph)
There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, you can bash it to hell, set fire to it and mess with it any way you please’. This is what Buffalo’s finest did with their sound on From Parts Unknown. It scathes and seethes, it howls and it screams and it kicks you in the face (or, phone) every which way with riffs right until the very end.
The Satanist (Nuclear Blast)
Pushing each element of Behemoth’s sound to the utmost extreme, Nergal and his nefarious henchmen have finally crafted an opus worthy of their band’s name. Titanic in both concept and delivery, The Satanist splices death metal fury, the blackest of riffs and the most bombastic horn-section this side of the Rocky theme tune into an unrepentantly vital work of art. Try listening to Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’s blasphemous intro riff without reaching for your crucifix.
The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets (Roadrunner)
When people talk about a band’s debut album being ambitious, it’s tempting to see that as a put down: that it stretched too far. Not so in the case of Yorkshire’s Marmozets, whose first record reaches in a hundred directions at once but remains completely focussed. The temptation is to concentrate on singer Becca Macintyre’s wonderful vocals, but there’s much else going on here besides. Epic but immediate, frenzied but honed, there hasn’t been a finer debut this year.
The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets (Roadrunner)
Marmozets managed to capture pretty much everything I love about rock music in this album. A diverse listen containing balladry and all out ragers, all pulled off with aplomb. Raucous and inventive with an undercurrent of the sort of raw danger you want from a rock record, while still containing irresistible choruses to shout along to. Marmozets stir the same sort of excitement in me I had from hearing distorted guitars for the very first time.
Rented World (Epitaph)
The Menzingers have it all…the heart, the grit, the poetry but above all, the songs. All punks have to grow up some time but few grow up as gracefully and with as much integrity as this four piece from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Songs like Bad Things, Nothing Feels Good Anymore and Where Your Heartache Exists were made to be screamed along to in sweaty clubs but none of these songs would lose their power in the larger venues that this band are surely destined to play. A glorious Americana-infused punk record.
Rain (Bridge Nine)
On their first full-length, this home-grown post-hardcore quintet make an angsty racket that takes as many cues from brutal big-picture hardcore outfits like Hope Conspiracy, as it does from old-school, introspective emo bands like Appleseed Cast. The combination of the two elements - along with an ultra-raw vocal delivery - succeeds in being simultaneously comforting and cathartic, though Goodtime Boys’ live shows often have a layer of unexpected brutality. Rain is a startlingly good debut.
Estron (Burning World)
The tremendous fourth album from Belfast three-piece Slomatics completes their passage from the soupy sludge underground to the altogether more accomplished realm of doom and drone occupied by the likes of Boris and Sunn O))). The magnetic drag of Troglorite quickly becomes gripping, and the cumulative effect of Futurian, Lost Punisher and Red Dawn is never less than mesmeric. Compelling, spaced-out and uncompromisingly slow, Estron remains utterly thrilling – like watching snooker on Tramadol.
.5: The Gray Chapter (Roadrunner)
Frankly, there’s not room here for all the drama. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that somehow, nearly two decades into their career, Slipknot have managed to raise the bar again, and, in doing so, have brought back that goose-bump inducing insanity that makes them so special. The melody is a necessary evil, but Slipknot have always been best at their most berserk, and here, in the likes of Sarcastrophe and Custer, they are completely bat shit mental! Oh yes!
_Albino Rhino _(self-released)
I have probably heard 666 bands this year who have T-shirts with skeletons riding motorcycles on them, so believe me when I tell you that this is the best skeletons riding motorcycles band in operation today. Albino Rhino is a multi-tentacled, smoke-belching monster of a record that plays out like a biker movie made by wizard gorillas. It will ruin your neck and save your soul. From Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is on Mars, far as I know.
Shapes Of Screams (Graphite)
For me, an album of the year is the one that’s been the most significant soundtrack to your life. It’s not the one that’s technically the best, or culturally the most important, but the one that means the most to you personally. That album for me is LostAlone’s Shapes Of Screams. Even if the band hadn’t just split up this record would’ve been my favourite of 2014, but the fact that they have after making such a marvellous artistic statement makes their decision to do so even harder – and the album itself has become all the more poignant. It’s the only album I’ve heard in recent years that makes me cry, laugh, cry again, then punch my fist in the air with life affirming optimism in the face of soul crushing despondency. I’m devastated by the end of this chapter, but equally excited for what’s to come.