Saturday, January 17, 2015

Matt Hinch's Top 5 (or 10) Canadian Releases of 2014

Written by Matt Hinch.

When I was first tasked with selecting my favourite Canadian releases of 2014 I thought it was a weak year. But as I dug through my Oh Canada! 2014 playlist it didn't seem that weak at all. Picking my top 10 was hard enough let alone top 5. But I did and I must say, this is one helluva collection of releases! So, I present my favourite Canadian releases of 2014!

10. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


9. Begrime Exemious – Primeval Satellite
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


8. Morgue of Saints - Monolith
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


7. Northumbria – Bring Down the Sky
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


6. Harangue – By the Strength of the Mighty Atlas
[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


5. Olde – I

It took all of about 11 seconds for me to know that this album was right up my alley. That first riff is the kind of fuzzed out heavy stoner riff that directs blood flow to my nether regions. Looking deeper into the band I found that it comprises members of “local” stoner legends Sons of Otis, as well as Moneen, Cunter, Grift, Five Knuckle Chuckle and Jaww. And is for fans of High on Fire, Sleep, Sabbath and Saint Vitus. What more could you ask for? You've got the tone of Sleep/Vitus, the groove of Sabbath, and the heavy-fucking-riffage of High on Fire et al. But Olde sound like they're having a lot more fun than any of those bands. Bleary-eyed stoner sensibilities, groove to spare and whiskey-throated vocals make it feel more in line with the likes of Weedeater or Black Tusk on cough syrup. Lump them in with whatever bedfellows you want but all that matters is how hard they riff. And hard do they riff. Sludgy, doomed, fat-bottomed stoner metal rolling around in a pile of riffs and tone makes I a calculated assault on sobriety and reason. Plus there's a (somewhat androgynous) person riding a bear on the cover!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


4. Astrakhan – A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin
Artwork by Nick Patterson

These guys really impressed me with The Pillarist EP. For this EP they've added two new songs to the two on The Pillarist to create twice as much awesome. Spawned from the same scene that brought us Bison and Anciients, Astrakhan play some serious prog-inflected sludge. Even that descriptor doesn't seem accurate. They've got the massive riffs and heavy tone of sludge but the guitar work is incredibly nuanced. Sublimely crafted songs reflect the talents of a band not afraid to grasp at the grandest of scope. Astrakhan can run rough shot with the best and then blast off in a cloud of kaleidoscopic guitars ripping out complicated rhythms and solos that will inspire even the most lumpish of metalheads. My favourite aspect of the band and EP is the vocals. Trading off hollers full of emotion and passion, they fully engage with the listener. They're not always gruff, in fact sometimes the cleaner, the better, but they aren't half-assing anything. “The Pillarist” itself illustrates the band's best points quite well. Excellent vocals, an assembly line of sweet riffs, sinuous groove, meaningful solos and tremendous flow. Two songs really impressed me. Four songs blew me away and kept getting better the more I listened to them. When Astrakhan puts out a full length who knows what kind of musically induced coma it's gonna put me in. I can't wait!


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


3. Archspire – The Lucid Collective
Artwork by Ken Sarafin

This one surprised the hell out of me. I'm not usually one for over the top technicality. Origin, Obscura and the like. But Archspire? Oh fuck yeah, bud! I can't exactly pin down what makes these West Coasters different but I kept coming back to this album over and over. The technical prowess on display here is outrageously spectacular. Yet, I never felt like they just pasted together a bunch of self-congratulatory shit and called it a song. The songs have flow and logical shifts from breakneck speed to mind-mangling technicality to head-caving brutality. Say what you want but this is technical death metal of THE highest order. I suppose a big part of what makes Archspire so appealing to me is how bassist Jaron Evil makes his bass go interstellar WITH FRETS. It's a personal thing but what keeps me away from equally talented bands like fellow Canucks Beyond Creation is that fretless bass sound. So with Archspire and The Lucid Collective you get next-level technicality fused to tangible death metal and awesome vocals on par with death metal's most inventive. Break your neck, brain and fingers all at the same time.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


2. Auroch – Taman Shud
Artwork by Antithesis

I referred to this album earlier in the year as the only death metal album you need to buy in 2014. That may not exactly be true (see above) but if I had to pick the most impressive death metal album of 2014 it would be this one. The Vancouver group puts together a potent arsenal for attacking the modern death metal landscape. Guitarist/vocalist Sebastian Montesi's slavering growl seems like it comes straight from the Lovecraftian tales that inspire their work. Back his fiendish vocals up with top quality blistering death and Auroch is unstoppable. They blend technical flair with bludgeoning brutality and a horrific atmosphere created naturally through swirling riffs. They never let the listener get totally comfortable, and the vocal diversity, from guttural to whisper and plain angry yelling keeps things from getting stagnant in that department. Taman Shud blows away much of the competition through their obvious skill and well executed vision. No death metal album in 2014 was able to dazzle and destroy quite the way Taman Shud did. It's well rounded violence equally suited to impress through technicality as it is through brutality.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]


1. Culted – Oblique to All Paths

One could make an argument that Culted aren't exactly Canadian since vocalist Daniel Jansson lives in Sweden. However, they qualified as Canadian for the Juno Awards (basically the Canadian Grammy Awards) so that's good enough for me. Released back in January of 2014 Oblique to All Paths stuck around on my playlist almost the whole year. Their brand of doom is like no other. Slow and brooding obviously but the atmosphere they create is wholly unsettling. Droning noise and creeping synths create a darkness most foul as Jansson's snarling, hateful, throaty growl raises the hair on the back of your neck. For all the doom and gloom surrounding their sound, they can flat out bring the heavy when they want. “Illuminati” features a fierce doom riff that smashes it's way into your brain and refuses to be ignored. I could listen to that chord progression for days. Oblique is all about creating a mood but it's not the same mood throughout. Disconsolate, vengeful, sorrowful, and more. It's over an hour of heaving, depressing yet surprisingly uplifting at times blackened doom. The noise, synths and industrial touches put Culted a unique place in the doom world. One thing is for certain, Oblique is massive, encapsulating and as I wrote in a 9/10 review elsewhere, “painfully affecting” and the best thing to come out of Canada (and Sweden) last year.


[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with 2014, Archspire, Astrakhan, Auroch, Culted, free download, Hypaethral Records, Matt Hinch, Morgue of Saints, Northumbria, Olde, Profound Lore Records, Relapse Records, Season of Mist, Thantifaxath
13 comments:
  1. Viathyn's Cynosure was most excellent as well.

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    1. And it's on Bandcamp. Power metal/progressive metal? I'm intrigued.

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    2. I've seen that name around. And I believe I have the promo. But you lost me at "power". Although I can be persuaded.

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    3. promo expired. bandcamping now.

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  2. Hey Matt, this is a great list. Of course, OLDE's album was amazing. I haven't heard much of the others but I'll have a listen.

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    1. Of the top-5 I've only heard Auroch. I got so much catching up to do.

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    2. Oh man that Olde album. Goddamn those riffs are mighty!

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    3. Quite. Seem like good guys too.

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  3. Great list. I had forgotten how good the Culted release was. Also, I am really digging (yes, I AM old!) Astrakhan. Thanks for that one.

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    1. Yeah it's groovy. I'm 49, allow me to out-old you :)

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    2. Age doesn't matter, Astrakhan rule! Big step up from their first EP to the Pillarist and this.

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