Bist du blöd oder was?
With just 1.5 months left in 2014, it is time to endure these comatically predictable ‘top 10 albums of 2014’-flavoured lists that give you an orderly overview of the most overhyped hogwash that came out this year. If we look at metal as a capitalist venture (and that’s not a stretch, my pinko friend), these lists must be immensely popular, as they return each year. Supply and demand, economics 101. Then again, venereal disease also returns each time, and there is not a particularly high demand for that the last time I checked. Except maybe in France.
Naturally, I and therefore Black Ivory Tower as a whole are out of touch with the world. I am oblivious to people making demands or metal scenes deciding what’s cool or not, so I will not have the dubious honour of catering to either group. Why yes, I do feel cool and special about this defiance, but that’s not the point. I am a lazy writer and music listener, and I would prefer to listen to the same amazing album for the 50th time over having the goddamn common courtesy of responding in high spirits to that uncalled for promo request, telling them that yes, I will indeed happily oblige myself to give these rad new thrash maniac warriors from Gilipollas, CA a try. You scratch my back, I’ll fall asleep on yours.
In spite of my distance from the metal scene and the ever-fading hope of me becoming a prolific writer, I have managed to cram some of my musical ruminations into one bite-sized article with all the features that water it down to the point where it can compete with all the mundane shit that’s just about to ooze out of the ebola-ridden pores of the metal press. It’s a listicle, it talks about the best albums of 2014, and there are 10 albums to keep everything organised and divisible by 2 to satisfy the inherently autistic metalverse. To top it off, I also used the suffix ‘-verse’ somewhere in the article.
The only difference? These are my personal favourite metal albums I listened to in 2014, and I don’t care when they were released. Enjoy, Rain Man.
Kamaedzitca – Bezmolvnie slova tvoy (Voiceless are your words)
Many things have already been said about this album. Mostly by myself. If you somehow managed to miss out on the giant review I wrote for it, or the extra words I dedicated to this release in our beloved magazine, it will suffice to say this is an album that you never saw coming. Emerging from a scene that is a potpourri of Soviet-era subcultural relics, political activism and transmogrified Western aesthetics, Voiceless are your words is an aural chrestomathy that keeps throwing you off your guard all along its 75-minute running time. Whether it is the poeticism of the title track, the goofiness of “Straight Edge Sport”, or the supreme vocal delivery on “Ocean of loneliness”, Kamaedzitca establish themselves as masters of all trades, fuck-ups of none. The leitmotifs of urban melancholy and cosmic contemplation run throughout this album with a continuity commensurate with the band members’ gym visits, the latter of which helps them maintain a posture that enables them to kick your scrawny ass if you do wrong by them.
Peste Noire – L’Ordure à l’état Pur
Perhaps only pre-1780s kids will get this, but L’Ordure à l’état Pur has the honour of still standing, in l’autre An de Disgrâce 2014, as Peste Noire‘s best album thus far. Belonging to the same discography as legendary releases such as La Sanie des siècles and Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor, this is an accomplishment in itself; had it been an easy achievement, it would have been called ‘your mom’. With the help of confusing concepts such as historical and cultural reference, as well as multi-layeredness, L’Ordure succeeded in fooling the more simple-minded reviewers (i.e. all of them) into (wishfully) thinking it was a joke album. Of course, if you live in an American suburb along with your sk8er friends Chad, Brad, Joey and Josh, it remains rather difficult to imagine that France is rapidly turning into an insufferable hellhole, thus decreasing the likelihood of you reaching the conclusion that this Pure Essence of Garbage chronicles the Hexagon’s impending downfall in the most sardonic way imaginable. Let me put it this way: if you think of the Eiffel Tower when you think of France, you will not get this album. All the more reason to go back to it, pay careful attention to how the lyrics interact with the music, and hope you come out the other end a more cultured man. Famine did not slip me yet another tenner to say this.
Nokturnal Mortum – Golos stali (Voice of steel)
Some favour a style of reviewing that aims for objectivity. Other, more interesting people prefer to give a personal account of the music, hoping that it will form the basis for a discussion on equal footing with the reader rather than merely motivating a consumer to buy/pirate a product. As I belong to the latter category of reviewers, here is a brief account of how Nokturnal Mortum‘s Voice of steel impacted my life: when I read Maximus’s review of this album on his blog From The Heights, I immediately asked him if I could republish it on this here website. And so I did. Max then wrote some things for Black Ivory Tower and we eventually ended up hitting a sleazy bar in Amsterdam together, where we, in turn, were hit on by some ugly drunk chicks who claimed to be fiberglass saleswomen. So one moment you’re sitting behind your computer looking for new content, and before you know it, you’re one set of gap teeth away from losing your honour indefinitely. Want to know how Voice of steel can impact your life? Just let its glorious solar black metal guide you to enlightenment step by step, before you come to the grim realisation that most other bands out there are barely even trying. Contained within this album is the ultimate proof that your metal can be folky, progressive and innovative without being gimmicky, cheesy or crooked. Which is more than could be said of that one chick’s denture.
Hate Forest – Purity
‘Purity’ is of course a tainted term for the excrement-worshipping Corky Thatchers who run the popular media. There is little surprise that the famous black metal bands of today can largely be filed under either the Post-BM fad, which removes all potentially antagonistic parts from black metal until only the fluffy bits remain; or DSBM, in many ways the soundtrack to the current Western world, with its raging hard-on for self-pity and basically any sentiment that encourages blaming the world for the fact that you are a deplorable fuck-up. Hate Forest offers black metal the way it was once preferred: relentless, violent, almost inhuman. Particularly their album Purity, which more than anything sounds like the OST to being killed in a blizzard of apocalyptic proportions, warrants re-examination. It transports black metal back to its primal state, far removed from petty wailing in the form of bawlsome ‘think pieces’ on socially responsible websites. So treat yourself and go back to this album if you want to await the presents from Saint Nicholas without having to endure the maligned voices of cultural autoflagellators who demand you alter the way you celebrate your national holiday, lest you step on their horn-rimmed souls.
Kawir – Ophiolatreia
Greece, the country of philosophy, civilisation, hospitality and getting fucked over by Goldman Sachs loansharks who assassinated your country in the hope of increasing their chances to get a raise. It never ceases to amaze me how the Hellenes still find time to produce such a proportionally high amount of great records, for were I to be subjected to a similar fate, I would likely find myself in an incessant state of being pissed off at everyone, getting drunk on retsina and taking spectacular dumps on the private beaches of Middle Eastern oil mafiosi at the risk of getting beheaded. Fortunately, the good men of Kawir indulge in more productive ways of eulogising their culture, resulting in a splendid discography that keeps growing in terms of both size and quality. Ophiolatreia might just be the band’s high(-wine-dark)-water mark, with a perfect mix of melody, aggression and quality compositions. These hymns to ancient gods help us forget about all contemporary troubles so that we don’t have to resort to excessive amounts of ouzo, though that is definitely still an option. Zeus akbar!
Akitsa – Soleil noir
Tell me, my handicapped friend, is it not amusing that the best music of North America predominantly comes from its most European part? Indeed, Québec is a hotspot for bands that don’t give a fuck; not giving a fucking being is a typical activity that the more sane segments of us Eurotrash tend to enjoy when it comes to music. Akitsa‘s Soleil noir is the embodiment of this, as it combines black metal esotericism with a nihilistic punk attitude (from back when punk was not yet a bunch of badly clothed community college boppers preaching pacifism while safely hiding under Uncle Sam’s nuclear umbrella). The music first drones dictatorially for 10 minutes straight, making sure you walk in line before you are allowed to descend into the murky grandeur of anthems on will, fearlessness and loyalty. As you keep wading from one riff to another, you are struck by the awareness that there is no escape from this death march. You are destined for total servitude. But then the inhuman musicians quite literally pull the plug and you are thrown back into your own dreary reality with its every-day worries, though you now wonder if these troubles are really worth mulling over. Spoiler alert: they are not.
Drudkh – Krov u nashich krinitsyach (Blood in our wells)
When you re-read a great novel as you grow older, the experience tells you something about how you, as a person, have changed, rather than the novel, which has of course remained the same. But seeing as you probably do not read actual books, you will be happy to know the same concept applies to monumental albums. So lay down those sticky comic books and cure yourself of Marvel’s social engineering by dedicating yourself to proper art, for example Drudkh‘s masterpiece Blood in our wells. Though much has been said about this album in our magazine, I will briefly recap for those unfortunate souls who missed out. Released in 2005, the album is more relevant now than it was ever. By lifting the literary ponderings from historical Ukrainian poets, Drudkh offers a more conceptual introspection of Ukraine’s perpetual struggle for independence, contrasting the natural, universal themes of the first two albums, as well as the more literal manifestation of rebellion in the lyrics of The Swan Road, the record that preceded Blood in our wells. Now that Ukraine has become the unfortunate punching bag of a Russian Bear that is trying to reaffirm its geographical buffer, and an eagerly advancing EU that is altruistically trying to expand its wealth, totally not behaving like an extension of NATO in the process, there is tragic beauty to be found in Drudkh‘s cry for genuine freedom.
Dub Buk – Rus’ ponad use!
In the West, we have an unhealthy obsession with Vikings. This fixation is only gaining momentum now that pathetic television series have spawned a whole new wave of cuckold dweebs who fetishise non-existent ‘warrior women’. Of course, there is something vaguely romantic about a bunch of burly brutes savaging your town, especially when juxtaposed against your current routine of taking orders from your wife as you try to remember which bit of the carpet the last bit of your masculinity seeped under. Dub Buk‘s music on their iconic album Rus’ ponad use! is also brute and burly, but at the same time it manages to retain a hint of sophistication. That is because Dub Buk are inspired by Cossacks, who are not only great warriors, but also loyal patriots and Orthodox Christians. Their activities consist of repelling invaders on horseback, engaging in prayer, and whipping Pussy Riot. Cossacks have also successfully preserved their culture and traditions, contrary to Vikings, who, as we all know, turned into limp-wristed preachers of ethnocontrition who want to talk about their feelings. In summation, Cossacks would mop up Vikings any day of the week. Except on Sunday, for it is a day of rest, you heretic piece of shit. On Sundays they sit around campfires listening to Dub Buk, reminiscing stories about how much you cried when they raided your city. As such, Rus’ ponad use! can best be described as a whip hitting you in the face, reminding you to behave yourself as Cossacks raid your ear drums.
Munruthel – VEROlomstvo (CREEDamage)
My main objection to the increasingly popular stance of ‘just caring about the music’ is that this PC cop-out mantra ignores the immense importance of the aesthetics and delivery of a piece of music. Post-ironic hipsters can mock black metal’s ‘trueness’ ideal all they want, but cheesy as it may sometimes appear, it is still necessary to implement a mechanism that can weed out the countless opportunists and impostors set to squander the genre’s magical aura for their own depraved benefit. Still, ‘trueness’ should not denote the degree to which one is willing to copy Darkthrone or Burzum. Case in point: Munruthel. This project of Nokturnal Mortum‘s old drummer has gradually moved from dark ambient to symphonic black metal. Even though the music on their 2012 full-length CREEDamage has a sound that is in some ways reminiscent of Dimmu Borgir, it is still clear that Munruthel is the real deal. Less reliant on standard rock structures and not at all inclined to degrade itself with monumentally ridiculous costumes or other clownesque anthics, Munruthel offers a more sentimental, orchestral take on black metal that connects with the listener because it is an effort driven by passion, not by the vain pursuit of impressing 15-year-olds who, regardless of their gender, communicate their discontentment with the world around them through liberally applied black eyeliner.
Agatus – Dawn of Martyrdom
Before I became obsessed with Ukrainian and Belarusian metal, I mainly scanned the Greek scene for hidden gems. At the base of this Hellenic fixation stands Agatus‘s Dawn of Martyrdom, an album I obtained by sheer luck quite a few years ago. Until recently, it was a much sought-after collector’s item that landed many an eBay serpent tons of hardly earned money. Fortunately, Aton Creations reissued the album on both vinyl and CD in 2013 and 2014, meaning that I no longer have to waste time declining buy offers, all the while self-proclaimed Hellenic black metal enthusiasts can now prove their dedication by importing this legendary material into their own homes. Dawn of Martyrdom‘s lyrical themes have some mediaeval overtones, but the music itself guides the listener through the mists of Antiquity, when gods lived among men and myth intermingled with reality. Back when progress and civilisation held their original meaning and had not yet come to signify the polar opposite.
The first person to spot the Homer reference wins a free *cough* bail-out by the IMF.
*Disclaimer*: Black Ivory Tower cannot be held accountable for any loss of sovereignty or culture.