Heathen Harvest’s Best of 2014: Artist’s Edition

Heathen Harvest Best of 2014 Artist's Edition

After the brilliance that was the 2013 release schedule, we thought that 2014 might bring about a calmer year for music.  Instead, it may have been even better.  Fans of neofolk music especially were treated to brilliant returns from old-faithfuls in Rome and Sonne Hagal while simultaneously being introduced to a project that is bound to usher in a new generation of listeners in Blood & Sun.  Meanwhile, industrial/noise label Malignant Records continued an already legendary slate of releases with IRM, Theologian, Negru Voda, Sektor 304, Dissecting Table, Skin Area, and Trepaneringsritualen among many others.  We saw the return of Roger Karmanik and Brighter Death Now through an American tour and his newly established Familjegraven imprint, and also finally obtained eagerly anticipated new albums from Pharmakon, Cult of Youth, and King Dude. We even witnessed the formation of two unique and impressive supergroups in The Muskets (featuring David E. Williams, Erin Powell, B9 Invid, and Thomas Nola) and Stillingskerrkozletskynyströmpetrus (John Stillings, Larry Kerr, Robert Kozletsky, Stephen Petrus, and Peter Nyström).

Indeed, it’s been an absurdly busy year for the burgeoning post-industrial underground, and we are happy to have brought many friends and artists from the genres we cover together here to update you on their various thoughts regarding top albums (and in some cases, experiences) for the year.  Enjoy.

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Naas Alcameth (Nightbringer)

Naas Alcameth

Naas Alcameth

When asked by Sage to participate in Heathen Harvest’s artist’s best of 2014, I had not quite anticipated how difficult a task choosing my personal three most revered albums of this year would prove to be. There were many exceptional releases after all, a few of which left very deep impressions upon me. Abigor‘s “Leitmotif Lucifer” so deftly and ingeniously proved once more that this musical entity is still amongst the vanguard of black metal braving the most distant horizons, while Mortuus‘ “Grape of the Vine” and Blut Aus Nord‘s “Memoria Vetusta III” evoked timeless darkness and majesty. From a more subtle and aetheric musical realm arose several potently evocative offerings such as Otivan Varet, and Shrine‘s “Nihil,” both outstanding in their own right. Sinmara, Hetroertzen, In Slaughter Natives, Kriegsmaschine, and the list goes on… A procession of eidolons beloved of the muses. In the end, crowning only three seemed almost unreasonable, yet after much reflection and deliberation I have arrived at my conclusion, choosing the three works which have left the deepest marks.

1. Swallowed – Lunarterial (Dark Descent)

Perhaps one of the most sincerely sinister works I have heard in years. Uniquely disquieting yet astonishingly crushing.

2. Lvcifyre – Sun Eater (Dark Descent)

A sonic inferno of absolute furor. Relentless in its approach and superbly executed.

3. Tehôm – Lacrimae Mundi (Cyclic Law)

A project aptly named. So desolate and bleak. So profoundly vast and irremediably deep.

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Don Anderson (Agalloch, Sol Invictus)

Don Anderson

Don Anderson

1. Morbus Chron – Sweven (Century Media)

In the last ten years or so we’ve seen what might be called the “atonal” evolution of both death metal and black metal.  Groups like Gorguts, Virus, Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, and Abigor continue to produce dissonant walls of sound demonstrating that metal can do much more than rehash the same old riffs.  Morbus Chron is just as adventurous and interesting as the aforementioned bands, but manages to take a different route than their atonal peers.  Sure, some of the riffs are irregular and could sit alongside the best of Virus, but it’s their arrangements, use of clean-tone guitar, and ability to sound like “classic” Swedish death metal without evoking Entombed or Dismember that makes them uniquely special.  I remember when I first heard Gorgut’s “Obscura” in 1998 and felt it proved there was so much more to be done with the death metal genre.  Hearing “Sweven” in 2014, I have that same feeling again.

2. Rome – A Passage to Rhodesia (Trisol)

I’ve enjoyed watching Rome develop over the years.  I consider Rome one of the “second wave of neofolk” bands most responsible for advancing a genre that began almost thirty years ago.  We all have those albums that were present during a major change in our lives.  I recently made the move from Portland, Oregon all the way to New York City for a new job.  Once I settled into my new home on the other side of the country, I began to listen to “A Passage to Rhodesia” almost daily during my long commute to work.  The music attached itself to my new surroundings and helped smooth my difficult transition into a new life.  I can’t thank Rome enough for releasing one of the best records this year and providing the soundtrack for this major moment in my life.

3. Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Recordings)

I’m lucky to have known Mike Scheidt since 2002 when Agalloch opened for Yob for what was our first ever live appearance.  Admittedly, I wasn’t into the “stoner doom” sound they had then.  However, when they released the later albums “The Great Cessation” and the amazing “Atma,” I grew to love them and became a huge fan.  The riffs are dense, complex, and prove rewarding from multiple listens.  Agalloch has always had a kinship with Yob since that first show almost fifteen years ago.  It’s been a pleasure to watch them grow and achieve all the success they deserve.  This new album is the band’s culmination of years of progression, careful and deliberate songwriting, and working as a brilliant and immeasurable power trio.  I look forward to sharing the stage with Yob and hearing them live in the future.  They truly are one of the greatest bands to come out of our Pacific Northwest scene.

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Anemone Tube:

Anemone Tube

Anemone Tube

1. Artificial Brain – Labyrinth Constellation (Profound Lore / War on Music)
2. Morbus Chron – Sweven (Century Media)
3. Dave Phillips – Homo Animalis (Schimpfluch Associates)

Honorable Mention:  Dissecting Table / Sektor 304 – Utopia/Decay

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Alina Antonova (Lamia Vox):

Alina Antonova

Alina Antonova

1. Goat – Commune (Sub Pop)
2. Andrew King – Leipzig Recessional (Epiphany Arts)
3. Der Blaue Reiter – Le Paradis Funèbre II (Neuropa)

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 Frederic Arbour (Cyclic Law Founder):

Frederic Arbour

Frederic Arbour

1. Talker – Self-titled (Downwards)
2. Kanding Ray – Solens Arc (Raster-Noton)
3. Amenra – Afterlife (Neuropa)

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Nathalie Autre Que:

Autre Que Nathalie

Autre Que Nathalie

1. Sourdeline – Sourdeline & Friends (Reverb Worship)
2. Andrew King – Leipzig Recessional (Epiphany Arts)
3. Psychic TV – Snakes (Angry Love Productions)

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Lee Bartow (Theologian, Annihilvs):

Lee Bartow | Credit: Mandi Martini

Lee Bartow | Credit: Mandi Martini

I spent a lot of time working on my own stuff this year, and so a lot of stuff slipped through the cracks for me. I listened to a lot of other peoples’ music, to be sure, but most of what I’ve heard in the past year is a blur.  Here are some things that stood out for me as especially noteworthy.

1. The Body – I shall Die Here (RVNG)

This was definitely the one album I probably listened to most often this year. It didn’t leave my car stereo, which is where I seemed to listen to music the most, for several months.

The initial online promo video for “Hail to Thee, Everlasting Pain” didn’t state explicitly that the album was a collaboration with The Haxan Cloak, and as such it seemed a rather dramatic, albeit perfectly reasonable, new direction for The Body. After I was clued in to the fact that it had been produced by Bobby Krlic using source material from Lee Buford and Chip King, everything clicked into place tighter than before, and I hungered for more than the first tease (a single mp3 download that came with the preorder). Hearing the album in its entirety did not disappoint. Utterly grim, focused, and needle-sharp, my single complaint about this release is that it isn’t longer. There’s an accompanying short film online somewhere, featuring a single man living alone in a remote cabin, and it perfectly evokes the depressive moods contemplated by “I Shall Die Here.” Although the music is as heavy as can be, it’s not rage it represents, but the guttural, bottomless cries of human life, filled to the brim with emptiness.

I’ve had the honor and privilege of performing alongside these guys on a couple of occasions in New York, and they are among my very favorite acts. When we appeared together at Saint Vitus in march, I was still waiting for my preordered copy to arrive in the mail, but I was introduced by the band to Matt from RVNG INTL at the show, and he was kind enough to not only give me a copy right then and there, but insisted upon sending me another CD since I’d been waiting (I chose “Syndrome Syndrome” by Gardland).

Personal standout: “Our Souls Were Clean”

2. Barren Harvest – Subtle Cruelties (Handmade Birds)

Lenny Smith (Atriarch) and Jessica Way (Worm Ouroboros) craft ethereal, dark neofolk, but not in the strictly Euro-centric, martial sense of the term. This is a collection of hymns to the natural world. A limited vinyl edition of this release (which I was unfortunately unable to grab) had leaves pressed into a transparent record, and was mentioned in a recent article about what “weird” records are doing to pressing plants. I got the CD.

I was instantly captivated, upon first listen, by the fullness of the album in spite of its relative minimalism. Low, bowed drones echo in the distance while acoustic strings are plucked and picked to create an almost primordial, medieval atmosphere. Smith and Way trade off on lead vocals as the album moves, his voice low and forceful, hers light and impassioned. Several wordless interval tracks bind the whole thing together like knotwork. It’s a gorgeous album in every way.

After I emailed Rich Loren at Handmade Birds to tell him how much I liked it, he put me in touch with Jessica. As a result, I was fortunate enough to have her sing on one of the tracks on the new Theologian album.

Personal standout: “Claw and Feather”

3. Sinoia Caves – Beyond the Black Rainbow Soundtrack (Death Waltz)

After waiting for an eternity for a proper, “official” release for this score, the vinyl finally arrived, in a beautiful gatefold jacket, in September of this year. The versions contained on the album are more fully-fleshed iterations of what’s heard in the film, expanded upon to provide a listening experience which allows one to take the music as a separate entity, which, while absolutely bearing comparison to luminaries such as Giorgio Moroder, Wendy Carlos, John Carpenter, and Goblin, just as easily shares kinship with the likes of contemporary film composers like Cliff Martinez and Clint Mansell.

Obsessed is too weak a word when it comes to my relationship with Panos Cosmatos‘ directorial debut, and the film’s score plays a major role in that obsession. Canadian composer Jeremy Schmidt exists in multiple incarnations, but in each he’s known as an analog synth wunderkind, an indisputable reality in the particular context of his score for “Beyond the Black Rainbow” under the guise of Sinoia Caves.

While some may have dismissed the film as having more style than substance, in some small way, this is entirely the point. Inspired by hazy memories of films from his childhood, calling to our collective consciousness from a time in life where one might remember visual experiences more than the nuances of dialogue or plot, Cosmatos sought to craft a film where the narrative glides along under its own power, without the heavy-handed exposition of most modern science fiction, to excellent effect. The score provides these visuals with an additional, tremendous impact, and I am reminded that in my own childhood, it was Moroder’s score to Paul Schrader‘s “Cat People” remake and Carlos’ “Tron” soundtrack that first sparked my interest in electronic music.

Personal standout: “1983 – Main Theme”

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Michael Bjella (Gog):

Michael Bjella

Michael Bjella

1. Mamiffer – Statu Nascendi (SIGE)
2. MALLEVS – Self-titled (Gilgongo Records)
3. Mesa Ritual – Mesa Ritual (SIGE)

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Thomas Bøjden (Die Weisse Rose):

Thomas Bøjden

Thomas Bøjden

1. Brighter Death Now – With Promises of Death (Familjegraven)
2. Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser (Luftschutz/Tesco)
3. Last Dominion Lost – Towers of Silence (Silken Tofu / The Epicurean)

Honorable Mentions: Trepaneringsritualen – Perfection and Permanence, Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused, Iceage – Playing into the Fields of Love

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Kevin de Broux (Pink Reason, Savage Quality):

Kevin de Broux

Kevin de Broux

1. V3 – Live at Bernies Bootleg LP (Old Age / No Age)

I’d been jamming a CD-R of this excellent late-period V3 live performance for years. While it’s unfortunate that this had to come out as a “fan club edition,” it has been a treat to listen to this document on my preferred medium. Originally recorded by Tommy Jay at the infamous Columbus campus dive Bernies, and released with liner notes by Mike Rep on (I believe) on his Old Age/No Age imprint shortly after V3 leader Jim Shepard‘s tragic early departure from this plane.

2. Glacial23 – Live at Snow Crash (1.18.14)

I’ve seen a number of excellent live performances this year. Very few of them involved a guitar. At Snow Crash—an all-night warehouse party in Indiana—Glacial23 pulled off a sick ninety minute live set of dark, icy techno. While I generally have seen enough of bands I adore after about half an hour, he had me and the rest of the crowd dancing the whole time without break, ending his set with a mind-melting cover/remix of Section 25‘s “Looking from a Hilltop.” It was beautiful.

3. Dark Entries (General)

Dark Entries‘ spate of excellent reissues have likely spent the most time on my tables this past year. The first vinyl release of Tom Ellard‘s “80s Cheesecake” cassette; the dark, catchy sounds on their Italo reissues (Helen, Art Fine, Peter Richard); Psyche‘s “Re-Membering Dwayne,” and so much more. They won 2014 for me.

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Ben Brucato (Clew of Theseus, Cathartic Process):

Ben Brucato

Ben Brucato

1. V/A – Légendes (Sepulchral Productions)
2. V/A – Tliltic Tlapoyauak (The Ajna Offensive)
3. Kevin Drumm – Shut in (Editions Mego)

Honorable Mentions: Arv & Miljö – Antropocen, Spectral Lore – III, Mare Cognitum – Phobos Monolith, Sanctuaire – Helserkr, and Eos – L’Avalé

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Egan Budd (Existence Establishment):

Egan Budd

Egan Budd

1. Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestite (Artemisia Records)

A metal band does an ambient record. This is going to su… rule?! Wolves in the Throne Room take the best inspiration from the ambient genre and add their own metal twists to the sound to create a stunning and beautiful sonic journey.

2. Gnawed – Feign and Cloak (Malignant Records)

The best death industrial artist in the United States proves why he is the best. A testament that industrial music will always be the heaviest and most extreme form of sound. Gimmick-free and devastating.

3. Trap Them – Blissfucker (Deathwish)

New England hardcore at its best with a new-school twist incorporating caustic chords, unpredictable rhythms, and just enough of a metal influence to keep you guessing. Total negativity and aggression backed with attitude and stoicism. Made for the most gnarled and jaded, crusty old hardcore fans, but for some reason the kids like it too.

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Jeff Colwell (Plague Haus):

Jeff Colwell

Jeff Colwell

1. Blood And Sun – White Storms Fall (Pesanta Urfolk)
2. Trepaneringsritualen – Perfection & Permanence (Cold Spring)
3. Reverorum Ib Malacht – De Mysteriis Dom Christi (Ajna Offensive)

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TJ Cowgill (King Dude, Not Just Religious Music):

Thomas Cowgill

Thomas Cowgill

1. Black Rain – Dark Pool (Blackest Ever Black)
2. Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser (Luftschutz/Tesco)
3. Beastmilk – Climax (Svart / Magic Bullet)

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Jason Crumer (Facedowninshit, Reverse Baptism):

Jason Crumer

Jason Crumer

1. Medic Vomiting Pus – Thoracoabdominal Viscerectomy (Bloodcurdling Enterprise)

Brain-eating, slamming death. Insane snare.

2. Gene Pick – Lacing the Air (Vitrine)

Seinfeld-themed crusty synth-noise harshness?! I don’t know. It’s good; slow like ambient, but harsh like noise. Not wacky.

3. Farewell My Concubine – Symphony of Problems (Self-released)

Like if New Order weren’t so fucking dry sounding.

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Thomas Ekelund (Trepaneringsritualen, Beläten):

Thomas Martin Ekelund

Thomas Martin Ekelund

1. Bölzer — Soma (Invictus)
2. Last Dominion Lost — Towers of Silence (Silken Tofu, The Epicurean)
3. Marie Davidson — Perte D’Identité (Weyrd Son)

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Dominick Fernow (Hospital Productions):

Dominick Fernow

Dominick Fernow

1. Lussuria – Live Performance at Saint Vitus
2. Anenzephalia – Task Force Terrorist (Tesco)
3. Shallow Sanction – Live Rehearsal (Vacant Rituals)

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Rob Fisk (Common Eider, King Eider):

Rob Fisk w/ Andrew Way | Credit: Jorge Gallo

Rob Fisk w/ Andrew Way | Credit: Jorge Gallo

1. Barren Harvest – Subtle Cruelties (Handmade Birds)
2. Halo Manash – Caickuwi Cauwas Walkeus Reissue (Aural Hypnox)
3. Trepaneringsritualen & Sutekh Hexen – One Hundred Year Storm (Pesanta)

Honorable Mention (Live Performance): Fauna’s 2014 Yule Celebration in Olympia, WA.

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David Galas (Lycia):

David Galas

David Galas

1. Einstürzende Neubauten – Lament (BMG)
2. Swans – To be Kind (Mute, Young Gods)
3. Pink Floyd – The Endless River (Parlophone)

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Mike Genz (King of the Monsters):

Mike Genz

Mike Genz

1. Barren Harvest – Subtle Cruelties (Handmade Birds)
2. Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire (Avalanche)
3. Trepaneringsritualen – Perfection & Permanence (Cold Spring)

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Andy Grant (The Vomit Arsonist, Danvers State):

Andy Grant

Andy Grant

1. IRM – Closure… (Malignant)
2. Sinoia Caves – Beyond the Black Rainbow Soundtrack (Death Waltz)
3. Stillingskerrkozletskynystrompetrus – Death Instruktions (Malignant)

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B9 Invid (Et Nihil, ex-Luftwaffe, The Muskets):

B9 Invid

B9 Invid

1. Divided We Fall: Heathen Folk from North America (Morituri Te Salutant)
2. Awen – Grim King of the Ghosts (Old Europa Cafe)
3. Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser (Luftschutz/Tesco)

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Stef Irritant (Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat):

Stef Irritant

Stef Irritant

1. Swans – To be Kind (Mute, Young Gods)
2. Nun – Nun (Self-released)
3. The Skull Defekts – Dances in Dreams of the Known Unknown (Thrill Jockey)

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Lloyd James (Naevus, Wooden Lung):

Lloyd James

Lloyd James

1. King Dude – Fear (Not Just Religious Music)
2. O Paradis – Nacimiento (Disques de Lapin)
3. This is Radio Silence – The Crux/Remixes (Disconnected Music)

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sG (Secrets of the Moon):

Phil Jonas

Phil Jonas

1. The Black Angels – Clear Lake Forest (Blue Horizon)
2. Electric Wizard – Time to Die (Spinefarm)
3. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun (Chimera)

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Albin Julius (Der Blutharsch, Hau Ruck!):

Albin Julius

Albin Julius

1. Bohren & der Club of Gore – Piano Nights (Ipecac)
2. Einstürzende Neubauten – Lament (BMG)
3. Swans – To Be Kind (Mute, Young Gods)

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Julia Kent:

Julia Kent

Julia Kent

1. Lori Goldston – Creekside: Solo Cello (Mississippi/Change Records)
2. Roll the dice: until silence (The Leaf Label)
3. Teho Teardo – Ballyturk (Specula)

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Yosuke Konishi (Nuclear War Now! Founder)

Yosuke Konishi

Yosuke Konishi

1. StarGazer – A Merging to the Boundless (Nuclear War Now!)
2. Drowned – Idola Specus (Sepulchral Voice)
3. Teitanblood – Death (Norma Evangelion Diaboli)

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Harlow MacFarlane (Funerary Call):

Harlow MacFarlane

Harlow MacFarlane

1. Nazoranai – The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once… (Ideologic Organ)
2. Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)
3. Jozef Van Wissem / Sqürl – Only Lovers Left Alive Soundtrack (ATP)

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Jason Mantis (Malignant Records):

Jason Mantis

Jason Mantis

1. Dead Congregation – Promulgation of the Fall (Martyrdoom Prod.)
2. Shift – Altamont Rising (Unrest Prod.)
3. Corpsessed – Abysmal Thresholds (Dark Descent)

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Jenks Miller (Horseback, Mount Moriah):

Jenks Miller

Jenks Miller

1. Nazoranai – The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once… (Ideologic Organ)
2. Teitanblood – Death (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)
3. Faust – j US t (Bureau B)

Reissues:

1. Order from Chaos – Frozen in Steel
2. Grateful Dead & John Oswald – Greyfolded
3. Fela Kuti – Vinyl Box 3, Compiled by Brian Eno

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Annabel Moynihan (Blood Axis, Knotwork):

Annabel Moynihan

Annabel Moynihan

1. Blood Ceremony – Let it Come Down (Rise Above Records)
2. Cult of Youth – Final Days (Sacred Bones)
3. Blood and Sun – White Storms Fall (Pesanta)

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Negru (Negura Bunget):

Negru

Negru

1. Einherjer – Av oss, for oss (Indie Recordings)

Hard to come up with something original these days, especially from Norway, but Einherjer have managed it, and it’s spectacularly simple.

2. Fen – Carrion Skies (Code666)

This is Fen’s fourth album, and they still manage to evolve naturally. That’s something hard to come by these days.

3. Alcest – Shelter (Prophecy)

I didn’t expect that I’d get into Alcest that much, but this album builds upon you once you open up, with its calm ambience.

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Thomas Nola (Disques de Lapin, The Muskets):

Thomas Nola

Thomas Nola

1. William Onyeabor – Who is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop)
2. Twink – Critter Club (Self-released)
3. Awen – Grim King of the Ghosts (Old Europa Cafe)

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Stefan Otto (Nebelung):

Stefan Otto

Stefan Otto | Credit: Timo Raab

1. Ulaan Passerine – Byzantium Crow (Worstward Recordings)
2. Mike Weis – Don’t Know, Just Walk (Type)
3. Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Piano Nights (Ipecac)

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Mike Page (Sky Burial / Fire in the Head):

Mike Page

Mike Page

1. Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)

The Sleaford Mods single-handedly eliminate any relevance power electronics or punk may be tenuously and desperately clinging to at this point in history.

2. New Model Army – Between Wine and Blood (Ear Music)

Six new tracks and a live LP of tracks from last year’s “Between Dog and Wolf.” A band that gets nothing but better with time.

3. OFF! – Wasted Years (Vice Records)

Despite the previous seemingly disparaging comment about the current state of punk, Keith Morris is as great as he’s ever been.

Honorable Mentions: September Girls – Cursing the Sea, Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

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Dayal Patterson (Black Metal: Evolution…):

Dayal Patterson

Dayal Patterson

1. Mysticum – Planet Satan (Peaceville)

Industrial black metal pioneers finally return after more than a decade and create a masterpiece. More than could have realistically been hoped for.

2. Autopsy – Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves (Peaceville)

Autopsy have been creating some of their finest work in the last few years and this is one of the strongest yet. Organic doomy death metal with real chemistry.

3. Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere

An atmospheric and genre-blurring epic featuring elements of doom, black metal, and even post rock.

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Erin Powell (Awen, The Muskets):

Erin Powell

Erin Powell

This year seems to have been incredibly fruitful for many. While I look forward to collecting copies of albums I have heard about this year, my list comprises only albums actually in my possession so far.

1. Stillingskerrkozletskynystrompetrus – Death Instruktions (Malignant)
2. Youth Code – A Place to Stand (Dais Records)
3. V/A – Divided We Fall: Heathen Folk From North America (Morituri Te Salutant)

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Lee Powell (Judas Kiss Magazine):

Lee Powell

Lee Powell

1. Swans – To be Kind (Mute, Young Gods)
2. Esben and the Witch – A New Nature (Nostromo)
3. Einstürzende Neubauten – Lament (BMG)

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Jo Quail:

Jo Quail | Credit: Karolina Urbaniak

Jo Quail | Credit: Karolina Urbaniak

1. Vandenberg’s Moonkings (Mascot Records)

This is brilliant. I am a huge fan of Adrian Vandenberg from his Whitesnake days and earlier, and I also feel warmly towards the story of the genesis of ‘Moonkings’—in a nutshell, Vandenberg took time away from a globally successful music career to focus on his painting, then returned via a football anthem and gathered his (first-class) bandmates from a series of coincidental and entertaining moments, and here they are! It’s a master-class in pure stadium rock, full of hooks, great production, superb musicianship and the immense trademark sound of Vandenberg’s writing and playing throughout the whole thing.

2. Poppy Ackroyd – Feathers (Denovali)

This album is stunning in all ways. Poppy Ackroyd showcases her brilliance as a composer and takes you in to a cinematic world of wonder, intrigue, and reflection. To me it seems clear that Poppy knows her contemporary composers, yet she takes this sound into a whole new world with her writing and her careful and never overstated use of effects and programming within her soundscapes. Poppy makes pictures in sound, and this album is so powerful in a ‘wow, what was that?’ kind of way. It catches you unexpectedly and each time I listen to it I hear something new. She’s a looper too, though in a very different discipline to me (far more technologically advanced). I would be very proud to make an album like ‘Feathers’. 

3. The Last Skeptik –  I Don’t Even Like You (BBE Records)

Corin LD (aka The Last Skeptik) writes and produces largely instrumental hip-hop music (with guest vocals and rappers here and there), and I have played a couple of live sessions for him. I’ve listened to this album probably more than any other this year, as it was a new sound world for me and I needed to get inside it to do my job properly! I would never have said this was my type of music prior to meeting Corin, but it is now! It’s been a mind-blowing experience working with Corin, and I have nothing but absolute admiration for his production, the way he writes, sculpts and morphs his sounds, his seemingly relaxed yet utterly precise placement of tone and texture, and his incredible musicianship on and off stage. There’s a vibe in his music I’ve not experienced before, and whist it’s unlikely I’ll be writing hip-hop tracks in the near future (never say never!), there’s an atmosphere he creates, going from a real deep grimy energy to twisted almost-pop at other times, it’s immensely inspirational for me.

Honorable Mentions: Rival Sons – Great Western Valkyrie, Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat

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Hans R. (Osewoudt)

Hans R.

Hans R.

1. Eagulls – Eagulls (Partisan)
2. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art)
3. Morbus Chron – Sweven (Century Media)

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 Sean Ragon (Cult of Youth, Heaven Street)

Sean Ragon

Sean Ragon

1. Blood & Sun – White Storms Fall (Pesanta)

By far the absolute best neofolk project to emerge in years. It just shows that good songwriting and enthusiasm is what it takes to breathe fresh life into a genre. I got married earlier this year, and Blood & Sun performed at my wedding. Enough said.

2. DJ Rashad – Double Cup (Hyperdub)

Technically this came out in late 2013, but I didn’t hear it until January of 2014, so whatever. DJ Rashad‘s crossover footwork album was one of the best things I heard all year. He really stood to represent southside Chicago on the bigger world stage. Unfortunately he would not live to enjoy his success for long, as he tragically passed away just months after the album’s release, leaving behind an untouchable body of work that culminated with this. RIP

3. Puce Mary – Persona (Posh Isolation)

Frederikke has really stepped up the project in the past two years. You can tell that she has been touring, recording, and practicing a lot. This is a very listenable death industrial record. It’s well-executed, well-written, and the atmospheres are on point. Top shelf.

Best Tapes / 7″s:

1. Safe House – Region VI (Vitrine)

Exceptional minimalist rhythmic industrial. Track this one down, eat a handful of pills, and get ready for a weird evening. Corporate Park related.

2. Herz Jühning – Paradise (Galakthorrö)

Another winner from Galakthorrö! If you liked his album from a few years back, you’re gonna love this. Precise and sensual industrial in that distinctive style that we all know and love.

3. H.C.O.D. – Coarse Defect (Fieldwork)

Post-mortem. Scrapyard junk tape collage. 1/2 of Aischrolatreia. Without question, the Fieldwork crew is one of the best things happening in NY right now. True industrial culture.

Best Reissues:

1. Zero Kama – The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. (Athanor)

There isn’t really much to say about this that hasn’t already been said. Easily the greatest ritual industrial album ever made. Rising from the ashes of the legendary Korpses Katatonik, this was a conceptual album made using human bones as the only instruments. I’ve been wearing out my cassette copy for years, and it’s great to finally have a nice remastered vinyl edition! Liner notes and photos are a major plus.

2. Kranivm – The Brighter Edge of Death (Urashima)

Kranivm was a short-lived project of Marco Corbelli (aka Atrax Morgue) in the early years of his creative output. Musically, however, it sounded nothing like the punishing death-obsessed PE that he was known for in his later years. It was much more similar to some of the dark ambient stuff that he was releasing on his label Slaughter at the time (such as Megaptera or Raison D’être). Absolute top shelf and 100% essential. All three of the Kranivm tapes were reissued at once, but the second one (“The Brighter Edge of Death”) is my personal favorite. It’s got that early BDN atmosphere that we all know and love (think “Slaughterhouse Invitation”) and shows a totally different side of the death industrial master.

3. Martial Canterel – Austerton (Onderstroom)

His second LP, and my personal favorite (with “You Today” as a very close second). This record just really reminds me of a time and place. New York circa 2007 was one of those very special moments in time where everything just lined up right, and the air was rife with the feeling that anything could happen. There was a new type of counter-culture forming and it was intelligent, older, and more hedonistic than you could ever imagine. I was listening to this record a lot around the time that I started Cult of Youth. I couldn’t believe that things like this were happening in my own backyard. Years later, this self-released record became incredibly expensive. The fact that it is available again at an affordable price (on Onderstroom, which has great distribution) for a new generation to discover is absolutely fantastic. If you only buy one contemporary minimal synth record EVER, this is the one.

______

Nathaniel Ritter (Brave Mysteries, Kinit Her):

Nathaniel Ritter

Nathaniel Ritter

1. Itasca – Unmoored By the Wind (New Images)

2014 was definitely a year of many superior female singer-songwriter records: Weyes Blood, Grouper, Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Vashti Bunyan, and Emma Ruth Rundle all released albums that received much play and praise here in the heart of Wisconsin. However it was Kayla Cohen’s sophomore release as Itasca that stood above the rest for me. Those who were fortunate enough to attend the Brave Mysteries-sponsored YardFest this Autumn only had their experience of Itasca’s musical ascent heightened by hearing her mystifying cover of Lal & Mike Waterson’s “The Scarecrow” while sitting round a blazing bonfire. The earnest and sincere atmosphere billowing out of the eleven pastoral yet intimate tunes on “Unmoored By the Wind” is only further elevated by Cohen’s delicate and flowing guitar work. This is a rare folk record that is both exquisitely fragile and maintains a resolute determination that places it outside of time.

2. Tervahäät – Taival (Anima Arctica)

When deciding on my selections for this feature last year, I had hoped to include Tervahaat’s “Patria,” but alas it was a release that snuck in at the tail-end of 2012 and did not qualify for inclusion. I’m relieved then, that I can provide some recognition for what I consider to be one of the most overlooked corners of dark experimental folk of the post-industrial underground. Tervahäät have been consistent in releasing fully envisioned albums that embrace variety and eclecticism in timbre and structure while adhering to a cohesion that is often only achieved by other artists when subjecting an album to a dulling sense of sameness. “Taival” is no different in this regard from the Finnish collective’s previous efforts; though it may stand above the rest as their most rurally psychedelic. This album will remain in constant rotation as I eagerly anticipate the release of Tervahäät’s discography on vinyl as well as new releases which are planned for 2015.

3. Arve Henriksen – The Nature of Connections (Rune Grammofon)

This Norwegian trumpeter with the voice of an angel has been a staple of year-round listening for me since I caught him as part of The Source‘s “and Different Cikadas” album back in 2002. “The Nature of Connections” was as equally welcome on unusually balmy Autumn evenings as it has been on recent frosty winter mornings. In quite a fertile year, 2014 saw the release of Henriksen’s more typically experimental LPs “Chron” and “Cosmic Creation.” However, it was this album comprised almost wholly of pieces composed by Henriksen’s collaborators that resonated with me the most. The album is full of space, graceful interplay, and a sense of fun that obviously comes from a sincerely collaborative effort between extremely talented instrumentalists. Eschewing the the electronic production flourishes Henriksen often uses, “The Nature…” achieves just as much richness as any of his other efforts through an entirely acoustic recording that reaches closer to a sense of traditional Nordic folk melody than anything Henriksen has done before.

______

Marcus S. (Mars, Vortex):

Marcus S.

Marcus S.

1. Agalloch – The Serpent and the Sphere (Plastic Head/Soulfood)

Pagan post-metal with a folky edge in the purest of incarnations. Subtle and delicate at times, this is a powerful attempt at creating aural mythology.

2. King Dude – Fear (Not Just Religious Music)

At first I had difficulties getting into this album—probably because it simply wants to be so catchy. On repeated listening a second layer unfolds which is somehow addictive.

3. Trevor Morris – The Vikings II (Sony Classical)

Disappointed by the soundtrack to the first season I was totally blown away by the sheer ritual power of this second collection. It is obviously inspired by Wardruna‘s contributions to the series yet represents a very unique mixture of moody and percussive pieces.

______

Miro Snejdr (Death in June Collaborator):

Miro Snejdr

Miro Snejdr

1. Black Tongue – Born Hanged / Falsifier (Redux)
2. Mars – Blood is the Food of the Gods (Lichterklang)
3. Endymion – Be a Voice, Not an Echo (Neophyte)

______

Sonne Hagal:

Sonne Hagal | Credit: Flamisol

Sonne Hagal | Credit: Flamisol

1. Leonhard Cohen – Popular Problems (Columbia)
2. Sol Invictus – Once upon a Time (Auerbach)
3. The Residents & Renaldo and the Loaf – Title in Limbo (Klanggalerie)

______

Troy Southgate (H.E.R.R., Black Front Press)

Troy Southgate

Troy Southgate

1. V/A – Raíz Ibérica (Ahnstern)
2. Killing Joke – In Dub (Self-Released)
3. Devilment – The Great & Secret Show (Nuclear Blast)

______

Luke Tromiczak (Blood & Sun):

Luke Tromiczak

Luke Tromiczak

1. Nightbringer – Ego Dominus Tuus (Season of Mist)
2. Brittsommar – The Machine Stops (Self-released: 2013, but not available in the US until recently)
3. Kinit Her – The Needs of Both 7″ (Bleak Environment)

Honorable Mentions: Cult of Youth – Final Days, Scout Paré-Phillips – Heed the Call

______

Pablo C. Ursusson (Sangre de Muerdago):

Pablo C. Ursusson

Pablo C. Ursusson

1. Pan de Capazo – Sea (Self-released)
2. Lynched – Cold Old Fire (Self-released)
3. Primordial – Where Greater Men have Fallen (Metal Blade)

______

Tara Vanflower (Lycia):

Tara Vanflower

Tara Vanflower

1. Ides of Gemini – Old World | New Wave (Neurot)
2. Dirge – Hyperion (Debemur Morti / Grimoire)
3. Godflesh – A World Lit Only By Fire (Avalanche)

______

Henryk Vogel (Darkwood):

Henryk Vogel

Henryk Vogel

1. Mogwai – Rave Tapes (Rock Action Records)
2. Woven Hand – Refractory Obdurate (Deathwish)
3. Blood and Sun – White Storms Fall (Pesanta)

______

Tony Wakeford (Sol Invictus):

Tony Wakeford

Tony Wakeford

1. Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser (Luftschutz/Tesco)
2. Rome – A Passage to Rhodesia (Trisol)
3. Sproatly Smith – Greatest Hits Vol. I (Self-released)

______

David E. Williams (The Muskets):

David E. Williams

David E. Williams

1. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know (Song Only)
2. Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)
3. V/A – Divided We Fall: Heathen Folk From North America (Morituri Te Salutant)

Honorable Mention:  Scotty – 12 Original Songs (No Label)

______

Markus Wolff (Waldteufel, l’Acephale):

Markus Wolff | Credit: Veleda Thorsson

Markus Wolff | Credit: Veleda Thorsson

1. Lasher Keen – Mantic Poetry & Oracular Prophecy (Self-released)

This double LP is another treat from this in some ways ultimate psych-folk wonder. This new work has it all—catchy psych-pop songs, quasi-eastern folk freak-outs, epic bardic harp journeys, and everything in between. As usual, great production touches and varied instrumentation enhance the cultic, mind-expanding vibe. All the artwork and lettering was conceived by Dylan and Bluebird as well, making this a true self-released DIY marvel.

2. ZED/Bernard Szajner – Visions of Dune (InFiné)

Rereleased as Z (aka Bernard Szainer) presents “Visions of Dune.” Fantastic, visionary French synth album from 1979 inspired by the Dune trilogy of sci-fi- novels. Remastered rerelease with an extra track, sadly lacking the fantastic original B&W cover art. Nice companion piece to the wonderful Jodorowsky‘s Dune documentary.

3. Sangre de Muerdago – Live Performance

It was great to see this wonderful newer folk project live again, in a “family setting” and with a fantastic backing band made up of “Cascadian folk” luminaries. Pablo’s guitar style is always engaging and evokes the grace and fluidity of Michael Cashmore‘s and B’ee‘s best playing. But it is his heartfelt vocals and lyrics in his native tongue that really set him apart and guarantee him a highly deserved place among the pinnacles of the folk continuum from the 60s through today.

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Categories: Exclusives

3 Comments on “Heathen Harvest’s Best of 2014: Artist’s Edition”

  1. 1st January 2015 at 11:45 #

    It was not a very good year for me, regarding new music, no highlights, no “album of the year”, but I liked these records:

    Sol Invictus – Once Upon A Time
    Sonne Hagal – Ockerwasser
    Erde – Böse Zeit

    The following ones I liked more or less:

    Cult Of Youth – Final Days
    Mars – Blood Is The Food Of The Gods

    Additionally I liked the new album from Laibach (Spectre) very much, and the album I listened to the most in 2014 was from 2013: Lakes – Blood Of The Grove. I discovered it in your list from last year (http://heathenharvest.org/2013/12/31/heathen-harvests-best-of-2013-artists-edition/), thanks for it again.

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