Archive for the ‘Swans’ Category

Noiseweek: Hope Drone, Neurosis, Swans and KU?KA

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


Every Tuesday is now Record Store Day, sort of, thanks to the American Association of Independent Music. Participating retailers will now devote the second day of the working week to specialty vinyl releases, new vinyl pre-releases ahead of other formats, reissues and special pressings.


Alex Griffin — who you might know as a life is noise contributor, Tiny Mix Tapes writer, Ermine Coat player or just a general top bloke — has launched his own zine talking about all things musical over at Bonzerzine. He’s kicked it off with a review of Perth outfit Verge Collection and an interview with the fine folk of Shit Narnia. Dig it.


In jealousy-inducing festival news, Riot Fest has revealed the bulk of the line-up for the 2015 iteration which takes place in Chicago, Denver and Toronto over three weekends in August and September. Iggy Pop and Motorhead get top billing at multiple stops, while the festival’s biggest leg in Chicago appearances from Faith No More, Drive Like Jehu, L7, Echo & The Bunnymen, Death, Indian Handcrafts and a slew of yet-to-be-announced acts. You can check the full line-up at


Seoul is now host to a tremendous public vinyl library with over 10,000 records. The venture is the latest in a series of library projects by credit company HyundaiCard and follows on from their Design and Travel Libraries. The Music Library also carries over 3,000 books and every issue of Rolling Stone from the last half-century. You can check out the website here. [via FACT]


Why Swans Whipped Sheet Metal and Licked CBGB’s Floor to Make ‘Filth’ | Rolling Stone

“Although the band’s initial release, 1982’s Swans EP, built off of the city’s dying no-wave scene, the ensemble came into its own with its debut full-length, Filth, the following year. Full of lumbering rhythms created by two bassists, two drummers, one guitar, a whipped metal table and some suffocating tape loops, the record is primal art rock at its most vitriolic, anticipating industrial, sludge and noise-rock in one fell thump. More threatening, Gira intermittently snarls imperatives about power – “Flex your muscles!” “Take control and keep it!” “Don’t talk until you’re spoken to!” – in a way that made Henry Rollins sound like Olivia Newton-John at the time, as the band dismantled rock to its most threadbare essentials.”

Feurio!!!! The Strange World Of Einstürzende Neubauten | The Quietus

“There are many legendary bands who name is a shibboleth for a certain kind of taste or knowing insiderism, but whose recorded output is less adequately attended to than it deserves to be. High on that list of bands are avant-noise German collective Einstürzende Neubauten, a band from West Berlin born from the apocalyptic Cold War paranoia that gripped that city for decades, whose music is famous for the explosive din produced its unusual and repurposed instrumentation. Over their three and a half decades of operation this has included jackhammers, sheet metal and fire, an instrumentation perfectly suited to the broken terrain of a city smashed into submission and never properly rebuilt.”


KU?KA — Flux 98

Is Laura Jane Lowther synesthetic? The intensely lush textures that fill every space of Lowther and company’s songs are so rich in sensory detail that it feels like she’s almost translating the taste of colour into soundwaves. Flux 98 is the third single from her forthcoming EP, Unconditional, and channels sounds from above the clouds and below the ocean’s surface, awash in high-end synths and Lowther’s distinctive heightened falsetto. Unconditional is out August 14 through Midnight Feature.

Hope Drone — Every End Is Fated In Its Beginning

Australia’s Hope Drone — who you may have heard are now signed to Relapse fucking Records — have released the first taste of their forthcoming long-player, Cloak of Ash, which is due out July 14. The 9-and-a-half minute track is brimming with the ecstatic dread, marrying ferocious black metal intensity with hazy ambience over a daunting two-chord refrain. Expect big things.


Neurosis — Times of Grace at Maryland Death Fest

MDF is consistently one of the strongest heavy festivals of the year. If you’ve been following the LIN Facebook, you probably saw our commander-in-chief’s live updates from the front lines with YOB, Conan, Ufomammut, Melt Banana, Full of Hell, Inter Arma and a metric fuckton of metal’s finest. Professional live footage has been hard to come by, but this crowd clip from Neurosis’ set is nothing to sneeze at. Even from 100 feet back on video, Neurosis is a stunning and exhausting behemoth of a band.

Sam Prekop — A Geometric

Like a degraded VHS tape playing old Windows Media Player visualisations, the video from Sam Prekop’s A Geometric is an analog-to-digital mindfuck of colours and shapes. There’s something vital lost in our HD aesthetic, and the lo-fi strobing geometry from video artist Nick Ciontea is a perfect match for Prekop’s pulsating and oscillating synths. A Geometric is taken from The Republic which is out now on Thrill Jockey.

Noiseweek: Melvins documentary, Michael Gira on electronic music, Peter Bibby, Fait and more

Friday, March 13th, 2015

The sights, sounds and words of the week in noise.


By now you’ve probably seen the trailer for the forthcoming HBO-produced Kurt Cobain documentary, but there’s another piece of film in the works on another tremendously influential Washington act and one of Nirvana’s greatest influences: The Melvins. The Colossus of Destiny is about halfway towards its $75,000 crowdfunding target on Kickstarter, and surely I’m not the only one who finds it absurd that the three-decade story of this band has yet to be given the feature treatment. Throw a penny or two its way over the next month and help tell a tell that absolutely deserves to be told.


We were bummed to learn earlier this month that blackened-doom Chicagoans Indian had called it quits, but it’s not all gloom as the currently-on-hiatus fellow Chicagoans Lord Mantis are resurrecting with two members of Indian, rounding out a previously liquid lineup and giving the now-quintet some forward momentum.


Swans’ Michael Gira Sounds Off | Electronic Beats

“We’re one of the best rock bands ever. I know that. I just know it. Swans have congealed and are one of the most volcanic, eruptive, virile rock outfits ever. I think one of the things that makes what we do so powerful is that it’s generous.”

33 Musicians Discuss Their Favourite Radiohead Songs | Stereogum

Mark Smith of Explosions of the Sky/Inventions:
“I always revisit Kid A and try to recapture the feelings I had when I first listened to it. It’s not possible — now I just hear the combination of experimentation and songwriting and depth that is somehow beautiful and scary and human and alien and illusory and random and planned all at once. But back then, my first listen was just confusing, my second was confounding, my third was love, and my fourth was infatuation. “Idioteque” in particular — the lyrics about scaremongering and “This is really happening” — seems like it’s pleading with us. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it hasn’t lost any of that effect for me. I love watching their old live performances of it, this insane urgent trance with Thom dancing and Jonny seemingly plugging and unplugging cables into a telephone exchange (or so I thought back then). It’s still my favorite thing Radiohead have ever done, but insanely, I still think they’re growing and evolving so I won’t be surprised if that changes.”

Brian Cook of Russian Circles Interviewed | Ponto Alternativo

“I find the more polished realms of rock music to be really fucking boring. The more you autotune, beat map, and edit music, the more it winds up like electronic music. It winds up being music made on a grid. No offense to electronic music meant there, it just seems to defeat the purpose of being a living, breathing rock band. I’ve brought this up in the past a bunch, but I’ll repeat it here: when These Arms Are Snakes recorded with Jack Endino, the guy who recorded all the early grunge classics, he had a very casual attitude towards our takes. The record we did with him (our split with Harkonen) was the loosest recording we did in our career. Jack’s theory was that the tiny inconsistencies in tempo and pitch were what made all the classic rock records so enduring. The brain recognizes the flaws on a subconscious level, and those imperfections keep the brain interested in the song way longer than if it had been polished and quantized to perfection. We want things to be tight. We don’t like obvious fuck-ups to slide by in our music, but if you listen closely to our records there are weird little mistakes and flubs all over the place. We had a particularly hard time finding the balance between making things sound raw and live in a good way versus a bad way when we were making “Empros”, but hopefully we’ve found a good middle ground now.”

“What are we to the Stars?”: Neurosis’ Steve Von Till Gets Deep on the Majestic Splendor of Idaho | Noisey

“I think some of those are the most powerful metaphors as poets and writers and songwriters, I think. Depending on your perspective on any given day, that which seems so important to us in any given moment is so minimal in the grand scheme of things. What are we to the ocean? What are we to the stars? What are we to the wilderness? Pretty pathetic little creatures, really. [Yet] part of that is the glory that allows us to create art and music, it’s this… I don’t know? Bizarre evolutionary trait to consider our own existence instead of just going with our instincts. I think art is a strange combination of both. I think it’s part instinctual and part self-reflective. I think the natural world provides not only these great metaphors—that’s probably how I use it most is emotional metaphors. It’s in nature where I, personally, find—with the one exception being making music, is where I find the most solitude and the most peace of mind. Walking through nature and just being, and soaking it in, and trying to be a part of it.”


Steve Von Til — A Life Unto Itself

Speaking of Steve Von Til, he’s just released the first cut from his latest solo album due out in May, the beautiful and folk-tinged A Life Unto Itself. Von Til’s voice is just as compelling singing what is essentially a ballad as it is exorcizing demons over the cathartic noise of his Neurosis bandmates, and on this seven-minute number he channels the soundscaping of Earth with just two guitar tracks and intoxicating story-telling.

Lightning Bolt — Fantasy Empire

NPR are currently streaming the new Lightning Bolt record in full, and at first listen it’s a rip-roaring collection of the duo’s most frenetic work to date. The mid-section on “Over the River and Through the Woods” might be the best three minutes of music I’ve heard this year.


Peter Bibby — Goodbye Johnny

Who would’ve thought that the foul-mouthed, gravel-voiced troubadour who once spent his weekends annihilating his lungs on Perth stages as one half of Frozen Ocean would be touring the world so soon? Bibby’s on his way to SXSW this week and with that journey comes the video for Goodbye Johnny, a lo-fi home video about being unable to farewell the song’s namesake thanks to potent influenza. Again, just think about this: Entertainment Weekly is writing about Peter Bibby. What a wonderful world.

Fait — Slow Glow

Fait seemingly appeared from out of nowhere last year with the moody Surrender To and they’ve now returned with their first fully-formed conceptual clip in Slow Glow, a brooding and striking piece of short cinema filmed across the sprawling West Australian landscape. From lush meadows to endless deserts to crashing waves on a violent coast, this feels like the visual track to the kind of dream you don’t want to wake up from. (P.S.: Fait play our five-year anniversary show at The Bakery on Easter Thursday.)

Dave Cutbush’s Top 10 Albums of 2014

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Life is Noise director and host of RTRFM’s Out to Lunch on Thursdays Dave Cutbush counts down his best releases of the year.


Melbourne’s Magic Mountain band unveiled a gem of a debut earlier in 2014 and their polished release built on their strong live reputation. Sparse Hammond-laden instrumentals are captured beautifully on Wilderman. Aggressive and rhythmic in parts and serene and delicate in others, this is my favourite Australian release of 2014. Fans of Earth or Dirty Three will love this, but Magic Mountain Band have their own unique take on a widescreen Australian instrumental sound.

9. SUN KIL MOON – Benji

It is hard to mention Sun Kil Moon or indeed its driving force Mark Kozelek without mentioning the continued (and mostly one-sided) arguments with The War on Drugs and various commentaries on fans and critics. Sometimes it is difficult to work out whether he is genuinely having fun or is serious about his critiques. Either way it has got the music media a-talking and can’t have hurt his public profile. Any publicity…

But if you put aside all the trash-talking, Kozelek has been a songwriting powerhouse for 25 years. Through his solo work and his bands Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon, Kozelek has consistently written some of the best bent Americana and, alongside the likes of Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) and Bill Callahan, has kept alive a quality and consistency of US country-folk that is at the forefront of songwriters on a global scale.

Benji is a thoughtful social commentary both on the level of the songwriter’s personal experience and those of US society as a whole. This is a great album, a personal album and an album that grows with further listening. Kozelek may have a questionable public persona, but through the vehicle of Sun Kil Moon he has stories to tell and beautiful music to make. Hopefully he will stick to what he is very good at and leave the stupid staging to the likes of Kanye.

8. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden

Ironically Pallbearer hail from Little Rock. Let’s just let that hang in the air for a moment…

The second album from these US metal merchants, like their incredible first effort Sorrow and Extinction, builds on the great breadth and diversity of the every burgeoning Sabbath-inspired doom scene.

Crushingly slow riffs build on a powerhouse rhythm section and Ozzy inspired vocals. It is sometimes pretty hard to fathom how this is a band with only two releases.

A top shelf heavy release for 2014. Who knows what they will do next.

7. APHEX TWIN – Syro

After a hell of a long wait, Richard D. James is back with another strange amalgam of electronics, noise, techno, jungle and noise. And whilst it isn’t a crazy splatter fest like previous albums, Syro should keep fans both old and new happy. Aphex Twin once again keeps a groove going where you think it is going to fall apart. Equal parts disturbing and delighting, this is my favourite electronic album of the year.

6. BECK – Morning Phase

Every time Beck puts out an album it seems to be in my top albums of the year. Morning Phase is just another in a long list of incredible albums from an American songwriter at the top of his game. Although it has been compared with Sea Change, I prefer this album. From the crisp production to the perfect instrumentation, Beck rarely puts out anything less than amazing. Let’s hope the phase continues on into the evening and beyond.

5. ELECTRIC WIZARD – Time to Die

The Wizard returns.

Undisputed leaders of UK doom, Electric Wizard are back and whilst they are not really breaking any new ground here, they have put out another great record with Time to Die. The big difference for me is the drumming. The return of Mark Greening makes a huge change.

But the old themes of drugs, death, Satan are still there and mark it typical of their craft.

Why change the formula when you have already killed it?


4. TY SEGALL – Manipulator

The modern psych pop-rock master keeps pumping out the records. Will he ever stop?

Actually, it seems like Ty did take a little more time over Manipulator. But he really is frantically pumping out the psych rock pop wizardry.

For mine the track Feel is Ty Segall at his best: a great pop song, with just enough 60s sensibility without being totally deritative, catchy as hell and crunchy like a stale gingerbread biscuit. His falsetto vocals and monster lead breaks just add the perfect amount of icing.

Somehow I think that although this is a cracking listen, we have only just heard the beginning of a truly brilliant musical career. Here’s to next year’s top albums. He will surely resurface.

3. TINARIWEN – Emmaar









2. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend

As Alan Watts says at the start of Clearing the Path to Ascend, it is indeed “time to wake up”. And I think much of the world has woken up to the incredible power and beauty of YOB.

This album is grand without being overblown, dark without being depressing, and powerful whilst still being beautiful.

I have really tried to punish myself to the point of getting sick of it, I simply cannot.

It contains the driving song of the year in ‘Nothing to Win’ which perfectly contrasts with the mournful closer ‘Marrow’.

In any other year this would have been my album of the year. This is a doom-laden slice of perfection. An album that should make this band very well known – even to those who would regularly not touch this kind of music on a regular basis.

I love it.

1. SWANS – To Be Kind

SWANS must have made the most spectacular return to music in recent history. Since reforming in 2009 they have released three incredible albums and the latest, To Be Kind, sees them at the very pinnacle of their existence as a band.

Once again like a cult they are lead by Michael Gira on a dark American Gothic journey, one that takes nothing without necessity.

To Be Kind is a wagon laden with essential provisions only. The repetition only disturbs us more… and more and more and more than we could possibly feel. It is psychosis, it is crushing, and on and more and then release…. only to be rolled over again and again until you mind and body and existence have been shattered and trodden on and obliterated. It is revolting and appealing and confronting and compelling. It is SWANS and they have destroyed you.

You are amazed… and alive.

Dave Cutbush is the director of Life is Noise and the host of RTRFM’s Out to Lunch on Thursdays from 12-3PM (+8 GMT).

Jack Midalia’s Top 10 Albums of 2014

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

10. YOB — Clearing the Path to Ascend
Clearing the Path to Ascend is not easy going. From just before the five minute mark of album opener ‘In Our Blood’, things really kick in as the Oregon band slow drip doom into our ears. With vocals that swing between the hauntingly beautiful and the brutal, coupled with merciless and punishing instrumentation, Clearing the Path to Ascend is a four-track, hour-long journey into dark territory. The record briefly picks up the pace a bit on the second track, ‘Nothing To Win’, before ‘Unmask The Spectre’ and ‘Marrow’ settle things back down to get the listener ready for more slow-pummelling. YOB throw enough diversity and moments of respite onto the record to keep your attention and stop things getting too monotonous, but Clearing the Path to Ascend is overwhelmingly a loud, brutal and brilliant ride.

9. REAL ESTATE — Atlas
Real Estate’s Atlas is a summer album that’s perfect for winter. There’s enough of everything you know and love from Real Estate to make this record a perfect companion to a sunny day (reverby, cutting lead guitars and playful, pretty instrumentation), but there’s enough of a hint of melancholy, both lyrically and musically, to make Atlas perfect for a winter night with a scotch by the fireplace. While not quite up there with Days, there’s no doubt that Atlas represents a maturation of Real Estate’s sound to something that, despite sounding simple and effortless, is a complex and dense work.

8. SILVER MT. ZION — Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
In case you didn’t know what you were getting into with Silver Mt Zion, the band has helpfully named their latest record to remove any impressions this might have been a quiet folk release or something like that. Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything is a cacophonous and beautiful mess.

The album begins with a recording of Efrim Menuck and Jessica Moss’ child (“We live on the island called Montreal and we make a lot of noise, because we love each other”) that could be an introduction to Fuck Off Get Free… or, equally, a summation of the bands’ worldview. Musically at least, there’s a feeling of celebration and joy, albeit mixed in with heavy doses of the usual Silver Mt Zion protest and anger and depressing song titles. ‘What We Loved Was Not Enough’ forms the centre of the album, telling the story of apocalypse, self-destruction, riot, war and poverty. Nestled in all that mayhem, however, is a little sliver of optimism — the hope that our children will be strong and selfless enough to live like we couldn’t.

7. BILL CALLAHAN — Have Fun with God
I may be bending the rules ever so slightly in putting this record in here, in that Have Fun with God is a dub version of last year’s Dream River. However, as I somehow overlooked Dream River in 2013, I’m partly using this as an opportunity to make up for it.

On Have Fun with God, Callahan’s voice takes less of a front-seat to the instrumentation, augmented with buckets of echo and reverb. It’s an interesting experiment on Callahan’s part, and the songs on Dream River generally work well in this new format. Have Fun with God manages to be both bleak and uplifting at the same time, while maintaining the late-night-listening feel of its predecessor. Somehow sounding unrelentingly sparse, even with additional effects, Have Fun with God is a welcome addition to Callahan’s catalogue.

6. PIXIES — Indie Cindy
Terrible title and a lack of Kim Deal aside, the first Pixies’ record since 1991 is a welcome return. From the opening track, ‘What Goes Boom’, it’s clear that Indie Cindy might occasionally be a little bit Pixies-by-numbers, but after 13 years it’s just nice to have new Pixies material. Tracks like ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ and ‘Bagboy’ are right up there with the band’s best work; Frank Black’s voice swings between nonchalant cool to piercing scream as well as ever, Dave Lovering remains one of my favourite understated drummers in rock, and Joey Santiago’s guitar still gives me goosebumps. The hooks are still there, the tunes are still there… what’s not to love?

5. THE WAR ON DRUGS — Lost in the Dream
Lost in the Dream is another effortlessly dreamy walk into Americana from The War on Drugs. The Philadelphia outfit stick to what they do best — pounding freight-train drums and conspicuous nods to Springsteen, mixed with liberal doses of reverb and psych meanderings. Tracks like ‘Under The Pressure’, ‘An Ocean In Between The Waves’ and ‘In Reverse’ continue the tradition of excellent War on Drugs road trip songs, while ‘Suffering’ and the title track give a taste of the band in ballad mode.

It’s heartening to see a band that has been slogging away for a while now start to get the traction that Lost in the Dream appears to have received. It’s certainly well deserved.

4. SWANS — To Be Kind
Michael Gira is a without a doubt the scariest human being on the planet. Swans at their loudest and heaviest are a terrifying beast, but it’s the quiet moments of To Be Kind in which Gira seems to be at his sneering, menacing worst. Boasting more than a hint of the industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten, this is a record I would regularly put on as background music, only to find I’d that I’d either stopped whatever I was doing and that an hour had passed in the blink of the eye. There are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

Additional mention of the cover art, which is either the best or the worst album artwork of 2014.

3. SHELLAC — Dude Incredible
Dude Incredible simply gets the job done. Clocking in at just over half an hour, the record is Shellac stripped of anything that might be considered superfluous, leaving less a record and more a precise, surgical airstrike. From the prowling bass of ‘Riding Bikes’ to the snarl of ‘All the Surveyors’, Dude Incredible manages to pack real menace into an austere half hour. Nothing is overused and nothing is overdone (both in terms of songwriting or production), a fact that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Shellac and Albini’s form. Key tracks include: ‘Dude Incredible’, ‘All the Surveyors’, and ‘Gary’.

2. PARQUET COURTS — Sunbathing Animal
This record followed me around all year, whether it was the solid month where I basically listened to nothing else, the fact that most people in my life were obsessed by it, or seeing the cover art on a 10-metre-high mural — Sunbathing Animal was inescapable. It seemed to have wormed its way into all corners of my existence, so the high rating of Sunbathing Animal might be due to some kind of musical Stockholm Syndrome as well as the fact that it’s a brilliant record.

All the usual suspects are here in terms of a detached, super-hip influence: Modern Lovers, Pavement, Velvet Underground, etc, but there’s enough originality and personality on this record to make it more than the sum of its parts. The selling point of Parquet Courts is that perfect Malkmus-style “loose but still in total control” balance between technical ability and sloppy noise. Having said that, the quieter moments on Sunbathing Animal (‘Dear Ramona’, ‘Raw Milk’) are certainly worth a listen as well.

Highlights include: “What Color is Blood”, “Bodies Made Of”, “Black and White” and “Instant Disassembly”.

Note: They put out two records this year, but I haven’t spent enough time with Content Nausea to include it here so Sunbathing Animal it is for spot number two.

1. HARMONY — Carpetbombing
I knew this was my number one record of 2014 from the first time it entered my earholes. Combine ragged guitar with soaring crescendos and breathtaking harmonies, nuanced songwriting and stark-but-beautiful production, and you’ve got one hell of an album. It’s a distinctly Australian-sounding record, in the same difficult-to-explain way that The Drones sound Australian beyond merely the accents.

I could throw around adjectives all day, however to put it simply: Carpetbombing nails the balance between the beauty and trauma of being alive and condenses it into 43 minutes of music that demands to be played loud and with total attention.

Check out Life is Noise’s Top 10 Albums of 2014 and check back later this week for more of our writers’ best records of the year.

Life is Noise’s Top 10 Albums of 2014

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Our staff count down the best records of 2014 — from the heavy to the hallowed and everything in between.

10. TINARIWEN — Emmaar

Even though the songs are sung in their native tongue, Tinariwen’s epic desert blues transcends barriers of language and culture. It helps that the Malian band’s brand of rock — a label that does little justice to Tinariwen’s diverse and often spiritual aesthetic, but feels more appropriate than any other term in Western music criticism — bursts with flourishes of familiarity, from Hendrix to Dylan. Emmaar feels like a bridge between worlds, a fact best exemplified by its opening gambit ‘Toumast Tincha’, a riff-filled odyssey that’s equal parts intriguing and recognizable, grooving and introspective. Emmaar is the perfect soundtrack to journeys unknown. — Matthew Tomich


Excellent songs and production. These guys have finally found a sound that bridges the melodic and the heavy. Pop structures and anthems that deserve to shouted along too at massive European festivals. — Scott Bishop

8. SUN KIL MOON — Benji

Though Mark Kozelek’s year has been marked by petty feuds and pettier insult songs, he was also responsible for one of the most moving and honest records of the year in Benji, an ode to the minutiae of contemporary life that spans from San Francisco to Ohio to Newtown and back. There’s as much darkness as there is light in Benji, though it’s more poignant moments are the most heart-wrenching like opening track ‘Carissa’, where Kozelek uses his guitar and voice to make sense of the accidental death of his cousin in and give her life poetry. Rarely does an album feel like it’s being written and played right in front of you, the stories unfolding in real time as Kozelek seemingly finds the words as he goes to narrate the lives of those around him. Worth countless repeat listens. — Matthew Tomich

7. TOMBS — Savage Gold

Post-metal with more than a dash of black, Savage Gold is dissonant, haunting, extreme – and one of the surprise releases of the year. See also their excellent cover of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. — Scott Williams

6. SHELLAC — Dude Incredible

Dude Incredible simply gets the job done. Clocking in at just over half an hour, the record is Shellac stripped of anything that might be considered superfluous, leaving less a record and more a precise, surgical airstrike. From the prowling bass of ‘Riding Bikes’ to the snarl of ‘All the Surveyors’, Dude Incredible manages to pack real menace into an austere half hour. Nothing is overused and nothing is overdone (both in terms of songwriting or production), a fact that won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Shellac and Albini’s form. — Jack Midalia

5. ICEAGE — Plowing into the Field of Love

Plowing Into The Field of Love is everything people love about Iceage and a whole lot more. The songs still wallow the in same bleak mirth Iceage bathe in, but the dense, nihilistic moods are now littered with the sounds of folk and an undeniable country swagger, which might sound odd to some fans but by damn you wouldn’t have it any other way. This whole album is like a punch in the guts, but it’s the sort of punch you’re grateful for, the one where once you’ve managed to start taking in oxygen again and you reach out and gladly ask for another. It’s bold, aggressive, mangled and so perfectly enjoyable, an example of a band leering ten feet above their contemporaries. — Jack Payet

4. SWANS — To Be Kind

Michael Gira is a without a doubt the scariest human being on the planet. Swans at their loudest and heaviest are a terrifying beast, but it’s the quiet moments of To Be Kind in which Gira seems to be at his sneering, menacing worst. Boasting more than a hint of the industrialism of Einstürzende Neubauten, this is a record I would regularly put on as background music, only to find I’d that I’d either stopped whatever I was doing and that an hour had passed in the blink of the eye. There are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours. Additional mention of the cover art, which is either the best or the worst album artwork of 2014. — Jack Midalia


Devin has to be admired, not just for the great music on this album but for the projects he takes on in general, the majority of which are born from his bizarre and brilliant mind. Z2 is a double album (condensed down from 50 songs originally), the first part being a typical DTP “pop metal” album taking elements from Epicloud and Addicted, though it feels more mature. The second half is a War of the Worlds-style rock opera featuring the return of Ziltoid (Devin’s alter ego, a coffee-loving alien hell bent on world domination) similar in musical style to the first Ziltoid album but with a bigger scope and budget. The Ziltoid tale will also be taken to the musical theatre stage next year at the Royal Albert Hall for a show that sold out within weeks. — Scott Williams

2. ELECTRIC WIZARD — Time to Die

It took me a while to come around to Time to Die, especially since vocalist Jus Oborn sounds like he’s singing down the corridor, but it’s the heavy/slow DOOMY riff fest that you want and desire from The Wizard. — Scott Bishop

1. YOB — Clearing the Path to Ascend

YOB’s Clearing the Path to Ascend was virtually undisputed amongst aficionados of independent heavy music as one of the best albums of the year. Crowned by a song bound for a timeless regard in the world of heavy music, ‘Marrow’, the rest of the album gradually emerges from the blinding supernova of the closer across multiple listens to burn slowly into the mind as one of the most outstanding albums made in heavy metal history. Scheidt can make it seem as though drawing upon an utterly deadly riff is as easy as breathing for him, and is quite happy to let you have it methodically and relentlessly over a period of time where other bands would have played twenty different ones. This is doom deep in a trance. YOB is meditative. YOB is introspective, and deeply moving in its sincerity. On this record, YOB is godlike. — The Black Captain

Check back over the next two weeks as we reveal our individual writers’ top 10 records of 2014.