The Best Canadian Metal Albums of 2014
Edited by Adrien Begrand
Compared to 2013, which was one of the strongest years for Canadian metal in recent memory, 2014 was largely all about underground discoveries rather than, say, the “usual suspects” that churn out material year after year. Sure, a mainstay like Devin Townsend once again was a visible figure, and Hellbound faves Shooting Guns and Castle continued their strong work, but this year required Canadian metal writers to work harder, dig a little deeper to find those real gems. That includes the crew here at Hellbound, whose preferences this year have yielded a wonderfully unique and eclectic collection of ten standout Canadian metal albums from 2014. Albums that just miss the cut include Beyond Creation’s Earthbound Evolution, Rage Nucleaire’s Black Storm of Violence, Neige et Noirceur’s Gouffre Onirique et Abîmes Cosmiques, and Rammer’s Siege of Madness. As for the top ten, it quickly became apparent as the votes rolled in that there would be one obvious choice, and in the end it was a landslide. Deservingly so, too. Read on, enjoy, and coo loo coo coo, coo coo coo coooo…
10. Shooting Guns – Wolfcop OST (RidingEasy)
The Saskatchewan-made B-movie WolfCop would have been great fun no matter what, but hiring Saskatoon psychedelic doomsters Shooting Guns to handle the film’s score was the masterstroke that gave the flick just the right kind of edge. A series of 17 song fragments – as well as a country piss-take – it’s a less complete feeling than the band’s previous two albums, but it’s still a raucous and gritty exploration of what extended jams in a shack on the frigid Canadian prairies can yield. Now if only they’d find a way to release the instrumental doom cover of Gowan’s “Moonlight Desires” that graces the closing credits. (Adrien Begrand)
Natalie Zed interviewed Shooting Guns in 2014: hellbound.ca/2014/03/shooting-guns-2.
9. Devin Townsend – Z² (HevyDevy)
How many artists can scream lines like “all I want is to be true / and say to all that I love you tonight!” while sounding self-parodically heavy metal and entirely sincere all at once? This kind of yin-yang dualism is among Devin Townsend’s most enduring and endearing qualities, and his latest double-album release sustains the tradition. Disc one, entitled Sky Blue, features twelve tracks of Devin Townsend Project material exploring the glorious union of heavy metal riffs, progressive expertise, and pop melodies that DTP does so well. Part two continues the space opera antics of Ziltoid the Omniscient with bombastic humour, skill and catchiness and the help of a few extra special guests. Each record feeds and fills a different niche and together demonstrate that Devin Townsend remains one of Canada’s most valuable creative resources. (Laura Wiebe)
Laura Wiebe reviewed and Adam Wills shot Devin Townsend Project live in Toronto: hellbound.ca/2014/12/devin-townsend-project-animals-leaders-monuments-toronto-nov-30-2014.
8. Menace Ruine – Venus Armata (Profound Lore)
Ready for a trip down the rabbit hole? Turn out the lights and put this on – loud. The twinning of S. de la Moth’s crooning vocals with Genevieve’s insistent, otherworldly instrumentation produces music that is at once breathtakingly soft and atmospherically heavy. Hypnotic elements of drone, black metal, and darkwave are pushed to their breaking point, at which point de la Moth’s chanting/singing/invoking creeps in and creeps out. It’s a harrowing journey down below, but well worth taking. (Justin Allec)
7. Auroch – Taman Shud (Profound Lore)
While some Canadian death metal bands (including those sharing Auroch members) take the chaotic and terrifying angle to psyche-breaking extremes, Vancouver’s Auroch use those aspects as part of a larger weapon. Taman Shud sees the trio assaulting the mind with technicality and unconventionality but also with brutality and incisive riffs you can wrap your head around. Throw those aspects in the melting pot with shredding solos and Lovecraftian gurgled/desperately hollered vocals and you’ve got a recipe for death metal excellence more than worthy of your attention. OSDM with plenty of twists and turns, Taman Shud is everything you could ask for in a forward-thinking death metal album. (Matt Hinch)
Matt Hinch reviews Auroch‘s From Forgotten Worlds (2012): hellbound.ca/2012/12/auroch-from-forgotten-worlds.
6. Astrakhan – A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin (War on Music)
For a band that’s only been together a few years, Vancouver’s Astrakhan sure has made a grand impression. A Tapestry… is their first physical release, a four song 12″ EP that was just released on vinyl in mid-December by Winnipeg’s War On Music and it is a doozy. Similar musically to bands like Kylesa or maybe even Mastodon, the quartet are skintight on these four songs. Lots of trade-off guitar riffs, fantastic drumming by Jerome Brewer and great production by Jesse Gander (Anciients, 3 Inches of Blood) make this one of the best Canadian releases of the year. Expect bigger and better things from this band in the years to come. (Sean Palmerston)
Gruesome Greg reviewed Astrakhan‘s A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin: hellbound.ca/2014/12/astrakhan-tapestry-scabs-skin.
5. Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic)
Under Siege, Castle’s follow up to their Juno nominated 2012 album Blacklands, picks up right where its predecessor left off with another doom-induced traditional heavy metal journey. Clocking in at a brief 34 minutes, Under Siege wastes no time getting going with the shredding opener “Distant Attack” and doesn’t rest until the final moments of the incredibly catchy “Evil Ways” concludes. Mat Davis’ catchy riffs and Elizabeth Blackwell’s powerful vocals channel Black Sabbath, Cirith Ungol and Jex Thoth – with hazy production helmed by Billy Anderson (Cathedral, Sleep, Neurosis). Also, Castle remains one of my favourite live bands in recent years – be sure to check them out the next time they come to your town. (Adam Wills)
Sean Palmerston reviewed and Adam Wills shot Castle live in Toronto (2012): hellbound.ca/2012/08/hammers-of-misfortune-the-gates-of-slumber-castle-kosmograd-the-courthouse-toronto-on-july-27-2012.
4. Skull Fist – Chasing the Dream (Noiseart)
High-pitched singing atop rampaging speed metal is such a uniquely Canadian quirk from the early-‘80s. Exciter spawned a host of sound-alikes that peppered such demo compilations as Maple Metal and Moose Molten Metal back in the day, and the great thing about Skull Fist’s second album is just how accurately they capture that eccentric sound. The songs are flashy, brisk, tightly played, and burst with the kind of exuberant vocal hooks that so many young bands pulled off with ease 30 years ago. If this had come out 30 years ago, JD Roberts would have been gushing about it on the Power Hour and playing the video for “You’re Gonna Pay” non-stop. But in this day and age, YouTube and Spotify will have to suffice. (Adrien Begrand)
Albert Mansour reviewed Skull Fist‘s Heavier Than Metal (2010): hellbound.ca/2010/04/skull-fist-heavier-than-metal.
3. Culted – Oblique to All Paths (Relapse)
Evolution is important looking at any band’s work. We find Culted a changed band on Oblique to All Paths: everything sounds tighter and with the inclusion of influences like early electronics, ambient, noise and progressive metal they make a bold statement that goes beyond the boundaries of Blackened Doom. Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep was impressive but this leaves the listener considering what they just heard and where it came from. When something this catchy, powerful, epic, cold, terrifying, haunting and all kinds of heavy comes along it should not to be missed. (Gabe Hugh)
Gruesome Greg reviews Culted‘s Oblique to All Paths: hellbound.ca/2014/01/culted-oblique-to-all-paths.
2. Archspire – The Lucid Collective (Season of Mist)
There’s a fine line in tech death before taking things beyond the conceptive ability of the everyday listener into self-indulgent territory. Vancouver’s Archspire manage to straddle that line perfectly on The Lucid Collective. Between the mind-boggling percussive prowess and the Nathan Explosion/Travis Ryan vocal violence one could be forgiven for missing the shred capacity on display. But they won’t let you. Their supremely blistering tech death grips tight and melts faces with the best of tech death’s biggest names. It’s relatively early in their career and they’re already making bold statements. Stay Tech, friends. The future is bright for Archspire. (Matt Hinch)
Archspire shows up in our 2014 Canada Day feature: hellbound.ca/2014/06/canada-day-2014-best-canadian-metal-years-ending-4.
1. Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (Dark Descent)
Seamlessly spanning the bridge between the worlds of fiercely raw black metal and the psychedelic, 2014’s Sacred White Noise by Toronto trio Thantifaxath couldn’t be more aptly named. Their apparent labeling, though, as a “depressive” black metal band just doesn’t strike me as sensical. A track like “Where I End and the Hemlock Begins,” especially when followed up by “Gasping in Darkness,” might be forebodingly titled but is far more likely to promote a bout of severe headbanging and repeated listens than anything else. It’s easy to get lost in their incredibly smooth transitions. Jarring, thrashy passages are highlighted by controlled screams piercing through a cloud of rumbling bass. Incredibly melodic interludes find their way into the fray at all the right moments. To say it’s inspiring would be appropriate.
To top things all off, the album is punctuated by elements that are not traditionally thought of by most people as being typical to a metal composition – a generous dose of string accompaniment, stunning harmonic chants… I’ll stop there so as not to spoil all the surprises for you. Of course we shouldn’t have expected anything less from this mysterious trio, who have been treating their fans to this incredible contrast of two extremes through their becloaked live performances for several years. With this debut full-length, that raw output has been distilled into a perfectly produced collection of tracks.
[A track so good I
wrote a haiku about it
I hope you don’t mind]
In “Panic Becomes Despair”
These three are Balance.
Matt Hinch reviews Thantifaxath‘s Sacred White Noise: hellbound.ca/2014/08/thantifaxath-sacred-white-noise and Jonathan Smith reviews their 2011 demo: hellbound.ca/2011/09/thantifaxath-st-demo.
The full Canadian best of break down – our contributors’ individual lists: hellbound.ca/2015/01/best-of-2014-our-contributors-top-canadian-picks-individual-lists.
Hellbound’s Metal Top 20 of 2014: hellbound.ca/2014/12/hellbounds-best-of-2014-honourable-mentions-16-20.
You can also check out the archives to explore more of Hellbound’s Canadian coverage.