Best Doom Albums of 2014
by Kyle Kessler
“Doom” is one of the vaguest sub-genres of metal. So many extremely different bands exist under that umbrella term that I find it almost impossible to describe without delineating sub-sub-genres. In the name of fairness for this list I have chosen a selection from each of a wide variety of styles that could all be considered “Doom.”
BONG – Stoner Rock
How could I not mention the mighty drone warriors, BONG? Jesus H. Christ is this album heavy and totally not stoner rock. I mean, beyond the fact that it technically qualifies as “rock” and is best enjoyed with a steady dose of THC. In their own words:
“It is a tongue-in-cheek dig at our usual classification as stoner rock and what the term has come to represent. The idea is to create our own definition of ‘stoner rock’ by creating an album so utterly stoned and repetitive to be a million miles away from the usual definition…”
This is only the latest offering from these incredibly prolific British doom-lords, and a worthy addition to their dense discography of disgustingly heavy LPs.
BONGRIPPER – Miserable
BONGRIPPER is a staple of American heavy music. Their newest offering, Miserable, continues their trend of bleak instrumental doom with three tracks “Endless,” “Descent” and “Into Ruin,” totaling out at 66 minutes of excruciating pain. This is not an album for everyone. This is an album intended for those who can handle it!
USNEA – Random Cosmic Violence
I have to admit, Portland’s USNEA are some of the friendliest folks in the West Coast metal scene. They deserve all the attention they are getting for their Relapse Records debut, Random Cosmic Violence. Psychedelic and doomed to the gills, USNEA is a must listen and brings a lot to the table. Buy this album and go see them live! You won’t be disappointed.
CULTED – Oblique To All Paths
CULTED is something of an enigma. Most of the band’s members have never met and live on different continents. Oblique To All Paths is a menacing release with elements of claustrophobic harsh noise and crushing doom with black metal flavor from their Swedish vocalist Daniel Jansson. This is a challenging and powerful album – a proper complement to CULTED’s first two LPs.
THOU – The Sacrifice
This album was recorded at the same time and intended to be a companion EP to THOU’s other excellent 2014 LP Heathen but in my opinion it excels beyond the scope of that 72 minute long beast of an album. The Sacrifice shows Thou at their tightest and its more accessible length, faster tempo, and more focused scope makes it the stronger of the two releases.
PALLBEARER – Foundations Of Burden
PALLBEARER is a big name these days. Having destroyed the competition in 2012 with their fantastic debut LP Sorrow and Extinction, the hype over this year’s follow-up was met and exceeded with Foundations of Burden. This band has brought a slew of new doom fanatics into the fold with their combination of beautiful songwriting, incredible guitar work, and powerful vocal leads. PALLBEARER is a band to keep your eye on as they continue to carve out a name for themselves in the halls of the Doom elite.
FLOOR – Oblation
Arguably the least doom album in this list (except that guitar tone!) FLOOR brings their signature sound found on their 2002 debut back to life for this 2014 release. Fans of FU MANCHU and upbeat punk will find lots to love here. You’ll be asking yourself how a band with no bassist could possibly be this heavy.
MENACE RUINE – Venus Armata
Montreal has a serious gem of a band in MENACE RUINE. Their powerful blackened drone is a testament to grim Canadian weather, a melancholy pulsation of dread and foreboding augmented by shockingly tasteful operatic vocals vaguely reminiscent of WARDRUNA. This album has dark magicks woven into its compositions that cut through the soul indirect and dissipated like a sunbeam through fog,
FÓRN – The Departure Of Consciousness
I had the pleasure of playing a show alongside FÓRN deep inside a cave outside of San Francisco earlier this year and can think of no more perfect setting for such a powerful band. The Departure Of Consciousness is a fantastic debut that unfortunately went out of print almost instantaneously after it’s release, and for good reason too. This is a strong contender for doom album of the year.
THE WOUNDED KINGS – Consolamentum
If you thought the ELECTRIC WIZARD sound was the thickest a riff could get, you haven’t heard THE WOUNDED KINGS. Consolamentum is as riff laden as it gets, with vocals like a combination of CANDLEMASS and BLOOD CEREMONY – which is just about perfect for this traditional stoner doom sound.
SLOMATICS – Estron
Good grief, this band is a subwoofer destroyer. The low-end crush coming from SLOMATICS is brutal and punishing the whole way through. Get ready to get your monitors re-coned if you dare to turn this sucker up. This Bristol doom act is heavy, heavy, and heavier the whole way through. For serious doom heads only.
WITCH CHARMER – The Great Depression
JEX THOTH released an album last year, but it’s nowhere near as good as WITCH CHARMER’s The Great Depression, a release that I would believe was JEX if I never saw the album cover or the gruff GOATSNAKE-esque male vocals behind the leads. Stoner riffs prevail throughout this badass exploration of roots doom metal. The guitar screams MOUNTAIN WITCH and the tandem vocal style is the perfect cheese frosting on top. Though I really must admit I’m a sucker for clean vocals in doom.
Spotlight: Riding Easy Records
This fledgling label, formerly known as Easy Rider (before they got a cease and desist from whoever owns the rights to the film) has been making waves in the doom metal scene in 2014, and they are responsible for unleashing some of the absolute heaviest albums of the year. They deserve nothing less than their own section in this list.
These are my favorites from this year’s releases:
WINDHAND/SALEM’S POT – Split 10″
WINDHAND is the Electric Wizard of the United States. Many bands aspire to that title but none have come as close. This split with Sweden’s SALEM’S POT is uncompromising occult doom front to back.
MONOLORD – Empress Rising
Another killer doom release from Sweden, MONOLORD brings the UFOMAMMUT psych/doom sound to a whole new level on Empress Rising. For fans of fuzz run through phaser pedals and crushing riffs.
THE WELL – Samsara
Austin, TX brings us THE WELL, occult blues rock in the vein of KADAVAR but with that ’70s proto-metal influence turned up to 11. This is a fuzzed out psyched blues jam meant to be played at 4:20 PM. If you love GRAVEYARD and heavy psych like PURPLE MERCY or ALL THEM WITCHES you will not be disappointed. This is possibly Riding Easy’s best release to date.
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