[Click on band name for samples and more info]
Agalloch - The Serpent & The Sphere (Profound Lore)
The fifth album from this Portland quartet is chock full of atmospheric black metal with a strong dose of folk and doom influence. The Serpent & The Sphere starts off with a couple of acoustic passages, but when the album kicks into full gear on the third track, the metal is sublime. For those wary of the black metal designation, you won't find constant blast beats or screaching vocals here. The raspy vocals fit perfectly with the mood, as do the quiet interludes, making The Serpent & The Sphere one of the must-listen albums of 2014. It took me a while to come around on these guys, but I'm all in on this album.
Greenleaf - Trails And Passes (Small Stone)
The Swedes' fifth album finds the band treading the path between modern stoner rock and 70's arena rock (think Deep Purple). The songs are incredibly catchy and the vocals are some of the best I've heard in a while. You know what to expect by now from these guys; fuzzed out riffs, a little cowbell and huge production. It's getting hard to imagine that this is still considered a side project with the volume of work these dudes have put out, but whatever you want to call Greenleaf, it just works. Its becoming increasingly hard to stand out in an over- saturated stoner rock market, but Trails And Passes manages to do just that.
High Spirits - You Are Here (Hells Headbangers)
I was just a wee bearded lad in the early 80's, so I don't remember exactly what it was like to cruise around in a Trans-Am doing blow with Tony Iommi, but thanks to High Spirits, we can all experience that magic in 2014. The second album from this one-man Chicago project nails that classic 1981 sound with gigantic Priest-esque riffs, throbbing bass and arena rock vocals. You Are Here is surprisingly catchy, with huge sing-along choruses and plenty of hooks to spare. I think it might be illegal to listen this album without a denim vest and a wispy mustache.
HORNSS - No Blood, No Sympathy (EasyRider)
We've been waiting a while for the debut album from this San Francisco trio, but No Blood, No Sympathy was absolutely worth the wait. Thrashy stoner metal with a heaping side of doom is the order of the day for these dudes who cut their teeth in the Palm Springs desert rock scene. The fuzzed-out riffs, huge drum fills and gravelly vocals combine to make an album that wouldn't be out of place next to either Kyuss or Pentagram on your shelf. Solid debut that should appeal to the skaters and headbangers alike. Hopefully we don't have to wait another four years for a follow-up.
Nightsatan - Nightsatan And The Loops Of Doom (Svart)
Were it not for the inclusion of "satan" and "doom" in the title, one would be hard pressed to consider this album metal, but I'm going to let that slide. This is the second album from a Finland synth trio and it's apparently the soundtrack to a film. And believe it or not, there's a subgenre out there called "laser metal". Anyway, if you like the scores from post-apolcayptic 80's horror and sci-fi movies, like John Carpenter's stuff, you'll dig this. It's not something I can listen to front-to-back, but it should create a nice ambience when passing out mung to disappointed neighborhood kids come Halloween.
Vallenfyre - Splinters (Century Media)
We have another release from a side project this week, with members of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride (among others) getting together to make some classic Swedish style death metal with hints of the early 90's Peaceville Records sound. Splinters is the second release from Vallenfyre and delivers the crushing doom/death riffs that one would expect from its members. The melodic guitar parts that sit atop the ugliness are what make this record stand out, though. Splinters surprised me with it's overall listenability. This is actually what I always wished Paradise Lost sounded like, so it's kind of ironic in that sense.