THE VOID is a column that aims to explore, expose, and champion the finest in metal and heavy music. Following the template of the old Norwegian webzines that people would host on Geocities long ago, this recurring feature will include interviews, essays, opinions, reviews, and occasional live coverage in the hopes of providing a snapshot of metal culture.
It was the year in which metal sought its own identity. The tropes of the past fell away. Heavy music moved about freely; it did not conform to old templates. There is a new guard, and these artists are just that: artists creating art. It’s no longer just beer, chicks, and Satan. Metal has become an extreme form of artistic expression worthy of being judged on its own terms and from a contemporary, postmodern perspective.
Just look at what mega-label Relapse is doing, signing heavy but decidedly non-metal acts like Nothing and breaking their own promise of never signing a black metal act with the addition of Amalie Bruun’s solo project, Myrkur, which I chose as my rookie of the year (my Q&A with Bruun follows on the next page). Other prominent labels such as Century Media, Southern Lord, and Deathwish have followed Relapse’s lead, expanding their rosters to include artists that align with the ethos of the label rather than a predefined sound.
As listeners and consumers, we’ve also become more open, valuing the emotion and mood of the music, and bands have reacted accordingly. On it’s latest record, The Serpent & the Sphere, Agalloch voyage into astral post-rock, which they’ve been hinting at since The Mantle; Mastodon went pop on Once More Round the Sun and made their best album in years; and Nergal of Behemoth embraced his inner demons and crafted a twisted masterpiece with The Satanist. Behemoth is considered a death metal band, but to call The Satanist a death metal record would be a sleight, because it goes so far beyond what that tag tells us. Same for Mastodon, Agalloch, and plenty of other acts to release albums in 2014. The boundaries have been smeared. It’s chaos, and it sounds wonderful.
Next Page: Rookie of the Year